The hotel buildings at Fazenda Santa Helena are moving along. We have walls along with window and door openings. Now we need a roof and lots of trees . . . along with a few other things! The team is growing for the good – we’re working with landscapers focused in native trees, a landscape engineer from Paraty for the river and pool works and a hydraulic engineer for the sewage and drainage systems. It’s always satisfying to see real, tangible progress!
July 28, 2010
July 27, 2010
July 18th marked the start our final month in Brazil – at least for this initial “exploratory trip”. So as a way to ease our anxiety about leaving so soon we have decided to make sure we do something awesome everyday. So far we’ve done pretty well.
Last week we spent a few days in Ilha Grande with Catherine and Tucker. While we were there we were in the middle of a tropical storm and spent the entire time totally soaked! But spending time with two of our closest friends was priceless. We caught up over caipirinhas, beers and many games of spades. Jeff and I will have to return one day to experience the purportedly incredible hiking and beaches of the island. After a few days on there, we made our way (in the rain) to Picinguaba. Eventually the rain stopped, but it didn’t matter as much since we had the sauna and an indoor living room with a fireplace to lounge. When the precipitation finally relented, we took a long walk/run along Praia da Fazenda and the next day a kayak trip up Picinguaba River. Luckily, the day we left, the sun finally came out in full force so Tucker and Catherine could truly experience the natural beauty of the place.
July 22, 2010
Exploring São Paulo
It’s now long past the 4th of July, but for those of you in the USA, I hope you all had a wonderful red, white and blue celebration! We didn’t manage to recreate an awesome American BBQ, but we enjoyed some bbq chicken sandwiches, potato salad and a red, white and blue fruit salad in honor of Independence Day.
This is just meant to be a quick post to share a few places in São Paulo we’ve been enjoying along with a few pictures. As you can see from the list below, we’ve been busy exploring the city and busy at work as well (creating landscape plans, updating investment materials and helping to manage the hotel development project) – so, needless to say, time is flying by. We’re totally shocked at how our days here are dwindling, but happy to have some fun plans for the next month, which include: a weekend with Heinz and Elisabeth at their organic farm near São João Bella Vista, a few days and nights with Lone and Rance at Fazenda Alfheim, a Brazilian baby shower for Mirna, and a party at Picinguaba for FLIP in Paraty. And we just spent a few days in Ilha Grande and a few more at Picinguaba with two of our very best friends Tucker and Catherine (some pics and stories coming soon).
Chou: Wow, what a special place. Not only was the food delicious and thoughtfully prepared, the ambiance, decoration and setting were perfect. The head chef works front and center in an open food preparation area between the kitchen and waiting area putting finishing touches on every dish. We sat on the charming outdoor patio of this converted home with Leo and Brittany just a few steps from the herb garden.
Filipa: The Thai-Brazilian fusion cuisine is delicious and I loved my caipirinha with sake and lyche (thanks Brittany!).
Bardo Batata: Right across from our flat, this Swiss-style potato restaurant (still not exactly sure what that means, but that’s how they describe it) has incredible, thick potato pancakes with every filling imaginable!
Pilico e Bia: We enjoyed wonderful shrimp moqueca at this modest restaurant where a mother and daughter run the show.
Marina di Vietri: Reasonably priced, great Italian food – finally! Our new friends Michelle and Nigel introduced us to this restaurant in Itaim where they offer relatively inexpensive bottles of wine with traditional, tasty Italian food.
Kosushi in Shopping Cidade Jardim: Cidade Jardim is one of the fancier malls I’ll ever walk into and the price of the sushi supports it. However, the sushi was incredibly fresh and very delicious.
Veridiana: We’ve been to Veridiana a few times with Emmanuel and always enjoy their pizzas bem-passado!
La Frontera: Right near our office, this Argentinian restaurant is great.
Blá: We went to Blá with Marina for a friend’s birthday party. We were upstairs in a private area, but the bar downstairs was packed with a fun atmosphere. At about 1am most of the crowd started to head toward the neighboring club.
Volt: Good drinks in this 80s decorated bar in Bela Cintra / Consolação. We enjoyed a few mojitos with Fernando here one night.
Boteco São Bento: Jeff and I enjoyed an incredible sunny Sunday afternoon together in Vila Madelena sitting in the open air bar with a sizzling platter of meat, rice, tomato vinaigrette, farofa and chopp claro in front of us. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Frederico Boteco: We went to this bar in Moema for the US world cup game. Bar food and drinks were good.
Tapas Club: This bar was on my list after I discovered it online, so Jeff and I went at 6, when it opened for Happy Hour on a holiday Friday – so it was dead, but the happy hour specials were a good value and the tapas we had were tasty. Looking forward to going back to hear some music at some point.
Mercearia São Roque: There is a unique feel to this typical open-air bar in Itaim with splashes of color and palm trees throughout. We had drinks with Jeremy and his wife here.
Le Tire-Bouchon: We were lucky enough to tag along with Emmanuel for wine tasting as he finalized the new wine menu for Picinguaba at Tire-Bouchon. We’re happy to know about this wine shop, which also has a little bistro offering wine parings.
