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Samba School Vai-Vai Rehearsal!


Dear all, how are you? I am great, visiting my famly in Sampa! Yesterday, my brother and I went to a Vai-Vai rehearsal. Vai-Vai is a beautiful community and samba-school located in Bixiga, one of the most antique and traditional neighborhood from São Paulo. It was absolutely amazing to see all Vai-Vai community dancing and singing. I was inspired by all that joy and happiness. This year, the school is going to honor the brilliant musician and conductor João Carlos Martins.Please click on the links below to watch Vai-Vai rehearsal, and João Carlos Martins playing piano! Viva Vai-Vai! Viva Brazilian Carnival! Viva João Carlos Martins! Sorriso

Maestro Maritns is right: "The music won!"  That is also the title of Vai-Vai samba-enredo in 2011. By the way,Vai-Vai means Go-Go. So, let´s GO, it´s 2011! Beijos! 

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Escrito por Laura Soares às 20h42
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Linda Cordeiro - Sampa!

Hi everyone, we finally have a new interviewee. Her name is Linda Cordero. She is an American diplomat, and lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for two years. Linda certainly has a lot to say about the ugly, but interesting city of Sao Paulo. Ok, I’m the only who can say that, I am from Sampa! J

EP: Linda, after two years living in Sampa, how would you define the city?

Linda:   I’m a city person; was born in New York, raised in San Francisco, lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles, so Sampa was another great city for me to explore.  If you are bored there, you are just not trying very hard.  There’s always something to do, someone to do it with.  The city does not sleep.  That being said, get-aways are essential because after about 4 months, I realized I no longer was able to relax.

EP: The violence often published in all type of media is the main concern of those who are going to live in Sao Paulo, Brazil. What’s your perception of this problem?

Linda:   Common sense (see disclaimer above about city life) is your best guide.  If you don’t have it, entertain at home.

EP: What are your favorite spots in Sampa? What would you recommend?

Linda:   It just depends what you want to do.  Sala São Paulo is lovely for live music and performances.  Livraria Cultura is a terrific 3 story bookstore with a theater on the top floor.  Shopping Cidade Jardin (Mall) has a bunch of stores I could never afford, a beautiful layout, and a movie theater with extra-luxurious seats.  Driving to the beach on the new highway is a joy (if you do it early in the morning/late at night, away from holidays and traffic time!)  I liked Arola 23, a 23rd floor hotel restaurant which serves tapas.   Mary Pop, Love Story, D-Edge for music/dancing.   The bar at Hotel Fasano (but not the restaurant).  Natal and Pipa for beach stuff, dune buggies and aero-bunda, Aracaju (Sergipe), and would go back to Salvador (Bahia) and its neighboring cities and beaches in a New York minute!  I mean … a Sampa minute.  My favorite spots were my neighborhood "lanchonete" where I could get a variety of food and pay per kilo, or just have the "prato do dia".

EP: What have you learned about the Brazilian life style? What could you tell us?

Linda:    Compared to Brazil, I found the US to be kind of emotionally cold.  I got very used to being touched, hugged, and generally treated with more demonstrable affection.  Friendships formed quickly and lasted.   Emotions, good and bad, are more freely expressed.  The idea of spending time with friends is different  - people rarely go out alone.  Likewise, if I made a breakfast date with someone, we did not part ways after the meal.  We usually spent the entire day and part of the evening together as well.

EP: Finally, what Brazilian dishes are your favorite?

Linda:  I’m 4kg heavier than when I left.  I love Brazilian coffee, pão de quiejo, moqueca, piraruco and carne de sol, picadillo.  There’ s a lovely restaurant called  Mani which serves Brazilian fusion cuisine. 

Escrito por Laura Soares às 14h37
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Living in Cape Verde - Maciej Szumny and Bob Dahlke

See full size imageHi, everyone! How are you doing? I am ok! Today our interviewees are Maciej Szumny  and Bob Dahlke. Maciej is from Poland and Robert is an American diplomat. Both have been living in Cape Verde for almost 3 months. They certainly have a lot to tell us about this beautiful country. Queridos, suuuuuuper obrigada por sua participação!
EP - Guys, we all miss you. How has been your life in Cape Verde? What are the main differences between your life there and the life that you used to have in the U.S.?
Robert: So far life has been very different, very interesting, and pretty nice.  Though I've worked many years in Africa, Cape Verde is an African country that is also very European, with a strong, enduring Portuguese cultural influence.  I've also never lived in an island country before, and much of life and work here is influenced by the geography of the islands that comprise this country.  For example, when we arrived at the beginning of July, Santiago island, where the capital city of Praia is located, was dry, barren and brown, with no color at all.  Now we're in the midst of the August-October rainy season, and the entire island is full of the most beautiful greenery a person could ever see.  It now seems like we live in one of the most picturesque places on earth--but two months ago I would never have thought it possible.

Maciej: For me the main difference is that life is much calmer and slower, very relaxing. The only moments I need to really try hard to be "zen" are when the drivers stop in the car in front of me blocking the way, because they just saw a friend on the sidewalk and want to talk to him, or in the stores, when not like in US the seller, not customer is a king and it may take quite a time before you finally buy some meat or chicken. Also, Praia is a very small city, so after some time you have a feeling you know everyone. I really enjoy it :)

EP - Maciej, I saw on your Facebook that you have been taking amazing pictures of places and people. Which are your favorite places in Cape Verde?

Maciej: I always try to find beauty in any place. So far we know only Santiago island, but I like the Cidade Velha - the first town in the islands with amazing ruins of the first catholic cathedral outside Europe, I like Praia with colorful places and people, I like the Cruz The Papa park with the monument of the Polish Pope John Pope II, but it's really hard to decide what's my favourite place, when you live 3 minutes to the beach and 30 minutes to the mountains.
Robert: So far my favorite places are the lighthouse peninsula here in Praia, where you can go and watch the ocean for hours, watching the waves crashing into the rocks; and the mountains on the way from Praia, on the southern tip of Santiago, to Tarrafal, on the northern tip.  It's an unforgettable drive.  I also like the old Portuguese colonial architecture of Plateau, the business/commercial center of Praia. 

EP – Cape Verde had tough economical and political times in the last decades. Nowadays, according to many economists, it is considered a stable democracy. In spite of the short time, what is your perception about how the economic improvements have affected Cape Verdean’s life?

Maciej: Bob for sure will have much more to say, but I'm very impressed with the quality of the modern roads outside Praia, I wish we had the same in Poland. There's not a lot of cars in there yet, so driving is a real pleasure. And I think Cape Verde has huge opportunities for the use of clean energy. There are some first windmills, but there's still a lot to do.
Robert:  Having lived and worked in 4 other African countries, there's no question that Cape Verde is impressive.  It has made huge strides in the past ten years in terms of lowering the poverty rate among its people, improving infrastructure, strengthening government accountability, and improving public services.  There's a civic consciousness here that is rare in Africa; people have a sense of the common good--unlike so many other countries in the region where private gain seems the only thing that matters and corruption is rampant.  Cape Verde, prosperous, stable, relatively well-governed, and safe, gives a person hope for the future of Africa.

EP – Cape Verde is famous for its music; one example is the great singer Cesária Évora. Which new sounds and rhythms you have been listening to?

Maciej: Cesaria Evora is very popular in Poland where i come from, actually she's one of my mom's favourite singers. She recorded a beautiful song with Polish artist Kayah, it's easy to find in on iTunes. New sound for me is fu-na-na - fast and funny rythm, for which you dance using your hips. I really like it, it's a great music for the sunny and hot climate.
Robert: Because I work such long hours, it's hard for me to get out and hear live music.  But I have heard lots of mornas and fu-na-na.  I really like the mornas, even though they're relentlessly sad--like the music of many island countries in the world.  I'm not so crazy about fu-na-na.

