Monday, February 27, 2012

Férias in Fortaleza

férias = vacation

In keeping with the traditional string of appropriated playtimes: Christmas-New Year's-Férias-Carnaval, we seized the opportunity to go to Fortaleza, about a week or so before Carnaval.

Fortaleza is the fifth largest city in Brazil, and the capital of Ceará. It reminded me of a mesh of several U.S. cities. It was like a mix of New Orleans, Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas - in a racing video game. (A game that must not have been invented, yet. I tried finding a good example, but it just hasn't been done. Think Need For Speed meets Frogger, with Tetris-like qualities for the lanes... or something.)

One of the things we couldn't get over was the traffic! It is absolutely insane compared to the traffic here in Goiania, which up until this trip, we thought was pretty wild. Can I reiterate that it was like a video game - level 11? There were intermittent tankers, donkey-pulled carts, bicyclists, motorcycles, pedestrians, fancy cars, and dogs that randomly entered, weaved, came to a halt, cut through, or stopped sideways in whichever lane you chose to drive.

Then I started seeing the signs around town...

Fear driving?

Do you have panic attacks, trauma, phobia or insecurity while driving?

It can be overcome!

Call Gerardo Filho.

That never failed to crack me up, and it helped my man to see that it wasn't just my own humble opinion. Whenever we had a near miss in transit I would quote the sign, or offer to call Gerardo.

I did note the lack of signs near the airport. Perhaps that would be too much, too soon for the tourists. I wouldn't be surprised if the city told Gerardo that he may not freak out the new arrivals with his signs.

Once we got to whichever beach we were headed to, the R&R could begin. There are several beautiful beaches outside of Fortaleza, and along the far end of the beach in town called Praia do Futuro, which will require a post dedicated to those alone.

We'll get to the nitty-gritty on the sand & surf soon...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Newfound Friend in Fortaleza

(To enlarge, right-click and open in a new window.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy New Year... Again, er, Finally

(Happy New Year!!!!)

For those living outside of Brazil, you may be wondering what on earth I am talking about. People who live here know that Christmas Break segues into Summer Break, which culminates with the Carnaval Break that may or may not be anywhere from 4 to 9 (possibly even 12) days, depending on who's the boss. About the time you start to think about when exactly you should flip your calendar to March, that's the signal that it's time to get back to a regularly scheduled life.

There's a saying here in Brazil...

"The year only starts after Carnaval!"

"(O ano só começa depois do Carnaval!)

...which explains my absence in the past three months. I have officially adjusted to this schedule. According to the calendar below, I was right on time. Of course, if I were really keeping up with the trend, I'd go the distance and stick it out until March. Alas, I return to classes today... I hope you are fully hearing my playful tone.

(March is the new January.)

I'm not going to pretend I don't enjoy the time off, but I am truly at the mercy of my students' schedules - and my doctors'... I can't even get any appointments until after March 5th, and we all know there are smarties who already have standing appointments for the first two weeks of March (so I will probably just wait until late March/early April to try to schedule anything health-related).

In my search for visual aids, I ran across a site for Brazilian businesses that stated there are 53 "lost or weak" business days during this extended period of partying, every year.

(New Year's, [Summer] Vacation, Carnaval...
At long last, now the country can get back to work!!!)

If you look at the school calendar's Christmas, Winter, Spring, & Summer Breaks and compare them to their American counterparts (our Summer Break is usually early June through mid August, with Christmas break being about 2 weeks, and Spring Break only 1 week) then there isn't much of a difference, timewise.

The Summer Break in Brazil includes Christmas Break, and runs from mid or late December to the beginning of February. Schools then break again for Carnaval (think Spring Break) and return for the Fall semester, which runs through the end of June. July is the official month of Winter Break, and everyone returns to school (the Spring Semester) in August.

The main difference is that almost everyone plans their schedules around the "school schedule." Places of business may or may not be open, and even if they are (say, the Doctor's office) that doesn't mean that there is anyone to see you. There may be someone to make a future appointment for you, but that's about it.

People who own their own business take full advantage of this, leaving their employees to keep the business going while they make use of the "school vacation," and travel with their family to the beach - or go fishing with the guys (I'm-not-going-to-name-any-names)...

Truly, it is a delightful schedule that just takes some adjusting to... (I pretty much have the hang of it this year!) The only drawback is that one must hope that no real emergencies come up during this extended period of R&R.

All pics in this post were found on Google Images.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fabulous Feathers and Marvelous Masks - Carnaval in the Country

During Carnaval this year, I got to see all of the colorful displays and fancy feathers without all of the noise.

Well, except for the fight I witnessed between a couple of Caracaras and a Seriema defending her nest...

...and the pair of talkative "Mulatos" (Yellow-chevroned Parakeets) that freaked whenever someone came around the side of the house. (They had recently invested in a cozy nest, conveniently located right under the roof tiles over the rear bathroom.)

...then there was the group of Toucans that seemed to have a comment for everything, as they observed us from every angle of the property...

...and the Southern Lapwings (Quero-quero) whose full-time job appears to be that of sounding the alarm. Once we have our home, I may opt for a pair of these to live in our yard, as opposed to getting a guard dog.

Only the "Pica-pau-do-campo" (Campo Flicker, or Ground Dwelling Woodpecker) couple seemed to go about their business in silence.

The "Curicacas" (Buff-necked Ibis) pretty much kept to themselves, not really minding the presence of anyone else.

One surprise was the Whistling Heron ("Maria-faceira") couple that was feeding right behind the house. The owner of the farm said he had never seen this type of bird around those parts before.

When he saw the pictures, he thought that I’d stumbled upon them in one of his fields, but they were, in fact, only about 25 yards behind the porch where we'd been hanging out all weekend. Apparently, they were keeping it low-key, as no one ever heard them whistle...

(Sorry for the quality of the pics! It was near dusk, so the lighting wasn't quite right.)

One of the most beautiful songs I heard all weekend was performed by the Saffron Finch (Canário da Terra) - I could listen to these little beauties all day long.

There were a few instances when these stunners really strutted their stuff, to let me know that I had approached too closely. That was my cue to put my own fancy footwork to use, and back up to a safer distance.

All in all, it was a very colorful & exciting holiday weekend.

(To enlarge pics, right-click and open in a new window.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Other Side of Carnaval

When I arrived in Brazil, I wondered how we would spend the annual Carnaval holiday, and if there were alternatives. I expected partying in the streets, but aside from this made-up mental picture I honestly had no idea what it would be like.

As it turns out, there is an ever-growing portion of the Brazilian population who do not celebrate Carnaval - and it's not just the "evangelicos" [evangelicals]...

I don’t know if it's a Goiânia thing, but the Carnaval holiday weekend is when a lot of families get together at their farm, ranch, or holiday home along the river or lake. It reminds me of the 4th of July weekend celebrations back home.

Depending on the family, they may or may not engage in festive activities (party string/foam fights, fireworks, dancing, playing the guitar or other instruments, play games, etc.) ...or they may just use the days off for some serious R & R. There is usually a TV on somewhere, where someone may be watching the televised Carnaval processions, but that's about the extent of it.

Others who may not have the option or inclination to head out of town, may just use the downtime to catch up on sleep, listen to their favorite music (which they will stress is not Samba) and surf the internet. More and more, the younger generations will tell you that they don't identify with the Carnaval culture, but instead find the Hard Rock, Punk Rock, Emo, Hipster, and/or Alternative "tribos" [cliques] to be their thing.

Here are a couple of the various pics I've come across on facebook in the past month.

This is the first year we didn't go camping or fishing, and instead stayed with some friends out on their farm. In the evenings, friends & family came out for dinner, and stayed into the wee hours of the morning, just having a good time. Some days it was a lunch hour bar-b-que that lasted the rest of the day and into the night, but there really was no schedule... cell phones...

...and no internet...

Aside from the TV on in the distant background (for the teens & women interested in keeping up with their evening "novelas" [soap operas] followed by the live Carnaval celebration on Globo) it was a rare and relished opportunity to completely unplug and unwind.

I had the pleasure of roaming the farmlands in my man's truck, armed with my camera & my ipod. Words cannot express how perfect it was. Storm clouds would roll through the area late in the afternoons, which would be my cue to go in search of wide, open spaces. I found some quiet & far removed spots that the owner of the farm later insisted he had never even seen...

Not only was I finally able to "exhale," but inhaling the fresh outdoor air that I miss daily in the city left me feeling alllll riiiight.

Here's a glimpse of what my Carnaval vacation looked like. There's more to come, as I took 500+ pics. :)

(To enlarge photos, right-click and open in a new window.)