Living in Expatria


Edging on two months now. Back in the land of English and peanut butter and cheddar cheese and the ability to navigate my way around the city in my trademark brain occupied fashion. Two months and I hardly feel as I was ever away. Two months and it seems hard to remember what Brazilian sun felt like on my skin. Funny how life is. When you're someplace you know, someplace that knows where you fit into its stride. where you know how to walk in step with it... it seems like time wizzes by. Brazil seems like stolen time now... which I suppose it was. I'm closing down this journal now, and setting it up so those who read it will start at the beginning of my journey, and read through my meandering pages as if it were a tale - which of sorts it is - rather than as if they were looking back upon it in my memory.

I'm glad to have kept this journal, and if any of you are still dropping back to see it, thanks for reading and more than that, thanks for writing. Sometimes email from home kept me sane.
posted by The Mo of Space and Death 14:13 (her time) @

Okay, so I'm back in Canada...

Promise to write a post to let you all know how everything turned out, and to stop the clock and such... as soon as I have my puter set up and life returns to less than breakneck speed... Eef!

posted by The Mo of Space and Death 02:17 (her time) @

Happy Fool's Day tomorrow to one and all....

laugh on the subway out loud. find a swingset and pretend you're superman. find your sweet surrender. abandon yourself to foundless hope. spill your secrets, samba in the streets, beat your chests and bellow. kiss somebody - and then take it back. make a sighing mockery of moroseness. mock severity, authority, convention, complacency and common sense. sing for no reason but that you can (especially if you can't). take a nap in the middle of the day. declare it's sunny in the middle of your snowstorms or snowy in the middle of your sun ("I say it is the sun...."). wear comfortable shoes - but tie jingle bells to the laces. change fonts frequently. speak in rhymes, riddles or romantic verse. alliterate freely. lounge languidly. breathe whole and strong and light and loud and live hard.

And spare a thought for me, you silly Fools.

Some food for folly...

"To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling."

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. "
--Douglas Adams

"I have great faith in fools - self-confidence my friends call it."
-- Edgar Allan Poe

"The trouble isn't that there are too many fools, but that the lightning isn't distributed right."
-- Mark Twain

"Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish."
-- Euripides

"Love works a different way in different minds, the fool it enlightens and the wise it blinds. "
--John Dryden

"Before God we are equally wise and equally foolish. "
--Albert Einstein

"Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly, better than wise people for their wisdom. "
--Elizabeth Gaskell

"One fool can ask more questions in a minute than twelve wise men can answer in an hour. "
--Nikolai Lenin

"Wise people are foolish if they cannot adapt to foolish people. "
--Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

"The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes."
--Winston Churchill

"A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees. "
--William Blake

WebMo note: This was of course supposed to have been posted on Friday, but my connection failed. Joy Bliss!
posted by The Mo of Space and Death 07:19 (her time) @

Happy New Year!

I may be tardy, but for good reason. Can't post at home these days, also can't send mail. IG the freeenet server in Brazil has decided that all users must register with a valid SIN number before they can use the HTTP server. They say it's to stop spam and increase security. I say it's to track who's looking at what. Anywho...

Mom returned to Canada on New Year's Eve - we had a fabulous visit, and I'm sending her back with a tan. Woo! We managed one last jaunt to Guarujá before she left - both of us were pretty happy about that even if it did end in rain. I dropped her off at the Airport New Year's Eve. About ten I hailed a cab and went down to Paulista and Bela Cintra which isn't too far from home. There had been a ginormous stage in construction all week and posters and tourist information advertised a big street fiesta and live music. Thought it might be fun and busy and better than sitting on my lonely butt for New Year's Eve. Wow oh wow. 1,150,000 brazilieros showed up to ring in the new year to a handful of assorted bands, huge lighted stage, people lining the streets (did I say lining? I mean flooding) for blocks and blocks, huge screens set up all along Paulista so people at the back could see the stage and performers. Apparently there were similar setups in Rio, Salvador and such...the screens cut to live feeds of the other beach/street parties through the night.

