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

Thursday, 28 October 2010


We're in daylight savings now, so I get to see the sun rise at a stop. Usually I'm in transit. Still fairly dark when I leave home though. It was only after I saved the photo to my pc that I noticed the rainbow... faint, but it's there. I have no idea if it was really there or if it was caused somehow by my camera. I like it though.

So much to be grateful for today. Tat had a much better paper-chase experience today - more thanks go out to strangers reaching out. On that note, if you ever want to show random kindness towards a stranger, just know that it is never wasted. It can make all the difference!

My bus disappeared into the early morning semi-dark, so I settled into a stroll thinking I had at least 20 minutes to wait for the next one. Just then, the next bus came. Either the previous one was very late or this one was very early. I flagged the bus from a good distance away. The driver saw me, pulled up at the opposite corner and waited!! What and angel. And... the bus had scads of seating!

Cute... just passed a bridal dressmaking shop - a tortoiseshell and white cat is in the window watching the passing traffic.

There was a girl reading a book (translated) on the metro - Christiane F. - a book about a 14 year old girl who was caught up in a life of drugs and prostitution (true story). It came as recommended reading and viewing - there's a movie too - when I was a teen. I can't think of a more depressing book to start a day with.

The Christiane book girl has nodded off and is falling over onto the woman next to her. On the other side sits a girl trying very hard to look like she isn't crying. I hope her day gets better.

~                          ~                           ~

At the bank building, outside, there is a beautiful old tree with branches that go on forever. Under it was a group of youngsters, their backpacks up against the wall. They were having a really good time. A cloud of smoke hovered over them as they puffed away on the bong. One played guitar off to the side. A few were passing around bottles of booze. The security looked uncomfortable, but did nothing about it. My student and I discussed conspiracy theories and voting (not too much difference between the two).

Afterwards, I went to the shopping centre near my next student. It's already done up for Christmas!! And the Christmas shops are open! I wandered around there for about half an hour only to be called... my student cancelled... again. She thought changing her times back to her old times would help with cancellations. Uh huh. It helped, all right. So I mooched off home. My evening student has changed his time for Saturday morning. There go the weekends.

C'est la vie... and another week ends...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Saw a bomb squad vehicle stop and ask for directions today. Should I be worried?

Wednesday waffle

The week sort of spun out of control again. I had a whole heap of random publishable (and some very unpublishable) thoughts to write down.

I'm having a week of far too many cancellations again. Now I remember... that was another reason I was unreasonably excited about working for an establishment. Cancellations aren't all bad though. Sometimes they allow me to tour the city in bumpy buses giving me time to muse about life in general and why I'm hungry an hour after lunch.

Bureaucracy sucks. I am fast learning that there isn't a country in the world that doesn't take delight in crumpling you up in a ball of paperwork and tossing you around. Much like this...

I was looking for this photo when I saw that Multiply had my last year's NaNo photo as having been uploaded in 2007. Craziness!

I took a chance and asked a random person on FB a couple of weeks ago if they knew anyone who would have a photo or could take a photo of the monument in Ficksburg. This guy is my great (x a few) grandfather, the one the town is named after. Being a small town in the Free State, there is very little information out here beyond the annual cherry festival and all things cherry. The family's farm there was... yep, you guessed it... a cherry farm. It's a beautiful part of the world that appears to be dominated by the prevalence of cherries and winter frost.

Lo and behold, one lady came through for me! The monument is in front of Ficksburg's really quaint city hall. What's more is that she said she'd go back and photograph the text detail for me. I think I love her. Now she's found an elderly gentleman who has the history of the town and its people on computer and may even be eager to share the information. I'm in genie heaven!

With grateful thanks to Susan K!

I may yet be able to map this family's winding path into the past.

Oh, Jurgis just came back from the village... mail day! Weeee!!! From the one place where us poor Seffies are welcome. And here I had just been watching the video of Tat dancing with her very sweet Leprechaun and no, she won't thank me for uploading the video, so it will stay safely tucked away on my pc : )

Saturday, 23 October 2010


Yep... LOL "Laugh out Loud"

Just in case you needed more convincing... this is about laughing - out loud...

Bad photo, but who cares?

When the World Cup was on the go, I read something about a journalist who landed in South Africa. He said what struck him the most was the laughter he heard at the airport, obviously something he wasn't accustomed to. South Africans are a peculiar lot, but one thing we do is laugh and usually out loud. I think it's because we're usually to be found out of doors, so conversations get spoken loudly across braais (bbq's) and laughter is something practised at the same volume.

Yes, we are loud, I think, but most of all, we know how to laugh, especially at ourselves and when something is funny, we aren't shy to let the world know. Yes, yes, our laughter may be quite loud and rumbustious, but that's us.

