Archive | April, 2010

Surprisingly sunny and not that cold – getting used to life back in England

20 Apr

I’ve been back in England for over two weeks now and the change of scenery hasn’t had as debilitating effect as may have been predicted. This is perhaps due to the fact that I’ve been doing very little, and therefore, not too much of a change from my last couple of months in Brazil, where a strenuous day involved a yoga session and a swim in the ocean.

I’m not sure how much longer I can keep this going (I am looking for web design work at the moment mind, it’s just nothing’s biting just yet!). It’s a curious situation trying to do so little in a country like England, a country that prides itself on suffering. The worker who only does 20 hours per week is seen as being on perennial holiday while the 50 hour a week labourer is able to sit on his perch dictating the ills of the nation without reproach, he is after all a shining example of what this country needs. It doesn’t matter that he’s always in tired and in a full mood, he’s done an honest week’s work and that’s alright.

It’s something I’ve never understood but which still has embedded itself somewhere in my psyche. I talk of doing nothing for two weeks but I have been doing plenty of writing, reading, playing guitar, furious plan-making and have designed two web sites. It’s far more than when I was a student. I suppose then I would have said I was studying then at least I would have an excuse.

I made a commitment a couple of years ago that I would never return to 9-5 mediocrity. It’s something which I’m damned on continuing even if it does mean the current precariousness of trying to earn money through web design. It’s something which I will hopefully continue somewhere else though, somewhere a bit more continental than here, somewhere where I don’t seem like such an unworthy citizen.

Before I wrote this article I read a review of a new movie Cemetery Junction which helped awaken in me this annoyance at glowering suffering. It’s a review by David Cox in The Guardian where he criticises the movie based on the fact that it isn’t glum enough. It’s one of the most ridiculous reviews I’ve ever read, as if the fact his own experiences in the 70s (when this film is set) were so bad he can’t imagine anyone having a nice time. It’s also possible that this review is aimed at Ricky Gervais, someone that people used to like or were not bothered about, but now that he’s a big fish in Hollywood seems to get a lot of hate from English people, disgusted at the success he’s managed to achieve. Hollywood changes people, you should be suffering like the rest of us!

Quick update on UruguayNow

15 Apr

I thought I would do a little bit of an update on UruguayNow. This is a travel guide for Uruguay which I designed the website as well as wrote a few of the articles.

It seems as if its getting to the point of being successful. The main man has been working tirelessly on promoting this thing and a few fruits have begun to blossom. Uruguay’s Ministry of Tourism have welcomed the site – see article here – following an official launch in Montevideo this week. It even made the Channel 5 news!

One of the main selling points of the site has been the Restaurant Reviews, which included an award for Best Restaurant in Uruguay. This seems to be something that people have really picked on. Apparently anyone can make up an award. Maybe I will give myself an award for Best Blog Post of the Week, see how it works out. But anyway, it’s interesting to see how this project has been building steam. Currently, we have one sponsor, hopefully there are many more on the horizon!

Go to

Christ off the menu

14 Apr

More of an update on these mudslides I’m afraid since they are the main thing on my mind, Brazil-wise, at the moment.

Christ the Redeemer is currently unreachable by tourists as mudslides have affected the area all around it’s perch on Corcovado. The city are saying it could take up to six months to remove the debris and get access to Mr Redeemer going again. This seems like a ridiculously long time, especially considering every poster for Rio I see has a massive picture of Christ on it and a promise of the monumental Christ tour, meaning there will not be many dry gringo eyes in Rio for quite a while.

These are the some of the workers trying to clear the rail line which takes the people up to the top:

Brazil Flooding

I’m presuming the fact they are sitting around doing absolutely nothing has very little to do with the fact it will take six months.

The amount of deaths from the floods and mudslides is also now estimated at 230 people.

Update on Floods and Mudslides in Rio

11 Apr

It is still raining in Rio, though fortunately not as much as previously in the week, and thankfully forecasts are that it will stop completely tomorrow. The floods carried on til Friday (bringing the death toll upto 205 people) with the worst mudslide happening on Wednesday in Niteroi. Over 100 to 150 bodies have been pulled from that mudslide alone.

This is a video from ITN News focusing on the floods:

For me it’s the carioca at the end who says the most interesting thing. Why isn’t Rio prepared for tropical levels of rainfall? It’s obviously a big problem, and one which is explained by the poorly-built homes that adorn many of the hills. As I previously suggested it seems that the Government will therefore use these incidents as a reason to move its poorer residents. This has already begun to happen, with resident groups getting in their complaints early.

Raining in Rio (More mudslides!)

7 Apr

It does seem I may have picked the perfect moment to traverse oceans. England has been dry and calm over Easter weekend, only a cold wind to grumble about, but the bouts of sunshine have at least given the illusion that the tides are turning and that the snow which has been covering this place for the past three months and finally gone back to where it came from.

There’s certainly no possibility of using the words ‘dry’ and ‘calm’ in Rio de Janeiro right now. For the past few days there has been continual rainfall, of the tropical variety. I have just been reading some of the reports which are putting the death toll at a minimum of 72 people but most likely rising to over 100.

The majority of casualties have come from mudslides occurring all over the city (Rio’s hills are full of favelas and improvised housing), particularly in the Niteroi and Sao Goncalo areas. It’s the second time this year that such fateful mudslides have occurred. In January, at least 85 people died after a series of torrential rain.

Rainfall was 11 inches over two days starting on Monday afternoon. I have no idea how much rain this actually is, but it is some kind of record so must be a hell of a lot. More rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday.

