Friday, November 14, 2014

Not quite


No, that's not really what I wanted to say .....

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Left high and dry

Daß hier vieles nicht sonderlich gut oder gar nicht funktioniert sollte einen natürlich nicht überraschen. Das Internet an der Uni ist so schlecht, daß man teilweise keine Paper herunterladen kann, weil man sich dreimal neu einloggen muß. Einen weiteren Kabelanschluss wollen sie uns auch nicht geben, weil angeblich die Kapazität des Raumes ausgeschöpft sei ... (hmm ja).
Aber auch zu Hause hatte ich schon mehrere Ausfälle des Internets (bis zu 2 Tage). Die Dusche war kaputt, der Ofen geht nicht.... Mein Kollege hatte sogar fast eine Woche kein Internet, der nagelneue Fernseher war kaputt und seine Klingel geht immer noch nicht (in einem Neubau...). 
Daß sie uns aber auch noch das Wasser abstellen, obwohl man ja aufgrund der regenarmen Zeit überhaupt nicht hätte vorausplanen können - das kam dann doch irgendwie überraschend (zumindest für das sogenannte "silicon valley" von Brasilien). Einige saßen also im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes auf dem Trockenen.
Jetzt weiß ich auch, warum hier alle solche Wassersammelbehälter auf dem Dach haben, in denen das Leitungswasser gespeichert wird (die sind natürlich abgeschlossen). Anscheinend passiert das jetzt zum ersten Mal aber es war schon vor Monaten abzusehen und man hätte sich da auch schon um mehr Wassernachschub kümmern können (gibt ja schließlich Gegenden im Land, wo es mehrmals täglich regnet). Immerhin hatten wir dank der Wassertanks noch eine Reserve und konnten die paar Tage überstehen ohne auf die Dusche verzichten zu müssen (war ja dummerweise auch noch eine extrem heiße Woche mit über 37°C). Andere hatten wirklich kein Wasser aber wenn man natürlich den Pool noch befüllen muß, obwohl man weiß, daß das Wasser knapp ist, dann kann einem ja auch nicht mehr geholfen werden.

It's not surprising that many things in this country don't work properly or not at all. The internet at university is so bad that at times I cannot download papers because I am disconnected three times. They also refuse to give us a cable connection because apparently the capacity of the room doesn't allow for more ... (yeah right). 
But also at my house I had problems with the internet connection (one time almost two days without internet). The shower was broken and the oven doesn't work.... My colleague had no internet for almost a week, his brand new TV broke down and his doorbell is still not working (in a new building).
That they will totally cut off the water, however, was kind of a surprise. Not that they could have planned something in advance since it was pretty obvious this would happen with that little rain (we're in the so called "silicon valley" of Brazil after all). So some people literally were left high and dry. 
Now I understand why we have these water tanks on our roofs, where the drinking water is saved (of course those are closed). Apparently this happened the first time here but it was really predictable and could have been prevented by looking for an alternate source (as there are regions in this country where it rains a few times a day). So at least we still had water due to the water tanks and survived those few day without new water supply while still being able to have a shower (coincidentally it all had to happen in a really hot week with 37°C). Others really had no water but if you still have to fill the pool although the water supply is limited, you can't be helped.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Salvador

Ein großes Problem in diesem Land ist, daß man sich mit Spigelreflexkamera in Städten nicht sonderlich sicher bewegt. Die Kamera hat zwar schon mehr als 7 Jahre auf dem Buckel und ein Verlust wäre jetzt kein Weltuntergang (sonst hätte ich sie ja erst gar nicht mitgenommen) aber über die Jahre ist sie mir schon ans Herz gewachsen und somit habe ich nicht sonderlich viele Bilder von Salvador. Klar, man könnte auch mit dem Handy Bilder machen aber ich kann mich dazu einfach nicht überwinden (aber auch das Handy könnte entwendet werden).
Hinzu kommt, daß ich große Teile von Salvador einfach nur abscheulich häßlich fand - baufällige Gebäude, Dreck, Verkehr, Lärm. Ich kann dieser Stadt leider nichts abgewinnen. Anscheinend sorgt der salzige Wind dafür, daß alles schneller zerfällt, als sie es reparieren können, was in diesem Land ja selbst bei normalen Wetterbedingungen nicht sonderlich gut funktioniert. Das Wetter war auch nicht gerade angenehm: Nieselregen bei gefühlten 30°C. Man war also auch mit Schirm naß. 
Die Bilder sind alle aus der Altstadt, die zum Weltkulturerbe gehört und die man über einen Aufzug erreichen kann. Es war der Tag des legendären Halbfinales der Fußballweltmeisterschaft und deshalb waren die Straßen geschmückt und Polizisten an fast jeder Ecke. 

