23 December 2013

The Year in Pictures


January — Stand-Up paddling, starting the new year with the newest water sport

February — Rehearsing for Búzios' Carnaval

March — Sailing along during Búzios Sailing Week

April — End (finally!) of the cruise ship season

 May — The traditional salt carpet festivities during Corpus Christi, and relaxing from the effort

June — A bit too much winter’s chill for La Bardot

July — Rio International Cello Encounter performs in Búzios

           August — Men’s Volleyball, South American Cup, Brazil x Chile, Brazil wins . . . duh

September — We had VIP seats for the Marathon that ran right by our house

October — Spring flowers burst on the scene


November — High season is only just beginning, and already there's very little space to walk

December — Santa Claus kitesurfing his way to town

SEE YOU IN 2014!

16 December 2013

Reader's Query, Part 2

. . . continuing last week’s blogpost of questions from a reader:

How much are your medical costs? (Doctor appointments are cheap where we are now.)
          Brazil has a free public health system that looks excellent on paper, but which in practice ranges from quite good to nightmarish. My husband and I don’t use the public system. We have a Danish health plan that is offered to citizens of one country who live in another. We keep the annual premium low by choosing a high deductible. We pay for medical appointments, which range from $50 to $140 or so, as we need them. We’ve never yet even come close to exhausting the deductible, so in effect we’re self-insuring, until some unexpected calamity, at which point our insurance will kick in 100%.
          We love our doctors. They spend as much time with you as you want, and their examining rooms are generally right in their offices. You don't sit in a cubicle, waiting and shivering. When you make an appointment, you’re the only patient until you’re done. If we need a medication we buy the generic, and the prices are great.

Are there hospitals and clinics in Buzios?
          There is a hospital in Búzios, yes, and we would have no qualms about going there for emergency treatment in the middle of the night. But for any serious operation or treatment we would go to Rio or São Paulo. There are several clinics in Búzios run by excellent doctors, and these serve our general medical needs. There are extremely competent specialists in the nearby town of Cabo Frio. The laboratories are as modern and up-to-date as you can get. As I write this, I realize that speaking Portuguese is vital. Not all the doctors and very few support personnel speak English.

What can you tell us about residency requirements, and/or dual citizenship?
          This is a huge question. Foreigners who want to live here legally have to research the options and choose what works for them. Start with any Brazilian consulate website for the basic information.
          One American couple we know has a house here in Búzios, but they come only on tourist visas. They stay 90 days, go to the Federal police and request a 90-day extension. So, in effect, they live here for 6 months and in the States for the other 6 months. That works for them and they're happy. But we wanted more permanency than that. Initially, my husband and I came on foreign correspondent visas, which were valid for 4 years. We then got an extension for another 4 years. After that the only other visa available to us was an investor visa, which requires an investment of a certain amount of money (the amount varies depending on the prevailing law at the time you apply) in a company that you must open and operate for a certain number of years (the number of years also varies — for friends of ours the requirement was 5 years, when we applied it was 3 years). Later you can apply for a permanent residency visa. The company that assisted us in obtaining our permanent visas is Mundivisas: www.mundivisas.com.br.
          There’s a lot more to be said about this complicated subject, but one would need lots of time and a bottle or two of sparkling wine.

Is it easy to start one’s own business?
          Are you asking because you really want to start a business and work in Búzios? No, it’s not particularly easy, and they’re changing the rules all the time. Brazilian businesses are heavily taxed, and the labor laws are intricate and onerous. We unfortunately know plenty of people who have opened businesses in Búzios, closed them after a few years, and left with considerably less money than they started with. This oft-repeated Búzios joke says it all: "How do you leave Búzios with a million dollars? Come with two million."

What cannot be shipped to Brazil? (We were only allowed to ship clothes to the place we are now, and it was a royal pain.)
          There’s no such restriction that I know of for shipping to Brazil. We shipped everything we wanted to, including books, clothes, kitchen equipment, some furniture (though we had sold much of what wouldn’t have survived the tropics), artwork — everything. There was no problem getting our shipment through customs as long as it contained nothing but used, personal effects. They opened a few boxes, saw that it was used, and away we went.

