Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I'm no longer in my mid-20s, although perhaps I'm still in my mid- to late-20s. Today is my birthday and I am 28 which seems like a frightfully old age in many respects. I`ve been having a great few days, mostly thanks to Rach who has been working hard to fix up a few surprises. On Sunday I was relieved of parenting duties (Rach's parents were here to cover) so I could relax at the beach and my favourite restaurant without having to worry about the chidlers. In the afternoon I got to see the Spain vs Germany Euro 2008 final and was thrilled with the outcome - well done you Spaniards!

Yesterday, Rach surprised me at work when she hijacked the end of my lesson with my pastors to bring me more cake. For lunch, the grandparents gave Rach and I a couple of hours off to go to Sal e Brasa - an eat-all-you-can meatery (churrascaria) where meat is delivered on spits to your table and is carved off onto your plate. As Rach pointed out, we witnessed probably the finest display of efficient and vociferous waiting we have seen in any Brazilian restaurant to date. These guys were pros, the Premier League of Natal`s food serving workforce. And after the quantity I ate, let`s just say I didn't need to eat any dinner in the evening. Today, my actual birthday, I have a day off and a meal with some students tonight and tomorrow one of the pastor`s wives has invited us round for lunch to eat homemade seafood. I've recieved numerous gifts as well, the biggest and most suprising of which was a fantastic new digital camera from Rach's folks. Schmancy pics to be posted here soon.

Everything else. I have a small library's worth of content to post on here following an eventful few weeks - Nelson's 2nd birthday, travelling, Rach granny Lali's 80th birthday, moving house to a new apartment (with the subsequent parting of ways with the wonderfully eccentric community where we used to live) and finishing off the semester, marking tests and wishing students well. I'll try to get the highlights on here over the next few days. For now, I`ll leave you with just one story...

The incident of the lost key in the night. The move to our new apartment occurred last week with Rach and the kids in Recife, and me up here in Natal abley assisted in the rearranging by 3 colourful characters from the Cultura Inglesa. I've mentioned on here before the extraordinary Sr. Ricardo and Sr. Joaquim and my problems at communicating with them, but we also had on board Sr. Jose, a man of action who thanks to his hiring a trailer for the pick-up was instrumental in getting our stuff moved across town in time for Rach and the young ones' arrival on Thursday. All in all we did OK together despite the frequent mis-communications and occasional differences of opinion about moving methodology. I picked up a few colloquialisms too and I am now well aquainted with the Portuguese vocabulary for moving a house.

However, it was on the Monday of that week that Sr. Jose stayed at our old house and I decided to sleep at our new apartment to keep an eye on our stuff. After a day filled with the strenuous shifting of bulky furniture I felt I was entitled to a dip in the condominium pool late in the evening when it was already dark. Down I went, with just my swimming trunks on and carrying only my towel and the apartment key. After a delicious 5 minutes in the vacant pool enjoying the fireworks in the night sky that accompany the Sao Jaoa festival at this time of year, I got out to dry off. As I picked up my towel, I knocked the apartment key off the chair where it promptly dissapeared between two slats in the wooden floor that surrounds the pool and fell with a disconcerting clunk several feet below. Uh-oh, I thought. I'm screwed.

The pool, you see, is on a raised platform so I spent a few minutes circling the pool trying to find a way to get down under it. With no door or entrance in sight I sheepishly went to find the night porter. Dripping in just my swimming trunks, I explained in my best Portuguese that I was new to the apartment block, was staying there alone, and had just lost the only key underneath the pool. How could I get it back? The Porter laughed - "Nao e possivel. Tem que procurar amanha". I explained that waiting until tomorrow would not be so good unless I was expected to sleep outside in just my wet swimming gear. I'd like to try and look tonight as I had no mobile, no spare key and I was far too far from the old house to walk and I had no car keys and I didn't even know Sr. Jose's number to call him to pick me up. The Porter laughed some more. Finally, I asked for a torch so I could look for it myself - I just needed directing to how to get under the pool. "Vou te ensinar", said the Porter. I'll teach you.

Round the back of the pool the Porter showed me a creaky, rusty grate which he opened into a dark underworld. To get through the grate required getting down on all fours, and the small space under the pool was only about a metre high, high enough to crawl in at least. He handed me the torch. "Tem baratinha, aqui?" I asked sheepishly ("Are there any little cockroaches here?"). He assured me no. That's good I thought, unless he meant there were only big cockroaches, rats, snakes and scorpions. This is just like the Crystal Maze, I thought to myself chirpily, or perhaps a scene from a b-horror flic, I thought to myself not so chirpily. No matter, the key only fell a few meters away from the grate. But, as I moved forward with bare palms and knees on the concrete the Porter shouted after me that I couldn't go that way, I wasn't allowed to climb over the pool's piping. The only way to get to my key was by crawling around the perimeter of the pool. Oh crumbs, I thought as I painfully turned around and shuffled off into the blackness hoping to dear God the torch had sufficient battery power.

Well, the story ends happily. 10 minutes later, I had my key and was out and the dungeon under the swimming pool was surprisingly clean and lacking in critters. I returned the torch (cue another chuckle from the Porter) and made my way up to the apartment, grazed knees and all. Once in, I called Rach. "Honey, you won't believe what happened! Come back, all is forgiven! I am clearly supposed to be married to you on account of not being able to keep myself out of trouble for more than a day...".

On the plus side, we later thought, this didn't happen when I couldn't speak any Portuguese. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my Portuguese is certainly of a level where I could survive given most strange situations, of which this was certainly one. Thank God too that the key was recoverable then and there, or otherwise I could still be walking the streets of Natal semi-naked to this day...

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