Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Time in Canada

Oh goodness guys... it's so good.

So, I'm finally catching up on blogging after literally being offline since I left Brazil on December 20.  A lot of the blogs have really been capturing my feelings of Christmas in Brazil last year (my first one, popping the cherry)... the strange/guilty feeling of annoyance and anger and the heat and 'un-Christmassyness' of it all.  Those feelings were creeping up again this year.  My parents knew it.  My friends knew it.  My dear loving and patient husband knew it.  So my parents did the most awesome thing and offered me a ticket home for the holidays.

How could I say no?

I was going crazy to know how it would feel to be back in Canada and to experience the notorious 'reverse-culture shock' for myself.  But, to be honest, it hasn't been difficult at all for me to reassimilate.  Everything is pretty much how I imagined it....

Sure, I've noticed some things that I'm missing from Brazil (ie. Bakeries, good manicures, an abundance of fresh fruit and veg, my HUSBAND) but I have confirmed that certain differences WEREN'T inflated in my head due to extreme saudades.  Things like amazing customer service, friendly strangers saying hi, excuse me, thank you, letting each other cross the street or change lanes, orderly driving, big giant hugs hello, lots of ACTUAL multiculturalism/language EVERYWHERE...

But although I was going crazy missing these things and also going a little crazy being the 'different' one, I'm kinda missing that part now!  I miss speaking Portuguese and I miss the feeling of achieving a comfortable quality of life.  In Canada, it just exists.  You don't really have to work for it.  In Brazil, it's something to be proud of.  Something you can measure in huge strides and see how far you've come.  I miss eating healthier in Brazil.  I actually miss the routine of "home".

I miss Ro.  A lot.

God, will I ever feel satisfied in one place again???  Have we all now shot ourselves in the foot by living in two places at once - Home and Second Home?  One place will always be missing something and offering something else.

As for now, I have one more week to enjoy Canada.  That means a real snowy New Years in a hot tub with lots of flowing red wine, friends and more family time.....oh yeah baby.

P.S. In case you wondered if it feels somehow colder to me now after a year in Brazil, I can only say it feels amazing and I love winter.  White snow, brown snow, yellow snow, bring it all on.  But on second thought, a nice day at the beach with a cold beer and my husband wouldn't be so bad right about now.....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Braziliversary to me!

 Today marks one whole year in Brazil! 

You heard it here first, folks.  I survived one year in Brazil.  Let's celebrate by reflecting on my 'Brazil' goals from last year, before leaving the homeland.
"I've created a few personal goals in my head (which come just before my mental list of things I still need to buy from Mary Kay before I go - 3 bottles of After Sun the best product EVER!) One of my goals for this adventure is to become more accepting and less judgemental- especially if I don't agree on a certain point. Husband has made me very aware of this flaw - in a caring way of course - but I do realize that when I disagree I get pretty strongly opinionated about it. I also realize that this makes the person I'm talking to feel like THEY are stupid, not the idea... I may be aware of that... so I'mma try 'n work on it.

Goal #2 - Hey let's just go ahead and turn this into a list -
Learn how to speak Portuguese fluently enough that I can have easy conversations, I can understand what is being said in a group of people, and I am not constantly translating in my head.

Goal #3 - Learn how to live in another country (why not try... ohhh... Brazil!) Learn how to be more wary and cautious, open minded, careful, learn the city, learn who to avoid, etc. In Toronto I feel pretty comfortable to walk home by myself at 1 in the morning and not even be talked to or even to drop a 50 on the ground and have someone pick it up and give it back to me :D

Goal #4 - My favourite goal - give to directions to a tourist who needs to know how to get somewhere in the city! Achieving this goal will make my whole experience SOOOO awesome and will prove to me that I am a LOCAL! If nothing else happens, I hope I achieve this goal. Well, I suppose all goals will have to precede this one so... let's just go for 'em all!"

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Addition to our house

And no, it's not a baby.  It's another dog.

Yes, you heard right.

In our already too-small 3 bedroom apartment where we already have 5 adults, 1 cat (still kitten) and 1 dog, someone thought it would be a good idea to get another puppy.

Things are feeling a little full.

I am trying to hold on as best as I can.  Why would they get a new dog, you may ask?  The same way one might get a new shirt?  Because you were in the mood to buy it?  Or because we had a little space over in that corner?  I'm still trying to figure this one out myself. 

I have never owned dogs.  I have never really even liked dogs.  Then I met my husband (a giant dog-lover) and moved to Brazil (the biggest dog-loving country I have ever seen.  Seriously biased towards dogs - everyone 'hates' cats, meanwhile I'm sure they've never owned or probably even seen a house-cat).
I've been a little forced into dogs here seeing as they already had a dog (who is sweet, but so old it's like she's not even here) and seeing as though everywhere you go people are walking dogs, fawning over dogs, or getting dog tattoos.

Now we have this new damn puppy who, I swear to god, is cute but holy idiot.  The dog is terrorizing my cat and in turn it's stressing ME out because I can see that Nina is not happy.  He finds ways into my room and eats Nina's food, and now barks at Nina and runs at her while Nina fearfully hisses and runs away.  Haha, she thinks she's so tough.  Ahhh so much work are puppies.  And this one's not even mine!  And he just doesn't take NO for an answer.  NO stop eating Nina's food, NO stop peeing on the carpet and NO stop biting me everywhere!!!

It would have been considerate for someone to ask us if we would be ok with having another dog in the house.  I mean, other people do live here.

We are going to look at an apartment on Sunday because I just don't see this working :-S ...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Things I would miss about Brazil

Well, I'm coming up on my one year anniversary in less than 2 weeks and, coincidently (or not), I'm also heading home for the holidays for the first time since we arrived.  All of this has got me really thinking about the things I'm now going to miss leaving Brazil in search for the things I was missing about Canada for the first, oh say, 11 months of being in Brazil.  (This last month those feelings have been dying out a little bit but that may have to do with the fact that I will soon be at home, eating me some curry and Thai food.)

So, some of the things I will and would miss about Brazil (it took me a little while to get to this place of appreciating things here enough to miss them):

1. Bakeries and fresh bread every single day.  Well, let's just stick to bakeries, plain and simple.  I love the bakery around the corner.  I can go have a nice little breakfast of suco da laranga and misto quente any time I want.  If I have a craving for a Twix, my little corner bakery has the fix!  (Rhyme not intentional but staying!)  If I want to have a beer, the bakery is near! (Now I'm having fun).  You can even do a little mini shopping at my little mini bakery.  Actually it's a giant bakery.

