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

Friday, 25 December 2009

♫♪ We wish you a Merry Christmas ♪♫


May the Joy of the Season
Fill your heart and home

May the Love of Friends and Family
Surround you where you go

May our Wishes for your Happiness
Follow you through the year

~ o O o ~

xmas 2009_3423

My day started out wonderfully with a phone call from Hamish. Coffee and gifts followed. I loved them all, the lavender candles, the gorgeous, super-soft socks that I'm so tempted to use as a pillow (these socks are really the softest thing I have ever felt!), a new keyboard (mine has been limping for a while now), a webcam. Yes, I finally caved in on the webcam. Students have asked for it and with Tat going to England, the webcam will be nice. Tat rather liked her beret. She's wanted one for ages. Jorge, I think, was most enamoured with his bottle of Chevas ; )

tatiana beret

The webcam was fun to play with. I still think it will take courage to use with students, so we'll see how that goes.

Webcam 03 copy cropped

I did manage to talk to a couple of friends today. It was great! Thanks : ) Our most profound apologies for the bad singing =Þ In short, it's been a lovely day. I hope your day was also good.

♫♪... and a Happy New Year! ♪♫


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Thursday, 24 December 2009

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday....

Remember that song from the 70's?

It's been an eventful few days, appropriate to the time of the year, I suppose. It's hot. Yeah, I know I sound like a stuck record. 94°F in the shade with equivalent humidity isn't my idea of paradise. The locals take the heat in their stride though.

sleeping in the park

Sunday , we needed to head into town to collect a teeny tiny item we'd ordered.

Tatiana dandelion_sm

Tat was meeting an old friend in town, so only went in with us, then went off on her own, so I dragged my body guard around with me.


We first headed out to Vila Mariana to take the positivity photo. There was a lot of traffic, except for when this girl rode up. I decided to leave her there. Aside from her, this is the scene that greets me in the half-light of my early Tuesday mornings. This is the kind of graffiti I can live with, like the one we saw on the phone booth later, "More love please" or "Mais amor por favor", as it was written in perfectly rhyming Portuguese.

I didn't get a photo of the graffiti, but later, I did get a shot of one of São Paulo's oddities. Inside every phone booth, especially downtown where there is often not a spare inch of naked phone booth left, you'll find these stickers, each with a name and number, often with a service.

phone booth advertising

It took me a while before I discovered what they were advertising. Yes, I tend to be naive.

Our next stop was Praça da Republica, my regular Christmas (and any other special occasion) shopping haunt. We found the stall belonging to the little Japanese couple (odd that they're always tiny and wrinkled). They greeted us so sweetly. Yes, the order was ready and do we like it? Of course! With our business of the day concluded, we decided to do some stall 'window shopping'.

I was looking for some cotton pants. We approached one stall and a man with fly-away white hair popped out with a surprising request. Could I please take a photo of him in exchange for a pair of pants? I cut a deal with him. I'd take a few photos. If he liked them, I'd order something (he didn't have the style I wanted in my size). While I was snapping away, Jorge did some marketing for me, telling him about my photo restoration. He wants some photos restored as well.

lalaneshadas republica_peq

Not too far from his stall was the shadow puppet man. This guy is either crazy, determined, or just plain talented. He dresses from head to toe in black. He does a duet with his puppets. It's really well done. I caught his 'lady' looking at me. I think I interrupted her mourning over his death in this act. Jorge tossed some coinage into his hat and we moved on.

shadow puppet republica

From Republica and it's dozy citizens....

republica hobo_3108

...we made our way to Avenida Paulista to see the Christmas decorations. They weren't the best we've seen, but they were fairly good.

christmas 2009 - paulista - pipe organ

After browsing Livraria Cultura, a huge book store, we ambled along to Parque Trianon. It's a lovely little park where they've gone out of their way to preserve the original trees. Where they cut trees to make a path, they used the trees to make park seating. You can see an example here. The photos aren't that great. They're from when we were visiting Brazil in '96.

At the entrance to the park, a man tapped Jurgis on the shoulder and asked him for his year of birth. Jurgis obliged and was given an exciting run-down on the Chinese astrology for 2010 for those born in the Year of the Tiger. He then turned to me and asked me for my year of birth. Once I told him, he proceeded to tell me how bad the past year was for me, possibly even including the death of a family member. I thought he was telling me what next year would be like and was getting progressively more depressed. When Jurgis explained, the man went on to tell me that next year would be a total contrast for me. 2010 is apparently going to be 'my' year. Now there's good news! The man then gave us each an A4 page with tons of text... in Spanish! Apparently all these wonderful things are on that page. I'll never know.

3 seeds - year of the goat_3189

He then sorted through some seeds he had and gave us each three seeds, carefully selecting the best ones. We're to keep one seed, throw one in a river and give the third seed to someone to plant in some place that will benefit the ecology.

christmas 2009 - paulista

We finally left Avenida Paulista to go home. We went to Liberdade where we were told that the bus would take more than an hour to arrive, so we wandered among the Sunday stalls there. We finally got the bus, only to be stuck in a traffic jam caused by an overturned truck. Footsore and very sunburnt, I was glad to get home.

Oh wait... I haven't mentioned Monday to Wednesday yet. Sunday took an entire blog!

Monday, Tat and I went in to try to see Avatar. We ended up shopping for clothes (tickets were sold out) for her trip. On the way out, we bumped into a taxi driver we hadn't seen for over 6 years. He recognised us! Our cabbie from Rio.

Tuesday, I was out teaching. My student is the owner of a company and wants her employees to take up class with me next year. If I can pull this off, it will mean the end of my creative marking for the school!

Wednesday... oh... that's today. Tat gave me a pre-Christmas gift. She booked me in to the salon for a reflexology session, a hair cut and a manicure. I now sport bright cherry-red nails. I got strange looks when I suggested that all I need now is a black forest cake to put my fingers onto.

Ah yes... the in German above? Avenida Paulista had Festive greetings in many languages all along, even Arabic.


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The little blue guitar

blue toy guitar 2

I was waiting in the desultory heat for the bus that just wouldn't come. I think the mind starts creating entertainment when left in the limbo of a crowded sidewalk. Let's call it 'drama' for the purposes of this tale.

The current fashion in São Paulo is these giant handbags that I fondly call 'coffins'. This woman had a coffin she could easily fit herself in. Another lady rushed past, clutching her carrier bag of treasures. The coffin tore at the carrier bag and a small plastic dollar store guitar fell out. The woman motored on, not realising what had happened, quickly losing herself in the crowd.

Two policemen pulled up on their motorbikes and, brandishing guns, stopped a man from boarding a bus and questioned him. Coffin-woman came to her own conclusions. Her theory was that someone had robbed a bus, then thrown the little plastic guitar on the ground. "The guitar is evidence!" she'd proclaim, staring at it lying there as if it were a snake. I must tell you at this point that the little guitar was one of those really cheap, all plastic guitars, about 10" long.

The cops were still around. They were questioning every guy in a white surf shirt, beige baggies, carrying a backpack and talking into a mobile speaker earphone thingie (I've hit a blank on what they're called). Coincidentally, there were four of them.

I was worried that someone would step on the luckless guitar and break it. Explaining what I had seen, I picked it up and put it on one of the empty bus shelter seats. Either I explained badly or coffin-woman's story was way more believable, but the guy sitting next to the little guitar picked it up, sniffed it, shook it, listened for lurking evil, then gingerly put it down again.

Coffin-woman went up to the man and the guitar and expounded on her theory at length. We waited quite a long time, so the theory got more elaborate as time went on. Eventually, the strange backpack-surfer guys moved off in one direction and the cops in another, though the cops hung around a little way off, just watching. Coffin-woman's bus arrived. I was grateful.

Just then, out of the crowd came the original guitar lady... hot, bothered and looking quite desperate. The bus stops on this stretch run in a sort of alternating system. Some buses stopping at the one, the other buses stop then way further down. She had obviously been rushing to the next bus stop. She was back at our stop, as the bus she wanted stopped there. The first thing she did was scour the surroundings. She must have realised that she'd lost the guitar. I went to the seats to get it for her. It was gone! I looked everywhere. Now I'm wondering if the cops took it as evidence. It was nowhere to be seen. In her torn carrier bag was a little matching pink guitar. My heart broke for her. She eventually got on the same bus as me, looking very despondent. People who buy that kind of Christmas gift don't usually have the means to buy replacements. I wanted to give her a little something to get something for her kids, but the bus was jam packed. I was separated from her and didn't see her again. A pity really. I hope she found another way to get a little blue guitar for her child.


