Steve’s Newsletter 7 (2007)

Friday 18th May 2007

A typical beach between Recife and João Pessoa

Well it has taken an eternity, I know, but here is our latest news (and not so latest…).  It has been nearly 9 months since I lost wrote and the best excuse I have to offer is a catastrophic failure of my hard disk losing weeks of work.  I know I have written to many people, but here is a brief resume of the last 9 months and the future plans.

First work.  I have continued teaching both my own private students and with the school Greenwich.  The private students tend to come and go but, at least during the school terms/semesters, my income seems to stay reasonably constant.  However, next semester I’ll actively be trying to increase this mainly due to our future plans.

Since we got our cat, Foggy, our ability to travel has been somewhat reduced but the benefits and pleasure we get far out way this small inconvenience.  He is now fully grown, but his markings still keep changing, currently his paws are getting lighter whilst overall he gets darker.  Foggy’s favourite game at the moment is chasing the reflection of the sun from my watch when I am at my desk working in the mornings.  He also has an uncanny nack of laying on the keyboard when I am most rushed! Unfortunately, he continues to have various niggling medical problems.  Just as he gets over one thing, another arises but thankfully, so far, nothing too serious.

And as for my Ford Ka!  I really don’t want to make a big point but suffice it to say, much expense later, the Ka will not be lasting much longer.  I’ll be selling it shortly as soon as I can afford something else.  I doubt I’ll ever buy another Ford, and yes, I have said that before. 

Beware the sharks, Recife

Now to the events, recent and not so recent.  Having said we haven’t been away much, we did spend about a week and half in the north east of Brazil over the Christmas and New Year period.  The first and last days were spent in the city of Recife (meaning reef) with Eneida’s mother and family.  In the middle section of the trip Eneida and I drove to a neighbouring state where we stayed in the city of João Pessoa.  

As is customary here, the main celebratory meal happens on the night of Christmas Eve. We ended having a very nice buffet meal in a hotel overlooking the beach. Christmas day lunch was also in the same hotel, but unfortunately lacking the traditional English roast. That had to wait until the weekend after getting back to Belo Horizonte when I cooked for Eneida and her mother. 

Recife is by far the larger of the two, but we both liked the smaller and more charming João Pessoa which I would not hesitate to recommend as a destination should you ever travel to Brazil.  Recife has more things to do and a broader selection of restaurants but the comparative quietness of João Pessoa attracted us.  A couple of quick facts about the two cities.  First, Recife is notorious in Brazil for shark attacks for bathers and surfers along the beaches.  Apparently, these attacks only started after the building of a new harbour.  For my fellow divers, I don’t know what type, but probably, given the location, some sort of reef shark,  Secondly, João Pessoa is the most eastern point of the continental Americas.  I felt like I was nearly home

Eneida and Steve at the Eastern most point of the Americas
(Brazil’s Land’s End/John O’Groats)

Before travelling to Recife, we had a family meal in a local restaurant.  Nothing so remarkable about that?  There were however a couple of things that stood out.  First, was the main course.  Rat, or more precisely Paca (a large Brazilian rodent similar in shape to a rat, but, in truth, probably not closely related), one of the world’s largest, if not the largest, rodent.  It tasted delicious, a bit like chicken or game birds in my opinion.  Secondly, the owner had a pet toucan along with many other tropical birds.  I doubt you’d see many of these at restaurants in the UK.  According some friends of ours, who have a small farm or situ, Toucan’s are native to the area.

Toucan, Eneida and Steve

A couple of months ago, we visited these friends for a day in their lovely situ (sorry no pictures but perhaps another time), they not only mentioned having seen toucans flying wild, but also that their staff had scared off an Onça the previous day.  For those of you who don’t know, an Onça is a native large black wild predatory cat.  It had taken a liking to one of their chickens.  Having said all this, I have yet to see any interesting wildlife in Brazil other than a number of monkeys.  One day I hope to get a chance to see more.

The Toucan 

In April, I nearly had my first face to face contact with a UK resident since my last trip back to the UK in October 2005.  Mick Stowe was touring in Brazil to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.  Unfortunately, Eneida and I were both working and couldn’t spare the time to travel to see him.  Perhaps we will have more luck with the next visitor.

