Monday, February 28, 2011

dancing in the rain, at the bus stop

Ah, even though I got totally drenched, and had to stand in a virtual river of water running down the sidewalk, the highlight of my day was dancing in the rain with a bunch of strangers at the bus stop. And then this nice man made room for me on the bench, and helped me stand on it, so I didn't have to continue to experience the river flowing over my feet. Brazilians know how to make the most. In the torrential rain.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just let the boy play soccer!

Since we moved here (almost exactly a year ago!), we've been thinking about having Sebastian play futsal (like soccer, but with a smaller ball, fewer players, and some different rules). He fell in love with soccer pretty quickly, he's actually quite athletically talented, and heck, this is Brazil! Our school has an after school team that meets two days a week, but our kids are so dang tired by 6:30 pm that we just couldn't make the girls wait around that long. Our downstairs neighbor has been playing soccer with Sebastian, and a few weeks ago invited him to "experimentar" a futsal class, and his Dad even offered to drop him off and pick him up. Sebastian loved it, of course! So we decided to enroll him. Seems like an easy enough thing, right?

Not for an expatriate. Not in Brazil.

The dad happened to go on a trip out of town after the class, so I didn't get a chance to talk to him about the process. So I decided to go to the Club and get information. I got a nice pamphlet with the prices, and was told that I had to get a note from the instructor to allow Sebastian in the class (to verify that he was tall enough, the right age, and at the same level as the other kids) and he had to get a "testado medico" from a pediatrician. Unfortunately, I've still not found a pediatrician yet. I've been asking around for recommendations (yet again, I've got to do a post on the importance of recommendations), and either the pediatricians are not taking new patients, not accepting our insurance, or a 30 minute drive away. Thank goodness our children are healthy! My husband thought that maybe he could get this evaluation at the hospital, and ended up walking there with Sebastian to try to get it, but it turns out that they don't do the tests there. So, it was time to buckle down and find me a pediatrician. I called everybody I could think of, but didn't get any leads. Finally, I decided to just go the a clinic within walking distance, figuring it couldn't be so bad.

I successfully called them and even though I couldn't get in before Sebastian's next practice, the Club said that it was okay for him to go one more time without the doctor's note, and I was able to schedule an appointment for right after his practice, at 10:15 am on Thursday. We booked it from the Club, and made it right at 10:15. There are 3 other people in the waiting room, and it looked like they had been there awhile. At 11 am, someone who looked like a doctor walked in, and I realized, that there was no way I was going to get in before it was time for Sebastian to go to school! I went to the receptionist, who said, "Oh, the doctor is just running little behind." I told her I had other commitments, and she said that I'd have to wait until after the other 3 patients! Ahhh! I told her I couldn't wait, and all I needed was a signed piece of paper so Sebastian could enroll. She said she would get the doctor to sign the paper. Huh? I had to ask her 3 times if I understood her correctly. She said to come back at 2 pm, and she would have the paper for me. This made no sense to me at all, but I got my hopes up that there might be an end in sight. Unfortunately, at about 2:00 pm I got a call from the receptionist, saying that I would have to bring Sebastian in the next day for the exam and to get the paperwork. I told her I only had a limited amount of time, and if I came at 8:30 am, would I be able to be seen and get what I needed? "Of course, of course!"

So, Sebastian and I went back the next day, waited almost 15 minutes, and finally got into see the doctor. He didn't even say hello, and started barking orders at Sebastian. He weighed him, poked him, and measured him, and then gave us a piece of paper with Sebastian's named misspelled, the wrong name of the soccer club, and the wrong age. But I had the paper! I asked the doctor what had happened yesterday, and he just shooed me out of his office and told me not to worry about it. So, if you are looking for a recommendation for a pediatrician, I would say DO NOT go to Dr. Adjar Mendes da Silva .

