Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Christmas 2006

Christmas eve was beautiful. We exchanged our gifts at midnight, as we do every year - who wants to wait for morning?? From Linda, in Vancouver, I received a mini scrapbook album to decorate and fill in as I wish. Its done in a poinsettia style.... very pretty. So at the end of the evening, just before I went to bed, I journalled in it:

"Tonight we had our most special and memorable Christmas ever. Tat wrote a message to us on a 'scroll' and resting on it was a tsuru bird for luck. Jorge had already given us our memory sticks for our immigration documents. We each have one now. I made mini-scraps for Jorge and Tat with the theme, '10 things I love about you'.

We had a Runescape Christmas We all met in the party room at Seers Village. It was fun!

The fireworks are very loud and seemingly unending. We gave the dogs some rescue remedy and treats to calm them. Its warm and damp outside after a day of rain."

For those who don't know, Runescape is an online game set in medieval times. We play it as a family. Some people watch TV, we play Runescape.

Christmas day was just as good. I still need to write it up and print the photos for the scrap book. We slept late, had our Christmas 'photo shoot' and prepared our Christmas slunch (sic) of turkey, carrot salad, potato casserole, green bean salad, beetroot salad - yes, there are a lot of salads. Its too hot for the traditional fare. Our South African custom is to have cold meats and salads for Christmas. Turkey was a brave move for me this year. For desert there was this super-rich chocolate tart. Halfway through our slivers of tart, we gave up and packed the rest away for later.

Today was a lazy day of Runescape, cleaning up a little and this afternoon/evening, we watched Eragon. Nice movie... reminded me a lot of LOTR. Jorge has gone to bed now. I'm settling to sort out the rest of the photos and journal the Christmas. Tat is colouring in. Yep, she got a new set of coloured pencils for Christmas and has downloaded and printed some pics to colour in

Saturday, 23 December 2006

White Christmas!!

We had a snowball fight today - in Brazil!

Reality check: Its raining buckets outside, interspersed with thunder. We took the turkey out of the freezer this morning. It was quite thoroughly caked with ice. Tat started scraping the ice off - a weirdism of hers. She scrapes ice from the supermarket freezers too. I looked at her hands and it looked so like snow... white, crystally and cold. I scraped off a handful and threw it at her.... she threw some back - a snowball fight!! It was wonderful! We decided to spread our seasonal cheer to where Jorge was sitting. Suffice to say, he's threatened to get his own back on us =D

The spice cookies are in the oven and I've just taken the first batch out. They came out perfect and smell heavenly! Once they're all done (I quadrupled the mixture), I'll get started on the shortbread and the chocolate cookies. Yum!

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

And so this is Christmas...

So this is christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young a very merry christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear and so this is christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The war is so long
And so happy christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight a very merry christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear and so this is christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so happy christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young a very merry christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear and so this is christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas... and what have we done... Another year has passed and what have I done. Nothing much of anything, it seems. No major accomplishment. A couple of new friends, the loss of a couple of old friends. Am I a better person than I was last year this time? I wish I could say I was. Well, I'm working on it and working on getting the newly resident 'Grinch' atmosphere cleaned out here.

So... And so this is christmas. I hope you have fun, The near and the dear ones, The old and the young a very merry christmas And a happy new year... Let’s hope it’s a good one....

Saturday, 16 December 2006


And I decided to, once again, clear out my mailbox. I'm an e-mail junkie, packrat, hoarder... there's no hope for me ;) So, I went to the bottom of my mail pile. The oldest message is always a good place to start, but the hardest too, as it is usually a message that I have decided once before to keep. It turns out to be a poem sent to me by my very dear friend, Diane. I can't possibly delete it, though I may do the intelligent thing and save it somewhere, so the mailbox can be lightened. And then I can do the next best thing... share it with others, as its so beautiful.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leaves you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
When ever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance...I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance,
Livin' might mean takin' chances but they're worth takin'
Lovin' might be a mistake but it's worth makin'
Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin' out consider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance...I hope you dance I hope you dance...I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
and wonder where those years have gone.)

I hope you feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
When ever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

Dance.. I hope you dance...I hope you dance I hope you dance...I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
And wonder where those years have gone.)

Lee Ann Womack

Isn't it beautiful?
Its hot here again today with an incredibly high humidity, thanks to the thunder showers we're expecting later. Tat is on her way out to meet a friend. I hope she doesn't get caught in it. We have low-lying areas between here and town that will be flooded.

I slept late this morning. Nothing too unusual considering my 3am bedtime. My plans for the day? Well, I need to work on something I have for madam while she is out. Need to get laundry and dishes done first - there, my note of the mundane thrown in. Hm... and I simply have to get started on my Christmas baking. Chocolate creams (for South Africans, they're Romany creams), Spice cookies, and the quintessential shortbread.

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Away in a manger

I was about 3 when my gran, Ouma, who raised me, decided I had to have some sort of religious training. She was Nederduitse Gereformde Kerk and my grandad, Jim (everyone called him Jim) was Presbytarian, like all good Scotsmen. So one Sunday morning, Ouma marched me down to the Salvation Army on the corner, where I was introduced to Aunty Val who sat at the door welcoming all the kids to Sunday school. A little later, I was shown through to the hall where the children gathered for Sunday school. I remember clearly the rows of wooden chairs… the kind with the flip-up seats (many a boy lifted one of those while I was sitting and made me fall over the years). The floors were wood. To the left of me as I walked through the door was a strange entrance. I found later it led to a den under the stage – a most exciting place. Up ahead was the kitchen, an office, a store room and the ablutions. But this day, the gathering was in the main hall. Ouma took me on a good day. There was no Sunday school. We were going on a march.

We walked through the main streets of Port Elizabeth, Aunty Val holding my hand. Everyone looked so smart in their uniforms and the band played beautifully. My eyes must have been like saucers. I was in awe. It became my dream to wear a uniform. The Salvation Army taught me about the Bible. They taught me about caring for others. They taught me about love for my brothers and sisters. They encouraged our talent and trained us for leadership. It was my second home for so many years.

Christmas time! If there is a part of my childhood Christmases I treasure and holds happy memories for me, it is the part that I spent in Salvation Army activities. A while beforehand, we would go from door to door with our little wooden boxes. Naturally, I was accompanied by an adult. We collected, so that we could make Christmas special for those who would otherwise go without. In later years, I became part of the sorting of other donations for this as well. Then the most exciting part – the carolling! We would all stand on the back of a truck. The band sat at the ‘front’ behind the driver’s cab and, as the truck drove slowly through the streets, we would sing our hearts out. I loved those evenings on the back of the truck carolling! I was listening to ‘Away in a manger’ playing tonight and the memories came flooding back.

I still love carolling. Oh, another favourite Christmas memory has just come to mind – Carols by Candle-light in Happy Valley, Port Elizabeth. Happy Valley was where the river that ran through Settler’s Park ended before running into the sea at Humewood beach. The place was a popular picnic and strolling spot by day and by night, a fairy tale come true. In among the bushes and trees were lit-up scenes, sprinkled with fairy lights. If anyone out there reading this blog has photos of Happy Valley at Christmas time in the 70’s, please let me know! Nativity scenes, Disney scenes, fairy tale scenes…. a child’s dream come true. I honestly believed that those scenes would spring to life at any moment. In the flatter area, closer to the beach with the fun fair up on the hill, they had Carols by Candle-light. We each held a candle in a paper candle holder and by the light of those candles, in front of the huge Christmas tree and the lit up Nativity scene, we sang carols in the dark. What a beautiful scene from the hill… all these candles and lit up faces and the music…!

If my Ouma were alive today, I would love to thank her for giving me those very special memories to hold on to and hopefully pass on to Tatiana and the generations to come. My wish for all my friends is that you also build special Christmas memories and traditions and experience the love and joy of the season in so many ways.

Tuesday, 05 December 2006

Water, water everywhere...

São Paulo is flooding. There are areas flooding that don’t usually get flooded much. Below the Pinheiros River (or next to it or somewhere), there is a huge underground reservoir to collect flood water. Well, the Pinheiros flooded and the surrounding neighbourhoods along with it. We have moved away from the Tiete River now and I see those areas are pretty much under water now.

