Monday, May 27, 2013

Helpful guide to living in Belo Horizonte

For a while I was feeling like the only foreign blogger in Belo Horizonte, but there are some great blogs out there worth pointing out.  First, Josh at has posted a handy guide to Belo Horizonte.  Check it out!

If you are looking for specific info on Belo, you may want to also check out the following:  Cool pix, interesting observations No longer updated since Emily moved back to the US, but she posted lots about Belo while they were living here  Lots of interesting cultural stuff about BH Another mom writing about her experiences.  A blog I just found, through the Minas International Website Name pretty much explains it all

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Portuguese for the perplexed

Reported from Eyes on Brazil, from the Economist

What Brazilians say: Yes (Sim)
What foreigners hear: Yes
What Brazilians mean: Anything from yes through perhaps to no

What Brazilians say: Perhaps (Talvez)
What foreigners hear: Perhaps
What Brazilians mean: No

What Brazilians say: No (Não)
What foreigners hear (on the very rare occasion a Brazilian says it): No
What Brazilians mean: Absolutely never, not in a million years, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever been asked

What Brazilians say: I’m nearly there (Tô chegando)
What foreigners hear: He’s nearly here
What Brazilians mean: I’ve set out

What Brazilians say: I’ll be there in ten minutes (Vou chegar em dez minutinhos)
What foreigners hear: He’ll be here soon
What Brazilians mean: Some time in the next half-hour I’ll get up off the sofa and start looking for my car keys

What Brazilians say: I’ll show up later (Vou aparecer mais tarde)
What foreigners hear: He’ll be here later
What Brazilians mean: I won’t be coming

What Brazilians say: Let’s stay in touch, ok? (A gente se vê, vamos combinar, ta?)
What foreigners hear: He’d like to stay in touch (though, puzzlingly, we don’t seem to have swapped contact details)
What Brazilians mean: No more than a Briton means by: “Nice weather, isn’t it?”

What Brazilians say: I’m going to tell you something/ Let me tell you something/ It’s the following/ Just look and you’ll see (Vou te falar uma coisa/ Deixa te falar uma coisa/ É o seguinte/ Olha só pra você ver)
What foreigners hear (especially after many repetitions): He thinks I’m totally inattentive or perhaps mentally deficient
What Brazilians mean: Ahem (it’s just a verbal throat-clear)

What Brazilians say:  A hug! A kiss!  (Um abraço! Um bei
What foreigners hear: I’ve clearly made quite an impression—we’ve just met but he/she really likes me!
What Brazilians mean: Take care, cheers, bye

What Brazilians say: You speak Portuguese really, really well! (Você fala português super-bem!)
What foreigners hear: How great! My grammar and accent must be coming on a lot better than I thought
What Brazilians mean: How great! A foreigner is trying to learn Portuguese! Admittedly, the grammar and accent are so awful I can barely understand a word… but anyway! A foreigner is trying to learn Portuguese!

The "deixa me falar" thing has been making me crazy recently!  And I get the "your Portuguese is great!"  comment all the time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Getting a Brazilian Driver's License in Belo Horizonte

Let's talk about getting a Driver's License!  Foreigners are allowed to drive for their first 180 days in Brazil using their driver's license from their home country.  Then you need to get a Brazilian License.  For the first 180 days of our Brazilian experience, there was no way in hell I wanted to get behind the wheel.  Too crazy and scary.  But then we got the Fusca, and well, it was time.  But for various reasons (mainly see the 9 steps below), I didn't bother.  But with the recent increase in blitzes, and my fear of being caught driving with out a license, it became clear that it was time to be legal.  

I would say that the whole process takes about 12 hours (including waiting).  It took me about 4 afternoons, but you could probably do it all in one day if you are really motivated and are a glutton for punishment.  

Brazil has a system in place to recognize certain country's Driver's Licenses.  If you are not American, you'll have to check to see if your country made this list.  This is assuming you have all your official paperwork in order, and you have your signature on file at a Cartorio (notary), here are the easy 9 steps to follow.  

1.  Gather the paperwork.
a.  RNE or SINCRE (sistema de cadastro e Reg. de Estrangeiro), from the Policia Federal.  If you don't have the actual physical RNE card, you can show them your "protocolo" or "requerimento de entrada junto a polícia federal acompanhado do SINCRE."  
b.  CPF
c.  Driver's License from your home country
d.  Proof of your address in Minas Gerais.  In my case, I had NOTHING (because everything is in my husband's CPF, and we are here on his visa.  I was able to use a utility bill in his name and a copy of our Marriage Certificate.
e.  Passport, with official something from Policia Federal.  This is a little piece of paper that we got from the Policia Federal (maybe this is the SINCRE?).  Matt likes to call it the "craft project" because they actually use scissors and a glue stick to piece it together.  
f.  3x4 picture (color)

You can check the website, but I don't know if it is updated very often, and it also does not let you know which documents have to be notarized.   

2.  Get your Driver's License officially translated.  In Belo Horizonte, you have to go to this address: Avenida do Contorno, 6166-Loja 9-CEP: 30110-042, between R. Alagoas and R. Pernambuco

Bring R$90 cash (though I paid less, but other people have told me they had to pay R$90), your original Driver's License and Passport, and photocopies of the picture page of your Passport and Driver's License (front and back).  This step took about an hour.  

3. Make copies of the following (from above):  b, c, d, e

4.  Visit your friendly local Cartorio.  You'll need to get official, notarized copies (cópias autenticadas) of the following (from above):  a, e. 

5.  Go to DETRAN.  In Belo Horizonte, the address is Avenida João Pinheiro 417, Centro.  Office hours are 8 am to 5 pm, but my experience was that it's not worth it to go around lunch because the one person that is trained to help foreigners takes a healthy 2 hour lunch.  So go before noon, or after 2 pm.  *** FIRST GO TO THE DESK TO MAKE SURE YOUR PAPERWORK IS CORRECT***  Don't go to the line. Don't go to get a number to wait.  You have to find the desk.  It's called something like an Orfetia, or orferia (fellow expat bloggers, help me out here).  When you go in the main entrance, you'll see a bunch of windows with a sign "informação."  There is a small door, that looks like it's for official personel only.  Go in that door, and go almost to the end of the hall.  The "office" you want to visit is on the right.  There are no signs.  If there is someone official looking, just tell them you need to get your paper work because you are a foreigner and you are getting your license.  I neglected to do this first, and ended up spending an extra hour at DETRAN.  After someone checks your paperwork, you then have to go to the Habilitação area.  This is labeled.  Tell them you are a foreigner getting your license.  Take a number and wait.  When your number is called, you give all your paperwork, they check it (again), and give you a boleto (bill) and the address for the clinic for your medical and psychological exam.  Confirm they amount that you will have to pay at the clinic.

6.  Pay the boleto at the bank.  There are lots of banks on Avenida João Pinheiro.  So the best thing is to go pay the boleto and get the correct amount of cash.  At the time of writing this, my boleto was R$150, and the fee for the clinic was R$133,35.  

7.  Go to the clinic.  At the time of writing this, the clinic was on Rua Domingo Viera in Santa Efigenia, about a 20 minute walk from DETRAN.  The clinic used to be in Centro (wouldn't that have been convenient).  You have to give them all your paperwork, and pay (cash only) and wait.  Office hours are 8 am to 5 pm, but once you get to see the doctors, it takes about 45 minutes, so you have to arrive by 4 pm if you want to be seen.  Come ready to wait.  First is the psychological examination.  You answer a bunch of questions first.  Then they have various concentration tests they give.  They can involve filling a paper with tic marks as fast as you can.  My test involved shapes in various colors and pointing different directions, and trying to remember which was which.  Then I got to pick little tiles in my favorite color and make a pyramid, and talk about which pyramid was the prettiest.  Yes, really.  Once it was determined that I was sound of mind, I got my eyes tested, was asked a few questions, and they tested my hand strength.  I passed!

8.  Go back to DETRAN.  Go back to the Habilitação area.  Take a number.  Wait.  Turn in your paperwork.  The lady who takes your paperwork doesn't normally deal with foreigners, so she has to go find someone else who does.  Wait.  They double check the paperwork.  Then go get some coffee.  They come back and triple check the paperwork.  Then I get a little piece of paper with a protocolo number, and I'm free to go.  

