Running in Curitiba: Starting Again

Running injury in Curitiba, Brazil

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far way… I used to run for an athletics club.  I wasn’t ever any good, but I did like the idea of being the next Seb Coe or Steve Cram.

Then I found the joys and delights in beer, clubs and countless other things that don’t lend themselves to athletic prowess and running, along with other sports, became a passive activity, to be enjoyed from the sofa with a remote control in one hand a cold one in the other.

Those days of sofa sport have finally caught up with me and now I am in need of getting back into shape.  Sports like football demand some level of talent, which I never had.  They also mean playing with teammates and the thought of letting other people down through my lack of skills and fitness really puts me off taking them up again.

So I returned to running.

I started running a few months ago and everything was going well.  I had signed up for a half marathon and I was following a plan designed to avoid injury and get me to the end of the course in under 2.5 hours.  I had new running shoes and my family bought me some running gear for Christmas.

And then my knee went.  Whenever I planted my foot I had a sharp pain in my right knee.  As a typical man brought up in a working class household, I tried to ignore the pain, hoping it would go away on its own.

It didn’t.

I had to see a doctor and he told me I had hyper-extension.  The solution was physiotherapy to build up the muscles in my thigh.

After a month of this I have finally got back on the road and I am running again.  I did a 2.75km run and it nearly killed me.  But in a good way.  I am bursting to go for another run, but I am determined to take my time and build it up slowly.  The one thing I don’t want to do is push it too much and ruin my knee, or something else, and spend another few months on the sofa.

Over the next few months I plan to occasionally write about my running exploits and how they fit into a life as a dad and being in Brazil.

And by the way, if anyone else is on Runkeeper and would like to laugh at/with me and my progress, feel free to send a request to my account under the name of Stephen Greene in Curitiba, Brazil.

Image Credit

Exit to the Light by Rupert Ganzer (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A Bilingual Child: Little Daddy

Bilingual Child, Brazil, English, Portuguese

Brazil may be a huge country, but Brazilians love making everyone and everything in it as small as possible.  One thing I noticed early on when learning Portuguese was the prevalence of the suffix –inho or –inha.  They use it on the end of words to form the diminutive, and they use it all the time.

This means that a ‘coffee’ (café) becomes ‘cafezinho’, ‘grande’ (big) can be ‘a little bit big’ (grandinho), and ‘never’ (nunca) can be ‘never, ever’ when it is used as ‘nuncinha‘. 

Even the word little itself ‘pequeno’ can be made even littler by saying ‘pequeninho’.

However, a small t-shirt (camisa) is not a camisnha because camisinha means condom.

This little suffix be used to mean something is actually small but not exclusively so.  It can also be used to show familiarity, friendliness or that something is just so damned cute.

The basic rule is that you add –inho to masculine words and –inha to feminine words.  However, if the word ends in the letter ‘z’, or vowel other than ‘a’ or ‘or’ then we have wither –zinho or –zinha, depending on the gender of the word.

English uses the diminutive a lot less than Portuguese.  Footballers and children are fond of adding a ‘y’ to the end of names to sound familiar, so that you will hear them referring to their teammates as ‘Scholesy’ and ‘Giggsy’.  In terms of more formal English, we have imported the suffix -ette from French so that we get words like ‘kitchenette’ and ‘cigarette’.

There are also different varieties of English around the world that have their own diminutive forms, like my dad shows his Irish roots by adding -een to the end of various words, for example, ‘Would you like a cuppeen of tea?’ is a common expression in our house.

In general, though, we don’t have a common diminutive form, and when we do use it we are nothing like as proficient as Portuguese speakers for employing it.

An advert for Coke in Ecuador makes fun of the Brazilian predilection for diminutives

Diminutives in Action

Mr T has picked up on this in his Portuguese and is enjoying playing with words and liberally adding –inho to them.  He was begging me to let him watch Batman the other day and, because we have a rule that he can only watch at night the answer was no.  But he is nothing if not persistent and so asked if we could watch Batmanzinho, or just a little batman.

Mr T couldn’t tell you the rule about when to say –inho or –zinho, but he has shown us that he is aware of it.  He did this when playing with the English word ‘daddy’.  First of all he called me ‘daddyinho’, but he knew this was wrong almost as soon as it came out of his mouth.  A few seconds later he repeated himself, but this time said ‘daddyzinho’.

I liked this because it shows he is being creative with his language, playing with it to get new words and meanings.  He also did it with a look on his face to suggest he knew what he was doing was a joke at my expense and that he also knew that he shouldn’t really be doing this in English.

The only downside is that I am little daddy and not big daddy.  But at least my name isn’t Shirley.

More on diminutives in Portuguese

Portuguese Language Blog

Portuguêse é Massa (Portuguese for Foreigners)

 

Image

Big Daddy by Paul Townsend CC BY-NC 2.0

A Bilingual Child: Communication Strategies and the Wrong Language

A bilingual child responds in the 'wrong' language and uses lots of communication strategiesI read a very instructive post recently by Multilingual Living called ‘4 reasons why a bilingual child answers in the “wrong” language.’

My almost-4-year-old son replies to me in the ‘wrong’ language.  By ‘wrong language’ I mean that I speak to him in English and he usually replies in Portuguese.  I think the main reason for this is that he knows I understand him so it is easier for him to use the language he encounters 99% of the time.

I am not particularly worried about this.  Before Mr T was even born we decided on what our language plans were going to be.  One of the principles we came up with was that our child should be free to use whatever language he/she wanted to use.  The aim was communication, not communication in a specific language.  We didn’t want to force our child to speak a particular language as we thought this might lead to resentment.  Instead, we hope that through constant exposure the two languages would be picked up normally.

He seems to have a great passive knowledge of English, as he seems to understand pretty much everything I say to him.  This patient approach is also starting to provide some success as he has been producing more English with me in the last few weeks, even if it is stock phrases like, ‘I’m the boss in this house!’ and ‘I’m not tired!’

He is exposed to quite a bit of English.  He obviously hears me speaking all the time, and when his mamãe and I are speaking in his presence we usually use English as well.  We try to make sure that any TV he watches is in English, and most of the songs we listen to are also in English.  Finally, there is his family in the UK that speaks English to him.

And this UK family is perhaps the key yo the whole thing.  They speak very little, if any, Portuguese so when he is with them he has a choice.  Either make the effort to speak English, find a different way of communicating, or simply not be understood.

When we were in the UK over Christmas and New Year, his mamãe and I went to Edinburgh for a few days, leaving Mr T in the capable hands of my parents.  We were slightly worried about how they were going to communicate, but regular Skype calls home reassured us that there were no huge problems.  Mr T was able to find a way of communicating his needs.  Sometimes, this was by taking his time to think about an English word. At other times it took a bit more creativity, like jumping up and down and holding his crotch to show my dad he needed to go to the toilet.

He has even started to do this with me now.  The other day he wanted to know how to say ‘siga‘ in English.  I pretended that I didn’t understand, hoping that I could get him to remember it in English himself.  Instead he acted it out with one hand following another.

It is these communication strategies that I find amazing.  A desire to get your meaning across, couple with a knack for using whatever tool is at your disposal is surely an important life skill that will serve him well in the future, whatever that might be.

 

Image Credit

Chess by Sasha the Okay Photographer CC BY 2.0

Living in Brazil: Lovers’ Day

Lovers' Day and LGBT community in Brazil

Here in Brazil, June 12th is the equivalent of February 14th in the UK.  Back home we have St. Valentine’s Day where everybody in a relationship is guilted into spending a fair whack of their money on flowers, chocolates cards and dinner.  A couple of the details in Brazil are different (there is no culture of giving cards for any reason) but the general result of spending far too much money is basically the same.  And instead of naming the day after a saint, it is simply call Dia dos Namorados (Lovers’ Day).

My wife and I made a deal a long time ago that we are in the UK we would only celebrate the Brazilian Lovers’ Day in June, and when we were in Brazil we would only celebrate the British Valentine’s Day in February.  This has the very pleasant result of easily getting  a table in a restaurant and not getting quite so fleeced with expensive and tacky chocolates.

This year, though, is going to be different.  This year I have decided to buy my wife some smelly stuff from the chain of shops called Boticário.

I have not discovered some deeply hidden romantic side, nor have I become the last of the big spenders.  Instead, I am responding to an advert that the company has been running here in Brazil and has caused quite a stir.

I usually go out of my way to try to not respond to adverts.  I know that I probably do, subconsciously, but when I am aware of an advert trying to fool me into buying something my stubborn streak shows up and refuses to let me.  But this advert is different.

It’s a 30-second advert, and the first 15 seconds are your standard glossy fare that you might exect from a perfume shop.  We see a various people preparing for a date with a wrapped bottle of what we assume to be perfume carefully placed in the shot.  The way the opening scene is edited seems to pair up each couple so that they are all heterosexual couples of similar ages and backgrounds.

But then in the last 15 seconds, we see that we have been fooled, that our expectations have been played upon, because we have a young lesbian couple, a middle-aged gay couple and the expected heterosexual couple.  We see hugs, which is nothing unusual here in Brazil no matter what the sex of the individuals might be, but there is also at least one sultry look to leave th viewer in no doubt as to the intentions of those involved.

I must admit I was shocked to see such an advert here in Brazil.  While great advances have been made by the LGBT community, there is still a lot of resistance to them in society.  This is partly down to the power and wealth of the evangelical churches here who are not afraid to throw their considerable resources behind anything that might smack of letting people do what they want in their own bedrooms.  As well as this, there is the old-fashioned macho culture and fear of homosexuality that still hasn’t disappeared.

I was shocked, then, because this is a potentially risky message from Boticário.  Yes, they will make money from people who are part of the LGBT community and people like myself who support a society free from all forms of discrimination.  But they also run the risk of being denounced from the pulpits and soapboxes by some very loud and opinionated preachers and politicians.

So that is why I am going to buy my wife something for this Lovers’ Day, and it is going to be some perfume from Boticário, to support this message and to show that there is a return for companies that interested in doing what is right no matter what their risks might be.

And who knows, maybe next year they’ll have somebody in their adverts who isn’t completely white.

 

Image Credits

Valentines Chocolates by Stewart Butterfield  – CC BY 2.0

Heart Bokeh 2 by Lee Ann L. – CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

Living in Curitiba: The Goldilocks City

Living in Curitiba: The Weather

The people from Curitiba, Curitibanos, are like most people I have met in that they love to complain about the weather.  They are fond of lamenting the fact that there can be 4 seasons in each day because you must have clothes to cater for each of the seasons.  In the summer, half of the locals continually moan about the insufferable heat, and in the winter the other half just bang on about how cold they are.

The last couple of weeks have seen an upswing in these grumblings as the weather has changed from a pleasant Indian summer into a wet and cold autumn.  Not that I am complaining, though.

The Goldilocks City

I have written before about how the bi-polar weather here in Curitiba can be a problem when you have small kids, and this is mainly because the infrastructure in homes means it is often colder indoors than it is outdoors.

However, as far as the actual weather is concerned, I have come to the conclusion that Curitiba is blessed with what must be close to being the best weather in the world.

You see, when it’s hot it is rarely too hot.  I have lived in both Rio de Janeiro and Taipei and in both of those cities it can regularly hit 40, and then stay there for months.  In Curitiba if it gets to 35 it is unusual.  As well as needing less air conditioning, this has the advantage of keeping dengue away (for now).

And when it is cold, it is rarely too cold.  It can get down to zero for a few days, but never the -20 with snow from November to Easter that I experienced when I lived in Poland for a year.  The advantage of this is that you can wear something other than shorts every day of the week.

And ok, it can be grey and overcast a lot.  But not like London.  I spent one winter in London when I didn’t see the sun for about 4 months.  This was because I went to work on the underground in the morning and when I came home it was already dark.  On the weekends it was either wet, cloudy or I was in bed recovering from a particularly hard night.

When it is cloudy in London, it can be cloudy for months on end.  When it is hot in Rio, or freezing in Poland, it will be like that for a long time.  In Curitiba, in the midst of a freezing and wet winter, we can have the odd beautiful, warm day.  And when it’s been over 30 for a couple of weeks there is a good chance that the next few days will be wet and only in the 20’s.

