Using HelloTalk to learn languages

I recently downloaded a new app called HelloTalk to brush up on my Spanish and Italian and was pleasantly surprised (see this article for details).
It has some nifty features like talk-to-text, text-to-voice, translation and grammar correction. It´s basically an online community with native teachers, so you can start from scratch. You write your message and it appears in another language, so you can start recording what the message should look like and learn using trial and error. You can also use the call feature.
It just really helped me with the frustration of not knowing how to communicate. Great stuff.

Give it a try
Android App
itunes App


How to Travel Like a Local in Brazil by Bus

For those of you who are planning on traveling by bus to see more of Brazil, I really enjoyed the advice provided in Busbud. It´s pretty simple and straight-forward but great for a first-timer.
How to Travel Like a Local in Brazil by Bus.

Why Brazil Is Its Own Worst Enemy | Daniel Wagner

Any article with a title like this one is bound to be interesting! Must read.

Why Brazil Is Its Own Worst Enemy | Daniel Wagner.

Things you have to try in Brazil – Cocoa Milkshake

Ok, there are THOUSANDS of things you have to try in Brazil before you can even start to form an opinion, and one of them is CACAO, or COCOA in English.

No, it´s not the cocoa powder you imagined when I first mentioned the word. I´m talking about cocoa, the fruit, where the beans come from to make chocolate.

My husband in Brazilian and has always lived and worked on farms, so he introduced me to this amazing fruit about 2 years ago.

The best way to eat this super nourishing fruit is in the form of a “vitamina de cacao” or cocoa milkshake. The result is a creamy, foamy, sweet and slightly sour milkshake that will never leave your brain. The taste and texture are totally unforgettable. We prepare the pulp at home, but you can have a cocoa milkshake at most lanchonettes in the north and north-east regions of Brazil. Most Brazilians have not even tasted this amazing fruit this way. Once the beans are stripped of their pulp to make juice, they are dried in the sun and mostly sold to cocoa export companies.

You can also just suck the pulp off the beans or make juice with the pulp using water instead of milk. I still prefer the milkshake, though.

Here are some pictures.

Opening the cocoa fruit.
Opening the cocoa fruit.


Cocoa beans in the container, ready to extract the pulp with a regular mixer.
Cocoa beans in the container, ready to extract the pulp with a regular mixer.


A compact architectural guide to metropolitan São Paulo


Buying property in Brazil: The Easy Way

After looking for years, I finally managed to buy a piece of land in Brazil. As I was the buyer, I decided to find the place first and then look for someone to help me with the paperwork. Of course, I live here and don´t have to worry about the “foreigner” part of the paperwork (that part took me about 5 years to complete), so I will jump a few steps here.

Anyway, I found a lovely piece of land in the rural area of Ilhéus, somewhere between Serra Grande and Ilhéus, on the motorway to Itacaré. There are some “neighbourhoods” here where lots of foreigners have purchased property and basically take care of everything. In the region I chose, I was lucky enough to also find some foreigners and other local neighbours who are very kind and helpful.

Sunset after a long day of work
View of the shed
View of the shed
Our beloved horse, Colorado
My daughter and dog.
My daughter and dog.

I was also lucky enough to find a “gringo” who had already gone through the entire process and he is very penny-wise (: so I decided to follow his steps for purchasing property.

First of all, most properties in this region so not have all the documentation and have never paid tax. So the first thing is to find a property that has all the documents or at least, as in my case, the “registro de propriedade” which is basically a piece of paper saying that the state or municipality has transferred a piece of land to the current owner and it no longer belongs to the state. This is very common here also, where most people simply settle on pieces of land and build their homes, after which the state may award them that piece of land (usually after 20 years). As the seller had most of this basic paperwork, all I had to do was find the “corretor” who would help me. Enter my gingo friend´s recommendation.

I contacted the real-estate agent/corretor and scheduled a visit. They offered me their full services, including all “cartório” work and “escrituração” (deed) for the modest sum of 2 minimum wages. They drafted the contract, checked all the paperwork, did the missing paperwork and prepared the deed. I paid 50% in advance and 50% when I signed the deed.

Easy peasy. No, seriously. It was really easy.

Then, I was introduced to an angel who knew all the builders, painters and electricians in the area and basically became my contractor. For just 5 thousand reais, I managed to prepare the entire house and moved within a fortnight.

So, if you are planning on living in the Ilhéus region, especially between Itacaré and Ilhéus, and need help doing the paperwork and getting the house ready for living, leave a comment. I would be glad to give you all the contact information.



Pinhão Explained

Just read this really interesting article on the pinhão, or pine nut, very popular in southern Brazil.

Weird Vegetables: Pinhão


Time Out – Brazil

Most people probably know this by now, but if you are wondering what to do in São Paulo or Rio, check out these Time Out Facebook pages (in English).

Time Out São Paulo

Time Out Rio de Janeiro


Film Review – Dancing with the Devil (Documentary)

I decided to catch up on my Brazilian films and started off with this highly recommended video, Dancing with the Devil, a documentary on the drug war in Rio de Janeiro. There are lots of similar videos out there, but this one is slightly different because it shows the lives and stories of the member of a drug squad who fights the dealers/gunmen, a pastor and ex-dealer who provides spiritual support, and drug lords, without masks. Rare footage indeed, and almost surreal, especially the scenes of the pastor praying with armed “deputies” of a drug lord.

The lives these people lead make Rambo look like Peter Pan…

The overall message is that these people would have probably thought twice about entering the drug world if they had had more opportunities in life, like quality schooling. It sounds cliché but you almost understand why they enter it and can´t leave. What alse would they do? Who would hire these people? Most of them can´t read or write.

Another interesting fact is that they all mention God almost continuously. One side thinks that God wants them to stay alive to deal drugs, while other thinks that God wants them to catch the dealers. Almost everything is placed in the hands of God, hence the importance of the pastor. Most of the statements are loaded with huge contradictions.

I tried to find the Amazon link for this, but could not. If anyone knows the real name of this film or where to purchase it, please let me know.


Recommended Article – The World Cup Matters, but Brazil is the last place in the world that should host it.

I really, really recommend this fascinating article by Marcos Carvalho in ESPN FC World Cup Stories published on the Medium website. He manages to summarize just about everything that happened and is happening in Brazil and concludes with something I always insist on: we, Brazilians, must also assume the responsibility of the state our country is in. Perfect article!

The World Cup Matters, but Brazil is the last place in the world that should host it.