Oh dear what can the matter be ?

What mishap could have caused   our   happy go  lucky, nothing’s  a problem Dave to  look so fed up.  Clue: a  ball and a pack of 11 ? Be the first one to answer correctly and win a mystery prize.

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A walk on wild side

T2 had earned themselves an afternoon out on Tuesday (a reward for collecting the most used oil for recycling). The “games mistress” – (Shelagh – now spelt Xila as an X is sh in Portuguese) – was expected to entertain. In preparation for this we decided to do a pre-visit one morning. Despite various pieces of advice such as “its only 45 minutes away” and “it’s just down the road” it took over 2 hours to walk there mainly uphill via the entrance to the Corcovado. On returning it was found that the local bus would have taken us some of the way. Despite rumours that the trip may be postponed as it was too cold (mid 20s) the trip took place to the Paneiras (part of Tijuca National Park). We all crammed into the VW van including 2 in the boot and one sat on anothers knee and a good time was had by all. The bull horn and various team games proved to be entertaining.

We returned to the project just as the thunderstorm struck followed by heavy rain and winds!

Dave and Shelagh

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Lending a hand in the kitchen …

So at first sight its looks like we have a fairly easy work load but Beth is a smart cookie who has obviously had words with Joe/Margaret – it would appear that our reputation (perceived), such as its is, has gone before us. It has been “suggested” that there are also other ways  by which we may fill our time … the kitchen needs tiling!!

Ed. Added to give Dave a helping hand with his tiling skills!

Last Saturday we bought the tiles and we have started preparing the walls by hammering holes into them and sealing with glue/water solution. They are pretty solid and we started on the hottest day of the year so far – temperatures over 42 degrees were recorded on the beach. Today is thankfully cooler and rain is forecast.Tools for the wall banging are courtesy of my friend Roberto (Handyman) who is still with us  despite Daves attempt to sack him. Dave agreed to the tiling on the condition that  when they all fall off he wouldn’t  be there. Part of the roof leaks (on the few days it rains) so Beth also wondered if Dave could “pop up” and see what the problem might be. What’s the Portuguese for ladder and health and safety? Does Brasil have working at height regulations ?

Dave and Shelagh

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Dancing and English … a winning combination!

The week started well with English on Monday. A pattern is emerging – T1 (the little ones) are by far the most difficult group –an hour is a long time and they tend to wander about and argue a lot. Games and entertainment are the order of the day and any english taught is a bonus. We had a new arrival this week. He is 6 years old ,which is very young for the project, but he has been left at home whilst his parents work and already there is a fear that he has been used by the drug barons, so a place at the project has been found. Imagine a son, daughter, grandson of your own aged 6 already involved in the drug business. T2 (mid age) and T3 (older) are much easier to plan for and there are some lovely kids in both groups with a great sense of humour and fun .  Dave and Shelagh

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Oh yes.. there are also the children

As Dave and Shelagh begin to get more engaged  with the children they  have found  time to  reflect on their first impressions.

 Its only been a week , not only do they speak a different language but they also talk very fast  using a lot of slang (apparently) so who know what is going on. From body language and watching how they play/inter act with each other they remind me a lot of some children we have taught in Wolverhampton and the poorer estates in Lancashire  and  the youths Shelagh has worked with in the Youth Service. They are all different in their own way. The young ones are  friendly, sometimes bossy and  quite tactile ( a definite brasilian trait) .I have already had my arm colour compared to theirs – in this case it was darker and I was also told that I had beautiful eyes – which is true.  There are conflicts, especially amongst the young ones,  resolved by shouting at each other, sulking and occasional blows.   The older ones vary – some are very guarded and at the moment  wary when spoken to, others are friendly and helpful. To the “cool ones”  we appear to be background/nothing out of the ordinary – just a few more strangers who happen to be there. It will be interesting to see how things develop. They are often loud,  especially the boys,  and have very short attention spans  (like many modern english children) but appear  more respectful than their equivalent. Reaction to something they are not keen on is not to be rude but to try and ignore it,  and hope that it goes away. Low expectations from home and teachers in the school means they easily give up thinking/complaining that something is too hard and that they are “stupid”. It is already obvious in this short space of time that they are not.  With the monitors they are well behaved and respectful so its a little bit like being a probationary teacher again without the powers of speech. Sarcasm and humour are after all two of our main defences.  I hope I have the patience to persevere and do some good but if not the tiling will be done ! !  Remember only first impressions ! !

