Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chega.

So you may remember last year when the giant moth flew into the apartment.  It was horrible and disgusting, but at least Alexandre was here to catch it.

Thursday night, Alexandre was at an overnight shift at the hospital. I woke up to the cat in a panic in the living room around 5am. I ran out to see another one of the giant moths beating itself against the walls and gatinha trying to catch it. It was so big that it made noise when it hit the walls. OMG DISGUSTING.  So I closed the bedroom door and left her to deal with it.

See, they come in from the balcony. If I close the balcony door at night, the place just gets too hot. So my options are...not get sleep because it's 85 degrees in my apartment at night, or... not get sleep because I am facing the mortal fear of being attacked by a moth.

Last night (Friday night), Alexandre had another overnight shift at the hospital. Around the same time last night (6:30am), I woke up to the bambabmabma sound of wings. In my bed.
You know how American cats bring little mice to their owners as a show of affection? (Look what I caught for you, mommy!) Well imagine if your cat brought THIS into your bed:




It was dark, so I couldn't see it at first. It was so loud that I was saying to myself, "please be a bird, please be a bird" as I LEAPED out of the bed and skittered into the kitchen. I hadn't bothered to turn on the bedroom light, so I could only see the silhouette of the cat proudly prancing around my bed with that monstrosity hanging out of her mouth. I was screaming to myself from the kitchen and shivering in disgust.

I slowly crept to the bedroom door, closed it at arm's length, and ran away again.  After about 30 minutes, the cat started crying to be let out of the room. Her job must have been finished. Alexandre came home shortly after and found the moth dead and in pieces on the bed. He cleaned up the main part of the corpse and left me to change the sheets that were covered in pieces of giant moth.

Screen Door. Today.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

5 Stiches Later...I am Awesome

This morning I went to a blood lab here for them to draw blood for a routine checkup. (See Michelle? All the friendly reminders worked.)

I don't do well with needles.
I don't do well when people take blood out of my body.
This time was no exception.

I fainted while the doctor was taking the blood (99% because of nerves and irrational fear of needles). But she had me sitting in a chair, and I fell out of it. And hit my head on the bed I should've been in, followed by the tile floor. And came to with a massive headache and blood everywhere and totally confused saying "Where am I? Where am I?" in English.

The people at the blood lab made me go to the hospital. They moved my car to their parking lot and drove me in one of their lab trucks.  We called Alexandre on the way. I had the car, so he took a taxi to meet me there. They didn't take me to his hospital, but to the one that is covered under my insurance here. The problems came not from drawing the blood, but from hitting my head so hard. I was having sharp pains in my neck and head, so they took x-rays.  Everything seems Ok. So then they decided to put stitches in the big gash that I acquired on my forehead. But because of its positioning, they decided to call in the plastic surgeon, to have him do some nicer, more difficult stitches.

The plastic surgeon is one of my students at the school. I just had class with him last night. So needless to say, he was a bit surprised to see me. He made some jokes with me and Alexandre, like "good thing you're okay! Don't want to lose my English teacher!" and he let Alexandre watch while he did the fancy stitches, and he explained the process to him step by step.

5 stitches later, I'm home in bed with a really stiff, sore neck. I also have a black eye that's more blue than black and that looks like a really bad 80's makeup job that won't come off. And I've got some random bruises all over from the fall. And as a result of my fear of one needle, I  had to get like 6 more over the course of the day. And did I mention my neck hurts?

Alexandre's here with me, feeding me McDonald's ice cream, keeping my ice pack up-to-date, and giving me pain meds. I canceled my classes for the day so I can lay down and complain a bit.

No pictures--  I look a fright!  But I thought you'd all enjoy the story.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Picture Dump! Storms, Day Trips, Festa de Mandioca

Well, out of my 10 private classes that I was supposed to have taught so far this week, I've taught... 4. Because people are flaky.  Good think I have contracts!! So in one way, it was kind of good, because I'm still getting paid, but I have free time. (But I'd much rather be teaching than preparing things for nothing and waking up early for nothing, etc.)

