“There is this theory of the Moebius. A twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop from which there is no escape. So when we reach that point, whatever happened will happen again.”
This was what Worf and Geordi Le Forge in Star Trek, Next Generation said when they encounter a vortex that might have captured the Enterprise and her crew. It was also sampled by Orbital to produce one of my favourite tunes as a student.
But it could very easily have been said about any given day, game or meal that I experience with my 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Mr. T.
The games that he plays always follow the same patterns and everything must be done in exactly the right way or he gets very annoyed.
We go through the same arguments when we ask him to come to the table and eat something, and yet, once he is at the table he eats pretty well.
He wants to read the same books at night, watch the same DVDs and listen to the same music.
His tantrums can be predicted, from the pre-tantrum stage via the vehement, face down, heart-felt crying to the post-tantrum that usually involves giggles while the last few tears make their way down his face.
He says the same things whenever we get into the car, see a bus or a tractor, or meet a dog on a walk.
A Moebius Strip. Made with Mathematica. (Wikipedia)
Everything just happens again and again and again. There is nothing new, no variation on a theme, no single, life changing moment. Just one endless loop, going around and around and around.
We have done the first steps, the first words and the first trip to the potty. What else is there to do except just stare at my smartphone while he crashes his big white car into the small red one for the thousandth time?
Except it isn’t like this. It just seems as if it is.
This is not Captain Pickard being doomed to destroy his ship over and over again because small things are changing all the time.
The games change imperceptibly. The arguments about dinner get fiercer. Over time, certain books, DVDs and music get dropped, to be replaced by others. The tantrums get longer (but they are still followed by a smile). The pronunciation of the words comes closer to the norm bit by bit.
Writing this blog has helped me because I am able to look back and see the amazing changes that have taken place over the last year or so, but which get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of being a dad.
But whatever it takes, I need to remember to put down the smartphone and start paying attention to all the small changes because whatever has happened, will never happen again.
I am now over half way through ‘1977’ by David Peace. It is the follow up to 1974 and just as bleak and violent. This one is also set in the north of England to the backdrop of a hot summer and the jubilee. There are murders, rapes and police brutality a plenty.
Curitiba’s coat of arms (Wikipedia)
Last week I sang the praises of my adopted city by looking at 7 things it gets completely right. In the pursuit of balance, here are 6 things that Curitiba gets completely wrong.
The pavements are a disgrace here. You rarely see anyone walking, and this is at least partly because it is so bloody dangerous. I have heard lots of stories about people falling over on loose paving stones or having to walk in the middle of the road because the pavements are taken up by parked cars. You almost never see anyone in a wheelchair, or elderly people so I have no idea how isolated they must feel if they don’t have anyone to drive them around.
And when you do find a nice bit of pavement, somebody has probably parked their car on it.
2. Public Works
All public works take forever. If they tell you it is going to take a year, it will take at least two, maybe three. And it is quite possible that it will never be finished.
All you need to build a coach station (Wikipedia)
The coach station is undergoing a huge refurbishment which was supposed to have been finished in December 2012 (Source in Portuguese) but is now predicted to end in May 2014, if we are lucky.
I often go to the coach station with my son to look at all the coaches and it is amazing how few people I see working there. That might be explicable if they were using lots of machinery, but, apart from a few tractors, everything is being done by hand and wheelbarrow.
Unfortunately, everything that was planned for the World Cup is either tragically late, will only be finished after the games are over, or have been cancelled all together.
There are lots of parks around the city, but none of them have decent playgrounds for kids to play in. If they have anything at all it will be a steel slide with jagged edges or a climbing frame in a sand-pit which also acts as the local toilet for all the wildlife in the area. Dirty and dangerous.
The Lesser-Spotted Curitibano taxi (AnaElisa)
There just aren’t enough of them. We have the same number of taxis today as we did in 1974, and in that time the city has tripled in size. (Source in Portuguese)
5. The Metro
There seems to be this idea that the only way Curitiba can be taken seriously as a major city is if they have a metro system. This will cost billions, not produce any solutions to the traffic problems because it will only consist of one line and take far longer than necessary (see point 3 above). If they took the same money and invested it in their already very good bus system they would really have something to crow about.
6. Electricity pylons
The local government or the electricity providers (each one blames the other as far as I can tell) refuses to put the city’s electricity cables under the ground. Instead, we have all the electricity running on pylons above the streets.
This makes the city look ugly, but worse than this is that every time we have a storm the cables fall down and we get power cuts. Towards the end of 2013 we had 4 afternoon storms which lasted between 10 and 40 minutes. Each one resulted in a power cut that lasted a minimum of 4 hours. It particularly irked me because I had deadlines looming and no computer or internet.
There’s probably plenty of other stuff as well, after all every city is crap at something. These are the ones that attract my ire, but if you know Curitiba and can think of any others, just leave a comment below.
Curitiba’s flag kind of reminds me of another one I know well. (Wikipedia)
I have been living in Curitiba for a while now and, while it might not be the best city in the world it certainly has a lot going for it. Here are 7 things that I think Curitiba gets completely (or at least mostly) right.
