Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quicky update

Well, either I don't have too much to share or I'm not really in the mood to write this blog right now.  I'm going to write it anyway, mainly because I woke up in a bad mood today and combined with having cramps, bloating and muscle pain, Im bored.
I always kind of wonder how I can just wake up already in a bad mood.  Clearly nothing happened - it's just my hormonal imbalance showing up for the party.  And well, I'm not in a very bad mood - I'm just feeling impatient and irritated.
So, just a little update into my life right now - the first week back from our trip was not good.  For both of us, but I'm only speaking for myself right now.  I was feeling completely useless, with no purpose in life, wondering what we were even doing here in the first place?  It's just that, Ro and I are used to having responsibility.  I managed a fitness club before coming here and he managed an office building.  We lived in a condo close to the lake in downtown Toronto.  We exercised everyday (at least tried to), we cooked our own meals, we paid our cable, cell phone, internet, hydro, grocery bills with our hard earned cash.  At night, we sat down in front our TV in the living room eating dinner and watching whatever we liked.  We really like working, making money and being able to support ourselves and live comfortably.
We don't have any of that now.
While it may seem like a dream to some (the taking 6 months off of work, not having to pay rent, cook for ourselves, clean our own bathroom etc.), it's causing a little cabin fever and lack-of-anything-to-do anxiety.  That and we're out of money.

Obviously, in the beginning, it was pretty sweet because frankly we were tired.  We had all of this responsibility but we were really overworked.  Ro's family has been nothing but supportive of us, financially and otherwise.  We're just ready to get back into a routine. 

So, we started looking for jobs immediately because that's the number one thing that will give us our financial freedom - having an income.  My dream, since I was in university, has been to teach English abroad.  I've never really had another set, established dream like this so THIS IS WHAT I'M GOING TO DO.  That, and I don't really have another option anyway hehehe.  Anyway!  Applying for a job has been beneficial for me in a few ways - first, it forced me to speak in Portuguese over the phone.  Second, I was able to learn my address and postal code!  (like a baby)  Third, it has given me something to focus on and get my brain back in action (but c'mon, you know it never stops ;))
So, with my efforts I was able to snag two interviews.  One with a school called New Start which caters to Business English specifically.  They also pay more than most of the other schools.  The other school I had an interview with is Wizard, a school I see around pretty often.

The lady at New Start was a little hesitant because I only have a TESL certificate and she is used to hiring people with CELTA (which is more intensive and longer).  BUT (and this is the only benefit I can foresee to me living in Recreio, aka NOT where foreigners live) because I live in the far west end of Rio and she needs someone out here, she agreed to give me a try.  I did a day of training with her and she gave me 3 classes to teach (the same group).  After the 3, she is going to get their opinion and if they like me, she is going to hire me on for that class!  YAY!
The first class was this past Monday and oh my god.  Yes, I have the TESL cert. but I did it seriously 5 years ago.  I remember nothing.  I literally planned for this class (on my own) for 10 hours.  I mean, I totally had to catch up on grammar, verb tenses and parts of speech, otherwise known as the basics.  Then I planned the lesson (almost word for word, haha, what can I say, I like to be prepared).  When I got there, only one guy was actually at work that day so it ended up being a one-to-one which was ok anyway because I was able to relax a little.  His English is intermediate/advanced so that certainly made it a lot easier.  Anyway!  It went pretty well I thought!  I definitely need to work on my explanations and timing but I think at least that I made a good impression.

Oh, and the Wizard interview?  How about halfway through the woman said,
"Ok, now we're going to see how your Portuguese is and do the rest of the interview in Portuguese."

Seriously?  Thanks for the heads up.  I kind of stumbled through but it wasn't so bad... let's say it wasn't a train wreck.  Anyway, I should be hearing from them this week!

So yay so far for some progress.  The next big exciting news is that my mom and sister are coming to visit on Saturday!!  I'm really excited to see them and our families will be meeting for the first time!  A little nervous about the communication, but at the same time I'm not.  I made it through and barely spoke anything in the beginning.  Ro is a very good translator and now I can help too.  So, if I have time, I will update to let you know how it's going.

Until then, that is my update!  Ohhhh and Nina is getting so big!  God, she's sooooo long!  I think she's going to be the longest cat in the world.  Here are some cuuuuuute pics to keep you interested...

