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Monday, 28 February 2011

You can take your combo.....

In fact, just to be true to the true sense of this up-to-the-minute phenomenon, you can take your combo and you can try and stick it in two places at once. That way you will find out if it packs more of a punch, or saves you cash, or buys you time, or gets you further, or whether it simply means you took your combo and stuck it in two places at once, resulting some discomfort in two places instead of just one.

Now I don't suppose this is an observation of Brazillian culture, and as such you may well think I´m somewhat off topic. Truth be told I never really took much notice of this combo culture ´till we arrived here and it appears that there´s always a way of getting it with both barrels.

Net - (now don´t forget to pronounce the ´t´as a ´ch´ - go on try it!) is our cable tv/phone/broadband provider. Now remember the stuff about the cpf? So how do we enjoy the luxury of cable TV, Internet and Phone all in one package without the holy grail of ID numbers? -  Well, its like this. The employer benevolently puts his hand in his pocket and pays our bill for us. We duly reimburse him. At least we would if we could legitmately have any income. So the man just subtracts it from our cash bung and all is well with the world. How much he subtracts depends upon how well we have managed to deconstruct the ´Net´ G-nome and which bloody combo we have ended up with.

Now I kind of understand it on the website (in Portuguese) and my Collegue, I have to say did a fantastic job of translating and Explaining (in english). I got home and made a half decent job of explaining it to her (in english). She went on the internet and made of it what she did. The she phoned them up and explained what we wanted (in Portugues) Therafter followed a sizemic shift (in no particular language) in our multimedia houshold supply. Everything started working differently. The little man can watch it all in Spanish if he wants (let alone English or Portuguese) - BBC World disappeared down a black hole (probably a good thing really) and the Interweb thing is now a blistering 5MB. (absolutely all we can afford - can you believe 50MB is nearly 200 quid a month? Well believe it. Get over yourself.

All of this took most of a week to organise, and without the joy of the Combo our domestic economy would have probably gone the way of that of our green and pleasant land. So, do I still hate the beloved ´Combo´? Bloody right I do.

Now here you can stack up your purchases, combo style, you can even buy a t shirt in 8 installments if you want. You can buy a metro ticket that lets you on the bus! Look around you, they´re everywhere. Do send in your own annoying combos -´as if i´m not annoyed enough already.

Amoung my favourite people are purveyors of beer - Landlords and Ladies, Barmaids, Offie owners. If they sell it, I love em. In this weekend before Carnival, I´ve encountered more beer sellers than usual. Unfortunately some of them practice the dark art of devising confusing combos to the innocent drinker.

Its like this - three sizes of can and three prices. Sounds crazy no? Work out how many combos that could be. Combine that with ´sorry I havn´t got anything smaller´and how about 2 mediums for the price of 3 smalls etc etc and all of a sudden you´re in pissed up rip off heaven. Don´t get involved - buy em one at a time - they stay colder anyway. Bollocks to the combo.

You know I used to be so so keen of a certain essex boy chef. I bought her his books so that I could secretly learn how to be him. He could do no wrong. I didn´t mind when he started trying to do it for the kids.  I didn´t even mind when he tried to get the Americain dinner ladies to stop dee frying lettuce. But I got proper pissed off when he combined two ingredients and claimed discovery of the latest world changing scientific phenomenon. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you my most glorious combo ... Salt and Pepper. Knob.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Getting Around 2: On The Buses

On the Buses

Now, I'm not really yet in any position to talk with any authority or knowhow about this well loved mode of Rio transport. But its been nearly a month now, and seeing as barely a day goes by with out me putting my life in the hands of some deranged madman/woman, I thought it would do no harm to share some initial thoughts.

The buses get you there. Quick. Even if the everyday gridlock seems somehow inpenetrable, you'll make it, trust me. That is if your chauffeur of the moment remains on the case for long enough to keep his dodgem from stacking into any other game contestants in this glorious deathrace 2011.

Heres how it works. Keep some smallish money handy because the bus won't break the bank. Wait at the kerbside for your number to come up (or if, like me, you don't know all the numbers look out for a vaguely familiar destination) - When you see your bus approaching like a terrifying Indiana Jones style boulder, Jump out in front of it and flail your arms wildly above your head. If unsure, just copy the nearest fellow would-be passenger. Now if the bus stops, proceed to the next stage. If it doesn't, and assuming you are not in need of emergency first aid, you need to be prepared to flail again I'm afraid.

