Big Brother (Petrobras) is Watching You

If anyone had any doubts about Brazil’s socialist tendencies: I ran into the following poster in the Metro, advertising films in honors of Petrobras’ 60 years anniversary.

Reminds you of anything?


A Day in Rio’s Botanical Garden

Nothing like spending a day reading Murakami’s 1Q84 in tropical surroundings.





Water Rationing

Now, water shortage is something I thought I wouldn’t ever have to deal with, especially in Brazil, a country with the largest amount of fresh water resources in the world.

It all started on Wednesday when I arrived from work and was notified by my doorman that there was water shortage and we have to save water. I was quite confused. I thought that I had already been saving water (this is how my Jewish mama raised me)…

Well, turns out that not all Brazilians have a Jewish mama and it’s common to take 40 minutes showers or just keep the tap running forever (this is based on a very scientific survey polled from 2 Brazilian friends) . So his advice indeed had some practical implications beyond sacrificing basic needs.

I kept going on with my business as usual until Saturday when I found out I could no longer take a shower or flush my toilet and for the first time in my life I encountered a water truck, refueling a building! The doorman said that even though the water station went back to normal operation on Wednesday (which is confirmed on their website), water supply hasn’t normalized yet.

Ever since, we have been getting water only during certain hours and my impression is that it’s not really 100% fresh (unless I haven’t noticed water previously having a yellowish color!!).

I’ve got no idea what the future holds but In the meantime, I’ve stocked up for my next shower!!


Talking “Bobeira” at Work

The other day, a colleague of mine asked me: “Grobby, why are you so serious all the time? You don’t always have to speak about serious topics. Sometimes we can just talk “bobeira”…

“Bobeira” means something like silliness or nonesense/bullshit. Bobeira is something very cultural. It can be quite fun when people exchange jokes throughout the work day but sometimes it can turn into a long marathon of cheesy comments – repeating things from soap operas, making gay jokes, imitating people they don’t like, etc., that makes it very hard for everyone to concentrate and be productive.

“Hmm..” I said. “I guess I say bobeira with my friends OUTSIDE of work and the serious stuff I keep for the professional environment”. I was trying to hint in not so subtle way what I think about their bobeira.

This was ,of course, not the right response. We, gringos, often are deemed as “cold” as we refuse to engage in some behaviors that may seem vulgar or unprofessional in our home country. The dilemma is often: do I stick to my old values or do I change them to fit in?

In addition to the internal dilemma, form is very important. Being direct about things you don’t like is viewed as aggressive. I therefore had to follow up with some humor to lighten up the atmosphere.

“Joao, you’ve asked for bobeira? Well, I see you have a drawing on your table (he had drawn something that looked like a snowman with a narrow cylinder on his head).. This thing on his head looks like a penis.. If I were Freud, I would say you are expressing some internal desires through it..”

“What?!! I’ve got no such desires!! I am happily married and would never have such desires”. Joao tears up the paper into little pieces and throws it into the garbage. The rest of team is almost in tears from laughing. Joao joins them shortly after.

Mission accomplished. Bobeira has been delivered.

This is one of those examples of why I love and hate working in Brazil.

Stranger in my Bed

I woke up in the middle of the night with a nagging itch on the side of my right arm that was only matched with a more nagging one on my left palm. I could also feel 2 bumps forming. It was one of those sensations that makes you want to jump out of your body into a bucket of ice.

I turned on the light to inspect the situation and there he was: sitting on my side table, the little scrawny devil, looking at me, analyzing the target of his next feeding basin. In the heat of the moment I quickly reached out for the poison and sprayed him all over!! I then calmly turned off the light and descended back into my dreamless sleep.

In the morning, the villain’s little carcass reminded me of last night’s execution and a smile spread over my face. “I got you!”