If you would like to brave some Portuguese, stop by at Terra and look at the photos. Scroll down on the page until you see, in bold print, “Veja mais fotos” with a tiny camera next to it. The rather bland photo, with no apparent flooding is just drawing attention to the fact that there was 115km (71 miles) of backed up traffic in the city. A few of my own photos of São Paulo’s version of ‘in the wet’ can be found here.

My daily gratitude: I am grateful to be in a house that doesn’t leak and I am grateful to be on a hill. The days of sweeping water out of the house are over. That is surely good =)

Sunday, 03 December 2006

Turkeys and trimmings

Its Christmas time. On Dec. 1st, I decided to go officially into Christmas mode. Many have already received the cards we sent out. Just hope the few gifts get to their destination on time. I, once again, made our own cards. I really enjoyed making these. If I had a regret, its that they are small. I should perhaps have made them bigger. Next year, I think I’ll do A5 cards with more trimmings.

We put up the tree yesterday. I video’d it with grand plans to make a spectacular Christmassy… uh…. thing to send out to friends. I’ll see what I can do with that. The tree looked miniscule (judging by the glorious pines I see on the net), but gorgeous! Then last night, I was sitting peacefully at my desk when… crash… the tree came down. Specs sat here with huge saucer eyes, so I immediately expected her paw to have been involved. I took the fragile ornaments off, just in case, and put the tree back up. Jorge says it came down this morning again, he left it down, and said Specs was sleeping in her box at the time, so she wasn’t the guilty party. We just have a highly unbalanced tree *sigh* So today, we’re making tree plans… to see what we can come up with to keep the thing upright for the month.

And…. today… I am cooking turkey for the first time ever! Wish me luck. Roasts aren’t my strong point, though I do a pretty good chicken roast and this is just a huge chicken, right? We bought the turkey for Christmas day, but delivery was overnight and it arrived home partially thawed, so we have to cook it. That’s fine with me, as it gives me a practice run for Christmas. I’m going to cook rice with the turkey, as madam doesn’t eat mash - sacrilege – I love mash! Anyhow…. the turkey won’t be cooked with me sitting here. Its time to take the covers off and get it in the oven…

Friday, 10 November 2006


I’m having a serious case of ‘wanna go home’. I had a dream the other night that is still with me. I dreamt I went back to Zooberg – or Zuurberg Inn, its real name. I dreamt there are new owners (naturally, as its been more than 25 years since I was there). The building had changed somewhat, though it was added on to the original structure. I dreamt I met the new owners, who didn't know me, naturally, but were interested in the stories I had of years gone by at the Inn. Some time later, I met an old man who recognised me, though I didn't recognise him. He reminded me who he was, the man who used to take me horse-riding as a little girl. As he spoke, in my dream, I remembered parts of my experiences at Zooberg that I had long forgotten. I dreamt too, that I got a job there and we found work for Jorge and Tatiana too.

The next morning, I looked up Zuurberg Inn on the net and found it looking much like it did in my childhood. Gosh, I can even smell the place! I remember the kitchen knew me well and always had a bowl of their custard ready for me for my desert. Custard still has the power to take me back to those idyllic days. I so want to go back. I will still go back... some day. Those were happy, innocent days.

Thursday, 02 November 2006

Busy busy...

Its been hectic around here, but I’m finally seeing ‘the light’. Seal Restore depends on word of mouth and folks going to the site. Seal Restore is where my heart lies. I so enjoy working on history…. with all the human interest that surrounds it. Then there’s the Store =) My favourite part of the store is the printable greeting cards and the bookmarks. They’re so easy to open and print. We’re especially proud of our new gsd files though for Wishblade and Craft Robo fans. We’re going full-steam ahead with creating these files. I hope to soon have them integrated with the greeting cards, bookmarks and scrap sets. Carol is so talented and is a wonderful partner in this. Her video tutorials should attract a lot of attention – they’re great! Yesterday, a friend (thank you Cheryl) sent me a link. This lady started baking out of her kitchen and now has her own commercial bakery and even takes online orders for mailing. Now I can do that! My kitchen is by no means fancy, but it works and the things I bake are good. The question is finding the market. What I bake is not known around here, so I’ll have to introduce it to the locals. I’ll see how that goes. For now, I am setting about pricing my ingredients and calculating profits. Hm… I think I’ll involve Jorge in that. Perhaps a “Seal Confections” is in the making? Maybe not… the locals will understand ‘confection’ to be tailored clothing. I need a way around that.

We have another rainstorm this afternoon. The sky turns a greenish colour. I guess summer is truly here. And we bathed the dogs this past weekend…. nice wet dog smells coming up. On the subject of dogs, we had Rover put down this week, so we’re down to 2 dogs. Ah… life happens…

Saturday, 07 October 2006

Pete's pond

This is where I wish I had a larger readership of this blog. I wanted to share Pete's pond with the world.

Pete's pond is a live cam in Botswana, where one can watch African wildlife around-the-clock. Do yourself a favour and go to the link on the National Geographic site. You will need to install Real Player to watch, but it is well worth it.

Enjoy the stunning African sunsets, bird calls, elephant calves frolicking at the water's edge, various buck. The whole video is in real time, so you'll watch and hear the wind in the trees. See the wind ruffling the feathers of a kingfisher in the thorn tree on the side of the pond. At night, thanks to the night-vision camera, you can watch the cats come out.

For those who, for some reason, can't support the video, stop by at the wildlife flash-cards. This is great for children. Click on each animal, hear what its called in Tswana, the local language, listen to information on the animal that goes beyond what the encyclopedia will tell you. See what the animal's tracks look like and more.

I have decided to keep the cam open in my browser just for the sound effects. Can't think why... but I love the sound of the African bushveld ;)

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

counting petals

A blog 'must visit'... counting petals

I was blog-surfing tonight. There are some weird, wonderful, strange, thought-provoking blogs out there, but few I felt the need to save and go back to. Lené's photo's are perfect in their reflection of the world she visits and her writing creates pictures and sensations in my mind. I've been told I'm very visual. Reading her word transported me to where she was, feeling the breeze, the sand....

Do yourself a favour and visit her blog!

Tuesday, 12 September 2006


I've been updating my site. I just need to get the Brazil albums all uploaded, but of course, your's truly has decided in her infinite wisdom to redo a number of the pages. Might have something to do with Tatiana's frantic working on her site - its catchy. Her site is looking great. Do stop by and visit and bookmark it while you're there to see her poems and stories.

Oh and while I'm talking about sites, please take a moment to visit the ASPCA's blog. There is some really good info on pet care.

Sunday, 10 September 2006

Just muddling along

I was trying to word what I would write in my blog and got to thinking about the Oval. The Oval, in Port Elizabeth, was an athletics sports track with a field in the center. It was used by the local schools for athletics day and field games. My title for my blog was going to be 'running in circles', but it should have been, 'running in ovals'. I have this sensation of running around and around looking for the starting line - never mind the finish line. In front of me is a 'to do' list. I look at it daily. The items are so varied and so unrelated to each other that I simply usually don't know where to start and often don't get started at all as a result.

Tonight was pancake night. Pancake night on a Sunday is traditional in our little family.... a tradition that started when Tatiana was around 4. Oh, pancakes, for us, are thickish crepes... not the paper-thin French type... and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. We absolutely pig out (talk about killing sugar cravings!) Of course, its not always cinnamon sugar. If I have other goodies that go well in pancakes, we have that. Nothing slimming, of course. Sometimes savoury mince (ground beef) or chicken in white sauce, or whatever. When Tat was little, we used to do the pancakes in the lounge and make them while watching Disney. I would haul out our camping gas drum and cook the pancakes as we watched. That poor pancake pan made pancakes for our school fetes when I was in primary school. Jorge replaced the handle for me a couple of years ago and its feeling like its going again. I really think its time for a new pan.

To those that read this blog, have a simply wonderful week!

Monday, 04 September 2006

Falling off the bandwagon

Its been a while since I blogged. No apologies :) I always said I was the world's worst at keeping journals or diaries.

Hm... new and newsy?

