Saturday, July 31, 2010

Domestic accomplishments

Well! Matt made a to-do list this week, and he accomplished all of what he wanted.

get box spring for our bed-done!
get tv/internet/phone service-done!
get curtains for Sebastian-done!

Matt has always been pretty good at setting goals that can be accomplished (unlike me, who's to do list usually includes about 50 items, mainly things I've been putting off for weeks and items like "clean entire house" and "respond to all 500 emails in in-box" and "plan meals for the month"). But considering we've been living here for almost 5 months, and knowing what it takes to accomplish tasks in a foreign culture, I'm impressed. It got a little nutty today at about 11 am. Matt had to move his trio rehearsal to our house, and because I was anticipating guests I asked him to practice in Bea's room. Our guests showed up while I was making lunch, and of course Bea was whining and clinging to my leg. Our friend Rogerio started mounting the TV on the wall, and then the intercom rang because the bed store was delivering the box for our bed (we've been sleeping on our mattress on the floor for the past 4 + months). I'm sure that the delivery guys must have thought we were something: lots of children running around yelling in English, a string trio in one room, and a father and daughter putting up the flat screen in the living room! Whoo-hoo! It feels very good to have all these things taken care of!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Museu dos Brinquedos

I took the kids today to the Museu dos Brinquedos, a nice 15 minute downhill walk from our place. A friend of mine got an email about special event that were being held over the holiday, so we decided to splurge the $6 R admission (hey, it adds up when you have 3 kids, especially when you're not exactly sure what you are paying for). I'm glad we went today rather than a non-holiday day. It's a nice little museum, and has some neat displays of toys from different generations. I tried to get a pictures of a Dr. Drill-n-Fill like I had as a kid, and a Tomy Onmibot and many others. My kids unfortunately did not appreciate my nostalgia, and I have to admit many of the toys are in such great shape, so it was a little like looking through someone's used toy garage sale. There is a nice outdoor "patio" of sorts, and the kids got to play with jump ropes, coffee can stilts (which I was amazed to realize that my kids have NEVER used before. They are so deprived!!), chalk, and a bunch of other outdoor games. There's a nice craft area, with a very patient and helpful attendant, and the kids made petecas out of newspaper and tape. Then it was time for a magic show, and Mr. Rossi the Magician was actually quite good. I would only recommend visiting the Museu if there is a "special" event, because the bulk of the displays just didn't do it for my kids. But watching a magician light his hands on fire and pull a dove out of his mouth made it all worthwhile. Afterward we went upstairs and played with some of the toys that you can actually touch, and the kids had a pretty good time with that, but I was feeling very claustrophobic and a little grossed out by the matted hair of the barbies and the well loved stuffed animals. But overall, not a bad experience. Now the kids are vegging out in front of the tube, watching cartoons in Portuguese while I'm eating lime cookies and trying to figure out what to feed them for dinner--hot dogs or sandwiches?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

First visit to the doctor...

I finally had my first experience with the medical system in Brazil. Don't worry, no blood involved and no emergencies (knock on wood). After yet another restless night of coughing jags, I resolved myself to get to the doctor on two Thursdays ago. Bea had been having a rough time sleeping too, and sometimes was complaining about her ear hurting. I had talked to a friend of mine who also has Unimed, and she said for things like colds and ear infections, you just go to Pronto Socorro, which I guess is the equivalent of the Emergency Room. So Matt offered to watch the other two kids, and I walked with Bea to the hospital. I walked all of 10 minutes. Downhill. Wonderful! We got there at about 8:45, and there was a little confusion as to whether or not they could see Bea, but when I finally made it clear that I was concerned about an ear infection, they said it was ok. We waited about 10 minutes in a clean, calm reception area, and then got to see the Doctor. She was very nice and patient with my Portuguese, and spoke English, but only would speak it with Bea. Bea was a very good little girl and hopped up on the table, and let the nice doctor look in her ear, and of course, she had an ear infection. We had purchased antibiotics for Dora back in March when we thought she had an ear infection, and I'd had the sense to bring it along, so the Doctor just told me how much to give her. Piece of cake. Then she asked me about my symptoms, and I mentioned that I'd been sick off and on for a few weeks. I told her that all I really wanted was to stop coughing at night, so I could sleep and heal. I showed her what the person at the Pharmacy had told me to take, and she said it was good for nothing. She then had me go get my head x-rayed to rule out a sinus infection (which of course, I did not have). She said there wasn't really much she could do, but she did prescribe Allegra D. Hmmm, I thought, Allegra D? Isn't that for allergies? I then tried to find a pharmacy that was accepted by our Insurance Plan, but I think that we've determined that that's not how it works here. Our insurance covers a lot of things, but not prescriptions. I was hemming and hawing about buying this stuff, and finally just decided to go back home and figure out what to do. I was at that point coughing like crazy, so Matt sent me to the local pharmacy to go pick it up. $30 R for 10 pills! Yikes! And of course, it does nothing. The next night I hacked and coughed like crazy, so I did research online and figured out exactly what ingredients are in Tylenol PM, translated them to Portuguese, and went to yet another pharmacy. There I met a very nice Pharmacist who sold me the generic version with exactly what I wanted for $8 R. And it works!! I finally was able to sleep mostly through the night, and after two days was feeling remarkably better. I'm still coughing quite a bit, which everyone here says has to do with the desert like dryness (oooh, 68% humidity. Come on, show me that wonderful Arizona nosebleed 9%. Then I'll talk to you about dry!!). But I'm doing much better, thank you very much!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Keeping busy during feriados

