Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's NOT the weather

We've been sick. As in, can't breathe through your nose, stay in bed, dizzy, weepy, plugged ears sick. It started with me last Wednesday night, and then the kids got it over the weekend. The hubby (as usual) is the only one who's been able to escape the misery. Yesterday I went back to work, and the teachers and coordinators could tell that I wasn't back to 100%.

I say, "yes, yes, I've got a pretty bad cold. And my kids are at home with the same thing."

They say, "Oh, it's the weather."

I can't tell you HOW many times I've heard this since I've moved here. You have a cough? It's the weather. Your have a sinus infection? The weather. Sore throat? The weather.

I'm here to say, it's NOT the weather.

It seems to me that many Brazilians missed that science class where you learn about germs, and how sickness is passed. And this goes for the highly educated teachers at my school (some with multiple degrees and previous career experience) to the guy with the 2nd grade education selling candy at the street corner. I usually say something about how I work with about 150 children at 3 different campuses, and that 2 of them coughed in my face, 5 of them sneezed on me, and one always licks the shakers that we use in music class (actually he puts EVERYTHING in his mouth). And the response is, "oh yes, the weather changed last week and now everybody is feeling bad."

But petty annoyances aside, this makes me think about things that we Americans assume and say that are not accurate. What misinformation are we spreading? What anecdotes do we believe in? Listening to classical music makes kids smart? Carrots will make your eye sight better?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Trash Cans of Belo Horizonte

We have some interesting looking trash receptacles in this city. I remembered when I first moved here, thinking "huh?" When my sister was here, she asked me one time what this was:

I took this picture on Sunday, on a walk with Beatrice, on the way to the drugstore. On the weekdays, they have bags of trash in them, and sometimes they "overflow" to the sidewalk. I find them unusual because they don't really work to hold the little things. I think this is one of the many reasons why the sidewalks here tend to have so much trash--the trash cans have big spaces in them, and all the loose stuff just falls out. Here's another model:

The one picture above is better, since things can't fall out. But it is much smaller. These are often found by the bus stops and are very convenient for lollipop stick trash. For example.

This one looks like chicken wire, but it's actually some kind of iron/metal. It used to have a "lid" or top, but that is long gone.

And here, you can see all the little bits of trash that have fallen out. Now I'm wondering why all these are off the ground, especially since many folks will just put their bags of trash on the sidewalk. An attempt to keep creatures away?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where to buy craft supplies in Belo Horizonte

I have to admit I'm not much of a crafty person. I'd like to think that I'm good at making things, but really I'm just good at starting projects. And then not finishing them, or getting frustrated that they don't look like what the pictures show. In the past year, I tried to make a rag rug (fail), a pillow (it's on our couch and looks horrible), a yarn vase (ugly), a necklace out of an old magazine (unfinished), and a bookshelf from an old fruit crate (all of the above). Part of my challenge with crafting in Brazil has been that I've tried to only use recycled material, and to make it without spending any money. And with limited space. All while trying to keep 3 kids from stabbing the cat and breaking the television. Hence, my very sad list above. But I still get the itch to make something....

The school where I work does some amazing projects, mostly from recycled objects, but also using some creative, interesting material. I kept going to the corner papelaria (book store) and looking for things. There I can find school supplies, paper (crepe, colored, and other kinds), makers, glue, tape, and the likes. Which, by the way, construction paper is SUPER expensive here in Brazil, so what the teachers do is buy big sheets of paper (the size of poster board) for about $1 USD, and cut it into 4 sheets of paper that are about the size of construction paper. Pretty smart, eh? I asked around at school for a good place to buy some of the materials that I saw them using like these puncher thingys to cut out shapes, beads, embroidery thread, various kinds of paint, candle making supplies, and wire for beading. They told me to go to Galeria Ouvidor.