9.  Wait for your license to be delivered (by Correios).  It is supposed to be delivered within 15 days.  

In terms of the bureaucracy that foreigners have to deal with, getting a license is not so bad (it's all relative, of course).  Mainly because once you do these steps, you actually get a license within a timely fashion.  Good luck!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lei Seca and what to wear at 7 am on a Saturday

We have met a great group of fellow expats here in Belo Horizonte.  And it just so happens that a large percentage of these expats are French.  We went out with them to a wonderful new French restaurant in Sion called Au Bon Vivant .  It was so so so so so yummy.  And of course, when you have delicious French food with French people, you have to have French wine.  Matt had a glass at the beginning of the evening (9 pm), and offered to drive so I could have 2 glasses.  We finally finished dessert and goodbyes at about midnight.  But when we stepped outside, we found this:

The police had set up a "blitz" right in front of the restaurant.  Thankfully, drunk driving laws changed in Belo Horizonte this year.  The new law (lei seca) is that you can not have ANY trace of alcohol in your system while driving.  Zilch.  Zero.  NONE.  If you do, you will be fined, and you may lose your license and your will be towed (I know I should research exactly what will happen, but all I know is that it is you'll get in trouble).  I think it was very necessary for the laws to change.  Two years ago, I was told that Belo Horizonte had two breathalyzers for the ENTIRE city, and it was practically impossible to get in trouble for drunk driving.  We have observed MANY drivers on our street driving while holding beer bottles.  As an American, this is a BIG NO NO.  All those MAD campaigns and after school movies, and knowing people who were killed as a result of drunk drivers has instilled in me a strong sense of what is right and wrong.  It is not good to drink while impaired.  Don't do it.  It does seem a little extreme to me that now the law is that you can't have any trace in your system, but I feel that it is probably better here to go to an extreme after years and years of living with the other end of the spectrum.

Even though none of us were impaired, and Matt was totally fine to drive, he had had a glass of wine 3 hours earlier.  We all opted to leave our cars and catch taxis.  Sometimes the blitzes involve stopping random cars, and sometimes they involve stopping every car.  This one was stopping EVERY car except taxis.  So it was better to play it safe.

Way too early the next morning, Matt had to work.  So I had to wake up and catch a bus at 7 am to make sure that I could then drive him to his rehearsal.  I had managed to take a shower and get down a cup of coffee, but I had no makeup on (I don't wear much anyway) and I was wearing sweat pants, a tee shirt and tennis shoes.  After all, I was going to have to do a little walking to catch the bus, and I wanted to be comfortable on my day off.  But, almost everyone at the bus stop was dressed to the nines!  Including this woman:

The picture doesn't do it justice.  She's got on 4 inch bright yellow heels, perfectly manicured red toenails, an animal print shirt, and she had the hair and makeup to match.  Work it honey!  I guess I need to put a little more effort into my early Saturday morning get up, especially when catching the circular bus!

Monday, May 6, 2013

out and about

I was out to do some printing this morning (yes, we still don't have a printer, but to be honest, I'm happier to not have to deal with printer issues).  It was a beautiful, clear morning, and I was without the kids, so I could give my full attention to the surroundings.  It felt like a very Brazilian walk, since I saw these things:


A teenage boy holding his Grandmother's hand, out for a walk.  I love how common it is for people to hold hands while out walking, and how often I see boys and young men holding their mom's hand.  My  almost 9 year old son has not adapted to the Brazilian custom, but I always make him hold my hand when we cross the street.  Last week he didn't let go after we had crossed the street, and held my hand for a whole block.  

Oooh, bad picture from the cell phone...

The coconut delivery truck blasting funk music.  For those of you who don't have the "privilege" of being familiar with funk music, I was considering posting a YouTube video.  But my 1 minute YouTube search left me feeling very offended and disgusted, so I will spare you.

Yet another bad picture from the cell...

And a walk in our neighborhood wouldn't be complete with out illegal parking.  Can you see the telephone pole at the left of the picture?  There is a no parking sign on it.  And you can see 4 cars parked illegally in front of it.  What is harder to tell, is that the first car is a POLICIA MILITAR car.  The police officers were parked there, while getting ice cream cones.  It's really no wonder that 82% of Brazilians think it is easy to break the law, and 54% see little reason to follow laws.  But I had to just chuckle to myself, and enjoy the blue sky and this crazy, complicated, wonderfully frustrating place that we live.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Updated list of blogs I follow

I FINALLY got around to updating my blog list.  If you'd like me to add yours, please send me a message.  These are the Brazi related blogs that I enjoy reading, that appear to still be regularly updated.  I am thinking about making a list of blogs that have specific information for moving to Brazil (since that is the email request that I got most often, as in "can you tell me how to get a job?"  Or "can you tell me what it is like?"

But that is too much work for a holiday, so it will have to wait.  Happy Workers Day!