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.