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

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Star light, star bright

southern milky way panorama
Photo credit goes to Alec Kennedy. I suspect he is not the creator of the site, but I found the site informative anyway.

On a clear night, when I lie in bed and angle my head to look up out the window, I look straight at the Southern Cross. For me, it is very appropriate that the top star of the Southern cross is named Theta Carina. I don't know much on the subject of astronomy, but I do know that the bottom star is brightest and perfect for wishing on : )

We're far from any decent bakeries. Oh there is a bakery at Walmart, but the bread is dry and not nice. There is another bakery, Cepam, but you pay through your nose and the bread isn't great. So... I'm finally back to bread baking. I got myself some bread pans at the dollar store (I nearly fainted when I saw the price of pans at Walmart) and we're baking every second day. I say 'we', as Jurgis is perfect for kneading dough! The finished result was light, fresh, filling, tasty.... need I go on? This photo is an old one. I'm too lazy to haul out the camera and I really should be hauling out my sewing machine instead.

18Novt2007-breadbaking 002

Life is not all perfect though. The cats are annoying us beyond belief. The one, in particular, sits outside our front door crying all day... an insistent, persistent, wail. I'm angry about this. The cats, for street cats, are totally dependant on being fed... totally! The woman who lived here tamed them and fed them regularly, even trying fresh meat on them, which they rejected, apparently. You should have seen how they ran up to her when she came here. She left them because they're 'street cats', but not before she'd had them spayed. Now we've inherited the problem. There's a good reason I only have one cat. As it is, we feed a lot of animals. Pet food is not cheap here. She had the cats spayed, but not dewormed, obviously. To me, they were her pets. What if the people who moved in were cat haters who'd maltreat them?
"Many of you have forgotten this truth but you must never forget it: you remain responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Tat is online! Properly! Or as 'properly' as WiFi let's one be online. Yay!

Ok, now I need to get my sewing machine out. I have some unexpected time off. One student cancelled out completely (financial problems) and another cancelled just today due to unforeseen circumstances. It's the kid and she'll put the class back, so that is good.


del.icio.us Tags: ,,,

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Reasons to smile


I got home yesterday to not one, but a few emails from prospective students. Three are old students returning and one is a new student referred by one of the old students!

I needed to be on the bus at 6am this morning. Typically, the dogs chose to spend the night barking at passing breezes, so sleep was a very long time in coming. The morning is delightfully fresh though. I think I can leave a smidge later next time, though sitting here in the little praça under the trees, listening to the birds sing and writing isn't a bad way to pass the time.

Today is one of those days I wish I had a camera with me. The bus passed an incredibly well done graffiti of Sasi Pererê. It was so eye-catching and a great way to show some of Brazil's culture. It also had a social message. This graffiti also had a social message, with the mythical creature asking a little boy why he is on the street and where his parents are. This image is from the web. It isn't the graffiti, but the closest I could find to what I saw.

From Wiki:
An incorrigible prankster, the Saci will not cause major harm, but there is no little harm that he won't do. He will hide children's toys, set farm animals loose, tease dogs, and curse chicken eggs preventing them from hatching. In the kitchen, the Saci would spill all salt, sour the milk, burn the bean stew, and drop flies into the soup. If a popcorn kernel fails to pop, it is because the Saci cursed it. Given half a chance, he will dull the seamstress's needles, hide her thimbles, and tangle her sewing threads. If he sees a nail lying on the ground, he will turn it with the point up. In short, anything that goes wrong — in the house, or outside it — may be confidently blamed on the Saci.
Walking up to the student, I spotted a bright butterfly that was narrowly missed by a car's wheels. I went to pick it up to take it to safety out of the busy driveway of the gymnasium, but it flew off. A moment later, it came back and settled on my hand. Now that was a gift!

Lost in Translation << Take a look at the image. It should open up very big. Tell me what you see is odd about this advertisement we received ; )


del.icio.us Tags: ,,,,

Monday, 15 March 2010


Saturday morning found us going shopping. About half a mile from home is a shopping centre with a Walmart inside. Yes, it is the same company as most of you are familiar with, but the products and prices are vastly different, I think. It's not a bad place to shop. I think we'll use that from now on. The walk there is flat, past the smelly river, past a litter-strewn tributary (we pretended the water was sparkling... it could be pretty), past the rubble someone dumped on the sidewalk, past the football club where the norm is to park on the sidewalk so pedestrians get the dubious privilege of sharing the highway with trucks and other monsters. In all, though, not an unpleasant walk, if we ignored the persistent heat.

