Friday, November 30, 2012

Post em Português!

Bom, acabei de terminar um...pouco de vodka com uma amiga minha aqui em casa, passando a noite falando só em português, então resolvi escrever UM POST no meu blog nesse querido português nosso. Claro que todos nós sabemos que o inglês é o amor da minha vida, mas o português também me conquistou muito desde que cheguei nesse país. (Isso não é verdade total. No começo, não consegui ver o português como mais do que espanhol bêbado. Mas agora que meu espanhol está destruído, já aprendi a aceitar o português como um bicho individual e especial no seu próprio jeito.)

Bom, não sei se vocês, outras pessoas bilíngües, também têm esse problema: agora que moro em outro país onde inglês não é o idioma nacional, meu inglês está muito afetado por meu segundo idioma. Como linguista, eu sei que isso é normal. Mas como trouxa (muggle), amadora de meu lindo inglês, fico muito frustrada quando o português toma conta na minha mente. Mas convenhamos, gente: existem certas coisas que são muito mais eficientes / úteis em português, principalmente quando está morando-se (? como faço passivo aqui?) em um local onde português é o idioma principal. Vamos considerar alguns exemplos:

*Temos as coisas culturais e óbvias: vestibular, imobiliária (aliás, um inferno na minha vida), SUS, rodízio, etc. É muito mais fácil simplesmente usar essas palavras para esses conceitos específicos ao invés de dar uma explicação indireta toda vez que quer falar sobre esse conceito em uma conversa em inglês.

*Também temos aquelas expressões que -- e não podemos negar -- refletem a cultura também, pelo bem ou pelo mal; palavras como sacanagem, jeitinho, gentileza, judiação (soletrei corretamente?), e, tá bom, vamos dizer logo: saudade. Podemos concordar que a palavra "saudade" é mais eficiente em português -- isso eu aceito. Só que se você começar a tentar fazer a conclusão que o inglês não tem uma tradução para saudade (falso) porque os norte-americanos são frios e não se sentem saudade das coisas (falso), I'll cut you.

*Aí também têm palavras e termos que são simplesmente mais produtivas em português: coisas como preconceito, véspera, prejudicar, mania, dar uma olhada, sem noção, aproveitar, e pelo amor de Deus.  

Acho que nós, o estrangeiros morando no Brasil, chegamos a um momento em que fica quase necessário comunicar com pessoas na mesma situação: pessoas fluentes nas duas culturas e línguas. É só quando estou com pessoas que identificam com esse dualismo que eu me sinto completamente confortável e entendida. Meu cérebro puxa informação das duas fontes e fico preguiçosa de tentar explicar as coisas de um lado ou outro. Passo quase toda hora de trabalho fazendo isso; não quero fazé-lo na vida social também.   

Full disclosure: Usei só meu cérebro para escrever esse post, menos nos momentos em que consegui pensar na pronúncia perfeita de uma palavra portuguesa mas em que não consegui concluir como foi escrita. Minha soletração nessa idioma é muito fraca. Então nesses casos eu procurei a palavra no Google, mas juro, foi só para confirmar a soletração! Come on! Por que a palavra "preguiçosa" tem que ser tão complicada para escrever, hein?!

Sua vez! O que você acha tem mais utilidade em português? E em inglês? Pode responder em qualquer idioma, em uma mistura de dois, ou vários, porque languages are awesome.

Boa noite para todos!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving!

So this year, after years of giving up on Thanksgiving plans, I finally, FINALLY celebrated Thanksgiving here in Brazil. I cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner, invited some friends over, and I really enjoyed myself. (I hope my friends enjoyed themselves, too!)

I had to improvise a little in the menu department. I've never cooked a turkey, and I didn't want my first attempt to be something 5 other people would have to eat. I am, however, very good at roasting chicken, and I trusted my skills enough to serve it at a dinner party. Any kind of cranberry product would be imported and therefore very expensive; same goes for North American pumpkins. (I've never made pumpkin pie, and I didn't feel like trying to make one from scratch with an entire pumpkin that wouldn't even be the same variety.) So I went with apple pie instead, since I'd successfully made it before.

I also had to improvise on the date and time. Thursday was not a holiday here, and both my friends and I worked on Saturday morning. So we ate our Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night. That works, right?

