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!!!