Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Work Things, etc.

I haven't written for the last couple days because our internet wasn't working, and because I've been busy trying to establish this job stuff anyway.

When I last wrote, I had established the job at EnglishSchool (the first school), and I was debating whether to stick with the training at GetSmart English (the second school). Well, I did go to the first day of training, and I was so impressed with their curriculum that I decided to stay with it and try to get chosen to be the teacher. I mean, the books are really, really high-quality. The school has its own textbooks and learning system, and the teachers don't have to make any of their own materials. The textbooks are all based on this low-budget but high-quality sitcom. Each lesson refers to an episode (they're short-- less than 5 minutes). They have great, real-life English, with really creative ways of incorporating the grammar into each episode while still maintaining a plot. Of course, the first episodes are very basic, and they get progressively difficult. (For the desert Spanish class people reading this, it may bring up memories of DESTINOS-- “Aye, dios mio! Tu nombre is Jamie, not Jaime!) I won't bore you guys too much, but the point is, the system would be really great to teach from.

The problem is, I just don't think I'm going to get chosen. I can tell that she likes me well enough, and I know I have a 50/50 chance because 2/4 people in the training can't even start until June. But the class that starts this Saturday is very basic, and I think she really prefers a Portuguese speaker. The other woman is the one who is Brazilian but lived in California for many years. My only selling point when compared to her is that she has no teaching experience and keeps saying how she wants to go back to California as soon as she can. So... I'll find out on Friday, but I'm trying to be realistic. My hope is that, during our teaching demonstrations on Friday, the other woman suggests using corporal punishment or something, and then I'll be shoe-in for sure.

Things with the other job are going well, albeit slowly. I went to meet a bunch of students on Monday, but I'm not entirely clear which ones will be MY students. It seems more like the director was just excited to show off that he had a native speaker as a teacher, so he was introducing me and having me talk a bit with anyone and everyone. He keeps talking about how he has such big plans for me, and how I'm going to be an integral part of the staff, and all these things... yet he has really only secured 6 hours of teaching per week. He's enthusiastic, but overworked and kind of scatterbrained.

I'm excited to finally start working again, but I'm kind of worrying about the long-term situation here. I've been unemployed for over a month now, and not only is my brain bored, but I was banking (literally) on being employed sooner and with more hours than this. So, I don't know.

But something kind of fun: one of the girls at the training gave me a guy's phone number today (not like that!). Turns out he works with a textbook publishing company. He's currently in the process of recording the CDs for the listening activities for the textbooks, and he needs native speakers! Wouldn't that be hilarious? I just hope it isn't something I'm expected to do out of the goodness of my heart!

So that's the job update. Tomorrow is a holiday (May Day!), so for most places (not the aforementioned schools), it's a 4-day weekend. Alexandre and I aren't planning any big trips or anything, but we are going to paint the living room. Fun! We'll probably also go to this insanely cheap sushi restaurant that we found (a girl on the bus told Alexandre about it). We can get dinner, beer, and dessert for R$25 (like, 14 dollars). Fabulous! But I guess it's not cheap if you eat it 2 or 3 times a week. Haha.

I'll leave you with some fun/interesting things about Brazil that I still haven't told you about:

  1. Gas stations here double (quadruple?) as convenience stores, bakeries, and casual hang-out spots for young people! There are plastic tables and chairs outside most gas stations, and they're full of young people drinking beer on most evenings. The bread is also delicious.

  2. There is a Wal-Mart here, of course, and it functions as a small city. It has the typical Wal-Mart stuff that you see in the US, and also a grocery store (complete with a deli and meat department), a car repair shop and car wash, a pizza parlor, a (very cheap!) pharmacy, an ice cream stand, and probably other things that I'm forgetting. You move around the levels on escalators. It inconsistently spells things with 2 Ls (sometimes it's Wall-Mart), and it replaced the “always” slogan with “para sempre,” which literally translates to “FOR always,” but actually means “forever.” Pretty ominous, I think.

