The Weather in Curitiba

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Parque Barigui with a touch of early morning frost. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wednesday 13th March was just as hot and sunny as practically every day since November.  A long summer made even better by the news of the wet and cold winter back home in the UK.  There is a certain amount of vicious glee to be had in watching family and friends struggle through the snow and rain in the dark of a never-ending January, February, March…

Thursday 14th March and the fun is over.  Cloud cover all day, strong and sharp showers.  Slipping and sliding all along the dodgy pavements of Curitiba.  The forecast the same for the next week at least.  Summer has abruptly gone.  Winter is coming.

One word to sum up the weather here in Curitiba is changeable.  The locals like to say that you can have all four seasons in one day and, while the last time it snowed was in 1975, they are not far wrong.  When people think of Brazil they often think of sunshine and heat.  In the summer this is possible, but there is usually a proper old-fashioned thunderstorm at about 5pm to break it all up.  This doesn’t stop the locals complaining about the heat though and hoping that winter is just around the corner.

The winter can be pretty cold with temperatures getting down to freezing, but this is usually compensated for by beautiful blue skies.  The problem is the infrastructure in houses and apartments is woefully inadequate.  Double glazing is either non-existent or so expensive as to be practically so.  Windows rattle when the wind blows because they aren’t fitted properly.  Gaps of 3 cm at the bottom and top of the doors are not unusual.  When the winter is bad it can be warmer out on the street than it is in your flat.  Watching TV means wearing all of your clothes, getting 2 or 3 blankets and turning on the expensive and inefficient heaters.  The locals complain about the cold and pine for the summer to return.

I can handle all of this.  I try not to complain about the weather because it doesn’t really do a fat lot of good.  If I am cold I’ll put on another jumper.  If I am hot, I’ll drink a cold beer.

The problem is with my son.

When the weather changes, as it has just done here, you can guarantee that half of his class will get a cold or a cough.  The other half will catch a cold or a cough from the first half.

As well as all the usual parent paraphernalia I also have to go out with three or four changes of clothes just in case the weather is different in a couple of hours compared to now.

These are probably not unique problems, nor I daresay even unusual ones.  The thing that gets me though is the state of the houses and the flats.  Having a heater on during the night is just asking for your little one to want to play with it.  Force 9 gales coming under the bedroom door because of the gap are just a bad idea.  When you just get a room warmed up, somebody will walk out and not close the door.  In the summer, when I put him to bed at 8pm, it is hot, but by 4am it is pretty chilly.  How do I clothe him for both?  Especially when he refuses to let a blanket stay on him for  more than 2 minutes.

I know that this isn’t the worst problem ever, and the situation is the same for lots of people in many different parts of the world.  I just wish that somebody would close the bloody door after them!

Dear Zoo

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Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell was a book that Thomas absolutely adored from about the age of 4 months until he about 14 months.  It is a simple story of a kid who wants a pet and so he writes to the local zoo and they send him an elephant.  But the elephant is too big so he sends it back and then send him a lion.  But a lion os too fierce so he sends it back.  This keeps going through various animals such as a frog, a snake a camel and a monkey.  Eventually he gets the perfect pet and keeps it.

The thing that Thomas loved was that each gift that the zoo sent was behind a flap of cardboard that he had to open.  They opened in different ways; he had to pull one down, another up, and yet another had two flaps split in the middle.  He knew what was behind each one because he made the noise of the animal, but he was still chuffed to bits when he managed top open it.  So not only did he have a positive experience with a book, he also got to practise his motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

If you have to buy a present for a child you can do a lot worse than this one.  Be careful, though, as I have seen other editions that don’t have the same idea of opening the box to find the animals.

What Are Books For?

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What are books for?  I thought they were for reading; for enjoying; for learning things; for transporting yourself to whole new worlds and possibilities.

Well, in the last few weeks I have discovered that books are for a lot more.  Here are some of the other reasons you, or at least your toddler, might want to have books in the house.

1. They are a great way of staying up a little bit longer; point at Smile, Crocodile Smile, The Tiger Who Came To Tea or We’re Not Sleepy and there is a fairly good chance that daddy or mamãe will read you another story before trying to insist that it really is time to go to bed.

2. If you leave your books on the floor and then step on them, they stick to your feet.  How cool is that?

3. Look at all of the pictures over and over again.

4. Find the picture of a car and point at it and shout ‘Car’ as loud as you possibly can for as long as you possibly can.

5. Organise them so that they are in a pile in just the right way.  Don’t let mamãe or daddy help you, because the toddler’s way is the only way.

6. Use it as a tool to try to reach the ball you threw under the sofa.  You saw daddy do it once and it looked brilliant.  It doesn’t matter if the ball is only 2cm away, you have to use Father Christmas Needs A Wee.

7.  If you get all of your books out and leave them on the floor and then walk away to play with your cars in the living room you can make mamãe shout at daddy.

