Rob Cheng's Blog
Uma Casa Nova

I am so excited about the progress of our new house in Rio de Janeiro. My plan is to retire in Rio de Janeiro when Teddy and Jesse are older.

Rio de Janeiro Beach Scene

Rio de Janeiro Beach Scene

I love going to the beach in Rio de Janeiro. The beaches and the scenery are stunning, but the thing that I enjoy most is watching the vendors go by hawking their wares. You can buy most things on the beach. When entering the beach, there are numerous tents that sell chairs, umbrellas and drinks. Buy a chair for only R$5 ($1.25), sit down and let the fun begin.


I love açai and when I lived in Brazil, I consumed it multiple times per week. It is served frozen with the consistency of a slurpee. The pulp of the açaí berry is frozen and put in a blender and mixed with Guaraná syrup. Guaraná is super sweet and high in caffeine. Acái is served in a bowl or large cup, and eaten with a spoon. Frequently, it is served with banana and granola as a finishing touch.


Camarão means shrimp in Portuguese and when spoken sounds similar to the American sports car. Close your eyes, and you can hear the vendors shouting their wares. Camarão Camarão. Shrimp vendors are everywhere because shrimp are light weight and they don’t spoil. They are served on a small skewer with optional hot sauce.


Globo is a light airy snack that has the consistency of a Cheeto but not as heavy. The taste is simple and can be purchased sweet or salty. I love taking a swim and then relaxing and rehydrating with a Globo and coconut water. When in Rio de Janeiro, buying a Globo is a must because it is something unique to Rio and cannot purchased in other locations in Brazil.


On the beach and elsewhere, Brazilians don’t use towels, they have cangas. A canga is the thickness of a bed sheet, and has bright decorative colors. They are highly useful to lie on the each, dry off, wrap around the waist, and to tie things together. Prices vary substantially but like most things in Brazil, everything is negotiable.

Algodão Doce

Algodão doce translates to cotton candy. The first times my kids ate cotton candy where on the beach of Rio de Janeiro. It was great, because after they are all sticky, then I could put them in ocean to clean up.


The national drink of Brazil is caipirinha which is mixture of smashed fruit typically lime, Brazil’s national alcohol, cachaça, sugar and ice. Cachaça is distilled from sugar has a similar taste to tequila. Caiprinhas can be bought with other fruits such as kiwi, strawberry. pineapple, and macurajá (passion fruit). If you are not a fan of cachaça, it can also be mixed with vodka. Best of all, it is delivered straight to your chair at the beach.


Sometimes when I was real hungry and I couldn’t wait until the next meal, I would fill up on empadas which are quite tasty and inexpensive. In my 10 years living in Rio, there is not relationship between quality and price so I would search for the least expensive empadas. They are a a little pot pie filled with a filling of chicken or dried beef, and then baked with an olive. There are numerous flavors including vegetarian, cheese, meat, fish, chicken and lots more.

Óculos de Sol

Ever forgotten your sun glasses right when you arrive at the beach? Sit down and wait for someone to show you a wide variety of sun glasses. Of course, these are not designer sun glasses, but as ZZ Top sings, they are awesome and cheap sunglasses. The prices are negotiable, and I have never paid more than R$20 ($5). Remember, you can always so No, and there will be another guy selling sun glasses in another five minutes.


One of the first words you will learn in Brazil is cerveja, which is remarkably similar for the Spanish word for beer, cerveza. The beers are cold and cheap. When I was back in May 2019, you could purchase 3 beers for R$10 or $2.50. That’s a great price for beer delivered straight to your beach chair.


To be sure, the Rio de Janeiro beach scene is for adults, families and lots of kids. You don’t have to bring the kids beach toys because there are an ample number of vendors selling a variety of distractions for the little ones.


Henna tattoos are temporary tattoos that last somewhere between two and three weeks. Because of its temporary nature, one can be much more adventurous plus it doesn’t hurt like a regular tattoo. And best of all, you can have one done from the comfort of your beach chair in Rio de Janeiro.


When I was single in Brazil, I was amazed that you could buy your lovely beach date and new bikini right there on the beach. Believe me, it was worth it.


At times, I am amazed that beach commerce is prohibited at most beaches in the United States. Who wouldn’t love to have a nice cold ice cream bar or popsicle on a perfect day with the sand between your toes?


