Sunday, May 30, 2010

the day after

We had a little dinner party for Dora's 9th birthday last night, and although it was a bit crazy at times, it went well. We had 6 adults and 6 kids--I made lasagna and chocolate cake, and threw together a tomato-bacon-parmesan bruschetta at the last minute. Bea had an upset tummy, and had a few diarrhea incidents, one of Dora's friends made a special meal request that involved a little more time in the kitchen, we didn't have enough plates for everyone, and there was lot of running around and screaming (the kids, not Matt and I), but I think everyone enjoyed themselves. It was fun to host people, and to get to know some other parents from Dora's school, and to hear about their experiences. Both families had lived in the US, so it was encouraging to hear about their experience living abroad, and what they think about Belo Horizonte and moving back. Hearing stories from other people helps me so much, and makes me realize that they experiences we have, and the things I encounter are just part of the living overseas experience. It helps remind me that I'm not just crazy, but that everything is different, and I don't know the rules, and that's okay.

One of Dora's friends spent the night last night, so we had waffles for breakfast, and now everyone is playing in that post-birthday party/day kind of way, where they are a bit tired, a bit loopy and just happy. I'm looking forward to a lazy day at home with my family.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

feeling tired

I've reached a tired point in all this cross-cultural transition. I walk a lot. We have chosen to live without a car (we always talked about how cool it would be to not have a car, and now we have the opportunity! hooray!). I'm proud of our choice, and if I could get a Brazilian license tomorrow, and a car miraculously appeared in our parking spot, I still don't know if I'd drive, because I'm so afraid of Brazilian drivers. They are crazy. With all the walking I've done, I've lost weight (hooray!). But on the flip side, I'm tired a lot. My feet hurt (I've got foot issues). So a little thing like running to the store for milk, becomes a 15 minute hike and schlepping it back home. Hence, I'm physically tired.

I'm tired as well because it is so hard to understand what is happening around me, and it is difficult to be understood. I've taken a 4 week break from seriously studying Portuguese, and as a result, I'm not moving forward in the communication department. I'm hoping that my kids are doing better being at school for 5 hours a day, and that they are absorbing a whole lot more than me.

Ok, thanks for letting me vent for a moment. On a good note, I think that the chocolate cake I made for Dora's birthday turned out pretty well! I now just have to get it out of the pan and frost it, because I have to use the same pan for lasagna for tonight. But a good cake is a victory! We're having some folks over for a small dinner party for Dora tonight, and hopefully at least one of her friends will spend the night. I've found out that Brazilian girls really don't do sleep overs, but the one friend has lived in the states for several years, so she's up for it. I also found a copy shop where I can print out my worksheets for my English classes (we don't have a printer) for 20 centavos a page--this will help me immensely! And strawberries were on sale this week, and they are really, really good. It's the little things!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

busy busy busy!

Hi there! It's been busy, even a little hectic around here. Matt went on tour with the Filarmonica (three concerts in different cities in Minas Gerais). During his tour, I was solo with the kids, which was good but very consuming. Matt got back and had several days off, and we purchased curtains (which still haven't been put up), tried to take care of some more banking issues, and caught up with several things. I also have several new private English students, which means that I'm going to be quitting my l-o-n-g commute to my Monday and Wednesday class. I've been leaving at 4:00 pm, teaching a one hour class, and then getting home at 8:30 pm. I just can't justify all this traveling for one class. Then on Thursday last week, I lost my wallet, and that consumed about two days of our week, and caused lots of frustration. The good news is that someone very kindly turned the wallet into the local bank, so I can go and pick it up today, but we've already canceled the credit cards, bus card, debit card, etcetera. Saturday we had a party for Sebastian's 6th birthday, and that took a whole day as well. And I'm forgetting lots of other things we've accomplished, but all to say, we've been busy!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fun day!

We had a very fun day today! We walked to the Parque Municipal to meet up with some friends, and when I got close I realized that the "Hippie Fair" was happening today. There were tons of people, but it was fun to walk through and look at art, homemade toys, jewelry. And we got to see a few street performers. There are men that paint themselves silver, and act like robots. The kids got a kick out of that. We played at the park for a while, and our friends had seen a circus tent up, so we wandered over to check it out. It was a very low budget circus, but nonetheless, very entertaining. When we left the park, we saw some Capoeira circles, and the kids enjoyed listening to the music and watching, and I got a pretty good picture. Then I bribed the kids home with Cheetos, and we ate hot dogs, played Monopoly (Sebastian beat me), and watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (again). Enjoy the pictures--the first is of the Capoeira, the next picture is from the circus (I was a little afraid that this guy might fall on us), and the last is of some VERY cute ducklings in the pond at the park.

