Time in Isolation – Santa Casa hospital in São Paulo

I’m not ill very often. In fact, my wife has asked me when I am ever ill. Until this year she could never remember me once visiting the doctor. So in January this year I went to hospital for a full checkup. Of course, that was a planned visit so it doesn’t count.

However, a couple of months ago I got bronchitis and was knocked out for about a week by that. Then, more recently, I was ill again so I’ve managed to go years without ever troubling a doctor and this year I’ve been ill twice!

The thing I really did learn from my bronchitis was to ignore the feeling that it will all be OK tomorrow – I just need some sleep. I thought I had flu back then, but it got worse everyday and I had, probably, four days of feeling really bad before I went to the hospital.

This time I thought I had some dermatitis, a skin rash on my face near my left eye. It looked like it from what I could see online. But I had a really bad headache too. After a few days I decided to go back to hospital – a headache that lasts day after day and a rash that is getting worse is not normal.

They told me it’s a bacterial infection and gave me some antibiotic eyedrops to help my eye. The next day I didn’t feel any better, then the following day I could not even get out of bed. The pain was so intense I could not talk and my eye was useless – I could only use one eye!

My wife was at our house and I was at our apartment so I was stuck alone and had a big problem. My wife called a friend, Renata, who came over and managed to grab me and steer me to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately they would not accept my insurance, but I just said I’ll pay! This is something British people forget – in the UK healthcare is never charged at hospitals. It’s strange for me here sometimes, wondering if the insurance covers this or that.

Anyway, that was on Thursday last week. The doctor found that the skin rash was actually shingles and my eye was infected. So I had a virus attacking my eye! No wonder I had a big headache. They gave me one IV drip after another full of painkillers and after three of them I could talk normally again… for the past week I have been on painkillers, antivirals, and antibiotics plus seeing an eye specialist every day to ensure my eye is OK.

The pressure inside my eye soared because it was so inflamed… just two days ago it was still twice normal pressure inside the eye.

Anyway, the bottom line is that things are back to normal now. I’ve had an entire week inside hospital being cared for 24/7 by some fantastic medical staff. I can’t fault the team here at Santa Isabel in São Paulo. Although they come in to give me my first drugs early – about 05:30 – and my last IV drip is at about midnight.

In many ways it’s been nice. I’ve been plunged into a Portuguese-only environment so I have been practicing conversation with all the nurses and I have read at least one new book everyday. Add to that every meal served in bed, afternoon tea, and evening tea and it’s not been so bad – at least once the pain was under control!

One funny thing has been that as I lay in my bed here in the hospital, I can see my apartment building. The nurses here all think it’s really funny that I can look out and see home. The curved building, covered in blue netting, on the right of the photo is my one!

The lesson, as it was with my bronchitis, is really to judge when to see the doctor. Don’t ignore any illness even if you think it’s just a cold or nothing serious. If it has lasted a couple of days then go and get checked out – I know that I will be at the doctor quicker in future, though I hope that’s it for me this year. Twice in a year at hospital is more than enough for 2015!

I’m going home tomorrow morning. I’m grateful to the fantastic team here at the hospital. It was a painful start to my week here, but it actually became quite nice at the end 🙂

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Is Rio Excited About the Olympics in 2016?

Here’s the thing. A few days back was the one-year-to-go point for the Rio Olympics. The Olympic committee seemed pretty confident that most things are on track for the games. Some of the venues are ready now. Some are almost ready. From what I read there only seemed to be one venue that was really struggling to meet deadlines.

But we still have a year to go. Who can forget the images from Greece before the Athens 2004 games where it seemed that venues were still being constructed days before the events were to start?

But what I find really funny is how the media – in Brazil and globally – are all saying that nobody is looking forward to the games in Brazil. Ticket sales are low. People are worried about the economic situation. The Guardian even went so far as to suggest that people in Brazil are still upset about Germany thrashing Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup last year.

What is worth remembering is that this happens before every Olympic games. Take a look back at London. Perhaps I’m biased because I am British, but it was one of the most memorable Olympic events ever in my opinion. From the amazing opening ceremony to the way the volunteers changed the way the entire city operated. It was a time to remember in the UK. Ask most people in London about the Olympics in 2012 and they will have fond memories of a month when people were friendlier than usual – there was an improvement in the way the entire city functioned and people enjoyed it.

