Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Most common mistakes I find when editing

***warning!! You may encounter sentence fragments and be exposed to dangling participles in this post***

I do a little editing work for Maple Bear, where I teach Music classes. The teachers have to write newsletters to parents, telling them what is happening in the classroom (which I wish would happen at my kids school....) and labels for the artwork that is displayed at the school, and labels for the portfolios that are made to give to the families at the end of the year. For the most part, I really like this work. I can do it from home, I can do it when I have time, and I get to be picky about grammar and spelling, and I don't have to talk to anyone when I do it (believe it or not, I'm an introvert).

However, it's been a little taxing recently. On Sunday night I spent at least an hour rewriting a teacher's work, and in the end just translated it. But my job is supposed to be just to edit, not to translate. I've talked to my bosses about this, and there will probably be a workshop to help teach the teachers. But here are some of the most common mistakes I find. If you do editing in Brazil, please leave me a comment and let me know what you encounter!

1. "Momento" DOES NOT always = "moment" or "moments." We had many nice moments in the classroom. Nope. Instead use "time."

2. Shorter sentence are better. I think that in Portuguese grammar longer sentences are more common. It gets a little too confusing to write paragraph sentences. Here is an example of something that should be about 4 sentences:

Maple Bear School, within the principles of humanity and citizenship that guides your employees, teachers and principals, and according to the educational philosophy "Solidary School" that is part of its pedagogical project connected to the surrounding community in need, is launching this final year of his social project "Jingle Bear."

Lord have mercy.

3. Capitalizing titles. I have not studied the rules in Portuguese, but I think that you only capitalize the first word. In English, most of the words are capitalized. There are websites with rules, but it's okay to error on the side of "over-capitalizing."

4. When talking about events in the past, use past tense. I know this is way too simple, but if you aren't so familiar with the appropriate use of tenses, don't try to make everything to present tense, or past perfect, or past perfect continuous. Keep it simple.

5. It's "hand-eye" coordination. Not "eye-hand."

6. Commas. I'm going to tell the teachers I work with to just not use them. What they do is use them all the time, and it becomes very tedious to edit them out (I have to highlight the error, use the "line through," option, then highlight it. When you sprinkle your writing, with, commas, this becomes, very difficult.)

7. Begin sentences with a subject and then a verb. I realize that this seems a little boring, but I encounter all kind of crazy sentences that make no sense beginning with passive voice, noun strings, gerunds ("Seeing the dog, the children draw it." Is that starting the sentence with a gerund? Or is that called something else?) I see subordinate clauses in the middle of sentences, misplaced modifiers....and many other wacky things. For example:

With the pancakes, we observed that the liquid when in contact with a hot surface, it changes the look of its texture, making it a delicious muffin pan.


8. Until versus by. I need the document by 5:00 pm. You have until 5:00 pm to finish it. Using the wrong word here makes a big difference.

I'm probably going to take this info and use it in the workshop, so thank you for being my guinea pig.

Monday, May 30, 2011

On Being Sick in Brazil

The weather is getting colder (somewhat) here, and with it comes sickness. Colds, the flu, coughing, rashes, etcetera. I made it through one round of illnesses, but my dear hubby has come down with a bad cold. Bad enough that he should stay home from work. But you can't just call your boss and say that you are sick. You have to go to the doctor and get a note. In some ways, this defies logic to me: all the husband wants to do is lie around the house in his pajamas and read his Kindle, and he's really not sick enough to need a prescription or really need a doctor's care, but he has to go the doctor to get permission to stay home. I've heard that Brazilians tend to go to work even if they are sick (hence the horrible bug that went through our family last year when our empregada came to our house and camped out in our bathroom...um, I mean came to work).

So, schedule an appointment with the family physician? No. (Oh, do we have a family physician? No.) What to do, what to do? Here are our options:

1. Go to the posto. This is the neighborhood free clinic. You can go there, wait in line, see a doctor for free, and get a note.

2. Go to the hospital. We are fortunate to have insurance. We live close to a great hospital with the Brazilian equivalent of urgent care. You can go there, wait in a shorter line and see a doctor and get a note.

3. Get your doctor friend to write a note. This is an option I haven't tried yet, but this was what Brazilians tell me to do. You just ask your doctor friend for a favor, and they write you a note. Seems a little iffy to me, but to be honest, it's kind of how the system works. I wonder, though, what employers think about the men who bring notes from gynecologists...

The dear husband went with option number 2, and got a note to excuse him from two days of work. I need to double check this, but I think that you can use the same kind of system if you have a sick child that you are taking care of--a note from a doctor for your child will work for your employer as well.