My husband and I are both 53 and if all goes well we hope to dock at the Búzios Yacht Club. Is that a good area? Where would the best place for people our age be to settle? I like to be close to great boutiques/stores for shopping.
          The Yacht Club is in a lovely neighborhood called Ossos, which is within walking distance of the center of Búzios, where most of the shopping is. But there's no "best place" for particular ages or anything like that here. Búzios is not a retirement town, though this is the town to which my husband and I seem to have de facto "retired."
          Búzios is mostly a Brazilian resort, a getaway for monied people from Rio. It also attracts loads of Argentines, Uruguayans, Chileans, Peruvians, and plenty of Europeans, mostly French and Germans. It is uncomfortably congested during high season, it is noisy, it is full of young people in full throttle and renters who come here to party (think "Fort Lauderdale during spring break" and triple it). It does calm down during low season, but one thing to keep in mind, Búzios is absolutely not Boquete, Panama or Corozal, Belize, it is not a place where you’ll find an established community of American retirees. In fact, there are very few Americans here. And although many Brazilians speak excellent English, you won’t find many speakers of English among the salespeople, cashiers, secretaries, garage mechanics, lab technicians, pharmacists, banking personnel, insurance brokers, accountants — all the people you’ll need to talk to in order to conduct your daily life. I mention this particularly because you spoke of a "language barrier" where you are now. If you don’t speak Portuguese you’ll face a language barrier here, too.

What would you say are the pros and cons of living in Búzios?
          My husband and I have never been happier, never been healthier or more stress-free, never had better friends or a higher quality of life. I am privileged to have a spectacular view that fills my heart every day. So when I balance all that against the downside of life in Brazil — crime, bureaucracy, corruption, even the annoyance I might feel when I’m up against a seemingly illogical or less-efficient way of doing something — Brazil, and specifically Búzios, still win out hands down.

Since you’re already on the continent, my best advice would be for you to come and try Búzios on for size! Give us a call and we’ll open that bottle I mentioned above!

09 December 2013

Reader's Query, Part 1

I recently received an e-mail from someone who found her way to my blog while researching Búzios. She and her husband had moved elsewhere in South America from the U.S. They weren’t as happy as they had expected to be, and Búzios began popping up in conversations as possibly a better alternative. She asked if I could answer some questions, so I sat down, rolled up my sleeves, and here’s the result, which I will spread out over the next two blogs.

I’ve done a lot of reading, so I want to ask you about safety issues. Can you comment?
          A good first question, but a hard one to answer. Yes, my husband and I are concerned with safety, but not that much more than we were concerned with safety in New York or, for that matter, wherever we are. We try to pay attention to our surroundings. We try to stay under the radar. I don't use a pocketbook, or jewelry, so any bad guy looking to grab my purse isn't going to find it! In addition, we drive a fairly commonplace car. We pay our bills. We treat our employees with respect. Basically, we are not attractive targets. Statistically, crime in Brazil is committed by people known to the victim, with lots of vengeance crimes and family crimes, that sort of thing. Friends of ours have been assaulted here, but we have not. Are we worried about that one time we'll be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Yes. Will that make us move? I’ll get back to you on that one.

Is there any airport closer to Búzios than Rio?
          For the majority of international flights, Rio is the closest airport. There is an airport in the neighboring town of Cabo Frio (30-40 minutes away by car) that is supposed to have international capability, but they seem only to serve charters and cargo flights. Believe it or not, Búzios has an airport too, but it's used almost exclusively by celebrities and wealthy businessmen, who jet in on the weekends.

How is transportation around town? (It’s very good where we are now and there are lots of cabs.)
          Búzios is very spread out. There are cabs, there are buses, there are vans, and they run round the clock. But if you live here, it’s best to get a car.

