Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas lights on Brazil's biggest Christmas tree. We live about 200 yards from Brazil's biggest Christmas tree. It`s not real, it's basically a big pole with Christmas lights hanging off it (see pic downloaded from today's local paper). This being "Natal" (which means Christmas in Portuguese) the city prides itself on being, and it's tourist industry is pleased to advertise the fact that it is, the best, most bright place in Brazil for the yuletide season. A huge Christmas tree used to reside in an open space near our house. It was taken down a few months ago. According to the neighbours - who know everything there is to know about everything - Rio de Janeiro recently erected a larger Christmas tree. And so, Natal not wanting to be outdone, pulled its own tree down (again, not a real tree) and stuck it over the other side of town. In it's place, the gargantuan monstrosity we see today. The thing really is huge. I have some video and pictures I'll try and post on here at some point. Last night, after the big party and official switch on, our bedroom, several streets away, was filled with the glow of flickering neon lighting. Natal won't be needing a lighthouse anymore.

Natal's golden gate bridge. Natal's townsfolk have been buoyed by several things in recent weeks. The promotion of ABC football team to the Brasilian Serie B, the new Christmas tree and also the completion of a huge suspension bridge over the bay. It is an awesome sight. I've driven over it, Theo walked over it. According to the newspaper, a drunk has already met a tragic end by falling off it. It is an impressive sight, although some Natalenses are disgruntled by all these expensive gimmicks - the tree, the bridge. It's an example of populist politics - keep the people entertained and happy and they won't notice the real problems of society. South American governments do not have the monopoly on this though - millenium dome and London eye, anyone?

First Certificate in English. The most popular English test for non-native speakers in the world is the Cambridge FCE. Today, I had to be invigilator for the students sitting this exam who I had lovingly nurtured toward this goal. It's not an easy test. You need to be close to fluent and have Advanced proficiency to do well. Put it this way, Nelson will be going to university by the time I can do in Portuguese what they do in English. The test takes two days to do - and we had a small administrative glitch when a 7th Day Adventist refused to do the test on Saturday. But, this bring Brazil, a way round was found... During the invigilation to keep myself from nodding off I got stuck into a novel that Theo had left for me. The surreal tragi-comedy "Confederancy of Dunces" by JK Toole. Anyone read it?

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