Português of the Week

comemoração - celebration

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Just a little cry.

Everyone's been in this situation: 

You're at a restaurant or cafe and you order a juice, smoothie, frappuccino, etc. While you're waiting for your icy beverage, you watch the employee turn off the blender and pour its contents into a cup. The cup fills up to the top, leaving a smooth curl of blended beauty. The employee puts the blender down and...that's when you notice it...the 2 or 3 ounces of extra drink. You paid for a glass, but are you still entitled to that little bit? If not, what's its fate? Will someone else drink it? Will it get dumped out? Should you ask for it? 

Rio's beverage culture is so rich that even the little extra has a word: the chorinho.
Literally, chorinho is translated as the "little cry". A more likely scenario in which this term is used would be at a bar. I was having a draft beer with a friend the other day and he noticed the price had just gone up for a pint. "Man", he groaned. "At this price, I'd better be getting a chorinho." Immediately after ordering the drinks, he took a big sip and asked the waitress for the little cry. She smiled and returned a moment later with another glass containing a sip's worth of beer. My mind: blown.
In a city that's getting more expensive by the hour, a funny little slang like this isn't only amusing, it's essential. If you don't figure out how you make your Real go a little further, you're gonna be the one having a little cry.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Produce on Wheels

It's Thursday. Time to stock up on fruit and veggies. 

And this is a bus you can't miss. 

Sacolão na Comunidade (Shopping Bag in the Community) is a city project that brings cheap local produce to the pacified favelas. Every Thursday morning, a large bus filled with everything from apples to zucchini pulls up to the square. You simply grab a big blue bag or two and fill them up with whatever you want. Papaya, peppers, peas, potatoes, pears, plantains, etc. And the best part: everything is the same price. R$1.99/kilo.  

This service for developing communities is only one of many. Last month, the city showed up with a truck full of new refrigerators. Anybody who brought their old ones could swap them for free.

Sometimes I imagine the fruitbus getting in a horrible crash on its way to the hill. And then dozens of people on the street sprinting over to the wreck with tiny straws, sticking them through the broken windows to get a taste of the world's most amazing smoothie.

A few names I've given my market on wheels:

The Veggie Vehicle
Fruit 66
Legumes with Leg Room
V8 (give that one time)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yeah, we got talking cats

Battle of Rio's Bars

The Metro, Rio's free newspaper, had it's annual "Best Bar Food In Rio" featured in this week's issue. For the first time in the contest's history, a bar from a pacified favela was among the winners. Which favela, you ask? The one and only Chapéu Mangueira, of course.

Bar do David got third place with the "Tropeiro Carioca". Made of sweet potatoes, dried beef and a some kind of sweet, herby sauce, the dish represents traditional Rio cuisine with a hillside twist. 

Even though the bar is located in the middle of the neighborhood's main square, I've never stopped by. Something about having 3 other bars within ten steps from the house makes it a little difficult to branch out. But since our community has an award-winning bar, I went and checked it out.

I gathered Celine and the funny Finnish dude that lives downstairs and walked over to David's Bar for lunch. The typical plastic beer-sponsored tables were set up outside with matching chairs. We ordered immediately. Finland got fish. Celine, the carne seca. And I got the Tropeiro Carioca. 

Although the Tropeiro was delish and smothered in its thick sauce, Celine's carne seca won over my heart and my stomach. Each plate for a mere R$10, it makes sense why I don't eat anything down on the asphalt. (NOTE: the asphalt is what locals call the parts of the city not on the hill; i.e. not the favelas.)

This award is especially meaningful, considering the first and second place bars aren't even located in the south zone (where the tourists are). The runner-up bar is in Jacarepaguá, in Rio's west zone. And the winner is in Tijuca, in the north zone. So I guess you could say that Chapéu is holding it down for the whole zone.

In a city filled with $100 sushi spots and $10 beer busts, there's something refreshing about eating the city's best bar meal for a ten-spot. Congratulations, Chapéu. Now clean up the dog shit in front of my door.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jungle Windows

Behind the cement boxes and tangled electrical wires of Chapéu Mangueira lie the backwoods--an untampered forest whose trails are known only by the locals...and the occasional curious gringo.

Celine, a fond new friend, and I decided to make an adventure out of a sunny, classless weekday. On the way to the top of the favela we bumped into Melke. Melke was born in Chapéu Mangueira and makes a living hauling miscellaneous items up and down the stairs for other residents--a task which few can do more than twice a day. Melke offered to show us the trails as well as some hidden views. Just another glimpse of local hospitality in the community. 

