And that’s a wrap

9 suit cases packed (on top of 41 boxes in the shipment).

1 cat (most certainly not) ready to go.

Conclusions: I have too much stuff.

Rio has been amazing beyond all expectations.  Today I went to Cristo Redentor for the first time since 2013 to say goodbye to the city that has been my home for the last 4 years.

Tomorrow, I have to go to the airport for midday, for a 10pm flight… to check in the cat…

To everyone who has been part of my life here – thank you!  You have made my time the incredible experience it has been.  I hope I will be able to see you all again in the future at some point, somewhere!

To anyone who reads this blog, who is thinking of coming to Rio…  what can I say.  I haven’t been to a place of more contrasts.  In the end, I am glad I am leaving now – 4 years has been enough I feel.  At the same time, I feel the most sorrow now of any point I’ve been here.  Concluding a project like Rio 2016 with 4 years of my life put in to it, and moving away from all the friends I have made here, is a very emotional thing.

Bye!

 

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Amazing Paralympics!

So another week down, and another post!  You’re being treated, I’ve not done two posts in a week for a while!

So last week I posted on the first day of competition of the Paralympics, having seen a packed Velodrome and a triumphant UK.  Since then, the UK’s triumphs have certainly continued with an amazing performance!

The park saw its busiest day of the whole Games, even more than the Olympics in terms of the number of entries!  So the fears of minimal ticket sales haven’t come true – there have been some events with empty seats, but certainly nothing worse than the Olympics.  Tomorrow I’m going to see the Wheelchair Basketball finals – unfortunately Team GB lost against the USA today, so will be competing in the early Bronze medal match, so hopefully I’ll still get to see them on the podium.  Now we have just 3 days left until it all comes to an end, the culmination of 4 years of work for me, and 7+ for some!  An amazing adventure, with lots of unexpected turns, problems, successes and in the end the delivery of a wonderful 4 weeks of sport.

Since my last post, 41 boxes have left my apartment and are on their way to a ship somewhere (via a lengthy exit customs process), on their way back to Europe.  Apparently it takes around 30 days to clear customs here, before it’ll go on to an available ship back to Europe.  My apartment feels a little empty, although still has all the essential furniture.  My cat does seem a little bit lost – especially since her special cosy place (sat on top of the AV amplifier in the TV cabinet) has disappeared.  She hasn’t found a suitably warm alternate yet I think.

The process of leaving Brazil is in full swing, from the complexities of closing work contracts (and something called homologation, where you have to attend the union to say you are happy with your exit), sorting out taxation, closing / registration as non-resident on bank accounts…  All quite complicated, and not helped by a bank strike.

Even moving out of an apartment here is complicated in comparison to the UK…  Today I had my apartment inspection, and it is quite odd to me what I am responsible to do that would normally be put down to just wear and tear.  For instance a standard clause of repainting the apartment, even though in the most part it is fine, and a couple of marks that would just be taken as wear and tear for me; dry cleaning the sofa etc.

One good news is at least I know where I am going now – my contract for an apartment in London is signed!  We are very much looking forward to moving back to London, but leaving Brazil does have some mixed feelings after so long here and so many new friends.

One week, two days to go and I’ll be sat on a plane (almost exactly right now in fact).  And poor Cookie the cat in the hold for 11 hours.

1398 days down, 16 to go

Or another way to view it – 98.868% of my time in Brazil has gone by.Wow.

That’s gone quickly I guess! Looking back at my posts this evening, I’m surprised by how many there have been, even though it has died off somewhat recently. Recalling the hassle of international moving, bank accounts, CPFs and RNEs… while reliving the hassle of closing bank accounts (while the banks are on strike… again…) and international moving… For the last 2 years almost I’ve also been waiting for my visa renewal.. still am – I will leave Brazil it seems 22 months since applying for my visa renewal with it still ‘in processing’. I guess I’ll never actually receive that then!

