Steve’s Newsletter 4 (2006)

Wednesday 8th February 

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Copacabana on NewYear’s eve 2005

In keeping with tradition once again this newsletter is somewhat behind my intended time to write. I guess I shall have to stop trying to kid myself saying that I’ll write one every 4 – 6 weeks and instead wait until I have a few things to talk about.

First a few updates from the previous newsletter. Unfortunately I was wrong about the starting time for my next semester of Portuguese classes. Life in Brazil seems to be on hold between Christmas and Carnival and hence universities don’t start again until after Carnival. This year that means early March. 

Despite trying to watch the telenovela’s (soap’s) to improve my Portuguese, I found I couldn’t stand them so will have to find something on TV I do like. Big Brother Brazil is the next candidate. 

Lastly, I am still waiting for my ID card. The Federal Police said 60 – 90 days but that time has now come and gone. Thankfully, this is not a big deal as my temporary works one works for most things but the proper one would make life that little bit easier. The last time we called to check on the progress we were told there had been some progress so hopefully I’ll have it later this week or early next. 

Now to our news of the last couple of months… 

As planned we spent Christmas in Rio de Janeiro with family. We arrived in Rio a little later than planned on Christmas Eve as Eneida was putting the finishing touches to her thesis. Christmas Eve night we went to a family party overlooking the lagoa (lake) which has a huge floating Christmas tree on it. However due to high winds the night before the tree had moved and was no longer visible from the apartment. The tree was very impressive and although I didn’t get any photos of it but you can see some here. Christmas day itself was a little strange as we really only lounged around the apartment. We had planned to go to the beach but unfortunately it was raining that day.

The rest of our stay in Rio was largely spent on the beach, eating out and generally relaxing at least for me. Eneida unfortunately still had those last little corrections to her thesis to finish. This led to one huge scare when the Word document wouldn’t open on her laptop and my computer was left behind in Belo. Thankfully this was just due to an old version of Word being on the laptop and was easily solved by opening and re-saving on a different PC. 

The stay in Rio was relaxing and a nice change from Belo. We stayed until New Year’s day in the end. The photo at the top of the page is of Copacabana beach just before midnight on New Years Eve. There were an estimated 3 million people there to watch the fireworks display at midnight. Also in attendance were 4 cruise ships although I am not sure if people aboard were included in the 3 million visitors. Thankfully we had an excellent view from above crowds in a10th floor beach front apartment. owned by a friend of Fernanda’s who we were staying with. 

The fireworks were launched from 4 or 5 barges floating a few hundred metres offshore spaced along the length of Copacabana beach. The beach is probably about 2 miles long with 50 metres width of combined Sand and road. You could hardly see any sand or road there were so many people! The display lasted about 15-20 minutes. Well worth seeing if you should ever be in Rio over New Year. The only problem was getting home as everyone else was also trying to do the same thing. We eventually made it back to where we were staying, 2 beaches (Ipanema and Leblon) further along from Copacabana, around 5am after a bit of a bar crawl, walk and eventually a taxi ride. 

We had been planning on going to Rio for Carnival this year, but have since mutually agreed to leave this for another year. However there is an upcoming free concert by the Rolling Stones on Copacabana that we may go to. Also, as you may have heard in relation to the ticket sales, U2 are due to play Rio and Sao Paulo soon. 

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On the way back from Rio we decided to take a small detour and spend a night close to a city called Teresopolis. The photo to the right is a mountain that looks like a hand close to Teresopolis called Dedo de Deus (Finger of God). This area is about an hour or two drive north of Rio and is very very beautiful. A lovely part of the countryside that includes some of the last remaining wooded areas of a type called Mata Atlantica that used to stretch along most of the southern coast of Brazil. I would thoroughly recommend that it is worth staying there for a night or two should you ever visit. 

Since returning home, bookshelves have become a recurrent theme. First, I needed to make some simple ones to store my books and other things that arrived just before Christmas. Having finally put everything away, we discovered we have completely run out of storage space in the apartment. Currently there is no room for anything else so we have decided to investigate a remodeling of Eneida’s study. In order to have something to show the carpenter (our intentions are way above my carpentry skills), I decided to model it in 3D. Below are a couple of renders of Eneida’s study. The first shows mainly what is existing and the second shows some new cabinets and bookshelves we hope to get made. 

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The 3D model building was interesting as it is not something I’ve done much of recently and was excellent practice. Although perhaps not the greatest renders you’ll ever see, I am quite pleased with them. I am also hoping to use this 3D modeling as another area I can pursue work in. There are lots of architects and engineering practices in and around Belo so I am hoping that one of them will find my CAD, modeling and lighting experience useful. 

One day we are also planning to design and build a house ourselves. This weekend we intend to start looking at places in order to try to find a location we like. We are not in any great hurry. First I need to start earning some money here. My aim is to draw the plans myself and model them so we know what we are getting. The model will help us as building a house will be a completely new experience for both of us but one we are looking forward to. 

Due to a variety of reasons we decided in the end not to go away on a proper holiday in January. Our current plans are a week on the beach at Easter where I can do a few dives and Eneida can get her PADI Open Water diving certification, as well as of course a lot relaxation. However we did manage a long weekend in Fatima’s sitio in Tangara. It was a nice break and very peaceful away from the noise and bustle of city life in BH. I included some photos of it in my previous newsletter from an previous visit. We had a great time particularly on the Saturday night when Fatima and her boyfriend, Marcos, arrived unexpectedly. We stayed up until the small hours singing songs to accompany Marcos’s guitar playing whilst drinking a few beers and the odd cachaça.

Our final and perhaps most important bit of news is that Eneida successfully completed the defense (viva) of her thesis last Tuesday in Campinas. She is now making me call her Dr Eneida;-)…

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Eneida and Rajan (Eneida’s PhD supervisor) 

We drove to Campinas, a city in the state of Sao Paulo and also close to the city of Sao Paulo, the day before the defense. Needless to say Eneida was a little tense, but thankfully everything went well. The defense took around 3 hours and was not a very pleasant experience particularly at certain points. From what I’ve been told by family and friends this is the normal way of things. Personally it was interesting sitting watching the proceedings even with my limited grasp of the language and virtually no understanding of linguistics. I did manage to get the feel of things and the topics of conversation if not the detail.

The defense was chaired by Eneida’s PhD supervisor Rajan. Joining him on the panel were 4 other professors whose responsibility it was to question Eneida. In the audience I was joined by Luiz Fernando (Eneida’s older brother aka Nando), and 2 other PhD linguistic students studying at Unicamp, Campinas. After it was over and we had heard the good news we adjourned to a look hostelry for a few beers before going out in the evening for a celebratory meal (see photos below). 

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Celebratory cerveja after thesis defense
Eneida, Daniel (student), Isabel (panelist), Gina (panelist), Rajan and Fernando

We are both really pleased that this ‘little’ project is over but also a little sad (but only a very little bit!). It was as a result of Eneida studying in London that we met. So although it is now over and it was very hard for her at many times, we are both very pleased that Eneida successfully embarked on her PhD.

That concludes my news for now. I am not going to predict when next I’ll write here, but please feel free to email me at any time.