I went to the mall to try to find some things that would work as Thanksgiving decorations. Some stores here in Brazil are practically throwing up cheap and overpriced Christmas imports from China -- there's even a store in the mall that is now wholly dedicated to Christmas decorations! But alas, everything was red, green, silver, or covered in Santas, so I couldn't do much with it. I ended up buying a white tablecloth -- it's patterned with red kitchen utensils. Not Thanksgiving-y at all, but it was the cheapest one that didn't look like it belonged on a church potluck picnic table in Alabama. Also, since it's not holiday themed, I can use it again and it won't be weird. At first I was a little disappointed at my options in the stores, but then I remembered that I was being ridiculous, and I got over it. Who says Thanksgiving decorations have to be brown and gold? Red and white are OK, too. More importantly, who says it's the decorations that make the Thanksgiving dinner?

I decided to make a couple of my own decorations, like these random little cups that I lined with ribbon and filled with nice-smelling herbs (rosemary, bay leaves, and cinnamon):



When I served up all the food, I put little red and white papers in front the dishes. On them, I wrote the names of the dishes, plus a little quotation about being thankful. That way, the guests could read the thoughts while serving up their food.


The quotes were things from the internet, things like "Thank you for the food before us, the friends beside us, and the love between us."

On the table, I put up little place cards. I found this picture on the internet:






And mine, well...came out like this:

Thanks to Bianca for taking this picture at the end of the night!

Inside the place cards, I wrote personalized messages to my friends about why I am thankful for them. :) I found the idea on a "Thanksgiving crafts for kids" website, but no one knew (or at least they were too polite to say anything).

The guests were in charge of drinks, so we enjoyed some really nice bottles of wine. Also, Alexandre made a great white wine sangria (recipe below).  

During the dinner, Gatinha was very jealous that there was no chair for her at the table. Every time someone got up to get more food or use the bathroom, she immediately stole their chair! She became the chair thief of the evening.

She will burn you with her laser eyes if you try to get your spot back!
You can see a bit of the tablecloth in that picture. Sorry I didn't get a picture of the whole set table! I'm mad at myself for forgetting, even after Bianca reminded me. It was the first time since moving to Brazil that I've set the table properly, I think. Ha.

When everyone was seated, Gatinha was banished to the couch:


I'm happy to report that the guests got into the spirit of Thanksgiving, even though they're all Brazilian and it was new to them. (However, since they all have connections to the US in some way or another, the language of the evening was English and they were more open-minded to the different foods than Brazilians tend to be in general.) Everyone said what they were thankful for, and the evening was fun and pleasant. That's what I love about Thanksgiving -- giving thanks is such a universal idea that the holiday is not limited to a specific culture or religion. :)

I've pasted the final menu below. I've put links to the recipes I used or to similar recipes. Some of the recipes, like the stuffing, are ones I've made so many times that I've added my own little twists, and the things I cooked came out a little different. 

Thanksgiving Menu

Roasted chicken with onions and stuffing

Roasted potatoes that would've been cooked with the chicken, had I owned 
a big enough pan


My grandmother's carrot recipe (Tiffany's grandma taught her a similar one)

Apple pie to replace the pumpkin pie -- served with vanilla ice cream (I used a Martha Stewart recipe from her Cooking School book. It's similar to this one)

White wine sangria (Alexandre added grape juice instead of simple syrup, and we used some pear vodka that Alexandre got in a vodka gift sampler thingy)


See? We totally made it work in a Brazilian kitchen. So here's proof that the holidays are what you make of them! If you get caught up in having things just like they are in the US, you'll never be satisfied. It's important to get past the superficial stuff like the weather and the color of the decorations, and to decide what each holiday really means to you.

I'm grateful for all of you -- friends, family and blog readers! Thank you for caring about the minutiae of my life. I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving, wherever you were.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sessão da Terapia (Caught Being Good!)




Hooray! I have good news. There´s a new show on Brazilian TV that is actually Brazilian TV rather than an American import. And get this: it´s Brazilian TV that shows the life of educated, upper-class Brazilians as complex characters. The show is called Sessão da Terapia (Therapy Session, in English) and I´m pleased to report that the rich people aren´t all evil, one-sided monsters who treat the lower classes like trash, and there are no dancing clowns or women in bikinis. Can you believe it? I´ve always been a little jealous of my students who have been able to take their pick of American TV shows to use to practice their English. I´ve always wanted to try to improve my understanding of Portuguese language and Brazilian culture using the TV, but I can´t stand most of the stuff on basic Brazilian cable, and at the end of the day, I don´t think that shows like the telenovelas or Pânico na TV represent the Portuguese language or Brazilian culture that I´m experiencing!

This new show, Sessão da Terapia, shows the sessions that one psychologist has with his patients, and also the sessions he has with his OWN psychologist. I´ve just started watching it recently and I don´t think I´m watching the episodes in the right order, so I don´t trust my understanding of the plot enough to pass it on to all of you, but so far I´ve really been enjoying it. I don´t know if I completely agree with his methods, but it´s fun to debate them while I´m watching, and it´s fun to deduce the meanings of new words. (It also gives me something to talk about with Brazilians -- is this psychologist´s way of dealing with his patients the way most Brazilian pscyhologists act? For those of you who have seen it, do you think is? And do you think it´s the way most American psychologists act?)

I really recommend this show for those of you who are looking for some better quality Brazilian TV (Jessica, Alex). The show airs on a channel called GNT, so GNT is going to receive the Caught Being Good award today!


Well done, GNT!


I´m so happy that Brazilian TV is finally choosing to meet the demands of a huge part of its consumers. As you all well know, not all Brazilians are belps, and I think many of them watch American shows even when they´d prefer Brazilian shows only because they were tired of their intelligence being insulted. I´m relieved that these channels are starting to belive/accept/trust the mental capacities of their viewers. There´s a huge demand for quality TV that reflects the reality of educated Brazilians.


If you´ve watched Sessão da Terapia, what do you think of it?
If you end up watching it, let us know what you think!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Parasite Pros and Cons

Ah, parasites. We foreigners from the US living in Brazil have a lot of catching up to do on our awareness of and resistance to subtropical afflictions. I don't know about the rest of you, but I keep catching little kid illnesses that I never got around to building a tolerance to.

Why, just this week, I contracted what Dr. Wikipedia and I believe to be pinworm. The real doctor, Dr. Alexandre, is not home right now and has not yet confirmed my internet diagnosis, but he at least agrees that whatever I've got is some kind of parasite.

The cons of my current ailment are abdominal pain and constant trips to the bathroom, which result in unofficial house arrest and a poor night's sleep. There's also a very common symptom of pinworm called enterobaisis. I'll let you look that up, because it's not very blog-friendly.

These trips to the bathroom are also making me very dehydrated, so I've had a headache for the last 3 days and I have to keep remembering to drink water.

There is, however, one big benefit of having a parasite: I'm not retaining or absorbing any calories. Yeah, I know...I guess that's more of a con, but since it's a temporary thing, I say vitamins shmitamins! I'm gonna eat whatever I want this week! It's not like my body's keeping it in anyway. That means chocolate pastels -- doctor's orders! (Really. Alexandre says I need to eat a lot of extra calories.)

See that? I took lemons and made lemonade. Or, if you want to think of it in a grosser way, I took something else and made calorie-bomb brownies.

At least I don't really feel that bad, like when I contracted some other food-borne illness and spent a night vomiting into my own crap in a glorified port-o-potty on a 8-hour bus ride from Rio de Janeiro to Santos.

Yes, this might get worse, and I might need to take some annoying medication, but for now I'm just gonna go make some ridiculous dessert and I'm not gonna feel guilty at all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If you like it, then you should...?

So here in Brazil, the wedding/engagement ring social rules are a little more complex than they are in the US. Here are what I understand to be the various stages of couples' ring-wearing:

1. Silver rings on the right hand: People wear these silver bands when they are..."going steady," for lack of a better term. The boyfriend has not officially proposed, and there's not necessarily a wedding date set, but the couple wants to world to know that they are a couple and that they are IN LOVE. Some Brazilians use the words noivos at this point, and some don't. (The word noivos comes from the word noivado, or engaged. So I guess it would be translated as "engaged people." The problem with this word in English is that it suggests that there's a wedding date set.)

2. Gold rings on the right hand: Both the man and the woman wear gold rings on their right hand once an official wedding date is set and they are properly engaged in the English sense of the word. From what I've heard, some people use these same gold rings as their wedding rings, and they get them engraved and things like that once they're officially married. I've also heard that not all Brazilian men officially propose with the surprise/romance/hooplah that we see in the US: in some cases, the couple talks and decides they want to start planning a wedding, and then they just start, and they switch rings.

3. Gold rings on the left hand: Once a couple is officially married, they wear gold rings on their left hands. Very few married women wear wedding rings with diamonds or silver like the ones American women wear. I almost always see plain gold bands.


There are also variations to this system based on social class and personal preference. (Feel free to leave comments with variations that you know about.)

This system puts Alexandre and I in a bit of a predicament. We are legally married for my visa, and we usually refer to each other as husband and wife because (a) it's easier and people just think my Portuguese is bad if I try to translate my "husfriend" joke word by saying "namorido" and (b) it's linguistically very common in Brazil for a couple that's been together for a long time and that lives together to refer to themselves as husband and wife, even if they haven't had a proper wedding and often even if they haven't gotten legally married.

Unfortunately, the ring system is not as forgiving as the language system. I think it's kind of lame to just jump to Ring #3 without having gotten the fun American-style surprise proposal or the official wedding ceremony. However, we don't want to wear gold rings on the right hand (Ring #2) because then people will always ask, "when's the wedding?". So earlier this year, when we moved to Springfieldee and Alexandre started his residency, we decided to wear silver bands (Ring #1), except we chose dramatic silver bands -- his with some gold, and mine with some sparkly fake diamonds. Like Super Duper Bling Ring #1, if you will. It had meaning for us.

Unfortunately, this decision has not been as easy as I imagined. One small problem is that people eventually start asking questions because I say "husband" but I'm wearing the "going steady" ring.

The big problem, however, is that Alexandre and I keep losing our damn rings! Until last week, we were each on our third ring, but then Alexandre lost his again while we were in Florianópolis. As you can imagine, we've bought progressively cheaper rings since we realized how often we lose them. (My last one cost R$5! Woot woot!)

But now we're at an impasse. I'd really like to have some socially recognizable evidence of our commitment, mostly because I think it'll ward off the shameless nurses that Alexandre encounters at the hospital. (However, I know there are studies that show that women are actually more attracted to men who they think are married. So it's a crapshoot.)

Alexandre suggested that we wear necklaces with rings on them, since he wouldn't have to take it off when he performs a surgery (the main way he has lost his previous rings), but I don't want to wear a necklace because I think they're even more annoying than rings and I think they look tacky on men. We've even joked about getting tattoos of rings, but that would be even tackier.

But do we give up on rings or social symbols all together? Does that mean I lose the American-style wedding proposal that I've been culturally conditioned to always dream of? I don't blame Alexandre for not wanting to surprise me with an expensive ring if I've proven to lose them so easily. (Plus, I think the idea of spending so much money on a symbolic thing is kind of silly anyway! Alexandre doesn't need to prove to me that he has money to waste, or whatever the ring used to mean.)

And I mean, what do other people do? Are we the only squirrely weirdos who take off our rings all the time and misplace them?

What ring do you and your significant other wear?

So far we're just doing nothing, for lack of a better idea. But I welcome your input!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Florianópolis Fun

Yes, that's right! This past weekend was our trip to Florianópolis, which I will now refer to using the Portuguese nickname, Floripa, because I'm sick of writing the word out. You may remember the post in which I announced our plans to go. You may also remember from that post that the in-laws invited themselves along.

OK.
I'm going to try really, realllllyyyyy hard to be positive in this post, to focus on the highlights of the trip. I'll only scratch the surface of my annoyances so that this will be a happy post. This is me trying, OK?

For example, my conclusion about Floripa is that it's a great place to visit without your in-laws.




We stayed in a decent hotel. It was called Mar de Canasvieiras. FYI, they have two towers: a "regular" tower and a "luxury" tower. The regular tower is actually the noisy street-side tower, and the luxury tower is the one that faces the ocean and the quiet side street. We were lucky that the CVC lady reserved rooms in the luxury tower for us, because I have a feeling the crying babies and the construction across the street from the regular tower would've taken away from the vacation a bit. So if you end up going there, make sure you reserve a room in the better tower, OK? Oh, and avoid the pool. It seems good in theory because it's on the roof and it's heated, but it was really, really dirty. Like "jump in, jump back out, and run straight to the shower" dirty. Just stick to the gorgeous beach -- it's only a couple of blocks away. Oh, and make sure to eat cake for breakfast, because they have that, and you're on vacation, and you can.

The open ocean of the beaches surrounding Floripa (which is an island) is a real treat. There were also seagulls: lots of fine feathered friends that I'd never seen in the southern hemisphere!

Unfortunately, it rained during most of our trip! Of course, that didn't stop me from getting haphazard sunburns after applying sunblock too hastily. (That's my body's way of telling me that I made the most of my beach vacation.)

Another nice thing is that Floripa is a relatively rich tourist town (compared to other beach towns I've been to, I guess). What they lack in beggars, they make up for in stray dogs. I made friends with most of them, much to the in-laws' chagrin.



One benefit of the in-laws crashing our romantic getaway was that they would only eat at the finest restaurants. That means we also got to eat at the finest restaurants, and we didn't have to pay for them. Alexandre's father researched a bunch of restaurants before the trip and made a list of ones he wanted to go to. The in-laws are big on seafood, and they're also big on the fact that I'm not big on seafood, so that meant that each trip to a fancy restaurant required an unnecessarily long discussion about me: "But whatever is Dani going to eat at that restaurant?!?!!? Oh well, we are going to go there anyway, and we will continue to lament over the fact that she will not partake in our cultured enjoyment of shellfish and shrimp dishes. We will be sure to mention this defect of hers at least 6 times during each meal experience. We will make a very, very big deal over the fact that she is willing to eat those sort of homemade fish sticks (isca de peixe) and we will continually question her inconsistency in accepting these fish sticks and not excepting the rest of the aquatic animal kingdom on her plate. Little do we know, she doesn't really like these fish sticks all that much and is eating them only because she doesn't want french fries for dinner."

OK, that dialogue thing is getting annoying. I'll stop.

Luckily, because Floripa is a tourist town, there is lots of alcohol. Alcohol makes obnoxious conversations more bearable. It is especially helpful as a last resort, when you've spent days with people that you don't like to listen to but who you can't talk back to.



Lots of bars and restaurants served something I'd never had before: a wine caipirinha! That's what's in that picture right there. I ordered it with strawberry instead of the traditional lime, because the idea of wine and limes together didn't sound appealing to me. It was essentially cold vinho quente with a splash of cachaça. You're welcome.

One great thing from the trip was our boat ride on a pirate ship. (One reason it was great was that the MIL refused to go because she's scared of boats and the ocean and lightening and middle class tourists and because she has "labirentite", so it was only us and the relatively chill FIL.)

The pirate ships are a totally tourist thing that a few companies in the city offer. You go out on a boat ride with employees and guides dressed as pirates. As you can imagine, there is lots of copyright-law-breaking regarding Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. The guides are never supposed to break character, but our pirates were a little lazy about that. (We talked to another tourist at the hotel who said that the pirates on his boat tour were impressively insistent.) But they get you on the boat, they get you nice and drunk, they drive you around Florianópolis Island, and they do coordinated dances to popular songs and you're supposed to copy them. It is incredibly entertaining after 2 caipirinhas. Alexandre is as uncoordinated as I am -- plus, we were tipsy -- so we were kind of ridiculous, but we did not stop laughing and we were singing and feeling merry.



There was a non-pirate announcer guy who was a sort of emcee for the performance on the ship. (Someone's gotta talk about the safety rules in a normal voice!) He explained that, since there were so many Spanish-speaking tourists on the boat, the pirate ship's official language was Portunhol. For those of you who are not familiar with this term, Portunhol is a "language" (more of a joke word) that Spanish and Portuguese speakers say they speak when they try to speak to each other, since the languages are so similar. But I've gotta tell you -- this guy really made me believe in it as a language, or at least as a dialect of Portuguese (since he was a native Portuguese speaker). He had really developed a fabulous linguistic system to make himself understood by Spanish and Portuguese speakers at the same time. He was so smooth and consistent about it. I would argue that listening to him talk for the whole day was the highlight of my trip.

The pirate ship tour included a stop at an old fort on a tiny island. It was interesting, but we were pretty drunk at that point so I wasn't paying much attention. I was mostly focused on not falling down the endless stone staircases.
this picture is from the internet, because I forgot to take any

Oh yeah, did I mention that I forgot to bring the camera on this vacation? All of these pictures are from my phone. Silly me! Who forgets the camera?!

After our trip to the fort, the ship stopped for lunch at another island. Then the captain of the ship drove really, really fast back to the main island over choppy waves in rainy weather, and a lot of people who were drunk and who had just finished a big, all-you-can-eat lunch threw up. I'm happy to say that I wasn't one of them, and neither was Alexandre or his dad.
--------------
On another morning of our trip, we went to the city's downtown area and main market. Phone pictures:



Sorry, those are not very helpful. It was largely a fish market, since it's right next to the ocean. There's also a little restaurant that is famous because former President Lula liked it. We didn't eat there, but we saw it.

The trip was nice when Alexandre and I got some time to go off and do things by ourselves (which mostly included walking around the neighborhood, or reading and enjoying the quiet). But all in all, it turned into a trip for the in-laws'. We quickly gave up our ideas of relaxing bonding alone and gave in to the fact that we were essentially the in-laws' assistants, carrying their bags and driving them to stores and restaurants (and then driving them to OTHER restaurants because the one we went to, the one they'd read about online, looked too "sloppy" from the outside and they'd changed their minds). Because they don't like to walk or drink or eat street food or be around non-rich people, there wasn't much that they chose to do that we would've chosen to do.

Do I recommend Floripa? Yes. Will I go back? Yes. Will I ever take another vacation with my in-laws? Not if I can help it.

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