Archive for December, 2011


The Crack of Dawn

This is not the crack of dawn, in fact I doubt it is even Dawn

I was up at the crack of dawn. Well dawn had cracked some hours earlier, therefore 9am suffices, as I cracked later, a little later.

I am writing this from total recollection, which is rather funny as I recollect, uhmmm, not a lot.

All the above is true.

The reason I was to be up at the crack of dawn was to blog. Blog I didn’t. I read the news, felt sleepy and did so.

Knowing full well that there was a BBQ at the botequim around 10 or 11am.

When I awoke like sleeping beauty without the necessary kiss, I leapt into action like Superman without the telephone booth.

I showered and smothered myself in substances that would make me acceptable to the olfactory senses of the world, ran the nugget brush through what’s left of my hair, put on underpants, shorts and t-shirt and slipped on my chinelos (flip-flops). That is ‘neighbourhood-formal’ in these parts and announced my intention of joining the throng in front of the botequim by opening my gate, which makes a rather rauchous sound, heads turned, much as they would to the trumpeted entrance of a prince at the royal ball.

Under the gaze, stares and bemused looks I made my way the whole 11 metres to the botequim. With a large freezer near the entrance, the botequim is sort of self-service, you select your poison, decap it and go to the bar for your camesinha (condom, plastic shell to keep your beer cold)) and chilled glass before selecting your perch for the events.

Sake - A novelty

I perched for the next few hours. Drank beer, chatted, drank more beer, chatted, accepted a whisky, chatted, got a bottle of Sake from home, chatted some more.

As sake was a novelty for most of my neighbours, I shared it around while we munched our way through various BBQ meats.

We partied on through the afternoon, the BBQer went home to attend to family duties and I took over.

Before I knew it the afternoon had worn on and the temperature was dropping. We had been promised a 90% chance of rain to see in the New Year, and after a nap I woke to rain.

Now I have to consider Round 2. Lincoln and Denise my neighbours have invited me over and looking at the clock, it is high time I made an appearance.

There are already a lot of bangs announcing that there will be even more at midnight. I have just seen the news and Copacabana is crowded. Copacabana Beach is the world’s largest New Year celebration. Reports tonight that there are between 2 – 3 million people on the beach and roads along the 6.5kms. There have been years when the estimate of revelers has exceeded 4 million. I haven’t been for years; last time was 2003. I must write about that one day.

In the meantime, I wish you all

A Happy New Year & all the best for 2012

Later, probably next year.

.

I have been procrastinating again. I actually opened this new post page yesterday and looked at it guiltily all day.

New year resolutions are for fools. I don’t, that way I never fail to disappoint myself. I win!

It is true, that the world is going to end in January 2012, I don’t care what the Mayan Calendar says, nor am I referring to it’s dire predictions.

Stupid Freakin' Little Robots

BBBrazil 12 – Reality TV show begins on the 10th January, to me that signifies the end of the world.

Stupid freakin’ little robots blinking inanely at you for three months.

The TV ads started a couple of weeks ago, and the frequency is increasing.

I shudder and want to cringe gibbering in the corner every time I see one. I begin mumbling incoherently to myself at the nauseous assumptions that I am going to ‘love’ the new season. Seven nights a week with a special on Sundays. I would prefer waterboarding in Guantanamo Bay.

Better than Coffee

I have found the cure! No, not for cancer, nor AIDS, although I admit that would be pretty spectacular too. Coffee just wasn’t doing the trick yesterday, hence my procrastination.

So I stuck my finger in the USB socket on my pc and ran DEFRAG… made me feel a whole lot better.

This year has just zipped by, the zipping seems to become faster with each passing year as though on an exponential curve. What is it with this perception? It’s as though we are in a bad play and can’t wait to get to the final act. When you think about, life is a bad play sometimes. Hold that thought, I will return to it, although maybe not today.

Kim Jong-un

I saw a photo of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un today and burst out laughing. He looks like a Telly Tubby, but a bit more dangerous.

It’s going to take the rest of the day to get that idea out of my head. What a way to spend the penultimate day of the year.