I think this concludes the main events of the last 9 months or so, so on to the future.  

Last week, we started looking for a new place to live.  This will probably be an apartment as it fits our needs at the moment.  I’d prefer a house but it has many extra complications and expenses that are unjustifiable at the moment.  There are many reasons we haven’t looked before such as finance and time.  However, now that I am consistently working more and, post July, I should be able to contribute to the finances having sorted out my UK affairs.

Finally, and perhaps the main reason for writing now, is to let our friends know that we will be travelling to the UK in July.  We arrive on the 9th and leave on the 30th.  Our plans and itinerary are by no means complete but broadly speaking our scheduled is:

– London 9th – 15th July (we will be staying in the Barnes area)
– Other parts of the UK 16th – 22nd July mainly visiting family and friends
– Bilbão/San Sebastian 22nd – 26th July
– London 26th – 30th (we will staying in central London)

Whilst in London, I have many things (legal and financial) to sort out and will probably be busy most days.  However, I would really like to catch up with friends and find out all the latest gossip and news.  I should have a UK mobile number before leaving Brazil, so please let me know by email if you would like me to send you this number once obtained.  I’ll also have my Brazilian mobile (number on email) although it will only be turned on to check for messages occasionally.

One of the main objectives of our trip is to sort out the things I have in storage.  I basically, want to sell, give or throw away most of the things I have left in the UK.  I haven’t decided exactly what I will do with everything yet, but if you know of anyone looking for a few things for a new house….   More details available on request.  Also, if anyone is free in the second week of July and feels like giving us a hand shifting stuff, it would be much appreciated.

I’m sure I’ve missed many details and have other things to tell.  If you want to find out more, I guess you’ll have to join us for a beer or two.  Looking forward to some real beer and many other things that are difficult or impossible to find here.  

That’s all for now.  Hope to see you in July

Steve and Eneida

Steve’s Newsletter 6 (2006)

Sunday 3rd September

Eneida, Gabriel, Foggy and Lu

It’s been a long time since I last wrote a newsletter mainly because not a huge amount has changed. In truth life has been starting to settle into a routine. 

First news on the work front. Since the start of August I’ve been working much more. It has come as something as a shock to the system after a year of doing very little paid work. Currently, I have 3 private students: a university lecturer/want to be UK PhD student, a dentist and an engineering student. The last two were courtesy of a friends of a friend that used to teach here in Belo Horizonte before he decided to move to the city of Vitoria. Many thanks Bruno.

The rest of my current professional activities are working for the language school Greenwich that I mentioned in my last newsletter. This semester I had 4 groups, each twice a week, plus one special course teaching a teenager who wanted conversation classes from a native British speaker. She recently lived and went to school in the UK for 10 months. However,on Thursday I found out that one of my groups is likely to be no more due to lack of students. Therefore 2 groups are to be merged and I am the unlucky teacher. Oh well, at least I have Saturday mornings free again:-) 

As a consequence of this extra work and needing to travel around, I bought a Ford Ka a few weeks ago. It is very nice, if a little underpowered on the streets of Belo Horizonte. It is just 1.0l and when the air conditioning is turned on at slow speeds or the hills/cliff faces of BH…….it is like applying the hand brake! Many of you wouldn’t believe how steep some of the roads are here. One day I’ll work out the gradient of our road which is by no means the steepest! Another interesting point about second hand cars in Brazil, or at least mine and Eneida’s, is that their second hand value is roughly the same as the original purchase price. Perhaps this is just a fluke of depreciation versus inflation but second hand cars do hold their value much better here than the UK.

Foggy at about 2 months old 
Foggy at 18 weeks

Our other main piece of news is the addition of a family member. You may have noticed him in the picture above. Back in June we bought a little kitten. When we got him he was a little over 600g but 10 weeks later he is now a whopping 2.4kg. His breed is called Ragdoll based on a true or mythical story originating in California. The story claims this cat who was half Persian and half Siamese was hit by a car. When picked up, it was completely floppy in the owner’s arms hence Ragdoll. I don’t think I believe it personally.

