Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Guest photoblogger: Nathan Rockley. Two animals Nathan spotted. The first may look like loch ness monster (this photo has already been sent to specialists to see if its a hoax) but Nathan assures me its just a clay tortoise he made when he visited a farm with the other kids from the language school. The rabbit was on the farm too. Another question to Nathan:
Q: Who was the most interesting Brazilian you met?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Guest photoblogger: Nathan Rockley. Another couple of highlights from the memory stick of Nathan Rockley, aged 8. There's the kids again and a great contribution (actually taken by Paul) to the collection of Fuscas we have on this blog.
Another question I asked Nathan.
Q: When were you most scared?
A: On the sand dune buggy ride.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Guest photoblogger: Nathan Rockley. Another nice couple of shots. A purple flower, probably from Pipa. And, the kids relaxing at home.
I also took the chance to briefly interview Nathan on his experiences in Brazil and I will post some questions and answers with his photos. Here's the first one...
Q: What was the strangest thing you ate in Brazil?
A: Beer fruit. (Also known as sapote - my son Nelson's favourite).
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Rockley 'n' Roll. Well 3 weeks came and went very quickly and the Rockleys, we trust, are all safe and well back in the UK. What a talented bunch they are though, because if this blog hasn't benefitted tremendously from the insightful commenteering of Paul, we now have the creative inputs of Priya and Nathan to look forward to. First up is Nathan, who was asked to choose the best 10 photos from his camera that sum up his time here. He chose 14 - a measure, I hope, of how much fun he had. So, two a day for the next week... Nathan Rockley, "Maps and Legends" is in your hands.
Guest photoblogger: Nathan Rockley. Above, the first two in the series of 14 photos by Nathan. A view, I believe, looking out from the fort toward Redina beach and a nice one of a smiling Gloria pushing her "hippo".
Açai. One final anecdote here. Something the guidebooks and aficionados recommend is for visitors to Brazil to try an "açai". Açai is a purple fruit from the Amazon which, along with Guarana, has many great nutritional properties including providing energy. Basically, one açai = 7 bottles of Red Bull. But, to go for "açai" is not just to go out to eat the fruit somewhere - it's to go and have it served to you in a particularly special and unusual way. The açai is liquified and cooled (sort of like a slushy) and then extra pieces of fruit and, most importantly, granola (breakfast cereal grains) are added to it and served in large bowls. Anyway, this is what we all decided to do as we took the Rockleys to the airport - one last Brazilian festivity, and something to fill them up before being served airplane fare.
The number 1 place for Açai, so several of our friends said, was a shop which I was told was "next to the main BR petrol station". When we arrived, I was rather discouraged to find that the outlet consisted of one room with a box freezer which was literally IN the petrol station. Tables and stools were crammed together outside on the pavement and forecourt of a cycle shop. 8 lanes of traffic whizzed by within 100 yards (and this was at rush hour) and the smell of cars filling up with petrol and diseal would come wafting across to us as we sat huddled around our menus. What a nightmare, I thought, and no way to enjoy an açai or anything else! By this time Gloria and Nelson were bawling and I was grinding my teeth. Someone get me out of here! However, when my bowl of açai arrived... words cannot describe. A true Brazilian delicacy. I'm just sorry I discovered it so late.
Friday, April 24, 2009
`Travel broadens the mind.´ Discuss.
That was an essay title given to me by an over-zealous prefect for some minor misdemeanor at school. I´ve no idea what inane drivel I produced to satiate his unreasonable demand for retribution. As I reflect on our time here in Brazil, I think there has been some mind-broadening through new experiences. Here´s some of the `firsts` that have happened to me in this amazing country.
1. Guest blogging.
Surprisingly more enjoyable than I expected. Not enough to make me want to persist, but worth the dabble. Thanks for reading. Both of you. And thanks too to O Gringo Maclurio for his kind permission and licence to blog.
2. Preaching to Brazilians.
I had a couple of different opportunities. Both very positive (for me at least). Another reminder to me that God uses our availability more than our ability.
Exhilirating, but I needed some coaching first. I tried surfing as well. Ouch. It looks so easy on TV.
4. Watching ESPN.
This is a Brazilian channel which shows English football. I loved the passionate commentators and their uncanny ability to make saying the words `Goal´,` Rooney` and `Monshesterrr`(sic) last at least 3 minutes.
To Dave´s parents and some of his friends. It´s amazing to think this technology is available and doesn´t cost.