Haha sleeping with her tongue out!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Backpacking in South America - Curitiba

Oh man, a lot has been going on since we got back from our trip!  First of all, I will fill you all in on the last few days of our trip which was the bus ride to Curitiba and the train ride to Morretes.  (This train ride is supposedly the most beautiful train ride you can take in Brazil and its main purpose is to take tourists either to Morretes or further on to Paranagua)

So, after a really nice day in Sao Francisco, we caught the bus early in the morning to Curitiba.  The city itself was pretty nice and we stayed in probably the nicest hotel there of the whole trip!  The room was huge with a small kitchen + stocked fridge, balcony, double bed and single bed, TV, air con - the whole works!  The only downside to being in Curitiba this weekend was that it was Easter and pretty much everything was closed.  We spent Friday afternoon and evening watching streamed clips of Russel Peters and a few English shows we found on the TV.  Our only option for eating was in the mall across the street (which, unbeknownst to us, we would be eating EVERY meal in for the entire weekend).
The next day was one of my most anticipated events of the whole trip.  The Train Ride.  We smartly bought our train tickets the day we arrived in Curitiba, as well as our bus ticket back.  What a good thing we did because we actually lined up to try and change our ticket time once we got to Morretes and were informed that all of the bus times were sold out.  Phew!
So the train ride - I was undecided whether or not we should buy the regular trem ticket (which was already about R$100 each) or the Litorina train (which is the tourist train and 3x the price).  Actually, while I may have been undecided, Ro was not at all.  We took the trem.
Just like on the Litorina, you get a snack box, and unlimited beer and pops and you also get a service attendant.  So for the price, in terms of services, I think the trem is just as good.  The only difference that I can see being plausible is that there are a good, healthy, LACK of spoiled Brazilian children on the Litorina.  Because they are all on the trem.  Oh. My. God.  I'm serious, when your child is clearly VERY fat, STOP FEEDING IT MORE JUNK FOOD!!!!!!!!!!!
The kids who sat in front of us (and their mother) were just about the biggest folgados I have ever seen.  Seeming to have no sense of awareness that there were other passengers on the train, these kids, actually more the mother, chose to take up not just the two benches they had paid for, but four benches, on both sides of the train, which meant they were constantly walking back and forth back and forth with the mother yelling at the daughter to "stop putting your head outside the train!!" basically so she could put her own head outside the train.  The mother was taking picture after picture of nothingness, as far as I could see.  The very fat boy child drank, I think, at least 4 regular cokes in a 3 hour trip PLUS ate his entire snack box (which consisted of at least 6 different types of snack) PLUS asked for another snack box and ate that too.  Every time he started unwrapping another silvery-crinkle wrapper, Ro and I stared at him muttering "don't do it, don't do it, I swear to god you'll regret it when you're 25 and you're still a virgin DON'T DO IT!"   GOD.  It was just too many kids screaming.  Every time the train went through a tunnel it was about 25 kids and their parents screaming 'wooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
After like the 10th time of this happening, Ro articulately stated "I swear I'm gonna kill a kid."
Oh, I didn't even mention the 4 year old-ish boy sitting opposite and a little behind us who was hanging off the back of the bench of the poor woman sitting directly across from us.  He was having the time of his life holding on at the top while kicking his way up the back of the seat.  The woman was on the train alone and I think if we had all made eye contact and nodded there might have been some Kung Fu Karate busted out.  To try and help her out I started looking back at the kid (very discreetly, from behind Ro, obviously so his parents couldn't see me) and started opening my eyes really really big at the kid, y'know, just to freak him out.  Then he would stop for a second, captivated and disturbed by the freaky stranger staring at him and then I would start shaking my head with a serious expression. NO.  No boy, don't. do. that.... very slowly.  Eyes still wide.  Mouthing the words "PARA".    hhahahahahahahaha Ro was like "Lindsey, stop scaring the children".  Oh man.  Good times.
So anyway, oh yeah, the train.  The thing I waited 3 whole weeks to go on.  Well, we saw some trees, saw some canopies, saw some rivers, saw some villages.  It was alright.  I felt the train spent more time in tight spaces where you couldn't really see anything rather than in these big magnificent spaces where the view was spectacular.  Or maybe it was just the kids ruining the experience for me.  Hard to say.  Then we got to Morretes which was also just alright.  We did get to eat the local dish called barreado which is beef that is cooked in a clay pot for about 24 hours, which makes it like pulled beef.  Then you mix some farinha de mandioca (cassava flour) with the beef until it's kind of sticky, add the beef juice, some rice and slice some banana on top.  It was really good but REALLY REALLY heavy.  We were dying for a nap when we finished.  Actually, we were so lazy, tired and bored for the rest of the day, Ro suggested we literally count how many steps it would be to the bus terminal.  Like, toe to heel count.  Hahaha.  SO BORED.
The next day we spent the day site-seeing in Curitiba, which is a pretty decent sized city.  We went to the Oscar Niemeyer museum (the guy who built a lot of the cool, funky buildings in Brazil and who designed the capital city's architecture) and after went to the Polish historical village.  Then, we went in search of a churrascaria so we could eat the barbeque that the South of Brazil is famous for but no place was open.  Our last meal ended up being some good ol' reliable McDonalds and Burger King, which we'd been talking about wanting the entire trip.

And so concludes our 3 week long trip to Argentina and the south of Brazil.  There are so many more places that we want to go - the good news is that my mom and sister are coming to visit in one week!!!!! Yayyyy!!!  During those 2 weeks we're going to get a really good look at Rio and will also be able to go visit Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais!!  It's one of the oldest colonial cities, still in tact.

Since this update is so long I'm going to leave a real update for the next day or two - to give you a sneak preview though: I am teaching my first English class tomorrow evening!!!  It's just a trial run, I have 3 trial classes, but if it goes well I'll be hired!!  Woooo hooooo!!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Backpacking in South America - Sao Fransciso do Sul

Phew!! I really feel like I've been struggling to keep up with the bloggin lately - partly due to the fact that this week we've been bouncing to different places almost everyday it feels.  That and our lodging hasn't included Wi-Fi since we got back to Brazil.

On Wednesday evening we left Porto Alegre (after a particularly uneventful time there - combination of us getting tired and of not much to see there).  We took a 9 hour overnight Pluma Bus ride to Joinville, where we would be catching a connection to Sao Fransico do Sul.  Well, little did we know we would fear for our lives ALL NIGHT LONG.  Ahhhh just thinking about it is giving me anxiety. 

Case In Point:
1.  All of you ex-pats (and anyone who had been to Brazil) out there know how TERRIFYING it is to be a passenger of any moving vehicle in Brazil.  All cars, busses, taxis, motos etc. drive at an alarming speed, where none of the typical North American "rules of the road" are in effect.  This is especially dangerous and terrifying in bus, I find, where you can feel the weight of the bus moving with the jerk of the brake, or the swerve of the cutting off of the driver next to you. 

2.  We generally prefer to sit at the front of the bus so we can watch the road (and pretend we're watching a movie, tee hee).  We are used to taking the double decker bus where the seats are right against the window.  This bus, however, was only one level and we sat in the seats that are on the same side as the door.  While there is a window there, the curtains were on the other side disallowing us access to them.  And they stayed closed the whole trip.  Actually, the whole bus was encased in curtains so we were like trapped little people in a big bus coffin.  Maybe that's sounding a little too morbid.  Well, to you I say "you weren't on that bus!"

Try applying these anomalies to our bus ride and I give you the coach bus from hell where all through the night the driver drives WELL over the speed limit on particularly small, rough, patchy roads and we have no idea what is going on out there and you will have us gripping our armrests, desperately trying to see a little of what is going on, with wide open bloodshot eyes.  For 9 hours.

At least I was able to drift off to sleep a little but I was awoken more than once in panicked state when the bus definitely caught AIR from flying over huge holes in the road.
In Ro's words: "I didn't know we were going on the bus from 'Speed'" 
Picture the moment where the Bomb-On-Bus bus flies in slow motion (up??) over the enormous 50 foot gap in the highway.  I am picturing it now and I am laughing. Hahaha. 
That night I actually pictured us crashing into a lamppost with disasterous results. 

ANYWAY.  We arrived alive, although exhausted, to catch our bus to Sao Francisco do Sul (which was an hour late arriving) and after another 1.5 hours en route made it to the lovely little beach town!!  It was really a great place to end such a long uncomfortable trip (I didn't mention that this bus was just a regular coach bus with nowhere to put your feet and no meal either - god, we are so spoiled after taking the buses in Argentina!!)
We found a modest, comfortable hotel with an ocean view (oooooh!) and decided that we would change into our suits and hit the beach for the day!  It was a really relaxing day by the water, not busy at all, the water was warm (well the top was warm, the bottom was strangely freezing), the sun was hot!  Later, we went for a little walk down the beach and around a bend where we found a SWARM of bees blocking the entire road.  Have you ever seen a full swarm of bees?  They are not friendly looking.  And Ro made me walk through them!!!!!!!!!!  An old man on the side of the road told us nao mexe com elas e elas nao vai te morde which means don't mess with them and they won't bite you.  Which I thought, well obviously they won't bite but they WILL sting!  hehehe, are you laughing my Ex-pat friends?
Anyway, they didn't bite or sting us and we carried on our merry way.  We found this stairway that led us up a big hill and gave us a fantastic view of the area and of the sun shining on the water.  It was really peaceful and relaxing after our particularly strenuous night.  We topped off the night with a delicious savoury crepe on a stick and churros for desert before falling asleep at 8 pm!! 

This morning we caught an early bus back towards Curitiba which is where we are now!  It's Good Friday and everything is closed so there isn't much to report yet but tomorrow we are taking the famous train ride to Morretes (although we opted for the non-tourist train and will let you know if it is as wonderful as we hear the tourist train is!).  Until then... don't take any overnight busses with Pluma!

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