Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I really should be studying Portuguese

I was planning on doing some studying tonight, but I'm a bit tired and Rosetta Stone makes me fall asleep. I've been a bit busy recently, and sick, but I am finally fully over my cold, and I quit my last remaining English class, so I'm feeling a bit more free. It also helps immensely that we've hired someone to help us around the house. We have someone come two days a week, one day while I'm working at the Canadian school, and one day just to help us keep up on things. I have to admit, I feel no guilt about having this kind of help. I think that prior to moving to Brazil I thought that it would be strange to hire someone to clean/watch the kids/cook/iron. But having been here for a few months, and seeing how practically every middle class family hires help, and after reading a few blogs, I came to the conclusion that hiring help is actually a strange act of justice. Unemployment is so high, and there is such a need, it is almost the "duty" of those with resources to employ someone else. Maybe this is arrogant, maybe this is too simple of a perspective, but when our helper left and our floor actually looked clean for the FIRST TIME IN 3 MONTHS I knew it was worth it. Turns out there is a special product that you need with our kind of floors, and I was absolutely oblivious. And the slow draining sink? Simply using your hand as a plunger takes care of any clog there. Wow. And our kids love her.

Unfortunately she just told us that she has another job, and she's been on vacation the past two weeks, and so she can't work for us anymore. This is why I should be studying Portuguese, because she told me this on Monday, but I didn't realize it until today when she said "goodbye, let me know if there's anything you need..." So had I really understood her on Monday, I wouldn't be surprised today. So not only do I need to study, but I need to find another helper. But I'm very VERY motivated to find someone good.

Matt just got home from an expat meeting, and I'm making bread, and I'm tired, so I'm not going to write more now. But hopefully I'll get around to posting some pictures of the Festa Junina and writing about some of our other experiences recently. Because they've been really beautiful.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


so Miguel did come. and he apparently fixed the problem. and if I have the problem again I'm supposed to talk to him so he can replace the part. I only gathered all this because I called my WONDERFUL friend Elise who translated via my cell phone. since my last post I did fire up the Rosetta Stone so I could work a bit more on Portuguese. it would help me immensely to be able to speak Portuguese. rather than Spanguluese.

the vicious circle is back

Today I am flustered. We have a repair issue that needs attending to. Matt tried to talk to Miguel yesterday to ask him to come and look at it. Of course, Miguel didn't come, and didn't seem to care. Yesterday, I spoke to a neighbor (in Portuguese) and she said that Miguel should come, and if he can't fix it, he can refer us to someone else. But we will probably have to pay. I have spent at least an hour today trying to track down Miguel. No avail. But I've been told he will come! And many people have told me that they will help me when I talk to them (if only they could be present when he is here). I've been trying to call to some of my bilingual friends for some help, and even some advice on the in-and-outs of living in an apartment in Brazil. We pay a "condominium fee" which pays Miguel's salary. We also pay rent, and signed the contract for a functional apartment. When the oven doesn't work, it doesn't seem like a functional apartment, right? So from my American perspective, this seems like something that Miguel/the owner/the broker should deal with and help fix. So I'm trying to figure out if that is the case in Brazil. However, I neglected to pay the Skype bill (oops), and so I can't make local phone calls. Of course I could use my cell phone, but I'm not sure how many minutes I've used for the month. And of course, I can't manage the website to figure out how to check. So I try to go online to pay the Skype bill. For some reason my Brasilian card doesn't work, so I go with the Boleto Bancario option. Only to find out it takes 7 to 10 days for that payment to go through. No good. But what do you know? My Brazilian credit card arrives today! So I can pay with the Brazilian credit card, right? Well, I don't know how to activate it, because all the phone prompts are in Portuguese and come very quick. Ugh. I could just break down and pay the phone bill with a US card, but we're trying to use our Brazil money instead of US money (makes sense, right?) So I finally decided to use the cell phone to call a friend who might be able to help, but she's not available. So, here I sit. Waiting for Miguel to come. And when/if he comes, I will attempt to communicate, but I'm not too hopeful.

The positive thing in all this is that I learned that there is a thing called a "sindicato". This is a person elected or chosen from the building to collect payment and help with problems. I didn't know anything about this until today, and I found out that are sindicato (sindicata?) is named Denise. Of course I went to go try to talk to her, and she isn't home. But I look forward to trying to have some semblance of communication with her when she is home!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

they waited until 7:45 am to start blowing the horn...

