Saturday, May 31, 2014

Back in Blighty

It's always a pleasure coming back to England, even if this time is just for a few hours. I'll always feel that I am English culturally, even though I have not one drop of "English blood" (whatever that is) in me.

I just had a fascinating chat with a lady called Lydia from Warsaw about all this. She seemed a bit embarrassed to admit that she was Polish, as the mass immigration from Eastern Europe recently has attracted quite a bit of negative criticism.

The point I made to her was that although my dad was Lithuanian and my mother Romanian (two groups who are have a notorious reputation in the UK) I was culturally about as English as you could get. I had a chat with a guy from Essex on a Swan valley wine tour recently and, clearly, to him, I was such a 'Brit' that he felt confident enough to open up and moan about all the "Bloody Poles and Romanians" that were taking all the jobs and bringing in crime. I didn't have the guts to tell him the truth, so I just shrugged passively.

The point Lydia and I agreed on was where do you draw the line on all this? How far back in time do you have to go to get to that point when all the borders and populations were "right"? Even if you could agree on such a thing, how are you going to get back to that point? What kind of Nazi style ethnic cleansing would you need to set up to do it?

It's just nonsense, surely. People are people. There are good and bad in every population and most people are a mixture of ethnic origins anyway, if you go back far enough.

Anyway, this is getting a bit serious! Time for a beer! Boro is coming to the 5 tuns in Terminal 5 in a bit so I'd better make sure I'm there.

Next post will be from Rio, as long as I don't get so pissed I miss the plane!

Heathrow, Terminal 5
Sunday, 1st June. 8am

Jet travel is a privilege

It’s about 18 hours since the taxi picked me up and took me away and I have to say I’m loving it. What's up with all these moaning ninnies who complain about flying long distances and how tiring and tedious it all is? I can’t get enough, myself. Ok, the hour waiting in the cold night for Perth Airport to open at 2:30 am wasn’t exactly fun, but even that is part of life’s tapestry. I'll never forget the guy from Cairns and how he single handedly turned on all the heaters for everyone. I look back on it now and smile at the situation and the characters. The “breakfast” dished out on the Qantas flight to Sydney was, what word could I use but… shit, but hey, the bun and the yoghurt was ok. The seat was a bit cramped and I got the short straw being placed in the middle of two fellow passengers but I did still get some sleep. They were both interesting to chat to. The three hours at Sydney airport was a bit boring, it was frustrating that the "free WiFi" didn’t work, but then there was a bar and I had a few bevies that helped me get some shut eye on the flight I’m on now.

This flight has been great so far. A really delicious meal – spicy chicken with cous cous and two little bottles of red wine. I have had chance to do some reading, do a bit of Portuguese revision and watched the whole series of “Destination Brazil” – four documentaries about the 32 teams and stadia at the Word Cup. I have a spare seat next to me and the guy on the other side of that is a fascinating guy from Newcastle University (Australia) going to Edinburgh for a conference on education. The air hostesses have been very generous with the wine and the most stressful activities I’ve had have been to have actually get up, walk six steps, and go to the loo twice. We’re winging our way to Singapore where I’ll be able to stretch my legs a bit more and have a shave and brush my teeth before getting back on for the longest, leg to London.

So, in this emotional roller coaster, this is a good time. I’m feeling very lucky, very relaxed, very privileged. Lucky chap.

(Saturday, 31st May 2014. Somewhere between Sydney and London)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bizarre Start

I'm sat in the dark, shivering. But the guy opposite me has been sat there, shivering much worse for three hours. He's in shorts and a skimpy Aussie vest. All he has to help him keep a bit warmer is a socceroos shirt covering his chest, face down. There's a big number 50 on it, and above that, an unmistakable name...

A L G I S.

Unmistakable to me, that is, because I'd just chucked it him as a token effort to help him get a bit warmer. Next to him is a classic aussie old timer from Kalgoorlie who wanted to talk about his horses and the bets he'd placed recently.

This was the bizarre scene I found myself in about two and a half hours ago when I arrived at Perth airport only to find that the terminal was closed and wouldn't be open for another hour. The freezing guy was flying back to Kalgoorlie from Cairns - where it had been warm enough to dress like that. He'd forgotten to get his jumper out of his bag when he checked in and so he had to sit and shiver for four hours.

Eventually the doors did open and I was able to check in to my flight to Sydney. I'm now sat by gates 7-10 and in 10 minutes we'll be boarding. I can't wait for that. I really need some sleep having not really done that for a couple of weeks and this evening, not at all.

Anyway. The journey has begun.

I'm travelling very light indeed with just one hand luggage item for the whole trip. The thinking here is not to have to waste time waiting for luggage coming through the carousel at airports and to have everything handy at all times... like a few layers of extra clothes and a lightweight coat to put on at times like this morning.

Almost ready to go...

I'm sat here at home, waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport.

Almost two years of planning is just about done and I'm hoping that when I finally board the plane I'll be able to relax a bit. It's been a bit hectic the last few weeks, to say the least. Luckily, I've had lots of IT work as well as a fair amount of marking and prep for tutoring human biol at UWA, and I even managed to "complete" my PhD thesis, as I set myself a target to get all the chapters written up and passed on to Charles before I went away.

Today, I had my last two tutes and then a low key training session to finish off. Then I had a nice relaxing goodbye drink and meal out with Laima, Zemyna and Mitch before coming home to get packed and ready.

So, here we go. Fingers crossed I haven't forgotten anything or made any mistakes in any bookings! Last time, I missed a connecting flight in Kuala Lumpur and then left my passport on the plane in Kyiv.

