Monday, August 31, 2009

"If You Would Have Told Me 10 Years Ago..."

I love the non-normalness of my life (generally speaking). I love that I find myself in situations that I never would have dreamed up for myself in my younger years.

I remember the first time that happened after we started our overseas adventure-we had recently arrived in Venezuela. I was out in Guapo's car by myself, jamming to some Spanish tunes, driving on a freeway in Caracas and all of a sudden it just hit me like a ton of bricks-"Hey, look at me, I'm driving around in SOUTH AMERICA. Who would have thought?"

These moments happen with less frequency now as I'm a little more accustomed to being in unusual situations, but I had one on Saturday night.

My piano "recital".

I was sitting there thinking, "Here I am, in this little apartment in the middle of a huge city in Brazil, surrounded by only Brazilians, playing my remedial piano pieces. How odd."

I was the second youngest in the group. The lady right behind me to my left turned 80 the day before. She was talking about her French lessons and her watercolor classes she's taking right now (at least I think that's what she was talking about, it was all in Portuguese). How cool is that? I hope when I'm 80 I'm still looking for new things to learn and do. She also kicked all of our butts on the piano (and seemed to enjoy doing so I might add), but, she has had a little more time to practice than me.

This guy was a hoot. He was probably around 70 and was our last performer. There was nothing my teacher could do to get the guy to stop playing the keyboard until finally she said we all had to leave because she had another engagement.

One thing I've noticed about Brazilians (at least the ones where we live) is that it seems to me that they are very interested in learning throughout their lives, not only when they are young. They always seem to be taking courses or classes or workshops to learn something new. What a fantastic characteristic.

Anyway, if you would have told me 10 years ago I'd be sitting in Rio, with a bunch of old Brazilians playing piano, I never would have believed it. I love that about life. And I love that I have no idea where I'll be or what I'll be doing in 10 more years.

I just hope there's a Target there. :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Avocado Revisited and (Unfortunate) Activity on Our Street

The Great Avocado Debate

So, today I tried a avocado/BANANA milkshake after receiving two comments about how delicious an avocado shake could be if it only included a banana.

True or False?


Avocado + Milk + Sugar = Nauseating

Avocado + Milk + Sugar + Banana = Delicious.

Who knew? (other than Stephanie and Lori)

Nefarious Activity on Our Street

This morning our maid opened up the newspaper and called me over to look at this picture:

(photo by Marcelo Carnaval)

The guys standing in the photo are the guards who work at the fancy-shmancy beauty salon right next door to our building. We're friends with these guys. There are super nice. They say hello to us when we walk by, they make small talk about their favorite soccer teams, the weather, and about how cute our kids are.

Yesterday, they caught this guy (the one who is laying on his stomach in the picture) who was attempting to rob a car very near our house. Since they were dressed in their Men In Black work suits, I am assuming this happened during business hours.

This disturbs me.

I called Guapo and what does he say? "That's awesome." Such a guy. I don't think it's awesome we've got car robbers running around our street during business hours, but what do I know???

Not the "Little Pig" Flu

That's what someone called the Swine Flu at church last week, "a gripe porquinha". Isn't that funny?

Anyway, after telling myself I'm not sick the last couple of days I am finally admitting I may, in fact, have a cold.

I do not look like this yet: I think I'm ok. (Sorry, I don't know who to give the credit for this creepy picture, but since it came to me in a forward (thank you Stu) I figure the person probably wants it all over the Internet.)

I went out tonight with Guapo to get some vitamin C as my supply is gone. As Guapo was checking out he asked if I really wanted the vitamin C as he showed me the price tag. I thought it said $18.90, which would have been about $10.50 USD (a rip off, yes, but not surprising here), but it really said $78.90, or $44.00 USD (a shocking rip-off).

For 100 vitamin C tablets ???

I think not. I passed on the V-C. I'll just eat some oranges, thank you very much.

Have a good weekend!