Tatiana did her stint in South Africa. Many lessons learnt and an enriching experience for her. I need to look back in my blog to see if I wrote about that time. It wasn't a good time for me. I hankered to go home myself, but wanted her to see her country of birth and learn to love it as I do. At the same time, it was extremely hard letting go of my daughter and friend for so long. She came home changed too. New attitudes, renewed goals and full of... verve! Gosh, I haven't heard or used that word in years. For those who are bound to ask, it refers to enthusiasm, vigour, spirit, vivaciousness (not that she's ever lacked any of that).

Jorge has just returned from his stint in Lithuania. He's in love. I just know that if we showed the slightest inclination, he'd pack our bags and ship us off to live there. He took no less than 6 dvd's worth of photos! We haven't even looked at the video footage he took yet. As soon as I have been through the photos - how on earth will I choose? - I will put a selection up on my site. Watch this space for news. Jorge is thrilled with his family up there. They treated him well and he discovered a lot about his ancestry and got the documents he needs for his EU passport.

Its nose back to the grindstone now though. All the holidaying and traipsing around the globe is at an end for a while. I'm working very hard on getting Seal Restore going and actually earning for us. Then there's More than Molly, where I now sell my graphics related goodies. The store is looking good with stuff for digital scrappers and those wanting to print clipart, bookmarks and greeting cards too, not to mention note paper and so much more. I'm branching out into gsd files for Craftrobo and Wishblade too. Hey, something there for everyone! =)

My to-do list for tomorrow is looking far too long. I need to go shopping before anything else gets done. Nooooo fun! I think I am going to go back to preparing my monthly menu's. Its such a big help knowing in advance what to buy and cook. Not tonight though. I'm past my bedtime and am trying to get rid of this horrible cold before it gets me down.

Have a great Spring to those of you who, like me, are in the southern hemisphere. Apparently the south of Brazil has had -10°C (14°F) temps with snow, so we're heading into a cold front for our spring. Not too bad, considering our winter has been a milder version of summer.

Monday, 22 May 2006

Now you see it, now you don't... continued...

I guess you were wondering about the odd title of the blog, which didn't seem to fit in with anything in the content. That is just one small example of a wandering mind. My humblest apologies!

After getting our hose fitting in Florenço de Abril, we made our way to the shopping center for lunch. On the way, we were walking along yet another hawker-filled road, just in time to witness a typical downtown São Paulo phenomenon. I wanted to video it, but Jorge cautioned that it might mean the end of me and the video, so I compromised by just standing there with my jaw hanging open.

Hawking isn't illegal here, but what is illegal is selling pirated products. Those hawking 'cultural' items or any form of home made artwork or craft are left alone. I don't know how the hawkers get the message across. I want to impress on the reader here, that all this happens in a blink of an eye. Its quite possible to miss the whole thing. One moment, you're walking along looking around at all the goods for sale, and in a flash, its all gone. The pedestrians continue as though nothing has happened. Somehow, the hawkers and their goods melt into the tarmac, walls, sidewalks... who knows where they disappear to. The next scene involves a police cruiser moving slowly along picking its way between pedestrians. I turned to watch the passage of the cruiser and when I turned back, it was as though nothing had changed to start with. The hawkers were there as though they'd never moved!

One day, before I leave Brazil, I want to catch this on camera. It definitely has to be seen to be believed!

Now you see it, now you don't

First, let me assure you all that São Paulo has returned to normality, or about as normal as it can get here. I think even the criminals are aware that World Cup football is about to start!

Yesterday, we went into town. See... we need an excuse to go to town, so we puzzled and planned and fretted till we found one. We desperately needed a clamp for our second hose pipe. So off we tootled into town.

We took the bus to Liberdade, as it has some interesting goings on regardless of when you walk through there. Just seeing McDonalds written up in Japanese, along with our bank and Pão de Queijo is interesting enough.

Strolling along, I spotted an interesting sight. It was an outdoor hairdresser. This chap had set up his trade in a square, surrounded by the bustle of downtown traffic. His client, a lady streetsweeper. I would like to bet she felt every bit as pampered as I do when going to the hairdresser.

As we walked further, we spotted the black and white flags with red ribbons fluttering above the streets. This was something new. They were putting up bandstands in various locations. São Paulo is apparently having a combination of a cultural weekend and protests at government corruption. An interesting combination to be sure. There was a distinct air of rushing among the shoppers. For a start, shops close downtown at 1pm and the festivities were due to start at 1:30pm.

Our walk eventually took us down to Florenço de Abril, the road that sells hardware for the DIY handyman and everything else they can jam onto that stretch of road. The sidewalks are too full to hold all the hawkers, so they spill over onto the tarmac. There is little room to move among the DVD and CD sellers, razorblade sellers, pirated power tool sellers, refurbished powertool sellers, sweet sellers, cochinha-maker sellers... the list goes on. I managed to take a photo at the less busy end. I must say though, compared to previous visits, Florenço de Abril was reasonably quiet.

Well, we bought the silly fitting we travelled into town to get and then went to Shopping Light. Shopping Light is a shopping center that use to house the electricity department; thus the reference to Light. It is a beautiful old building. My only complaint is that you have to go up 5 stories to get to the eating mall. We got our lunch at Jorge's favourite haunt, Coração Mineiro, a restaurant that serves food from Minas, one of the interior states of Brazil. It is what we call a kilo grill. You pay for your food by weight, which is great because you only pay for what you eat (good for kids and dieters). The food is pretty good and fairly reasonable. I got wrapped over the knuckles by a very polite security guard for taking this photo. I gather no photos are allowed of the restaurants. Guess I looked like I was planning a heist ;) Oh... on the far left of the photo, in the dark, is Jorge. I told the well-meaning security guard that I was just taking a photo of my husband as a lembrança (souvenir). Well, it was half true!

It was drizzling lightly as we left the shopping center, but not for long. We wandered around a while before heading home. The trip home was uneventful. For that matter, so was the whole day, but at least I took some photos, right?

Today was a day for darning and cleaning. You don't want photos of that :)

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Day 5 of the violence

Some photos...

The inside of one of the burnt-out buses

Another bus was burnt, in the area where Tat did her bridal modelling. Police have killed another 17 suspects, most caught in the act of throwing molotov cocktails - sorry, I don't know the details. The 'bandits' have attacked a school in Perus, one of the outlying neighbourhoods and they've attacked a few police officers' homes.

The city is still very quiet, though people are trying to go around as normal. Today is street market day and our road is usually a steady stream of housewives to and fro'ing, but few are passing. I haven't seen kids playing in the streets for so long and the neighbourhood gossips are staying well out
of sight, instead of at their gates.

On the bright side, the sun is shining and its a gorgeous day. I love the wintery sun here! Jorge went into town today. He says its quiet. Avenida Paulista usually has a certain 'buzz' to it, which is missing, but otherwise a lot of business is open again. All justice related buildings and offices had their main doors closed.

Monday, 15 May 2006

Rights for who?

We had planned to go into town today, but we can't... along with a large proportion the city. São Paulo's extensive public transport system is 'paralysed' (to quote the reporters). Buses have been burnt, so the bus companies are on an involuntary strike, as they want more security. Who can blame them. The bandits cut the buses off, get on, order everone off the bus and set fire to it. Up to 8am this morning, 44 buses have been burnt. Cops are stopping buses to search. Bank agencies have been held up and burnt. A fire-station has been attacked. The city is a mess. And why??? For 'human rights'.

Off the top of your head, when you think of human rights, who do you think of? Mafia bosses? Not likely. The PCC (a criminal organisation) is creating havoc in the city - to me, it borders on terrorism - because they want their bosses who are in high security lockup to have full cell phone access (so they can run their operations from inside), intimate time during visits, at least 60 television sets to watch the world cup and they want the prison uniforms changed from yellow or orange to grey.... Hello???? Human rights???

Guess what, Mr Esteemed Prisoner, I don't have cell phone access half the time. I don't own a TV at all, much less a whole bank of TV's. As for colour of uniforms? I love yellow and orange, but we all know why they want grey... its so that they can blend easier when they escape. And what is the point of prison if they get privileges? You do wrong, you commit a crime, you get punished. Or have I missed some vital point here?

Sorry, I don't usually like going off on political/contentious issues, but this really got to me. What about the rights of the people in the bank agencies being assaulted and burnt? What about the rights of the people to transport without fear? What about the rights of the people who need the transport to work or they don't get paid? What about the rights of people to protection against crime? Come on... I want someone from human rights organisations to explain this to me.