Now I am totally frustrated. I wanted to put a North Korean flag on his belly. In Corel Draw or PhotoShop that is a simple task, but using Linux and Gimp freakin’ well impossible. I just can’t get my head around that programme, stupid shit.

I’ll be glad when I get out of this Linux and back to Microsoft (wash my mouth out with soap). I never thought I would say that. I hate Microsoft and everything it stands for, but there is no substitute as far as being user-friendly and having great software to use on it. Linux gives me the shits as far as being complicated beyond the normal person goes. But I gave it six months, I have persisted and I have failed miserably.

So much coffee, not enough time

It dawned on me today while twittering that there are only 361 days until… Next Christmas.

Now there’s terrifying thought for you.

Damn, the connection has gone down, now I am continuing using Linux’s form of Word; but it’s not the same as blogging ‘live.’

Today is my last day of work. My students have canceled Thur & Fri, so in protest I’m not going to work until next year!

Net returned, and I want to post this before work…

later

Beating the Heat

*Checks spelling*

Well, don’t want any misunderstandings, do we?

Christmas Day was cool and cloudy, last night it began raining and is still doing so. Makes a change from the previous week when we were battering the door of 40 (104F) and on Friday it opened. Thursday and Friday nights were terrible trying to get to sleep, up a number of times to have a cold shower and back to bed sopping wet under the fan allowing nature and the laws of refrigeration to take effect.

Must have evaporated through the hole in the top

Christmas Eve I spent at the botequim chatting with friends, wishing all and sundry a Merry Christmas and making serious inroads into a bottle of Passport scotch. The bottle must have had a hole in it, because the contents seemed to evaporate. So, there was only one solution, I trudged the 11 metres to my house and got one of the bottles of Argentine Merlot that I had had the forethought to put on ice, that was shared and then I trudged all the way home again, for the second bottle. So, that was how Christmas Eve passed for me, quietly.

Christmas Day here in Brazil, is pretty much an ordinary day. The family celebrations, ceia de natal, mainly over by 2am. There’s not a lot left for Brazilians to do. Had it been hot, families would have merely gone to the beach, as it wasn’t, they didn’t. Instead the kids were out in force in the praça flying kites. I blogged, napped and blogged some more, then the botequim beckoned. I had an outstanding bottle of Bohemia beer paid for by Jorge, one of my neighbours the day before, so I took advantage.

Today, of course, is Monday. Had I still been in NZ, it would have been Boxing Day. Brazilians don’t have Boxing Day, so it’s a normal back to work day.

I was due to have a lesson at 2pm, but a timely email absolved me from that necessity. You see my student lives in Resende (a little more than an hour from Rio) and works at the factory there, but he is doing a training course during the week in the local factory and studying English here. He couldn’t get a taxi today for work. I was immediately saddened, but then I glanced out the window at the rain and I wasn’t so sad anymore. Time for more coffee…

Later

Sunday Travel Tales

Lake Titicaca

Puno, Peru

In 1999 I was in Puno working as a dog’s body for one of the local travel agencies that ran tours out on to Lake Titicaca visiting the Uros (floating islands), Taquile and Amantani as well as tours to the chullpas (burial tombs) at Sillustanti. My main job was the development of a restaurant for the agency catering for tourists, the other stuff, meeting tourists at their hotels, sending them off on their tours at the port, and occasionally getting out on to the lake itself to visit Taquile Island, a place I love.

But this story is about a ghost. While I was at the port one morning, I heard a loud ‘chuff come from behind’. I was alerted. Silence, then another ‘chuff’. It suddenly dawned on me exactly what I had heard, it was the sound of a boiler coming to life. More silence, then another ‘chuff’.

I ran up the wharf to the bus and grabbed my camera and ran back. In those days I was still able to run.

The first signs of life "Chuff!" and smoke rose from the smokestack

There on the mooring across the way was an old steam boat. “Chuff!” and a cloud of smoke left the smokestack.

I was watching a ghost come to life. The Yavari hadn’t moved under it’s own steam in 40 years. I had heard they were restoring and rebuilding her, but apart from that, I knew nothing. “Chuff!” louder and stronger, more haunting, less silence and then “Chuff!” The chuffs got closer and soon, about an hour later, she was building up steam.

