Thursday, April 21, 2011

Aerobics Class Disaster

So I just finished my first week at my new gym. The first few days, I just stayed in the weight lifting/treadmill area. The trainer/assistant girl was very nice and patient with me, though she told me that I needed more "corporal consciousness." That was basically her polite way of telling me that I'm an awkward klutz. But she is nice and the way she said it was nice enough, so I wasn't too beat up about it. She was certainly more polite about it than the guy from the first Brazilian gym I went to.

So then on Wednesday night, I went to my first aerobics class.


I'd never done any kind of step aerobics before, but I figured I'd seen my grandma doing enough Richard Simmons workout videos while I was growing up to be able to get the hang of it pretty quickly. 

But then I remembered that Richard Simmons doesn't do step aerobics, and that I have absolutely no coordination or grace whatsoever. 

There were three other girls that had shown up, plus the instructor. The other students appeared to be about my age. The instructor was a little older and all plastic-surgified out. I talked to one of the girls while we were waiting outside the room for a previous class to end. She warned me that the class would be tiring in the beginning, but to stick it out. But once she got into the room, she, the other girls, and the instructor, were super quiet. THEY MEANT BUSINESS. 

The other girls got little plastic steps from the corner of the room, so I got one, too. Without a word, the instructor put on the music, and everyone started stretching. The room was covered in mirrors, and the instructor stood facing the mirror in the same direction that we were in (rather than facing us). The instructor did some stretches, and we all copied her. Fine, stretching, easy enough. 

Then she started out with the step thing. Up, down. Fine. I started to copy. But then suddenly she did some crazy twirly move using the step. Up, down, twirl something something, go to the other side, arms out, up, down on the other side.  Something like that. No words. She did it once, and the other girls all copied in sync while I bobbed around like a confused whale from the wild who'd just been dropped into the tank at Sea World with all the elegant dolphins bred to perfection in captivity. 

If you have ever seen me and talked to me in person for more than like, five seconds, you will know that I do not have the kind of talent and coordination required to copy some kind of physical movement after seeing someone do it once. Usually I need someone to show me slowly, and to put simple words to it so I can remember, and even then, I'll need about a month of practice. 

After doing the movement once, the instructor walked away from her step, so I started to walk away from mine, too. That's when I realized I was supposed to continue doing the step, not to copy the instructor's every move. Doh. 

The instructor caught my mistake, and said, "No, copy the other girls." 
Nice to meet you, too, I thought.

Long before I could pick up on this first step, the instructor returned to her step thing and did another equally challenging move that involved turning around the step thing and doing a mirror version of the move before starting over. Super fast! I think I actually said "What the fuck?" out loud, in English. I don't remember. It was all kind of a blur of me twirling around in random circles and trying to just make up moves that retained some semblance of what the other girls were all doing in perfect uniformity. 

I felt like a huge white American elephant in my oversized gym shirt standing among a flock of Brazilian swans in their tight elastic Brazilian gym clothes. All of the girls were small and tan like this, and one was wearing almost the exact same pants: 

Meanwhile, this picture can give you an idea of what I looked like:

Oversized white girl? Oversized pink shirt? Pink face? That about sums it up.

All of my traumatic memories from trying out for the cheerleading squad in the sixth grade came rushing back to me. As I tried frantically to keep up with the obviously advanced step aerobics class, I started to panic. I almost started to cry. There's a reason I've never taken a dance class in Brazil, or ever. I hate things that make me feel like an oaf and a gringa (in the Mexican Spanish use of the word). I hate not being good at things right away. I hate that I'm so uncoordinated. I thought about pretending like I had just remembered something important and leaving, but I knew if I did that, I could never go back. So then I decided to muster up all the emotional strength I had and just pretend like I thought the whole thing was hilarious. Smile, smile, smile! 

During the workout, the instructor saw my obvious loss and came over to me. 
"Forget what we're doing," she said. "Just step like this. Up, down. Up down."
I copied her successfully.
"Great! Right. Just do that for a while."
"I'm sorryI'msobadathesethingsIjusthavenocoordinationI'veneverdonethisbefore--" I started to ramble off self-deprecating statements, which I tend to do when I'm nervous and/or embarrassed. She just smiled knowingly and walked away. 

Here. I found a video on YouTube of what the class was like:

Me? Doing that? Especially after one try? NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

Luckily, this step aerobics part was only the first 30 minutes of the class. The last 30 minutes involved relatively simple movements, like crunches and stretching with weights. 

After I left the class, I stuck around the gym for a few minutes to watch the toddler's swimming class going on in the pool. It consisted of adorable little kids with arm floaties being told to jump off of a mat and into the pool and then to do something "creative." Basically, the kids just bopped and flailed around and tired themselves out, and there was no rhyme or reason to it. That's the kind of exercise for me! I thought about joining that group instead, but I think I'd stand out even more.

