July 11, Local antiquity market, coconut and Bhut Jolokia
There's this brilliant guy called Arthur who sits just next to me in the office (he may have already appeared above), with whom I went to a local market Benedito Calixto near Roberto's apartment, where they sell antiquities and artistic stuff, which I did not expect to see in Brazil. It's an entirely independent story but Arthur (whose Japanese name is Seiji, which strongly reminds me of Whisper of the Hearts) will go to the Netherlands this year, which has the surface area of just one sixth of the state of São Paulo.
On the market, I ordered a "tapioca", which I knew as a drink or pudding.
Vender: "salty or sweet?"
Actually the tapioca is not exactly what we know in Europe or in Japan. It's something like a sandwich and what you find inside is variable. As I ordered a sweet tapioca, there was coconut inside. (For Brazilians: it often looks like this in Europe and like this in Japan).
Did you know that the chili pepper comes exclusively from America? People often think of India when they talk about spicy food but even Indians did not have chili peppers before the exploration of America by the Europeans. Here on the market, I found a local chili paste that contains Bhut Jolokia. So, to be honest, I have NEVER had such a strong sauce, though what I got was just a tip of sauce. I'll certainly come back to this market to buy it for my lab just before my return to Europe. Just for info: there's nothing spicy in France. The people are absolutely not used to it. I'm looking forward to something ... :)
Beer in Brazil
This section certainly has to be completed with further information that I will surely obtain in the coming days in Brazil (because now drinking culture kind of snuck into my daily life now). The most famous beer here in Brazil from Germany is probably Paulaner, followed by Franziskaner, but every now and then, you can find local brands that carry a German name. This one for example, Baden-Baden, which is a city located near Strasbourg. I personally would have come up with a better name...
The beer here in general tastes by the way a tad sweet, somewhere between the French beer and the Belgian beer. So if you come from Germany or Japan, it must be a very new experience (anyway you are obliged to drink local beer because imported stuff is WAY too expensive in Brazil).
At least it was strong enough to get me as drunk as I could ask a passer-by to take a photo in Portuguese. Well, not to say he replied in English :)
Jul. 13, exchange rate and sport
Just a day before the Bastille Day, a couple of things happened, that allowed me to change my lifestyle here.
Currently, 1 euro equals to 3,50 reals, which has not changed since my arrival here. The problem was, when I arrived at the airport on the very first day, I simply followed the instructions of other Brazilians and changed money there, though still I was not ready to believe that it would be the cheapest way to change money. So I changed 100 euros and got back 250 euros... Essentially, I lost something like 1/3 of my money.
With Roberto later insisting that ATMs be the worst place to get money because I would lose even more money there, which is not quite the case when I draw money in Japan with my French credit card. In the end, I decided to give it a try and drew 300 reals, for which about 90 euros were charged, which is equivalent to about 315 reals.
So if you go to Brazil, don't believe what the others say. Contact your bank or just give it a try.
Secondly, Greece and EU finally put up a new bailout, which means large fluctuations of the euro would be avoided. That is to say, I won't be suddenly poor or stray into favelas with worthless money.
Thirdly, I'm now getting used to the Brazilian lifestyle so I want to customize my daily life in my way.
Conclusion: I can spend more money, and I'll do it to make a better world (for me).
I usually jog everyday in France, which I suspended here in Brazil, thinking two months would not do too much harm, just to find out it was too wrong.
At the same time, there was Luciana (who appeared here), who spoke of a group of people doing cross fit in the Ibirapuera park.
Since I did not bring anything for jogging, I went to a local Carrefour. I had around 300 reais in my wallet, which is about 100 USD. I was not quite sure if I could buy a pair of shoes, a t-shirt and shorts, as São Paulo is one of the most expensive cities in the world.
However, as I found out, the price of shoes varied something like between 30 and 60 BRL (not USD!!). In the end, together with all the other stuff, I paid 100 BRL. Surprise :) (positive one)
Ibirapuera park was about 6 km away from Roberto's apartment. No subway station nearby. I decided to jog up there. Luckily, I crossed apparently a richer district of São Paulo, no need to pay attention to danger. Not that the drivers are friendlier though :)
And Ibirapuera park also shared the same atmosphere with the district, elegant and unnaturally natural, as many parks in metropolitan cities. But above all, the number of people involved in some kind of recreational activity (mostly sport) is impressive. Probably that's also related to the air pollution in São Paulo, which is unfortunately visible on sunny days.
