Climate change has caused increasing amounts and intensity of forest fires in British Columbia and Washington State. This day we were experiencing smoke in the Okanagan Valley from Winthrop in Washington State, way down in the Cascade’s as we would say….
Vancouver has been an amazing experience for me, the best British Columbia springtime in memory. My time here has been exhilarating and inspiring. The exhilaration is from the beauty of nature and inspiration from the young entrepreneurs I meet. The Asian business communities are thriving and one such great example is the China Canada Business Council, they acts as an economic development incubator for enterprise and investment coming from Canada, as well as resources and expertise flowing to China.
It’s truly an exciting time in the evolution of Canada China relations and the very best time to be involved in providing information related to Hong Kong, as the IFC between east and west. My team and I have knowledge and experience in cross-border finance that is indispensable for SME’s (small to medium sized enterprise) that are developing projects in distant places.
Vancouver in the spring and summer is awesome for bike transport and the city has a public service called Mobi-bikes.ca which I joined and have used every day. The public bikes are blue and kept in blue racks which are placed throughout the city, especially at the metro-transit location, sea-bus and subway etc… very convenient to ride across town, or in my case all over and around Stanley Park and the beaches of Vancouver. Whenever I have a meeting it often begins with a bike ride and almost always ends with a long ride around the seawall, under the Lion’s Gate bridge and home to English Bay.
Living amongst foreigners is enjoyable too, on any given day, I hear several foreign languages and cross paths and enjoy the scenery with people from the farthest reaches of the planet. Vancouver is the melting-pot of Canada.
For most of my adult life, from the age of twenty-two, I lived in the tropics. This year I’m enjoying the Canadian winter and being with my family but I’m pining for the palms. Thinking about balmy Brazilian nights at this time of the year and remembering the giant palm trees. The reality is though, according to the “Farmers Almanac” this is a legendary moon and a very beautiful one, here tonight in Canada.
Full Snow Moon
February’s full Moon is traditionally called the Full Snow Moon because usually the heaviest snows fall in February. This name dates back to the Native Americans during Colonial times when the Moons were a way of tracking the seasons. And the Native Americans were right. On average, February is the USA’s snowiest month, according to data from the National Weather Service.
Hunting becomes very difficult, and so some Native American tribes called this the Hunger Moon. Other Native American tribes called this Moon the “Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon” (Wishram Native Americans), the “No Snow in the Trails Moon” (Zuni Native Americans), and the “Bone Moon” (Cherokee Native Americans). The Bone Moon meant that there was so little food that people gnawed on bones and ate bone marrow soup.
Brazil enjoys the largest recording industry outside of the United States, so the number of brilliant artists and the wide variety of genres (most people have never heard of), is truly staggering.
The first time I’d ever hear this beautiful language was by vinyl record, as my father had a huge jazz collection, and even before I was born the Bossa Nova was played in my house often, so the first song I can remember, and first words in Portuguese are from the famous song: Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema).
The Girl from Ipanema is a well-known bossa nova song, a worldwide hit in the mid-1960s that won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965. It was written in 1962, with music by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Portuguese lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. English lyrics were written later by Norman Gimbel.
In Revelação: a verdadeira Garota de Ipanema (Revealed: The Real Girl from Ipanema) Moraes wrote she was:
“o paradigma do broto carioca; a moça dourada, misto de flor e sereia, cheia de luz e de graça mas cuja a visão é também triste, pois carrega consigo, a caminho do mar, o sentimento da mocidade que passa, da beleza que não é só nossa—é um dom da vida em seu lindo e melancólico fluir e refluir constante.”
“the paradigm of the young Carioca: a golden teenage girl, a mixture of flower and mermaid, full of light and grace, the sight of whom is also sad, in that she carries with her, on her route to the sea, the feeling of youth that fades, of the beauty that is not ours alone—it is a gift of life in its beautiful and melancholic constant ebb and flow.”