The last month of my life has been somewhat busy, with the Olympic Games having finally arrived. Years of work and effort coming to a culmination of 2 weeks for the Olympics, and now 1.5 weeks of the Paralympics. And it was great, and certainly worth it. I was fortunate to see a number of competitions, and although in some cases there were disappointing levels of attendance, the atmosphere was always great, the transport worked well, the volunteers were fantastic (my own fiancé being one!) and the sport was amazing. The food… well… the less said about that the better! Generally things went extremely well, better than I think most would even have expected. Just to shake things up a bit we had a bit of scandal from some American swimmers, shouts of corruption and ticket racketeering from the Irish NOC. That helps distract from Brazil’s own corruption for a little while perhaps…

 And now the first day of competition of the Paras is coming to an end. Today I saw a nearly 100% full house at the velodrome preliminary session with some wonderful performances (including a round where all 4 qualifiers were inside of the previous Paralympic record!) and a really busy Paralympic Park – fantastic! Last night watching the Opening Ceremony, we got to see the Brazilian President get booed with shouts of ‘out Temer’ throughout the stadium, the same as happened during the Olympic Opening (he didn’t appear at the closing). I’m excited to see some wheelchair basketball and athletics next week.

 In between all the work and fun however is the task of moving back home. Tomorrow the moving company while arrive to pack up my stuff to ship back, to start a 30 day clearance process to leave Brazil. And I will follow two weeks later, both with my fiancé and cat in tow. Rather remarkably our cat is costing more than both of our fares put together! I hope she gets to dine on some nice steak and fine wine down in the hold. Thankfully I have a company helping with tax affairs and ensuring everything is in order, otherwise the mountain of bureaucracy might be a bit too much to cope with!!

 The last (almost) 4 years have been an amazing experience. I’ve learnt lots, seen things I never expected to see, experienced things I never planned on experiencing, met so many fantastic people and made countless memories to last a lifetime. It’s quite sad actually as I write this… the name of the blog was brit expat in rio. In two weeks, I won’t be that anymore. I’ll be another Brit back in London. Perhaps time for another blog to look at moving back home instead?

 It does feel rather odd. This is after all the second longest I’ve lived anywhere! In just over two weeks I’ll be boarding a plan leaving Rio without a return ticket booked. Of course I will be coming back regularly, but as a tourist and not a resident. I can’t help but have this feeling there are a million and one things I’ve forgotten to do….

So, for those of you have read my blog from time to time, thanks for reading. Maybe there will be more posts… maybe not! 

The final 3 months

Yet again I have been lax in my blogging…  Life has been quite busy here in Brazil, and suddenly I woke up and it was the 1st July and half of the year had gone.  And now it is less than 3 months until I move back home!

The biggest things to have happened of course are Dilma’s impeachment and Brexit… And that has had a very big economic impact here in Brazil in terms of the exchange rate.  It is now less than 4.3 Reals to the pound.  Which is a great improvement for Brazilians wanting to go abroad (similar trends against the dollar and euro too).  And for those coming to Brazil for the Olympics, the strengthened Real has made it a bit more expensive again.

It is now just 1 month to go until the start of the Olympics.  And there for sure is a lot still to get done.  The metro is now at risk again the news is saying, needing an emergency R$1 billion to be able to finish in time. And even that ‘finished’ means open only for ticket holders and accredited people – not for general riders wanting to get between Barra and Zona Sul.  Indeed the plan is that the metro would close again after the Olympics to complete the final works.  Without the metro, getting out to the Olympic Park will be chaos I fear…  The newly opened road between São Conrado and Barra has helped a lot, with an extra lane in each direction, but then one will be taken away for the Olympic Route Network, and instead of nice new metros carrying a thousand people in 15 minutes to Barra, it will be lines of buses carrying 50-60 people in… an hour?  Of course, there always was going to be a bus – the metro stops at the start of Barra, where you then have to catch the new BRT (a dedicated walled off lane with big bendy buses) that runs to the Olympic Park then.  But maybe a <1 hour journey time from Zona Sul to the Park could comfortably become >2 I fear.

There’s been a lot of scaremongering over the Games… From police protests at the airport saying ‘welcome to hell’ advising people not to come to Rio, pollution scares, Zika…  Living here, I haven’t seen any real change in policing, and the biggest part is being provided by the miltary anyway.  And emergency loans to pay for security have been approved.  The pollution in the bay is quite worrying, but talking to people who have been sailing there, they suggest it isn’t quite as bad as some of the media are making out.  Plans to make use of certain tidal conditions etc. can reduce the impact a lot.  It is of course very sad that over the previous 7 years almost nothing has managed to be done to cut down the pollution…

I was talking to some people over the last couple of weeks who have suffered indirectly in another way from the Olympics.  Rio state is officially in a ‘catastrophe’, and indeed some police, firefighters, health care workers are not being paid.  But state managed schools and universities have also been suffering – the state university in Rio has been on strike for 4 months now!  Countless schools over the state have been shut too.  A generation of people are suffering – 4 months of education is a lot of time to miss and have to make up.  There is a complex mix of city, state and federal systems.  City and Federal are working ok still, but State is not.  Emergency government funding to the state is being prioritised towards Olympic Security, and still universities remain on strike over pay.  From a small city a few hundred km from Rio, I’ve heard that initially teachers were being paid half of their salary, with plans to pay the rest in instalments, before the money stopped flowing all together.

But I don’t think it is far to blame this on the Olympics – for me it is down to chronic mis-management of projects, corruption and embezzlement.  There should have been enough money for everything, even despite the economic downturn.  The metro for instance, to suddenly find itself a R$1 billion short…  that isn’t a small sum of money to sudden find missing in the last 30 days, only 30 days after saying everything is now on track!

And the requested loan for the R$1 billion for the metro?  BNDES, the Brazilian government’s development bank that does investment loans, will not lend any more money until the payments are made on the existing loans… which of course they are behind in paying.  The new loan is in part to go in paying the old loan…   Look, it is all the government in the end, be in city, state of Federal.  Make things happen!!  The eyes of the world are in Brazil, and silly political infighting and divisions will only help achieve failure of the world’s largest sporting event.

It may not be the most popular thing in Brazil right now, it may be blamed for funnelling money away from areas where it is needed.  But 95% of it has been spent now.  Either get the last 5% completed, or see the whole 95% of it just wasted on a project that might fail.

Actually this isn’t where I was intending this blog post to go….  but it seems I started on a little rant!

The final three months for me are going to be a hectic, fun, crazy time.  From working 24/7 shifts, seeing some of the Games, and preparing everything to move back to the UK!  German House is a short distance down the beach from me in Leblon – I have very good memories of many nights or afternoons in German House in London, as again it was pretty close to my house!

So what’s happening in Brazil?

I feel like we are in the middle of a soap opera right now…  Or an episode of House of Cards.

Lula is investigated, then charged.  Then Dilma offers him a place in the cabinet, potentially to avoid prosecution, then a court blocks the appointment…   The suspense, the intrigue!

So of course we have lots more banging of pots, and a few protests (at weekends, at least here in Rio).  But in terms of actual action, there’s plenty of words but very little chance of change it seems.  The judge who seems to be on a mission to ‘get’ Lula has perhaps overstepped the mark by releasing a wire-tapped phone conversation between Lula and Dilma for instance in an attempt to get the public even more against Lula.

But what do I mean by the public… by all accounts the protests are very much by the white middle and upper class Brazilians, with figures like 75% of all protestors having a university degree while the national average is far lower, and a similar figures for skin colour, incoming brackets etc.  So certainly a section of Brazil is up in arms, and a large percentage of that demographic.  However, a lot of the population is behind Dilma still, despite all the turmoil, the evidence of corruption, the economic downturn…  And this is a large percentage of the population.  Dilma’s policies may be hurting the economy, and making a joke of Brazilian politics on the world stage, but she is still putting money in the hands of some of Brazil’s poorest – it’s just money that Brazil doesn’t have to spend right now.

I think this episode of the Colbert report sums it up (although it’s not quite up to date with the latest…)

So, what else…  We are now less than 5 months to the start of the Olympics!  In fact, in 5 months the Olympics will be over and we will be working for the start of the Paralympics.  Exciting and very busy times!  There are of course lots of worries about what will and will not be ready – the Olympic Parks have come along well, with a lot of venues already having hosted test events.  However, getting there could be more interesting…  The main park, located in Barra, should have been accessed by the new metro extension and a ‘BRT’ – a dedicated section of the road for buses.  Unfortunately, there are now big questions over whether the metro will actually be ready or not.  Contingency plans are in place for the BRT buses to run in fact from Ipanema all the way to the park.  This would be a near disaster…  The traffic between Zona Sul and Barra is terrible most of the time, so I presume these contingency plans involve extending a dedicated lane just for the BRT buses all the way from Ipanema to the start of Barra.  This is in most parts a 2 lane road that is already a nightmare – if they do this the normal traffic will be unimaginably worse.  There’s been talk of lots of public holidays during the Games, which would in turn harm an economy already struggling.  So we will see…

