Saturday, February 27, 2010

What Brazilians Do When It's Cloudy

I'm not actually sure what they do do when it's cloudy (yes, Margarita, I know I said "do-do"), but I know what they don't do, and that's go to the beach. Even when it's sufficiently warm out.

Compare my heading picture, or the first picture from my last post to these photos, taken today:

It's amazing.

It seems the only people there were a big group of gringos playing baseball...:

...and running from the waves:

It was my kind of beach day!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Giving School Lunch A Good Name

Before we get to school lunches, I am very happy to report that after more than 5 weeks of this:

...which is all fine and good except for when your struggling air conditioner can only cool down your bedroom (I won't even go into the common areas of the house) to a balmy 85 degrees...

it's nice to get a little of this:

Ahhhh, so refreshing. It may have even dropped into the 80's outside today which felt downright chilly after our recent heat wave. One of my friend's kids were asking for hot chocolate on the way home from school today. No joke.

Anyway, on to the cafeteria of my kids' school.

When we leave Brazil (if we ever do), one thing I will really miss about my life here is the lunch situation. I don't have to pack lunches. EVER! I hated packing lunches in Mexico City-what a pain in the neck. So boring. So thankless. So never-ending.

Here, the kids are provided (for a healthy fee of course; thank you, Guapo's company) a great buffet style lunch everyday. The wide variety of food is prepared fresh each day and the kids get to go through the lunch line and pick what they'd like. Younger kids have their teachers helping them to make sure the eat a balanced lunch. They generally have 2-3 main course dishes, rice and beans (always), and several sides:

In addition to the hot foods, they have a lovely salad bar that always has a lettuce salad and a couple of other salads to choose from:

I eat there with my boys every Thursday after I help out in their classrooms and I really look forward to it. Here's what I had today:

Beef stroganoff over rice, potatoes (remember? Brazilians LOVE their carbs and don't care about mixing them), beets and a nice mixed salad.

And my favorite part is the dessert cart that always has fresh fruit (today was papaya-yuck), jello cups and some other desert, today's was flan- yum. On Friday's they can get a popsicle, ice cream, or chocolate cake.

Sometimes (ok, most every time) the desserts are so good, and so little, that I have to have two. Like today:

I usually send one of my kids up for the second round, so I don't look like a pig.

I haven't ever had kids go to school in the States, so maybe the school lunch situation has improved, but when I was a kid, school lunch was really icky. And I remember that buying school lunches was not a very cool thing to do. A lit-tle-bit nerdy. Maybe that was just my school?

So, what's it like now in the States?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Carnaval 2010

We survived our 3rd year of Carnaval here in Brazil.

It was a long, blistering week. We attended the parade last Monday night. In contrast to other years, we only stayed for half of the parade this year. Instead of crawling into bed at 7:30 am, we were tucked in at a much more respectable hour this year: 3 am. We were totally refreshed the next day, comparatively speaking.

Another difference was that this year, we didn't have front row seats; we had 2nd row seats. Having front row seats that last two years kind-of made me a Carnaval snob. Since I don't drink* (ever) and I only attempt to fake samba occasionally, taking pictures is what I really enjoy doing at the parade and it was much harder from the second row. After a few frustrating minutes of getting other people's heads in my shots, I handed over the camera to Gaupo who's a good 10 inches taller than me. (Here are the Carnaval posts from 2009, and 2008. Just in case you're interested.)

*That reminds me of a random story from the evening. We shared our box with a customer of Guapo's company. As she was opening her second beer for the evening, she offered me one and I declined; she looked at me oddly and asked if I ever drank and I said, "no" and she said, "Never?" and I said, "Never." Then she said, "Me neither," and continued to drink her beer. ???

These were the people who were sitting in my seat (the nerve!):


I love seeing the happy, festive participants all decked out in their amazing carnaval costumes. Here are some of my favorite shots of the night (that Gaupo took while I was feeling serious pressure to bust a move since I wasn't hiding behind the camera):

"Have faith, buy your spot in paradise":

Awesome street sweeper/samba dancer:

Everyone got really excited about this famous woman, we have no clue who she is. Fabiola?

Big cat:

My least favorite float of the night:

See that silver "arm" on the right side of the photo? It belonged to a robot that looked like it was about to check her cervix.


The dancers were "pregnant" with plastic fetuses:


This girl's platform wasn't secure, so she chose to just sit down for her own safety. This was, of course, totally unacceptable. (does she not know that you must be samba-ing and singing the entire 80 minutes?)

As the float was approached the final judges' station, this guy went out on the float and basically forced her to stand up and dance.

He then proceeded to supported her fanny with his face to keep her up.

Oh, the sacrifices people make for Carnaval.

This lady's name is Maria das Dores Rodrigues, she was the flag bearer of the first championship of her samba school, Portela, in 1935. 1935. Can you believe that? 75 years ago?

Pretty cool.

If you ever have the chance to go to the parade, I highly recommend it. Of course, if you're going to come all this way, I'd suggest the front row if you can manage it. :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Beach Today

It's the start of Carnaval here in Brazil-the week long party in the streets. I have to admit, the first year was interesting because it was all new and different; last year was fun because my parents were here, but this year I'm just kind of sick of it-too hot, too many people, and too many nasty smells in the streets. I guess I'm just not a lot of fun.

