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Thursday, 31 March 2011

CPF Ahoy - The Man from Polícia Federal - he say yeah!

I'm pretty sure it wasn't one of these guys that blew up the rubber glove...

In fact the nice man from Policia Federal blew up a rubber glove and tied it in a knot in order to calm our little man down and persuade him to give his thumbprint!  Quite funny really - Reckon if i'd made the same fuss we'd have been standing in line at the check-in desk for the next one way flight to London.

Anyway - I think our immigration process is drawing to a close. Today we went back to the airport where no less then three (3!) people were on hand to guide us through the process of presenting our visas to the powers that be in order to become part of the (temporary) roll call. I can't help feeling that all these lovely helpers were on call simply to prevent any smart-arsed comment or incident of inappropriate huffing and/or puffing from pissing anybody off. I'm sure one or two folk have, on occasion, fallen victim of the temptation to make known their feelings about the sheer magnitude of this colossal work of bureaucratic art.

My advice - should you ever need to achieve your residency status in Brazil - Just behave yourself at all costs. I 'm sure the bloke that blew up the rubber glove to the ensuing delight of our one-year-old was quite capable of arranging alternative hospitality if he needed to.

And I'm positive it wasn't him

All this said - it went rather well. We now each have our temporary Brazil ID documents (protocols) which I'm sure will help to postpone the apocalypse, should it be due anytime soon. We headed into town where I completed a medical. Quite a simple process (no coughing or anything, if you know what I mean) - I passed. Must admit it feels wonderful to be a model of health.

And on we go...... Tomorrow (fanfare, drum roll, dancing girls please) we go and pick up our CPF numbers. And then heaven knows what's going to happen. Our official existence in this fair tropical paradise will be official. Shits and giggles ahead, no doubt!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Back to school (for the 3rd time...)

Ahhh.. The school bus. Mind you, if you caught one of these at least there would be a sporting chance of not making it!

I've heard it said that teachers make the worst students. Spot on. I'm now three hours into my Portuguese for idiot musicians course, and I have to say its going to take some time before I go native.

My benevolent employer pays for me to undergo this weekly humiliation, in the hope that someday I might just be able to stand on my own two feet without needing to cry for help before I do so much as pick up the phone. My students are immaculately bilingual. My Brazilian colleagues switch from one language to the next as easily as a crazy bus driver changes lanes in rush hour. It is most definitely time to step it up.

So my post-carnival resolution is to make a daily effort with it. I've got an app - I've got the program that encourages you to talk to the laptop like a senseless div. I've got a teacher! - And most of all I've got anyone in this fair city that wants to give me the time of day (not that i'd have a bloody clue what they were giving me if they did).

The first lesson was a hoot. Armed with the address an little more than than the ability to order beer after beer, I headed to Ipanema where my rendezvous was to be said tutor's 5th floor apartment. Now, Ipanema is a touch more swanky than where we live, so my reckoning was that this teacher must me doing something right.

Problem no 1. I get as far as the intercom entry and totally fail to communicate with the gate keeper. He hangs up on my shitness at least 3 times before coming out of the building to tell me to piss of in person. I resorted to pen and paper - he went to phone my guru, and in a flash it was all sweetness and light again. He showed me to the lift and, to coin M People, I was movin' on up.

And the doors opened. And my life changed. I was invited in (in Portuguese), asked to take a seat (in Portuguese) and talked at (in Portuguese) for the remaining hour or so. The only thing the whole experience was lacking was a really bright light shining in my eyes and a big meathead in the background stepping forward from time to time to punch me in the face.

You know what? I kinda liked it. I now know how to name most of the items in my school bag.

I might give it a week or two before I join the local debating society.

Yes, there is homework. And yes, I do it. In the pub, 10 minutes before its due. I really should have a word with myself. Somethings really ought to change.

Tchau for now.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Peggy Lee ain`t got nothing on this....

never know how much I love you....