When we got home, I'd just sat down to some cold water when Romany started barking. We had a visitor, the same cousin from last week. He promptly usurped my chair in our tiny front room, rejecting the visitor's chair, but moving in such a way as to render the third chair useless. Guess who ended up with no seat again. I was a little more than peeved. It was my seat *insert temper tantrum* I felt bad about my annoyance afterward though, as he only stayed a short while and his sole purpose was to offer Jurgis a business proposition. That was... until he got kissy and huggy. He's a bristly bearded man in nylon shirts. I discovered I still have major reservations with the Brazilian custom of kissing and hugging virtual strangers and he was rather effusive in his displays of this particular custom.

When he left, Jurgis got stuck into the cupboard upstairs. It was alive with termites and had to be removed. I supervised with camera in hand. We ran out of bug spray and resorted to chlorine in the end.

Termites are a huge problem here....

termite damage_3569

Though the patterns they leave can be pretty. Jurgis said it looked like a map....

termite damage_3572

Today, Jurgis put up a couple more shelves in the bedroom. With less stuff on the floor, we discovered the room is actually fairly big. It will be nice to sleep in there tonight. My dilemma now is to decide what to pack on which shelf. Choices, choices!

Last week, a student gave me a movie he wanted me to watch, so that we can discuss it. The movie, Into the Wild, was at once an inspirational and depressing movie. It was based on the true story of Christopher McCandless. The cinematography was breathtaking, taking the viewer across America up to Alaska, a place I've long wanted to visit. The young man moves relentlessly towards his goal, leaving a trail of heartbreak.

The movie opened with one of my favourite quotes:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...
                                         Lord Byron
A quote from the movie I enjoyed... so much truth in this:

The sea's only gifts are harsh blows and occasionally the chance to feel strong. Now, I don't know much about the sea, but I do know that that's the way it is here and I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions.

Romany, I think, was bored with all the movie stuff...

romany sleeping

Friday, 12 March 2010

Random thoughts

You are being watched...



cats 2

Only by some...


The cats truly believe they have dinner rights here.

The dogs believe they have sleep rights. Actually, they can't be blamed. It's too hot to do anything else, unless you're a stray cat believing you should be fed... Now.

I want that "You can't scare me. I'm an ESL teacher" mug.

There's a Metro Santana bus going from Zelina. Figured Tat would want to know ; )

Papers finally going off to be licked and stamped. That's the first step.

Found an agency for ESL teachers in Edinburgh. Now that's Kewl!

Jurgis could earn $300 - $700 per DAY as a body guard. He just needs to get into shape. On the other hand, I have his body guard services for free. Can't complain.

My student cancelled again! I spent 1h30 on the bus. She cancelled less than half an hour before her class AFTER I called to confirm her class this morning when she said, "Com certeza!" (Of course we'll have class!) Argh!

I got a McD's promotion in my mailbox for a grape smoothie. "Just print and take it to your nearest McD's Cafe." No problem. I took it in. "This promotion is no longer valid." Uh, yes it is. I pointed to the date for April. "Yes, but it is no longer valid for this branch." Huh?

Small... medium... large. Pequeno... medio.... grande. Lost in translation... or something. When we arrived here, I was confused because coffee came in two sizes, small and large (a 'large' being a whopping 150ml). I'd ask for a 'grande' (large), but was told they don't have large, only 'medio' (medium). Hm. So I got into the habit of ordering a 'café medio'. Today, I ordered a 'café medio' and she brings me a 'pequeno' (small). I questioned it and she says, "We don't have 'medio', only 'grande'" What the heck? Out of TWO sizes, she couldn't figure out that 'medio' is bigger than minuscule, which is what the 'pequeno' realistically translates to.

The table tops at Shopping Iguatemi are actually large floor tiles. Ingenious!

I got to speak to Debbie. We haven't spoken since I was pregnant with Tatiana. There was a lot to catch up with, but the conversation was remarkably 'same' as though time hadn't passed. We laughed really hard at some of the memories, like the time she opened the door to the new prospective buyers for their house and I went bouncing down their wooden steps on my butt, knocking the pot plants at the base flying. I'm known for making an entrance.