2. Drinking chopp.  Chopp is draught beer and it isn't draught beer at the same time.  It's its own special Brazilian version of draught beer.  So super cold and small enough that it stays that way until the end.  I don't think I can go back to pints. 

2b. Chopp anywhere, anytime. 
Yep.  No joke.  Favourites would be quiosques (kiosks) by the beach, the little hole-in-the-wall bars in zona sul, or, as mentioned above, the bakery!

3. Body comfortability.  Ok, this one's a bit of a contradiction.  Cariocas (The Brazilians from Rio for anyone who didn't know that yet...) are ridiculous about their bodies.  I'm serious.  These people are working out in the gym for inhuman lengths of time and at least 8 times per week. 

On the flip side, if you go to the beach, you gots your crazies but you ALSO have your OTHER crazies.  The crazies who are totally comfortable with their bodies, albeit some may say they 'shouldn't be wearing something so small'.  Y'know what? It's given me a HEALTHY view of body acceptance and I LOVE Rio for that.  I see that everyone just lets it all hang out (for some that means more than others) and it's so refreshing to see that people are comfortable with themselves, regardless of media-invented images of beauty.

Ladies and Gentlemen, how many of you out there have TRULY accepted your body the way it is?  How many can say they TRULY love themselves and their bodies??  Not even me, but I'm really working on it and Rio is helping.

4. Ice cream!!  Some of the best ice cream is here!  Sooo good on a hot-ass day.  I've actually never eaten so much ice cream in my entire life put together as I have in my first year in Brazil.

5. Speaking Portuguese.  Ironic?  I will really miss speaking Portuguese.  Jesus, I worked so hard to get my Portuguese down, I don't want to lose it!  Learning a language is hard folks!  If you already learned it once, don't screw yourself over by forcing yourself to learn it again.  So grateful for my Brazilian other half!  I's lucky.

6. The Beach.  Did I actually say that?  Ok, so it's no secret that I'm not a giant fan of going to sit in the sand for hours on end, but I do like running and biking by the beach, drinking coconut water at the beach, and sitting in a quiosque on a Saturday afternoon listening to the families come out to drink and shoot the shit.  Also, I love to watch these guys working on their tan.

7. People Selling Shit Everywhere.  Although I don't really buy stuff from the vendors very often, I'm not opposed and it's nice to know that if I needed something, it's right there.  I love the guys who jump on their bus selling "jujubes um real, amendoim um real, chiclete 3 por um real, paçoca um real" and I love how the bus drivers let them on for free until they get to their stop.  Nice camaraderie!  It's nice to see that there are jobs for many people, even if they aren't the most ideal or appealing. 

So, Brazil, at the end of one year, there are things I can truly say I am enjoying about you.  I've met some great people here, I've discovered my career, I've learnt a new language and I've spent a lot of time with myself reflecting (and now I know I need to see a psychologist regularly 'just to talk')... but all good!  Looking forward to the next year!  But first.... home time!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Where To Go To the Bathroom in Rio de Janeiro

So, my line of work is full of movement.  Yes, I'm a teacher.  But I'm essentially a private teacher.  This means that I am all over the city travelling to my students place of business or home.

When doing this you have to be smart about how to schedule your classes.  There's nothing worse than having to go to Flamengo for noon, then boot it all the way to Ipanema for 1:30 and back up to Centro for a 3 pm class.  No sir, that is asking for stress, and stress I want none of.

So I group my classes and plan them so that I'm in Ipanema during this time, Flamengo this time, Centro this time.  You want a class? You gotta make it work in these times.  And usually they do!  This is also the power of the native teacher in a foreign country... :)

Now, hot Rio weather = me drinking tons of water (or at least trying to).  And you all learned a long time ago what happens when you drink a lot of water.  That's right.  Every hour.

Usually I can use the bathrooms in the offices I work at, but sometimes (and at some student's houses) it's not exactly appropriate or offered to me so I need to go in search of a bathroom on the street.  This can be a little tricky because public bathrooms here aren't exactly in optimal conditions.  Ie. piss all over the seat and floor, no toilet paper, no soap... I even once saw that someone had missed (???) the toilet entirely and crapped on the floor instead.  Clearly, they didn't see this sign:

I can totally imagine that situation.  The person is having one of those SERIOUSLY THIS IS AN EMERGENCY situations.  They made it into the stall and facing the toilet started desperately jumping around, fumbling to unbutton and unzip their pants (and you know you can NEVER get it done smoothly - Smooth is Fast People!)
But the emergency would have been SO severe and SO uncontrollable that the poop just fell out of their butt before they had time to turn around and sit.  Then, they decided 'well, they have someone here that will clean up my poop so I'll just leave it for the poor foreign teacher to look at while she hovers about the toilet precariously, trying to avoid the other voided material surrounding her.'


This is why I have developed a guide to help you and your loved ones on their quests -nay, RIGHTS- for a decent bathroom.

1.  Ipanema (General Osorio) 
A little difficult to find a place here unless you go to a restaurant.  The place I use the most is the bathroom in the McDonalds at Visconde da Piraja and Vinicius de Moraes.  About 5 mins walk from the metro but there are several restaurants that would let you use the bathroom if you just smile sweetly enough and bat your eyes a little.  Also, asking if you can use the bathroom rapidinho seems to help.
There is actually a bathroom right in the metro station too (located at the cashiers counter and before you pay) but it's not very nice.  It's just convenient.  

2. Copacabana (Cardeal Arcoverde)
I believe the street is actually Cardeal Arcoverde but either way, it's the main street out of the subway that goes towards the beach and has a Bob's on the corner.  The Bob's bathroom is always out of service but if you walk about a block from Bob's, there is a little botequo that says "Bathroom: R$2".  Again, if you smile sweetly and say "rapidinho" they won't charge you the R$2 and it's clean enough.

3. Flamengo (Largo do Machado)
The best bathroom here is in the Oi Futuro building, located on 2 de dezembro.  It's on the right-hand side, halfway down and it's a free cultural art centre.  You go in (don't mind the guards, they always look at you accusingly but you don't have to pay) and take the elevator to very top floor (8th) where there is a little cafe with a very nice bathroom.  They also have free wi-fi and some F'd up exhibitions on regularly so, while you're at it, stay a while to take in the craziness inside Oi Futuro. 