  3. We eat sandwiches for breakfast, dinner for lunch, a snack at dinner time, and small dinners for a late dinner (around 9). No Taco Bell, no Starbucks, not nearly as much corn syrup, and meat with every meal make Danielle a skinner person.

  4. The windows! Bedroom windows here are made up of 2... layers. (You may be able to see it in the apartment pictures.) The first layer that you close keeps out the light, and the second one doesn't. Alexandre explained that, because it rains so often in the afternoons, people want to keep out the rain without keeping out the light, but at night, they want to keep out everything. The blissful result is that, when both windows are closed, you have twice the glass! The room is fabulously dark and quiet well into the afternoon. Elena, imagine!

  5. We have to keep all of our food in the fridge and our microwave (which doubles as a pantry, ha). This is to avoid mold and ants.

I guess that's it for now. Plently long enough. Hope you all are doing well.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Apartment Pictures

As requested by Nanny, here are some pictures of the apartment. It's ours and it's 1/5 of the price of my apartment in San Diego:

This first one is part of the living room. We're painting the wall this weekend, and we're going to turn the old bed into a futon-couch-thing. (It's also available for anyone who comes to VISIT, ahem ahem.)








This second one is also the living room, and the balcony:



The hallway:

Our kitchen/laundry area, complete with drying socks:














Part of the bedroom:

And the bathroom:




















Hey also, like 20 people read this every day, and no one leaves comments, and I'm way too vain for that, so it makes me sad because I miss you all.

Pictures

Here are some pics that Alexandre took the other day while we were driving home from the BBQ. I didn't want to take the credit for his artsy-ness, albeit tipsy artsy-ness (o:



Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lists

Things I miss:
1. People
2. Traffic laws
3. Law and Order SVU
4. Mexican spices that cost 50 cents instead of 5 dollars
5. South Park... well, Comedy Central.
6. The beach
7. Text messaging
8. Good internet
9. Mousse for my hair


Things I don't miss:
1. Fast food
2. Republicans (skip to the quote at the end): http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/04/26/house.mortgage/index.html
3. The price of meat and produce

Things that are the same:
1. Sensationalized news
2. Advertising
3. Gas prices
4. College parties (the good kind)
5. Right-wing religious fundamentalist billboards and commercials
6. Most things.

Things that I don't know how I lived without:
1. This cheese spread with the consistency of churned butter (which therefore replaces churned butter on my sandwiches!)
2. Christian Socialist parties (finally, someone gets it right)
3. CountryStar! (It's like American Idol. But amazing.)
4. So many delicious food concoctions.
5. All the green
6. Alexandre. :o)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Living the American Dream... in Brazil

The last two days have been a waiting game, doing what I can to try to get myself a job, and trying to accommodate myself to Brazilian time of things taking longer than you expect or than people say they will take. But....Good news! I'm employed! Let me backtrack...

On Thursday I went to take another grammar test at a different school. I decided to walk there because that felt the safest, even though it would take about half an hour. I only got slightly lost on my way there, but only about 10 minutes out of my way. The people at the school were very nice and welcoming-- the receptionist here didn't speak English, either, but she complimented me on how much my Portuguese had improved since our first meeting last week, and she introduced me to another teacher so that he could help explain some logistical stuff to me, like how I shouldn't write on the test directly, but only the answer sheet, etc. During my test, she also brought in the director guy to meet me, which I guess is a good sign.

She told me I had 3 hours to take the test, but I only took about 45 minutes. I tried to seem more humble by spending time checking my answers and stuff, but whatever. When I turned in the test, she told me they'd call me soon. They still haven't, but they, too, could just be operating on Braziltime.

Oh, and on my way home I got horribly lost. When I realized later how utterly close I was to the apartment when I made a wrong turn, I wanted to kick myself. But if I hadn't gotten lost, I wouldn't have seen this DEAD ARMADILLO in the road:

Yeah, I know, kinda gross, but I'd never seen an armadillo in the wild before, alive or dead.

I ended up getting home by asking a gas station attendant for directions, and more or less understanding them.

I was kinda panicking about the job stuff, so I made some flyers to do private tutoring, and Alexandre put them up around his university. We'll see if that pans out.

But on Friday morning, the other two schools called back! The first was the place where I took the grammar test and no one spoke English. While waiting for my interview, I was talking with another wannabe teacher, an older woman who had been living in Victorville and who had to come back to Brazil because her mom was sick and because she herself needed surgery. What is up with people always telling me their whole life stories the first time I meet them? I guess in her case, grief just makes people do funny things.

My interview was okay, except the lady was close to my age and yet very serious the whole time, and kept trying to insist how many people have applied and how competitive it is and how she was “worried” because of my lack of Portuguese. I get that. But she's known that since I first went in to turn in my resume, so I'm not sure why she's allowed me to get this far. Then she explained that I'd have to go to 15 hours of unpaid training next week, which would include teaching demonstrations, and even then, I wouldn't be guaranteed to have the job (since they apparently decide at the end of the training week). And, if I even DO get the job, it'd only be about 4 hours per week at 14 reales (about 9 dollars) per hour. At the end of the interview, she kissed me on the cheek... which was, you know. Brazilian.

So yeah. Alexandre says I might as well go to the training, since I have nothing better to do (true). I figure I'll go to the first day and check it out. If the whole thing is in Portuguese, I'm scrapping it. If they keep talking to me about how it's a competition and how I am so replaceable, I'm scrapping it. Because....

I got offered a job at the other interview later that day! The director was a million times more respectful. He apparently sees my application as some fated gift from the teaching gods, as his other native speaker teacher (an Australian guy) decided to quit the day after the boss met me. He wants me to simply take over all of this guy's classes. There was such a contrast between the way he talked to me and the way the other director talked to me. He kept emphasizing about how he got such good “vibes” from me and Alexandre when he first met us, how he wants a team with his teachers, how I could “make myself at home” there, and how they were trying to expand and there would be possibilities for promotions. With all his buzz words, it was pretty clear that he's had at least one class in American business or marketing or something, but whatever, it was comforting. I don't think I'm some kind of teaching god that needs to be treated accordingly by any means, but Portuguese speaking or not, I don't like a management style that will attempt to keep putting me down until I just start begging them for the job. The pay is the same at this job, so I think that's pretty much the standard.

So... yay. Next week is the Aussie's last week, so I'm going to sit in on his classes with him (paid) to meet the students and put in my two cents and see what kind of dynamic he has established over the last few months. Some of the classes are just one-on-one tutoring (which schools call “VIP classes” pronounced “veep,”), and some are larger groups of different levels. Progress!

This whole job search thing has allowed me to see how much more localized everything is here, which is one of the reasons why things go a little slower. None of these schools are chains with centralized branches and HR offices. They each have small, overworked staff. The same thing goes for other industries. Our internet comes from a small local company with a tiny office about a mile away. To make extra money, the main part of the office sells computer equipment, and the internet branch is a small room in the back. Alexandre knows the guy by name, and we went to him to have him fix my computer to make the internet work. We didn't call any technical issues 1800-number based in India.

All bills are issued by the same local bank and look exactly the same, and are paid in cash at the company offices, or sometimes, at this special branch that the bank has at the mall. This part is still a bit confusing to me, but the point is, there is definitely no “online billpay” or checkwriting. Our vegetables often come from men around the neighborhood who grow the vegetables themselves on small farms on the outskirts of the city, and then sell them from their truck beds on certain days of the week. It sounds shady, but Alexandre has lived here for three years-- long enough to learn which farmers sell reliable produce and on which days. Etc, etc. Thoughts?

Yes, so. I've written far too much. Today, Alexandre's friends are having a barbecue, so we're going to that. I'll probably put up pictures.



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Slow Independence



So after a long and hot but relaxing and aesthetically pleasing ride back to my new city, Alexandre and I spent Monday lounging around the apartment. This consisted of me reading Blood Meridian and then taking the necessary Facebook Scrabble breaks with Danette, and Alexandre studying for a midterm of sorts. (Monday was a national holiday for this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiradentes. It is akin to Presidents’ Day in the US in the sense that the guy’s on a coin and stuff, but no one actually cares about the people, but just the excuse for a 3-day weekend.)