We've just finished the first of two weeks of feriados (holiday), and it's been pretty good so far. Matt has been working lots, and we celebrated his birthday last Tuesday. AND I got to go out at night for the FIRST time since moving to Brazil. Our wonderful neighbor Thaisa and the teaching assistant in Bea's classroom offered to watch the kids. He had a concert on Tuesday night, so I finally got to go to a concert, and then we went out for pizza afterward. Very fun. I've also been working teaching one student during the break, but she's a three times a week student, so it's kept me occupied. But in terms of fun with the kids, we've planned some good things. We went to a barbecue at some friends house last Saturday. We went to Mangabeiras Park again on Wednesday, and stumbled upon a bunch of free activities: face painting, balloon animals, trampolines and games. Today we tried to go watch Shrek at the mall, but I had some problems understanding the schedule, and it turns out that the only subtitled movie was showing at 9:00 pm (everything else was dubbed, and we're not quite ready to take in entertainment in Portuguese yet). Instead we just hung out at the mall, ate ice cream cones, finally changed the last of my $35 dollars to reais, played Barbie/Hotwheels at a "Holiday" activity center, ate at Applebee's and did a little shopping. That's all for now!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The first weekend in July, some friends invited us to take a day trip to Inhotim. Like Matt said, it really was a perfect day. It was fun to borrow their car and get out of the city. How would I describe it? It's a big park/nature preserve/modern art exhibit. There are some HUGE installations, lakes, lots of swans, beautiful landscaping and flowers, and great food. It's a really great place for kids too, because you can pick and chose what you want to see, and there are plenty of bathrooms, places for snacks, and places to sit. In fact, it's very kid friendly. Our favorite pieces were the Red Room, and Forty part motet by Janet Cardiff. This artist individually recorded the voices of a choir singing a Thomas Tallis piece, and then project the sound from individual speakers. It was a really beautiful experience. And of course, the pictures!

Orchids--they need no soil, aerial plants!

Cute kids

Dora, Sebastian and me taking in the beautiful scenary

I think this is an avocado tree!

Tired mama and Bea

Black swan

Matt was brave to get so close to the swans...

Dora sitting in one of many benches made from huge tree trunks

A work of art--look at those eyes!

One of the paths, Luisa and Laurina in the background

Don't remember this upside down boat in the middle of a bunch of trees?


Dora and Laurina

Visiting the Planetarium in Belo Horizonte

A few weeks back I took the kids to the Planetarium of the Praça da Liberdade. There is a nice museum on floors one thru three, and on the 4th floor is the Planetarium. It opened just a few months ago, and is a great experience for kids and adults. Bea (age 3) even managed to sit thru it. Mostly. And the nice thing is that it's free! Here's the website

Afterward we went to a nearby pizza place to try to catch the US versus...uh, don't even remember now. We went to Pizza Sul to watch soccer. Great pizza! Plus we ordered a desert pizza, a chocolate strawberry with ice cream on top. For the 7 of us (I went with friends of course) I think it came to about $90R. Enjoy some pictures!

Sebastian REALLY liked the desert pizza. For some reason we have a lot of these "dirty face" pictures of Sebastian...

Dora wanted me to take a picture of her hanging on the lamp post. Notice the pretty pink flowers on the tress in the background. This is in the Praça, a great place to hang out, and they usually have free events here.

Dora in the Museum, in front of a background picture of Ouro Preto.

Brazilian Square Dancing

Today is the Festa Junina party at the public school behind our building. It sounds really fun, and it is CRAZY loud. I tried to catch some of it on video, but it just didn't do it justice. One cultural difference between the US and Brazil is perspective on noise. There tends to be a lot more noise here: horns, music, people advertising on the street yelling "dentista!". When we first moved into our apartment, I had a really hard time sleeping, but since then I've been able to tune most of it out. It helps that it's cooler now, so we have the windows shut, but these are single pane windows, so it doesn't make that much of a difference. I use to be very intolerant of noise: my first year in college I hated how noisy Tacoma and the dorms were. I missed the peace and quite of sprayers, helicopters and bird in the huge Ponderosa Pine by our house (I grew up in rural Washington state, always surrounded by apple orchards). But seriously, I've come a long way, and I have a lot more tolerance for noise. I had a very interesting conversation with a Brazilian while we were looking for schools. One of the schools I visited came highly recommended. But I remember thinking as I observed some of the classrooms "this teacher must not have very good control of the class, because everyone is talking! It's not very conducive to learning here..." The person I was talking to laughed, and asked me, "why is it that quiet means learning?" And I realized that I had stumbled upon one of my many cultural biases. I was talking with another Brazilian friend yesterday who mentioned a party that she went to. She didn't really know many of the guests, but she said that she probably talked for four hours with everyone. Meaning everyone was talking at the same time for four hours. She said that part of being Brazilian means learning how to hold all those conversations at the same time. It may seem chaotic and like no one is listening, but it is just a different way of having a good time with others. Matt's birthday is coming up soon, so I'm going to try to plan a night out (babysitter, concert, little get together at a restaurant afterward). So I'm hoping to enjoy some of this noise, and participate as well!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pineapple: Giving Mango a Run for It's Money