But a week before the 2012 games it was all different. I wrote about it at the time in the Huffington Post. The press were wailing that there was no security in London, that missile launchers were being erected on buildings, that bus drivers wanted to strike, that the tube would not run, that the Olympic bus drivers had no idea how to find the stadium, and that the budget was out of control… the 2012 Olympics was generally hated by the media.

That article was published one week before the 2012 games began and my point was generally to say, “look let’s get behind this now because the whole world is watching London.”

What response did I get? Almost 100 comments on the article and every single one saying what a complete tosser I am for suggesting this. Every comment complained about the Olympics in London.

Spin forward a week to the opening ceremony and every Brit was laughing at the Queen with James Bond, Mr Bean, singing Kinks and Beatles songs. Suddenly everyone loved the fact that the entire world was watching Britain and enjoying it. Suddenly people felt proud of being British.

But this hasn’t happened in Rio yet. In fact I expect it will not happen until the opening ceremony because until the event is really underway, it’s not “real”, it’s just a future event that could always be a disaster. At least that’s what the press tells us.

So I for one am not listening to a word about how the Brazilian psyche has been so disturbed by Germany’s goals in 2014 that it is now impossible for them to enjoy the Olympics. Or that any questions of economics will make people enjoy sport less.

The sports pages are full of so much garbage. The bottom line is that Brazilians are going to welcome the Olympics to Rio next year and I hope I’m there to enjoy it with them.
Mirante Dona Marta - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Running more = reading more

I’ve always liked running, but I’m prone to the same problem as everyone – I run out of time. If I don’t do it first thing in the morning then I feel too tired by the evening and it doesn’t happen. Then, once you are out of the habit it can feel really tough just to put on the trainers and do 5km.

But I’ve been making more of an effort to seriously get out and run most days. As you can see on my Nike+ app, I managed to run 153km in July – that’s getting close to four marathons in one month.

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It’s great to be back out on the streets more regularly – I don’t go to a gym – but I’ve also found a spin-off benefit. I’m listening to loads of audio-books while I’m running and I usually then leave the book running while I go home and get ready to do something else.

I use the Audible app on my phone for audio-books – take a look at my monthly listening stats:

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As you can see, I’m a regular listener anyway, but the push to run most days has boosted my book time. I totaled over 104 hours listening to books in July – mostly political biographies, but now I just started on Stephen King’s fictional story set around the JFK assassination 11/22/63.

It’s a great outcome that I’ve managed to get through so many books by using this time to listen to books rather than music. I know some people prefer music as it’s more motivational – Spotify can even play music where the beat reflects the speed you are running at – but I like to switch off and get into a book.

I’ll see how it goes in August, but I think I can probably beat these numbers because it’s a quiet month for my clients – USA and European clients are taking a lot of holidays right now. 🙂

Help with my new MacBook

I got a new MacBook recently. One of the things I’ve always loved about Macs is how easy it has always been to migrate from an old one to a new one, but I’m having problems this time – I’d appreciate some ideas.

This is what I did when I got the new computer:

  1. I used Migration Assistant to migrate everything from my old Mac to new Mac using a wireless connection. It was all running fine, but was very very slow. It was going to take about 30 hours. I hoped the estimate was wrong and left it running all night, but the estimate was right. I quit the transfer about halfway through.
  2. I then tried making a complete Time Machine backup of my old Mac and restoring this to my new one. However, the Mac then refused to start up (endless Apple logo) because the two machines have different operating systems.
  3. I tried to use CMD+R while booting to reset the machine to factory settings, so I can start again and do the full migration no matter how long it takes. However, to do a complete reset requires that the Mac downloads the latest copy of the OS and reinstall it so that the Mac will be wiped clean with a new operating system. When I go to select the disk to install the new OS it says the disk is locked… I can’t go on.

So I’m a bit stuck. What I want is just the easiest way to completely reformat the Mac back to factory settings – and if I am already on the right track then how can I ensure the main disk is unlocked.

I haven’t done a thing with this computer yet, it’s just getting frustrating that this time it is taking ages to move on to the new device, yet it is usually so smooth with Apple. Does anyone have any suggestions please?

MacBook light shift

Coffee – from the berries to the cup down on the farm

My house is located in rural São Paulo. In fact, it is so rural that from my windows I can see a mountain range and lots of coffee growing up the side of the hills. This photo is from one of the nearby hills looking back at the town in the valley.

