Archive | February, 2010

A brolly for all seasons

26 Feb

Where did the brolly come from? Who invented it? I can’t see one without thinking about making the walk from Sneinton to Nottingham city centre; the sheer upward struggle of St. Stephen’s Road, the river gushing past Emmanuel House and arriving in cold offices wearing ridiculously wet trousers. Which makes it all the more stranger when I’m sitting on the beach, sweating so much I have to jump in the water every 5 minutes so that I can feel human again, and see people walking past with brolly in hand. There really is something not right about it. Despite the fact that the use of parasols seems so logical to actually be strolling about with an umbrella seems like it should be the pinnacle of inept decision-making. What’s wrong with a hat or some sun screen, at least feel like you’re on holiday. Get into the spirit of things!

Although maybe it’s me that’s missing the point! The tropical climate of much of Brazil means that an umbrella is perhaps the greatest of all accessory, able to keep dry or keep the sun off in equal measures. I am having none of it though, instead quite happy to mock the stupid Brazilians with their ridiculous ‘bring the rain’ bad omen brollies.

Rio Post-Carnival

23 Feb

Unless you’re so wasted from carnival that everything now appears as lights and shapes and there’s no longer any point differentiating between what is good and bad then Rio post-carnival really is not the place to be. On my final day I saw two naked men on the street, one with his pants round his ankles taking a piss in the middle of the road, and another having a shit before cleaning his arse with a broken water pipe. I also saw a man hobbling along with a huge hole in his stomach, from which was seeping some kind of translucent liquid. It’s an image I can’t seem to get out of my head and so probably shouldn’t be writing (damn! which has just made me think of ‘the game.’)

Which all meant that it was actually kind of a relief to leave Rio, which is the first time that’s ever been the case. Oh, and the temperature was 38 degrees the final day, which with no wind and ridiculous humidity is a little bit warm.

Now I’m back in my old hunting ground of Trindade, home of rainforest, many beaches and gabriela (the sweetest drink ever to be supped on these shores!) George, the owner of Kaissara Hostel where I previously worked has said there’s a free bed for as long as I want it. Looks like I’ll be here for a while!

Rio de Janeiro's carnival never really stops

20 Feb

Today (Saturday) is the winners parade for Rio carnival, finishing off the carnival week that started on Monday with the opening parades. It feels like the city is in meltdown. All my friends that have been living in Rio for the past week seem like wrecks. It’s not too surprising, there just never seems to be an end to the parties. Although most Carnival packages only run from Monday to Friday there are plenty of parties and parades still to be had going into the weekend and which will carry on next week. Plus, Rio has pretty much been the hottest place in the world over the last two weeks. Well, I say hottest, it’s actually been the second hottest, only beaten by Ada, a small town in Eastern Ghana. Recorded temperatures were 40 degress, though the lack of wind made it seem like 50 degrees. Right now I am doing an impression of an exasperated tap and it’s only 32, I can’t imagine what it was like last week, but I’m guessing it probably felt like you were really hot flannel that constantly needed wringing out.

I’m also certain this is probably one of the worst times ever to go to Rio. Maybe there are non-stop parties to choose from, and a ridiculous amount thereof, as well as constant parades and soundsystems going through the streets, but the thieves are also on the warpath. One of the hostels, Che Lagarto, got robbed two nights ago by 8 thieves with guns. Last night, down the road from the club I went to a man was stabbed to death. I also spoke to two people in the hostel I stayed in last night who were robbed by tiny children carrying broken bottles in the streets of Lapa. With so many drunk gringos carrying money around it’s a complete haven for the poorer factions of Rio.

The fact that I’ll be staying in Lapa then, where all of these things happened, for the next couple of nights might not seem too smart then. I’ve never had any trouble though and am pretty certain that if you don’t get into such a state that you can easily be robbed and generally don’t walk around with some ridiculously bad Hollyoaks-style caption-led t-shirt, while mouthing loudly in an American accent, that you won’t get robbed.

Brazilian Carnival Approaching

17 Feb

I made it to Florianopolis for the last day of carnival, but the heaven’s opened and I stayed away. Apparently it wasn’t a bad event, just a bit wet (and it still hasn’t stopped raining!). Now my attention has turned to the Rio carnival. The closing event is coming up in three days time. It’s the two opening days of parades which are the most famous ones, but this one should give a chance to see all the floats. The winner by the way was announced the other day and was Unidos da Tjuca.

Unidos da Tijuca 1
Unidos da Tijuca 2

There’s no doubting the step-up in terms of professionalism from the groups in Montevideo. The reason this group, which supposedly had a routine about the mystery of mankind, was because of their elaborate magic tricks, whih made it seem more like David Copperfield act than anything else. I found one video of their whole routine. It’s a bit long but I like the fact that they show the making of their float. The magic tricks are about a couple of minutes into the clip.

What I've learnt from Montevideo

16 Feb

Stepping in dog shit is really fucking annoying. It’s not like I’ve been in any place which outlaws pavement poopery for the last 12 months, more just because the dogs in Montevideo are right dirty bastards. Before Montevideo I had not had one stepping in dog business occasion, now I’ve racked up so many promotions I have become a major stakeholder. Someone needs to teach these dogs some manners. The lack of people on the street must also have some effect, so many fewer people more foolish than me walking the streets and treading that muck right out of existence. Suddenly I have to be responsible for my own footsteps.

I’ve also been living in one of the better neighbourhoods in Montevideo, a neighbourhood where it is deemed okay for every woman to walk the streets with a colourful shrink-wrapped animal with the face of a demented monkey dangling on a rope. Not only is this not seen as ridiculous, it is downright applauded. I almost hold them fully accountable for my dirt-riddled shoes, made all the worse by the fact that I’m now exclusively wearing white alpargatas, which are like cheap pumps but cheaper and less well-made, and not immune to dog dirt.

