Cowboys in Sampa

I spent this weekend in São Paulo,catching up with my uber-cool MBA friends, sharing stories, bitching about our jobs, and comparing notes on our Brazil experiences in general.

My biggest achievement was getting into a fight with 2 different taxi drivers who decided to give us the gringo tour around town. I took it very personally, reprimanded them and even made one drop 20 reais from the total bill. What an empowering experience!

I also discovered the Brazilian country music, Sertanejo, thanks to a local friend that brought us to a place called Vila Country whose exterior looked like the set of a western movie, with signs such as “sheriff” and “Texas”. It also had an adjacent store selling cowboy hats and leather goods. Inside, the crowd sported a “cowboy-meet-piriguette” look while dancing to the sounds of something resembling american country mixed with forro. Can’t say I became a huge fan, but it was certainly an interesting  experience. Reminded me of my good old Texas times..

Right next door to Vila Country, was a ghetto version of the same, outside of which, the crowd sported the “cowboy-meet-drug dealer-meet-hooker” look. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to have a look inside but I did get one of the male version grabbing my arm and making a smacking sound with his lips while surveying me like a T-bone steak. I was told this is normal and I should have had the same experience had I gone to Funk party in Rio before. So thanks to this important tip, now I have my next adventure picked out.

 

Foto: Divulgação

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The Sphinx from Rio

The arrival of my Paulista friend and her newly migrated french second half required a special tourist program. So we headed to Sao Conrado part of Tijuca Forest to do the Pedra Bonita (beautiful rock) trail. Pedra Bonita has amazing views and is a destination for paragliders and hand gliders.

Yet another time in my life I realized why I never want to drive a manual car when the car we took got stuck going uphill and had to be maneuvered out by our french MacGyver. So, if you attempt to try this trail, make sure to take a car with sufficient horse power or bring a frenchman along.

Why Sphinx in the title? Pedra Bonita has the Sphinx face on it..

São Paulo – Brazil’s New York City

In Brazil, I always find it amazing the clear contrast between the cities, in terms of urban landscape, people, culture, and modes of entertainment. I love Rio, but I always miss the diversity I had at my fingertips each and every day of living in Manhattan. São Paulo is then, the perfect getaway, when I want to take a break from the beach and beer culture and try out some great dining or engage in interesting conversation with peers of similar background.

This weekend, I did just that. Thanks to my wonderful hosts, I got to visit some very interesting places.

The coffee lab in Villa Madalena: One of the coolest coffee shops I have ever been to. The concept is that aside from the normal coffee selection, the menu offers the guests various experiments in coffee, allowing them to appreciate the differences the method of preparation makes on the final taste and aroma. The place also hosts a baristas’ school and so the servers are all very knowledgeable and make part of the experience.

Santinho in Pinheiros: a restaurant by famous chef Morena Leite, located in Instituto Tomie Ohtake, a modern art center. Incredible menu of Brazilian food with local flavors. Apparently, this chef has a thing for lemongrass and many of the menu options feature this ingredient including: a lemongrass pineapple shake, lemongrass couscous and even lemongrass brigadeiro (a typical local dessert made of condensed milk). The servants at the buffet menu are chef apprentices and they make food arrangements while serving to customers. I was challenged by my friends to make a move on one of them, through showing interest in the dessert selection. I didn’t work as expected, but at least I tried..

Finally, I met my one true love, Biloba. He is a Yorkshire puppy my friends recently bought. Me, a permanent dog-avoider,  had an uncontrollable emotional reaction upon seeing Biloba for the first time. I just crossed the room, took him in my arms and exclaimed “I love you!!” in a voice full of soft, mushy nostalgia. We were inseparable for the rest of the weekend.

Biloba

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Global Trends Review #1: Commitment Phobia

My current role as a strategy manager requires me to monitor and analyze global trends in order to be able to come out with appropriate business responses and solutions. Our work life often tends to spill into our personal life and I have to admit that I am guilty of letting this spill happen to me as well.

Recent conversations with one of my closest female friends, gave me the push to share one of these personal trends I have been observing in the past few years and attempt suggesting some strategic solutions. I would call it commitment phobia.

Disclaimer: This post reflects my personal opinions and experiences. Just as with any other global trend, it is a generalization based on a non-exhaustive set of data, which mayor may not apply to other individuals’ lives and / or be aligned to their observed realities. Please keep this in mind when reading the following lines.

Background:

We, young, well-educated and successful professionals live in a bi-polar world with numerous interactions, distractions and other forms of stimuli. Every single day, we multi-task, come up with new ideas, seek new forms of entertainment and get bored every other second. We have short-term goals, we are critical of ourselves and others, and we have no patience for failures. This phenomenon is applicable to men and women alike.