EP – What about the Cape Verdean food? Do you have any special suggestion for your colleagues who are going to live in the country?

Maciej: The special suggestion - bring Nutella with you! Being serious - the food is great, I especially love buzios - the grilled seafood. Also in Praia there are some really good restaurants, we are lucky to live just above of my favorite one. I also like to order grilled chicken: after the meal I have some bones to share with the dogs living on the streets.
Robert: I love Cachupa Tradicional.  It's delicious and nutritious--easily my favorite Cape Verdean dish. 

EP – Open space for your input.

Maciej: Cape Verde is a beautiful country. Breathtaking landscapes, nice and friendly people, outdoor gyms, interesting history - a great place to visit.

Robert: So far so good here in Cape Verde.  I'm impatient to see some of the other islands.  Already I can tell we'll have plenty to discover throughout our three years here.  Also, though proper Portuguese is useful in my work, Krioulo is the real language of daily life here, and I need to learn some. 

Escrito por Laura Soares às 09h22
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Favela Rising - Jeff Zimbalist

Hi everyone! Today I am going to interview Jeff Zimbalist. Jeff directed and produced the documentary Favela Rising. He also teaches The New York Film Academy and Maine Photographic workshops.
Jeff is from Northampton Massachusetts, but he lives in Manhattan, Nova York and San Francisco, CA. The awarded documentary Favela Rising basically tells the story of Anderson Sá, leader of the movement/band AfroReggae, and shows how life is in Vigário Geral, one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas. If you haven’t watched this documentary yet, I strongly recommend it to you. Favela Rising shows a beautiful true story with a sense of hope, resistance and strength; and how through music and non-violent ideals, it was possible to change so many lives.

Jeff, thank you very much for taking the time to give this interview to EP.

EP: Jeff, when did you firstly have the idea to film in Rio de Janeiro? Why did you choose Rio?

Jeff: Please read my director's statement on for this answer.

EP: As far as I know, someone who intends to film inside a favela has to ask the community leaders’ permission. How did you and your production team negotiate it?

Jeff: AfroReggae has constant communication with the drug faction leaders and always notified the gangs when we would be filming or staying in the favela, what part of the neighborhood we'd be in, etc. The drug army supports AfroReggae's work because AfroReggae provides positive opportunities for the drug soldier's siblings and children and friends where they can live beyond the usual life expectancy of a life of crime, which is around 24 years. Sometimes the drug cartel leaders would warn us in advance not to film in a particular area where tensions with rival cartels were high.

EP: The documentary Favela Rising opens up a debate about serious social problems in Brazil. How do you see yourself as an active witness of these events? In your opinion, what’s the main contribution of this type of social documentary?

Jeff: Again, please see director's statement on website

EP: You lived in Rio for 2.5 years .What are your favorite spots in the “wonderful city”?

Jeff: Vigario Geral, Lapa, Rocinha

Escrito por Laura Soares às 11h50
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Adam Benz - Sunset at Corcovado

See full size image

Hello, dear students!  We have a new interviewee. His name is Adam Benz. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Foreign Policy Digest. He also worked as a lawyer helping to investigate corporate corruption in Brazil.  

Adam, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed by EP.


EP: So, let’s start: Adam, why did you start to study Portuguese?

Adam: In college, I focused on Latin American Studies, and so I was already focusing on Spanish. My university offered a course in Brazilian Portuguese for Spanish Speakers, and I was intrigued so I enrolled. I ended up becoming fascinated by the language and culture and a lengthy trip to Brazil after law school only fueled my interest more. Before starting law school, I enrolled in an intensive eight-week Portuguese language immersion program at Middlebury University in Vermont, which was very helpful in not only learning the Portuguese language, but also how that language fit into Brazil's culture and history.

EP: In the beginning what were your main challenges? Some of my students consider the pronunciation of some Brazilian words very difficult. What do you think?

Adam: Learning Portuguese after already being proficient in Spanish has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you already understand many of the cognates and grammatical rules shared by both languages. However, the biggest disadvantage is the tendency for Spanish-speakers learning to speak "Portunhol", or a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese. While there are many cognates between Portuguese and Spanish, simply trying to insert a Spanish word using a Brazilian accent into a Portuguese sentence can cause a lot of confusion for everyone involved.

For instance, in Spanish "casualidad" means "coincidence", while in Portuguese "coincidence" in Portuguese is "coincidência". Unfortunately, I once discovered when speaking to a Brazilian that "Que casualidade!" does not mean "What a coincidence!" in Portuguese at all!  That is just one example of a long, long list of false cognates that exists between the language. 

Over time I have learned that the best way to avoid "Portunhol" is to think carefully about my choice of words before speaking, and to not let myself take the easy route of using familiar Spanish words that "seem" like they could mean the same thing in Portuguese as well. I've therefore tried to stick with a simple rule of thumb when speaking Portuguese: when in doubt, stick with the words I know! This has caused much less confusion in my conversations with Portuguese speakers in the long run.

EP: Which Brazilian states have you visited? What are your favorite spots?

Adam: My travels to Brazil have been limited to the Southern half of Brazil -- although I would love to visit the North, Northeast and Interior of Brazil someday! The states I have traveled to have included Minas Gerais, Sao Paolo State, Rio de Janeiro State, Parana, and Santa Catarina.

There are so many great places in Brazil that it is hard to pick my favorites. If I had to choose, I would probably start with the historical cities in the Camino Real (or "Royal Road"), which is the historical route dating to the 17th Century that used to transport diamonds from the interior of Minas Gerais state to the coast, where they would be shipped to the king of Portugal.

The city of Paraty, which is at the end of the Camino Real where the route meets the ocean, is a gem of a city where historical architecture gives way to a sparkling bay dotted with pristine island beaches. However, my absolute favorite spot on the Camino Real is the remarkable city of Ouro Preto. This strikingly beautiful town mixes the charm and ambience of a centuries-old European hamlet nestled in gently rolling small mountains with the energy and youthful vibrance of the college town that it remains to this day. There are so many historical treasures, bustling markets and restaurants, and stunning panoramic views that no matter how much you try to do, you'll still leave wanting more. If you also add in the deliciously rich "mineiro" cooking and warm "mineiro" demeanor of the town's inhabitants, it becomes clear that Ouro Preto is a very special place.

Finally, if I had to pick just a few other Brazilian locations that would make it to the top of my list, I would include Florianopolis, an exhuberantly fun beach town, Petropolis, the site of the onetime summer residence of only monarchy in the Western hemisphere, not to mention Ribeirao Preto, where the charmingly historic "Penguim" bar serves the best cold draught beer (known as "chopp") in all of Brazil (if you go, be sure to order it "estupidamente gelado", or "stupidly cold", for the best flavor). And of course, no one should miss the chance of watching the sunset from the beach in Rio with the horizon framed by the Corcovado and Pao de Azucar mountains, when the first lights from the surrounding mountains begin to twinkle around you. The experience is quintessentially Brazilian and yet somehow feels both personal and universal at the same time.

Super obrigada, Adam! Beijos!

Escrito por Laura Soares às 12h08
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More Brazilian Music - Matvei Sigalov

Dear students, I am so sorry for the absence. After a long time, we finally have a new interviewee. His name is Matvei Sigalov. He is  originally from Samara, Russia. Matvie is a musician who lives in DC , he came to the US almost 11 years ago. If you want to see him and his band playing, go to the Bohemian Caverns between 11th and U St. NW . On the 16th and 17th of this month he will be playing with Margret Grebowicz, a wonderful New York-based singer, who does a lot of arrangements of contemporary Brazilian music. Should be a fun show!

