Monday, July 16, 2007

same same but different

Wow this is a slow process - just added another bunch of photos to my flickr set. I have a good excuse for the lack of updates - we had a beautiful weekend away in Bridport complete with beaches, pelicans, platypus and a proposal. So it looks like the next big adventure is getting married. Wahoo!

Ola amigos,

Now in Manuminin, our 6th city in 10 days or thereabouts. We're heading more towards the mountains now, today went to an amazing national park 'Parque Nacional do Caparaó' and drove to the top of a mopuntain maybe 2000 m tall - bella vista over the coffee and eucalypt plantations and national park below.

Parque Nacional do Caparaó

A day of nice views, waterfalls (cachoerias), forest (floresta) and beautiful gardens (umm..... bem gardinarios?!?) was just what I needed after the last few days - kind of hit the wall yesterday with a day of nine vocational visits in a row (W and his pedometer said we walked 10 km - in one place they seriously showed us everything including the disabled toilets and storage rooms), trying to speak portuguese all day, having to pack up and move after one night, stress of a dodgy home hosts (not mine thankfully), heat, fatigue, etc. Pretty sorry for myself and missing home. Oh well it's all part of the experience eh! And today was better.

We have had some very interesting tours in the last few days. Yesterday we visited a coffee plantation and processing facility called Santa Clara (coffee club at work will be happy to hear we were given some factory-direct coffee - though I might want to drink it myself after getting a taste for it here for five weeks). They export to Australia so you might even be able to buy it there in Woolies.

Santa Clara coffee processing plant

The vocational side of things is looking up - we have visited two very impressive universities which specialise in health education, both less than five years old with some really modern equipment and facilities. I met a guy who is employed in a role very similar to mine and even better, eight years ago he was an exchange student in Moree so we could actually share a bit of information we could both understand!! One of them called 'Faminas' is beside a new cancer hospital which is the second biggest facility in Brazil. Huge contrast to the terrible facility we visited in Cataguases. But contrast is a very appropriate and frequently used word in this country!

On a professional level, my traffic policeman friends would be either horrified or having a field day with the traffic here (probably both). For a start Brazilians drive on the wrong side of the road. Or I should say they opposite side to Australia - though even with that disclaimer they are still often driving on the wrong side!! Double lines mean nothing. You pass people wherever you like and usually tailgate them as a warning you're about to pass. At least you know you're going in a straight line when you are driving in the emergency lane. Watch out for stray dogs and the occasional stray horse, plus the bicycles, motorcycles, horse and cart and pedestrians who walk wherever they like. They laugh at us when we put on our seatbelts! One of our hosts conducted four or five mobile conversations while navigating the traffic in the CBD. When I said 'oh in Australia you are not allowed to talk and drive' he said 'oh yes same here!' while dialing another number. The only time he put on his seatbelt was when passing the police station - then took it off again 5 mins down the road. Ah fun. Never a dull moment!

Coffee plantations

The food is still good - though we've all had a few interesting gastro-moments. The speciality here is Pão de queijo, a yummy cheese-bread which has a normal crust and the middle is all like melted cheese. One great dessert (and there are many) is a slab of white cheese (very young, a bit like sweet fetta), this fruity jelly-jam kind of stuff and a big glob of caramel sticky sauce - one of our hosts said when you put them together it was like Shakespeare - 'like Romeo and Juliet'!!!

Pão de queijo (cheese bread mmmm)

Interesting food experiences include marinated BBQ chicken hearts, big slabs of pig skin in the fejoada and... wait for it... KFC frog. Well not really - we had dinner at a seafood restaurant (which had us worried to start with as the sea is a very long way from Muriaé) and frog is apparently a speciality. It was grilled and some was battered with secret herbs and spices - kind of like chicken but I didn't eat much.

Anyway that's probably enough for today! We move again tomorrow - on the road again - things are good and it's lots of fun.


Jill :-)

PS. Apparently anyone who has been to Thailand will know the title of this post - when in a restaurant asking 'is this chicken?' the reply is 'same same......... but different'. This phrase is getting a good run here in Brasil.............

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