Monday, December 28, 2009
It was definitely worth it, but we nearly died on the way back up!
Also in the park is a cable car, an obsvervatory, picnic and camping areas and trails.
It is well worth a visit if you love nature or if you just want to relax in an unspoilt landscape.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The longer I live here the more I come to understand that the human spirit needs very little to be happy.
Understanding the poverty that exists here has been a journey for me. At first my snobby first world head was appauled and kept complaining about how awful it is that people live like this and I must help them. But getting to know these people I have realised that they are some of the happiest people I know. They never complain and seem to be very accepting of their lot in life.
Last Friday my husband and I went to help his father organise an event for teenagers at their church. There were quizzes, dinner and a sleepover - which luckily we didn't stay for.
The whole thing went really well and on the way back we gave a lift to two sisters who had voluteered their time to cook the dinner - which was for about 50 people.
They live outside Maringa, in Sarandi which is know as a 'favela' (a slum) and where most of this city's poorer workers live. These two women were so happy and full of stories about their lives and how wonderful it was to be alive etc. I felt so humbled seeing how simply they lived and I was glad to have had the opportunity to get to know them first-hand.
I am looking forward to many such encounters in the future.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
A couple of weeks ago after returning to Brazil from my honeymoon, I finally had a visit from the PF representative. Of course she came on the day when I was still in my PJs, with honking morning breath, gossiping with my mother-in-law, yes she is that nice.
I had slept in, left my bed unmaid. It's always good to make a great first impression when your future is at stake. Or maybe it's better that it was messy, more realistic, who knows.
Simone, a tall blonde, came through the door and introduced herself. "Hi", I said hoping that my Portuguese would see me through all the answers I was about to give. She asked me all these questions about how I'd met my husband Paulo, and it began to feel like a scene from Green Card, remember that awful 90s movie with Andie McDowell and Gerard Depardieu?
Soon enough I had turned it into a scene from MTV's Cribs when she asked to see our bedroom. I apologised for the unmade bed. "Don't worry, it's the fifth one I've seen today", she said slightly miffed.
Unfazed I proceeded to show her through my entire wardrobe, explaining how I categorised our clothes, which were my favourites and which ones I couldn't wear here as I thought they were too chic. I realised almost immediately that my capsule collection of Issa, McQueen, Basso & Brooke and Vivienne were hardly going to see the light of day in this small town, where popular brands are Guess and Tommy Hilfiger, but at least I could look after them!
Aside from giving a lesson in British fashion I managed to learn a bit about the other foreigners living in Maringa. Apparently we are some 3,000 strong and consist mainly of students who attend the University of Maringa, where my brother-in-law works as a physical education teacher. Also working there is an Englishman called Peter who has lived here for about 20 years and is married to a Brazilian woman. I know that there are several other English and some American citizens living here, but as yet I have yet to meet any of them.
All in all it was an interview that I will never forget. I now have to wait up to six months to know whether my apllication has been successful.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Personally, as someone who was born and raised in the so-called first world, I believe for better or worse that my expectations are higher, I am more spoilt if you like and I find it harder to put up with things that don't work in the way that I am accustomed to. In plain English this makes me a pain in the arse around here.
That being said, when we are outside of our comfort zone, are we victims of are own success, so dependent on modern technolgy, so able to buy practically all the things we desire that we have become incapable of surviving on our own.
I have lived in Maringa, a small city in southern Brazil on and off for six months now and I am supposedly living in what counts as part of the third world as my family jokingly reminds me when I complain about things and constantly compare them with my own city or country.
I realise that this is unfair but it seems fairly instinctive and also vaguely patriotic. Why do we feel the need to wax lyrical about the benefits of our own country, especially when we are living in someone else's? Is it because we are homesick? Is it because we regard ourselves as superior? Or is it because we enjoy boasting about a higher standard of living?
At this point I still don't know the answer but all the expat blogs that I read inevitably make comparisons between their native country and their new place of residence. So based on this evidence I can only assume that it is human nature and nothing more.
Hopefully one day I will find out what the answer is.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This city is also a hybrid of themes and styles; soviet-inspired communist monuments and buildings merge with imperial temples and palaces. Beijing seems improvised yet it is perfectly organised and has traditional elements fused with quirky modern touches.