The aerobics class wasn't even that physically difficult. I could keep up in that respect, and I'm only a little bit sore today. It was just the coordinated steps that killed me and made me feel retarded.  

Now the real question: Should I go back? Can I ever show my face in there again? The gym doesn't offer different levels of the class. It's just a "sink or swim" kinda deal. I was totally drowning last time, and I don't know if I can take the public humiliation again!

I think I'll just go cry onto my plate of brownies and stay in my apartment forever!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Brazilian Streets are Redeemed by Brazilian Beaches

So you guys may remember Melissa. She's a great Brazilian friend. She introduced me to the monkey park, Festa Junina, and tropical fruit popsicles. Well, Melissa, her husband, and their baby are taking advantage of her parents' timeshare in a beachfront property on a nearby beach for the week, and invited us to come hang out with them.

You can imagine how productive I've been.

The first day I went to visit, Alexandre had to work, so I braved the route myself. It included a ferry and unpaved roads.

Can I just use this moment to complain a bit about how much I can't STAND driving to new places in Brazilian cities?!?!

First. People just can't give directions. All right. I know part of this is the language barrier. But I try REALLY, REALLY hard to ask a lot of yes/no questions to make sure I understood correctly. ("So when I get to the overpass, I GO UNDER IT, correct?" "Let me confirm-- I turn left on the first street AFTER the bakery?") But it never fails. I get lost every.single.time. I go to a new place. I later discover that the directions didn't make sense. People told me to turn left at places where I couldn't turn left. People told me to get onto a bridge instead of turning right after the bridge. Things like that. When I finally got to Melissa's place, she said, "Why didn't you just ask people for directions?" That seems to be the Brazilian way. You can't trust the first, second, third, or fourth person who tells you. But lucky #5 will probably get it right. Either that, or it's best out of 7.
Second. Google Maps is way too nice to Brazil. Google Maps leaves out things like endless one-way street loops or roads blocked by trash or canals. 

Third. Brazilian street names are ridiculous. I think this is actually a Latin American plague, because I remember it in Mexico, too. The primary purpose of street names is not to honor dead mayors. It's to help people orient themselves in a place. Therefore, it is not productive to make every single street name at least 4 words. Things like Jose Cavalo de Silva Mattos Jr. or Dr. Fernando Carlos da Luanoauanra. It is also especially ineffective if 3 streets in a row all start with the name "Mario," or when a street changes its name 3 times within a 2-mile stretch.

Fourth. These street names are moot, because there are almost never street signs. Seriously. I got totally lost going to Melissa's place, and one reason was because I drove about 7 blocks without seeing a single street sign. This technology is not advanced. I would argue that it's less advanced than stop lights. Sometimes, if you do get a street sign, it's faded or broken or turned the wrong way.

Fifth. There are almost no helpful signs. I was under the impression that these beach cities are popular tourist destinations. You'd think the city would want to encourage this tourism by making it easier for the tourists to get around. This would require simple technology such as a sign that said "FERRY --->;" on the street where you're supposed to turn for the ferry. (To be fair to these beach towns, some of these signs exist. They're just retarded. For example, there will be a sign that says something like "Beaches --->," but when you turn, you soon reach a fork in the road, and there are no more signs to guide you. 

Sixth. General Transport Bedlam. Examples include intersections with no stop signs or stop lights, mountains blocking roads, lanes that disappear, and lawless roundabouts. 


Anyway anyway. As you can see, driving is a pain in the g.d. ass. I often call Alexandre and have him check Google maps for me to figure out where I am, but first he has to let me go on a diatribe about my newly discovered definitions of "the third world" (see above). 

Well. I finally made my way to Melissa's place and back (after an equally laborious adventure to get home). The first day I went, I got there kind of late (see reasons above), so we just walked along the beach with the baby, ate dinner in her hotel, and caught up.

Alexandre had a day off today, so we went back together. We got up early and drove to visit them at the beach. I had a caipirinha before 10am. The beach was gorgeous and pristine. The view was perfectly tropically perfect. There were giant sea turtles in the water! They're actually kind of scary, but awesome from a little farther away. The baby was happy. The company was worth the effort it took to get to them. :)
THE BOYS: Alexandre, the baby, and his dad (in case you can't tell). Cutest little face!

Melissa and Me :) Happy as clams (or giant sea turtles, which seemed pretty happy)

I'm gonna get back to work tomorrow. I SWEAR.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Goldilocks and the Three Gyms

You may remember that, while living in Hicktown, I frequented (or should I say "once in a whiled?" har har) a branch of a certain all women's gym chain that shall remain nameless. You may remember such characters as gym girl, and the women whose nail polish matched their gym pants.

Anyway, full-time translation work is not good for the midsection. While Alexandre is getting all buff and beefcake-y from his military training, I feel myself slowly turning into a muscle-less blob of dough, with pieces of cookies and sushi sticking out of it. Alexandre, bless his heart, has tried every polite way he can imagine to get me off my butt and exercising.