Tuesday, 09 May 2006

The other side of my toast

In a two-week long experiment, I have proved that I'm very shallow in my choices - with toast. Isn't that weird?

Every day, I make myself two slices of toast and every day, I eat the 'better looking' slice of toast last... the one with least burnt patches on it (old childhood habit that, leaving the nicer stuff for last... probably explains half my weight issues). And every day, without fail, I find that the nicer looking slice of toast is the slice with the most burnt patches underneath. So... where's the point to all this?

Recently, a friend of mine went on a 'new friend making' expedition. She went through a number of profiles and chose people who shared the same interests as her. Being a really sweet lady, with very family-orientated interests, she looked for people of the same type. One of her choices was a lady who's whole profile was about her young children and husband. In all, a very ordinary and nice looking person... until my friend clicked on what was listed as her home page. The home page was all about very explicit.... er.... relations (I have to confound the filters here). No, it was not a false link, as the lady's own photos appeared among the other very explicit ones. The burnt side of the toast. This lady is a fine example of the way we often choose the choose the 'better looking slice of toast'.

Now the other side of the toast, the 'rough diamonds', as my gran used to call them. My life is full of rough diamonds and overdone bread. I think it comes from always being in either the frying pan or the fire. People who, at first glance, you'd keep them at a safe distance and just observe. I remember one lady we met as a group of friends. The first day, one word came to mind, 'wacko'. She was so far removed from everything I was familiar with. Over the years, we have all laughed with her and learnt so much about people and life in general from her. She became one of the mainstays of our group of friends. Yes, she is still very different, but then, so am I in my own way. The man I chose to marry was another one, in fact, my gran's favourite 'rough diamond'. Definitely not a person who fitted into what people consider the 'norm', but a strong, generous, heart-of-gold type of person.

I guess I'm going to have to learn to flip my toast over in future, so that the true nice piece of toast becomes the keeper.

Monday, 08 May 2006

A newbie story

On the way home in the bus today, the usual hawker got on and started handing out his wares. Jorge started laughing and reminded me of an incident when I was a newbie foreigner in Brazil. Its a silly story, but enough to bring me out in blushes and cause a few chuckles among friends and family.

As a freshly landed, newbie foreigner, I was on my way to my second meeting with the English school I was going to teach through. I was on was approaching my destination bus stop when a woman got on the bus and proceeded to hand a packet of sweets to each passenger. I can't remember what sweets they were. I simply remember being unfamiliar with them and tucking them into my bag, thinking, "Wow! What effective advertising... giving out samples on the buses."

I arrived at my meeting and related my very positive experience of this new country. I just couldn't understand their incredulous looks and subsequent laughing. The one lady said to me, "Nothing is for nothing here. If its free, there's a catch". I was so embarassed and felt so guilty when they explained what had happened. I really felt bad for the woman who relied on the income from those sweets. Gosh, was I naïve! And I didn't learn my lesson...

A couple of months later, I was wandering down Avenida Paulista, which, I would say, is the main business road in São Paulo. I was stopped by a nurse, rigged out in white robes as nurses usually appear, with stethoscope around the neck, and holding a blood pressure cuff. "Oh!", says naïve me to myself, "a health care program!" I submitted to the test, as I have a bit of a blood pressure issue and was sincerely interested in the results. After giving me my results, she held out her hand waiting for her pay. My face must have been a picture (I bet she was wishing she had a camera on her!). Needless to say, my Portuguese back then was absolutely hopeless and it took her a little while to communicate her demand of the R$5 payment. My colleague's words came back to me, "nothing is for nothing here" and I payed. I confess, I was a little huffy with her. She really could have told me before-hand. But lets be honest here... she probably did tell me and using my excellent interpretive skills, I understood her to be giving a speech on health care.

Sunday, 07 May 2006

Meanderings of an idle mind

My pc is being formatted! I feel as though my left arm has been cut off. Please note its the left and not the right. Thankfully, I can use Tatiana's pc or it would have been my right arm. I have so many projects that I've been putting off that suddenly became 'very urgent' when I couldn't do the. This formatting business is seriously getting in the way of my creativity (like I needed an excuse). Jorge has done a format that writes zero's to the disk down to 7 layers. Please, please, do not write and ask me what that means because I'd be obliged to quote Jorge and it won't make sense ;)

Last night, we bussed into town, so that Jorge could rent a car. We ordered a cheapy - without aircon or electric windows, etc, but got an upgrade because they didn't have a cheapy in stock. Nice little car. We were rather amused by the sales lady, "Don't you miss electric windows? I can't imagine having to wind up my windows... and no power steering!?" We just looked at each other and it was quite clear that memories of our first pride and joy, our canary-yellow Toyota hatchback corolla came to mind.

Jorge went out early this morning to a meeting at the Lithuanian consulate to discuss the itinery for the upcoming Lithuania tour. Apparently, they'll be stopping off in Amsterdam for 6 hours and are trying to fit in a tour there on the way. That will be nice. The main tour will be in Vilnius, then on to Trakai, and from there around Lithuania, border to border. Jorge will then go to Vievus, which is between Electrenai and Vilnius, where his family is. Its strange planning his trip while Tat is still away.

After the meeting at the consulate, he gave one old lady a ride home. She was going to take a cab. Chuckle for the day. She lives in the South zone and the consulate is in the south zone too, but some distance away. Not being a driver herself, she suggested that Jorge take the road he knows to her neighbourhood. At the end, she thanked him for the tour of the city, saying she hadn't had so much fun in ages and actually saw parts of hte city she hadn't been to for many years. Jorge had gone from an area in the south zone, all the way through the centre to the north zone and then back around the city to the south zone!

This evening, we went out to dinner. At 6:30pm, the traffic was moving at a crawl. We eventually got to the shopping center to find queues of cars waiting for parking. Ok, so I needed to get some exercise before supper. Fortunately, the queues for tables at The Outback were only starting, so we had a short wait. The pina colada I ordered was awful, but the Wallabee Damned (I'm sure the wording of that drink was lost on the locals) was very tasty. We ordered the dipped onion (I'm sure it had some Aussie name), which was scrummy. For the main, I ordered ribs 'n chips (so this one probably also had some appropriate title), of which I managed to finish maybe up to a third. Jorge got the Drover's something-or-the-other, consisting of ribs and chicken breasts! Needless to say, he declined to help me finish mine, so we'll be having an Outback lunch tomorrow. The doggy bag we brought home looked a bit like our week end grocery shopping in quantity. Oh, we asked the waiter, they don't have a term for doggy bags here. You just ask for your meal as a take-away. How boring. We were busy with coffee when the lady at the next table chimed to her waiter, "Does this restaurant only serve Australian food or can we order Brazilian food?" Its not as though there's a shortage of restaurants serving authentic Brazilian food. I guess she was being adventurous ;)

Monday, 24 April 2006

Books, the smell of history and chocolate

As a child, we had many little traditions. It was tradition to eat pasta on a Thursday night. Sundays, we ate at a hotel or restaurant. This kind of thing makes up the framework of my memories. If I had to choose a favourite tradition, it was the Friday night tradition.

Jim, my grandfather, not my real grandfather, mind... he was my step grandfather, but to me, he was... a hero. A true-blue Scotsman and one of the most generous people I've ever known. He taught me to 'drive'. For work, he had a combi and would allow me to stand between his feet and steer. Can you imagine anyone getting away with that today??? He taught me the joys of burning patterns in polystyrene with a soldering iron (till I discovered that my gran's nail varnish remover did the same trick). Oh, he taught me many things, but of all the treasures he gave me, it was Friday nights and the joy of reading.

Jim would finish work earlier than usual every Friday. He'd load me into the car and we'd head down to the Port Elizabeth public library. To me, as a child, the building was awe-inspiring. The main entrance was dominated by an enormous statue of Queen Victoria. Slightly off to one side was the door to the children's library. Next to that was the main entrance. Back then, the building to me was simply beautiful without me knowing why it was beautiful. Today, I can admire the warm tones of its structure and its elegant Elizabethan design. The library was built in 1835 and was first used as a courthouse. It was only used as a library in 1902. Today, it is home to more than 45 000 books.

