Friday, June 27, 2008

Can`t talk now. Moving house, having meetings, no time for internet. More news very soon!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Amusing uses of English: Lucas' test. I'm just marking tests from my Upper Intermediate 2 group and I came across a gem from Lucas, a half-Japanese, half-Brazilian teenager. I simply had to put it on here for a wider audience to enjoy. I've written it out all below including his errors. His answer moves from the amusing to the surreal to the sensible. I gave him a mark of 17/20. Some accuracy problems, but he was creative!

Question: Write about this topic - Men and women: differences and similarities. Mention personality, characteristics, natural talents, job situations, basic rights etc.

Women's bathroom, men's bathroom.

Men and women don't have many differences, both of them have legs, arms, nose and eyes. But what I can't understand is why the bathrooms are so different? The men's bathrooms are, usually, small have few toilets and sinks. Whatever the women's bathrooms have more of all of it and, sometimes, have chairs or puffs, to they relax.

Differences like this make our minds work in opposite way. Men have a global view, they can look and remind stuffs. They have a better concentration when working at one thing like reading or listening to musics. Women have a better close view. They can find the butter, when the man was looking it for a long time, and it was in front his nose, and their can pay attention in a lot of things: take care the baby, and the dinner and answer the phone in the same times.

Our culture doesn't use the best talents of men and women. In the job, men earn more than women, in spite of the fact they work together, in the same department. If we could be able to use the differences, probably the world will be better, very better.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Proud parents of rapidly growing kids. Nelson had the party for his 2nd birthday at school. It was the earliest party I've been to (9am in the morning!) but it's a cheap way to have a festa. All his pals are already there, the school has a function room and we provide decorations and snacks. The theme for the day was, obviously, the Cars movie so Nelson was resplendent in McQueen shirt and cap and the walls were decked with figures from the film. All of us had a great time and Nelson seemed to be in seventh heaven with the unexpected coming together of his favourite things - family (his Aunt was back from the UK for it too), cars, food and friends. Some short videos of the festivities are here on YouTube.

I have to say, and I know I'm biased, but I was really amazed at how Nelson related to his peers. His best friend Rafa was there (the only other blondie in the school - perhaps the two of them are a support group) which he was happy about and of course the two of them had a great time together. But, it was also how mcuh more on the ball Nelson seemed and quick to pick up new tricks (he could blow bubbles, the other kids couldn't) or follow the lead in a new game. However, if we're worried about Nelson being a SuperKid we should probably take medication because Gloria is breaking records with her development. At the Doctor's yesterday and they weighed and measured her. She's in the top 5% for her age for weight and the top 2% for height at a whopping 56cms long already! She's a beast! Those 3 month baby grows are already looking like shrinkwrap on her...

Weekend of chaos/fun. It's Rachel's granny's 80th and so there is a big shindig down in Joao Pessoa on Saturday evening and Sunday. I have to wear a suit - that's the first time anyone has insisted on this here in Brazil, but if you turn 80 you can call the shots at your party, I guess! I will come back to Natal alone on Sunday night and try to move us to our new apartment while Rach and the kids hang out in Recife. I'll be abley assisted by three salt-of-the-earth Brazilian chaps who I have trouble understanding and who have trouble understanding me.

Mum and Dad. Quick shout out for prayer for Ma and Pa in troublesome Chad. Rebels on the move again although so far they're far from the capital and there is no immediate threat.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ninho and Gloria. Oddly, we have decided to name our children after Brazilian milk brands. For a while Nelsinho couldn't say his name properly, skipping the middle syllable, and so referring to himself as simply Ninho. Ninho, randomly, also means "nest" in Portuguese. Anyway, the powdered milk brand we use for Nelson is called Ninho and the regular milk we use for us is called Gloria. I can assure you this was all purely coincidental although if we were to have another kid in Brazil we've got the name UHT Parmalat semi-desnatado in mind, and for back in the UK we think Tesco 2L green top would do for either a boy or a girl.

Special thanks to Danny and Caz for sending us this pic this week. They took it here in Brazil when they visited in January.

Things I miss about England #27: toasters and electric kettles. For making toast and tea, obviously. I forgot to mention it in my last post about breakfast.

Things I love about Brazil #14: black beans, brown beans and green beans. Beans in all their colours and varieties are the staple and national food of Brazil. Many a Brazilian football player has bemoaned the lack of good beans in Europe. It is said to be the main reason Romario returned to Brazil early in his career. I have taken to beans in a big way (especially the green variety), although a week of just beans does extraordinary things to, let's say, one's "pipes". After Nelson was ill a few weeks ago his appetite returned with vociferous force and he got very grumpy one lunch time when we hadn't got round to fixing him his "almoço". So, we took him to the local Brazilian eatery round the corner and he troughed a man-sized portion of beans, rice and farofa (kind of floury stuff people put on beans), all washed down with some coconut water. How ever are we going to get him his favourite meal when we move to the UK?

Family. Rachel's Dad has been here helping us out with the 2 kids and Rach's Mum arrives tonight. Excitingly, Amy is coming back from the UK for 2 weeks so we'll go pick her up from the airport on Sunday night. Having said all that, Gloria is little trouble and not a cause for much concern. She has slept through from 11pm to 5am already much to Rachel's delight. I, on the other hand, have a son whose sleeping habits are more like mine than his mother's - what are mornings for if not to play? If Nelson wakes up after 4am it is difficult to convince the boy that going back to sleep is a better idea than drawing cars. The fun started at 4.45am today and I'm knackered. Rachel and Gloria were both still in the land of nod at 7am. Why I outta...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Things I miss about England #34: People know how to park (mostly). I've been wanting to post a picture of some of the abysmal Brazilian parking I've come across but I never really have my camera handy when I'm pulling up at a supermarket. Fortunately, today, I did. See above and take note of the direction of the painted car parking spaces and then laugh at the way the car is parked perpendicular to the spaces in question. I think I've quoted Prince Philip's infamous and unpolitically correct quip elsewhere on this blog: "That box looks like its been wired by an Indian" but I frequently find myself saying, "That car looks like its been parked by a Brazilian!". Altogether now, to the tune of "walk like an Egyptian" lets all "park like a Brazilian!". But then again, who said the English could park a car.

Things I miss about England #45: Breakfast. I just can't seem to find a quick, tasty and filling way to have breakfast here in Natal. When I ask my students in class about what they ate for breakfast most return blank stares and say coffee, water, milk or maybe bread and cheese. Breakfast just isn't done here like it is back home.

So, things I miss about England #s 46, 47, 48, 49, 50 and 52 are: fresh mushrooms (not available in Natal - surely, a crime!), baked beans, fresh milk (for tea and cereal), good quality cereal (the best cereal here is extortionately priced, doesn't even taste too good, especially with non-fresh milk), fresh bread (Brazilian bread is OK, but it still doesn't beat a loaf of Tesco no frills white) and lastly sausages (Brazilian sausages are in the Vauxhall Conference compared to English Premier League sausages). Like Mev used to say when he was here, the first thing I'm doing when I get home is having a real fry-up with real bread and a cup of freshly brewed tea...

Things I love about Brazil #46: Breakfast. OK, OK, somethings about Brazilian breakfasts are OK. In fact, I contradict myself if I say I dislike Brazilian breakfasts as I positively sang their praises back in November 2006. The main problem for me is that they it's usually accompanied by an inordinate amount of faff in order to get things ready and also fresh fruit, although nice, often goes off quickly. However, if one has the time one can make juice from frozen pulps (Things I love about Brazil #85: frozen fruit pulps) then you're onto a scrumptious start to the day, especially if the fruit in question is Açerola (Things I love about Brazil #30: Açerola) which, according to old Brazilian fishwives packs more vitamin C into one small cherry-sized portion than is present in a bag of oranges.

On the subject of food and drink but not breakfast, where would be without cachaça, the alcoholic spirit made from sugar cane, (Things I love about Brazil #67: Cachaça) to make caipirinha (Things I love about Brazil #29: Caipirinha), the national cocktail? A bottle of Pitú brand cachaça only costs R4 - about 1 UK quid. This filled me with glee when I discovered that such a famous drink could be assembled so cheaply (just add chopped limes and sugar for caipirinha) but as my father-in-law points out when spirits with 40% alcohol content are sold for less than milk, something is wrong and someone, somewhere is going to get hurt. Fair enough. As for caipirinha itself, I'm slowly discovering that this drink is somewhat viewed here the same way Guiness may be viewed in Ireland. Yes, we're famous for it but no we don't drink it ourselves - it's for the tourists.

Things I love about Brazil #88: Bolo de rolo. Quality traditional Brazilian treat of rolled pastry filled with guava jam. Good for breakfast, thank goodness.

Things I love about Brazil #98: Baton chocolate. So, it's not Cadbury's, but it will do.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Life... is pretty much going on as normal. Gloria is very uncomplaining and with Rach's Mum around everything is more managable. The weather has been mostly rainy - it is the season for it - and a lot of sickness has been going round. One of the Cultura teachers picked up dengue. Nelson got a nasty tummy infection last week which I caught, but thank God neither Rachel or Gloria have it. Nelson and I are over the worst now.

We've decided to move! This is without a doubt a crazy thing to do, but being a Maclure/Barlow family moving at the drop of a hat doesn't seem to be unsusual. We thought about moving prior to the baby but nothing came up at a reasonable price. Typically, with Gloria approaching her 1 month birthday, we find a great flat on the other side of town walking distance from Nelson`s school in a condo with a swimming pool, games room and acres of space downstairs for the little ones to tire themselves out in. I was the last to be convinced but on seeing the modern and spacious apartment on the 2nd floor I thought we should go for it for our final year in Brazil. The house where we are living now has been fine, but it is a bit decrepit, a bit exposed to thieves (see here and here), prone to ants, bugs, scoprions and mozzies. The apartment is better on all those fronts. Besides, the swimming pool is a great lure and might actually result in me getting some exercise... We will move in the holiday month of July.

More internet larks. It's likely I might be going to Fortaleza with some of the teachers in July for a conference. Several of us are giving papers and, if accepted, I'm to do a little workshop on English on the internet. I try to use the internet a lot in my English classes - setting homework online, using a teacher blog and I even gave my first e-lesson yesterday entirely on the theme of Garfield the cat. I have to say my normally surly teenagers loved that so I shall be trying it again soon. Through all this I discovered the handy website which allows you to create comic strips. It got me inspired and I am now penning the occasional 1 panel comic about the daftness of the English language. It's called MADDOGS&ENGLISH. Have a look (especially if the Far Side was your thing in the 90s). It's already picking up a fair few hits from out there in cyber space.

Nelson's toy car (click here to see pic).
The problem with the design of Nelson's dinky buggy is that it is unlikely people visit Austria to go out into the "wild" and, indeed, I don't think there is a great kangaroo population there either. It's another amusing use of English where Brazilians cut and paste English-sounding phrases and words onto products to make them seem more authentic.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

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

10. The food. The food in the hospital was fine. It differed from the UK in that it was often traditional Brazilian food with a host of exotic fruit juices. As a live in spouse I got meals too which I enjoyed immensely!