He found a running routine for beginners and offered to explain it to me.
"Later," I said.

He went running with me a couple of times, and even went at my pace, and offered me tips.
"You should really just go on your own, Mr. Running Expert. I'm slowing you down," I said.

He tried to teach me his military workout routine. (Advisory: NEVER EVER DO THIS.)
"Everything hurts," I said. Because it did. For 3 days.

Then I knew he was serious when he said, "Why don't you join a gym? You can make some friends while you're at it. Please. I'll pay for it."

Well. Now I really had no more excuses. I can pay for it myself, but the fact that he was offering shows that he must really be desperate for something nicer to look at. So, motivated more by the prospect of human contact and less by the prospect of exercising (ugh), I went around town this week to check out the gyms within walking distance.

The first place I went to was on a second story of a building and seemed big from the outside, but once I got up the staircase and inside, it was actually very small. It was 6:00pm, prime workout time, but there was only one girl working out, and an overweight lady sitting at the desk. She explained that the gym offers "personal training" only. In Brazil, that means they make a schedule for you to work out alone, and then you just come in and do it. (There was also no music playing. At a gym!) But the kicker was when the lady at reception informed me that she was also the owner and the personal trainer. She was more out of shape than I am! The price was reasonable, and the hours were OK, but the whole thing was kind of depressing. (Plus, my whole goal is to try to make friends, not exercise, remember? :P )

The second place I went to had some stupid name, like "Pilates, Beauty, and Life Center" or something like that. I was doubtful, but went in anyway (mostly to tell Alexandre that I had). The girl insisted on giving me a tour before talking about pricing and scheduling. The place had a tiny little pilates room, a daycare, a waxing area, a hair and nail salon, and a massage room. WTF! I thought I was there to work out.

The girl let me watch the pilates class for a few minutes, and the two students didn't even get off the floor. Now, I don't know anything about pilates other than what I've seen in my CardioPilates DVD, but it seems like those women were mostly just sighing a lot as opposed to actually building muscle or breaking a sweat. I can think of some other free things that would be more of a workout and WAY more fun.

When I finally got the girl to talk pricing with me, she explained that it was 200 reais a month (!!!) for four 1-hour sessions a week that must be at the same time every day (for example, Monday-Thursday at 6:00pm). That price, of course, doesn't include all the other crap, like the salon. Two hundred reais a month to lay on the floor and roll around a bit? And the same time every day? The place was just something for rich husbands to pay for their trophy wives to do to get the women out of the house so they can screw their secretaries. No thanks.

The last place I tried was just a regular old gym. FINALLY! Normal people doing normal gym things. The lady talked about pricing with me straight up, and, after I agreed that it was very well-priced, she asked me if I wanted a tour. The gym has long hours (as it should), doesn't close for a 4-hour lunch (like the aforementioned women's gym did), and it offers hour-long aerobics classes four times a day. The packet I chose allows me full access to the regular gym equipment part for as long as I want, plus one aerobics class a day. And, like that "personal trainer" gym (which was more expensive), they prepare a little workout schedule for you based on your needs. I got to observe the aerobics class for a bit, and there were only a handful of women, but they all seemed to be around my age.

Promising! Maybe there's hope for this gelatinous mass after all.

The Responsibility Compound

So Alexandre is out of town for a few days for military things. When he leaves, it takes me about thirty minutes to fall right back into my college-student-on-summer-vacation lifestyle. All of our routine goes right out the window. I revert back to a former self, sleeping in until 10, having pasta for lunch at 3pm (and eating the leftovers for dinner and then lunch again the next day), letting the cat sleep in the bed, and watching a lot of bad American TV online. I mean, I do work, just not at normal hours...and probably not as much as I should.

Don't assume that he's some kind of pillar of maturity that I need to lean on. Oh ho ho. No no. As soon as I leave (usually for some kind of vacation that he can't get out of work or school to be a part of), he does the SAME crap: eats only McDonald's and Chinese delivery, watches wrestling on TV until 2am, falls asleep on the couch after one too many beers, and wears dirty socks.

My conclusion is that stability and responsibility make up some kind of chemical compound that requires the presence of both of us to form. If I hadn't screwed around in Chemistry class in high school, maybe I'd be able to tell you some kind of funny metaphor now, but I don't know any compounds besides like, water and carbon dioxide.

ANYWAY. I think the point is, we complete each other!
Awwww! ::cue cheesy music from said bad American TV::

For example, my plan today was to wake up early and get started right away on translations. But last night I stayed up late watching Southland. (Have you guys seen that show? It's so well made! Thanks to longtime friend Crystal for recommending it!) Anyway, losing focus again. So, because I stayed up late, and I didn't have Alexandre waking up early for work, it was very hard for me to get myself out of bed. So by the time I did, I looked out the window and saw what perfect beach weather it was! Well, I figured, I was already behind, so what's another hour? I slathered on some sunblock, ate some cookies for breakfast (see?) and headed out the door.