4. Centro (Carioca)
I have yet to find a free bathroom here but I did find a decent pay-bathroom in this little downstairs mall that is in the same complex as the Bob's Restaurant, located directly outside of the Carioca metro station.  You go down the escalators and pay R$1.50 to use the bathroom.  Just remember, you have to pick up your toilet paper on the way into the stall.  Definitely forgot that about 17 times already.

5. Centro (Uruguaiana)
Lots of Fast Food restaurants like Bobs, McD's...

6. Centro (Cinelandia)
The worst options for bathrooms are in Cinelandia.  Yes, you can use the Bob's on Presidente Wilson but it's actually disgusting.  The only option I would really suggest is to sneak into the Vale building on Santa Luzia because they have a bathroom on the main level so you don't have to check in with the front desk.  Just make sure you're not wearing shorts or Havaianas because the dress code inside is strict and you don't wanna mess with them.  The bathroom is so worth it though ;)

In Barra da Tijuca it's much easier to find places to go to the bathroom because there are lots of malls that have bathrooms.  Barra Shopping has bathrooms apparently made for Queens so whenever possible, go there.

Reminders when using all public bathrooms:
-squat, don't sit
-throw paper in the garbage (even though it goes against every moral fibre of your being)
-wash your hands and try to open the lock and door with a paper towel (I've seen some nastiness out there)
-have fun!  It's a free-for-all in there so go nuts

Monday, November 22, 2010

I am alive!

Still exist!  Just incredibly busy working.  It's what I need to do to match Ro's ridiculous amount of time spent working so that I don't disappear into a lonely oblivion. 

Class update - I'm now up to 21 students both private and through my school.  It's pretty much right down the middle and while private teaching is more profitable, I really love the relationship I have with the school.  I was working at another school too but it was ridiculous and unprofessional so I quit last week.  Thank God I have the strength to get out of bad situations.  God, what a nightmare.

Anyway, loving teaching and loving my students, btw!  Seriously, I am sooo lucky to have some freaking fantastic students.  

So my friend Laura came last week.  We stayed in a hostel in Ipanema and met an awesome Brazilian girl who stayed with us in the hostel.  She speaks English too so it was a lot of fun speaking in both languages and also teaching her some very useful words!  We reviewed 'puke', 'hangover' vs ' hungover', 'break the seal' and many others related to very real situations we experienced, including the former.

Laura was so impressive with her bravery to try speaking Portuguese (even though she was literally learning on the spot).  She got down 'chopp', 'banheiro', 'obrigada' and 'desculpa'.  Any guesses as to what we did for 6 days straight???

That's right.  Drank and peed. 

Last Saturday we all went to Lapa and met up with Blog Molly and her fiance (Molly, from here on in you are known as BlogMolly) as well as another girl and her bf from my Good School and another friend and his bf from the Bad School.  Ro came too and gave us all a reeeeal entertaining night (considering he doesn't drink very often and he drank 4 'street' caipirinha's ie. Do you want some ice and lime with your giant cup of cachaça?")

Then I proceeded to sneak him in like a bull in a China Shop quiet as a mouse to our Girl's Only Room in the hostel, nurtured him through a particularly traumatizing bout of vomiting, got one hour of sleep and then got back up to go to work.  Crazy.

Let me just say that I do not party like this.  I know I've made some jokes about drinking in the past but they really were slight exaggerations.  I was not prepared for this night. 

Anyway.  Those are the basics.  Tomorrow it's back to work.  I am counting the days until I go home for Christmas.  Today officially marks one more month.  Can't wait.  I haven't been home once in an entire year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Laura is coming!!!

The official "Laura is coming" blog is here!  My good friend Laura is coming from Canada today!  Actually she should be here in 10 hoursssss!!!

I'm not a great tour guide because I haven't really planned anything but I'm sure we'll just take it as it comes and have a great time regardless.

Anyone have any suggestions as to what we should do for sure? (Aside from the usual touristy stuff?)

Yeah Laura!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Did you think we would waste all of that pumpkin?

Well you're dead wrong.  We've got pumpkin for days here, people.

What do you do when you have 30 pounds of pumpkin to use up??

You make Doce de Abobora... 

And you make Pumpkin Spice Muffins...

Soon to come - Thai Pumpkin Soup (that is, if I can find lemon grass)

I LOVE Fall time and all the pumpkin-y goodness!  Now all I'm missing is my Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks..... MMM!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hallowe'en in Brazil

When you move to another country that doesn't celebrate the same traditions as you, you start to really understand which holidays are near and dear to your heart. You all saw the Thanksgiving dinner Ro and I put together. This is one holiday very special to me. It's more sappy nostalgia than anything, but the idea of family getting together, giving thanks for good fortune, and sharing together is a very important tradition to me.

There's one more holiday that really touches me.  Really makes me feel all warm inside.  It's a holiday that I don't think I could leave behind very easily.  

And that holiday.  Is...
Helllllls yeah!!!  Hallowe'en is The Shit. I freakin' love it. You're damn right I wanna carve a pumpkin and dress up like an 80's aerobics instructor whilst eating Hallowe'en size serving after serving of delicious chocolate covered whatever!
You're damn right I do.

So, I forced my family into celebrating another of my favourite traditions last night. Alright, who really needs to be forced into cleaning out the guts of a pumpkin with your bare hands and carving a finely detailed face into its thick-ass rind with a steak knife, then being forced into watching a horror movie while making yourself sick on chocolate.

Yeah, you see why I love it? It's amazing.

We fully went out and spent R$60 on the two biggest pumpkins we could find. We did pretty well I thought! The outside of the pumpkins here are more white than at home but the inside is juuuust as orangy and perfect.

Then we spent R$130 MORE on chocolate, alcohol and movies. Ahahaha aha.

It was the perfect Hallowe'en. (Sans fake spider webs but I'll live).

It would have been WAY more hilarious if we had all dressed up but I think even that would be going too far. We're taking baby steps here in Brazil.

Anyway! Check out our work. I think you'll be proud.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Corrida Pela Cura

Last Sunday Ro and I woke up eeeearly to do the Race for the Cure 6KM run in Leblon.  It was our first race in a year and a half and my first race here in Brazil.  Is it just me or is the air different here?  I have a hard time running here because I get out of breath quickly.

