Thursday, December 26, 2013

Last day in Brazil

Hi there.  I am alive.  I did make it through.  I will not lie:  it has been rough.  There have been tears, and exploding microwaves, payments made in the nature of thousands of reais, broken glass, and promises unkept.  Moving is never easy, but moving internationally is a whole other challenge.  My husband is hoping that they let us out of the country tonight.  We've been told for 2 years that our permanent visas have been approved, and our names have been published, but we haven't yet been called to go to the Policia Federal and pick up the documents.  On December 23rd at about 4:00 pm, my husband realized that our "protocol" (i.e. little piece of paper that is very important) has expired, and there wasn't time to renew it.  My hope is that this is not an issue to leave the country.  But one never knows with these kind of things.  So send up some good thoughts tonight at about 9:00 pm that it all get works out.  

But we did get out of our apartment.  We sold everything except for 12 suitcases and the cello.  We delivered the car to it's buyer.  We have no keys left.  We have said goodbye lots of time, and laughed and cried with good friends.  We are going to miss this place that has been home.  With all it's challenges and cultural idiosyncrasies, it has been our home and and we made our place here.  Before everyone wakes up this morning, I'm going to go into the kitchen and wash and cut a deliciously ripe Haden mango.  I'm going to eat the whole thing by myself, celebrating realized dreams, and thanking God again for the all that I've been given.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Moving sale

Venda-se! Ainda tenho uma mesa com 6 cadeiras, uma secretária, duas camas, uma mesinha, artigos de cozinha, livros e arte para vender até o dia 13 de dezembro. 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/107146577@N03/

For Sale! I've still got things for sale: a dining room table and six chairs, a desk, two beds, kitchen items, art, books. Look here: 

The best way I've found to sell things here is by posting nice pictures on Flickr and then making a google doc to keep things organized.  Garage sales don't happen here.  Feel free to spread the word!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

We're moving

I've been trying to think of some nice, creative way to announce our departure, but I've been just too busy.  We're moving to the United States.  There were many factors involved in our process of making our decision, and the main factor is that we want to be closer to our families.  We moved to Brazil with the hope that we could show our children a different culture, to give them the experience of seeing a different part of the world, and to give them the chance to learn the language and hopefully thrive within another culture.  I would have to say that for the most part, we have learned that.  And I feel pretty proud of the fact that we have a good car, a nice apartment, and we are mostly satisfied with the schools the children attend.  We have figured out how to make a life here, and that is an accomplishment.

And now we are leaving.  Are we crazy??!!???

Probably.  But I would venture to say that everyone is a little crazy.  But I don't want to address that topic here.  My husband and I feel like we've had the chance to teach our children one of our values by living in Brazil.  And now it's time to show them that family is very important.  We have been saying it, but now we can show it.  And we are demonstrating to them that sometimes family is so important that we willingly and joyfully make sacrifices.  

Here are some of the details--
Date of departure from Brazil:  December 26
Last night we will sleep in our apartment:  December 12 (the rest of the time will be spent between friend's houses and hotels)
Where we will move to?  Cashmere, Washington
What we are doing for Christmas?  we don't know
What I will do for work?  look for a position in a school, and work on certification/a master's
What the husband will do? TBA
What the kids will do?  go to school
How we will keep up the Portuguese?  find some Brazilians, Skype, videos, books
What will happen to the hamster?  a friend is taking him
Have we sold the car?  yes
Can anyone rent our apartment?  talk to Adimoveis
Want to buy our stuff?  Send me an email, but most of it is sold.  I don't deal with Correios, so I don't ship.

I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed with the sheer volume of stuff I have to do in the next month, especially before we move out of our apartment.  Moving out of an apartment in Brazil is a pain in the hiney (you have to pay a lot of money and paint and fix everything).  And then I have to do report cards, help with 3 talent shows, 2 graduations, do all my normal work, help my children with their final projects, and take care of all the normal things of life.  Not to mention that it's VERY important for the children to have time to say goodbye to their friends, so I'm scheduling parties, sleep overs, final play dates and good bye presents.  Aaaaaahhhh!  

So, all to say, you may not see very much of me in the next month. But my husband has taken to blogging, so read what he has to say here.




Saturday, November 16, 2013

Açaí (ah-sah-eeee)



I can't believe I've never posted about açaí before (besides including it in the top 100 foods list)!  Açaí is a berry/fruit that grows on the Açaí palm, which is native to the Amazon.  It is usually served as a juice or a puree, sweetened with honey and mixed with yogurt, granola and bananas.  It is delicious, refreshing, and has lots of healthy antioxidants.  It is more common in the Northeast, but it can be found all over Brazil, and is a popular afternoon snack, served at ice cream stores or snack shops that specialize in smoothies and salgados (salty snacks).  

