South America

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In 2014, the FIFA World Cup soccer championship will be held in Brazil from June 12 to July 13. With Brazil being a continent-sized country geographically larger than the “Lower 48,” FIFA agreed to let the country host matches in a dozen cities, exceeding the usual number by two, and ensuring spectators from Copacabana to the Amazon get a chance to witness the ultimate expression of The Beautiful Game on its most fervent home turf. Ladies and gentlemen, today I present to you the promotional posters for Brazil’s 12 World Cup host cities:

World Cup Poster Belo Horizonte

World Cup Poster Brasilia

World Cup Poster Cuiaba

World Cup Poster Curitiba

World Cup Poster Fortaleza

World Cup Poster Manaus

World Cup Poster Natal

World Cup Poster Porto Alegre

World Cup Poster Recife

World Cup Poster Rio de Janeiro

World Cup Poster Salvador

World Cup Poster Sao Paulo

Which ones do you folks like best?

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Starting today, Brazil celebrates Black Consciousness Month, honoring the contributions of African-descended peoples in Brazilian society and recognizing the challenges of those same peoples in the country today.

Well, that’s not entirely true…many people in Brazil are celebrating Black Consciousness Month. But many others see this particular exercise as unnecessarily divisive and alien to Brazil’s culture of “inclusiveness and miscegenation.” I see the latter as a negation and a silencing of an inextricable aspect of the culture that has long been undervalued and misrepresented, so…Happy Black Consciousness Month, todo mundo!

Stay tuned for related posts throughout the month…er, year, and in the meantime, take a look at the trailer for a documentary currently in the works about the black experience in Rio de Janeiro, called AfroCariocas. Can’t wait for the debut!

Please don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @FlyBrother, and “like” me on Facebook! You can subscribe, too! ;-)


It's big, y'all. Real big.

Posting this from Hart-Jack (that’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the newbies), on my way home to the ‘ville for the weekend. Sorry for the delay, readers; I’ll have a couple of posts in the bag beforehand from now on. So…

São Paulo in numbers* (versus unofficial rival New York):

588 – area of São Paulo in square miles
469 – area of New York City in square miles

11,324,100 – population of the City of São Paulo
8,175,100 – population of the City of New York

20,309,700 – population of the Greater São Paulo Metropolitan Area
18,897,100 – population of the Greater New York City Metropolitan Area

41,638,800 – population of the State of São Paulo
19,378,100 – population of the State of New York

7,000,000 – number of vehicles in the Greater São Paulo Metropolitan Area
a crapload, but not as many as SP – number of vehicles in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area

17,000 – number of buses in São Paulo
5,900 – number of buses in New York City

44 – miles of subway lines in São Paulo
656 – miles of subway lines in New York City

62 – number of subway stations in São Paulo
468 – number of subway stations in New York City

3,600,000 – average daily subway riders (2010) in São Paulo
5,200,000 – average daily subway riders (2010) in New York City

1 – Fly Brother in São Paulo

0 – Fly Brothers in New York 😉

*Statistics from Wikipedia (yeh, yeh, yeh).

Please tweet your comments @FlyBrother, or email me (see About page). And don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook!


I’m participating in Vai Via’s 15 Day International Travel Challenge, but doubling-up, as I’m not a daily blog poster. Challenge!

Day 11 – Did you have any milestones or “firsts” while traveling or living abroad?
First doctor visit, unemployment insurance claim, and sexual encounter in a language that wasn’t English.

Day 12 – Someone who influenced you to travel abroad.

The preacher’s wife at my church, who got me on my way with a book called Free Stuff for Kids, full of ways to get free travel info. Innumerable teachers. My grandparents.

Day 13 – A favorite travel quote.
“Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.” -Walt Whitman

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Does this move you?

What about this?

Of any place on Earth, Brazil probably comes closest to delivering on the hype – for vacationers, at least – and I’ve lived moments here that were pretty damn similar to those evoked in these (absolutely amazing) commercials. If you come with the right attitude – and the proper documentation – you can too.

US citizens will need one of these:

And you’ll need patience. Lots of it.

