Friday, December 31, 2010

Prósporo Ano Novo

One last post to say goodbye to 2010, a good year in my book. A move to Brasil, new jobs, a new cat, lots of mangoes, lots of fumbling through Portuguese and some humorous (in retrospect) mishaps, but mostly we survived a BIG move and have successfully lived here for almost 10 months. We can get by here. Heck, we more than get by. Thank you to all of you who read this, who share comments, who wander through. Here's to the approaching mango season, another month of vacation, and to Brasil.


Sunday, December 26, 2010


My in-laws are here for Christmas, and we're having a wonderful time. There are many things I will have to catch up on (with the blog, that is). But I wanted to share one thing: we're sitting in the living room, and my father-in-law said, "is that ringing?" After almost 10 months of living here, we've begun to ignore some of the random noises that happen all the times. The alarms, the garage doors that ring, the dogs, the birds, the honking, buzzing, squeaking, blaring, shouting and squealing. So it always cracks me up when I hear him or my mother-in-law asking, "what's that noise?" We've been there, we are there, and we're learning to live with all the noise.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! We went to bed early (10 pm) because Matt was a little sick and we were tired, but the rest of Brazil was doing there Brazilian Christmas thing, and the noise reached a fevered pitch at midnight, and then the fireworks, screaming children, yelling and loud music went on through the night. I thought about sending the kids downstairs with their new skateboard, roller skates, and loud high heels at 8 am to wake up the neighborhood, but I was kind. Besides, it probably wouldn't have even mattered because folks here really don't get bothered by noise like us quiet loving Americans. More on our trip to the pousada, learning to drive, Ouro Preto II and general fun soon...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Party weekend!

Vacation time is here, or as I said to Matt this morning, "let's go to vacation land!" The kids had their last day of school on Friday, and then we inaugurated our vacation with a weekend of fun. On Saturday we went to our friends new house in Nova Lima; the wonderful, amazing, hospitable and kind friends who hosted us when we first got here. They've been working for 10 years to build this house (Brazil!) and just a few weeks ago they moved in. It is truly beautiful, a little outside of the city, so it was quite and green and lots of space for our kids to run around. Here they are playing:

On Saturday evening, I had graduation at the Canadian school, and Matt took the kids to a Baby Shower in Pampulha. Dora enjoyed the hammock:

Yesterday (Sunday), we went to the Christmas luncheon for the Filarmonica. We posed by the new car in our nice clothes (finally, a picture of the car!)

And finally, a birthday party! One of my English students invited us to her grandson's 3rd birthday. The party was beautiful Brazilian chaos: loud music, super hot, the birthday boy waaay too stimulated, kids drinking coca-cola by the gallon, a candy free for all, and of course, the requisite cake and brigadiero table. It was glorious. I took two pictures of the brigadeiro table, but they really don't do it justice. The table was probably 3 feet by 4 feet big, with a luscious chocolate cake. But most importantly, hundreds of brigadeiros and little candies, all laid out in an impressive design. And the table was surrounded by big plastic animals, and then a balloon "tent" for lack of a better description. Enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

How to take the bus in Belo Horizonte

Hi there! After taking the bus with two children to a new location the other day, I realized how far we've come in mastering public transportation in the past 9 months. So I want to share my wealth of knowledge with you--essentially something I wished I would have known when I first moved here.

1. Plan. Use google maps and put in your starting address. I'll use the kid's school as my point of reference. See here. I decided early on to change my language preference to English, just so I wouldn't get too confused (I don't need any additional challenges when trying to get around!). Once you put in your address, then click on "Directions" and put in the address of the place that you are going. I'll use BH Shopping (the mall) as my destination. Then make sure that your starting address and destination are in the right spot (i.e. you are starting at the school and going to the Mall, not the opposite). And click on the little picture of the bus. It gives you this (click on the see larger map for the details).

View Larger Map
It give you a couple of options for buses, and you can even select the date and time when you want to depart. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Some buses only run weekdays, and all the buses have different times, and possibly routes on the weekends or on holidays. It will also give you an estimate of how long it will take you to get to your destination, but this is always a very rough estimate; I always assume it will take at least an extra 20 minutes. If you are not familiar with the partida (stop), use "street view" so you can get an actual view of the area. This is very helpful. Yesterday I had the address of a specialty Chocolate store, but when I got there, it didn't exist. I came home, looked on "street view" and it turns out that the entrance was actually on the street perpendicular to the address. Go figure. The other thing to be aware of is the direction that the bus is going. Sometimes it's not clear which side of the street you need to be on, and I've found that sometimes Google maps isn't clear, or even tells you the wrong direction. If in doubt, always ask the bus driver, someone waiting, or the person who takes money. I have also started asking the money taker to notify me where I should get off if I'm not familiar with my destination. Most of the time this has worked out well; only one time did the money taker give me wrong directions, and thankfully it didn't prove to be too disastrous.

2. Get on the bus. In order to get on, you have to flag the bus. Don't be shy about it; stand out part way in the street and wave it down. Once you get on, hold on to anything you can, because the drivers are crazy, and the roads are horrible. I've never fallen, but my children have. The first part of the bus is for the elderly, disabled, pregnant, or nursing moms--those who get to ride free. You don't give you money to the driver, but go to the turn style, and pay the person there. They only have change for up to R$20, and sometimes even that is more than they like to handle. After giving your payment, push thru the turn style. Sometimes you have to wait for the money taker to let you thru (unlock the turn style). There are no such things as transfers, and you don't get any kind of receipt. You can purchase a bus pass (not sure where) and then your second trip within 30 minutes is discounted (or on Sundays, free!). But if you lose the the bus pass, you have to pay R$15 to get it replaced. So guard it.

3. Sit down. If you are lucky, there will be places to sit. If you need to get by someone, a simple "licensa" is polite. Frequently, there is no place to sit. So just grab a hand rail and hold on for dear life. If you have a big bag or backpack, people will frequently offer to hold in on their laps. I almost always take advantage of this kindness. If it's really crowded, you will feel like a sardine. This is when you try not to breath too deeply (especially if it's a hot day) and try to enjoy this wonderful part of Brazilian life, being crammed in together with all of humanity, trying to get somewhere together.