And in the interested of balance, here is a post called ‘6 Things Curitiba Gets Completely Wrong‘.
The numbers vary, but it seems that around 80% of the waste produced in Curitiba is recycled. This is an extremely high number and one that should make most other cities in the world blush in disgrace.
Edit: Since posting this it has been pointed out to me that the figure is 80% of collected waste is recycled, not 80% of produced waste. This is still an impressive figure, but it does make a difference.
2. Public Transport
Ok, so it isn’t completely right. There are problems with the public transport system in Curitiba, but in relation to everywhere else I have been to in South America it is pretty bloody good.
3. The Weather
Winter skyline in Curitiba. (Wikipedia)
We have seasons. We get summer and winter. Sometimes in the same day, but at least it isn’t always baking hot or always pissing down with rain. I lived in the UK where it always seemed to rain, and in Rio where it was always hot. Curitiba seems to strike a nice balance between the two.
4. Cold People
They come in for a lot of stick from the rest of Brazil because they are cold or snobbish. They don’t talk to you on the bus and if you are in the lift with them they all get their phones out and stare at them as if they have something really important that they simply must look at right now. They don’t, it is just a good excuse not to have to look at the other person in the lift and start a conversation. Anything beyond how are you is a deep and meaningful conversation. For me, this is great.
There are now lots of places to buy decent beer. It might be expensive but we have the option. There are also a number of small artisan or micro breweries popping up all the time. Thank god we don’t have to always drink Skol or Antartica anymore; it would be enough to drive a man to sobriety, or pinga.
The Italian food here is amazing, due to lots of Italian immigrants. But we also have some excellent Arabian food, German food and quite a few other types. We even have quite a good Indian restaurant now. The variety is here, as is the quality and it is usually affordable. (One proviso, please stay away from Santa Felicidade. All the tourists go there to eat because it was an Italian neighbourhood, but in my experience the food is over-priced plastic rubbish).
Greenhouse at night in the Botanical Garden (Wikipedia)
There are lots of big parks all around Curitiba. Curitiba is a strange big Brazilian city because it doesn’t have a beach, so these parks are our beaches. They are also, more often than not, used as flood plains so that when it rains all the water has somewhere to go.
Tons do Azul – Blue Tones by Mateus Pabst – CC-BY-2.0
While most people reading this have been suffering from a wet and cold winter in the northern hemisphere, we in the south have been enjoying our summer. On Boxing Day our family did the traditional Curitibano thing and left the city to go and enjoy the sunshine at the beach.
And boy, did we get a lot of sunshine.
New Year’s Eve clocked up 40° C, but it felt even hotter. We also had another couple of days that were just as hot, before it all ended in the last three days with torrential downpours and floods.
Just your typical Brazilian summer, then.
But as well as just having a good time we, or at least our 2-and-a-half-year-old son, learnt quite a bit as well.
What’s in a name?
Up until now, Mr T has never used his name. He has been aware of his name for a long time and would usually respond to it if you shouted it loud enough and for long enough, but whenever you asked him to tell you his name he just said ‘Me’. He also uses ‘me’ whenever he wants to refer to himself, for example ‘Daddy, me no nar nar now.’ (‘Daddy, I’m not going to sleep now.’)
But a few days ago, after a lot of encouragement and persuasion, he finally said his name. He hasn’t quite got the pronunciation right yet, but it was quite a milestone for all of us.
As well as learning to say his name he learnt the word ‘beach’ and its Portuguese equivalent ‘praia‘.
He learnt to say ‘bicho‘ which is a Portuguese word that can be used to talk about any animal, but especially small creepy crawly ones. If this creepy crawly animal doesn’t actually crawl but instead flies, Mr. T now calls is a ‘bee’. This is another example of him having to fine tune his understanding of words in the future.
Another animal that he named was ‘monkey’ because we saw some a couple of times in the garden next door to the house we rented. He is more likely to, make the noise of a monkey, but he did say the word a couple of times.
Mr. T has been going to swimming classes for the last 18 months or so. When he started he was the youngest in the class, but later this month he is due to graduate to the next level when he will be entering the pool without his mamãe. This means that he is very comfortable in the water, but has always had to hold on to someone as he can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, actually swim yet.
Small, but beautiful when it’s 40°!
For Christmas we got him a buoyancy vest that he can wear in the water to make sure his head doesn’t go under for more than a few seconds. This was the best present we got him as it meant he had total freedom in the pool at the back of the house we rented. Obviously, there was somebody with him at all times (one of the things he learnt in his class was to sit on the side of the pool and call for somebody to help him enter the water) but he was able to move around on his own by kicking his legs. He spent hours in that pool.
And last, but certainly not least, we have started potty training. We have had quite a bit of success so far, although there have also been more than a couple of accidents. And this process has meant a few other items of vocabulary have also been incorporated into his vocabulary.
I finally found the time to finish reading ‘Magus’ by John Fowles. It really wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but I am glad that I read it. The story is about an English man in the 1950’s who finds himself teaching on a Greek island because he can’t figure what else he wants to do. The book is about the nature of reality and what it means to have freedom. At least I think that is what it was about as the plot has so many twists and sleights of hand that it was at times a bit difficult to follow.