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

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 ;)