4. Getting off. There is a cord running along the ceiling in the middle aisle or a button on a pole to push before your stop. I always get up and stand at the door at the stop before mine. Once you get to your stop, you have to move quick. The drivers like to shut the doors as quick as possible. If for some reason they close them before you get out, just give a yell and they open it up. If they don't you can always resort to banging on the door. That usually does the trick.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another holiday!

I don't know if Brazil really does have more holidays than the US, or if it just seems that way because we are not familiar with these holiday. Whatever the case, I like days off! Today we were supposed to go to the Museu de Historia Natural to see the Presépio do Pipiripau (a nativity scene that I've heard lots about), but unfortunately we got wrong information, and it was closed. Boo. But the kids handled it well, and even managed to entertain themselves while we waited in the parking lot for our ride home:

Don't worry, the "puppy" went away without any one touching him.

But then we came home, whipped up a a lunch, went swimming, decorated a Christmas tree, ate Christmas cookies (Corrine, you are the BEST!), listened to Christmas music, and had a fun day with our friends. Of course it was about an hour and 1/2 of running, jumping, and children trying to "help" by tangling the lights, dropping ornaments, and doing the Nutcracker dance up and down the hallway. But it was fun, and the tree has all the ornaments at the bottom, which is always beautiful:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Successful Portuguese Customer Service Experience

We've been having problems with our internet the past few days. We could access Brazilian websites, but couldn't get on Facebook, Chase, I finally decided to call our Internet company, and they have an automated phone system (you know, press 1 if you are having technical problems, enter your account number). Well, I successfully managed the PORTUGUESE phone prompts, and even scheduled a visit from a technician. And he came! I thought it was kinda crazy that we could schedule it for 8 pm on a Saturday night (actually, between 8 pm and 11 pm), but he really came. Granted, he told us that the problem was with our router, and then Matt magically fixed it this morning. But I feel pretty proud that my Portuguese has gotten to the level where I could manage this, considering I couldn't even activate my credit card back in May!

I'm recovering today from my super long day at work, but I will report that all 6 classes did a great job singing their songs, looking cute, and wearing their cute Christmas outfits. Matt has a concert today, but I really have nothing planned. If it doesn't rain, maybe we'll go swimming. I need to get Sebastian some new shoes, but that will probably have to wait for another day. Heck, maybe I'll even make some Christmas cookies!! I must admit, it really doesn't feel like Christmas to me because it's getting so warm. Such a different experience. But Dora is busy making her Christmas gifts, and I'm trying to make my more real week of work, and then the real resting and relaxing can occur.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's expensive here!

When we were considering moving here, Matt's employer told us that it was 20% less expensive to live here that in the states. Having been here for 9 months, I totally disagree. Things are just plain expensive in Brazil. And not the greatest of quality. Sorry, I've been wanting to avoid saying that, but last night I had to sharpen Sebastian's pencil TEN TIMES during the course of doing 30 minutes of homework, and the pencil sharpener kept falling open, dropping shavings all over the floor. So, I will admit, things are sometimes of a somewhat inferior quality (tape, pencils, soap, maxi-pads...don't get me started...). So here's a website that helps break down prices, and give you and idea:

The only thing I would say is that what it reports as rent for a 3 bedroom is very low. Maybe this is the average, but we are paying more than what they say.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A nice day...

We finally got our package from my mom--hooray! We'd kind of given up hope, so it was such a nice surprise to get a big jar of peanut butter, birthday cards, tee shirts, books, coffee, and Body Shop goodies (thanks Mom!!)

Matt also shared with me a cute thing that Bea said this morning. He heard her waking up, and went into her room to go get her. She usually gets up herself, so he asked her if she wanted to stay in bed a bit longer. She said, "no Dad, I have to get up to see Brazil!"

I'm getting excited to have some visitors for our vacation, and "seeing Brazil" with them. We're planning a trip to Jaboticatubas, perhaps another trip to Ouro Preto, a vacation in Rio, and more. Only 2 more weeks until I'm entirely officially on vacation!!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Portuguese mistake of the day

Big difference between a casquinha

and a cavaquinho

So no wonder people think I´m crazy when I say, "Can you play the ice cream cone?"

brief reflections

This morning was not a horrible morning, but a challenging one. As I was doing the dishes, I was trying to figure out why it felt so much more overwhelming. It started out when we realized that we were out of butter (we did lots of baking and cooking for Thanksgiving). I knew that a trip to the grocery store was in order, but I just hadn't been able to schedule it. This week is particularly busy (extra rehearsals and concerts for Matt, and the end of the year all day event on Saturday, which includes me having to find a full day of childcare for the kids...), so trying to schedule a trip to the grocery became the piece that put me over the edge. My husband and I had some "intense fellowship" (as a friend of our liked to call it), and then we notice that the cat is pretty much camped out in the litter box, or peeing in the corner of the dining room. Great. Another thing I wasn't planning on having to deal with the other day. But of course this problem comes from the fact that I couldn't find the medication that he is supposed to be taking for his ongoing urinary infection (2 drug stores and 2 pet stores in our neighborhood didn't have it, but a clinic several miles away has it, but I couldn't must up the Portuguese to call them to ask if they could deliver....). And then there is the ongoing issue of the bank card being blocked because someone at the bank tried to help me to make the transfer for our vacation rental, and ended up causing more problems. AHHHHHHHHH!

Okay, I'm breathing now. So, I managed to convince a very obstinate 3 year old to take a shower, take the kids to the vet, to find out that we should just come back with him to give him a shot until we can track down the medication. So, return home, chase down cat, and back to the vet. Shot. Return home. Clean up from breakfast. Turn on the tube to help me gain some sanity. Phone calls to arrange for childcare on Saturday. Phone call to cancel class today because I have to meet with Sebastian's teacher, and the only time I can is during my class. Make lunch. Make lonches (snack), feed children, do dishes again. Check to make sure cat has not peed in the corner. And now I'm here. Rambling, and venting (thank you again internet).

