Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It's Mah Birfday!

Today my husband woke me up at 7am to a really beautiful breakfast-in-bed of eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice and coffee!  He has to work today so we did an extra early celebration. 
A little dark out but some editing brightened that up!

Today is the first day I think I've ever spent my birthday alone and I have to say, I am LOVING this day.  After that great start, I read a little and then went back to sleep with my two lovely cats and my new birthday present. 

Later in the day, we did some yoga together.

And now I'm going to ride my bike to teach the one class I have to teach!  Such a simple day but I've been feeling SO. MUCH. LOVE! 

And now The Beatles will sing me Happy Birthday :-)

Monday, December 26, 2011

It's Boxing Day! But where are all the boxes?

I can't figure out what to do with my day today.  In Canada (as in the UK), today is Boxing Day.  That means Holiday.  That means giant sales.  That means more family time, ultimately making Christmas a 3-day long event, which is followed on the 27th by my birthday and the 31st by New Years. 

This week is otherwise known as a giant holiday week where I do as much eating and as little working as possible.  So why'd I go to work today???? 

Right.  Because I'm in Brazil. 

Working on December 26 just feels wrong!! It makes the Christmas holiday feel incomplete somehow!  (I'm whining for nothing - I only actually had one student today, but my HUSBAND has to work and I'm a little lonely without him here) 

So, it doesn't really feel like Monday OR Boxing Day, but this weekend happily felt like Christmas for me.  December 24th is the Big Day in Brazil, where everyone gathers together (at my Aunt's house in our case) to eat a TON of food, drink a LOT, and wait for midnight.  At midnight everyone shouts Feliz Natal! Feliz Natal! and runs around hugging and kissing and smiling and laughing.  Then, even without children there to announce it Tom, someone inevitably shouts Amigo Oculto!! which is the Brazilian version of Secret Santa. 

My Christmas sounds a lot like Tom's actually, I swear we are part of different families!

Well, as Tom explained, the game in Brazil is to describe your secret friend in a tricky way and make the others guess who you have.  I try to distract myself while waiting for my name to be called because when it inevitably is, that means two things:
1.You have to gratefully accept your gift (in Portuguese)
and 2. You have to describe your secret friend in a funny and clever way (in Portuguese). 

Luckily for me, just the way I speak Portuguese is funny enough for my family so it's usually not toooo much effort, apart from a little embarrassment (but I'm used to that by now)!  Just to be sure, I practiced my speech for about a week.  All four sentences of it.  It turned out great.

 This year we also celebrated with my immediate family "Canadian Style" on Christmas Morning.  Laura brought stockings for me on her trip here last month, so everyone had a full stocking to open and after we opened up all the gifts to each other.  I got the feeling that everyone liked my family's tradition of opening presents one person at a time, from youngest to oldest.

Only a few tears from me this year, on Christmas Eve morning!  As soon as the sweet Carribbean sound of Boney-M's "Mary's Boy Child" started up, I couldn't control them.  Listen to it and I dare you not to cry.  Haha.  Love that album!  I hope everyone had a nice holiday!

Friday, December 23, 2011

How will you be spending YOUR Christmas?

Ahhh... and so ends my crazy week from hell.  I guess it wasn't really that bad - I just lack the vocabulary to describe it any other more creative way.  I'mma tired.

Since most of my students are taking the last week of December off, I smushed them all into the first couple of weeks of this month so I wouldn't lose the money they would stay consistent.  Word to the wise, Teachers.  You should always insist on rescheduling (by not giving an option!) when there is a holiday.  "Oh, it's a holiday?  Well let's do that class the Wednesday before, then."  FECHADO!

Joking aside, it really is better for your students to stay consistent.

The end of the teaching week means that Christmas has arrived!!!  My first Christmas here was, well, shitty.  We had just arrived in Brazil and I couldn't get over a Christmas with palm trees, celebrated on December 24, with an Amigo Oculto (Secret Santa) gift exchange ONLY, and rice served with my turkey.  I couldn't accept that I was drinking beer, sweating my butt off in shorts and a tank top, and listening to Christmas carols in Portuguese.  It wasn't fair that there was no Santa, no stockings, and no snow.  

I thought, "This is NOT Christmas.  These people don't even know what Christmas is."

Then last year, I went home last-minute because I couldn't handle the thought of another unfamiliar and lonely Christmas.  But my husband couldn't come with me.  And the normal location of our Christmas changed due to the death of my uncle.  So Christmas at 'home' wasn't like any Christmas I as used to, aside from the snow, stockings and Santa (and my wonderful family, of course!).

But it was then that I realized that Christmas could, and would, be different now that I was married, had gained a family, lost some family and shared my life with someone else (and in another country to boot!).  It was a good opportunity to start new traditions and create 'our own' traditions (I'm pretty big on traditions).