The song was inspired by Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto (now Helô Pinheiro), a nineteen-year-old girl living on Montenegro Street in the fashionable Ipanema district in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Daily, she would stroll past the popular Veloso bar-café, not just to the beach (“each day when she walks to the sea”), but in the everyday course of her life. She would sometimes enter the bar to buy cigarettes for her mother and leave to the sound of wolf-whistles.
As the legend has it (which isn’t 100% accurate), in the winter of 1962, the composers watched the girl pass by the bar (now a restaurant, see footnote), and it is easy to imagine why they noticed her—Helô was a 173-cm (five-foot eight-inch) brunette, and she attracted the attention of many of the bar patrons. Since the song became popular, she has become a celebrity.
While Helô inspired the song, it was another Carioca who carried it beyond Rio. Astrud Gilberto was just the wife of singing star João Gilberto when she entered a NYC studio in March 1963. João and Jobim were making a record with tenor saxman Stan Getz. The idea of cutting a verse on “Ipanema” in English came up, and Astrud was the only one of the Brazilians who spoke more than phrasebook English.
The hit English language song; “The Girl from Ipanema” was the alchemy of Astrud’s child-like vocal, devoid of vibrato and singerly mannerisms, it was the perfect foil for her husband’s soft bumblebee voice. Jobim tinkled piano. Getz blew a creamy smooth tenor. Four minutes of magic went to tape.
Note:One of my favorite places to eat and drink in Rio is the Garota de Ipanema, sure it’s a bit of a tourist trap because of the song “Girl from Ipanema” but seriously the restaurant is really excellent and it’s super casual being just a couple of blocks from Ipanema beach. You can grab a good window seat near the corner if your timing is good and then watch all the Cariocas trudging home from the beach at the end of the day. The draft beer is cold and frothy however the caipirinhas might be as good as you’ll find anywhere but the main attraction is the great food, especially the Picanha, which is thinly sliced beef rump that you grill yourself, right at your table, on a super-hot brazier, similar to a hibachi bar-b-que. (See: Garota de Ipanema Restaurant)
I was born under a lucky star, or so my Dear Old Mom tells me. She was born of Irish immigrants to Canada, who taught her to always look on the bright side of life, with a good dose of chin-up and carry-on when things didn’t go as planned. She and my Dad taught me to ski before I could walk, and how to teach skiing before I could drive (driving age is 16 in Canada).
My lucky star was being able to teach, that meant I was able to earn money, then own my own pick-up truck. Every Canuck buck wants to own a truck but the thing is you need an income to be able to keep one, same as today. I may have changed my choice of car but still need the money to keep it.
The Internet was how I managed to carve out a living, so that was another part of lucky star status. I saw the web really early and jumped all over it, had my first web design company before the mid 90’s. Mostly through consulting work and webmaster contracts I was able to support a nice lifestyle in South Florida, although it was up and down since we were all learning at the same time and the Industry was so new and unexplored.
Nowadays the U.S. Expat has a major advantage throughout the world in the Internet niche because most of the rest of the world want U.S. Talent, knowledge and experience, especially as in the case of countries where allot of those people want to travel to USA, like China and Brazil for example, where it’s right of passing for middle class and up to make trips abroad.
The key thing to know about becoming an Expat is that there’s more opportunity and often much bigger opportunities when you can provide a bridge between your culture and local knowledge and that of your new foreign home. The world is your oyster, when you’ve got a skill-set, that can help other people succeed.
When I first left Canada I was young and had serious wanderlust, funding my adventures was no easy feat. Several people I knew taught skiing and/or English, one friend that I admired in particular was Max, because he stayed in college to obtain an economics degree, then moved to Japan to teach English in a corporation.
Max had a thing about him, aside from being very smart, he was an absolute freak for mountain sports and outdoor recreation of all kinds. Ace tennis player and great golfer but even before snow boards arrived, he loved heli-skiing and knew about these incredible areas in British Columbia because we had planted trees in these mountains (for summer jobs). That’s how Max and I met.