My friend, Alan, from way back when posted on his Facebook: "Every single one of you are on my friends list as a result of a conscious decision. I am not only glad to count you as friends but also as family!" 'Tis true, you know... each friend is consciously chosen and all good : )

It's hot. Yep... again and yes, I know I've said it before.


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

It makes no cents!

coin purse

Jurgis went to change our address with the electricity department. Now here, if you have anything due on your bill, you can't change your address. We couldn't change the address, as the previous people hadn't paid up yet. No problem. The owner would sort that out.

But... while Jurgis was there, they said, "Wait, you have an outstanding amount on your account." Oh no we don't. Jurgis whipped out the bills to show they were all paid up in full. We've been pretty good, paying as the bills came in. "Oh no," she said, "this is at your old address." Huh? We moved out of our Perdizes home back in November 2005. The amount due? 28c! Yes, you read right... twenty-eight cents is due since we moved out, but there's more. The 28c worth of electricity was racked up in March 2008!!! It's worth noting that after we moved out, the house was razed to the ground.

This is a bit like those optical illusions where you don't quite know which direction is up...


del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Monday, 08 March 2010

A week in review

This is absolutely 100% Dingo!!

dingo odie

I really should write as life happens or it's all forgotten. I learnt that the hard way with Tat. I was preparing her birthday gift which called for memories of her childhood. I lost so much detail because it wasn't written down. I have an abysmal memory. Just this past week was so full and I've forgotten much of it.

The first couple of days were spent with little accomplishments... unpacking a box, finding space for the plastic-ware... that kind of thing. Tuesday, I was halfway to a student when she cancelled... again. Most annoying, but it did give me a chance to go home and get some stuff done. Wednesday passed in a haze of students. Thursday was much the same.

Friday, I went in to teach and while I was there, I finally got a battery for my watch. Great! You know what an absolute bind it is to have to keep checking your cell phone for the time? After my student in town, I rushed over to Tat's old student who was to take a bag with her to Tat. She is the girl who introduced Tat to that programme. It turned out that she couldn't take Tat's bag, as she'd over-packed and needed an extra case for herself. She could at least take Tat's glasses and her birthday gift, which was really small. No teddies (where's her priorities?). She did take the coffee Tat asked for though. I left her feeling Tat's loss all over again, although I know it isn't a loss, as it isn't permanent and we are in regular contact, the whole thing just made me super emotional.

At 7pm, I headed out to the last student of the week. Security called him, but there was 'no reply'. I reminded security that the last time he said there was no reply, the student was in his apartment waiting for me, so would he please try again. Still no reply.

I called the student on his cell. You know when someone answers the phone and you know right away they've forgotten. "Hello Joe (not his name)." Silence. "Oh, it's you! Um...  *choice word*! I'm 10 minutes away from home in the traffic. I'll be there now." I reminded him that I would be waiting out in the street for him for 10 minutes, so would he kindly hurry up. He arrived 20 minutes later, his wife's arms laden with shopping. Guess where they were. He'd forgotten. I let him know that I was really angry. Waiting like a spare part at the security gate isn't my idea of a Friday evening. The worst part was that I'd asked him if he was sure he wanted a class on the Friday evening and he insisted! Gah. Ok, I think he's learnt his lesson. I hope!

Saturday morning, it rained and rained some more. I had to do shopping. Jurgis and I trekked out to the supermarket and  hardware store. We needed a doorbell, some doorknobs, a kitchen tap, and a few other odds 'n sods. We did the grocery shopping, then walked home (we have a nifty shopping trolley... one of Brazil's better inventions). As we got home, yet another random relative arrived.

Again, the house was a disaster (though we did have cups and glasses this time) with groceries everywhere and still no seating to speak of. This was the brother of the cousin who visited last week. He brought his son, aged 12, I think, who was clearly bored out of his mind with the old men (sorry Jurgis) talking family tales all afternoon. I confess, I was bored too. I tuned out to the talk because I struggled to understand him. He was nice though. He later took Jurgis to meet his gran's sister or cousin or some such relative. They ended up visiting a few other relatives at the same time. I stayed home to go through a couple of boxes. We have a vital suitcase with all our personal papers in and 'someone' has mislaid the key. *writes Saturday off for doing anything useful* Truth be told, I was grateful for the quiet time at home. Jurgis arrived home close to 10pm.

Today was a beautiful day. The sun was shining... the first real sun we've seen in ages. The sky was blue with fluffy white clouds drifting by. Jurgis worked like a trojan. He got the washing machine upstairs, so it's now under shelter. He finished the dog gate. It's very grand... and very heavy! The gate is made from old shelving he found here, no less than mahogany. Thing is, it was made last week, but needed the hinges and catch put on. I cleaned up the 'garden'. I tossed a lot of unwelcome plants and weeded the rest. The curtains were completed and put up. A couple more boxes were dealt with. All in all... good : )


del.icio.us Tags: ,,,,,

What happened?

Born to parents who cared
loved and nurtured
life a dream of farm fields
and orchards
you excelled in a nobleman's sport

Grew up to marry
a man who didn't care
you tried so hard to please
a small home in town
a tiny garden
your children a beloved burden

As a woman you lost
the guiding hand who helped
the children you raised
the children you lost
home was a room
with walls closing in

Growing old and frail
your last home lost
nobody to help
nobody to turn to
your final resting place
a corner in a rubble-strewn yard

Too many fall through society's cracks. Each 'lost' person is someone's father, mother, brother, sister, a colleague, an old friend...


del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Friday, 05 March 2010



I spend a fair amount of time waiting for the next student in either buses, trains, metros and shopping centres. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I catch up with paperwork. Other times I prepare lessons or write. Sometimes I just sit and watch. Shopping Iguatemi is very upmarket, definitely not the kind of place ordinary mortals go shopping in. Most people having lunch here work in the nearby office blocks.

Blonde with glasses. She looks efficient. Taps her fingers on the table. Makes a call. Appearing efficient is important, even at lunch.

The nanny fidgets with the pacifier, watching the baby. She frequently glances over at the food queues. She's hoping her boss won't take long getting lunch. Or is she hoping she'll get to go home earlier tonight?

Reading quietly in the corner, her coffee at her elbow, she suddenly shifts to the edge of her seat. Propping her head up, she reads intently. She must be at an exciting part of her book.

Why do they line the eating area with mirrors? It's no fun watching yourself chew. It is helpful to adjust your clothes as you walk or self-consciously finger the necklace he gave you last night while you check that you look your best.

All business, she emphatically gestures as she makes a point. The conversation is probably a carry-over from the last meeting.

The baby is sleeping now. There are tears in nanny's eyes. What's wrong? The mother eventually comes back with her tot. Nanny is sent on one last food errand before she gets her lunch. She returns with a tray holding a tasty-looking pasta dish, which she shares with the tot. It looks good. The tot prefers nanny's food to mom's, which, I have to say, I can't blame her for. Mom's food looks strange. I'd go for the pasta dish too.

The two lovers cuddle, their food gone quite cold. I feel like an intruder into their world, even though they're sitting in a crowded eating mall.

The businessman in his pin-striped suit marches past, talking seriously into his cell phone. I think lunch, for him, is definitely eaten on the fly.

The smile of the clown

This is one clown that always smiles.

One of the quirks of São Paulo's public transport is the hawking of random cheap sweets, pens, stickers, etc. For a while, this stopped, as the law clamped down on the hawkers, but they've slowly trickled back.

The man I'm talking about isn't a hawker though. He's a clown and a happy one. I have never seen him without a smile. He was a regular on a different bus route I used to take. Tat and I spoke of him recently, wondering if he was still doing that job.

Today he got on my bus again. It was a pleasure to see his smile. He handed sweets to everyone then gave his speech. You see, he collects for a programme they have going for the children's cancer hospital. There's a group of clowns that goes around to these kids making them laugh. They're all volunteers and their only purpose is to put a smile on the faces of really sick kids. I can't begin to tell you how much I admire the work these people do.

hospital clown

Image and quote from Big Apple Circus' community page

“Ministering to sick children goes beyond medication and technology.  When a child begins to laugh it means he’s probably beginning to feel better.  I see the clowns as healers.” – Dr. John M. Driscoll Jr., former Chairman of the Pediatrics Department at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,