EP – When and why did you start to play Brazilian music? Were you aware of Brazilian music styles before coming to the USA? Who are the most popular Brazilian musicians in Eastern Europe, Russia included. Which Brazilian artists do you know? Which are your favorites?

I first started playing brazilian music back in Russia, but there was so little information about it - there were hardly any records ( tapes, rather ), no sheet music etc. As far as my repertoire, back then it was mostly Jobim with, maybe , some Louis Bonfa thrown in. Everybody was just learning songs from the tapes they had - Getz-Gilberto record, Charlie Byrd's stuff, some Jobim albums, not a whole lot to choose from.
From what I hear , the situation has changed some. But mostly among musicians.They have learned about guys like Djavan, Joao Bosco, Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins, Lo Borges, Gaetano Veloso and such. But for general public it still starts and ends with " Garota De Ipanema", I'm afraid.
I remember my first time hearing some Djavan's songs. Patrick De Santos and Richard Miller, two great musicians that I became good friends with later, were playing at the Chi-Cha Lounge on U St. and somehow I ended up there with a group of friends after some dinner party.
And, man, was I blown away... Not only they were playing their asses off , but the music they were playing was just... I don't know... So beautiful, fresh, full of energy, there was so much stuff happening inside of it ! I remember thinking - what is this ?! How come I never heard this before ? Right then and there I decided - I wanna play this and play it good ! I wanna be a part of it.
And a few days later I got all this music from Patrick - there was a ton of Djavan, some Gilberto Gil, Joao Bosco etc.
After that I continued to explore on my own and discovered Elis Regina ( who, I think, was one of the greatest singers that ever lived ) lots of choro music, guys like Raphael Rabello, Egberto Gismonti, Hermeto Pascoal, Guinga and it went on and on...
Right now I'm kinda re-discovering Jobim , once again... What a genius he was...

 EP - EP – I am going to repeat this question because I am curious to know your opinion. The majority of the musicians that I have met, affirm that there is something special about Brazilian music. Do you agree with that?

There's a certain harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary in Brazilian music that is very distinctive. It's also very sophisticated - fusion of european harmony and african rhythms. Of course, it's a generalization , but even as far as popular music goes, I think, brazilian music has the most advanced harmonic language. And musicians love stuff like that :-)

EP – Talking to my colleague Beth, she mentioned there are some phonetic similarities between Brazilian and Russian both vowel and consonant sounds. As a musician, how much more comfortable does that make Russian artists vis-a-vis Brazilian popular music?

About phonetic similarities with Russian language . It's true. Lots of similar sounds. I get mistaken for a Brazilian all the time, by people who are just passing by, when I'm talking on the phone to my Russian friends.

 I keep trying to start learning Portuguese and I've been told that my pronunciation is pretty good, so there's hope, I guess. One day...

Matvei, thank you for taking the time to be in terviewed by Public Space. 


Escrito por Laura Soares às 02h19
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Leona Forman - Brazil Foundation!

Bom dia, boa tarde e boa noite!  Dear students, family, friends and everyone else, how are you? I have been very busy as usual. Today our interviewee is Leona Forman. She lives in Manhattan, New York, and she is the founder of Brazil Foundation, a not-for-profit in the US and a Public Interest Organization in Brazil, that was created in 2000, and has been mobilizing a growing philanthropic community focusing on social development in Brazil.  She is a Brazilian-American with a Russian- Jewish background who was born in China. Wow! J Querida Leona, it’s a pleasure to interview you! I know how busy you are and want to thank you for taking the time to be interviewed by EP.

EP - Why and when did you actually decide to start the Brazil Foundation?

Leona - It was at the point of retirement from a 20 year career in public information at the United Nations, when a strong pull to reconnect with Brazil and to give-back to the country that so generously received my refugee family in 1953. Having worked with non profit organizations from all parts of the world, I knew how difficult it was for them to raise resources, how important it was for the non profits build confidence among the other two sectors – the private sector and the government sector – in their work in order to form partnerships and jointly face challenges faced by marginalized communities in all countries. The Brazilian population in the US that is calculated in over 1.2 million people, includes a very successful, talented, sought after professionals in all sectors, industries and services – financial, banking, industrial, steel-gas and oil industries,  fashion, new media, film, health, academic, designers, musicians ,etc. In talks with people it became clear that although far away from their home-states in Brazil they were deeply attached to their families and communities and what I heard most is that they wanted to share the success they had in the US by making social investments in lives of others  back home.  BrazilFoundation     became a trusted vehicle for them to participate, to make a difference  and in the nine years since its founding, we raised more than $11 million dollars that were directed to over 286 non- profit  social organizations in all states of Brazil.

EP - Your organization basically raises funds for social projects in Brazil and I know that you have an annual selection of projects. What types of criteria does your group use to evaluate the projects?

Leona - In 2002, the first year we had resources to give - $30,000  - we made a call for project proposals. We received 72 proposals and were able to make three grants of $10,000 each and still had some money due to favorable dollar/real exchange to create an incentive prize to a very promising project.

Our grants have a one-year time line, a maximum budget of R$30,000 (approximately US$16,600.00) at current exchange rates and provide us with four implementation reports during the period. We closely monitor this implementation – for the success of the project is our own success. We provide two project-coordinators with an initial capacity building “boot-camp” in management, administration and communications. These workshops often are considered even more important for the small and medium organizations we work with  than the grant itself , providing the organization with the tools and skills they need for their growth and ability to form partnerships.

We seek projects in the fields of education, health, human rights, participatory development and culture. The criteria we use in the selection process – and this year we received 1116 proposals! – is first and foremost,  that the people or community the project is intended to benefit, embraces the project,  wants and needs it. Secondly, that the project is innovative, creative, efficient, effective. And thirdly, that in the long run, it has potential to influence public policy.    

EP – After the project is chosen, what type of follow-up do you have to guarantee that the funds are being used for that project?

Leona - As stated above, we require quarterly reports on implementation of the project proposal where the benchmarks and indicators are already clearly defined.  As grantees are selected, they receive half of the grant immediately and six months later, considering all is going as planned, the second half. This provides us with endless opportunities to be in direct communication with each projects, provide them with assistance by telephone, e-mail or in rare cases, visits by project analysts. Rare is the year when a project is unable to complete its objective. This close monitoring and supportive relationship has produced amazing  results for the relatively small social investment.


EP – The majority of the social projects that I’ve known in Brazil are in one way or another related to Arts, mainly music and dance. Professor Freire used to say that Arts have an important role in the process of transformation of the entire society. I know that Brazil Foundation supports many Artistic- Social projects. How do you see the presence of Arts nowadays? Do you agree with Professor Paulo Freire that Arts are important tools to transform the human being and, consequently, the society?

Leona - I think arts and culture are most crucial elements in any society and in Brazil the talents  are found in the most far-flung communities. The projects we get in the fields of art and culture usually have to do with the promotion and preservation of the traditions and production of artistic heritage, whether  it is afro-brazilian, Brazilian-indigenous or the cultures imported from Europe and the Americas. Providing young people with the opportunity to learn and perform and create, whether it is music, painting, design, theater  the projects are most creative in fomenting talents.  Many of the grantee-organizations we have made grants to  in the field of culture caught the eyes of the Ministry of Culture and  have become Points of Culture  , national centers for the promotion of arts, music and culture supported by the Ministry of Culture. There is an amazing story of the Banda Revoltosa in Nazare da Mata, Pernambuco, that exemplifies the potential of a grantee!


EP – Open space for your input

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the work of BrazilFoundation. I hope your readers/listeners will want to go to our website to learn more


Escrito por Laura Soares às 23h26
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Mikael Castro - Travelology Club in Africa!

