Monday, June 29, 2009

So Close!

So guys, if you haven't already heard, America lost 3-2 to Brazil yesterday. :(

It was a fun game to watch. I got to the bar in good spirits. I wore my red shirt with the white stars (the most American piece of clothing I had). America made 2 goals in the first half and our table (some people from Alexandre's school) was getting discouraged. I cheered and clapped a little when we made goals. I wasn't obnoxious or a sore winner or anything, so the few other people at the bar were more confused than angry. (They were probably thinking, "Why would anyone cheer for America?")


But then Brazil got their little halftime rest, and came back and made 2 goals. It was tied with 15 minutes left in the game! But then with 7 minutes to go, Brazil made another goal, and America couldn't make it up. So Brazil won.

That's okay. They deserved it more than we did. If Brazil had lost, lots of people would have cared. America lost, but not many people care. And order is restored in the world of soccer.

At the bar, I had 2 caipirinhas. I usually have no problem with 2 caipirinhas. They typically come in small-ish cups. Sometimes they're made with vodka, and sometimes they're made with pinga (Brazilian fermented sugar cane). I'm always sure to confirm that it's cachaça/pinga, and not vodka, because vodka and I don't have a good relationship.

The bar had a vodka caipirinha special with 2 drinks and french fries (the staple bar food here). We asked if we could get it without vodka. The guy said sure. We asked if we could have the second drink later (since Alexandre wanted beer and not a girly caipirinha). The guy said sure.

He brought out the first drink. I was chatty, but fine. After halftime, he came up and asked if we wanted our second drink. In the hubub and hooplah of the game, I forgot to make sure he didn't put vodka. Our conclusion is that he did.

I noticed that it was a bit stronger than normal, but didn't think much of it...

...And then I more or less died. By far the worst night of my life, drinking-wise. Danette, Mary, and Elena can attest to my only 2 other (horrible) experiences with vodka (the birthday and the co-op party). I haven't drank it since before I graduated from college (said co-op party). And this is why.

Alexandre the sweetheart took care of me during my night of torture. He tried to make me dinner, but it didn't stay in my stomach. And now I can no longer boast that I've never thrown up from drinking. He was certainly a good caregiver, but didn't miss an opportunity to tease me. A lot. He had never seen me like that, and I was insisting that he never will again.

What a mess!

Anyway, the other thing I wanted to mention today was how old it's getting to see Michael Jackson "news" on Brazilian TV. Lots of Brazilian news channels are doing things like talking to Brazilians who touched Michael Jackson's hand at a concert once. "I touched his hand 12 years ago! That means I am fit to discuss his character on national TV." They're also showing recordings of concerts and hours of videos. I think it's nice to make a tribute like that... I just think the myriad of people who want their 15 seconds of fame is kind of pathetic. But you get that everywhere, I suppose!

Are there stories like that on American TV?

That's all for now. Have a good week, everyone! Me? I'll be working a lot... and staying far away from alcohol.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nice Song!

It's not often that I am exposed to Brazilian music that I like (not to say that Brazilian music is bad-- it's just that certain people in my life ahem only listen to English music and never make me Brazilian mixes), so when I find good songs, I like to share them with you!


This is a band called Skank (probably should've consulted the meanings of this in English), that's emo-y and indie-ish. It's a nice song!

I couldn't find the real video clip (maybe the record company took it down or something), so here's one that has the lyrics:



More later, after the soccer game~! Still haven't decided what to do. ;oP

Thursday, June 25, 2009

USA! USA!

As a fluke, America beat Spain in the preparatory games for the World Cup 2010 (probably not the right term). Then Brazil beat South Africa. As a result, America will play against Brazil on Sunday.

No one expects America to win or anything, but still, pretty big news!

Of course, I support America's team. I have absolutely no knowledge about soccer (other than what Alexandre tries to force down my throat explain and which is usually lost on me), but I just want an excuse for me to say "GO AMERICA! SCREW YOU, BRAZIL!" a few times and have it be socially acceptable.

Sure, I like it here, but I don't like it all the time. I especially don't like fat drunk male soccer fans who shoot fireworks all night and keep me awake and scare the poor baby gatinha. But I've gotta be respectful, right?

Well, not today (er, Sunday)! I can tell those drunken soccer-crazed men exactly what I think of them.

....Or, according to Alexandre, I can't. He says that if we go to a bar and I wear red and blue and yell "go America!" They'll beat HIM up. For me.

I say it's the one day he can get me to care about soccer.

Thoughts? Can I support my country in a Brazilian bar?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Busy Bee + Homesick

Alexandre went to his parents' house this weekend. I couldn't go because my boss couldn't find anyone to substitute for me. I had a very interesting weekend alone here.

First, this is what happens when I'm left to my own devices for dinner and I go to the grocery store hungry:
Mmm, delicious! Gatinha agrees. No, I didn't finish all of that, if that's what you were wondering.

I left with an...eclectic dinner of sushi, soupa de mandioca, brie and pão casiero (because I found brie!) and suco de milho.

Don't worry, I'm not pregnant!

After that, I went to another festa junina party with my student-friend Melissa and her people. It was relaxing and we had a nice chat and got to listen to a live country band. :)

Me, Melissa's husband, and Melissa

Saturday, I went into work and found my boss in low spirits. Turns out she had broken up with her boyfriend and was in need of a girls' night out. She's my boss and all, but we're very close in age and life experience. So it was totally fun and nice and one of my best nights out since moving here almost 15 months ago.

I spent the rest of the weekend workingworkingworkingworking (and taking procrastination breaks to play Word Challenge on Facebook-- omg so addicting!). Sometimes I get into very inspired work-mode and can be very productive. It's a sort of obsessive focusing that may not be the healthiest thing in the world, but luckily it only comes in small bursts. (The rest of the time, I'm as lazy as the rest of 'em.)

My student-friend Carol called me on Friday in a panic about her TOEFL test. (If you don't know, TOEFL is a test for non-native speakers to prove their English skills in American universities. It's like an ESL SAT.) The date she wanted was sold out, and so she has to take the test in a month. She got accepted to do research in a British University next year, but needs a good TOEFL score for the Brazilian foundation that's offering to pay for her to go there. (Apparently, the scholarship people don't care that TOEFL is American. Better for me!) So, low TOEFL score = no scholarship. No scholarship = no England. And we have one month!

I have a TON of TOEFL prep material that I downloaded illegally and stole from my evil boss acquired through very lawful and respectable means. I've had it all for months. I kept telling myself that I'd go through everything and develop some kind of syllabus/curriculum/plan of attack to teach the TOEFL. But since none of the many potential TOEFL students had never followed through, I always avoided it. And now... I have 3 days to plan out a one-month course.

It's good though, because now, when students mention to me that they need to take the TOEFL, I can say "I have an entire course planned out!" And I will. Also, I can make Alexandre study for the TOEFL test that he'll eventually have to take! :D

I've also been working on the various editing and translation projects that have been showing up thanks to my student-friends who are biologists who have talked me up to all of their colleagues in the labs at the local public university. Word of mouth is really the best advertising here. I'm learning more than I ever wanted to know about really, really specific things, like the nuclei of red blood cells of a specific species of turtles, the cell patterns of testicals of some fish, and the environmental factors that determine breeding habits of Brazilian frogs, among others. It's ...delightful. Not really. But I do feel very accomplished when I finish! Plus, it's great money.

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Today was Father's Day in the US, but not in Brazil. All of my family was together at my grandparents' house to celebrate my grandpa being the best father/grandfather in the world. Even my family members out in Florida flew over to the west coast. My aunt hooked us up using the MSN talk program, and I got to say hello to everyone. And I mean EVERYONE! Like 15 people.

After we hung up, I came back out to the living room, where Alexandre was watching Brazil destroy Italy in the pre-World Cup games. I plugged my computer back in, and suddenly, the internet stopped working. And then I stubbed my toe on the desk chair. And then I started crying. And Alexandre asked what was wrong. And then I told him that the internet wasn't working and I had stubbed my toe. And then he asked what was wrong again, because he's not silly. And then I told him how I really missed my family and how frustrating and expensive it is to have 2 lives, and how I feel like I work so much here but with the crappy conversion rates, it's not enough to really LIVE here and save up to go home to visit, and mostly I just wanted to be padding around my grandma's house in my socks on a Sunday morning like everyone else, joking around with The Sister and The Cousins, and gossiping with The Aunts and The Grandma, and reminiscing with The Grandpa and telling him how much we love him for Father's Day.