Today, Tuesday, I had my first grammar/teaching test at one of the jobs I’m applying for here. I was the only non-Brazilian in the interview, which at first sounds awesome because my native speakery should have put me a cut above the competition. The problems arose, however, when I was the only non-Portuguese speaker in the group test process. Two admin people from the school came into the testing room and gave speeches that I vaguely understood. One included a history of the school and some of their teaching philosophies (I know that because I picked out phrases like “6 months” and “teaching philosophies.”) The other one included important things like salary and the details about the interview process, but I just missed too much of it. At one point the admin lady was asking everyone a question that I didn’t understand. When she got to me, I said my new and bestest catch phrase: “Nao falo muito Portugues!” The lady was surprised for a moment, but then said, “Oh, you’re the American! What’s your name?”

“Danielley,”I said, because that’s what I’m called here. She just smiled and went back to her speech.

So when I figured out that it was time to actually take the test, I actually took it. That was the easy part; I love grammar, whatever. When I went out of the room to turn the test in to the lady, I was trying to explain that I didn’t understand the speech, and asking what was going to happen next. Another guy applying for the job so nicely piped in that he could explain it to me since, you know, he spoke English. I thought that was so nice of him, being as I was his competition and all. We chatted a bit, he asked me where I was from, I complimented him on his Cockney accent. It turns out that, aside from the woman I met when I turned in my resume, none of the staff at that school speaks English except for the teachers. Suck.
I’m kinda worried that this will hurt my chances of getting hired because I may be a logistically difficult employee. If they like me enough, and if I know grammar enough, I’ll get a call tomorrow for an oral interview (in English…woot!). That’ll be my chance to insist that I actually do know Portuguese grammar and phonetics very well, and that I do promise to take classes, and I’m fluent enough in Spanish that I can help students with difficult vocab stuff and just pleasepleaseiknowi’mtalkingreallyfast but I really just want the job.

Phew. Tomorrow morning is the same thing all over again at a different school.
This afternoon, Alexandre and I made the mistake of going to the grocery store on an empty stomach (empty stomachs?). We ended up buying more delicious snacks and less food for real meals and spending like 65 bucks, oops. Alexandre had the idea of “policing each other,”but that became more like this:
A: Come on, leave me buy this cookies.
D: No. We don’t need cookies. Soy gordita.
A: Eres perfecta. And I want cookies.
D: Well if you’re buying the cookies, then I’m buying the Nutella.

In the store, I had my usual experience of seeing a bunch of fruits I had never seen before. I channeled Jamie and took some pictures:



We made a delicious dinner of barbequed steak and Brazilian rice (I did it myself!) and then I tried to make my grandma’s carrots but they just weren’t up to par. Sigh.
Overall I’m ready to not be writing so much detail about my trips to the supermarket and writing about a job instead.
Below are some pictures that I took while we were driving around today, so you guys could get an idea of where I live now. I also uploaded the pictures below of the hotchidoggi and the bar with Juliana.
I miss you guys and wish you well in the good ol’ US of A.

Pictures
































Sunday, April 20, 2008

Visiting the In-Laws

Ummmm so I was going crazy with nerves on our 5-hour overnight bus ride to Alexandre's hometown. I complained about the seats and the noise and the draft and every other thing except having to meet his parents after spending a night trying to sleep on a bus. He saw right through it. When we stopped at a cafe/gas station place, he bought me a 4-cheese croussaint and some chocolate milk and told me to relax. I really do have it made, here.

But of course all of my worries were unfounded and everything was fine. When we arrived at 6am, his mother was all dressed up and speaking English and offering me tons of food, clearly with her own share of anxieties. We had a nice breakfast and chat, with some translation on Alexandre's part, and then slept for a few hours.

Our afternoon was spent with lunch and milling around the house. In the evening, Alexandre gave me a tour of the city (ït's so small! Only 200,000 people!") and then we drove to a bigger city close by. My dear former student, Juliana, lives there, and we met up with her and her friend at a fun bar by her university. Alexandre and Juliana had actually met before at my old job (where they both met me), and they had heard about each other but hadn't put 2 and 2 together. We had a great time catching up, the 4 of us, and singing along with the acoustic cover band that favored English songs, and me getting drunk on beer-- a rare occurance!




