Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dance, if you must.

There has been a breakout of dancing of late and I would like to express my outrage. What do these ne'er do wells think they are trying to accomplish.

As a hardcore blogalist, I researched this phenomenon and here is what I can report.

On July 26, 2009, 3 separate flash mobs of approximately 200 reportedly broke out in Paris. Reportedly there are approximately 7 dancers in the mix. The rest of the crowd just joined, singing and dancing "Beat It." A young man in yellow t-shirt and tennis hat appears to be the ring leader, dancing and snapping his fingers, emulating the Michael Jackson signature leg fling.(Don't pretend you haven't tried it.)

Dancing, hips gyrating, hands clapping. Singing out of tune. Then, as quickly as it began, the song ended, and the dancers dispersed. A shocking display of fun and entertainment.

Another flash mob reportedly broke out in December 2009 in a Lisbon airport, no less, adding to the security risks of every day folk. A man dressed as Santa appeared to be the ring leader. (Source:

Then most recently, a flash mob broke out in Rio airport, during Carnival. Once again, hips shaking, dancing, sambas and short skirts.

The infamous Oprah kick off flash mob, lead by the Black Eyed Peas singing "I got a feeling" is also worth noting, suggesting that perhaps there is a corporate application in the flash mob dance strategy.

One girl in the front caused a ripple effect. At first, one wonders if she is having a convulsion, but then it becomes apparent. A dance has been planned and carefully executed. Hundreds of people broke out into dance, no doubt clogging traffic, upsetting the people and generally interfering with commerce.

I've got a feeling this is rampant. If you google "flash mob dance" you will find 7 pages of examples of when and where these outbreaks have occurred. No word from officials as to a response to this.

Is entertainment making its way into our daily lives? Can we stop it? What will happen to productivity if these people are distracting workers from working and customers from spending their money? What about security costs? Do we need a policy on how to institute a flash mob in public places? Are decision makers worried?

All good questions, but no answers as of yet. I can only guess that more jocularity will continue until this outburst of fun and frivolity is addressed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Ants Go Marching One by One

The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching one by one,
The little one stops to suck his thumb
And they all go marching down to the ground
To get out of the rain, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

I have spent the last three weeks in bliss and corporate solitude, where the only decision I had to make every day was sun, or shade. And it was heaven.

There were other burning issues of course that caused some discussion and in some cases a decision. Am I burning? Am I thirsty? When do we eat? Mango or pear? What is that bug with knees that keeps bothering me? Do centipedes really sting? Do they crawl into people's ears like in the movies? Is the air conditioning turned on? Is that a rain cloud? What day is it anyway, and does anyone really care?

On January 28, we left our chilly but beloved Canadian homeland and went to Brazil. Upon leaving, the temperatures were minus 23 degrees Celsius. Fully dressed in my lululemon gear, my husband and I ventured off for warmer lands. We arrived in Brazil some 26 hours later, to be greeted by 41 degrees Celsius.

If you have ever travelled to a hot climate, you know the smell. That musty, pungent aroma that is a strange combination of body odor (theirs, not mine), pollution, humidity, and stale air. When I first stepped off of the airplane, I was struck by the odor. I stopped, closed my eyes, and inhaled, as deep as possible. And that was the beginning of an existence of simplicity and absolute human uselessness. From there on, I practiced the art of learning to exhale.

The first thing we did was undress. Literally. A waterfall of sweat and perspiration began to emit from our bodies and we needed relief. My lulus might work well for hot yoga, but not for hot Brazil. Dressing in Brazil is a tricky undertaking. First of all, everything that you think is summer wear here in Canada is just too hot, and too heavy. Even our cottons might as well be a winter jacket. Clothing in Brazil is barely required and possibly optional, although I never saw any full nudity. Necklines and hemlines cover the essentials. The trick to dressing in that heat is to wear as little as possible. Catching on quickly, I donned the uniform of the day - a bathing suit, sundress or shorts - and never really deviated from the plan.

We rented a Townhouse in a little town called Marica, which has a population of about 125,000 people. Half the size of Regina. Our group of eight Canadians got into the spirit of living in Brazil. Our daily drill would involve coffee, breakfast, a trip down the 45 degree hill to town to buy groceries, and of course shop for shoes and weather appropriate cloths. Then we would head over the Acai booth and have a quick one, before heading back up the hill to home and pool.

We did not rush, and those who did only tired faster in the extreme hit. We stopped under the "kissing tree" for shade, then the mango tree before we made it home. We learned that in order to avoid passing out in the heat, we needed to have our daily trek under way be 10 AM and completed by noon to survive the mid day sun.

By night, we would visit with local friends that we have made over the past 2 years, shared our favorite foods and recipes (yes, I cooked there), and participated in the Carnival activities.

I think during the course of the 3 weeks, I learned about another 50 words and took about 500 pictures of the places we visited, the daily life of the people around us, and the breathtaking scenery of the never ending garden that is Brazil.