And then we cuddled in the bed for a while, and Alexandre brought in the kitty because she never complains about cuddles, and I gave him a big, long hug, the hug he deserved for being a wonderful boyfriend, and a hug for all the hugs that I wanted to give to everyone I love back home.

Things here are good, and my job is fun, and my life is enjoyable. But my life in the US wasn't too shabby, either. It's not like I'm gonna leave or anything... it was just one of those days.

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I end this on a happier note... Carol bought Gatinha a little catnip mouse toy, which she played with for a couple of weeks before she decided to destroy it.
RaWr! Ferocious baby gatinha.

Have a good week.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Blog Shout-Out

Check out this really great blog from a strong and inspiring guy named Tyler.

Tyler's trying (and succeeding!) at losing 125 pounds just through diet and exercise. Follow his journey here:

http://www.344pounds.com

(Also, if I link to his blog, he'll run more on the treadmill this week.)

Keep up the good work, Tyler!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stop Baby-Whining

I am so, so tired of women that use their kids as excuses for sucking at life. I've invented a term for what they do: Baby-Whining. What is baby-whining? This:

"Oh, well I am so totally flaky, but it's because I have a BABY."
"Oh, I can't follow through on anything or be dependable but, ya know, I have a child."
"I am so tired and my day was really frustrating ANNNNDDDD I have a BABY! Pity me!"
"Yeah I know I told that big obviously selfish lie but I'm just so stressed with my baby!"

Dude. Don't blame the kid. I know plenty of women that absolutely can handle having a kid and having other responsibilities in life. Most of them, really. I don't feel sorry for you. If you couldn't handle a kid, well, t's 2009. Whether you were in Brazil or the US, birth control and sex ed were relatively free and easy to access.

Where is this complaining coming from?

First, there was the (thankfully) fired teacher from work who used to use her daughter as a red herring for everything, even though she almost never saw the kid and left her with her mom so she could go to São Paulo and have "fun" weekends with her FWB. (She actually bragged about this at work meetings.)

When she lied to me about the schedule (long story short) to get out of working on a Saturday (so she still got paid, and suddenly I had 2 classes), and my boss confronted her, she really said something similar to my quote above: "Oh, I know I lied, but it's just that I'm so stressed about my BABY." First of all, it ain't a baby. The kid's 5. Second of all, your mom raises it, not you. Third, the two are absolutely unrelated.

How do women actually expect other women to fall for that? Come on.

This teacher made me especially mad with her baby-whining because her mom is the chief of pulmonary surgery at the hospital here, and her grandfather on her father's side is also a doctor. Having "married into" a family of doctors here, I know how ridiculous easy and accessible and cheap healthcare is for the families of doctors. Even without the family of doctors, birth control is 3 reais and doesn't need a prescription. COME ON. She's not one of the women who don't know how to read and live in the back country and think one of the following things (both of which are true stories from Alexandre's patients):

1. If my boyfriend takes my birth control pill on the days I forget, it still works.
2. If you put the condom on the broomstick while you have sex, it works. I mean, that's what the teacher used to show us how to put on a condom.

I have a little more patience for women in this situation. And I mean, these are the women who never baby-whine.

My other reason for ranting is a new student I have. Let me say that I'm very happy she signed a contract and paid in advance. She's a friend of another student. This "friend" of hers even warned me that she ALWAYS talks about being a single mother.

During our first meeting, this new student had plenty of complaints, and ALL OF THEM ended with "because I have a baby" ("por causa do meu filinho"). Complaints such as:

*"Why do I have to come to your house for classes? Why can't you come to my house? I have a baby." (She doesn't work, but somehow manages (and needs to?) to pay for full-day daycare for her son.)

*"Why do I have to have classes on a set schedule every week? I mean, I have a SON."

*"Why do I have to give you 24-hour notice to cancel a class? I have a baby. You never know what's gonna happen."

I don't know how I convinced her to sign the thing, but I did. Good thing. She called me tonight at 7:00 to cancel her class tomorrow morning. The (ridiculous) conversation went something like this:

Student: Dani, I can't come to class tomorrow. My son is so sick. He has a FEVER. He didn't go to school today. I had to take him to the doctor. I thought he would be better, but it's not going down.

Me: Ok, I'm sorry to hear that.

Student: Can't I have the class on Thursday instead?

Me: Well, I'm sorry, but no. I have another student Thursday morning. Besides, if you remember from your contract, you need to give me 24 hours' notice to cancel a class if you want to make it up.

Student: Ugh, but my baby is SICK. He has a fever! 39 degrees! I don't know if he's going to wake up tomorrow!

Me: [thinking... drama much? Also, if he's really on the brink of death, how are you so sure he'll be fine for your class on Thursday? Is this like, an expression in Portuguese or something?] Look, I don't want to be difficult, but this is really the only rule in the contract. If you had called me in the morning...

Student (quickly): Oh, I did call this morning, but no one answered.

Me: I was home all morning. Besides, we have an answering machine. Didn't you hear it?

Student: ::silence, because the lying ho didn't really call:: Look, I have a son. I didn't know he would be sick. The school didn't call me until the afternoon to tell me to get him because of his fever.

Me: Oh, now I'm confused. I thought he didn't go to school today.

Student :: silence::

Me: I'm sorry, but really, you accepted the contract to be fair to both of us. Your boss doesn't call you a few hours before your shift to tell you 'it's ok, don't come to work today.' How would you pay your bills? [At this point, I remembered that she doesn't work, but I hoped she'd understand anyway.]

Student: Ah, but I mean, in sitations regarding HEALTH, it should be different, shouldn't it?

Me: [I didn't want to start a full-blown fight by accusing her of obviously lying, so I said...] I'm sorry, it doesn't. Okay? I'll see you on Friday.

Student: Does that mean I'm going to lose my class tomorrow?

Me: Yes, I'm sorry, but it does. If you call in advance next time, I'd be happy to reschedule with you.
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I thought about being nicer until she like very obviously lied more than once. I also don't want to set a precendent that she can break the contract whenever she feels like it.

Also, I freaking hate baby-whining.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mid-June Update

Hi everyone!

I know my updates have become sparse lately. I just have less to tell you about, I guess. If you have any requests or questions about Brazil, ask!

...But that does not mean you can ask me for advice about your specific life, okay? I want to try to be polite about this but... listen, people. I'm just a girl who lives in Brazil and happens to have a blog. I'm not paid for this thing. I don't even get ad revenue. (I tried it for a while, but no one clicked on the things, and they were unsightly.) It is not part of my day job in any way to give people advice-- legal or otherwise-- about living or teaching in Brazil. I get way too many comments every week from people asking me specific questions about their specific situation (which usually involves some move to Brazil). I've had to just start denying the comments because there are too many. Please consult my sidebar for links that have answers, okay? It's got all of the info I have in my brain for you. Many of you are asking me questions that are already answered there, and you just didn't do well in reading comprehension in high school or you're being kind of lazy and not reading through those entries completely. So.... are we clear now? I love to help when I can, but it's gotta be within reason. I completely empathize with your frustration over the logistics of trying to move to Brazil. That's why I spent all that time writing up those entries... also to avoid this very situation.

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Now, onto the entry!


Since it's June, that means that lots of people are celebrating Festa junina-- June Festival-- especially here in HickVille, Brazil. The holiday originated in Portugal (well, in all of Europe) and today has morphed into a celebration of country culture. People dress up in country-style clothes (overalls, plaid, straw hats, pig tails, painted-on freckles) and, since it's winter here, drink the cultural marvel that is VINHO QUENTE.

What is vinho quente? It translates to "hot wine," but oh, it is much more. So much more. Here's the recipe:
You need:
1. Red wine
2. Cinnamon (best as sticks)
3. Cloves
4. Chopped strawberries (optional, but recommended, by me)
5. A bit o' sugar (Liiikkee... 2 spoonfulls for a bottle of wine)

Directions:
1. Heat that shit up on slow boil. Put the strawberries last.

Mmmmmmm
It looks like this if you use apples instead of strawberries (meh):

You can see a pic from us last year at a Festa Junina fundraiser for Alexandre's school, when I was chubby and Alexandre was drunk. Not our best moment, but Alexandre's shirt can give you an idea of the costumes. This year, we went to the city fair celebration thing. It was last Sunday night. We just pigged out on yummy fried things and vinho quente. It was crowded and kinda chaotic, so I didn't get any pictures. But fun, nonetheless! I even got Alexandre to dance a little (and that was BEFORE the vinho quente-- progress!).