Can you tell me about the grocery stores in Búzios? Are American products available?
          There are four large supermarkets in Búzios plus some smaller specialty stores that are more than sufficient for our needs. Products that you can't find here can usually be found in Rio. As for American products, well, I'm not sure what you mean. If you have to have Skippy peanut butter you can find it, but you'll pay for it. Brazil is not in awe of American brands, they have their own brands which are very good. Plus import duties are extremely high. But we don't go hungry here, and we're able to cook everything we want, Italian food, Indian food, even good old American barbecue!

What about shopping for clothes, tools, etc.?
          Yeah, this is a hip place, you can find what you want (except for a few things I mention in my blog, like poppy seeds, which are prohibited here). I'm not really sure what to answer. You won't find a WalMart or a Costco, but you can still shop ’til you drop if you want to. Whether or not you’ll like the South American women's clothing styles is another question. I have found the one or two clothing shops I like and stick to them.

And are clothes expensive?
          Yes and no. You can find good clothes at good prices, just don’t expect to find outlet stores.

Are restaurants expensive?
          Most people agree that Búzios restaurant prices have gone off the charts in these last years. As a result, most of our friends here, like us, eat mostly at home, and entertain at home as well. We do, however, have our favorite places, the ones that have kept the quality-to-price ratio at a sane level.

Does everything go up in cost during the high season, from December to March?
          YES, YES, AND YES. And it doesn’t necessarily go back down in low season.

My husband and I are thinking about buying a sailboat and sailing to Búzios. What can you tell me about marinas, and the facilities for yachts?
          Well, all I know about the Búzios Yacht Club is that we've been to some wedding receptions there! Otherwise I have no information, but here’s the club's web link, www.icab.esp.br. There is also a sailing club, www.buziosvelaclube.com.br.

Are there any tennis clubs?
          There used to be one, but it's now a condominium. I do see tennis courts around, some private, some possibly public. I’m sure you’ll find partners! There is also a golf course in Búzios that is said to be one of the best in Rio State, www.buziosgolf.com.br.

How about hair salons and spas?
          There are a zillion of them.

We’ll be bringing our dog with us. What can you tell us about veterinarians?
          Not only are there plenty of veterinarians in Búzios, but there are entire pet centers.

. . . to be continued next week.

02 December 2013


I sometimes wonder if the United States hasn’t gone stark raving mad. (And with that opening sentence I’ve probably just placed myself on the NSA watch list. Take it easy, guys. I’m not saying anything, I’m just talking here.) Now, I’m not referring to the most recent political brinkmanship that the whole world witnessed between Democrats and Republicans and that madder-than-a-Mad-Hatter Tea Party sect. I’m not talking about the absurdly-overpriced and defective medical system that the U.S. so stubbornly clings to, placing it waaay behind every other industrialized nation on earth. I’m talking about the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, the new, even more effective tax law that has crept up behind every law-abiding American citizen who lives abroad and slapped them upside the head.

A lot of Americans in the U.S. think that all Americans who live abroad get a free ride on taxes. They couldn’t be more wrong. The United States is the only country in the world that believes in citizenship-based taxation, and taxes its citizens on their worldwide income no matter where they reside. Oh, no . . . excuse me. There are two countries with citizenship-based taxation: the United States and Eritrea. Eritrea? Go figure. So American citizens all over the world must pay income tax to the country in which they are residing, as well as to the U.S., unless the countries share a tax treaty, but that’s not even totally true since the tax treaty regulations are complicated. Everyone has to figure out their own obligations, and the great majority of American citizens abroad do just that.

I get it . . . FATCA, fatcat . . . hmmm
But the U.S. Congress decided it was high time to go after wealthy Americans who hide their money in overseas accounts, thereby successfully dodging the tax bullet. Hey, I’m all for it. Offshore tax evasion is a bad thing. I pay my taxes, always have, always will (are you listening, NSA?) and I don’t like tax dodgers any more than the next guy. But in throwing this huge net over tax-dodging Americans who live in the U.S., but who have accounts overseas, the IRS has caught millions of honest, hard-working Americans who live overseas and maintain accounts in "foreign" banks for no more nefarious purpose than to pay their utility bills. That account may be foreign to the United States government, but in my mind, if it’s down the street, it’s domestic.

In an unprecedented instance of bullying, the U.S. is manipulating foreign financial institutions into become policemen for the IRS. Under threat of penalty, these institutions will now have to turn all data and information about their American clients over to the IRS. In doing so, the foreign institutions will end up breaking constitutional law in their own countries. But the U.S. sees no problem there, because it has utter contempt for other countries’ traditions, values, and Constitutions. In addition, there’s going to be a tit for that tat. If you’re a non-American resident of the U.S., listen up. In order to convince, let’s say, some German financial institution to hand over the information that the IRS wants about that institution’s American clients, the IRS will hand over to the German authorities whatever financial information it has on German citizens residing in the U.S. That is outright creepy.

Well, that’s the Truth of the new law, and here are the Consequences: FATCA is affecting the very foundations of the lives of Americans residing abroad. It is turning innocent people, some of whom are "American" only because one or both parents are, but who may never even have set foot in the U.S., into tax criminals. It is turning Americans living and working abroad into pariahs. Why? Because the cost to foreign financial institutions of complying with FATCA is staggeringly high. More and more companies are reluctant to hire Americans, to deal with Americans, to open bank accounts for Americans. On the one hand the American government wants its full share of global economic influence, but on the other hand it has shot itself in the proverbial foot with FATCA. Is nobody capable of thinking these things through anymore?

25 November 2013

It Takes a Visitor

Amazing how it takes a visitor, with a fresh set of eyes, to restore one’s feeling of excitement about where one lives. This was our experience in New York whenever we took out-of-town visitors to little-known tourist attractions, out-of-the-way restaurants, or the best hole-in-the-wall jazz venues. We loved showing our city off, and we have just had the pleasure of doing exactly that here in Búzios with a visitor so full of enthusiasm that we, ourselves, were re-energized. Though this old friend had been in Brazil once previously, Búzios was completely new for her. She blew in like a fresh gust of air, and dragged me out of the lethargy and negativism that I had recently fallen into.

I guess no matter how beautiful it might be where you live, whether you have a mountain view or a river view, whether you’re in a lush valley or at the ocean, your daily grind is your daily grind. The usual worries and preoccupations start to take over and you don’t see what’s in front of you any more. Is it really possible that I look out at this view every day and all I can think of is Gee, as soon as the bank strike is over we’d better get more checks printed, or I wonder how soon I can get a bone density exam scheduled. It took our visitor to remind me of the beauty in my own backyard.

Since neither Mark nor I particularly like going to the beach and sitting and baking in the sun we’d kind of stopped visiting the beaches around Búzios. But how great it was to get out and see them again!

We’d forgotten how beautiful and savage Brava Beach can be . . .

            . . . how small and intimate Azedinha Beach is . . .

. . .  how unusual the red sand and jagged rock formations are at Forno Beach.

And there’s nothing like settling in at a beachside restaurant and devouring some grilled seafood with a crisp white wine, while the waves lap at your feet. And speaking of devouring, it was also lots of fun to sample some of the new restaurants that have been popping up here, but that Mark and I just hadn’t gotten to yet. We knew we had a visitor who had her gastronomic priorities right since her very first question to us on the ride home from the airport was, "How do you say ‘red’ in Portuguese?" We answered, "vermelho," each of us wondering why on earth that would be her first preoccupation. But then her motive became clear. "So," she went on, "If I want red wine I say ‘vino vermelho’?" "Well, no," I laughed, "you can get by with one word for red in English, but here you need two." I coached her on vinho tinto and vinho branco. And when she drank her very first caipirinha it made my umpteenth caipirinha go down that much better.

Our visitor has gone home, and left me feeling wonderfully refreshed. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that in the months to come I’ll start to focus once more on the little annoyances of life. I’ll stop going to check out the new restaurants and stores, I’ll forget what the Búzios beaches look like. I really do need a visitor to get me out and about. Any more takers?

