Thursday, January 31, 2008

A cute person (and her parents). Danny and Caz and Gracie are on the flight on their way back to lil ol England and we are left to miss them. Gracie is arguably one of the cutest babies I have ever seen - perhaps, the prospect of being a Dad to a little girl has made me soft for this sort of thing, but she is well behaved, cheerful, boisterous and even when she cries it doesn't seem to annoy me too much. The Byrnes are lucky to have a little one like Gracie. In the week they were here we managed to cram in a fair bit of beach, eating, "bladder boy" (1 on 1 football), swimming, praying, laughing, Top Trumps, Rummikub and lots else besides. It was an exhausting (because of the two kids) but also refreshing (because of the good company) week.

An important person. On Tuesday, I had the final private English lesson with a Brazilian state prosectutor (criminal lawyer for the state of Rio Grande de Norte) called Marcelo Alves. Marcelo is a very impotant man: the son of a parliamentary deputy, an author and an expert on Brazilian law. Marcelo is applying for a PhD in the UK and wanted me to help him with a telephone interview. His interview was only about 10 minutes long and we prepared for 10 hours, 1 hour per minute. He had good English, probably upper intermediate to advanced but he wanted to brush up.

I have never seen anyone - at least in Brazil - with this sort of drive, determination and initiative in planning for the next step of a career. He photocopied the entire book - on French Law - written by the professor who was giving the interview for me to read. We researched her life and career so as to have as much inside knowledge as possible. I wrote out key phrases and questions for him to use in his interview. We emailed the professor's secretary and recieved some pointers for what the interview would be about. He subsequently wrote mini-essays answering each point to help clarify his thinking on the subject. My final lesson with him was to be taken to his office where the call was to be made for the interview. We talked law for 30 minutes to get him used to speaking English and then he made the call at 9am Brazilian time. I could tell he was nervous but he did fine, and it was gratifying to see him using some of the notes I had prepared for him. In reality the interviewer herself spoke for more of the 10 minutes than Marcelo did. As soon as the call ended he unleashed a barrage of Portuguese at me unintentionally - a reflex for having had to work so hard in English, I guess. A decision about his PhD will be emailed to him next week.

Marcelo kindly gave me a copy of his book "De Precedente Judicial a Sumula Viculante" (On the judicial precedent in the Sumula Viculante). He inscribed a message for me which reads: "For David, my teacher and friend. Your help was fundamental to my PhD. I hope". I will put him in touch with friends of mine in London should his application be successful. In the meantine he has promised to take me to a football match here in Natal where I think the language spoken should be solely Portuguese for my benefit.

Speaking of "my benefit", I came to see the 10 hours with Marcelo as something like a private crash course for me in the theory of law. I knew almost nothing about this beforehand, but now because of our conversations and the book I read I feel I know a fair bit about English law, French law and Brazilian law. It's actually all fascinating, but like many things, it's nice to enjoy it from a distance. I'm certainly not about to embark on a law career.

A famous person. David Beckham was in Natal last weekend promoting a new football Academy he is launching in Brazil and lots else besides. A good article about why he was here and what he plans to do in Brazil can be read at The Times website. It's another example of how the beauty of Natal is attracting international attention from the rich and famous. There is a sense in the city that Natal is about to be launched headlong into the 21st Century and it's status as a quiet seaside town with miles of unspoiled, uncrowded, stunning beaches is going to be radically changed. In case you're interested we made no real effort to see the world's most famous footballer in person. Actually information was very thin on the ground beforehand - for security reasons, probably. The date most of the papers predicted his arrival was to be the 29th of January (he was actually here two days earlier). I contacted a student of mine who works at the airport to see if she could let me in on where and when he would be arriving but she knew nothing about it. But, if the article above is to be believed, Beckham will be based here in some shape or form for the forseeable future. If so, Rachel is already working on a business plan to get Cultura Inglesa language schools working on teaching English to those who will seek employment in this new complex. Perhaps, we can wrangle a photo opportunity with the man himself... watch this space.

A crazy person. Danny and Caz and I went on the sand dune buggy ride - the same thing I did with Ruth Leckenby and both Tom and Theo. This time we had Edson Careca (Careca = baldy) as a driver. He wore something like a black hunting hat to protect his scalp from the sun and he carried a crooked, yellowing smile beneath his shades. We asked him to drive "com emoçao" (with emotion) over the dunes and he certainly didn't dissapoint. Caz had to have a lie down when she came in. I think I had whiplash.

