Saturday, April 28, 2007

International Students, you can`t get away from `em - Take 2. Amazing coincidence this, but we were in Mangai - the restaurant we frequent the most that serves cheap authentic Brazilian cuisine - and we spotted two Brazilians talking to a gringo. It`s fun to hear a British accent and wonder where they are from. We supposed the gentleman talking was from Salisbury, Basingstoke or Little Mousehole. Anyway, next time Rach passed their table with her plate of cheesy rice, dried meat and beans she thought she recognised the Brazilians. A brief conversation later and this is what we found out - the two Brazilians were in York. The male Brazilian was a PhD International Student who attended an event Rachel and I put on in St. Mikes` Belfrey Hall. He and his wife have moved to Natal and the Brit - well he was a Prof from York University. A man called Jim from Computer Science. A quick look on the website reveals it was probably Dr. Jim Woodcock.

Nelson walking. Nelson is galloping around the house, arms outstretched. This changes everything.

Amusing English from my students. I have to be careful what I write here in case any of them check this blog, but here are some quotes from students' written assignments.

"My Mum, she get stressed sometimes, but she got a real pure heart" (It`s perfect English if you`re a grass-chewing cowboy).

"Yes, my friend, all the mistery [sic], romance and polar bears are back" (A review of next week`s LOST episode).

"Don`t worry you are not going to die, because Leonardo di Caprio will give happyness [sic]" (I wasn`t worried before, but now I might well be...)

"You are not understanding? Let one explain better". (One could do with improving one`s grammar although one is impeccably polite).

Skype. The wonders of the internet - we have Skype and a webcam. It`s awesome. Anybody else have Skype?

Monday, April 23, 2007


Things I miss about England #98: The Hoobs. Great kids show on Channel 4 I used to watch with Nelsinho... All together now: "We`re off to see the tiddly-peeps, on the road we go!"

Things I love about Brazil #71: Discovery Kids Brasil They may not have the Hoobs here but Cable TV provides several channels of 24 hour kids programmes. Advert free, non-violent and educational, Discovery Kids presented by the intrepid Doki Descobre (pictured) is our (and Nelsinho`s) favourite. What`s more is that he teaches Portuguese to small children which I find helpful. "As formas sao muito divertidos!" (Shapes are a lot of fun!).

If anyone finds themselves in Brazil, looking after a baby between the hours of 5am and 7am here is a review of the best (and worst) things to watch on Discovery Kids. Check the link above for more details on any of these shows, or for the chance to play games with Doki and learn some Portuguese.

Pocoyo (also seen in the UK). The English version is narrated by Stephen Fry. A 3-yr old, and his duck (Pato) and elephant (Ellie) friend have numerous, unpredictable adventures. Absolutely brilliant short animation series from a production company based in Madrid. Great sfx too. 9/10

Jakers! As Adventuras de Piggly Winks (Jakers! The adventures of Piggly Winks). This show has a clever premise - an old Irish pig living in America tells his grandchildren what it was like growing up in rural Ireland. Good music, animation average. 7/10

Harry e o balde de dinosaurs (Harry and his bucket of dinosaurs). Not bad, mildly entertaining animation about a boy who has adventures in the imaginary "Dino-World" with his bucket of dinosaurs who come to life. 6/10

Os Irmaos Coalas (The Koalo Brothers). As the theme tune says "adoram ajudar" (they love to help!). Alrightish antics of two brothers who live in a caravan in the Australian outback. They fly around in a plane and help people. The problems with this show are many: why do the 8 people living in a small village in the outback need help every day? How can the Koalo Brothers afford to run a plane when they appear to have no source of income? Who are the two kids who live with them - the frankly wet Ned (see Caillou and Poko below), and the annoying Josie? Why do they kids never go to school? My theory: Ned and Josie are foster kids and the Brothers Koalo use Australian state money meant for education to fund their fixation with flying in their old time plane. The village folk are too polite to tell the brothers that they don`t need any help at all... 5/10

Toddworld. Todd is far too politically correct to be a real boy living in the real world. 4/10.

Caillou (3/10), Poko (2/10). Boring, slow, dreamy and tame stories about two young lads who probably flinch at passing butterflies. Poko has anger management issues too.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Things I miss about England #3: Easter.
We had a great Easter in Recife when we visited our old church in Piedade. I met the vicar for the first time, a colossal man of 6'8" who patted me on the shoulder much the same way I might pat the shoulder of an 8 year old boy. The sunrise service was excellent but nothing beats St.Mikes and Riding Lights for Easter week...

Things I love about Brazil #49: The "informal" way they do tests. This week the kids at the Language School were given their mid term test. One of my groups didn't do so well which might mean they are poor or their teacher is. Perhaps both. Anyway, it took me 10 minutes to settle them down and be quiet to take their paper and even when they were doing it and not chatting away in Portuguese they kept shouting out, "Hey teacher, what does it mean - foolishness?" My reply: "Now, Flauber. This would not be a test if I told you that". Two minutes later somebody gets out of their seat to come and show me a word on their paper. With a look of utter seriousness: "Teacher, I don`t understand 'hitch-hiking' - what is it mean?". Again, my reply "Diego, I can't tell you that". And it wasn't just the boys... "Teacher, I have never seen this word - o que isso, rapaz?" "Deborah, be quiet and guess the answer" and so on and so forth... Endearing as this was I eventually said: "How do you do tests in Brazil? Do you all sit around and talk for an hour". One wise crack chirped up: "The teacher tells us everything". Righteo. Maybe that explains their poor marks. Some amusing answers in the papers will get posted here shortly.