Experiencing the world of ants epitomizes total relaxation. One day, I spent 3 hours observing and photographing ants carrying food to their "home." It all started when we were having our morning coffee. There was a crumb on the concrete. We watched a group of ants pick it up and walk away with it. We were amazed to see this cookie crumb on the move, across the patio, up a 6 inch granite wall, over a ridge, across a 4 inch plane and down into the flower bed where they were living.

We wondered how much the ants could really carry. So we upped the anty. We bit off a slightly bigger chunk of cookie, and put it on the ground. The tiny red ants moved with purpose toward the Cookie, gathered around it and carried it off, across the patio, up the wall, across the plane, and into the garden.

The next piece was about the size of a small finger nail. Once again, the red ants got to work and they they carried the cookie across the patio, but stumbled as they made their way up the wall. But their goal to reach the promised land was greater the problems they were facing. So in came more ants and up they went, only to fall again, and again, and again. I watched them persevere for three hours.

Finally, I decided to help, picking up a leaf and carefully lifting the cookie and as many ants as possible up to the top of the wall. They carried on their way and took the cookie to their queen, who was by then waiting and wondering what was happening to the the delivery. (I imagined that part.)

"Great", said my friend. "Now you've mechanized them. Soon they will be unionized. They will lose their will to work, they will grow pot bellies, and expect to be paid more. The colony will suffer."

We laughed at the sight of a pot bellied ant, and then we went for a dip in the pool.

The next day we left our paradise, our friends, and our ants and found our way back to Canada, where the necklines are higher, the pants are longer, where sunscreen is replaced with moisturizers and lip chap, and where the ants are out of sight, but not out of mind.

The ants go marching ten by ten, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching ten by ten, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching ten by ten,
The little one stops to say "THE END"
And they all go marching down around the town

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Brazil 2010 - Land of opportunity and irony

Brazil is a funny place. The trees are like our houseplants, except they are 50 feet tall. The sun is relentless and the heat is unforgiving at times. The shade is scant where the locals and the visitors hide out. People are friendly here and they want to learn English, so any opportunity to speak or hear English is welcomed. The young people are like young people everywhere. Those who have the opportunities and the support flourish, those who do not, do not.

While we are here, the kids have gone back to school as we are about to enter the fall here in Brazil. School lists are handed out and the school shops are busy. Backpacks with Hanna Montanna and Sponge Bob are hot ticket items. People have been busily buying their kids clothes and supplies to get ready to attend another year.

However, education is not manditory, or so it seems. One little boy that I met here is about 6 and his father cannot afford the school supplies. So he is not attending school this year. It is strange. I asked with the school list looks like and nobody seems to know what is on it. It would probably cost about $200 Reals, I guess, to get this little boy into school. That is about $125 Canadian.

So why not help, you might be thinking. Before coming to Marica, we received a list of school supplies to bring for another family with two 4-year old girls. We brought our share of the supplies to help the kids get into school this year. And our hosts kicked in for the uniform.

By Canadian standards, this would not be acceptable - that a child should not go to school because parents could not afford it. I do not know why this little boy is not on someone`s help list. Maybe his father will not accept it. This is the future of Brazil, someone said. If this little boy cannot get an education, he will have no future and another generation of have nots will continue to live in the hills and on the streets.

Brazilian standsrds are interesting. One young family that we know here live in a house on the side of a hill. It is a cement house with cement floor. There are no windows, but they have shutters to close at night. They also have a car, cell phones and a satellite dish, which makes them middle class. They make about $750 Reals a month - that is about $500 Canadian.

Despite the definition of middle class, Brazil really is the land of the haves and the have nots. There is industry growing here, and as I said previously, there is money here. The cars are new and the toys are plentiful. New businesses are popping up. Properties are on the incline out here in sleepy Marica. You can buy a 3 bedroom house on the Atantic ocean for $490,000 Reals (that is about $300 Canadian). It has a pool, grass and is beautiful inside wiht full double doors on the side of the house facing the ocean. Sweet deal, you might say. You also need to have a cook and a property keeper that will cost you $480 Real a month (or 300 Canadian) - a small price to pay to keep the property value up and safe.

The city of Rio is busting at the seams with over 9 million people living there. There again, money talks and the great divide between the haves and the have nots is obvious. There is a crack down on crime here. On the evening news, they parade those whom they arrest. There is more of a presence here in policing that what I recall seeing last year.

Marica is apparently on a growth curve too, as it is a place where people with money can invest, and yes, even hide out from the crime of the bigger cities. Properties have doubled for those who can afford it. And for the people who live on the side of the hill, I wonder if they ever get off the hill into the haves. I wonder if they can make the journey from the have nots to the haves with out a little help from their friends.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brazil 2010 - A Little Help from Friends

Bom dia is the traditional greeting here in Brazil. At night we say Bom Noight (not sure of the spelling). In between good day and good night, the challenge is to find all the words in betweeen. Everything from how to ask for water, to how to ask for directions, and of course, how to ask for a particular pair of shoes in a particular color. I usually try French first if I do not know the word and then sign language.