I was watching history.

The Yavari returning to port after its first trial

Eventually the Yavari threw off its moorings and was off sedately around Puno Bay. I guess it was about an hour later, she came back to her moorings.

The above photos were ones that I had managed to salvage from an old HD where I had scanned the old negatives, the quality is poor, but it’s real.

You can read more of the Yavari story

All over, bar the shouting

Yes, here we are again. It’s Christmas Eve. In most Protestant countries Christmas Eve is merely the last chance to go shopping.

Ceia de natal, Brazilian style

But here in Brazil, being predominantly Catholic, they have a ceia de natal (traditional dinner) which I read is 12% more expensive this year and party at midnight whereas I am used to the celebration starting at 5am or thereabouts on Christmas morning with present opening and feverish activity until lunch and relatives arriving and of course more presents, including Aunt Louie’s annual handkerchief, I don’t think that woman had an ounce of imagination, but I had a good collection of handkerchiefs.

I have no plans for today. I have not been invited to participate in any of the festivities. Christmas Eve will be business as usual for me, although I will resort to a whisky or two with friends at the botequim (neighbourhood bar).

Brazilian cigarras (cicadas)

The day promises to be hot. Yesterday was hot, it got to 38⁰C and as the cicadas were making their shrill chirping last night in the trees around the praça it promises to be even hotter today.

My ravioli left over leftovers from yesterday were just fine, there were no added furry bits growing on them, so there was no waste. I chose to have them with some cheap plonk. It was indeed cheap, and it was indeed plonk; I got what I paid for. Serves my scroogish self right. It was a pessago (peach) cooler; a good half the chilled brew was duly donated to Denise, one of my neighbours, who arrived home hot and flustered after last minute Christmas shopping; call it a flourish of the Christmas spirit. She appreciated it because it was direct from the freezer and I know from past experience that she enjoys that kind of drink.

Now a note on English as a language… this has been around for a long time, but it’s always worth a reprint.

English Language

-The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.
-As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.
-In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.
-There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.
-In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where! more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.
-By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”. During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ets oza.
-Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru. Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.
-If zis mad you smil, pleas pas on to oza pepl…..

The Americans are already well on the way to butchering the language, so this is a real possibility.

I will wish you all the best for the festive season. Political correctness behooves that I don’t use the secular Merry Christmas because I am offending Muslims and Jews. There’s never anything said, however, when Jews have a Merry (or whatever) Hanukka, my sensibilities don’t count.

All this excreta has gone too far and one day it will hit the oscillating cooling device.

I don’t give a monkey’s toss; have a Merry ‘whatever-you’re-having’!

Yesterday… wasted

No, no, not me… the day.

That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Here in Brazil we get a Christmas Bonus called the 13th salary, it’s supposed to be an average of your monthly salaries over the year. On Wednesday, I got a phone call from work, the 13th salary was ready. Oh goody! Mental calculations meant that I was due about R$1,800, you can imagine the look on my face when I was presented R$380, disappointed doesn’t cover it. I was a tad more that supremely peeved. You see I work on an hourly basis and an open contract, I do not have the Brazilian “carteira assignada” which is proof of my employment, so therefore they reasoned, I am not actually due any of the benefits. This is also known as “ripping off the workers.” I just got masterfully ripped off. Bang goes the chances of a kids Christmas, bang goes my hoped for new laptop. So going to Barra to get my bonus cost me almost a third of my bonus in lost lessons, yes, I lost R$100, adding to my peevedness. So I went to the supermarket for some therapy.

Not a happy camper.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve… “Bah humbug!” In the words of the wise.

My ravioli doesn't look like this yet

Today is hot, already. Noon and we have 34⁰C, which like the rest of the week, makes it stifling. My plans today, do nothing. Which I fully expect to be successful in achieving.

My lunch today is left over leftovers. The ravioli I made the other day, sufficed for Tues & Wed, I hope it’s still okay for today; I haven’t checked yet apart from glancing at it through the plastic tub.