Sometimes Rio de Janeiro makes me wonder if God is financially benefiting from postcard companies. The picturesque views and geographic wonders are beyond suspicious. Christ Redeemer. Sugarloaf. Pedra da Gavea. The list goes on. For an urban city, the natural beauty is unparalleled. After 10 months, landmarks such as Botafogo Bay and Copacabana Beach are things that I've seen a million times...they're things that a million people have seen a million times. But once Melke led us to the top of the hill, above all the stairs and through the trees, there was something different about these all-too-familiar views. I found myself gazing down at the city through small clearings of trees, hidden windows in the brush.

Imagine a person getting hired as the new docent at the Louvre in Paris. The job allows this person to see some of the world's best pieces of art every day. But after some time, the job would lose some of its glamor and the docent would start to take much the beauty for granted. Now imagine a maintenance worker at the museum offering a tour of the secret corridors inside the museum walls--intricate and known only by other maintenance workers. Through tiny holes in the wall, the docent peers at the Mona Lisa. At the Coronation of Napoleon. At Egyptian artifacts. The next week at work is refreshing. The art's beauty is renewed.  

The backwoods and jungle holes were truly a behind-the-scenes experience, abounding with spiders and all.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

May, doodled away.

I am an irresponsible blogger. And for that I am sorry.

It's just that May hasn't provided me with much motivation. May. It doesn't sound inspirational at all. I may write something today. I may not. June, however...well, June is for blogging. June's posts will make up for May's lackthereof. I promise.

Most of my creative surges nowadays are wasted on doodles anyway:
Doodle #6 "Dhalsim Martini" (click to enlarge)

Doodle #8 "The Skeptic" (click to enlarge)

I know nobody reads this blog (does anybody read this blog?) to see blue ink of disastrous proportion, but that's all I have to offer.

At any rate, tonight is the Brazilian Cup final: Vasco vs. Coritiba. Things are looking up for my team. The last few years haven't been the most cheerful, but a win today will heal all those wounds. Vamos Vasco!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Vasco Marches On

Last week was the quarterfinals of the Copa do Brasil.

It was a nail-biter.

Vasco da Gama's two away goals in the first-leg stalemate meant Atlético Paranaense and their "fanáticos" needed a win to advance. Vasco only needed another tie.

Kalle, my funny Finnish friend, and I got to São Januário stadium too late (like a couple of idiots). Tickets were sold out. Instead, we joined the hundreds of Vascainos in the streets outside the "Caldeirão". Spending the ticket money on beer was our new goal.

Early into the second half, Atlético capitalized on their first and only chance of the game. A typical Vasco breakdown of defense allowed a black and red uniform to sneak a breakaway touch past a diving goalie. Silence in the street. More beer.

70 minutes later, Vasco decides to make a change in their formation, substituting in veteran attacker Elton. This proved to be touch of managerial genius. A 75th minute cross finds the super-sub's head around the penalty spot. Golasso!

Vasco fends off the opposing attack and finishes the game in fine form.

The street's reaction:

Vasco will play Avaí on Wednesday, a Cinderella team who knocked out São Paulo last week. Tickets have already sold out, but I don't mind celebrating in the street again with these dudes.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tour de Chapéu

After nearly one month of living in the concrete labyrinth known as Chapéu Mangueira, I've finally recorded a video of my daily ascent. Note the long narrow passageway between the street and the stairs. It's such a segue, literally and metaphorically, into my magical neighborhood. Every day I feel like I'm walking through some kind of teleporting machine--like the CS Lewis wardrobe, spitting me into a land of snow witches and talking beavers.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Um Dia na História

It was long, ugly and ended in a shootout

This sentence can describe either one of the events that shook Rio de Janeiro yesterday--each elbowing  the other for Globo's front page.

Flamengo beat Vasco and Obama beat Osama.

Being anti-Fla (South America's most popular football team), I was on the losing side of the former. In defeat, I accepted the insults hurled at me, clutched proudly the logo of my Vasco jersey, and walked home with an emotional limp. With the latter, however, I can consider myself part of the victory…right?

So why do I feel like I've lost both?

One Tuesday, at the beginning of my junior year of high school, I walked into my 7am class to a group huddled around a TV. The camera was fixed on two skyscrapers, one spewing smoke into the blue sky. A few moments later I watched, live, as a dark object flew into the undamaged building. The rest of the broadcast, like Manhattan's streets that day, is a dusty cloud in my mind.

