Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Domestic Bliss

Life goes on. We do stuff and pay the bills and from an organisational point of view, we're still heading in the right direction, albeit at a rather more sedentary pace than we would like. Rumour has it our possessions are in the same country as us now, having arrived at the port of Santos not quite two weeks ago. Still no word on when they'll be released by customs however but if we hear nothing for more than another week or so I think I'll send James down there to let them have a dose of his constant requests for his Wii. I'm sure after a while they'd do anything to make him stop. I certainly would. And I use the word "requests" in its most generous sense!

We now have a car. It's a Chevy, which sounds cool, but when you add Zafira to the end it takes away some of the magic I feel. Here it is being proudly molested by a pair of wannabe racing drivers with grubby hands.

Of course, I have no intention of ever driving it you understand, it's just that it comes with the job and it has to be parked somewhere. Actually, we do intend it to be driven, just not by us. We've found ourselves a weekend driver, or motorista, who will basically drive us anywhere we want to go for R$150 a day, whether it's in São Paulo doing the shopping or visiting friends, or even if we want to pop off to the beach for the day. He'll even take us there on Saturday and bring us back on Sunday if we want, though I'm not sure what he'll do in between.

So yes, after only two months our strong determination not to have any domestic staff has crumbled completely. We're even talking about getting a cleaner as well, though it would only be for one day a week and I think we can justify that on health and safety grounds seeing as how our house is an absolute pit right now. Sadly there's no one to blame for this except myself as the other three are out all day and I'm the only one free to keep on top of the chores - though that being the case I do wonder how the place can get so filthy so quickly so often. And if we do get a proper cleaner, maybe she can show me how it's done, though I suspect the answer is actually quite simple... try doing some!

Not today though. It's already 2.00pm and I'll be off to collect the boys from school soon, and this is not something I like to miss - it's just too much fun. From about 2.45 onwards, the big bullet-proof 4x4s start arriving and clogging-up the streets around the school. Once they get close enough the drivers (and that's as in motorista, not parent you understand) will try and find somewhere to park. The lucky ones will be able to get out and stretch their legs and chat to the other drivers and bodyguards who all stand in a big, muscular group of dark suits and sunglasses and earpieces along the side wall. The unlucky ones have to wait in the traffic jams.

I would have put in a photo of the bodyguards, but I'm not sure they would have been too happy about being photographed and most of them look like they know perfectly well how to deal with the paparazzi!

Meanwhile, the maids will all pop out of the cars and stand in a tight cluster beside the barriers, waiting to nip in, grab a child and nip out before their driver has been moved on and had to drive around the block (which could take up to an hour). The maids are easy to spot because they wear white. White jeans, white tee-shirts, white sweatshirts. Now and then, you get the odd one who clearly works for enlightened employers and is allowed to wear whatever she likes, but they're still easy to spot because they're not wearing designer dresses and high heels like the actual mums who bother to turn up in person.

The mums are there to be seen. After all, if you're spending this much on your child's education, you want to let people know you're doing it. There's a lot of air-kissing and waving of hands and talking loudly and checking their mobile phones while the maid, who's been brought along as well, goes off and actually collects the child and makes sure they get remembered. Then they can all pile back into the car with the driver and/or bodyguard and head home to eat whatever the maid has already prepared for dinner - unless the maid doesn't do the cooking because the cook does.

Of course I'm being unfair. There are plenty of parents who aren't anything like this. James and David have made many friends and every single parent we've met has been friendly, unpretentious, helpful, generous and bilingual. I spend a lot of time waiting around after school because my children refuse to go home and insist on playing with the other kids and we're constantly being offered food, drink, ice creams, magazines, toys and conversation for as long as we want to stay. Yesterday, I didn't leave until 5.00pm and even then there were tears and complaints. I like to think this is because their new friends are so nice, not because they hate going home to a dirty house still lacking any possessions.

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