A chaos of street vendors proffering food and pop and vast quantities of alcohol - especially the bubbly kind - wove in and out of the mass throng of samba-ing people. Shouring and laughing and fireworks I was afeared would blow up in somebody's (namely mine) face. I got a feel of what Carnival must be like... fun and wild and a little scary. Now I don't feel so bad that I will be missing it by a matter of a month or so. It was very fun, but the thing I will likely never forget about the evening was counting down to midnight - in Portuguese of course - Dez! Nove! Oito! Sete! Meia! Cinco! Quatro! Três! Dois! Um! and then wild eruption, firecrackers exploding everywhere everybody hugging and kissing and dancing and jumping up and down and much shaking of said alcoholic bubbly beverages and the mass soaking of all said 1,150,000 people. Of course it was something like 24 degrees celsius out, so that was okay. Somebody even wished me "toda joia!" and kissed my hand - *swoon*.

For the whole first part of the night I stayed well back from the stage - about four blocks - as to my natural aversion of wild crowds, but I slowly made my way up about three blocks into the bad bustle of bodies. I was just hoping to take a picture close up and dance a song or two, but when I got there there was just too many, and I started understanding how it is that people get trampled to death in football stadiums and rock concerts and the like. That close-packed density of bodies drives everyone a little insane like those pods of whales that beach themselves in the narrow straights of the Arctic. Inevitably, someone or someones, usually a group of drunken young (late teen early twenties from what I saw) men would start to push and shove, and a retaliative wave would pass through the crowd. At one point I found myself not quite able to breath while wedged up against a car trying not to crush the person next to me. I got out of the densest area to find myself being groped by a drunken smiling leering man. I extricated myself only to land in the middle of the pushing crowd again. At this point, I decided I'd had a good New Year's and the Spidey Sense was tingling, so I decided to head out. I walked home in a warm drizzle, leaving the party around 1:30.

This, as it turns out, was a Very Good Thing® as about twenty minutes later, a riot broke out in the place that I was standing. Bottles and cans and such were hurled prompting the action of 500 Military Police accompanied by 150 or so Rent-a-cops. Tear gas was launched and over 100 people were injured. One set of local news reported it as inter-gang warfare, another as an anti-police demonstration, another as a protest to the new mayor just coming in. I don't know about all that - all I know is that things were busy and pushy, but mostly friendly before I left. Whew, I say. Whew. Scary stuff. You can read the whole story at

And I thought New Year's was going to be *boring*. Heh.
posted by The Mo of Space and Death 10:21 (her time) @

I'm a bad Blogger. A bad, bad, bad, remiss Blogger.

But of course you knew that. Hope you all made it through the Christmas Ho-Ho-Hectic. I can honestly say I've enjoyed the most relaxing Christmas of my life, but let me backtrack:

After the Amazon, I trundled back to São Paulo for the weekend only to be shipped back off to Campinas where I promptly had a long weekend due to the Day of the Dead. I didn't do a whole lot, but slept and wrote and such and generally recovered from the whirlwind of the vacation that spanned three countries two continents and two hemispheres. I finished up my meetings in Campinas and headed back to the Great Concrete. Much easier to establish a routine here, man o man is it nice to have a base of operations. I'm in a nice little two bedroom flat in the Jardim Europa district that has a cure little lounge-y pool area (of which I've been partaking of late) a gym, sauna and squash courts.

I have a driver again, morning and night he takes me safely to and from work. No more getting lost and straggling with cabbies and cab chits, trying desperately to give directions to my residence when I A.) Don't speak he language, B.) don't know how to navigate the city (which is renown for traffic and one way streets) and C.) Can't drive. My driver's name is Mauri - and he's a real sweetheart. I can't tell you how very welcome it is - after all of my travels and all of my mishaps and all of the low-grade stress at lack of language and travel and such - to see a sweet friendly face every morning and every night. We've come to be fabulous friends, and he has, in fact, proclaimed me to be his "irma Canadense" (Canadian sister). We've taken to bantering and such and I'm quite proud to note that my Portuguese has improved almost as much as his English. I can now not only order a cab, read my documents and avoid tuna on my pizza - but actually hold down a good, if rudimentary conversation, kid around, and imitate TV commercials.

Mom came down a couple of weeks ago, just in the nick of time. I picked her up death early on a Saturday morning, and after work that day Mauri drove all of the expats and her, I and all the other expats to Embu to do a little artisan shopping. That night we had a potluck Christmas dinner that was very nummy indeed, but by 10:30 both Mom, who had hardly managed to sleep on the plane, and I who had been up since 4:30, dragged our sorry buts off to bed. The next day, bright and early we were up again and off to Guarujá. A beach-town on the southeast coast of Brazil, Guarujá is about an hour by car from São Paulo, barring traffic and construction (which there invariably is).

Guarujá's beach - not my picture, but scoffed off of, a tourist guide online (in Portuguse).

