from Sandy Needham

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Brazil Dispatch 1

September 10, 2006

We are, indeed, in Fortaleza, state of Ceará, in the Northeast of Brazil with nothing but our suitcases. Once we decided to move here during a trip to the Northeast last summer, we have spent the past year inching towards that goal. Newton can work anywhere if internet is available; I need a rest!

After exchanging a rather deserted beach hotel with an internet problem for a nicer one with a good deal negotiated for Newton's internet use, we feel like we have a "home" for the time being! We are across the street from the ocean and sleep well with the combination of ocean sound and breeze. This is a great improvement over our diminishing bed arrangements in Nyack after we sold the bed (on one desperate occasion - the day we moved things into storage - we actually just fell out on the bare box springs we planned to throw out the last day - it was disgusting!) Frequent bouts of insomnia near the end of the move also primed us for these deep 'ocean' sleeps.

Our various send-offs were magnificent - and so much thanks to all of you – as were two elaborate weddings near the end. Our grueling preparations for disposing of or storing our treasures and junk (too much of both) always had incredible respites interspersed, involving delicious food and the best company! My sister Donna's farewell party included a Bingo game she invented with Elise's help: What Sandy & Newton Will Miss Most. It covered so much - yoga, Blue Rock School, jazz in the Hopper House garden, our red living room, tennis, soccer, Nyack Farmer's Market, our espresso machine (I know...but so far, no decaf found here) - among many other cherished items - plus the name of each relative at the party! I must add each of your names to the grid, as well!

We simply would not have made it on to the plane without the help of our amazing friend and neighbor, Lucia. She brought all her skills and charms to our yard sale, helped with the distribution of tons of items left at the end, and not only drove us to the airport, but brought mozzarella balls to eat on the way, without which we probably would have fainted!

We had so much fun monitoring the disappearance of some great throw-aways on the curb. The garbage truck compactor got very little, once it had completed the mangling of the formidable remains of our old, old, heavy, heavy upright piano that Newton and Jake sledge-hammered on the front porch. That was the most surreal (and sonorous) event of our move. A close second and third would be when Newton hit a parked car while turning the corner with the 26' U-Haul truck he had just rented, and when my carry-on suitcase inspection at JFK revealed a pouch full of our favorite (lethal looking) knives and two large pairs of scissors. The look I got! How embarrassing that I was mixed up on which bags were carry-ons, worrying about new restrictions on lipstick and lip gloss the whole while! (Newton actually ran back and checked the bag in the very nick of time, rather than lose our great German knives and best fabric scissors.)

We are in the throes of the Northeast of Brazil's version of bureaucracy. We went to the Federal Police for my resident visa registration - this took a whole morning and I got finger printed AGAIN after the Brazilian Consulate in NY required fingerprints cleared by the FBI. They did not allow shorts (like the Vatican??) so Newton had to wait outside until I heard from some American students inside that they had been allowed in previously in their shorts. This meant Newton could tell me what the little bureaucrat was saying, since I only recognized intermittent words dashing by in Portuguese. Then we went to a truly horrible government office on a truly horrible street in the center of downtown Fortaleza for this number we need. But the people are very nice in general here, and NEVER in a hurry! We were rewarded after these endless hours with a short drive back to the beach and an afternoon of cold beer, grilled chicken and the aqua Atlantic in front of us.

The beach 'restaurants' along this Praia do Futuro have large, thatch-covered areas by the street, then a section of tables with thatched umbrellas on the sand, then the section close to the water. Vendors roam throughout, allowed to sell even food (shrimp and lobster tail!) to the restaurant's customers. They have a different entrepreneurial sense around here. We moved during a light shower from the beach to the large covered section the other day, just as a "friendly" soccer game between Brazil and Argentina's World Cup teams started on the TV. There was an aisle with people passing between the TV and the tables, and what a show! First the table in front of us had various people coming and going, some pouring beer from the tall bottle in the styrofoam holder into the same single glass sitting there. We never knew whose beer it actually was. One guy arrived with his own small cooler and didn't buy anything. Then a 3-year-old girl who belongs to the place was hanging around that table and decided to play with the remote, finally managing (after keeping us in great suspense) to change the channel - to the horror of all the transfixed guys in the place. Then various vendors would start their way through, but stop when they saw there was a soccer game on. I laughed so hard at the whole scene - the popsicle guy left the whole cart right in the aisle and grabbed a seat, while the coconut sweets lady leaned on the popsicle wagon to watch, and the waiters managed to serve all (who were ordering, that is) while keeping their gaze on the screen.

Today we drive to the beach towns south of the city, scouting for a home. There will be more...


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