The Woman Approach:

We, women, set ourselves ambitious goals of career, free-time optimization (hobbies, clothes, sports, save-the-world, etc.,) and marriage to the love of our lives and all by the age of 30.

The Man Approach:

Men also set similar goals but with slight modifications: career, free-time optimization (hobbies, clothes gadgets, sports, save-the-world, etc.,), conquering numerous women, by the age of 35. Then marriage to a genius supermodelthe love of our lives and all by the age of 3040.

The Results:

Total disconnect for which both sides are to blame.

We, women, expect too much, then we project these expectations to the men who, in turn, perceive the need to perform to those expectations. Since there is a clear asymmetry of information, of course, the men also grotesquely inflate those perceived expectations (as it is human nature to exaggerate uncertain reality). This phenomenon can be classified under a concept I learned in business school called – Cognitive Dissonance. They then address this created anxiety through a very simple conflict free solution: block the root cause -i.e. the woman.

Specific examples (can attest from the woman side):

1.  You had a wonderful evening together, at the end of which he told you he had a great time. Then he never calls again. You try reaching him and all efforts are futile, or met with a cold response.

2. You hear through the grapevine that he is interested  and you try to make the first step. The response, shockingly enough, is lukewarm.

3. Any type of suggestive text messaging stream that suddenly dies out.

4. He makes promises or daydreams out loud about your future together, but as soon as you start showing interest in the ideas, he disappears like the earth has swallowed him.

5. I have many more. Please contact me separately if you like masochism.

My suggested Solutions:

For women:

1. Stop caring about what he thinks or wants and start thinking about what you care and want.

2. I really don’t like the concept of “He is just not that into you” because it kind of provokes the insecurity-ridden question “What is wrong with me?!” I think a better concept is: “It’s not you, it’s him.” This is a much healthier and productive approach. If you are a smart girl and you follow step 1, and still, he does not acknowledge your worth, the loss is all his.

3. Get a life: Make awesome friends, do interesting things and finds sources and outlets of creativity. Happy and fun people tend to attract other happy and fun people (aside from some basic dose of leeches which is unavoidable). If this doesn’t work, rewind, get another life and restart once again.

I am not saying that the above suggestions will land you the man you want, or any man at all. The point is that one should focus on what makes one happy now and not expect this happiness to come from an outside source only. Just as with any strategic analysis, sometimes it doesn’t matter who caused the global disruption but what matters is what are you going to do next?

For men:

1. If we are interested in you at present, it does not mean we want to spend the rest of our lives (or even just one year of it) with you.

2. Our flexibility does not imply a weakness of character.

3. Sometimes, a simple response of: “Thank you for your time and effort, however, I have decided to pursue other candidates/opportunities.” can make a lot of difference and show simple respect for the other person who also chose to share her precious time with you.

4. The perfect woman does not exist. Get over it.

June and some more favelas

The past few weeks were full of adventures and new encounters some of which I will describe today. I also had many new ideas that I will share in the upcoming weeks.

This Saturday I got to participate in a traditional holiday called Festa Junina, which marks the European midsummer and Brazilian winter (or Brazil summer no. 2, as it is hard to call the season winter when it is 30C outside). I went to the most posh version of this at the Rio Jockey Club. The event kind of reminded me of a Texan 4th of July celebration meet Pippi Longstocking. At the entrance we received cowboy hats and bandanas. All the girls were dressed in bright puffy dresses with ribbons in their hair or on their hats and freckles drawn on their cheeks. There was a big food fair with incredible combination of hot dogs, french crepes, sweets and pea soup. There was forro music and children games.

My favorite part was a dance troop composed of favela kids in their late teens, dressed in the brightest outfits I have ever seen in my life (think bright orange or fluorescent green with flower patters). They performed some crazy dances that resembled country dancing combined with breakdancing. I sadly noticed that most of the girls were really obese (probably 10 years younger than me, but double my size). Wish I could do something about that. Poor people in Brazil (and other parts of Latin America) are getting fatter and fatter.

I got some amazing traditional Brazilian jewelry, made of weaved straw with golden threads.

Brazilian jewelry – Capim Dourado

Saturday night I went to a party in a “mansion” in Gavea that was supposed to be themed after Nights in St. Tropez. The party crowd was a combination of gringos, hippies and kids from nearby favela Rocinha. The party flyer asked everyone to come in their bathing suits but everyone thankfully ignored this invite as the pool looked like it had better times (maybe in the 80’s). Anyhow, the best part of the night was en route to the party. My companions decided to save 5 reais and take the gypsy van to the party. After being squashed among working class, sweaty men across town, we were pulled over by the military police and then searched by women with machine guns on the side of the road. Felt almost like I were in a scene from the Elite Squad. I started considering a career change once again..

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