Laughter is contagious. I saw a little booklet the other day and one of the notes in it said: "A felicidade é contagiosa: cerque-se de rostos felizes." Happiness is contagious: surround yourself with happy faces.

Sometimes, I forget to laugh. I forget that laughter feels good. A good belly laugh heals so many ills. It occurred to me that we don't hear much laughter here at all, loud or soft. They smile, they chuckle, and laugh softly. It isn't that laugh that forces itself up from deep in your belly, stretching your mouth and face, squeezing your eyes shut and letting the tears roll. Ah... to laugh is good!

What makes you belly laugh?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Driving or not

Tat, sweetie... I thought of you today....

The one metro, that bright shiny new one, that I took today had a surprise in store for me. I found myself on the second carriage. One can walk between carriages on this metro. I saw something strange at the front... so I walked through. I knew the metro was driverless, but wow.... standing at the 'nose' of the train watching the tracks! Next time I'm going to do that. The guy on the right is actually videoing it with his cell phone.

Blurry photo much. Pretend it's showing speed or something, ok?

Hm... it just occurred to me that I should explain the top photo. I love beetle bugs... they're adorable. I so want to get myself one and paint it purple and full of flowers... just because and no, I'm not a hippy. Tat had this game she'd play of finding license plates with funny acronyms. In South Africa, the games would be about repeated numbers, as it was illegal to have a vowel in your license plate (unless it was one of those expensive personalised ones). Here, vowels are allowed and they're very funny sometimes... even funnier when the vehicle owners don't get what's funny about them. I've decided that the word 'cow' will feature in my personalised license plate when I grow up and have a car again :)

Sometimes even my horoscope has some priceless gems :) "You don't have to hang out in the dark shadows today; cultivate magic by crossing over to the sunny side of the street."

Monday, 18 October 2010

Starting over

I decided to start my day over. That's the fun part about time. You can start over at any point in your day. This image is a copy of a greeting card I saw. I found the message to be good... and timely. "No one can go back to make a new beginning, but anyone can begin now to make a new future." So, so true!

My head was in a distinctly funky place when I wrote my earlier blog today. It was literally a knee-jerk reaction. Freak now and ask questions later. I did ask questions in the end, when the fluff was cleared from my brain. The agent had written to tell me about the cancellation. I just never got it and it was all good:

"...she's been having a lot of problems with her schedule and can't continue classes now. She said she expects to sort out her schedule within the next couple weeks and will then get in touch again to resume classes. She said she loved your classes."
Ah now... that's better! And you know, if she doesn't come back (though I'm sure she will), the space is just being cleared for something better.

Class with young MF went just fine. Her father was back from his travels - he's hardly ever home - so everyone was cheerful and distracted, though the little one crawled up to where we were, heard me telling MF to scroll up (laptop) and kept saying, "Up! Up!" and laughing. That was so nice to hear. She's making huge progress.

Life is good... when I let it be good ; )

Ups and downs of life

So… it’s Monday and the week definitely has to pick up from here. Poor Monday gets incredibly bad rap as it is.

I woke up in the early hours to a thud. Jurgis had gotten up, decided to check something on my pc and knocked my stand with the webcam over. I still don’t know if it’s damaged. I’ll check it out later once the day starts improving.

The sound of gentle rain woke me up later. That was worth a smile. I lay listening to it for a while, then was slapped by the sound of our UPS’ beeping. Gah… power failure! It lasted for 2 hours and now our internet won’t start up. Thing is, if our internet doesn’t work, we’re without a phone too, as our phone is through our net service. We could call them, but they make you hold for ages and we’d have to call with cell phones. On our regular phone, last time we called, it turned out to be less than cheap.

I texted my student for this morning to confirm her class - her times were due to change. Just got the reply. She had told the agent I get work through that she was stopping classes as something had changed with her work. Thanks for letting me know, folks! No one told me. It was thanks to a gut feeling that I texted her. I was dressed and ready to go to meet her.

Yes, she did say it was due to changes in her work, but it’s so, so hard not to take it personally. I’ll never know if it was me. One thing about Brazilians is that they’re polite to a fault (ok, polite in some ways, such as not being able to say ‘no’). Any excuse will do as long as they don’t have to tell you to your face that something is wrong. My head is telling me that it’s bull. My heart is asking far too many questions. Ah well.