And what about the note from the instructor? Well, I had to call the club 4 times to try to reach the instructor (one of the times, I got hung up on because who ever answered the phone didn't have the patience to deal with my accent and mangled Portuguese). Finally, I got his personal cell phone number, and he said that Sebastian should just come back. My husband took him that next day to practice, and was told that he could be a part of this team for a few more weeks, but he might get bumped down to the younger group (he's only 6, but he's been playing with the 8 to 10 year olds) because he needs to work on some of the basics. And he did get a note from the instructor, but he couldn't buy Sebastian's uniform until he actually had the doctor's note.

So, yesterday! We finally got the doctor's note, the uniform, and Sebastian was "matriculated." But of course, we have to go back to the secretary at the Club on Tuesday before practice so Sebastian can get his ID card and his code, and then Matt and I have to get our cards and codes so we can accompany him. I would say that this whole process probably took me about 8 hours, with appointments, phone calls, waiting, writing notes, and plenty of wasted time.

But it's all worth it when I see Sebastian in his uniform, and watch him practicing his drills.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I did it!

A few months ago, we bought a Fusca.

I love it. I love having the ability to drive around. And at the same time, it is such an experience to drive here. Brazilians drive like they are racing to get in line, crowding, pushing all in together. Right hand turns are occasionally made from the middle lane, cutting of those driving in the far right lane. The road are bumpy, not to mention the quebra-molas.

I feel pretty good about driving to the kid's school (close within our neighborhood) and to the grocery (again, pretty close). I've driven to Alphaville for work twice. But tonight, I had to go pick up Dora at a birthday party in Buritis. It's only about 20 minutes away, but I'd never been there. And I had to bring 2 other kids back as well. I spent probably close to 45 minutes online, studying the map, looking at Google street view, and I wrote down 2 FULL PAGES of directions. My husband gave me a pep talk, and we bought gas, and I gave myself 45 minutes to get there. And I did it! No problems getting there. On the way back, I took the "long-cut" (as opposed to the short cut), but I made it. I feel so proud of myself!

Friday, February 11, 2011

What's up here...

The hubby is in the US on "business" so I'm flying solo here. So, what's up?

-looking for a new faxinera/baba. I see a post coming on how to hire domestic help. Because I've made some mistakes in this area, and I've learned a lot!

-successfully drove to a place called Alphaville today for my job. Taught a few music classes. Was nice to drive outside of the city. And I'm starting to feel a bit more comfortable driving.

-called 190 (the police) to complain about the illegal burning that was going on at the empty lot behind our apartment. The police said, "have you spoken to the people burning?" My husband went down and spoke to them and they stopped! Hooray!

-we have 2 birthday parties this weekend, a 6 year old boy spending the night, Dora is at a friend's house, and Beatrice is supposed to have a play date with a new classmate tomorrow. The kids have such a busy social schedule!

-I'm really liking my work schedule so far this year. I decided to save a day for myself, so I could schedule appointments, catch up on work, run errands, and so on. I think I'm really going to enjoy it.

That's all for now! I'm thankful it's not as hot as Rio here, but I must say it's warm. In fact, I just heard someone jump in the pool (it's 8:40 pm and totally dark outside).


Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sound of Sirens

Hello sirens, my old friends...

Last night I didn't sleep so well because of the following random noises:
1. Alarms. Most of the garages in our vicinity have sirens to alarm if the doors don't close (at least this is my theory and educated guess). I could hear one garage door open, the alarm go off, the garage door slam shut, then the garage door open, the alarm go off, and on and on and on.

2. Someone chopping wood. Huh?

3. Someone walking their barking dog in the middle of the night.

I suppose it's not quite as interesting as falling mangoes. But today, we have sirens and alarms galore. At least 20 times already this morning, the alarm at the office building next door has been going off. I took this video from our living room window. What you see is the 14 story apartment building being built, and the video is taken through the protective netting on the windows. Matt's practicing cello in the background. Welcome to our Sunday:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Most yogurt in Brazil doesn't have active cultures

Our family likes yogurt. We eat it almost every morning for breakfast. Yogurt in Brazil tends to be very liquid, and very very sweet. It's okay, but we've been talking about making our own yogurt for a while now, to try to cut down on sugar. My sister used to make yogurt when she lived with us (and my Mom had a yogurt machine when I was a kid), so we figured it couldn't be so difficult. I brought back a milk thermometer from the U.S., and my dear hubby was just so excited that he tried it 3 days after I got back. The first batch failed miserably, because I'd purchased yogurt without live cultures. I'd just assume that all yogurt had live cultures, that the cultures are what makes it yogurt. But no! The only kind of yogurt here with live cultures is Activia. What do you know... We got some Activia, and good milk. The milk is not UHT (Ultra High Temperature or shelf-stable or milk in a box that does not need to be refrigerated until you open it), Grade A, homogenized and pasteurized. It is yummy milk, like I'm used to drinking in the states. I'm starting to think that we should buy this good milk, except that it's only found at one store (which is not so close) and you have to drink it within 3 days (i.e. you can't stock up). Bummer.

But back to the yogurt--Matt made some last night, and it worked!

Hooray! Now if only I'd been eating this early, perhaps I wouldn't have been so sick on Thursday and Friday. I don't know what it is, but our family has been attacked by some bug. We're com pato, throwing up, and generally feeling bad. I'm hoping that Matt and Beatrice don't get it, especially since Matt is taking a trip back to the US on Tuesday. So do your work probiotics!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nossa! School Supplies!

Ouch! I just got back from the 6th trip to buy school supplies. I knew it was going to be pricey, but Nossa! (‘Nossa’ is a Portuguese word meaning ‘ours’, and is also used to mean something like ‘wow!’ or ‘oh my gosh!’). Granted, we do have 3 kids, but it's getting a little ridiculous...

1. R$24 One school shirt. I had hoped to buy more shirts and books, but I went shopping 2 1/2 weeks before classes started, so of course they didn't have anything in stock. I mean, what was I thinking?

2. R$60 for pens, notebooks, sketch books, pastas (the Brazilian plastic version of Pee-Chees

3. US$??? Glue sticks, Elmer's glue, erasers, pencil sharpeners, scissors, highlighters, pens, all found for a steal at Office Max (thanks Mom and Dad!!!)

4. R$160 Books and 2 school field trip tee shirts

5. R$60 More notebooks, paper, big paper, notebooks for practicing cursive, notebooks for math...

6. R$200 Books

And the sad thing is that we still have to buy agendas (i.e. school calendars that include all parent-teacher communication) which are R$25 each, and I have to buy at least 4 more books!!!!!! This is like buying books and supplies for college courses, and my kids are all under the age of 10. No wonder there are so many families here with just one child!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Welcome back

I'm back in Brazil. It was so nice to spend time with my parents, to feel cold, to eat things that I haven't eaten in about a year (blueberries! grapefruit! grape nuts! mexican food! good yogurt! let me stop before my stomach start growling), but mostly to be in a place that is familiar, where I don't have to work so hard to understand and be understood. It was a gift.

And then I got to the Tacumen Airport in Panama City. I unfortunately had l o n g layovers both coming and returning, and it's not really a big airport. On my way back to Brazil, I called a good friend, wrote the last blog entry, ate a Subway meatball sandwich, listened to people speaking Spanish, and wondered through the duty free storea. When it was finally time to head towards my gate, I knew exactly where I was suppose to go.

My gate had the three year old running around in just a diaper, screaming. And everyone was watching him, smiling. My gate was VERY LOUD because everyone was talking at the same time to everyone else. My gate was crowded and full. At my gate, everyone was totally pushing the limits of acceptable carry-on baggage, after shopping their hearts out abroad (me included). My gate was the happy one, and people were whistling and singing to themselves.

Ah, Brazilians! What a nice way to welcome me back.