Saturday, December 30, 2006

Brazil's Two Gods. In Rio we had the opportunity to visit two famous landmarks and symbols of Brazil. The statue of Jesus Christ the Redeemer built in 1931 which overlooks the city, and the Maracana stadium, the home of Brazilian football.

Brazil is one of the most fervently religious countries on earth with a pervasive Catholicism as well as the fruits of Protestant Revival over the last 15 years. So it seems apt that overlooking Rio is a statue of Jesus. For the record, it is a risen Jesus - up close you can see the nail marks on his hands. Certainly, up and down the country, Jesus is worshipped in various forms. On this trip I have noticed one particular church denomination has sprung up on every town and village high street we drove through. "Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus" (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God) is a Pentecostal stream with congregations everywhere. Apparently its leader is a media tycoon who owns one of Brazil's TV channels.

The other God Brazil worships is football. The Maracana (real name "Mauro Filho") stadium, built for the 1950 World Cup has a seating capacity of 120,000 and has hosted some of the best football players in the world. It is still used regularly for all major Rio based football games between the clubs Botofogo, Fluminese, Flamengo and others. Pele scored his 1000th goal inside the stadium, Zico once scored 6 goals in one match here and John Barnes dribbled past most of the Brazilian team to score the most famous goal by an Englishman in the famous stadium in 1984. The Maracana is a tourist attraction in its own right - you can place your feet in a moulding of Pele's feet, and there are displays of football history just like any museum. But, just to reinforce the point, that to Brazilians, football is itself a religion the programme for the day has these words from somebody called Mr Claudio Vieira:

"In 1999, we plunged into the task of researching the book entitled Maracana: Temple of the Brazilian gods ... there was a great deal of concern over selecting the 'gods' whose names would be enshrined on the walls of the World's Largest Stadium... Every Brazilian worships his own private gallery of idols, and most of them made their names at the Maracana Stadium".

So, there you have it folks. On Saturdays Brazilians worship football players. On Sundays they worship Jesus.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas in Brazil. Trust you all had a nice Christmas, whoever you are and wherever you are reading this. We relaxed around our Pousada for the day, keeping cool in the pool. Temperature outside was up to 40C so we were baking! Christmas Eve is when Brazilians open their presents so we each exchanged gifts in the evening of the 24th. Rachel's Mum shared a few thoughts from the Bible about the Christmas story which was ace... So, it's been different but oh so much fun!

Da Vinci Code. I read the Da Vinci Code in 3 days this holiday. Thought I'd better have an opinion about such a controversial book. Have to say, found it to be a load of tripe and not even that well written! Please email me if you disagree.

27 Dec 2006. Three years married today, and it's been a great three years. Almost exactly this precise time in 2003 I was shuffling about at the top of the aisle waiting for my bride to arrive. This year, as I mentioned in a previous blog, we went to Caetano Veloso in Rio. For those of you who don't know who he is I'm talking about possibly Brazil's biggest and best singer/songwriter of the last 50 years. CV is in his 60s now but still struts his stuff. He seems to be ageless. Imagine somebody with the longetivity of Cliff Richard, the popularity of Robbie Williams and the coolness of Lenny Kravitz and you have something like Senhor Veloso.

So, the show was held in a small venue called the Flying Circus - a kind of outdoor tent, with art installations and palm trees dotted around. Doors opened at 8.30pm and the show was due to start at 10.30pm. Caetano Veloso took his time to get to the stage, not arriving until after 11pm so we were already exhausted before he'd even started. (I remember gigs in London in the 90s would FINISH at 11pm because of licensing laws). CV was launching his new CD, and brought with him a pared down band with only drummer, bass player and guitarist. CV is always reinventing himself and his music in order to stay fresh. This time he dispensed with the backing singers, brass section and mini-orchestra he has for his larger concerts. The result was a raw and sparse sound which worked really well. Most of the crowd were half his age which shows his enduring popularity. Other Brazilian celebrities attended including an emerging artist from the North East called Lenini.

The radio station promoting the event had the slogan: "Ninguem resiste a musica brasileira". Nobody resists Brazilian music! Well, even though it was a masterful performance from a masterful performer we resisted staying to the end and left for our hotel at 1am. Being parents of a small baby does not afford us the luxury of being out too late! Anyway, I recommend checking out Caetano if you don't know anything about him or his music.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ilhe Grande. Last post before Christmas, so Feliz Natal for Monday everyone! We had a great few days in Rio - full updates will be posted to the blog soon. In short, we visited the Jesus Christ the Redeemer statue, the Maracana stadium and we also managed to make it to a Caetano Veloso concert. For that last one I need to thank very generous in-laws who encouraged and payed for Rach and I to go see Brazil's finest singer/songwriter of the last 50 years as an anniversary present.