As I said, the morning can only get better, right? On the bright side, losing a student means my schedule is clearing for better students or for the course to enter that school… the one with all the super benefits. Yeah! That’s it. Now to convince my self-esteem that all is well.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


One of *those* mornings! I did wake up at 4:30. I swear! Somehow, 4:30 morphed into 5:20. Did you know that panic acts as a spring? I vaulted from being horizontal in my bed to the kettle in the kitchen two rooms away in one fluid movement... far more fluid than I usually am before noon (or any other time, for that matter).

I made it to the bus stop 10 minutes late only to find the bus was late too. Thank goodness. The driver greeted me with a cheery smile, which was good, as the crowded bus forced me to stand close to him - or as close as the protective bars would allow anyway - for some distance.

At the end of the first run, I went to pay. I usually delay it to the end of that leg of the trip, so I can stretch my Bilhete Unico (a card that lets me take a certain number of buses and metros within a given time period). Panic ensued a second time, this time far worse. My bus card was missing! I paid cash, but that ends up more than doubling my transport costs. A frantic call to Jurgis had him searching at home. I had just charged the card on Friday with at least half a month's worth of transport value. If it was gone, I'd be in huge trouble. Bless the man - he found it at home. Huge "Whew!"

After that, the rest of the day had to be peachy, right? Ok, barring the metro-riders who collectively seemed to be out of sorts. Outside the bank where teach, I was delighted to find two boys playing with a spinning top.

Photo credit: Ratão Diniz in www.flickr.com

It's been years since I'd seen one of those. They were doing some pretty cool tricks with it too. I wonder if spinning tops are coming back into popularity again - life is full of surprises.

Speaking of surprises, I'm learning to give everything (and everyone) a chance - a slow lesson, mind you. You never know where you'll find a gem. I found some great music recently in a genre and artist type I usually wouldn't touch with a ten-foot barge pole. Even the bus driver this morning was one I usually avoid. He's the one who always goes at half the speed limit. Today, he went along at a decent pace and I got smiles. What more could I ask for? Hm... ok.... perhaps an air ticket or two? : )

I had more surprises in store for me today. My one constantly-cancelling student wanted to move her class to lunch time to see if she'd be more constant then. That left her very popular slot open in the early morning. My Friday morning student, a really nice guy, happily filled that slot. I got an email this afternoon from the parent of the teens. Apparently, the kids have decided they don't want English classes for now (guess who's the boss there) and they're going to give it a miss for a while and he's terribly sorry. Wheeeee! This meant that I could tell my other student that she could have the lunch times she was after. Ok, she's not as regular as I'd like and with her, I'll get 10 bucks less than I do with them, but, as I said to Jurgis, I'll put that 10 bucks down to spa/therapy time. The stress I'll be relieved of makes it so well worth it and I know that more will come in now.

Oops! Just saw the time. I'm nearly late for the next student. Seems today is not my most punctually-concious day *blush* I thought the photo I took in the bank offices to be appropriate. "Time" in Portuguese is actually 'team'. It fits though.

Monday, 11 October 2010

My big brother

We were bound forever by blood but our friendship is forever by choice.
I am honoured to call you MY brother.
~ by Kayla

Sometimes the love that runs like a deep still river, underscoring your life, is the one that is almost impossible to describe. Right from the beginning, there was Hamish, my big brother, often my partner in crime, though I'm inclined to say that I was more just someone who followed in awe.

Our lives were so vastly different in the end, but, you know what? We share something precious... dreams... and a love that has risen above all the differences and curve balls that life throws.

Once there was a time when I looked up to him. When he disappeared from my life, I simply loved him and wondered. Now I love him and, once again, look up to him. I'm infinitely proud of you, Hamish. Happy Birthday.... and may this year be the year of those dreams coming true.

A brother shares childhood memories and grown-up dreams. 
~Author Unknown

'n Handjievol van jou - Juanita du Plessis

: ) My listening pleasure for tonight

Wednesday, 06 October 2010

I win!

Today I won the lottery. Can you see it?

Actually, it was just that the weather was good - slightly overcast, but still clear, with a promise of rain. Then finding myself a patch of actual real live GRASS to sit on! Most places here don't allow you near the grass, but I saw someone sitting on the grass and rushed over to grab my share.

I got a call from an old student this morning. "Teacher, I'd like to have class again." I got the feeling he had spent some time practising the request. When I last taught him, I was ill-equipped to teach someone that basic. It'll go better this time.

The wind is picking up now. The two old duckies have gotten up, not stopping their deep discussion. The girl sitting on her towel at the other end of my green patch is still reciting. At first, I thought she was talking to herself, but it seems she's reciting lines of some sort. Maybe she's a famous actress I don't know about? Or maybe she is just talking to herself. There are less baby walkers now. The last lot was when they wheeled grandpa and junior side by side - two very different chairs. There's a pretty little black bird hovering. He won't tell me his name. And yes, I did ask.