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Work-wise, I am slowly switching out classes at the school for private students that have contracts. Things are going well, more or less. I have significantly more free time and fewer late nights and early mornings, and the same/better income. I've been trying to find translation and editing jobs online (Kristin inspired me), but I'm not having much luck. Do any of you readers know anything about this? I don't exactly trust Craigslist...

Oh, and one of my classes complained about me, and my boss gave them a new teacher. :( :( This is the first time that has ever happened. It's so unfair. I took over this group from that crappy teacher that I complained about a little before. So who knows what the heck she taught them for the first month of the 3-month semester? Also, the books at this school are made by Brazilians, and have a TON of mistakes. I mean... I point it out to the students, even though the boss tells me not to, even if I have a different "interpretation." It's not a matter of interpretation. It's a matter of possible English vs. impossible English, and I'm not going to teach English that no one speaks.

For example, boring is not a synonym for annoying. I don't give a crap that they're the same word in Portuguese (chato). All the more reason to spend more time teaching the DIFFERENCES rather than just being lazy and wrong filhos da puta and teaching them as synonyms. "Until today" is actually really quite different from "even today," in the same way that "anyway" and "either way" do not mean the same thing.

It's maddening. Like, these are logical mistakes for Portuguese speakers. Which is precisely why they should not be in the effing textbook.

So, my students learned the correct English, were tested on the incorrect English, failed, and got mad at me. And the irony is that their English is better than the other class at their level, and yet, they think it's worse (ya know, because the test says so). And my boss reinforces their beliefs that I am the problem (because she certainly isn't going to say that the book is wrong and have them quit) and agreed to switch teachers.

And now they have the worst teacher in the school. She's a new girl who hasn't even graduated from college here in Brazil yet. She asked me if I "formed in letters." (She was trying to ask if my degree is in linguistics/literature.) Serves them right. I hope they're happy. I'm the first person to say when I'm doing something wrong or when I'm not good at something, but I know I'm good at this.
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In happier news, this morning, I FINALLY convinced Alexandre to go to the monkey park! Remember? The park here in our city where lots of monkeys live? SOooooooOOO fun! Here are the 3 good pics we got:
"Can't I have just one more piece?"


See the sweaters? That's because it's been brrrrr cold here! Kristin can attest to that. The week she was here was one of the coldest the city had seen in a while, and while it's gotten a bit better, we're certainly not prepared for it. It's only in the 50s F, which isn't bad in American terms, but our entire apartment is tiled and the walls are made of sand and plaster and I have exactly 1 sweater and 2 long-sleeved shirts to my name and NO REAL BLANKETS GODDAMNIT I MISS MY AMERICAN IKEA DOWN COMFORTER. Ahem. Excuse me. It's so cold that Alexandre lets the cat sleep with us (yay!) instead of locking her out and leaving her to her own devices (fur)... but he makes me keep her on my side (futile).

What else? Oh, Thursday was a holiday (some Catholic celebration that no one could explain), so on Thursday night I went to a dinner party with my student-friend Carol. It was at her friend's house. The friend is Japanese-Brazilian (her parents moved here from Japan) and she taught us how to make traditional vegetable tempura. I must say that my cooking skills have significantly improved without such easy access to fast food. Here's a picture of our dinner from last night:
We couldn't decide between tempura and chicken-friend steak with mashed potatoes country gravy, so I just made both. Mmmm!! The tempura's there in the middle. Here's the recipe I learned (enough for 2 people):

You need:
1. 1 big carrot
2. A handful of edamame/green beans/peas....? Dunno. Vagem. Looks like this.
3. 1 small onion (probably half of an American onion)
4. a cube of vegetable bullion (caldo de legumes)
5. 1 egg
6. About 3-4 tablespoons of flour (farinha de trigo)
7. Canola oil

Directions: *EDITED
1. Peel the carrot and use a cheese grater to grate it.
2. Cut the tips off of the green veggie that you buy but don't take the seeds out of the skin. Just cut it up into small pieces, skin and all.
3. Chop up the onion into small pieces.
4a. Put all that in a bowl.
4b. Mash up the vegetable bullion cube with your finger and add it to the veggies. Mix it up.
5. Add in some of the egg and mixa-mixa-walla-walla.
6. Add in some of the flour and mix it up.
7. Add in the rest of the egg.
8. Add in more of the flour.

The consistency should be sticky but it's not going to stick perfectly to the spoon.