Hi there! The new interviewee was in Ethiopia when I heard about him as I was talking to Sam, a good friend of mine and of Mikael’s girlfriend. His name is Mikael Castro. He is a Brazilian-American, who was born in São Paulo. He is an Ecotourism Expert and Anthropologist, who enjoys Photography. He is the son of the well-known Brazilian journalist, Haroldo Castro, who writes for Época Magazine and created an interesting and fun concept called “Travelology" which acknowlodges travel as a dynamic learning process.

EP – Mikael, my first question is, of course, where are you now? Are you still in Ethiopia? How are you?

Mikael –Thanks for asking. I have just returned to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. However only a couple days ago I was lost in the Omo Valley, one of the last bastions of African tribes, found in Southern Ethiopia. We spend 23 days in Ethiopia and were completely dumbfounded.

– Could you tell us about your experience visiting so many African countries? Which countries have you visited?

Mikael – Since the beginning of the expedition it has been 10 countries and 14 border crossings. We began in South Africa, travel northwest up through Namibia, to Angola, then back to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan. It has been more than 25,000 kilometers. The experience is truly amazing. I never imagined you could find such places on earth – red sand dunes as tall as mountains that spread for hundreds of miles, highland plateaus of 2,000 meters in altitude that suddenly drop 1000 meters to lush rainforests, medieval castles and churches carved in the bedrock more than a thousand years ago…the list just goes on.
However, what is most impressive is how Africa is not what you would imagine. Yes, there is poverty, illness, corruption and violence, but not any more than many other countries in the world. There some many positive and inspiring stories to be shared.

EP - You just went to Angola. How long were you there? After so many conflicts among rival armed political groups: FNLA, MPLA and UNITAS, what do you think about the country and, specially, the population?

Mikael - Going to Angola was a much debated idea. Beyond the complications of getting a visa, we knew the country was still recovering from a 40 year old civil war that tore up much of the country. But with our mission in mind, to discover the positive aspects of the continent - the Lights of Africa, we crossed the border from Namibia.

We chose the best time to visit, while Angola was hosting the African Cup of Nations - the football world cup for Africa. We saw games in Lubango, in the southern province of the county. We were pleasantly surprised, people were welcoming and hospitable, especially the authorities.

But as some locals said, "the CAN (African Cup of Nations) is merely makeup covering some of the more serious underlying societal issues". Indeed, the country struggles with immense disparity between the rich and the poor. Making it difficult for development of basic industries. A supermarket had mostly imported good, which cost a fortune, and are way out of range for a common person.

Nevertheless, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We met a great Portuguese writer, whose day job is training new teachers in southern Angola. He and others of the foreign aid organization are helping rebuild where it counts, creating teachers to a better education system.

Angola's natural beauty, despite the war, remains intact in some places and well worth a proper tourism industry. Places like Serra de Lalibela, Oasis de Arco and many other sites.

The Chineses are there, just like in most Africa countries, building new roads, stadiums, and the basic infrastructure which they desperately need. While some see the benefit of the Chinese business, many know that they are getting the short end of the stick.

EP –As far as I know, the occupation of the territory of Badme by Ethiopia and the Eritrea Political Independence in 1993 continues to be the major reason of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Talking to some colleagues, they mentioned families that have relatives in both countries and the difficult situation experienced by them. It seems that the unsolved issues have generated serious problems for many families. Do you know how the Ethiopia and Eritrea’s conflicts affect the life of the Ethiopian and Eritrean population?

Mikael – Great question. Indeed the conflict between the two countries is still a very current issue. Our plans initially included crossing from Ethiopia to Eritrea, however we came to learn that the border is closed, it has no signs of reopening soon. We arrived as far as Adigrat, which is only a few kilometers from the border. Indeed, the presence of military personnel reminded us of the border tensions. We asked some locals, which we befriended at a hotel in Axum, about their opinion. The answer, “these conflicts are political, created by the government. We do not have a problem with Eritreans.”

EP – Ethiopia is known for its Christian Orthodox, Muslim and some Jewish influences; have you contacted with any of these communities?

Mikael – I would say that foremost, Ethiopia is known for its unique Christian Orthodox, as it was one of the first countries to adopt the religion. Over a thousand years ago, the King Lalibela build what was supposed to be the New Jerusalem, carving out almost a dozen entire churches from the bedrock of the mountains at over 2,000 meters in altitude. There, in Lalibela, and throughout the country the Ethiopian Orthodox religion still thrives.
Indeed there are Muslim influences, yet hardly any Jewish left. There seems to be no conflict between the Muslims and and Christian orthodox devotes. We actually found, while going to the market in Lalibela, two women braiding each other’s hair. One was wearing a typical Lalibela Orthodox cross and the other sported a Muslim prayer necklace. We began talking to them about religion. Their response “We get along fine; there is no tension between Muslim and Orthodox. God, Allah, it’s all the same, just different names”

EP – I have seen you many times playing “atabaque”. Super cool! In terms of music, which interesting sounds have you heard in Africa?

Mikael - Wow, music in Africa is a whole world to be explored. I exchanged some drum rhythems with local while visiting some more tradition villages. What can I say; the language of the drum is universal. However, Africa seems to be the motherland of Rhythem. Most of the Brazilian beats I know originate from Africa.

EP Traveling through the African countries, can you describe what similarities you have found between the Brazilian and the African life styles?

Mikael- Oh so many. This is why we want to encourage Brazilians to get to know Africa better. From the diversity of skin tones, the beats of the drum, the intrinsic connection with nature, and the joyful attitude towards life –no matter how simple it maybe, the similarities are endless. It is said that more than half of Brazilians have some African blood in them, no wonder.

EP – Open space for your input.

Mikael – Follow the blog, and you’ll get much, much more, plus photos. Best wishes and warm regards from Nairobi.

Thank you for your interview, Querido Mikael. Beijos. J

Escrito por Laura Soares às 13h20
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Seth Kugel - Living in Sampa.

Seth KugelHello, everyone! How are you? I am doing great, and we have a new interviewee. His name is Seth Kugel. He is a journalist who used to have a column in the Travel section of the New York Times called Weekend in New York, where readers could see through the eyes of an experienced New York resident the best spots to go in the Big Apple. He also wrote the book Nueva York: Guide to Latino Life in the five Boroughs, full of tips for travelers/NY lovers like you (maybe) and me.


Currently, he also works for the Global Post as a Brazil correspondent. Seth or “Sete” (as Brazilians call him due to difficulty in pronouncing the “th” sounds) has been living in Sao Paulo for almost a year and a half and he certainly has a lot of things to tell us about the big crowded city of São Paulo.


EP - So, let’s begin: You used to live in Manhattan, New York. As a “Paulistana” (native of São Paulo city), I particularly see a lot of similarities between Manhattan and São Paulo. You know, a city of great business opportunities, lots and lots of workaholics, crowded streets, traffic jams, parking lot chaos…But at the same time, amazing night life, great restaurants, stores, cinemas and theaters open 24/7. In your opinion, are there similarities between Sampa and Manhattan? And what are the main differences between your New Yorker life style and your life in São Paulo?