Yesterday we took a bus south of Rio and stopped off at a port to get an Escuna boat over to Ilhe Grande, ("big island") off the coast of Brazil. The boat ride took about an hour and a half - Nelson's first trip across water. Our mode of transport seemed a bit rickety, and with no mention of health and safety procedures I imagined it was us versus the elements if anything should happen. The four guys charged with getting us across a blustery bay to our destination were tattoo-sporting weather-worn, wiry seamen. They sort of looked like they wouldn't throw their own mother a lifejacket if she was drowning in a puddle. But after a few ciggies and beers they cheered up and found little Nelson highly amusing.

Anyway, we made it and are staying in a beautiful Pousada (like a guest house or b+b) and the island is idyllic, uncrowded but with enough going on to make it very entertaining. It really feels like we're spending Christmas on the island from King Kong.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento.
Pele's real name. See previous blog.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The girl from Ipanema does walking... Just a quick post from an internet cafe near to Copacabana beach. Made it to Rio, all is well, weather is great, hotel is ideal. Today we are off to see the sights - the Jesus the Redeemer statue and the Maracana stadium.

MCing. I mentioned in some emails recently to some of you that I had to MC an event for Cultura Inglesa. It was the graduation ceremony for the kids who have been taking English courses and they wanted a native English speaker to lead the ceremony. So I was promptly roped in for son-in-law duties on the day before our holiday to Rio.

The whole experience was quintissentially Brazilian - high on the appearance of formality, but in reality very relaxed. The evening started (unusually) punctually at 8pm with only about a third of the guests having arrived. Teachers read out the names of their students, but a good chunk of kids missed the chance to go and get their certificates simply because they were still on their way. So as the ceremony went on, I kept being thrust scraps of paper with the names of students on who wanted to collect their certificates despite having missed their call.

Now, Brazilian names, it must be said, are not always easy to pronounce. Brazilians add names and surnames seemingly at will onto the end of their birth name. In fact, names are organised here in lists not by surname (as in the UK) but alphabetically by first name. Added to this is that some names come complete with a host of accents, squiggles, stresses and syllables wedged in all over the place taxing the most fluent of Portuguese speakers, yet alone a gringo like myself.

The upshot of all this was that much of the ceremony was spent with me having to say things like: "At this point in the ceremony we need to go back to the presentation for Upper II certificates as some more students have just arrived, and so can I call Arturo Vieira de Souza Reyes, Thais Gins Limar and Joanna Magalhaes Jungman de Vera Santos to the stage to collect their certificates please". And so on. All in all, it went pretty well considering.

Christmas trivia: does anyone know Pele's real name? Answer on this blog in a few days time.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Off to Rio. This time tomorrow we will be in Rio. Will attempt to keep up the blog from there, but if not Feliz Natal!

Recycling and the Environment. One small anecdote to leave you all with. Being conscious of our environment, Rach and I have tried to recycle our garbage when we can. In York this was made easier by a fantastic council facility which, when we were packing up 23 Surtees Street, meant almost all our junk was sorted and recycled. In Brazil, there is still a way to go with the green agenda. Nonetheless, we spotted a few containers for recylcying dotted randomly around. This morning Rach and I dutifully pulled up on a busy road by the beach to deposit our empties. Despite seperate holes for metal, plastic, paper and cardboard it soon became clear that everything was being funnelled into the same bin. In other words, there really was no point sorting our rubbish - even though the colourful labels encouraged us to - as it all gets mixed up anyway. A bit disheartening that. We`re not sure where our recylcables will end up. Probably the local landfill.

My Father in Law reckons that recycling will take a long time to catch on because Brazil is so big, nobody has a sense of land being wasted by rubbish - there is always more space to move into, runs the argument. We met a very interesting man last week in Natal - a British ex-pat who has bought up land for conservation and is completing a PhD in Environmental Education. In many ways, Brazil could do with paying a bit more attention to the sorts of things he is saying...

With that in mind, we will keep an avid interest in the development of A Rocha Brazil:

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas coming. Although it doesn't feel like it, Christmas is on the way in Brazil. Today we are off to Joao Passoa for another Christmas family get together - this time for Rachel's Mothers side of the family, the Gueiros'. At the English Teaching School yesterday there was a Christmas dinner for the support staff and their families - lots of pressies and Chinese takeaway was had by all. And if you walk into any mall you'll be pleased to see Brazilian teenagers dressed up to the hilt in elf costumes being paid to man Santa's Groto. The cheesier the better, seems to be the rule of thumb! And in case you still don't feel Christmassy there are the guys who peddle hi-fi systems around on bicycles or shunt them about in wheelbarrows belting out synthesised version of delights such as "Jingle Bells" and "I´m dreaming of a White Christmas". The only white Christmas you're gonna get round here is going to involve sand in your toes...

Os Dois Filhos de Francisco. Rach insisted I put this on my blog. But, another first happened a couple of weeks back. I cried at the end of a Brazilian film. Disturbingly, Rach was dry eyed throughout! Whats going on? For myself, I put it down to culture shock and something in the water. Anyway, it may not be to everyone's taste but the film "Os Dois Filhos de Francisco" (The Two Sons of Francisco) is based on the real life biographies of two country singers here in Brazil. Its a moving story with the essential ingredients of Brazilian film thrown in - children and youth, rites of passage, rags to riches, rural outback to big city, comedy, tragedy and plenty of tears. Well worth digging out if you're stuck for something to watch on DVD. Read some (generally positive) reviews at

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

First time for lots of things. Praise God for answered prayers! Today is the first day I feel on the mend after a nasty tummy virus which left me with a 5 day long fever. First time that's happened to me in Brazil. First time in my life I lost a stone in less than a week, after it was the first time I threw up in a Brazilian restaurant. I was treated by a Dr Ricardo Carvalho which is the first time (as far as I am aware) I've been seen by a medical professional with the same name as a Premiership footballer.

This all happened on my first trip to Natal. On the first day we tried looking for a house to rent, the first one we found seemed ideal - a 3 bedroom bungalow walking distance from the English school where I will be teaching from in February. Watch this space for more news about that.

A few other firsts... Today is the first day I will ever have been shaved by somebody other than myself. You see, I have a rather substantial beard (my first in Brazil, if you will) and I'm wondering how to pare it down. Its cheaper to pay 50p to a local chappy to do it at the market, then to spend several times that amount buying imported razor blades and doing it myself. Also, today is the first day of Nelson's Great Great Grandma's 89th year. At a family do a few weeks ago she spelt out her wish: "This is my present that you are all together here with me. If you were thinking of buying me presents, don't! Give the money to the church!". That speech turned a few heads, it was a first for the family.

More news in the next couple of days... Thanks to all who expressed concern about my sickness.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Urgh. We`ve gone up to Natal for a few days to look around and see if we can spot any houses or apartments where we might live in February. Mysteriously, I have picked up a lingering fever and feel rough. I think its down to a) veryrich restaurant foods b) too much sun c) too little sleep. May see a Doctor today. Blog will resume when well.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How a baby can help you with bureaucracy. I recently read an article written by a British Policeman who gave up his job to teach English in Rio. He commented that for Brazilians: "Family is the most important thing of all, kids do everything and go everywhere with their parents, and are well loved, well treated, even by strangers, and encouraged to expend energy and make noise. Thus they are confident and positive. Vivacious. Yes, the people are vivacious".

We've certainly seen this to be true with Nelson. Apart from the immediate and extended family, Nelson delights all who encounter him - most often old ladies at the supermarket.
I guess I never expected the same from government officials...

After a lot of shenanigans trying to get me a Brazilian ID card things were made much easier when I returned to the Federal Police with Rachel and Nelson on Thursday. With a baby one can go far in Brazil. First of all we were given a parking space in the police station when there wasn´t any spare (the porter suggested we park in front of some other parked cars). Everybody was very obliging and we were we even ushered into an office (ahead of a line of waiting civilians) just so the other staff could coo at Nelsinho. At one point I had to go and get my fingerprints taken. We found some disgruntled chaps in a back office complaining about not being paid for a week. Their demenaour was transformed once they saw Nelson. Which also goes to show - it is not just women who warm to babies in Brazil. Men seem much more adept at enjoying/coping with little children. The whole day passed off without incident and all the paperwork was done. So, if I were ever to write a guide book on how to move to Brazil I'd put as Lesson #1: take a baby.