So, I think that we've figured out how to manage our life, if everything goes as plans. But in a family of 5 with a sickly cat, nothing ever goes as planned. And in the States, I had back up plans, and people I could call, and family and the language, so it made it somewhat easier to cope. But here, it's just little old me and hubby, trying to navigate the crazy waters. I was realizing over dishes, that many of my blogger friends are married/dating/in relationships with Brazilians, and I know that comes with it's own challenges, but when living in Brazil, I think it's helpful to have someone close who can help you understand. As foreigners, we just have no "native" skills for interpreting what is happening, no local knowledge, and all our assumptions and expectations that we bring as to "how things should work." I think that's why so many people are surprised when they meet me and they find out that I'm not married to a Brazilian, but I'm living here. But, I have to say, that if there ever was a partner to help me stay sane as we live in another country, it would have to be my dear hubby. Even though we bicker about butter and responsibilities and many other important and less important thing, he works his tail off to take care of us. And he's just so good with people. And he's a lot of fun in the process.

Thank you for listening. I've now got to go take the kids to school, but that crazy feeling I had at the beginning of this post has disappeared, and I'm starting to feel grounded again.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Whew! We've just finished our Thanksgiving dinner yumminess, kids in bed, and about to crawl in bed myself. It's been a full week: we bought a car! we successfully made an apple pie from scratch! i went to my 2nd Filarmonica concert, with Dora! Did I mention we bought a car? Hopefully pictures and more details coming soon....I have a crazy full week. Not only do I have a normal workload of students, but also an end of the year performance at the Canadian school on Saturday, that will last T W E L V E F U L L H O U R S. And have I arranged childcare? Heck no! I'm so Brazilian!! Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, and are starting your Christmas shopping!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

While shopping for fruit

So I should be working (yes, I know...Saturday night!?! In Brazil!!? It's getting to the end of the year, so there is lots of last minute editing, preparation and extra "things." Like learning Michael Jackson's "Heal the World" so I can help 5 teachers sing it at their end of the year presentation. Which, by the way, the end of the year presentations in Brazil are C R A Z Y!!! We're talking rent an extra hall, have the kids buy nice new outfits and graduation gowns (when are they ever going to wear those again!?), making sure the kids are POLISHED with their singing and choreography, hiring professional musicians to accompany said kids, and hiring profession photographers and videographers to capture all this. So, all to say, I'm busier than usual. But here's a little something that made me cry in the sacolão this week, and it wasn't because I had to go shopping with my kids (that is a recipe for gray hairs).

Pears on sale! This comes out to about US$0.94 a pound. I'd bought some a few days before, and they were really good, so I went to get some more.

And this is what I saw:

I can't get the image to flip, for some reason. But these pears are not Argentinian, they are from the US, and from Wenatchee, the town where I was born!!! I tried to ask one of the guys who works there why it said Argentina, but I couldn't understand him. And then I told him that these pears were from my homeland. He said they were pretty good, but he didn't really seem to care. But I know all you will care!! Now, back to work.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thirtheenth Month Salary!!!

Hooray--the first "installment" of Matt's 13th month salary was deposited in our bank account today!! This Décimo terceiro salário is something I'm VERY thankful for, and something I love about Latin America. In addition to his regular December salary, Matt get's an extra paycheck. And we just realized that there is no medical taken out of the 13th salary. Which makes sense, because you can't pay for health insurance for a month that doesn't exist. In addition to this extra paycheck, we will get an extra "bonus" of 1/3 Matt's paycheck to pay for his vacation. I still don't quite understand this, but I guess the idea is that you need a little incentive to really go on vacation. Hooray!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thankfulness #6

I'm soooo thankful for Matt's work, and his work schedule. There's really not a regular schedule, but he will either work 3 hours in the morning or 3 hours in the afternoon. He usually is able to either pick up the kids from school, or drop them off. He doesn't have to leave the house until about an hour before his rehearsal, and he can usually walk, or grab the bus if he needs to. He has about 2 concerts a month, and has had the opportunity to travel the Northeast (Belem, Manaus, Natal, Recife, Salvador, Fortaleza), has gone a quite a few tours (São Paulo, Uberlandia, Juiz de Fora, Inohitm). All on the Filarmônica's dime. And when he gets back from his tours, he has days off. And the cherry on top is that his last concert of the year is December 16th, and he doesn't start work in 2011 until February 28th. So, all this "extra" time affords him the opportunity to play extra gigs, plan his own personal concerts, and even take some private students. It is a beautiful thing. Plus I get to enjoy all the beauty of the concerts, the practicing, and the quartet rehearsals in my living room. Thanks Matt!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thankfulness #5


On fresh pão do sal. With a little jelly. Yum.

And the containers replace all the beer glasses I've broken.

Read about it english here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thankfulness #4

I'm thankful that the cat is not dead.

Seriously, this morning I thought George was going to die because he was making red xixi in the bidet. After the 2nd trip to the vet, we've now got him on antibiotics, and a special healing diet to get him all better. As much as he is a crazy, un-affectionate, early morning meower, he is a part of our family.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankfulness #3

There were several things yesterday! I received 2 or 3 "mob" hugs from small children yesterday at work where I had to peel the kids off me. I'm also grateful that Dora's illness has passed, fever is gone and she's pretty much back to normal. And at the end of my long day at work, I walked to the bus, and there was a guitar on the bench. I struck up a conversation with the owner, and he complimented me on my Portuguese, and I really could understand what he was saying. I'm findin that comprehension is coming along and improving. This is a great things!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Halloween Pictures

Oops, got a little behind! But here they are. They go from the end of the party to the beginning:

Brazilian pumpkins are not as big as the kind of pumpkins we use at Halloween, and more flat. But they make for cute jack-0-lanterns.

Sebastian and his jack-o-lantern

Bea, Elise and Clara. It was the first time that Elise had carved a pumpkin, and she LOVED it.

Clara, one of Bea's favorite friends here.

Kevin helping his mom bob for apples. This was by far the highlight of the party. Kids and adults loved bobbing, and got totally soaked!

Very cute cake, made by Corinne. And absolutely delish...

My witches brew punch: the witch only managed to lose her pinkies.