In addition to Globo (my favorite) a wide variety of cookies, crackers and other snacks can be purchased on the beach.


I smoked almost my entire adult life until I found Rio de Janeiro and then I quit. You can cigarettes by the pack and you can buy a single cigarette for somewhere around $.10 at any grocery store, newsstand, convenience store, and even right to your chair at the beach.

Matte Leão

Mate Leão is the Brazilian version of an Arnold Palmer which is a mixture of ice tea and lemonade. The man brings two kegs and you make your own mixture which is quite refreshing on a warm day. These guys deserve some sort of medal because those kegs are heavy.


Picolé is Portuguese for popsicle, and just like the ice cream truck, when my kids the man yelling “Picolé”, my kids run to him. How can you resist?


For me, this is perhaps the worst beach commerce job. This guy has to drag around a vat of boiling water over sand to deliver corn on the cob.

Termicos para Lata

Remember those ice cold cevejas mentioned earlier in this article? You can buy what Americans call koozies to keep them colder for longer. Plus it is a nice souvenir of a wonderful beach day in Rio de Janeiro.


Believe it or not, you can buy a hammock while lying on the beach. This is one of the more difficult jobs because hammocks are heavy. I asked them man how much, and he started at R$200 or $50. That is pretty expensive, since I normally don’t have much more than R$100 on me while visiting the beach.


If you close your eyes and you can smell something cooking, it is a Brazilian type of grilled cheese. The man has a little grill, which he grills the cheese on a little wood skewer. It is a definitely a Brazilian favorite.


Cachorro Quente translates word for word to Hot Dog. However, it is not exactly the same as an juicy hot dog you would get at a baseball game. But if you go to the beach enough, it is certainly worth a try.
Learning to Speak a Foreign Language

One day, I was with a friend of mine in Brazil and he asked, “How does it feel to be fluent in Portuguese?” I was a little surprised because I know that I will never will be fluent. I purchased my apartment in Rio de Janeiro in May 2003, and I decided that if I were to enjoy this beautiful city, I would need to learn the language. I was 44 years old at the time, and I think it is fair to say that it is close to impossible for someone of 44 years of age to become fluent. At this point, I would say that I am conversational. I can carry on detailed conversations on almost any subject. But when I talk to Brazilians and probably a lot of Americans too, they know that I am not fluent.

When I began to study, I did two things. First, I purchased the paper every day, and I read the paper. In the beginning it was slow going. Every word that I did not know, I would write down and look it up in the dictionary. Second, I began to watch television. The most popular shows in Brazil are called novelas and I would record them, and watch them once I woke up in the morning. That was extremely difficult but if you persevere, slowly but truly was drilled into my head.

I did this for a little over two years until I met Solange. I was blessed because my wife had an excellent command of the Portuguese. After I met her, my Portuguese improved by leaps and bounds.

Here are some of the lessons of learning a new language.

1. It is hard. There are no short cuts and in the beginning you feel like you will never get there.

2. Don’t be embarrassed. I believe part of the key is to not be embarrassed when you talk incorrectly or do or say something silly because of misunderstanding. It is from these mistakes that improve your skill. I believe that the reason that all children can learn a language and are fluent is because they do not have this fear. Part of learning is overcoming this fear.

3. Lower your expectations. You have to believe that you will never speak as well as all those people around you. But that’s OK, because they will appreciate the trouble you took to learn their language. OK. That is not entirely true. Some people are kind of snobby.

A lot of people look back and wish they had learned a new language. It is a nice accomplishment and I do believe it opens your mind to be able to communicate in a different way with a different set of people.

Lagoa Bonita (3/4 Photo Sets)

Our favorite trip from the hotel was to Lagoa Bonita. This tour was not as popular as Lagoa Azul and for that one reason, we were the only people at this site. There were seven of us in total. The four in my family, two men that drove their motorcycles from São Paulo (10 days on the road), and the tour guide. The views were more stunning than Lagoa Azul, and the only downside is that Lagoa Bonita is a little further from the hotel. This is offset by the fact that we didn’t lose as much time collecting the other riders and waiting for them. The kids had an awesome time. I am really surprised at how few children we saw because it is a great place for kids.