And this, my friends, is precisely why I haven't let myself go to the beach on weekday mornings. Now I fear I'll have to do it every morning to get the day started right: a healthy dose of Vitamin D to go with my cookies and milk breakfast.

And now it's almost noon and I still haven't gotten any work done. But I did get a bit of a tan, so I guess it was worth it. Oh, and also, a 70-year-old man walked by me on the beach and said, "Isso mesmo! se você bronzear, vai ficar mais linda ainda!" If you don't speak Portuguese, look that up. You'll be surprised.

Is Alexandre back yet?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Third Braziliversary Dinner

So because it was our third Braziliversary, Alexandre and I decided to go out to dinner. The last two years, we went to Italian restaurants, but we don't know about any good Italian in town yet, and we were craving sushi (surprise). So we decided to try out a little sushi place that Alexandre's boss had recommended.

The place was super cute and not too crowded. We got a nice little corner table where we could speak our PortuSpanglish mishmosh language in peace.

Obligatory Braziliversary dinner picture!

I think this is the blog's first time seeing Alexandre's short hair. It was much shorter in the beginning. It looks good now, but I miss his McDreamy locks!

You can compare this picture to the first Braziliversary and the second Braziliversary. I hope you will all agree that we get a little less squirrely and disheveled every year. 

Relishing in my self-employed-ness, I ordered a caipirinha, even though it was a Sunday night. Our waitress was also the owner, an older Japanese woman. She seemed to think that it was our first time eating sushi just because we asked her what some things on the menu were. So then she decided to explain every little thing to us, and to come back and check on us when we received each dish to make sure we were doing it right.

You see friendly waitress lady; we saw overbearing tiger mother!

First, she scolded us for eating too fast. While we were munching away on our fried appetizers (egg rolls and dumplings), she came, stood over the table for a minute, and then said sternly, "No, no! You can't be done already! These things must be eaten slowly and enjoyed." 

All right. In other situations, I would have probably been annoyed and a little offended. But that caipirinha got me drunk in like 45 seconds, and the lady was just so darn cute and smile-y. So I just laughed a lot. 

When she took our order for the sushi itself, I asked if they had any pieces with sun-dried tomato (a common and delicious addition to Brazilian sushi). She actually scoffed a little.

"We only serve traditional sushi here! No fusion."

I decided not to mention the fact that lots of pieces on the menu had Philadelphia cream cheese. I mean, maybe adding the cream cheese started in Japan first. Or maybe she just likes it, too.

Then the wonderful sushi boat came out, sans sun-dried tomato (as you can see in the picture). After we'd eaten a few pieces, owner lady came over and took the chopsticks out of my hand

"No, no. Sashimi you pick up like this ::demonstrates::. Sushi, you pick up like this ::demonstrates::."  

Then she insisted that I try a bite without so much soy sauce.

LESS SAUCE?!?! Me?! I don't know, between owner lady and me, who thought the other more blasphemous.

I told her in my drunken bravado that I happened to like my sushi with a lot of soy sauce and wasabi, but she was having none of it. She told me flat out I was ruining the fish. So then I asked meekly if I could alternate between "correct" pieces and soy/wasabi-covered pieces. Alexandre laughed. She shook her head at me, but smiled. She gave me back my chopsticks, but didn't leave. So, because she was still watching, I ate a piece with just "one quick dip," as she had instructed. Yeah, sure, more fish flavor, blahblahblah, but it wasn't the same. 

I smiled politely. She nodded approvingly. She walked away. I proceeded to drown the rest of my pieces in wasabi and soy sauce.

After we'd finished the boat, owner lady came back and asked what else we'd like. We told her we were full.

"Full?! You hardly eat anything!" (I can't help it. I know it's offensive, but my translation of her voice in my head totally gives her a Japanese accent, even though her Portuguese was completely fluent.)

I was tempted to point to my belly and be like, "Honey, my jeans and I beg to differ." But I wasn't that drunk. Instead, I asked her to take a picture with me (I was thinking of you all the whole time, dear readers!). Here she is, the now infamous sushi restaurant owner:

See? As scold-y as she was, you can't help but love her.

She insisted on taking one more picture of me and Alexandre, because she said it was the best place in the restaurant for pictures:

And good times were had by all. This is definitely our new favorite restaurant in town. The owner alone made changing up our Braziliversary tradition totally worthwhile. Next time, however, I'll skip the super caipirinha.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hey Brits


What is the cultural equivalent of "ambulatorio" in England, under NHS?

Sorry to use my blog like Twitter. Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Woah...Three Years?!

Tomorrow is my Braziliversary! I've been living here for three years.