I'm actually pretty surprised: the noise for the Brazil-North Korea game didn't start until 7:45 am. Someone is blowing a whistle and then there are a few horns. We're going to meet up with some folks from the orchestra at a bar. Sebastian wants to go out and buy a horn, and Dora wants to transform her white tee shirt into a Brazilian Flag. Go Brazil!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dia Dos Namorados and the Wedding

Today is "valentine's day" or Day of the Enamored. According to wikipedia... "This day was chosen probably because it is the day before the Festa junina (Saint Anthony's day), known there as the marriage saint, when traditionally many single women perform popular rituals, called simpatias, in order to find a good husband or boyfriend." It was pretty quite around town, but maybe that was because of the cold weather. It's been windy and in the 60s, which doesn't sound so bad, but you have to keep in mind that no one has heat here, and most folks even keep their windows open all the time. So it gets a little chilly, especially at night. We had the opportunity to attend our daughter's teacher's wedding tonight, and it was very fun. Not as different from an American wedding as I expected, but a fun way to celebrate a day of love. Though I must say that I've never heard the theme from 2001 Space Odyssey nor Pomp and Circumstance Hopefully we'll put up some pictures soon!

I don't think I knew what the World Cup was before I moved to Brazil...

I have to admit it. I really don't follow sports at all. And 6 months ago, if asked about the World Cup, I probably would have said "the thing you win for hockey?" But a craze has hit Brazil: there are green and yellow streamers everywhere, cars with flags, green and yellow jewelry, and horns. Lots of horns. The funny thing is that the first game in which Brazil is playing isn't until Tuesday! My Tuesday English student asked if we could reschedule so she could watch the game (she is not a soccer fan; she only watches the World Cup games). And I've been told that if I need to go anywhere that night, I should give myself an extra hour, because after the game is over traffic will be crazy. If Brazil wins, the streets will be impassable, and if Brazil doesn't win...well that won't happen! The kids' school will be showing the game in the school auditorium (i.e. who can try to study during the fun!), and I've been told that all stores and services (except maybe the bus) will shut down. I'm actually pretty excited to watch the game--I still know almost nothing, but who can help but get caught up in all the excitement!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Corn ice cream

Matt and I got a few hours together yesterday, and we went to a local Sorveteria (ice cream store--I still have a hard time calling ice cream sorvete. Just doesn't feel right to me). I was hoping for several exotic flavors, but they only had Milho Verde, or Corn Ice Cream. Of course I had to try it, and I must say it was very good! I'm looking forward to trying avocado ice cream, and some of the many new fruits we've heard of here.

We are going to our first Brazilian wedding tomorrow! Bea's teacher is getting married, and so we have been spending lots of time getting ready. Weddings here are BIG events, and so heels, long dresses, and painted nails are all in store. We also had a successful venture buying a gift online for the bride and groom. They had a registry, we were able to find it (of course, after trying every possible combination of last and middle names possible!), find a nice gift and have it delivered for only for $4.50 R (that's about $2.50 with the current exchange rate). And it arrived! The next day. Maybe we should hire the shipping department at Lojas Americanos to take care of some of our other problems that are taking forever to get resolved--like getting my credit card, fixing the ignitor on the oven, getting the broken window in the bathroom fixed...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ecological Park, Belo Horizonte

Matt has started his 9 days of Folga. I thought this just meant vacation, but I think there is something more to it, but I'm not complaining--this is one of the big reasons we decided to move here; a good job with LOTS of days off! The kids have a four day weekend because of the Corpus Christi holiday. We were thinking about heading out of town (apparently MANY people leave BH, because it is very quite here now!) but we didn't get our act together. I think it was a good thing that we didn't leave, because we've been able to hang out with some new friends, and just relax at home. On Thursday, we went to the Ecological Park of Pampulha and had a practically perfect day! We took the bus to Shopping del Rey, our friend Corinne and her son came and picked us up, and then we went had a picnic at the park. The area used to be a landfill, but a few years ago it was made into a park. It has tons of nice grass, an area for playing soccer and flying kites, several small ponds, a Japanese Memorial (there are a significant number of Japanese Brazilians in Minas), a playground with swings (Dora was VERY happy about this), and nice walking paths. It was a beautiful cool day, good company, good food and a great time. We also got our first view of a Capybara, which Matt thought looked like big R.O.U.S's.

Firetruck spotted

I have an English student that lives my the Fire Station in Savassi, and on one occasion I was walking by and happened to peek in through a door. I saw a HUGE, beautiful swimming pool and a couple of people swimming. The next time I walked by the fire station, I heard a brass band practicing. At Dora's birthday party, I asked our Brazilian friends about the fire station, and told them what I had encountered. They said that the Bombeiro's swimming pool is one of the best places for kids to learn how to swim. And they said that yes indeed, the fire fighter's have a band. Apparently they have to have something to keep them busy. You see, almost everything here is built out of concrete block, so there are rarely any fires of significance. And I thought about it, and I've seen ambulances, police cars, but I hadn't seen any firetrucks. Until Thursday! Matt and I went to Patio Savassi to recharge his lunch card (the orchestra provides a lunch card, but he has to go to a little machine that can be found in rather random locations to recharge it to make sure it has the total credit on it). While walking there, I heard a strange siren, and turned and saw this: