from Sandy Needham

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Brazil Dispatch 7

January 18, 2007

The rooster next door starts crowing at 3:30 am. Sunrise is at 4:30. The caretaker starts sweeping outside at 5:00. The maid arrives at 7:30. There is consistent pressure to get of bed here, plus I'm reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Benjamin Franklin, the original "early to bed, early to rise" guy. Sunset is at 6:00pm. Life is tough for a night person around here.

I could complain about the ongoing trials of the ubiquitous bureaucracy (it took two hours to buy 3 paint colors - two different times - even the clerk had to stand in line to get permission to change a formula!), or I could complain about the price of a texture paint roller ($40), or the spotty luck with the radio internet connection, or having to drive barefoot so I don't have to bribe the police if stopped while driving in flip-flops, but I won't.

Instead I'll concentrate on the good things. We just spent a week having the house patched up - a process that is necessary intermittently for these houses near the beach. The metal structure of the house begins to rust in spots, which causes the gesso walls to crack. A team of 4 men showed up to work on the very day promised (!), performed beautiful, skilled work - including replacing terra cotta tiles on a part of the roof - finished in the promised 5 days and charged us a little under $500. Now our wonderful caretaker, Marcos, is repainting or touching up all the areas, with exceptional pride. He is a tiny, wiry guy, strong as an ox, who loves to paint and loves to have the place looking renewed. He also grins often and makes a verb out of the Portuguese word for 'thing!' It is impossible not to like him.

After looking out over the ocean each morning from the balcony as I do my exercises, I request the breakfast of my choice from Cornelia, the sweet, quick, hardworking maid. I drink a perfect cup of decaf coffee every day!! We eat all meals on the front porch because the old, rotting outdoor set that Fidel left behind is our only option at the moment, but since that is my favorite spot in the house, we will plan to continue to eat out there on the eventual new outdoor table and chairs. We decided not to ship our furniture from the US and just furnish the house with local rustic handmade pieces. This is moving quite slowly, but by the time we return from our trip to the US, we should have a desk and a dining room table to go with Newton's new desk chair and the 8 dining chairs about to be delivered! The key word here in the northeast of Brazil is: patience.

Our beautiful Cotovelo beach always beckons, though we only made it there over the weekend last week. I love to ride little waves on my little Styrofoam board. A trail of people from the nearby high-rises and surfers pass our front gate daily from dawn till dusk. The sandy road still has traces of confetti from New Year's Eve, when everyone gathered on the beach to watch fireworks in every direction (OK - not the ocean direction), and to step into the water to jump seven waves for good luck!

We will have a 'social' occasion here this Saturday, when a couple I met in the supermarket is coming over. The husband is from England, but has such a weak accent after studying in the US and spending 22 years in Rio that I immediately inquired if he was American. The wife is South African, so we all have many notes to compare on our displacement!

These January days are hotter, but the ocean breeze saves the day. Rains come and go in minutes, sometimes passing through our transoms, doors and windows!

The road is getting torn up to lay sewer pipes - about a block each day - left intact every evening. The workers spend about two hours with rhythmic pick axes to dig through the red dirt into the white sand below. We have no idea when any connections to a sewer will occur, but it feels like am improvement happening.

We will have only an already over-scheduled, whirlwind stopover in New York the beginning of February after my visit to my Mother's, and Newton's trade show in San Francisco, so please excuse us if we appear a blur, or don't appear at all. Sounds like winter is finally making an appearance up there.



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