A superstitious person. Macumba is a form of spiritist belief which originates from Africa. I don't know too much about it but it seems to have a lot of connections with witchcraft and voodoo. So, this week I was surprised to find evidence of Macumba practices as I went about my job teaching English. The situation was this: when I went with Marcelo the lawyer (see above) to help him with his interview he used the office of a colleague of his, evidently a high powered woman who was also a state prosecutor. Her room had the usual regalia - pictures of her with her children, law books, paintings, art. But, I noticed something else there too. A small table, like a coffee table, covered in trinkets of various kinds, some kind of prayer written out on a plaque, an image of her with an ornately dressed African man and the centrepiece - a small box full of sand with colourful stones inside and a small stick for stirring them around. Back at home Rachel confirmed to me that this would almost certainly be the paraphanalia of Macumba.

It may be surprising to Brits that an educated and influential person whose job emphasises the application of logical reasoning would be tangled up in a set of practices more associated with African tribesman. On the other hand, it's not surprising at all. It's just another example of how Brazilians are a deeply spiritual and superstitious people.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Byrne baby Byrne. Danny, Caz and Gracie all arrived last Thursday night and we've had a great weekend with them here in Natal. As I write this it's not even 6.30am and Gracie is up talking merrily to herself while Danny feeds her a weetabix breakfast. The tropical rain is pouring in torrents but will probably stop within half and hour.

The Byrnes have done ever so well bringing a 9 month old to Brazil. It's just that it's so hot it seems impossible to avoid a little bit of sunburn even with the factor 50 slapped on and copious sitting in the shade. So today we'll be going to Midway Mall to soak up the air conditioning followed by a couple of hours in the leafy bliss of Parc de Dunas this afternoon. Babysitter extraordinaire - Rach's Mum - is around leaving the prospect of Danny, Caz, Rach and I to go out for an eat-all-you-can meat-on-spits dinner tonight, so it should be a good day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

5 reasons why the last two days have been quite memorable.
1. Last night was another scorcher in Natal. We had the fans on full. 3am, I am awoken by Nelson crying. Then Rach notices our fan is not working and then a quick glance out the window revealed Brazil's biggest Christmas tree (about 150 yards from our house and which stays lit all year round) had been turned off. Nelson's fan was off too and the poor lad was dripping with sweat. He drank two bottles of water to cool down. At about 4am the electricity kicked back in and was greeted by whoops of joy up and down the street as fans and air conditioners spluttered back into life. Am exhausted today.
2. We have Lightning McQueen! In our bid to collect all the dinky cars based on the characters of the Disney/Pixar film Cars, we had hit a snag when all the toy shops in Natal sold out of the model vehicles. But they got a new stock in yesterday and Rach was the first customer, so we got Lightning McQueen and Sally! Now we need Mater, Chick, the Sherriff and Flo to really make the collection... and Rach has already reserved her favourite: the tractor. Nelson is delighted, but his parents are ecstatic.
3. Heath Ledger R.I.P. and he was only 28. I am 28 this year and it is a little odd hearing about the passing away of a contemporary. A tragedy.
4. Good news: Joy Simpson has confirmed she is coming to stay with us in Feb. Her tickets are booked. We love it when people visit!
5. Spurs beat Arsenal 5-1 and it only took them 9 years to do it. Actually, in a strange way it's better the Gunners lost properly rather than by a jammy scramble in injury time, that would've been more annoying. We were thumped, they wanted it more, simple as that. But we will beat them again, oh yes. And remember, we were fielding our b team...

Just a reminder to check out the last post if you missed it, especially the "Ethical Dilemma" bit. Ross Wintle has kindly put up some excellent extra thoughts. Anyone else?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It is hot. Natal is nearing the end of it's summer season before the rains kick in. Right now we have some scorching heat and no breeze and not enough rain to keep the temperature down. We sleep with no duvet or blankets, just a sheet and sometimes not even that. If one has to go outside for any length of time one ends up sweating like a pig. Scratch that. Like a pig on a spit over an open flame. Scratch that. Like a pig on a spit roasting over an open flame at a Brazilian churrasco (BBQ) out of the shade at mid-day in the Sahara desert...

Yippee!! Danny and Caz arrive on Thursday.

Yippee!! We found Nelson's blue Mr. the King Dinoco toy car. We thought he had lost it or thrown it in the bin. It was under his car seat. He and his Dad are very happy!

Ethical dilemma. Here's one for you all. Several times a month somebody will come and knock on our door begging, asking for food or money. Each time this happens it sends my head spinning as I have to confront (in the midst of a haze of guilt and frustration) questions like - are they for real? What should I give? How do I talk to them clearly when I don't know Portuguese too well? I know my folks in Chad have to deal with us to an extreme level, and I think my African upbringing has often made me a bit callous to the endless calls for help. I am tempted to shut the door a little too often. This year one of my new year's resolutions is to have greater generosity. Rachel and I live the lives of an exclusive proportion of the country who have access to the best amenities, restaurants, education, housing etc. How can I help Brazil's needy? How can I make sure my motivations are genuine in light of my faith? How does all that correspond to the knock at the door from the man claiming he needs a bus fare to get back to the interior after he has (allegedly) had his appendix removed in Natal?

Generally, my policy has been - give to organisations who are equipped to deal with these problems but still be open to dealing with each person on a case by case issue. For example, I am more likely to give to women rather than to the young man with an empty beer can in his hand (but even then I ask myself if I am judging too much by externalities - what do I really know about these peoples situations and should it even matter?).

This was all brought to a head recently when a chap came round offering to clear up the grass at the front of our house for some cash. I like this, I thought, because he wants to work for his money. But, he came at an awkward time as I was on my way out and I ended up paying him 10 Reais (which is all I had on me) when it should've been only 5. Then I went out for the afternoon and Rach came in. He shows up again later and says to Rach that he cleared our grass but didn't get paid. Rach gives him 5 Reais. So, in the end he got 3x as much money from us as we were willing to give. Rach was (is!) livid and claims she's going to give this kid a piece of her mind next time she seems him. Well, he must plucky, gutsy or crusing for a brusing but he showed up very early one morning last week asking for money for his bus fare because he was hard up. Rach was asleep and so I had to deal with him at the doorstep. I didn't have the Portuguese in me to get into a quarrel with him about how he duped us out of our cash so I just said no thanks and closed the door. Two days later he shows up again, but again Rach can't speak to him cos she's in the shower. I tell him to go away. And this weekend I was home alone and he showed up again and I turned him away. What should I do? And why does he keep coming here when Rach isn't available?

The parables and stories of Jesus are full of examples of generous gestures pushed to the point of irrationality - the woman who pours expensive perfume on Jesus' feet is seen as being in "the right" rather than the accountant's view that the money used from the sell of the perfume should be given to the poor. There are plenty of good arguments about good stewardship, not wanting to foster dependency, careful and sensible giving that can be made for not giving to every beggar who comes by the door, but how much do these points stifle generosity for it's own sake and put us on the other side of what a generous God would really want from us?

Also, the gospel accounts explain that we should treat others how we should be treated and that God frowns severely on those who are not forgiving to others when they have recieved forgiveness themselves. How many times have I done something wrong and been rescued by the generosity and forgiveness of others who don't slam the door in my face just because I erred once, not least from God Himself? Perhaps, I should give this kid a break - or as he burnt his bridges forever by cheating us out of 10 Reais? Again, why not be generous? Also, the gospel accounts also talk about the persistant widow who was granted what she wanted because she wouldn't stop banging on the rich guy's door. Persistance is seen as a good thing for the poor to be doing, so at what point do I stop shutting the gate in this chap's face and give him the benefit of the doubt? The cost to me is really insubstantial too...

After I turned him away this last time, I did feel convicted that I should've at least given him some food, even if not money. I don't know if he will show up again. On Sunday another lady came begging with her 3 year old son. She was courteous and polite and not given to nagging. I gave her 2 Reais and her son a toy car that I knew Nelson would not miss (actually the car had been passed onto him by another generous older kid - keep the generosity flowing, I say). But even then I found myself asking - am I only giving to her to appease my conscience because I turned somebody away yesterday?

Being confronted with the poor is not easy, and making clear and biblical and helpful decisions about a response is perhaps even harder. It's easy to see how many people run away from this - buy a high apartment in a closed compound far away from the rabble, give to charity and wash your hands of it, ignore all requests for help and get on with life. But these are all ways to stop responding, and surely attempting to respond is an essential first step?

Two interesting articles that I have read online that tackle some of these questions form a Christian point of view are here - at Relevant Magazine ("I turned down Jesus") and here at the Other Journal ("Revolution without Cost"). The first is a personal account of a guy working with the poor and the struggles he faces with his own attitude toward them and the second is a critique of the RED campaign - basically a way for consumers to help the world's poor without any loss to themselves. Both are interesting reads if you have the time.

Leave comments if you have any solutions/thoughts/experiences you want to share on this thorny ethical issue.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Uma menina! Rach's scan today revealed our next baby will be a girl. But they said that last time and look what happened...

Friday night, writing tests. Rach is away for the weekend with Nelson in Recife and so I have the place to myself, to relax and... write tests on Friday evening. I'm trying to get ahead on my jobs before the new semester so I can have some time free with Danny, Caz and Gracie when they arrive next Thursday. I'll fix some pancakes later, that will ease the mindnumbing boredom.

Amusing uses of English: the Christmas card. A few weeks late, but no less funny. I was sorting out my things from before Christmas and found a card one of my students wrote me. The context: in one of the last classes of term I got the students to make and write cards for each other, secret Santa style. The other part of the activity was that there was a pile of random pictures and they had to pick one as a fake present that would be appropriate for the person their card was for. I joined in the festivities and Paula, a feisty teenager who is actually exceptionally good at English, decided to give me a picture of a teddy bear and wrote this unedited, unequivocal message in her card to me. (For extra points, spot Paula's reference to a Genesis song which we listened to in class).

Dear Dave,

I could buy you some shoes or shirts, maybe a ball, but only because you forced me to make this activity I won't. For punishment, my gift will be the most "no-masculine" gift possible: in Christmas you'll have cute pooh teddy. Look how happy the money is crazy about going to your arms. Now, seriously, teacher, "I can't dance, I can't talk" and I can't draw or make gay* cards but I can write. That's all I wanted to write to you: you are such a fantastic person (if I was better with English words I would choose a lot of other good adjectives).

Have a merry Christmas,

*sorry about the word, teacher.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Parabens para voce: the Brazilian children's party experience. One thing that is a given about being a Dad is that vast chunks of your time are spent doing things you would not normally have chosen to do. This week Nelson had 3 birthday parties to go to and I was there for each one. I shouldn't be bitter though. If it weren't for Nelson, Rach and I wouldn't have a night life.

Brazilian children's parties are something else. They tend to happen in the evening, usually starting at the time Nelson would probably go to bed. Like a wedding, the evening concludes with the cutting of the cake, often ornately decorated. This can happen quite late - just when the kids are at their most wired, unruly and dazed. Goody bags loaded with sweets are given to each of the kids who attend, just to tip them over the edge into oblivion. Unlike my childhood where sweets were an extreme luxury and I was only allowed like one every other month, Brazilian children are fed a steady diet of processed sugar until they are adults at which point they have the right to choose their own sweets. Nelson probably falls in the middle of these two experiences, but needless to say the top deck of our fridge is loaded with the goody bags of many a birthday party and Nelson is always trying his luck for a lolly pop or a packet of M&M's. The last thing that should be said about Brazilian parties (and I am now a certified expert) is that a party is not a party without at least one TV blaring out at top volume the sing-a-long karaoke tunes of that most surreal of Brazilian personalities: the blond bombshell herself, the perennial children's TV presenter Xuxa*.

I have decided to rate this week's parties based on these criteria: timekeeping, food, company, location and venue, entertainment, goody bag quality and of course the Xuxa factor.

Party A: Monday night. Jercia, aged 2.
Timekeeping. The cutting of the cake happened probably half an hour too late at sometime after 9pm. Everyone was exhausted. 2/5
Food. Nice finger food - coxinhas and brigadeiro - and a plate of rice and corn. 4/5
Company. Jercia (who up until that evening we'd thought was called Jessica) is the daughter of a neighbour so it was nice to hang out with the other folks on our street including the Mum of Nelson's "girlfriend" Bia. 4/5
Location and venue. In our neighbour's house. Being close enough to our house was an advantage. When Nelson had had enough and wanted his bed, he waddled over to our house and rapped on the gate. 4/5.
Entertainment. One of Jercia's cousins was dressed as a clown, which Nelson loved. The other kids were good value and Nelson seemed to be at home. 4/5.
Goody bag quality. Jercia's family are quite devout Catholics and they provided quite a snazzy zip bag with a Bible verse on and Jercia's name. Inside the bag, of course, was sweets. 5/5.
Xuxa Factor. The TV was on, and Xuxa was strutting her stuff. 5/5.

