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Fabulous farewell 2012 picnic on Pao de Acucar

5 Dec

Its very hard to believe its nearly Christmas and the end of the year. With the heat mounting the appearance of fir trees, lights shaped as icicles and fake ivy decorations are so incongruous. But celebrations always help to make the festive season feel closer at hand.

This week I had a delightful walk to the first hill of Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf mountain) followed by a delicious picnic at the top with a lovely group of Brazilians and Estrangeiros (foreigners) from the Natural Lifestyle Group of Internations to celebrate the end of the year. I don’t think the tourists at the top quite knew what had hit them. They were looking forward to a quiet contemplation of the beautiful scenery and along we came with wine, delicious food and rowdy laughter. It was fantastic…can there be any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon having a picnic with fabulous people, and laughing till your sides hurt with one of the most spectacular views in the world. Despite missing the built up to a northern hemisphere Christmas and family and friends I think this is going to be a great festive season.

 

Our delicious picnic

Our delicious picnic

Our sophisticated set-up

Our sophisticated set-up

The whole group

The whole group

More wine needed

More wine needed

The sun setting on an amazing view

The sun setting on an amazing view

Raising our glasses to the end of a fantastic year

Raising our glasses to the end of a fantastic year

The beautiful meninas

The beautiful meninas

Rio lights up as we head down

Rio lights up as we head down

 

 

 

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A few miscellaneous observations

18 Aug

Outside a church during the Festival de Junina (Harvest festival) a priest sprinkles holy water on cars and their passengers.

A police car drives past, with a cop nonchalantly resting the end of a rifle at the open window.

Women stride past headed in their gym-going outfit, a tight fitted vest top, multi-coloured leggings and knee-high white woolly socks.

Walking down the street smells of deep-fried doughnuts, buttered popcorn and meat sizzling on a BBQ waft through your nostrils.

Music is everywhere, walking along Copacobana beach late at night a couple of families are sitting in a circle on the sand singing along to the guitar, further along at a beachside kiosk a small Forro band is starting to play with a catchy lively beat from the triangle, accordian and jump, as people start to move their hips and dance. Walking past bars a lone man plays songs on his guitar that everyone seems to know the words to.

Walking in Leblon during the day woman walk past in sterotypical maids outfits, the full deal, black dresses, white lacy aprons and little white caps.

In Zone Norte, coloured paper kites flicker in the wind against the backdrop of red-brick unfinished houses, blue water holders and the mountains beyond.

Strolling along Ipanema beach on a sunny Sunday, everyone seems to be out along the closed front road showing off their tanned bodies in tiny sunga or thong bikinis. Showing off a little ass cheek is de rigeur. People skate, rollar blade and walk exhibiting the perfectly toned body they’ve perfected at the multitude of gyms.

 

 

 

Olympic hysteria….and evictions in Rio

9 Aug

It’s strange watching the London Olympics from across the ocean. It feels like looking through the window at a party full of friends, everybody is doing a dance move that they find hilarious but from the outside it looks faintly ridiculous. I was particularly overwhelmed by the rush of Olympic hysteria  on Saturday. Scrolling down, every facebook update seemed to include something along the lines of  ‘what a great day to British’, ‘Jessica Ennis is amazing’ or ‘Go Britain’. I’ve caught snatches of the Olympics, passing bars in the street, on the internet or catching up on the news on the BBC. But there are no excited conversations with friends or family about how well the teams are doing, no discussing somebodies visit to the Plympic park. So I’ve watched from afar, slightly in wonder at the overwhelming positivity and enthusiasm being projected across the airwaves as Great Britain’s gold tally rises. Of course the athletes have pushed themselves and worked hard and succeeded. But I can’t forget the huge amount of investment that has gone into supporting them, giving people  the best science, the best trainers and psychologists, the best equipment and the time to train. This Olympics is surely an example of the results of investing time and money when we want to succeed. We musn’t forget the things that we haven’t wanted to succeed at this year, the areas we haven’t supported for these 14 days of Olympic triumph, the museums, the arts centres, the smaller regional communities.

I have wondered where this enthusiasm that seems to have gripped the nation is rooted. Is it a resurging nationalism, that this small island can win against the rising economic giants despite our waning military and political influence? Or is it a smugness that really Britain does things best, organised but not controlled, with energy and enthusiasm but without chaos? Is it the simplicity of these sporting contests, individuals from each country fighting out in specific controlled events to win, so much easier to comprehend than the bewildering world events around us? I know going to the BBC news front page I’ve found it easier to click on the Olympics updates than to read about the fighting in Syria with its complex regional politics and where we seem to be helpless to stop the killing. Or is it just that Britain is doing really well? Could we not support these athletes even if they worked as hard but didn’t win? Perhaps we may have to accept that reality in the future as the funding following the Olympics dwindles.

But whatever you think about the Olympics, please spare a moment for the people of Rio de Janeiro. Just a month ago the first foundation stone was lain, however, the residents of a beautiful and peaceful favela nearest the Olympic site (Vila Autodromo) are having to fight eviction. Despite the community having been granted a 99 year lease for the land in 1994 the government now wants to permanently move 4000 residents. The residents are concerned that this is primarily due to commerical interests, with 75 % of the Olympic park being offered for real estate developer after 2016, and is despite the community remaining in the original Olympic plans. Keep an eye on RioonWatch.org if you want to follow the impact of theOolympics on Rio’s communities.