All the kiddos in their costumes.

Bea and Kevin

Sebastian--the costume only lasted for about 10 minutes, but he loved being a ghost.

Bea, eating cookie #12 of 207. Sugar overload!

Mariana and Dora--Mariana was a bat, and Dora an angel.

Thankfulness #2

On Monday night, Dora did her homework almost entirely by herself! She has really come a long way with her Portuguese, and is feeling much more confident. They've been working on learning parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, etc) and she told me that she actually was helping some of her classmates, and teaching them what verbs are! I'm so proud of her!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It's come to my attention recently that I'm complaining quite a bit. I've always tended towards the "glass is half empty" world view, and I think that I've made strides in this area, but at the 8 month mark here in Brazil, and with the approaching holidays, and the increasing saudade I have for my family and all things familiar, I'm whining. But in the spirit of November, I'm going to practice a little more thankfulness and focusing on the things I love about Brazil. So here we go!

I love the kindness I find on the bus. Yesterday I decided to bring the guitar back home from work, so I had to carry both my back pack and the guitar. Unfortunately there were no seats (this is normal), but two people who did have seats offered to hold both my guitar and back pack. And later, when I was getting off the bus, a young man pointed out that my back pack was open, and zipped it up for me. These small, polite acts make me so happy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Beatrice has been chanting for months

Yesterday at work, I heard a little girl singing the same song that Beatrice has been chanting for months. I've been trying to figure out what it is, and the teacher's assistant told me the name! I'll put it in both Portuguese and English:

Atirei o pau no gato,
Mas o gato não morreu
Dona Chica, admirou-se
Do berro que o gato deu. Miau!

I threw a stick at the cat,
But the cat did not die
Mrs. Chica, was astonished
At the cat's scream. Meow!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Post Halloween Party

Success! There was a little rain at the beginning, and a lot of wind which prevented the streamers from staying up, but we had a fun Halloween party! Big thanks to my partner in crime, Corinne! Apple bobbing, pin the nose on the pumpkin, decorated sugar cookies, carved pumpkins, a really cute Pumpkin Cake, and lots of candy and children running around in mostly homemade costumes. It was a great time. Hopefully I'll get some pictures up tomorrow. Boa noite!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pre Halloween Party

Hi there! I've been very preoccupied with the Halloween Party that I'm hosting today, hence the lack of posts. I'm questioning my sanity at the moment, since I'm making everyone's costume and trying to do everything I can to make it "homemade". Plus to mention I'm planning an event for a holiday that isn't really celebrated here. I'm hoping the weather will cooperate and everything will come together. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Quest for Coffee: Successful!

It's Sunday morning, and the kids slept in! Bea didn't get up until 7:45 am. So I was in a great mood, puttering around the kitchen to make breakfast (yogurt, pão de sal com mantiega e geléia, or yogurt and little loaves of a french bread with butter and jelly). Matt bought coffee yesterday, so he started making the French Press. But! The gas wasn't working--just a little tiny flame. This has happened before, but usually when they are changing the gas on a weekday. So I told him just to wait a few minutes and try again. 5 minutes, and a little improvement, but it became clear that we were not going to get hot water. Then, comes the moment that I love as a foreigner. It's the moment of panic, when I realize that I don't know how to solve this problem. Now thankfully, this is not a problem involving blood, poop, broken glass or massive plumbing problems. It's good to have perspective. But at this juncture, I realize that I don't have the tools to solve it quickly, and it may start to unfold to a larger problem. Like caffeine withdrawal headaches and grumpiness. Or no Moroccan Chicken stew for lunch, that I've been craving quite intensely for 3 days. Or trying to deal with Miguel or the Gas Company. But first things first, the goal is coffee.

I decided to take the full pot of water to our neighbors on the 8th floor that have two small children, but on the way out I heard the neighbors on our floor in their kitchen. Even though I've never really talked to them, I decided to ask I could boil my water in their kitchen. Then I find out that they have no gas either! Thinking that it's just a problem on our floor, I went up to the 8th floor, but no one was there. Then I came back, and Matt and I deliberated for a while. I finally decided to take the French Press with the ground coffee to the Padaria (bread store) up the street to see if we could get hot water. So I walked up the hill a bit, and in my broken Portuguese begged the woman behind the counter for some hot water. She said something, and I gathered that it wasn't quite hot yet. So I wandered around the store, picking out some treats. After about 10 minutes, she finally remembered, and filled up the French Press! I then booked it home, and now I'm enjoying my coffee. That only took 1 1/2 hours. But we have coffee. Now the kids are swimming (it's a little warm) and we still don't know what's going to happen with the gas, but maybe we'll go out to eat, which would be an acceptable trade for not getting to eat my Moroccan Stew. I'm off to swim!

Friday, October 15, 2010

My experience with the Internet: online shopping

I love the internet. I love how I can find answers so quickly, keep in touch with my family and friends, entertain my children, find recipes, and get obsessive about using recycled materials to make light fixtures. We're a little bit addicted. But at least I've moved past the denial stage, right?

One thing (among many!) that has taken some adjusting to, is the lack of online shopping we've found. As far as I can remember, there are really only two places that we've been able to use the internet to save money, time, transportation, and a frustrated Portuguese phone call: ordering our TV/internet/Phone service, and buying a wedding present for Beatrice's teacher. Here's my internet shopping wish list:

grocery delivery (so far it I think it only exists in Rio and São Paulo)
beauty products (like the BodyShop!)
school supplies
affordable clothing (maybe if I could even just find an actual store for this...)

Anyone have any websites they want to share that would meet these needs? Any helpful hints for online shopping in Brazil?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ubá mango

Sebastian and I went to the Sacolão today (which, by the way, he corrected my pronunciation! "It's sac-oh-lão, mommy. Not sack-ah-lão!") and we found a good price on Ubá Mangoes.

Aren't they cute?! They are little baby mangoes...They come from Ubá, a city at the very south of Minas Gerais (thanks Wikipedia).

On another mango note, Matt noticed that the two big trees that we see out our bedroom window are mango trees. HUGE mango trees. I'm hoping that mangoes are like citrus was in Arizona, or apples/pears/my dads tomatoes in Washington state. Or zucchini.