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Monday, 14 December 2009


“A Hug Is Two Hearts Wrapped In Arms”


em·brace (em br!sÆ), v., -braced, -brac·ing, n.
1.    to take or clasp in the arms; press to the bosom; hug.
2.    to take or receive gladly or eagerly; accept willingly: to embrace an idea.
3.    to avail oneself of: to embrace an opportunity.
4.    to adopt (a profession, a religion, etc.): to embrace Buddhism.
5.    to take in with the eye or the mind.
6.    to encircle; surround; enclose.
7.    to include or contain: An encyclopedia embraces a great number of subjects.
8.    to join in an embrace.
9.    an act or instance of embracing.

Hugging is something I've had to learn to accept and even more to give. That is still a work in progress. I come from a home environment where physical displays of affection were unheard of. As a young girl, though, I was rather exuberant in my hugging if and when I could find a willing victim. As a teen, hugging in my little social world was the norm and I was an eager, if somewhat idealistic, participant. Then along came reality. I learnt the hard way, not once, but a few times (yes, I'm a slow learner), that the world of friendly hugging I had built up around me was an illusion. The forest was crawling with wolves and my little basket of affection had been ransacked. I had been naivete personified, but no more. My fear of hugging or being hugged eventually became almost an aversion.

Life was not content to leave me in that state though. First, there was Jurgis, giver of bone-crushing bear hugs. Then love found new depths in the births of my daughters. Ah, the hugs of plump baby arms... ! Of course, there was the "Don't touch me!" phase Tat went through. That was rather disconcerting and amusing all at once. Once she'd grown out of that, she was more than happy to hug almost everyone she came into contact with. Combine Jurgis' bear hugs with the enthusiasm of an excitable puppy and you have Tatiana hugs : ) Brazil gave another blow to my 'armour' being a country where not kissing in greeting or hugging is considered bad form... cold and stand-offish. That was a tough one to come to terms with. This is not the best place for someone who isn't inclined to 'touchy'. Physical contact is constant here. Then came my immersion into the lives of others online... and friends... good friends. All this built up until I reached a point where I feel towards some that I would love to hug them, whether it's to comfort or out of sheer overwhelming gratefulness for their friendship.

A hug is a gathering together of something that is dear to you and holding it close. We all do it at some point. Think of the last eagerly-awaited gift you got, how you held it close before exploring it in detail, much like the child at Christmas who gets that toy he'd been dreaming of all year. And who of you haven't hugged a furry companion?

The trouble is that life hasn't been all that kind to many people and there are many out there for whom hugs are something to be tolerated instead of enjoyed. Hugging is a sharing of affection. One way we show our affection for our family and friends is by being considerate of their idiosyncrasies. Not trusting hugs is, after all, a wounded spirit. Ointment is applied gently and over time, healing can take place. Wounded parts need to be exercised too and that can hurt at first, but as it's worked, it becomes a little easier each time. And who knows.... perhaps the pleasure of hugging can eventually be felt again, as it was always meant to be.

"A silent hug means a thousands words to the unhappy heart."

"A hug is a smile with arms, a laugh with a stronger grip."

Sunday, 13 December 2009

It’s that time again


The tree is up.

The lights are keeping time to the carols.

Cards are being written and gifts wrapped.

It's Christmas and it's good : )

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Thursday, 03 December 2009

Glad it isn’t me

This is Rua Vinte e Cinco de Março (Brazilians love naming streets after dates... it's a local weirdism) downtown... everyone is out shopping for Christmas. 25th is where one can buy just about anything pirated (want that Gucci handbag or Rolex?), plus beads, some fabric and random clothing. Oh there's also the holiday-themed mega-stores.

Vinte e Cinco de Março or 25th of March, as we refer to it, is a place where, if you find the jeans you want being sold by the streetside hawkers, you try them on right there... yep... in the street. Freaky! I often get asked what a visitor to São Paulo should see. Without hesitation, I insist that they visit 25th. Naturally, you go there sans anything of any remote value. The atmosphere is to be experienced to be believed.

