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Over the rooftops

2-roof_0010a

The ripple earthy-red of clay-tiled rooftops is a visual that will always take me back to Sao Paulo. Yes, it’s found in other cities, towns and villages of Brazil and in many other countries, but Sao Paulo was such a huge part of my personal journey, that my thoughts go there.

What you’re looking at here are two houses. The tall house on the one side and it’s neighbour, glued to its side. It’s typical of housing layouts in much of Brazil. There is no space between the houses, which are long and narrow, often a series of rooms stacked one behind the other with connecting doors. It’s rare to find a passage.

I love skies and clouds and cloudy skies. I have far too many photos scattered through my albums of clouds, but what I’ve noticed is that many of them are where I’m in a confined area gazing out. It’s a pattern that’s repeated itself over and over from childhood. I was the child who had “… would do far better if she didn’t spend her days gazing out the window” or “…daydreams too much” in almost every school report, particularly the early years. I think much of that dreamer still exists. There’s many a time I find myself gazing at the horizon, thankfully, usually not from a confined space.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in challenge, memories, photography, sao-paulo

 

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They sailed away for a year and a day…

We ‘set sail’ from Brazil a year ago on a mission of sheer unadulterated madness – according to our contemporaries anyway. We got a slew of comments ranging from the positive “Go for it!” type to the “Are you crazy?” to “How irresponsible”. I eventually stopped telling people about it just to stop listening to the naysayers. Call me an ostrich.

The contrast was beyond description! I was trying to look for images that represent each place. We went from this…

SP

Sao Paulo epitomised everything I hated in a city…. the dirt, the litter, graffiti, pollution, vile smells, concrete. I ached for green, for softness. I would plant tufts of grass in planters in our tiled yard. This photo puts our city life into a nutshell, the very close proximity of neighbours, the concrete and our striving for green even there.

To this…

wales

Wales… how can I even describe our impressions there? Unlimited beauty, open space, Grass! Air that was clean and pure. Even animal dung had a clean smell about it. We worked hard… very hard… but it was good and satisfying. I enjoyed the goats! We fell in love with Wales. What a beautiful place in every sense of the word.

Wales came to an abrupt and rather tragic end due to circumstances out of our control. In a bit of a panic – we hadn’t planned to move on so soon – we went to stay in Northampton at the centre where Tat used to work.

northampton1

We met wonderful people and had the chance to relax and recoup… until relaxing became a chore. We weren’t used to it, but weren’t allowed to do anything. Luckily, there was a stunning nature reserve nearby where the hours could be whiled away pleasantly.

northampton2

Oh… and we got to see our first Snow!!!

Of course, we couldn’t stay there forever. We were in the guest rooms and they had an event they were booked out for, so we were on the move again. Moving on was becoming a little scary. None of this was in the original plan. This was where old and dear friends stepped in. We were on our way to Hemel Hempstead.

hemelhempstead

Northampton had prepared us for being back ‘in town’, though we were very much on the outskirts right next to a nature reserve. Luckily, Hemel Hempstead was a pretty place. We had fun times with our friends who’d known us since Tat was just two bricks and a ticky high. It was a time of shared memories.

Towards the end of our visit, I started stressing again. I got very sick with a cough that wouldn’t let go. I got to a point where I literally cried to the heavens one day… “Where to next?” The answer came from New Zealand and we applied to a place in Ireland.

Ireland

Our first steps on Irish soil after the ferry trip over… a very special moment! As I stood listening to that ocean, a deep sense of peace came over me.

tirnasi

Tir na Si (Land of the fairies) was a delight to the senses! Most of my work was in the tea room, but I snuck out whenever I could to spend time with my donkey friends. The animals were my favourite part of Tir na Si. Our hosts were lovely and we had a very comfy room. When not working, the farm was so nice to explore and relax on.

We were happy… but again, ‘fate’ stepped in. There was a mixup with our dates. Jurgis had mentioned the date of our return ticket that had to be changed (the booking system didn’t have a ticket date far enough in advance) and they misunderstood. Family was coming over from overseas and they needed the room we were in. We were sad to go, but our next ‘home’ was so exciting…

killruddery

Killruddery… there is so much to this place that it needs numerous blogs of its own. Adjectives fail me here. We’re very privileged to be living in the main house and need to walk through the tour part (I call it the museum) to get to our apartment. It’s so funny how one drops to a whisper when entering that part of the house. Jurgis is in piggy heaven. I work in paradise. That’s our lives in  a nutshell right now. We’re hoping this is going to be long term(ish). We’re super comfortable, loving our work and the people here are beyond amazing.

In short, this year has been a hellava ride. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Would I do it differently? Absolutely! Am I sorry I did it? No… not in the least. There are things I miss about Brazil. I was thinking of my students tonight. I miss them. I miss a few personal things that got left behind and yes, I miss the comfy salary I had and having two computers (sharing a laptop has it’s challenges). There are things about Brazil itself that had wormed its way into my heart.