Leaving Montevideo

14 Feb

I can’t believe it, Montevideo finally went nuts! It’s been the picture of tranquility for six weeks; all empty streets and minimal traffic, parties that go on late but never ever really seem to get messy, kind of like if you put a city in one of those paperweights where you shake it up and the snow flies about for a bit before settling and restoring the calm.

It’s Friday (or at least it was when I actually wrote this in my notebook!) and every single person is at the bus station. The crowd is mightier than at the carnival and people are pushing each other all over the place, normal politeness has gone out of the window. I join the queue to buy a ticket for Punta del Este. It took me about an hour to find the end of the queue, it was somewhere over by the guy selling sweets in the corner, a good 100m away from the actual ticket booth. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like this in my whole trip. I can’t think of joining one queue that has had over five people, this one is easily over 100. There are six buses leaving at 19:00 hours and I believe everyone is trying to get onto them. The reason: well it’s quite sunny and everyone wants to get to the beach, that’s why they’re no longer so polite, they need to get to the beach goddammit! Trying to jump the queues, pushing past you without so much as an excuse me, stepping on your toes without an apology, this is all allowed when you need to get to the beach, that’s how it seems anyway. Everyone is off to the beach, as am I, and I hate crowds, and tourists, and packed buses. What a bunch of shits!

UruguayNow is all ready to go

13 Feb

Hey, the UruguayNow site is complete. You can have a looksie at In all honesty I’m not as happy with it as I thought it would be. I had an idea in my head that it would take a few different angles in terms of the articles, but it seems when a site is being made with the idea of attracting sponsors there has to be some compromises. Anyway, I wrote a couple of the articles, the interview with Karen Ann, the article about La Melaza and then a few other bits in the football and Montevideo on a budget section. Now it’s time to have a little bit of a rest!

Reaping the Rewards

11 Feb

I finally got to enjoy some of the perks of writing, that is if I’m not counting that CD I received a couple of weeks ago which I played once, got all Irish folk-ed out and swiftly moved on with my life, when I got to eat out at some fancy restaurant which won UruguayNow’s award for Best Restaurant. It also became apparent that I was completely out of my depth as I refused a starter when I temporarily forgot that I was not having to shelve the bill and then went for the imported German beer when a list of some of Uruguay’s finest wines was put in front of me. “Just a beer thanks” I believe were my words. And then I didn’t even choose the most expensive thing on the menu. I went for the lamb risotto (based on the fact that my current boss said that I had to try it) and it didn’t disappoint. It was incredible in fact, like someone had managed to combine a good roast lamb dinner and mediterranean cuisine and stuck it right there on the plate. Chocolate fondant and maracuya (passionfruit) ice cream followed which shouldn’t really need a description, and if it did, it would only involve the word ‘sensual’ repeated over and over again.

How odd it was after knocking back a limoncello, having a quick wipe on the chin and then shuffling over to the door with an arm in the air and a few obligatory ‘hasta luego’s’ to not even think about having to pay the bill. It would have come to something around what I normally spend in a week. Maybe the first of many, who knows? It is certain I need to get some practice in though, I need to learn the words ‘vintage’ and ‘lobster’ as soon as possible!

Montevideo Carnival – Winners Announced

9 Feb

Yambo Kenia were the victorious comparsa from the two days of llamadas, or in other words they were the best drumming group from two days worth of parades. I think they have won it 3 times in 4 years now, so they are obviously doing something right.

The winner of Best Gramillero (Herb Man) was not this man, but probably someone who looks a lot like him.

Candombe during Carnival

La Melaza, the group I interviewed and who I think are a really great group came 22nd. That’s somewhere around the halfway mark. This video is quite good though because it was recorded off the television and probably shows the dancing clearer than most camcorder footage. There’s a real strange swagger to the way they pop their arms out and do a little two-step forward, one-step back canter. Many people actually watch the whole thing on their tv sets, saving their ears for later life I imagine.

Anyway, I gotta go, we are very close to the end of the UruguayNow website, just a few finishing touches.

Montevideo Carnival – Las Llamadas (Part Two)

7 Feb

The second day of candombe parades were postponed from Friday to Saturday because of a very bad weather forecast. Perhaps this was better as it gave everyone a chance to rest between days, although it did mean my Saturday night trip to the footy had to be put-off. Possibly the Saturday event was even better than Thursday’s. There was a ridiculous turn-out, with it taking at least 10 minutes just to get onto the street where it was being held (I’m gonna be really shocked when I eventually make it to Rio Carnival!)

The atmosphere is really hard to describe because there are a lot of people who are obviously completely wasted but it also feels like a family event. It’s held on a very narrow street in the neighbourhood of Barrio Sur. Everyone who lives in these houses are peering out their windows or on their balconies and rooftops dancing along. Constantly the dancers and drummers in the parade are coming over to the crowds to say hello to friends. Plus, many of the dancers are not what you would call the pick of the bunch, you could easily see a few of them at the local Weightwatchers meeting or working in a library, but this doesn’t stop them from plastering themselves with glitter and adorning a ridiculously slim amount of fancy wears. That in particular is something that I am sure must mark it out as different than Rio, although I obviously have no proof of this as yet.

It was also a ridiculously late affair. I left some time around 2.30am when my legs couldn’t take anymore. A 45 minute walk back to the flat and I turned on the TV to see that it was still going strong. This is just the start of the carnival here, there are something like 40 days left.

[I really need to get a decent camera!]