If you want to see more of 25th, stop by at my other blog on the subject here. You'll notice the place was markedly calmer then.


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Tuesday, 01 December 2009

A day in the life

boy at busstop

Note: I have, only now, found time to type this in. The 'blog' was written as my day unfolded on Tuesday. I'm struggling to read it, as most was written on the bus. Some was written while waiting on 'land', so you'll see me varying from past to present.

Getting up at 4:30am isn't usually my idea of fun, but now I'm grateful. I stepped out into the half-light created by the street lamp, grateful for the balmy, but still relatively cool air on my skin. It's going to be 31°C again today with humidity still up there in the 90's.

I'm loving the bus ride through the city, catching occasional glimpses of curtains of Christmas lights. Christmas is almost here and I'm grateful for so much! Hope seems to be the theme. Close to my destination is a wide, grassy island in the road. I spotted a kitten. No, not just one, but two kittens. The kittens were well-kept and playful - and on leashes! The couple were busy packing up their 'home' for the night, making sure to clean and apply deodorant, their neatly ordered, but homeless world fitting into their two backpacks. I saw them later, walking, a kitten riding atop each backpack. The impression I got was one of  hope. I doubt they'd been sleeping on the streets for long. Their pace is slow, steady and firm as they chat among themselves. Animals aren't allowed on public transport. I wonder how far they have to go with their two kittens.

11am and I'm back on the bus. My Tuesday routine involves leaving home at 5:30am. I get into town, teach, then get the bus home again. At home, I collect materials, grab some tea and a packed lunch, then head back into town. This bus ride takes me 2 hours. I go into town, then out in the opposite direction. I know it sounds long and, when I think about it, not worth it at all (it's one of those awkward times when there is too much time between classes to stay in town, but too little to really make the trip home worth it), but that's the way this particular cookie crumbles. It does make for great nap time, zone-out-to-my-mp3-player time, study or reading time, reflexology time, writing, or just sitting people-watching.

Ah... I got sidetracked! When I arrive in town for the early teaching session, I walk a few blocks to the school. It's quiet, pleasant and it's where someone had graffitied "Positividade" across a wall. That always makes me smile. One day, when I pluck up the courage, I'll take the camera to share the scene with you.

Near the school, there are two major roads that intersect. On the one island, I saw a blonde woman sitting rubbing her ankle and looking carefully at her elbows. I've been in that situation so often. She had obviously fallen. I went over to her, somewhat puzzled that no one else was helping her. Her face had a look of bleak desperation. Here was a woman who had lost hope. The neighbourhood is not a poor one. I wondered how long she'd been out on the street. She was well dressed, not your usual homeless type. Her perfume was alcohol. What drove her to the bottle? What drove her out onto the street? What robbed her of her hope and dignity? She refused my help and hobble-ran, clutching her purpling elbow, into the residential part of the area with its tall apartment blocks. I hoped, as she disappeared, that there was someone to love her once she got home.

Home. A refuge. A shelter from the winds of life. I have so much. sausage_rolls Hmm... the bus just went past an eating place and a delicious smell wafted in reminding me of sausage rolls. (This photo is from Ina Parman's site, where she gives a scrummy-looking recipe on how to make them) I think I'll make some soon, which brings me back to my subject. There was a time not long ago when I couldn't plan treats like that, a time when meals were stretched and stretched again. As a family, we have weathered some pretty major storms. It has had the effect of bringing us closer together, I think. We now take pleasure in the simple things in life (though a few of the more luxurious things go down just as well). We're also a lot more focused on our plans while still getting the best out of our 'here and now' or at least... we try.

I'm grateful for my work, which gives me new challenges every day. I work with some wonderful people. I love that I've had the opportunity to work with my daughter, something few mothers get to experience.

And speaking of family, I'm so, so grateful, more than words can express, for my family - Jurgis, Tat, my brothers, cousins, in-laws (yes them too *laugh*). Oh, let me not forget very dear friends who are like family to me.

See? I have much to be grateful for. We even found a turkey in the supermarket freezer! *grins*


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