I also have a bottle of peach cooler in the fridge.

There isn’t much more to grumble about at the moment..

Later.

It’s taken sixty years

When I was a kid I went to Sunday School, it was the thing to do and at the time I knew no better; that changed when I was about twelve and developed an enquiring mind of my own and was no longer able to accept the status quo.

One of the things I learned at Sunday School, as probably with all kids, is the Christmas story. You know the one from Matthew 2:11. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh”

I knew what gold was, that wasn’t a problem. But what were frankincense and myrrh?

Myrrh tree, Commiphora myrrha, in Yemen

Nobody was able to tell me. Which was about the time I figured that Sunday School teachers weren’t real teachers at all, they didn’t know their material. The seed of doubt was sown that would sprout a few years later enabling me to think for myself.

I found out today, by reading an article in the BBC News Frankincense tree facing uncertain future.

From there, I found What exactly are frankincense and myrrh?

So I now now what frankincense and myrrh are.

Myrrh is a resin that comes from a rather grotty little tree in Yemen and the East Coast of Africa.

The tree is in the same Burseracea family as Boswellia sacra from whence comes frankincense, which is also a resin.

So the mystery is solved.

Twice I have started

…and twice I have procrastinated. The day has been interrupted by minor details like work and the more considerably important ‘beer o’clock’. Then there was the news, then reheating yesterday’s left-over ravioli and now I am watching my soap opera.

The Beer o'clock principle

You’re lucky that I am here…

It dawned on me on Monday (told you it was a bad day), that it’s Christmas week; which prompts me to ask, where the f*** has the year gone?

It went, simply went.

The Christmas hype, the TV ads, everybody is anxiously awaiting and animated. Me, it’s just another week. Ho hum. I see everything around me has absolutely no meaning. One of the most disgusting ads on TV promises you ten months of indebtedness so you can buy presents and have them paid of in time for next Christmas, just to repeat the cycle; perpetual debt… Some bloody Christmas present.

I have nothing planned, my pay was cocked up last month so I don’t even have enough to buy presents for the kids.

The most Christmassy that I have become is eating cashew nuts in front of the TV. How’s that for excitement?

The commercialisation of Christmas has left me nauseated, and each year more nauseous. The brainwashing involved and greed generated are part of what’s wrong with this bloody world.

Merry Christmas to all my visitors

While I am not religious, Christmas was one time of the year that we could be family, but that has all gone. Anyway, Jesus was born in September… nothing to do with Christmas.

So, having said all that, and got my annual grump out of the way; I’ll get in early and wish you all what’s left of the best Christmas spirit in the way it was intended.

Sunday Travel Tales

Alota

Alota

A little place in the middle of nowhere. It should have been called ‘Notalota’ because that’s what’s there; Not a lot o’ of anything.

Alota is in the southwest Bolivia and is visited by quite a lot of tourists. They are not there to see Alota, they are passing the Salar de Uyuni on their way to Chile via the Coloured Lakes, or indeed coming from Chile via the Coloured Lakes.

Other tourists pass here and overnight after having visited the Salar and before they return to the city of Uyuni.

Alota is a special place; it is more than just an adobe pueblo.

Alota doesn’t have electricity; no electricity equals no lights; no lights equals no light pollution. The Army base has a generator, but it goes off about 7pm. The night is as dark as you can imagine, and then some.

As we approached Alota, I would tell my tour group that the first thing they did when we got out of the trucks (Toyota 4x4s) was to look up. That’s it, just look up; I never told them why.

When they did, this is what they saw…

Millions of stars and the Milky Way

They looked up and remained speechless, just ooohed and ahhhed, and kept looking.

The photo is from Random Ramblings, a blog about a South American trip, worth a look. Unfortunately, my photos of these tours have all been destroyed. But I can assure you, the effect is the same.

We stayed in Alota overnight and the next day returned to Uyuni via San Christobal and the Cemetério de Trens.

San Christobal has been destroyed, the village gone, the oldest adobe cathedral demolished for silver and rare earths by an American mining company. This will feature in a future Sunday Travel Tale, as will the Train Cemetery.

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