6. New fauna.
Including a basislisk lizard running upright on 2 legs right in front of me, humming birds, irridescent butterflies and frogs that go ´whoop´ instead of `ribit`.
7. New tastes.
Feijoada, acai ice cream, carne de sol, fresh papaya and caremallised cashews are some of the things that have made my tastebuds tingle.
8. The `louca loco`.
This was my name for a surreal road train ride along the seafront and surrounding streets of Fortaleza, accompanied by some Brazilian cartoon characters and Scooby Doo who kept jumping off and accosting innocent bystanders, all with a deafening kiddypop soundtrack. (Louca is Portuguese for ´mad`.)
9. Crazy stunts.
A hair-raising, white-knuckle, sand buggy ride, a 70m (that may be an exaggeration) vertical water slide and an even higher horizontal zip wire into a lake. I survived all of them. Intrepid, or what?
10. Visiting a sponsored child.
Humbling. Inspiring. Shocking. An immense privilege and very moving.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Picture quiz below. The picture from my last post below is an advert for real estate. It's talking about new holiday apartments...
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
"Seems madam? Nay ´tis! I know not seems."
So Hamlet explores a familiar Shakespearian theme – appearance and reality. It´s particularly pertinent here where ´delusive appearances have appeared with metronomic regularity throughout the social history of Brazil´(Joseph Page). One example was in the 19thC when the British (with almost breathtaking hypocrisy) were seeking to ensure their demands to end the slave trade in Brazil were met. They sent delegations to see if Brazil was complying, but since the Brazilians had no intention of doing so at that stage they created an impression that they were. Thus the phrase was coined ` para ingles ver´ (literally ´for the English to see´), which has survived to the present day.
We´ve also encountered some things that have been somewhat deceptive. A harmless looking millipede which is quite common here can give you a nasty sting. (It´s even worse in Amazonia where a touching a certain caterpillar can be fatal). My previous blog entry rejoicing in the absence of mozzies was premature – over 20 maddeningly itchy bites on my legs alone prove otherwise, though I´ve still hardly seen any of the infernal, pesky beasts. We were keen to sample some of the exotic fruits here. On our first day I bought a selection from the shop around the corner. ´Custard apple` tastes like neither custard nor apple, but is rather a collection of water melon seeds covered with bits of lychee flesh. I bought a large pack of ´Star fruit` for Rs 2 (about 70 pence in the UK) and instantly regretted it when I ate one. The children were similarly unimpressed. ``But they look so nice,`` I protested. One we sampled in church yesterday looked for all the world to be a Sharon fruit but stuck to your teeth with a bitter aftertaste.
And then there was one that looked just like a large Kiwi fruit. ``It tastes like beer,`` remarked my 8 year old son. ``How do you know what beer tastes like? I enquired. ``Grandad.`` was his laconic reply.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Linktastic. A blog post full of links isn't supposed to be that interesting, but look what we've got for you today.
Check here for videos of the Easter period - notably, Paul Rockley on a Ma Noa waterpark slide, Guga the turtle moving to a new home, Gloria with her chums Priya and Nathan and Dave running down a sand dune.
Pictures of some of our adventures are posted in this facebook album. You have to work hard at spotting the Rockleys and Nelson and Gloria in amongst the flora and fauna of Brazil. Some of these photos were taken at the Eco-Sanctuary in Pipa, a part of which we got to know only too well: namely, half way up the mud truck on the way out. That's where our car got stuck and we were left somewhat at a loss for the best part of an hour. But, I'll let Paul fill in the details of that adventure, should he choose to mention it, on one of his elabarate posts...
Also, couldn't resist posting this video. Even Brazil's less than famous footballers are still brilliant. Here's a chap called Grafite (pronounced grafitti) scoring the fifth goal for Wolfsburg against the mighty Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga last week. It's as cheeky a goal as you'll ever see, and a prime example of the "jeitinho" Paul was talking about below.
And the last one isn't a link at all - it's the picture above. Pop Quiz: What's that poster advertising? You'd think the English translation would make it crystal clear, but...
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Today is Easter Sunday, so a very feliz pascoa to everyone and especially our family back in Blighty.