I had some time to go through the pictures on my camera and add them on here for your enjoyment.

I'll start with the storms. Summer's on its way, which, in our neck of the woods rainforest, means hot, sunny mornings and HUMID afternoons. Almost every afternoon, the wind kicks up and slams our shutters around as the dark ominous clouds roll in. After about an hour of that, the monsoon-like rain starts up. It doesn't last long-- usually 30 minutes to an hour. And when we're lucky, it doesn't rain through the night, because when it does, we have to keep the bedroom window closed and everything gets very hot and stuffy.
Here are the pre-storm pictures:
Day 1












Day 2

















It was so windy! And Alexandre is so handsome :)











Day 3
I made a video of the lightening and saved screen shots:



It took me a while to figure out how to do it, but now that I know how, I'll try to get better ones during the next storm!

Moving on.... We had one Saturday morning where Alexandre thought he had to work and didn't. He went to the hospital and everything, and then came back after 30 minutes. I always imagine and dream that that will happen! I hope and wish for it!  We decided to go out to this little place that one of Alexandre's friends recommended. I don't know how to explain it. In the middle of nowhere, about 25 miles out of town (it's literally nowhere, like, where it should be on Google Maps, there's just a cream-colored space), there's this place with a lake, a nice restaurant, a convention are for weddings, and some high-end shops. Here, see for yourselves:
   

the entrance to The Place

The lake... see the rain clouds a comin'?

Here was the stained glass in the restaurant:

And here are some cutesy pictures of us (you care much less than I do):















It was a pleasant afternoon. :)

And wait, there's more!

On Sunday, my friend and fellow teacher Ana Rosa and I went to a Festa de Mandioca! (Remember the festa do milho?) The Mandioca Festival was run by the same people in the same place as the Corn Festival.  If you don't remember what mandioca is, it's this. My favorite way to eat it is like this, except right-side up. Hard to find in the US unless you go to a specialty Asian shop (since it comes to the US by way of the Philippines), or, according to Kristin, a military commissary.

Anyway, everything was delicious, as you can probably imagine. It was actually mostly the same stuff as the Corn Festival, except with mandioca. The difference was mandioca ice cream and mandioca sweet bread. Here's a picture of me and Ana Rosa:

Since both festivals were run by the church, they offered Mass to accompany your mandioca dishes:




That ominous image on the right side of the picture was actually an all-white statue of Mary and baby Jesus... it came out kind of creepily.

That's all I found on the camera. Lots of fun events. Let me know if you guys have any problems seeing the pictures... I tried using Picasa (Google's picture program) to upload them directly. They might be really big and load slowly, or they might not show up at all. They didn't work but they should work now. That's what I get for trying to be lazy about the uploading.

Off to work.... have a good day!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cultural Gleaning

So yes, there are many things, big and small, that are different between day-to-day life in Brazil and day-to-day life in the US. Some things, I accept willingly. Some things took a little longer. Some changes aren't gonna happen. I've decided to make 2 lists: 1 of Brazilian differences that I've assumed/adopted, and the other of Brazilian differences that I will just never get used to. Enjoy:

Brazilian differences that I've adopted:
1. Using rags and never using paper towels (I haven't purchased paper towels in a year and a half!)
2. Washing dishes with cold water
3. Eating meat twice a day
4. Cooking a LOT (as in frequently, not portions)
5. Having a small breakfast
6. Asking questions with falling intonation (sometimes I just try and I can't)
7. Being fashionably late (sometimes)
8. Heels


Brazilian differences that I'll just never adopt:
1. Weekly manicures
2. Running red lights
3. Telling (what I consider to be) very personal things to people when you meet them for the first time
4. Duchas
5. Warm milk
6. Omelets for lunch or dinner
7. Pleasure in being fawned over in tiny stores/boutiques (please, rich lady, well, you must be rich! If you're not, please, let me make you feel like you are! You are just so wonderful. Please buy my products!)