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Baby

Check out Pedro's curls these days:

So cute. I hope he never gets big boy hair.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Avocado Milkshakes and Thousand Dollar Field Trips

I can't say my life has gotten anymore exciting lately. Maybe a little busier, but not a lot more interesting.

First up on the list of semi-interesting happenings was the avocado "shake" I had this week. Apparently here where I live, avocados are used more as a fruit than a vegetable. Pedro and I go to our neighborhood juice bar once a week where one can find about every kind of juice you could ever think of. I usually stick with the "normal juices" like orange, tangerine, passion fruit, guava, and an occasional exotic kiwi juice. But, I've always been intrigued by the avocado juice.

It's avocado, a little milk and some sugar.

I decided this week was the week I would forgo a juice that I knew I loved to try something new.

I should have stuck with the old faithfuls.

I really tried to like it; I drank more than half of it all the while telling myself, "it tastes good, it tastes good, it's not just for guacamole." Then I started to feel really nauseated.

I don't recommend trying this at home.

Oh well, at least I don't have to wonder if I'm missing out on anything anymore. Oh and one more Brazilian treat North American tastebuds may want to avoid? Corn- flavored popsicles. Also not good.


Yesterday I was at school attending both the elementary and middle school open houses for my kids. One of the main topics of the middle school portion was the upcoming 6th grade trip to the north of Brazil. The mandatory 4 day trip will cost just over $1,000.00. Luckily, Gaupo's company pays for stuff like that or I'd be a little peeved. But, it's par for the course when your kid goes to a super-rich Brazilian school where money means nothing to most of the students.

Anyway, they opened it up for questions. I was cracking up at the questions that were coming from the 6th graders. It went like this:

"Are we going to the beach?"

"Are we going to have free time?"

"Will our free time be at the hotel?"

"Can we pick our roommates?"

"What time do we have to go to bed?"

"Do we have tv's in our room?"

"What kind of cell phone coverage will we have?"

"Do we get to pick who's in our room?"

"Can I go surfing?"

They were actually better than some of the parents' questions:

"What happens if my child has swine flu?" (Ummm, they can't go on the trip.)

"What happens if my child gets swine flu there?" (Ummmm, they'll get sent home.)

"Are they going to fly on a reputable airline? You know there was a crash a couple of months ago" (No, we just hired some guy off the street who says he can fly who's going to take them in an refurbished WWII plane. But, thanks SO MUCH for bringing up the Air France crash in front of 51 6th graders who are shortly going to be flying without their parents.)

"What if there's someone on the plane with swine flu?" (???)

"Don't you think you should take the school nurse in case one of the kids has swine flu?" (And that would help because?)

Do you see a common theme here? People are just a little bit preoccupied with the dreaded swine flu.

May you and yours (and anyone you may come in contact with) be free of the swine flu. And remember, avocados and corn should be used only as vegetables (except in the rare case of corn bread).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What to Blog About When Your Life's Boring?

I really wanted to get back in to blogging-but nothing's going on. We're currently unbloggable.

My kids started school-but we are starting the 3rd year at the SAME SCHOOL. That never happens and frankly, it's all a bit boring. The kids aren't nervous to go, they all have friends, they knew who their teachers were before the first day, they know where the lunchroom, bathrooms and playgrounds are. Not a lot of drama.

...we're not moving any time soon.

...I have just over 4 months until I travel again (ok, 4 months and 4 days). maid continues to be awesome.

So what to write about when there's nothing to write about?

1. The Weather

I have been loving the weather this week. I write every year about how much I miss the fall. I love the changing of seasons, especially fall. I have missed out on fall now for the last TEN years while we live in a perpetual spring/summer. It's not good for a person who's accustomed to fall and winter. At least not this person. I get sad during the Northern Hemisphere's fall.