We don’t get hurricanes or twisters.  We don’t have earthquakes or volcanoes.  We live far enough away from the sea, and high enough up the mountains to not be worried about Tsunamis or the rising seas due to global warming.

We get the odd storm which can result in some floods and sometimes a landslide, but nothing like other parts of Brazil.  The storms we get are proper storms with rain lashing down, bolts of lightning and claps of thunder.  Powerful, invigorating and amazing.

And so Curitiba is the Goldilocks city because it is never too hot and never too cold.  In fact, it is usually just about right.

Images

Goldilocks by Vlolscraper CC BY-NC 2.0

Old, modern and organic in Curitiba by Radamés Manasso CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Bilingual Child: Music Is Our Religion Part II

Music and a Bilingual Child

Almost a year ago, I wrote about Mr T’s musical tastes.  As you might expect, they have since changed a little bit, with the biggest difference being that there are now a couple of Brazilian songs in his favourites list.  However, I am glad, and proud, to report that so far he still  broadly likes music with guitars.

Whenever he hears a new song on the radio in the car he asks me ‘Is this rock ‘n’ roll, daddy?’  If I tell him it isn’t then he is generally not happy about it at all.

If I tell him it is then he smiles and makes the universal symbol of rock music.

So here is the current Top 10 direct from Mr T’s Musical Taste.

Polícia by Titãs

This song is probably Mr T’s favourite song at the moment, and this is undoubtedly because of his growing obsession with the police.  He always wants to play cops and robbers with me, and you can probably guess who has the handcuffs and is constantly being thrown in prison.

This means there is a good chance that Mr T has missed the not so subtle message of the song which is a protest against the way police behave in Brazil.  The song was written shortly after two of the band members were falsely arrested for heroin trafficking.

Fortunately, Mr T hasn’t found this cover version of the song produced by one of Brazil’s most successful musical exports.

I Fought the Law by The Clash

Again, this song is one of Mr T’s favourites because of its associations with the police.  He loves shouting out at random times how he fought the law, but the law won, and he places a lot of emphasis on the words ‘the law won’.  Obviously I am happy that our son is starting to like the Clash, but I am doubly pleased because was the song that my wife and I walked into our reception to nearly 10 years ago.

Geração Coca Cola by Legião Urbana

The second Brazilian song ( The Coca Cola Generation), and this one is by one of my favourite Brazilian bands.  Whenever I hear Legiao Urbana (Urban Legion) I can hear The Clash, The Joy Division and The Violent Femmes, all of whom I love.  But they use these influences, and more, in a very urban Brazilian way so that they produce something that is unique.

Mr T likes to play with this song and change some of the lyrics.  My particular favourite is when he decided to sing Griassol Coca Cola (Sunflower Coca Cola)

I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett

If a song isn’t about the police then it normally has to be about rock for Mr T to like it, and this is the first of three songs that prove my point.  These three tracks usually come as a package, so when he sings one he soon moves onto one of the other two.

I must admit that I reckon this is a bit of a corny song, but when it is mangled by a three-year-old it takes on a charm of its own.

We Will Rock You by Queen

Mr T only knows the 4 words of the title from this song, but he takes great pleasure in beating out the rhythm on anything that comes to hand; the sofa, a table or my head all make very good drums.  As his pronunciation isn’t quite perfect yet, he sometimes substitutes the /r/ sound from ‘rock’ for a /f/ sound.  Every time I hear it I have to do a double take to see if he really knows what he is singing or not.

Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night by Kiss

Kiss are another band that I never really understood, too many painted faces, wild costumes a crap music for my liking.  However, they have a song about rocking and rolling all night, and even partying every day, so that is enough for a 3-year-old to think they are brilliant.

Bongo Bong by Manu Chao

This song came up on my i-Pod in the car and was an immediate success.  It is quite different to the songs he usually likes, but it got his attention and he asked for it to be played again.  I’m not allowed to sing along to this song, but his mamãe is, but only the line ‘I’m the king of bongo drums’, the rest of the time we have to be quiet and listen.  Being quiet is a rare thing in itself, and because it’s such a good song I am very happy to play it in the car for a few minutes of peace from the back seat.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? by The Clash 

This is the latest song to make it into Mr T’s favourites.  So far he has managed to learn two words: ‘go now’.  This means we have to sing the rest of the song and stop for those last two words of the title for them to be belted out toddler style.  But it’s another Clash song, so it will be played a lot over the next few months and so I have no doubt Mr T will pick up more of the words very soon.