Anybody else have similar lists?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Americans!

So yesterday, I went to the doctor for an appointment. I was in the waiting room, reading a book, waiting to be called, when two older people (Ok, old people) came and sat next to me. I didn't think anything of it-- there were a ton of people in the waiting room.  But then, I heard the old people whispering among themselves... in English!

Sometimes I think I hear English but then it's just a really strong "interior" accent (people that live really far inland, and totally the accent that I have adopted). It's because the accent from the interior has the same r as American English and that r is relatively rare in the world's languages so it stands out. So before I embarrassed myself, I decided to listen a bit more before talking to them. But... it was English!!

So I started poking at the lady in the thigh. She looked up at me. "Excuse me," I said, "Are you American?"
"Yes," she said.
"Me too! You're the first Americans I've met here! I've been here for a year and a half!"

So we got to talking a bit.

"So what are you doing here?" I asked. Funny how I get annoyed when people I don't know ask me this, but when I meet other Americans here, it's the first thing I do. Sigh.

"We're missionaries," she said.  "We founded a Baptist church here, and we teach bible reading classes. And, you know, we're old! So we're just enjoying life."

I laughed but also got a little defensive. I don't necessarily agree with missionaries, but I understand that the foundation of their religions emphasize that they must spread their ideas. But that takes away the idea of relativity and respect for other cultures. But THAT goes against many religions, whose followers believe they are absolute truths and that their religion is right, not relative. (Reminds me of the bumper sticker I saw in Orange County once while working at Pier 1. It said "Truth, not Tolerance." I didn't know the two were mutually exclusive!)  Mostly I started to get a bit defensive because I KNEW that they'd start asking me about my religion and inviting me to their church.

Which they did.
"So, and why are you here?" the woman asked.

"Oh, well, my boyf....husband is Brazilian. We're living here while he finishes medical school."

"So how long have you been married?"

"Oh, well, we're technically married for my visa. We're waiting for a real wedding." I lifted up my hand to show my lack of a ring.

"In a church?" a middle-aged woman behind us asked in English. I turned around. "I'm Helen. I'm their daughter," she said with a smile, pointing to the older couple.

"Yeah um, and until we have more money."

"I see," said Helen. They were all staring at me and smiling.

"So what religion do you belong to?" Helen asked. Jesus, they really don't waste time with the small talk.

I considered my possible answers, and then went for polite. "Oh, you know, I'm not very religious... but um... so, how do you like Brazil?" Topic changing: a good strategy.

"Oh, it's great," said the older man. "We've been here for so long though, so it's just where we live now."

"I was raised here," said Helen. "But I went to college in the US."

Given Helen's age, and since she said she was raised here, I guessed that the older couple had been living in Brazil for at least thirty years.

We talked a bit more about jobs (the daughter works as a missionary, too, and has a Brazilian husband). I told them I was a teacher and that I worked for an American company developing textbooks. (Sometimes I simplify my job and tell people that they're physical books instead of a website/program because certain people get confused). They told me they were from Michigan originally, and asked where I was from. I said "San Francisco" just to get a little rise out of them. It worked. They all raised their eyebrows, and the more knowing daughter said "Oooh...." and the mother said, "Well, I've never been there..." and sucked on her teeth a bit.

As the daughter and I were chatting, the mother started pulling a bunch of things out of her purse and showing them to me: a picture of their church, a little prayer book, and a little laminated index card with a penny on it that said "Every time you see a penny, say a prayer for a missionary, because a penny is one cent, c-e-n-t, and missionaries are sent, s-e-n-t by GOD to spread His word and love." (Even though the quote was written, it still had the words spelled out like that.)

"That's very cute," I said.

She started flipping through the pages of the prayer book and showing them to me. "I know you say you're not very religious, but these are so good. You're welcome to take a look."

