Thursday, February 26, 2009

Carnaval: The Parade

Well, Carnaval is officially over here-it ended yesterday at 12:00 pm. Unofficially, it's still going on through the weekend.

We attended one of the two main parades this year. It is an amazing experience that your really have to see to believe. You just can't imagine the amount of effort that goes in to these two nights-the thousands of participants, the costumes, the music. I posted about it last year when we actually participated in the parade; this year we decided to just watch. However, Ballerina girl did march, and her school took 3rd place! Way to go Ballerina Girl!

Our school (the school Guapo's company sponsored) came in 12th out of 12th, knocking them out of the big parades next year. I'm pretty sure it's because we didn't participate.

That's ok. I have a well established reputation of being a front-runner-so here I am with a friend and co-worker of Guapo's. He bought me a shirt from his school, who just happened to win last year.

My mom pointed out later that the lady on the front is naked. Nice. Probably won't be wearing the shirt that much-but it's the thought that counts-right?

And I have to mention in here, that this is the same guy that last year at the parade told me that I was, and I quote, "the best thing that's happened to the company in the last 15 years." I have no idea what that means, and he was totally drunk at the time, but when Guapo gets testy with me for whatever reason I remind him that I am the best thing that's happened to his company in the last 15 years and that he'd better watch it.

We had great seats-front row-you can see how close we were in this photo of my dad:

And, we were right in front of the final judges station, so the people were working extra hard in front of our section:

There are always rumors of judges being paid off by this samba school or that one and I found it interesting that the judges would stand and clap for things that they liked. This doesn't seem very judge-y does it???

The big floats are cool, but my favorite thing about Carnaval is sitting so close and being able to see the faces of the paraders and having them smile and wave. There are men, women, kids, adults, and senior citizens of all shapes, sizes and colors.

So here are some of my favorite pictures:

We also sat pretty close to Gisele, the world famous super model:

And this guy (I don't have a clue who he is, but everyone seemed pretty excited that he was there. Fabiola, do you know who he is?

It was a fun, long night-we didn't get home until just after 7:00 am! I am still recovering.

Have a great weekend.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Carnaval: The Beach

It's been a pretty slow posting week. Not because my Internet was down, although it was at times, but because my parents are here for a visit. Yay! They have come down to experience Carnaval (albeit boring Mormon-style) with us.

Today's activity-a morning at the beach. We got there before 9:00 am when most of the Brazilians are still in bed. The beach looked like this:

Nice, peaceful, calm. Guapo and my dad obviously see something interesting.

An hour later:

And two hour later (at which point we left):

Here's an example of how Brazilians and Americans have a different space needs (Brazilians need much less):

The yellow and white chair is ours. The pink and white sarongs are not. They were laid there by our beach neighbors. Geesh-back off people! (just kidding) (kind-of)

Here's another view of the beach as we were heading home:

And here's a cute one of Pedro and Margarita:

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

How's your Valentine's Day going? Mine has been de-lightful. Guapo (at my gentle insistence) decided to give me The Gift of Peace and Quiet for Valentine's Day. He let me sleep in, and then he left for several hours with all 4 kids. The hard part of it (other than having all 4 kids, of course), was that it is raining here today and there's really not a lot to do with kids when it's raining. His ideas of what to do included:

A) taking them to his office
B) just driving them around in the car
C) taking them to a movie in Portuguese
D) visiting the huge gem and geode store on the outskirts of town

He chose D. I would have probably gone with either A) or B) OR C) because that store is a scary proposition with 4 kids in tow. I would only go there with a maximum of 2 kids and NEVER EVER with Pedro. Everything is breakable and just sitting out on very low tables-making it all very accessible to even Pedro-sized kids.

But, Guapo's a brave guy and he decided to go for out.

He made it back, in good spirits around 1:00 pm. I'm sorry, but the desired response to spending 4 hours alone with the kids, including a trip to the gem store, is, "That was awful! How in the world do you do it Gabs? You are amazing!!!"
I would have come home from the gem store crying, and he walks in with a smile? Humpf.

A little while later we had our Valentine's exchange. I received some very cute stone hearts from the gem store:

And the kids worked hard to make us homemade Valentine's cards.

Here's the Valentine Margarita made for Guapo:

Please note the little picture on the left. That's Guapo, saying, "See ya!" while throwing Margarita out of the car and her yelling, "Ahhhhhh". Next to it it says (in case you can't read it), "I know you would never really do that! I still love you!"

