Monday, February 28, 2011

(Not) Blending In

I don't know about other ex-pats (word cringe), but one of my biggest challenges of living in a foreign country is blending in. Some people living abroad are comfortable with being different and standing out and doing their own thing, but I am not one of them. I've gotten tired of being asked where I'm from and having to tell my life story, so my ultimate goal is to avoid giving people reason to ask me in the first place. My motto is "don't mind me!". I try not to wear too many American-bought pieces of clothing at once. I don't talk on the phone in public unless absolutely necessary, to hide the accent. Alexandre and I speak English in public only when we need to talk crap about someone, and even then, we mumble. If I'm somewhere where I have to show ID (my passport), I avoid pulling it out or showing the front side. I make just enough small talk to seem polite without giving away grammar mistakes.

So when my bestest friend Michelle gave me my bestest present during my trip -- a Kindle -- one of the first things I said was, "this is going to be so great because now I can read in public in Brazil and people won't notice that it's in English and they'll leave me alone."  It never fails that, when I open an English book to read in public -- usually on a bus -- the person next to me starts jabbering away. "You'reNotBrazilian,AreYou?WhyAreYouReadinginEnglish?DoYouUnderstandThatBook??" blahblabhalh.  I know it's going to happen, but what am I going to do? Not read?? Psh. I usually just try to fold over the cover and be inconspicuous.

Anyway, short story that I'll now make long, I was wrong. I should have known from my days on the playground that the only sure-fire way NOT to blend in is to whip out a shiny new toy. So far, the Kindle is drawing considerably more attention than books.

I was reading it on my (LAST!) bus ride from the in-laws' house to Caipirópolis. For the first leg of the trip, I was graced with the luck that only frequent bus riders can appreciate: an empty seat next to mine. I basked in my two-seats-for-the-price-of-one and spread out and pulled out the Kindle to read.

It took the woman across the aisle about 15 minutes to work up the courage to say, "mas menina, o que que é isso? Que curiosidade!" (Young lady, what is that? How strange!")  (And am I correct in hearing people say que twice??)

I said, "Oh, it's to read books."

"Was it expensive?"  (Oh, fellow interior bus riders. Always classy.)

"Well, I don't know your definition of expensive, but it's cheaper than buying the books."

"Where do you get the books from?"

"You can buy them or download them online. Or you can put PDFs."

"Ah, PDFs!" She recognized that term. Then she jumped right in. "Are you a foreigner?"

"Yes."

"From where?" (Thought I'd get away with just the "yes", didn't you?)

"The United States."

"Wow! Que chique! How fancy! Ya know, I've been to New York...."

etc etc etc, you guys know the rest.

-------
When we stopped about halfway along to pick up other passengers, someone sat in the seat next to mine. It was another young-ish girl. (The first woman had to be in her mid-30s, and this girl was closer to my age.)  I waited for her to get comfortable and lose the passing interest that everyone initially has in the person sitting next to them on a bus. She had her own book-- the title was something like "Everything with God's Help." Once she got settled into reading that, I tried to discreetly pull out the Kindle to continue reading this book, which was free last week because of Amazon's promotional new author thing. I tried to turn a bit in the chair so that I was facing the aforementioned lady across the aisle. I peeked over my shoulder a bit to see if I'd been successful in not distracting the girl. I hadn't. I was trying to focus on my book, but out of the corner of my eye, I kept catching her stealing glances at me and The Curious Machine.

At one point, my cell phone beeped from my backpack: a text from Alexandre. I guess the girl saw my distraction from The Curious Machine as a chance to butt in. As I was putting my phone back in my bag, she asked, "Is that one of those electronic book readers?"

"Oh, yes," I tried to say as nonchalantly and non-accented-ly as possible.

"Cool! Can I see it?"

I turned it toward her without actually putting it in her hands.

"Are you reading in English?" she asked.

"Yes."

"You're not Brazilian, are you?"

"No..."

etc &c &c

------------------------

So a fancy technologically-advanced-looking object is clearly NOT the answer to trying to draw less attention to yourself as a foreigner. I'd like to say that the Kindle will take off in Brazil in the next 6 months or so, the way the iPod did, and then I'll just be seen as rich, as opposed to foreign AND rich. But I don't think eBook readers are really anywhere in Brazil's near future. The Brazilian masses aren't big on books and reading as a hobby. Chalk it up to a weak public education system, expensive books, and vicious cycles.