Forget all of the advice that "the first 15 minutes are the hardest! - After that your legs just go!"  For me the first 15 are the easiest.  After that it's like slow torturous death.

At least I'm dying healthy!

But seriously, after I passed the 3K mark I was thanking whatever god is out there that I wasn't running a 10K.  Nope.  That would have been a giant mistake and definitely would have resulted in me passing out in a ditch while other runners jump over me and/or throw their water cups on me.

What's with the way people HURL their water cups during the run?  I mean, first there are garbage cans.  Second, there is the side of the road.  Is it really necessary to guzzle your water like a horse, leave it dripping down your chin and shirt and then whip it behind you right into my face??  There are like 10 000 people running behind you, didn't you realize??

Ohh I'm just as guilty.  There's something about gnawing open a little plastic cup of water with your teeth, pouring the whole cup on your head (shaking your head and hair side to side in slow motion for effect), whipping that crappy little cup to the side and continuing on your run unphased, that makes you feel SO COOL.

So, unfortunately I had to stop 3 times during this run to walk.  I only have to walk for 30 seconds or so before the feeling of vomiting passes and then I'm back in the game.  Then, oops I'm gonna puke.  Walk.  Then back in the game.

I went into this run with a goal of completion of under 40 minutes.  I finished in 38.  Not my best run but I reached my goal.  Ro finished in an amazing 33 minutes.

Until next time - I'd better start practicing if I ever want to be like those African runners, with their gazelle legs and beautiful stride!  Damn their beautiful stride!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Livin' it up in Centro

I have a love/hate relationship with Centro.

Ok, so let's get the negative out of the way first.

First, it's busy as SHIT.  And not in a 'wow, this city is lively! There's so much action going on!" way.  It's more of a 'move your ass and walk faster or get out of the way!!!' kind of way.  Add to the mix of sloooooooow-walking Cariocas the millions of vendedores selling crap that you would have never thought of buying in your life.  Rabbit ear TV antenna circa 1950?  A bootleg copy of Windows 95?  A squishy strawberry toy thing you can splat on the ground and watch it magically return to it's original shape?  A book light headband?  Ok, the book light headband I'll take but you can leave the other crap thankyouverymuch.

Then you have your 'flyer' guys.  These guys (and girls) are the worst.  They stand in the middle of the sidewalk giving out tiny pieces of what I can only describe as scrap paper.  I use the term 'giving out' lightly.  It's not really your option to take a scrap of paper - they are literally shoved down your throat and into your hands.  Sometimes 3, 4, 5 people right in a row.

Now combine the millions of slow-walkers, the seller guys (and don't forget the ones selling popcorn, cashews, candied peanuts and coconut, chocolate, gum, agua/coka/skol um real um real etc) the paper pushers, wrap it all up on really small sidewalks with maniac traffic by your side (let's be fair - also throw in that I'm late, as always, and lost) and you have yourself a goddamn mess!

P.S. This is a very special illustration of the area I love to hate aka. Uruguiana.

Now.  What I love.

Cinelandia and Carioca (the areas as defined by their metro stations).  Here you have the magnificence of old Rio.  Cobblestoned streets line the busy roads from a safe far distance and you have fantastic views of Teatro Municipal (which every day looks more and more spectacular to me).

Beside the theatre is some ridiculously awesome looking government building (I'm sorry I really don't know what the building is - Camera dos vereadores is what is being whispered in my ear). Across the street sits the Biblioteca Nacional, and you can find my feelings of this building here.

Today, while walking from Carioca station, I just happened upon this little outdoor theatre show that seemed to be centred around some Brazilian religious archetypes.  Later I learned it was the story of some important characters of Brazilian history.   I saw the story of Anastacia, a slave who suffered so many rapings and beatings they referred to her as A Santa (the saint).

The show was hardcore.  There were bare breasts and all.  The real deal.  It was very interesting and had a pretty huge crowd of people along with a helpful drunk guy homeless man who continuously blew a whistle (I guessed to add to the musicality of the show). 

After the show I found this little feira in the same park so y'know, I had to buy some R$2 earrings.

Then, walking back to Cinelandia I hear the Brazilian National Anthem blasting in the street.  It's a pretty majestic anthem and I must say, I do like it.

Anyway, I could see this homelesss guy up ahead (side note: the down and out are what add to the charm of Centro).  So this guy is really homeless and it seems like it's been a while since he ate or took a shower.  And he's, like, belting out the national anthem, pumping his hands to his chest in pride and all.  I thought, 'man, this guy is so clearly in a tough spot and could easily blame his country for his problems or for not helping him more but instead, here he is, proud as hell to be Brazilian and letting everybody know it.'

I smiled at him and gave him two thumbs up.

Today was sunny and warm and a very entertaining day in o centro da cidade. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner - part two

Well, we accomplished the biggest cooking task of our lives thus far.

Two days of cooking + two appetizers + five main courses + two desserts + one giant bottle of vodka + 40 cans of beer + 6 bottles of wine + one new dress = a freakin' awesome party!

I had a GREAT Thanksgiving.  It was just like home.  My Brazilian family all together, eating, drinking and being merry.
What was really touching was how 'into it' they all were.  It can be difficult for some people to be genuinely interested in trying something new, especially when it's someone else's cultural tradition. 

But my fam was so awesome - They were really into the tradition of saying something that you're thankful for.  We had the usual "I'm grateful that everyone could be here together, I'm grateful for all of the food we have, I'm grateful for the cook (hehe) etc." but Ro's cousin really made me all mushy inside when she said "I'm grateful for new cultural experiences" (or something to that extent). 
They complimented us endlessly on the food (I'm now allowed to get married as goes the favourite Brazilian saying "agora você pode casar!").  Then Ro's uncle gave me the biggest compliment, following tradition perfectly.  He fell asleep.  Love it!  Here are the pics....

All tuckered out....
 Great night with great people!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner - part one

Thanksgiving Dinner - Phase One Complete!  Thank God for no fires. 

Ro and I began the first phase of our "made-from-scratch" Thanksgiving Dinner this morning.  As you know (if you read my blog), Canadian Thanksgiving was last weekend.  Ro, unfortunately, was involved with the opening of the new Outback Steakhouse so we couldn't have dinner the day of.  But that's ok because his family doesn't know the difference anyway.