9. Heat a bunch of oil... like half of a small pot. Then turn the heat down to medium.
10. Use your spoon to plop in 2-3 "balls" of the vegetable mix. It's not going to make a pretty shape (see the picture above). That's okay!
11. Flip them after about 30 seconds.
12. Flip occasionally until it's golden-to-dark brown. Takes about 3-4 mins to cook each set.
13. Take out your funny-shaped tempura pieces and set them on a plate with napkins that can absorb the oil.
14. Enjoy with soy sauce!


Okay... this entry has gotten excessive. And it's also made me hungry. Bye for now!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Kristin's Visit

Where have I been? Being social, that's where! My life in Brazil is significantly different when I have someone else to hang out with!


So, here's all about Kristin's visit:

First, she flew into São Paulo, and we picked her up from the airport.
We spent the weekend there aaaannndd I LOVED IT. (You were right, "Ray Adkins!")
We went to a huge beautiful park called Parque Ibirapuera.
We took the metro.
We had lunch in a yummy Italian restaurant.
We walked to the Museum of Modern Art, but by the time we got there, we were so exhausted that we just sat outside for a while and then went back to Alex's sister's apartment. :)
Nobody asked me where I was from, and I could buy water and ask for the restroom without explaining my life story.
We had dinner and drinks at an adorable pizza cafe across the street from Alex's sister's 13th-floor apartment.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE São Paulo. It really reminded me of San Francisco.
The few pictures we took in São Paulo pictures are here.

On Sunday morning, Alexandre headed home, and Kristin and I flew to Foz do Iguaçu.
Foz do Iguaçu is the name of the city where the waterfalls are. It's the city that's the farthest west in Brazil, and it borders Paraguay and Argentina.
Although there had been a bit of drama with the travel agency when we had booked all the tickets and guides and stuff, it ended up working out really well. (It was also a very good deal, in my opinion!) We had someone to pick us up from the airport and take us to the hotel. That night, they took us into Argentina to go shopping. (We weren't super excited about "Duuchii free shawpeen!" but it was pouring down rain and everything in the city was closed on account of the rain and the Sabbath. Besides, we wanted to say that we'd been to Argentina, even if it was just the border area.)

The Argentinian mall thing didn't amount to much and wasn't exactly my favorite part of the trip. People could smoke in the mall and in the little bar/restaurant place there, too. It took us about 8 minutes to walk around the entire thing. It's really not much cheaper than buying stuff in Brazil. Also, my brain hurt by the end of it after switching between 3 languages for so long.
We did get ONE picture of Argentina. Proof! Kind of...

The next morning, we woke up bright and early and were happy to see that the rain had more or less moved on. We were scheduled to be picked up to go to the waterfalls at 8:30, so we scarfed down our complementary breakfast in the hotel (stealing some pão de queijo for later) and met our tour guide at the door. Our tour group included us, a retired Brazilian couple from the center of the country (the guy was so hick that he rolled his Rs), and a 60-year-old Taiwanese lady who was traveling alone and didn't speak Portuguese. We were certainly the youngest of the bunch!

On our way up to the falls, the tour guide explained some of the history and interesting facts about the area. Because we were part of the group, we got to bypass the super long line to buy tickets, and we even got a 50% discount on the entrance fee! (Unfortunately, we had to pay extra because we didn't have Brazilian IDs, and I kicked myself for not having figured out about my damn RG before going on the trip.)
Then, the guide took us on the hiking trail that led to us around the falls. Sooooooo beautiful!
Here's my favorite picture:
(I took that!)

I mean, you can look at pictures of it, and I can use words like "beautiful!" and "amazing!" but it's hard to grasp without really being there. You can see all of the waterfall pictures, plus the rest of the pictures from the trip, on my Flickr. Click here for an unorganized tag or click on the Flickr box on the right side of the page and then go through the sets.

We had sandwiches for lunch in the park, and had to keep shoo-ing away the coatí:
so cute! They squeak when they realize you have food.

Then the tour bus people took us to the Parque de Aves: The Bird Park (which was also included in the tour package, I might add).

If you remember from my last entry, there was a slight mishap there with a galinha d'angola who mistook me for a branch. But aside from that, I think that the bird park was one of my favorite parts of the trip, because I do like birds very much. And I mean, I can only get so mad at a polka-dot turkey.

That night, we relaxed in the hotel, and enjoyed our complementary hotel dinner (greatest tour package ever). We had another early morning ahead of us!