Roughly 35% of my life has happened since that day. Over one-third of my life has been spent hearing about the war on terror, about Afghanistan, about Al-Qaeda, and about Osama bin Laden (all sometimes used interchangeably).

 The second I heard about bin Laden's death, I was struck with a sense of justice, of resolution. I felt triumphant. Like I've been watching a Disney movie for 10 years and finally witnessed the bad guy fall off the cliff into the fog and the crashing of waves. Fade out to end credits and a Phil Collins song.

I knew immediately, before seeing any live videos at the nation's capital and NYC's ground zero, what the reaction would be in the United States. Masses gathered. Flags waved. Signs. Banners. Smiles. Cheers. Whistles. High-fives.

Perhaps I could imagine the celebration because I had just witnessed one hours earlier. Flamengo chants echoing throughout Rio's streets. Fireworks. Hugs. Spilled beer. Dogs barking. Funk music blasting. Even that guy that sits by the pool table and says nothing...even he was screaming. 

Something is unsettling about this.

Why do we celebrate the death of a human being the same way we celebrate our favorite team winning the championship? Should these two incredibly different aspects of life invoke the same emotions? Is it because competition is built into our DNA, or maybe that government is more successful with its country at war?  

Maybe we can learn from our celebrations instead of spiral into another endless reciprocity of death. Although, judging by our history, I can't think of a more appropriate fate.

It is in this blogger's humble opinion that the human species should focus on a more dangerous enemy than ourselves--one that used to be on our side--our planet.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The New Face of Keepin It Rio

The first picture I took in Rio de Janeiro was of Alex's forehead. He woke up the very first morning with a giant bump that resembled a fat baby hiding under a rosy-pink blanket. The second picture was a dead rat in a deserted downtown street. That rat picture has been the face of Keepin it Rio for over 2 years. It is now time to bury the dead and move on to a fresh, more lively personality.

Meet Lingüinha:

Lingüinha lives in Ilha Grande--the turkey sandwich-island (for those who actually read this blog.) Lingua means tongue in Portuguese, so it's no mystery where this wacky creature gets his name. 

Anyone that knows me knows that I'm not a big dog fan, nor any animal for that matter. Nevertheless, I was captivated. He's got these facial expressions that reveal so much more than just a hungry dog. One glance at his wide-eye, puffy-cheek face and it's like you've had a deep conversation with him, like you know what he's been through and what he wants out of life. 

Thiago threw some pork on the ground for the dog. He had some trouble chewing it...I think maybe because he never managed to pull his lingua in. Once he eventually consumed the meat, he looked up and, with his eyes, said something like, "Thank you sir. I hope you live a full life. And remember, you can always anticipate the difficult by managing the easy."

Welcome to the blog, Lingüinha.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Favela Fight

The other day, a violent fight broke out directly outside our apartment. My roommate, Pablo, caught the whole thing from our kitchen window.

I still haven't left my room.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bem-vindo ao Chapéu

Welcome to Chapéu Mangueira.

Or in English, The Mango Tree's Hat.

After months of hostelling, couchsurfing and living with a crazy witch-lady who makes cakes all day I've finally found a house in Rio.

Pablo, my Chilean friend, and I decided to look for a place to split between the two of us. We stumbled upon an online post. A man named Sergio had several rooms available in a house he just bought near Copacabana.

The southernmost part of Copacabana is Leme--a quiet nook extending only two or three streets from the beach. It consists entirely of 10-story apartment buildings, hotels and restaurants. Walking away from the beach, you reach the bottom of the hill. Then you reach steps. These steps make the Santa Monica 4th Street stairs look like...well, they make them look like fewer steps...or maybe the same amount of steps, but it makes them seem fewer...I'm bad at things.

Anyway, here are a few of them:

It suffices to say that my legs and arms will be even more disproportionate after living here.

Chapéu Mangueira is a morro, or favela. During the 80's and 90's, this area had a history of drug violence that has burnt a negative image in the minds of many Cariocas today. Tropa de Elite, one of the most popular Brazilian movies, took place in Chapéu Mangueira's next-door favela, Babilônia.

In 2008 it became one of the first pacified favelas in Rio. That means it is now reincorporated into the city and is patrolled by the UPP (Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora). The pacification police just hang out around entrances and pretty much do nothing. Every now and then they'll return a "good morning" or an occasional "hey". But that's about it. Drug trafficking in the community is now nonexistent and it's a safe place to live for a gringo like me.