A busy busy beach, but a lovely one - it's a very different experience from the Copacabana which is very busy, tourist-y, body conscious, messy and you can't walk three feet without tripping over someone who's trying to sell you something. Guarujá is mostly just locals and people from São Paulo desperate to escape the concrete jungle for a weekend or an afternoon. There are several beaches in the area, but Santos draws most of the tourists away from beaches like this one. So we spent an afternoon romping in the huge salty surf, sprawling on the sand and getting sun-baked. All of those who scoffed my lack of tan when I was home in October should see me now. Whoo!

So in the last couple of weeks all of the other expats have fled to Canada for their holidays leaving me and mom lonesome and free in São Paulo. We've tromped all over the Jardim, shopped on Paulista, ate the best pudim (crème caramel) that any baiana ever made, had an ersatz tour of Centro from Mauri. We went down to the Praça de Sé which has the very center point of all São Paulo, we did a tour of churches:

Cathedral de Sé Nossa Senhora do Brasil, where we went to Christmas Mass Nossa Senhora do Consolation

And saw the Teatro Municipal, the Praça da Isabela and Republica, Court Buildings, the first Jesuit Seminary of Brasil, and the hoards… I mean -hoards- of people. Was very cool indeed.

Christmas we spent quietly together, lazing and reading on the roof by the pool, taking turns going down to check on the turkey, marveling at how quiet and deserted São Paulo - at least our section of São Paulo had become on Christmas Day. As you can see on the right, I've been reading the Stand… so you can just imagine how very odd the sudden silence of the chaos of São Paulo had become. Heh. We did (I should say Mom did) really well for ourselves as far as dinner was concerned. Decidedly Brazilian flares such as mango salsa (we tried to decide if it was a chutney, a salsa, a confit or whatnot, but Mom's settled on salsa) made our Canadian flair just different enough to be special. All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas… and one I'm not like to repeat…. I mean how often do you get to be lazy in the 28 degree celsius Brazilian sun on Christmas day?

So, in short, we've been having a faboo time, and shivering to think of you all in "muito frio" Canada where we hear it's mighty blustery. Mom's on her way back on new Year's eve. I'll see if I can send some sun up with her.
posted by The Mo of Space and Death 09:15 (her time) @

Okay long awaited and long overdue: The Amazon

Not the best resolution maybe, but a beautiful sight! - Dawn over the Amazon

Arrived in Manaus airport at 3 am, hot death, pitch black, guide waiting. Drove about half an hour through dense tropical forest, got into this neato little canoe-like boat that is far more stable than your average canoe and far more stable. Out on the Rio Negro, wide dark, and a little scary with only the hint of the top of the jungle on the horizon. Sky a wide expanse of stars, water dark as wine. About half an hour by boat to the Eco Park a climb up the embankment and check-in to sleep for a couple of hours.

My buddy! He came to eat luch everyday, and we'd feed him pineapple

Early and not so bright, but rather excited, I clamber out of my cabin-like dwelling to a wall'o'humidity. Whoa man. Get used to it. Three days of breathing air. ;) As it turns out, my cabin is on a jungle path, and there are about 20 such cabins in meandering paths through the Eco Park. Back out to the front area/restaurant/open air dealie and I can see it properly now. A huge round caboclo shelter, The "Paradise Deck" has open sides and a palm thatch roof. Small bar, eating area and "lounge" hammocks all around the perimeter. It's 8 am, and the air's so thick I could be swimming. And the heat of the day hasn't even started up yet. Heh.

Guide's not around. He's off doing a pick up at the airport, but I meet the first couple of my tour. Newlyweds both on their second marriage, he's a bushman, she's a nurse. Very sweet woman, very kinda stoic man, bioth are on their honeymoon up through Brazil to Ecuador, if I remember properly. The couple that's being picked up is from Italy. She doesn't speak English, he speaks a couple of words. Breakfast - lots of fruit, surprise, surprise, and right in the middle of it this -huge freakin- Maccaw shows up in the most brilliant red you've ver seen, peacock blue and lemon yellow pinfeathers, swoops down to a tree and just looks at us eating like it was saying "Hey."

A wooley monkey... the big guy on the island was one of these. They use their tail, the tip of which has padded textured skin, as an extra hand. I was staying in an Eco Park - a conservation area which has agreements with the Brazilian EPA and rehabilitates baby monkeys whose mothers have been killed by poachers. This was really cool, as 11:00 am is their feeding time. Two main varieties of monkey were most of the population of around 200. The keeper who puts food out every day at 11 and 4 calls the most dominant of the monkeys, yelling loud and long and you can hear him coming through the trees. Once he's had his fill, he climbs back into the trees above and hangs by his tail, supervising as the Keeper calls another 50 or so monkeys to come and chow down.