After we decided to leave the bar, the group told me they wanted to take me to a hot dog restaurant. (Hot dog is prounounced "hochi doggi," following the sound rules laid out in the previous post.)
"A restaurant that only sells hot dogs?" I asked. "Sounds strange."
"No, no! It's good! And you already know hot dogs, right?"

So I agreed and figured I would kinda know how to carry myself, and how to order my own food for once. Oh, how wrong I was!
There was a hot dog, somewhere in the folds of bun, and mashed potatoes, and corn, and olives, and cheese, and little fried potato pieces, and the pounds of salt found in all Brazilian food. I think I only had about 2 actual bites of sausage. And those were just the ingredients of mine, as there was a whole menu of hot dogs with different crazy ingredients. (All of them came with ketchup and mayonase, which I graciously declined.) Alexandre passed up his usual choice of the hot dog with the shredded chicken on top.

As much trash as I'm talking, the thing was delicious. I obviously couldn't finish it, and wanted to take it home and eat the rest as a microwaved breakfast, but people don't do that here.

We're spending the Sunday lying around, me trying to talk with Alexandre's very nice sister, and the two of them yelling periodically at the TV for the soccer semifinals. Every time the local team gets a goal, someone in the neighborhood shoots of fireworks.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Oh, and also...

My hair dryer doesn't work here, even with the adapter thing. And the only brand of mousse (the hair stuff) that I've been able to find in the stores is Finesse (you know, the crappy one), and it costs 18 dollars. Like, sadness and stuff, or something.

But today, Alexandre so graciously drove me all around the city, introducing me to secretaries and asking for directors so that I could turn in my resume at language schools. I set up 2 more job interviews for next week. I'm up to 3. Yay.

Omg parents--

A One-Week Recap

So I've been here for a week now. I'm overall very happy, content, and comfortable. Last night, we went to an outdoor bar with a bunch of Alexandre's friends from the med school. They were a super nice bunch. I really appreciated that almost everyone tried to speak English or Spanish with me, and to include me in the conversations. They could've easily been like "oh, my English sucks," or just carried on in their social circle, but it wasn't like that at all. I made friends with a girl who was also named Danielle (except here it's pronounced Danielle-y...Auntie Tammy and Michelle will be pleased that I think of them every time people talk to me), and who was wearing almost the exact same shirt as me. It was a good group and I felt very included. Some of Alexandre's guy friends couldn't help but tease, calling me "Mrs. Cosimo," except they prounounced "Mrs."as "Misters." Fun.

I'm going a little crazy without a job. I can't help but feel a little housewife-y. This cannot last. After some technical difficulties in getting prints and copies of my resume (oh, how I miss America's technological efficiency), Alexandre took me to a couple of language schools so I could introduce myself and see if they were looking for teachers. One school seems pretty promising-- it's really pretty and professional. Luckily, it's also very close by (a 10-minute walk), and they asked me to come in on Tuesday morning to take a grammar test. The lady told me that, assuming I pass the grammar test and the interview, I would have training that afternoon. Nice. I'm still going to go to a few other schools this afternoon to keep my options open, but I especially like the location of this school. Alexandre has offered to let me use his car and his bike, but the driving here is terrifying and lawless, and to be avoided! I may accept the bike idea if I find a better school. Apparently, the busses kinda suck.

I've been going on a lot of walks to entertain myself this week and to keep from going stir crazy. Life is interesting without having to carry anything around. I don't have a cell phone, I don't have a big clunky keychain (just one little house key), I don't carry my big wallet full of supermarket club cards and Blockbuster membership cards. It's just me, my Converse, and the incessant humidity. I don't know a lot of what I'm looking at when I see crowds of people at certain places, or buildings with names like "ministerio de fazenda" (because for me, "fazenda" just means "making"). But I'm trying to learn the streets and build a cognitive map and all that.