Now, Brazil states that their tourist visa process reflects the process that the US requires Brazilian citizens to undergo in procuring a tourist visa. Both visas cost US$140 and are valid for ten years. The big difference, however, is that almost all Brazilian tourist visas are approved, while American visas for Brazilians can often be denied arbitrarily, after the person has spent months waiting for an appointment and paid the non-refundable fee. And whereas the US has ten Brazilian consulates distributed fairly evenly around the country, the US only has four consulates in Brazil – a country larger than the Lower 48. Brazilian bureaucracy may seem maddening to Americans accustomed to “efficiency,” and it is maddening, but remember that you have much less at stake than Brazilians (and many others) who spend much more time and money procuring a visa just to get to the Magic Kingdom and Sawgrass Mills.

That being said, check this list of Brazilian consulates to know in which jurisdiction you fall. It may be more convenient for you to get to Atlanta from Tallahassee, but as a Florida resident, Miami’s your consulate.

Pay attention to the information on your consulate’s website. Each office operates differently: some turn visas around in three days, others in ten days (NO same-day, so if you’re grown and buy your ticket to Brazil, then think you can swing by the consulate the day before your trip, you’ll be rudely awakened when you’re on the phone with the airline trying to rebook your $1500 plane ticket the week before Carnival). Some consulates require appointments, others don’t. Some accept mail-in applications, others don’t. Operating times vary. Folks, again, pay attention to this stuff so you know what’s required of you and the process can go as smoothly as possible.

Before you go, get three 2×2-inch headshots of yourself with a white background (Walgreens, Kinkos, wherever). You’ll only need two, but it’s always better to have a spare, just in case.

Your passport needs at least six months validity left on it and two blank pages left in it.

Get a US$140 money order from the post office (some consulates accept other forms of payment, but all accept postal money orders); there’s an extra US$20 handling fee if by mail or third-party.

Have the print-out of your flight itinerary (the last time I applied, the printed itinerary of the flights I had planned on purchasing was good enough; not sure if this still works). Airlines flying nonstop between the US and Brazil include TAM from New York, Orlando, and Miami; United Airlines from DC, Chicago, Newark, and Houston; Delta Air Lines from Atlanta, New York, and Detroit; US Airways from Charlotte; American Airlines from New York, Dallas, and Miami; and Korean Air from Los Angeles. Air Canada, Aeroméxico, Copa, Avianca/TACA, and LAN all offer connecting services through their national hubs.

And for special cases: “Any application that shows ‘self-employed’ or ‘unemployed’ must be complemented with a current ‘Balance Account Bank Statement’ with applicant’s name and address;” “if traveling by land, provide proof of financial capacity to pay for ones stay in Brazil;” and if you’ve previously visited certain countries, you may be required to show proof of vaccination against yellow fever.


Once granted, your visa is valid for 90 days and renewable for another 90 days for a maximum of 180 days per year for the duration of the visa (these days, ten years, so I hear…I’m on a work visa, and you can read all about that circle of hell, here). And you’re not allowed to work.

But you are allowed to Get Fly in Brazil!

*Admitted hyperbole.

Please tweet your comments @FlyBrother, or email me (see About page).


I’m participating in Vai Via’s 15 Day International Travel Challenge (though I might have to double-up on posts, as daily might be a bit unmanageable), and today’s challenge is to post about the favorite place(s) I’ve been to.

Berlin is fly as hell!

My favoritest city in the world is São Paulo, and since I’m now living here, that doesn’t count.

So I’ll go with my Number Two: Berlin. Gritty, soulful, and borderline schizo, Berlin mixes classically European culture (museums, architecture, urbanism) with a wild party scene, avant-garde music and art, and a cool friendliness that draws you in. And it’s cheap (for now). If it weren’t for those Central European winters (and falls and springs)…

Runners-up: Mumbai and Cairo – enthralling chaos on both counts!

Image credit: razc

Sometimes, I stumble upon photographs and other memorabilia that draws me in, reminding me of the transitory nature of culture and of travel itself. Often, what attracts us to a place isn’t the place by itself, but the place at a specific time. Timing is everything, after all. The 1970s were Venezuela’s time. With the country’s second major oil boom, money and people flowed into the capital city, Caracas, sometimes faster than the speed of sound. Air France, in fact, ran the Concorde once a week to Caracas from Paris. Wonder what kind of party favors they had floating around the cabin?