My grandad would walk me to the front door of the children's library and my own personal paradise. Once in there, I would lose myself in tales of adventure, colour and fantasy. I learned to love books and love reading in that library. The children's library of my memory was bright and colourful and staffed with ladies who had, I'm sure, as great a fascination with the stories as I had, or so I imagined anyway. At 6pm, the children's library would close and I'd step out into reality for a second before being transported another world entirely.

I cannot even begin to describe the main library. I'm finding words fail me. Now you must remember, I haven't been there in many years, so if my memory isn't accurate, forgive me and tell me what it's really like. The main library room goes up and up and up for what seems like forever (talking of up and up and up from a 7 year old's perspective). Every time I stepped in there, I would tip my head back and look around at the rows upon rows of books, probably vowing I'd read them all one day. In moments of sheer adventure, I would climb the staircases to the narrow passages that lined the walls of books. The handrails were beautifully carved, the wood smooth and warm to my hands. I smelt the books. I still remember the smell of old paper, leather, slightly dusty... never musty. My sense of adventure might have taken me up those stairs, but I didn't dream of touching any of those books. My awe was almost of a religious nature. They were too much for me.

Back downstairs, I'd weave in and out of the passageways created by yet more bookshelves and on to the reading room. Here, the world changed again. I tiptoed up to where Jim was reading, my footsteps sounding loud in the silence. The hush was so loud, you could feel it, like a soft blanket around you. Old men would briefly look up from their newspapers, which were stacked on darkwood tents. I'd snuggle up to Jim while he finished his paper and gaze around the wood panels. It was a serious room.

I remember leaving the library and going up a side road to a parking area. My grandad would then take out a slab of chocolate, which he and I would share on the way home, completing the experience for me. Not a week went by without books and chocolate. I'm still a bookworm... any wonder chocolate comes wrapped in the same experience package. You know, from the time we left home to when we returned, we hardly said anything. I don't think words were really necessary.

Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Rich man... or poor man?

In São Paulo, I use public transport... train, metro, bus, cab, etc. They've pretty much wiped out begging and hawking in the metro system. Its been a while since I've taken the train, but last I checked, it still had its share of hawkers and beggars. The cabs only have the ones at the traffic lights to worry about, but the buses.... !

Today, we first had the paçoca seller. I bought some, as we both like paçoca. Imagine peanut butter in a sweet form.... dryer, but with the same taste and it crumbles in your mouth.
Yumm... when I'm really desperate for peanut butter, which, here, is extremely expensive, I crumble paçoca onto my heavily buttered bread... a dieter's nightmare! :)

Our next 'visitor' was a blind guy. Now I have every sympathy for the blind. I give unstintingly and buy their products, but on the buses?? No. Jorge tells a story of how, when he was a lad (yes, there was a time... ), him and two friends answered a blind beggar (this was back in South Africa) in Portuguese and German. The beggar swore and said to his companion, "Die mense verstaan nie 'n f** wat ons sê nie!" = "These people can't understand a f*** word we're saying". A little while later, they saw the same guy walking with his cane tucked under his arm and dark glasses on his head.

Which reminds me of one of my earlier beggar experiences here. I was on the bus (where else?) when a very old man struggled on board. Everyone got up to help him as he went by. We were surprised he was on his feet at all. The crutch he was using was little use with the movement of the bus. He told his story and virtually had us reduced to tears. I sympathised... old age here is bad, especially for those who don't have children or who's family don't care. They have little to help them and often end up on the streets. Purses were emptied for this old man. He was assisted on his journey through the bus. People were blessing him as he went by. At last, he was helped off the bus....

This old man had hardly hit ground when he tucked his crutch under his arm, straightened up and literally danced away! Cries of (forgive the language) "Filha da puta" and various others I wasn't familiar with went up, then we all cracked up laughing. You had to admire his spirit. That man was well paid for his acting ability that day. I laugh now. My donation went towards a show loaded with talent. Why he doesn't get spotted by a talent scout, I don't know.

But that is why I don't give to beggars here. They're all so damn talented!

Sunday, 16 April 2006


Let me start by saying that if ever you want to really spoil yourself or you're needing to feel pampered or if you want to give the lady (or man) in your life the treat of a lifetime, book into L'Occitane. Thank you, Anne, for this very thoughtful gift. You knew how I would feel about it, didn't you?

The smiling and ever-helpful staff greeted me at the entrance. I filled in the forms, where I was asked my aroma preference and whether I liked firm or gentle massage, and was ushered upstairs. The room was softly candle-lit and delicately scented, hinting at the herbal oils they use. The couch was one I would dearly love to have taken home. I will post a photo. Unfortunately, my trusty camera couldn't accompany me through this experience, but I managed to capture this room. I sank into the chair and would have been content if that was the only experience of the day. I wasn't there long. Carini returned to take me to the dressing room where I changed into a bikini they supplied (good thing too, as I wouldn't own one in this lifetime) and robe. I locked my own clothes away and was ushered into bath paradise.

Here, my body was exfoliated with a heavenly smelling lotion containing walnut. My eyes kept straying to the bath, a free-standing, antique-looking bath, filled to the brim with steaming bubbles and a few lavender sprigs resting on top. I had asked for lavender as my aroma for the day. My whole body sighed as I sank into those bubbles. I lay there thinking of everything and nothing for 20 minutes. Heaven topped by a cup of peach tea.

Back out the bath, I was given a mud pack. Some greenish looking gloop... freaky! She then wrapped me in plastic and covered me with layers of thick fluffy towels. The experience was strange, but not unpleasant. The shower that followed more than made up for it. Lovely soaps, gels, shampoo and conditioner left me feeling fresh. The shower had an 8" head, which gushed water at just the right temperature, massaging me from head to toe.

I changed bikini's and was introduced to Nigrini, charming and professional, with hands that worked magic. He was the masseur. From my scalp down to my toes, every muscle was kneaded into total relaxation. Joints were stretched and limbs were flexed. I was then offered another cup of tea. I think I need to get some of that tea. It was by far the best peach tea I've tasted to date.

Ready for lunch, I change and went downstairs. I had a glass of merlot with duck and later, chocolate mousse, all of which had French names I can't, for the life of me, remember.

Back upstairs, I was greeted by Alessandra for my facial. As she ushered me in, she went on about how I must be feeling so relaxed and how I'm welcome to sleep any time. In the next 20 minutes or so, I found out about her, her children, where she lived and her job. She then wrapped my face up like a mummy with gauze, plastered some goo over it and left me to 'sleep'. A while later, she tiptoed back into the room to check on me, then left again. Returning later, she gave me a Portuguese version of "Rise and shine!" and was shocked that I never fell asleep. "But you said nothing when I came in earlier", she said. That is a bit like the dentist asking you if it hurts when your mouth is immobilised by anesthetic. My mouth couldn't have moved if it wanted to!

My last visit was with Dora, a tiny lady with long, strong and highly flexible fingers. She was my reflexologist. She did the reflexology differently to the way I know it. We concentrate on the individual pressure points, then the overall massage, but, here, the overall massage 'hides' or disguises the pressure on the points. I had my 4th cup of peach tea with her and she snuck in some of those yummy cheese straws. She also presented me with my gift from L'Occitane.... a beautiful tin with 12 guest soaps.

So my day at the spa came to an end. I fetched my stuff from the locker to find 10 missed calls on the cell and Jorge wanting to know 'where the heck are you??'. He'd apparently been waiting for me since 4pm and it was then 5pm. We knew it was 6 hours at the spa, but we hadn't accounted for the lunch hour, which was part of the whole deal. I was a little frustrated at having to rush out instead of being relaxed. Talk about an instant crash to earth. Jorge was frustrated because we still had to go home, fetch a bag, go to dinner and make it to the motel. Ah well.... these things happen...

Brazilian Motel

For a long time now, I've wanted to see one of the local motels. To me, a motel has always been a place, often seedy, that you overnight in on a long journey, simply a convenience. This was definitely different.