Now that you have the backstory, while Max was in Japan teaching English to corporate execs, he was always talking about the back-country sports of BC. Next thing you know he’s opening an adventure guiding business in Canada, when Snow Boards arrived Max was among the first riding them, so he jumped all over the opportunity. Shortly thereafter it was Max throughout the mid 80’s that was showing Warren Miller and other ski film makers where to heli-ski. Max was the guide to the guides. To this day Max lives at Whistler, still involved in the hospitality industry and still helping Japanese people have an awesome experience in Canada.
There are so many examples of the foreigner next door. Everyone can remember someone in their life, who had a funny sounding accent. My life growing up in Western Canada was all about sports and recreation.
In the ski teaching business we would meet interesting people all the time, people from the farthest corner, end up at ski chalets. Especially common near ski resorts and water sports are Australian’s and Kiwi’s (New Zealanders). My young impressionable life was filled with great stories about “Down Under”, as my winters were filled with many weekends with my Oz and Kiwi mates, at our ski club. We loved to ski together, the deeper and steeper the better!
These people were smart, sophisticated, experienced and very determined to live free and prosperous. Their timing made them appear to be Hippy but they were world-wise way beyond their youthful appearance. World travel had also taught them about cultural cuisine, and they loved to cook fabulous foreign dishes and entertain large groups of us, with music and wine from the various regions of the world, to match the meal.
One winter we made our own Saki from rice, then at the end of the season, enjoyed an authentic 7 course Japanese dinner party with the homemade rice wine. It tasted great, as did incredible Mexican and my personal favorite Greek dinners, all of which were very novel to me, at 16 years old.
Teaching skiing taught me how to help people get what they wanted. This is what is so fundamental about our language, more than half of the world wants to learn English.
All of the people I mentioned above, and just about anyone who has ever lived overseas, has at one time or another, taught English to someone. It’s part of humanity, to try to exchange languages. It is the most common principle of good-will, to show an interest in another person’s culture, to speak their words.
The best thing about Teaching English is the people you meet, and that you are becoming an Ambassador of our language. You are helping someone else get what they want, that’s what creates value, and it’s the most common way to make money while living overseas.
The greatest thing in today’s English teaching community is Internet video, as many people want to learn online but still the basis of the teaching starts with a book at a table, with the student sitting beside you. It’s a one-on-one style method, where the book does the work but you need to be taught how to teach.
It’s highly recommended, that anyone embarking on a serious global Expat exploration being armed with more money making methods, than just teaching English. However, always be proud and happy to teach, it’s an excellent means of immersion into a foreign country.
Remember it’s an honor to be invited to anyone’s kitchen table, to teach them how to speak English. You benefit in many more ways, for sharing your time with people, than just the money in your hand.
Classroom teaching is another realm and above my pay-grade but I imagine that it’s the same in that your let the books do the teaching, just follow the words in the book and do the best that you to help people get what they want – and – if all else fails in the class – speak English!
The nickname “Big Pineapple” for Sao Paulo made perfect sense. In Brasil they have an expression for when people (one or more) have a tough problem to solve: “descascar abacaxi”, which translates to “peel the pineapple”. This always refers to something that is unpleasant and painstaking, with the possibility of making a sticky mess.
Interestingly, the Portuguese word abacaxi also translates to; “pain”. Maybe that’s the root of the expression “descascar abacaxi”, not sure, but I always liked it, for the visual of peeling pineapples, as they are the most prickly abrasive fruit, with by far the most abundant and sweetest juice, of any plant known to man.
Now the visuals I can give you, to substantiate “why” the nickname “Big Pineapple”. Think about the sharp outer skin of the pineapple, also the barbs on the leaves. Now imagine razor-wire and you begin to see just one of the odd parallels of a pineapple and a giant city that has a very prickly outer layer.
Yes it’s sad to say, razor wire is a common sight in Sao Paulo and just like a pineapple, you’d have no idea how nice it was on the other side of that skin, unless you’d tasted it before, or someone told you how sweet it is. The surface seems to be designed to detract the would-be taster, from even getting started. It just looks too damn nasty from the outside.
