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Monday, August 27, 2007

Life cycle of the Coqueiro Anão-verde

A walk around the lagoa in Rio always brings some surprise. There is always some tree or bush with a flower that I have never noticed before. This Sunday it was a plant (tree) that I did not recognize. Only about 12 feet tall (4m) with this spiny group of buds growing from the trunk's side about head high (That means 5'6"). I stepped off the path for a closer look and, of course, a photo or two. I said to Camillo, isn't this interesting - look at this, is it a fruit?

No it's a coconut! A Coqueiro Anão-verde: A dwarf coconut now being grown on plantations in Brasil. Fast growing, fast fruiting, long lived and easy to harvest. Just what is needed to supply the

locals with their agua d0 coco after a hot walk in the sun. I had never seen the flower or the young fruit so close-up before. Buds, flowers, young fruit, mature fruit and what appeared to be a dry brown seed/nut all on one tree.

Made my day!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cultural or just bad business

For the passt four weeks, I have been pulling out my hair trying to get online, receive emails, send my latest paper back and forth looking for free editing help, doing banking and to write in the blog. It has been constant, horrible, random, seemingly unrelated problems.
We called our ISP (NET) in Rio and were told we needed to reconfigure our computers and to call GigaLink, our provider in Friburgo - HOW COULD IT BE GigaLink's PROBLEM?
Next time in Rio, we called NET again because it was even worse, now I couldn't get to my Yahoo account in Houston, the one I talk with my grandchildren through, or get a good connection to SKYPE and I am NOT a patient person. NET sent someone out 3 days after we called, "to check our system". Of course, there was no problem with THEIR CONNECTION so had to pay R$100 for some outside consultant to spend 10 minutes tapping keys and telling us he'd fixed 'IT'. Ten minutes after he left - NO INTERNET. Are you starting to see a pattern here?Two weeks ago, we came to Rio with intent to make time to find a solution. Poor Camillo, I think he finally believed me that it had nothing to do with our computers, but only after I resorted to yelling at the man. You just can't believe everything they tell, it didn't make sense that it was our problem. He called NET again - and again through some type of 'pinging' they determined that there 'was nothing wrong with THEIR connection - AGAIN someone would come out on Saturday - FOUR days later.
OKAY I went to the gym to relax - and when I came home Camillo says, there is nothing wrong with our connection - BUT the Technician said that.... You won't believe this.... "NET has been trying to change their server from S. Paulo to Rio and can't seem to get it right, They are working on it though." Pulleze! why not just tell us that three weeks ago. That we could have understood. With that answer we could have saved R$100.00 and hours of frustration.
Can you understand this? .....
Can You?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Little places

I am always writing, Friburgo this and Friburgo that, but Camillo and I actually live about 15 minutes outside of Friburgo on the road to Lumiar (Estrada Muri para Lumiar). This road may have another official name or number but I don't know what it is, I have never seen a sign or the name on a map. When Camillo built the house close to 25 years ago, the paved road stopped at the condominium entrance (4 km) (because the commissioner of roads lived in the condominium!) and about 10 years ago it was paved all the way to Lumiar. A few years after that a 'curb' was put in all the way, effectively widening the road by about 6 inches, and finally, about 6 months ago the pavement was taken all the way through the mountains and meets BR 101 at Casimiro de Abreu.
I guess this mean it is now the road to Casimiro.
This is a lot of information just to introduce a small place were we sometimes like to eat in Lumiar. If you drive to Friburgo but take a right at the only street in downtown Muri to the right. Drive about 15 km or until the street dead ends in Lumiar then turn right again and the take the first left, just as you come to the new pavement (smooth and nice instead of full bumps and holes) there is a small grass hut, with plastic chairs and tables type place on the right called Barra Vento.
The food is simple but well prepared, the outdoor tables look out over a bubbling brook, service is friendly and there is a very polite, well educated dog waiting for handouts.
We ate Pastel frito na hora de camarão, which mean cooked this hour and was very hot and light (does that mean it wasn't fattening?), fried fish fresh from Rio that morning and polenta that were excellent. I will not mention the capirinhas but will say that I was very good having sworn to not over eat this weekend - I washed the meal down with a bottle of agua sem gas...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Fall" in Rio

