Saturday, June 11, 2016

Monday, February 29, 2016

Things I will not miss after leaving Brazil (part 1, everyday life)

Finally, the time I'll be spending in Brazil is coming to an end. It's been quite an experience and mostly not in the positive sense. Apart from the really big issues like corruption, poverty, crime, pollution and lack of organization, there are lots of these small things in Brazil which have started to become really annoying. Of course, there are always some little things in a foreign country, which are a bit of a nuisance and by themselves they are not really that important but together they really have gotten to me. There are so many, that I'll probably write a few posts.
The first part will list everything connected to day-to-day life (excluding work).
  1.  Everything in the house is either not functioning well, somewhat broken or askew.
    The drawers of the cupboard in the bathroom are all loopsided. The toilet lid is half loose, the light in the fridge is not working. The walls are not staight either.
  2.  Doors and windows never close properly which may not be so bad in a country where it's hot all the time but is very annoying if the neighbors smoke weed and you can't do anything against sitting in that stink. It's also impossible to keep out the outside noises and in case you have air conditioning, it's a total waste of enegery since the hot air seems to come back in faster than the AC cools (but who cares about something like that in Brazil). 
  3. Toilets don't flush properly. That's the reason why most Brazilians don't put toilet paper into the toilet but into waste baskets next to it. I can't get use to this habit because I find it disgusting. 
  4. No hot water tap. Despite being in a country where the sun shines pretty much all year, the majority of people have not figured out how to use solar energy. Of course the water is not really "cold" rather tepid but if you want to do the dishes I don't really find it sufficient. The only device where you can get hot water is the shower having some electrical device, which brings me to point...
  5. The shower has this electric heater attached but you can only choose between a few heating stages. I either burn my skin or the water is too cold. Or I am constantly standing on my toes switching the "cold" and "hot" buttons to get some kind of decent temperature. 
  6. The water contains way too much chlorine. On the other hand you wouldn't want to use it without that much chlorine. Big problem for me because I am allergic to chlorine. Oh well.
  7. The stove works with gas which would generally not be that much of a problem but on the highest level my potatoes still need about an hour to boil while on the lowest level I still burn something I want to heat up. In addition, you have to get these gas tanks every few months. On the other hand, a gas stove seems to be a good idea if ...
  8. There are frequent electricity outages. Sometimes it doesn't even take a thunderstorm for the electricity to be out.
  9. If the electricity is working, there is a problem with the internet. Can be quite annoying since I neither have a TV nor a car and doing stuff in the evening is quite limited due to security. 
  10. Most washing machines only wash with cold water. I was caught in the rain and got some mud stains on some beige pants in the fist few months I was in Brazil. The stains are still in the pants and I tried soaking, brushing ... etc. No idea what chemical stuff Brazilians put onto their clothes to get them clean but I'd prefer not to know.
  11. Despite mosquitoes and diseases spread by them being a really big problem, nobody really cases about mosquito nets. I have some on my windows and doors and an additional net over my bed. It's been months since I had a bite. I also have a spider in almost every corner of my room. They probably take refuge in my home because I don't spray chemical stuff like everybody else. Mosquito nets are much more efficient and in the long run cheaper but I guess Brazilians just prefer to get cancer. 
  12. I can understand that people have dogs to deter burglars but what's the use of the dogs barking pretty much all the time and nobody paying attention to them. Furthermore, dogs just run around somewhere on the strees. How am I supposed to know if they are aggressive or not?
  13. Water management is another of those things, they just don't seem to understand. Thunderstorms are quite common and it can really rain a lot but at the same time we have a water shortage. This is partly due to the fact that there are not enough reservoirs but also because people just don't get the point of saving water. Yes, it's really important to wash your driveway every day. The trash is just thrown out into the landscape but at least the driveway is clean. 
  14. Since there is a water shortage, water could also be collected in a better way but the drainage systems at the houses and in the streets is really bad. The gutters at my place are built in such as ways that water is dropping down for 30 minutes after the rain. Wasn't that used as some kind of torture? Dripping tap!
  15. At the shop, you'll get an unlimited amount of plastic bags for free. Even worse, if you let them, they'll pack two things into one bag so you'll buy 10 items and walk out with 5 plastic bags. I used them as trash bags so I don't buy extra plastic but still. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015


He moved in a few days ago. Didn't ask for permission but I guess that was a cultural misunderstanding - open door probably means that he is invited. Luckily he is very quiet so that's fine with me. He also doesn't like photo sessions so it was not easy to get a halfway decent picture of him.  
We still have a few communication problems so I don't know his name but I just call him Godzilla (he must be a fighter since he lost part of his tail). 

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


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.