Hello to...
Norwegians such as Maria and Jon who make a point of reading the blog.

Another one bites the sand.
Last Sunday we discovered a beautiful guest house (Pousada) that you can visit for the day. It is baby friendly, has several pools and a restaurant. It also faces the sea. After lunch I decided to take a quick dip but it was high tide. "Hmmm, those waves look a bit big", I thought. "Nevermind, this will be refreshing". So refreshing were the waves I got bowled right back onto the beach twice. The second time I nearly lost my swimming trunks which would have been embarassing for all at the Pousada, not least my wife. At this point Mark saunters out and says he fancies a swim. "I wouldn`t if I were you, it's too strong". Mark gives me a look like he thinks I am BGB* and dives in. 5 minutes later he comes out looking like he`s been pulled out of a washing machine and promptly rinsed through a sandpit (which is a good description of what actually happened). Funniest of all, he forgot he had his wallet in his swimming trunks. The wallet made it back out the water with Mark, but all his money was crinkly and wet. * BGB = Big Girl's Blouse.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Armchair Blogger... Finally, after some shenanigans, we have internet at home. This is the first blog from the comfort of our own dining room. In theory, we should be emailing you all much more often now.

Poverty. According to "Veja", the popular Brazilian current affairs magazine 31% of the population are classified as living below the poverty line. This reminded me of a picture I took off the side of a bus when in Rio. It shows a couple of burnt out cars on the edge of a smelly canal. What fascinated me is that when I looked closer I could see that this hulled out car was some guy`s house. He had just got out and walked off...

The wealth gap is huge in Brazil with some of the population enjoying very affluent and comfortable lives. The students I teach English for are from the latter end of society - they mostly attend the best school in Natal and have ambitions to be Doctors, Lawyers, Diplomats, Architects etc. Many of them are actively involved in community projects to help the poor. Having said that, Natal itself is an affluent city with no sprawling favelas and little of the associated social problems of the Rio, Sao Paulo and Recife.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Recife. We made it down to Recife for the Easter weekend. It's great to be back seeing friends (such as Fabinho and Duia) who we've missed since moving to Natal. We decided to catch a flight down. It took half an hour - the shortest domestic flight I've ever taken. They didn't bother turning the fasten seat belt signs off cos by the time we had finished take off we were about to land. Nelson charmed the passengers and was unusally fond of one of the air stewardesses and kicked up a huge fuss when we left the plane without her... On the agenda for the next few days - the beach, watching and playing football and the sunrise church service on Easter Sunday.

Portuguese Learning - é tão dificil, né?
Encouragingly, being back in Recife shows me that the Portuguese is slowly improving as I can banter a bit more freely. So I thought I'd mention a bit about this extraordinary language. It is darn complicated and fluency is hard to attain because each verb has to be conjugated seperately. Still, in other parts of the language NE Brazilians show great economy in their use of Portuguese. Some examples,

1) "E ai" is the Brazilian equivelent for "Now then" in Yorkshire. It covers all eventualities, is a greeting, a conversation starter and a gap filler all in one. It roughly translates to "And there" and is pronounced eee-eye-eee.

2) "Valeu" is the Brazilian equivelent for "Cheers" and "Alright". When playing football it gets thrown in all over the place and seems to mean thanks, sorry, well done, good pass, goal, calm down, the ball was out, I'll do better next time, did you see that?, could you get me a bottle of water because I'n so thirsty etc. etc.

3) "Foi mesmo foi?" "Foi!". "Foi" is a very versatile word in Portuguese as it means both "it/he/she was" and "it/he/she went". After some surprising incident or story is related, somebody will usually say "Foi mesmo foi?" which literally means "it was really the same, was it?". I suppose in England we would say "is that right?" or "really?". Back comes the answer "Foi!" - "It was!".

4) "Não. Não pode não." This is the slogan for the Brazilian anti-piracy organisation. It comes from an advert where a man tells his son he can't watch a pirated DVD. It shows how não - "no" - is very flexibily used as it is also stands for "not" in English. It is thrown in willy nilly into almost any negative sentence at any place any number of times. In this case, the Father says to his son "Não. Não pode não" (pronounced: Now. Now podgy now). In English, "No. No you can't".

The library of love. They'll both kill me for mentioning this on my blog but Amy (my sister-in-law) and Mark (my school buddy and best man) are now "an item" or as my Aunt Betty says "special friends". Mark works mornings in the library in the language school in Natal and Amy works afternoons - so perhaps it was over an order for more English File Textbooks that the spark of something more was found. In any case, they're spending a lot of this weekend down here in Recife with Amy's friend Erica and her boyfriend Ricardo. I'm sure everyone's having fun!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Arrival of babies. So it's a big congrats to the Byrnes on the arrival of baby Grace. Along with cousin Anna and hubby Richard's girl Esme and the Thomas' little Rachel the population of fine eligible young ladies is growing. More future friends (or girlfriends possibly!) for Nelsinho.

Easter. Wishing everyone a happy Easter! At the language school we have been eating modified Brazilian Hot Cross Buns. They're cold and made with chocolate but they do have a prominant cross on the top. Tonight a choir is coming into the school to sing Easter songs - I've been asked to share a "word" about the real meaning of Easter during the presentation. I will probably use several words in actual fact, and these will probably be in English as my Portuguese is stilll a bit rusty. In any case, like for Brits, most Brazilian kids think of Easter as a time to eat chocolate so it may be a chance to say a bit about why I think it is more important than that.