Yesterday the Dengue sprayer came around. Everything in Copacabana less than 4 metres tall has been liberally doused. I bloody hope it does the trick - here`s why.

This is Dengue season, and unlike carnival fever, were people generally lose control of their senses and doss around with festive abandon, Dengue Fever is a nasty bug transmitted by mosquitos and it can really do you in.

The mosquito in question lays its eggs in stagnant water (so best avoid bathing in mucky puddles for a while) - and likes to feed off people and not animals (so there is little point sending your pooch out as a decoy). Symptoms are pretty nasty, and at worst can be life threatening. Kids should be sleeping under mosquito nets at the moment `cause they like to feed on them first. Nice.

I remember with love our annual trip through France. I remember falling in rivers and climbing up trees. I remember waking up covered in a fresh collection of lumpy bites from the latest tent invading nasties. I certainly do not remember being held to ransome by an orrible mosquito, bent on giving me a really nasty dose for a week or two. Welcome to Brazil, I `spose.

On the bright side - nobody seems to be that stressed about it. It seems that what ever happens, we`re going to live.

Anyhow, if you happen to see a pissed-up mosquito flying along beachfront in copa - just swat it. Its probably the one that just bit me.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Meanwhile, back on the boulevard.....

Sunday (happy birthday Ju!) and after a kipinho, we hit the town. All strangely familiar, and somehow nothing at all like we just came on holiday to the same place with only a week off inbetween! - Nope - none of it, we're here for the duration, best get used to it.

So, got out of bed and pulled on the old flip flops, and headed out. I love this place on Sundays. Not least because you couldn´t go shopping even if you really wanted to. All you can do is dawdle along until you find somewhere to have breakfast. I'm reminded of a great little jazz tune I heard in Turkey once called 'New York On Sunday'. - Big city takin' a nap.

Rio de Janeiro Gastronomia - Fast food Rufos's Sucos e Lanches inaugura filial em Copacabana

Well, Rio never seems to nap, but Sunday morning is pretty close. We went to a juice place and fed the little rascal fresh pinapple until it was too late. Suddenly we knew his pampers were going to sooner or later lose their battle with the inevitable onslaught. Mind you - if the pineapple caused one problem, then my banana and oat festival milkshake served in a chilled bucket was no doubt going to cause the opposite. Next time I'm definitely going to include prunes in the equation. Don't be put off though, these juice place are not to be sniffed at. Just think of something and try it. The best thing is hearing the guy that served you screaming your order over the wall. (perhaps its forbidden to make a smoothie in public, i dunno.)

And so to the gathering crowds on the front to see what all the fuss was about. I'll tell you. Every boy soldier in town had piled into one troop transporter or another to ensure the safe passage of one Barack Obama from the Marriott to his car. And off he went, with 30 odd outriders and a gleeful wave.

Seeing was believing - anyone would have thought he was the personal saviour of every last one of us. They waved and whooped and hollered. Ahh, stuff it, so did I. - Something about getting carried along by a happy crowd just always does it for me.

We definitely came to the right place.

O presidente Barack Obama e família desembarcam na Base Aérea do Galeão, no Rio. Foto: Pablo Jacob/O Globo
Airforce One. Probably the reason our bloody flight was 10 minutes late.


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Get In! (thanks to a friendly Chaveiro)

After what seems like a few months dotting around the place, we're back. And given that this one is our front door for the time being, I suppose you could say, we're home.

Typically, nothing in our lives seems to take place without incident, and before we took off, it occurred to me that I had no idea where the house keys were. No problem - we'll cross that bridge etc etc.

So we packed up the hire car and headed for terminal 5 (no less!) - filled up with the last full English for a while (if you can call Huevos Rancheros a full english) - and headed back to Brazil.

My last meal in blighty. Very well done me. Very well done indeed.
Flight was fine and unremarkable (apart from a certain 1 year old's screaming blue duck fit as we came in to land) - still, it seemed to encourage those around us to help with our obnoxious amount of hand luggage when we finally came to a halt. I think they were so traumatised (and deafened) that they simply had to help in any way they could as part of their recovery programme. Thanks very much all of you, enjoy your stay.

