So this week, I've been been busy busy busy! We got our keys to the new apartment, cleaned it, moved the first round of stuff, and started the best part: furniture shopping!
Luckily, we will now live only about 20 minutes away from the in-laws. It's really going to be helpful to have their support and company. They have answers to everything! They already know things like where to find a good plumber, the best place to buy vegetables, and, ahem...a good place for dinner on nights that we don't feel like cooking. :) I've given up on getting anything more than passing cordiality out of Alexandre's brother and sister, but I think living so close will help me bond more with Alexandre's parents. I'm totally going to step up my Brazilian-ness this year, because we will be having weekly Sunday lunches at their house!
Anyway, the mother-in-law has been extra helpful with turning our new apartment into a home. She treats interior design and decorating as a hobby. She reads design blogs for fun. She subscribes to housing magazines and buys these kinds of magazines in other languages when she goes on vacation. So we asked if we could "hire" her on as our official interior designer. She was bowled over! I think she's designed the you-know-what out of her own house and is itching for a new project.
She took our request very seriously. This weekend, she and I sat down and she showed me a million blogs and websites with pictures of apartments. She asked me what I liked and didn't like about the different pictures until she could establish a name for my "style" (clean and contemporary, she called it). Then she showed me a bunch of color pallets with color themes, and I picked the one I liked the best (earth tones: bright green, dark brown, charcoal, and white). The next morning, we went over to the new apartment and measured a bunch of stuff to get an idea of what sizes furniture pieces we needed.
Overall, she's been more helpful than anything. Of course, she has a slightly distorted idea of how much furniture should cost ("Etna is a cheap store!"), and then I had to give her a rule that we're not going to buy anything just for the sake of decoration: everything needs to have a function (that means no vases and no puffs, which is the Portuguese semantic shift word for footstool. She thinks these footstools, which are all the rage right now, are a great way to add color to a room...? Nah). But in general she's really giving us direction and good ideas.
The three of us went to the mall in the new city to try furniture shopping, except everything was crazy expensive and I'm suffering from a bit of sticker shock. I mean, I know prices in Brazil are high, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But still! I think Alexandre and I will end up avoiding these big mall stores and trying the independent furniture makers (carpenters and ironmasters) in the interior.
Our first success with that was for our new couch. The living room in the new apartment is small, which means it needs a smaller-than-average couch. (The owners/previous residents had a big couch, but it blocked part of the door to the balcony and the TV was right in the sun. We're using another space.) Anyway, Alexandre's mom knew about this store that only makes and sells its own brand of couches. It's family-owned and operated, and everything's local. The best part is that they offer customized couches! The super knowledgeable salesman showed us a whole bunch of couches they had around the showroom. We told him which elements we liked and didn't like. He helped us choose the best cat-proof material. Then we got to design our own couch based on all the things we liked! The couch is perfectly tailored to our preferences and needs, and it was still cheaper than the crap we saw in the mall stores. Yay!
I'm hoping we can take the same route for the dining room table, because there's no way I'm paying upwards of 1,000 reais for a base and a piece of glass.
But have I mentioned that our new apartment is infinitely and immeasurably better than where we're living now? Some highlights:
*Relatively few neighbors with healthy amounts of space between apartments and buildings.
*Our own parking spot- no more sharing a spot with 3am phone calls to move the car.
*A 24-hour doorman service (that means no wierdos or gas salesmen calling on the intercom...or friends of people in other apartments whose friends won't answer and clearly aren't home, or the mailman calling for other apartments because he doesn't want to come back, or private delivery men (think FedEx) delivering something at 6am)
*A cookie factory close by that periodically fills the air with the sweet smell of cookies!
*Strict sound and cleanliness rules!
*An on-site admin office, like a sort of HOA office (a.k.a. a place for me to tattle on neighbors behaving badly)
*A pool and party area
*A big, gorgeous balcony with its own built-in barbecue (I know I told you that before, but just thought I'd remind you because it's so awesomely awesome)
*Big doors and windows that let in lots of sunlight
*An elevator <3
*Ample guest parking
*Hardwood floors (except for the bathroom and the kitchen, which have nice sleek tile)
*And, most importantly, peace and quiet.
And remember I told you that there's a big supermarket close by? We also discovered that this group of buildings within walking distance is actually a sort of open-air mall/business center. It has restaurants, a convenience store (minus the gas, though I think the supermarket sells gas), a branch of our bank, a lotérica to pay bills (woot), and best of all, a super amazing gym! All within walking distance. We went into the gym and they offer discounts for people who live in our apartment complex. It's super fancy and I can't want to start there.
I also had a job interview over Skype last week. It's a company in the new city that offers English classes at people's businesses. I go to people's jobs and have the option of offering that people come to my apartment. The school provides most of the material. I think it's better than a traditional school because I'll be out around town, meeting my students' colleagues (a.k.a. potential new students). The interview went well, so I'll be going in to meet the boss guy in person and see the material this week. Some of the students are Korean businesspeople and their families who are working in the new city. I've really missed having Korean students! It should be nice to talk crap about Brazil with them. hahaha.
So, hooray! Big changes! Oh, and I totally haven't mentioned in the blog that we're going to the US in February. (How lucky am I?) Soon after the move is squared away, we'll be on a plane to Californ-i-a.
That rhymed and this blog entry is annoyingly written. I'll stop now. Lots more cleaning and packing to do, anyway!