Saturday, May 31, 2008

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one.

9. The visitors. You may be surprised when I tell you there weren't any really. Family came of course, including Rach's Uncle, wife and kids from Joao Pessoa. But, everyone else stayed away from the hospital (again, not like York). When two from our church visited they were quite nervous and one of them refused to hold Gloria for fear of getting her dirty and making her ill. It turns out that in Brazil a lot of superstitions (probably rooted in a genuine desire to protect young life in a volatile environment) surround newborn babies especially to do with cleanliness and health. Non-family folks may be quite cautious and coy at first. Later some people visited us at our house and we took Gloria into the language school for everyone to see.

Friday, May 30, 2008

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one.

8. The spelling. Just a funny moment really stemming from my inability to communicate in Portuguese and the fact that Brazilians are not generally so pre-occupied with lexical accuracy in the same way we are in the UK. When Rach was half out of it prior to her epidural, one of the nurses kept trying to get Rachel's details down accurately for the paperwork. I shouted out the spelling to her and after several attempts at transcribing the name Rachel Barlow Maclure, the nurse confirmed she had it down straight. Two minutes later she proudly showed me the card with the name legibly written on it. It read: "Raquel Bally Macrura". Ahhh, yes, well. I politely explained it was nearly right but not quite right and wrote it down myself.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one.

7. The time-keeping. Doctors and cleaners appeared at all times of day and night and anyone was allowed to visit any time they wanted. Not like York at all where I wasn't even allowed to be with Rach overnight and could only be at her side at designated times.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one.

6. The noise. Not really the fault of anyone, I suppose, but the hospital was undergoing rennovation work while were there. I had to frequently shut the curtains to keep out any wayward stares from workmen traipsing around the roof outside. The drilling and the thumping impressed nobody from our party except Nelson.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one.

5. The accomodation. Post-birth, in Brazil you get your own room with ensuite bathroom. This wasn't the case for us in York.

Monday, May 26, 2008

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one.

4. The bedside manner. Whereas in the UK Doctor's are (I guess) trained to be courteous, serious and straightforward with their patients, Brazilian medics will generally try to treat you like their mate who they've just invited round for a barbecue. In other words it's all about rapport. 5 minutes before Rachel's c-section there was banter and laughter all through the theatre and the anesthetist kept trying his ropey English on me. The effect calmed Rach (thank goodness!) as it suggested these people were not worried about the procedure they were about to embark on. For me, it all seemed a bit flippant and unprofessional but then I am British after all.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one.

3. The mobile phones. In York, mobiles were banned in the maternity unit and I had to surreptitiously slip off to the loos to text and call a few people after Nelson was born. Not in Brazil. All doctors had their phones on and I had two in my pocket the whole time. Calls were going off every other minute and nobody batted an eyelid.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one.

2. The funny clothes. I had to dress up in silly sterile clothes which made me look like George Clooney (don't flatter yourself, Dave!) on ER.

Friday, May 23, 2008

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one.

1. The speed. When we arrived they checked Rachel out and then made her lie down on a bed (unlike in the UK where they kept her home and made her walk up and down the stairs!). Then after only half an hour they wheeled Rachel into surgery. Rach was going to try for natural birth if possible but I got a bit worried by the number of people who kept asking me if she was having a c-section. Finally, Rach's Doctor turned up so I felt happier somebody knew what they were doing. In the end, they gave Rach an epidural, and after waiting a while decided the baby wasn't coming down fast enough so opted for c-section. From arriving at the hospital at 7.30am, we had a baby by 11.30am. In the end, the c-section was for the best as Gloria was quite big and there was a knot in her umbilical cord which could have caused problems in a natural birth.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Amusing uses of English: spot the mistake. The picture is of a toy car Nelson got for Christmas. I only spotted the "mistake" a few months later, can you see it? Answers next week.

Today = Corpus Christi. Getting back into the swing of work hasn't been too easy but it's certainly made easier by the arrival of another strategically placed national holiday. On the agenda, trying to get us all out of the house to have lunch in a restaurant.

Chad. Trouble may be brewing in the African country my parents are in, so please keep them and it in your prayers. Updates on here when I get it.

