Sunday, August 7, 2011

That ain’t the Geiko ghekko

When you travel you see different stuff.  When Marilyn came home from Japan all she could talk about was the damn electronic shitters they apparently have over there.  I haven’t seen any electric shitters but the bathroom I have here is different than the ones I’m used to.

Now it wouldn’t seem like a bathroom offers much room for innovation.  The functions we perform there are pretty much standard fare whether we’re Chinese, Czekoslovakian or Canadian but you might be surprised.  To start with we often see wildlife in bathrooms when we travel in Mexico.  Over the years Marilyn has had showers with a bat and with a variety of lizard-type critters.  A few nights ago this little guy was living in my bathroom.


Then there’s the whole issue of ass-wipe.  Without getting into too much detail I am coming to believe that the notion that ass-wipe should go down the hole with all the rest of the crap is a particularly North American thing.  Mexico for sure and my limited sampling in Brazil suggests that these countries don’t like paper with the poo.  There’s also a hose thingy beside my shitter that I’m afraid to experiment with.  I can only imagine what disasters might befall me if I started playing with it.  The image of Paul Hogan washing his boots in the bidet springs to mind.

Moving to the shower, mine comes equipped with an electric heater.  Now we’ve seen this technology before.  Carlos Juan, C-J as we call him, installed one of these in the bathroom in Guasave while we were visiting one winter.  At the time I didn’t give it much thought but now I wish I had paid closer attention.  I’m not sure how I’m supposed to use this one.  Like - - which tap am I supposed to turn on?  They both go through the heater thingy and the water doesn’t seem to get hot at first but then after a while it gets really hot.  There’s some switches and controls on the heater but I’m reluctant to play with them for a couple of reasons.  First off messing with 110 volt controls while I’m buck naked on a wet floor goes against everything I have been taught all my life.  Second the controls have words on them that I haven’t the faintest understanding of.


And while we’re on the topic of not understanding the labels, there’s the taps on the sink.  They show “Q” and “F” which I believe stands for Quente and Frio, hot and cold.  However no matter how long I run either one of them they consistently deliver the same not quite cold water. 

So mainly what I’m learning through travel is how little I really know.  Which I guess is the first stage of learning.  As learners we move from Unconsciously Incompetent to Consciously Incompetent to Consciously Competent and finally to Unconsciously Competent.  Right now I’m firmly stuck in conscious incompetence and I doubt that will change during the course of this visit.

A couple of days ago I moved to Sertãozinho – try saying that three times in quick succession.  I can pretty well guarantee you won’t get it right because they manage to extract the most amazing collection of sounds out of the same alphabet we use.  Mind you they put all sorts of squiggles, accents and dots on and around the letters.  But even leaving the various accent-type things aside they have completely different pronunciations for some of that damndest letters -  Walmart for example is “Walmarch”.  That makes figuring out the spelling of words that you hear a significant challenge.

Right now I’m waiting for the software geeks to iron out some wrinkles in the system.  It seems to be a given that on every installation there will come a time where I sit and wait for the remote geeks to do their thing.  This afternoon I drove in to Walmart/ch in Ribeirão Preto.  According to my hosts Ribeirão Preto is home to 800,000 people and I believe that today most of them had their cars parked at Walmart.  Either parked or going like hell on the highway. 

Michael said when he was down here that he didn’t think there were any speed limits.  There are definitely posted limits but he is right – they appear to be guidelines rather than directives.  Similarly with the “Pare” signs which are octagonal and painted red.  I had pretty well concluded that “Pare” must mean “Yield” based on how they were treated but I looked it up last night and it’s meaning is consistent with the shape of the sign.  I think Brazilian drivers are like Mexicans in the sense that the only time they are in a hurry is when there is a steering wheel in front of them.  Today I was passed by 6 crotch rockets while I was going slightly over 100 km.  They literally went by me like I was standing still – now you see them, now you don’t.  Every one of them had a woman on the back hanging on for dear life.

Thank God for Skype.  Every night Marilyn and I can hear the sound of each other’s voice for the grand total of …… nothing.  Last night there were something over 16 million other users online with us but the connection was better than most cell connections.  And on her end we’re doing that over a satellite feed that isn’t supposed to be able to support Skype.  The only way you could tell it was a satellite connection was a slight delay.

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