It occurred to us recently that we haven’t exactly chased the cultural side of life here in Brazil, however in many ways it’s found us nonetheless. You are possibly expecting stuff about people culture – graffiti, street performers, architecture, theatre, art etc – and there is certainly examples of all of that, but I’m going to digress and start right at the bottom with another kind of culture – very pervasive and of the micro sort. Yes, mould.

Despite all its other shortcomings, our first apartment was inhospitable to mould, being very light and airy, and we never had a problem. Friends would talk about the destruction of their clothes, the rotting foam in the cushions of their lounges and their spotty paintings, and we’d just nod. There were long conversations between others about ‘Mofos’ (always said as Mooofoooos, the same way Home Simpson says dooonuts, with a tiny bit of drool) where I honestly had no idea what they were talking about.

Apartments two and three were perhaps not so light and airy, but as we were there for such short stays, we were very good at ignoring any problems. However, this apartment – which is by far the nicest – is another matter and suffice to say the microbes have found us.

Mitchell's pencil case

Mitchell’s pencil case

Battle lines have been drawn and I now have enough information and field research results to write a PhD thesis on Mofos – plastic containers that miraculously fill up with water whilst inside your cupboards. They are our best friends.

But moving on up the cultural scale, things improve and we recently made an effort to seek more out by heading off for a day trip to a place called Petropolis. It is the old city where the ruling royal family would spend six months of their year – the hot months – out of Rio and up in the mountains. Although the country ceased being a monarchy sometime mid (ish) 20th century, (they were booted out by rich people who were annoyed by the abolition of slavery), Petropolis is viewed very nostalgically by the Brazilians and is well preserved with lovely old mansions that used to belong to the families of the court.

With this in mind, we did the traditional tourist thing and saw –

A church

A church

with some lovely stained glass

with some lovely stained glass

and a palace

and a palace

and some gardens with a big glass edifice thing in the middle

and some gardens with a big glass edifice thing in the middle

And then we ticked Petropolis off the list.

Which was just as well, because two days later we received news that we are coming home. Yes, it was quite abrupt in the end, as most postings to Brazil seem to be, but the client Gavin was working for ended their contract with his company and to cut a short story even shorter, we’re flying out on the 13th May.

We haven’t had a real chance to sit and think about it yet, but like the examples above, strongly suspect that there will be things about Brazil that we may not miss at all, but others that we’ve enjoyed and have left their mark. Most of all it will be the people we’ve met and who have become our friends. However, our time (and theirs) in Brazil was always going to be a discreet chapter, and despite the sadness of saying goodbye, there is also a lovely sense of anticipation and relief in coming home. Even coming home to a Melbourne winter, we’re still excited.

So this is the final blog post – Mirroring Melbourne both in title and probable content, doesn’t have the same appeal. Besides, we’d love to catch up face to face and hear how you are.

Thanks for reading and for all your comments. Tchau amigos and see you soon!

Cool Change

So Carnaval has come and gone for the second time and as I mentioned last post, we spent the holiday more wisely this year and headed off to the Argentinian part of Patagonia. Specifically we stayed in Ushuaia on the (large) island of Tierra del Fuego in the far south, the kick off point for all boats heading for Antarctica. Obviously this fact should perhaps have alerted us to what we could expect in terms of climate, but being only a few days past summer, we were a bit dismissive. (“Cold, shmold. How bad can it be?”) This attitude, however, snap froze and shattered on the tarmac as soon as we got off the plane, and it was undignified chaos as we disemboweled our luggage before even getting into the hire car, fighting for beanies, gloves and parkas.

Anyway, once we’d established the three layer rule, Patagonia was a truly fantastic holiday. Ushuaia is a little smaller than Bendigo, and although not wealthy, is clean (ish), organised, has no crime (apparently) and the environment…….well.


Tierra del Fuego only popped out of the ice cap less than ten thousand years ago, and the ice bridge that joined it to the rest of South America melted, stranding some of the fauna and preventing a lot of other species colonising. For example, there are no amphibians or reptiles of any kind and no large predators (eg panthers), only arctic foxes.

Here are some more pics.


Great hiking!

Great hiking!

Having fun on tour in the 4-wheel drive.

Having fun on tour in the 4-wheel drive.

Having slightly more fun getting bogged.

Having slightly more fun getting bogged.

On visual assessment only, why do penguins gain about 100 IQ points when they enter the water?

On visual assessment only, why do penguins gain about 100 IQ points when they enter the water?

Loads of fossils all along this stretch of coast.

Loads of fossils all along this stretch of coast.


Back in Rio again now and in another apartment. As you may have gathered from the fact that this is our fourth move, accommodation here has been troublesome. Luckily this apartment is very nice, nothing has exploded when it’s been plugged in, and if anything, we’re over-resourced in the appliance department. Three fridges, two (giant) washing machines – even a pie oven and a toasted sandwich maker. And they all work! We also have four toilets and four TV’s (not all in the same rooms) which is somewhat excessive, but strangely, the kids aren’t complaining.

This next week at the school is “Spirit Week” – where all and sundry are supposed to overflow with support for each other and revel in school spirit. Unfortunately all this means is that the kids have different fancy dress requirements FIVE DAYS IN A ROW – can’t tell you how much school spirit I’m feeling. So even though I’d like to sign off by saying there’ll be another post soon, the danger of me going completely mad is quite real, so I can’t make any promises.

Dim sims, Slurpees and Burnt Toast

It turns out there’s no better way to reflect on Rio than to go back home for a holiday.

We’ve just returned from a visit to Melbourne, and can I just say how nice it was. Christmas and school holidays, everyone in a good mood, catching up with with family and friends, hearing their news and just spending time…. it really was kind of blissful. The streets seemed wider and cleaner and how great is it that there are only two lanes of traffic in a two-laned road? Things were so familiar – and the food was heaven. Barbecued everything, cheesy-mite scrolls, dim sims, meat pies and (yes, thank you God!) the 7-Eleven was still stocking lemon lime and bitters flavoured slurpees. A true mark of civilisation, and if you’ve never had one you should go there right now. They’re open 24 hours.

Getting on the plane to come back was a little hard, (as were the suicide-inducing back to back fourteen hour flights. Never. Again.), but once we arrived, it wasn’t so bad. Cutting out a complicated and very boring tale, we are now in a new apartment, although only for a month. It’s quite nice but there are always things to adjust to – not the least of which is yet another kind of power outlet, one that has more volts. We found this out when Charlotte put some bread down the toaster. The element glowed nuclear hot for exactly five seconds and then the bread spontaneously combusted. A bit too exciting for 6am on the second day back at school, although strangely endearing in a “ah, Rio..” kind of way. It’s the sort of thing that is unlikely to happen in Australia, but if it did, there’d be the safety switch kicking in, the smoke detector going off and a lovely warranty that ensured we got a new toaster. Not in Rio, but what can we say? We’re living on the edge.

So Gav’s back at work – same role, different client, going well so far – and the kids and I are back into our own routines, with lovely friends. But even though we’ve settled back well, it has struck us that we’re all of a sudden in the ‘second cycle’. Christmas brought the same round of school concerts, I went yesterday to my second school meeting in regards to Charlotte going away on her second camp and we’re once again living through preparations for Carnival. (Our own preparations involve booking flights to Patagonia). Whilst the familiarity of this is reassuring, it also feels as though a switch has been flipped. Instead of being in our ‘first year’ – all new, scary, exciting etc, now we’re suddenly in our ‘last year’ – quick, what else do we have to see/do/experience before we leave?

Must get off the beach and make a list……

Feliz Anniversario

So, if no-one minds, I’m just going to start off this blog pretending that it hasn’t been months since the last post and I’m not appalling at this whole consistency thing.

Ten days ago, we had our first year anniversary of being in Rio. Can you believe it? Yes, it’s been a whole year since we arrived, (or fifteen months for Gavin, as he keeps reminding me.) I’ve mentioned this to a few people here and the question in response seems to be: “Has it gone quickly?” Strangely, we’ve all had to think about the answer.