I loved hanging out trying some traditional cuisine whislt enjoying the view in Houhai, Beijing's lake area. Walking around in general took its toll as everything is huge but at least my legs were toned by the end of it. Shopping was a lot of fun here, from the smart boutiques of Wangfujing to the crazy hassling and haggling of the Silk Market - you can't walk by a stall without the vendor shouting out "You want to buy _________? I give you best price, very good quality." It is a sight to be seen and is wonderfully exhausting.
Part of our brief trip was a visit to the great wall, which was an added bonus and a life-long dream. We chose the Simatai region as it is unrestored and untamed, the ideal location for a great hike. Another benefit of this area is that it is virtually empty, we must have seen no more than 10 people for the few hours we were there, an absolute contrast after the crowded, bustling streets of Beijing.
After the Taj Mahal, I thought nothing could ever leave me in awe again but the wall has her own breathtaking tricks. Being able to amble through the watch towers practically alone gives you an idea of the vastness of this epic structure and of China as a whole. The wall weaves over a patchwork blanket of green, extending as far as the eye can see for some 6,000 kilometers or 4,000 miles.
I was happy to return to China after having lived in Hong Kong in 1997 just after the handover back to the Chinese (wow was it that long ago?). It remains a fantastic destination and Beijing in particular sells you memories you are happy to pay for.
Next week: Japan
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
For me this quote sums up India better than I ever could.
India is unique, unlike any other country I have ever visited. She enters your soul, gets under your skin and steals a piece of your heart all at first glance.
This ancient country is a sensory overload of colour, taste, sound and smell and is so rich in custom, history and culture that it takes you on an unforgettable journey with enough tales and fables to fill a lifetime.
It is the vast contrasts that make India so incredibly memorable. Decadent structures, monuments to endless wealth and ancient dynasties stand alongside crippled children walking on their hands begging for change, dragging their mangled legs behind them.
Beautifully adorned women in jewel-coloured saris decorate the streets and goats and cows stroll along as if browsing the markets and running errands.
Even though I only visited four locations on my trip, it was enough to make me want to renounce my worldly possesions to roam free.
Arriving at the airport in Delhi, bound for Beijing, I was left in tears as we said goodbye to our driver, I didn't want to be parted from my new found friend India.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Although I am by no means a cordon blue chef, I love cooking and I am always looking for typical English dishes to introduce them to. So last weekend I decided to take on the mammoth task of making my Mum's apple crumble.
I was quite nervous as I had never cooked it before, and I had also decided to make custard from scratch which was an added challenge and again something I had never done before. Knowing that my efforts will always be rewarded with praise and that I will never experience a Gordon Ramsay-style tirade gives me the confidence to try new things. So more often than not I am cooking dishes for the first time.
To my surprise the crumble turned out really well, not quite like my Mum's but close enough. The only thing I regretted was that she wasn't there to taste my first apple crumble and custard. I was able though to tell her about it during our weekly call the very next day.
Ready to eat!
Miranda's Mum's Apple Crumble
Serves up to 6
300g Plain flour
Pinch of salt
170g unrefined brown or demerera sugar
200g unsalted butter cut into cubes
700g apples cored, peeled and cut (ideally Bramley but any kind will work)
Pinch of cinnamon
2 tbsp of water
Mix flour and sugar together really well. Rub the butter into the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. If the mixture sticks together when pressed in your palm it has enough butter.
Cut the apples in 1cm slices and mix with with the water and cinnamon being careful not to break the fruit. Grease the bottom of a medium sized pyrex dish or 9" circular pie dish, spread the apples along the base so that they lie flat. Add the crumble mix over the top and bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.
4 egg yolks
30g Caster sugar
55ml single cream
1 Vanilla pod or 1/2 tsp essence
2 level tsp cornflour
Heat the milk, cream and vanilla pod (if using) over a low heat and bring to simmering point. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and conrflour in a seperate bowl. Take the pan off the heat and pour into the bowl, whisking all the time. Return to the pan, add vanilla essence and cook on a low heat until thickened. Serve immediately. To prevent skin forming place in a jug and seal with clingfilm.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Since moving to Brazil I have taken up running, but this week I found myself back to square one after having a break of nearly four months.