So I'd love to have a day where I can just do normal Brazilian life things and interact with people in normal Brazilian life ways, but for now, I guess I'm resigned to just standing out indefinitely. The alternatives are to (a) continue buying overpriced English books or (b) not read in public, and neither of those will do, especially now that I'll be living 3 blocks from the beach!

This will be me, in about 6 days (thanks, Kindle website!):



And thanks, Michelle. The Kindle is awesome, and totally worth sticking out for.

*This is NOT some kind of paid blog entry for Kindle. Do you think Amazon really cares about me and my blog? I mostly just wanted another excuse to bag on small-towners. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Leaving California

This post is pretty much an extended version of the one I wrote when I got here.

I'm going back to Brazil tomorrow. My grandpa has ups and downs but is on a general downward slope. I can't stay indefinitely.

This trip has been hard, and not only because of the obvious. I wasn't in a mood of "I'm ready for a dose of the USA!" the way I was during my other trips. Alexandre and I were living in our good little bubble. I think I want to stop calling it a bubble, because that suggests that we were ignoring some kind of bigger picture, and that wasn't it. It was just that we'd worked out the kinks in our value systems and our priorities and we've made a nice life for ourselves. And it's only getting better, with the move to the beach and everything.

Even though I'm with my family here, and even though I've been able to see a couple of friends, I've felt lonely during this trip. I was grateful for the friends who were ok with coming and sitting with me, for the ones who drove from far away, for the ones who waited with me to see my grandpa at the hospital. But I think this is kind of a lonely event, especially because I'm without Alexandre. I feel like American culture has changed drastically, and that I have, too. I've mostly just kept my mouth shut, because 10 days in town isn't worth rocking the boat, but it's tiring listening to people say stuff and watching people do stuff that you just totally disagree with all the time.

I'm overwhelmed by the technological overload. I don't think it deserves the word revolution because all this new crap doesn't seem to be making life better. It just seems so unnecessary. I don't want to offend my friends that think these things are cool, but why do cell phones need to check heart rates? Why do car stereo systems need to be voice activated to read back your friends' Facebook statuses? Why does your Kindle need to upload the words that you didn't know onto your Twitter? I just feel like people are racing toward all of these new developments and chucking their 6-month old electronics and replacing them and buying so much crap without stopping to evaluate, without stopping to weigh pros and cons or to ask, "Do I even want this?"

I'm disappointed in the extent to which people are uneducated about health and nutrition. I knew I was before I moved to Brazil, but I chalked it up to being a college student that moved out of home really really early. I mean don't get me wrong-- I ate and drank a whole bunch of crap while I was here and even liked it-- but if I had my own house and my own routine here, I wouldn't go back to my SAD (Standard American Diet) life. But the situation is extreme. Some people go days eating only processed dairy and carbs. Some restaurants in California have started printing calorie counts on their menu. Also shocking.  (I mean of course we didn't go to TGI Friday's for our health, but still. 2600-calorie dinners?!)

This lack of knowledge about health spreads to hospitals and people's understanding of them. Frustrating.

I'm overwhelmed by all the marketing. I'm overwhelmed with the way people identify themselves with brands. "Oh my God! I LOVE Superman! That means that I need a Superman cell phone case, wallet, boxers, ringtone, collectible figurine set, and stickers on my car." Why? Why do you need that? Are you happier?

Of course I'm not totally impervious to it all. I've enjoyed myself doing typical American things. My bestest friend Michelle bought me a Kindle, just because she's nice. (I think that's a pretty fabulous invention, especially when you don't live in an English-speaking country.) I've also eaten a bunch of delicious and unhealthy food. I haven't exercised at ALL. But even with the Kindle case, a trip to Urgent Care and antibiotics, and getting my laptop repaired, I spent less than 500 bucks over the course of the trip. (Yes, I didn't pay for room and board, but how many of you fellow ex-pats have gone home for 2 weeks and spent less than 500 bucks on the miscellaneous stuff?) I just wasn't interested in the super shopping. I wasn't interested in being a mule. I wasn't interested in lugging back a bunch of big suitcases.