Everyone in the neighborhood is welcoming and warm-hearted. I've started helping out at the community's main office whenever they need computer help. The first day I walked in, Michelle (the lady that does everything) asked me how to make a new folder on the desktop and add files to it. It's amazing how much simple knowledge I take for granted. Tomorrow morning, I'll be transferring all the community's files to a new computer. I'm the new I.T. guy, I guess. Well, it is the family business.

Here's the three-six from our balcony

Stay tuned for updates. Until then, keep that ish rio!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Você está queimando meu filme!

Last night I was having a few drinks with some Brazilian guys. One dude was checking out a server. His buddies kept laughing at him, mentioning something about a past encounter with a less-than-extraordinary young woman. His response: Você está queimando meu filme!

You are burning my film.

Film is a transparent strip of material used to record photographic images. When it is placed in contact with fire, the images are irreparably destroyed. (SEE photo a.)

photo a.

In the aforementioned situation at the bar, the person was using the analogy of film to refer to his reputation. By "burning" his image, his friends are hindering his chances of successfully achieving his romantic goals with the employee of the establishment.

As demonstrated in Inglorious Basterds, film is heavily flammable.

This phrase could be used in a multitude of situations.

A boy is getting picked up from his mom at the mall. She is honking at waving at him from the car to get his attention. His friends laugh and he melts. She's burning his film.

Lyricist Bun B from the Underground Kings perhaps puts it best:

So when I raise up, you can keep on layin down
I hate to clown, but that's life as I see it
You're lookin for a full-time man, I can't be it
You're cramping my style
-UGK, "Cramping My Style"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kickin it at the Coqueirão

Took this today. Just another beautiful Tuesday in April at Ipanema beach.

Couldn't ask for much more than this.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


There are few things that can smooth out my ruffled feathers better than a good foreign idiom. Ice cream. Ice cream’s one of those things. I'd have to think about the others.

Since my arrival in Rio, my friend Micheline had been talking about taking a trip to Ilha Grande—an island the shape of half of a turkey sandwich after you take little bites all the way around its perimeter. Those nibbles are the endless coves and beaches, each having serious postcard potential.

Initially, the excursion would consist of myself, Micheline, Thiago, and Ellen. A few friends had expressed interest as well.

As the departure date drew nearer, Ellen was having doubts—and justifiably so. She had just gotten back from São Paulo and would be going to Salvador in a few weeks. No one else was able to get off work. It looked like it was going to be the couple and me.

“Você vai segurar a vela,” Leo tells me chuckling to himself as he twirls is curly curls. I’m going to hold the candle? What the hell does that mean? My Portuguese isn’t amazing, but I’m certain I heard him correctly. He explains. He was referring to the Brazilian expression that describes the person hanging out with a couple.

It’s the third wheel. To them, holding a candle is being the third wheel.

But it has the complete opposite connotation. A third wheel on a bicycle is a completely useless object. A bike only needs two to function properly. I suppose the third could come in handy if the rider had a flat tire. Or it can trail behind.

Holding a candle, on the other hand, is actually a noble thing. Just imagine: a flame, burning bright. Two people in love, together as one. And then there’s the hand that holds that candle. I think it’s a much nicer way to explain the situation.

So I held that candle. I held it all the way to Ilha Grande and back.

I even held it underwater.

Valeu a pena.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Brazilian Virus

Something has been spreading around Brazil, and over 3.5 million people have been affected. I thought I'd write about it before it's gone.

It's a virus...a video virus.

Viral videos aren't limited to the English-speaking world. Oh no. This one was made in one of the northeastern cities of Brazil. I think Recife.

I've official heard this song played in passing cars, blocos, and clubs. While the lyrics are hilariously innocent, the dance is what gets me.


Hey, do you wanna drink?
I don't wanna.
Why not?
I just don't.
Do you wanna smoke?
Why not?

I'm not going
I don't wanna
I can't
My wife won't let me
I'm not going
I don't wanna

Okay, so the English translation doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Brahma is a Brazilian beer. And this is a bar. Get it? God I love a good pun.

This banner, among many signs (including the ones flapping behind planes at the beach) are all over town. The Brazilian people have all eyes on the US president.

I have a obscure connection when it comes to Barack Obama and Brazil.

On November 4th, 2008 I was with my cousin Alex on a rainy night in Rio. Between the TV's static screen and the Internet going in and out of connection, our hearts were pounding waiting for the election results.