In the past 6 months or so, we've noticed a sudden increase in the amount of these snack shops in Belo Horizonte.  They are popping up everywhere, and they usually have the same kind of signage (a rectangular sign with images of fruits in the background) and the açaí included in the name of the store. I think that there is a new chain in town, but now people are piggy-backing on the idea, and without much creativity.  In fact, I've seen at least one store open RIGHT NEXT to another new store.  My oldest daughter loves to tell me all the names of the different stores, because some of them are just downright silly.  Here's a list of what she remembers:

1.  Rajaçaí--the açaí place on Avenida Raja
2.  Megaçaí
3.  Daçaí
4.  Taçaí
5.  Topaçaí
6.  Refresçaí
7.  Savaçaí--in Savassi
8.  Praçaí
9.  Peçaí
10.  And our favorite, Thaçaí, because Brazilians have a very hard time pronouncing the "TH" sound.


If I opened my own açaí place, I would called it "Saci açaí" (pronounced "saw-see-ah-sah-eeee") and have a picture of Saci frolicking amongst the fruits, eating açaí.  Anyone else have a names they can add to my list, or a creative name for an açaí business?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Suco de Cupuaçu

http://www.pomarvirtual.com.br/frutiferas/84-mudas-de-cupuacu-delicioso.html

I mentioned in my last post that I had Cupuaçu ice cream, and that inspired me to try out some different flavors of fruit pulp to make juice.  We tried the Cupuaçu blended with water and sugar.  A little bit tangy, but refreshing and enjoyable.  

Cafe do Mirante

Me and my sister, "mirante" in the background
My sister is here visiting, and she loves coffee.  Her love of coffee has rubbed off on my husband.  So we decided to visit a coffee farm while she was in Minas Gerais.  Unfortunately, due to our schedules, we couldn't plan a return trip to Fazenda Cachoeira, but several friends recommended Cafe do Mirante in Santo Antonio do Leite, which is relatively close to Ouro Preto (about an hour and 1/2 from Belo Horizonte).

I was able to schedule a tour via email (in Portuguese, but they were very quick about getting back to me).  For R$14 a person, we got a tour of the coffee farm, to see the production and storage area, sample the coffee, tour the distillery (alimbique), sample some cachaca, and tour the pousada.  The kitchen was closed, so we weren't able to eat there, but we brought a yummy picnic and enjoyed it on the grass yard with a beautiful view.
Picking Jabuticaba
The woman who made our sample of coffee was great, and we REALLY enjoyed the sample (her method was a surprise, and a little bit of a shock,but so worth it).  I also got to mark something off on my Brazilian bucket list: pick jabuticaba fresh off the tree!  November is the month to harvest, and there were  a few trees at the pousada.  It's delicious!
The library bus at Jeca Tatu

On the way back to BH,  we stopped at Jeca Tatu, a restaurant/museum unlike anything we've ever seen before.  There are several old American school buses that have been converted to rooms that hold books, memorabilia, old records, and all sorts of fascinating stuff.  Well worth the stop.

We also stopped for ice cream at Arte e Manha.  There were signs everywhere along the road, advertising their unique ice cream flavors, such as violet, guava and cheese (romeu e julieta), rose, and many unique Brazilian fruit flavors.  I had graviola (aka soursop) and cupuaçu (tropical rainforest fruit somewhat related to cacãu) and seriguela and cajá.  My sister had the goiaba e queijo.  I'd highly recommend any of they unique flavors.

We had a great day!


Monday, October 28, 2013

The dilemma of raising children in Brazil

Write on the board the word MORALS
They stole the chalk, teacher!

I'm a little behind, but this article was circulating Facebook a while back:

http://veja.abril.com.br/noticia/educacao/o-dilema-da-criacao-dos-filhos-a-etica-compensa

Now I can't say I've "studied" the article, nor that my quick scan of it has allowed me to fully understand the depth of the issue.  But I can say that I think I get the main idea, which is that Brazilian parents face a significant challenge while trying to raise their children.  Parents want to (and have the responsibility to) teach their children values, but they are doing so within a country where the "Lei de Gerson" (take advantage of everything and everyone whenever you can).  Essentially, those of us living in Brazil know that you really have to be looking out for number one here, because it really is a dog-eat-dog world.  The expectation is that others will take advantage of you.  They will take your son's stuffed animal one minute after it falls out of his bedroom window (true story, unfortunately).  Salespeople will over charge you for inferior products.  Those trying to buy a car will try to falsify documents (hence, the elaborate laws around verification and the existence of Cartorios).   They will throw trash in front of your apartment.  Elected officials steal money without shame.  Now, I realize that I'm speaking in generalizations, and there are exceptions, and there are many, many Brazilian citizens who are making the hard choices to be think of others before thinking of themselves.  But the article interviews parents who are afraid that if they teach their children morals, if they teach their children to obey laws, to follow the rules, to be honest, that their children will fall behind.  Parents fear that their children will be taken advantage of if they don't learn how to operate within the reality of the society.  So which is better, to uphold a higher morality, or to teach your children to be shrewd and successful within a culture of corruption?

As a foreigner with children, and as a teacher working in a school, I find this a particularly interesting challenge, and a cultural issue.  I'm not trying to make a value judgement here (I could, but I will avoid).  But I think that we face a difficult situation.  I want my children to grow up to be honest, responsible citizens who care for those around them.  And yet, we live in a culture where we are daily faced with a multitude of examples of dishonesty, irresponsibility, and a total lack of respect for others. How do I reconcile this?

And apparently the "levar vantagem" (take advantage of) came from this: