Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's raining, it's pouring... The rains in Natal have started earlier this year and last night the torrents didn't let up resulting in a city drenched and sinking by mid-morning. The bad news is that this means the dengue mosquitos which breed in stagnant water have a free ticket to reproduce and spread their nasty progeny about the town. The other bad news is that this isn't the rainy season "proper" yet and the forecast for this week is more rain.

The affects to us in our lives have been that getting to and from the language schools has been chaotic and my classes have been half-empty as students and their parents haven't braved it out. In truth, most schools had to cancel lessons because of flooding. At the Cultura unit in Tirol (on the other side of town) several classrooms had leaks, streams and puddles.

Meanwhile, down at the bottom of our road we spotted a commotion and found this car, a rather nice car, parked neatly in the middle of a lake (see above). But how did it get there? I could only assume the driver left it stationed without the handbrake on and the vehicle floated away from where he had pulled up. I got a few snaps of it and later that afternoon Rachel (accompanied by a deliriously excited Nelson shouting "Carro! Agua! Carro! Agua!) happened to go past as they were towing it out. They also got the inside story on what really occurred.

It turns out that the driver wasn't from this neighbourhood and when he drove down the road, early in the morning, the whole area, including the nearby houses and shops were covered with water. He decided to turn around and thought it easier to do a u-turn behind some parked cars. What he didn't realise - and you would only know this if you had seen the surroundings pre-flood - was that not everything is perfectly level whatever appearances may suggest. In fact, as he pulled off the pavement he unwittingly drove into a huge gulley some 10 or 15 feet deep that normally housed a sunken sandy football pitch when dry. In one of the pictures above you can just make out the top of the goal posts. He must have got the fright of his life when the ground gave way and his shiny car began to nosedive, submarine-like into unknown depths. It was actually pretty dangerous and it was good he got out OK and fortunate his car was not completely lost underwater. Whatever damage was done to his car (and to his groceries which were in the boot all day), it can't have been as much as the damage to his pride as a small crowd of tutting locals chortled about the incident by the roadside all morning. All I can say is that if it had been me, a gringo, doing this, I think Rachel and I would have had to pack up and move to another city to escape the shame.

Whether you see this story as a tragedy or a comedy, Rachel, with her keen business mind put a rather hard-nosed commentary on proceedings when she spotted that the car had sunk in front of a rival English teaching school. "Well, this will be in the papers tomorrow and that's free publicity for Wizard", she noted, tongue in cheek. Well, my dear, short of flooding the street where our language school is and sinking a client's parked car near the front gate there's not a lot we can do about that...

Throughout the day students were filling me in on their rain-related stories. Most seemed to think what was happening was pretty unusual and like nothing they had seen in recent years. One guy sounded astonished that the electricity was still working in the city (thank goodness, so far, it is!). One of my Master level students told a funny story about her day. Her street was badly flooded (one family had to be rescued by firemen from upstairs windows) and the rain started to make the electronic gate at her house go doolalley. In short, it would open and close with no notice whatsoever. And so, when on one occasion it uncerimoniously slid open, out trotted a barking troupe of her family's four dogs - a huge St.Bernard, two Yorkshire terriers and a Spaniel. Once out, they apparently terrorised an old lady walking by which in turn led to much confusion and shouting between the neighbours. All this just goes to show - when it rains big style in Brazil, it comes as close to an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world scenario as you can expect to see this side of the Second Coming.

I had a fever but, thank God, it wasn't dengue. Yesterday I had a nasty fever but I seem to be over it and I'm 99% sure I've escaped the dengue on this occasion as I had none of the associated symptoms of achiness, rashes or itching. My sister in law had this last year and she really suffered with it and Dad sent me an email this week to tell me he had had it in Africa once and that it was NOT FUN.

On a slightly lighter note... some of you readers out there have let me know that you like the Things I miss / Things I like series of posts that I occasionally do. Well, a complete list of what I've talked about so far is now included in the side panel (you see it if you scroll down). It is my ambition to complete all 100 of both lists before we leave Brazil so I mustn't slack on it.

Trip to Pipa. After all that, I don't have the time or space to write much about our weekend in Pipa. Well, all that needs to be said is that we got a great deal on a huge chalet overlooking a fantastic beach near some sand dunes. We really relaxed and recharged our batteries, I'd say.

The pros: great food in Pipa at an outdoor authentic Italian restaurant overlooking the bay and a seafood restaurant (Octopus rice anyone?) which also served the best shrimp pastries I've ever eaten. On Monday we met up with Rach's parents and young Nelson and visited a gorgeous little restaurant/club at Ponta da Pirambu near Pipa. It easily makes our top 5 list of Natal "secrets" and anyone coming to visit us will be taken here for an afternoon. Also, we saw some great scenery and wildlife - butterflies, iguanas, beaches, dunes etc.

The cons: when we arrived at our hotel they offered us a free courtesy fruit juice. We waited half an hour and it never came. Ahem, I think we can do better than that. Also, breakfast was outside but whenever we both left our table unattended to get some more food or drink, our plates were attacked by flocks of birds. And lastly at the Italian restaurant, a gust of wind (which could have been borrowed from a slapstick comedy film) blew a 20 bob note out of my hand and over the balcony and far away into the night air as I was counting up the bill. I had a good look around to see if the restaurant had installed a special set of fans near the tables as part of some cunning ploy - perhaps, they have some lackey running the street below collecting airbourne money. Maybe, it's their way of ensuring the waiters get healthy tips. Well, whatever, somebody will find it and it will make their day I suppose .

5am. I started writing this post at 5am because I couldn't go back to sleep after Nelson woke up. Must get nap later.

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