I'm going to go squeeze some more orange juice and heat up the left over chicken noodle soup!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

5 things I never thought I'd do, but I've done in Brasil

A while back I wrote about the five things I've want to do but don't. In all the time that I spend sitting in traffic, waiting for the bus, washing dishes, doing laundry, I've compiled the following list of things that I never believed would happen, but have

1. Do things that I shouldn't. I'm not going to go into much detail here. But I will say that in the US, rules are created to be followed, and the expectation is that you will follow them or suffer the consequence of breaking them. If you follow the the rules, things usually go well for you. This is not always the case in Brasil. Sometimes, you follow the rules, and you make more problems. Sometimes the rules are so incredibly complicated that it isn't really possible to follow them. I think that regulations are made here with the expectation that people will try everything possible to get around them (jeito!) and so they become increasingly complicated with time. But I never thought I would totally ignore the man who sits at the entry to the club who tells me that my children can't go in. I never thought I would drive without a car seat (don't worry, this has been resolved). I never thought I would ignore the neighbor who keeps telling me that I need to pay R$100 for the party that I held in the party room last year, even though I didn't know I was supposed to pay for it.

2. Wear a bikini in public. I've always been a modest person. There isn't really such a thing as a modest bikini. But I actually sported one when we went to the beach. And my husband snapped pictures. And people have seen them! Gasp!

3. Drive in Brasil. Bumpy roads, no signs, rules that defy all logic, total disregard for lane lines when approaching a stoplight. And the Motoboys with a death wish! But I'm driving. And I'm getting to be almost okay at it. And I even drive a stick shift!

4. Wash the kid's shoes. Come on, I'm busy enough as it is. Who has time to wash the kids shoes? Oh wait a minute, is it really that obvious that we're not Brazilian? And is it possible that those shoes are really that nasty dirty? So here I go, getting carpal tunnel and scrubbing with an old toothbrush...

5. Send my kids to private school. And pay for it. I've said it before, school here for kids is pricey. Public schools are sadly not very good, and people with the resources send their kids to private schools. From my informal survey, private school tuition runs between R$500 to R$800 a month (with the American School being at least 3 times that).

The final birthday party is this weekend, so hopefully after this I can have a little more time to do the things that give me energy (write my blog! cook! have friends over! walk!) Happy almost Birthday Dora!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A minha zangada...

The kids learned a song last year during the Festa Junina at their school that has haunted me. I'd tried a few searches online to find the name, or find the music, but no luck. And then last week at my school, I just asked the director if she knew it, and she found it on YouTube for me. It's the very first part of the "medley." Enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011


Well, just when we'd all given up hope, the cat came back.

Three and 1/2 weeks later, skinny, dirty and with a pitifully hoarse meow. Our friends that had been cat-sitting him when he escaped called last night at midnight, to let us know that he's just sauntered right into their house, and that their oldest daughter was holding him. Matt went over and picked him up and brought him back home. He meowed and meowed (but that's not really anything new), ate a ton of food, and I attempted to clean him up. He pooped all over the floor in the middle of the night, and threw up, but he seems very happy to see us. A changed cat, and for the better. He was so strange, pretty much just doing whatever he wanted to do, and did NOT like to be touched or petted. But now he won't go away: he sat by Matt at lunch, he keeps rubbing up against our legs, and even seems like he likes us. I gave him a real bath this morning. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, thanks to our Box Blindex (I think that's what they are called). Many apartments here have showers called "blindex", which just means that they are kind of big and they have big glass doors. No bathtub. So I just shut myself in there with him and sponged him off. The kids don't seem near as excited as I thought they'd be. And I just wonder what the heck he had been doing...sounds like a good idea for a kids book....

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bureaucracy and getting an RNE (Registro Nacional de estrangeiros)

Sometimes the bureaucracy just feels like a big game. Last year we went to register as foreigners, and from what I remember it went like this:

Go to some obscure location and wait. Then wait some more. With 3 kids. Then show all your paperwork. And wait. Then explain to them some detail that doesn't seem quite right. And wait. Then get a picture taken (again) and your finger prints. And wait. Then, watch the clerk pull out a HUGE book, full of millions of signatures. And add your signature (does someone actually look at this? and verify the signatures? really?!?) And then you are told you will get your card in the mail. So we wait.

A few months later, a friend wanted to go to this location to get this (or something similar) taken care of. She looked and looked for the address or phone number online, emailed us for the info after not being able to find it, and finally just ended up going. Only to find out that that location had been shut down. It had been a pet project of some government official, and then shortly after opening, was closed down. And then a few months later it opened up again! It's almost like a form of entertainment. Like hide and seek. "Make the estrangeiros find the office to register!"

I won't even get into what is going on now with our Visa status.

But here is a little something that I would like to do when I do have to actually show up and sign that big stupid book again:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sunday Filormônica Concert at Praça da Liberdade

My hubby's orchestra does occasional park concerts on Sunday. This last one was at Praça da Liberdade, not too far from our house.

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It was a BEAUTIFUL day--clear sky, warm, and lots of people out walking and strolling at the park. It got too hot in the chairs (no shade), so we moved over to the side with the crowd and enjoyed the show.

