By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As 2014 draws to a close we look back over the year and review some of the most noteworthy stories of foreigners – aka ‘gringos’ – doing interesting things in Rio. Last year, in 2013, the top spot went to Pope Francis for his visit during World Youth Day, then in 2012, David Cameron and Prince Harry split the honors.
For 2011 it was U.S. President Barak Obama, in 2010 and 2009, at the top position we had Paula Walsh, UK Consul General to Rio, and young Sean Goldman, in the middle of a custody battle that caught international attention. This year we had so many interesting characters in Rio to choose from, it was difficult to pair down to just ten, and we apologize for those we could not fit on the list.
1) The Germans
Germany not only destroyed the Brazilian national team in a historic semi-final by a gutting 7-1 score, they went on to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup after a 1-0 victory over Argentina at the Maracanã on July 13th. An extra-time goal from Mario Gotze separated the two sides, as the Germans lifted their fourth world title in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
2) Jonathan Dunn
Jonathan Dunn took up his position as British Consul-General, Rio de Janeiro in August 2014. Before then he worked as Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Brasilia from May 2013 to July 2014. His primary role was supporting the Ambassador in the promotion of British interests and the delivery of public services in Brazil, which he will continue now in Rio de Janeiro.
3) William Dowers
During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, thousands of American citizens traveled to the twelve Brazilian cities that hosted the tournament, and Consul William Dowers as Chief of the American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit at the U.S. Consulate General, Rio de Janeiro had his hands full. The ACS assists with; passport services, notarial services for documents for use in the U.S.; reporting the birth of a child of a U.S. citizens while abroad; and help with Social Security numbers and cards.
4) Mille Ballai
Sadly, on June 28th, Mille Ballai, the 34 year-old co-owner of the Alto Vidigal hostel died of head trauma from a serious altercation. Ballai, who worked as a film producer in Sweden had fallen in love with the favela community after staying at another hostel there and had immersed himself in the local scene. Just the day prior to his death in a profile interview with the Wall Street Journal he had said he felt completely safe in Vidigal.
5) Philip Wilkinson
The focus for many in Rio is now the 2016 Olympics, the first ever to be held in South America. With the preparations has come Philip Wilkinson, a British expatriate working as the international media manager for Rio 2016, who works within the Rio 2016 Communications team, which consists of 25 professionals across four areas – digital communications, media relations, editorial services and language services.
6) Andrew Sherman
The American School, or Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro (EARJ), considered by many as one of South America’s finest, and certainly a top private school in Rio, offers innovative programming and three diploma choices. Since February, EARJ Andrew Sherman has replaced Bob Werner as the new headmaster for the three campuses in Macaé, Gávea and the newly inaugurated campus in Barra da Tijuca.
7) Nadine Gonzalez and Andrea Fasanello
This pair has launched Casa Geração, a fashion school in the favela community of Vidigal, and an NGO (non-profit organization) that gives young Cariocas from the area a unique opportunity to learn about fashion, express their creative side, and show off their talents to the world. The fashion school is open to everyone, but offers free workshops given by respected teachers of fashion from around the globe to the young residents of the community.
8) Folakemi Quinteto
Starting as a duo, Folakemi Adelakun de Souza and her Brazilian guitarist husband Andre Severo would play various gigs in Folakemi’s hometown, London. The couple then moved over to Rio in order to take their music more seriously and soon enlisted three additional band members who now complete the Folakemi Quintento band. Since they began, her neo-soul, jazz and reggae band are making sound waves all around the city and have built a strong fan base; playing at least two gigs a week at bars in Lapa, Botafogo and the like.
9) Kim Levone
After Mic Aberto (Open Mic), a successful series of open-mic comedy shows in Portuguese held in Rio de Janeiro, Kim Levone’s production company Improbable Comedy is back, continuing a successful run of stand-up shows, this time in English and with Finnish comedian Harri Soinila. The last performance was on Tuesday, December 2nd, at the expat owned Copacabana beachfront restaurant and bar, Mab’s.
10) Sei Shiroma
Sei Shiroma may not look like your typical Neapolitan pizzaiolo, yet the New York expatriate has made it his mission to raise the standard of the Carioca pizza up a few notches with Ferro e Farinha (Iron and Flour), his mobile pizza oven which has become hot news around the Cidade Maravilhosa last year. Now since the beginning of December, he has opened a fixed location restaurant on Rua Andrade Pertence, 42 in Catete.