Lots of fun. The tour guide, takes us down the Rio Negro to the place where they filmed Anaconda, and explained some things about the Rios Negro and Solimnos which are the two main tributaries of the Amazon. The Rio Negro is dark black (hence the name) has a high PH balance and an average temperature of 28 degrees. This is great, because it has a practical upside: none of them nasty malaria ridden mosquitos. And a different breed of piranha that are less likely to attack swimmers in the warm warm water. Yes, I waded with piranha. In Caiman (alligator) infested waters. Heh.

They call this guy an 'English Monkey' because of his red face, but he's really a Cappuchin All three rivers raise an lower an -insane- amount during the year. 40 meters higher in the rainy season than it was in the dry season, when I was there. You can see the waterline along the shore. In the dry season the length of the river is banked in sand. The sand is the waterline. In the wet season, most of the trees grow partly underwater. There's an old Amazon saying that says in the dry season, the birds live in trees. In the wet season, the fish do. ;)

So back to the lodge for a late lunch and to lay low in the weather which is death hot, and soooooo humid, but it's not like I wasn't expecting that. I wandered around the park a while watching lizards scurry and listening to the toucans and checking out moths the size of my palm. I also discovered these giant mud nests that were attached to trees that I later found out to be termite nests. They're ginormous - as wide across as my shoulders and some are three feet long. I lay out in a hammock for a long while before the next excursion: piranha fishing!

Floating house on the Rio Negro. The guy who lived here loved to dress up in camoflage and pretend he was a soldier.

That's the little floating house where we did our first batch of piranha fishing, using - of course - raw meat as bait on long bamboo poles. I didn't realize it would be so hard, but there's a knack to it. You have to swat the end of the pole at the water as you feed the bait in (to create a commotion the piranha will think is a wounded animal) then you wait until you have a snag - no mistaking a piranha nibble! - and then you have to yank up to snag them. I did get one on my line and out of the water, but the little beasts snap and thrash so hard that by the time we got a net over, he'd yanked clear off my hook. So I guess I officially have a "one that got away" story, but as it was a man eating fish? I don't think I have to say "Really! It was -this- big!" ;)

I once caught a fish that had teeth *this* sharp!

Back to the lodge for dinner and downtime, and then out for an evening of alligator spotting! This is kind of neato, actually. Pitch black on the river at night - you take a maglite and flash it down to the banks from a boat. You won't actually see the form of the alligator, as it will be mostly submerged, but their eyes - which are the things sure to be out of the water if they're out of the water at all - are as reflective as a cat's so When you see that single, perfect little shiny circle, you know you've found one. We didn't get too close, but the guide of course, would hop into the water or up on shore and chase them down. Not cruelly - this is an EPA venue after all - but try to get a hold of one to show us. Unfortunately, though we saw many an eye, the caiman were quicker than our guide when we were out. Ah well. I polished off Bridget Jones' Diary (Thanks Dana!) while sprawled on a hammock. When I was finished I just listened to the symphony of the jungle at night, but the guide came and got me and told me it would be best if I went to my cabin, as an animal had just passed along the trail beside me not three feet away. He didn't know the English word for this particular animal, but from his reaction, it wasn't a safe one. Might have been a puma - damn I'd wished I'd seen it! On the way back to the cabin for some much needed sleep I saw a centipede that was 1/2 a foot long!

Lorro! Lorro!

In the morning, a brief sojourn to the aviary, where, much like the monkeys they rehabilitate birds that have been hurt, wounded or captured. Most of these are parrots or toucans as they are the most marketable, but there were no Toucans in the aviary at the time. We heard them all around us, but never managed to get a glimpse of one - Alas. As we arrived by boat to "parrot island" our guide jumped out and started yelling to the jungle all around "Lorro! Lorro!" (This means Parrot in Portuguese) and out came this green parrot with far more charisma than a bird should have. He followed us and talked to us the whole time, whistling catcalls and saying his name and saying hello and goodbye.

It's a beautiful bird, mate. Beautiful plumage.

