Interview with 10kJuan

Posted on Monday, January 21, 2013

Today I have an interview with an American Expat, Juan aka 10kjuan. He is the creator of the expat blog 10kjuan.com, world traveler, and is currently living in São Paulo, SP, Brazil. He discusses his journey to becoming an expat and what life is like in São Paulo. Enjoy! 

How old are you?


How do you know me?

Mikey, we met through the power of social networks and the internet. We stumbled across each other's blogs and hit it off based on our shared love of Brazil and sports.

Where are you from? 

Born in Queens, NY, but my parents are from Spain and Ecuador.

Where are you living now? 

São Paulo, Brazil

When did you first visit?

I cleared customs on April 17th 2011 and have been abusing them ever since.

How long did you stay? 

I technically haven't "left", though I have made several passport ninja runs since.

How long have you been living in São Paulo? 

I've been here for 21 months now, shattering my previous record of "months spent living overseas" by 21 months.

How did you get tri-citizenship?

I was born into it. Spain and Ecuador both allow you to "recover" the citizenship which is rightfully yours through your parents, and the U.S. allows dual citizenship. Just don't tell any of them I have a third. Thanks.

Do you speak portuguese or any other languages?
I'm a native speaker of English and Spanish and have been confused for Brazilian several times within the first 5 seconds of the conversation. I like to think I'm fluent in Portuguese, but drinking with a group of Mineiros always makes me question that.

How did you learn Portuguese? and Spanish? 

I basically learned Portuguese by having it around me at all times. No books. Just listening, reading and repetition, with the occasional correction from a Brazilian princess. Of course, I was only able to do that because Spanish is my first language, so I wouldn't recommend it.

What made you interested in Brazil? 

Living in Miami from 1992-2009, I got a taste of Brazilian culture through friends, sports, food and festivals. As a result, I had an idea of what life would be like here, and it sounded like my kind of place. I also liked the challenge of learning Portuguese, given that I'd never really had to learn a language. Everything is happening here now too - the World Cup in 2014, the Olympics in 2016, UFC events, Lollapalooza, Rock in Rio... Even Miss Universe came here in 2011. It's the place to be, which in my mind meant there'd be plenty of opportunity to teach and write, which were my two goals coming in. Lastly, as a traveler, I've always wanted to explore South America, and I knew São Paulo would be a good hub to do just that. Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Santiago, Lima, Bogota - I've visited them all since arriving here.

How did you prepare for your trip?

 Poorly. But that was part of the adventure. I booked a one-way flight using frequent flyer miles - with a 2-month layover in Ecuador - packed my passports, a fabricated proof of yellow fever vaccination form, my iToys and a backpack. I figured I'd sort out the rest when I arrived.

What was the reaction you received when you told people that you were going to Brazil? 

Yeah. I didn't really tell that many people. I'm not a big fan of interventions, so thought I'd do my best to avoid one. Thinking back though, most people I did tell were fairly supportive given the fact that I didn't really have a plan. 

What was your first impression when you landed in Rio or Sao Paulo?

São Paulo was a lot faster than I imagined any city in Brazil being. The image you have of Brazil is easy-going, stress-free and chilled out. São Paulo operates at a breakneck pace, not quite as mad as New York, but right up there with every other metropolis I've experienced. 

Did you notice any big cultural differences or anything that seemed funny to you?

The biggest one early on was definitely Brazilians' tendency to be non-committal, avoiding yes or no answers at all costs. You can ask a hungry Brazilian if he wants something to eat, perhaps at your house after you've had lunch and with plenty of leftovers, but they won't say yes unless you ask them 2 or 3 times. Sometimes you really have to insist. On the other hand, if you try and make plans with them and they can't go, or don't want to go, they won't say no. They'll say 'pode ser', which is sort of like 'it's possible'. They could have a big-time commitment that they already know about that conflicts with the plans, but they still won't say no. They think it's rude.

Where else have you gone in Brazil?

I've gotten away to Rio a few times, most notably for UFC Rio II and Carnaval 2011. I also went to Belo Horizonte, Serra do Cipo (close to BH), I did the Petropolis-Teresopolis mountain trek, went to Salvador, Morro de São Paulo, Foz do Iguaçu, Maresias and some other smaller towns on the coast and the countryside. Plenty left to see though. It's basically its own continent. 

What is your favorite thing about Brazil?

I'd have to say my favorite thing about Brazil is Brazilians. Every stereotype has its exception, but Brazilians really are cheerful and festive most of the time, and Paulistanos are pretty hospitable with foreigners.

Favorite places in Brazil? 

Are we talking cities? If so, I have to include the disclaimer that I haven't been to too many places just yet, but despite trips to Iguaçu, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Morro de São Paulo and several other beaches, I have to stick to the big two of São Paulo and Rio.

How would you compare to Brazil to other countries?

Well other than the hundreds (thousands?) of beautiful beaches, it's a country that despite it's young age, has a lot of culture. The people are friendly, festive and they work to live, not the opposite like many other countries.

What did you do in NY and what are doing in Colombia?

Well I left NY when I was 13, so not much other than play baseball and spin the bottle. I spent the next 15 years in South Florida where I worked in the investment management industry and, later, the mortgage industry. I was in Colombia for a long layover on my way to Miami to visit my family. 

What were some of the reasons why you decided to leave the "Good ole" USA to live in a 3rd world country?

Ever since I started traveling heavily in 2004, I've been curious about what it would be like to actually live overseas as a form of extended/indefinite travel. My favorite trips were always the ones where I was able to immerse myself and get to live like a local. Wouldn't living in a different country be the best of both worlds? So I chose Brazil based on many things. I knew there'd be opportunities to teach, I knew the economy was doing well (this was in early 2011), I liked the idea of learning Portuguese, and I liked that there was a lot happening here (as mentioned before, UFC, Lollapalooza, World Cup, etc.). So I bought my one-way flight and haven't looked back since.

What inspired your blog?

My blog, which is still very much a work in progress, was based on a reality TV show experience I had in 2005, where I appeared on Caesars 24/7, a short-lived Vegas show in Caesars Palace. I gambled $10,000 of my own money on blackjack and the producer coined the nickname 10kJuan. That was shortly after I left the corporate world and right before I embarked on my world travel, so to me it was a turning point in my life where I started taking more chances and living on my own terms. I started the blog to try and motivate others to do the same. 

What is your opinion on Brazil's economic boom?

I think the boom is over now that Brazilians bought their cars and houses and went on their big trips. The Brazilian real is down against the dollar, and debt is getting a little high, thanks in part to everyone being able to pay for things in 6 to 12 installments (not interest free, by the way). Having said that, there's still a shortage of qualified labor in the country, which is why it's an interesting time for foreigners here.

Not long ago I tweeted a question to you asking about getting a bank account in Brazil and your reply was "Buy a shovel. Find some soft dirt in a no-flood zone. Or get a roommate/friend with funds in The States. Win-Win" lol What did you mean by that?

Well... unless you're a permanent resident, you're not opening a bank account here, so your savings account is your mattress, a shoebox or your backyard. If you find someone with funds in the US, you could, theoretically of course, give them reais and use their account to pay your bills, buy things, etc. Theoretically. And allegedly.

Are you working in Brazil? If so, what kind of job do you have? 

Allegedly. If you believe everything you read on the internet, I teach English and Spanish at a private school and am a contributing editor at Time Out São Paulo. The passport ninja stuff I do pro bono. 

Do you have any advice for interested travelers?

If you like nightlife and good food, don't hurry out of São Paulo when you touch down here. There's plenty to see and do here, and the bar and club scene is amazing. Other than that, keep in mind it's a massive country, so try and have some kind of game plan based on how much you have. If you want to see the Northeast, Rio, SP and Foz on a 3-week trip, for example, plan of flying. They're pretty far apart from each other, more than most people realize.

Any advice for those wishing to live in Brazil?

If you have an eye on SP or Rio, you need to know it's not cheap. You'll need to find decent work and a good living situation to make it, and being central or at the very least close to a public transportation hub will make life a lot easier.


Lagoa Guesthouse

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This spot was pretty cool. It is in the middle-class neighborhoods of Botago and Humaitá in Rio and basically across the street from Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, which is a large lake in the south zone of Rio de Janeiro. Passing by the hostel you would just think it is a plain, regular house which is probably a good thing. No place wants to be labeled as a tourist haven. The owners, Juliana and Wesley are some of the coolest people that I have ever met. They create more of a family atmosphere instead of the typical hotel where you really have no interaction with anybody. My first night was pretty much drinking beers and chatting with Juliana, an Aussie, and two people from Finland.

 I'm usually not the one to just be sitting and drinking all night and being that it was my first night in Rio, I wanted to go out. Being the awesome hosts that they are Juliana and Wes took the four of us ( 1 Aussie, 2 Finnish, and me) out to a bar in Leblon. Leblon is another neigborhood in the south zone of Rio and is known for being one of the wealthiest areas of the city . So about 12 or 1am (can't remember) we arrive at this bar. Typical carioca bar, well typical Rich carioca bar lol
We had four or five rounds of Chopp (extremely cold Brazilian draft beer) and some bar snack food like Pão de queijo (cheese bread), fried cheese, and linguiça. Wish I could remember the name of the bar but o well. My 1st night in Rio was a memorable one thanks to the owners of Lagoa Guesthouse. So if you are looking for a cool place stay thats cheap and meet people from around the globe, I would definitely recommend Lagoa Guesthouse.

Cold Chopp


Mike, kiss her........Tales from Carnaval

Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thanks to my Brazilian Brother, Ronaldo, I have a very interesting story to tell about walking around in Rio during Carnaval

February 18, 2012……2nd official day of Carnaval and my 3rd day in Rio. It was a hot day, my morning started at 6am. The 1st bloco started at 7am in the famous hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa.
Santa Teresa

I am supposed to meet Renata and friends somewhere in Santa Teresa for the bloco. I make my way down the hill and have been trying to contact Renata to find her location. Cell Reception is bad and the music is loud even from far away. She is with Ana Paula and Raphael. Text tag and phone tag end with Renata telling me that they weren't going to make it or find me. At first, I'm a little annoyed but after walking down the winding streets, I quickly understand why. The street is a sea of people. Thousands between me and the bottom of the hill. 

This is going to take forever to navigate I'm thinking. Eventually I join the crowd. Costumed men and women, afro wigs, cans of beer, and samba blaring. I'm stuck in a crowd of people slowly moving, not knowing where it will lead, but I'm enjoying it.

That was much pretty much the story of my day. Bloco in Santa Teresa followed by bloco in Ipanema, where I finally meet up with Renata & crew

Ana Carolina, Raphael, Renata & Me
and proceed to another bloco in a section of the city called Glória. And of course during day there has been plenty of beer. Eventually we meet up with Ronaldo and this is where the story begins. With Ronaldo's arrival, I started to drink more and was preparing for the night at the Sambadrome. Ronaldo had arranged a pair of tickets for me and my friend, Adriana. She decided change before we departed for São Cristóvão and while waiting Ronaldo and I decided to have a few more beers, walk around, and maybe find some girls or just chill. 
Marina da Glória

Since the bloco was over in Gloria, most of the people were gone. We just talked a bit and ended up wandering into a bar for a few shots of cachaca. As stated earlier, I had been drinking ALL DAY, so after the shots I was really feeling it.

We left the bar to continue walking, and waiting. So we walk…..and walk……and walk some more then all of a sudden Ronaldo is talking to some random girl. She was chocolate complexion, big smile, and wearing a police uniform with a wig on.
She kinda looked like one of them.....I think

 Of course, they were speaking in Portuguese and I didn't understand most of what they were saying until Ronaldo said "Ele é Americano" (He is American). She gave him a weird look like…..who?!……..him?!…..no! and then starts to, what I perceive to be, a back and forth of him convincing her that I am truly American. This went on for 5 minutes until mid-sentence, all of a sudden, Ronaldo turns to me and says "Mike, kiss her" in heavily accented English. I immediately turn to him, say "what?!?"But since I'm in Brazil, I didn't hesitate for long and went in for the kiss and she was VERY cooperative . Tongue and all, very good kiss. Cool. Wasn't expecting that but hey, it's Brazil, in Rio, during Carnival. Everybody is supposed to kiss somebody right?

After the kiss, she starts speaking to me (in portuguese of course)  and in my intoxicated state, all I could say is "what?!" Further proof that even though I may look Brazilian, and may be carrying myself like a Brazilian, I'm still very much American. So during this horrible exchange of Portuguese and English, I turned to Ronaldo with a look that says "MFer, translate!!" and you know what he does?? He says "Mike, kiss her again"…….. Welp... good enough for me and here we go again . Tonguing each other down in the middle of sidewalk and nobody gives a damn. I love it! After this second kiss, I have to get her number or something. We can definitely continue this. This is also where my story gets a little fuzzy. Cachaca will do that to ya.

Somehow she put her number in my phone and I thought I had called it. Unfortunately 12 hours later, when I woke up, after spending all night at the sambadrome, I look at my call list and there is nothing. The last call was to Ronaldo from earlier that previous afternoon……..MERDE!!
Partner in Crime


Brazilian Race, Ethnicity, and Multiculturalism! Part 1 of a series

Posted on Monday, July 23, 2012

Before I ever set foot in Brazil, I knew that is was a country full of colors and cultural influences like the United States. I also thought that Brazil would be just like the picture portrayed in many other Latin American countries, that being the typical brown stereotypical Latin we all know. To my surprise, and delight, I was wrong. Very wrong. Brazil was and is much more than Ronaldo and 
Carmen Miranda.

Walking though the streets and along the Beaches of just Rio, I saw every hue and combination of physical feature just walking down Avienda Nossa Senhora in Copacabana. The scene reminded me of Providence, Rhode Island, when I first moved there in 2006. Providence has very diverse population of people from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rican, Cape Verde, Cambodia, and Portugal. This was much different what I experienced in North Carolina growing up. Typically Black or White with a speckle of Latino or Asian. But even experiencing the diversity of Providence didn't  compare to what Rio had in store for me. With being in North Carolina or Rhode Island, heck, basically all over the United States, even with lots of diversity, most people are segregated by ethnic group, religion, etc, etc. The United States calls itself a "melting pot" but really it is more like a salad mixing bowl. Many different ingredients that can work well together but never blend. Each piece can be easily separated and identified just like communities and neighborhoods that dot the US. Brazil, on the other hand, is definitely a melting pot of native american, european, african, and asian customs, cultures, and peoples. Take 10 people of the same complexion and ask them what their ethnic background is and you are likely to get 10 different answers. Why is this? Well it all goes back to how Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese. 
Gilberto Freyre

Sociologist and author Gilberto Freyere examines and describes Brazilian colonization and the dynamics of that developed between Natives, Portuguese, and Africans. His book entitled , Casa-Grande e Senzala or The Masters and the Slaves, breaks down the history, influences, and consequences of Portuguese colonization with some comparisons the the colonization of North America. Basically the major difference is the willingness, eagerness, and/or desperation of the Portuguese to from relationships with native women and eventually african women upon the expansion of the slave trade. This happened also in North American but what was eventually banned in the North became accepted, common practice in the South. Continuous miscegenation between Native, African, and European peoples has lead to this rainbow that is the Brazilian population. Most Brazilian can trace their ancestry to euro/native, euro/african, african/native background and many times all 3 are found. More recently, the program Black in America, explores are the African roots of Brazil. Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr traveled to the city of Salvador in the Brazilian state of Bahia. Salvador is known as center for African culture and history and I highly recommend this series to anyone who is interested in the african roots of Brazil and South America.
Dr. Gates - Carnaval - Bahia
 Black in Latin America - Brazil


Interview with Bruna Maria

Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012

Introducing Bruna Maria, teacher, writer, and blogger. A Carioca born and bred. Another great interview. She talks about Portuguese Literature, Education in Brazil, and some of her favorite places. Hope you enjoy and definitely check out her blog. http://blog.brunamaria.com/

How old are you?
- I'm 25 years old.

Where did you grow up in Brazil? 
- I grew up in Rio de Janeiro.

What is your profession?
- I'm a teacher. I teach Portuguese, English and Literature. Now I'm working at the coordination of an English Course.

What is your blog about? 
- My blog is about Literature. All kinds of it. I also write and publish my own production there. I try to write some short essays about what I read as well.

What sparked your interest in Portuguese Lit.? 
Machado de Assis
- Some Brazilian authors as Manuel Bandeira, Guimarães Rosa, Machado de Assis, Fernando Pessoa, and others. They were introduced to me when I was at high school and I just loved it. I always liked to write as well and - as we know - to be a good writer you gotta read a lot. Then, I was really into the Portuguese Literature because of that too.

Favorite authors? 
- My favorite authors in Portuguese Literature are: Guimarães Rosa and Fernando Pessoa. But I like to read all kinds of Literature. For me, the language it's not a big deal. I mean, I believe we have Literature as an Art path - the language doesn't really matter to me. Then, I love to read Marcel Proust, Goethe, Henry Miller, Elias Canetti's essays, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen's and Sylvia Plath's poetry and so many others!...

Which languages do you speak? 
- Only Portuguese and English.

How did you learn English? 
- I studied at a regular course. And as I'm a very curious person, I always try to keep learning by reading, watching movies, TV shows and listening to music. I like to keep in touch with native speakers as well.

What is your cultural/ethnic background? 
My ethnic background is a mix of African, Portuguese and Índios.

Favorite place in Brazil? Why? 

Ilha Grande
- I haven't traveled through Brazil's territory as I'd like to (yet), but wherever I find some beaches - then I have my favorite place. Ilha Grande and Região dos Lagos are great places to go to.

What is your favorite time of year in Brazil?
- I like the Spring time. I love to feel the weather that is warm but not too hot like in the Summer. And I don't really enjoy the Winter. I like to feel the sun, to feel warm, to see the sun shining, the flowers...

How can you tell that a person is a gringo/gringa - minus language? 
- By the clothes they are wearing, mostly; by the accent and by how they wish to speak Portuguese with us. And I can perceive it by how hard is the person tanned as well. Sometimes there are some tourists that get almost burned and it scares me because sunny days are definitely awesome but they can be very dangerous too if you don't walk around carrying your sunblock.

How has Brazil changed over the years? 
- Brazil has been developing it's economics paths, I would say. People are able to buy more and it seems to be a good thing, for instance. However, I'm afraid that it's just a phase, and that the real problems have been discarded. Poor people stay poor, with terrible healthy conditions as well as educational opportunities. I don't see further changes in educational matters, you know. Nowadays - you may say - we have more people studying and applying to universities, but it doesn't really mean that we are developing in science and technical paths. And it doesn't really mean that everybody has the same opportunity to study and to improve. Of course we have better conditions nowadays, but I'm a bit concerned about it. I don't believe that we have a real "solving problems" culture here in Brazil. In my opinion, the government just works on pretending that everything is going as good as it can go. 

Could you see yourself living anywhere else? (Outside your current city or abroad)
- Well, I have never traveled abroad, so it's kinda difficult to think about living in another country. But I must say that I have already considered living in another city - yes.

How do we know each other? 
- We have a friend in common, Renata. She gave me your contact.

What is your biggest annoyance about visitors? 
- The way they believe in stereotypes. Men that think that all the girls are skanks, for instance (pardon my vocabulary, but that's how I feel about it). 

Favorite foreigners? (country)
I don't have a favorite foreigner. I think I like them all, when they come here and respect us. :)

Advice to future visitors coming to Brazil? 
- Try not to know the country by what people tell you before you come. Try to get used to our real routines and life. Don't get stuck at Zona Sul, in Rio (Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, etc), try to visit the suburbs, for instance, try to get to know who we really are.


Brazilian Hip Hop

Posted on Monday, June 25, 2012

Brazil is known musically as one of the most culturally rich places on the planet. It is home to the musical genres of Samba, Bossa Nova, Axe, Forró and many more. I, being a Hip Hop head, wanted to  find Brazilian rappers and Hip Hop artists to add my ipod rotation. Youtube, Itunes, and mainly my Brazilian friends have provided me with some interesting artists and I think everyone should take a listen to the few I have posted below. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

PS. Hip Hop is still alive.......just maybe not the States lol





Marcelo D2

Expat Blog

Expat in São Paulo