The kids got to see daddy play, listen to beautiful music, eat ice cream cone and pipoca (popcorn) and run around. I had the foresight to actually invite some friends, and while we didn't get to sit by them, we did run into people as we were running around looking for snacks and trying to keep occupied. It was a very fun morning!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Road trip to Peró, Rio de Janeiro (Cabo Frio)

We had planned to visit Rio de Janeiro for the first time in January, but very unfortunately, we had to cancel our trip. Since then, I've been dreaming of the beach.

I honestly think that the beach is the perfect vacation spot for our family. There's something to keep everyone entertained, you can make a big mess and be loud and no one cares, and there are lots of things to try and explore. So, I kept pestering my husband about going. After studying our school/work calendar, I realized that Semana Santa (the week before Easter) was going to be the only time (besides Christmas) that we had the same vacation time. So I pushed some more, and finally my dear husband relented.

Since we were still recovering from the shock of buying school supplies, and our rent and condominium rates went up (arggggg) we decided to keep it on the cheap. Plus I'm just cheap. I spent a lot of time online looking for an apartment to rent, so we could do our own cooking. I mostly looked at Alugue Temporada (or it's English version, Home Away). A LOT of time. Like hours, and hours and hours. What I did was find a town/beach, then just start emailing all the owners. What happened was that many people responded quickly, but they would not remember to include pertinent details. Like the price. Or how close to the beach it was. What I learned: just call when planning for a vacation rental. Brazilians are still getting used to using email/the internet for selling and promoting things, and (in my opinion), because this is such a relational culture, it's just better to talk to people. After the 2nd rental didn't work out, I started getting panicky because our vacation was just a month away. I started calling people, and that's when I really made any headway. Another word of wisdom: never believe that you have a place reserved, until you've paid and you get confirmation from the owner.

We finally decided on this place. The price was right, it was outside of Cabo Frio, so a little calmer, and close to the beach.

The other way we decided to save on money was to drive. I'd looked into taking a bus, but with a family of 5, it really starts to add up. Plus, it was a chance to take a road trip with the Fusca (the bug).

Yes, we drove over 1000 kilometers with 3 children in a foreign country in a Fusca.

We are crazy. And it was great.

But it would have been better had 2 things happened. 1. Somebody besides Shelley was in charge of maps/directions, and 2. driving in Brasil wouldn't be so difficult. I am what some might kindly refer to as "directionally challenged." My husband asked me once if I always have to turn around when I drive. I can get lost in our parking garage. I could get lost in my hometown of 2500 people. I can't tell you which direction north is. Give me a map, and you throw in a whole other series of problems. You'd think that both my husband and I would know this, but apparently we are slow learners. I printed probably 20 pages of maps and directions. And we were fine until we got to our first major turn of the first freeway (thankfully this was about 5 hours into our trip). Another thing I learned on this trip: freeways and streets are usually not marked here. But there are signs that tell you which way a road might take you. So, it's helpful to have a map that indicates which towns you will pass through and go by when you are traveling in Brasil.

We weren't sure where to get from one highway to another, stopped and asked someone for help. Granted, stopping to ask for help was asking the random guy standing in the middle of the interchange. He gave us the wrong directions, which we accidentally didn't follow, and somehow ended up going the right way. But I second guessed myself, and we turned around. We had to pay to go through a toll booth, and essentially wasted an hour driving around. Grrrr. After we finally got going the right way, it became clear that we weren't going to make it to our destination before dark. We left at 7 AM, expecting to arrive well before 5:00 pm. But Google maps must give time estimates for cars that drive well over 110 kph, and it doesn't take into account that every little town you go through has at least 2 massive speed bumps that you have to practically stop for. Nor does it take into account the huge hills, getting stuck behind a truck full of chickens going 10 kph up that hill, and horse drawn carts (of which we saw seven). That last 2 hours was the worst, because it was abundantly clear to me that I really had no idea where we were going, that we were going to be driving in the dark, and that my maps and print outs were not going to do ANYTHING for us. I'd like to say it was all rainbows and flowers and happy thoughts in the car, but....well, it we just weren't at our best. But by some miracle, we made it through Cabo Frio proper, and then stopped at a gas station for directions to the praca by the house were we were staying. And we made it. 12 1/2 hours later.

Thankfully I'm not the only one that has suffered through traveling in Brasil--Danielle in Brazil talks about driving to a new place in Brazil here. It's hard to redeem that kind of trip with a beach, but after 3 days, I think we had recovered from our drive.

So that's the road trip part (at least the way there). Coming soon--pictures! Descriptions of the beach! Fun stories! Stay tuned...

Sending greeting cards to the US, or "I Love Hallmark.com"

Hi there--I discovered Hallmark.com back in December, and I'm loving it! I set up an account, I can pick my card, personalize it, and even add pictures. The I put a US return address, my recipients address, and off it goes! The total costs is about US $4.50, but I always do a google search for "hallmark coupon codes," and find some promotional codes that provide a discount. Most often it's a 30% discount, so my last order was only US$3.09. What a great deal! Any other expats have other services you use that you can recommend? I'd love to hear from you!