Head 'em up and move 'em out: Edmonton-style

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Work it, baby!

Okay, I figure since I'm sort of doing the 'modelling thing' at the Savoy tomorrow, I best take this test!

However, I will plug the designer I'm working for since I looooooooove her clothes. Maggie Walt www.maggiewalt.com

Come to the Savoy tomorrow and help out the I-India orphanage! www.i-indiaonline.com/

Which fashion designer are you?

Ralph Lauren. A hopeless romantic, you love love. You are a free-spirit, who paints and explores nature in her freetime. Ever so girly, you like flowery things that capture the innocense you project. Often a bit Bohemian, your style is usually relaxed and comfortable. Guys adore your cuter-than-life-itself nature and free-love philosophy.
Take this quiz!

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I gotta say, there are a couple of elements of that description that I'm loathe to admit are true...sigh.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Knowing me, knowing you...

So I’m now back in the land of land-ravaging oil production and, of course, the Oilers themselves! Indeed, though I’m loathe to admit it, I’m kind of getting into the whole playoffs thing. But more on that later…

I’m in decompression mode right now and experiencing a little bit of the old culture shock. It really only seems like it was yesterday that I left for Sao Paulo.

So now I’m left with the task of trying to figure out what really went on in the last 3 months, what my experiences have meant, where I go from here. Yeah, yeah, I write my thesis, but on a more abstract level, I feel like my experiences there have changed me in ways I wasn’t expecting and don’t quite understand. The problem is deciphering it all now. I feel like I’m starting out anew, in a sense: “Kyla: the sequel.” But the sequel to Alien or Star Wars, not one of those other crappy sequels.

In a more concrete vein, I feel incredibly driven to get the Canadian asbestos issue’s profile raised. The situation was so much worse in Brazil than I had expected. And more shocking was how much their government uses the Canadian position to justify their policies. It was thoroughly disgusting and exhausting.

There’s only so many times you can walk past the dump of asbestos waste and read the lovely warning “don’t breathe” while you see kids playing all over it. There are only so many families you can talk to devastated by our so-called safe asbestos. Obviously I may have been able to be more objective about all this if it weren’t for my own history, but I think if you can be objective about this kind of suffering there’s something seriously wrong with your soul.

Or indeed, you may be one of the many asbestos whores I met in my wanderings. These mother-f&#*@$rs get 400,000 Reais a year to peddle this crap to workers. That’s about $200,000 a year Canadian – clearly I’m in the wrong business. However I can, to some extent, sleep at night with out several thousand deaths on my conscience. I truly don’t know how they can sleep at night. However given that the average Brazilian salary is $100/month, I imagine it’s on a lovely fluffy mattress stuffed endangered condor feathers, covered with the pelts of baby seals whose heads were bashed in. Something like that.

I am happy, however, that I had the opportunity to make these guys a little bit nervous. The photo attached is of one of the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute cohorts feverishly snapping photos of me with his camera phone when I flatly told the conference members that everything you’ve heard from the Canadian government and the CI is complete and utter bullshit. Fancy them getting freaked out by little ole’ me. Hehe.

Okay, all this is getting a little too serious and esoteric for my liking right now – it’s just not good for my brain. But I think on the whole, it’s all good. The many hours I spent pondering on my balcony with Brahmas and Dona Flors have to have been a good thing…

Friday, May 12, 2006


So I caved. I set out on this venture promising to avoid Macdonald’s at all costs (save for ice cream). But alas, I could not hold out any longer. The smell of those French fries just lured me in. But, in my own defense, at least I didn’t order the big Macpherson combo, I ordered the all new “McCalebresa” combo. Mmm…tasty. And dammit, I make no apologies for my complete and utter enjoyment of those fried batatas. However I fully recognize that my trip, and the two subsequent trips, to McD’s were more likely motivated by homesickness than any real craving.

But I have found one food item that I do find myself craving now: the petit gateau. Just about the best dessert a person – okay, a woman – could want. And every restaurant has their own version of this lovely item. Essentially, you take one of those disgustingly giant lava cakes we have at home, shrink it, add a hot chocolate sauce and ice cream to it. Variations include: passion fruit sauce; strawberry sauce; gelato instead of ice cream; and crushed nuts (farofa) in addition. My god. This is just about the best thing I’ve ever had. So in recent weeks I made it my mission to seek out the best petit gateau in Sao Paulo. Being a city of 20 million people and, subsequently, quite a few restaurants, it’s no simple task. But I was willing to make the personal sacrifice in order to provide you, the select few who are reading this blog, with this vitally important information.

So here it is. Kyla’s top 5 petit gateaux:

5 – My hotel. Okay, it’s actually not a very good petit gateau. The only reason it made it onto the list at all is the fact that it’s brought to my door. That fact alone makes it awesome. I won’t mention how many times it’s been brought to my door.
4 – This pub we went to after kicking some asbestos ass. Bar Veniza or something. All I really remember about this place was the horrible service. This is really saying something since in general, service here has been excellent. Apparently the waiters there just weren’t ‘in the mood’ to serve. Bad timing on our part I guess, hmph. Anyway, I fine gateau which was served with vanilla ice cream and passion fruit sauce instead of the traditional chocolate. The cake itself wasn’t the best, but the hot chocolate in the middle mixed incredibly well with passion fruit. I think. I remember saying that at the time, but we’d had several self-congratulatory beers at that point.
3- America. Yep, this is pretty much like the Simpson’s episode where they go to Japan only to eat at “America town.” However, I will say that their take on so-called American cuisine is not what you’d expect. One piece of advice when you visit Brazil: if you’re planning on ordering filet mignon – don’t. My friend Ana swears this is the best to be had, but she has not yet tried locations #2 and #1. However, it is indeed a fine purveyor of gateaux. The special touch is the addition of farofa.
2- Bar Matriz. Two. Count ‘em, two wee gateaus with a spectacular presentation. No frozen cakes here, freshly baked in the restaurant and served piping hot so the liquidy middle just smooshes all over the plate. Mmm…smooshy.
1- Freddisimo. Man oh man oh man. It’s probably an incredibly good thing I only found this place last week. It’s a gelateria in the food court of Ibirapuera shopping mall. The presentation is definitely lacking as it’s served on a plastic plate. However, the cake melts in your mouth and the gelato is so smooth the whole thing is just unbelievably good.

So what will I miss most about Sao Paulo? The petit gateaux. Oh yes. Oh yes.

Oh yeah...and crepes on a stick.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Backwards country my ass!

Brazil is a country of paradoxes. Wow, holy cliché. Anyway, it’s true. When you wander through Sao Paulo it’s incredibly easy to forget that you’re in a developing country. The skyscrapers, the banking technology, the fashion, and the pockets of massively wealth people can overshadow the fact that this country has some of the greatest inequalities in wealth in the world. But today I want to share with you two of the best examples of technological advancement in this country that make us look like we’re bass-ackward:

1 – Fast-food efficiency. I love going to food courts in shopping malls here. First off, there’s actually a menu to look at for each business, one that you actually hold in your hand! And there’s a person there whose job it is to actually help you choose things and answer your questions! I know. It’s crazy. Then she fills out a bill for you which you take up to the cash desk. You pay, and you’re given a number and you can go sit down. Then when your order is ready, the ‘now serving’ sign shows your number and you go get your food. I know this doesn’t sound very exciting as we have restaurants like this (ah…the old DQ). But this is in every food court restaurant! All of them (except the buffets)! There’s no 40-person line-ups for a burger while you wait for some teenager to figure out how to make a combo. But here’s the best part: you get real plates and cutlery!!! Real ones! And no one steals them, no one breaks them. But of course, they still must be savages down here. Clearly, the more advanced you are, the more you should trash the environment. Sigh.

2 - CD listening booths. You’re probably saying ‘well hell, we have those here, what’s the big deal’? But we don’t have booths like this. Fnac is the major department store that’s responsible for books, music, and entertainment here; it’s a great store. Anyway, scattered around the music section are various little listening booths. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to use them though. There were no images to tell you what CD was playing, no drive to put a disc in, nothing. Then I realized what the deal was. Attached to the booth was a scanner, which I thought was just for prices. You simply scan the UPC symbol and voila – THE ENTIRE FRICKIN’ CD PLAYS FOR YOU!!!! They have EVERY SINGLE CD IN THE STORE scanned into their computer system. As soon as I discovered this I ran around the store like a madman trying to find the most obscure albums I could to see if they worked. And they did. Every single one of them.

If this isn’t the penultimate sign of modernity and civility then I just don’t know what is.

Of course there’s all that poverty and homelessness stuff around too. But let’s just forget about that for now.

The international language of George Foreman.

Portuguese is a weird language. Really freakin’ weird. The best description I heard was that it’s like a drunken Irish person speaking Spanish. I can do the drunken Irish person alright if needed, but since I don’t speak Spanish, I thought I’d be SOL. Fortunately, however, it turns out that all those years of French immersion actually were worth it, as I now am proud to say I can actually speak Portuguese. Not well, of course, but enough so that I’m not mistaken for those icky Americans.

Oh yeah, here’s a good joke a Brazilian told me: What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Polylingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American. Hah.

Anyway, my point was that should you choose to visit Brazil without any knowledge of Portuguese, you can rest easy knowing that there is one method of food preparation that you will always be able to describe. If you should ever desire something grilled, simply utter these magic words: George Foreman. Magically, at that moment you will have forged an indelible bond between yourself and your host. EVERY FREAKIN’ person here has one! And the intensity of the competition between the Foreman Grill and knock offs is quite something to behold! You may not get an ounce of recognition for mentioning an American movie star’s name, but watch with amazement the instantaneous excitement created when you utter George Foreman’s name!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The streets of Brazil are no place for a girl like me...

I don't mean this metaphorically. I mean literally. The goddam streets here are dangerous for anyone remotely klutzy in nature. And of course, I'm one of the biggest klutzes around. I actually cannot now count how many times I've wiped out completely, let alone just tripped. And one of those journeys to the ground smacked me right down on my knee and laid me out for 3 days. Bleh.

If I venture out onto the streets to avoid the massive chasms and dips that are the sidewalks, I face a whole other minefield. I haven't at all been worried about my safety crime-wise here, it's the traffic that terrifies me! Drivers are absolutely bonkers here. It's little wonder they have the one of the highest rates of traffic injuries in the world. And you know that tendency we all have to turn around and look when you hear a car honk? Well if you do that here you'll end up with a nasty case of whiplash - horns are used more frequently than turning signals.

The basic rule for a pedestrians is:
If you think you have the right of way, you don't. Ever. Never.

Okay. I need to shop now. Sorry for yet again a lengthy delay in my blogging. I've been knocked out by a stupid viral lungey/throat thingey. Meh.