Then followed two of the most extraordinary events that strengthened my growing conviction that Brazil is the place to go if you want to find a good bloke. The first event was meeting our taxi driver.

Now - like many places - some taxi firms have paid good wedge to have a stall inside the airport, where they harangue the jet-lagged into an overpriced A to B. Rio is the same, with bells on. So, if you survive the stalls and make it to the Airport doors, well done. The next challenge (much like the next wave of nasties in a 80's video game) is to AVOID the foot soldiers who want to get you to use the cab they have in mind - no doubt the one that will chuck them a cheeky backhander that no doubt will eminate from your pocket.

If you make it through, you'll get through to the traditional taxi rank with the familiar yellow cars and licensed drivers. Our guy loaded all the bags, helped to fit the baby seat and charged us according to the meter. What a fella. He even asked if he had done ok when he got us there. The price, after I rounded it up was R$50 - Half the quote that the theiving bastard at the airport door gave me. Don't do it people. Be strong. R$50 buys a lot of bits and bobs.

Ahh, a friendly local Chaveiro. Every neighbourhood should have one. In fact, every neighbourhood has several.

It doesn't however, stretch to the services of a Chaveiro at 1130pm. I still couldn't find the bloody keys so we needed a locksmith. Our door keeper recommended him, and after 20 minutes he arrived on his pushbike. This fella was fantastic - I'd almost say worth getting locked out for. He could easily been a member of the Ocean's 13. With his bizarre toolkit and beardy/spectacled look, we knew we were in good hands. We were. We were in half an hour later. Doors a bit knackered, but hey - we met the mastermind locksmith of Copa. The cost - R$80 - about 30 quid. Now I know its easy to get ripped of here - but to meet two diamond geezers one after another seems to me like too much good luck in one go. 

Just make sure you call for a chaveiro to come round. I warned you.

Friday, 18 March 2011

What We Did In Billericay, and beyond.

Ok- here we are, back in blighty and the question on everybody's lips seems to be - 'so, how is it?'

So, it seems that in a matter of less than 2 months we have become something of an authority on all things Brazilian. Personally, I'm finding it all a little bit embarrassing. Not least because all of our nearest and dearest, who went to such great lengths to give us a belting send off, have barely finished clearing up the mess! And whilst the man's mum can probably do a good job at answering the questions - I just wish I'd been more successful at learning the Language. 'So, how is it?' - Its pretty cool actually.

As for understanding exactly how it works over there, I can safely say, that having had time to reflect, Its more bewildering now than it was when we set off in January. Mind you - even though I'm still largely clueless, I have to say that I still reckon its an exciting way to while away a couple of years of your life.

The Change In Petrol Price Suggested We'd been Away For A Decade...

Well, we're back, all be it for only another 24 hours, and we've been driving here and there doing family, friends, beer, fish and chips, Ikea. And not surprisingly, everything is gloriously familiar and lovely - so thanks one and all for turning out yet again. The plan is to stay away a little longer this time. Or at least until the piss taking petrol prices have taken a U turn so that you don't need to rob a post office so that you can afford to drive to the post box.

I even managed to squeeze in a Brighton trip on Monday, just to prove that no matter how old and sensible you become, a bathful of assorted beers and a bit of sofa surfing are quite often just the ticket. Do I miss the place? - Yeah. Did we do the right thing when we waved adios? - Yeah. Y'know, with each pint of Dark Star Original I got slightly more emotional. Its a good thing I changed to lager when we moved on or I'd have become a jibbering wreck.

The Glorious Evening Star - Be careful in there

The visa process continues - this time at the consulate just off Oxford Street. Very strange to here portuguese wafting around the place - and I have to say I was tempted to buy a 'Salgado' - from one of the women who had turned up to provide the queueing masses with Brazilian sustenance.  This time it was way easier than before. The Visas were ready! - Small matter of getting passport photos for the little man (how come its always him?) and they can be collected today (Friday).