Each place we’ve been to since has a place in my heart too. We’ve learned some valuable lessons and made life-long friends along the way. We definitely have come off with many stories to share when we’re old and senile ;) Here’s to the next year or ten! Cheers!

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in brazil, england, Ireland, travel, wales

 

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Needing therapy for the shopping therapy

I don’t have a picture for this blog. I looked for a picture. Apparently no one else suffers with shopping. How odd. Wait… this one should do…

aaah

 

Now I can do online shopping. I think that is, in all probability, because it’s not here.Otherwise, besides shopping for food (as opposed to starvation), I avoid shopping like the plague. Here’s why….
I had just finished with the first class of the day. This was in town. There wasn’t enough time to go home, but there was too much time to go on to the next student. I have put off buying some necessities for years, so I decided to pull myself up by the bootstraps and just do it. I needed some underwear and socks.
First stop, a shop where I’ve had success before. Should be a breeze. I looked in. Two men manning the cash register and no fitting rooms. Here they think nothing of trying on bras over their clothing in full view of the street. Not for me, thanks, so I turned my attention to the ‘socks’ or foot-stockings. I hate pantihose, so I wear ankle-highs. The "Posso ajudar?" came, as expected. "Yes. I’m looking for the thicker stockings, as I walk a lot and want them to last longer than a day at a time." He took me to the thicker stockings. Great! Then I looked in dismay at the white, black, maroon and dark brown colour range. "Don’t you have beige or something at least remotely my skin tone?" I asked, not expecting much, as this is, after all, Brazil. "Oh but this brown would look lovely!" Uh… yes… I looked down at my pale tan shoes and even paler skin tone *sigh* He spent ten minutes trying to get me to buy the brown. I must point out at this point that the brown was a dark brown… very dark. No thanks.

I kid you not. The first time I went into a lingerie shop in Brazil, they were quite nonplussed that I refused to try on my wares in the front shop. I watched a woman try on a corset over her dress with hysterical laughter building up. It took all my self-control not to gawp at her.
I gave up and went to the next shop, a lingerie shop. This should be fun (not). A friendly girl asked if she could help. I explained the bra sizing I’m used to… the kind where the cups are different to the backstrap, so you can get something that actually fits. Here, if they don’t try to sell you small, medium or large, they sell size 20 through to 54, but with no cup size. The girlie looked confused, then looked at me, pulled out a bra and said, "This should fit you beautifully." I looked dubiously at the offering. I think not, but I decided to prove a point. I went in, poured myself into the synthetic scrap and said, "You’d better look at this." It was patently obvious that it wasn’t even a remote fit. She tried one size up and one size down, then a different make. No go. She called the owner, who grimly (she was a rather grim lady) advised me to try yet another set. Nothing doing. "But this one will fit you!" she demanded. Oh no it wouldn’t. I peered at my squished appendages. She thought it looked just fine. I ended with saying that, believe it or not, I know my body and I know just what would happen if I tried to move in those. The lack of shock absorbers on most buses would leave me embarrassingly compromised.

*Note… this blog was never finished. I’m going through my old blogs and decided to publish it, as it had me chuckling :)

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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in brazil, humour

 

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Monday Mobservations

Ok, the title sounded funky, so I’m using it : )  Only one ‘mob’-servation… I live in coffee country. Major league coffee country. The ‘cafezinho’ here is a way of life. It goes deeper than football. Football is a religion. Coffee is as natural as breathing.

Because of the school holidays, the trip I take with my Wednesday student is cut way short. There’s a fraction of the amount of traffic on the roads in the early mornings. We stopped at a coffee shop half way. He made an interesting observation. Brazilians don’t meet for coffee and friendship or chat. Ever. They may meet for a quick business arrangement, but not otherwise. Friendship and casual chat is reserved for beers and pubs. Coffee is an otherwise solitary affair.

coffee
Photo taken years ago not long after we first arrived here with a dinky 1mp camera
I was reminded of this this morning when a friend said she was meeting another friend for coffee. It’s one of the things I’ve lamented for years here, that I can’t call up a friend to meet somewhere for coffee or tea. It’s just not done.

I’ve spent the weekend working on a photo for an old client. She always has a real challenge for me, usually involving a super-tiny, badly scanned photo that needs to be printed on a billboard. Ok, not a billboard, but you get the idea. This time, she wants a friend’s face put onto a model’s body. Friend in question is pale… very pale (and pixelised) and the model is lovely high-resolution with a deep golden tan. The model has flyaway hair *picture fans on the set*. The client wants me to tame the flyaway model hair too. The model in question is on the beach with shrubbery behind her. Eh… yes, a challenge.

