Nivi's Adventures

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Visitors! And Kiwi ones too :-)

Yay for my visitors Saul & Michelle! Saul is a former colleague from my Vodafone days, and he's essentially how I got my gig in Brasil! Saul's just finished a 12 month contract for Nokia in Rio de Janeiro and before leaving Brazil, Saul and his wife Michelle decided to do a bit of a road trip and stayed with me while they were in Salvador. It was lovely to see them again - not to mention to hear the kiwi accent again :) And a bonus, with Saul & Michelle having been in Brasil for a year they are they are fluent portuguese speakers which made things like going out for dinner somewhat less harrowing!

However, not only was it lovely to have kiwi company and translators, but we had lots of interesting conversations about things like poverty, commersialism, environmentalism etc etc... I spose when you actually live in a developing nation, you see realise how well off people are in NZ and much of the western world, and the inequality of distribution of resources is very apparent...

Oh and another bonus - Saul & Michelle gave me some Marmite! Woo hoo! :) Ok, anyway, off the food topic and onto some photos!

Saul and Michelle in front of the Farol de Barra (Farrol = lighthouse)

Saul and me, behind the Farol de Barra, with Baía de Todos os Santos (All saints Bay) behind us

Igreja do Bonfim (Church of Good End), built in 18th century. The fame of the church comes from its power to cure various ailments etc...

In the Sala dos Milagres (Room of Miracles) leave letters, photos and ex votos - wax replicas of the body parts that were cured or need curing. Kinda freaky eh?

The altar

This church also has another tradition where you buy ribbons and make a wish when you tie them round your wrist and if you wear them until it falls off, your wish will come true... Some of you may remember me sporting a somewhat less colourful string around my wrist which my parents brought me from a temple in Sri Lanka. It was worn more for overall protection rather than for any specific wish, but it's quite amazing how such different religions can have some quite specific similarities!

Some white ribbons...

These ribbons are now a symbol of Bahia, so I figured I had to get me some. Not going on my wrist though - the last string I tied around my wrist lasted more than 18months!

We tried to check out a local sculpture park, but unfortunately most of it was roped off. This one "Gestação" (pregnancy) was kinda cool though :) It reminded me of some of the Maori carvings.

View from the sculture park

We went to Praia do Flamingos on Sunday with Noardia, a friend of a friend of a friend of Michelle's. This really typifies the friendliness of Brasilians - Noardia was literally that far removed from Michelle, yet she insisted on picking us up, taking us to Praia do Flamingos and even paying for our lunch!

It's great sitting at tables with the sand between your toes, the surf right there and the sun in abundance. But one of the drawbacks is you've got to watch the tide coming in ;)

Me, Saul & Noardia

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It's all good when you come down to my hood!

Ok, so I'm a little far away from East Can-ter-buryyyyyyy but hey! (To non-kiwi's I'm refering to a song 'Not Many' by Scribe.)

So I moved into an apartment a week after arriving in Salvador. A guy I work with was living in the same block of flats and helped me out with everything - there was no way I could have managed it by myself with my (non-existent) level of portuguese! Brazilian people are so friendly and helpful!

Anyway, out of the hotel and into my first ever home away from home! I'm in living in a suburb called Jardim de Alah - which translates to Garden of Allah. Seems strange to find a place in South America with a muslim name! I live right across from the beach, I literally cross the road and I’m there! I figure if you're ever gonna live right on the beach, where better than Brasil eh?

A photo of my apartment block - creatively called Flat Jardim de Alah

Looking north up the beach/road. If you look closely, there are horses in this pic! They're not there every weekend though, there was some special event on the day I took this.

There’s a little peninsula just in front of the flat which is what this grassy bit is. And yip those are masseurs with massage tables under the yellow umbrellas!

Cabanas on the beach. A very brazilian way of life - how better to enjoy the beach than to have little restaurants with food and drink and sit there with the sand between your toes. Not much sense of personal space though, you're definitely sharing your space with a lot of other people! I also managed to capture the essence of Brasil – futebol! These kids in the foreground were higly entertaining to watch (note the green coconuts being used as goal markers)

…the goal seems like it's been scored fairly, but...

…perhaps trying to emulate their idols, the team immediately descends on the somewhat disinterested ref, complete with finger pointing ;)

And finally the start of the grandstand contruction for an upcoming Volleyball competition (the Brandesco National Series). The seating was just done right on the sand - I'm not a civil engineer but still, the structural integrity of this seemed kinda dubious to me...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Praia do Forte

Firstly I should tell you that praia (pronounced pry-a) means beach in Portuguese cos you'll probably be seeing the word praia a fair bit in my posts!

Praia do Forte!

On Saturday a couple of colleagues and I headed to Praia do Forte (about an hours drive north of Salvador) to check out Projeto Tamar (and of course the beach). Projeto Tamar is a project is to preserve sea turtles along the Brazilian coast. Started in 1980, the project has helped protect and release into the sea more than 4.5 million baby turtles.