So all that remains is to pack again, and peg it back to Rio. Simples. Would be rude not to squeeze in a curry first...

So, tomorrow brings a BA flight - but during the day this time. Here's hoping that we can entertain the little man for most of the 11 hours.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Flipflops, and fly.

Have a banana

Ok- we're off back to blighty, and we fly in a jiffy. Quick trip into the chaos to buy flip flops and I'm all set. I have to say I most impressed with this nation that has adopted this most wonderful clothing as its national dress.

So, the shopping took precisely five minutes. Flip flop central is truly a flabbergasting place. There are shops whose only income is to adorn these things. I've even found advice on websites suggesting that wearing them might help stave off the unsavoury mugger types. 

Well, be foolish not to get some them. I even treated myself to a new pair.

Right, typically, I'm cutting it fine. No doubt the next 'what we did in Rio' will be from dear old blighty.

Visa and CPF ahoy! - We're about to become official. I have to say that 2 months without paying tax was smashin'. Best get ready to join the great unwashed again. Who needs an extra 30% of their wedge anyway?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Oi! Stitch That.

Our little lad is a kamikaze fearless warrior with neither fear nor respect for his own well being. Bloody one year olds - I dunno!

Well after the latest installment of Uberaba hospitality, involving swimming, cans, bricks, bats, bottles, knives, guns. (erm, actually it just involved swimming and beer with a couple of meals chucked in), we headed back to the ranch with our host and shortly after that it happened. Our little angel had managed to gain a cut on his hand, and it was time for the doctor. Funny thing was, he thought it was no such time at all. He thought it was lego time and terrorising the dog time and digging up the potted plants time.

Well, our hosts sister is a doctor. So she phoned her. She wasn't sure, so she phoned her husband (also a doctor) - and he nipped round. Stitches definitely needed. Little lad still unconcerned with the river of blood.

Right, pile in the car then and go to A&E. Only, this was A&E for kids, and you know what? I can honestly say it was smashing! - On the case with parking, queing, P's and Q's. No waiting room full of bizarre injuries. No screaming and shouting. No painful love stories unfolding between the pissed and the more pissed. No glassware buried in anybody's face. This place was just the place to get your kid stitched up. If you're ever passing, I suggest you just nip your wee ones in there to get checked out regardless of whether they need sorting or not. We had the choice of a plastic surgeon or a paediatrician and the little fella was being done withing 15 minutes.

(incidentally, we made the right choice - the paediatrician was both very good and also (I might well get bollocked for this) - straight out of 'extremely fantastic-looking doctors weekly' - or something similar. I'm sure of it.

Ok - 3 stitches and a small matter of the bill (R$127) - and we were back in the car. Totally painless (for most of us, anyway.)
Hospital E Maternidade Sao Domingo. Well worth a visit.

This morning our host's sister popped round to check on the wounded soldier. Its always nice to have a doctor in the house. He'll live.

And as for our first call upon the Brazilian health workers?  -- Simple, they rock. Only thing is too many visits, and anything more complicated would have cost a pretty penny. Truth be told - we might have been tempted to do a M*A*S*H style job on him in the car park.

So - better hope that our health plan comes through soon. We applied for it bloody ages ago. Apparently without a CPF it takes a bit longer for it to come through. What a surprise.

Pretty good job I didn't have a pint glass buried in my head then.

How nice. I always think it's nice to have a doctor in the house

Monday, 7 March 2011

Uberaba, and the barbeque to end all barbeques.