And on yet another mango note, I found this website that has lots of pictures of different kinds of mangoes.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Dia da Criança

Today is Dia da Criança, or Children's Day here. From what I've gathered, it's essentially just an excuse to buy presents for kids (and I think that the link says something Johnson & Johnson promoting the holiday, so it makes sense). It corresponds with Nossa Senhora Aparecida,
but neither of these holidays seem like a reason to set off fireworks at 7 am. But don't worry, our kids were up by 6:15 am, because after all, it is Dia da Criança. We are going to head out soon to a small party at some friends house, and just spend the day playing and eating and lounging. Sounds marvelous.

I haven't been posting much recently because I've been going through a new stage in expat transition. We've been here seven months now, and we've gotten out of the "crisis" mode and pretty much figured out how to live day to day here. Thank goodness! So now, I have enough space to think about what I want, what would make our home more like a home, and even to think about what we've left behind. I love living here, and I love what I'm learning and what my children are learning. And recently I've been missing "home" a lot. I miss my family. I miss knowing how things work. I miss getting in the car to go to Target to buy sunscreen/tortilla chips/cheap plastic goods. I miss sending the kids out to play. I think these feelings are going to intensify as the holidays approach. I don't want to use the blog as a place to vent (well, not too much), so hence, not many posts.

But now, I have to finish up, because the crianças are getting restless and I have to go eat a whole mango...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Something to think about

I was looking for some material for my students last night, when I came across this article:

I'm still not sure if the author is 100% serious, but I love what he says about putting oneself in a new situation, and I feel like it helps me understand the past 7 months:

"It would be a beginner’s life. But the beginner is confined to the little things, to the meaningless exercises and pointless mechanics. The expert, in contrast, sees the big picture; the world opens up before the sweep of the expert’s skills. To give up one’s habits, to break free of the arcs, is to trade in one’s expertise.

You gain time, but you lose sense."

What do you think?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kids and Portuguese

Dora has a friend from school over right now for a play date. They are playing this clapping, rhythm game in Portuguese and Dora knows all the words. This is exactly the kind of thing I hoped for--maybe I can catch it on camera...

Beatrice has a Barbie computer (in English) and I was trying to work with her today because she's been a little slow learning her letters. I was asking her to find the "Q" and she was having a hard time. I finally showed her and she said "key", which I realized is "Q" pronounced in Portuguese. Then I asked her to identify some other letters, and she was doing it in Portuguese. Go figure.

It's been over six months now, so I think that our kids are still doing remarkably well with the language acquisition. We felt like our biggest goal was for them to learn the language, and it's happening! We're still trying to find a tutor for Dora. For some reason, it's hard to find a qualified Portuguese teachers that don't overcharge and are available to come to our house in the mornings. But I'm still looking!

Off to hang out with some American friends and eat eggplant sandwiches...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Nothing too exciting...

Matt's back from tour, and we're starting to get back to a semblance of normality. He has a week off from work, so we're enjoying extra time with daddy. Plus he's offered to walk the kids to school more frequently--whoo hoo!

The kids have had about 5 birthday parties the past week. What I'm finding is that birthday parties are either huge affairs (catering, blow up bouncy toys, lots of candy, and hours of socializing) or smaller "lunch time" parties at school. I'm a fan of the school parties: the kids get an invitation in their agenda (school calendar that is used to communicate information back and for the between parents and teachers) and the day of, our kids don't have to bring their "lonche" because they get to enjoy cake, juice and goodies. I still haven't figured out if your supposed to give gifts for these (sometimes we do, sometimes we don't). But I like the celebration at school, and the smaller event. Don't get me wrong: I like the brigaderios and meeting new people and fun of the big birthday parties, but sometimes they seem a bit much. Sebastian did get an invite to a "fantasia" party last weekend, where the kids dressed up Halloween style and played games like "carry the egg on the spoon" and only ate cake (I just dropped Sebastian off, so I didn't get to see all this). But I like the low key celebrations.

I've had a bit busier week than normal because I'm preparing for a workshop tomorrow at the Canadian school, but I'm all done! So I'm planning on spending a mellow evening with my hubby and going to bed early so I can wake up early (the workshop starts at 8 am and it take me about an hour to get there with bus schedules and all).

All for now!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Suco de manga

I don't usually buy juice here, because it has SO much sugar in it. But Matt is still gone, and sometimes the little things can make kids happy. And I learned something from the juice box! It's in Portuguese, but I'll translate (I'm getting pretty good at translating written Portuguese).

"Mango is originally from India, and was brought to Europe by the Portuguese, who learned of the fruit from their maritime expeditions. Mango is the most consumed fresh fruit in the world. In Brazil, several types are marketed: Palmer, Tommy and Haden, having less fiber and more flavor, and the classics, Carlotinha, Rosa, Espada and Bourbon."

I bought a Haden at the sacalão the other day, and I have a new student that said that he will bring me mangoes from his hometown next time he goes. Yum!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

walking to school

Yes, we are still hiking, I mean walking to school most days. I have been much more liberal with our taxi usage, but we still try to get there on foot. On Tuesday, it got suddenly hot, and Sebastian was in a terribly grumpy mood. His legs hurt. He was thirsty. He was hungry. His backpack was irritating his shoulders. He was tired of listening to Beatrice whine. And so on and so on. This culminated in the following statement:

I want to move back to Arizona.

Now, my kids have said this on a few occasions, and I've never really taken it seriously. It usually comes at a moment when they just don't like what they are doing (homework, walking to school, chores). I usually don't respond, even though everything in me wants to say something like, "Do you remember how much you complained about walking to school? Do you remember how much you hated homework in Arizona? DO YOU REMEMBER HOW FREAKING HOT IT WAS IN ARIZONA????" But I just bite my tongue, and try to think of something to distract them.

But on Tuesday, Dora quickly responded to Sebastian by saying, "but if we lived in Arizona, we wouldn't get brigadeiros! And pão de quiejo! And you wouldn't play soccer everyday!"

This coming from the girl who the day before hated Portuguese, and hated homework and wished that life could just be easier.

