Last Sunday afternoon was both sunny and dry and as the two don't generally come together very often at this time of year we decided to make the most of it and spend a little family time in our local postage stamp of greenery, Praça Gastão Vidigal. It turns out, by the way, that Gastão Vidigal is a name and not, as I had previously assumed from context, portuguese for 'the dog's toilet'. But canine faeces aside (or underfoot in David's case) the park was looking lovely after its recent makeover. The kiddies' play area now has a new fence to keep dogs out and the equipment inside has been given a much-needed overhaul. Some of the more barren patches have been replanted, paint and varnish has been liberally applied to many things and there is now a scattering of signposts blossoming out of the grass which say something along the lines of, 'It's your park - why not try looking after it for a change!'
Don't get me wrong - I'm not getting homesick. Of course, there are many things I miss from our life in England - it was less bureaucratic and a lot cheaper for a start and most people could generally understand what I was trying to say - but life out here is interesting and challenging and it has forced me to climb out of the rut I was happily plodding along in back in Cambridge and that can only be a good thing. I would, however, disagree with anyone who says a change is as good as a rest - this change has been physically and emotionally exhausting and I could really do with a nice long rest right about now - but it has certainly been as good as a motivational kick up the backside.
One thing I did want to write about though, and which has come as something of a pleasant surprise, is how little I've been missing my friends and family. I don't, of course, mean that I hate them all and I'm glad I'm finally on the far side of the world from them. What I mean is how easy it is these days to keep in regular contact with everyone. The last time we lived abroad, in Finland from 1996-98, contact with home was limited to an expensive phone call once every couple of weeks to my parents and the occasional letter (you know, in an envelope, with a stamp) to friends and relatives. Now I'm Skyping my parents every weekend and seeing much more of them than I ever did when we lived in Cambridge! I'm having ongoing email conversations with friends on a daily basis, I'm chatting on Facebook to people I haven't seen for years... honestly, I'm more socially active now than I ever was back in England.
But mostly, life out here is just different. Some things are worse than in England, some things are much better. It seems to me that the best way to be happy is just to accept Brazil for what it is and not try and make it like England with sun.