As fellow blog-keeper Stephanie has noticed and mentioned, things that used to be simple are sometimes daunting tasks when we try to complete them in another country.
Let me explain how simple, everyday chores become complicated (also how it's just one of those days):
Tasks for the day: Get ready for our trip. Run some errands. Errands included buying a couple presents and household necessities, getting Alexandre some travel provisions, and picking up cat food for C, the friend who's watching Gatinha (she feeds her cat special (expensive) food that can only be purchased at pet stores, and we get it for her because the cats are going to share bowls and because she's doing us a big favor).
Step 1: Went to get in the car. Car won't turn on. Usually, during this time of the year, it's because we put alcohol in the car instead of gasoline, and on cold nights, it like, freezes. But this time, it was clearly the battery.
Hiccup 1: Go back upstairs and call a guy who comes to jump your battery. If Brazilians in this place had the neighborly notion of carrying jumper cables in their cars (and also the cultural notion of doing things yourself instead of paying people to do it for you), Car Battery Jumping Guy wouldn't be necessary. But they don't, so he is.
Hiccup 2: Intercom is broken at the apartment building, despite many a call to the "condomino" (sp?) (HOA people). Wait downstairs for Car Battery Jumping Guy.
Solution: CBJG successfully starts car. 25 reais and 25 minutes later than expected, I'm on my way.
Step 2: Go to Wal-Mart to buy cleaning supplies and The Boyfriend's travel stuff (deoderant, etc).
Hiccup 1: Boyfriend's credit card doesn't work at Wal-Mart. I know it's probably because I'm using the wrong PIN, but I can't remember the right one. Silently curse said Boyfriend for having such similar PINs for his credit card and our debit card. Silently curse Brazilian banks for not letting me open a checking account, forcing me to rely on Boyfriend to handle all of the money things.
Solution: I don't want to call the Boyfriend to ask for the PIN in front of the cashier, so pay with cash.
Hiccup 2: Try to call Boyfriend in the parking lot to ask about PIN. Stupid pre-paid cell phone runs out of credit with no warning. Curse pre-paid cell phones.
Solution: Drive home to use phone. Silently cursing most everything.
Hiccup: Almost die driving home because 3 different stoplights are broken and small-town Brazilians lack the cultural gem that is Treating Broken Stop Light Like a Stop Sign (which is understandable, since Brazilians don't even respect stop signs as it is).
New, Unexpected Step 3: Call boyfriend from house phone.
Hiccup: When I get into the apartment, the power is out, and the phone isn't working. Realize that maybe the lack of power in the apartment is connected to the lack of power in the stoplights.
Solution: Wait for power to turn back on. Not-so-silently cursing most everything.
About 10 minutes later, power turns on. Call Boyfriend. Get the right PIN. Decide what to pay for with cash and what to pay for with the card.
Step 4: Go to the mall to buy presents.
Hiccup 1: Havianas store doesn't have sandles in Sister's size. One could say that sister has big feet. One could also say that Brazilians have small feet. Remember a similar experience a few months back trying to buy myself a bra.
Solution: Buy the biggest size and hope for the best.
Other presents are luckily purchased without any more hiccups.
Step 5: Buy Cat food
Hiccup: I'm hungry and grouchy.
Solution: Leave pet store to Boyfriend. Go home and make a tasty lunch.
Oh, the frustration!!!
But there's also a certain sense of satisfaction in completing these types of tasks. A certain, "look, I did it!" to it. 6 months ago, I wouldn't have been able to call Car Battery Jumping Guy by myself. One one hand, it feels kind of silly and trivial (dude, all you did was buy a few things!), but on the other hand, I know what a damn hassle it was, even though they were things that I would usually consider simple.
REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEALLLLY looking forward to our trip!