And of course, there are the animals! Yesterday at sunset, Alexandre and I went for a walk at this fun park place where lots of people go jogging. I have forgotten to mention the bats until this point. At night, there are so many bats that, even inside the apartment (with the windows open), you can hear the constant trilling and ticking of their sonar bouncing off mass. So we saw a lot of them waking up. Then, at one point, I heard this loud screech. I followed the noise (thank you, Doppler effect) to see a huge OWL zoom by to attack something to the west of us. This suprise led to the entertaing task of trying to teach Alexandre how to pronounce "owl;" the poor guy, this awful word with three [-cons] sounds put together and a word-final dark [l]. But yes. This place is the stuff that Travel Channel shows are made of.

Also, I wanted to mention the soil here. All of the land without green on it is this bright, red-orange color. It is always damp. Imagine being one of the Portuguese conquistadors coming over here from the grey life of Europe to encounter a color like that. I'll put pictures up once we can get my computer to accept Brazilian internet.

Yes, ok. I miss students, and Law and Order SVU, and the peeps, but otherwise I'm doing fine. Tonight we are taking an overnight bus to Alexandre's hometown so that I can meet his family.

....Yeah.
I'll update after the weekend, probably.

I wish all of you well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nao falo muito Portugues

We were having some problems with the internet the last couple of days because of the rain, so I haven't been able to update. Now, it's only working on Alexandre's computer, so I can't upload any pictures for now, but that's okay.

Since Alexandre went back to school on Monday, I've spent a lot of the last few days by myself, trying to explore the surroundings and not make an ass of myself with my Portuguese. I thank the powerful Roman Empire and the imperialist European countries that followed for spreading such similar languages around the world. I have a new, even greater respect for my Korean and Japanese students coming to the US, who can't rely on cognates and at least reading to get by.

Yesterday, I went on a little adventure to the super mall thing down the street from our apartment. These baby steps are reallllly hard for me. I have to congratulate myself for successfully purchasing toilet paper and movie tickets. I'm not used to my life running at such a slow pace. But the best tactic that I've come up with is to start every conversation with "boa tarde...Nao falo muito Portugues!" (Good afternoon, I don't speak much Portuguese!) The vast majority of the people are sooo nice about it. They always smile, but interestingly, they rarely ask me where I'm from. This country is so different from America in that way. There is no obsession with "heritage" and hyphenated identities. If you're in Brazil, you're Brazilian for the moment. There's an emphasis on what people have in common. The employees ask me how I like Brazil, what my job is, etc. The attendant at the Target-esque place yesterday was particularly cute. She was probably like 19 or 20, with curly hair and braces. She asked me some question that I didn't understand (Alex said later that she was probably asking if I wanted to add minutes to my cell phone, which is apparently where you do that), so when I said "nao falo muito portugues," she smiled sooo widely and said in English, "no problem! No problem! ::some Portuguese:: Number?" Whatever the number was, I didn't have one, so I just said so. She was asking me slowly if I liked Brazil, small talk, so excited! And then told me my total using her fingers. I really appreciate that. It wasn't disrespectful. It was just a sincere desire to help me communicate. I explained to her (in an attempt to tell her that I'm not retarded) that I speak English and Spanish, and that the Spanish gets all mixed up in my brain with the Portuguese. She said she understood, and told me good job in Portuguese, and then gave me a big thumbs up. hahaha.