18 November 2013

Reading the Sunday Papers

I usually get through reading the Sunday edition of O Globo, Rio’s version of The New York Times, in about an hour. There are lots of sections, but I can never find more than two or three stories of any compelling interest. The rest are just regurgitations of what’s been going on all week. But this week I’ve spent an amazing three-and-a-half hours poring over nearly every story, in every section, including Sports! The paper was literally bursting:

he thinks he just won the lottery . . .
The biggest story was about the arrest and imprisonment — listen carefully, the ar-rest and im-pri-son-ment — of 11 defendants, all convicted to varying sentences, in Brazil’s Biggest Political Corruption Scandal Ever, the Mensalão (big monthly allowance). There’s no room here to explain this scandal in detail. Just know that it began in 2005 at the highest levels of government under the prior administration and only just now have any defendants begun to taste their just desserts. These defendants — I suppose I should call them convicted felons now — really and truly considered themselves way above the law. How banal to see them skulk into the police precincts under escort, two of them still defiant, with raised fists, another hiding his face under his jacket. All of them, that is, except  . . .

he thinks he's up for an Oscar . . . 
at least he's embarrassed . . .

a very happy Cesare Battisti
 . . . Henrique Pizzolato, who fled to Italy 45 days ago, unbeknownst to the Supreme Court, the Federal Police, the border patrol, and everyone else who was supposed to have been watching out for such an obvious maneuver. Pizzolato, an ex-director of the Bank of Brazil, has dual citizenship (Italo-Brazilian). Since all of the convicted felons were to have surrendered their passports as soon as they were convicted, there is much speculation as to how this guy got away. Maybe he kept one passport, maybe he didn’t, maybe he got a new passport in Paraguay (his departure point from Brazil), maybe . . . who knows. Brazil is both embarrassed and indignant, and is preparing to demand that Italy extradite him. Ha! That’s a good one. Italy has for the last nine years demanded the extradition of Cesare Battisti, an Italian national convicted of murder who fled to Brazil in 2004, where he is currently writing his memoirs and enjoying a nice life. Quid pro quo, Brazil. You won’t be seeing Mr. Pizzolato for a good long time. La vita è bella!

Then I loved this one. We’re just finishing up a long holiday weekend (Proclamation of the Republic), in which hundreds of thousands of Rio residents left their city, in their cars, to celebrate out here in Búzios and the various other resort towns of the Região dos Lagos. The mayor of Rio is begging them to return to Rio early, today instead of tomorrow, because the elevated highway leading into Rio (akin to the West Side Highway) is going to be imploded in a week, and the crucial avenue underneath it will be closed early tomorrow morning. This avenue closing would cause unimaginable traffic tie-ups even under normal circumstances. If everyone were to return to the city at the same time tomorrow . . . Seems to me the city authorities have known about the Proclamation of the Republic since it was proclaimed on November 15, 1889. Could they not have scheduled the implosion for, um, some other time?

On the you-heard-it-here-first theory, has the American press reported what I just read, which is that various countries in the European Union have stopped exporting the substances used in lethal injections to the 32 American states that have the death penalty? Can’t get any more Sodium Pentothal from the United Kingdom, no more Pentobarbital from Denmark and not a drop of Propofol from Germany. The states are in a panic. Missouri has opted for a moratorium until they decide what to do, but Ohio has decided to try a never-before-used cocktail of toxic substances (good old Yankee ingenuity!) and Arkansas wants to return to the electric chair. Or at least that’s what O Globo reported.

And the news went on and on . . . Chile has a fascinating presidential election today between two women — two women, U.S.A., get with the times! — who are the daughters of two Air Force generals on opposite sides of the 1973 Pinochet coup . . . An amazing battle is going on in Rio between monkeys and birds, as more and more birds move their nests inside people’s apartments and houses to protect their eggs from the hungry, and wily, monkeys . . . Many Brazilian food companies have been caught with their pants down, selling obviously smaller containers of foodstuffs for the same price as before, despite a law saying the companies have to advise consumers in advance. It’s only a matter of time before the huge fines start being imposed . . . Another men’s volley ball championship is underway, this one in Japan, and the Brazilian team is expected to do their usual spectacular job. Now I have to see what times the games will be shown here, and organize my upcoming week accordingly . . . It’s late now, but there are still a few sections to read, and miles to go before I sleep.