My grandad has taught me a lot during this phase of his life. When he was still talking at the beginning of my trip, he was exactly the same as he was during the rest of his life: peaceful and even-keeled. He showed that he had been living his true values his whole life. He and my grandma largely raised my sister and me. During our whole life, he just tuned out all the noise and chose a few good things to love (music, work, and a good piece of cake), and he gave the rest of his love and energy to people. He never complained about working, never asked a favor without trying it himself, never fixed it if it wasn't broken, never lied to get ahead, never gave something to himself if his wife and kids couldn't also have it. He questioned what someone tried to sell him. He judged institutions but tried to understand and empathize with individuals. He gave stuff away if it wouldn't put him out. He told a joke whenever possible. He's been happy.

My grandparents at their music group club... my grandma played bass and sang and my grandpa played piano once a month with other retirees, most of whom were fellow Brits. The club puttered out only recently. 

Let's hope that, upon my return to Brazil, I can try to glean the best of both worlds and get back on track. Blog entries might be kind of sad for a while.

I'll leave you with a song:



Lyrics here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jesus.

America is going to Hell in a poorly made handbasket imported from Bangledesh and full of saturated fat and bad health advice.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

California

So I'm here in CA for the grandad. He's stable but not great. We'll see how things go over the next few days. The good thing is that he recognized that I was here and understands that everyone's with him and loves him. So the important thing is that he's comfortable and loved and definitely not alone. 

His lucidity comes and goes, but what never wavers is his love for my grandmother. 80% of what comes out of his mouth is how much he loves my grandmother, and stories about their love (whether he knows it's today and he says that he wants to go home and sleep next to her again, or whether he thinks it's 60 years ago and they've just met and he's telling us that she's the woman of his dreams). He likes to tell inside jokes that only she understands. It's beautiful to see that, if you do it right, when everything else gets stripped away-- the daily worries, the details of life-- it's love that remains.  

It's been interesting to see the workings of American hosptials after seeing and learning so much about Brazilian ones. What keeps coming to mind is that the priorities here are all screwed up. The emergency room is full of people without emergencies but also without insurance. There's no other place for someone without insurance to go if they've got strep thoat or a fever that won't quit or something simple. But if you've decided to drop hundreds of dollars a month on insurance, then you get top-of-the-line care, with a huge pristine room with 1 roommate at the most, a flat screen tv with cable, a waitress that comes to take your order for lunch and dinner, and a huge fancy machine just to check your blood pressure (even though the nurse went to school for at least 8 years and knows how to use a blood pressure pump).

It just seems like so much excess. America needs hospitals and insurance plans that are affordable and then more economically efficient.

One thing that makes a huge difference in American hospitals is the volunteers. There were a lot of housewives and retirees that decided to spend their days at the hospital trying to make patients' lives better. Since they can't have too much medical responsibility (the most I saw them do was take urine samples from the patients' room to the lab), they use their iniative to plan things like games for the patients, to bring in dogs, to go around and talk to the lonely people, things like that. A real sense of community. It's comforting.

In other news, I'm suffering from extreme reverse culture shock. It comes back to the idea of excess. People are drowing in debt caused by buying so much cheap and useless crap. Again, priorities are all screwed up. I just feel like the country is just one giant fat man on the verge of a heart attack, but who keeps suffing his face and ignoring the possible consequences. Even though he just had a huge heart attack scare (the economic downturn), he doesn't do anything to change his lifetsyle. He just keeps eating and buying and eating and buying. It's stressful. I just want to shout at everyone, "STOP! Look around! You have everything you need."

I mean, ironically, the happiest person I've seen on this trip is my grandfather. He seems to get it, that cheap makeup and Thai food is great and all, but what really counts is being with family and friends who love you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

We can write all kinds of fun posts about how the things that are the hardest about living abroad are not having peanut butter or central air conditioning, but this is by far the worst part: Grief. Sick family members. Being far away and not being at their side, and not being able to be at their side at the drop of a hat. Not knowing if it's so bad that you need to go or not.

My grandpa just had a stroke. I'm waiting for my sister to decipher the medical information and tell me how bad it really is.

If I need to go, I need to go. The move will have to wait. The cat will have to stay with a friend. The students will have to be paid back. Alexandre is 10 hours away. I don't think I'll get to see him before I go. He can't come with me. If he leaves his training, he'll lose his job for the rest of the year. He's going to try to get out for one day to at least stay with me at the airport a bit.

All of this is if I even need to go ASAP. Not ASAP means my grandpa is stable and I can go in 2 weeks, as soon as we finish the move.

Just waiting now, on the other side of the earth and not able to do anything.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day Homesickness

So I find myself feeling homesick at an unexpected time: Valentine's Day. Brazil has its own Valentine's Day, and it's celebrated in June. As an American "married" to a Brazilian, I get the benefit of 2 Valentine's Days (except the Brazilian one is just a few days after my birthday, and I have yet to receive 2 separate presents and celebrations... so I kind of don't. Now I know how those poor Christmas-born babies feel!).

ANYWAY ANYWAY. You'd think I'd feel better for getting 2 celebrations of our love. Except this year, I'm sad. My bestest friend in the whole wide world, Michelle, has been sending me all kinds of Valentine's Day dessert recipes.  She wants me to help her decide what she should make for her boyfriend.

The problem with her decision making is that it's making me want to eat everything.

Oreos.

White chocolate chips.

Peppermint.

Desserts involving peanut butter cups.

Frosting.

I mean, just look at those pictures.

Brazil certainly takes the cake with desserts (har har), because Brazilian desserts win the "delicious without containing tons of trans fat and preservatives" award.  99% of the Brazilian desserts that I eat are home-made, involving only God's finest natural ingredients (sugar, flour, butter, cocoa, fruit, etc) and turning them into magic.

Bombas.

Mousse.

The MIL's guava cake.

Milkshakes.

Homemade marshmallow ice cream topping.

Anything involving condensed milk.
----------------------------------

Even so. Some nights, especially after I polish off a 5-real bottle of Dom Bosco, I really really crave the sweet sweet nectar of high fructose corn syrup and a brownie from Denny's.


Can I get a "Hell Yeah" from the audience? Anyone? Anyone?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Caught Being Good #1



So in order to foster some optimism in the blog world, I'd like to start a new blogging campaign. I'm calling it "Caught Being Good."



For non-Americans reading this, "Caught Being Good!" is a present/phrase that American teachers give to young children (usually in the form of a sticker or certificate) when the children do something good. It's basic positive reinforcement, morale boosting, etc. I've always found it kind of witty.

Anyway. I'd like this campaign to focus on companies and their employees that actually do their jobs well and make your life easier. When I have a surprisingly good experience with someone at a place of business, I'm going to write about it here. I'm promise this isn't any kind of money-making marketing thing. I usually won't even list the company names, because sometimes I don't know if a company or brand is local or national, and besides, that's not the point. The point is to spread optimism and remind ourselves (or at least for me to remind myself) that not every retail person is a completely retarded tool.


And the first Caught Being Good award goes to.... bum bum bum...

A TIM store employee! 

I know, shocker, right?? TIM, the Brazilian cell phone company, is notorious for horrendous customer service. I think I read on one of your blogs that it was voted the 2nd worst company in Brazil (defined by how many civil suits and complaints it had received at government consumer protection agencies). I had a nightmare of a contract plan that was nothing but problems, and it was even more problematic when I tried to cancel it. But that is not our focus today. I'm back to my pre-paid chip, and I actually received fantastic customer service.

Here's what happened:

I lost my pre-paid chip. Dumb story involving caipirinhas. Also not our focus today.

I was especially sad because I had just paid for a bunch of minutes, and I was convinced that I would lose that money, along with my number.

I was dreading going into the store and imagined that I'd have to struggle to extract any kind of productive behavior out of the usually-asinine TIM attendant drones.

I went in, mentally prepared for a fight.

TIM stores have like "hostesses" that stand at the front door of the store to greet people. I'm convinced that they are the first runners in the "passing the buck" relay. They are experts at finding reasons to send you away and to pass the work on to someone else. Twice, I went face to face with these hostesses in a simple attempt to add minutes to my phone. Twice, they told me, "Oh, we ran out of minutes." HOW DO YOU RUN OUT OF MINUTES?! It's not like, a physical product that has to be shipped. It's not a tactile thing. The first time, I asked the girl just that: "How do you RUN OUT of minutes??? and she said, "oh, well, we have a quota of how many we can sell." TOTALLY LOGICAL.

