from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Brazil Dispatch 4

October 11, 2006

So our purchase of the house is guess what?? - complicated. The original owner, Ricardo, has tax evasion problems among various other creditors, so the house has passed to the current owner, Fidel, without anyone changing the deed. This is because, even though Ricardo paid the entire mortgage, he never officially "retired" the loan with the bank so as not to attract the attention of his creditors to his ownership of the house. No one can officially take over the deed from Ricardo until certain documents clearing the way are acquired and the retirement of the loan has happened. Fidel did not actually realize the extent of risk, owning this house, and did not mind getting around a few problems by leaving it in Ricardo's name. By the way, it costs 6% OF THE SELLING PRICE to transfer a deed; one reason it is commonly not done.

A very nice lawyer here, Ribamar, who is a friend of a friend of Newton's Dad and a native of Natal, knew first thing that Ricardo has tax problems. When he was unable to get the documents we need to buy, he just encouraged us to find another house. Well, no way I'm doing that, when this is THE house for us! The deal here in Brazil is that in the middle of all the strict limitations are very loose ways of getting around them. Fidel is managing to "get" all the needed documents to pass the title into his name by way of the realtor he originally bought the house through, then we will take it over from him. Whew! I think it's going to work out. Newton had to ask me to stop pacing twice in the last two days, but now I am sitting still to write! Since we leave in a week for Newt's big business trip, we'll see what's left to do after we return on November 14th. Someday we'll have a home!!
Ribamar, the lawyer, told us about the different feel Natal has compared to other Brazilian cities. During WWII, Natal was a "trampoline" for Allied forces getting to Europe via Africa. Among various nationalities of soldiers, the base was actually American, so this city became like a little American colony. As I wrote last year, the popular music of the northeast, called forró (pronounced "for hall") actually got named via this American base, where there was one party at the officers' club, and another big party "for all," typified by this particular northeastern dance rhythm and quick-step dance. Today, pedestrians here still have crosswalks that must be honored by motorists - the only place in Brazil of which Newton is aware. Ironically, flights from the US to Natal do not exist, so I seem to be the only American here now!

I need to defend our little red car, after calling it 'unexciting' in the last dispatch. It's true, the red is very bright and shiny. The only other colors offered on any lot are black, white, grey, and neutral metallics. Cars are one of several things here that simply cost a lot more than in the US. (Technology, fuel, also.) I guess I thought for the price, the "power windows' referred to both the front seat AND the back seat windows. Anyway - back to the defending - I am completely thrilled to be driving a car, at last, that does not run on gasoline. Even though this one can handle either gas or alcohol, we always fill it up with alcohol. It was costing US$50 to fill up our tiny gasoline rental car. The alcohol costs less, but burns faster, so is not a big savings. BUT IT BURNS CLEAN!!!!!!! With petroleum self-sufficiency in Brazil and alcohol from the cheap resource of sugar cane, we're mystified by both prices.

We spent last weekend a little further south along the coast at a "famous" beach called Pipa. As in Natal, there are loads of Europeans, with higher prices and fantastic restaurants and shops. We were determined to find a cheap pousada to stay in, so settled for one whose room door didn't actually lock and whose A/C didn't actually cool. (This was the third room we tried there, where the toilet had a seat and the frig and TV worked simultaneously.) We found a great beach where a little barraca is perched on the last remaining feet of a sand 'shelf,' soon to disappear completely with the global rising of the oceans. Note the attached photos of the same coconut tree taken one day apart:

This barraca was too simple to have any music, so we actually got to listen to the ocean the whole time!
On our first day there, Newton was the hot-shot body surfer among the Europeans getting pummeled in the head by the strong waves. (I stay out altogether once it gets rougher in the afternoon, as a wall of water suggests death to me.) On our second day there, Newt decided to
have a more humbling surf board lesson, since he has never really tried that. He is excited to keep learning, once he is no longer sore in the hands, knees, ribs - and elbow, where another beginning surfer collided with him.

Now we are running around a bit, getting to know Natal a little better, hoping to find a dentist for Newton and a hairdresser for me before our trip (it's really getting old putting that dark brown eye shadow on my graying temples!). The hotel will let us keep our stuff and our car here. Of course I HOPE we'll be here for just one night when we return, although the closing on the house may require more days.

Hope all of you are enjoying fall, my favorite season (I'm not complaining about the green here, be clear!).

Perhaps you'll get some reports from other parts of the world soon.


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