11 November 2013

A Little Fishing Village

The famous Three Fishermen, by C. Motta
Búzios gets a lot of mileage out of the wistful, romantic idea it has of itself as a "little fishing village" with colorful fishing boats bobbing on the gentle waves and humble but happy fishermen setting out at the crack of dawn for the day’s catch. It is an idea that is perpetuated and exploited by anyone and everyone in the tourism business here, from the official city government tourist bureau to hotels and pousadas and restaurants. It is an idea that is splashed all over publicity material and Web sites, and it still works like the charm it’s meant to be. Fraud? Not really. Even though Búzios is way more than just a little fishing village nowadays, there’s no question but that you can still see traces of the life that late they led*.

Colônia dos Pescadores
The fishermen of today — and yes, there are still many active fishermen — enjoy a prestige here slightly out of proportion to their role in the town’s development into a swanky international resort. They have statues in their honor, as pictured above, they have a street named for them, the Travessa dos Pescadores, and inumerable bars and restaurants bear names with the word "pescadores" in them somewhere. There’s also a Colônia dos Pescadores, built in 1957, once a bustling hub of fishing-related activities, and now an interactive visitor’s center for Búzios’s Coral Reef Park. And it certainly didn’t hurt the electability of the first two mayors of Búzios — Mirinho and Toninho, as they are called — that they were "sons of fishermen." No great surprise to anyone that each candidate used his pedigree to great effect.

Down the beach from our house is the Associação dos Pescadores, which shares space with a restaurant called the Bar dos Pescadores. The restaurant has changed hands several times, but new owners have always been wise enough to keep a very special part of Búzios’ fishing village history on display: a series of remarkable portraits, oil on canvas, painted by an artist known simply as Hugo. He called his work collectively "the brave men of the sea." These portraits hang between closet doors, where the fishermen from the Associação store their nets and fishhooks. If you look hard enough — behind the newly-built, walled condominiums, beside the hulking cruise ships moored offshore, around in back of the high-end, boutique hotels — you can still find that bucolic fishing village that drew you here in the first place.

Here are some of the "brave men of the sea" — 

*With apologies to Cole Porter, composer & lyricist, Where is the Life That Late I Led, from the musical Kismet

04 November 2013

Americanisms in Portuguese (Part 2)

Last week I talked about the English words and expressions that have been seeping into the Portuguese language, and which have been warmly embraced by most Brazilians. But don’t think it’s all moonlight and roses. Plenty of Brazilians find themselves on the other side of the linguistic divide, wishing these estrangeirismos, as they are called, could be extinguished once and for all. But unlike in France, where this fight is valiantly fought by the august Académie Française, the Academia Brasileira de Letras keeps mostly to its mission of promoting Brazilian literary arts. The Academia may be the paramount authority over the Portuguese language, but it has no legal oversight. That job has been turned over to politicians.

Aldo Rebelo
One politician in particular, Aldo Rebelo, has sunk his teeth into efforts to ban the English-language interlopers with a certain gusto. Back in 1999, while serving in the lower house of the Brazilian Congress, he proposed legislation to prohibit the use of foreign words in all official government documents and requiring that businesses using foreign words or expressions in ads and on Web sites, etc., also provide the Portuguese translation. The proposed law has slowly wound its way through the system, and seems to have been approved at some level in 2008. But I can’t swear to where things stand right now. If such a law was passed and published at the national level, no one told me. (However, as the current Minister of Sports, Rebelo has succeeded in getting his staff to substitute rede mundial de computadores for "internet," portal or sítio for "site," and informações para imprensa for "release" in all Ministry documents. That must be a relief to him.)

In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, legislation approved in 2011 now requires all official documents or communications to include a Portuguese translation of any foreign word or expression used. However, because the law did not include fines for non-compliance, most observers feel that in the long run the law won’t stick. And in the city of Rio de Janeiro, a similar law was approved in 2009 (with fines included). A judge overturned that law in 2011, alleging that the city’s legislators had overstepped their jurisdiction. For a short time, though, shopping mall storefronts were so covered with words: "Sale! Liquidação! Discounts! Descontos! Reduced prices! Preços reduzidos!" that you couldn’t see the products.

Will all this lawmaking and anti-estrangeirismo finally take hold? Given the long history of how languages have infected and affected and enriched each other, I doubt it. Here’s a cartoon that confirms with lots of good humor why such prohibitions usually backfire. (Translating the cartoon will ruin the joke. But anyone with a modicum of romance language in them will get it.)

28 October 2013

Americanisms in Portuguese (Part 1)

For years now the defenders of the French language, the Académie Française, have fought valiantly against the insidious contamination of French by English-language words and expressions. The Académie believes that French is rich enough not to need terms like "un briefing" (they prefer une réunion préparatoire), "prime time" (l’heure de grande écoute) and "éco-friendly" (respectueux de l’environnement), among many, many others. I once took quite an interest in that fight, but find myself tuning out the longer I live in Brazil. Of much more immediate interest to me are the Americanisms that are constantly popping up in Portuguese. These English words have their detractors here, too, and I’ll touch on the efforts being made in Brazil to contain the spread of English in next week’s blog. Today I’ll concentrate on the eagerness of regular Brazilians to receive these invaders with open arms.

Most Brazilians know that these adopted words come from English, but the words have so insinuated themselves into everyday usage that it doesn’t even seem to matter anymore. I enjoy tripping over them while reading some article or other: "numa sala cheia de objetos vintage," "o cover une todos os estilos," "carros para levar e trazer o staff," "para mim, é um hobby," and"empresas com know-how e experiênça." The list is enormous and ever-growing: sale, upgrade, test drive, check-up, offshore, hub, show, recall, hit, DJ, skate, chip, royalty, penalty, ranking, piercing, mouse, tablet, pen drive, site and personal trainer. In most cases there are Portuguese equivalents, but no one feels the need to use them.

But Mark and I have sometimes gone from being amused to being downright puzzled. There are some English words that are spelled and pronounced as if they were Portuguese, and many people don’t even know that they are from English. So it often takes those of us who are native speakers of English a few beats before we realize what’s being discussed. In this group we have "blecaute" (pronounced blehk-OUCH-ee) for blackout, "nocaute" (nauk-OUCH-ee) for knockout, "picape" (pick-AHP-ee) for pickup, and my all-time favorite, "raquear" (HAHK-ay-ar), to hack, though it took me quite some time to figure that one out, forgetting as I momentarily did that in Portuguese the initial "r" is pronounced like a hard "h."

There are also English words that are spelled the English way, but pronounced as if they were Portuguese. So when we just hear the word, instead of seeing it written, we really have no idea at first what’s being said since we’re not expecting to hear English in a Portuguese-language conversation. "Don’t buy a new bath cleaner," my cleaning woman tells me. "Just buy a HEE-fiu." A what? I desperately want to get her what she needs to clean, so . . . a what? HEE-fiu, HEE-fiu! I ask her to write it down. A refill! Oh . . . And while doing some new electrical wiring in the house, I remember being asked if we wanted a JIM-ehr. Here we go again . . . a what? JIM-ehr, JIM-ehr! We were in the electric supply store, so the electrician pointed the product out. Aha! A dimmer!

Another English word that’s been cropping up here of late is "bullying." Fine as long as it’s written in a newspaper article. But when it’s just pronounced, even enunciated carefully by a news anchor? Takes a while before the penny drops. You’ve got two "Ls" there in the middle, which in Portuguese are pronounced, but very, very softly, and the "y" and the final "g" are simply ignored. So what’s left? Something that sounds like BULH-eenh. I think that in this case the Brazilians might consider sticking to their very own "intimidação física e psicológica" — even though it lacks the punch that "bullying" packs!