from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paradise Lost Dispatch

“Dear Cyrela Development Company,

Regarding the In Mare construction in Cotovelo, a part of our veranda has fallen as a result of your pile-pounding machine making its way across the road in front of our house. We need to speak directly to someone about this, as it has created a precarious situation.”




The beautiful and peaceful coconut field in front of our house is, alas, being supplanted by a huge condominium; the project will continue for the next two years. The view from our veranda and balcony, which used to be this:

hammocksDSC03110 - View from Balcony

foto corais


(our house is on the road to the beach left of the coconut field)





…has transformed into the following stages of destruction/construction:


2012-07-04 15.28.412012-07-04 15.30.23

“Dear Cyrela Development Company,

Even though the foreman, Victor, informed us that dump trucks and delivery trucks would be using the road opposite our house on the far side of In Mare construction, the trucks are using our road instead. We are being pummeled with dirt and sand, fumes, noise and vibrating. Even though the trucks are fitted with tarps, they are not even bothering to use them.”

Sometimes the trucks back up in front of our house, idling, awaiting re-entry to the construction site (the entrance is near the beach.) I sometimes lose it and stomp out to the trucks to demand they turn off their engines. I encountered a driver by the gate studying our house closely, then remaining there with a threatening face while I found the idling culprit in the path of the ocean wind. My Portuguese becomes even worse when I am upset, so I’m sure the drivers were mystified by my furious comment that life in my house is pure “inverno” (winter), rather than “inferno!” Effective.


“Dear Cyrela Development Company,

We appreciate the trucks using tarps all the time now. We have not been able to reach Victor to determine when the eight stinking dump trucks will stop using our road, so for our sanity, please inform us of the end date for this “exception.” Their constant thundering past is simultaneous with the four bull dozers inside the site working non-stop to fill the trucks.

Imagine our shock the day the dump trucks actually turned our corner and thundered along our side road, as well. That side of the house is protected from the ocean wind and, therefore, not protected by the acrylic panels we have installed on all other open-lattice transoms above doors and windows to block the dirt and fumes. We happened to be outside and actually watched the sand and dirt pour into our kitchen and upstairs bedroom. The cleaning lady had left fifteen minutes before.”

The answer was “in 60 days” (end of September). In Mare is managing to build five stories, though only three stories are allowed by the ocean; two stories will be below the street level. The trucks carry the sand/dirt to another formerly beautiful field across the highway that Cyrela also owns. The work starts at 7:00 each morning with a prison-like siren, but the workers arrive by foot along our road from 6:30am, shouting and laughing. Because the wind dies down at night and there is no construction work, we sleep with the window open, hearing the ocean once more. The house next door, which is situated out our bedroom window on the ocean side and used by the owner only in January, has a part time caretaker who installed a hen and rooster in the yard during our recent trip to the USA. The rooster started crowing LOUDLY around 4:00, but increased his cocka-doodle-doo’s in entire series of crowings. After he got up to 57 crowings at 4:10 and subsequent series dwindled to 25, 20 and then 12 crows by 7:30, I appealed to the caretaker. I explained that with the stress of the construction, the rooster would probably do me in completely. I was spending my dawning hours with my chest absolutely frozen with tension, counting and anticipating when the random cocka-doodles might cease. It took another eight days, but he did take the rooster away, which is why I’m here writing and not institutionalized…yet. I am extremely sensitive to any disturbance on Sundays – our one day without construction. Too bad it is election year and all the politicians use cars with blasting speakers to spread their messages to the illiterate. Also, too bad that some nearby alarm has been going off all night.

“Dear Cyrela Development Company,

The misery we have experienced in our home is a very big problem. Since we have no other residence and work from home, we are forced most days (except Sundays) to stay inside rather than enjoying meals, yoga and craft work in the ocean breeze on our veranda and balcony. We can no longer read in the hammock after lunch; we are like captives. Trapped inside, we can no longer enjoy fresh air coming into our non-air-conditioned house; we must keep the house closed up to avoid the terrible fumes from the bulldozers and trucks, the great amounts of flying dirt and to reduce the deafening noise. It is very hot and airless. The noise is akin to being in the center of an airplane engine with a sadistic dentist (metal saws). When at last we venture out for dinner at night on the balcony, we now face blinding lights from the entire site, continuing the prison theme of our existence here. And that is only if you actually stop at 7:00pm. More “exceptions:” last Thursday the machinery didn’t stop till 11:00pm.

We have increased stress and physical tension, frequent headaches from the toxic fumes (we have been forced to leave our house on occasion when the fumes were intolerable); we are sad, exhausted by 12+ hours of constant noise and house trembling, covered with dirt and distraught over losing the tranquility of our home and the beauty of its outdoor spaces. Our stress and grief are unquantifiable.”

So far without a lawyer, Cyrela has agreed to completely replace our veranda. This is one thing we were hoping to win because the steel beams are old and corroded from the sand and salt that fills the ocean air. Cyrela documented the small cracks already in the veranda plaster before construction began, so it is a good thing that they will start over with new beams and improve on the original work.

It looks like any additional compensation for trying to maintain sanity will require representation. We’ll see.

I am struggling; Newton is mostly impervious to noise and airlessness. Creative projects and walking on the beach are the best distractions while he works in the office all day. I am not fond of running errands in the city traffic, though I frequently do. I have been refreshing the décor of the house, probably because I am stuck looking at it, not because we can entertain or have visitors, especially with the veranda about to fall. Will paradise be regained?

I put up these family photos to comfort me while I’m forced to eat breakfast and lunch in the stuffy, closed-up dining room after six years:


I know these are surmountable problems (I hope) in the scheme of things. Apart from the house, good things continue to abound here: international friends we love; Wednesday night Pub Quizzes run by a fun Irish guy; Volume IV of Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ; a new Tex-Mex restaurant, run by a real New Mexican; a great new cleaning lady one day/week and a smiling cook (for half a Monday) whom I really adore; our beautiful beach; poker, tennis and squash for Newt and his buddies; and an almost-full moon over the ocean right now. 


A rapidly aging Sandy


  1. This situation sounds truly challenging. I wish you the best of luck and tenacity in coming up with healthy coping mechanisms. Keep us posted. Much love, Sara

  2. Shocking read Sandy and I have seen the destruction/construction 1st hand, I endured a 1 1/2 year long construction site next to my house in Barcelona and I am desperately feel for you. The most telling line in all your post has to be the signature so really hope you find some respite somewhere. Feel bad to be withdrawing the quiz now while I hop back to Europe as i know we all enjoy them. Very best wishes and see you next wednesday if Natal transport doesn't conspire against that, but you have put the shit day I had yesterday totally into context!!

  3. Oh Sandy, I am so, so sorry! How very horrible- and how unbelievably inconsiderate. Take care of yourself.

  4. No, no, no...say it's not so! I can't bear the thought of such total disruption and desecration of your idyllic spot. I hope you're through the worst of it very soon.


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