I love my kids.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shopping Oiapoque

I had a relatively unscheduled afternoon, so I decided to venture to the Popular Market or "pirated goods crazy bargain shopping center". I first heard about Shopping Oiapoque from a student at my first English teaching gig, and he told me that he thought it was a place where you have to be extra careful. So I came prepared today: I only brought what I needed, my purse was zipped up the whole time, and kept my hand on it as I browsed, making sure not to get too close to other shoppers. Maybe I'm a bit naive, but I really didn't feel like it was that different from walking downtown centro in terms of being wary of pick-pocketers. One thing I've noticed since moving here is that people tend to look pretty good, no matter what their social status. People wear Nikes, the latest soccer shirts, carry nice purses, have their nails done, and so on. After today, I can see how the poor are able to afford such things. It's all about the knock offs. I found it funny that this place has a website, staff to clean the bathrooms and halls, and many of the kiosks take credit cards. It's the contradictions that we are so comfortable living with here: illegal merchandise sold conveniently.

Here are some of the deals I saw:

DVDs 4 for R$7
TONS of videos game, in fact many kiosks had TVs so you could try them out!
"Puma" purses R$20
"Nike" shoes, lowest price was R$30
Knock off Oral B toothbrushes (didn't get the prices on those, just thought it was funny)
Lots of cell phones and computer , but didn't bother checking prices
Snoopy backpacks R$13, and assorted pencil bags four for R$10

These last items were of particular interest to me, because 1) we have 3 kids. 2)back packs at Lojas Americanas (I guess you would say the equivalent of Target here) carries cheap backpacks for R$50 and pencil bags for $R14+. So Oiapoque has some smoking deals on some school supplies.

Overall, it was not as exciting as I hoped it would be, but I was tempted to buy some shoes. My horribly filthy Avias are an embarrassment here in the land of sparkling, nice shoes (have I mentioned that Brazilians have an obsession with nice looking shoes?). Plus, they are starting to fall apart because I've put so many miles on them in 6 months.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kid's events at Teatro Dom Silvério

Yesterday we got an invitation to go to a program at Teatro Dom Silvério. Every Saturday and Sunday at 4:00 pm until November, there are various shows and performance for kids, some are even free! We saw Barbatuques, and the kids really enjoyed it! Tickets for kids are "meia-entrada" so only R$5, and adults are R$10. Check out the rest of the schedule, including the free events on September 25th and 26th and thoughout October.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Serra do Cipó

On Monday, we took a trip with our good friend Corinne to Serra do Cipó, about an hour and a half drive outside of Belo Horizonte. It's close to (or on?) the Estrada Real, a road built during the hay-days of gold and diamonds in Minas Gerais. We first stopped at an area that had a restaurant, pousada (inn), store selling handicrafts, and horses! We were hoping to be able to walk to a cachoeira (waterfall) but you had to be guests of the pousada. But we did get to pet the horses.

We went into town to look for a pizzeria, which unfortunately was closed, but we did find a nice self-service place (food by the kilo) called Panela da Pedra. We had to wait a while for it to open, so the kids wandered around the gift shops and the pousada behind the restaurant.

The food was very good, and I was able to finally know that I was eating some tropeiro (I'd tried it before, but didn't know what I was enjoying) and had some "Romeo and Juliet" which is Minas cheese with guava (it's on the upper left of the plate). Yum!

Then we went to Véu da Noiva, which is within a YMCA campground. It was R$7 for one hour, free for kids under age 10, and R$20 for the entire day. I loved seeing Brazilian camping! When I think of camping in the states, I think of getting away to a quiet, peaceful place, and always looking for a nice, secluded spot, away from other campers. Not here in Brazil! There were TONS of people, and all their tents were all together. The swimming hole was crowded, and there was live music, and at one point, lots of people started singing along.

In order to get to the waterfall, you have to hike up a fairly short trail (10 minutes or so). But it's pretty rocky, and crowded. I would not recommend flip flops, but Bea insisted on them, and she insisted on walking by herself. Now, why can't she do this on the way to school everyday?

Véu da Noiva was nice, but a bit crowded and a tad bit dirty. But we also visited on the day before a national holiday, so it was busier than usual. The actual waterfall isn't the best place for little kids to play, but I think ages 5 and up (and good swimmers) could do okay there. The main pool does have a wading area, and a larger "pool" for swimming. Some other friends of ours stayed in the Chalets that are there, and that might make a fun weekend away. Though I imagine it gets pretty hot later in the year. Then we went into town for ice cream.

We decided to try to get to Cachoeira Grande ("Big Waterfall"), but the main entrance was closed. So we kept driving down this narrow dirt road, and ended up at the Parque Nacional. It was near closing time, but we thought we'd just go in and poke around a bit before making the trip home. The kids were thoroughly entertained by this parrot sitting at the entrance.

But then we found out that the other entrance to Cachoeira Grande was still open, so we decided to head back to try to catch it. I think it's normally R$20 an adult (kids are free), but because the sun was starting to set, they only charged us R$10. I LOVED the hike from the gate to the falls--it was well maintained, wide, and there were lots of pretty things to look at.

It was about a ten minute hike/walk to the falls, and it was quite manageable for kids. Plus we could hear the falls, so that was added incentive. These falls are quite as kid friendly (i.e. large drop offs), but much more beautiful. Plus the sun was setting, so that always makes everything look even more beautiful.

On the walk back to the car, Bea decided to make "hand prints" in the dust on the trail, and then fell flat on her face in the dirt. She was filthy.

We did end up driving back in the dark, but everyone did remarkably well (no barfing! no major melt downs, well at least until the end). Very fun day!

Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm thankful for...

Most nights, we ask our children, "what are you thankful for?" Unfortunately, our children have a tendency to whine, complain and generally gripe about a lot of things. Ever since Dora was about 2, we've been trying to uphold this practice, with the hopes that expressing gratitude might eventually help them to truly be grateful people.

I'm feeling the need to practice a little gratitude tonight. So here are the ten things that I'm thankful for today:

1. George. Our cat. Who knew that he would be such a source of entertainment and affection. And as I type, he is knocking things over in the kitchen.