Cristallo: We enjoyed a cappuccino with Leo and Brittany overlooking the tree lined street and park in Vila Nova Conseição. We’ve officially realized that a cappuccino in Brazil typically comes with chocolate powder in it – fyi!
Chocolate Lab: There is a little chocolate bar and café down the street from our office in Hygienopolis with little bits of dark chocolate heaven and incredibly tempting (and delicious) coffee drinks.
Pão (Padaria Artesanal Orgânica): Delicious, organic breads, need I say more?
Bella Paulista, Casa dos Pães: We’ve enjoyed a few lunches and bowls of Açai na Tigela at this bakery/restaurant/market.
Empório Santa Maria: Fancy shmancy grocery store that I could wander around in for hours and hours. Though I was disappointed in the lack of organic produce, I was impressed with the self-service wine tasting upstairs!
Zoológico de São Paulo: Tiger petting day – check it out.
Pinacoteca: What a spectacular building with intriguing and varied exhibits. Praça Luz, the park next door, is also great. Unfortunately the area around here is deserted with an unsafe feel – get to work São Paulo!
July 10, 2010
When I was about seven years old, my grandma “adopted” a Siberian Tiger for me for my birthday. The tiger has always been my favorite animal. And today, we actually pet a tiger. No joke. A 207 kg (455 pound), 19-year old tiger. I still feel giddy like a kid on Christmas morning after the whole thing. Truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Last night, at our friend Marina’s house, we met Rodrigo and Dami – a married, Brazilian couple, both of whom are veterinarians. They recently returned from Dallas after two years practicing at a private zoo as Rodrigo accepted a position as the Director of Zoológico de São Paulo, the largest zoo in South America. As we were talking, Dami was telling us about how she had done a root canal on a lion yesterday. After saying how incredibly cool I thought this was, I made an off-hand comment about how I hoped to pet a tiger one day. The response: well, we’re actually doing a blood transfusion on a tiger in the morning – want to join? No brainer.
So, this morning we arrived at the zoo at 9am. Rodrigo was busy prepping for the occasion while Dami gave us a tour of the animal hospital/care center. After getting a close up look at a lion and various species of monkeys among other animals, we took a drive through the park to deliver some antibiotics to another tiger (the zoo has 12 total). The antibiotics were delivered via pressurized syringes through a blow tube. There were five syringes to be delivered in total, and unsurprisingly, the tiger didn’t react with joy upon being stuck. Having a tiger roar and leap at the cage wall just a few feet away from us was the perfect way to really get into the spirit of the day.
By the time we returned, the tiger was being sedated. It took four to five people to move the tiger out of its holding pen onto the operating table. Then, it was intubated, which required Dr. Rodrigo putting his entire arm into the tiger’s mouth, and the blood line was inserted into its jugular. Over the next hour or so, about 2.5 liters of blood were drawn. The blood was being taken for a sick tiger from another zoo about two hours from SP. Once the transfusion was underway, we were essentially free to pet him and snap some photos. The paws alone were as big as my head…and heavy! When the process was finished, I even got to help them move the tiger from the operating table back to the holding pen. From that point, they gave him some more drugs to wake him up. Within about 10 minutes or so, he was back up and making all kinds of noise to let us know he was perfectly fine though perhaps not thrilled about the situation.
What an experience…still can’t believe it. It is definitely among the cooler things I’ve done in my life. Many thanks to Rodrigo and Dami for an incredible day!
July 9, 2010
I came across an article last week discussing how far Brazil’s economy has come and its bright future, but also why there’s still a long road ahead. The article mentioned that Brazil is ranked 129th in the world for doing business … just a few spots behind Nigeria. Considering we are seriously exploring the idea of opening a business in Brazil, I decided to look into the source.
The Doing Business report is an annual project done by The World Bank to provide “objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 183 economies.” The rankings are based on 10 total categories – such as Starting a Business, Employing Workers, and Protecting Investors and Paying Taxes, among others – which are ranked individually then in the aggregate to determine the overall “Ease of Doing Business Rank.” Here are a few selected rankings as a point of reference:
4. United States
183. Central African Republic
Yeah, that’s right, Brazil squeezes in a few slots behind Nigeria and just a hair above Iran. Reassuring. For me, one of the more laughable statistics about Brazil is that a medium-sized company, on average, spends 2,600 hours per year paying taxes. That means a year-round, full-time job for more than one person, just to pay taxes. The world-wide average: less than 200 hours. Take what you will from that ridiculous statistic.
After initially digging through all of this, I found myself in a bit of shock. But the more I thought about it, the less surprised I actually was when I related it to our experiences here so far. The reality seems to be that to do business here, you have to leverage all possible connections to ease the pains of inefficient systems and constantly watch your back. The fact of the matter is, nearly everyone we look to for advice seems to reiterate a common point: be careful and don’t expect things to be easy, but with a lot of hard work there are plenty of opportunities for good professionals.
As far as our future here is concerned, this leaves us with a lot to think about. If you asked us today what our plans are? Well, we’re moving forward with the process of opening a company and pursuing a residency visa. Even knowing all of the complications and hurdles ahead, it’s hard to stomach walking away without giving it a shot. Who knows how we’ll feel two months from now, but for today, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.