Tuesday, 31 January 2012

There and back again!

It was a quick trip but we finally managed to pick up our VIPERs at the Brazilian embassy in London! YEP! It only took 9 ½ months since the day Alistair arrived in Rio.
This time we flew with Air France because the flight arrived early morning in London and we wanted to drop our visas at the embassy on the same day.
Well, the flight to London was pleasant enough in Premium Economy! Actually of all the companies we tried so far on that route, they have the best food by a long shot!
The flight back was another story.
We could not get our boarding passes for the Paris to Rio flight  from London. The staff at Heathrow seemed totally clueless and disorganised.
When we got to Paris we had just an hour to pick up our next plane… except that the aircraft doing that route had broken down… people were bumped into a smaller plane. Some people were booted out of the plane totally and put into the next one (the following day!)  We were downgraded to Economy. On top of that it was complete chaos. Not a single couple got together, children separated from their parents, partners from each other,  it was absolute pandemonium as people started to trade places in the plane to be close to their friends/partners/young children….
Alistair got wedged next to a big fat Smelly Russian and a very drunk Scotman. Scotman was so pissed he kept complaining to the air attendants about the seats and kept just drinking. Alistair could sit on his seat only by lining 45 degrees away from Fat Russian… the smell did not help….
I was luckier, seated at the other end of the plane next to a Brazilian guy who was  tiny so I had a bit of space.
Things got better for Alistair as Pissed Scotman managed to get Fat Russian Man to swap his seat with a girl, whom, either was with Pissed Scotman or was picked up on the way….
Well, I am complaining but the alternative could have been ending up at the bottom at the sea like another Air France flight (from Rio) did some time ago. In any case all this chaos and dodgy planes did not fill me with much confidence with the company and from now on I will stick to TAM or BA….
Talking about planes falling into the sea, one of our Brazilian friend was due to take that doomed flight, except that her boss phoned her the day before leaving and made her delay her departure (due to last minute work issue)  At the time she was rather pissed off with her boss… until the plane fell.
It must have been the luckiest phone call of her life. Must be fate!
Now we are back at home… trying to organise the shipping of our container. I feel this is going to be another adventure…
My visa seems to not allow me to work. I will investigate this further as it is annoying. I like to keep my options open.
After a dreadful  return flight in a plane that seems full of monkeys rather than people we arrived at Rio where it was barely 20 degrees. We could not believe it. And since last week end the weather has been wet and cold. It should be 40 by now, but it is barely 23 or 25!  Positively freezing for the locals! So if the weather has been unusually warm in the northern hemisphere, here it has been unusually cold and / or wet.
We have friends coming soon for Carnaval.  They are going to be so annoyed if the weather keeps awful!
I asked a Brazilian friend what would happen if it rains during Carnaval. “There would be a revolution” he said. So let’s see! J

Monday, 16 January 2012

Sometimes I just want to sit down and cry in frustration!

Paying our rent here in Brazil has been a nightmare since day 1.
First, we could not have a local bank account so we had to pay cash. Yes you read it well.
Alistair was given a card (by his Parent company) which was a sort of Purse card where the living allowance would be paid into. But we could not use it to pay the rent (don’t ask why!)! So every month we had to go round the banks over a 3 days period, to withdraw the amount required then go to Banco Itau and pay the rent.
Now, walking around Rio with a big wad of cash in your pocket is not something I would recommend!
Every month we thought it was the last time, as (surely!) the visas would get approved and we would get a bank account.
So after 7 or 8 month of this joke, and with the help of the new HR girl from Alistair’s company (who works in the London office but happens to be Brazilian) we managed to open a bank account few weeks ago. After all, our visa approval had just been published in the Jornal Official!  Well, Alistair did manage to open an account, I could not be included for some stupid admin reason involving more stupid bureaucracy and admin sh*te.
Anyway, Alistair received his debit card and pin few days ago and we thought “Great” we can use it to pay the rent now, while we wait for the cheque book!
Anyhow, today the rent was due, so I went to Itau (which is the estate agent’s bank) with Alistair’s HSBC Brazil debit card and his pin number. How hard could it be? Well, at Banco  Itau I was told that they only accept Itau cards.
So I went to HSBC, how hard could it be, paying my rent with an HSBC card at HSBC into an Itau account????
Well not so fast. I either had to order the cash, get Alistair to pick it up the next day, and pay in cash to Itau, OR, I had to show a passport. As the card is only at Alistair’s name I had a problem.
Solution: getting Alistair back from work mid-afternoon on the day his company’s MD is visiting the Brazil Office so he could use his card and show his passport!  
Another fun day in Rio.
Internet banking? Maybe one day! This is Brazil, things happen eventually, but at their own pace!
Back to London to pick up our VIPERs (5 year visas) tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Aipim frito

Now there is something you will eat (and love!) when you get  to Rio: Aipim frito (fried Aipim).
Aipim is also called Yuca around South America and everywehere else in Brazil.
In Africa it is called Manioc.
It took me a couple of trials but I cracked it!

How to do it!

Aipim is a root so it is very hard. You need to peel it with a sharp knife and cut in chunks. Leave in water overnight or up to 24h.

Then boil a bit in water until relatively tender.
Put in a colander to dry.

When the aipim is dry, heat oil in a pan. Shove the chunks of aipim in when the oil is very hot and fry until golden.

For a dipping sauce try to do the following dipping sauce:
- juice of one lime
- a drop of cachaca
- juice of chilli mix (made mixing birds eyes chillis + 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water) or some chilli sauce for spice to taste
- a bit of olive oil
- onion sliced or diced.


This is what it is all about! :)

Saturday morning, wee get up and have a quick breakfast.
We get in a bus to Botafogo (10 minutes) and get off to go to the Clube de Regatas de Guanabara.

Get on the Regata side, borrow a dual kayak and get off in the bay of Botafogo, all the way to Sugar Loaf Mountain before kayaking back.

After tidying and rinsing the kayak we get to the club's restaurant for a big plate of (dirt cheap!) prawns and few beers looking over the bay! Bliss!

Next week we will borrow 2 single kayaks and go further away!

Time to have fun :)


Post dedicated to all my friends in rainy London!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Breakfast at … err.. the Hookers’ Bar!

Not so much “Breakfast at Tiffany” I’m afraid!

Now we woke up on the 30th of Dec. and Alistair fancied hash browns for breakfast.
We went for a small walk on Avenida Atlantica and looked at the menu of one Anglo-saxon bar. They have a good menu, the food is actually very good and they have big screens showing football, American football, baseball and all sort of sports attractive to anglo-saxons gentlemen!  For a reason!  We call it “The hookers’ bar”
It’s a nice place, or would be, if it was not always full of hookers and pimps.  
I walk the dog past it several times a day and you can see the hookers trying to get the attention of the usually only male customers, with the pimps observing from the bar. It is rather seedy.
Anyway we decided to get our breakfast there around 9am. Unfortunately it must have been a busy morning for “the meat trade” as the only customers were many very loud hookers drinking beers with their pimps. Teh 2 white male customers who arrived later on got surrounded by the hookers pretty quickly!  
That put me off my breakfast somehow. Not sure I will go back.
However if you want to have a laugh or are brave enough you can visit. Usually Saturday and Sunday lunch time it is busy with tourists (but still can see the hookers and pimps around – funny!).
I would not eat there again, as (some of)  the maids wearing dirty stained shirts would put me off my food even without the hookers around!
Here is a view if you fancy:
Anyhow, things are starting to look up after a few depressing weeks.
The visas are ready and I am looking forward to few days shopping in London and catching up with my friends.
After that I will be able to concentrate on my Portuguese and maybe try to find work. Although it is not sure I will be able to work. Apparently I may not be given a work permit, only the 5 year visa. I am not sure how I can get a work permit after that! We’ll see. Now we know that in Brazil, it is all about Jeitinho!
I can’t wait to get my container with my motorcycle gear. I plan to get a BMW again. I know, I said I would never buy (ever ever ever again) a BMW… I eat my hat… but as I said, all in Brazil is about Jeitinho. BMW bikes are expensive enough that only top earners can afford them. By joining then the BMW motorcycle club, it would give me access to influential people, hopefully! That’s my evil plan bouaaahahahahah!!!!!  (“mad laugh”). As you can see, there is a method to my madness! J
There are few investment banks branches in Rio and apparently lots of “niche” hedge funds in Leblon. Maybe I can get some contacts via the BMW MC club…. Time will tell.
In any case the Beemer will be my travel bike, in 5 year’s time, when we go round the world. Yes that IS our medium term plan: motorcycling round the world. Surely, if you know me you cannot expect I would forget about that. I spent 2 years learning Russian to cross Siberia and Mongolia! I “bloody” WILL use it!!!  ;-P
Alistair will get an F800GS, it is a good one. I want to get the G650GS (which is pretty much the old single Funduro 650 revamped). I know that bike inside out considering how many times we had to repair my old one when travelling round south America!
So lots of things to look forward to. I like plans J
Happy New Year everyone, and I hope you have lots of cool plans too!