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? 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ruffles Don't Taste the Same in Rio

 It's true, folks.  They don't.  For any of you hoping to find the same comfort snacks you go to at home in North America/Europe/GB, look again.  Or stock up. 

First, I'm a chip fan.  Well, I'm also a big chocolate fan.  But I often crave chips.  Salty, original Ruffles to be exact.  While, YES they do have Ruffles here (original as well as Steak flavour or cream cheese???) (oh and P.S. they pronounce them HUFFLES - beware when asking) they just don't taste the same!  Not quite as salty or the potato is different.  I can't put my finger on it exactly.  But I have discovered a LOVELY alternative to my adored Huffles. 

Sencacoes!  They are the Brazilian equivalent of Lays but are much saltier and therefore much more delicious.  Ya baby. 

Another issue I have is with the size of chocolate bars here.  In Brazil, chocolate bars are only sold in HALLOWE'EN CANDY size.  This is ridiculous frankly.  When I decide I want chocolate, I am committing.  Committing to the caloric intake and committing to the amount of chocolate I want in my belly.  This 75 calories a bar stuff, well, it just isn't enough.  But then again, when I think about it, I'm satisfied after eating one.  And it's pretty ridiculous that they sell KING size chocolate bars in Canada.  So fine, Brazil.  You can have this one.

Final gripe about snacks in Brazil is COOKIES.  Brazil has never seen a cookie.  This is what Brazil thinks is a cookie.  

Your eyes do not deceive you.  They are all small, hard and perfect circles.  Often filled with an icing in the middle.  They don't even have Oreo!!!  Oh sorry, they have 'Negresco.'  Not Oreo.  If you're gonna do small hard and perfect circles, at least make it an Oreo.  The only one here that is a square shape is Passa Tempo which I will vouch for because Passa Tempo is daaaaaaamn good. 

But where are the Christie chocolate chip cookies?  Oreos?  Mrs. Fields softies?

Bah!  I'm going to eat my 75 calorie Twix (that and Snickers are the only American chocolate bars you'll find!)


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Going out in Rio

So lately I've been going through this drinking phase where I find myself drinking and getting drunk about 2-3 times a week.  This is more than I normally drink (especially to the point of drunk) but it has to do with my new-found obsession desire to have a social life.  I've always enjoyed drinking - love wine, beer, mixed drinks ... I'm not picky.  It's just that I'm finding the only sure way of making friends is
a) in the bar, and
b) whilst drinking

I've mentioned going out a few times to this Irish Bar in Ipanema that is pretty awesome. I mean, yes it's half-filled with tourists but they speak English! The upside is, obviously, that I can hang out, get wasted have some beers and socialize in English. The downside is that they are mostly all here temporarily (leaving in a month, leaving in a week, leaving tomorrow).

I suppose this is the permanent downside to being a foreigner in another country. If you make friends with other foreigners, it's almost always a temporary friendship. Somebody will leave someday.

But while that all sounds depressing, it's been the most amazing thing for my overall level of happiness here lately. I've met quite a few temporary friends just by going to the bar and talking to people. Even if it doesn't go further than that, at least I feel reassured by the fact that I AM still sociable and I DON'T just stay home with Ro all the time (as my sister-in-law so lovingly pointed out - I will also mention that she shared her opinions without being asked for them (that good ol' Brazilian Honesty) and it was actually said as more of a criticism. I really need to go out and 'talk' to people and make friends because it's not 'healthy' to stay at home so much).  I digress.  That's a whole other blog.

Anyway!  I've also made friends with a couple guys from my second school who are really nice people. Always up for some beers, some music and general hanging out. So, tonight, I am going to meet up with them in Lapa for some drinking and samba and whatever!

Good times.  Yes, good times.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Just trying to kill some time in the Public Library

So, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I come all the way down to Zona Sul to teach some students.  It's about an hour and a half to two hour bus ride.  In case that sounded bitter in any way, it's not.  I actually love having a reason to come down here... it's far enough that I can't come just for a Sunday stroll.
The only crappy thing about my Tuesday/Thursday combo is that I have a huge gap of time between 2 and 6pm where I literally (figuratively) have to kill time until my last class and basically I have to try not to spend money. 

My last class is actually in Centro and on the way there I always pass the Biblioteca Nacional.  It's a really beautiful building and and I always think 'what better way to spend some free time than preparing for a class in an awesome library.' (Maybe you can think of other better ways actually... but this is pretty good).  I just have never made it inside yet.

Today my last morning class canceled so I actually had between 1 and 6pm to kill (ack) so I decided to meander on into the library for the first time.

Can someone tell me why getting into the library is like trying to get into prison????  It's like they're trying to keep the books from escaping.  And not only that, but you're actually not even allowed to ACCESS any books unless you know exactly what you're looking for.  I Just want to look at the damn books!  Just want to peruuuuuse the shelves.  Is that really such a problem at the LIBRARY?  Well, apparently here, it is. 

Before I made it through the threshold though, I managed to figure out that I needed a key to enter the library.  This led me to a verrrrrry tiny locker where I was advised to leave my enormous backpack and bring in only paper and a pencil.  I grabbed a pen, thinking 'pen, pencil, what's the diff?'.  I was STOPPED though by the huge prison guard blocking the entrance who said "PENCILS ONLY."


Then I scanned my visitor's badge and was asked to hand over my notebook for the other prison guard to skim through it for...??  Whatever test I was going through, I passed because I was allowed to enter into one room and one room only.  This room: 

A huge private school study hall circa 1950. 

And why are there no books??  Only drawers and drawers of index cards?!  Huh?  Who uses the index card system??

Anyway, regardless of the super tight entrance system and old school filing system (which is actually pretty cool) this library is beautiful.  The building itself makes me stop to look every time I pass by.  The huge marble double staircase in the entrance is nothing less than just grand.  Another time I will pay the R$2 and get the full tour.  But for now, I sit here and write this blog the old fashioned way - pencil and paper in hand....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

When It Rains, It Stinks

It´s rainy today.  Actually, it´s been rainy for the past two days.  The worst thing about the rain is the stink in the city.  There is a distinct ´wet human´ smell that I can smell as it walks towards me, from 5 meters away.  The thing is, on a regular day the 'poor unfortunate souls' spread out on the street, but when it starts to rain, they naturally take shelter.  So then there are 5 super stinky people all standing together at the top of the metro, under the roof of the office building, or blocking the sidewalk, inside the elevator, and on the metro.  I have started to anticipate when the stink starts and am able to inhale deeply right at the moment of contact, hold it, hold it, hold it and slowly exhale for a good 5 meters past the smell. 

Yeah, so, it stinks is what I´m trying to say. 

The other thing about the rain, which is pretty consistent with most cities (but maybe a little more here) is how the city slows down to HALF the normal slow speed.  Why is there a completely stopped traffic jam at 10:30 in the morning on the way to Zona Sul?  Because there is the threat of rain!  I swear, these Carioca´s slow down because it´s a little windy out.  Add to it the fact that I'm already late (all the time), so this stresses me out just a lil.   Actually, the only ones who DON'T slow down (and coincidentally the only ones who probably should slow down during rain) are BUSES.  Actually, buses probably speed up in the rain, taking their already alarming speed up to near death experience/could drive off the road and flip the entire bus speed.

Did I mention I saw a bus yesterday that had driven off the road?  Yeah, it was definitely in the ditch.  I saw this from the window of the bus I was on which was THE SAME ROUTE!

Anyway, enjoy the rain!
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