So!  This is my VERY FIRST TIME making Thanksgiving Dinner.  Actually, it's probably my first time making everything on my menu (which I realize is usually a big no-no but, as I mentioned earlier, they won't even know the difference hehehe) 

On the menu is:

Raw veggies and dip
Devilled Eggs
Cheese Ball (I hope)

Main Course
Chester (who found turkey at this time of year?? I can't...)
Garlicky Green Beans and Mushrooms
Mashed Potatoes
(I feel like I need coleslaw...)

'North American' Apple Pie


Today we got the desserts done and the veggies prepped and that all took like 6 hours.
Tomorrow it's up early to make stuffing, squash, potatoes, steam the beans, make the cheese ball, finish the devilled eggs, cook the CHESTER. 

Jesus.  I'm having anxiety.  I think I need to get back out there and keep cooking.

So tired... but must... keep... cooking....

More to come!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Wishing I was with family this weekend but I hope everyone at home had a great Thanksgiving!!!

Next weekend I'mma try and make a Thanksgiving dinner for my crew here.  Will update with more info soon.....

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dating Yourself

Happy post!  Well, lately, you are well aware, I have been feeling a little down.  It happens.  So I took myself on a date last night.

 Now, many of my Brazilian crew think this is a little strange.  But I honestly like the idea of dating myself.  The only person you can depend on is yourself, right?  (ps I don't fully agree with that cliche but it's not entirely untrue either).  Can't sit around waiting for the mountain to come to Mohamed... What's up with me and these crazy idioms today?

So, with Ro and my SIL working and my other friend wanting a night in, I got myself dressed up and went out for dinner and a movie.  I really went for it.  I even put on a skirt, people and I don't do skirts.

So I get to Downtown Shopping and as I'm getting out of the van, my skirt gets caught on the seat as I am still making my way out of the van.  This results in my skirt being opened up and my underwear being exposed to everyone!  At least I didn't have to feel embarrassed in front of a date.  (just the other strangers who all saw but, yeah... no date)

I decided to eat at Barril 8000 because they have live music.  Enjoyed some beer with aipim and queijo coalho.  Not the most romantic dinner but who am I trying to impress, right? :)

Then I went to see the most girliest, emotional, "finding herself" movie available - Eat, Pray, Love.  Yeah! On date night with myself, I get to choose the movie!  I also have a lot of seat options when I'm alone.  I can pretty much sit wherever I want, even in a full theatre.  I can also cry openly and laugh openly if I want to (I don't like to look like a baby who cries in movies in front of Ro - What!?)

After my lovely evening of dinner and a movie, I got myself an ice cream cone to finish off the night.  It was a pretty happy night!  The biggest challenge, for me and anyone, is being able to sit with yourself and not DO anything.  That or try to pretend that you are not really alone.  I'm talking: pretending you are texting someone playing with your phone, acting like you are waiting for someone to come and meet you, taking an imaginary phone call... etc etc.

So, for any of you ladies or gentlemen out there who feel like you have a bit too much social alone time on your hands, here is a list of helpful suggestions as to how you can date yourself!

  • Take yourself out for dinner and a movie (and make sure you get drunk)
  • Gently caress you hand or your thigh at the movies
  • Surprise yourself with unexpected gifts like a bottle of great champagne/wine
  • Buy yourself a sexy new outfit
  • When you catch your reflection in a store window, flirt with yo' bad self
  • Buy yourself your favourite flowers
  • Take yourself to a spa (well, that's a little tricky in Brazil because spas aren't all the rage)
  • Turn the music up and the lights down and put on some candles
  • Sleep in your slinkiest nightgown or nothing at all
Whether you're single or in a relationship, any of these activities done alone results in good stuff later.  Finally, don't be embarrassed to date yourself!  People definitely give you Looks but they're probably thinking "Is she here all by herself?  That's so brave!"
It's really not that big of a deal once you've done it a few times.  Anyone out there have dating myself stories?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

How does ANY expat do it?

How do you guys do it?  How do you expats deal with living here?  I am going crazy.  I am missing home so badly right now I was looking at the cost of flights.  Sadly, they are just as I suspected.  Hundreds of dollars (and thousands of reais) that I just don't have.

I was wondering on my recent walk to the grocery store to pick up the second bottle of wine of the weekend if my threshold is just lower than everyone elses.  Is my ability to accept and deal with difficult situations (ie. communication difficulties, loneliness) just weaker than the average person?  Some of you have settled down here permanently and I couldn't imagine in my wildest dreams living her forever.  I just couldn't.  I love Canada SO much.  I think it is the best county on the planet.  Yes, I am biased and Yes, I am drinking right now.

I am just so goddamn proud to be Canadian and of everything my country stands for.  Nobody hates Canada! That's pretty impressive. 

I'm not battling a superiority complex here but you know how living in a country where things seem to be completely LAWLESS makes you appreciate the orderliness of your own country.  Ok, enough of my high horse.  That wasn't meant to be offensive.  I'm just missing home so much.

Let me just examine some positives for a second though.  This journey has been a giant test and learning lesson in 3 specific areas for me.

1.  Adaptability
2.  Patience
3.  Being alone

I have adapted and adjusted non-stop since I arrived here.  We are still living with my in-laws.  It has been 9 months and 17 days.  9 months and 17 days without my own kitchen.  9 months and 17 days of tiptoeing around the house (my family is very quiet).  9 months and 17 days of love-making like teenagers who will get in trouble if their parents find out what they're doing in the bedroom.  9 months and 17 days of being trapped in my room to watch what I want on TV, to have alone time, to get dressed AND put on makeup AND dry my hair etc etc etc. 

Because of this adapting, has come a test of my patience.  A realization and understanding that I am not a patient person but I think I have been pretty goddamn patient for a long time.  I'm pretty patient with my living sitatuation.  I'm pretty patient that Ro works ALL. THE. TIME.  I know I complain about it still.  Patience doesn't exist only in silence.  But I have accepted and try to make the best of a situation that truly makes me unhappy.  I have tried to regain my composure and focus over and over because I know it takes time to learn to speak, to make friends, to have a job, to feel settled down.  The proof is in the pudding.  The first 3 eventually started to come.  The last, I am still trying to be patient.