 

 

A magical day in Rio

5 Aug

After a couple of months of living here I am beginning to take for granted the verdant beauty and natural grandeur of Rio, but there are some days that are so magical that you have to hold your breath and wonder whether this place is really real. Today was one such day. We haven’t really ‘done’ any of the main tourist sites here, so that we can enjoy them fresh when friends and family visit us, but today we decided to climb to the first peak of sugarloaf mountain, the smaller hump beneath the tall obelisk that is one of the landmarks of Rio. After 20 minutes walking from the bustle of our street we came to the small ‘red beach’ which has a breathtaking view of the rainforest covered islands across the bay. Within a few minutes of leaving the beach we had left the sunbathers behind and were clambering up through the forest with the sound of crickets and birds surrounding us, whilst our friends told us to avoid too many extravagant gestures in case we caught our hands in poisonous spiders webs! After half an hour we had reached the top and the amazing views of Rio and the bay spread below us. Which other city in the world can you have within 20 minutes walk of your house the beach, the rainforest and spectacular views. Amazing.

The sheer cliff of Morra do Urca above us. Perfect for rock climbing

View from Morra Do Urca

View from the top of Morra do Urca towards the Statue of Christ and Botafogo beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from the top of Morra do Urca

View from the top of Morra do Urca towards the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara bay

Praia Vermelha at sunset

The view from Praia Vermelha (‘Red Beach’) below Sugarloaf Mountain at sunset

 

 

 

Tedious jobs

28 Jul

There are a few jobs that I see people doing in Rio that seem so utterly pointless that I can’t help but feel frustrated for the people doing them every day I pass them. The people do work whilst they are doing them, they don’t sit around doing nothing, but these jobs must be so tedious, so mind-numbingly dull that I think it would surely be better if they were just paid the money and enabled to use their talents however they thought best.

Light turns green, attendant blows whistle

Traffic light attendant

Wandering across the university campus I come across several people wearing light blue vests and caps with the words ‘Operacao Trafego’ emblazoned on the back. Their purpose seems to be to control the traffic and help people cross the roads, however, with the presence of traffic lights their primary job consists of blowing a whistle when the traffic lights change from red to green. Perhaps chaos would ensue if they weren’t there. Perhaps drivers wouldn’t be able to tell when the traffic lights had changed or perhaps they would just ignore them. However, drivers do seem to (mostly) be able to follow the rules of the road around the rest of the city and the university roads aren’t exactly teeming with traffic.

Lift attendant

Ever walked into a lift and thought what I really need is someone to push the button for the floor I want to go to? No, well you’re missing out because lift attendants seem to be a requirement for every shopping centre worth its salt, government buildings and the airport in Rio. For us the resident lift attendant makes going to one of these places just that little bit more interesting with an awkward silence as we travel in the lift following the awkward conversation when they’ve realised we can’t really speak Portuguese! Add to it someone sitting there listening to everyone’s conversations and a job that requires pushing little buttons and I do begin to wonder who decided it was a requisite job.

The little booth to sit in at the end of the corridor watching time tick by. There wasn’t anyone there at the time I passed in the morning.

Sit in at the end of the corridor job

I guess this should really be called a security guard/receptionist job. It does perhaps help to protect the building and they are someone you could ask for help, however, the job mainly involves sitting behind a corner shelf/booth. This job wouldn’t be so bad if there was something else that could do whilst they were sitting at the end of the corridor. But they have no computer, no reading material. Just half a wooden screen.

I really don’t want to belittle the people doing these jobs and of course I want these people to have jobs. There is obviously the money to pay them. But please let them have jobs that allow them to use their brains.

Home sweet home

26 Jul

Just what’s needed after a hard day at work, a relaxing swing in the hammock…

Weird and wonderful fruit

22 Jul

One of the most delicious aspects of living in Rio is the wonderful fruit available. The supermarkets stock a gorgeous array of tropical fruit, 3 different types of mango, enormous papaya, wee Nino bananas as well as the classic banana sold all over the world, sweet and succulent pineapples and there are the weird fruit that I’d never seen before…..

Cashew fruit

Ever wondered what the cashew nut looks like? Well, it’s a tiny pod at the bottom of the fruit, a kind of hanging seed. The fruit is very popular in Rio. But don’t just chomp into the fruit as we did, it has a web-like texture inside so is best crushed up with sugar and water to make a delicious drink. Definitely DO NOT bite into the cashew nut. As my husband found out the nut is surrounded by a strong acid, not a pleasant surprise. The nut needs to be roasted to destroy the acid and allow us to enjoy the delicious cashew nut.

Fruit of the cashew

Pinha (sugar apple)

This fruit is amazing, but its slightly difficult to describe the taste. Each little scale peels away in your hand with a little pyramid of white gooey flesh surrounding a large dark shiny seed. The flesh smells aromatic whilst the flesh is sweet, tasting like a mixture of lychee and custard.

Pinha

Interior of Pinha fruit (Pouletic, Wikipedia)

Acai

Acai has become more popular in the UK, but here it is a staple. It is often eaten for breakfast or as snack mixed with sugar and ice to create a thick slushy with a sweet and nutty taste. Granola, bananas and yoghurt are often added.

Bowl of acai

Bowl of acai

Guarana

We haven’t actually seen this fruit but we are obsessed with the drink that is made using an extract of the fruit. The fruit is native to the Amazon where the Guarani and Tupi tribes have harvested it for centuries, with the name in Tupi-Guarnai meaning ‘fruit like the eyes of the people’. One of our favourite guarana drinks is Guaravita. I’ve just discovered that guarana contains more caffeine than the coffee bean so that may be one of the reasons we enjoy it so much, along with its cheapness!

The delicious guaravita