After much discussion we decided to call him Foggy. I don’t really remember why but other names we considered such as Guinness just didn’t seem right. His hair is very fine and fluffy. Our nephew, Gabriel, described him as nuvenzinha (little cloud). It sort of stuck. See below a couple more pictures of Foggy. The first is soon after we got him and the other was taken earlier today. 

He has been a great addition to our family apart from the early morning wake up calls, numerous trip to the vet and his penchant for eating our plants. In truth it feels like he has had every possible minor thing wrong with him. First it was worms and ear mites, followed rapidly by a fungus in his ears each needing a different medicine. Then there was Ringworm which is another skin based fungus problem. Unfortunately this means bathing him every week and for the first 3 weeks we also had to apply a fungicide spray. Thankfully this has now cleared up but we still have one more bath to give him tomorrow. I’m sure you all know how much cats love having a bath! His last problem was regular vomiting soon after eating and then just as rapid re-eating of it unless we managed to get there first. Animals have some strange habits! We still don’t know the cause of this, but my theory is age/eating too fast. Thankfully this has now stopped and on Wednesday the vet finally gave him a clean bill of health. Neither of us want to see Ronaldo soon (ie our vet)! 

Foggy

I guess this is a fitting, if slightly banal, lead into the final subject I’d like to talk about. You guessed it. It is the embarrassment of the World Cup (the top photo was taken during the first Brazil match in the group stages). I thought with a legitimate reason for supporting not just one, but two of the favoured teams, this year could have been good. I think England’s performances, with some brief exceptions, were appalling. They must have played some of the most boring games of the whole tournament. What happened? And no, I don’t blame Rooney. It was fortunate he could play at all. What was Sven thinking of just selecting 2 injured strikers, one who hadn’t even played in the Premiership for his club and Crouch! No disrespect to Crouch, but he his hardly going to be Golden Boot or whatever it is called for top scorer. Now Brazil. They were no better and perhaps worse. I think I can honestly, and I hope I don’t upset too many Brazilians, say that Ronaldo’s first match performance was the worst I have ever seen in an international football game from any player in any team. The whole team failed to perform well for whatever reason, but, to be fair, Ronaldo’s performance did improve. A bit. 

Despite this, we were all optimistic on the day of the quarter finals. Both teams had to improve, surely. I was both looking forward and dreading the anticipated semi-final clash Brazil v England. When asked during the tournament who I was supporting, I replied England and Brazil however if the two should meet then it would be England. I was hoping to be very unpopular here for a while;-) Back to the fatefully day, many beers, a few Caipirinhas, some churrasco (barbeque) and several hours later, the day came to a rather abrupt and unhappy end. Neither team qualified and neither team played at all well. The streets were completely silent in marked contrast to the more usual frequent fireworks celebrating a win. I think everyone was completely stunned. I guess I now have to wait until 2010. I hope to have the same dilemma of which team to support. 

We don’t currently have any travel plans, but will doubtless do something during the Christmas break lasting until end of January. Then of course comes Carnival again… The holidays here keep on coming. In fact next Thursday is independence day here which I will unfortunately spend on my own as Eneida will be in Rio de Janeiro at a conference/congress for a couple of days. I would have gone apart from work and looking after our gatinho (little cat). 

I hope you all enjoyed reading this even if there isn’t much new news here. I have no idea when I’ll next write but I guess it won’t be anytime soon but please forgive me. 

Please email or call us on Skype (Skype name is stevelathambrazil). I want to know all your news from blighty however small or trivial it might be! It is always good to hear from an friend 

Abraços

Steve e Eneida 

Steve’s Newsletter 5 (2006)

Monday 8th May 

I start writing this latest newsletter on the first anniversary, 8th May 06, of my move to Brazil. However due to a computer problem (some idiot forgot to save 1st draft), I doubt I’ll finish writing it on this day.

February and March were quiet months with very little news to write about apart from some limited success on the work front.

