Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

These lines, from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, have absolutely nothing to do with Brazil. They are, however, extremely appropriate for me to use as a starting point for this week's blog.

Firstly, we did have water, water everywhere today. After a couple of weeks of relatively light rainfall and just as I was beginning to think we'd seen the end of the rainy season, it returned with a vengeance this afternoon. And unsurprisingly, I was caught out in it.

I went to the school late today as David was ill at home and James had after-school chess. It had started to drizzle before I left the house so I wisely set off with two umbrellas but actually made it to the school with nothing worse than slightly damp shoes. Twenty minutes later, when we were ready to come home again, James and I were treated to the heaviest rain I've seen since arriving in Brazil - and believe me, that's saying something. There was no way we could even consider setting off for home, even with umbrellas. So we waited around at school enjoying the sight of water bubbling up over the edges of a drain cover that clearly couldn't cope. Then part of the canteen roof collapsed under the weight of water leaking in from somewhere. James had never had so much fun inside school!

When the rain turned from plain silly to just heavy, we decided we may as well trust to the umbrellas and try and make it home in time for tea. Twenty metres down the road and I realised the problem was not going to be the water from above so much as the water from below. I couldn't see the kerb. After a few more metres I couldn't even see the pavement I was walking on. By the time we got as far as our favourite local park, I couldn't even see most of the park. James was yelling with glee as he waded through knee-high water, begging me to keep going to where I could see cars slowly disappearing. I was happy to disappoint him.

When we arrived home James and I did the only sensible things we could think of - he went and had a shower and a change of clothes, I grabbed my camera and headed back out. By now the rain had pretty much stopped and despite a few misgivings about exactly what it was I was wading through, I headed out until the dirty water was a good deal higher than my knees just so I could capture the moment. I think the results were worth it.

And I was pleasantly relieved to see that our house was on high enough ground to avoid the danger. We did have a leak out back which ended up creeping in somewhere and pooling onto our dining room floor, but that was it. No gushing gutters, no sandbags at the front door...nothing. I would like to think we'd taken this into consideration when renting the place, but the truth is we could so easily have been in one of those lovely houses round the corner which now have a metre of recycled sewage wandering around their living rooms.

All of which makes the petty complaints in the second half of my blog seems somewhat fatuous. However, I'm going to make them regardless. I am fed up with all the time-wasting and waiting around I'm having to do because of organisational incompetence. It's not just me, it's Helen as well, but she vents her rage on her Facebook page so you can follow her own exploits there. I don't know whether the incompetence is a result of the onerous and generally pointless bureaucracy there is in every aspect of life in Brazil, or whether the bureaucracy is an attempt to counteract the rampant uselessness of organisations and their employees.

As an example, let's look at Brastemp. They are the giant of Brazilian kitchen appliance manufacture and supply and they are currently under agreement to supply us with a water purifier. Up till now we've been using the water filter built into our fridge/freezer, but in recent weeks the water has been coming out so slowly it's currently taking seven minutes to filter enough water for a full kettle. So, we decided to contact Brastemp and get a new filter. As our landlord had one previously, the process is extremely simple. The water supply is already there, the power is already there. All we need is the filter.

So. We called them on a Friday. They said they'd be round for an initial inspection on the following Tuesday. They then emailed to say it would be the Thursday instead. Any time between 8:00 and 18:00. Sure enough, a very nice technician arrived on the Thursday, spent ten minutes lying to me about how good my Portuguese was (bless him), fixed a small tube to the water point, took a photo of it (presumably to prove he'd done the work rather than because it looked so nice) and then clearly explained that the actual filter would arrive - in his own words - amanhã, ou sábado, ou segunda-feira (tomorrow, or Saturday, or Monday).

Well, I waited in all day Friday. Nothing. Saturday. Nothing. Monday. You guessed it - nothing. On Tuesday we called to be told that the technician had gone off without the right paperwork so it would now be Friday. They didn't bother to tell us this until we phoned and we're not free on Friday. So it will now be Monday. Any time Monday between 8:00 and 18:00. Possibly. I'm not sure what bothers me more, that it takes two-and-a-half weeks to get a water filter installed or that a company has so little faith in its own employees that it doesn't trust them to fit the pipe and the filter and sort out the paperwork all at the same time.

In the meantime the existing filter is still giving us drinking water one drop at a time and, at this rate, may well give up completely over the weekend, thereby bringing me nicely back to the second half of Coleridge's quotation and finishing off the blog rather well, I feel.

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