I know, it's still mid-August, and it's actually winter here, but my kids started school and therefore in my mind it's fall. And, the last few days it's actually felt like fall around here. Nice crisp air, falling leaves-I love it. Granted it's not that cold-it's in the low 70's so I'm still wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but the Brazilians are all dressed in jeans, sweaters and scarves, so that also helps me further descend into my lovely make-believe fall world.

(I'm trying not to think about the fact that in a month or so I'll be sweating like a pig, trying to cool off by hovering in the air-flow of my inefficient window unit)

2. My Kids

Margarita started Middle School. I can't really grasp that I am a mother of a middle-school student, but I guess I am. She loves everything about it-her classes, teachers, the fact that they change classes every hour, her friends. Everything. How I got so lucky to get such a positive daughter, I'll never know.

She had the goal again to not miss a single day of school this year. Last year she almost made it-she only missed one day after I blogged about her goal and ruined it. Sorry Margarita! :(

She came down with the croup Tuesday afternoon and hasn't been able to go to school the last two days. When she was lying in bed Wednesday morning and I definitively told her she could not go to school after I took her temp (102.5 degrees), she cried her eyes out. She did the same Wednesday night when I told her I didn't think she'd be able to go today. And this morning when I told her that she really should stay home so she can get all the way better, and not be sent home, accused of having the dreaded swine flu. (There is a major Swine Flu frenzy going on here-but that's a post for another day)

She has been doing this ever since she started preschool when she was 3 1/2 in Venezuela. While I'm happy that she loves school, I'm even happier that she hasn't changed a bit.

Moving on to Pedro (2 1/2 yrs)

Please meet "Soda":

He ran around all night last night saying, "Look at me, I'm Soda!" He wouldn't touch that thing last Halloween when I wanted him to.

And here he his this morning at the zoo (we were taking full advantage of the nice fall weather). He couldn't wait for his turn with the monkey statue while other kids were hanging all over him, but once it was his turn he was a little apprehensive about getting too close:

Trying to get him to lighten up I told him to "Smile!" He looked at the monkey and looked me and said, "Mom, he can't smile," like I was completely clueless.

That's all I've got folks. Really, it's totally boring here...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I'm Back.

Hello again, anyone out there? It's been while, eh? It's so hard for me to come back to blogging after a break, but my mom is on my case about it so here I am.

We're back in Brazil after what was a grueling trip home.

As I hope to someday, in the not so distant future, be living somewhere permanently and taking relatively normal, relaxing vacations, I am posting this so as to remember the craziness that is involved in transporting 6 people, and their stuff, 5,000 miles.

The angst begins for me about 2 days before the actual trip begins. I have to figure out how to stuff everything that I bought into our 12 allotted suitcases in such away that doesn't make it look like I'm smuggling in chocolate chips and Glad trash bags to sell on the black market.

I was in the States for 6 weeks this time. That's a lot of trips to Target. "We" ended up with a total of 13 bags, so poor Guapo had to carry on his small suitcase he was planning on checking so that we could move through the airport more quickly. He graciously only stayed angry at me a few minutes after he realized my little error.

So, 6 people and 12 checked bags and a variety of carry-ons (see below) requires not only our new van, but also my mom's car to get us to the airport. And an extra driver so our car can end up back at my mom's house.

Getting to the aiport isn't so bad. I just sit there and try not to think about anything I may have forgotten or about leaving our families or our house or new car or decent ice cream or Target behind. Sometimes I'm successful, but mostly I sit there and cry my eyes out like a baby.

We pull up at the airport and that's when the real fun begins.

We first have to find some poor sap to help with the 12 heavy bags while we try to fish all of the small bags out of the car. We slow-ly make our way to the ticket counter. Oh, how I miss flying domestically with its convenient curbside check-ins. As we approach, I can feel the ticket agents trying not to make eye contact with us-they don't want the likes of us in their line. We got a good one this time though, very helpful and friendly to the kids.

There's always a question of whether or not our documentation is valid to travel to Brazil. That takes several minutes to sort out and then there's the checking in of the bags. They never seem to remember that Brazil is the only country that allows your bags to be 70 lbs, instead of the normal 50 lbs. So there's always a "discussion" about that. Meanwhile, the kids occupy themselves by getting in to all of the special treats and toys in their backpacks that are meant for the flight and trying to weight themselves on the scales.

Finally, we get rid of the big bags and make our way to security. This trip, as I count it, we had 17 carry-ons:

1. Guapo's suitcase
2. Guapos briefcase
3. My small rolling computer bag
4. My large purse
5. Camera Bag
6. Margarita's Backpack
7. Julio's Backpack
8. Juan Carlos' Backpack
9. Pedro's Bag
10 & 11. 2 Full Size Pillows
12. Pedro's airplane stroller
13. Pedro's normal stroller

14, 15, 16, 17. And four kids.

17 items we have to keep track of.

Getting through security is a major, major circus; shoes everywhere, Pedro determined to get through the metal detector while we are still unloading laptops, struggling to fold strollers, and quickly trying to remember if we have any clandestine liquids in any of the bags. We must have used 10 of those plastic tray thingies.

But we made through without losing a single item (that I know of, at least).

The trip to Houston was great.

Guapo got upgraded to first class, and since it is his personal policy to give me all upgraded seat assignments (what a sweetheart), I was living the good life up in the front. He was in the back dealing with a fussy Pedro and poor Juan Carlos (6 yrs) screaming, "We're going to crash!" when the plane hit turbulence (he is obviously still dealing with the Air France crash from a couple of months ago). Pedro (2 yrs), seeing what a reaction this got, spent the remainder of the flight screaming out, "We're going to crash!" Fun, fun stuff.

My pleasure trip ended upon arrival in Houston where we learned that our 9 pm flight was delayed ten hours. That is a blow on so many levels. The obvious blow is that we have to make our way to a hotel via over-crowded shuttle bus where we will try to rest until 5 am when we have to be back in the airport. Although we have plently of carry on bags to lug with us, they don't really contain things that will enable us to comfortably spend an extra night on our vacation. Of course, they do contain the treats for the kids that were supposed to last through the duration of the never-ending flight but now will not last the first 15 minutes.

The second, and more serious blow in my opinion, is that now our 12-hour NIGHT flight is a 12-hour DAY flight. If I absolutely must spend 12 hours on a plane with my dear, sweet, 2-year old, I sure as heck rather have it be at night than during the day after spending a very short night in an unfamiliar hotel room. We tried to get on the next night's flight, but there were only 3 seats left and the thoughts of flying home without Guapo (and the slight possibility of being upgraded) with Pedro and 6 heavy bags to deal with on my own was too much for me.

I accepted my fate.

The plane ended up leaving an extra hour late, so we finally got out of Houston around 8 am.

I (Guapo) did not get upgraded.

We made it in one piece. It wasn't as bad as I had imagined it by a long shot, but it still isn't something I'd like to do on a regular basis.

We paid our little aiport dude $25 and he got us to the front of the immigration and customs lines. I was scared of going through customs after my last experience, but happily, they waved us right through. I'm pretty sure they just didn't want to tick off all of the people who were legitimately waiting in line (instead of cutting it like us) by making them stand there for an hour while they searched our 25 bags. There's no way they could think we had less than $500 of merchandise in all of these bags:

(You may think it excessive (Gua-po), but as I payed almost $6.00 for a tube of toothpaste yesterday, I am grateful for everything I brought back)

It ended up taking us just under 30 hours door-to-door. Ugggh.

Am I glad to be back? Yes and no. I miss my family and the freedom the kids have in the States to go outside and play. And Target, of course.

But, It's nice to sleep in the same bed 3 nights in a row and truth be told, I was starting to get fat in the States. After my race I kind of replaced running with drinking milkshakes. Not really a fair swap.

More to come...