But I find body language to be the best communicator. That and tone. Smiling always works, and not using abrupt words, or words that sound abrupt. One our friends who are travelling with us consistently get bad service. Their orders are always wrong, and the person literally gets a glazed over look in their eyes when they talk. They tend to bark and point abruptly, as if to insult the intelligence of the person trying to help them.

Bad idea. That is why I make friends with the people who can help me. The staff at the Mercatta store where I buy lots of cloths know me and what I like. The young girls who work at the Acai booth where we visit frequently (it~s like the Dairy Queen here) are a welcome break for us in the heat. Jacqueline and Rashonne are life savers.

So as the song goes, I get by with a little help from my friends.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Brazil 2010 - Speak like a Canadian, Shake like a Brazilian

Last night, we were in downtown Buzios at a street pub called The House of Rock and Roll. A Brazilian band entertained us with Elvis, ACDC (Back in Black), Guns and Roses, CCR, Pink Floyd (The Wall), James Tayor . . . it passed the test of every hard core Western music lover.

Our contingent of 8 Canadians held our own, and I must say, proved that the classic beer commericials that we know and love are true of who we are. The devil horns - heavy metal salute - was our common language. And while the band entertained us, we entertained the Brazilians.

We sang like Canadians, and danced like the Brazilians. You know it, the samba can be danced in any language.

Ciao for now.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Brazil 2010 - Learning to Exhale

One week ago Thursday we left -38 degrees celcius and the land of winter to the land of the sun and the eternal garden. It is a shock to the senses, but a good one.

Yesterday, in Rio, the temperature was 50 degrees celclus - that is 110 degrees fahrenheit.Hot. In Marica, it was about 43 degrees celcius. We just hung out in the air conditioning. Whereever we could find it. And in the absense of air conditioning, we found awnings and large over hanging tropical leaves to hang out under.

The locals carry around facecloths to dab themselves, uttering muito calor , which means, maaaaan, its hot!!! So today, I ventured down the hill with a bright orange face cloth tucked in the back of my shorts like the locals. I look good.

Tomorrow we are heading to Buzios, a tourist town 142 km east of here. Buzios was made famous by Brigitte Bardot when she took off her top and bringing playboys from all around. But do not worry. Our Saskatchewan boys would not qualify.

Off to check out the shoes and have another ACai to make ready for our trip for the weekend.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Brazil 2010 - ;Update from Paradisio

Ok, so I learned that we are experiencing a highest temperatures on record since 40 years ago. Consistently, the temperatures are 39 - 42 degrees celcius, which is Farenheit is about 100 degrees. Thats hot. Even the locals are feeling it, I hear. We are seeing vendors on the streets selling hats and sunglasses more than last year, and people tend to shut down in the afternoon. We found this little Internet cafe where we visit to talk to the world and get some air.

Carnival preparations are under way in Rio and in Marica. Last night as we sat by the pool waiting for a cool breeze, we could hear the sound of drums off in the distance. That, and the dogs barking.

Across the street from us, there are mango and cashew trees about the size of an elm tree at home. A family of Tamarins are living, which resemble monkeys, but with ringed tales. They have the face of a Koala, but their faces are about the size of of a quarter. We give them bananas, which the neighbors disapprove of, but they are so cute. I got up close to take some pictures, which I will post when I can.

Thats all for tday. Ciao!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brazil 2010 - the land of the sun and the eternal garden

Here in the land of the sun and the eternal garden, paradise can be found. 39 degrees celcius temperatures, lush green vegetation virtually everyone you look, and the vegetables and fruits of an umlimited quantity. We are in Marica, a little suburb about 1 hour away from Rio. Here in Marica, the streets are busy with people doing their local shopping, taking their beautiful fat babies to the clinic and just living the life.

Since our visit last year, there have been changes. For one, there are more cars and newer cars, a sign that the affluent in the surrounding cities have discovered this oassis. Apartment buildings have been resurrected this year that were piles of what looked like rubble last year. Condo complexes have been built, complete with security systems, cut glass-topped walls and barking dogs. There is a new rule that garbage must be elevated or put in cans out front rather than being left on the street. The dogs seem happy and well cared for. They roam free, but they look healthy. Apparently, they get checked out regularly and are fed.

A happy change for us touristas is the rule that cars are supposed to stop for people. So while we still take our life into our hands when we cross the street, they sometimes stop. There are lines in the road so that must mean something.

Rio is another story. The streets are dirty and they say its not safe there. Yestedy our driver, Mauro, took us to the city and made sure we were in the safest places. But one has to be careful there. Lots of poverty. Lots of problems. I guess one can expect that when 9 million people co-habitate.

I love the small town life in Marica, and judging by the growth of this little town, so do many people from Rio.