The truth is, some parts of the year have flown by. When school is in session, Gav has work deadlines and I’m flat out (socialising), the weeks have just disappeared. We’ve had some big trips both in and out of Brazil and a few visitors, so there has always been ‘something on the horizon’ to draw us forward. Inevitably, too, we’ve fallen into patterns and routines that we’re comfortable with and the stress of ‘everything’s new and scary’ has dissipated dramatically as you’d expect.


There are certainly still times where a situation crops up that sends us (me) into an anxious frenzy and my default emotional response is to want desperately to come home and all I can think of is HOW LONG HAVE I GOT TO GO?

Typically, these situations arise when either something happens that makes us feel unsafe or someone gets worryingly sick (not mutually exclusive). Not long ago, Mitchell had a skin infection that while was supposedly easy to fix, it got out of control because as it turned out, he had an allergic reaction to the infection itself. He was actually fine, but me dealing with the school nurses, (PANIC, CODE RED!!!!), the doctor, (helpful but a bit baffled by M’s negative improvement with the antibiotics), and the specialist, who fixed everything with corticosteroids and a lecture on hugging (we apparently need to do more), was quite stressful. We survived this, (and when I say we, I actually mean me – Mitchell was always okay), but then last week I got another call from the nurses with yet another Mitchell crisis and could I pIck him up immediately. Like Pavlov’s dog, I am now programmed, so my anxiety skyrocketed.

When I got to the school, M was happily sitting in sickbay, reading a book. Unhappily, he was deaf in one ear owing to the fact another boy had popped a bit of rolled up paper in his ear and the nurses couldn’t get it out. (The other boy was in ALL SORTS OF TROUBLE which was good as it meant I didn’t have to go and strangle him with my bare hands.) So, to keep a long story long, because it happened at school, Mitchell’s medical requirements came under the school insurance. This should have been fine, but it’s Brazil, so although there are processes in place, none of them work. The nurses instructed me to go to the pediatric emergency clinic that accepted the school’s insurance. Once there, I had to ask them to ring the insurance company to get a claim number so that we weren’t charged. Obviously, no-one spoke English, so this was very difficult for me with only about 80 words of portuguese vocab and no verbs. Somehow it happened and M and I waited an hour and a half, only to be told by the consulting pediatrician that they couldn’t remove the paper because they didn’t have the right equipment and we would have to go to the emergency ear, nose and throat clinic.  She didn’t charge us but did say we would have to go back to the school to get a new insurance form. (Just so as you know, you can swear in a different language and people will still get the gist).

The problem was, the ENT clinic was miles away, traffic was awful and Charlotte was about to get home with no key, because we’ve just moved apartments. I wasn’t going to be able to make it.

Here was a classic moment of I Want to Go Home. In OZ, every second presentation to the Childrens’ Hospitals are objects in noses and ears and the situation JUST WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED.

So right then, Brazil was going very slowly and I had a moment in the taxi home, where I was counting the minutes until we come back at Christmas. (Mitchell couldn’t hear me because he was still deaf.)

Thankfully these moments aren’t frequent and this one ended like they all have so far. I got home, calmed down and syringed the stupid thing out myself.

Pilgrims, Pope and Portaloos

Quite frankly, having the Pope recently pop in for a visit was a little unsettling. World Youth Day was one thing – easily ignored as we’re not ‘youth’ or Catholic and obviously didn’t expect an invitation – but his Holiness and three million of his close pilgrim friends was a whole different kettle of loaves and fishes.

Security ramped up and we lost track of which troops were which with the military, the two or three regular police forces, the tourist police and uniforms we couldn’t work out. Helicopters circled the skies and navy frigates prowled just beyond the breakers. At the height of the action, there were five of these and in a stretch of only four kilometres, they looked quite intimidating.

One of the family of frigates

One of the family of frigates

In other preparations, an enormous stage was constructed, scaffolds holding huge screens and banks of audio speakers were set up down the beach and a range of temporary art installations appeared. All looked to go smoothly and with the floods of brightly t-shirted pilgrims arriving, there was a new feel.

Strangely, the moment the Pope touched down, the temperature plummeted. Seriously, it dropped about fifteen degrees and started raining. This didn’t deter the pilgrims who turned out in their masses the following night to line the path of his H’s first outing down the length of Copacabana Beach. Expecting the worst and ready to bolt, but feeling like it was something we had to see, Gav and I dragged the kids out and lined up beside the barriers for over two hours, feeling a mite fraudulent that we are not Catholic. However, no one demanded we produce religious credentials and the crowd was relaxed and friendly. In fact it would have been quite pleasant if not for the pervasive aroma of moth balls owing to the fact the lady next to me had obviously had to dig deep into a cupboard to find something for the freakish cold.

Pope Francis finally drove past in his now less than bullet-proof vehicle, waving and smiling and stopping to kiss babies. Everyone cheered and took photos and wandered off calmly once he had gone. It was all very civilised  – in a millions-strong youth group meeting kind of way. And for the next three nights, it happened all over again, each time with the Pope traveling down the same stretch, each night without anything going wrong. (Except for the issue on the final night, when the pilgrims staged a vigil and slept on the beach and we can reliably report that no amount of Portaloos could handle that demand.)

And two weeks later, the stage, the scaffolds and the pilgrims have all gone and everything’s pretty much back to normal – including the temporarily modified sand sculptures.

The ladies in their natural state

The ladies in their natural state

Very demure during Pope week.

Very demure during Pope week.

Finally, here is the beach (and the weather) just the way we like it!


Furry Cariocas

Sorry about the radio silence for the last few weeks – we’ve had school holidays, (still two more weeks to go), an out of town jaunt and yes, a bit of slackness. Anyway, we’ve recently had a couple of emails from home asking if we’re still alive, (perhaps in light of the riots that keep cropping up), and yes, we are. Yay! Generally the demonstrations that have garnered international airtime are well advertised and as we know there’s a high probability of them turning ugly, we just stay out of the way. Unfortunately, a down side to the upcoming Pope’s visit, (more about that next blog), is the likelihood of more riots, but there will also be a LOT of extra security so we’re not expecting any major problems. Fingers crossed.

A bigger issue loomed on Friday when we arrived home to find four fire trucks outside our building. It turned out that they’d just put out the fire in the neighbouring apartment that shares a wall with Charlotte’s bedroom. Not so yay and a lingering whiff of smoke, but on the brighter side, it was sorted out very efficiently with no visible damage to the building and certainly no one hurt.

So – school holidays. These have meant spending some more time on the beach and one thing we keep seeing which ALWAYS makes me think “I have to put that on the blog” are the dogs, (and sometimes cats) that are on parade. I think I’ve already mentioned it, but throughout Copacabana, people live in apartments and whilst elsewhere this might mean they don’t keep animals, here pets are very commonplace and from what we witness, highly treasured.

Along with the pets, there’s a whole busy industry that we’ve also come to notice. There are dedicated dog walkers who take little packs of dogs for a walk in the mornings and afternoons and within our small block, there are two shops dedicated to shampooing pets and selling every sort of pet accessory you could think of. This includes little pet ‘strollers’ (prams), outfits, shoes, hats, hair clips etc. So knowing this, we shouldn’t be surprised by what we see when we go to the beach or walking along the streets. Of course it’s rare that I have a camera handy, and even rarer that I’m brave enough to pull it out, (learnt that one the hard way!), so these are the results of some bad photography…..

This cat WAS NOT happy - note its special stroller in  the background.

This cat WAS NOT happy – note its special stroller in the background.

Dog Walker with a well behaved 'pack'.

Dog Walker with a well behaved ‘pack’.

And here are some photos I’ve pulled off the internet but which I’m positive are the actual animals we’ve seen when we’ve been out and about.

Cute shoes!!

Cute shoes!!

Tutus are very 'in' right now

Tutus are very ‘in’ right now

Such a well trimmed face.

Such a well trimmed face.