Oh, the economy.  Actually the exchange rate has made a huge recovery in the last month. From dropping down to 6.3 to the GBP back in September, it has been below 5.2 in the past week.  There’s two factors in play – the weakened pound because of uncertainty over EU membership, but the strengthening of the Real.  With each charge of corruption against Lula and the potential steps towards impeaching Dilma the currency got a bit stronger… Is this the only country in the G20 where the currency gets stronger when there is talk of impeaching its leader?!

It’s Christmas again!

2015 hasn’t been quite the best year for me posting here that regularly…  To my 2 readers, I am sorry!  So here is your Christmas present, a blog post!

Christmas 2015 in Rio didn’t get the most auspicious of starts, with no tree in Lagoa 😦  Well, actually as of this week there is, but it was somewhat delayed…  There was a heavy storm in mid-November, and the tree structure was collapsed!  So the normal opening (happily coinciding with my Birthday, so I always get a nice fireworks display) was postponed.

The official opening hasn’t happened yet as far as I know (if it is at all), but last night I saw the tree lit up for the first time, so it made it in time for Christmas!  I’ll go and see it one evening this week to get a few pictures.

Speaking of trees, our own tree at home as grown somewhat this year!  In getting last year’s tree down from the cupboard I could only find two legs… not quite enough for it to stand up.  So, after failing to improvise, a quick trip to the shop and a new 2.10m tree was purchased!  And I must say, it does look good!!  

Even more surprising is that after a week it is still there, intact, all the baubles still there.  My cat Cookie has decided not to attack the tree!  She plays a little bit with one bauble every now and then, and seems to like scratching against the branches, but not climbing, attacking and attempting to kill the intruder.

And what of Christmas itself this year in Rio?  Oddly, it so far feels the least Christmassy yet…  35 degree heat has never exactly made Rio feel that Christmassy to me, but places do tend to go all out in their decorations still, and of course we still have huge piles of Panettone in the supermarkets..  But for some reason this year (perhaps it is the test events and me working every weekend) I haven’t quite caught the Christmas spirit full on yet.  The Olympic themed decorations in Shopping Leblon.

Next week I head back to the UK to spend 10 days back at home, before coming back for my final New Year’s Eve in Rio.  Then just 9 months to go until it is time to pack up and head back, and my 4 year odyssey comes to an end.

São Paulo and D.O.M.

So, part two of the holiday was 3 nights/4 days in São Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil.  Although I had been before for work, this was my first time for a holiday here, and I was looking forward to getting to know the city better.

And, for this trip, the plan was to get to know it gastronimically!  We had booked in at Fasano, a 1 Michelin Star Italian, and the main event, D.O.M., a 2 Michelin star and also rated the 7th best restaurant in the world by San Peligrino!  And at a slightly less ‘haut cuisine’, via the famous São Paulo pizza, the food of the Mercardo Municipal, and of course a sampling of burgers!

Of course, it wasn’t all food – there was some shopping and culture, checking out the Pinocoteca museum and MASP (Museum of Art São Paulo).

So we arrived on Thursday late afternoon after our flight from Navagantes, and went straight to our hotel, the Maksoud Plaz, located just off Avenida Paulista, one of the most famous streets in the city.  

With not much else to do, we had some drinks and headed for dinner to a pizzaria.  Chosing a pizzaria was very difficult!  We read tens of reviews, before in the end settling of ‘Spereganza’, famous for its award winning Marghariti pizza.  Unfortunately, I left slightly disappointed… perhaps I had built my hopes up so high!  São Paulo pizzas are famous for excessive toppings, and I was hoping for something more traditional here based on their reviews and awards.  Unfortunately the chef was a bit too heavy handed with the mozeralla for me.  Nonetheless, if we judge it on SP standards, I’m sure it was a great pizza.
Friday we had lunch at a well known steak restaurant, Rubieyat.  And it was a great steak.  After, we caught some shopping in the up-market I…. shopping mall, full of top brands.