In late February I replied to an advert in a local paper from a local language school called Greenwich looking for people to teach English to businessmen. After a written test, interview and two half days of training I was feeling reasonably confident that I would be working soon. However, there was no real developments until the beginning of April when I was asked to teach one of their more advanced groups of teenagers. These lessons are at a school a few kilometres away twice a week. In the interim I was contacted by a man who wanted some English classes specifically from a native English English speaker! I have now been teaching him for a couple of months with a view to helping him pass an IELTS exam required for entry to British universities. He is planning on applying to study for a PhD at a UK university next year . 

Last month also saw the completion of the new bookcase/cupboards in Eneida’s study. The photos below show my design and visualisation as compared to the real thing. We are both very pleased with the way the unit looks and with the extra storage space it provide which was desperately needed. 

Reality

As you may know Brazil has one of the largest numbers of holidays of any country. In April/May we had three long weekends in a row the first being for Easter (although Good Friday is the only weekday we have off). Good Friday was followed the following week with Tiradentes Day (Tiradentes is a national hero who fought for independence from Portugal) and finally the following weekend was May Day/Labour day.

As Eneida had the whole week before Easter off from work (the Catholic university she works at has more and longer holidays than other places) we decided to go away for the week to the beach. To make the most of what remained of the summer, we took the chance to go to a resort in the state of Rio de Janeiro called Arraial do Cabo. 

Arraial do Cabo is on the peninsula that marks the point where the coast of Brazil changes from running roughly east/west to running more in a south-west/northeasterly direction and is about 170km east of the city of Rio itself. It is also the self-proclaimed centre of diving in Brazil although most people I’ve talked to would say that Fernando de Noronya, an island several hundred kilometres off the north east coast in the Atlantic, has the best diving. At some point in the future Eneida and I plan to visit it .

By now you have probably guessed that our holiday did involve diving. Whilst on the trip I took the chance to take a few dives whilst Eneida was taking her PADI Open Water course. Now that she is qualified, we will be able to dive together on future trips.

Finally also success on the document front. After 169 days (not that I was counting) I finally received my RNE. The RNE is the identity card the foreigners are required to carry in Brazil. It is also the document that Mir required to get virtually all the other documents so its arrival was very welcome. Roughly 3 weeks after receiving it, I now have the other document needed such as carteira do trabalho (a sort of work log book that employers should complete) and my Minas Gerais driving license. To be honest I still don’t have the license, but have been told it will be here no later than Friday (12/4). I hope this timescale is more accurate than RNE one was. Finally if you are interested in the process of getting all my documents read this page. 

That’s all our news for now. As to our future plans or trips, currently we have nothing arranged. In July, whilst we are both on holiday from our respective teaching commitments, we are considering a trip to Bonito. More details to follow in the next newsletter no doubt… Please email or call us on Skype.

Abraços

Steve e Eneida

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. 

Abraço 

Steve 

Steve’s Newsletter 3 (2005)

Monday 5th December 

Some friends from my Portuguese classes

Once again this newsletter is a bit later than originally planned but here it is now.

Yesterday was my birthday so on Saturday evening we had a small party here in our apartment. We invited family and friends. The picture to the right is some of my classmates from the Portuguese classes which are now unfortunately over until February. The people are left to right (standing) Eneida, Talia and me, (sitting) Tamara, Catalina, Lynge and Inge. Apologies if I’ve spelt names wrong. See bottom of email for some other pictures from our party. 

The federal university largely shuts down (apart from exams) from December until after Carnival is over which this year is 28 February. However I believe my classes will start again at some point before this. Sadly it is very likely that most of the class will go separate ways and next semester there will only be a few of us continuing. The party is probably the last time most of us will be together as a group. 

Following advice from others who also had to learn Portuguese, I am going to start watching one of the many novelas on TV. The novelas are a kind of Brazilian soap opera that are televised 5 or 6 nights a week that most people watch. Apart from perhaps football, they are the most popular past time in Brazil so are also good from a cultural perspective as well. Not sure if I will like them, but guess I could get hooked and it’s an excuse to watch TV.

Eneida and Steve

Although the Portuguese classes are over, I am hoping to be able to continue getting some tuition. Fatima, one of Eneida’s friends that teaches English in Belo Horizonte, has offered to ‘exchange’ some Portuguese tuition if I help her with some English teaching. To me it sounds like a very fair deal particularly as I find it hard to sit at home studying.