Here are a few shots of the city in the ’70s, when caraqueños rocked curly ‘fros and bell-bottoms, punching down the expressway (or stuck in traffic) in Mustangs and Camaros, Oscar d’León and Rubén Blades eight-tracks plugged into the stereo.

Image source: razc

Now, this is music:

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Vai-Vai was my first. In January of 2006, during my first trip to São Paulo, I became washed in the downpour of sound and energy that is the open-air rehearsal of the Vai-Vai Samba School.  I fell in love with Brazil that night.  With the cadences that were only two or three beats away from the black high school and college drumlines I grew up with.  With the beautiful people – women and men – who sang and danced and invited anyone and everyone into their tight-knit community with a wink and a smile.  With those same beautiful people who represented every age and color, trending heavily, of course, to the profound darker hues of the spectrum: black people from coal to cream, rehearsing for a Brazilian cultural institution as steeped in African ritual and interaction, maybe even more so, as any other in the Diaspora.  Vai-Vai was my first, which is why you’ll find me carousing with her every Sunday from now til Carnival.  She’s what brought me to Brazil.

“Meu Povo.  Minha Gente.  Minha Raça.  Minha Escola.”

Video from this Sunday’s practice:

Please don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @FlyBrother, and “like”
me on Facebook
! You can subscribe, too! ;-)

Why don't you just get a t-shirt that reads "Dumbass"?

“Gringo.”  I can’t stand that damn word.   And it’s all over Latin America, from restaurants with names like Gringo’s Pizza to movies with titles like “Gringo Wedding.”  The meaning of the word varies from country to country, but I’ve not found one place yet where it’s actually a positive moniker, despite many travelers who seem to relish the term.

In Brazil, I’ve come to learn that the word refers almost always to foreign visitors from Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia, attaching itself to other Latin Americans in the rarest of cases, and almost never used for visitors from Asia or Africa (save white South Africans).   The word isn’t applied exclusively to whites, as black Americans or Caribbean people or even US citizens of Brazilian descent get dinged with the word.  Still, in my experiences here, I’ve never really heard it spoken other than in a neutral, informative fashion (“Is your friend Brazilian?” “No, he’s ‘gringo;’ he’s American.”).

Brazil’s usage also fits better with the academically-accepted etymology of the word, a corruption of grego/griego (literally “Greek,” used in the same way to denote something foreign as the English phrase, “It’s Greek to me”).  Other places subscribe to the myth that the word was introduced during the Mexican-American War, with Mexican patriots shouting “green, go!”  Um, that’d be all well and good if the uniforms hadn’t been blue and white.  In fact, it was the Mexicans who wore green!

In Colombia, the g-word is loaded with unattractive meanings that true “gringos” often fail to perceive: supposedly the word is limited to US citizens, but until one is identified as a Canadian or Belgian or New Zealander, the label sticks to almost any white foreign visitor (and only to non-whites when they’re identified as US citizens).  It’s also a code word for someone easily tricked, who speaks Spanish horribly, who has an unlimited bank account, and who can’t dance.  I’ve had to deal with more than enough dropped jaws after proving my salsa skills on the dance floor (I’m decent) or trilling my r’s in words like ferrocarril.  Still, the leading newspaper of the country often refers to the US Embassy as la embajada gringa, and for most of my four years in Colombia, I cringed whenever I heard the word.

In fact, I had to coach several friends of mine to not use “gringo” around me, especially since there are three other words in Spanish for US citizen: estadounidense, norte-americano (itself a misnomer), and the controversial americano.  I called one of my workout partners simio (ape) until he realized that the speaker doesn’t get to say whether or not something should be offensive.  Of course, I couldn’t police everyone who used the term, but at least I got it out of the mouths of my closest friends.  Once, a fellow professor from Ohio asked me if I thought she was gringa.   I told her no, because I felt like she made a concerted effort to learn about the history and culture of the country, engage with people in Spanish with properly-conjugated verbs, and refused to get swindled by taxi drivers.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her she couldn’t dance, though.

“Gringo” did, however, end up seeping into my own lexicon.  I now use it whenever I or someone else behaves in a particularly anal way about something (e.g. speaking to someone’s manager about crappy service; demanding posted office hours be heeded; demanding anything), or when I need to play dumb (like at airport customs).  Sometimes, you gotta go “gringo” on their asses.