The second time, the girl was slightly more helpful (I mean, she doesn't make the rule), and she offered an alternative. She told me, "you can go into the supermarket and buy more minutes there." I asked her, "Don't you agree that it's kind of ridiculous that another store can sell your product, but you can't?" And she just stared at me dumbly. I think I may have channeled my British grandmother and called her "silly cow."

Losing focus again. I'm sorry.

Anyway, in this first case of "Caught Being Good", the TIM door hostess actually, ya know, exchanged money for a service. I don't know what her name was, so let's call her Taís. She looked like a Taís. She greeted me, and I said, "Hi, I lost my pre-paid chip. I don't know what to do."

"That's no problem. We can recuperate your number. Did you call and block the chip?"

"No, but do I need to? It's pre-paid."

"Yes, you need to. You have to call TIM's customer service number. Once the old chip is blocked, we can use the number for a new chip."

I was expecting her to tell me that I'd have to go home and do that and then walk back into the store, so my heart rate already started to increase. "So... how do I call them if I don't have a chip?"

This time, she looked at me as if I was the silly one. "Well you can call here, of course!"

Instead of passing me on to another employee, she herself guided me to one of their little desks and called TIM's customer service line and waited on hold for me. She explained that I had to be the one to talk, because I had to verify all of my personal information and things like that. I was starting to panic. I think the one thing I hate more than anything in the whole world is trying to deal with customer service minions... on the phone... in Portuguese. It's already a nightmare in your first language, right? Add to the mix that TIM is famous for have an ironically horrible connection on their customer service phone line. The reception is bad, so you can't understand them, and they frequently cut you off (though I'm convinced that that part is on purpose).

When someone finally came on the line, Taís passed the phone to me. I'd already taken out my documents so I could read off whatever numbers or info that they needed. But as prepared as I tried to be, it was no use. I couldn't understand anything that the phone agent was saying. After seeing me struggling and hearing me say "O que?" and "Como?" about 5 times, Taís swooped in and saved the day. She took the phone and pretended to be me. She gave the lady my data off of my documents on the table, and said that I wanted to block the chip because I'd lost it. 15 seconds later, she was done!

What empathy! What initiative! And she didn't even ask where I was from or what I was doing in Brazil, even after hearing my accent and seeing my passport.

After blocking the lost chip, Taís sped through the company computer program (like as if she actually knew how to use it) and transferred my number to a new chip.

"Do I have to pay any kind of fee to do this?" I asked.

"No no, you just pay the 10 reais for a new chip." Only 10 reais?! I expected some kind of dumb "you lost your chip" fee to have been invented.

"And.... did I lose all the minutes I paid for yesterday?"

She clicked her tongue in the Brazilian way to say "nope".
"Whatever you had before will still be there, as long as no one found your chip last night and used it," she explained.

After all of her fancy fingerwork on the computer, my new chip was ready. I just had to go up to the register and pay so that she could put the receipt's number into the program as proof that I'd paid for the new chip. The register was like 5 feet away, so I just left all my stuff on Taís's table. When I came back, she was scanning my passport and CPF and saving the images with my account info.

"I noticed that you didn't have your documents on file. You don't need these right now," she explained. "But I saw them here and I have a scanner, so I just went ahead and scanned them for you in case you need them for something in the future."

Can you believe it?! Caught Being Good times a million!

I informed Taís that she was the best employee I'd ever interacted with at TIM, and thanked her for making my life easier.


So thank you, Taís. I hope you like the name that I made up for you. You are the winner of the first Caught Being Good award.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Packing Up

Packing has caused me to reach the conclusion that moving from a spacious two-bedroom apartment to a compact (let's call it "cozy") one-bedroom apartment is a HUGE challenge. This is not your co-ed sister's move from one dorm room to another. This is what moving as an adult really feels like. How did we accumulate so much stuff? Where is it going to go? Have I really been here almost 3 years?! Once I'm in the new place, I'll welcome all of your ideas on creative storage and optimum use of limited wall space.

We're selling a lot of our furniture because it was cheap college kid furniture and family hand-me-downs to begin with, and Alexandre has had it all for 7 years (1 year of cursinho + 6 years of medical school), and I'm OVER IT. (Plus, I think some pieces wouldn't survive a move.) Alexandre left the haggling to me (genius, ask the AMERICAN to negotiate), and as a result, my bleeding heart gets the best of me and I'm practically giving the stuff away. (I actually AM giving some stuff away, literally, like for 0 reais.)

Let me explain. I put up a sign in the aptartment building saying that I'm selling furniture. We have a neighbor. She came by to look at the furniture. We got to chatting (as small town women are wont to do), and she told me that she's been a maid for a family since she was 9 years old. (NINE.) The same family. Later, she said that she'd been working for them for 15 years. That makes her 24, probably only a few months younger than I am. So anyway, she had a kid and then her "family" put her up in an apartment in our building, except they didn't give her much furniture. Basically just like "thanks for giving up your childhood and being our slave your whole life. Now that you have a crying baby, get out of our hair at night." (This is, of course, my commentary to you guys, not what she said. She totally wasn't one of those "feel sorry for meeeee" kind of women.) So I mean, she's living here with her kid and without furniture.

So what do I say?

"Here, take mine!", of course.

She's gonna pay 100 reais total. I said she could deposit it into my account later. Alexandre said, "What if she doesn't?" and I said, "if she doesn't, it's because she needs it more than I do."

I mean... if he wanted a profit on the furniture, he should've sold it himself, am I right?

The time I spend packing also gives me time to think, and thinking and packing is a recipe for sentimentality. As you guys know all too well, I have many days when I can't stand this small town and when I want to scratch people's eyes out. I've had days when I am SO SO SO tired of feeling like the United States was actually a spaceship that I fell out of. But in general, like 95% of the time, people here are nice. Even the annoying and rude people usually weren't annoying and rude out of maliciousness, but were just curious and sometimes kind of ignorant. And in many cases with people who I considered "not nice", I was associating "not nice" with "absolutely not giving a rat's ass about their jobs."  (This will explain the bitchy and useless teenage girl store clerks foolishly employed around town.) But it's a city where I can stop people on the street and ask for help. It's a city where people trust you with their life stories 15 minutes after meeting you. It's a city of people who care about their families and friends and careers and want a good quality of life for their kids. It's one of the few Brazilian regions with a strong middle class and, as a result, it's very safe. Even with the simple countryside lifestyle and the lack of access to "worldly" and "cultural" things, that's something to be proud of.

As much as stuff here got on my nerves, this town will always have a special place in my heart. This town taught me Portuguese, and I'll probably carry its accent with me for the rest of my Portuguese-speaking life. This town taught me the basics of Brazilian culture. It taught me to embrace the Saturday-Sunday lull and the afternoon thunderstorm. It taught me how to cook a fantastic piece of meat, how to teach English to Brazilians, and how to find a toucan in the trees.

Dare I say that I'll actually miss things?

But I think the relationship I'll have with this place now will be much healthier. I can come back for a weekend, visit the friends I've made, walk around the lake and look for birds, and then.... leave, and live in a bigger city. Even with a smaller apartment and no storage space, and even though I'll be starting over in a lot of ways, I think I'll be able to be myself more.

The future awaits!!!!  ... along with a seemingly endless pile of empty cardboard boxes.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Check Your Portuguese!

So every time I write an important email in Portuguese, I make Alexandre check it before I send it. So when Alexandre's not home, I panic about sending an email in Portuguese, especially if it's work-related. 

But a bit of Googling found a satisfactory replacement: 


It's a grammar and spell checker site. Both Gmail and Open Office's Portuguese spelling and grammar add-ons are severely lacking, but this site is really fantastic. I especially like it because it explains why the grammar is wrong, which makes it easier for me to figure out what's right.

I just wanted to pass it on to all of you in case you feel the same worry and doubt that I feel when you write things in Portuguese.

Enjoy! 

