Clare and Jim go South

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Christmas is coming, and the kitten is getting fat.

December12

Ooops. I can’t believe it’s been a month since we last posted anything. SORRY! To be honest, the month has really flown by and we’re already well aware of how quickly our six months here in Barra are going to fly by… madness to think that we need to start thinking about where we might go to next.

Typical of our luck, the last few months here in Santa Catarina have seen the worst rain storms in years and years. We were a bit a bit disappointed with the grey days and warm, torrential rain but just accepted it and got wet. A lot. It gave us a good chance to get into the swing of living here, and getting settled into our new home. The internet was a bit wibbly wobbly at times, but as far as we were concerned, that was all the discomfort we experienced. Little did we know, that actually the heavy rainfall over the last few months led to landslides which destroyed homes and blocked roads. At least 45 people died, and more than 22,000 were forced from their homes - and a state of emergency was declared. Unbelievable. In total, more than a million people were affected by the flooding. Carolina watched the news and she said it was reminiscent of New Orleans - in a place just 90 minutes drive from here, 97% of the people lost their homes. And there we were worried about a few days without internet. We literally had no idea what had been going on. Of course, because we can’t understand the language, watching the news in Brazil just isn’t something we do - and when we do check the BBC it’s usually to check up on stuff back home. Luckily, though, here in Barra, we all escaped without too much damage. Now every time it rains, we hope it’s not for too long because of all the destruction already.

When the rain finally cleared, we took a long walk with the dogs along the beach - and the debris on the beach was crazy. We couldn’t believe it, but we even came across a penguin that had must have been migrating and fallen sick - ended up being swept to our island and died en-route… never thought I’d see a penguin here, that’s for sure. Carolina said it’s happened before, her boyfriend Ju found one that was sick, and tried to nurse it back to health but the same thing happened a week after he released it back into the sea. Apparently if they get sick, their strength fails and they get swept with the tides. Rooobish.

Apart from the rains, not much new to report - but actually that is reeeeeally nice. We have just been plodding along and easing into our new routine. Not rushing around with all our (my?!) luggage, but chilling out at home, and heading to the beach as and when. Jamie has begun running along the beach (accompanied by the dogs), and I’ve taken yoga up again. I do it twice a week and Gila, my lovely teacher, now comes here which is GREAT! One hour solid, one-to-one for £6. Brilliant! I speak to her in my broken Spanish if I get stuck (not literally stuck in position, but if I misunderstand her!), and she speaks in a mix of Portuguese and Spanish. It works out fine! If only I wasn’t sampling so much Brazilian food and drink, I’d be getting really fit!

In the last few weeks, I began volunteering at a project in downtown on Wednesday afternoons - it’s with kids from 6 up to 16 with poor and sometimes violent backgrounds. They break up for Xmas next week, so at the moment, I’m just taking the time just to get to know them and play together. I hadn’t realised quite how involved the playing would be… I arrived last week to find that tag was on the menu - me, huffing and puffing running around in the blistering heat wasn’t quite what I had in mind! Then it was skipping. Rosy cheeks and sweating aside, it was so lovely to see them having such innocent fun, and singing fab songs. It’s so different here when it comes to working with children - we’re allowed to hug and hold their hands. And because of the types of homes they come from, they seem to really relish a bit of time chatting and getting some attention. Arrrrr! So lovely. Then after new year, I’m going to begin teaching them a bit of English. At the moment they really only know numbers so it’ll be a bit of a challenge, but one I’m really looking forward to. Working with computers all day doesn’t come completely naturally to me, so it’s good to be in an environment I know every now and again.

A few weekends ago, we went with Carolina and Juliano to her mum’s house.  She is so cute and talks to both of us whilst rubbing my back and holding our hands - arrrr. It’s nice to have a maternal figure here! Another couple, Leo and Samara,  who spoke English also joined us for the shin-dig. They and Carolina are all professional dancers, so what better time to learn how to Samba, I thought, much to everyone elses’ delight! We had a BBQ and drunk beer - yummy. And in my mind, I was a natural Samba queen! All the while we filled our tummies, our no tailed dog waited outside the gate for us whimpering. Doh.

Then at about midnight, we toddled and wobbled off over the pretty beach to a bar up a hill on the top of a cliff which overlooked another smaller beach - it was gorgeous. All very lively - packed full to bursting, with brilliant live music. You should have seen Jamie with Juliano - they really love each other, like peas in a pod - but don’t speak the same language. So they have to rely on talking through the power of beer and gestures! Jamie thought the music was like a Brazilian Chaz and Dave equivalent. It was tres amusing to watch him singing ‘Run rabbit! Run rabbit! Run! Run! Run!’ in a poor attempt to explain his analogy to Carolina! She was sooooo confused!

The dogs are still very much in our lives… As well as seeing the previous gang from time to time, we now seem to have adopted a dog that we affectionately call ‘No Tail’. When we first met her, she was very timid and unpopular with the local street dogs. They all used to gang up on her and shoo her away. This, of course, pulled on our heart strings, which she totaaaaaally picked up on. Which means now, she spends all day every day, sleeping outside our gate. Right outside our gate. Literally. We have to step over her to get in and out! Hopalong also sleeps outside our door despite having a perfectly good home and owner to go to - we think he’s taking refuge here away from Big Ears who always pulls Hopalong’s ears and tail like it’s a bit of string.