Tuesday morning was our trip to the Itaipu Dam, which is also on the border of Brazil and Paraguay. It's the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world! I tried to channel Elena as much as I could. I wish I knew more about engineering. The tour guide (a different guy this time) spouted off all of the details about just how much energy the park can produce (25% of Brazil's energy and something like 92% of Paraguay's) and how much water it releases, etc.
It was hard to get decent pictures because it was really cloudy and we didn't get out of the bus much (the place was so massive that it was really more efficient to just drive around and stop off at looking points). Everything was just GIANT GIANT and also perfectly semetrical. Plus, it had a big man-made lake, which I think functions as the reserve for the water.

After the dam, our tour bus went into Paraguay's Ciudad del Este, the border town between Brazil and Paraguay. We had to take a bridge over the Rio Paraná, which is the biggest river in Brazil after the Amazon (if I understood the guide correctly). This city is relevant for Brazilians because Brazilians love to go to Paraguay to buy cheap crap imported in from China that gets marked up by import taxes in Brazil.

It was basically Tijuana, but like 8 times more intense. We had 4 hours to kill there, so, in an attempt to avoid the malls and insane shopping district, Kristin and I just started walking to see where we'd end up. We saw a sign that said "Catedral," so we headed toward it. The church itself wasn't that interesting (very obviously built by religious Americans that had recently invested in the area), but we did get a nice tour of the city. We also got some good pictures, if I do say so myself. (Click here for the Paraguay pictures.) I bought Alexandre a wireless video game controller and some black socks (those were more of a present for me, since I'm trying to wean him off of white ones in the Land of No Good Bleach), but we avoided the sprialing malls on the whole. Oh yes, and this was another afternoon of maddening PortuSpanglish.

We went back to the hotel (again, a ride courtesy of the tour package) and enjoyed another yummy complementary dinner there (+ not-so-complementary but entirely delicious drinks).

Wednesday was our long, LONG trip home. It included 2 flights, a very unnecessary 2-hour layover, 2 different buses, and lots of waiting. We left our hotel at noon and got home at 4am. ;oP

The rest of Kristin's trip was a lot more laid-back, since we were just hanging out at home and I had to work and stuff. I took her downtown, we went out with a couple of my friends / my couple of friends, basically just showed her my day-to-day life. The highlight of the second half of her visit was definitely...

The Monkey Park!

That's right, a monkey park. Right here. In our city. I've been here for over a year and NO ONE told me about it until my student-friend Melissa a couple of weeks ago. When I asked Alexandre, he said he'd vaguely heard about it but had heard it was closed.

So fun! Cute little monkeys that are eager for your fruits and attention!
The rest of the monkey park pictures are here. It was hard to get good shots, because the little buggers are so quick! But you'll get the idea. :)

We had a great time, and I hope that after reading this entry, you'll see what a good host I am and how beautiful and interesting Brazil is, and you'll decide to come visit me, too! :D :D

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Keyboard Gatinha

Here's what happens when you leave us home alone on a Tuesday afternoon:


If you've somehow missed the "keyboard cat" craze on Youtube, it's a video of a cat being forced to play a keyboard, and then it's often added to the end of annoying videos with the title, "play her off, keyboard cat!" Like the video below:



Kristin and I decided to give Gatinha her moment of fame by filming a Keyboard Gatinha! Here she is... she's such a good sport:


video

Enjoy!

Monday, June 1, 2009

How to Get a Brazilian Visa without Getting Married

UPDATE FROM 2013: A lot of people are still coming upon this post through Google. I want to say that I NO LONGER RECOMMEND THIS OPTION of a "união estável." It has been a nightmare. In my case, it has taken so long (5 years and counting!) that we are now legally married in all intensive purposes anyway. Just do the regular marriage visa and save yourself years of headache! 

I know you're all DYING to hear the details about our vacation (at least I'm dying to tell you), but I'm trying to reorganize my blog a bit and I wanted to put this up.

I get emails and comments from people all the time asking me to help them with their life in Brazil / desire to teach in Brazil / decision whether to move to Brazil or not. I don't mind at all; I'm just trying to streamline my answers, so I can offer pre-prepared templates.