So not sure if the pets are actually, you know, happy – certainly some of them seem a bit overloved – but it’s a great spectacle for us!

Don’t Mention the War

As of the end of this week, the school year is over and Mitchell and Charlotte finally graduate out of their year levels after a year and a half of grades two and four respectively. Not that this has been a problem for them, they continue to be very happy at the school and we feel very lucky that it’s gone so well.

However, one thing that worked in their favour at the beginning has a flip side that has come to bite. Being an international school, the steady trickle of students coming in meant that ours were only ‘the new kids’ for about four days and this was great as they felt quite normal very quickly. Unfortunately, though, the steady trickle inbound also means that at certain times, there is a corresponding exodus and because it’s the end of semester, this is one of those times. Both the kids are losing a number of friends who are departing the country, and this has been a little sad. Hopefully it will only last until the first day of next semester when there will be a whole new influx and the holes are filled.

End of semester has also meant a gruelling schedule of duties that has driven us, (actually me), dangerously close to the edge of sanity. Aside from tests and projects to finish, there were events that included Portfolio Sharing, the Enrichment Fair and the Art Show. These just meant turning up and were quite manageable, but for anyone dumb enough (me) to think this might have been enough, think again.

Music presentations – yes, that’s one for each year level, so two concerts for us and meant organising costumes, (I hate costumes!), doing extra music practice at home and learning their script lines.

Festa Junina (June Festival) –  meant more costumes (!!) and organising ‘traditional food’ to take. The school was helpful and provided a list of food but unfortunately I was in trouble with the kids for buying Pao de Leite (dry white bread bun things) instead of Dolce de Leite (delicious fudge). Apparently all products leite  are not the same and guess which ones they took?

Pet day – (Pet Day???) When we got the notice for this, I can’t tell you how excited I wasn’t – talk about don’t mention the war. One of the smorgasbord of incentives we put in front of the kids to get them excited about leaving all they knew and relocating to a country they’d never heard of, was to tell them they could each get a pet when we returned. It worked but only to a certain extent. They were then okay to leave Australia (yay!) but now they want to return as soon as possible to cash in on the deal, and have spent a fair portion of the last seven months arguing about who’s getting the cat and who’s getting the dog. Pet day was a reminder that they are actually still petless and invoked another round. The next issue, was that pet day required each second grader to bring their pet along and do a talk about it. So because we do not have one, Mitchell instead decided to take a photo of the pet we left behind. Yes, our dearly loved old guinea pig Dandelion who has unfortunately just died. Hopefully it didn’t end in tears but I’ve been too scared to ask.

R.I.P Dandelion!  And a big hug for the lovely Caitlin and Michaela for looking after her in her old age.

R.I.P Dandelion!
And a big hug for the lovely Caitlin and Michaela for looking after her in her old age.

Oh and did I mention that parents had to accompany all pets and it was mandatory for them to have up to date inoculations? This was presumably so that when the inevitable brawl broke out, they didn’t give each other rabies.

Stepping back for a moment though, aside from the fact that we felt a touch bombarded by everything going on, each activity has been done with the students in mind and a lot of effort was put in by the staff. And, coming from the Victorian state system where resources are tight, the contrasting standard of art and music exhibitions was fantastic and the kids loved it.

In other news, the Confederations Cup has begun and as it’s a kind of precursor to the World Cup in 2014, (go Socceroos!!!), Brazil is somewhat in the glare of the global sporting spotlight and has consequently gone a touch mad. The public are using the opportunity to stage political demonstrations in all the  cities hosting the matches and unfortunately, although they are supposed to be peaceful, there has been a lot of violence. None of this has occurred in Rio, although this may change as there is a demonstration planned for tomorrow, and even as I write this, there is a helicopter gunship flying low over our end of Copacabana with a bloke sitting in the open doorway holding a big gun. The people on the streets seem barely to notice the constant presence of the navy, the military police and the helicopters, which indicates they’re used to them. For us, it’s a reminder of a level of volatility that exists here that unfortunately we’re never going to be relaxed with. Day to day safety is mostly fine with a few added precautions, but in terms of general safety and freedom to move around the city, there are significant limitations that contrast to what we’re familiar with.

