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!

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