"Oh, yes um... that's very nice, it's a good thing to have around, yes, you know, my husband's grandmother is Catholic, and she prepares little prayer books like this for her church. She gives us copies sometimes." True story. But the older woman didn't even respond.

I have to say that I was becoming a bit disappointed about my first fellow American encounter.  I had dreamed about this day, invented all these possible little scenarios of meeting other Americans, hearing them speak English, and making new friends, bonding over our shared experience, sharing similar stories... but the missionaries had complete one-track minds. I wanted to say, "Let's talk about something else! It doesn't have to be this way! Don't you have any little stories for me? People asking you stupid questions? Slip-ups and blunders while learning Portuguese? RELATE TO MEEEEEEEE!"

But then I'd look like the crackpot.

On top of being disappointed, I was also a bit annoyed. Some religious people simply don't believe that, when you meet someone new, it's RUDE and socially unacceptable for the topics of questions to be in this order and covering these subjects:
1. Where you are from
2. How long you have been married
3. Whether you were married in a church
4. What religion you follow

I also think that, if your goal is to show people that your religion is The Right One, you can't hound them and throw it in their face immediately. That's why I have so much respect for the Mormon religion. I have never met a Mormon (aside from those that have come knocking on my door) who brought up religion in the first or second sentence. Ironically, I think the Mormon religion has the most to offer people in terms of family values and guidelines for how to live your life.

Anyway anyway, beggars can't be choosers. In a land so lacking of My People, I guess I'm happy to talk to anyone. I guess. The daughter's husband showed up to pick her and her parents up (she had decided her doctor was taking too long and didn't want to wait.... if she grew up here, doesn't she know how long it takes to see your doctor in Brazil? Heck, the whole world?). So we said our good-byes.
"We should exchange numbers," said the daughter.
"Don't you think emails are better?" said her Brazilian husband. Way to be trusting.
"You can have my number," I said.
I gave her my number; she gave me her email. She actually lives in an even smaller city a couple of hours away, and came for the doctor and to visit her parents. So I doubt we'll talk again. Besides, we didn't really click.

I can't really say I felt any more connected to anyone but... at least I got to use phrasal verbs for a little while?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Culture Clash: Spring Cleaning

So remember how I told you guys about all the changes to the apartment?

Well, they're pretty much done! Fun new apartment!

After the electrician left on Saturday afternoon, I tidied up (as Nanny would say), sweeping up the dust piles he made after mounting the TV on the bedroom wall and things like that. Then, because I wanted to procrastinate on work, I decided to do some spring cleaning-- the detailed stuff.

You may remember that, when we moved in, we invented The Closet of Forgetting-- the closet in the second bedroom (which I use as my classroom) that we just throw everything in that we don't want to look at or think about but don't want to throw away. Some more rational members of The Closet of Forgetting include winter coats, suitcases, and extra towels. But there are also some drawers that were filled with all kinds of junk. (If you're confused about why a closet has drawers, it's because it's not really a closet, in the American sense of the word. I guess the best English (well, really French) word for what we have is armoire, but The Armoire of Forgetting isn't as funny.)

Anyhoo, back to the junk drawers. A lot of the stuff was Alexandre's (old maps of Argentina, an electric toothbrush (gross), a TON of CDs, clothes that a certain someone hopes to one day fit into again...), so I decided to just take the drawers out of their hiding place (effectively Unforgetting them) and bringing them to the living room for proper inspection.

Yesterday, I insisted that Alexandre and I go through the drawers together and get rid of stuff. It went a little like this:

 I was sitting on the floor with the drawers. Alexandre was laid on the couch a couple of feet away, evaluating from a distance.
I pull out an old computer mouse, so old that it doesn't have a USB plug, but instead one of those green mouse-specific plugs.

"Does this work?" I ask.

"I don't know," he replies. "We can't test it on our computers because it's too old."

"Ok, then let's throw it out." I decide to add it to the trash pile, which already includes things like broken burned CDs and expired electronics warranties in Spanish.

"No!" Alexandre sits up on the couch and takes notice. "You can't throw that away! What if it works? You can't just throw away a perfectly good mouse. Let's give it to Sonya." (Sonya is our maid.)

"I can offer it to her, but if she has a computer that has this kind of mouse, she can't be using it without one!"

I create a new "Sonya" pile and move on to the next item: one of those clunky original Nokia cell phones with no charger and no battery, circa 2001.
"Do you know where the battery and charger are for this?" I ask.

"Um... no."

"Ok, trash pile."

"No!" Alexandre sticks his hand out to take the phone from me. "Maybe we'll need it one day!"

"Are you going to go out and find and buy a battery and charger for this?" I ask. "Do you even know where you could, besides eBay?"

Alexandre gives me a cute pouty face. "Maybe."

"No you're not."

Alexandre muses over the phone affectionately. "Ok." He chucks it to the trash pile.

Next item in the pile: A kangroo-shaped business-card holder from Australia. One of Alexandre's mother's friends went to Australia. She bought it for Alexandre's mom. In an attempt to avoid throwing things away, she passed it on to him. (I can see where the habit comes from.)
"Do you ever plan to use this?" I ask.

"Haha. It's so tacky," he chuckles.

"You don't even have business cards," I say, "and won't for at least another 5 years. Maybe 10. I don't want to carry this thing around with us for 10 years."

I start to throw it to the trash pile.

"No no! It's nice! It might have been expensive. Give it to Sonya."

"What is Sonya gonna do with a kangaroo business card holder?"

"Maybe she won't know that it's a business card holder, but she'll like the kangaroo!"

This led to a debate about whether or not it was offensive to just pawn unwanted things off to the maid all the time. "Oh, I was gonna throw this away, but then I thought of you..."

I say it is, and the giving should be reserved for things that may actually have value for her. (For example, we also unearthed an old and basic but working MP3 player in one of the Drawers of Forgetting. I got a new one for Alexandre for Christmas, so he doesn't use this one anymore. The maid has a 16-year-old daughter-- this is something she would actually like.)  Alexandre says it's not offensive. Thoughts?

While we each made our cases for the fate of the rest of the items in the Drawers of Forgetting (my case usually being "toss it out" and Alexandre's case usually being "Keep it, you never know!"), we discussed the differences between our respective countries. (And when I say "discussed" I mean Alexandre said things like "you Americans are so wasteful, you just throw things away and buy new ones all the time. That's why your poor people are fodas [exactly how he formed this phrase and intentionally left untranslated]." and I said things like "you Brazilians hoard things and treat your maids like trash dumpsters.")

I also explained the cultural gem that is The Second-Hand Store in order to explain that, if I were cleaning out a junk drawer in the US, I would throw fewer things away because I could either a) recycle it (not an option here) or b) donate it to the Goodwill or something. Second-Hand stores are great because there's no risk of offense. They're also great because I can both donate things and buy things. One man's trash...

Anyway. We mostly made peace with the Drawers of Forgetting, and, more specifically, the things forgotten in them. We decided to use some of the old clothes (the ones with bleach stains or my t-shirts from the evil school) as rags instead of just contributing to a lixão (city dump). We agreed on a few things that would be appropriate things to offer to Sonya. Alexandre even agreed to throw some things (coughburnedBryanAdamsCDscough) away.

The rest? Well... we'll see if it's still there tomorrow night after I have a few hours home alone. ;) My fellow dweller will be none the wiser [intentionally left in complicated English and untranslated].

In the end, I think this is less of a cultural difference and more of an individual difference. Plenty of Americans hoard, and plenty of Brazilians are much more minimalist that mine.

But at least The Closet of Forgetting is clean!
Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Getting Adjusted in the USA

I am really stuck on this work project. I put up a note on Facebook, but didn't get any responses. So I thought I'd try here... I know you guys love giving your opinions!

For my job, I have to write material for an online program to teach English. The program teaches English using conversations in real-life situations in order to teach cultural stuff, too.

I want to give useful information. So I'd like people from other countries who have spent any extended time in the US to answer these questions:

1. What were some things that were difficult or surprising for your during your time in the US?

2. What are some things that you didn't think about before you went to stay/live there?

3. What is something you wish you learned before you arrived?

Some examples from my Brazilian students have been washing clothes at the laundromat, buying a calling card, and renting a car.

It can be activities like that, or even social things (making friends with Americans, talking on the phone, etc).

Any stories about your experiences in the US will help. :) It can be big things like "I didn't know how to rent an apartment" or little things, like "I didn't know drinks had free refills."

Thank you for any stories (good or bad!).

American (and Canadian!) readers-- you can tell me any of your travel stories, too, if you think it would be something relevant to people going to the US and wasn't something specific to the countries that you visited.


Thanks for any ideas or feedback!

Also, does anyone know any details about buying calling cards in the US? I've never done it.
One more thing: How do non-US citizens (no social security card) open bank accounts? What documents do they need?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Good News (kind of ramble-y)

1. The daycare next door to our apartment building closed down!

Hallelujah... I have been waiting and hoping for this day since we moved in.
They apparently moved to another part of town, probably waking up and torturing some other poor, unsuspecting building.

If I didn't complain about it to you before (or if you're not Kristin, who experienced it first hand), it was open from 7am-7pm. They had about... I'd guess 30-40 kids a day, and 3-4 employees. I'm not sure who was louder-- the screaming, crying kids ("TIIIAAAA! TIIIAAA!"), or the whiny female employees that shouted at the kids all the time ("PARE COM ISSO! VENHA CA! PARAAAA!"). Just a really stressful environment to listen to. It also made it impossible to sleep in or take naps.

But now things are so peaceful and quiet! Hooray!

2. We've finally started making some long-needed changes to the apartment. We got our ceiling fan from the old apartment installed (only 14 months later). We had a microwave mount sitting in a box for over a year, and finally got that mounted to free up our very limited counter space. A few weeks ago, the landlord sent a guy over to take all of the mold off of the wall in my classroom and fix the leak in the bathroom that was causing the leak. The guy came back this week to paint the wall, and it looks like new again! (More importantly, there's no more mold in the apartment!) Tomorrow, we have an electrician coming (the same guy who installed the fan) to fix a bunch of broken sockets around the apartment so we can actually put furniture in different places and not have dangerous surge protectors with like 25 cords. Long story short, we're gonna have TV in our bedroom tomorrow and a whole new layout in the apartment. :D Oh, also, Alex's sister moved into a new apartment in Sao Paulo, and bought herself new dishes. She donated all of her old (matching, perfectly fine) pretty clear glass dishes to us.  Now, we finally have more than 1 bowl, and our dishes match for the first time.

All that, combined with my new polka-dot sheets, and the place is finally starting to feel like a home.

I may sound a little bitter in this paragraph (with all of the FINALLYs and snide comments about time), because, well.... I am. I'd like to see YOU try to convince a 24-year-old Brazilian boy that these kinds of things are important in an apartment. :oP

But I'll put pictures up when everything's done. :)

3. Monday's a holiday here (as usual, no one can tell me exactly what. One person told me it was Independence Day, another told me it was a holiday for a saint). And, as you may know, Brazilians looovvee to really stretch holidays out. So all of my students for today (Friday) canceled. And all of my students on Tuesday canceled. So I have 5 days with no classes.

4. Oh yeah, and my schedule at the school is even better. I can never bring myself to quit, even though the pay is pitiful compared to private classes and my American job. Every time a new semester rolls around and I say I'm gonna do it, I walk to work with such resolve. And then during the walk I start to think about all of the "what if"s and how it's good to keep my foot in the door and how if anything ever happened, I wouldn't want to have to go back begging for a job (it's much better to just say "I have more availability now" than "please hire me again").  So when I walk into my boss's office with my decision, it's always "Ok, when do you need me?"

But I have dropped one class every new semester this year (The semesters are 2 months long.) I went from 6-5-4-3 and now I have 2. One of my new classes is a private student in the mornings. I was his teacher before, and I stopped because he was too flaky. But he insisted on having me again. So I told my boss's boss (the owner, this arrogant macho Brazilian guy who talks to me like I'm an idiot) that if he wanted me to teach this guy, the guy had to pay up front for the classes, and I would get paid, even if he canceled. Everyone agreed. So now I have guaranteed pay for a class that I will hardly ever teach. And I only have one night class-- on Mondays and Wednesdays. Woot!

5. Not-so-good news: I'm really sick :( I've had this nasty cold this week that has really taken a toll on my productivity. So I'm kind of relieved that my students are all going on vacation for the holiday. I can get caught up on my American job and spend a couple of days in bed, without taking a shower or putting on makeup. :)

(Oh, btw, check out fellow Brazil blogger Julie's cute entry on colds across cultures. :)

Alexandre, unfortunately, doesn't have much of a holiday, and has to work 7am-7pm today (Friday), Saturday, and Sunday. If I'm feeling better by Sunday night and if he's not too tired, we might go out of town...it's just that there's not much within driving distance. We live in the middle of nowhere. I miss the cultural gem that is the weekend getaway. 

If we do anything, I'll put up pictures. But we may just end up staying here, saving some money, and enjoying our new apartment-turned-home.

Sorry about this entry.... it was more like an email to my friends with silly little updates than a bona-fide blog-worthy entry. I blame the fever!

Bye for now!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Woah, Creepville

So remember when I put up my vacation pictures from the US? I had to delete the picture of me, Jamie, and Danette at the beach because, according to my site tracker, some creepy user in Pakistan did a search for "daily neude [sic] picture by email" and MY blog came up and then he ended on that picture!

Duuuude.
Sorry, girls.


Let's try not to think about it to much. Here are some happier pictures. I haven't cleaned out my camera's memory card in a while: 



Gatinha, being forced to be precious

a soda named after my grandma

and rainbows on a rainy bus ride:







and our new bedsheets! I chose them, obviously. I bought them here. Gatinha loves them, too (mostly because she has a fascination with sheets):
 

Isn't that great? No more boobie pics.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Gym Sucks, Maybe Running?

Remember a few weeks ago I told you that I finally got around to joining a gym?

At first, it was okay-- they gave me a lot of attention, but I assumed it was because I was new and needed to learn my routine and learn how to use the machines.

I eventually realized that it's just because the employees are really, really bored.
I memorized my routine. I knew how to use the machines and the weights. And yet they still follow me from station to station. Since they don't need to explain anything anymore, they just make small talk.

It's one guy in particular, because I usually go in the mornings and that's his shift.
He flirts too much.
He asks me dumb questions about America.

There's also a guy who teaches Pilates classes but doesn't have any students, or maybe I come right before the class starts or something. So he's standing around bored, too. And he seriously STARES at me. A lot. You'd think the two of them could just talk to each other and leave me alone.  Instead they're bored and creepy and I hate it.

Also my routine sucks and it's boring and I have to run for 1 minute and then lift weights for one minute and I can't listen to music.

And I'm the youngest person there, when there are even other people working out.

So basically the gym is giving me nothing of what I wanted out of  a gym, which was, in this order: 1) to relieve tension and stress; 2) make friends 3) lose weight / get toned and 4) feel better in general as a result of 1-3.

Alexandre runs as exercise. He always tries to convince me to go with him. I have never been one to have much talent or endurance for running, but I go with him to the parks/plazas/lakes and walk (or sit and read) while he runs.

This weekend, we went to his parents' house. There's a really beautiful botanical garden close by. It's next to the zoo. So it kinda creeps me out because you can hear the (what I think are) lions close by, and it sounds like they're coming after you! Alexandre wanted to run, and I said I'd try (and probably just end up walking).
So we started out, and I took off.
"Slow down!" he said. "You'll run out of energy really fast."
I slowed down.
"Slower."
I slowed down some more.
"A little slower."
"This is boring."
"No, it's fun. Give it a minute."
"This is too slow. You have short legs."
"Yes, but just be quiet. Go at this speed."

So we were essentially just jogging, with Alexandre keeping me in check "not so fast. Nope, can't stop yet." But it was really great! It was the longest I had ever run continually in my life, I think. I went almost 3 kilometers! (The track at the botanical garden had little markers.)  I never enjoyed running because no one ever taught me to do it right. Alexandre went on to run 5 more kilometers while I listened to my headphones and played with the feral cats at the garden and tried to find the birds whose crazy calls I could hear in the trees. It was a nice late afternoon/evening!

So I'm giving up on the gym and gonna try the running thing for a while. It's free and I have more control and I can get out all of my pent-up energy, and I don't have creepy men bothering me. If I don't end up liking it, I'm going to join the Curves branch here. (Haha...Michelle and Elena-- every time I see it, I think of you guys!) It's a little bit more expensive than the other gym, but it's across the street from my work, it's only women, and it's apparently popular with young women, not retired ones (like in the US).

So wish me luck! Maybe in a couple months I'll be as skinny and buff as Nancy Pants, runner friend extraordinaire.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Olympics!

Rio de Janeiro JUST got chosen for the 2016 olympics.

People are going crazy!
President Lula is crying on TV!

I love this picture from Rio. Look at the chubby lady on the left! haha

I'm so happy for Brazil. The country is going to get a lot of attention (both good and bad), as well as a lot of motivation to reach its potential. It'll be great for the country's image. It'll also be great for the economy. Plus, Americans (and the whole world, for that matter) will finally learn more about Brazil!

And maybe, if we're still here for some reason, more people will come visit me! :D

Hooray, Rio! Hip hip Hooray, Brazil!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Good News in the Working World

So this morning I got an email from someone using the email server of my American job. (Remember? It's a site that makes downloadable/Java programs to teach languages. Think Rosetta Stone online. I'm making the lessons and activities to teach English.)  I didn't recognize his name, but he said that he needed to talk to me about the material I've been developing and asked to schedule a phone meeting.

I looked up his name on the company website, only to discover that he was the vice president.

I kind of started to panic. I've been working on the ESL material for a couple of months now, and I haven't gotten much feedback aside from "oh, change this one activity please" or "let's change the title of this chapter." Just like, little details. So I had no idea if they were happy with the material so far or what. I figured if the vice president wanted to talk to me, maybe it was because my immediate boss doesn't have the rights to fire me? I really think so highly of myself...

Yes, so that wasn't it at all. When we turned on our webcams, it ended up being the VP and the head of marketing on the other side of the computer.  They wanted to talk to me to tell me that they lovvveee the material that I've made so far, and that they want to expand my responsibilities.
Right now, the stuff I'm writing is more geared toward young people living in other countries that plan to come to the US to work or do some kind of foreign exchange program. So it has a lot of focus on social situations (like parties, roommates, weekend trips, etc). But the company just made a big contract with a ton of libraries and community centers in the US, and need to develop new English material geared more toward working-class immigrants (so not as grammar-focused, and a lot more focus on day-to-day survival, like the bank, the doctor, the supermarket, etc).

We switched ideas back and forth for a while, and it looks like I'm gonna start working on that material, too. Of course some of it will overlap, but in the end it means a lot more time with this company. Hoooraaay for getting paid in dollars! And phew for getting the company's seal of approval. 

I think this calls for a dinner-in-a-restaurant situation. To quote the illustrious Kanye West, "I got a problem with spending before I get it." Haha. Joke.
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