10 reasons why having a baby in a Brazilian hospital is different to having a baby in an English one. Every day for the next ten days (if I can make blogger's delayed timed posting thingy work!) I'll put up a short bit about how this whole experience of having Gloria here in Natal differed to when Nelson was born in York. First one tomorrow.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Life goes on. Back at work today and in fact I'm writing this when I should be planning a lesson, but it's hard to get back into the rhythm after a great paternity leave. Rach is doing great, Nelson is swell and Gloria is lovely. Rachel's parents have gone well beyond the call of duty in helping us get this little life on the road and Rachel's brother came and paid a visit this weekend which was a lot of fun. More pictures have been added here. Gloria is sleeping very well and is even more chilled out than Nelson so we are enjoying a relative banquet of sleep right now!

Joy's done it again! If you enjoyed our friend Joy Simpson's paintings (still rotating in the slideshow to the right, I believe) you'll probably enjoy this. She's just put up the photos of her time in Brazil and they are stunning. They provide the best little window into (our) life in Natal that I've seen so far. Well worth a look here.

FA Cup Final. I really enjoyed watching the FA Cup final on Saturday and seeing one of my all time favourite football players get the match winner in probably one of his last seasons playing professionally. I even wrote an article about the main man Kanu over at if anyone wants to see it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sarah Sheeva the daughter of Baby Consuelo visits Gloria. Right, well this was out of left field but a relatively famous person in Brazilian pop culture stopped by for an evening with us recently. I had to do a bit of research on the internet to find out exactly who the socialite in my front room was, but this is the basic story.

Baby Consuelo/Baby do Brasil was a famous Brazilian singer, something of an institution I guess, with hits stretching back to the 60s. Her kids also formed music groups and bands and had moderately successful careers in Brazil. Anyway, sometime in the late 90s, Baby and several of her children and relatives converted in dramatic style to Protestant Christianity out of a lifestyle of dark religious practices and the excesses of a rock and roll lifestyle. The conversion was dramatic and long-lasting - Baby has stepped out of the music industry and is now a pastor in a church. Her daughter, Sarah Sheeva, who was a member of the pop trio SNZ along with her sisters also quit (much to the dissapointment of sections of her fans) and now takes up her time recording Christian worship music and touring doing evangelistic events.

Sarah was in Natal as part of one of these tours for a week of meetings that our church group had some hand in arranging. Of course, we were unable to attend because of the arrival of Gloria, so, instead, she visited us for a "quick visit" with a special view to meeting a new baby. Actually, the quick visit was definitely of the Brazilian variety in that it wasn't quick at all and it soon became a two hour sit down and chat about the state of the church in Brazil, the nature of conversion, the details of Sarah's family's past and present and the wonder and blessing of children. Sarah (who in terms of appearance could pass for a younger Cher) dominated the evening as I guess only a gifted evangelist with a history of performing on stages can - she spoke with real and heartfelt enthusiasm about what Jesus had done in her life. I couldn't catch everything she said in her southern Brazilian accent, but I was left with the enduring impression that this person's life had been totally turned around. The inexplicable, total, genuine and positive transformation of people by God is one of the most compelling evidences, in my opinion, of the reality of Christian truth. As Rachel later said - before she or her mother became Christians, you would be hard pressed to imagine a family in the Brazilian public eye further away from ever becoming believers. Their story is partly due to the witness of a family friend who committed to praying regularly for the family over a period of ten years.

So, above, a picture of Gloria mixing it with her famous friends. Sarah is the one holding Gloria. And here is a (kind of cheesey) video of Sarah in her hey-day as part of the trio SNZ, although she looks so much like her sisters I'm not sure who she is in the video!

ps. I tried to find some info on Baby, Sarah and SNZ on wikipedia but the only substantial articles were in Portuguese. SNZ is made up of the initials of the three sisters in the group - Sarah, Nana and Zabelle. As it happens, I discovered that SNZ is the name of an American music group and that the initials stand for something altogether more ridicilous.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Josef Fritzl, the German frozen babies, Isabella and Gloria Maclure. In the days and weeks leading up to the birth of our daughter the international media has been full of some of the most darkly disturbing crimes of abuse within the family. We have probably heard enough now about Josef Fritzl's basement prison and you may have heard about the case of three frozen babies discovered in Germany by their grown brothers and sisters who decided to clear their parents' freezer when they went to look for something to eat.

Brazil has been turned upside down by a crime which my father-in-law says has created a frenzy of public interest like he has never seen before. A father and step-mother were charged last week with the murder of 5 year old Isabella, strangled and then thrown from an apartment window several stories high. What connects all these stories is the fact that the purportrators of the crimes were moderately wealthy, middle class people who had none of the "excuses" that might accompany similar crimes in the favelas or war zones of the world. For me, it shows that the prize of development (which, for many socieities is to aim for middle class wealth-creation and to model themselves on liberal democracies of Europe) leaves gaping holes in "fixing" the human condition. It is a reminder that you cannot tame the potential evil of the human heart even for all the best political, educational and social programmes immaginable.