However, it’s all part of the experience and it’s hardly the least safe place in the world, so we’re doing our best to go with the flow and not get too hung up on caution. After all, that bloke in the helicopter is there to protect us, right?



It’s very un-Australian, but we don’t have a car. Yes, a sad truth, and prior to coming to Rio, a situation probably outside my realm of imagination. This in spite of the fact I have watched Gav ride a bike to work for the last 18 years. (OMG – 18 years! Is that really true?) Unfortunately, my imagination is no longer required as we are living the reality which is that is our transport needs are now met via a ‘transport allowance’, which means taxis. And that in turn has meant that I have had to confront a deep seated prejudice and acknowledge that I am in fact taxi-ist. (This is not to be confused with ‘taxist’, although I am that too.) In Australia, the only time we ever caught taxis was to and from the airport, although this was infrequent and ALWAYS ended with the vehemently expressed – “We’re never doing that again!!!” And that wasn’t usually even me.

However, here our choices are limited to bikes, (yes, Gav has chosen this option for his commuting needs), buses, (lawless, super-crowded and at peak hour just plain suicidal), or the taxis. So taxis it is.

And actually, things aren’t that bad.


  • Taxis account for at least forty percent of cars in our neighbourhood so we never have to wait for one.
  • They will stop for you at the merest twitch of a finger and if they already have a passenger, they wave a special hand signal so you don’t feel ignored.
  • By and large, they are very clean and well maintained.
  • Unless you are coming from the airport, they are also very honest and the meters work.
  • In comparison to Australia, they are very cheap.
  • The drivers are generally very friendly and are normally willing participants in a pidgin portuguese (PP) conversation. That is – they speak portuguese and I speak a weird hybrid language with some portuguese words thrown in. (Not to be confused with the portuguese pigeon)
Portuguese Pigeon

Portuguese Pigeon


  • They rarely have seat belts. (Could result in death)
  • They travel as fast as possible. (Could result in death)
  • Because they have regular downtime, some have small TV’s so the driver can watch and keep boredom at bay. This unfortunately also means he/she might be watching whilst they are driving, which results in an anything but boring trip for the passengers. (And could result in death)
  • After dark, road rules and red lights are apparently optional. (Could result in death)
  • On Sundays, some pray along with the church services on the radio. Kind of kills conversation……. (But, I concede, not the passengers).
  • Some like to sing. And not just along with the radio. Mitchell and I had an interesting ride one day when the driver took upon himself to entertain us. Covers of Michael Jackson, Elton John and a lot more for about forty-five minutes. That killed conversation too. (But again, not the passengers.)
  • Some of the pidgin portuguese conversations can derail badly and then you’re trapped. Eg. One day going to to the school, we were in a taxi clipping along at the speed of sound when suddenly the brakes were slammed on for no apparent reason. I yelled out “Holy Cow! What was that?” which in PP came out as “Holy Carne! Que was that?” The startled look from the driver reflected that what he’d heard was – “Blah BEEF! WHAT blah blah blah?” He must have resorted to telepathy, because he pointed at a speed camera in explanation. Then he dropped all eye contact, sped back up and seemed most relieved when we got out. However this kind of situation is reasonably rare, most PP conversations end in charitable amusement and in general, the drivers are quite encouraging.

So, not that we really have much of a choice, but the pros of the taxis outweigh the cons and who knows, maybe by the time we come back, my taxi-ist prejudices may have been overcome. I truly hope so, because of course the first thing we’ll be doing is catching one home.

A Message from Mitchell

Hi, it’s Mitchell. I like Rio a lot, especially the beach and the food here.

Last Saturday, we went to this island called Paqueta. We hired bikes and rode them along the sandy roads. Apparently there are no cars allowed on the island so there were only bikes, horses or tractors. The boat we went there on was very big and it took one hour and ten minutes. On the boat, there were lots of people selling food and we bought some things called “Sugar Puffs”. I liked them.