To the right and below are a few of pictures of Fatima’s sitio. A sitio is a basically a small home built on a piece of land outside the city. These shots were taken a few months ago so are not really current news. However I thought they were worth showing to give an idea of the countryside and life here in Minas Gerais. In fairness to Fatima, I should also say that the photos of the sitio were taken whilst it was in the finishing stages of construction.

Having started this newsletter with the recent news, I’ll now go back to where I left off previously.

My trip to the UK to get my permanent visa and to ship my belongings to Belo Horizonte went smoothly. I am hoping to have my boxes before Christmas but this will depend on the port authorities in Santos, Sau Paulo and those in the UK. I’m looking forward to finally having my books, CD’s and other personal items with me.

The waterfall. Nice place to swim & cool off

I am also now well on the way to getting all the documentation and identity cards etc that I need to live and work here. I have my temporary ID and a document allowing me to drive for the next 6 months. I now have to wait for probably around another month or two for my actual permanent RNE (identity card) to be processed. This in turn will then allow me to apply for a provisional driving license that lasts 1 year. There are a couple of other things I need, but they are also only available once I have my permanent RNE. However thankfully the temporary ID was enough, after much discussion, to allow me to open a bank account. I will be very pleased when all this is over, but although things are getting easier, it will be at least another year before I have a full and permanent everything.

On returning to Brazil I was asked to get involved in a small press conference in Sao Paulo by a former colleague but after a similar event in London where no guests turned up, the production company who was organising the event in Brazil decided to pull out. However I contacted the production company that was taking over responsibility and was asked to continue in my role of overseeing the technical aspects here. However after another change of date, struggling to find a company that could build the set (or at least get one to quote in under a week!), the event was eventually cancelled a week before it was due to happen. I’m hoping that it will happen at some point in the future. It could still end up being my first job here. 

The kitchen and my first straight cachaça

Now that I have the required documents, I am starting to look to for work. I expect this to be varied for quite a while. Unfortunately, since I arrived in Brazil, the exchange rate has dropped by about 30% so am now finding it tough to live off the rent I am getting in the UK. In terms of work, I would like to become a local contact for European or American production companies working in Brazil. Given that it will take time to build up contacts, last week I also applied to a language school to teach English. In the short term I think teaching English is perhaps the most likely way to earn some money. Once my Portuguese has improved, I intend to start looking for work as a lighting designer here in Belo Horizonte but I expect this mainly to be architectural rather than event based projects.

We have decided to spend Christmas in Rio de Janeiro with some family and friends. We haven’t decided our plans yet for New Years but may stay in Rio if the weather is good or chose to travel elsewhere. At some point in mid-January we also plan to have a week away relaxing before Eneida goes back to work in February. 

Although it will not be the first time I have spent Christmas on the beach, I am looking forward to getting some sun and a tan. Contrary to what you may think, the weather in Brazil is not always nice. Since returning from the UK 5 weeks ago, we have probably only had 5 nice sunny days. Lots and lots of cloud, many thunder storms and rain most days. Not much different from what it is like in the UK apart from being around 10-15ºC warmer. The rainy season apparently usually starts in late December or January and not November so I am hoping it will end early this year as well. 

That about wraps up my news. I’ll write again after New Year’s depending on our plans. Have a great Christmas and New Year.

Abraço 

Steve 

Steve’s Newsletter 2 (2005)

Tuesday 11 October, 2005

An Oscar Niemeyer building in Belo

Well it has taken a bit longer than intended for me to get around to writing my second newsletter, but here it is.

In truth one reason for not writing sooner is that not much new has happened since I returned from my last trip back to the UK. However I am about to embark on another trip to the autumnal UK. I found out last week that my visa application has been approved and is ready for me to collect at the Brazilian consul in London. Now that I have arranged the shipping of personal belongings to Brazil, I have been able to book a flight ‘home’.

‘Home’ is a bit of a mixed concept for me. In one sense the UK is my home and I think I always will have a feeling that this is where I am from, but I now live in Belo Horizonte with Eneida so this is also ‘home’. I think once I have the visa in my passport, have a job and, most importantly, feel that I am able to communicate in Portuguese with the Brazilians then this will feel increasingly like my only home.