A big problem in this country is the fact that you're not really safe with a SLR camera in cities. Although my camera is more than 7 years old and losing it would not be the end of the world (otherwise I wouldn't have brought it here in the first place) I am still attached to it and therefore I do not have that many pictures of Salvador. And yes, I could have taken pictures with the phone but I still can't get myself to do this because I usually don't like the quality and even the phone could be stolen. 
In addition, I thought that large parts of Salvador were really ugly - decrepit buildings, dirt, lots of traffic and noise. Apparently the salty breeze from the ocean is responsible for the buildings to crumble faster than they can be repaired (something which is done in slow motion in this country even when the weather conditions are not that bad). The weather was not really that nice either: drizzle at a temperature which felt like 30°C.
The pictures are all from the old city center which is a world heritage site and can be reached by an elevator. It was the day of the legendary semi-final of the world cup so the streets were decorated and police was at almost every street corner.











Saturday, September 20, 2014

Languare barrier

When I decided to come here, I certainly was fully aware that I would have to learn Portuguese to communicate with people. However, I was very surprised that even at university most people do not speak even basic English although it should be clear that this is the language of science and if you publish only in your mother tongue, you'll really reduce your chances of getting a job. 
The biggest problem is of course the lack of good training in school. Public schools are really bad and whoever can afford it sends their children to private schools. Yet, even there the children do not learn English properly and you'll have to send your child to separate lessons in the afternoon/evening.
Especially in the university city, you'll find language schools at almost every corner so I thought it shouldn't be too difficult to get one which teaches Portuguese to foreigners. 

This was my first month in Brazil and I had one of these courses for tourists with me (couldn't get anything better in Germany) and my language skills were VERY basic. So I found one language school but they required a questionnaire to be filled out ... just that the whole thing was in Portuguese. Most of the things were not too difficult to decipher so with a dictionary and a bit of common sense I completed that form specifying that I want a course in Portuguese for foreigners and sent it off. The next day I got an e-mail completely written in Portuguese where they wanted more background information about my mother tongue etc.... I could kind of manage to read it but I was a bit confused as how to answer this because I obviously did NOT speak much Portuguese (why should I take the course otherwise). So I wrote back some basic sentences with probably totally wrong grammar and I received an answer again completely in Portuguese .... This time I was getting a bit annoyed so I wrote back in English because I really couldn't understand that they couldn't find somebody to answer me in English if they offer ENGLISH classes. The answer was ... you already know it ... in Portuguese. Finally I got one of my housemates to negotiate because they wanted an interview before starting the course. So this coordinator talked in Portuguese and she translated for me and then we set up a schedule and I got a teacher who SURPRISE! actually speaks English. 

So I could actually try to learn my fifth foreign language via my first foreign language. Which is strange because personally I think you should go via your mother tongue  but I try to learn words with a German-Portuguese dictionary so that works somehow. Especially since my teacher stopped talking English to me a long time ago but once in a while I still have to ask her for words I don't know.  Apart from the starting difficulties, I am so glad that I got this particular teacher because she is just perfect and without her learning would be much more difficult. In addition to classes, she's taking me out for trips and activities and whenever there is a problem she's there to solve it.
 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sundown with cactus

It has not been easy to catch sunsets but one time on field work I managed to get one with a cactus they call "chic-chic" here. They certainly improve the picture so I can understand the name ;)




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Wildlife in the Caatinga

Here a few more impressions of the natural and "man-made" wildlife you can meet in the Caatinga.
Goats and sheep are pretty much roaming around freely although there are a few fences especially close to roads.  People outside of the town live on mostly isolated farms where they keep their animals and grow a few vegetables. The roads are not paved and the further you get away from town, the worse the condition with really deep pot-holes. Many people cannot even afford a car and they go by moped on these roads. They also have the tendency to honk their horn every time they meet somebody. The past decade or so, the government has set up power supply lines so even the remotest place has electricity now. In addition, they all get treated water delivered to their homes which is stored in tanks. 
As geologists, we have to make sure they understand what we're doing so that we can look for rocks on their land without them getting annoyed at us. Most people were quite  friendly and interested in what we're doing but the most frequent question was if we found any gold (although most of them were joking of course). It's a bit difficult to explain that they are actually living on some of the oldest parts of the South American continent, something which is far more valuable in geology than gold ;)



Not really wildlife but I love cacti! 



Black vultures (called urubu here), the garbage men of the Caatinga feasting on a dead goat in this case. Unfortunately many people are not that considerate where they throw their waste so sometimes you have trash heaps where you can find venues (new word I learned today!) of black vultures as well. 




This beauty just needed to be photographed too. 



Super-cute almost new-born goatlings, the black one I almost took with me:

 



And last but not least a view into the distance ... 




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

German inside (1)

It is widely known that Germany is a very environmental friendly country which is not only evident in energy management but also in recycling and generally in trying not to produce waste. 
This is why most German supermarkets don't give out plastic bags for free anymore. You can pay for them but the majority of Germans goes shopping with their own reusable bags, baskets or backpacks. 

In Brazil, however, you have ample of plastic bags to pack your goods into and you have to use lots of them because they are so weak that they won't hold 2 bottles at the same time. In addition, there is usually somebody from the shop packing things for you into these bags so the German has to be very fast to shove the backpack to the person and point inside together with a "por favor". And it works - everything gets nicely packed into the backpack, just the bananas went into an extra plastic bag so that they wouldn't get smashed :) When leaving the supermarket I usually get a few strange smiles from the cashier but I bet she wouldn't want to walk 20 minutes to her house with 50 plastic bags in her hands ;)