Having your own daughter born into this kind of news climate has left me asking (at least) three things: how could anyone do any of these things to their own children? How are we even supposed to live in a world where this kind of thing happens? How can I even possibly begin to be a parent to another real, feeling human life? The last question acknowledges that although I am unlikely to commit any crimes on the level of the people above, my best efforts are still thoroughly flawed and my children will have to grow up with the joys and pains, freedoms and traumas of having Dave Maclure as their father. In other words, fingers are pointing at me as much as to anyone else. This is at the basis of my faith as a Christian - all of us fall far short of the perfect standards required of a perfect God. This brings a possible answer to the second question above: how are we even supposed to live in this world? Well, as I see it, we begin to live in this world by looking to our Creator for guidance and salvation. In many ways, I have really struggled to maintain the disciplines of a Christian faith in Brazil mainly because kids knock you off your rhythm so frequently. However, I have never felt closer or more sure of my convictions as a Christian than in witnessing the many miracles that have surrounded the birth of my two children.

Things I miss about England #74: BBC news. As my Dad often says the British press are the best and worst press in the world. But, I'm sure they (save for the tabloids) would have dealt with the Isabella case in a more humane, impartial and level-headed way. The highly sensationalist accounts, the rather shallow journalism, the prime time interviews with the chief suspects and the violent scrum of cameras and microphones that accompanied the hand-cuffed, straight-jacketed parents had more in common with a Hollywood thriller than any John Humphreys Radio 4 piece. The problem was, I believe all this contributed to a mob mentality which resulted in some unfortunate and bizarre behaviour from the public. The apartment block where the killing occurred became a tourist attraction for hundreds of people to go and have their pic taken. Any car that came in or out of the block was set upon with billboards and stones. It was like something out of the Simpsons movie. Most unfortunately, "copy-cat" attempted murders of children allegedly occurred in different areas of Brazil.

Things I love about Brazil #99: soap operas. OK, so I don't really like Brazilian soap operas (except to help with my Portuguese) although Brazilians are famous for them, especially in China and Portugal apparently. Soap Operas here differ from the English variety by being always about the wealthiest sectors of society (Coronation Street / East Enders this is not) and they have a fixed duration usually of several weeks or months (Coronation Street / East Enders this is not). Anyway, the media circus surrounding the Isabella case utilised and pandered to Brazilians best soap opera-loving sentiments...

Gloria's status update: Gloria is sleeping. I've updated my post from a few days ago to include my daughter's weight and size details - important elements of information which some people like to know and I didn't have on me at the time.

Coming soon. The true story of how a famous Brazilian pop singer made a special trip to visit us in our home in order to see Gloria.

Laptop trouble. My laptop died a death a few months back and now the screen on Rachel's has gone on the blink. Until we get it repaired I am using my mother-in-laws to write these posts. What I'm saying is, my posts may be intermitent and sporadic in the next few weeks so bare with us! Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Life with 2 kids and a monkey. Just a quick update to let you all know how it's going over here. Gloria was kept in the hospital a while longer on account of her jaundice (inherited from me and my blood disorder, lucky girl). Anyway, by Saturday we were desperate to get everyone out of the hospital room. I likened being stuck in there to taking a long-haul flight. Limited in-flight entertainment, mass-produced food brought by uniformed staff and even the air-conditioner sound gave the impression of a high-altitude hum. The problem on Saturday was that Nelson came down with a high fever (fortunately, it doesn't seem to be dengue, the spread of which is a major concern to Natalenses). By Saturday evening we were all at home. Nelson passed the night without a fever which we were extremely grateful for and I passed the night so soundly asleep that Rach, on trying to wake me on three seperate occasion with the application of physical violence, was unable to stir me from my stupor. Today, Sunday we have been mostly in the house amid a chaotic cacophony of babies, push-chairs, nappies, toy cars and everything else.