Seth: It’s hard to adjust to any city, but anyone moving from São Paulo to New York or New York to São Paulo will have an easier time than most.  New Yorkers are definitely more workaholic than Paulistanos, but both are at the absolute maximum for their respective countries.  Paulistanos at least know how to relax when they are out of work – in particular, by not talking about work.  You can’t talk with anyone in New York for two minutes without asking “what do you do?”  In São Paulo you might get away with 15, 20, 30 minutes…or never find out what the person does.  You’re pretty much right about all the other stuff, except that traffic jams in New York don’t really matter to most people, since everyone, rich and poor, takes the subway.  It goes everywhere, runs 24 hours, and (these days) is safe.  In São Paulo, the subway goes almost nowhere, and shuts down early.  People are stuck in cars.  It’s a real hassle.  I can think of two other big differences.  New York is far more international than São Paulo.  There are very few recent immigrants in São Paulo; the biggest groups, Italians and Japanese, have pretty much acculturated, and you rarely hear any language beside Portuguese (and sometimes English) in the streets.  That impacts all kinds of things, especially the variety of food available.  São Paulo has great Italian, Japanese and Portuguese food, but New York has really great everything, and it’s much cheaper, because it’s cooked for immigrants.  Finally, New York is much safer now than São Paulo…but it hasn’t always been. I moved there in 1992, and it felt like São Paulo feels now. Those are the differences.  But there are many more similarities. The energy, the excitement, the feeling that you’re at the epicenter of all things cultural.  There’s always something to do, always new shows, always new restaurants, always news.

 EP – You speak Spanish and Portuguese fluently. Why did you decide to study those languages? What motivated you to do so? In the beginning, what were your main challenges in learning Portuguese? 

 Seth:  I studied French in high school and college, but ended up becoming a bilingual Spanish teacher when I did the Teach For America program out of college.  I spent the first three years of my career as a third-grade teacher in the Bronx, working with immigrant children, many of whom were just learning English. I learned Spanish very quickly, but only because I was obsessed with it and was way behind where I should have been.  New York has over a million, maybe closer to two million, Spanish speakers, so it’s the best place in the world to learn Spanish outside Latin America. I got pretty good, but got even better because I spent my summer vacations in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. After French and Spanish, Portuguese was relatively easy.  I always say Portuguese vocabulary and grammar is 70% Spanish, 20% French and 10% its own language (with words like açougue and tenses that the infinito particular…or is that a Marisa Monte album...anyway, I mean like “para nos entrarmos”) The hardest part was finding speakers to practice with in New York. The second hardest part was the pronunciation.  My Spanish accent is pretty close to perfect; in Portuguese I will always be instantly recognizable as a gringo.

EP – I used to read your Column Weekend in NY in the Times. I must confess I miss it a lot. As a Brazil correspondent to the Global Post and a person who lives in São Paulo, what advice or travel tips would you give someone who is planning on going to Brazil?

Seth: I kind of hate that kind of question, and what I always tell people is read all my articles about Brazil, then if you have any additional questions, ask me!  I think most of it is in there – get out of Rio and Sao Paulo, in those cities get off the tourist trail, rent a car and drive to Minas, etc. 

EP –What are your favorite spots in São Paulo? Why?


Seth: I think the most interesting parts of São Paulo are in the center.  I live just outside central zone of the city, and though it’s run down and ugly, there have been some efforts at revival.  The Pinacoteca museum may be the most beautiful place around, especially if you combine it with a visit to the sculpture garden in Praça da Luz next door. And all kinds of old buildings are used for cool stuff, either bars or pizzerias or just housing.  Salve Jorge, a bar and restaurant in the center, to me is what the whole Centro could be some day.  There are nice enough restaurants elsewhere, but I can’t really stand Vila Olimpia or Moema, they just seem like boring enclaves.  One of the greatest places to go in São Paulo – even for those who don’t speak Portuguese and are usually uncomfortable in poorer neighborhoods – is Mocotó restaurant in Vila Medeiros, way up north.  It’s become a foodie phenomenon.  I also like the places everyone likes, like having beers in Vila Madalena.  There is one thing I do hate: malls.  That’s my New Yorker side coming out. Stores should be on the street.  But in a city where everyone drives, there’s no on-street parking, and lots of people are scared to walk around anyway, I guess it’s unavoidable.


EP – São Paulo is famous for its amazing and diverse restaurants. Do you have any suggestions for future São Paulo residents and travelers? By the way, what is your favorite Brazilian dish?


Seth:  São Paulo is an excellent restaurant city with great chefs and fine food, but, and I hate to break this to you, it comes in far behind places like New York and Paris and that sort of thing. Diversity is relative, as I said before…I always think – where are the taco stands and cheap Chinese food and 24 hour Korean barbecues and Russian spots and the like.  On the other hand, the sushi is great, and the Italian food is diverse and going to a Italo-Brazilian cantina to taste how Brazilians have modified Italian food is fantastic (much like Americans created Italian-American cuisine). And lunch brings the best Brazilian invention of all time, self-service pay-by-weight buffets, where the food is actually, believe it or not, really excellent.  But that’s mostly served Monday through Friday at lunch only. The biggest issue is that at other times, for anything but bar snacks and diner meals, restaurants are mostly really expensive.  If you have money, that’s no problem.  But when I want to spend $10 on dinner, my options are very limited. I was once eating in Canteloupe, a wonderful contemporary restaurant, when I realize that 99% of the residents in the city couldn’t afford to eat there.  Including me! (My friend was paying.)

My suggestion to visitors is the following: hit the Brazilian restaurants, and maybe some sushi spots.  Brazilians may push you toward French and Italian places, and they’re good, but you’re in Brazil!  My top recommendations are Brasil a Gosto, Mocotó, Caipim Santo and Tordesilhas.  And be sure to have some “pastéis” at the local street market. 

Finally, I don’t understand why there aren’t more Rio style juice bars in Sao Paulo, so when you go to Rio, spend all day long at the juice spots on the corner.  I would kill to transplant one to my neighborhood in São Paulo; I’d here there literally at least 5 times a week.

Escrito por Laura Soares às 09h44
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Seth Kugel - Living in Sampa - Part 2

EP – Some of my students are going to live in Brazil, and one of their main concerns is the violence that they see published in the major Brazilian media outlets. For this reason I bring up this question again. Unfortunately, São Paulo is considered one of the most violent cities in Brazil and one of the reasons pointed out is the extreme level of social inequalities. What’s your perception of this problem?


 Seth: I’m a bad person to ask.  I worked in the South Bronx throughout the 1990s, and I think getting to know places that are considered “dangerous” are well worth the risk.  Because in reality, they’re not that dangerous.  True, you could easily get mugged, and it’s very likely, in fact.  So every time I go out, I think of what I have with me.  Is my computer backed up?  Did I leave at least one credit card at home, and do I have the account numbers recorded in case I need to call and cancel?  And I don’t carry an expensive cell phone.  I have almost no fear at all of being hurt. 

I take the public buses all the time, I go to any neighborhood at all during the day (though I certainly would avoid favelas with drug trafficking unless you’re with someone who knows them), and I walk long distances even late at night. I’m amazed at foreigners who refuse to get to know the city because they’re too afraid.  An American friend in Sao Paulo called me when I was riding the bus and when I told him he said “should you really be speaking English in the bus?”, apparently fearing I would be instantly robbed and beaten.  That’s just totally insane.  I understand state department employees here are not allowed to take buses or subways…it’s just inexplicable.  You miss out on so much here if you are irrational in your behavior.  Again, know the risks.  But the chances you’ll be hurt  are slim, as long as you’re ready to give up whatever you have if you’re held up. (By the way, nothing at all has happened to me here.)


EP – The rainy season in São Paulo is another important topic that I have discussed in class with my students. Often Brazilian Media publishes how it has been affected the people’s life. It’s horrible to see people losing even the little material things that they have.

How has it affected your life and work?


