Monday, November 24, 2008

Life is life. So, over a week since my last update on here. Basically, we`re pretty busy! The kids were also ill last week which really reduces all systems to survival mood. Having said that, we had a quiet long weekend (thanks to a saint`s holiday on Friday) and I think Rachel and I are refreshed to a certain degree. This is the final busy week before the semester starts to wind down... some kids are already on their summer holidays and won`t be back at their schools until February! Not surprisingly, they complain a great deal about still having to come to English lessons.

Noisy driving, night driving and drink driving. Continuing the theme of Brazilian driving habits started in recent blogs... our apartment block is on the corner of two main roads and it is one drawback that the noise level can be quite high. Windows will invariably be open to let some cool air in, and you`ll be halfway through a conversation when a motorbike with severe exhaust problems will tear down Alves Fonseca or Albrto Maranhao and you`ll have to stop and ask everyone to repeat what they just said. If sleeping at night is a stuggle with two small children it isn`t helped by night time traffic.

Two nights ago, I was woken at 3am by a man driving very fast beeping his horn without ceasing until he was out of ear-shot. "Why on earth...?" I bleerily thought to myself. Last night, the same thing happened again and I twigged what it was. Brazilians have a different set of road rules after dark. Basically, in the interest of security folks will ignore red lights so they don`t have to stop their cars, thus potentially falling prey to carjackers. This used to be more popular in Recife but it seems to be catching on here. What this means is you can`t trust a green light after dark - you have to look both ways anyway, and it means if you`re prepared to play chicken with a blind junction you can drive across on red. In order to make one`s presence heard and to announce that you will follow on through on red, one repeatedly sounds the horn to warn the greenlighters you`re going to be in the way. At 3am, somebody obviously feels its not even worth waiting for traffic lights to be any colour - they`d just rather drive home, across red lights without slowing and have their horn on 100% of the time. Nevermind, all the sleeping residents.

Last year a famous footballer, called Acosta, who was playing in Recife for Nautico at the time crashed late at night in an incident probably caused by two people driving across green lights. The other guy, whose car was a wreck, was alright and he hung around for the police and ambulance. When it transpired he had crashed into a Acosta`s car, he was reported to have broken out into a cold sweat. As a Nautico fan he couldn`t face the fact that he might have just hospitalised his team`s star player. His pals and fellow fans would ostracise him! When the medics arrived, his first question was: "are his legs OK?"

Night time accidents are also common because of drink driving problems, especially with motorcylcists who somehow seem to feel they are immune to road laws and traffic rules. I noticed a motorcyclist zoom through a red light in broad daylight this weekend and I commented to Rach "It seems that the smaller the vehicle you are in, the more you feel you have the right to ignore road rules". Come to think of it, the opposite is also true - the bigger you are (like public buses) the more you can aggressively and illegally boss the roads at the expense of others.

The Brazilian government has recently clamped down on drink driving and stricter laws are in place across the country (including no alcohol at football matches!). Adverts for alcohol now all have to contain the statement: "Se for beba, nao diriga" - If you`re going to drink, don`t drive. So, things are on the way up, but driving under the influence is still a severe problem in this part of the world. And, whatever you do, don't trust the traffic lights!

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