There must be a method, you might ask. And if it were a normal problem to solve, Google would provide the answer, so on the search term “descascar abacaxi” (translates to “peel a pineapple”) you’d find 295,000 results but if you search how to get “inside” Sao Paulo, you’d be lucky to find a dozen sources in English, most of them blogs and all of them out of date. That’s where the “Big Pineapple Chronicles” comes-in, to assist the curious seeker, on how to “descascar abacaxi”.
Directly from the Big Pineapple, we share stories and cool videos to enlighten the topic. My objective is to get inside Sao Paulo and extract the juiciest content, mix it together with tales of the people we meet along the way, and serve it up fresh daily.
Definition of pineapple
A large juicy tropical fruit consisting of aromatic edible yellow flesh surrounded by a tough segmented skin and topped with a tuft of stiff leaves. It is low-growing, with a spiral of spiny sword-shaped leaves on a thick stem.
The bike is a modern day horse, the right bike can be a workhorse, and if you add a skateboard, you now have an urban, tactical ground transport system (your ground game). Bikes sometimes go on buses, and often on trains but many times you don’t want to have to deal with the bike at your destination, like in the case of going into a busy downtown core for a business meeting. Or perhaps you’re going to an airport, or renting a car at the other end of the train ride. These occasions are when you lock your bike in the safest place you can find, extract your skateboard and proceed to the train. The combination of bike and skateboard provides an Expat with a rapid, light weight, transportation strategy, that can’t be matched in it’s diversity of uses and cost to implement vs. benefits.
At 55 years old, it may sound childish (to some), that I’m such an advocate of the bike and board transport system. However, when I was a backpacker in Australia in my early 20’s, I owned 4 surfboards (at a time, sold each), 1 skateboard (lasted me years, then I mailed it to Canada) and a forgotten number of bikes. Once I was living in a youth hostel in Freemantle, Western Australia, up on the hill with a view towards Perth and out to the Indian Ocean. I made a bet with a brash young Dude in a flashy new car, that I could beat him to the train station, where we were catching a train into Perth. The girls rode with him and I set off on my skateboard, knowing that I could use the momentum of the hill we lived on to gain enough speed to cruise down the pedestrian mall, which runs block after block through the very center of Freemantle, all the way to the train station. I won that bet because the car could not go where I could go, however I got lucky and timed the stop light at the bottom of the hill, whereas the car had to wait at more than 1 stop-light.
Skateboard benefits worth their weight in gold, is how a skateboard can be used to move heavy objects like boxes of books. Then, when strapped to your backpack with the wheels facing out, the first roll-aboard was born years before Travelpro patented the design we know today. Plus, have you ever seen how children love them? Everywhere in the world, kids want to ride on skateboards. If the environment is right and there’s a safe place to learn, then it’s almost impossible to damage a skateboard, however you do need to be aware that learning means falling and sometimes falling means pain, which can lead to crying. Always use caution and protective gear when learning to skateboard. It’s also not the best type of sport to take-up if you’re not in decent physical shape, as for me, I’d been riding the bikes and boards for my my entire life. I’d also been around boats and skis since before I could walk, however I’ve never lived anywhere that a boat would be more of an advantage, although many places I lived, like Sydney and Hong Kong where I would have had one if I had more time to get my hands on one.
Getting your hands on a bike is the easiest thing, since there are used bikes in garages everywhere on the planet. Often times a person will give, or lend you there a bike, just because it’s been sitting so long that the tires need replacing. Once an elderly couple in South Florida gave me a perfect-condition Peugeot 10 Speed that had been in the closet of their closet for decades, the only thing I had to do was buy new tires because the old ones had dried out to the point of rotting off the bike. The guy at bike shop was in shock at the condition that this antique road bike was in, as for me I loved it and rode it by the old man’s place after to tell him about all the fun he’d missed out on. Riding home on that bike, down the beach on sunset, after a hot day of swimming and laying-out in the sun with my girl, remain some of my fondest memories.
My current bike, which I just now came back from riding, is a stealth (matte black [dull]) urban mountain bike, I call the Canadian Mongoose (my ground game). The previous bike was a Snake by Caloi (Brazilian bike maker), so the Mongoose followed the Snake, and Canadian because it’s tricked out with kit from my favorite gear store in Vancouver the World (Mountain Equipment Co-op), to be as good or better than my Dad’s mountain bike in Canada (which I mooch while there)
, but also I have an awesome street racing, 18 speed Trek that was given to me by my Dad’s best friend, he kept it in excellent condition and it rides beautifully. Having said all that, my passion is urban mountain bike riding here in Sampa (Sao Paulo, Brazil), which is a sport I feel I’m part of pioneering. This city has the most challenging riding of any city I’ve seen, part of the challenge is the danger of crossing major roads and hiways because of potential crime/violence. The risks of urban riding here are much more related to cars, motor-bikes and people, this adds a whole new dimension to the sport of regular mountain bike riding – which btw: where I come from in Western Canada is not only perilously dangerous, if you screw up on some trails, you are dead for sure.
Anyone who doesn’t own a bike, is because they don’t want one and that’s normally because they forgot how much fun they are. Now in every city in the world there are bike rentals, get your gusto back on, improve your ground game and get out there and take a peddle. Also, never go to Amsterdam and not rent a bike (unless it’s snowing), that is the one city in the world where no other transportation system can compare. The bike lanes go towards the on-coming traffic but on the safety of the sidewalk. Dutch people revere the bicycle and it’s the most fun of any city to ride a bike in, although China is no slouch on bike lanes and many other places have more people moving around on 2 wheels, under their own power, than people in cars.
Here in Brazil it’s expensive to buy imported bikes, and although my custom made bike cost me about $500 USD because it was made with KHS frame and imported parts. The Kona I like would set you back $5,000 USD but it’s available because they sell. Sadly though the Brazil government increases prices for a bicycle profile that Brazilian manufacturers are not able to manufacture. Brands like KHS, Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, Kona, Scott and others represent no more than 3 percent of the total volume of bicycles sold in Brazil. However, they’ve been selling here for a long time, so there’s always used ones somewhere, that someone wants to unload. Realistically I’d say you just walk into a busy bike shop and buy the best used bike that comes closest to your needs, and ride by the shop every month to see if there’s a used Kona come in for sale. My friend that owns Moema Bikes in Sao Paulo speaks perfect English, can build any type of bike, has every accessory, and sees Gringoes ride up and sell a bike (with tears in their eyes) because they’re going back Stateside, or moving overseas, those bikes sell really fast but there’s always a bike for the right price, ready to ride away on – just make sure you know where you’re going and how to get there, especially in Sampa.
The bike is irrefutably the best method of sight-seeing too, what are you waiting for? Just pick up a local newspaper, or better still, find the classifieds online and search your scene for “used bike for sale”. Or walk into a bike with a MasterCard and ride out on my favorite, a brand new Kona (Deep Cove, BC, Bike Maker). Just remember to buy a bigger lock, and that you can’t leave it parked anywhere for very long – even the big locks get jacked in under 30 seconds. A fancy looking bike attracts the thieves, dull it down and don’t leave it tied-up outside super-busy areas, like at bus stations etc…. Get yourself the best helmet you can find, not some sissy Tour de France looking racing helmet – a full-blown Extreme-sports helmet and the correct gloves. Wear excellent footwear, never flip-flops (unless it’s to the corner store) and always, always “ride to arrive alive”! Click here to learn how to make backup for power cuts.
São Paulo is the dynamic result of the demolition and reconstruction of successive cities in just over a century. In that short time, the citadel with 30 000 inhabitants has become a metropolis with 20 million inhabitants, and its nature has practically disappeared. Originally very rich in biodiversity, São Paulo showed extensive forests of the Atlantic Forest, Araucaria, savannas and wetlands, forming a unique landscape. During the process of urbanization, the ancestral vegetation was being cleared and replaced by species of foreign origin, cultural motivation that led to the mass extinction of native flora and fauna and the current situation of 80% of urban vegetation to be of foreign origin, ie , exotic.