Seth: Well, the things that happen here because of the rain are often tragic.  It’s terrible to see, and it’s even worse because the problems are the result of decades of mismanagement by the government in planning appropriate drainage systems and allowing substandard housing to be built.  We saw what happened in Rio last week, and clearly, it couldn’t have surprised anyone.  You let people build a neighborhood on an old garbage dump, then you’re surprised when tragedy strikes?  It actually reminded me a lot of feelings in the US after Hurricane Katrina.  Both countries seem to have a knack for ignoring big risks until it’s too late.


EP – Let’s change to a lighter topic: In your last message, you told me you were going to Rio. Are you planning to go to Carnival? Is it your first experience?

Seth:  It was my second Carnaval in Brazil but my first in Rio.  You can read all about my experience here:


EP – Have you been traveling around Brazil? Which other states, cities have you visited?  Did you experience any other cultural or language differences?


Seth : I’ve been to quite a number of places:  in Sao Paulo – the litoral, São Luiz do Paraitinga, Piracicaba, Sao Jose dos Campos, and many more.  In Rio, Rio de Janeiro of course, Búzios, Cabo Frio, Rezende, Paraty, Trindade.  In Amazonas, I took a boat from the Colombian border to Manaus, spent a night in a riverfront community in Novo Aripuana, and more.  In Pará, I visited açaí regions and of course Belém.  I’ve been around the northeast (Recife, João Pessoa, etc) writing about forró music.  And to Florianpolis in the South.  I’ve been to Brasilia (BORING) and all over Minas Gerais.  Ah, and Bahia of course.  So many places left to go still!  Cultural differences abound, but nothing too difficult.  Outside of Rio and Sao Paulo, many people say, is the real Brazil.  It was in small towns and villages that I was reminded most of my other experiences in Latin America – rural life, small town life, etc.


EP –To finalize, what is your favorite Brazilian expression?

Seth: It’s probably “fala serio” or “me poupe” because whenever I use either one Brazilians seem to think it’s hilarious.


EP – Space open for you input.

Seth:  ============================================================


EP - Querido Seth, thank YOU for taking the time to be a Public Space interviewee. Beijos.  By the way, queridos readers, if you want to get more information about Seth Kugel. Please visit his website:



Escrito por Laura Soares às 09h42
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Brazilian LIVE Music - Part 2

Hello everyone! After a long time, here I am J How are you? Our new interviewee is a percussionist who lives in Washington- DC and plays Brazilian music. His name is Names Thompson. He is originally from Ypsilanti, Michigan. If you want to see him and his band performing, go to ESL every Thursday or you can see Names at “Current” playing congas with DJ Pretty Hot. Querido Names, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed by Public Space. J

EP –The majority of the musicians that I have met, affirm that there is something special about Brazilian music. Do you agree with that?

Names - Most definitely, the many rhythms and history from Africa is indeed inspiring; special to me.... Well, I was introduced to Brazilian music in 2003 by some local Brazilian artists. I was asked to play drums, as a favor. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, so I said “ok, but I can’t play Brazilian rhythms, I don’t want to make all of you sound bad" and, of course, it was horrible. Then, they asked me to come back and I was shocked....... They gave me some Cds to listen to and I did. So, that was the beginning of my Brazilian music experience. 

EP – Have you ever been to Brazil? If so, could you tell us your experience?

Names – No, but I feel I do get to experience a little bit of Brazil every week right here in Washington.

EP – In terms of percussion, are there any difference between the drumming style of the Brazilian and the other Latin rhythms compared to the American style?

Names – Yes, there are. I believe all drums have their own identity, and distinctive patterns to their own environment that is originally from Africa.  And if you listen to American music and listen close you’ll hear the relevance from Black Eyed Peas to Led Zeppelin.  

EP – Which Brazilian artists do you know? Which are your favorites?

Names - Djavan and Gilberto Gil are my favorites.

EP – For a person who is coming to DC, what are the best spots to listen to Brazilian musician besides the places that you play? J  

Names - Bossa Bistro, Saint Ex, the Grill from Ipanema.

EP – Open space for your input.

Names -   I’m so blessed to be such a diversified musician, playing reggae, salsa, Brazilian music, funk, rock and house music.  And I’ve learned that if you want to play music from another country, you must learn about its culture as well as its music. Then, you will learn how to play as if you were from that culture.

Escrito por Laura Soares às 17h58
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Brazilian LIVE Music in DC!



Hello everyone! How are you? Our new interviewee is Richard Miller; he is Brazilian-American and was born in Rio de Janeiro. His father is American and his mother is Brazilian. Richard Miller is a musician; he specializes in theory of music, classical guitar and Brazilian popular music. In my opinion, he is one of the most active musicians divulging Brazilian music here in DC.


EP – Let’s start, we Brazilians definitely love music. You can find a musician in every corner throughout Brazil. Richard, do you think that the fact that you are half-Brazilian influenced you to be a musician? How old were you when you and your family came to the US?

Richard – My father was my greatest influence. He sang and played piano. Instead of watching TV with my brothers I would sit next to him on the piano bench and listen. Later they discovered I needed glasses (when I was 7 or 8) but it was too late--music had already hooked me. My mother and my experience of being born and living in Brazil until the age of 15 steered me toward my love of Brazilian music.


EP – I know that you have been traveling a lot, both in Latin America and within the U.S. How do you perceive people’s reaction to Brazilian music?


Richard – I have never found a person who doesn't love Brazilian music. I have played many weddings where not a single person was Brazilian but the only kind of music they wanted was Brazilian. I have met many Americans--musicians and non-musicians--who know much more about Brazilian music than I do myself. It is a phenomenon that can be explained by the different elements of the music, but the music is greater than the sum of its parts. Brazilian music has the riveting rhythms of Africa, blended with rhythms of European dances, it has the rich harmony of European Romanticism and jazz, with the lyrical melodies of the Portuguese and Italian heritage. Not to mention the lyrics.


EP – You teach guitar; could you tell us your experience as a Brazilian guitar instructor?


Richard – I teach a wide variety of styles--according to the interest of the students. The wise ones choose to study Brazilian music, wise because that is my area of expertise. However, to play Brazilian guitar, a person needs a firm grounding in classical guitar technique, a thorough and practical knowledge of jazz harmonies, a metronomic sense of time with the ability to groove with the interlocking and kaleidescopic time lime patterns of African based rhythms, and the ability to play melodies and improvise within the rhythmic and stylistic parameters of the music. Sounds daunting but I have good step-by-step approaches to all these elements. I have taught group guitar classes and that has brought me great satisfaction because a lot can be accomplished with the group dynamic and the sharing of parts. I hope to return to that soon.


 EP – As you know, each region in Brazil has a particular type of music. While travelling in Brazil, which new rhythms have you discovered?


Richard - I learned some killer Baiao patterns in Bahia--what better place! But mostly I learned in Rio from Marcelo Goncalves and Dino 7 Cordas--Dino being the old master and one of the foremost creators of the Brazilian guitar sound and Marcelo one of the young masters and currently in his prime (Dino recently passed away). Besides that, I learn from recordings--just as every musician does. However, being in Brazil and being around great musicians creates the possibility of receiving direct transmissions from them. I had a great experience interviewing Guinga and received from him something greater than his words--simply being in the presence of great musicians enhances your own abilities. Likewise, being in the creative and dynamic environment of Rio or Bahia or Sao Paulo opens doors and energies that a person was not even aware of. I think even people like James Taylor and Pat Metheny have had this experience in Brazil.

EP – Open space for your input.


Richard - I guess it's hard to tell that I love Brazilian music and the Brazilian culture. (hahaha)
I am making plans to return to Rio for at least a year to absorb even more of its creativity (and maybe surf a lot!). Whoever reads this and wants to support live music in the DC area please come and support our gigs. There is a great Brazilian music scene in DC. I play at the Grill from Ipanema, Mandarin Hotel, and Eighteenth Street Lounge on a regular basis. Please visit my website for more info.