And then we have being on my own.  This has been the biggest challenge for me lately.  Ro has been working so much (like yesterday he worked from 8:30 am- 10 pm and he generally has only one day off per week which is always a Monday or a Tuesday, which of course are busy for me with classes).  I have always been a person who likes to spend time alone.  But I also like to have friends.  And even though yes, I've made a few friendships with people (like, you can count them on one hand but it's the hand of a guy who has lost 2 fingers), none of them really developed into something close and deep like I have with my best friends from home. 
With the exception of maybe one girl (Bia), I remain friendless.  I have had to try my best to fill my free time with activities for one.  Exercising.  Sitting on the beach drinking a coconut water.  Going to the movies.  Drinking wine.  Eating in a restaurant.  Going to a bar.  All fun activities!  Much better with a friend.  

So, I'm at a loss.  I feel unhappy and unsettled here, like I'm still a guest.  And I don't even know if JUST moving out on our own would even solve the problem.  I told Ro last night that I miss our old life.  Things were so good when we left.  We had a great apartment in a great location and we had great friends who were all in close proximity.  The one REALLY positive thing in my Brazilian life is teaching English.  I love it so much and I don't miss working at GoodLife Fitness at all.  

Maybe Rio is just not the city for me.  I'm not a beach girl. I'm an arts and entertainment girl.  I don't want to lose myself here but I feel like I'm slipping away...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rio International Film Festival

That's right - the RIFF is making headway in Rio between Sept 23 and Oct 7 with films playing all over the city, including Barra da Tijuca, much to my delight!  This year's focus country is Argentina because they are celebrating their bicentennial.  

You can access the site here and there is also an English link on there.

The Film Festival doesn't seem to be a huge city-wide event here, like it is in Toronto.  In Toronto, celebrities are in town, there are huge gala openings, and many people in the city attend at least one film or buy blocks of tickets.  Fun!!!

Here, I'm seeing a lot of signage but I'm not sure if people are really into it or not.  When I asked my MIL and SIL about it they didn't even know what it was, so....

I, for one, WILL be attending but first I have to wade through all of the films.  There are about 300 to choose from!  I would recommend picking by theatre ONLY because you'll probably drown in the sea and end up getting turned off.

Support the arts!  Go to the Film Festival!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Aaaaand I'm back

Well, blank page.  We meet again.

After a 3 week hiatus from writing (or reading) any blogs, I'm going to actively try to get a new one out there.  It's not going to be easy - actually lately the pressure to write has felt so high that it turned me off of blogging altogether.  I'm just saying.  Sometimes I need to take a moment and remember WHO I'm writing this for.


Now, I know it's naive - well, actually it's just plain stupid - to think that I'm writing this for myself knowing full well that people read it.  But the more lost I get in writing for other people, the more pressure I feel to keep turning out clever, funny, interesting blogs and then this turns into a job.  And I got a job.

Anyway, the whole point of starting a blog was to document my feelings and experiences in Brazil.  There.  I'm bringing it home.

To be honest, I am officially calling the last 3 weeks "The Three Weeks that I Hated Brazil and Wanted to Yell Right In People's Faces (In English) and Just Go Home Already" Period.  Yeah, that about sums up my feelings of the last 3 weeks.
Actually it's been quite a while since I've felt any real rage towards Brazil.  The beginning had a lot, a lot of frustration and not understanding things, culturally and language-wise.  Then there would be occasional bouts of rage that generally lasted a day or a weekend.  They usually fizzled out after some quality time talking to someone from home or with my Honey.  But the last 3 weeks have been one big giant rage.
I hate meeting new Brazilians during these periods because, like clockwork, they will undoubtedly ask me if I'm gostando de Brasil?  And my answer at that moment is, not really.  And then they are sad.  Hey, you asked.

Ok, I almost started to type out exactly what it is that I'm not liking but I am actively trying to get past these rage-y feelings and I felt them start to bubble up inside me as soon as I started to type.  So, I'm not going to share specifics but it's nothing that any of my fellow ex-pats haven't experienced at one point or another.  It's not a secret why I've been feeling frustration and loneliness.  In fact, I'm sure that it's pretty crystal clear.

ANYWAY.  Moving on.

There are certain things I've been doing to relax myself and cope with my emotions.  Here's my list of things I try to do when I'm feeling crappy.

1.  Get a weekly manicure/pedicure.  Find a place that you like.  Don't settle for a crappy place just because your Family says it's cheaper.  If your manicure is awesome and costs R$10 more, who f'ing cares.  And do it because YOU want to feel pretty and pampered, not because everyone else does it. (Even though they do)

2.  Work out.  Even though it might kill you when you are down in the dumps and you might complain the entire time, you'll feel better later.   I can't say I've been doing really well at point #2 lately so if you're not feeling it, go directly to point #3.  

3.  Eat.  Nothing some good chocolate can't cure. Or chips. Or baking cookies/brownies.  Or pizza.

4.  Drink.  Alcohol, that is.  Yeah yeah, so they say it's a depressant.  Shut up.  I'm depressed and I want to get drunk.

5.  Get out of the house and buy something.  Go on.  You know you'll feel better if you have some new candles for the bedroom, or that shirt/belt/television you can't afford.  Whatever thing you like to buy that always makes you feel better for the rest of the day, go and buy it.

6.  Sleep.  So you want to sleep until 4 or 5 pm?  I say, fine by me.  I realize that this option isn't available to everyone but if it's an option for you, go ahead and indulge.

7.  Download all of the seasons of *insert favourite show here* and watch them all.  In one day.  I am currently on Season 6 of Sex and the City.  Past favourites include How I Met Your Mother, The Office, Glee, Breaking Bad and Friends.

So while the items on my list of helpful coping mechanisms don't actually make you productive, healthy or get you out of your slump, they do just what they intend to do.  Help you cope.
Sometimes being social (especially because you have to speak Portuguese) is even worse.  Sometimes it's good.  Depends on how good your Portuguese is (or their English). 

But as well as I know myself, I know that this slumpy period will pass.  It's just taking a little longer this time.  For now, I'm going to implement a little #2 followed by a #7 which may be later followed by a little #3 and #4.  We'll see how I feel.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Things always get better!

I have spoken A LOT of Portuguese this weekend.  I'm drunk right now so I can't really go into a lot of detail, but not for lack of trying!!! 

Sunday night - GOD this 'weekend' (Sunday - Tuesday) feels like a weekend for me.  All of my Monday students cancelled because of Brazilian Independence Day today.  All of my Tuesday students as well!  But why doesn't anyone do anything for Independence Day here?!?!?!?!  Fireworks?  Barbeques?  Parties??  No???