With work, Alexandre's graduation, moving, and a ton of awesome vacations, this year felt like it went by faster than either of the first two.

On my last two Braziliversaries, I wrote long and reflective pieces about what living in Brazil means to me. I don't really have anything super insightful to say this time around, and that's kind of a relief.  It means that, at this point, living in Brazil just life. I'm not forced to constantly reflect upon being different anymore. Some of that is the result of moving out of that small town, away from country bumpkins and obnoxious college kids, but most of it is because I've figured out how to do most things, and day-to-day life isn't such a confusing chore. It's just life, and like life anywhere, some things are annoying, but most things are really, really good. Life is good when you make it what you want it to be.

I feel lucky every day-- Lucky for having had everything I had that got me here; Lucky for the chance to understand two places so well; Lucky for learning something new every day; Lucky to be able to work without a boss; Lucky to have studied something I enjoy and to get to use it every day; Lucky for waking up each morning with the ocean practically washing over my feet; Lucky to have built up a nice little life with the love of my life. I think we've done a really good job in picking and choosing the best of our two countries, and we've formed for ourselves a peaceful little nook in the world.

On the last two Braziliversaries, we went to Italian restaurants to celebrate. Haven't decided if we're gonna maintain the tradition. But whatever we choose, it'll be delicious.

I'm gonna add a little thank you here to all of you, dear readers, for helping me so much since I started all of this. The blog readership has gotten to a point where I don't know the vast majority of my readers personally, but it doesn't feel like that. The supportive and entertaining comments and occasional emails with equally helpful messages have made the fun times that much more fun, and the bad times that much more bearable.

But I think the most important result of this blog is the fact that I use it as an excuse to put myself out there, to push myself into difficult situations. My logic is always, "Well, if it doesn't work out, at least I'll be able to write a funny post about it!" Thoughts like that have gotten me off of my couch and out of my house in the darkest and most anxious of times. This blog, and the fact that you read it, keep the fear of the unknown from winning.

Happy Braziliversary to me! I hope you all have a good weekend. You can leave a comment with an answer to the following question:

What do you feel lucky for?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mystery Headaches Solved

So a few months back, I started getting these really bad headaches almost every day. They always started in the afternoons, and they were super horrible.

The live-in doctor and I tried everything to figure out what was causing them, and to no avail.

When I went to the US in February, however, they stopped. And they didn't start back up when I came back (we moved like 4 days after I got back).

We decided that maybe I had some kind of allergy to something in Hicktown that didn't grow in California or here at the beach town. So I thought, Sweet, solved!

Then we got internet again, and my headaches started back up.

Now, you may be thinking, "Holy cow! People can have internet allergies?!" Luckily for my addiction, the answer is no. But people CAN get headaches when they sit in front of huuuuuuge PC monitors all day.

See, a few months ago, Alexandre's laptop broke. Since mine is from 2006 and is on its last leg, we decided to invest in a desktop to share instead of new laptops. The site we bought it from was having this deal: if you buy such and such computer, you get this huge monitor upgrade for free. The monitor is 23 inches. It's bigger than our TV. We thought it'd be awesome for watching movies in bed or playing video games (well, you can imagine who uses it to play video games).

I decided to test my theory by going back to my laptop for a day. No headaches.

So now I'm sad. I tried reading about all that ergonomics office safety stuff online. I fiddled with the monitor's font size, position, lighting, etc. I even switched to a different chair. The new chair helped to prolong the inevitable. I think we need a different desk. The one we have is too high for such a big monitor.

I know this is turning into a case of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," but I don't want to give up the awesome giant monitor. It's so helpful for translations. I can keep the two documents open at the same time, plus a small window of a TV show if I want something to distract me. And, as we predicted when we bought it, it IS great for watching movies in bed and playing video games.

I'm on the laptop for now, but it's temperamental and likes to shut itself off randomly.

Have you guys had similar problems from using computers too much? Are we just too dependent on them nowadays?

Maybe this is all the Universe's way to get off the computer and go to the beach more often.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

TV Obnoxiousness

So you may remember my entry from a couple of weeks ago when I told you that I conquered the internet/cable providers and got us set up with civilization at home.

Well. I was sitting pretty with my 1-megabyte internet connection and 60-odd channels. I was extra pleased because it was the first time in my life that --get this-- I had that feature on TV where you can watch one channel while checking what's on the others. I was also VERY excited because the new remote had a SAP button that worked on all the cable channels.

But Alexandre just couldn't leave well enough alone.

If you're Brazilian or if you live in Brazil, you may have an idea of what transpired when the NET guy came to install our internet and cable stuff. It's Ok if you don't know. I'm going to tell you now.

Alexandre and the NET guy get to talking. The NET guy whips out this fancy digital cable box that's way nicer than the one we had in our last apartment and starts doing all his programming things.

To test the waters, Alexandre comments, "Wow! Such a nice cable box like that, it must be impossible for people to convert them into illegal cable boxes anymore."