As Riorose said in a prior blog entry, the vegetation in city of Rio is generally a monochromatic green. The greens of the trees and bushes can be aggressive. But in the middle of July of this year, my walk to the gym (Mamute) was a delight of color. In my four years living here and in all the prior times visiting, I have never seen such color. Maybe it was the early cold spell in June that triggered it. The ficus were dropping their broad leaves and it was still early enough in the day that the city workers and porteiros had not finished sweeping, the sidewalks were littered with bright yellow, brown, and red/brown/yellow leaves.

The warm air was full of the smell of old leaves. I actually had a moment of two of nostalgia for my youth in southern Michigan, except that it was July not October and the air was warm not chilled, it really could have been fall. As when I was little I kicked some leaves just for the joy of the smell of leaves it stired up.



Monday, August 06, 2007

more marmalade

Yesterday we walked about the property to see what is happening in the 'deep' of winter.   The caqui trees are in hibernation but have red tips on the end of the branches ready for some warm sun and moisture.
The kumquat that I started in the greenhouse last year is almost 3 feet tall this year. One of the orchid in my little greenhouse is blooming and there was a tangerine tree laden with fruit.
I haven't seen this before,. The fruit has gone uneaten in other years because it was sparse and SO tart. But now that I am a marmalade connoisseur, I thought I should try to use the fruit. So on Saturday I picked tangerines and oranges from the garden, started the 'soak' and last night I added the sugar (1.5 kilo) and today we had fresh marmalade on bread. Geez it is fantastic - even if I must say so myself.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Rape and pillage

In the late 70s early 80s Nova Friburgo was designated as a nature reserve of the 'Mata Atlantica'. That is more than 30 years ago. There are pages and pages of rules (laws?) about what you can do on your land, what you can build, what trees and how many you can take down and all that government (----). I know a lot about it, but understand little. For over a year I tried, through an agent, to receive the rules (laws?) that applied to a piece of land I wanted to buy. I wanted to buy the land and over several years invest some of my retirement funds in building three small houses in the forest.
This would have kept upward of 10 men working through at least 3 years. I was unable to obtain a written document saying that I could buy, build, and sell houses for individual families. The men in city hall did not want to commit, with signature, that they knew and understood the rules (laws). It was finally suggested to me that I go ahead and buy, and begin to build and see "if anyone figures it out and if they do you will just be fined" that's what everyone else does. I gave up in frustration.
I see that this may very well be true. The first photo is of a property on the road to Lumiar (protected forest) that the owner cleared, burned (note the trees he left have also been damaged) and the others are before and after of a piece of land that we can see from our veranda. The cleared area were there are some cattle grazing (and Camillo will say people have to eat) that keeps mysteriously enlarging and now they have TAKEN BULLDOZERS to a hillside - removed trees and complete hillside - and are going to build a 'futebal clube, social' whatever that means. I know this road is supposed to have single housing and tourist related businesses ... and forest, according to the 1980 laws. Progress or rape and pillage?
double click to enlarge the photos
gingerv from Nova Friburgo, nature reserve

Friday, August 03, 2007

sorry for the formatting

sorry that the photos etc. are so spread out. I played with the formatting for an hour, and was not successful in anything except having to put the photos back in after deleting in error 3 times. Now I must go to work. gingerv