In an effort to get motivated I decided that a new workout playlist would be just what the doctor ordered. I really want to get back to running 3k three times a week but right now it seems like a distance and soewhat unreachable goal.
After much research on the net I felt totally uninspired when I found out that the most popular workout song was Eye of the tiger - come on! That would make me burst out laughing, not at all what you need when running - oxygen is already at a premium.
I needed some serious help and input...
It's times like these when networking and social interaction sites like Facebook and Twitter really come into their own. I asked my friends for some suggestions on which tunes to add and what came out was an ecclectic selection that was a mixture of favourite songs, life references and new discoveries. I am still working on my list and I believe that it should be an ever-evolving creation as my boredom threshold is very high and I need all the motivation I can get when it comes to excercise!
My new playlist, with a little help from my friends now looks something like this:
Start Me Up - Rolling Stones
Mina Do Condominio - Seu Jorge
Oh (Plugs Remix) - We Are Band
A Galera - Ivete Sangalo
Without Words - 4hero
Everybody - Martin Solveig
Should I stay or should I go - The Clash
Running up that hill - Kate Bush
Feeling for you - Cassius
Dance - ESG
(You're love keeps lifting me) higher and higher - Jackie Wilson
Put your hands up for Detroit - Fedde Le Grand
Enter Sandman - Metallica
Fame - Irene Cara
Needy Girl - Chromeo
Magic Love - Bent
Donkey Ride - Mr Scruff
You can't turn me away - Sylvia Striplin
Cool out - Leroy Houston
What are your favourite workout tunes?
Sunday, August 30, 2009
We chose to have a really small wedding and spend on our honeymoon, which I have to say I feel was a very wise option.
By the time I arrived in Maringa, I had taken 17 separate flights, visited innumerable cities in 5 countries spanning 3 continents. Enough bragging...
During this considerable time in the sky I experienced some of the terrible and wonderful ways in which airlines operate. In honour of this I would like to nominate some of those airlines for my special awards, The Mimis.
First nomination is for outstanding service, beautiful cabin crew and the coveted best uniform:
And the winner is...
I can't applaud this airline more for understanding what it means to be part of the service industry. I was so well looked after on all 4 flights that I felt like I had my own personal cabin attendant. Not to mention that the cabin crew are all immaculately presented even after a 12 hour flight and their uniforms are so chic that they could launch their own collection. No surprises that is it regarded as one of the world's best airlines. Three cheers for SA!
Second nomination is for the most over-hyped airline
And the winner is...
Well let's just say that I don't fly with them that often and now I know why. We had to pay £50 each to sit in the emergency exit row. Fair enough as you get more leg room, the only problem is that if there is a problem they will be relying on you to help. So effectively you are paying them to work for them. Richie B sort it out love!
Third and most talked about award is for most ridiculous rule made by an airline:
And the winner is...
I have been a fan of TAM since discovering them only last year on my first flight to Brazil. They seem to have a fresh, modern approach to air travel. The planes look shiny and new and the food is delicious, no really. So it was to my horror that I discovered this airline was guilty of something akin to racism or selective exclusion, if you like. While checking in, my husband asked if we could sit in the emergency exit row, his seat of choice as he is over 6foot tall. "No", replied the stroppy check-in woman. "Only people whose first language is portuguese can sit in this aisle." CAN YOU IMAGINE?? Just a word of warning if you ever plan to marry a Brazilian and travel on TAM, you won't be able to sit together in the Emergency Exit! I am still awaiting clarification as to why this rule exists. Should I be calling race relations?
As an update I also wanted to post this link from a great article I found online today: http://guides.travel.msn.com/Guides/article.aspx?cp-documentid=1088188&icid=msn1088188?GT1=41000
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
We took off from Sao Paulo 45 minutes after the Air France flight, which means that we were flying through the same area only 1hour and 45 minutes later.
Despite having a wonderful time and enjoying being back in my hometown and seeing all my friends, the passengers on that flight who lost their lives are never far from my mind.
I cannot imagine how tangibly painful it must be to have had a relative on that flight but I do hope that the French nuclear submarines that are being despatched recover some clue as to how and why the flight went down.
In remerberance of flight 447 and all who perished aboard, I have selected a poem by an anonymous author.
Poem of Life
Life is but a stopping place,
A pause in what's to be,
A resting place along the road,
to sweet eternity.
We all have different journeys,
Different paths along the way,
We all were meant to learn some things,
but never meant to stay...
Our destination is a place,
Far greater than we know.
For some the journey's quicker,
For some the journey's slow.
And when the journey finally ends,
We'll claim a great reward,
And find an everlasting peace,
Together with the lord
RIP FLIGHT 447
Friday, May 22, 2009
Yesterday was the day I crossed over...
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Every shelf of every hairdresser, pharmacy and beauty store is filled to the brim with the latest lock lotions. Even the local supermarket, seen below, has both sides of a whole aisle devoted to masks, shampoos, leave-ins and serums - there are so many that I feel like I've been named and shamed and everyone knows I have been neglecting my hair all these years.
As I walk down the street I have to remind myself that these women aren't growing their hair to sustain Jordan's hair extension addiction or Cher's wig collection - long hair in Brazil is of course a sign of beauty and femininity and hardly ever do you see a girl with a funky crop strut down the street.
I find myself filled with hair envy for these girls with their long, lustrous, poker straight locks tumbling down practically to their ankles! Not surprisingly over the past few weeks I have been thinking that my own barnet just isn't up to par. So, after consulting various Brazilian Oracles I decided it was time to take action against this unidentified mass of mess sitting on top of my head.
I went to right the wrong that nature and genetics had dealt me yesterday, by spending six hours in the salon, yes that's right six hours! There were times when I wondered if I would ever see daylight again...
I booked in with Rodi at Stilo (one of Maringa's top hair salons) for my 'escovar japonesa' or japanese-style permanent straightening. The procedure is basically an application of a chemical hair relaxer and then various applications of masks, proteins and keratin. Also involved are various trips to and from the basin, gossiping sessions with the hairdresser and a short break for lunch. Phew!
After those long and torturous hours were over and I was released back ino the wild, I felt so chuffed when my husband came to pick me up and said that I looked 10 years younger. I wondered what Myleene would have to say about that...
Everyone has been admiring my 'cabelo liso', here is my self-portrait so you can see the end result, and on Saturday I am going back for my post-wash treatment, where they will wash my hair and put on a nourishing mask so that it stays forever straight and shiny, well almost.
When it comes to hair in Brazil, national pride is at stake and now at last I feel I can walk tall with the rest of the hair harem.
Walk like a Brazilian...
Friday, May 8, 2009
The fact is that most of us think that that is what Brazil is like.
Not that it has 10 of the world's best companies or that it's the world's third largest emerging economy or that there are more natural resources here that humans need to survive than in any other country on the planet and most of those haven't even been tapped yet. http://www.brazzilmag.com/content/view/10705/
I love spending time with my friends here having a Churrasco (Brazilian bbq, see pic) at the weekends but no matter what we talk about, if there is a new guest, the inevitable question comes up. 'What did you think Brazil was like before you got here?'
I have to admit that I was one of those people. I mean of course I have read The Alchemist and I've got Bebel Gilberto's album, except she's not famous in Brazil - you'd be better off swatting up on Marisa Monte or Jotta Quest if you are trying to impress a Brazilian.
The fact is that when I arrived in Brazil, and got to the small town of Maringa, Parana, (pop. 331, 412) I half expected to see Gisele, Adriana and Alessandra there to greet me. I was of course quite relieved to see that Brazil is full of ordinary looking women as well as very beautiful ones.
My Brazil has been a breath of fresh air. It's been about funny stories of me confusing Portuguese words, it's been about learning a new culture, and about getting to know my new family.
Brazilians have, in my opinion, an unrivaled sense of hospitality. They are incredibly warm and inviting and have the purest of party spirits. The whole way of life here is about food and family and family and food. Hardly a day goes by that I don't get invited to some one's house to just hang out and have some delicious food and talk about anything you want.
After four months here, I am starting to find out that we still have a lot to learn about Brazil.