Speaking of birds, they have a tree here with 'birds' hanging in it. Stands to wonder that this was the only tree without any real birds. What were they thinking?

Ok, clouds are pulling over in earnest now. I'll leave the grass to the birds and ants and head into the overpriced shopping centre. Dang little hooligan... we have close to 100% humidity today and he felt the need to activate the humidifier - a gadget that pumps out mist for when São Paulo goes into dry mode.

Later... (the above was copied from my notebook I carry around)

Before leaving, I walked around the park a little. Some people's idea of art truly makes me scratch my head. I found this furniture 'graveyard' - at least, that's what I assume it was meant to be. There were no helpful signs.

A somewhat more 'artistic' display (though still head-scratch worthy), was the one with the books in the water. Odd indeed!

A close-up of the books... an art book, a music book and a hand-written book.

Some friendly dinosaur came along and left some art too....

At the shopping centre, a woman collects her beribboned pom-pom. As they leave, little froufrou is 'watering' the pavement. 'Mom' froufrou blew me away when she bent down each time to wipe little froufrou's bum. Now I love dogs and babies and baby dogs, but...

Photo shamelessly pilfered from the net

Pampered has new meaning here. I mean, in the pet shop and pooch parlour inside, they sold things like Chownel No. 5 - a fluffy toy for pampered pooch in question - Cost? R$154!! That's about US$90. They had some other big names there too, like Yves St Laurent. A canopied bed? Diamond-studded collars (praying those were just glass... didn't have the courage to check the price tag).

Further along into my day found me at another end of the same neighbourhood with a different type of 'art'. This bus never moves from there and the girl making and selling jewellery is also a fixture.

I went home in heavy rain just a couple of hours after this last photo. The water in our street was up over my ankles and it smelled really bad. I think the sewer, that the people here call a river, had overflowed. It was a case of 'strip off at the door and walk straight into the shower'. All clothes and shoes went straight off to be washed.

The next night's class had me walking along a stretch that had some new artwork, graffiti of a more pleasing sort...

It was a good excuse to see what the cell phone could do after dark : )

Friday, 01 October 2010

Symbols of Good

What does this symbol mean to you? Think carefully now. Ok, this image appears to be pretty, but the image of a swastika often brings to mind terrible world events.... hatred, intolerance, fear. I thought of posting the more familiar image of the Nazi swastika, but the beauty of this image won out : )

Not many people know that the swastika is actually a symbol of good.
"It is one of the oldest symbols of mankind, a symbol representing peace, laughter, joy and good luck. Its Nazi links are only a minor speck in its very long existence. It is a symbol that deserves a better treatment from history. Swastika stands for truth, compassion, tolerance and happiness. It is worshipped as a symbol of good fortune..." Read more here. Another article can be found here.
Today, I had my own experience with the swastika.

I went to the lottery house to buy credits for my bus card. While I was there, I decided to take a lottery ticket on a "if not, why not" impulse. (Please note, I don't habitually gamble and I don't depend on lotteries to change my fortunes, as was implied in comments on another blog). I had just finished paying and the girl behind the counter smiled and wished me luck. She is such a sweet girl with a lovely, friendly smile. She handed me my change. I looked down... and my world crumbled...

Yes, the photo is bad, but it was a shaky cell phone pic.

On the note is written, "Fora imigrantes" or "Get out immigrants." It is a very emphatic word used in this type of context. Combined with the swastika, the impression was immensely negative. I wonder what the effect of so much negativity would have on the writer. I stood there staring at the note, a multitude of emotions and thoughts, many of them depressing, going through my mind... until I landed on the thought and emotion I wanted. "Yes! Thanks! Just what I needed with a lottery ticket! I *do* want to get out!" haha! If I found the writer of the note, I'd probably kiss them.

Then I thought more on the matter and did a bit of reading when I got home and found the above info on the swastika. Combined with my interpretation of the message, it's all good.

Now I'm tempted to frame that note, but no... I think I'll spend it. Apparently writing on bank notes is common here. Many people write a 'charm' on the note to have the money come back to them. I altered the note in bright orange marker. I put a smiley face to the left of the swastika and wrote to the right that the swastika is a symbol of peace and luck (in Portuguese, of course). Then in black marker, I crossed the negative wording out... not negative for me, but other foreigners may be hurt by it. I'm going to spend that note. I've been wanting to do this for a while. I'm going to buy a phone card with the note and leave it unused at one of the nearby slums' pay phones. I'll send that note back into circulation, but with something good attached.

Wishing me luck? Wishing me out of here? I'll take it! : )