I remember creating hypothetical situations in my mind of a country run by John McCain. How the world would react. What the Globo headlines would say the next morning. It was a tense evening.

Finally our minds were at peace. Barack Obama was announced the winner of the 2008 popular vote of the United States of America.

I saved the newspaper the next day, simple titled: OBAMA!!!

Two and a half years later he is making his first visit to South America, starting in the very same city. He arrives today.

But things have been complicated.

He is to meet with the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff today. Then tomorrow, he was scheduled to tour the City of God (one of the favelas enduring pacificifation) and eventually give a speech to the Rio public at the Cinelândia plaza downtown.

I was surprised to hear he would be making an appearance at Cinelândia--a very public square surrounded on each side by main roads and skyscrapers. Nonetheless, I was excited and I began planning how early I would arrive.

A few days ago, the Brazilian government announced the cancellation of this speech. They gave no explanation and reported how he would instead speak inside the Municipal Theater. Who will be in attendance is still unclear.

The disappointment traveled through Rio almost as fast as the news of his arrival.

Although many Brazilians have mixed sentiments about the US and Obama's politics, the hope and cultural equality that he symbolizes is at the core of Brazilian hearts.

The cancelled speech and unclear plans are not a good start to his first South American visit, but we all know what Obama's good at: talking. I'm anxious to see what he says and how it is received.

In the mean time, I'm gonna go get an Obrahma and enjoy the sun.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cabelo Horizonte

The minifro gets old--real old.

It was time for a cut.

Normally, the metro station escalator transports people onto the hot asphault like a Krispy Kreme conveyor belt. But after weeks of ceaseless rain, it's a careful, tedious transition. It's more like walking around Soviet Russia after the Cold War. Only instead of landmines, you have to tiptoe around muddy pee-puddles. Post-drizzle downtown is a repulsive realm.

I'm not more than 2 streets from my class when I get the text. "Luis would liked to cancel class." Ignoring the conjugation error, I go to my contingency plan--haircut!

Hopping over a blueish-grey pond and what looks like a rat's tail, I arrive at a salon.

In Portuguese, the word for hair is cabelo. Mysteriously, the word for hairdresser is cabeleireiro. That's 2 eiros! Why does it get 2 eiros?

I find the perfect cabeleireireireiro--an unassuming little spot run by two grey-haired men in their 60's.

After sitting in silence for the trim, I reach to sneak a picture of my stylist when he pulls out a straight razor. I've never had anyone put a blade against my skin, so I decide not to risk it and I slide the camera back in my teaching bag.

For some reason, I had always thought straight razors wouldn't work on me. Like my skin was somehow more fragile than everyone else's and the barber would pop it like a tomato sauce-filled balloon. I was wrong.

The man moved with enough precision and skill to sculpt a porcelain doll. By the end, my head felt like it had been in the hands of a hair God. Haircules. Okay, a hair demigod.

Okay, Rio. Enough rain. My scalp is ready for some sun.

Friday, March 11, 2011



Flower love. Well...just a kiss.

In Portuguese, the hummingbird is known as a Beija-Flor.

beija - kiss
flor - flower

Too bad we'll never know what hummingbirds are actually doing so close to flowers. One of science's mysteries. I like to think they're whispering little axioms.

"Fortune has a fickle heart and a slow memory." flapflapflapflapflap

Beija-Flor is also the name of a Samba school in Nilópolis--a neighborhood tucked far away in Rio's north zone. The Hummingbird school won this year's Carnaval at the Sambodromo.

The final decision was in on Wednesday. This is no doubt the most coveted award throughout all competitions in Rio, including the Carioca Cup of futebol (sorry Ronaldinho and Flamengo friends).

Guess which Samba school rehearsal I attended before Carnaval this year. That's right, Beija-Flor. My friends and I took the hour bus ride over to their quadra and spent all night partying and dancing to their samba.

Congratulations, Hummingbird.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Carnaval Dia Um

Carmelitas. The first of many blocos.

Gettin off the bus up the hill. Party's already in full swing.

Endless amounts of sweet views.

In Santa Teresa one side of the street is lined with a giant stone wall and the other's got a steep incline. Getting there early is the only way to get a spot along the railing--a must for the best view.

Ellen can't avoid these dudes, even up here.

That big doll-woman is Carmelitas. She's responsible for this madness.

And we walk back down.

Onto the next...