All in all, I have enough material to fill three weeks of this blog so I'll have to try and get some of all this down over the next few days. One small anecdote for now. We were worried how Nelson would feel with the arrival of his new sister. We tried to soften the blow of his no longer being his parents and grandparents numero uno by having several gifts allegedly from his sister strategically given over the course of the last few days. Whether it was that or Nelson's good nature, he has so far really taken to the newest member of the family. Perhaps, we are still in the honeymoon period but he is excited to show his sister everything and always asks after her if she is not in the room when he comes in. He's fed up when she sleeps and doesn't play cars (see pic of the stash he let her borrow in her basket). To further manage the transition for him we simulate what is happening to the baby on his stuffed teddy "Monkey"(actually a hippo but who's to know?). Hence, the other pic above of a nappied Monkey sharing Gloria's basket.

All in all we've made it through our first day at home. As Becki Dean from York wrote on my facebook wall today: "Repeat after me... it gets easier, it gets easier, it gets easier".

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Gloria Safi Barlow Maclure.
Born May 7th, 11.27am by cesarean.
Weight 3.87kgs/8.5lbs. Length 49.5cm.
Mother and baby doing well.
Nelson a proud brother.
Me a proud Dad.
Pictures here.
Unlike most Brazilians, she arrived positively early.

Gloria. Because of the glory of God. This year has not been an easy one for some members of our family, close and extended. But we believe all things, from birth, through life to death occur for the ultimate glory of God.

Safi. A Swahili adjective meaning pure, clean, honest, decent.

Barlow. Rachel's maiden name which has to be included according to Brazilian law (and my wife's wishes).

Maclure. The best surname in the world.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Rachel is superwoman or "no babies were born during the making of this conference". I knew there was something good about my wife when I married her, but I had no idea about her special abilities to run a full-blown conference when 9 months pregnant. The Cultura Directors Conference which drew over 100 delegates from Brazil's four corners seems to have passed very well (save for the hired bus drivers bogging off just before delegates were to be taken to a Saturday night drinks do). My duties mainly involved baby-sitting Nelson and one or two of the other kids of the other delegates. I'm exhausted today but the one who really deserves a break is Rach. Next on the agenda for her: having a baby.

Things I miss about England #84: Custard. Especially when it's lavishly poured over a pub-menu sticky toffee pudding.

Things I love about Brazil #58: Puddings. There's an oft quoted maxim that says Brazilian go to restaurants for the desert trolley and not the main courses. That's because they have the sweetest of sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) in recorded history. A Brazilian recently asked me, "Dave, are you like me in that when you're eating your main course are you just thinking of the desert to come?". I replied: "No, when I'm eating desert, I normally wish I had had more main course".

The Brazilian deserts are an acquired taste - I would describe many of them as sickly sweet. Unlike British deserts which tend to be made out of pastry or eggs or flour, Brazilian puddings look and taste like a bowl of left-over icing or thick milky syrup. It's as if they've discovered that what people really like is licking the spoons that stirred the cookie mix and, so, geniuses that they are, they skipped the part where you have to cook anything and just put out the cookie mix to eat. Many popular puddings - such as doçe de leite (literally, "sweet of milk") or brigadeiro (pure chocolate balls) - are runny or pasty and extremely rich. The strangest one might have to be my wife's favourite, the local delicacy called cartola. Banana, cinnamon and melted cheese swimming in sugar served hot. Hmmmm, are you sure those combinations really work?

Anyway, Brazilians do not eat (and can't endure) spicy food at all - I think it's because all available taste buds have been harnassed into coping with the endless tide of sugar passing through their lug holes and over their tongues. But, like curry, it's possible to get accustomed to it, and after 18 months here I admit to being partial to the odd thing of three from the afters menu. And, due to the CDC conference with the all-inclusive hotel lunches, I've been making sure to visit the desert trolley to sample some of the delights on offer including passion fruit moose, cashew nut pies, cheese cake, chocolate cake, tapioca pudding or, my personal favourite, pudim de leite.

More extraordinary music. Did you listen to the songs on YouTube which I posted a few days ago? Well, I suggest you do (the first two are actually good) but no matter if you didn't, thanks to Felipe, one of my students who is a fan of forró music I was able to track down the clip I really wanted to post. I don't know why this makes me break out into fits of laughter. Maybe it's the cheesey and amateurish video which includes views of Recife's main tourist attractions, maybe it's the larger than life lead-singer with the flowing hair and the motorbike, maybe it's the way the "girl" reads the comic book on the sofa or maybe it's the butchering of the music to Robbie Williams' song Angels by the never-ending accordians and badly-played piano. Either way, it's a little window into what Brazilian chavs like to listen to. The outfit are called Desejo de menina (Desire of the girl) and the song is Minha alma gêmea é você (My soul is twinned with you). Click here and brace yourself to be impressed.