It doesn't help that it's been an oven here and has only rained once since we got back almost a month ago-it's making me pretty grouchy. We have sad little window units that can't nearly keep up with the heat. I sweat (and all night long, too) I'm trying to not be bothered by it because it appears that no matter how annoyed I get about the weather, it doesn't seem to care about what I think.

Anyway, we went to the beach fairly early today. We were lucky enough to get there when another group was just leaving so we got some much sought after water-front property. We had a little ridge in front of us, so now one could muscle their way in front of us. And we got two umbrellas just to ensure a little space:

It was pretty crowded, but nothing like what it was later in the day (after all the revelers awoke sometime in the afternoon):

Here you can get an idea of how close we were to our neighbors even with our little double umbrella trick:

Today's beach topic is how different Brazilian body image is compared to that of Americans. 99% of women here wear a bikini to the beach (the 1% being the freakishly modest Mormon who wears a one piece or a tankini; I've seriously had people say to me, "You're not from here are you? I can tell from your swimsuit"). A bikini is just what you wear. It doesn't matter if you are 200 lbs. overweight. It doesn't matter if you're 90 years old. It doesn't matter if you're 9 1/2 months pregnant. It doesn't matter if you're 2 weeks post-partum. YOU WEAR A BIKINI.

And nobody cares what you look like. There's no snickering or finger pointing. Although they do care about their bodies-they are a very active people, they don't seem to care about other people's bodies or if theirs is not perfect.

I took some photos of different bikini clad women, but I'm not going to post them for a couple of reasons. 1) the pictures of really beautiful women with almost their entire rear-ends showing doesn't seem like something that should be on a family friendly blog and 2) I wouldn't want anyone going, "Gross!" or laughing looking a picture of someone with a less than "perfect" body. That would make me feel like I was being mean.

I think it's really cool that people feel comfortable enough to go out with less than perfect bodies, and that other people don't seem to waste their time caring about what others look like. It's kind of refreshing.

(Mentally and emotionally, not physically. Physically I'm still really, really hot.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Home Alone (well, almost) and NOT Pregnant

Yesterday marked a significant day in my life: all my kids were at school at the same time while I was at home (except for the maid from whom I was hiding).

This has happened before, but I have always been pregnant at the time, which is different. It always added a kind of frenzied feel to it, like I had to cherish ever second because the hours were numbered before I would have another little one to care for full-time.

So, it was the first time this has happened in just shy of 12 years!

It was nice. A little anti-climatic since Pedro has given up his 2+ hour afternoon nap. I feel like I've just traded in my afternoon peace for a little morning peace. I went running and practiced piano. That's it. And then it was time to go pick him up.

The first 3 days consituted Pedro's "adaptation" period during which time I had to stay at school (hidden away where he couldn't see me) just in case anything went wrong or he got too sad. The first two days were great; I took my huge book (Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin which is excellent btw) and hung out by myself in a nice air conditioned office.

The third day wasn't so great, I had to share (the nerve!) my room with another lady whose granddaughter was also "adapting". She had headphones on listening to Brazilian music and was belting in it out for all to hear (well, really just for me, she obviously couldn't hear herself or she would have instantly stopped). She'd also periodically get up and saunter around the room, snapping her fingers to the beat of her music, all the while continuing to sing. It made reading my book, which is by no means a beach read, difficult at best. Oh well, at least she was enjoying herself.

Pedro had no problem those first few days, it was new and exciting and he got to carry his backpack and feel like a big kid going to school with his brothers and sister. Yesterday and today it's been like, "What? This again? But I already did this!" He was a little weepy today when I left him which was very hard, but his teacher emailed me shortly there after to let me know cheered right up. He gets to go to PE, library and music class each 2X a week which seems to be the highlight so far.

Well, that and the gerbils that his teacher lets him feed when he's missing me. :)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Curse You, Cursive Writing

Julio, 9 years old, is loathing school right now. Why? Cursive writing, of course. This semester, all of their work is to be done only in cursive and if they forget and print, they have to copy their work over again (this has happened to Julio a couple of times).

We here at home have heard about it every day since school started last Monday: how his hand hurts, how it's NOT fair, how his teacher's e-vil, how he's QUITTING SCHOOL AND NEVER WRITING IN CURSIVE AGAIN, EV-ER!

And sometimes I almost believe him.

After a serious meltdown yesterday afternoon that required some listening and counseling by his dad, Gaupo came to me in the kitchen and said, "That's one cat who hates cursive."

So true. So, so, true.

He brought home a vocabulary test today for me to sign. They had 8 vocabulary words that they needed to use in 8 sentences; however, they would only be graded on 5, the extra 3 were just insurance in case they got any wrong.

Here's Julio's paper (click to see it bigger):

He only wrote 5 sentences, which he got all right (notice the "Great!" in the upper left hand corner), so she asks him why didn't he follow directions and write 8 sentences and he basically responds, "Ummm, duh, lady, because you make us write in cursive all day long and I'm sick of it!"

I love this paper for four reasons:

1) the honesty
2) the spunk-just look at that exclamation point
3) that he responds to her question in print, not in cursive-another little jab
4) sentence #3 about Joaquin not paying attention; he's the class trouble maker who teaches all the other kids bad words and is generally disruptive at all times.

Aren't kids great?