2. An invitation! I got an invitation today! To what, you might ask. I don't know! But a fellow parent at the school invited me to something tomorrow at 4:00 pm somewhere by Avenida Nossa Senhora do Carmo. Thankfully I have her phone number, and I do know her name. That always helps.

3. Help. I am SO grateful that we have help that comes 3 days a week to iron, clean the floors (a dream come true!) and watch the kids so I can go grocery shopping alone. This is a huge gift.

4. Compliments. I got two compliments on my Portuguese today, and one yesterday! Dora's teacher said that she could understand me (somewhat) now, as opposed to not at all at the beginning, and some fellow parents were impressed as they overheard me at the school tonight. Here's to not studying!!

5. Pipoca. Pretty much every night at school we buy popcorn. It's the best R$1 we spend all day, because it helps make a little 3 year old so happy.

6. Caffeine. Be it coffee, chocolate or coke zero (no diet coke here), I'm thankful for tasty artificial stimulants.

7. Blog and internet connections. Yesterday I got to chat with a woman who is considering moving here. She got my email from a friend, and found my blog. She brought me peanut butter, chocolate chips, a new tee shirt, and two outfits for Bea. And I got to talk to an adult for 45 minutes yesterday, and be called her "hero". Wow.

8. English students. I really like teaching English. Especially conversation classes. It's a little bit therapy, a little bit of teaching (which means I have to crack open the grammar books myself), and a lot of fun. And I get paid. And I have great students.

9. The yellow trees that are blooming.

10. The taxi driver that only charged me R$2.35 for a R$5.20 ride. He didn't have any change for my R$20 (huh?), so I just gave him all my coins. Taxi rides to school make everyone happy, but seriously discounted taxi rides make mamãe very happy. So happy that she buys herself some #6 without feeling any guilt.

There you have it! And I feel better too!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

rain! and thoughts on homework

It rained last night for the first time in months! It woke me up, and I went thru the house closing up windows. Unfortunately I also woke up because Sebastian had a bad dream and Beatrice decided that 5 am was good time to wake up. I brought her into bed with me, and thankfully she fell back asleep. But as a result I'm a bit tired.

And I was all excited tonight because I thought that I had AN ENTIRE AFTERNOON WITH NOTHING TO DO tomorrow, but it turns out that my new student really does want to take classes with me, so I have one class. This is ultimately a good thing, because income is good, and students are my way to do that. But oh, the thought of 5 hours of unplanned time to myself...I could go look for some shoes! Or go to that coffee shop that I've been wanting to go to! Or pay bills! Or meet up with the folks that are considering moving here! Or take a nap! I'll have to save that for another day...

But before I go prepare, I want to say one thing about our decision to have our kids study at a Brazilian school, learning Portuguese. I love listening to my children speak Portuguese. I'm so glad that we decided to enroll them in the school that they are at. After several months of worrying, I think that Dora has turned a corner and is now much more willing to make mistakes and to try speaking. But one thing I didn't really consider, was the amount of time that I would have to invest in helping with homework. Beatrice has none--the benefits of being a 3 year old. Sebastian has homework, but he's always loved homework (go figure!) and it's still easy enough where he can mostly do it on his own. But Dora...oh my. It takes me at least an hour a day to help her. I have to read it myself and make sure I understand, and then figure out how to help her understand, and then work with her. And she is going through a "I hate homework, I wish everything was easy" phase. So really, what should take about 45 minutes, ends up taking 2 hours. Matt says that I should just devote only a certain amount of time to it, and then let it go. But I know that this is a good process for Dora (learning that even thought she thinks she "can't" do something, she really can), so I suffer through it. I know that there will be a turning point for her, with both the attitude and the Portuguese, but right now it's not very fun to me. Thankfully, I'm learning from her homework, and I find it interesting. But budgeting time for homework in another language is a serious commitment.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happy Brazilian Independence Day

We just finished up a great four day weekend: swimming, a trip to Mangabeiras Park with a friend from Sebastian's class, a trip to Serra do Cipo, and today we hosted a BBQ at our house. It was a very relaxing weekend, and I will hopefully be putting up some pictures and details about our trip to Serra do Cipo. Not only is it back to the reality of work and school tomorrow, but Matt left tonight for what he is calling the "Filarmonica Fantastical Magical Mystery Tour." He'll be gone for 13 days, performing in Salvador, Recife, São Joao, Natal, Fortaleza, Belem and Manaus.

Me, on the other hand, will be continuing my on-going walking tour of Belo Horizonte.

But seriously, I'm missing him already, and really hoping that things go smoothly the next 2 weeks. The kids were tired tonight from running around and swimming, but I could tell that they were also a little anxious, missing daddy. I'm hoping that I can find some inner calm and strength, and that despite Matt's absence, we have a fun, "living in the present" couple of weeks. And almost on cue, there goes Beatrice, doing her nightly "cry for no reason".


Sunday, September 5, 2010

So I really should be grinding peanuts

We're trying to conserve peanut butter, so I've resorted to food processing peanuts to try to tide us over. We give the kiddos peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their "lonches" everyday, so we have been quickly working our way through the 9 pounds that we had sent to us (thanks Grandmas and Grandpas!!!) Plus I found out that our helper loves the stuff, and I think she was secretly sneaking spoonfuls :-)

But I'm not grinding peanuts, because I got SO excited that this humble little blog was mentioned in a meme game. Then I had to add my the brazil blogs that I read (don't worry, I read a lot more than that; I just couldn't list them all!) and then look at all the features on checking the blog's stats, and read about 5 more extra blogs. Ah, the things that get me excited and distract me from doing the things that would help life go a little more smoothly tomorrow.

And speaking of tomorrow, I'm going to Serra do Cipó! I really don't know much about it, except that everyone who finds out I'm going says, "oh, it's so wonderful." I know that it's a few hours outside the city, and there are waterfalls. I'm just excited to do a little day trip and to get to spend time with a friend. I'm taking the fun new camera with me, so hopefully before too long I'll get some pictures posted. My hubby is leaving on Tuesday night for a 13 day tour, so I might actually do a little more posting during that time. Maybe I'll have my own little "13 day tour of blogging". Hmmm, nice idea.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A little of this, a little of that

It's Sunday morning, we made buttermilk pancakes with homemade syrup, and I'm enjoying a second cup of coffee. The kids are drawing and playing in their pajamas. Matt has a wedding gig later today, but the rest of us are just planning on staying home today after a busy Saturday. On days like this, it doesn't really feel like we're living in Brazil. This is kind of the same routine we had in the states.

But then there are days like yesterday. The kid's school held a picnic (piquenique--love that word) at the Ecological Park. I've known about it for a while, and finally on Thursday talked to Matt about logistics. How are we going to get there? I realized that it was going to be too crazy to take two buses across town with food and 3 kids, so plans had to be made. Dora spent the night with a friend, and then I asked one of Sebastian's friends parents if they could give us a ride. They were very gracious, and even offered to take two cars to make it more comfortable. I had talked to another parent who said that we were supposed to bring either something sweet or something salty. This information was helpful, but how was it that I didn't get it? I've been trying to get on the email list at school for a while, but with no luck. Apparently information is not just sent home in the agenda (I should do a whole separate post on the "agenda") but also comes via email, but most importantly word of mouth. I often wonder just how much information I miss because I have such a hard time communicating with other parents. But that will come with time...but anyway, I assume that this is going to be a potluck kind of picnic, so I brought a HUGE dish of peanut butter brownies and some fruit, and to play it safe some sandwiches and other snacks for the kids. So I was prepared.

But when we arrived, I found out that it really wasn't a potluck. It was more like a put out your blanket and see who sits next to you and then just put all the food in the middle of the blanket. We ate coxinha (yummy little chicken snacks), kibe (a Middle eastern kind of snack), pão de queijo (the infamous minero cheese bread, made with manioc flour), hot dogs (Brazilian style, with corn, little slivers of potato chips, and a sauce), and cake and cookies. The kids pretty much just ran around, Sebastian playing soccer with his new soccer ball, Dora climbing trees, and Bea insisting that I play with her. There was an Urucum (Annatto) tree close to where we were sitting, and so the kids started picking the pods, opening them up to take the seeds out, and then they mixed it with water to make a paint. Dora painted her arm, and many of the girls painted their cheeks bright red--it was cute! Someone brought a guitar, so there was a circle of people singing and some dancing along to the music. At one point, the Capoeira teacher had some kids form a capeiora circle, and the kids sang and "danced". Unfortunately my kids didn't want to participate. Enjoy Bea's whining (be thankful you only have to deal with 20 seconds of it, because I had the privilege of enduring 7 hours); you can also see Dora's friend Mariana in the white tank top--she's pretty good!

Someone brought a keg, and I saw a few folks drinking Skol. I have no problem with people enjoying beer, and I on occasion enjoy caparinhas and Bohemia and gin and tonics and wine, but I don't know if I'll ever get used to seeing people walking down the street drinking beer from a can, drinking in the car (I've even seen drivers holding beers!!!) or bringing a keg to a school picnic. Mostly we just hung out, ate way to much, talked and then talked some more. I met some new folks, and thankfully am realizing that I'm understanding more Portuguese (the speaking still needs work). I also got to hear Dora speaking Portuguese with her friends--she's coming along quite well! Portuguese, kegs, guitars, capoeira, different food, and being content to spend more than 6 hours just hanging out--these are not things that you'd find at an American Picnic. And these are things that make me happy we are here.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Today the online thermometer says that it's either 46 F or 42 F outside. Now most of you might think, "that's not so cold..." but you have to keep in mind that we have no heat, no insulation, and single pane windows (and some of them don't close entirely) it can get a little chilly. But thankfully we've got coffee, sweatshirts, and there's always that nice hike to school that warms us up.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Visiting Ouro Preto with Children

We rather spontaneously decided to go to Ouro Preto last Saturday. It was only our second trip outside of Belo Horizonte since we've been here. There are several buses that go from BH to Ouro Preto (here's one), and we've been told that their pretty nice, with air conditioning, reclining seats and bathrooms. However, traveling with a family of 5 can pretty quickly make a bus trip kind of pricey, and we just didn't feel up to renting a car. Thankfully, a friend from the Orquestra recommended their driver, so for $220 R round trip (about $125 US) we had someone come to our front door, deal with the headache of driving around this city, and even help us find our way around Ouro Preto. It felt sooo luxurious! Unfortunately thought, he liked to drive fast, and there are lots of curves on the way there. Sebastian kept complaining about being hungry, and I was doing my best to distract him and tell him that we would eat when we got there (I didn't want to get crumbs all over the car, especially since Sebastian is a CRUMB MACHINE!!) Suddenly, Sebastian said he didn't feel good and the vomit started flying; so much for keeping the car clean. Of course the water and wipes were in the trunk, so I did my best to mop up the barf using sweatshirts. The driver didn't even bat an eye, and said he would stop at a gas station. Twenty minutes later, we finally pulled into a gas station.

We got relatively cleaned up, filled up some tummies with snacks and hit the road again. It really is a beautiful drive, despite things being a little bit brown (it's the dry season). When we finally pulled into the main square in Ouro Preto, it was like stepping back in time, complete with cobblestone streets. Upon which Beatrice immediately tossed her cookies. I'm sure the hundreds of tourists in the Praca enjoyed that sight.

We spent an hour just poking around, and Matt got to play with his camera.

My suggestion with traveling with kids is to have low expectations, bring lots of snacks, and go with the flow. We decided to just spend about 6 hours there. We let the kids play around the churches a lot, to climb into the watchtowers and run around the fountains. We visited the Mineralogy Museum, which was great for kids because they have hundreds and hundreds of gems and stones on display, and a nice Physics exhibit that's hands on. We took a risk at the end and walked down a street that we weren't sure where it would lead. Matt got some great pictures there, and we did have to hike back up to the Praca, but we bribed the kids with the promise of a snack. Overall, they handled it well, and they took a nice nap on the way home. Then I came home and was inspired to research more about the history, and make plans for future trips.