One More Time by Daft Punk

It isn’t about the police, it doesn’t use guitars and there is no sign of the word ‘rock’ in the whole song.  By rights, this shouldn’t be on the list, however it is and, what’s more, it was also on the last list a year ago so it has stood the test of time.

Vapor Barato by O Rappa

This is a very late entry into the charts.  Last week Mr T was listening to music in the car with his mamãe when this song (I’d translate it as ‘Cheap Steam’) came on.  I like some songs by this group, but this isn’t one of them.  But when has that ever stopped a kid from liking a song?  Mr T particularly likes singing the chorus of ‘Baby, baby, baby’ over and over again, and in so doing only putting me off the song even more.

Images used in this post: Guitar by Alejandro C CC BY-NC 2.0Rock Hands by Ryan CC BY 2.0 and Turn it up to 11 by Kainet CC BY-SA 2.0

Living in Curitiba: Garden Plans

 

Living in Curitiba

Finally, after what seems an interminable wait, we are in our new house.  Despite living in Brazil, the house we have bought could have been transplanted from a typical British terrace in any city in the UK.  The first thing that practically everyone who has visited has said is that it feels like a very English house.  Some people think it was my idea to buy this place, but it wasn’t; when my wife first saw it she fell in love with the place and had to convince me to make an offer.

When looking for a new place to live we looked at a lot of places, both flats and houses.  We were siding towards a couple of apartments because most houses we saw used up all of the space with the house and left nothing for a garden.  It seems to be very common for houses in Curitiba to take up all the land with the building and leave nothing for nature.  We asked ourselves what would be the point of having a house if you couldn’t have a garden.  You would get all of the downsides of a house without many of the positives of having an apartment.

This house, though, has two gardens: one at the front and a slightly larger one at the back. I say gardens, but in Britain they would probably be called ‘yards’ as they are pretty small.

We have small gardens, but I have big plans.

Living in Curitiba

It’s only grass at the moment, but give me time

I want to grow some vegetables and herbs in the garden.  The herbs will probably be in their own plant pots and placed on window sills, the tops of walls and even bolted onto the sides of walls.  I am in negotiations with my wife to taking over a part of the front garden to plant some vegetables like lettuce, leeks, carrots and what not.

I want to do this because I like the idea of cooking food that I have grown nd knowing it is all 100% organic.  I also like the idea of getting Mr T to help me and show him where food comes from and engage him in how plants grow.  I am under no illusions as I know there is a fairly good chance he won’t be interested at all, but at least I will have given him the opportunity.

My wife wants the garden to look nice.  She wants flowers and colour and smells and all that stuff.  I have no problem with this, but as space is limited we are going to have to think very carefully about how we manage both objectives.

One possibility that we have found so far involves using old pallets for a vertical garden.

There are also videos on youtube about using old plastic bottles to create vertical gardens.

What my wife and I do agree on is finding plants that naturally repel certain insects, like mosquitoes and other things that bite.  I get nasty reactions to certain types of insect bite, and it looks like my son has inherited that particular trait from me as well.  We’ve been told that Marigolds are good and Citronella are good for this, as is Catnip but I am not sure how easy it is to find Catnip here in Curitiba.  I’d love to grow some Catnip just for the idea of growing drugs for cats, but we’ll have to see.

Living in Curitiba: Garden

No room for a swimming pool.

I mentioned earlier that one of the reasons to plant stuff is to teach my son about the birds and the bees, so to speak.  He, of course, gets a lot of input into what we will end up growing and so far the one thing he wants is sunflowers.  I am very happy to plant these, but we will have to wait a few months as winter is coming.

What he really wants is a swimming pool.  I think a paddling pool might have to suffice.

Anyway, those are our tentative plans at the moment.  We are all really looking forwards to getting our garden going and I suppose ony time will tell if our plans come to fruition or not.

If anybody has any tips, links or general advice for how to make the most of limited space I would really appreciate any comments you might want to leave below.