Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 - The Year in Review

Picture the scene...

I'm sitting at my desk gazing out at a clear blue sky - not one single cloud to be seen - while a gentle breeze caresses the palm tree right in front of me. It's only ten o'clock in the morning but already the thermometer is reading 30 degrees. Far off I can hear the constant drone of traffic, interspersed every five minutes with the roar of the aircraft passing almost directly overhead on their way into Congonhas Airport. But today these are nothing but a mild hum, almost soothing, when compared with the relentless growl of the jackhammer coming from our neighbour's house. Yesterday they discovered they had a leak in their sewage pipe causing a stream of vile grey liquid to wander down the street past our front door and shortly afterwards to discover that their recent building work had included the cementing over of their access panel. Sewage is never a pleasant smell, but in 30 degrees on a windless day, it's particularly unappealing and I find myself longing for nothing more than the usual acrid odour of pollution. I'm itchy. The mosquitos are out in force at this time of year and I also picked up a nasty case of sunburn while we were off at the beach last weekend which is now starting to peel.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that Christmas is only three days away!

Anyway, I need to hide from the children for a few hours so I thought I'd look back over the past year and rehash a load of second-rate material that didn't make it into the blog first time round. (Isn't that what end of year reviews are all about?)

"Run for it! Grandad says it's time to wash the dishes."
For a year that has been so long and difficult, we actually managed to spend quite a lot of it on holiday. Two trips back to England and Ireland, two long weekends at the beach and a week in Rio de Janeiro. That's probably more holidays than I had in the previous five years put together. And I'm hoping 2012 will be just as fruitful. I'd like to see a bit more of Brazil itself though. It's a country that's bigger than Europe and so far I've seen next to nothing of it apart from its famously ugliest city.
Safe as houses - allegedly
Helen fared somewhat better. As well as external trips to California, Mexico and Argentina, she's been able to enjoy some of the finest locations Brazil has to offer the intrepid journalist - cow farms in the middle of nowhere, giant factories and port terminals up in the poverty-stricken North-East, newly pacified favelas in Rio, areas of rainforest ruined by illegal logging...

São Paulo did give us some fun during the year though, with the rainy season bringing severe flooding around our local park for the first time in a decade.

But apart from that, things were pretty much 'business as usual' and the year was mostly about just getting on with life. The excitement of our first six months was replaced by a more steady, day-to-day acceptance that this was what our life was going to be like for the next few years and that we just had to get on with it.

So that's what we did. Helen was swallowed up with work and the huge amount of unnecessary bureaucracy and admin that comes with trying to live and work in Brazil. Honestly, if Kafka had had a pair of shorts and some Havaianas, he would have had a field day out here.

The boys have done us proud, however. After an initially difficult settling-in, James has finally found his niche as the undisputed oddball of his year and is now much happier at school. He has a small group of like-minded friends and although they would certainly make the worst group of footballers in the entire history of the school, they are perfectly happy spending their time being clever and coming top in nearly every subject. James was even voted 'cleverest boy in the year' by his peers and next term he's going to be co-teaching an ECA (extra-curricular activity) on basic computer programming.

"3.14159265358979363.....nuuuuuuh! Brain freeze!
And he finished the year by getting to sing the solo at the start of the school carol service. He was slightly nervous. I was terrified. You don't really get the full experience from my hopeless attempt to capture the moment, but he's standing there in front of a room packed with parents, teachers, school children. Even the British Consul was there.

As for David, he's spent the past year being Mr Cute and Mr Popular.

For him, school seems to be one endless round of fun and games and whenever I go to collect him he seems to be surrounded by adoring fans. The teachers love him, his classmates love him and a worryingly large number of girls from the senior school also love him.

I can only assume they never get to see the Mr Grumpy that puts in an appearance every night at bedtime and every morning at getting-up time, although I did enjoy reading the following from this term's PE report: "...he gets very upset when he loses...and he often lies on the floor and stops playing." I know the way.

He has decided he wants to be an artist when he grows up and so here is his postcard from Rio to introduce a collection of photos from the rest of our year.

Or maybe an artist of the floating world?
So which one is David: the stripy one, the purple one or the one with the great big gob?
"Hang on, David. I just need to take a big leek."
Here the concerned dad remembers the ABC of first aid: air, breathing, camera!
Breakfast was always much nicer when Dad let us make it ourselves.
Juquehy - so nice we went twice.
Obligatory arty shot of something organic.
Obligatory comic shot of humorous tree growth.
M-I-C-K-E-Y  D-A-V-I-D
"Dad says when I've scrubbed off all the rust he might even buy me a t-shirt."
Love, peace and açaí.
Out here we have to build our own Christmas

So there you have it - a nice lazy blog entry to finish off the year. My New Year's resolution may well involve a more vigorous approach to blogging, but then again, it may not.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

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