They’re such a funny bunch - despite having complete freedom to go where ever they want, whenever they want, they both run up and down the street, yelping with excitement whenever we go to the beach with them for a walk! It’s getting a bit stressful to be honest with No Tail - she has noooooo road awareness whatsoever and seeing as she follows us every time we leave the house, there are many heart in mouth moments where she runs into the road in front of a car. Groan. To avoid being stalked, we even went to the lengths of using Fausto and Elena’s front foor which is on another street to ours so that she didn’t know where we’d gone. It’s getting ridiculous! On the plus side, we went for a swim the other day, and left our clothes on the beach. When we looked back to the sand, there she was, dutifully sat next to our pile of things keeping guard. God love her.

So, animals still continue to wreck havoc with our lives! When we first got to our house, we could hear shrill cheeping in the morning. Turned out we had a bird’s nest in one of the rafters. Wasn’t too much of a problem, just an incredibly reliable morning alarm clock… bit irritating at the weekend, though! Then one day, when I was sweeping away the leaves, I noticed a big, plump chick, sat looking at me, blinking in the light of day, very veerrrry confused. And the ‘Mum’ still flying down to feed it was about half its size! Jamie and I decided the best thing to do was to pop it back in the nest, which we did. Then all of a sudden, about half an hour later, the stupid chick did exactly the same thing - right in front of my eyes. I suspect gravity got the better of the fatty, to be honest. Thud. Splat. Back on the floor again. Just as we had to go out! Luckily, Fausto came to our rescue and explained that this bird wasn’t actually related to the’Mum’ at all - I’m no David Attenborough, but the size difference had puzzled me a bit! Apparently, another bird had probably laid her eggs in the mum’s nest and she was left feeding this lardy chick! This time, as its wings were working and he was huuuuuge, Fasuto popped it in the tree and left it there… last time we saw it, the adopted mum was still spending all her time dashing back and forth,  feeding the greedy wotsit!

And to top it all off, the zoo that we have become, we now seem to have adopted a kitten too. Jamie found him alone meowing on the streets near the beach about to be gobbled by all the street dogs. Had no choice really but to take him in. It’s been about a week and we are both completely and utterly smitten - he’s only about 6 weeks old and soooo ickle. Well, he was when we got him - now he has is a right fatso! 400 grams he weighs, and most of that is in his tummy. We think it’s a boy so had to change his name from Rina. Get it? Santa CATaRINA. Instead, because he is a street urchin, and constantly follows me to the kitchen screaming for more food, we opted for Oliver. Oli for short. He is sooooooo delicious. I sing ‘Food, Glorious Food’ and ‘Who Will Buy’ at him like a madwoman, and all he does is holler for more grub. His complicated life consits of sleeping, eating and pooing - and miaowing regularly for cuddles. He has already grown masses, and we got rid of his fleas so he looks soooo healthy now. Plan is to keep him whilst we’re here, get him fit and healthy and sort out his vaccines - and then find him a good home. Oli is a black and white fluff ball with blue eyes - so shouldn’t be too difficult as he’s very cute looking.  In the time we’ve had him, he’s learnt how to use a tray, climb up and down the bed (and our legs - ouch) and play with our computer wires, flip flops and anything else he can get at. We’ve spoilt him with a selection of toys, and all he likes to do is chase a ball of paper round the room! He is just such a fun character. Am I gushing? Fausto teases us that our house has become like Noah’s ark!!

What else? Um… My Mum and Dad have booked their tickets to come over late January to mid February which is reeeeeeeally exciting. We’re totally into sushi as the fish is so fresh here, and it’s so much cheaper than England. I even got a loyalty card to earn points. Jamie just laughed at me. But we all know that points mean prizes, so who am I to turn a freebie down?! It’s like my equivalent Nectar Card. Also loving the Brahma Malzbier that they have here which is kind of black, sweet beer - very easy to drink! Ah yes, and the cheap lunches in the beach restaurants we go to a few times a week. Initially we thought they were really pricey until Jamie ordered a meal and we realised upon seeing the portions that the price was for two! So now we go there as often as we can and sit and watch the waves, and stuff ourselves!

Another great site to see is entire families riding on one bike! Usually Dad is on the seat, Mum/older sibling balances on the front of the frame, and the little ones sit at the back in a plastic crate that they attach to frame on the back of the bike! And of course Jamie is loving the size (or lack) of the string bikinis! Try as he might, I shall be staying in my pantaloon equivalents. Nipping into our top ten fave things here is the Brazilian BBQ - the meat is soooo good, and the way they cook it it somehow different to back home. The smell is unbeatable… Sunday just gone, after an afternoon lazing on the beach, we had a go at doing our first Brazilian BBQ with the help of our lovely neighbours. It was deeelicious and we’re very proud of our newly accomplished skills! Have to say, though, despite the hard work finding our home, we couldn’t be happier - loving the place, and living next door to such a great family too. Jamie and Fausto both takes breaks throughout the day to have a natter over the gate… it’s like Neighbours with Harold Bishop!

Can’t quite believe it’s Xmas in a few weeks… we just can’t get our heads round it. Really chuffed as we’ve been invited to Carolina and Ju’s house for Christmas Day which is fab - all her family and his will be there. I’m really looking forward to it. Think other than skyping people back home, it would have passed us by really! Which leaves me to wish you all a really happy Christmas and a brilliant 2009! Will be sure to post lots of pictures when we take them of the different experiences we are bound to have in the next few weeks. And who knows what menagerie of animals we will have encountered by then… Gulp.

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