Footnote : With the older ones – they are really into their music– they like (Gosto) Adele, Mariah Carey, Akon, Bob Marley,Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, Katy Perry etc but they don’t like (Nao Gosto)  Justin Bieber !! So they  display taste and intelligence in this matter.

Shelagh & Dave

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The day I sacked the Maintenance Man

A cautionary tale for learners of Portuguese.

The following story is based on hard fact  and  has a moral to go with it. Let us begin . .

A volunteer who shall remain anonymous but for the sake of the narrative lets call him Dave is about  to do some DIY work around the project. As a result  he was asked to “have a chat” with the Maintenance Man at the convent (lets call him Roberto because in reality that is his name). As a non Portuguese speaking person everybody has been impressing on the Volunteer (Dave)  the importance of using the language as much as possible no matter how bad it turned out to be –  here was his opportunity. Being a cautious man he spent a long time working out what he wanted to say and even wrote phrases and sentences down including the phonetics so he could pronounce the difficult words – which is most of them. Words he didn’t know (again most of them) he looked up in the dictionary.

On the day in question our hero sought out Roberto  and it was soon established that the handyman spoke no English and so Portuguese it had to be. Despite a few problems,  pleasantries such as name and occupation were exchanged with nods and smiles. It was finally established that there were indeed ladders available of varying lengths from grande to multi grande. Screwdrivers both Phillips and Chave de fenda were also available but a spirit level (nivelador) would have to be purchased. Why did Dave need a Spirit level asked Roberto (Por Que) – Dave explained that he was going to lay some wall tiles in the  kichen. Perfecto, Fantastico.

All was going swimmingly and even the word grouting came up –  then we come to the tricky bit…..   things became more technical. Full of false confidence our friend  explained the last issue i.e. could Roberto remove an unnecessary and dangerous plug from the room.  Roberto listened carefully to the pre-prepared pidgin Portuguese  and then with a worried look –  his face fell .  Que (what) – confusion rained as Dave tried to rescue the situation by repeating the lines. He even showed the written crib sheet thinking it would help. It did not. What was wrong ?   Then it was noticed that an English speaking friend (lets call her Lisa because that is also her name)  had been listening to the conversation and   was by now killing herself with laughter.

It finally  transpired that the word Dave had taken from the Dictionary  for “remove” actually meant “fired” (as in sacked). Roberto  must have thought that this  English volunteer  was going to take his job and that he had  just been told  that he was fired –  an extreme example of  down sizing ?  Dave was greatly embarrassed  but on understanding the mistake Roberto , now greatly relieved , was all smiles again. Of course to everybody’s delight (except our hapless volunteer) word flew round the convent community like a wild fire all about the Englishman that had tried to sack the handyman.   Dave   went into town to hide his shame in a glass of Cerveza and lick his wounds.

 Oh yes – and the moral to the story ? – well you decide.   Our friend , who you will remember we are calling Dave (because that is his name), has decided that the moral is  –  “If at first you don’t succeed get a friend (lets call her Shelagh) to do it for you”.

Fin – Tchau Shelagh

Come on Dave..have the last word, so to speak,  and send us an image of the tiling (Ed.)

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A little background…

Dave and Shelagh provide us with more  insights into the life of the convent and in particular the vision  of its founder.

Our new home – So the Convent where we are staying belongs to the Assumption Sisters – the order was founded by Santa Maria Eugenie in the 19th Century. She was originally from France and spent some time in England..  She was canonised (became a Saint) recently or as Sister Regina,head of the convent, says    “was recognised as a Saint as she had always been one”- an interesting point.   Maria Eugene had many ideas ahead of her time – she championed women as bringers of change as mothers and promoted education. Consequently the Assumption Sisters have established places for education in many parts of the world.

Even more singing  – The convent is used as a conference centre/retreat so groups of varying sizes appear to come and go. Recently a large group has arrived  – they are a Gospel Choir from Germany numbering about 50 – they have been travelling around performing concerts –this is their last stop before home. They have sung before lunch & dinner.

Other stuff – The food continues to be outstanding –  so much for our plans to lose some weight before Christmas although trips up and down the hill to Lapa and the Centre are helping.  The bus journey down the cobbles to town is quite intimidating and shakes every wobbly bit – visions of the opening moments of the film Frida (based on the life of the great Mexican artist – Frida Kahlo) flash before your eyes ! !  The old electric tram which used to take this route isn’t running as there was an “accident” some time back. Cariocas are however used to such hidden risks as the electric wiring in some of the older buildings demonstrates . On a more serious note the tram closure is having a detrimental effect on the local traders who are not seeing the same volume of tourists who used to love to ride the route. Local cars display stickers campaigning for its return.  Maybe in time for the next Olympics . . . .

Shelagh & Dave

Thank you for  reminding me  of  the debt we owe to  the courage of visionaries such as Sister Eugeni  who  bucked the conventions and thinking of the  time. Still an ispiration

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To the airport

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Months of planning and preparation is neatly stowed in the boot; a survival kit that includes a seemingly unremarkable large black bag but which is stuffed with  climbing equipment, art materials, activities for the teaching of English, music resources and a cricket bat for what Dave described as “for a little cultural exchange.

“Despite a tinge of anxiety with the vagaries of luggage allowance and check-in procedures our volunteers looked relaxed and ready for their adventures. They have chosen to fly via Portugal and will spend the night there before flying on to Rio in the morning.

We returned to Chipping feeling a little envious but confident that the children, and Dave and Shelagh have interesting and fun times ahead.

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Last preparations…an update from Shelagh and Dave


The day has almost arrived. It has been a long time since we decided to Volunteer back in January and the day we leave (Wednesday) is now almost upon us. We are used to last minute booking and packing and so  we feel we have been treading water for a while. It has given us time to get a little nervous –impulse decisions mean you don’t have time to let the mind think for itself ! !

The fund raising is over – we made just over £1,800 which has been sent to the project – again many many thanks to everybody who helped by giving up their time, effort and monies. We have recently seen  relatives and friends at Luke’s wedding and various other weekend gatherings which was great. All  the jabs we are willing to take have been taken, flights and lift to the airport are secured and this afternoon we will be packing. Pack too early and you take too much. We fly to Lisbon and then after a short overnight stay fly on Thursday (6th) to Rio. Friday is a holiday in Brazil (Independence day I think) so a long weekend to settle in and acclimatise – have changed my BBC weather link to Rio and its looks like what we hope our summer should have been – mid 20s and sunny .  Hope to keep in touch with everybody either through this blog, facebook, skype or emails. We might even send some postcards ! !  

Dave and Shelagh

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Activity Days at Hothersall Lodge Outdoor Education Centre

We would like to report that the two activity days held at Lancashire’s Outdoor Centre, Hothersall Lodge went “swimmingly” despite the unseasonal wet weather. Over the two days 45 young people sampled Canoeing, Climbing, Abseiling, Caving, Fire Lighting, Archery, Biking and Team games. A massive thanks must go to Tony, Len,  Will , Phil, Ben, Lauren, Laura, Alix, Jamie and Daniel (pictured above) who  gave their day for free. Their hard work and enthusiasm  ensured that all the children had a memorable time. A further thanks must go to Mick at Hothersall Lodge who allowed us to use the fabulous facilities at the centre and the local schools who publicised the events for us.

Future fundraising events

Friday  6th July – Fun Quiz  – British Legion – 7:30 pm

Thursday 12th July – Coffee Morning – Longridge Civic Centre – all morning

See you there – Dave and Shelagh – 10th June 2012

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