The evening took us to Fasano, a hotel and restaurant located in the up market Jardins neighbourhood, just a short ride from our hotel.  Fasano has restaurants in Rio too, including Gero, also an up scale italian.  However, Fasano was the original, and the holder of the Michelin star.  Their five course tasting menu was very enjoyable.  However, I felt disappointed by them not having a wine pairing option, indeed by them not even seeming to have a sommelier available to help me chose a wine.  The food itself though was great, definitely amongst the top experiences I have had in Italian food.  However, many options were exactly the same as Gero in Ipanema, and although presented differently, I didn’t notice much difference in quality or service.  The key one was that they did have a tasting menu available, and I am glad I chose it.  The five courses were a tartare of steak, a ravioli of veal, a risotto with ‘special meats’, pork chops with lentils, and a lemon tarte for desert.  Overall good portion sizes, but all meat without that much variety.  They also had an all fish tasting menu.  The wine we selected, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, was perfectly nice, but perhaps a little heavy on the alcohol (14.5%).  Oddly, they did not offer to decant either, which I had to request.  I did notice they were decanting by default on some tables, although it didn’t seem to be by the wine, but more by the waiter.

Day two took us on a journey in to the Centre of town, to the Mercardo Municipal.  This is a giant food market, surrounded by streets full of market stores and people on a Saturday.  You just get bombarded at every angle by people forcing fruit on you!  We did stop to sample some, and went to buy some only to find four fruits were coming in at over R$80!  No thanks!  But it was true I had never heard or seen any of them before.

We were working around trying to find ‘Hocca’, famous for its giant pastels and mortadela sandwiches.  And this is what ended up in front of me for my light lunch were I was expecting a sandwich!!  Thankfully it was for two of us to share, and we didn’t order one each!  

 After the market, we walked to the Pinocotecca, a gallery located nearby.  They had an exhibit on of British art from the 1600s till 1960s, with the pieces on loan from the Tate.  This was well set out, and very interesting.  This ate up several hours of our time, and we didn’t manage to look at much of the permanent exhibits.  There was however an exhibit ending that weekend of boat figureheads.  Interesting!!

But now we were close to the main event, DOM!  And I think over half this post is all about our experience at this incredible restaurant.  

Our reservation was at 20:30, but we arrived a bit early at 20:00.  There was no problem seating – at this point just two other tables were already there, and no one had started their food yet.

The menu only has various tasting options, with two vegetarion options (the difference being the number of courses), and two ‘classic’ options, the ‘Optimus’, and the ‘Maximus’.  The difference being the Maximus has more smaller courses covering a wider variety of ingredients and dishes than the Optimus.  All options had a matched wine selection.  There is no information on the menu on what the food is, and throughout it is all very much in suspense as to what is next, which is excellently built up by them setting different plates and cutlery in advance of the arrival of the food to make you wander what is next.  Of course, we went for the Maximus to experience the full selection of what was on offer.

The courses were incredible, fantastic, wonderful – every word I can think.  From plenty of ingredients I have never heard of, to every day ingredients prepared in a completely different way and bought to life by a touch of amazonian spices for instance.  For me, a meat lover normally, there was only one meat course, numerous fish and sea food courses, and numerous vegetarian courses.  And I loved them all (except perhaps the oyster, not something I am a fan of unfortunately).  Prior the to menu starting however, we were asked if there were any issues with particular foods including any sea food, oysters etc.  So it wasn’t a surprise to have it, but it could have been swapped out.  But I was there to see what the chef Alex At… thought best, so I stuck with it!

So… a cocktail to start (I went for the DOM, a wonderful gin creation with olive oil, honey and black salt!), a couvert of breads, cheese, better and a garlic paste, 1 amuse bouche, and 16 dishes spread over 11 ‘presentations’ and a palate cleanser before desert, with 11 wines and 1 whisky pairing.  We had a copy of the dishes given to us, although the copy in English doesn’t do it justice.  Some of the rare and unheard of amazonian ingredients just don’t seem quite so exotic when there is no appropriate english translation and they go to the next closest thing!  All the ingredients are from Brazil, from the far south to the far north.  The wines are from around the world, including some excellent Brazilian wines, and some very rare and unusual french wines.

I’m not going to detail every course, as if you go it may spoil the surprise if any of the dishes are the same!  I do know the menu changes often as ingredients come and go.  Which is why I would very happily go back.