Então, I spend the afternoon grocery shopping with minha sogra and partying with minha cunhada.  GOOD TIMES!  I'm glad I convinced my MIL to go shopping because I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't helped her, she wouldn't have gone. Food in house, check one.

My SIL invited me to a barbeque (not for Independence Day - just a coincidence) of a friend who I know so I went and ended up knowing a couple of others there (hey, what's this now? I know people in the neighbourhood??).  It was a good ol' caipirinha time there.

On Sunday night I went ALONE to a churrasco at my husband's Aunt's house.  Alone without my husband but with my family.  Afterwards the cousins went to Casa Rosa in Larangeiras.  That place was really fun.  And really fun going with some peope who I can actually consider my FAMILY.  I've never gone out with my cousins before so I feel priviledged that my 'new' family lives close and I can spend some time with them. 

I really wish I could be more specific right now but I'm more or less just reporting on what's new.  I really like reading Fiona's blog because she has articulated so much nicer the things that I felt (and still feel) about adjusting to life here. 

All I can say, people, is that it gets better if you want it to.  You just have to find the things you like (it's not always easy - it takes effort, sometimes a lot of effort and sometimes too much effort) and, like Rachel said, you can't be picky about your friends.  You may just find yourself spending time with people, though, who you never expected to be friends with.  It's kind of a fantastic thing, this living abroad. 

Sometimes I feel like I can't stand it anymore and sometimes I feel like I could live here forever.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

No Brazilian Wives Here!

So ever since University (where I took many a Women's Studies course) I've had a little issue with male/female traditional roles.  Combine with it my aggressive and non-defeatest attitude and you have what some may call a feminist. 
At this point, I feel like some of these old ideas of male and female differences are ancient and stupid.  Like, who thinks that it's the men who should work and the women who should clean and cook anymore?

Oh, everyone in Brazil y'say?  Oh.

Well, maybe not everyone.  And maybe not so 1930's like.  But definitely 1950's.  Brazilian ideals of male and female roles has stopped in about 1950. 
For example, my inherited family's matriarch (my MIL) said to me today with searing pride in her eyes "Viu??  Viu o Rodrigo passou as ropas ontem??" (My husband did some of the ironing the other day because I asked him if he could help me with it). 

What kind of threw me off about her ecstatic joy that her oldest son had done some of his own ironing (see this post re how people view the oldest son in Brazil) was that a) I asked him do it. So thanks for helping when I ask.  And b) has she ever once shown the same ecstatic joy when *I* do ALL of the ironing, folding and putting away??? When I cook a whole meal by myself??? When I do 4 loads of laundry in one day???  When I clean and wash the bedroom, bathroom and her room??  Does she go running to Ro saying "Viu??? Viu o que a Lindsey fez hoje???"

No.  No she does not.  Because that is expected of me.  Nevermind the fact that I am working a full time job as well.  Nevermind the fact that just because I'm home doesn't mean I'm doing nothing.  I'm planning for my classes.  I'm working too. 

But being a woman in Brazil means that you are responsible for feeding and cleaning up after your entire family while they work and relax. 

Let's clarify that I don't DISAGREE with this.  I just firmly believe that if we're both working, we're both sharing the housework.  Equally.  None of this woman stays home to do all of this shit and man goes out to work.  I am used to, and enjoy, being the main breadwinner or at the very least, an equal breadwinner.  

There is a lot of sexism and inequality present in Brazil still.  You can see it in the way many people treat and look at women (or totally ignore them as I've experienced more times than I can count).  It's not even something people are aware of.  Just the same way that sexism exists in our language (the fact that we always say "hey guys" and many other examples I'll just not get into).  Brazil is a feminine and masculine language.  It's something that just exists culturally and was created a very long time ago.  It takes work to change a habit.  A lot of people aren't even aware that there's a problem. 

I never felt like an inadequate women/wife until I moved to Brazil and saw the role of the wife here.  There is so much responsibility that falls on women here.  I didn't grow up like that and even though Ro is a forward thinking person (which came from living on his own for several years in another country) I can still see that he is used to and ok with this dynamic.  

Sorry to break it to you but I will never be a Brazilian wife. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More Life After Death

Death is sad for a lot of people.  I would even go so far as to say it's sad for most people.  It's always hard to say goodbye and let go of a loved one.  After someone dies, we mourn.  We collect the body, display it in a box openly for people to look at and say their final goodbyes, wish a speedy journey, etc etc according to whatever your beliefs may be.  

I have a bit of a different view.  I really don't enjoy looking at body of a deceased loved one.  It doesn't make me feel better or worse.  In fact, I don't like my final memory of that person to be an empty body which no longer even resembles all that a person was in life - alive.  While death is sad for me, I don't cry for the passed family member.  I cry for my family.  To see everyone so sad, to be surrounded by that sadness - that is what is more heartbreaking for me.

I can accept death.  I do believe in an afterlife.  I believe in spiritual energy and believe that it exists beyond our physical bodies.  While I am not a religious person by any means, I feel comforted by the fact that after we die, we will be reincarnated again to experience more challenges in the journey of perfecting our souls.

Why all of this death talk?... you may wonder.  Ro's grandfather passed away on Thursday.  To my surprise, they have the funeral the next day here (In Canada it is usually no less than 3 days later because of all the arrangements to make).  The Brazilian 'wake' means that family members stay with the body the entire day before the funeral.  It was explained to me that in Catholic tradition they used to stay with the body for 48 hours to make sure that the person had really died and wouldn't rise out of a 'fake' death confused and alone. 

Morbid? Yes, but it's been known to happen.

The one thing I liked about the Brazilian traditions was that you could go and spend time with the body by yourself and could say what you wanted, or pray, or just be with the person privately.  Something that has always made me uncomfortable about North American traditions was standing up at the front of a crowded room with your whole family, looking at the dead person, touching him/her, crying... it never felt normal or natural to me.  I always think "this isn't even them anymore".  It's like a projection or something.  I'm not into the whole open casket theory.

Something they don't do here that I like about North American funerals is close the casket and have a 'funeral'.  People get up and speak about the person who has passed.  They talk about nice memories.  Good things the person did in life.  What we will remember them for.  It's nice because you learn things, special things, that you may not have known.  It makes everyone feel a little bit of happiness to have known that person.