For the linguists reading this, I have to explain some stuff. Portuguese has nasalization spread like WOAH. For every Spanish/Latin cognate, the vowels surrounding the nasals are nasalized, and this nasalized vowel often replaces the consonant completely. (The spanish -cion suffix has become cao, with a nasalized a.) Also, all stressed [a]s become this crazy difficult nasalized shwa thing that I absolutely cannot make. If you search for anything on YouTube with Brazilian Portuguese, you'll hear it really quickly. It stands out.
Hmmmm also I have a fun and easy sound change problem. Consider the following data:
1. [te] becomes [tSi] and [de] becomes [dZi].
What 2 changes occured, and in what order? Extra points if you know the formal names of these changes.
2. Now consider that words like [tarde] become [tardZ] (simplified for the problem). What other change occured, and in what order compared to the first 2 that you found?
Come on, my nerdy friends. You know you have the answer.
Another really difficult sound change is the [r] to [h]. (It's more intuitive if you imagine an intermediate step of the French uvuluar fricative [upsideown R]. When it's word or sillable initial, it's just [h]. But if it's coda, it's like [h:] with some compensatory lengthening stuff going on. So [tarde] is actually [tah:dZ]. The [h] is so long that it almost has a shwa on it, some kind of unreleased thing.
Oh oh, also, there's a 3-way distinction between tense [e], lax [E], and nasalized [e]. WTF!
This like that make Portuguese easy to read and hard to understand.

Alexandre and I have been cooking a lot, inventing amazing meals with a complete disregard for tradition. For example, the other night, we cooked beef with a bunch of spices, and then melted some mozarella cheese on top. Then we friend some vegetables and covered them in soy sauce. On the side we had these things called Smiles, which are like french fry cakes in the shape of smiley faces. Hillarious and delicious at the same time!

But speaking of food, Alexandre's gonna be home any minute, and he's taking me on my first day of job hunting, so I'm going to go make him lunch.

I miss you guys!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The First Weekend



Okay so... I'm here!
(You'll notice that there are spaces and references to pictures that aren't there. The internet's being difficult, so I'll upload the rest later.)
My flights were fine, and uneventful. On the flight from Texas to Sao Paulo, I was sitting next to an American. I was a little disappointed, because I wanted an excuse to practice my Portuguese. But it ended up being helpful because he was a young-ish guy, similar in age, who had lived in Brazil for a few years. Granted, it was as a missionary, and he was reading Dan Brown's new book and telling me how great it was and how I needed to read it, but he spoke Portuguese and had studied Spanish, so he was still able to help me. He was on his way to see his fiancée (a Brazilian girl), and was therefore also very nervous. This also ended up proving helpful, as both of us were far too anxious to sleep.
We got into Sao Paulo around 9:00am Brazilian time, 5:00 for me, and 7:00 according to my phone, which had changed in the layover in Texas. I think this may have been close to the moment when I started to completely lose sense of time. At this point I had been awake for 22 hours.
Here are some plane shots of the second biggest city in the world:
I went through customs rather painlessly (I think it's only America that hassles all of its visitors.... I didn't really have to say anything except “obrigada”, although the guy on the plane taught me how to say “I'm traveling,” just in case) and FINALLY got to see Alexandre. :o) Then I changed my money and talked to the attendant all by myself, except she responded to my “obrigada” with “Gracias a Usted.” This was the first of a few incidents in which people just started talking to me in Spanish. I guess it's better that I have a Spanish accent than an English accent.
So thennnnnnnn we left the airport and drove the hour or so south to the coast, and the beach house. I found myself feeling surprisingly comfortable there, in Sao Paulo. The airport and the surrounding area where we stopped to eat felt like LA, except no one can understand me and there are tons of trees and crazy animals and stuff. I'm a little annoyed at the images of Brazil that have made their way to the United States. In the big cities, it really isn't that different. Granted, I'm not being as exposed to the poor parts of the state of Sao Paulo, but I think my experience is going to be akin to someone who comes to the US and stays with a host family in Coronado, or Palos Verdes, or Indian Wells, or Walnut Creek. You're not going to take them to Imperial Beach, or Compton, or Coachella, or East Oakland, but that doesn't mean these places don't exist.
To get to the beach, we had to take this beautiful mountain road with green EVERYWHERE, so much green, more trees than you can imagine, all of that. I tried to get a couple of pictures from the car:








We also passed a big waterfall, and took some pictures there, too:





Elena! You'd love it!












Oh yeah, and we passed the Tropic of Capricorn, and took these pictures on the way back:

So the beach house is in this gated community (we're not the only ones, people) with its own stores and gas station and stuff. The house was airy and uncomfortably large. (Before I left, I made a list of things that I didn't think about when I decided to go to Brazil. One of the items on my list was “upward mobility via relativity.”) Alex and I hung around the house and talked for a couple of hours, but by this point I had been awake for...28 hours, the adrenaline was wearing off, and it was starting to hit me. I slept for about 4 hours.
The next 2 days are kind of blurred, with trips back and forth from the beach, a couple of trips to the supermarket, and an effed up sleep schedule. But we had a lovely time relaxing and catching up. (Oh! Speaking of Catching up! Elena! The ketchup here is spelled “catchup.” I got a packet for you. :o) Umm adventures included a big white lizard that came into the bathroom through the window while I was BUSY USING IT, seeing a whole bunch of fruit in the grocery store that I had never seen before, drinking champagne on the beach at night, and buying this wonderful salty corn concoction on the beach during the day (way better than elote, Michelle), pro-communism commercials on TV, watching Grey's Anatomy with Alexandre and listening to him (almost always correctly) guess the patients' problems and cures, spending a couple of hours cleaning the bathroom floor because the shower pipe broke, and waking up to the sound of monkeys outside. (I haven't actually seen them yet, but they're awfully loud and sound like children playing.)
We left on Sunday morning and stopped just outside of Sao Paulo's center for some lunch. The food here is actually more similar to British food than any Latin American food I've had. Almost everything I've eaten has been some variation of carb-y dough/bread + salty meat (salty meats!). I jazzed up the beef that Alex and I cooked by adding bell peppers and onions, trying to make some semblance of fajitas. (Our food is similar to our language in its PortuSpanglish fusion.)
Our drive from Sao Paulo was long and beautiful. We passed a bunch of small cities and a ton of farmland. For example, sugarcane, which is everywhere (as far as I know, Brazil is the world's largest supplier of sugar):
We also listened to lots of Devendra and Bob Dylan, which was super fun. Here are some more pictures from the drive:
When we got into  town, I started to feel a little bit of panic. Alex gave me a short driving tour. I felt similar to how I felt when I first moved to NorCal... like I was dropping myself into a big, new city (this city and Oakland are roughly the same size) with a lot to learn. After just one night around in a car, I can't really label the area or the people yet with any kind of helpful adjectives. But we did pass a handful of language schools, which is good.
Our apartment is cozy and Alex cleaned out half of all the storage areas for me-- the dresser, the bathroom cupboard, the bookshelf. Cute. It's morning now here. Alex is in class... and the maid is in the kitchen. Yeah. That's really going to take some getting used to. I went out and fumbled an introduction. I saw that she had already washed, dried, ironed, and folded some clothes that I had left in the living room. She asked me if I had any other clothes, because she could wash them for me. I did, but I said no because having a maid fucking freaks me out. The washing machine is in the house. The line is on the balcony. I have so much time this week. I'll wash them myself. (Alex is amused by this stubbornness. At the beach house, I insisted on washing the dishes before we left, even though he said the maids would just do it.) I'm hiding out in the bedroom now typing this, because I don't know enough Portuguese to have a conversation with her, and I don't really know what kind of dynamic we're supposed to have.
Ummmm so yes, aside from this slight awkwardness, things are going swimmingly. I'm going to unpack a bit until Alex gets out of class. (The apartment is less than 10 minutes walking distance from the campus.) We're going to have lunch and copy the apartment key (Alex also has to introduce me to the gate attendant so that they let me in), and I'll probably spend the afternoon exploring a very small vicinity around the apartment while Alex is with patients. I'll take some pictures for you guys and put them up tonight or tomorrow.
Okay! That's it! I'm not dead, I haven't been captured by drug lords, and I'm having a grand ole time.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Danielle in San Diego, Still

So Danette had to take me to the airport early because she and Kurt wanted to get a headstart on their road trip to my beloved Bay Area.

I have another hour and a half to kill. I started watching Grey's, but then these two guys came and sat by me in the gate waiting area. They're speaking Portuguese. One was on the phone, which was helpful. I can only pick out some words, still. Hello, Good thanks, day, Sao Paulo, more, hugs, kisses. Oh my goodness, the vowels.

Ummmm I'm kinda freaking out.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

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