Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our experience with the Emergency room

It wouldn't be school vacation without some accident.  Thankfully, it was minor for us.  Two Thursdays ago, Bea and Sebastian were bored and engaged in typical sibling horseplay.  Beatrice was sitting on Sebastian's back, and he decided to launch her off.  She went flying, and hit the bridge of her nose on the edge of her bed.  I was outside hosing down the patio when I heard the screaming.  I looked in the window and didn't see any blood and asked Sebastian what happened.  He did the usual big brother deferring blame thing.  I came inside, and by that time there was blood everywhere, and I knew right away we were taking a trip to the emergency room.  I have to admit it was a bit scary to see my child covered in blood; especially not knowing where the wound was (mouth?  internal?  a cut?)  Matt was home, so we all loaded in the Fusca and drove to the Unimed Hospital.  We live VERY close to LifeCenter, which is one of the best (so I've heard) hospitals in the city, but when Sebastian hit his head at school and we were concerned about concussions, we were told that LifeCenter doesn't see children.  Since Bea's incident, we've learned that LifeCenter will do stitches, but not much more.

I sent Matt in with Beatrice, so all I have to say is based on Matt's experience.  But overall it was VERY good.  It's easy to pull up and to do a drop off.  Matt went up to the counter to get a number, but a "greeter" came up to him to ask if everything was ok.  Matt showed her Bea's wound, and the greeter helped get them get a ficha (ticket) that was bumped to the front of the line.  Within 1 minute, Beatrice's name was called and she was back with a doctor.  He cleaned her up, and she got 4 stitches.  I meanwhile was trying to find parking (I'd only brought R$6 with me, so I was rather limited.  Yet another reason to always carry some cash....) and console the older two children.  Dora was crying and upset:  she thought Beatrice was going to have to spend the night.  I stuck around the waiting room for about 45 minutes, and then realized I had to leave or else I wouldn't have enough money to pay for parking.  Matt said that Bea had to wait for x-rays (because she bumped her forehead they wanted to take x-rays just to be safe).  By the time we got back home, Matt and Beatrice were done.  I cleaned up the blood on the floor, and we went back to meet them at McDonalds at Boulevard Shopping for a "were going to be okay" dinner.  Bea and Matt spent a total of 60 minutes in the hospital, and the nurses, doctors and staff were very efficient, helpful and did a great job.  

Beatrice had to go back to the Unimed hospital to get the stitches out a week later.  This was the most annoying part of the whole process.  We had thought about calling our pediatrician to schedule and appointment to get the stitches out, but just didn't do it.  Matt took Bea to the equivalent of the walk in clinic (urgent care), and there was a HUGE line.  Matt guessed that it was going to take 2 hours, and he hadn't planned for that, and he knew it was going to be a problem for him and for Beatrice.  He went to LifeCenter, but it was the same story there--long line.  So, he brought her back home, called his sister who is a nurse, and took the stitches out himself!  I have to admit I wasn't so keen on the idea of him playing doctor, especially since I had attempted to remove George's stitches (the cat) last year and caused a mountain of problems.  But his sister assured us that it was ok.  And it is.  Now we are just applying Rosehip oil to help it heal and hopefully minimize any scarring. 

I think it's pretty much a given that we will have visits to the Emergency room.  Kids are kids.  Accidents happen.  And like I said, it could have been worse.  Thankfully it wasn't, and we are thankful that we have good health insurance, that we live close to good hospitals, and that we had a good experience.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I changed the chuveiro!

I can't remember if I've written about showers in Brazil.  Many people have.  Most apartments and houses do not have hot running water.  And contrary to popular believe, not all of Brazil is in the humid tropics, so it's nice to have hot showers.  So, we have these:


It's called the chuveiro.  There is an electric current that runs through the apparatus that heats up the water.  The nice thing is that you have almost instantaneous hot water (if the water pressure is right).  The not so nice thing is that it's a mixture of water and electricity.  Just a wee bit risky, I must say.  But it works.  At least most of the time.

Friday night, our oldest daughter was taking a shower, when we heard her start yelling, "MOMMMMMMM!"  I've heard that before.  It means something is malfunctioning with the shower.  A few times there has been smoke (a horrible plastic smell).  And once or twice just really hot water and lots of steam.  But it means it's time to change the chuveiro.  My informal YouTube research helped me learn that you can actually just change the little coil "element" inside the head, and all is good.  We had 2 leftover shower heads from our last apartment (yes, we took EVERYTHING with us when we moved.  We left it as we had found it:  barren).  Rather than being totally Brazilian (fixing it rather than throwing it away), we opted to just get rid of the old shower head.  Unfortunately, my husband couldn't change the shower head because it was night.  In order to change it, you have to turn off the power, and that means turning off the lights.  And also unfortunately, my husband was leaving in 45 minutes for an orchestra tour.  But he assured me that I could do it the next morning.

However, Saturday morning arrived and I had my hands full with 3 children.  I couldn't call the dear hubby, and his sporadic texts weren't giving the me the confidence I needed to deal with electricity and tools.  So I ended up taking a bucket shower.  You know it:  fill the bucket with warm water and attempt to get yourself clean as shampoo runs in your eyes.

Sunday morning I decided that I was done with the bucket, and I was going to face the chuveiro.  And I did it!  Turned off the power.  Unscrewed the square boxy like thing that the wires go in.  Removed the old shower head.  Screwed on the new shower head.  Put the new wires in the square boxy thing.  Turned the power back on.  Hot water!  Nice, warm shower!

Someone saw me disposing of the old chuveiro today (yes, it sat around in our apartment for a full 24 hours before I got around to taking it out with the trash.  It was one of those kind of Sundays).  She was SO impressed that I, an AMERICAN WOMAN could change the chuveiro.  I feel pretty dang proud of myself!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


No, we're not leaving Brazil.  No plans to do so.  Days when I want to, but we are fully here.  Friends, work, and now we're thinking about moving to another apartment in Belo Horizonte.  We're here.

But I've been thinking about the "despedida" or "farewell" recently.  We went to a birthday party a few weekends back.  It was very nice:  about an hour outside of the city, at the family "cabin," lots of kids and bikes and a swimming pool.  The invitation said that the party was between 10 am and 3 pm.  For various reasons, we didn't even arrive at the party until 1:30 pm.  We ate, played, walked around the lake, and at about 5:00 pm it was birthday cake time (yes, that was a full 2 hours after the "end" of the party).  It's winter here, so the sun goes down at about 5:45 pm.  I had driven the Fusca (VW Bug), and even though I had another passenger that was going back with me who knew Belo Horizonte like the back of her hand, I didn't feel so comfortable with driving in the dark in an unfamiliar neighborhood.  So at 5:15 I started telling my kids and fellow passengers that I would like to leave.  I knew that nobody was happy that I was leaving (the hosts, the other passenger and her daughter),  but I also knew that if I didn't do a little pushing, we weren't going to leave until 9 pm.  After 45 minutes, and making the rounds to say goodbye to everyone and their grandpa, we left.  And we made it back safe and sound.  And I was only mildly annoyed by the long, drawn out departure. 

That's how departures are in Brazil.  No one really wants to leave the party, the restaurant, the Sunday afternoon lunch.  So Brazilians linger, have one more saideira (that last drink before you leave), tell the kids you are really going to go in 5 minutes for the 7th time.   The hosts complain and say that you just got there (5 hours ago), and convince you into staying for another 2 hours.  This is one thing that I still have not learned to adapt to in Brazil.  I'm just so dang American.  When it's time to go, it's time to go.  I don't like to do this meandering, in between, hanging out thing.  And I especially don't like it when my kids make it harder for me to leave.  I have to confess that I've resorted on occasions to bribing my children, especially the youngest in regards to departure time.  "Beatrice, if you are a good girl when we leave I will give you candy."  Ug.  But I've realized that it's hardest for her.  She's American, because we are.  But she's celebrated more birthdays in Brazil than she has in the US.  She loves the prolonged despedida. 

For example, about 2 months ago I decided to pick her up from school and walk back home rather than drive.  Leaving school was no problem, and I told her that we were going to eat dinner at the padaria (bakery) on the way home.  A little special mommy/daughter time.  After we left the padaria, we saw her best friend from school.  Shrieking and jumping ensue.  Best friend's mom offers to give us a ride home (even though it was totally out of her way, and it would take longer to drive than to walk).  I politely decline but the best friends protest loudly so the mom convinces me to get in the car.  Ok.  She drives us home, and we were in the car a total of maybe 10 minutes.  I get out of the car, find my keys, and Beatrice tells me she has to say goodbye to her friend.  This involves a conversation, and Beatrice tries to make plans for a play date, and convince both mommies to let them play just a little bit.  I continue to try to get Bea out of the car, and finally after 5 minutes she gets out.  But then she won't let go of the car door, and she has to sing a song and tell a story and hug her friend again.  Finally I pry her from the door, and then the best friend is crying because she didn't get to say goodbye.  They roll down the window and Beatrice and best friend yell back and forth "goodbye!"  "good night!" until the car is a block away.  I proceed to pull my gray hair out as I drag my daughter to our apartment.