Church. This morning Rachel and I went to our local Anglican church. We enjoyed a great service not unlike what I would imagine St. Mikes in York would be like if it were taken over by Brazilians for a day. As first time guests we were asked to stand and greet the congregation. A nice steward then brought us a Rick Warren tract each and lots of the people near us came to shake our hands. The band (who seemed to have a song for every eventuality) performed with gusto a song aimed at us visitors with the lyrics: "We would like you to come back again! We hope you visit next week!". With that sort of welcome, I suspect we probably will.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Groundbreaking news: Brazil really is different to the UK (part 1)! Rach´s Uncle Andy reminded me this weekend that as a developing country, the cost of labour in Brazil is very cheap. In other words, when it comes to value for money you are better off using locally produced, hand made products and not industrialised goods which are expensive to produce or import. In practice this means that fresh corn on the cob is better value than tinned corn. Or, hand made shoes are cheaper than branded trainers. In the UK the opposite is largely the case. So, this morning for breakfast I had papaya and pineapple with some fresh juice. In other words, no Kelloggs cereals or packaged bread. It was a win-win situation. My breakfast was healthier, cheaper and tasted better.

Chad. My parents live and work in Chad, North Africa. The country is in the throes of major upheavel. Christians, please pray for safety for ex-pats and Chadians, for wisdom for Dad to know when and if to evacuate his team. Pray for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
More details at:

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gatherings. Yesterday we went up to Joao Passoa for a family gethering. It was the first time Nelson met his Great Great Grandmother Bemvienda - a sprightly 89 in a few weeks time and still as sharp as a tack. Many cousins, Uncles and Aunts congregated for a day of banter and food. I sat in with the men and talked about fishing and surfing, topics of which I know nothing about in English yet alone Portuguese. Nelson was passed around like a hot potato (which is a good description of how he must have felt in the heat). In general he seems pretty unphased by the large family he has been born into.

Sunday today and just back from church. We visited the church where Rachel grew up. After the service a mad scrum ensued as buxom Brazilian women fought to get near to baby Nelsinho. I was an unfortunate obstacle in the way of their mad piranha-like frenzy and found myself practically crow- barred from my seat by a pair of old ladies knees. I find it hard to be offended though - it is wonderful to see everyone delighting in baby Nels. The pastor came to say hello and asked me if I was Brazilian. "Nao, sou ingles" I explained. "English? God save the Queen!" was the reply.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A sort of panorama view of our new flat. Sitting area on the left, Rach and Nelson at the dining table on the right. The windows overlook the Atlantic Ocean. Some pics of Nelson arriving to greet the family have been posted by Rach's Dad at Also, see for some other photos. Thanks to everyone for your prayers, support and interest.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How to move to Brazil in 10 (not so) easy steps. So we´ve arrived. Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday and all is well. If anyone were to marry a Brazilian from a family not unlike Rach´s they may find the following 10 steps helpful in mentally preparing for a move to South America.

1) Pack far too much stuff for your luggage allowance but go to the airport anyway. Once at the airport come up with creative solutions for getting on the plane. For example, in our case, upgrade your baby´s ticket to an adult one thus procuring more luggage allowance and space on flight. Find very helpful airport steward to sort it all out for you and give you a cheap price for a single ticket.
2) Cry lots as you say goodbye to good friends (in our case the Byrnes and Mr B).
3) Take 30 minutes to get through security because you have decided to wear two pairs of clothes and stuff every pocket with heavy electrical goods. Ask strangers to hold your baby. Smile at grumpy security guards. Throw away non-clear liquids. All dignity you have will be lost at this point.
4) Buy food before boarding non-food providing charter flight.
5) Find another Anglo-Brazilian couple with small children to talk to at the gate. This will help you feel like you are not the only ones attempting the impossible.
6) Entertain baby for 9 hours on flight. Sit next to helpful strangers who will baby sit for you.
7) Arrive exhausted in Brazil but do not expect to go to bed early.
8) Drive for 2 hours (practically next door in Brazil terms) and stop for a family gathering, involving food and many many pictures. Expect your baby to be cuddled and pictured by everyone with everyone from multiple generations. Baby will be over-stimulated and may not go back to sleep quickly.
9) Drive another 2 hours to new home. Participate in another party with more food which lasts until 1am Brazil time. Spend a moment thinking about how this equates to 4am British time. You have been awake for nearly 24 hours. Smile and enjoy it! It won´t happen everyday and Brazilians are World Masters at having spontaneous parties to welcome tired travellers.
10) Make your excuses as a "gringo", wave goodnight, have a cold shower (as the temp outside is 31 C) and then have a kip for a week.

Watch this space for pictures of our new home!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Now Then. And so its goodbye to York. It is impossible to say exactly how we feel about leaving such a special place. But to paraphrase an angry Mum in Jacksons this week: "There's the door. You'll use it!" - I have a ticket to Brazil. I'll use it.

Just one story from our adventure down south on the train:

In London we met up with Mark (Dave's best man), soon to be joining us in Brazil for 6 months of English Teaching. He helped us lug our many cases and bags across town from Kings Cross to Charing Cross. Nelson is now being transported in a back-pack device - and he loves it. He spent the whole time cooing serenely despite the noise and the dark of the London Underground. He melted the heart of many a hardened commuter. Unfortunately, we missed our train in Charing Cross and tried to go a different way but that ended up being longer. The connection was delayed and we eventually made it into Bensifled at 7.30pm and Uncle David kindly picked us up from Tunbridge Wells. Mother and Father were very grumpy and not at all impressed with how long it had taken to get out of London - but Nelson remained upbeat and cheerful to the end. He seemed to have a look on his face that said: "I don't have a clue whats going on, but I'm sure Mum and Dad do, so I bet its gonna be OK... Right now, I think I will just chew my toes."

As long as his Mum is within sight and there were interesting things to see he seemed OK... which all bodes well for 10 hours on the airplane come Tuesday.

Amusing Goodbyes. People have different ways of saying goodbye. Some come over all emotional and start saying too much. But Yorkshire folk are known for calling Spades exactly what they are, so it is worth quoting Joan (wife of Doug) Greenfield who said to us this week: "I would be lying to say I will miss you, as I don't see you much anyway. But it's nice to know you're about, and so we're sorry you're going". Can't say fairer than that.

And finally an undisclosed International Student from the Far East sent us an email this week in which they wished us luck for the future saying: "I will keep your fingers crossed". How exactly will this happen from so far away? I wouldn't want to say... but it probably involves the use of pain-inducing technology.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The day before the end of the world. Rach and I are exhausted. Ever try to move with a 5 month old baby? It's hard to be cross though as he is very cute. House is being turned upside down ready to move. We have already moved 3 car loads of stuff to the Byrnes and there is still more stuff...
This time tomorrow we will be on the train out of here down south.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

10 days to go. I have 1.5 days left of work and then its frantically packing to get ourselves ready to go. God provides! We have found a home for most of the stuff we don't want to take and a young couple about to get married in need of a house will rent from us after we go. Everyone's a winner.

In some weird way, Rachel and I have both said this last few weeks feels like the run up to Christmas. The TV ads, the dark evenings and the onset of winter coupled with the expectation of something momentous about to happen...

Friday, November 03, 2006

He may look like sweetness and light and butter wouldn't melt in his mouth but give him half the chance and he'll lead you on a merry dance. A merry dance to a land where sleep doesn't exist and where the white noise of screaming is all that can be heard.

But that was yesterday. He was much better this morning...

Working, packing, trying to sleep, working, packing, trying to sleep. And its cold. But wait til we get to Brazil!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dedication's what you need, if you want to be a record breaker.
Nelson dedicatedx2 this last weekend. Nice to see lots of groovy people, like Mev, Mr. Reeves, the Chewys, Ros, the Bs and many others. Thanks to you all! I'm sure Nelson would say the same if he could talk. In this picture, everyone is smiling except Nelson who's bawling - and only Marius seems to have the heart to notice. Bless him.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Brazil Beckons. This time next month we will be trying to work out how to take the kitchen sink to Brazil on our imminent flight. We want to pack a high chair and a travel cot. And lots of clothes, and a DVD Recorder and a Colour Printer. And the kitchen sink, the Garden Shed, my bike, a barge pole, an Anvil and a Tube of lead piping...

Flights booked: 21st November. This weekend a dedication for Nelson at St.Mikes.

Tesco. The news recently reported that Tesco suppliers have been employing children in Bangladeshi factories. I guess Every Little Person Helps.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I've finally remembered my password and the fire alarm goes!

So its now tomorrow and I'm at work on my lunch break. I have to remember to write this blog or its not going to happen. Anyway, I'm 3 or 4 weeks into temping at York College. I'm in the HR dept as an "Assistant". It basically amounts to brain-mushing Admin although the people are alright. I do feel like I am stuck somewhere between Franz Kafka's the Trial and Ricky Gervais' the Office. Endless beauracracy (spelling?) and tacky open plan Office. Mustn't grumble. A job is a job after all and it pays its way.

Brazil update: 21 November our flights are booked.