Sexualized culture

I have written already about the piriguette phenomenon, but I wanted to take the opportunity to write a bit more about the sexed-up culture I am observing here in Brazil.

One of the interesting comment I have heard a lot from my male friends that visit or come live here is that they were surprised to find out that the Brazilian beauty is kind of a myth and the girls here are not as beautiful as they are sensual and sexy. They all take care of their hair, their nails and dress in very tight clothes. Even my cleaning lady puts me to shame when she arrives to my house with high heels, snazzy outfit and full makeup on. For a catholic country, it is also quite shocking to find out how things move so quickly that some of my male friends reported they have been called gay for not moving fast enough in their interactions with the local women.

Some of my local friends blame the media and the soap operas culture for corrupting the moral standards of the population. I won’t be surprised if this is true as it seems that everyone but me seems to be watching those every day.

In our office kitchenette, there is a small display board where colleagues pin up pictures of their babies or small children, to show off as proud parents. Today, I entered the room and my eyes zoomed into a huge picture of a teenage girl pinned to the middle of the board. She was made up like adult and dressed up in tight tube dress, looking sensually into the camera. Of course, it is common to see in the USA as well teenage girls that dress up and act this way, but I have never seen a case of a parent choosing to flaunt their daughter to a bunch of co-workers, majority of which are men in their 20-30’s. I was pretty shocked. To my further surprise, the ladies present were discussing how mature this 15 year old looked like and then another woman entered the kitchenette, took out a picture of her own teenager, dressed in tight mini-skirt and high heels, and pinned it next to the first one. I am wondering what will come next..

Rio’s pickup scene

Rio, is what the locals call affectionately, “a democratic city”, i.e. everyone hangs out with everyone, poor and rich, young and old, fashionable and casual, all share the same bars and the same beaches. To find a place that caters to a specific crowd is somewhat a sophisticated task.
As I am a very mature and sophisticated lady, I was looking to find a place where the older, similar crowd hangs out and the only name that came up was the Ovelha Negra (the Black Sheep) champaign bar in Botafogo. I have been there before on a an rainy chilly and hence empty night and quite enjoyed its coziness. The space is perhaps 100 sq meters, located in an old one story building with big wooden windows looking onto a small quiet street and walls covered in whiteboards with the daily specials.

Supposedly, Ovelha is the “IT” place for Thursday after-work happy hour of the white collar professionals. So I decided to check out the promising Thursday scene. When my friend and I arrived there around 7 pm, it was already packed to the brim with at least 100 of the above, sweating profusely and talking loudly. We were lucky (or unlucky) enough to run into one of the piriguettes (bimbos) from our office at the entrance and therefore skip the long line outside and upon entering, we discovered that at about 70:30, the women to men ratio, was not really in our favor. After elbowing all the ones present, we finally found an empty floor space between two tables and placed ourselves on display for the room attendants to survey. Starting to sweat myself and getting rather claustrophobic, I was eventually able to cool off a bit with a glass of sweet champaign. We were soon enough approached by a group of very typical carioca guys (happy, loud, beefed up) who invited us to join their table, showing us their wedding rings and already offering to take those off for us. I then remembered an important piece of information about this place that I somehow managed selectively to forget – that it was a place where married white collar professionals would go to find some new fun!

I tried to participate in the animated conversation but lost interest quite quickly and was becoming even more claustrophobic as the place kept getting filled up with more and more people and the conversations kept getting louder and dumber. So, as appropriate for a good wing woman and friend, I ditched my companion there with 5 guys and took off to lick my wounds over a caipirinha elsewhere. And this is how I discovered grape caipirinhas! All’s well that ends well!

Guanabara Palace

After one year of living in Rio, I finally decided to relieve my curiosity and find out what lies at the end of beautiful palm lined Paissandu street, located just about 10 minutes walk from my house.

It is how I discovered Guanabara Palace, a neo-classical style building that used to host the emperor, then some of the former brazilian presidents such as Getulio Varges and is now the headquarters of the state government.

Behind the building there is a beautifully manicured garden, which made me feel almost as if I were back to Europe. If only the Neptune fountain had some water in it..

It was the perfect place to spend a melancholic afternoon of reflection. I then took a city bus to cheer myself up (huge adrenaline rush) and of course ended up getting off at the wrong stop. The good news is that I didn’t end up in any favela or anything and was able to navigate my way to my final destination. Progress.

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A Misfit by Choice

I saw the link to the post below and thought the author, a professor from HBS, had some good ideas in there.

I liked how he coined the term “a misfit by choice” to describe people like me. It definitely sounds way cooler than my recently adopted self reference “an alien”.

Rather than learning to live away from home or do without one, global leaders must learn to live in and between two homes — a local and a global home. Become familiar with local and global communities, and use neither to escape the other.

This takes physical and emotional presence. It requires staying put long enough and traveling a fair amount. Spending time with those who live nearby and staying close to those who are far away — showing and being shown around. Leaving a piece of heart with people and places, and keeping them in your heart wherever you are.

The only problem is that I cannot longer tell the difference between what is local or global.

As an illustrarion.. Just got back from watching a French film (The Intouchables), with Portuguese subtitles. Happy to report I was able to understand most of the jokes through decoding the portuguese translation into whatever language my subconscious was operating in…

The Shadier Side of Rio

The past weekend, I once again had a visitor from overseas (El Torro de Buenos Aires) and after a 10k walk around the nicest parts of Rio (Lagoa, Leblon, etc,), I decided to show him the other side and we headed to Sao Christovao Northeast Fair. This time around, it was not as impressive in its blue collarness as in previous times but we did spot some interesting characters (example of one is presented), tried Tapioca with Doce de Leite (sort of a stuffed rice crepe), and almost got our organs sold as we stumbled upon a very dark reggae party full of characters that looked like they just escaped from prison. Unfortunately, I could not take pictures of the latter. a) because as I said it was too dark and b) I was worried for the safety of my camera and the hand attached to it.

Good times.

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