Home again

We are back in Friburgo, safe and sound, but I want to backtrack and tell you about our last day in Iguacu Falls (City of Iguacu). This trip for us was totally enjoyable, from beginning to end. It isn't always like this, often you have a bad experience or two that cloud the experience for you. But on this trip, everything we did we enjoyed completely.
We kept getting told by the taxi drivers,waiters, van drivers - everyone kept saying the Argentine side of the falls was the most beautiful - SO off we went. We hired a taxi for the day and went first to the 'biggest, most powerful' power plant ever built. Itaipu. It was okay.... a ride around the complex in a large bus with dirty windows.... Then we got back in our taxi and went across the border into Argentina to judge the two views for ourselves. You can not say you've seen the falls until you looked at it from both sides and I can not choose which is best.
The Brazilian side is viewed more from below and Argentina from the top. Brazil's side, for us, was seen on a overcast day with few people and the Argentine a warm sunny day with thousands and thousands of people (exaggerated a bit for effect!). On both sides, we walked a lot and had a complete experience. In Argentina, you take a slow train up to the' last station' then walk on a causeway that must be 1.5 km long (that's 3 km over and back). It winds across, over the top of the flatland of the river and ends RIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE FALLS! This was spectacular. There were too many people crowded on the platform, you had to wait your turn to see - but it was well worth the walk and the wait. Enjoy the pictures - Gingerv

Thursday, August 02, 2007


After lunch, yesterday, we walked through Morretes to find the recommended sight of birds eating bananas left out by one of the local vendors. Then the 12 of us on the tour loaded into a small van and headed back to Curitiba via the Estrada da Graciosa. We had one more scheduled stop to make though, in the small town of Antonina to see a church built in 1715, a finely restored public square and a walk out on the pier to see the fishermen. There was a clearly written sign that said, no bicycles, cars or fishing. Actually I think it was a very old pier that we were supposed to be viewing - the fishermen were extra.

Today we took a taxi around Curitiba to four of the many famous sights in town, a museum designed by Niemeyer, the botanical gardens, the Park Tangau and the Bosque Alemão which we never found.It was cloudy but no rain. Maybe I am getting acclimated but it seemed not quite as cold today. It has been a long time since I have ever been really impressed by a building but the Museum was really fantastic. I will talk tomorrow about it and send you photos.

Tomorrow we will leave here and go on to the Iguacu falls.


Day two - Curitiba

Wikipedia has a pretty good page or two about Curitiba which is south of Sao Paulo in Panamá state. Today was a super day. I'll do my complaining first. The train was not heated and last night it was -1, and it had very bad windows so it was difficult to see the scenery let alone take any decent photos. After an hour or so when the sun had warmed the train, I walked up and stood behind the driver - taking pictures out his open side window and out the front beside his head. I was able to take a few nice photos. For the total day I took 329 and deleted 41 - there probably are another 20 that are marginal and will end up deleted later when I look at them closer. The train wound up a mountain of the Serra do Mar, along a track that was originally built in 1885.

Thank god it has been maintained and the bridges reinforced since then, because it pretty much hangs on the side of the mountain and down into the city of Morretes. This pretty little colonial town is two blocks wide and about 4 blocks long, with two small parks along the river. Many of the buildings have the original façades and have been painted in the yellow, blues, whites and oranges favored in the 1800s. There were some nice hand crafts and very good photos ops. We had lunch in a restaurant specializing in barreado, a goulash like meat dish mixed with farinha which tastes delicious but was like a brick on the stomach for two hours after. The desert as a banana, cinnamon, icecream and chocolate concoction that drew bees to our table. We fought them off in a valiant effort to eat the whole thing ourselves.

more tomorrow - ginger

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"On the road again"

Ginger and Camilo are on a trip through the south of Brazil this week. Here is her report for the first day.

"We left for the Rio airport this morning at 6 am to catch an 8 am flight. We found the flight would be 1 hour late, then 3 hours, then it was totally canceled and the airline put on an 11:35 flight. We finally left Rio at 12:20 arriving in Curitiba at 3:15. The plane went up, came down, went up, came down, on what we would call in the states a puddle jumper, but arrived safe and full of crackers. So far the town (old town) is charming and very clean. Tomorrow we take a train to a federal reserve. We will have lunch, take photos and will return here in time for dinner. On Saturday or Sunday morning I'll go back to the old center and take photos "sem" people and with better light than the late afternoon allowed me."

Kisses from Curitiba, Ginger