Yep, thats right, Uberaba - and not a sniff of a filthy word, I promise. Its a city in Minas Gerais (the state that borders Rio). Now we´re 10 hours drive from Rio (or a short lazy, decadent plane hop, thankyou very much). Now those of you with one eye on the liturgical calendar (or a bent for stuffing pancakes once a year) might know that its carnival time. Thats right, dress like a total mentalist and paint the town very red indeed. In fact, pretty much nothing is taboo, as long as you do it very loud and proud and absolutely pissed as a fart.
Just to prove that it exists in the most traditional sense, Uberaba has a coat of arms. Here it is.
Now friends, I´m no prude or party pooper, honest, but the thought of a week long record breaking stag/hen do going on right on my doorstep, with our little lad desperate to join in was a thought a trifle too much to bear. These days I´m able to show restraint on many occasions, but the test of Rio Mardi Gras was not a test I was prepared to take. So here we are, on a trip down memory lane for her, and an adventure into the ´Triangula Mineiro´for me and the little one. To be honest, in its own way, its just as mental here!

I don´t know what the weather´s like where you are, but here we have a kind of steroid fueled ´sunshine and showers´. Its either a blowtorch straight to the torso or its torents causing drains to instantly flood and streets turn into rivers. This meant that out quick hop by plane took an extra 4 hours and an extra airport. You know what. Not one of our fellow passengers grumbled in the slightest. I couldn´t believe that by some miracle we had joined the 2011 reunion of the all Brazil chilled-out society. When we landed, there was actual spontaneous applause. Remind me not to be so unreasonable the next time we are subject to leaves on the line.

Ok - so we met up with our carnival team, and headed off to the house on a hill. We were the first, but not to worry. Beer first, and it came in the huge bottles that I have learned to love so much. Kids charging about. Much hugging and introducing and stuff. Pretty festive to be honest. Just no tree.

Now - I´ve done the right thing and manned the barbeque before - to both the delight and horror of our guests. I´ve made everything from exquisite lamb kebabs to uncooked near death experience comedy chicken. I´m sure we´ve all been there. I´ll shut up.

This barbeque experience, was unlike any other. For a start, in order to promote a strong team spirit, everybody was most keen to do their bit to help by drinking beer like it was about to be confiscated. The cooking was left to a pro, who the ringleaders had clubbed together and organised. This superhero of the charcoal grill was relentless. We were in very good hands. All we had to do was eat and drink for SIX BLOODY HOURS. I have rarely experienced such deep and heartfelt happiness. More delightfully seasoned, perfectly cooked beef? Don´t mind if I do!

In usual circumstances, I´d be writing with a stinking hangover. But in true festive style, I´ve done the age-old boxing day trick and jumped right back on the horse. Hmm, talking of horses, we spent the day at the Jockey Club getting roaring drunk again. Clever. Very clever indeed.

The Jockey Club - Not a bad place to waste time getting plastered. We did. Both.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Did I Mention I was a Musician?

It seems that in this most musical of places, gigs are hard to come by. All the best places shut years ago. All the players gave up as the big Venues became superclubs and the live bands were gradually forced into the smaller bars. The smaller bars stopped paying honest money as the punters became fickle and quartets became trios that became duos that split up.

Hey ho - sounds like pretty much anywhere else in the world then. I just reckon its musicans secret code for ´sort your own bloody gig out!´  Watch this space - I´m on a gig mission. Have horn, will play! - Or in the so well-used words of myself and so many of my dear friends from here to timbuctoo - You busy? Ah... Y´know, bit of teaching, bit of playing....

If the bloody racket on the beachfront this weekend was anything to go by then there´s plenty of giggage to be had. Just need to find the man with the right numbers. Oh, and then be able to understand what they are saying when I call. Oh, I need a phone to call too. Best nip back for that visa sharpish.

Right now my lamentable gig life was only ever worse when my Jaw was wired closed. Back when I respected him, our one time premier stole the d-ream anthem ´things can only get better´ - right now I´m going to steal it from him (he doesn´t deserve it anyway) and adopt it as my own. Gig-wise at least, things could definitely not get worse.

I´ve never been opposed to a bit of busking either.

Try one of these....

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