Since I last wrote here, I have been attending Portuguese lessons 4 times a week at the local public university UFMG. It is in a neighborhood called Pampulha which is about 30 minutes drive from where we live in the area called Gutierrez. Having attended various other Portuguese lessons and also having tried to study at home, I am pleased to say that I am finding these classes very helpful. The pace is good, but what I think is the most important thing is that I have classes 4 times a week for an hour each. It gives me many chances to practice and of course it helps living being surrounded by people who mainly don’t speak any English.

A street in Gutierrez (where we lived)

The size of the class varies quite a lot. Since I joined I reckon there have been over 20 different students attending, but the average daily class size is around 10. There backgrounds and nationalities varies greatly. There are people from as diverse a selection of countries as USA, Australia, Mexico, Holland, Germany and Indonesia! There is in fact only one other British student.

Last week I also registered my presence here in Belo Horizonte with the local British consulate. The official we spoke to said that there are about 80 British families living in the Belo Horizonte area mainly associated with the mining industry. this is the main industry of Minas Gerais the state we live in. He also said this number is declining as the British involvement with the various local mining companies diminishes.

I am also pleased to say that spring is now showing signs of arriving. Although ‘winter’ here is very mild by our standards, there have been days when it has felt chilly but unlike the locals I have not needed to wear a jacket or sweater. In fact t-shirts are the order of the day. The last few days have been glorious sunshine with hardly a cloud in the sky and temperatures into the mid 20’s Celsius (low 80’s Fahrenheit). I am led to believe that the temperatures are now set to gradually increase until Christmas time but also that the wet season is also about to start and believe me when it rains here it rains. Because the altitude of Belo Horizonte is roughly 950m (3100ft), the temperatures are lower than would be typical in other areas at a similar latitude (20º S). In fact I would describe the climate here as more mediterranean which is also quite similar to what I experienced when I lived in southern California. However I have not really been here long enough to judge these things properly.

A view of a hill on outskirts of Belo
BH’s stadium, Minerão, and Pampulha lake

The area we live in is very hilly as is most of Belo Horizonte. When it rains the local roads become like raging torrents with rivers running down them. One day I hope to take a picture to include in one of these newsletters to show you, but so far the heavy rains have always been at night.

Belo Horizonte is a ‘planned’ city established by the Brazilian government just over 100 years ago. 

Downtown Belo
A favela

Why they chose to create the city and not one of the flatter areas close by remains a mystery. The other remarkable feature of the planning of the original city is its road layout. The main avenues run roughly NE-SW and NW-SE with the minor roads running at 45ºs to them in a north-south or east-west direction. It leads to some interesting traffic junctions and confusion until you come to understand the principle.

I the photos give a good idea as to the feel of the city. It is a mixture of the quiet middle class suburbs and the less well off areas including a number of favela’s or favelinha’s (small favela).

Last weekend we drove to a city about 330km away called Governador Valadares to visit some of Eneida’s family who live there. The main reason for going however was to see her brother Luiz Fernando be awarded the title of ‘honorary citizen’ (translated) an honor similar to being given ‘the keys to’ or ‘freedom of’ a city in England. He was given this in honor of the work has done for the city and its leaders both as an individual and a director of a local firm that produces various dairy products.

Fernando receiving his award

Governador Valadares (Valadares as most people call it) sits on the edge of the River Doce which is very big by UK standards. The climate there is much hotter, about 5-8ºC average, due to the fact that it is much closer to sea level than Belo and although I liked the city, the temperatures make it unpleasant. 

Tomorrow we have been invited to a Golden wedding anniversary. There will be a service in a church (a catholic service will be a first for me!) followed by a party in the venue where we got married and had our wedding party. It will no doubt feel a little strange returning.

I think that is all our news for the moment. I expect I will write again once I am back from the UK with my visa. I must then start the process of acquiring all the things that one really needs for living in Brazil (eg ID card, bank account, drivers license). This will no doubt involve waiting in many queues, take lots of time and cause much exasperation. However it will be worth it. Brazil is a lovely country with lovely people well worth a visit.

Please don’t forget to write me.

Steve

Steve’s Newsletter 1 (2005)

Welcome to my first newsletter about my move and life in Brazil. I am writing this whilst back in the UK during a trip to apply for a visa. From now on I will try to write a newsletter every 4-6 weeks so please check back. 

Having left my longtime job at Imagination in the UK at the end of March 2005, I then packed up my stuff, sold my car and other bits and I left for Brazil in early May. I am not regretting this decision at all as life in Brazil with Eneida is great. 

Life in Brazil is needless to say very different to that of London. The pace of life is much more relaxed specially for me as I am not able to work there for the near future or until I get a visa. In fact I am in essence a long term tourist until my I have a permanent visa. 

After arriving and settling in, Eneida and I set about sorting out things for the wedding as well as the various documents that were required for the wedding and for me stay. This organisation seemed at times to take up most of our time, but some how we did make time to eat out and have a few Caipirinha’s! 

The food in Brazil is very very good, particularly the steak. As someone who had largely given up eating steak in Europe, I can not recommend it enough. It is also remarkably inexpensive. A meal for 4 people with drinks, desert and coffee at a nice restaurant is about £30 -£40 total.

The Brazilian people are also very welcoming and hospitable. They have all made me feel extremely welcome including virtually all of the numerous officials I have had dealings with since my arrival there. A welcome change to the typical attitude you find in the UK. It makes me sad to think why the police shot Jean Charles de Menezes on the tube. I am sure they had there reasons at the time even though it now looks like they were very flawed. 

Of course there was also the small fact of the language. I took some Portuguese lessons and tried to study in the evenings when Eneida was working. Although I am making progress, it is very slow. I had hoped by now to be able to hold a simple conversation, but unfortunately no! When I return to Brazil I will enroll on a course at the local Federal University designed to teach Portuguese to foreigners. I also hope that I will be able to use these classes to make a few friends.

There was also the small issue of our wedding of course. I am very pleased to say that everything went very well and according to plans. Many thanks to Julian and Eneida’s Swedish friends for making the trip all the way across the Atlantic to give us their support. 

The experience itself was more than a little strange but I hasten to add very enjoyable. To start with, it was the first Brazilian wedding I had been to and they do differ considerably from those in the UK. Then there was the question of language and hardly being able to say more than a few words to most of our guests. Finally it was also the first civil wedding I had been to in any country.

I would like to thank Eneida’s mother, Maria Helena, for all her help in organising the wedding both before and after my arrival in Brazil. 

The wedding itself was a small informal affair held at the same venue as the reception. It was followed by cocktails and then a buffet style dinner as per Brazilian customs. We then partied until the small hours before going to our hotel leaving a few family and friends to carry on until 4am. I think everyone had a good night. You can see some photos elsewhere on the site. 

The Friday night before the wedding we had a family and friends meal at a local favorite restaurant. Finally to finish the weekends festivities there was a lunch the next day at the wedding venue. After 2 nights of partying, there were a few sore heads there. After this Eneida and I then went home and opened the remaining wedding gifts. Thanks to all those who bought us something. And then it was a quick pack ready to leave for our honeymoon to Aruba and Curacao the next morning.

We had a great time and a very relaxing one whilst away. First we went to Aruba which has many fine beaches to be recommend along with the Buciti hotel where we stayed. The emphasis on this island is to cater to the American tourists that make up around 90% of the visitors. On the other hand Curacao has a more European feel. Curacao however was a strange place. A much more industrial island that also relies heavily on tourists. We were there in low season and most shops shut early unless a cruise ship was docked. This was a bit sad, but our hotel was however excellent.

After getting back from our honeymoon I had a few short days at home before flying to the UK to apply for my visa. The visa application appears to have gone ok and I just have to wait now for a few more weeks to hear back as to whether it has been accepted. I fly back to Brazil shortly to await the news on my visa. It has been a strange trip back to the UK being separated from Eneida for so long so soon after our wedding. I am looking forward to seeing here again.

So that concludes my news so fay. Please get in touch if you want to know more. I’d like to hear from you. 

Steve