One thing that remained the same, however, was family.  There is nothing like death to bring a family close together.  Everyone needs each other, isn't shy to cry in front of one another, no one is afraid to hug, to give comfort, to offer food, or any other comforts... It was time for us to all to stop and be together.
I actually think that on a personal "family" level, it was a good ledge for our immediate l'il family to communicate and catch up - something we don't do even living in the same house.  It kind of erased any and all petty feelings or arguments that were possibly being harboured and gave us a clean slate. 

So, because they didn't do it officially, I feel the need to give a little eulogy for Ro's grandfather.

Although I only knew him for a short time, he was one of the most welcoming, warmest people I met here in Brazil.  From the first moment I called him '' and he treated me like a granddaughter.  He complimented me.  He impressed me by speaking all of the English that he remembered as a once young man who could speak another language.  I felt comfortable speaking to him in Portuguese, even in the beginning when I was scared to speak to anyone else.
From the handful of times we spent together, I learned things about him.  He laughed at everything.  Although I have heard that in the past his laugh could have been heard from 7 floors down, all the way down the street, it was now just a soft chuckle but still ever present.  I learned that he loved samba music.  He loved camping.  I learned that he had loved his wife immensely.  The kind of love we all want to have.  I knew how much he missed her. 
I knew that he couldn't have been very comfortable but he never complained.  We watched the Canadian winter Olympics together and he pointed out every time a Canadian athlete was competing.  He was thoughtful and considerate. 
He is the grandfather that I never had in my adult life (my only living grandfather passed away when I was young - maybe 10 or 11 years old).  I know what an impact he made on Ro's life and from speaking with family and friends on Friday, I know what an impact he made on their lives as well.  "He was just the best" was the most eloquent and to-the-point comment I heard said.
I wish I could have known him for longer but I feel grateful to have had him in my life at all.
Vai com Deus Vô... te amamos para sempre
Christmas time at Vô's

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturdays & Teaching

Saturdays are good.  Always have been, always will be.

This morning I woke up for my Saturday morning student, a guy who likes his classes out on the balcony with a view overlooking the Ocean.  Good stuff.  It's a great complex he lives in and one I'm seriously looking into renting myself.

I love teaching this way.  I believe I really lucked out when it came to getting good work with a great school(s).  The type of teaching I do is exactly what I wanted.  I looked into a lot of different options (and all of the schools for sure - Ibeu, Wizard, CCAA, CNA and the list goes on) but when I found New Start I knew that I hit the jackpot (at least in terms of job satisfaction (well, and pay)).

The school gets students who want English classes at their place of business.  The school then has a teacher travel to their work to teach them a private class (which is, in my case, never more than 2 students).  I love this method for a few reasons.
1. In some cases, the student buys a reputable book from the school and our classes are based on the workbook topics.  In the case a student doesn't buy a book, I can teach whatever I want/the student wants.  Flexibility mixed with structure.

2. I get the opportunity to see more of the city.  I have students in Barra da Tijuca, Ipanema, Flamengo and Centro so I get a lot of practice taking the bus, communicating on my own, and walking around these parts of the city.  Gets me out of the house.

3. I can also include my own private students along with the school's students.  The pay of the school is very good compared to that of schools like Ibeu and the aforementioned.  Not even comparing, the pay is very good.  The school is guaranteed income for me, they GIVE me students, and when I find other students on my own I just add those to the guarantee.  Allows me to have a good handle on my monthly income.  

4. I absolutely LOVE teaching.  I love meeting new students, finding out why they want to learn English and then structuring classes around their needs.  I love to see them improve and see that they are understanding more of what I say.  (on that note, I teach levels from true beginner to upper intermediate - if you speak Portuguese this will obviously help you take on more lower level students).  Amazing job satisfaction!!

Yeah, teaching English is damn awesome.  I've only been teaching for the last 3 months and I'm up to about 20 hours per week + 15-20 hours of planning/travel time.  Some of those are school hours, some are private.  Just to share, in case anyone is curious about how much money you could expect through teaching, I am making around R$2500 per month (about CA$1500).  It's not a lot in North American standards but the beautiful part?  I am not stressed.  At all.  I love every minute of it and I feel like I'm being paid to do something I would do for free (shh just don't tell my students that).  

Anyway, this Saturday turned out to be a lovely day for reflecting on everything that's going well.  As I sat at the padaria eating a misto quente and drinking fresh suco de laranga, I thought 'yeah, I like this... this'll do'.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Family Ties

My family (and family in law) is something I don't like to write about very much here.  I'm sure you all understand, it's not really an appropriate outlet for things that are so important. 

I will share, however, some good things.  All of you out there in bloggy land who are married to or are in a committed relationship with a foreigner understand to great degree how challenging it can be to have in-laws who don't speak the same language - literally and metaphorically.  This was one of my biggest fears moving to Brazil and so it isn't overly shocking how true it's proven to be. 

It's really important to me to have a good relationship with my in-laws.  For one thing, we all live together (that's mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, husband, myself, one cat and one dog in a 3 bedroom apartment). 

As if that weren't challenging enough, we are constantly faced with communication difficulties.  I was terrified to be alone with my in-laws without my husband for about the first 4 months or so of living here.

Over time, as my Portuguese began to improve, I was able to spend time alone with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law (my father-in-law travels a lot with work and so there hasn't been the same opportunity to spend time with him).  Plus, based on my own personal family dynamic (growing up with my mom and sister) it's extra important and extra special for me to develop good relationships/friendships with my female in-laws. 

Yes, they have methods and rationals that I don't always understand.  Ro's mom really REALLY loves Ro, which can sometimes be difficult for me (maybe it's jealousy really - I'm used to be smothered with love from my own mom!)  Sometimes I believe this is a cultural thing - the oldest son in the household is always praised and adored. 

Anyway, every single experience has helped me get to know Ro's family better. 

Today it was just Ro's mom and I in the house.  Although we still don't have the closest relationship, I really try to show her that I care so I helped her clean the house.  I mopped and vacuumed her room and my own.  Later, this evening, I went to buy beer so we could drink a beer and watch the novela together. 

We spent time chatting a little, laughing at Nina playing, drinking our beers.  Simple conversation but definitely much more complex than we could say 8 months ago!  It's good.  I can live with this relationship.  At the very least, we've all learned to sit comfortably together in silence. 

Anyone else have foreign in-law experiences to share? Language challenges? Cultural barriers? 
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