Prior to our trip some kind friends bought us the Lonely Planet guide to Brazil, which was helpful preparatory reading since I didn´t know very much about this fascinating country at all. One of the things they mention is the Brazilian way of doing things called jeitinho. Apparently it´s a difficult word to translate, but it carries the idea of a creative way around things which are seemingly difficult or intractable. A sporting example which comes to mind was a jaw-dropping piece of skill and inventiveness I saw a Brazilian footballer perform against my team (Manchester United) in the the FIFA World Club Championship in 2000. Receiving the ball with his back to the goal and a hulking defender right behind him, Edmundo somehow contrived to spin the ball one way, turn the other side of the dumbstruck defender, collect it again and smash it past the goalkeeper. I´ve never seen it repeated. Apparently Brazilians pride themselves in doing this sort of thing in all sorts of situations.
One French scholar described jeitinho as ``an ingenious manoeuvre that renders the impossible possible, the unjust just, and the illegal legal``. With it being Easter my thoughts turn naturally to what happened on that ´green hill far away´ outside Jerusalem. Here was the God of awesome holiness facing the dilemma of what to do with sinful, rebellious humanity who yet remained the objects of his love and with whom He desired relationship. What would He do? The cross is His answer. In the cross He somehow managed to satisfy the demands of His justice with the lavishness of His grace. In the cross the sinless one was ´made sin for us´. In the cross the immortal dies , God pays our debt `the just for the unjust´ Genius. Mystery. ´A deeper magic since before the dawn of time´ as C.S. Lewis puts it in his allegory The Lion , the witch and the wardrobe. I´m calling it ´Divine jeitinho.´
Saturday, April 11, 2009
One of the pleasant surprises about our trip so far is the distinct lack of mosquitoes here in Natal. Of course I´m not missing them or their irritating high-pitched whine in my ear, it´s just I was geared up to resume hostilities after our last time in a hot country. I brought all manner of repellents and was ready for the nightly ritual of checking every nook and cranny of the room to hunt down and destroy the insectoid enemy. So we´ve been able to sleep in relative peace, rather than being woken every five minutes by that tell-tale whine, jumping out of bed, turning the light on in a blind panic and carrying out another frenzied search. I remember one such night in a Maputo hostel where the drama was heightened by the fact that we were in a malaria-ridden region. It all reminds me of the Kenyan proverb; ` anyone who thinks they are too small to make a difference has never spent the night in the same room as a mosquito!´
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Guest Blogger: Paul Rockley.
Our journey from London via Lisbon was pleasantly uneventful. The interesting thing for me was the importance of first impressions. Admittedly it was late at night (around 11:45pm) so there were presumably fewer staff around, but I´m not sure why we had to stand in a queue for an hour in immigration before we could finally retrieve our bags and be on our way. I´m British, I love queuing normally (!), but this was different and was especially tough on the children who were hot, bothered and exhausted. Effectively it was 4:00am in the morning for us, and we just wanted to collapse somewhere. I didn´t see any ´welcome to Brazil´ signs anywhere in fact the only sign I saw in English was one warning of the serious punishment for any would-be ´sex tourists´. Nobody spoke to us or smiled at us and I was somewhat taken aback by the apparent unfriendliness. I had read somewhere that Brazilians are suspicious of strangers, so maybe I´m reading too much into all this, but I couldn´t escape a feeling of not being welcome somehow.
At least we´d already seen a beaming Dave sporting his England football shirt waiting to meet us from the plane before we headed into immigration. We felt bad that he´d had to wait so long, but were so relieved to be whisked away from the airport to their apartment, where Rach had stayed up to greet us which we really appreciated. Also there were beds made up for us, a fan cooling the room down and the inviting prospect of a shower! What a contrast to what we´d felt moments earlier. And what a difference a warm welcome makes to tired travellers.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Sand dune buggy ride is worst/most exciting yet. I took Dan on the sand dune buddy ride. Now, the lady who owns the joint knows me by name and gives me discounts. She also provides the crazyiest drivers. Dan's mountain-biking experience seemed to help him because I was flung about the dunes like a pebble in a can. Nearly came off twice.
10 smashed cars in one day. I've commented on here regularly about the propensity for bumps in Natal. It's now getting beyond a joke. We were woken at 3am the other day by a guy rolling his car (with no one else around) at the junction outside our window. This has made me jittery and I keep getting up at night when I hear tires screech or horns blare (which is every night). Then, during one day this week, I counted 10 dented cars that I saw around town - recently dented, I mean. With the owners standing around scratching their heads and waiting for the traffic cops to arrive. Worse yet, while driving my mother-in-law to the airport a couple of weeks back the traffic in front of us suddenly started skidding about and going at zig-zags. It was a day time police car chase. A bermuda-shorts wearing chap was apprehended by gun-carrying special forces.