It's in centro, on Rua São Paulo 656, and looks like this:

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I've been there two times. The first times, I was not at ALL impressed. I'd been told it's nothing like a Michaels or Hobby Lobby. But it was just like a big strip mall, and all, but all I really saw were jewelry stores (like gold rings, gold necklaces, gold earrrings), stores selling beading supplies, lingerie stores, and watch repair shops. I was a little disappointed. But then one of my colleagues told me I needed to go up to the top floor (4 andar). I went back a week and a half ago, and was pleasantly surprised. Art Nobre (I think that's the name) at the very top had a very good selection of things. I wouldn't recommend taking kids there (it's busy, lots of stairs to climb because the elevator had a HUGE line), but you can find a pretty dang good collection of crafty things, and get ideas for projects, and if you have the resources, time and an ounce of creativity in you, you can probably make some things that won't end up in the trash

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Paying INSS online

Domestic help is a part of middle class life in Brazil. Those with the means hire house cleaners, nannies, dog walkers, gardeners, and even extra weekend help to cover when the normal help has their days off! When I started working, the first thing we did was hire someone to help. And I remember how wonderful it felt to have someone help me with the dishes and laundry, and someone who knew the products and in general, how things work in these here parts. What a gift.

And with this gift comes a responsibility: paying the benefits. I had a HELL of a time figuring out how to pay INSS (or Previdência Social) online. It's essentially the benefit that employees get, like Social Security, when they retire. It's mandatory to pay into the INSS of your hired help. I still have no idea what "INSS" stands for, but once I learned that it's also called "GPS" things got a little easier. So here is what I do:

1. Log into your bank account (I have ITAU).
2. Click on "pagamentos," and then "GPS" or "impostos ou tributos" (it is a tax, after all).
3. Click on "federais" (or GPS). It's a federal tax.
4. Then you have to enter the information for your employee. This is the "identificador" on the bank website. This number can be found on your employees Carteira (work papers). It is the "PIS" number. If your employee is older (like, older than 40 years old), you will need to confirm this number with them. If your bank does not accept the number, you may need to add three zeroes (000) to the beginning. You can go to this website to check to see if your employee is registered:
5. The Código do pagamento for domestic workers is "1600."
6. The minimum value may have to be 20% of the minimum salary (i.e. 20% of R$545 or R$109) in order for the payment to post.
7. Make sure you have a total value (Valor arrecadado).
8. Post the payment, but make sure to save a copy of the payment for your records. When in doubt in Brazil, ALWAYS make copies, save copies, print copies. You get my drift.

The payment needs to be made each month, and before the 15th of the month.

Now of course, this was all done mid-year, with a new employee, and I have not triple-checked my facts. But hopefully, maybe, JUST MAYBE, this will help someone out there who is pulling their hair out and feeling stuck.

Friday, August 19, 2011

How to repair broken Havianas

When we moved to Brazil, I brought my cheap, Old Navy flip-flops. I'd heard of Havianas, but I thought, "really? what is the big deal about flip-flops?" I used to have lots of problems with my feet, so I didn't really wear flip-flops all that much anyway. Then, my husband bought me a pair for Christmas 2010. My husband routinely buys me gifts that at first I'm not too impressed with, and then they really grow on me. I have to say that these flip-flops are amazing! He got me a pair that has a little thicker sole, with more support. They feel great. But then sadly, a few months ago they broke like this:

I went back to the store where he bought them, and they said I'd just have to buy another pair. I loved them so much, I was willing to shell out the R$30 so I could go back to being comfortable. A few days later, I was riding the bus downtown, and I saw someone on the street corner, selling shoe laces and something else. Replacement straps for Havaianas! Thankfully I hadn't thrown away my old pair, and as luck would have it, a few days later my new pair broke in the same way. And my husband's pair broke too. Last week I finally got around to making a trip downtown, and found a shoelace salesman/Havaiana repairman. For about R$10, I was able to get all 3 pair fixed. I really love how Brazilians will fix things rather than throw them away and buy another. And my feet are happy again.