I felt so annoyed by this, but it wasn't until the birthday party that I realized that this is just the Brazilian part of Beatrice doing the normal Brazilian thing.  She isn't (always) trying to manipulate me, or be obnoxious, she's just doing what little kids do here when the love someone and they don't want them to leave or say goodbye.  It also made me realize that Brazilians must think I am SO rude and condescending.  What feels like a warm embrace and nice cheek kisses to say goodbye (which is much more that most Americans would do) must the coldest, rudest despedida that these Brazilians have ever encountered.  

And on that note, I'm going to end this post.  Coldly.  Abruptly.  :-)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Winter Vacation

It's Winter Vacation!  I have to remind some of my Northern Hemisphere readers about the how this works (when it's summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the northern part of the earth is tilted towards the sun--remember the "axis"?  That means that the Southern Hemisphere is tilted away, so we have shorter days and cooler temperature, lesson over).   Most schools here have a 2 to 3 week vacation.  If you have the means and the time off of work, then people like to travel.   We've opted to stay in BH, because the dear hubby has to work LOTS and I'm not up for traveling solo with 3 kids.  I realized this a few weeks ago, so I've made some tentative plans for us.  And this is important, because our dear empregada Irene is on vacation too.  Usually employees save up for one big paid (by law) vacation at the end of the year, but Irene has some things to attend to that require time away from BH.  So, I'm not only in charge of the 3 kids, but all the cleaning, cooking, shopping, and laundry.  So, here's the plan:

1.  Plan lots of play dates.  I was very thorough this year at taking inventory of who is traveling, when they are traveling, and making sure friends knew that we are here and we would love to get together. 

2.  Teach the kids how to help.  I already have the kids doing chores and tasks that actually help me.  But during the next 2 1/2 weeks, I'm going to work at teaching Bea how to take a shower by herself (she's 5, with rather difficult hair), teach Dora how to bake something, and have the kids take out the trash and sweep the floors daily.  Also, I'm going to ask the hubby to take care of the ironing.  Sorry Mom, I still don't share your love for ironing.

3.  Take advantage of the free events.  Even though things get quieter in town because there are more people traveling and less people shuttling their kids to and from school, there are plenty of events going on.  Here are some that we are considering:

Festival Saci 
Park Events
Oi Telecommunications Museum
ArcelorMittal Diversão em Cena performances
Fiat Museum (I talked about this before here)

4.  Enjoy time together as a family!   I'm very grateful that my schedule is pretty much the same as the children's school schedule.  This may not always be the case, and we may not always live in a place that has such a high value for vacation, relaxing, and spending time together as a family.  It's my hope that even though we're not going to the beach or a resort or traveling to the US, that we can relax together, play together and enjoy ourselves. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Caja Mango

I've been on kind of a fruit kick lately.  It's either write about fruit, or write about the stupid leak (again) in our apartment.  Fruit is easier to deal with.  No surprises.  No not showing up.  No bitter taste in your mouth after confronting so much incompetence.

I found a new kind of mango at a neighborhood market a few weeks back.  Behold, the Caja Manga:
from Brasil Escola

They are little (slightly larger than a kiwi), and they were very green when I bought them.  Our empregada Irene told us that they we should wait to cut them until they look like the picture above, a deep, mustard yellow kind of picture.  She also told us that they are pretty sour, and best used in juices with sugar added.   A little bit of research also taught me that they are pretty stringy, and not so great to eat plain.  I had to wait over 2 weeks for them to change color and ripen.  The smell was really nice, different from a "normal" mango.  The flavor was indeed more sour, a bit more citrus-y.  I did the best I could to cut it into chunks, and then added it to a smoothie with orange juice and yogurt.   Yum!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dreams, drug stores and dentists

I've been known to have strange dreams.  I remember once dreaming that President Ronald Regan was performing brain surgery on me while I was "awake."  As a child I frequently dreamed about driving a blue convertible car, while wearing a bandana in my perfectly coiffed, 60s style hair.  I've had some odd Brazil dreams in the past 2 years, but since I'm out of practice of writing them down or sharing them, I usually forget. 

But last night I dreamed that I went to the dentist and he gave me bad news (not surprising, I have lots of problems with my teeth).  I could hardly understand what he was saying (this is also not surprising, since my dentist talks SUPER fast and I have to work really hard to understand him).  But he told me I needed a prescription.  He wrote it out.  I went to Araujo (the drug store).  The pharmacist took FOREVER finding what I needed (again, not surprising).  She then brought me a small container of REACH, green waxed dental floss and told me it cost R$33.  I said that there was no way in h&** I would pay that much for dental floss, and left. 

How would you interpret that?