Party B: Thursday night. Felipe, aged 2.
Timekeeping. The cutting of the cake happened probably an hour too late at sometime after 9.30pm. Everyone was exhausted. 1/5
Food. Waitor service, with pizzas, hot dogs, popcorn. To drink the Dad's were offered whisky. 4/5
Company. Generally, this was a huge gathering of some quite posh folks who we did not know so well. Rach did a good job talking to the other Mums, but I found it all a bit stifling. 3/5
Location and venue. In a huge party venue, with dance room, games room, swimming pool (not used on the night). Less than 10 minutes drive from house. 4/5.
Entertainment. They had everything here - trampoline, trampo-bungee thing, a room of balls, a climbing wall, a doll's house, arcade games, and everything was themed around the film "Cars" much to Nelson's delight. Huge soft toys modelled on the films characters were everywhere, awesome! 5/5.
Goody bag quality. A bag of sweets in a toy truck. 4/5.
Xuxa Factor. Music in the dance room was by Xuxa, but no TV. 2/5.

Party C: Saturday night. Lukas, aged 5.
Timekeeping. The cutting of the cake was late but not too late. 3/5
Food. Excellent home made grub, including some special brothy soup which was Lukas' Grandmum's homemade dish. Lukas' Grandpa kept my glass topped with cool beer. 5/5
Company. Lukas' Mum (Giane) is a secretary at the Cultura language school, and although we didn't know anyone else, these were "pessoas simples" (down to earth folk), mostly family and very friendly. The comical moment of the evening for me was when Lukas' great Uncle arrived in his jeep from a day fishing, got out and strolled into the party wearing his speedos and a vest top. Now, that's how to dress for a party! 4/5
Location and venue. In Giane's house. It took us half an hour to get there, and Nelson was grumpy about that. Rach had to ask directions about half a dozen times. It wasn't her fault - Brazilians tend to give directions even if they don't know the way, but we worked it out eventually, thank God. 2/5.
Entertainment. Balloons and the great Uncle's jeep. What more could you ask for. 4/5.
Goody bag quality. Lots of sweets. 3/5.
Xuxa Factor. The TV was on, and Xuxa was blaring out at a volume that impeded normal conversation. 7/5.

*Xuxa has been around on TV since the 1980s and is an institution in Brazil and one of the country's wealthiest citizens. Rach said she remembered Xuxa on TV - in particular, the bit where Xuxa dances out of a space ship. I found the very clip on YouTube here. It is dreadful, and there's something not quite right about the young girls' costumes. Xuxa is a controversial character, and has been accused of "over-sensualising" adolescents in her videos. The writers of the Simpsons parodied this aspect of Xuxa's act in the infamous "Simpsons in Brazil" episode, which was subsequently banned in Brazil. And, I found that very clip on YouTube too.

And that will do for today's post...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Back at work #1. Nelson's playgroup is off for January so I am on part time baby-sitting duty as Rachel works in the morning. I'm actually really enjoying it - it's demanding and involves a lot of walking around in circles but I get to play with dinky cars again, paddle in swimming pools and go to the arcades and toy shops with a smashing young man. I was thinking the other day about the different roles a Dad of an 18-month-old is expected to fulfil. Some of these are mechanic (of broken toy cars), constructor (of ramps), technician (of DVD player to watch Cars film), doctor/nurse (of scraped knees and banged heads), luggage carrier (of stuff - you should see what ends up in my pocket at the end of the day), lifeguard, fridge opener, teacher, supplier of coconut water, cleaner, cook, driver, stylist, dentist etc.

I think on balance I am probably an OK Dad - I spend a lot of time with Nelsinho and try my best to involve myself in what he likes to do but of course I make some schoolboy errors and sometimes run out of things to talk about to a boy with a vocabulary of less than 25 words. (You should see Rach though, I don't know how she does it - she and Nelson rabbit on all afternoon!). However, I know that despite my best efforts I will never really be up to scratch in the eyes of Brazil's women. They are already suspicious that as a guy I would be spending so much time doing what traditionally is the role of women. And as a male GRINGO they are convinced I am a liability at best in my parenting. Ever since we got to Brazil, I have had to get used to a barrage of comments coming from every other woman I pass during the day that Nelson is too cold, too hot, too sweaty (but it is 40C!), not sweaty enough, sleeping too much, not sleeping enough, doesn't have shoes on but should, does have shoes on but shouldn't, needs a shirt, take off his trousers, give him some cake, why not have a bath. Occasionally, I have had him pulled straight out my arms and shipped straight to the nearest sink for a hosedown via the kitchen for some cookies by some well-meaning Brazilian grandmother.

