Monday, May 23, 2011

The honeymoon is over

Winter is fast approaching out here and I'm beginning to see how miserable winter can be when you're living in a country that's geared up towards being baking hot for eight months of the year. Technically, it's not even winter yet, but already the temperature is dropping daily, the sky is a miserable grey and when it rains it's just an unpleasant, English-style drizzle and nothing like the epic thunderstorms we had in January/February.

By UK standards it's not even that cold - 14 degrees today apparently although I dispute that - but I'm living in a house with no central heating, no fireplace and no double glazing. In fact, in the bathrooms and in our dining room have louvered windows that are permanently fixed open, which is great at keeping the place cool in 30 degrees but not so pleasant at this time of year.

And at least in the UK you have something to entertain you over winter. You have Halloween, you have Guy Fawkes Night, you have Christmas and New Year's Eve. You have snow. Here we have nothing. Nothing except an impending seven week school holiday in which it will almost certainly be too cold to do much that involves being outside for too long.

Fortunately, we're coming back to England and Ireland for three of those weeks so hopefully the children won't start pestering me for something interesting to do until the end of July, by which time we will hopefully have several suitcases full of books, toys and games to keep them quiet until we can get them back to school at the 8th of August.

It's also interesting - at least it is for me - to see how much less exciting Brazil has become now that I can't wander out in my shorts and tee-shirt and sit in the park or in a cafe. Last year, when we arrived, I was living in a new country, in a big strange city where everything was different and exciting, where each day was a new challenge. Now I'm sitting in a cold house in the middle of a sprawling great metropolis which is constantly busy and noisy, where it stinks of sewage whenever it rains and where everything I might possibly want to do or buy is several times more expensive than it would be back in England - and poorer quality to boot.

As you can probably tell, the honeymoon is over. I was told that between six and ten months would be the hardest time. For the first six months, you're too busy to stop and think. You're spending each day learning how to do stuff, you're meeting new people and doing new things for the first time. But six months in, and unless something has gone disastrously wrong, you're settled, you understand how everything works, you've made new friends, been round to their place and invited them round to yours. Things calm down, life goes on and you finally have time to stop and take stock.

Sadly, this stock-taking has come at the wrong time. If I could be feeling miserable about São Paulo but then go off and sit by the pool in glorious sunshine all afternoon, or go and sit in the park and eat açaí, well then I probably wouldn't be feeling miserable about São Paulo. But so much of what we most enjoy about life out here requires heat - or more heat than this, certainly. Or failing that, money. Money could buy us a trip down to the coast where it's pretty much always ten degrees hotter than here, or it could allow us to live in a house that had heating as well as air conditioning, or spend more time eating out, or shopping, or going to the cinema, or any of those other things people do to cheer themselves up. But then I come back to the point about everything being so ludicrously expensive out here. That's the really nice thing about the Sun... it's free!

Anyway, that's my complaining over and done with for now. I'm sure some Marmite buns, a pot of coffee and a second fleece will soon work their magic. Off now to give some thought to James' 10th birthday that's coming up next week...

 PS: All the above was written last week. Since then I've had a wonderfully refreshing weekend and the sun has come back. I got to go to the park with friends and children, have a lovely sunday lunch provided by someone else and right now I'm sitting here with the sun streaming in through the window from a perfectly cloudless sky, wondering what I was possibly complaining about. I've even sorted out what we're doing for James' birthday and it's perfectly manageable. Just the cost of living to deal with now.