I bought a pineapple at EPA. It's the cheapest grocery store within relative walking distance, but not always the best quality. I've not purchased much produce there, because I usually go to the Sacalão/market across the street. I finally got around to cutting it up tonight.




It's really really really yummy. I think my last experience with pineapple made me a bit jaded. It was a Saturday morning, and I think Matt was either on tour or working, and I decided to go to the bread store down the street and treat the kids to something yummy. Unfortunately they were not on their best behavior (hard to believe, I know), and after several attempts to discipline them, I had to pull out the "you've lost your treat" line. Needless to say, they were VERY unhappy. But the funny thing is that I think it worked, because I haven't had many problems with them while shopping since then. Anyway, we were walking home, all weepy and grumpy, and I came across the pineapple truck. Someday I will take a picture and post it. It's almost always parked down the street, and covered with pineapples. Well, I used my feeble Portuguese to ask the price, and like a dumb American, accepted the price at $4R. He handed me a pineapple for inspection, and I said, "sure" and we were off. I got home, and noticed that I had a most puny, old, practically molding pineapple, and when I cut it up, it was not good. Not horrible, just not what you'd expect for a pineapple from a truck at the side of the road in Brazil. Plus I didn't play by the Brazilian rules and negotiate and make small talk, and ended up paying way too much. So that made it taste even worse.

But this EPA pineapple has reminded me of the goodness that a pineapple can be. Yum.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Festa Junina, part 2

I'm having problems uploading, the videos all together, so here's another entry.

This is at the very beginning. You can hear the drums beating, and some children were pulling a boat. I didn't get a clear answer as to the significance, but what I gathered is that it comes from parts of Brazil where fishing is very can also see the decorated patio and some of that art that was made for the Festa Junina

I didn't get very close for this one, but this is Bea's class. Bea has been singing this song for weeks!

And here you can see Dora dancing, and singing. She's the one wearing a white shirt with braids tied in red bows.

Beatrice and Sebastian REALLY enjoyed the churrasquinha (little churasco, or meat on a stick).

Festa Junina

A few weeks back, there was a Festa Junina party at our kid's school. Like a good expat parent, I did research (thanks wikipedia!) and talked to a few other English speaking parents so I knew a little bit. From what I remember now, there are three saint's days in June, São João (St John) being the biggest day. A Festa Junina (or June Party) celebrates the harvest and rural life with singing, dancing quadrilhas (square dances), bonfires, and food. The typical foods are made with peanuts and corn, such as canjica (a kind of sweet pudding made from corn or hominy), quentão (sweetened, mulled, hot cachaça), and paçoca, which tastes like the inside of a Reeses Peanut Butter cup. Yum. People also dress up as "country bumpkins", with fancy ruffled, colorful and lacy dresses, and boys and mean wearing plaid shirts, straw hats and patched jeans. The kids spent about a month learning songs, practicing dance moves, and making art for their Festa Junina. When the day finally arrived, I was pretty excited, but I really had no idea what I was in for. It was SO wonderful! I loved seeing all the outfits, hearing my kids sing in Portuguese, eating the yummy food, dancing with Beatrice, talking with other parents, waiting in line for the canjica (really, I waited about 45 minutes, but it wasn't so bad since I was talking to people) and letting my kids run around and have fun. It was a great time. I took more videos than pictures (oops), but hopefully these will give you a taste of what it was like.

Here is Sebastian's class parading in. What you can't see is the cute fake mustache that we penciled in on his upper lip.

And below are pictures of Beatrice and one of her teachers (Bea calls her "Linda" or "beautiful" but that's just because that's what she says every time she sees Beatrice),
Dora eating a candied apple (all the candy came off in one big blob), and pictures of Dora and Sebastian's art that was on display.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A sad day

It was a sad day today. Since June 11th, we've gotten caught up in the hype/excitement/joy of the World Cup. Here is a walk through some of our experience

Before the big day, buildings displaying Brazilian pride

Matt, ready to enjoy the first game

After the first Brazilian goal, we got so excited we broke a glass--whoops!

Our wonderful friends, Nathan and Elise

My view from the bar where we enjoyed the first game; standing room only

Before the second game. We were on our way to Neto's house.

The requisite paraphernalia and vuvuzuela, the kids are on their way to watch the game at school. Classes are canceled, or delayed on game days.

Sebastian was SO sad today that Brazil lost, he cried.