NET guy takes the bait. "Nope." :: tongue click tongue click:: "As a matter of fact, I have my own illegal one at home."

"Reeeallllyyy???"  Alexandre feigns surprise that the conversation has taken such a turn. "That's interesting. How's it different from mine?"

"I have about 350 channels," NET guy boasts. "All the movie channels, music channels, news...."

"Sport TV? PFC? The Combat Channel?"

"I have about 20 sports channels all in all."

An almost imperceptible gleam began to sparkle in Alexandre's eye. He tries to maintain formalities in the face of such excitement. "And so... Can I ask... How does one go about getting one of these better cable boxes?"

"Well, as a matter of fact," NET guy says casually, "I sell them."

(Cue me in the corner, silently wishing I could fall to my knees and cry out "NOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOO!!!" in dramatic throes of despair.)

Poor little Alexandre. He was like a kid standing in front of his presents on Christmas morning, being told he has to wait quietly for everyone to wake up before he can open them. He was trying so hard not to just burst with elation.

"Oh, you sell them, do you? Where do you get them from?" He asks with a shaky aloofness.

"I know a guy."

That answer seemed to be suitable in ManSpeak, because Alexandre just went on with the questioning. "And... would this cable box work in another apartment if we were to move to another city 10 months from now?"

"Sure, sure. It's universal."

"Very, very interesting! How much do you ask for them?"

When the guy said his price, I thought it was a bit steep for a box that someone probably stole in the first place. But Alexandre quickly reminded me (for the umpteenth time) that, if we can still use it when we move for his residency, we're saving money on cable in the long run, and to just ignore the tiny fact that the whole thing was illegal and immoral.

I repeated my case that I'd rather stick with the legal cable bill to prevent any problems, but that he'd be paying for said shady cable box, and it was his money.

You can guess whose argument won.

All right. So flash forward to a few nights later. NET guy comes back with the contraband, and spends about 40 minutes explaining everything to Alexandre (and by "everything" I mean "the remote"). I wasn't really interested and figured Alexandre could just explain it all to me later, or that I'd figure it out for myself.

After NET guy left, Alexandre was bouncing around the house with happiness.

"TV! TV! TV!"

Then he started to explain all the features to me at about a mile a minute. Most of it went in one ear and out the other. Oh, except for the part when Alexandre joked that he had forgotten to ask NET guy for the password to the porn channels, because I knew that was a lie, and I had to quickly call him on it. I just told him to skip to the part where he tells me how to do the cool things that the last cable box could do, which were put the SAP on and check what's on other channels without actually changing the channel.

Those two features seemed significantly more complicated on this new cable box, so I thought, "maybe I'll just leave the TV alone for a while."

So that's what I did. I just didn't even touch it for 2 days.

When Alexandre came home after work on the first day, the first thing he asked was, "Did you watch TV?!" to which I responded, "Nah.... I had work to do."

When Alexandre came home from work on the second day (today), the first thing he asked was, "Did you watch TV?!" to which I responded, "Nah.... I had -- "

"No?!!? You've gotta try it! Look! It's so cool! Let's turn it on right now!"

I've gotta say that I'm just not that impressed by TV in general. It tends to make me feel more irritated and doomed in a hopeless world of debauchery and immorality rather than, you know, entertained.

But during tonight's bout of coffee-induced insomnia, when Alexandre was already fast asleep, I decided to try out the cable a bit.

CABLE FAIL. I'm, in a word, overwhelmed. A lot of the channels say "Canal Codificado" (?) and just have a black screen. There seem to be about 4 different ways to get to the info screen. And on the info screen, which is supposed to show what's playing on which channels, some of the lines are blank. Some channels seem to repeat, and some numbers don't exist. The SAP thing requires multiple button pushing and is inconsistent.

After unsuccessful fiddling during each commercial break of an episode of "What Not to Wear," I decided to just give up and turn the thing off. I decided that all the effort was not worth it just to get an episode of "The O'Riley Factor" on Fox News or  "American Chopper" in English. With those slim pickin's, I'd much, much, much rather not watch TV at all (see "doomed" comment above).


(1) TV isn't that much fun as it is. Don't suck its tiny bit of fun out it by making it a chore.

(2) Who needs TV when you have internet?! ::pets computer affectionately::

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Red Hot + Rio (Indie Love)

Have you guys heard of an Organization called Red Hot? From what I can tell, they raise money for AIDS research by having musicians make CDs and giving the money to charity. A few years ago, they released Dark Was the Night, which had a bunch of songs recorded by American indie artists that I love.

But the big super exciting news is that now, they're releasing an album called Red Hot + Rio 2 (they apparently already had Red Hot + Rio 1 that seems to only be available as a physical CD on Amazon). The first Red Hot + Rio CD seems less exciting because I don't know any of the artists.