The place we went to was called Opium. Its midrange. They range from extremely expensive to rather cheap. Our room had dining area, bed (naturally lol), shower in the main bathroom, shower in the sauna room, jacuzzi, deck chairs and an automatic, retractable sun roof. Each 'room' is complete with private garage and entrance, bedroom area and jacuzzi area. The dining area, bed and main bathroom is downstairs, just above the private garage. Um... they have mirrors on the ceiling too. I didn't like that one little bit... looking at my face in the vanity mirror is bad enough. There was a stereo system and tv downstairs and upstairs in the jacuzzi area and a frigobar (bar fridge) stocked with all kinds of drinks. Upstairs is the sauna room and another shower next to the jacuzzi. The whole of the top floor is covered by the automatic sun roof. We opened it and had sat in the jacuzzi gazing at the moon and clouds... no stars to see.

Motels here are an industry in themselves. They're super-snazzy and designed around the more carnal pleasures. Everything is spotlessly clean and working smoothly. Here, its a common way of celebrating birthdays, anniversaries or any other occasion between couples. You hire the room for a 3 hour, 6 hour or 12 hour period. If you go to the motel guide (like a yellow pages for motels), you'll get an idea of the kind of industry. Everything is super-discrete. We ordered coffee and orange juice that morning. It was put into a hatch in the wall from a closed off passage (no contact with room service at all). We then opened the hatch when the bell was rung and took our goodies out. There is no normal reception. Its drive through check-in and out. The whole place is surrounded by high walls - you see nothing of the motel from the outside.... only the gate.
Opium photos

Definitely goes down as one of my more 'interesting' experiences in Brazil. Did you know they even have a motel for dogs??! You book your pooch and poochess in, so they can discover love all over again in a doggy heaven. Weird! Read about it here and here.

L'Occitane and luxury

*original blog written on 13 April 2006*

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. 20 Years is a very long time in the grand scheme of things. It was a happy/sad day for me. This was the first anniversary in 16 years that I didn't have Tatiana with me. Our wedding anniversary has always been a family event. What's more, I was out all day with the cell phone off and Tatiana had tried to call me. I did manage to catch up with her later though, thank goodness.

First, we went to hire the car, then Jorge took me for my appointment at L'Occitane. Today, I used the gift Anne gave me for my birthday. Its been such a crazy time since then that this is truly the first opportunity. Anne, as always, chose the gift well. What a day! I walked into L'Occitane to the smells of so many herbs and oils. The staff was wonderful! Hm... you know what.. I think I'm going to write a separate blog just for the L'Occitane experience and another for the experiences which followed or this will get way too long. Jorge is already saying my blogs are way too long.

After L'Occitane, we went to dinner at Bovinas Churrascaria (sp). Again, excellent service and the food was good. The salads and hot dishes were self-service and the well-trained waiters come around periodically with different portions of meat. For a very reasonable price, you can eat as much meat as you like.

Then we went off to the Motel. For those who know, its a typical Brazilian motel, but more on that in its own blog. haha!

All in all, it was a lovely day. 2 Years to 20 years... I think we proved them wrong, right Jorge?

Friday, 31 March 2006

Just go straight

*original blog written March, 4th 2006*

We are trying to play 'sightseeing and shopping catch up'. We have to cram in as many places as possible before Anne leaves for South Africa. Today was the turn of Serra Negra. I have been talking about it for some time and we never seem to get that far. On the way to Serra Negra are a host of interesting little towns. The stops add up and we inevitably end up turning around before hitting Serra Negra.

We started out by missing our turnoff on the freeway. At this point, I must tell you that certain people had put the map at the back of the car, instead of the cubby hole, so I had no way, except vague memory, of navigating. Then certain other people have this habit of just driving on and not waiting for me to make sure we're on the right road ;) For the uninitiated, I am the official navigator and scapegoat. Our travels are nothing, if not interesting. Let's just say, we take the scenic route as a matter of course.

Back to the story....
We eventually arrived at a tollgate, where we asked for directions. We had two options, one was to take the 'retorno' and go back the way we came for some kilometers or go straight and take offramp number 136 to Serra Negra. Great! We decided on the offramp up ahead. We drove a little further and found offramp number 136, which, once we'd turned onto it, said it was road number 133. Ugh! We decided to 'donner maar voort' (roughly translated... keep going blindly). What followed was one of the more 'interesting' and 'rustic' and longer scenic routes we'd been on to date. Anne's car's shocks were tested to their limit, I'm sure. We ended up at Hollambra, Brazil's little Holland with its windmills and Dutch cookies, where we stopped for coffee for our backs to recover from the jolting. At least we finally knew where we were.

On to Serra Negra. Of course, we had to stop in Pedreira to do some shopping. It has lovely wrought iron work, crystals and stoneware. We then passed through Amparo, a pretty, but confusing town for people like us. We asked directions a few times. We kept hearing 'just go straight'. I can't begin to tell you how many times we went around turning circles into different directions and still hearing 'just go straight'. The final straw was at the lake, where a nice old man told us to 'just go straight', which we duly did, only to find ourselves at a T-junction! Straight? A hobo clutching a stack of money was sitting at that junction. We almost got desperate enough to ask him. Perhaps he was put there to lure unsuspecting lost souls into paying for the solution to 'just go straight' at a t-junction. We ended up following our noses and on the right road... thank goodness!

Serra Negra warrants mention. Its a really pretty town, where bougainvillea is trained to grow over the road. When its in flower, its a beautiful sight. The town has its own cable chair, where you sit and get take up over the town for the view. We didn't have time for this. Then there's the 'Maria fumaça' or 'Smokey Mary'. Its a little tourist train that runs through the town. We parked the car and went shopping. It was hot... I mean... really very hot. Even the locals were complaining. Apparently, Serra Negra was never known to be that hot, but then, the whole of the state of São Paulo seems to be in the middle of an extreme heat wave.

There are many leather work shops in Serra Negra, as well as knitware shops. Not the knitware we're used to. I'm talking about an entire suit made by knitting machine. In fact, any item of clothing for any sex or age group. Those are the two types of shop we were most interested in, though, naturally, there were loads of touristy shops.

We had a late lunch at one of the cafe's alongside the town square. The poprietress was thrilled to have her son handle our order in English. He was around 10 - 12. For a cafe, the lunch was good. We then hunted around for a bank and while doing so, a small orchestra of 4, three violinists and one cellist, set up in the square. We sat and watched them for a time. It was peaceful under the dappled shade of the trees and the music was beautiful.

The trip home was uneventful. We were tired, but well rested from a relaxing, but interesting excursion into the countryside of the state of São Paulo.

Thursday, 30 March 2006

é Carnaval!

*Blog written on February, 27th 2006*

Carnaval (deliberately spelt the local way) is something that Brazilians wait for and plan for the whole year. Costumes vary in price, from relatively expensive to exhorbitant. Many of the participants save the entire year to pay for their costumes.

This year, I was invited to participate... sort of third hand ;) Our consulate went as a group and Tatiana was invited to join them by her godmother, as it was taking place on her birthday. What a birthday gift. The godmother in question got sick the day before, but her costume was already bought, so I was asked to step in and, of course, it was handy having the camera going.

We went by taxi to the Vai Vai meeting hall in Bela Vista. For someone not used to the sensory explosion of color, smell, noise, and movement, it came as a shock. I think I must have stood gawping like the inexperienced foreigner I was for just long enough to get jostled out of the way. Fortunately, help arrived in the form of Audy, who showed us where to go, what to do and how the heck to get the costumes on. Trust me, it was an exercise in flexibility!

The sights were amazing. It was 2am, but sleep was furthest from our minds. Color everywhere! Sequins and glitter being the order of the day. Everyone was totally consumed with looking 'just right'. Cries of 'mind the feathers' were heard (of course, in Portuguese) constantly. In the parade, points are deducted from the school (what the teams are called) if any damage to the costumes is noted. At this point, there was already a fair amount of tippling going on among some of the participants.

The time then came to board the buses. I think each school must have had about 40 buses (it certainly looked that many!), with each group within the school being divided up among the buses. We eventually found our bus and the next challenge began. How on earth does one store all that sequin and feather on a bus seat without damaging any part of it and still be able to make yourself at least remotely comfortable??

The ride in the bus was boisterous and fun. The theme song was practiced over and over with great gusto. Each school has a theme they work on. Ours was the early history of Brazil, with the colonists and slaves. The song tells the story reflected in the costumes. Our part of the whole story reflected the slaves from Africa, thus the choice to put the Consular participants in that group. The group which followed were the 'cane cutters'.

We eventually arrived at the Sambadromo, the specially designed carnival 'stadium'... if you can imagine a stadium in a strip instead of a circle. At this point, we had to wait in the buses for what seemed like an eternity because one of the other teams had caused a delay. The group became more subdued and the 3 to 4am timezone was shown in the drooping heads murmurs, which replaced the shouting and singing.

It was a rather tired group that was eventually let out of the bus. We had to make sure our costumes were on and in place in preparation for parading. Here, we faced another delay, which took us through to daybreak. Sadly, the costumes, which are designed for night time under the spotlights, did not show up as well as we would have liked during the parade. In the early morning light, we shuffled into the Sambadromo itself. A transformation took place and all signs of tiredness disappeared. We danced and sang our way through under the huge spotlights and cameras, between the dancing, waving and shouting spectators, who were urging us along all the way. I wish I could have photographed or filmed the sights in the sambadromo. The floats were spectacular. The singing and dancing was as vibrant as one would expect from a carnival procession. We were hot! We were tired... we had fun. We paraded for 20 minutes, timing being crucial. Needless to say, I didn't know more than two lines of the song, but mouthed along with all the gusto I could. Who cared if I was singing anyway. There were more than enough other voices to make up for my lack :)

Carnival, Brazil's melting pot, where the rich and famous are best of friends with those from the favela's.... where who you are and what you are doesn't matter anymore, as long as you do your school proud. In 20 minutes of pure adrenaline, a year's hard work is displayed. The costumes, which dedicated seamstresses slave over for a year, are tested to their fullest. It was a very tired group that stumbled to the bus for the ride back to the hall at 7am. Costumes were piled one on top of the other this time and getting a seat to rest your aching feet became priority.

It is over now, until next year. Already Vai Vai has the beginnings of Carnaval 2007 displayed on their site. The photos of our little bit of the carnival can be seen on my site. I hope they convey at least some of the excitement of the night. Vai Vai came in second and was to parade again the following weekend, but we were travelling, so didn't take part. Congratulations Vai Vai!

Saturday, 18 February 2006


I have just noticed that virtually all my blog titles have an exclamation mark. Think I'm trying to make a point??? Don't you just love punctuation??? haha!

I did threaten to post more often, but I've gotten busy with my site again. I'm trying to iron out all the dead links and paths to nowhere. Do check it out. I'm getting tired of the splash page look, but nevertheless.... www.tintalasia.com. The part I was working on is the family albums. I'm trying to build up the courage (and ideas) to finish off the business pages. I'll get there yet. Will work on the Brazil albums next. I need to restore the albums I took off.

Hey.... did I tell you? The latest on our butcher/hairdresser. Bearing in mind, this is a 50-something 'pretty boy'. The other day, Tat was out with Jorge to the production agency. I went to the butcher to get something for supper. The only one serving was the hairdresser. With a sigh, I gave him my order (being rather nervous of the quality of his cuts) and turned to chat to the cashier, a really nice girl. She asked me where Tat was, as the two of us usually go shopping together. I told her Tat was working, an easier explanation for my Portuguese to handle. To cut the story short, it came out that Tat is a model and the girl wanted me to get Tat to take her photos to show her. Enter butcher/hairdresser: "I was a model!" What?! Our heads swung around at in his direction (not sure what we expected to see). Yes, he apparently used to model bathing costumes. I wish I had the whole event on film. Our faces (I assume my face reflected the cashier's look) must have been comical. On dropping his bombshell, he went back to his butchering. I wonder which career he will come up with next time I visit. I'm eager to go shopping again.

What's happening in our world? Jorge may be taking a trip to Lithuania in July. Tat tried hard, but not hard enough, to contain her excitement at the thought. Family we may be, but 6 years of living in each other's pockets without a break has taken its toll. I told her though, that by the end of his trip, she'll be pretty eager to be shot of my company too. For now, she's taken on another theater course, given by one of the top television producers here. It's a 3 year course that she'll be cramming somewhat. We'll see where that takes her. The agency is very impressed with her new portfolio. I only hope that future employers will be equally impressed.

Tat's birthday presents are all planned. I can't wait to see what she'll think of them!

Saturday, 11 February 2006

I feel soooo small!!

I decided to 'enrich' my blogging 'experience' - in other words, lamely put, try to find a way to get people to read my blog. SCARY! I did a search on other blogs. Ok, so I knew there are gazillions of bloggers, with blogging being the 'in' thing to do, but I wasn't prepared for the enormity.

My feeble senses screamed 'too much already!' and I settled into a calmer browsing. Seems most blogs out there are business blogs. Now, I have nothing against business, but I do have a tendency to get very drowsy while browsing those (must be some form of allergic reaction). So..... I decided to just hit 'next' until I found something worth reading... I mean... really reading.

My first 'next' experience was http://sandi-pics.blogspot.com/
I love her photos. They're wacky and cool and speak volumes or am I just odd? I love the quotes and I love the notes. I 'specially love the 101 things to do. I may just have to copy that list, as I never get around to making a list of my own, never mind keeping it!

Onto the next 'next'. Could someone tell me how I can link to other bloggers without having to write a shpiel? << how on earth do I spell that anyway?


Last Monday, Jorge went for a haircut to the same girlie he used before. Now, bear in mind, we live in what we call 'the village'. For a 'village', there are about 100 hairdressers, so one usually finds the hairdresser (or barber, but here they're usually unisex) quite empty.

Anyhow, Jorge gets to his hairdresser, only to find a queue a mile long, all guys. What's with that? So he goes banking and returns some time later to find the queue is longer. Jorge is not the world's best waiter.... er.... translates to 'one of the most impatient guys I know', so he decides to try another day. All three occasions he went there afterwards, the girl was either closed or queued. Ok, she gives a good haircut for guys.

Jorge, I must add at this point, is obsessed with his hair. The moment it gets beyond the 'convict' stage (my term for it), ie. extremely short, he's off to remow the sparse lawn. Frustrated, at this point, he decides to try a new hairdresser and pops in next door to the butcher on the corner where there is a smallish, but decent-looking hairdresser.

*fast forward to an hour later* Jorge arrives home. I take one look at him and gape. It is the worst haircut I have ever seen on a guy! Shorn, with little bits sticking out all over... no, not the new spiky fashion.... little bits! I was shocked. Jorge was disgusted. Tat found it amusing (wonder why).

*fast forward to a couple of days later* Jorge goes over to the pub as usual. An hour or more... or maybe a lot more, he comes home with a story. His 'hairdresser' is apparently the butcher's brother and is..... *** wait for it ***.... a butcher!!! He qualified as a butcher and later turned to hairdressing!

Gives new meaning to having your hair butchered..... ?!

Wednesday, 08 February 2006


I've just gotten back from the Feds... yeah... my favourite stomping grounds lol I have finally gotten my RNE number (the foreigner's version of an ID number or social security number or whatever you guys would call it)! Yay! I get the actual card in around 2 months. Would you believe its taken 6 years to get this far???? Geez! And I have been married to a Brazilian for 20 years this year. Omg... I suddenly feel very old lol Its hot as hell (so what's new) and pouring with rain. I've just strolled in, have the fan on and am drip drying lol

Something that always amazes me and I think it always will. When it rains here, it rains and it rains big time! But, you know, a matter of half an hour after the rain stops, you can look at the streets and its as if it had never rained. Weird! Call it rapid evaporation.... very rapid!

I finally have part of our business site up - Seal Language Services. Do have a look. I would appreciate any comment and, naturally, some business lol Simply click on our logo below.

Well... that's it from the peanut gallery for today. Have a great day!

Friday, 03 February 2006

Beauty and the rain

Yesterday was a truly delightful day! We rushed out to squeeze in a manicure, then onto the bus system, heading for the photographer's studio on 9 de Julho. An interesting place, to say the least. Very, very old... and tiny! There was no way I could stay with Tat. I half-heartedly tried to persuade them to let me stay, but the models would have been falling over me.

The photographer directed me to a 'tranquilo' lanchionette. Well... I fled a smoker who decided to light up at the next table, after which they tuned into some football match, while two macho's were demonstrating (with full vocals) some or the other fighting technique on the other side. The food was gross!