Querido Richard, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed on Public Space.Beijos.


Escrito por Laura Soares às 15h30
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Sounds of Brazil!


Hello queridos students, friends, family, colleagues and everyone else! How are you doing? Finally, a new interview, I have been so busy these last days! This time our interviewee is the host and the producer of “Sounds of Brazil”, a show specialized in Brazilian music broadcasted by WPFW 89.3 FM on Sundays from 10pm to 12pm. His name is Tony Regusters; he is originally from Philadelphia PA, but he has been in DC for 28 years.

EP: So, let’s start: I must confess that I am a huge fan of your work. Yes, I listen to Sounds of Brazil every Sunday!Sorriso Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed by Public Space. Tony, I am curious: when and why did you start to work with Brazilian culture? Can you explain the main purpose of the show?

Tony:  I’m really pleased and truly happy that you listen to and love our radio program, Laura!  Zezeh and I have so much fun doing it!  Our on-air chemistry is so good that people think we’re married, but we’re actually just really good friends, like a brother and sister who are mysterious and a bit mischievous.  The main purpose of the show, from my standpoint as an American, is to spread the “Spirit of Axe” into America’s airwaves and into people’s hearts.  People here in the USA are way too rushed and overstressed and too willing to be chained to the treadmill.  I was in the ‘rat race’ too, but I got off of that ride.  I discovered early on that Brazilian music has a healing and spiritual quality to it and that even though you may not speak or understand a single word of Portuguese, your heart somehow is able to comprehend every phrase or story in a song.  I think of Portuguese as a language of feeling, and therefore, it is a music that appeals strongly to feeling-starved North Americans; it slows us down without slowing us down, if you get my meaning?  The music has warmth and up tempo, and even as you’re moving to the Samba beat, another part of you is being quiet, observing, feeling.  We’re so technical in the USA, we’ve become a bit cold, moved beyond the concept of neighbor, family.  Zezeh and I promote a family consciousness on our program.  This music though, there is a powerful healing force in it.  It can activate and actualize you; make you move; make you wish for peace; make you want to make love, sing and dance, smile, clean your house!   Personally, I’ve always had this natural affinity for things Brazilian.  When I was a young guy growing up in the City of Philadelphia, I was exposed to lots of different kinds of music and culture, from Jazz to European classical to West African traditional music.  Because of the heavy Jazz culture and influence in Philadelphia, the radio stations there were some of the first, early on, in the United States, to feature Brazilian artists.  Of course, for me, the sacred ground of that influence was the film “Black Orpheus” and the global explosion of the Bossa Nova sound which followed, particularly and most unforgettably, the Astrid Gilberto/Stan Getz classic ‘Girl from Ipanema’!   That song sparked my imagination with images of this poor guy on a beach looking at this awesomely incredible girl – who didn’t know he was even alive.  Most guys, no matter what country or culture they’re from, can kind of relate to that, I think.   By the way, though I know she’s just a figment of fantasy, somewhere in my mind’s eye I think I’m still searching for the ‘Girl from Ipanema’…

EP: Zezeh, co-host of Sounds of Brazil and a dedicated Samba Instructor, have thought Samba to a great number of people interested in learning more about the diverse Brazilian culture. Tony, have you ever tried to dance Samba? If so, what did you think?

Tony: I used to dance the Samba all the time when I was a teenager, although I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, but once I knew what the Samba was I realized I wasn’t  moving my hips or body any differently now than I did then.  I grew up in a family as the oldest of seven kids, in a house where my mother and father danced all the time, right in front of us kids!  They danced the Cha-Cha-Cha, and the Mambo, and all kinds of African American Rhythm & Blues-style dance forms.  So I grew up uninhibited about dancing and performing, loving music and singing; my brothers and sisters and I were all also very curious about Africa and Mexico and South America.  My father’s great-grandfather, Alfonso, was born in Cape Verde, so we had a trace line of Afro-Portuguese influence in our food, ways of being and a few words here and there.  Part of my love of the Afro-Portuguese influence must be in my DNA…  

EP:  Tony, which areas have you visited in Brazil? What is your favorite? Why? Due to your career, you must travel a lot.

Tony:  So far I’ve only been to Rio and Salvador de Bahia, in Brazil.  I’ve traveled a lot in my professional life (I was a TV news producer for CNN International), and still travel a lot as a partner-owner of a video production company (Division 12 Media), but most of those travels were and still are focused on Mediterranean countries (including North Africa), and most of the rest of Africa, including some war zones. A major accomplishment of mine in my ‘real world work’ is a documentary that will soon be released that I directed and produced: “Obama in Ghana: The Untold Story”… 

EP:  Is there anything new for the show in the near future?

 Tony:  Zezeh came up with a great idea: to do an audio travelogue on the show where each week, we take our listeners on journey in music and description to some different region or state in Brazil.  So far, listeners really like it and are enjoying it; I am too since Brazil actually is quite huge and there are so many places to travel to and to see!  Zezeh has a website for her Zezeh Brazil International Dance Company and we want to make the Sounds of Brazil radio show available on her website.  We’re now also starting to get calls from places like the Smithsonian Institution, asking us to produce public programming and live shows that would be broadcast from there on WPFW-FM (we’re also streamed live online from 10:00 to midnight every Sunday at )that would bring the Sound of Brazil to people visiting the Smithsonian from all over the world; this is a real honor!  We’ve also thought about having a correspondent/reporter call in every week or every other week from Brazil to share information about cultural issues and current events happening in the news there. 

EP: Open space for your input.

Tony: I know that with the big lead-up to the World Cup - and then the Olympics, Brazil is going to become even more of a focal point globally then it already is, and we’re hoping to provide a platform, beginning with our weekly show, that allows us to do things in media that draw people into the heart of Brazilian culture in a more frequent way then once-a-week.   As a former television producer here in Washington, DC (CNN, Fox 5 News, BET, WUSA-TV 9 News), I’m also very interested in bringing Zezeh herself onto the TV screen.   She has a lot of talent and ability and Brazilian culture is truly fabulous and sells itself; it is meant to be enjoyed not only by the sense of hearing, but also by the sense of sight - and while I’m on that point, by the sense of taste too!  My point there is that I absolutely LOVE Brazilian food and I don’t know why there aren’t more Brazilian restaurants in the Washington, DC area???  

EP : Querido Tony, I definitely agree with you, we all need more Brazilian restaurants in DC. BeijosSorriso


Escrito por Laura Soares às 21h54
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Happy Valentines Day! (one day later)

See full size imageWhether you have a special someone, or not, to celebrate this day: Happy Valentines Day! In Brazil, this date is held on June 12. In Portuguese, that would be Feliz Dia dos Namorados. Also, it's important to mention that in Brazil this date is only celebrated for couples. However, in the US, it's very common to see friends exchanging gifts and/or cards. That's nice ! Sorriso

There are so many amazing Brazilian songs that are perfect for this day.This year, I chose "Eu te amo" (I love you), written by Tom Jobim and Chico Buarque. I hope you all enjoy it. By the way, the lovely painting on the side is called Love Birds and was painted by the artist Elaine Lanoue.




Link to listen to the song: 

Beijos and see you soon!




Escrito por Laura Soares às 02h24
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Having a blast in Rio!

See full size imageHello, everyone! We have new interviewees. This time we are going to talk to Julie and Phillip Smith; they are living in Rio de Janeiro and they will tell us how life is in the “Wonderful City”, as Rio is known in Brazil. In Portuguese, that would be “Cidade Maravilhosa”.