(Beach) Culture Shock

Ok, fellow beach-combing bloggers (I'm talking to you, Rachel). I've read all of your posts about Brazilian beach culture and how it's different and how the people are different. I read them and understood, but I didn't REALLY understand. I know lots about Brazilian country culture (rodeos, anyone?), but the in-laws' beach house is in a fancy secluded area, so even when visiting Brazilian beaches, I hadn't been exposed to the real day-to-day life of living on the beach.

I've been spending weekends in our new beach town, because Alexandre's already there for military training, and we go exploring and apartment hunting (we found a place, by the way! More on that later). Here are my observations and conclusions:

1. WHERE ARE THE CLOTHES?!  I think I'm leaning in favor of this scantily-clad culture. It's hot outside. There's an ocean 2 blocks away. So if there's any chance you'd make it in the water, then bathing suits are acceptable attire. So many people were in restaurants, bakeries, on their way to the grocery store, doing normal life things... but in their bathing suits. Most of the women seem to stick to bikini tops and sarongs. Guys just hang out in board shorts. ONLY FLIP FLOPS! No more ridiculousness of heels at the ice cream parlor!

Does this mean I can teach in my bikini, too?

2. REAR. ENDS.  They're here and they're near and they're in your face and you can't help but stare. It's like some of the women are saying, "Here you go. A present: My ass. Have a gander." I remember Rachel wrote a blog entry once where she wrote about how she doesn't blame her husband for staring because even she and her kids are staring. I remember thinking, "she is a very forgiving wife. I wouldn't be okay with Alexandre staring at some other girl's ass." But I found myself pointing them out to him, in shock, like, "HOLY HELL! Look at that one!" I think he was pleased by the entire exchange.

3. All the colors of the rainbow, and all the body types that your mother could ever give ya. I was worried I'd be embarrassed about having to be in a bathing suit so much. Then I realized that NO ONE ELSE IS. Embarrassed, that is. Short, tall, skinny, fat, pregnant, retired, fake breasts, retired with fake breasts, burning red like a tomato or turning very black in the sun, they're on the beach and making the most of it.

4. Drinking on the beach.  California anti-beach-drinking laws be damned! I have a feeling that there will be nothing like the simple pleasure of walking the 3 blocks from our new apartment to the beach on a Friday afternoon, enjoying a cold beer or caipirinha with Alexandre at one of the many fabulous umbrella-ed tables, and walking on home, and not messing with parking, and living in flip flops, and having a grand ole time.

Moving day is February 25th!  I've got so much to tell you guys. I'll try to update more, but I'm kind of getting buried under the minutiae of moving.

beachbeachbeachbeachbeachbeach

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Late-Night Ramble-y Post

It's late, but I can't sleep. Figured I'd share some of my late-night thoughts with all of you fine people:

-I just finished Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses and it made me love and miss my desert and the English language. I finished it feeling very whimsically complete. A quote that many of you will relate to:

"They said that a man leaves much when he leaves his own country.  They said that it was no accident of circumstance that a man be born in a certain country and not some other and they said that the weathers and seasons that form a land form also the inner fortunes of men in their generations and are passed on to their children and are not so easily come by otherwise."

-I should be writing more, because maybe if I wrote enough I'd have 1/10 of Cormac McCarthy's talent

-I'm moving in about 30 days and we don't have a new place yet

-Our new beach town wasn't as great as we thought it'd be, so we're going to live in the next town over

-Am I going to find students?

-I'm going to spend about 1 million hours on buses this month on bus trips to the beach town on the weekends to help Alexandre look for apartments

- I'm moving in about 30 days and we don't have a new place yet

-I need to find a way to get cardboard boxes from the supermarket to my house without a car

-The wind is loud and it rattles our crappy window shutters and when it goes through the palm trees it sounds like a gorilla stomping through the tall grass

-It's funny how something slightly irritating suddenly becomes unbearable once it has an end date

-To throw myself a going-away party or to not throw myself a going-away party?

-Our top-floor apartment is leaking in 5 places and the landlord hasn't done anything about it all summer and I give up because I'm leaving in 30 days

-I'm leaving in 30 days and I have to pack up the whole apartment by myself and we don't have a new place yet

-Diet shakes are not a good idea for dinner if you can't sleep. You'll get hungry at 1am

-This once-a-week morning class just won't do.


What useless things do you stay awake thinking about?
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