For those of you who don't know, Helen works for The Economist. For the past four-and-a-half years she's been working on the Britain section as the Education correspondent, but last year she was asked if she would be interested in becoming the new Brazil correspondent, to begin sometime around July 2010. We talked it over, came to a fairly quick decision and said yes before the offer went off to someone else instead.
So here we are, at the start of what looks like being a year of change, excitement and perhaps also a little bit of fear and trepidation. There's an awful lot to do in the next six months and to be honest I'm really not looking forward to most of it. We have to sort out the house and get it ready for sale, then sell it, then ship out all our possessions - except the ones there's no point in shipping out, which will have to be found a home somewhere like the good old family loft...again. Then we have to find a big enough house in São Paulo which we can actually afford (no mean feat) get the children settled in their new school, find our way around, both geographically and socially... the list goes on. And all the while, Helen has to learn all she can about Brazilian politics, economics, society and history, while still doing her current job at the same time.
And on top of everything, we're trying to learn Portuguese as quickly as possible.
Still, where would we be if we didn't open the door when opportunity came knocking? And this way we don't have to suffer another of these freezing winters for a long while anyway.
So, what can I tell you about São Paulo? Well, six months ago it would have been absolutely nothing except which country it was in. I couldn't even pronounce it correctly - São is said through the nose, so it's almost like San, not Sow - and as far as I could tell from Google, it was the kidnapping capital of the world, extremely violent and possibly the second largest city in the southern hemisphere.
Now I know the place in a little more depth. We all took a trip out there for eight days in November and I can honestly say it was a fabulous experience from start to finish. Without exception the people were friendly and helpful. They politely listened to our enthusiastic attempts to butcher their language and then happily talked back assuming we would understand. The taxis were cheap and the drivers helpful. The traffic was extremely heavy, as we'd been warned, but no one was aggressive, just resigned to a long wait. It didn't feel threatening either, even after dark. I admit we kept to the better parts of town and didn't stay out beyond ten o'clock or so, but then there are parts of Cambridge I wouldn't want to be in after dark either.
You can read all about our trip in more detail in the next instalment. And there may even be some photos as well!