Huh? What's that? The gem store wasn't complete and utter bliss?

Apparently on the ride home Guapo threatened that he was going to kick them all out of the car to find their own way back to the apartment.

Well now, that's more like it!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Best of Brazil: Art Classes

One of the coolest things about living here is that the kids have a chance to have art classes, in our home, each week from a real live artist (at least that's what he tells us. Just kidding, I've seen his work-he's legit). Both Margarita and Julio are artistically inclined (at least according to their proud mom) and I'm so happy they have this opportunity right now. It's not the cheapest activity they've ever been involved in, but I think it's worth it. I figure we probably won't have a lot of artists willing to come over to our house when we move back to the States. At least not for a price that we could afford. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong?

Here's some of their recent water colors:

They are working on a Revolutionary War theme right now. The above painting is Margarita's. The two below are Julio's.

This one's my favorite, I couldn't believe it when I walked in to check on them and Julio had cranked this baby out in under a half hour:

Cool huh?

And for those of you who have been wondering about my washing machine (I'm sure you've been losing sleep over it), of course the guy never showed up and of course they now don't have the part available until the end of next week and of course Carnaval is starting next week so there's no chance the thing will get fixed before sometime in March.

Guapo is seriously considering just buying a new one. It's that frustrating.

On the maid front-we're having a few issues but my house is SO clean. And she made scones this week. And, I'm pretty sure she ironed my sheets and pillowcases today. Awesome.

Have a great weekend and happy Valentine's day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Somewhat Happier Post

Things are going ok here.

Repair Update

The hot water heater guy finally showed up today after not having hot water since Friday and it appears that the problem has something to do with the hot/cold water valves for the washing machine (it's not all automatic here like it is in the States, if I want to wash my clothes in hot water, I have to turn the hot water knob on). I guess if they are both on, it kills the heater? So, I don't know-maybe it is working, sort-of? We'll see if I can figure out the secret to getting hot water, otherwise that guy's going to be coming back again.

The washer guy STILL hasn't shown up. The billing people however DID show up at Guapo's office demanding payment for the parts and labor which was interesting. They were pretty ticked when he wouldn't pay up. (me sighing and shaking my head. sometimes I just don't get it.)

Someone's supposed to come tomorrow to fix it. I'll believe it when I see it.

And, for the time being, we're giving up the dream of having a working land-line or in-house phone on our second level where we spend all of our time. So, if the building starts on fire and they are trying to call us from below, I guess we're just out of luck. (Note to self: give my cell number to the guards... )

Luckily all the problems I have are just annoying. We are all healthy and relatively happy, so I don't have that much to complain about.


I finished piecing the quilt for my brother's baby:

Pretty cute, eh? Once again, I would like to try to machine quilt, but I am too afraid to ruin it, so I will hand quilt it-it just takes so much time!

Random Thoughts:

I don't want to forget that the other day Juan Carlos (5 yrs) was eating a piece of cantaloupe and he said to me, "Here mom, you can have the rest of my antelope, I'm done." How cute is that?

It is so hot here right now I feel like I am back in Small Town, Mexico. I constantly have sweat dripping down my face. We don't have central AC, just window units that can't quite keep up with the heat. Sometimes when I start feeling hot, I have to go into a room where it's not on and then return to the original room to get a little relief.

I'm glad Valentine's Day is almost here-I'm getting sick of this background.

That's it from here!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Perfect Ending to My Crappy Week

Excuse my French, but last week was the worst in recent memory.

I am not naive as to the how things work (or don't work) in Latin America. I am a veteran with almost 8 years under my belt of trying to suppress the American in me when it comes to punctuality and efficiency. I do pretty well most of the time about being patient, but last week was like nothing I've ever experienced before.

Last I posted was on Wednesday when I had 5 problems to solve. Let's see how that went:

1) Hot water heater: I mentioned that the guy came at a time when the heater WAS working (it turns itself off at random times, especially when I want to wash dishes). He first quizzed me to see if I really knew how to turn on the hot water and then gave me this little note just to drive home the point that I am the stupid, clueless gringo:

That says "heater functioning perfectly". Alrighty then.

I was ticked and said, "um, no, actually it is not functioning perfectly" and he said, "well, you have to call me when it's not working." I said, "That's always on a Sunday" and he, very nicely gave me his cell phone number and said I could call him ANYTIME, even at midnight and he would come fix it.


So, it stopped working Friday night. I didn't think I should call him on a Friday night EVEN THOUGH he said I could call him even at midnight. When it still wasn't working Saturday around noon, I had Gaupo call him and tell him it wasn't working.

His reply?

"Sorry, you'll have to call the office on Monday"


The good news (???) is that it is still not working, so I am hoping tomorrow it will continue to be dead and that guy will come and see it really is broken and it's not just that I don't know how to turn on the faucet.

2) Modem/Router: The guy came back Thursday and determined there was no problem with anything. (Eerily close to what the hot water technician told me...). It does seem to be working for longer spurts now, so it's not my biggest complaint right now.

3) Washing Machine: Ugh. This story is just too long and boring to blog about, but when the guy showed up Thursday (I was thinking he was going to do the repair because that's what they told me), he was just there to give us an estimate (which is exactly what the other guy did the day before). He was now telling us it wasn't under warranty, and that they would have to order the part blah, blah, blah.

I was visibly irritated at this point, and he did what he could to find the part and do the repair that day. He stayed around my house until 7:00 pm waiting for the part to show up. He puts it in, turns it on...and...

Nothing. The new part is defective. Of course it is. He tells me he'll be back the next day (Friday) at 11:00 with another part.

No show.

No call.

Nothing resolved.

4) Water Filtration System: The plumber after not showing up for 4 days finally comes and installs a new system. Good news right?

He also somehow turns off the water pump (which unlike the water faucet, I actually don't know how to turn on and off), so shortly after he leaves we have no water. We call, wait and wait and wait and finally his boss comes and insists that his worker didn't mess with the pump and I explained to him that it was working when he got here and not working when he left. He eventually believed me and fixed the problem.

5) Phone, In-house phone: still not working, the guy never came back to fix the damage he did to the land line.

So, if this wasn't all enough, Friday, my car also died when we were out and about. It needed the battery replaced. No big deal, but in light of all the other problems it was quite annoying.

And then the GRAND FINALE.

Vanessa, our pregnant maid, had a doctor's appointment on Friday morning. So she shows up that afternoon around 3:00, somewhat flustered. She's jabbering on about how her baby might be born THAT NIGHT, or the NEXT DAY. Why Vanessa, are you having contractions? No. Are you dilated? No. She didn't sleep the night before and she's really uncomfortable. A lot of pressure on her hips. Um, yeah, that's called being 6 1/2 months pregnant with your 4th kid.

Now, in a normal pregnancy in Brazil, a woman would work until they reach 36 weeks at which time the woman goes on maternity leave and the State pays her salary for the following 4 months (4 1/2 if she's breast-feeding). Giving her 4 weeks of leave before the birth.

She is only 30 weeks along. So, I ask her if she's going to start her maternity leave now since the birth is so eminent.

Um, no, actually the doctor gave her a note for (surprise, surprise) 15 days rest (anything up to 15 days, the employer pays, over 15 days, the State pays) and then (supposedly) she'll start her leave.

Don't you think, if a doctor really believed that a woman who is only 30 weeks along was going to deliver within hours, they would admit her to the hospital?

She just totally got 2 extra weeks of maternity leave. Paid for by me. And if I don't pay her because I think she's full of crap, she can sue us. And she'll win.

So, she's gone. I wish I could say that will be the end of the story, but we are financially tied to her for the next 5 months (we have to continue paying her taxes throughout her leave) and then when we go to fire her when she's done with her leave, we will have to pay her another month's salary. Makes my blood boil.

This week has got to be better.


I promise I'll post something happy this week.

That is, as long as I have Internet access.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Everything's Broken

A quick post before my Internet cuts off again. A quick review of things that are not working in my house:

1)Hot water heater: the repair man has come twice now and and insists that the hot water heater is in "excellent condition". I would agree except for the fact that it takes one day off every week...

2) modem/router/???: something that makes me lose my connection to the Internet every 30 seconds. A tech guy from Guapo's company has come twice now in the past few days. When he left today, he told me everything was fine. It was, for an hour...

3) Washing machine: not working. This one is scheduled to get fixed tomorrow (but I'm not holding my breath)

4) Water filtration system: needs replaced. The plumber is now a no show for 4 days in a row. Time to find a new plumber...

5) In house phone (you know, that thing that the guards from downstairs use to call us in case we have visitors, or there's an emergency or something): after about 12 hours of working on it (I had to kick the guy out last night at 9 pm), it is still not working. Even better, he also messed up our land line that we got fixed last week...

Very, very sick of problems.

(Sorry for the typos, no time to check, I've to to publish before I lose my connection...again )