Red Hot + Rio 2 is a Brazil-residing Indie lover's dream. It's basically a bunch of my favorite non-Brazilian bands and singers either singing in Portuguese or collaborating musically with awesome and talented Brazilian musicians. (On a side note, it's basically a musical metonymy for my relationship.)

Check out the description from the official website:

The compilation features over 30 original collaborations between Brazil’s legendary musicians and today’s international indie artists including John Legend, Os Mutantes, Devendra Banhart, Caetano Veloso, Dirty Projectors, Seu Jorge, Beck, Bebel Gilberto, José Gonzalez, Beirut, Tom Zé, Of Montreal, Marisa Monte Gogol Bordello, DJ Dolores, Aloe Blacc, Angelique Kidjo, Rita Lee, Madlib, Money Mark, Céu, Apollo Nove, Mayra Andrade, Trio Mocotó, Tha Boogie, Alice Smith, Carlinhos Brown, Los Van Van, Brazilian Girls, Marcos Valle, St. Vincent, Neon Indian, Forró In The Dark, Mia Doi Todd, Javelin, and many more.

Aren't you so excited?! But it doesn't come out until June 28th! How will I stand the wait? There's also the moral dilemma of whether to illegally download or legally buy a charity CD. I guess I have until the end of June to figure that out, though I think I'll feel too guilty for stealing money from AIDS orphans in Africa to torrent it.

If you think this kind of stuff is annoying, well, that's Ok. If nothing else, this CD will show Brazilians what it feels like to hear a non-native speaker sing their native language.

My procrastinating on translating has also led me to discover that Death Cab for Cutie is releasing a new album at the end of May. Happiness!

If this stuff is up your alley (Fiona, Carolina), check out Beruit's Caetano Veloso cover here, and a new Death Cab song here.

Ok ok ok ok. Back to work.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What a Joke

So as you guys know, I lost all my students when we moved to the beach town. Luckily, I still had my old translation clients, and then my fellow blogger Robyn (well, she used to have a great blog) hooked me up with a big translation job that I've been getting by on this year. It pays my part of the bills.

However. A girl can only take so many hours cooped up in a tiny apartment in front of a computer, especially when there's a beautiful beach like, half a mile away. So last week I went around to the little private universities in town (some are mostly vocational schools) and left flyers saying that I teach private classes.  Flyers aren't usually the most effective way to find students in Brazil, but considering we know almost NO ONE here, I figured I didn't have many other options or much to lose.

Anyway. One of the vocational schools called yesterday. It's a small school that offers a "degree" in information technology. They called because they actually offer English classes to their students too, and the receptionist had passed my flyer on to the coordinator. They asked if I would come in today to take an English test.

(Is it snobby of me to always feel a little bit offended when someone who doesn't speak English asks me to take an English test?)

Anyway, I agreed to go. Again, I figured I didn't have much to lose, and worst-case scenario, you guys would get a funny blog entry out of it. (Lucky you! Here it is.)

So I went in for the written test. The receptionist seemed a bit confused that I was there. Apparently, no one had told her I was coming. So then she went to the back and talked to some people. One of the women she talked to came out. Based on the tacky uniform that she and other women were wearing, I guessed that she was a teacher. She walked around, talked to the other receptionist, bought a snack from the little cafeteria, ate it, and then, 20 minutes later, this same woman called me in to take the test.

Right. Because only her time is important. I couldn't possibly have been taking the test WHILE she was diddle-daddling.

Then we got to the first part of the test. It had two types of questions: In one type, it had a sentence, and you had to say which word in the sentence was wrong. In the other type, a word was missing, and you had to choose from the multiple choice answers to say which one was right.

I don't know which crack pot there wrote that test, but more than half of the questions were totally wrong. Either more than one word in the sentence was wrong, or none of the words were wrong. In the multiple choice part, very frequently, none of the options fit.

Again, with my "nothing to lose" mentality, that's what I wrote on my answer sheet. Things like "A and B" and  "None" or "all of these words are right, but you need a comma before word B, so I think you want word B." I figured I might as well have fun with it. I'm such a brat.

It was a bit hard to focus on the test, because the reception had a Lady Gaga CD on full blast, and I could hear it even from inside the room I was in. I can't imagine how annoying that must be for the students who are, you know, paying for classes. But luckily, I already speak English and the test didn't require that much attention.

After the multiple choice section, I had to write an essay. I had two questions to choose from:
(1) What makes a good school teacher? OR
(2) What is more important to you: Liberty or Responsibility?

Considering the fact that question (2) was totally nonsensical and retarded, I went with (1).

When I finished the "test," I gave it to the lady, and she asked me to wait while she corrected it.

"This should be interesting," I thought.

After a few minutes, she came out. She spoke to me in English.
"You aren't Brazilian, are you? Where are you from?"

"I'm from the United States."

"Oh, wow! That's so interesting! Why are you here?" etc etc.

We talked for a few minutes. She congratulated me on getting 90% on the written test. When she showed it to me, I saw that she had given me credit for the ones on which I had written things like "A and B," but had marked wrong the ones that said "none."

"Bitch, I didn't get 90% on your stupid test," I thought, but I just smiled politely.

Then she said, "The coordinator wants to talk to you, but he doesn't speak English. Is that okay for you? Can you talk to him?"

I said it was okay, that I speak Portuguese. But I was thinking how it wouldn't be okay for a job if the coordinator of the English classes doesn't speak English.  That means that all of the work that involves, well, English, like putting the students in levels, correcting tests, making material, and hiring teachers, falls on the shoulders of the other teachers (as was the case with the lady talking to me now).

 "Can you wait here for just a second?" she asked, and then went to get the coordinator.

When he came to greet me, I noticed that he had this huge growth on his eye. AWKWARD. How are you supposed to NOT stare at that? I did my best. He took me into a little room to chat.

Everything was going fine. He didn't seem offended by my snobby answers on the written test. He grew up close to Hicktown, and liked that I'd lived in that area, liked that I'd been a teacher in the US too, etc. Then he explained that the position they were hiring for was full-time, plus Saturdays, for a total of 44 hours a week. (That's actually more than full time, but whatever.) He asked if I was available. I said I wasn't available on Saturdays. I lied and said that I take Portuguese classes in Campinas while my husband works in a hospital there. (Who in God's name wants to work on Saturdays when they live at the beach?!)  He wasn't happy with that, and tried to insist. "But are you SURE? Not even in the afternoons?" I've gotten really good at fielding Brazilian insisting, though.  I just kept smiling politely and saying, "Yes, I'm sure" until he gave in.  He said, "Well, I could talk to the administrators. Maybe they'd let you work an extra hour Monday through Thursday to make it up, since it's a fixed salary."

"I could do that," I said. Yay. First battle won.

Then he explained that the position wasn't exactly teaching groups. Instead, I'd be a sort of jack-of-all-trades, available for make-up classes, helping students with questions, correcting homework, things like that. I'd be required to hang out in their "English room" all day and just be available for things.

I was suspicious of that. It's usually not a good sign when the school wants to put an American at their beck and call and doesn't give her a specific job description. I could imagine a LOT of crap falling on my shoulders, responsibilities that technically belong to the coordinator or to the other teachers. Can't you just see teachers walking into my little "English room," saying things like "Oh, Danielle! You're not doing anything, right? Can you just correct all these tests for me? I just didn't have time!" The opposite end of that suspicious spectrum would be that I'd have way too much down time, and that I'd be stuck in that tiny room ALL DAY with nothing to do.

But then the kicker was the salary. When it seemed like he'd finished telling me everything he wanted to tell me, I asked the coordinator how much I'd be making.

Guess how much it was. Go ahead, guess. Before you keep reading. Remember that it's 44 hours a week.


No, lower.


The salary was 700 reais a month. 700!  The maid at Alexandre's house makes more than that, and she gets all her meals and transportation covered. The coordinator told me that if I work legally and have a carteira de trabalho, I can get a meal card, which is worth a whopping 60 reais a month! So it's like my salary is 760 reais a month! Because that would make such a difference.

At that point I thanked him and said we'd be in touch. He wants me to come in on Monday and teach a demonstration class, but I'm going to call on Monday morning and say I didn't think the position was right for me or something polite.  Nem a freakin' pau.

I'm not totally against the idea of going back to some kind of school. I am avoiding the traditional English schools, with their slaughterhouse style of enrollment and bitter work environments. I figured the vocational schools and small colleges would be a better bet because they actually care about their students finishing the program. But I do have my limits, and I do want to be respected.

I talked to Alexandre about it. I've been feeling bad because I make a lot less than I did before, and a lot less than he does, and that leads to all kinds of new issues that will have to be discussed in another (drunk rambling) entry. I've also been feeling bad that I stay at home all day. I mean, I do the translation stuff, but it's not the same. I was thinking that maybe I'm in a sort of "beggers can't be choosers" situation. He reminded me that I'm not. It's true that our new town is poor, that teaching salaries are going to be lower than what I'm used to, especially if I'm in a school, but that I need to have standards.

So now I don't know what to do. I'd like to teach, at least a little bit. So far, none of the other places have called me. I think one of my only options is to apply to places in Santos, and then bus it in to Santos for classes (a pain in the ass). Alexandre's parents are visiting us this weekend, and his mom says to just give up on teaching for now and focus on getting more translation work, that the commute won't be worth the pay.

I guess what it comes down to is that I want to get out of the house and meet people and all that, but I don't want to be taken advantage of.

Oh well. I least I had fun writing this blog entry, with the Lady Gaga songs and the mystery growth on that guy's face.

Have a good weekend!
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