 Philip and Julie Smith have been living in Rio for two years and two months. Currently Phillip is getting his Masters degree in Social Sciences at PUC-Rio. He is also a Major in the US Air Force and will start flying professionally again when he comes back to the U.S. Julie just finished her studies in Human Resources Management. Before going to Brazil, she was an administrative assistant at the Spanish Embassy in the U.S.

EP - So, let’s begin: Julie and Phil, you have been in Rio for 2 years 2 months. In your opinion, which are the main differences between the lifestyle of the “cariocas” and the American way of life? For those who don’t know what the word “cariocas” means, “cariocas” are the people who live in the city of Rio.
Julie:  Cariocas are very laid back people.  Any excuse is good to get together with friends and have fun.  Cariocas are very nice and friendly people.  They love to spend hours under the sun to get the perfect tan. They are happy people. The main difference is that cariocas “take it easy” almost all the time.  To be on time is not one of their best qualities.  I actually think that they don’t expect people to be on time.  Also “personal space” is not a big issue here as well.  Brazilians in general hug, kiss, and touch a lot!  For an American it is a totally different experience ;).  Cariocas, especially women like to be “pretty”, they work out, and they do whatever they can to improve their looks.  They love to be in shape and to show it ;).  I have to say that there are very pretty people down here.  Although their physical appearance is very important, at the beach it doesn’t matter what size you are.. everybody wears bikinis and nobody will critique if you are a little over on the pounds.  Another thing, Cariocas like to go out to eat, but they usually do so very late compared to the States.


Phil: I agree with Julie, cariocas seem to be much more easy going. For example, when a red light turns green there is a longer delayed reaction before the cars begin to move. In the U.S., we would be honking our horns while here they just slowly start driving forward. Another difference is that cariocas take lunch very seriously, in that they eat a homestyle cooked mean (even at restaurants) every day. No fast food or sandwiches, but what we would call "home cookin": beans, rice, a meat, salad and vegetables!

EP - I saw very nice pictures on your facebook profiles; Wow! You two have been traveling a lot! What places have you visited in Brazil? While visiting those places, did you notice any language or cultural differences among the regions?

Julie:  Yes, we have traveled a lot in Brazil.  It is a beautiful country!  Very very diverse.  I did notice differences in language – especially in the accent; the northeastern accent, for example, was very hard to understand.  Culture wise, there are differences as well.  People in the sertao, for example are more quiet and not as loud.
Phil: We have visited: Minas Gerais, the Northeast, the sertâo, the Amazon region, Brasilia and the Pantanal. With the exception of the sertão, I actually found the Portuguese easier to understand than here in the city of Rio! More clearly pronounced and less "ssshhh" sounds! Each place that we visited seemed to have its own cultural peculiarities. But one thing was constant: manioc as a base ingredient in food!

EP - Phil, you mentioned that you are studying in a Brazilian University called PUC – Rio. How has this experience been?
Phil: It's been great. Walking around the city you get the impression that everyone is always at leisure. However, in the university I've been able to see just how hard cariocas can work! But they do so in a manner that seems much slower the people in the U.S. do. Don't let that fool you, cariocas are very diligent.

EP - Julie, how do you spend your days? Have you found a favorite spot in Rio yet?
Julie:  I have been taking some : Portuguese classes, dancing classes and French classes.  Also, I’ve made some friends and we get together periodically for lunch or for “cafezinho”. We have also enjoyed time at the beach.  Besides the beaches, one of my favorite places in Rio is at the top of Pedra Bonita in Sao Conrado, it has the best view!!! 

EP - This is for both of you: Rio is known for its night life. What is your favorite place? How about museums?
Julie: Lapa is a great place to dance, enjoy samba and drink caipirinhas.   There are a lot of cool places with life music!
Museums:  We visited the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum which is a UFO like structure designed by the famous Architect Oscar Niemeyer.  It has interesting art exhibitions and it also has a beautiful view of the Sugar Loaf and the Guanabara Bay! 
Phil: I'm not much of a late night partier, but I agree with Julie. Lapa has the largest concentration of live music and clubs. My favorite museum is the Casa do Pontal, in Recreio dos Bandeirantes: largest collection of folk art in Brazil!

EP - Have you visited Sítio Burle Marx yet? In my opinion, this place has one of the most beautiful parks and gardens on the planet. I remember I once read an article about Architecture, where some of the architects interviewed, compared Sítio Burle Marx to the gardens in Paris and in Germany.
Julie:  We did visit Sitio Burle Marx.  I was very impressed with the gardens and the amazing collection of plants they have.  The house, chapel, paintings and pottery collection is beautiful as well.  It is definitely worth the visit.  
Phil: I is a beautiful place. The city of Rio could learn some lessons from the Sítio in its preparations for the Olymics.

EP - You have been living in Rio for two years two months_ I am going to repeat this question because one of the biggest concerns of my students is the violence published often in the major Brazilian media. What is your perception about this problem?
Julie:  True.  Sometimes it seems that all what you can watch on TV here is news about violence.   I’m not going to lie, some of the things that I hear really scare me, but I think it is very important to use common sense and take care of yourself like you would do in every big city.  Don’t wear flashy jewelry or carry expensive items and don’t go to places known for their violence.  We have been lucky, so far (knock on wood) we haven’t had any problems. 

Phil: My opinion is this: the crime/violence is bad enough to be taken seriously (by taking the precautions that Julie mentions) but definitely not bad enough to prevent you from having a blast here!

EP - You both have been in Sampa( São Paulo). What are the main differences between these two major cities - Rio and Sampa? Ok, I know, in Sampa, we don't have beaches:)
Julie:  I only spent a couple of days in Sampa, but my perception is that Sampa is a huge skyscraper business city, fast paced people, constant traffic jams, good food, and good night life.  Rio on the other hand is a huge space of nature, a city of contrasts where rich and poor live shoulder to shoulder, people are more laid back, and where the beach plays an important role on people’s life ;).  I liked Sampa, but I have to admit that Rio has stolen my heart.

Phil: In addition to what Julie says, I see Sampa as a place to work and Rio as the place to play. It seems like there are many more business opportunities than here in Rio. Rio is more laid back than Sampa, but Sampa is definitely more laid back than say, New York City.

EP - Time for an obvious question: As almost everyone knows - Rio is famous for its amazing beaches. Have you been going to the beach? I am sure the answer is YES or “SIM”. Which one is your favorite and why?
Julie:  I like Reserva Beach in Barra.  It is very clean and it does not get as crowded as the beaches in Zona Sul. 
Phil: Praia da Macumba in Recreio: clean water, beautiful mountain scenery and surfing waves for all abilities almost every day!!! If you want to learn to surf, Recreio is the place...Don’t let anyone tell you to learn in Arpoador (Zona Sul)!!

EP - Everyone loves to talk about food. What about the traditional Brazilian dishes? Have you tried something really good or interesting yet?
Julie: Feijão (black beans here in Rio), of course is part of our daily meals now ;)  We also eat couve, farofa, we love açaí, aipim, and bolo de milho!  In our trips we have also tried exotic fruits and food.  I liked carne seca, Amazonian fish is great!
Phil: My favorite is the Amazonian food made with an herb called jambú. When eaten it produces a mild numbing effect in the mouth that combines with the flavors of the food in an incredible way!  Example foods are: tacacá (soup made with dried shrimp) and pato no tucupi (duck with tucupi sauce).

EP – Space open for you input.
Julie & Phil:  Thank you for letting us brag about Brazil!

EP - Querida Julie and Querido Phil thank YOU for taking the time to be Public Space interviewees. Beijos. Sorriso By the way, queridos readers, the pic above was taken by Richard Frisbie at Sitio Burle Marx.

Escrito por Laura Soares às 00h36
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