Anyway... better pack the laptop and get ready...


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Four days to go - Thinking of the Brazil Tour

After arriving in Rio, I have six weeks in Brazil doing a kind of figure of eight tour staying at 22 different places altogether.

This is the list...

1. Rio de Janeiro
2. Manaus
3. Amazon Village
4. Belem
5. Sao Luis
6. Fortaleza
7. Maracajau
8. Natal
9. Recife
10. Salvador
11. Belo Horizonte
12. Ouro Preto
13. Belo Horizonte
14. Brasilia
15. Foz do Iguacu
16. Curitiba
17. Santos
18. Sao Paolo
19. Paraty
21. Ihla Grande
22. Rio de Janeiro



Monday, May 26, 2014

5 Days before flying from Perth to Rio, the long way round.

It's bizarre to think that as I write this, Rio is fast asleep pretty much on the other side of the world. (Well, judging by their tendency to party, maybe that's being a bit naïve.) 

Perth and Rio are not exactly on the other side of the world from each other. In fact they're about one third of the world's circumference away, not half, as they would be if they were literally a whole world apart. Both are well to the south of the equator in the southern hemisphere with Rio closer to it than we are. Rio is actually just in the tropics, whereas you'd have to drive all the way up to Exmouth, here in WA, to get as far north as that. But as far as time is concerned, Rio is 11 hours behind us. Manaus, where I'll be next Wednesday night, is 12 hours behind.

To fly from Perth to Rio, then, one would think it would be quickest to fly south, over the south pole. It's about 13,500 km away as the crow flies but no airline flies over the Antarctic.

But such are the peculiarities of the economics of air travel, on Saturday morning, before dawn, I will set off in almost the opposite direction to fly there through a rather bizarre route.

Flight 1 - Perth to Sydney (3,283 km)

First, I'll set off almost due east. This is the way I started out last time in 2009 - to Sydney and then onto Auckland before doing a massive flight around the Pacific to Santiago, Chile. This time, though, it's just to catch a flight to London.

Flight 2 - Sydney to Singapore (6,278 km)

It'll seem strange flying back over WA to Singapore, having just gone all the way over east, but there you go. I chose this route only because it happened to be the cheapest available on the day.

Flight 3 - Singapore to London (10,884 km)

The longest stretch is just over a quarter of the earth's surface away, from Singapore to London. Where I'll arrive very early on Sunday morning.

Flight 4 - London to Rio (9,231 km)

I actually have longer in London than I thought, so if anyone fancies a few Sunday morning bevvies at Heathrow, I'm up for it!! So then, just after noon, it's south to Rio, again, almost another 1/4 earth diameter away.

The overall journey will be about 29,676 km, then. That's 2.2x as far as a direct flight would be and represents flying round almost three quarters of the way around the world.

I'm hoping that I'll get enough (booze induced) sleep time on the flights so that I'm not completely jet lagged at the other end.

Happy Days.

Algirdo (Perth.)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Six Days to Go... Time to Create a Brazil Blog

This time next week, I'll be arriving in Rio de Janeiro for the holiday of a lifetime - a six week adventure in Brazil centred on the World's biggest football fest, the World Cup.
Rather than bombard Facebook with all my endless posts of selfies and selfish twaddle I thought I post them here instead. I'll still be keeping friends and family informed with a daily post on FB but the majority of it is going to go here. It'll be just a personal record of my adventure so I remember some little details I might forget otherwise.

I've been planning and saving for this for over two years now and I do feel that I'm just about ready. My Portuguese is still pretty awful but compared to the only other time I was in Brazil, May 2009, it's a thousand times better. Thanks to Duolingo I have managed to learn sufficient grammar and vocabulary to understand a fair amount of what I think I will hear, as long as people speak slowly. So, one key phrase I have tried to learn is...
Por favor, você poderia falar muito lentamente para mim?
(Please could you speak very slowly for me)
I was originally hoping to see all the England games but my "follow your team" ticket application failed so that was the end of that idea. Actually, I'm quite happy with that now because it meant that I could concentrate on touring Brazil and seeing the things I wanted to see. Well almost. My itinerary has obviously been guided by the football and when I managed to get a ticket for the England v Costa Rica game in Belo Horizonte, I had to switch my plans around a bit.
I'll go through the route in detail in a future blog but suffice to say here that I'm very excited about it. A big figure of eight taking in about 80% of what I really wanted to see most including three (or maybe four) games - more on those later too.
The cost hasn't been as much as I'd feared, as I've booked all my flights and the accommodation early. About a third of my stays will be in relatively cheap Poussadas through and half though the kindness of normal people through Air B & B. The match tickets were all reasonable too. So, hopefully the whole thing will not burn too big a hole in the bank balance.
The final thing I want to say here is a big thank you to my dearest, loveliest wife, Leb for not only letting me go and do this trip of a lifetime, but being typically positive and cheery and excited about it all. What a lucky chap I am to have such a fantastic partner in life like this.
I am already looking forward to 15th July 2014 when I arrive in San Francisco, a couple of days after the World Cup Final in Rio, and arrive at the hotel I've booked for us. Lele Jane will, I hope, already have settled in for a day or so, by the time I get there, after her annual trip to the UK. We plan to have a couple of weeks in California and then Hawaii before flying back to Australia together.
Happy Days!
(Lithuanian possessive of "Algirdas" - which I thought sounded kind of Brazilian, but I have been told that it just sounds weird! Never mind.)