To be a palm tree, or any kind of tree in a city like São Paulo is not easy. It complicates your life – contaminated and compacted soil, the narrow sidewalk and all cemented the overhead wires everywhere, harmful pruning and people who see it as an obstacle or producers of “dirt”. However, they are what make the city livable, breathable and beautiful.
The Organization; SOS Mata Atlântica of São Paulo decorates trees for resistance to uncontrolled urban development, mobilizing the population to create a map to the great trees in town, then tell their stories and to report any mistreatment.
[box type=”info”]Euterpe edulis, commonly known as juçara, jucara (misspell of the former name, of Luso-Tupian origin), jussara (an archaic alternative spelling), açaí-do-sul or palmiteiro, is a palm species in the genus Euterpe. It is now predominantly used for hearts of palm. It is closely related to the açaí palm (Euterpe oleracea), a species cultivated for its fruit and superior hearts of palm. The larvae of Caligo brasiliensis are reported to feed on E. edulis.[/box]
Palmeiras do Jardim Botanico – Imperial Palms are a Palm of great beauty and elegance, the palm-juçara is the parent plant of the Atlantic Forest, providing their food with fruit for much of the fauna, the paca the toucan. In São Paulo it occurred in abundance prior to urbanization, but faded to near local extinction by searching for your palm for cooking (heart of palms) and as a construction material. Palmital in the Botanical Garden, around the source of one of the trainers of the famous Riacho Ipiranga, São Paulo is an ancestral landscape, true environmental relic.
As the suns sets on Sampa, I reflect back on my beginning with this Big Pineapple, as it’s perhaps the sweetest and certainly the most poignant memories of all my dozen years living here. It was the power of love that brought me. The single most powerful force known to mankind.
Back-story: A girl from Sao Paulo was traveling with two girlfriends in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) of the Dutch West Indies and I happened to be on “C” island (Curacao) working on a project to design, develop, license and launch the first on-line casino, or at least in amongst the first 100 (Note: this was a new gold rush). She was staying with her friends in the same hotel on Curacao.
I first saw her from across the hotel lobby and fell in love at first sight, it hit me like a ton of bricks and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it….
In this abbreviated rendition I’ll fast forward the year to say that we “re-connected on Curacao, six months later”, followed by a three month lapse and a “bring the girl to meet the family” in Canada, where my love landed in Vancouver for a month of mid-summer madness, covered hundreds of miles of British Columbia and visited every single beach in Vancouver, from Wreck Beach all the way to Horseshoe Bay, then a magical tour of the Okanagan (interior BC) with an ecstatic welcoming committee from my tribe, as the whole world adores Brazil.
After the Canada tour, we both knew that we were destined to keep going towards each other. The power of love was intense and totally irrefutable, it wasn’t just lust, or imagination, it was real and it was way too powerful to explain in words. All that I knew, is that there was nothing in this world that could, or would, stop me from seeing her again. We needed to meet half-way, in Miami, which is exactly what my plan was, from the very beginning when I laid-eyes on her, I wanted her on the beach in Florida, living with me.
Six more agonizing months go by and finally it’s my turn to meet her family. Uh-oh, boy meets girl’s Mom and Dad, yikes! But I was un-daunted, the power of love had a grip on me like a fuckin GPS signal, I was tuned-to-it. So I arrived in, you guessed it, Sao Paulo, Brasil about mid-December of ’97 and it’s hotter than Haiti (Note: I’ve not been to Haiti yet, it’s just an expression) and I’ve come from the great white north, however since I had so many months to think about this trip and was laid-over in Miami (my second home, as I’ll explain another time) for a month on my way to South America, also because I knew enough about every family member in her tribe, I was able to arrive bearing meaningful gifts but nothing I was to give would ever come close to what I was about to receive.