It will be interesting to see how Rio deals with this event. They are one of the main cities for the 2014 World Cup and are also the hosts for the 2016 Olympics. I wouldn’t be surprised if it saw the Government step up the need to shift its poor citizens from their hill-based favelas to alternative housing. I almost feel certain this will happen in some way, though I would have major doubts over how they would find alternative housing for so many people. As well as causing so much disruption to the city (residents have been told to stay in their homes, children are not able to go to school), the rain has also caused some power shortages, especially in Barra da Tijuca where much of the Olympic activity will be taking place. As the first Olympics in South America there will be so much weight on Rio to excel as hosts and so I have no doubts they will take many proactive actions.

More links on the flooding:

Big Floods in Brazil (Euronet / 7th April 2010)
Flooding in Rio de Janeiro (BBC News / 7th April 2010)
April 2010 Rio de Janeiro floods and mudslides (Wikipedia)

What to bring back from Brazil – The Essentials

6 Apr

You see, what I’ve gone and done already is I’ve lied. I’ve gone and called this article ‘The Essentials.’ There really is no essentials and even if there was I don’t think I’d be the person to be telling folk about them. This really is just my idea of some interesting things to bring back from Brazil, or even just interesting things to buy while in Brazil. A few ideas that shy away from the normal Christ statue and Brazil football shirt.

1. Cachaca

This is quite an obvious choice for me but it’s got to be done. For between 5 and 6 Reais you can pick up a bottle of Velho Barreiro, by far my favourite of the cachacas, or at least of the dirt-cheap cachacas. Plus, as an added bonus it comes in this fancy bottle which makes it seem like a fine rum, or at least something that would cost you up to 20 pounds, not the 2 pounds that it will actually cost you. It’s the perfect gift. The only other alternative for this price is 51, which is pretty good in Caipirinhas but pretty bob for all else.

2. Aviação Butter

Aviacao - Manteiga de Primer Qualidade

This may seem like an odd choice. It is butter after all. But Aviacao butter is like no other. It has one unparalleled asset. On the front of the tin is a picture of a cow with a plane flying above it. You don’t get this with just any butter ya know!

Plus, this butter has a lot of history, it’s a tin that has lasted for many generations of Brazilians, and is something they use a lot. As butters go it’s very distinctive, probably due to the fact that they have added about a kilo of salt into each tin. The best way to enjoy it is with some boiled root vegetables (add it just before eating), i.e. potatoes, parsnips or batatas barao (if you’re in Brazil) and enjoy!

3. Rapadura

Rapadara - unrefined sugarcane

Rapadura is unrefined sugar straight from the sugarcane factories. It’s pretty darn common in Brazil and is also the healthiest way to sweeten anything (or maybe I should say joint-healthiest as jaggery is also pretty good). Even brown sugar and demerera are refined in some way, making rapadura one of the purest you can find. Buying it in Europe and North America is possible but costs a fortune compared to its price in Brazil. Buy a block I say and then whenever you are making something with sugar, simply use a bit of rapadura instead of the usual stuff.

Interestingly, the Germans at some point decided that they’d come up with the name ‘rapadura’ and managed to trademark it, meaning that whenever this stuff was exported from Brazil they would have to cover up the name or design new packaging. A ridiculous situation which I believe has now been resolved, but only after one of the Brazilian sugarcane companies spent years trying to copyright ‘sauerkraut’ to show those Germans what it felt like to have something copyrighted which you love so much!

4. Havaianas


Wait a second, this one doesn’t involve food. I think I’ve made a mistake! Okay, so maybe there is room for one entry here that doesn’t involve shoving things into my gob. Everyone who goes to Brazil should buy some Havaianas. There are stores on just about every corner selling them, plus there is the beautifully-designed new store on Rua Oscar Freire in Sao Paulo. I bought several pairs; they do make good presents. Anyone venturing to Brazil should wait until they arrive before buying any flip-flops, there is so much choice and they are unbelievably cheap, between 7 and 25 Reais, which equates to between 2 and 8 pounds.

I think that’s about it for now. Maybe I’ll make this a part one if I can think of anything else that I’ve missed. Otherwise, there you have it, a very brief idea of some things that are definitely uniquely Brazilian that you should buy.

Back to England

2 Apr

English soil is once again under my footsteps. Concepts such as having a mobile phone, finding work and bitterly cold, moist afternoons are concepts I once again have to embrace. The first two of these I will be doing whatever I can to avoid, the third is unavoidable. I can’t pretend it’s all doom and gloom. God how I missed jacket potatoes, and god how I enjoyed having one for dinner on my first day back. Can there be a baked bean breakfast on the horizon? I sincerely hope so.

One thing I have been wondering since I got back has been whether to continue this blog. How does the relevance of what I write change when I am no longer travelling? Ultimately, I have decided to try and keep it going. I actually have quite a few stories which are yet to be told on these pages and so I will be adding these, especially since I will now be trying my damned hardest to avoid any real work, and these could be the perfect foil to make me believe that I am being productive while also not actually really doing anything that productive at all.

During these next months I will also be trying to work out further travels, especially since I currently have no ties at all, and am wanting to make the most of this arrangement, so will be trying to write a little about my travails in finding further overseas exploits (I have current ideas to either return to Brazil or instead live in Berlin – they both sound like great choices!) My hope with all of this is to at least keep it personal and not seem like one of those terrible expanded blogs that has articles about all kinds of places but never actually tells you about the person. I will try my best.

For now,