Once on board, hold on. No matter what. Step up past the driver (who will no doubt be back on his hell-bent mission to get us all wherever) and go to the turnstyle operator. Pay your fare, get through the turnstyle and go and enjoy your ride.

Now, if you manage to get a seat keep an eye on (a) your stuff and (b) where you are. Most of the familiar lanscape mysteriously disappears once onboard, rather like you just departed platform 13 and three quarters. Try to enjoy it flying past and marvel at your would be fellow passengers jumping into the road and flailing. Feel quietly proud as your driver pulls one death-defying overtaking move after another, and the rest of the city disappears behind you.

Ok - when you think you are approximate, pull the cord and get off at the next stop. The getting off door is at the back. As you alight, watch out for the dodgy bastards who get on via the getting off door to avoid their fare. Personally I've not yet felt particularly inclined to draw the driver's attention to their activities. Is this because of my zen-like live and let live attitude? Yes it is.

Coupla observations:
  • Copacabana is currently lying confortably under a blanket of fresh tarmac. This makes the whole district smell delightful. The lack of road markings also makes for a scintilating vehicular free for all that the buses seem to particularly enjoy. Be careful out there.
  • Given that there are no road markings, the powers that be have decided to change the bus stop system in Copa completely. Nice. Each bus stops at either stop 1, 2 or (yes you've guessed it) 3. Now, if you happen to be at the right stop for your bus number, great. Good for you. If you happen to have jumped out for the wrong number at the wrong stop, be careful. No amount of flailing is going to stop that bus. This could be a flashing blue light moment.

Projeto de ônibus para Copacabana (Foto: Divulgação)
The Fancy New Copacabana Bus Stop System. This one folks, is a number 1. If you need a number 2, you'll just have to go somewhere else.

  • Travelling with a buggy? Then you have to get on via the getting off door so that you can avoid the turnstyle. Sometimes this works well (once the guy even abandoned his turnstyle to lend a hand up the steps!) - Sometimes its a bloody rank disaster. Thankyou fellow undisirable back door embarkee for hurling abuse at the driver until he stopped squashing our son the the doors.
You know, sometimes dodgy looking bastards can be worth their weight in gold.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Big Din at Posto Seis

So today (Sunday) we decided to try out one of these bloco occasions. This one was down at posto 6. (now the postos are the council amenity blocks spread out over the length of the beachfront) - Pretty handy too, seeing as none of the drinking establishments have a loo. Now I don't know about anybody else, but getting stuck in to the cold stuff with no possibility of a waz kind of takes some of the fun out of the whole thing. So, once again Rio - you have it covered. If I ever wore one, I'd take my hat off.

Right, a bloco, it appears is any local community, or 'block - I suppose it follows that we belong to one, but to be honest i'm really not sure. One thing that is certain that our bloco is gonna have to seriously pull its finger out if its going to hold a candle to posto 6. For a start, I reckon mobile PA systems capable of doing strucural damage in a 5 mile exclusion zone are few and far between. They must have booked it with some considerable advance notice.

The first float went along the front at about 11am - a lively affair with a band doing its thing as a modest crowd tagged along, all in matching t shirts. Quite moving - especially as the whole message was anti drugs and all for clean living. Ok - I know I can be a bit soft, but when groups blast it loud and proud for all to hear it gets me every time.

Right, having endured Rio Sul Mall on Saturday, we are a two bikini family (both of them being hers of course - the old Granny one and the fancy new brazillian one). Well here's what happend - she went to do some work on her tan, and I pushed the buggy towards the loudest carnival float I have ever heard. What a laugh - and it was only the soundcheck. Usually when the bass drum starts thumping, I make myself scarce with the other horn players and wait for aaaages at a safe distance. But this spectacle was worth seeing. The band were miles in the air, and the trailer that was their stage was made entirely from speakers. Really big noisy ones. 

70 year old bloke were buying vodka ice poles and beer was on sale wherever you looked. This hour or so at the start line was a sort of drinking/snacking warm up to an alternative olympic event.

And then we were off - without any warning the band was banging and all of the hats and t shirts erupted into a happy happy bloco party on the move.

We tagged along for a bit and then retreated a couple of blocks inland - it was still deafening, and the waiter who looked after us while we had lunch knew all the words to the tunes that were playing a light year away. Maybe they turned it up just for him.

Carnival, I'm told makes all this seem like a parish garden party. Hmmm...