I think communication may be happening

I think that I've reached a point with my Portuguese where I'm starting to understand a big more, and people are understanding me. Last night, we were waiting at a bus stop, when I realized that the sign said our bus did not come after 3:00 pm on Saturday. I asked a woman who was also waiting what bus she was waiting for, and if she knew indeed that the bus didn't come. She said she didn't know, but that the next bus coming would take us downtown and we could find another bus. And this was true! I also have been asking when I get on buses for my English classes if the bus goes to my desired destination, and usually the bus driver says, "what?" but then I ask again and he answers. And I also recently asked the porteiro (the night security guard at our apartment building) if he knew of anyone who wanted to rent our parking spot, and he said he would check. Unfortunately I encountered a Brazil circle: he said talk to the porteiro who works on Thursday, and then when I spoke with the Thursday porteiro, he said talk to Miguel. And we've talked to Miguel, and there is very little communication. Hmmm, looks like this post my be a Brazil circle!

Friday, May 14, 2010

a few random thoughts

I like it when I get on the bus with my big backpack full of English books, and there is no room to sit, and someone sitting offers to hold my back pack for me. This is a small gesture, but one that I'm thankful for.

Sebastian made a comment today at the McDonalds. There was a HUGE line of people, and everyone was crowding towards the registers. Sebastian said, "People don't care that it's crowded!" And I tried to affirm him for his observation of cultural differences, but I think he got too distracted by thinking about what he wanted in his happy meal. Later in the day I saw him get hugged by all 18 children in his classroom (wishing him happy birthday) and he got a bit overwhelmed by the show of affection, and how natural it was for them to get very close to him.

I got mixed up on my people tonight at the kid's school. I think I hugged and kissed a person that I've never met before, and thoroughly confused them by talking to them as if we'd known each other for a while. Because everything is still so new to me, I have a hard time remembering certain people, and where I know them, and how I know them. I have a VERY hard time remembering names (João? Renan [which sounds like "hey-nan"], and don't even get me started on female names!!). I just hope that my ignorance, forgetfulness and cross-cultural spaciness doesn't come across as being too rude...

I like it when I'm walking downhill outside, and the sky is amazingly blue, and the temperature is perfect. I find myself feeling that way on a regular basis.

I like living without a car, and getting all my exercise for free. They say in Belo Horizonte, if you are not walking uphill or downhill, you are standing still.

I like walking to school with the kids, and playing games, telling stories and just talking with them. It would be nice if the whole way to school wasn't uphill, and if they wouldn't complain so much, but it is still a nice time.

I miss my garden. I miss the convenience of a microwave, and a dishwasher (we have a little tiny dishwasher, but we'd have to turn on the hot water to use it, and from the look of the last tenants electricity bill, we will not be doing that). I miss being able to make a phone call to take care of a problem, and being understood. I miss jalapeños and pho and clipping coupons and our wonderful front loading washing machine.

I love that I have figured out how to take the bus here, and that every time I tell someone from BH, they are amazed that I can go all the way across town successfully.

Matt is on tour this weekend, so you might hear more from me than usual. I only have the internet to vent for a few days. But now I must do the dishes.

More info on "the bird"

One of the blogs I follow posted information on the very noisy bird that likes to wake us up at 5 am every morning. It is a Bem-te-vi or Great Kiskadee. Here's a visual to go with it's lovely song:

Monday, May 10, 2010


I just got home from teaching, and I'm a bit tired, but I realize that I haven't posted in a while, so I'm going to share a list of interesting mishaps. Mind you, this isn't "all" of the mishaps, just the interesting ones.

1. I bought fabric softener instead of laundry detergent. Thankfully I only washed two loads of laundry with it before I realized that highly perfumed clothes do not make clean clothes.

2. Forgot to bring my CPF number (like a Brazilian Social Security number) to the bank when Matt and I were trying to add me to his account so I can access our money. Wasted several hours for nothing.

3. Got on the wrong bus leaving an English class. For the second time.

4. Tried to call the bank to activate my credit card. Couldn't understand the prompts in Portuguese, and ended up getting transferred to a live person. Matt had to get on the phone, and we got transferred again a few more times. Went to the store to buy cat food, and my credit card wouldn't work.

I could go on about funny phone calls, but i'm too pooped. Hopefully I'll write more soon. tata!