It's quite a cool initiative, they worked with the local fisherman to get them to stop harvesting the turtles and instead created jobs within Projeto Tamar for them. They have some of the larger sea turtles (tartarugas) on show but their main purpose is to help conserve them, and at praia do forte they provide an safe area for turtles lay their eggs, where they remain until the baby turtles are ready to hatch at night under the full moon and make a run for it to the ocean! There are more than 20 protection stations along 1,000 km of beaches and since the project started in 1980, there have been more than 4.5 million baby turtles released into the sea. I unfortunately didn't get to see the nighttime hatching but some of the mummies & daddies in captivity were quite big!

I was however once again reminded of the difference between developed and developing nations - the enclosures that the turtles were in were basically just ponds. Not particularly big and not much effort was made to make the pools look as though they were the turtles natural habitat. You can make your mind up about it - photos below... I'm not being critical about it at all, rather just making an observation - good on them for doing this at all, and I'm sure the amount of money these guys get versus the Auckland Zoo is considerably different!

A loggerhead turtle - I wonder if this dude lives in motal fear of the ever-looming fibreglass turtle?

Ruck, maul & tackle

Another enclosure, you can see the nesting park in the background, complete with a fibreglass turtle breaking out its shell!

I know I’m short, but you’ve got to admit that this turtle is pretty big! (Life size replica of how big the brown loggerheads get to)

After we checked the turtles out, we went for a walk along the beach. The tide was out which exposed this massive rock shelf so we went for a bit of an exploration, after which had a swim, lunch and then a pleasant late afternoon drive back home :)

The rock shelf

Rock pool #1 with striped fishies

Mr Crabs. I looked but I couldn’t find Sponge Bob or Patrick :(

Fish with electric blue stripes and coral that looked like sliced olives!

What a poser!

I tried, but didn't do nearly as well ;)

A view of the beach from the rocks

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hey hey, work all day

I arrived in Salvador on Wednesday around 5pm and was due to start work the next day! The time difference vs flight time was quite actually quite reasonable so jet lag wasn't a problem, but as it had been more than 5 months since I last worked I was a wee bit concerned about getting back into it! Especially as it seems contractors have to work some pretty long hours... However getting into the swing of things wasn't too harrowing at all - the first 2 days I had no laptop and just read my book, the next 2 days I had no internet connection, then dial up, then broadband and a week or so later I finally had a fully working computer! So a cruisy first week :) but I know I'll be working pretty hard out when the swapping of sites actually starts happening.

A quick synopsis on what I'm doing here - Nokia was awarded a contract by Claro, a Brazilian GSM operator to swap all their network hardware from Alcatel to Nokia equipment. (For you telecoms ppl: Claro are keeping the Ericsson MSCs, but swapping to Nokia from BSCs down. Bahia & Sergipe together have about 1800 sites). This is happening across Brasil with the Salvador office responsible for the swap of all sites in the Bahia and Sergipe states. To give you an idea of scale, NZ's land area is approx 267,000 sq km and just the state of Bahia is 564,000 sq km - more than twice the size!

I realise a picture is overdue - this isn't great but it'll have to do for now.

I didn't do too much exploring my first few days - this is the view from my hotel.

PS The title of this blog is the opening line from 'Worksong' by the 'Otautahi Allstars'. One of the widely recognised aspects of travelling is discovering things about foreign lands and cultures but it happens the other way too... The 'Otautahi Allstars' are a Kiwi band - I'd never heard of them but I was introduced to them by a Yank of all people! What up with that eh? Anyway check them out if you can, they rock the kumara! :)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bem-vindo ao Brasil!

Wow, I'm in Brazil!!!

So I'm not a particularly shy person - I did manage to enjoy a reasonably comprehensive tour of the States & Canada by myself - but I've got to confess that getting on a plane and realising I was only getting off in Salvador was one of the scariest things I've done! I'd never been to South America, I can't speak a word of Portuguese and I didn't know anyone in the city! Although I had readily accepted a contract in Brazil, sometime during the 10hr flight I realised the significance of my decision. But, not being one to fret for too long, I told myself it would be OK. Salvador is meant to be a pretty big tourist destination (the 3rd most visited place in Brazil after Rio de Janeiro and Iguassu Falls). Hmmm, now that I'm here, I'm not so convinced... I'd figured that at least the people at the airport would be able to speak some english, but it didn't turn out to be the case... No matter, I just pointed at the name and address of the hotel for the taxi driver and I was on my merry way.

My very first impression of Salvador (obtained on the ride from Airport to the hotel) was that it is beautiful! Lots of surf on amazing white sand beaches which are lined with coconut palms. However as we turned away from the coastal road, we drove through a poor area... It wasn't people living in poverty or anything, but they were definitely poorer and you could tell they wouldn't have the same sort of creature comforts almost all NZers would be accustomed to... I was actually reminded me of India - the coconut palms, the not-so-well-off people, the crazy driving and even the skin colour of the people! (Salvador used to be a slave trade centre, so there are lots of afro-brazilian people here - since then there has been mixing of the races, but the people are generally dark.)

Anyway, these are just my first thoughts on Salvador, rest assured I'll keep you updated and I'll try and get some photos up soon!