After 1 hour or 2? of cross fit, it was almost impossible to jog back home. But I made it. Twice a week. I'm looking forward to next sessions :)
Credit cards in Brazil
Here in São Paulo, people usually pay by debit/credit card, which I think is an excellent thing. Interestingly, you can find the logo of Mastercard alone without Visa very often here. Arthur told me that it does not mean that they do not accept Visa, but as I looked for the market share in Brazil, it turned out that while Visa has 48.5% and Mastercard has 31.7% of market share world wide (cf. this report), Visa has 46% and Mastercard has 37% of market share in Brazil this article).
So what? Well, nothing. I just found it interesting...
July 17, Brazilian lab life
There's something very important to know in order to cooperate with researchers from different countries: how they work. In my opinion, this is something that is really underestimated by many people. Anyway, what is so different? Well, since here we all share the same office, there's a sort of non stop multi-spiral communication that may or may not be related to the work. There's been a very long discussion whether it's a good thing or a bad thing around me, and I personally still don't know the answer, but for sure, it is an important thing that it is socially accepted, because if you don't want to talk, you just don't. In this sense, there's something Germans and Japanese must learn from Brazilians.
Well, in terms of communication there's little difference between France and Brazil. However, a great thing here in Brazil is there's almost no separation between different positions, like professors and students. And this kind of stuff is sometimes REALLY hinky in France, like different social classes.
Today, which was a Friday, we had a small celebration with all the co-workers. And among those who remained to the end, there was Prof. André Paulo Tschiptschin, who has the most complicated surname I've seen so far in Brazil, who is by the way the boss of the department (?). And appropriately enough, the way he drank was also maestoso. Even though he was someone who did his Post-doc stay in Germany in the year I was born, there was nothing separating him and the students.
The ultimate purpose of this place is the research. Apparently the Brazilians are loyal to this principle.
July 18, Brazilian jokes?
One of my colleagues, Arthur, invited me to a BBQ at his friend's place, with all the alumni of USP (he did his bachelor and master at USP too). If I was Japan, I would have wondered whether it would be okay to participate in such a closed circle. I'm in Brazil, I didn't care.
Here in Brazil, whenever there's ONE foreigner, everyone speaks English, even among themselves (if they can), which would be a very weird thing in many other countries (esp. in Japan). Maybe because in contrast to other countries like France Germany or Japan, where there's been a relatively solid language, the linguistic situation was unstable in Brazil.
Just as Arthur, these were the best educated people in Brazil, but one of them is now even studying Social Sciences out of interest in parallel to his work. It has become rare in developed countries to see someone who studies actively, maybe except for Germany. He told me that he wants to find a solution for political problems in Brazil. I was impressed.
Most of them have been abroad, so actually they spoke also different languages than English, like Italian German etc. Roberto was complaining about students who do not want to get experiences in foreign countries, but apparently there are quite a lot of students who've been there. One of the guys was to go to Germany in two months, who proudly showed me his ribbon, on which it was written "Oktoberfest", as on the photo. Find the error :)
The BBQ itself started at noon (?) and Arthur and I arrived there at 2pm. After an extremely elongated lunch, the session went over to telling jokes. There was one brilliant guy who told a couple of possibly nice jokes with less success, whereas I still appreciate his effort to tell them to me first in English and then in Portuguese for the others, though actually everyone had a very good level of English. Unfortunately, his jokes were either too explicit or too complicated to understand, there's one told by another guy (which kind of reflects what Brazilians think of Portuguese):
There's one American, one Italian and one Portuguese about to be executed (by shooting). They try to think hard to escape the execution. First, the executioner points the rifle at the Italian, who suddenly shouts:
and runs away. Then the executioner points the rifle at the American, who all of a sudden shouts:
and runs away. Lastly, the executioner points the rifle at the Portuguese, who all of a sudden shouts: