Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Guest blogger: Dave's Mum. We have celebrated Christmas in many different ways in quite a few countries and this year is at the top of the list as perhaps one of the most special and most unusual! Above alI it is a wonderful joy to be together with our family who we’ve been apart from for too many years. This Christmas was celebrated in a beautiful resort on the beach south of Recife with Rachel’s family. (Sorry for everyone back home struggling with snow and freezing temperatures!) We had our own family time of worship and giving gifts which was great, but I guess we did miss the joint worship with other believers and singing the familiar Christmas carols. Nevertheless we have been overwhelmed by love and generosity on all sides and feel thoroughly spoiled. God has been so gracious in sending His Son the Lord Jesus at Christmas to bring us salvation and He continues to pour out wonderful blessings as we follow Him.

Sally Maclure

Monday, December 22, 2008

Guest Blogger: Dave's Mum. Wow! What a joy and privilege to be here in Natal after all the past months of planning and anticipating coming to visit David and Rachel, Nelson and Gloria. (The two most beautiful grandchildren in the world!) Natal is a lovely city with beautiful beaches stretching north and south along the coast of N/E Brazil. It is surrounded by amazing sand dunes covered here and there with bunches of trees and bushes. Its lovely and warm, not too different from Florida where we came from, but not as hot as Chad. There are many reminders of Africa – mangos, paipai, pineapples etc, some bumpy roads, horse drawn carts etc but all mixed in with high rise apartment buildings, huge beautiful malls and interesting old churches. Everyone we meet is friendly and pleasant – probably because David and Rachel have made many friends here and for us it’s a great joy to see something of the life and situation in which they are living. Our only regret is not being able to speak Portuguese, especially with Nelson who is not keen on English!

Sally Maclure

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Internet goals 2009. A bit like new year's resolutions and a few weeks early, I've decided to follow the suggestion made on of making a list of blogging/internet aims for 2009 and publishing them as a post. The idea is then to check this next year and see how I've been getting on. So, in no particular order, in 2009 I will aim to:

1. Finish and finish well Maps and Legends when I leave Brazil in August.

2. Rachel and I are working on an idea for a website called, tentatively, "BRitain BRazil BRidge" which, as the name suggests, aim to be a bridge between these two fantastic nations. By this time next year the website should be up and running with half a dozen key articles and full resources sections.

3. To get over 100 daily hits on

4. To read the internet more efficiently and to apply (in my life, in my writing) what I like about what I read.

5. Write better blog entries. This entry from Jim Estill posted on copyblogger is a good model to start with, although I don't want to "dumb down" just for the sake of it.

6. Write at least 1 article per month for a website/publication which I am not a regularly contributing writer.

7. To be somewhere further down the road on understanding what God thinks of the internet and what he wants us to do with it.

8. Give twitter a go...

What are your internet goals for 2009?
Mum and Dad are here! I've not had the time to even say this - but Mum and Dad arrived positively on time at Natal airport on Sunday lunchtime. We've had a great, if full, few days. Nelson seems to be handling the English coming at him from his other Grandparents quite well. Gloria has learned to clap which impresses her Grandparents no end. I haven't told him yet, but I may try and get Dad to "guest" blog on here.

Christmas blogging. I'm expecting this may slow down a bit over Christmas as we'll be travelling and doing a lot. So, wishing everyone a happy Christmas and fantastic New Year if I don't get many opportunities to say so...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Anderson and Kessia on their wedding day.
The good news: they didn't get food poisoning.

Football round up. The Brazilian season is over and Rach's Dad's team Nautico survived on goal difference from being relegated. Sao Paulo won again. Corinthians were promoted and now look to have Ronaldo playing for them (or sitting on the bench for them). Vasco, Romario's old team, were relegated. But, more tellingly, my sister in law enjoyed a VIP salmon dinner at Stamford bridge with flowing champagne overlooking tonight's Champions League fixture. As the English teacher of several of the Chelsea staff, including Scolari's coaching assistants, she's entitled to her Christmas dinner, I suppose...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

6 reasons why Dave is thankful this Sunday morning... (a belated Thanksgiving post)

1. Anderson and Kessia's wedding went really well.
A couple from our little church group organised a small and intimate wedding gathering involving just a few of us to officially dedicate their relationship to God. Rachel and I had to speak at the service which involved me preparing a talk in Portuguese. It seemed to go OK thanks to my wife proof-reading the whole thing beforehand. It was a very special evening. Anderson and Kessia (with the help of their three beautiful daughters) run a fantastic little restaurant called "Sal da terra" (Salt of the earth - notice the biblical reference there?). I was telling Rach that their restaurant which serves fantastic homemade Brazilian fare with delicious meat for a good price is like our local pub, like "Central Perk", like a home-away-from-home rolled into one for us.

The painful irony is that Anderson and Kessia hired a friend to cater their wedding - preferring not to do it themselves on this occasion. This guy is a lovely Christian man and a mutual aquaintance and has catered for us before. Unfortunately, and this is not the first time this has happened, I and a few others got food poisoning the next day. (This rasises a thorny question in Brazil - you are obliged to provide business to people you know personally if you can. What now? Are we to keep using this guy just because he's our friend and a fellow-Christian?). Well, my prayer is that Anderson and Kessia didn't feel any after effects of the grub!

As the restaurant takes up their entire time (they never get holidays) they were to have a 1 day honeymoon on the Saturday with their daughters manning the ship while they were away. It would be awful for them, who have a reputation for cooking such great tucker, if their one holiday had been undermined by somebody else's bad cooking!

Anyway, I had it pretty bad last night. It wasn't helped by being at a kids party where I had to chase Nelson round for a couple of hours. But after an early night...

2. I feel much better this morning.

3. Carnatal finishes today.
Carnatal is Natal's carnaval (you see what they did there?). Knowing a bit more about the sort of stuff that goes on there, knowing how it puts a strain on emergency services (sirens were the soundtrack to my night), knowing the mayhem it causes to the city in terms of clogging up traffic, knowing how much it disrupts my students who fail to show up for their final exams because they're too hungover or drunk... we'll be glad to see the back of it.

4. Natal's Christmas tree is nearly up.
The town council have really not held back in lighting the town up for Christmas this year. Being a city that is obviously named after the festive occasion, Natal prides itself on attracting its tourists with the biggest and best lighting displays. Recently, as I have been driving home each night, I've noticed they've added more and more to the trees in the central reservation of the main road. I'm beginning to think they look a bit garish now - they certainly aren't very subtle. I also have no idea what its doing to Natal's power grid. We had a power cut at the school yesterday. Carnatal + Christmas lights = no power for anyone else.

In any case, Natal is once again making a bid for having Brazil's largest (fake) Christmas tree. This was what I said about last year's effort. Not to be undone by Rio who keep putting up bigger ones, Natal have put together an ENORMOUS crane and scaffolding-like construction close to our old home. This bohemoth of metal will be lit up in the shape of a Christmas this week, I guess.

5. We haven't been in any road accidents.
Having talked about Natal's road safety in recent posts I thought I should mention an incident yesterday. It's not uncommon to see people shunting or rear-ending each other. Traffic volume does seemed to have increased in Natal recently and I am spending more and more of my time in jams. Consequently, I see the aftermath of small traffic incidents once a week, more or less.

But, yesterday, we arrived at the scene of some particularly nasty carnage probably within 30 seconds of it having taken place. Natal is situated on a triangle of main roads with a national park in the middle. For the last few days, we've been driving down the other side of the triangle, down
Via Costeira, a tranquil but lengthier coastal road which has all the main hotels dotted along it, to get places because of the disruption caused by Carnatal.

At a seemingly innocuous point we saw a taxi and a car had just met in a nasty head on collision. The road was impassable because of debris, including a bumper strewn across it. Fortunately, it seemed most people had seatbelts on so they were shaken up but not seriously hurt. Nonetheless, an ambulance was called for the driver of the car. As we pulled away, and after saying a prayer for all those involved, I donned my (figurative) Hercule Poirot hat and tried to deduce how that could've occurred. In short, (and driving home the same way confirmed my suspicions), the driver of the car must have been from out of town, perhaps a guest at one of the hotels along the stretch. About 20 yards before the incident the road splits but, based on the non-conclusive road markings (scroll down to Nov 24 post for more on that), he may have assumed he was to carry on straight, the split being only for traffic entering the hotel. If you hadn't been along there before it's more than possible you would draw this conclusion. The taxi driver, an old hand at Natal's roads, probably quickly pulled out as the road was clear (in the direction it should've been!) and would never have expected somebody coming up the wrong side to his left. A nasty shock for both, then, as they pummeled into each other front to front. Both cars totalled. I pray no lasting injuries.

6. Mum and Dad arrive a week today!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sorry the hiatus. I love the word "hiatus" and am always looking for ways to worm it into my writing. Anyway, sorry for the sporadic posting. General end of semester busyness is to blame. Also, our internet has been dodgy but then so has everyone else's across the city. I think (with the opinion of a complete layperson on these matters) the servers are melting in the summer heat. It has been hot around here.

Too much to write about. I love writing and rarely seem to encounter writer's block. On the contrary, I often have the opposite problem which I will call "writer's flow" meaning I have a bunch of stuff to write about but not enough time to do it... how frustrating.

So, just two stories from yesterday...

Nelson the jovial dentist. Rachel (with kids in tow) was in a medical centre near here for another reason and was stuck for a place to sit and wait. Nelson the jovial dentist let her use his waiting room. He was so jovial, jolly and kind-hearted we decided to make him our family dentist. (Scroll down to November 7th for my first impressions of the man).

So far, he has proven to be a great dentist, just inefficient with his time-keeping (a problem, it has to be said, for 95% of Brazilian medical professionals). He works for 10% of the time and banters for 90% of the time. When he's not bantering his cheerful assistant takes up the mantle. Unsurprinsgly, they both banter with me about my two small children, endlessly. Yesterday he even showed me he had a picture of Gloria on his cellphone... In turn, I learned about his older son (who is studying computer science at the university) and about my dentist's passion for cycling and also that the procedure he was using on my teeth was invented by a Brazilian dentist from Sao Paulo who has the extraordinary name "Iraildes Jesus de Deus". All this with the astonishing view from the 16th floor of the medical centre of Natal's via costeira and north side beaches. And all this with piped Celine Dion and Enya coming out of his CD player...

Brussel sprouts. Another tale from the supermarket. One of my first destinations upon entering the hallowed aisles of Nordestao with my shopping list in hand and empty squeekless trolley is the back of the veggie section, where a cooler resides with imported or special goods which are only occasionally stocked. I'm always dying to know what they've got in. Sometimes the price is extortianate for something that is relatively ordinary in the UK: fresh mushrooms, asparagus, fresh broccoli and rocket salad spring to mind. But, yesterday, for only the second time that I can remember, they had brussel sprouts. These dozen sprouts looked a bit dissheveled for the price I was paying for the quantity contained but I went for it anyway as I was to buy a roast chicken and potatoes in order to fix a faux English roast lunch for Rachel.

At the check out the two baggers suspiciously eyed my brussel sprouts. One of them muttered something to his colleague along the lines of "what the @*$# is this?"

I decided to chirp up at this stage with an explanation. I accounted for the fact that I was a gringo and that this was popular where I came from. Both baggers, who were what Americans would call "blue-collar workers" and who may never have spoken to a foreigner before, returned a look of utter incredulity. Neither of them had any idea how to continue the conversation at this point. Eventually, one of them asked me something so fast I had no idea what he said. After a couple of repititions (where I apologised - like a true Englishman - for not speaking very good Portuguese) I got the gist. He was asking me what it tasted like. I confidently began my reply. "They taste just like small cabbages!". However, inexplicably, the word for cabbage had, without telling me, taken a hike out of my brain and I was left open-mouthed saying: "Tem sabor de.... de.... de... a coisa que voces tem ai... esqueci o nome!". At this, both baggers wore expressions that suggested they were conversing with a recent fugitive from the nut house.

I smiled and chuckled inwardly. It should never have been this hard, surely...

"Couve" is the word for cabbage, which I remembered, of course, once I was in the car park and on my way out.