A Historic Day!

On August 26th, 2013 at approximately 3pm, exactly 553 days or roughly a year and a half later. On this historic day after going to the Policia Federal thousands of times, going to the cartório another thousand times and spending roughly a thousand reis. This momentous day marks the suffering of one individual wading through the muck of Brazilian bureaucracy. Yes, the day has come where I finally, FINALLY, received my resident card.

Many of you mat be wondering why so dramatic while others feel my pain. Let me just say that it has been a journey to get my resident card and I’m relieved that it is finally over. As my husband and I were walking out of the Policia Federal I couldn’t help but say, “I feel so accomplished.”

If you are moving to Sao Paulo, Brazil and plan to get your residency card, here are a few tips that would have made my life a little easier (keep in mind that I’m married to a Brazilian, so your process may be slightly different)

1. To get your resident card you can either do it yourself, or higher a firm to complete the process for you which of course comes at a price.

2. DO NOT trust any website information. The only way to get accurate information is to physically go down to the Policia Federal and get the list of documents you need to start your process. Seriously don’t trust them!

3. DO NOT expect anyone at the Policia Federal to know english (or any other language for that matter), they only speak portuguese.

4. Go early because lines start forming fast to get in and by afternoon they are literally out the door. (I’ve heard of people standing in line for three hours).

5. Get your signature registered at a Cartório and expect to visit often. If you are not sure what a Cartório is, see previous post “Down with the Cartórios!

6. DO NOT sweat the interview. The Policia Federal came to our building, we were not home, so they asked the doorman if we lived there and he said yes. Interview done.

7. Follow up. If they give you a date when something might be done, like the publishing of your name in the official government website, keep checking it because they will not alert you that it was published. (Although in my case they did notify me via Telegram, the most archaic form of communication in this day and age.)

8. Be patient. This is Brazil and things move at a different pace so just expect for things to take some time and who knows you may be pleasantly surprise but I doubt it.

Good luck! And maybe I’ll see you in line at the Policia Federal sometime!


Damming the Amazon is Complicated


I saw this video this weekend on the NYTimes website; this is a very controversial subject about building hydroelectric dams in the Amazon because it can cause flooding, deforestation as well as displacement of the Native Brazilians.

I find that most Brazilians have mixed emotions about this situation. My Portuguese teacher Lavenia and I discussed it in class on Friday, and she described the situation as a double-edged sword because both energy and the Amazon are important concerns in Brazil. I think if America was in the same situation as Brazil we wouldn’t hesitate building the dam because of the amount of clean energy it would produce to run our iPhones, iPads, Laptops, etc.

I found this video to be a little bias and self-righteous. I definitely think Brazil has the opportunity to both build the dam and help millions of Brazilians get affordable energy and do the right thing if it affects the Native Brazilian’s water source. With this issue I can see both sides of the argument and what I think will need to happen in the end is a compromise.


Down with the Cartórios!

Cartório literally translated means “notary or registers office”, but what it means in reality is blood sucking thieves! In my attempt to get my resident card here in Brazil, I’ve already had to visit the cartório at least ten times and each time pay a lovely fee. Yesterday I paid a whopping R$114 for the authentication of some documents.

So why is this system so frustrating? It’s because in Brazil your signature is virtually useless unless it is authenticated at one of these cartórios. That means these people get to charge you every time you need something signed or copied. The worst part of this all is that these places are not government owned; they are owned by private citizens who are typically among the same families of the rich and elite.

The history of cartórios began with Brazil’s monarchy system, the king paid private (rich) citizens to administer government services to the people. Today the majority of this has faded away with the Republic but still the cartórios remain. Recently the Brazilian government created a test for people who want to open a new cartório; this was to level the playing field and to allow the non-rich to have the opportunity to own a cartório. However, speculation thinks that this is just a ruse and that the same families who have owned the cartórios for years are the ones who pass the test.

So why have this system in the first place? It is because cartório lobbyists are too powerful against the government. I think that Brazilians need stand up and protest against this system! Yes, maybe they need to start an Ocupar Cartório (Occupy Cartorio) and see if they can make a change. No, on second thought I think the fight is futile because we have seen how well it has worked out for the Americans.


Brazil has a smell but São Paulo smells!

I had traveled to Brazil several times before coming here to live permanently and the first time I came I noticed that Brazil has a smell. The best way I can describe it is that it smells like a mixture of tropical, humidity, and industrial smell. The first time I came here the smell was strong and I remember going back to America and still smelling it in my clothes. The last time I visited (before I moved here) I smelled the Brazil smell for only a few hours and then I couldn’t smell it anymore. My husband says that the United States also has a smell; it smells like cleaning products and has a plastic smell to it and he smells it for only a few minutes when he first gets to the US. It is interesting to me that every country has a smell but the people born there can’t smell it.

Anyhow São Paulo has a whole other smell to it, to be blunt it stinks! It is not the city itself that stinks it is the nasty polluted rivers that run through the city; the Tietê River and Pinheiros River. I don’t know how Paulistanos (People from São Paulo city) stand it! The first time my husband and I drove next to the river he jokingly said, “Smell that wonderful smell, like flowers, isn’t it a lovely perfume?” It smelled like putrefied sewage. That’s because it is putrefied sewage, it is fifty years of industrial effluent and wastewater poured into the rivers with no concern for the environment.

The state of São Paulo has tried to clean up the Tiete River in the past. In 1992 the governor of São Paulo pressured the State to clean up the river and so Project Tietê was born. They have spent 1.5 billion dollars and the river is still far from being cleaned up. Many of the industrial companies that joined the project initially have since dropped out and continue to dump waste into the river. My husband says that when the state initially agreed to clean up the river, for two years they told the people they were cleaning it up when in reality they were doing nothing. Currently the Tiete project is in it’s third phase but I’m skeptical to see if it really works.

I get that most developing countries have issues with pollution, in New York, the Hudson River was polluted with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. It has been over sixty years and clean up is still ongoing. You could not pay me enough to swim in the Hudson but if I was to fall in the Tiete River I would probably dissolve.

I know that Brazilians have other priorities because Brazil is a developing country and environmental problems seem to be the last thing to address, but this problem will not go away. The Paulistanos really need to continue to pressure their government into making a change because São Paulo could be such a nicer place without a stinky river. I am just grateful that I don’t have to live near the river!

Not everything here is wonderful…

Over the weekend we drove to Japantown (Like Chinatown) located in the downtown area. As we were driving there my husband was pointing out buildings and telling me about them. “There is the law school he said.” I looked at the building and huddled up on the front steps was a homeless family. I was almost brought to tears when I saw a  two year old boy sleeping on the ground.

São Paulo has a lot of homeless but this is not as bad as other countries I’ve been to. In Mexico and Jamaica children by the dozens would swarm you looking for handouts or try to sell you something. It is not at all like that here but according to my husband it used to be but things are getting better.

And it’s not like we don’t have homeless children in America, 1 in 50 kids are homeless in American which amounts to roughly 1.5 million. That number seems appalling to me since we are far more developed that Brazil. Plus we don’t see them on the street; we hide them in shelters so we don’t have to face the reality of them on a daily basis.

Since my encounter with this little boy I have been thinking while I am in São Paulo I might try to volunteer somewhere. I know it will take a lot of time and social change for things to truly change in Brazil but in the meantime like with my patients, maybe I can make a difference in the life of an individual.