When I was leaving for my kidlet, I stood at the bus stop dancing a little on the spot. *disclaimer: This isn’t dancing in the normal sense. It is very much just bouncing a little on my feet* I can’t stand still at bus stops. A guy on a bicycle came past…. I think he was training for some cycling event by the way he was dressed…. and yelled, "That’s right! Keep dancing!" haha! Awesome! Then a truck driver laughed and yelled something too, but he was moving faster, so I lost what he said, but his thumbs up spoke volumes. People tend to stare at me. I’m a freak here. At least I know now that it’s not because of my two heads or something. 

The kidlet made yet another mask for me. Is she trying to say something? They’re all heart masks, in fairness to her.

This weekend, I came down with a boil between my eyes. I was swollen and looked like I’d been given two black eyes. That was Saturday morning. By Saturday night, I was snapping at everything and everyone and really weepy. I’m prone to the dastardly things and they usually get really bad. The last one I had around my eyes ended up with me getting emergency drainage. It was not pretty. My medical status here being what it is, I figured I have to do something drastic on the weekend. I didn’t have any nasturtium (a natural antibiotic) on hand, so I made do with plenty of acupressure and EFT. This morning I woke up and it was all gone… totally! Weeeeeeeeeee!! *grins* I don’t know if the acupressure did it or the EFT or just sheer, "You’re not going to get me this time!" attitude, but it’s gone!!! Can you tell I’m happy??

It’s a perfect day. The sun is shining just so, the bumble bees were all over the Ipê tree, the kids are playing and making happy playing noises instead of screaming. Life is good.

 

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2010 in health, healthcare, life, work

 

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A nation of extremes

world cup ribbons

Every road I walk down either has ribbons over my head or paint underfoot. No one talks of anything else. If there’s a television, there’s a crowd. Yes, world cup has arrived again. I tend to try and ignore it, aside from appreciating the effort that has gone into painting and beribboning roads, but tonight…

I just read a news article:

Aguenta, coração!

Cardiologistas fãs de futebol dão dicas para você segurar a emoção durante os jogos da Copa.

Cardiologists are warning fans not to overexert themselves with emotion during the World Cup. I believe it. Football is more than a religion here. Jurgis grew up on stories by his parents of Brazilians throwing themselves off buildings during big matches.

Extreme much?

 

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Posted by on June 10, 2010 in brazil, festive

 

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Caipirinha tales

Let me introduce you to Brazil’s national drink… Caipirinha! My first taste of caipirinha was in 1996 when we visited Brazil. We had just been for lunch at a kilo grill on Avenida Paulista, where Jorge ordered caipirinha for me. It was June, but very, very hot – at least, by my mild South African standards. The caipirinha was soooo refreshing and considering my love of anything lemony… well… I enjoyed it so much that I had a second one. Stepping back out into the heat of the day definitely made my cheeks rosy and inspired a fondness for my husband (judging by the way I clung to him as I walked).Yes, caipirinha is to be had in small doses and not for the weak or innocent. I have seen Brazilians knock neat cachaça back like water. How they do it is quite beyond me. The word ‘Caipirinha’ means ‘little hillbilly’.

To make caipirinha:

2 tsp granulated sugar (to taste. I often use sweetener, as I can’t tolerate sugar)
8 lime wedges
2 1/2 oz cachaça (Brazilian cane spirit)

Crush the sugar into the lime wedges in a whisky glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes. Pour the cachaça into the glass. Stir well. Serve.

There are other versions of caipirinha. Some make it with other fruit juices, replacing the lime. Then there are those who can’t take or don’t like cachaça and use vodka. The caipirinha is then called a caipiroska.

The photo above was taken at Paraty. It was my friend’s son’s birthday, so the four of us, Anne, Gerhard, Tat and myself went to this lovely restaurant in Paraty. The service was out of this world. In fairness, we gave the waiters their night’s entertainment though. We sat outside because Anne had her two dogs with her, Lucy and Magnum. The streets were made up of huge cobblestones, which lent a decidedly unstable setup for our tables. Whenever we went out as a group, we laughed, literally, all the way through dinner and when we laughed, we laughed hard and it had absolutely nothing to do with what we did or didn’t have to drink. I think the staff were just tickled at our antics. Towards the end of the meal, Anne was talking animatedly and flailing her arms. In mid-flail, she knocked my glass of caipirinha over… over me! So there I was, smelling like a distillery, soaked, laughing so hard, the tears were running and the glass, shattered on the table. The waiter was a star. He replaced the table cloth, gave me something to attempt a clean-up (thank goodness we were outside) and Anne bought me another drink, which I felt the need to protect; thus the photo above. Ah…. we had some good times. I know that the weekend was special and each of us remembers it with smiles.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2007 in brazil, friends, fun, memories, recipe

 

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