8. There is no greater feeling than getting a book that daddy is reading to you, and obviously enjoying, and grabbing the page and trying to rip it to shreds.  Hours of fun.

So, what else has Thomas yet to discover about books?  What else are books for, from a toddler’s point of view.  Any ideas, just leave them in the comments box so I know what other pleasure I have have in store.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea

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This was a blast from the past.  I bought this book when Thomas was born because I remembered reading it a kid and, I think, seeing it on TV.  We didn’t read it for ages as it isn’t a hard cardboard book and up until recently Thomas would have just destroyed it in minutes.  When I did finally take it down of the bookshelf it was instantly adored.

The book was originally published in 1965 and was written and illustrated by Judith Kerr.  To be honest the story is looking a bit dated now with the mother staying at home to look after her daughter and prepare tea for her faithful and all-knowing husband.  Once she has let the tiger in to the house to have tea (!?!?) and he has eaten and drunk literally everything she has no idea what to do until her man comes home with the perfect soulution of going out to a cafe.  There is also a milkman and a grocery delivery boy who turns up on a bike!

Anyway, sexualy politics, high-street economics and being a little bit un-PC aside, this is a great book for Thomas.  He loves the colourful pictures of the tiger and is intrigued by the different poses he pulls.  Thomas loves to point at and touch the tiger’s tail, as well as pointing to the different things in the kitchen and the bedroom.  His favourite picture is the one where they are walking down the road at night to the cafe because it has a car and a bus in it.

I loved the book because of the trip down memory lane; Thomas loves the book because it has a tiger, a car and bus in it.  What’s not to like?

Expat Parenting in Curitiba 2: Community Service

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One of the main reasons for starting this blog was to force myself to start to reading other people’s blogs and to share ideas and experiences.  One of the first things I cam across was a number of people talking about how they had met other people in their community who had told them not to teach a minority language because it would harm their acquisition of the majority language, or people who were distrustful of the second or third language, to people who just thought it was way too much for a child to figure out.

Among some of the things I read was The European Mama wrote about the 10 Things Not To Say To Parents of Multilingual Children, and then later wrote about the what you should say.  Eowyn wrote In Defense Of The Bilingual Child, suggesting that people were attacking them.  Multilingual Mania published an open letter from a parent to concerned teacher regarding the teacher’s request that they stop using Spanish at home.  There were many others.

I girded my loins and was prepared for such reactions from family and friends here in Curitiba.  I needn’t have bothered as the reaction from practically everyone I have met has been encouraging, and sometimes even a little bit envious.

There have been genuine enquiries about how we go about teaching two languages at the same time, but these are born out of a heartfelt interest.

There has been awe and wonder at the fact that a child can learn more than one language.

There have been wistful sighs from people wishing they had been able to learn English at such a young age.

There have been the parents who can only dream about offering their kids such a start in life with two languages.

There have been the parents who know they are going to have pay for expensive English classes for the next 20 years and can only dream about a kind of 2 for the price of 1 language package.

But not once have we had anyone suggest it was a bad idea or that it would negatively affect our son’s Portuguese.  This is true for family, friends and day care.

I am not quite sure why this should be.  Most of my acquaintances here speak English, but it has been hard-won through years of expensive study, so maybe that is one factor.  English language teaching is still relatively poor and there is a huge, unmet demand for good English speakers so maybe people are aware of the advantages.  There are still people here in the south of Brazil who grew up in different language communities other than Portuguese, so maybe that is part of the reason as well.  Or maybe it is just that most Brazilians accept what you do so long as it doesn’t affect them directly and they can continue doing whatever it is they want to do.

Or maybe nobody has said anything to my face and as soon as my back is turned they can’t stop slagging us off.

Whatever the reason, I would like to thank all of my friends and family here for being so supportive and I hope that it continues in the future.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net / Kromkrathog

Thomas Learns His Alphabet

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Thomas, my son, is only 19 months old and so is obviously too young to be learning his alphabet.  This hasn’t stopped him from getting a new favourite book; Thomas’ ABC.  Thomas, the tank engine, is the first book to be chosen whenever I ask Thomas, the son, which book he wants to read.  Usually I put all the books I think he is interested on the sofa so he can see them all and decide, but yesterday I put them all in a pile with the ABC book at the bottom.  He went through all of them until he came to his namesake.

The book itself is, I think, fairly standard for an alphabet book.  There are big, colourful pictures to go with each letter of the alphabet.  ‘A is for Annie’ is written underneath the first letter, and then ‘B is for Bertie’.  There are some tenuous links to Thomas the Tank Engine, the last page has ‘W is for Window, X is for Xmas, Y is for yacht and Z is for zebra’.  I don’t remember Ringo Starr ever talking about them in the series.

I reckon Thomas likes the book because the pictures look a little bit like cars, and he is still obsessed with cars of any shape or size.  I think that any book is a good thing for any kid, so while I am not unhappy to read this to him, I would prefer something with at least a bit of a story line.  ‘G is for Gruffalo’ anyone?