I then wafted for a walk down Av. São Sebastian... very much a commercial road without much in the line of useful commerce. Found a confetaria, which I visited later. I spent most of the afternoon (I was there from noon till 5pm) sitting on the appartment steps. At about 3pm, it started to rain, São Paulo style. All in all... fun :)

Tat tells me the portfolio went well. We'll see in a month when we get the photos. This portfolio was more for television and film, as opposed to her previous one, which was directed at the fashion world.

Attention Bob.... !! Corner pub photos Instead of piling all the photos in here, I put them on my site. Its definitely not the same place you remember. The current owner has only been there for three years. He says it was a pub under numerous owners and once was even a 'mercadoria' or whatever lol

Monday, 30 January 2006

Call me!

Actually, don't call me. When the modem was hit, our phone line was also hit. When someone phones in, we get a 'blip' instead of a ringing phone. Bad news if you're more than halfway deaf or in another room. We called Telefonica who argued the toss for an hour or so that it was the phone unit. It took that time to convince them that we had, in fact, already replaced the phone unit, thinking that it was the unit that was faulty. Well... we're still waiting for the repair guy that was arriving 'within the hour'. Guess its the same all over, huh?

Aldo is here. Jorge will be typing his CV out for him. He has back trouble and the orthoped says he needs surgery. What is his problem? Sciatica! I've been trying to convince him to go to a chiro, but he's apparently tried accupuncture and feels that is his limit in 'alternative medicine'. I can do no more.

Sunday, 29 January 2006

Great weather for ducks!

Its raining.. its pouring... the old man is being a pain... Oops! Sorry Jorge..... he did make coffee, so I can't complain :)

Yes, it is raining (you noticed?), so we're not traipsing anywhere today. Might even get some work done lol

My dear friend, Suzanne sent me a Hallmark card. She's such a honey..... always there for everyone. The card was just a 'I'm thinking of you' - its the kind of thing she does. I loved the words though: "Life is an adventure... seize the moment". So true! Thanks Suzanne!!! Luv you too!

Green green grass... wish I could save smells!

The day started badly... we woke up late and had no idea where to go to. For me that is bad. I like to have the whole route planned, cooler box packed, all the little travel extras stashed... but not this time. 10:30am we rolled out of here with a vague idea of going north-westish - being the only area that didn't have rain forecast. Time is running short. Anne will be back on Tuesday, so this is our last weekend with the car and the chance to see the world at our leisure.

We headed out through Jundiaí, which isn't far out of São Paulo. That's where Emilia has her restaurant. From there, we took the road to Itatiba, then Morungaba, Amparo (wow! It has changed soooo much!) and finally on to Serra Negra. It was our intention to go as far as Aguas de Lindoya, but we only made it to Lindoya. I was feeling so lousy by then that we turned back and stopped in Serra Negra. I haven't been car sick in many years. May have had something to do with a lack of food and chance to visit the jaz.

We browsed through the little shops at Serra Negra. Its a charming town where they grow bougainvillea over the streets. The shops are delightful, though there is an overabundance of knitwear. Any outifit you like, you can find knitted finely in Serra Negra. The same goes for leatherwork. Gorgeous jackets, belts of every kind, bags... you name it. We had trouble finding a place to eat, as it was way after lunch.... almost 4pm. We eventually had 'pastel' at one of the eating places. It was nice enough. Mine was filled with mielie (milho or corn) and requeijão (a type of creamy cream cheese). We bought a few t-shirts. Tat and I bought really large ones to use as sleep shirts. Jorge bought shirts related to beer drinking - wonder why??? haha!

The trip home was uneventful. Jorge has rushed over to the pub to show off his find. We now have to clean up and maybe I'll play a while till I'm tired enough to fall off the chair. I did a photo repair tonight. I'm not happy with the result. Perhaps I'll fiddle with it again tomorrow when I'm fresher. I must still upload today's film and photos. I'm sure there are a few nice shots for my site

Thursday, 26 January 2006


Our road is full of them! Ok... just cops, but the cops here are the 'ride-em cowboy' type, hanging out the car window pow-powing down the road. For now, these are peacefully standing around.

Tat, packed with the charm and grace (did I just say 'grace'?), strolled over, smiled her dazzling smile at the cop and found out what all the intrigue was about.... A flat tyre! The cop smiled sweetly back and said, "There's no problem... yet". Oh? Well, apparently, the van with the flat tyre is only full of convicts. Haha! So, just for today, we have the most dangerous and safest street in the city.

Can someone tell me why no one has changed that tyre yet? Makes you wonder....

Its summer, ok?!

Just in case no one noticed, its summer here. I don't even want to think in terms of what the temp is. I just know it feels as tho someone left the heater on for too long. The fan is doing pretty well circulating the hot air. Its one of those incredibly hot, listless days.

We had to go into town yesterday to get a new modem. It was rather amusing for a while seeing everyone scurrying around looking for something to do. Incredible how we now take the presence of the internet so for granted.

It rained again, very briefly, this afternoon. It hasn't cooled the place down. We braai'ed (bbq'd) some pork chops this evening with roasted garlic, roasted onion, baked potato and salad... I'm full, but craving a desert.

Hey.... ain't I just soooo good!? I actually posted in here two days running... I'm impressed with myself *grins*

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

New beginnings

Ok, I know I tend to waffle. Did I mention our new house? We did finally move. We're now living in the Lithuanian community. I call it 'the village'. In fact, we all call it 'the village'. In the 'praça' or square (its actually round) at the center, the old men play draughts or dominoes. They can be found there any day, except when the weather is foul.

We have everything available to us. Shopping in town, I think, is more out of habit than anything else. I think I'm becoming a recluse. I no longer teach. It simply takes too long to get in to students. To spend 2 - 3 hours travelling there for a 1 1/2 hour class, then to head back... its just not worth it. I need to get Seal Services rolling properly to pay our way.

The house itself is bright and sunny and clean. Its not enormous, but big enough for us. Its so light. Believe it or not, the plants are thriving. That's another story.... the plants...

We went back to the old house one week after we'd moved out to collect some mail. Not a word of a lie... every plant in the garden was stone dead. Now you have to understand, I never put any effort in at all... just let it grow. It was known as 'the jungle'. The theory goes that once we had left, whatever was sapping all the joy from the people turned on the plants.

Anyhow... I digress...

My herbs are thriving. I need to harvest tomorrow. I think a trip to the nursery is in order. It won't be tomorrow, as its São Paulo's birthday

I'm no liar!

I said I was no good at diaries, blogs, journals, etc, etc and its soooo true! Here I am... months and months away from the last blog with too much to say and thus.... not nearly enough.

Yesterday, Monday, Jan 24th, storm broke over us and blew the modem. Now we know how this family reacts to internet downtime hahaha!

On Sunday, T had her boyfriend here. They washed the 3 dogs, Dingo, Romany and Rover. Dingo is calmer now and actually stops moving for a few seconds at a time. We do need to find her a home though.

Friday... J is trying to find his roots. Now, can someone tell me what good it does us to know that his forebears were coffee barons who could afford to donate the land for the establishing of a town??? Ok, so its done his ego the world of good, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

Whoever heard of a town called 'Holy spirit of the pines' - Espirito Santo do Pinhal. Then there's Santo Antonio do Jardim. Apparently the old duck donated her garden area and dedicated it to Saint Anthony.

:::Catching up on the 2005 - 2006 news:::

Maluco disappeared in November. I still miss him. My fear is that he was caught in the kite strings or trapped or poisoned. Why do I even think of these things?? Life goes on...

We got all three of our police clearance certificates from Brazil and finally got the one from SA. Whew! What a performance!!! Its all 'go' now.

I got a handycam for Xmas. Not sure I want one. My little Canon powershot suits me so nicely and I do so love showing photos. Perhaps once I've learnt the ins and outs of the video software, I'll like it better.

A and I and the kids went to Hopi Hari. My camera wouldn't work for some reason. We call came home looking like broiled lobsters. A was terrified in the catacombes. She clung to me like crazy. I only found out afterwards that she is virtually blind in the dark hahaha!!! I'm getting braver and braver.... I even went on the foefie slide (ok... I'm NOT translating that lol)

Will someone please remind me to post again before another year goes by?