Friday, 18 February 2011

CPF? Just another TLA? Or Should I Be Paying Some Attention?

In the words of the tantric Geordie, "I'm an Alien".... In fact all three of us are aliens. To be technically correct, we're tourists. Only we live here. So we largely depend upon the employer to help us out with everything (and I mean everything) until we can nip back to London and collect our visas, which are now all duly processed and ready to go. Now, in a relatively short space of time I've learnt that one of Brazil's most celebrated pastimes is seeing how many people can be involved in a single beurocratic process, much like the student tradition of squeezing as many drunken bodies and kebabs as possible into a phone box.

The result is everything takes aaaages. Like the visas, and getting the internet organised, or trying to buy a SIM card, or getting a CPF.

CPF when its up and dressed? Its  stands for 'Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas' and is proof of your
registration on the Physical Persons Register. And you can't have one unless you have a visa. Right. I'm not kidding when I say this. Without a CPF you ain't nothing. Forget it. You ain't havin a microwave, custom kitchen, refrigerator or colour TV. In fact you aint having any household appliances, Dire Straits related or not. Depending on the vendor, you ain't even having a floor mop.

You certainly ain't having a bank account, so if you need some wedge, best tap up your boss for a cash bung on Friday, much like you did your old man when you were ten.

Still, could be worse. Observing basic human rights, the authorities seem to allow purchase of essential food items and it appears that one can procure great big bottles of delicious and refreshing beer without having proof of being on the physical persons register.

So, might just ignore the latest three letter acronymn in my life, and get shitfaced.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Getting Around 1 - The Metro...

File:Metro rio de janeiro.jpg

So far removed from our days in Sarf Landin. This is the Rio Metro. So far it has two lines and runs from Ipanema in the south to way way way up north. I´m told that it can be grim up north, but as i´ve not been there, I'm reserving judgement. Unlike so many scardey southerners I could mention back home. You know who you are.

Right - the metro. There is actually space - even at rush hour, and even though It really lacks a  'stand still on the left, run for your life on the right' unwritten law, it is positively dealable.

Just get your card from the ticket office - currently R$2.80 for a single, or buy a rechargeable on for R$10 and go for it. You're not gonna get mugged here. It just seems so safe. I'd love to hear from anyone that knows different. Right now i'd say that it was a good way of getting from A to B unscathed. (although, touch-wood we all remain skirmish free so far)

Anyone have a buggy? Then you can pretty much forget it. Some stations have lifts, most don't. So just make alternative arrangements. You can always try your luck with the wheelchair stair lifts, but to be honest they take aaaages, and if anyone in a wheelchair showed up while I took 20 minutes to get the buggy up the stairs, I'd be less than proud of myself.

So the verdict is: The Metro rocks, but don't bother with the buggy.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Whats That Got To Do With The Price Of Beer?

Now, with an 18 month old son in tow, it will come as no surprise that our beer drinking escapades have all been short. But thankfully, living in Copacabana, they have been many. Now, I can't talk about late night places yet, but here in Copacabana, there are at least a million ways of getting it down you. Any way up it comes ice ice cold.

Now as my Portuguese develops, I'll embarrass myself less (I hope) - for now I'll just have to explain it using my most familiar poor language skills. Here goes:

  1. Tinnies, cans - to be drunk everywhere, especially on the beach using a polystyrene hugger (are they called eskies?) - currently price ranges from R$2.50 from a news stand to R$4 served right into your hand as you lay on the beach burning yourself to a cinder wondering if you've (a) gatecrashed a supermodel convention. or (b) witnessed a Pat Butcher look-a-like trying to get away with wearing Bianca's bikini.
  2. Bottles - Now, longneck bottles are decidedly posh (and about R$5) - but the bottles I'm talking about (and currently my beer vehicle of choice) are a mighty 600ml. Now if there are two of you, or three, or five for that matter - just order one at a time. Avoid any British urge to cling on to your own drink like it was keeping you alive. Learn to share. Everyone gets a small glass, and everybody drinks beer quick - so it stays cold. When the beer is gone (and much like Mr Ben's Shopkeeper) - all of a sudden, another one appears. Magic. Oh, and each gargantuan bottle comes in at around R$4.50.
  3. Chopp. Draft beer. Quite posh - but been nonetheless and not to be sniffed at. And at R$5 a glass I find such blatant displays of oppulence frankly unnecessary.
Ok, thats beer far from covered, and no doubt a basis for further serious conversation.

Try one of these....

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