Serra Negra hoje #serranegra #cafe #coffee #altodaserra

Although I am surrounded by coffee and I can buy the local coffee in the shops nearby, I had never seen a coffee farm up close – until yesterday.

An agronomist, Jonas Ferraresso, working at the Boa Esperança coffee farm in Serra Negra noticed me tweeting about the area and he said hello. We have talked on and off on Twitter for a few months now and he eventually asked if I would like to have some coffee at the farm. So I went over and he gave me a tour.

This farm is very close to the town centre. There is no need to go on dirt roads to get there so it only took me 5 minutes to find him. Jonas showed me around the farm by car, because with over 350,000 coffee trees it would take a long time to walk it!

There are about 20 people always working on the farm because the coffee trees need to be looked after all year round – pruning and fighting bugs. Then there is the harvest from about July, which can take around three months and needs around another 60 people.

In many Brazilian farms like this the harvest can only be done by humans because the trees are planted on steep hills. This also means that the trees need to be limited to about 2m tall. Where a farm can use mechanised harvesting tools they can manage without the extra employees, work about a hundred times faster, and do the harvest in several waves – only ever picking the ripest berries rather than just picking everything.

I was really interested to learn about some of the different coffee varieties and the difference between a premium coffee and the cheap instant stuff you might find in a jar of Nescafé. I don’t buy instant coffee anyway, but after visiting a farm and seeing the real stuff I don’t think I ever would again.

The best thing was when he said that I could take some coffee home – straight from the farm. But the coffee he had for me was still berries covered in their skin. First Jonas put the beans in a roaster – we roasted them at 200c right there in the farm.

 

After roasting Jonas ground the beans for me. He said that it’s preferable to wait about a day after roasting before grinding, but as I don’t have a grinder at home he just did it immediately.

 

I’m grateful to Jonas for showing me around. Something many of us miss when living in cities is the connection between products in the supermarket and the farm they came from. I loved it that I saw the berries being roasted, then ground, and I went home with a bag of coffee that was ready to use and smelled fantastic!

 

Coincidences – in a city of 20m people!

Carnaval is the enormous party the marks the beginning of Lent. It’s still another week until the festival officially begins, but this is Brazil so the weekend before Carnaval is full of street parties – “blocos” – celebrating that it is just another week until Carnaval!

I went out to a few different blocos yesterday and there were some incredible coincidences all in the same day. My wife knew that her dentist and his family were going to be at one particular party, but the party was so big that we could not even see the stage where a band was playing Beatles songs. Yet even though we were surrounded by thousands of people, we found them almost immediately.

Later we were walking down the street, in-between parties, and we met the girlfriend of our friend’s son (who had just recently visited us in he countryside) – and she said that she was walking near our apartment hoping that we might be about! So we all went to another party together…

Then, as we were walking home later in the evening, my wife saw her cousin. In fact she said to me “that guy over there looks just like my cousin”, so we walked closer and it was him! We didn’t even realise that he was in São Paulo!

Even in a city of 20 million people we still managed to bump into friends and family in unexpected ways – all in one single day and with no arrangement using mobile phones!

Bloco Soviético #bloco #carnaval #sovietico #soviet #saopaulo

Welcome to 2015!

Welcome to 2015 – happy new year! I’m quite keen to get on with 2015.

I have a book that is about to be launched imminently. I have a second edition of my Brazil book almost ready to launch, so that will probably also come out in January, and I have a sketched out plan for another book that I want to be ready by around Easter.

I also have some plans to get back into my daily running routine again and to improve my Portuguese – possibly with some intensive immersion lessons. These are not really like resolutions – I’m not going to drop these plans next week.

I need to improve my Portuguese to integrate further in Brazil. I need to stay healthy and fit and I was always running before, but over the past few months the combination of a lot of travel and the holiday season meant I just let it slide for a while.

I’m fortunate that I like my work and I’m always excited about creating something new. I see many people on my FourSquare app checking into their workplace and counting down the days to Friday – literally wishing their life away and happy to tell the world how bored they are with their life. But I love where I am right now and I have a lot of exciting plans for 2015, so let’s go 🙂

Nascer do sol #serranegra #nascerdosol #sol #sunrise #saopaulo