Below is what Alexandre and I did to get my Brazilian visa. Remember that this visa is for a "civil union contract." It's similar to a common-law marriage in the US, kind of. The benefit of this visa is that you don't have to pay for a divorce (expensive in Brazil) if you break up, and you can work with it. The downside of this visa is that it's only for 2 years, and they do an inspection of your apartment/house, so don't think it'll be easy to just pay someone to pretend to marry you.

Also note here that schools will almost never give you any kind of work visa, so don't bank on that. We found that this visa was the best combination of ease/practicality/legality.

So, how to get a civil union contract visa:

* You still need to get a tourist visa, so do that. You can't get the civil contract remotely (You've gotta be there to sign it), and you can't get the CPF (Brazilian social security card) without a tourist visa. You need the CPF for the civil contract. Follow the consulate rules for the tourist visa... you've just gotta pay money and get a picture taken and stuff.

1. Once in Brazil (or your future Brazilian partner can do this before you get here), go to the policia federal (Brazilian office that is like an FBI but also controls visas and passports). From the visa office of the policia federal, get a PDF document called "Resolução Normativa n.o 77" (that o should be a degree sign, you know, for numero). You MAY be able to find it online by now, but we couldn't. It has a list of all the documents you'll need under Art. 2.o (another degree sign). Follow the directions on that document.

2. While you're still in the US, go to the courthouse in the city where you've spent the most time in your life to get proof that you're not already married in the US and proof that you don't have a criminal record. (On the PDF document, these are under Article 4, numbers VI and VIII.) They're not picky about the location; it helps if it matches your driver license or your city of birth on your passport. The visa people don't realize that these documents only verify that you're not married /a criminal in THAT courthouse's jurisdiction.

3. Mail the documents you get from the courthouse to the Brazilian Consulate closest to you to be certified. (Search for Brazilian Consulate, then go to the site for the one closest to you, then search for "certification of documents.") Follow the directions on the Consulate website. You have to pay 20 dollars per document (if I remember correctly), and the Brazilian Consulate will mail them back to you a week to 2 weeks later. However, they will only mail them to an American address. If you're still in the US, have them mailed back to you in the US, and bring them with you. If you're already in Brazil, have them mailed to a friend or relative who can send them to your Brazilian address.

4. Get the documents from 2/3 officially translated by a "tradutor(a) Juramentado/a" in Brazil. We just looked in the phone book. The stinky translator charged us 200 reais to do something I could've done myself, but she's got the license. Make sure the translator includes a receipt thing with your translations that has his/her legal translator status and number and all that.

5a. Once you get to Brazil or if you're here already, get a CPF from the Ministerio de Fazenda. You need a tourist visa and a Brazilian address. They send it to you in the mail. It takes about 3 weeks.

5b.After you get your CPF in the mail, go to a notary republic office....they're called "Cartórios" in Portuguese. They're everywhere, at least in our city. They're places that can "officialize" documents and everything. Here, you can have one of the employees print out and let you sign the civil union contract ("contrato de união civil"). Our contract says "Livro 0575" at the top, but I'm not sure if that's the official number of the document or what. You'll have to pay about 400 reais.

6. Also, have the cartório people make official copies of your passport, your Brazilian partner's RG (Brazilian ID), and your CPFs. I don't remember if I did my state ID or not. I think I did. You can do it just to be safe, it's cheap.

7. Take alllll of that to the Policia Federal again and fight with the rude and incompetent employees to give you the stamps in your passport that say you can come and go as you please for 2 years. Hopefully you'll have good luck with these people-- the ones here were horrible.

8. Expect an inspection within 6 months.

You can work legally with this visa but most schools don't care either way. Working illegally is a risk for your Brazilian life and your US taxes (albiet a small risk). You also can't open a bank account if you're working illegally. Working legally gives you more benefits (like the 13th salary paycheck and vacation time, sometimes), but then you have to pay atrocious rates of Brazilian taxes. You decide what's best for you.

Good luck!

UPDATE (Jan 5th 2010): Julie, another blogger in another state, has had a different (read: more difficult) experience getting her visa using the união civil. I'm not sure if the laws have changed or what, because we were both given the same document (Normativa 77). Maybe the document was changed? Anyway, it's best to prepare yourself for the worst by reading here and following her advice, too.

Remember, as I said in my disclaimer, that neither Julie nor I works for the govenrment. We're just telling you about our experiences. You know, trying to help a brother out. (Well, those are my words. Julie's British, so she might say it a different way.... help out a mate? ;)  But either way, good luck!
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