Anyway, today the Brazilian women had something to write home about and were no doubt left wondering how Nelson would survive another 10 minutes in my care. This morning at the house, my son and I were all set for a game of cars on the step outside the front. I turn my back for half a second to bolt the gate open only to find the guy has flung himself from the top of the third step and is lying spreadagled on the pavement with a menacing shiner on his forehead. If my guilt wasn't enough I have had to endure the non-stop tutting of the Natalense female populace... But, I guess I am not the victim here: Nelson dusted himself off pretty well and once the DVD of Cars was on he had forgotten all about it.

Back at work #2. I'm also doing some English lessons although the semester doesn't start for real until February. This week I've been giving a crash course in TOEFL to half a dozen students. I asked one of them about her extended family during a lesson. "I have an enormous family", she said. "I am one of 56 grandchildren that my grandmother has". Astonishing! I'll note that on my blog, I thought to myself...

Danny and Caz and Gracie to visit Natal. This is unspeakably good news! For a week at the end of January more great buddies will be out here to visit us.

Siasen's video. I have a good pal who is studying Film in London. Here is one of his creations on YouTube. Please leave constructive comments for Siasen about what you think of his short film. Siasen also seems to be the principal actor - the dude has talent!

Leckenby Pics. Ruth, some of your pics are revolving nicely in the little slideshow to the right.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

5 lessons about life I learned over Christmas and New Year...

1. When you are 90, you can be late for your own party. Just before Christmas Nelson's great great Grandma celebrated her 90th birthday. On the big day the family had booked a function room. After lunch people were beginning to scratch their head - everyone was around, but where was the lady herself, Bemvinda. When somebody went round to her house to pick her up she allegedly wasn't there, rumoured to be at the hairdresser. Eventually, the AWOL matriach was located and she turned up in time for a special church service in her honour. It was a great occasion, click here for some excellent pictures taken by a relative of Rachel's which give an idea of the day.

2. The great thing about being a Dad to a little boy is I can enjoy his presents. Nelson has been totally in love with the Disney Pixar film "Cars" after his Grandmum bought him the DVD a couple of months ago. Christmas presents this year featured matchbox versions of the films characters much to Nelson's (and his Dad's) delight. We have a way to go to collect the whole set but we're on the way. I bought Nelson two yesterday and he practically arm-wrestled the shop assistant in the Toy Shop for the packages before they were paid for. Secretly, I was as excited as him. Nelson also got a remote control car for Christmas (yeeessss!!!!) and a model garage with ramps (hoorraayyy!!!!!).

3. Anglicans do Christmas very well. I probably knew this already, but when in Recife we attended the Anglican church in Piedade we had gone to when we first arrived in Brazil. Rach and I loved it and felt transported briefly into the pews of St.Mikes once more.

4. Children don't respect a lie-in on New Years day. After watching Recife's fireworks from the roof of Rachel's apartment block, I made it to bed quasi-comotose at 1am. Nels was up like a spark at 5.30am wanting to play with his new toys and run around with the two miniature schnauzers. As I said at the time, "Nelson, you have the crazed look of a boy who hasn't had enough sleep and has had too many presents". Between the hours of 5.30am and 8.30am I baby-sat the lad while the whole world slept. Nelson zonked out for a nap at the end of that time and I took the opportunity to catch some shut-eye too.

5. T-shirts are the standard Christmas gift in Brazil. Whereas it may be wooly socks or ties in England, a T-shirt is the covers-all-bases present for Brazilians. As the gringo of the family who people are still unsure of what to buy, I got a host of most excellent cotton T-shirts.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hello 2008! Am back in Natal after a crazy 12 days on the road having Christmases and New Years and an all round good time. Lots to say, but I haven't the time right now. Just wanted to point out the swish slideshow function that blogger has now (over here>). The pictures are taken by visitors to us in Brazil... the northeast through the eyes of gringos. Hopefully, it will convince any of you waverers to come and visit.