We say more parrots in all sorts of varieties, did some animal tracking and went to see an orchid grove (this is very neat, unfortunately though they bloom in the wet season, so they were all just seedlings). We also had a kind of a tour about medicinal plants in the area. We learned what vines' milk make the poison for blowdarts and the sap from which trees made the resin to relieve headaches. After that we went rubber tapping and took the raw latex and made solid rubber from it by heating it with smoke and rolling it into this ginormous rubber ball. Was very cool.

A freshly tapped Rubber Tree collecting Latex milk - usually done at night.

Next day, a big boat came to get us and we trundled on down to the Amazon proper in the brilliant sun - it was nice because as long as the boat was going at a good clip, you didn't notice the humidity. It was bad cause this is the day I got sunbirned - can you say extra crispy? I knew you could. Out we went for an hour cruise past the city of Manaus and learned a whole lot of facts about the culture there. We picked up a truckload of German tourists and went out to the meeting of the waters. This is where the Amazon - fed by the Rio Solimnosand a yellowy taupe colour run alongside the dark, dark waters of the Rio Negro and the two don't mix for 8 km. The Amazon's avg. temp is 21 degrees, it has a lower ph and moves faster than the Negro, so as you go by in the boat you can differentiate between the waters immediately. Now on the Amazon proper (which is as wide as 30+ km at some points! You can look both ways and not see land!) we went down to a floating restaurant for lunch, met some Amazonian natives, saw some crafts and the Victoria Regis Water Lilies - the lilypad of which can get as wide around as 6 feet and a light person could stand on them without sinking. We saw some Caiman close up, and went on a trip down the iguapos - flooded streamland marshland areas where we went birding (Egrets! Herons! Pipas!) and native kids came paddling out on little boats to show us sloths and baby caimans and monkeys. We also had another hour or so of piranha fishing, but only the bushman caught one (redbellied piranha). I should say we had an extra couple with us by now - from Lebanon, though the guy had lived in Montreal a spell.

Little guy with a sloth. See the lily-pads behind him? That night, we all had capirinha's and tuned in exhausted and sunburned after a good dinner for a good sleep. In the morning came the jungle expedition. Into the heart of the jungle! We saw brazil wood trees, which are really rivaled only by Redwoods, flowering orchids, learned about the trees, how to survive, how to navigate by armadillo tracks. I almost fell into a coral snake hole…. I can't really describe it but that it was insanely facinating and deathly hot. There's this huge tree that is used for communication. It grows naturally accoustic with a concave trunk and light wood, and you can hear the sound miles and miles away. We swung from vines like Tarzan, we saw trails of ants (thankfully not army ants) At one point he led us away to check to make sure that we wern't heading into them (eep!) we learned how to harvest weaving reedstock from a certain kind of tree, and how to weave baskets and bracelets. How to use a palm leaf to climb a palm tree without a harness…. Just soooooo much. It wasn't as dark as I'd pictured, nor as wet, of course I was there in the dry season. This picture here are mushrooms… and although they don't call them fairies, they say wood spirits or something, folklore says that the wood spirits drink from them.

Moon wine, anyone?

Once we'd finished the trek it was a rush out and to the airport to get me to my plane. All in all? Fabulous. Which I'd gone for longer. I'd like to go back.

posted by The Mo of Space and Death 14:35 (her time) @

Não confunda ornitorrinco com otorrinolaringologista, orntitorrinco com ornitologista, ornitologista com otorrinolaringolista, porque ornitorrinco é ornitorrinco, ornilogista é ornilogista e otorrinolaringologista é ortorrinolaringologista!
posted by The Mo of Space and Death 10:22 (her time) @



Mo is in:

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Weather in:

São Paulo
Rio de Janiero


Mail me, Dammit!
Expatria Archives

What I'm reading:
Nothing. Too busy.

Never finished:
Joseph Page: The Brazilians. This is a good read but I have to be in the right frame of mind. Will be here a while.

Recently finished:
Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace

Stephen King: The Stand

Kirsti's Blog! She's going to Alabama!

Desperately seeking:
Jeanette Winterson: The Powerbook. September UK release, still hasn't made it to Brazil. Bastages.

Poe: Haunted. October release, hasn't made it to Brazil either. Double Bastages.

Listening to:
Gary Brown: Dain St Live


São Paulo

Come see my cheesy travel journals on the Web! I have one for SÃ?????o Paulo! Get an ID! It's free! Confound your enemies! Amuse your friends! Mock the Mo!




Jeitinho: The Brazilian word for creative and legitimate ways of getting things done in spite of bureaucracy.
Amphetamines for your Website

Expatria is registered with the Diarist Registry.