When we got off, the pier was sandy and when we looked over the side, there were jellyfish in the water and dead fish.

The bike riding was fun but the brakes on the bikes were terrible and going downhill was very bumpy. Luckily there weren’t many hills though.


Riding on the sandy road


The view was really nice


This is Charlotte and our friend, Megan.


Good bike, bad brakes.

The horse carts were taxis.

Eating ice-cream after the ride

Eating ice-cream after the ride

The 5th longest bridge in the world.

The 5th longest bridge in the world.

On the way back, a plane went right over the boat and it was really noisy. We looked out the side and the airport was right next to us and the plane was coming down to land. The boat also went under the fifth longest bridge in the world which goes from one side of the Rio bay to the other. Other things about Rio are that the Lego is very expensive, there are lots of buses and taxis and I’ve been to the Corcovado but I haven’t been to the Pao de Acucar, (Sugarloaf Mountain). On the top of the Corcovado, I saw the Maracana Stadium which is the most famous soccer field in the world. That’s where they are going to do the Olympics when they are in Brazil. It is very big but not as big as the MCG.

My new friends at school are Evan from America, Adam and Jude from Lebanon, Axel and Emil from Norway and Santi from Houston. We all have fun together, usually playing four squares.

Tchau tchau.

(That’s bye bye in Portugese.)

PS – If anyone wants to ask me any questions about Rio, just leave a comment.

Fresh Hair

It’s been roughly fifteen years since I’ve bought a women’s magazine, generally sated by getting brief fixes when in doctor’s/dentist’s waiting rooms. However last week I crumbled in the face of temptation as we walked past a Newsagency displaying english language publications and I bought the May edition of Elle. I did this, as despite the fact that of the 353 pages, 223 were devoted to advertising, there was an extensive article on hair. And, in Rio, hair is something I am having many problems with.

I come from a family genetically consigned to hair that is best described by ‘f’ words. Frizzy, fluffy, freaky, fuzzy and others only hissed at the bathroom mirror. In fact the only ‘f’ word not used to describe our hair is flat. My genetic situation has been exacerbated in Rio with the added factors of swimming in salt water and the humidity, to the point where I’m mostly just frightening.

So, taking matters in hand, I attempted to make more effort with the appliances, (hairdryer and straightening tongs), I’d brought from home. Unfortunately, the power supply here is about 0.5 volts, so my tongs barely make it to lukewarm and the dryer just wheezes unhealthily, familiar as it is to 240 energy boosting volts. Okay, fair enough, I thought, and I made a trip to the store and brought new tools. Armed with these, I sat down to read Eva Chen, (Elle proclaimed Hair Oracle) and her advice on how to have brilliant, shiny, smooth locks in any climate.

The first sentence dealt a blow. Rather than talk about hair, she told readers that she uses an average of nine to twelve products on her face everyday – a scary thought. Soldiering on, however, things got better as she told, (without revealing subject numbers or methodology), that she’d canvassed women of the globe to find out which group was most satisfied with their hair. The result?

Brazilians! (Oh my God, how fortuitous.)

And what made them so happy? Apparently a daily practice of combing through oils – with many product examples listed. Giddy with knowledge of the secret, I went straight out and brought one of the products named and also another type with Australian Macadamia Nut Oil. (I couldn’t resist it and figured if it didn’t work on my hair, I could possibly just eat it or make a salad dressing.)

With success nearly within my grasp, I opened my new box holding the Brazilian brand matching hairdryer and tong set, their shiny red metallic exteriors assuring me of imminent hair perfection. Of course, this kind of optimism is usually doomed and in a country like Brazil it pays to expect surprises. It did not take me long to discover that although the tongs were fine, for some bizarre reason, the Brazilian manufacturers had decided to use a different size plug for the hairdryer – one that does not actually fit into Brazilian sockets. The outcome? A loud rant, (why, WHY, WHY?), and some swearing.

Luckily, there were better hair results from the oils – although flat is still foreign, (or should that be foreign?), and all the other ‘f’ words still apply, the Ozzie macadamias have at least made everything  a lot more fragrant.