This year my therapist really brought it home for me by explaining that Christmas, for many people, is the biggest event of the year because it's the time that we like to 'reflect and connect'.  It's a time to look inside ourselves, evaluate our years, and connect with all the most important people in our lives.  When it's 1000 degrees outside, it's not so easy to come by that 'warm, cozy' feeling - instead, you have more of that 'sweltering, crazy' feeling.  But despite the haze of heat, we foreigners have to summon the 'feeling' of Christmas and re-create it in way that lets us tap into the real reason we love this holiday.  Food, Family and the Joy of Sharing, Giving, and Receiving.  And that can be done just about anywhere!

My advice if you're feeling sad this Christmas?  Try to repeat at least one of the most important traditions you and your family have shared in the past.  Mine is stockings on Christmas morning and opening our gifts one gift and one person at a time.  We're also going to make North American Breakfast on Christmas morning.

But we're also going to have Brazilian Christmas on the 24th!  The key is to combine the best of both worlds and create new traditions that make everyone remember the reason for the season!  (P.S. This is the time of year my Brazilian sappiness really comes out!)
Christmas just isn't Christmas without some cats wearing Santa hats...

So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or whatever tradition it is that you like to celebrate!  Here in Brazil, we'll be opening stockings on Christmas morning and going to the beach in the afternoon!  It's a crazy life...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bonding Time with Friends: A Story of Waxing, Beers, and Haircuts

There is nothing quite like the value of friendship.  Especially when you are a Stranger in a Strange Land.  (YES!  You don't know how happy I am to make that reference for myself, finally!)

Maybe you've been wondering, "How can I bring my friendships closer?  How can we have a more intimate relationship with my girlfriends?"  The answer is:  Waxing.
Girls waxing their crotches together is a speedy and reliable way to bring you to a level of comfort and  intimacy you never thought possible.  I've referenced other intimate waxing experiences in the past *ahem, watched Laura get a Brazilian, ahem* so you can trust me that I'm experienced in this field.  

Haha!  Waxing neither feels nor looks ANYTHING like this!
Just the nature of the activity demands that you discuss your crotches in detail with each other.  Details you'd probably be embarrassed to share in any other circumstance (but this is Brazil and Brazilians are notorious for being insanely comfortable talking about and showing off their bodies, so you join the party).

It's extra special when two of your party are getting the wax for the very first time, ever.  It's total unknown territory, and the idea of a stranger putting her hands all over an area which in the past has strictly been reserved for yourself, your partner, and your doctor is a little unnerving and guaranteed to bring you closer to your friends (physically closer, out of pure terror).

Then when one friend says, "This comes without the anus, right?"
and you say, "Oh no, this one comes with the anus waxed"
and she says, "No!! I don't want to wax my anus!!"
and you say, "Yes you do.  You definitely want to wax your anus.  She'll have the Virilha Total WITH the anus waxed, please."

Well, it goes without saying that you've now discussed waxing your friends' anus and therefore you are now, officially, closer than ever. 

The anus in question come up again later as you're, as gently as possible, trying to coach your friends through the waxing process.

"Then she will tell you to vira and segura seu bum bum".
"We have to turn over and hold our asses open to wax the anus?!?!?!??!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!"
(Exclamations NOT an exaggeration!!!!!!!!)
"Yes, you will need to hold the cheeks to help her out."
"Do we have to get on all fours???????" (this one made us laugh hysterically for around 7 minutes)
"No", I answer while wiping tears away.  "You can lay on your stomach, just hold your bum open!"

 **** Several stressful moments (for everyone) later, you're all smooth as a baby****

Having a freshly waxed crotch also makes you want to, obviously, drop your pants and show it off!  This may or may not be a good idea, but I suppose that depends on the deepness of the intimacy of your friendships.  My friends and I still have a few more waxes to get through before we reach this level, but it was definitely on the table!

After a lot of sweating and heart pounding, but albeit a good quality wax, beer is a definite must.  You need to discuss, in detail, the proceedings of the waxing.
"Did it hurt as much as you thought?"
"Well, she put one slab of wax on and couldn't get it off because the hair was too long!  I started to wonder if maybe I could just live with this giant slab of dried wax on my crotch forever."

After you get a little tipsy at the bar, it's time to part ways.  Two of you decide to make it a whole day of hair removal and get your hair cut (even though we already know how this is another stress point for you).  Since you have no evidence of a good place to cut your hair, you wander into the best looking place you pass.

Hair cutting with a friend is very intimate, especially because you get to watch, and be watched, during that moment in every haircut that makes you think "Oh no, this is gonna look like shit.... oh wait, she fixed that part.  Ok, crisis averted."

In the end, it works out because you are with your friend and that gives you some kind of super power moral support!

And so concludes The Guide to Bonding With Your Friends!  A lovely day it was!  Thanks girls :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I've Been Featured!

Amelia and Laura over at The Harvest Kitchen Sisters have featured me as a guest on their blog!  How exciting for me!!

I've linked their site before, particularly for Amelia's amazing pancake recipe (that is decidedly my ONLY pancake recipe - and one that my Brazilian husband has MASTERED).

Anyway, please visit their site for my latest blog about Hiring a Housekeeper in Brazil

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December already?

The last two weeks have gone by so fast!  Since Laura left, I've been keeping busy with work, friends and believe it or not, reading.

Seeing as I have one month left in this year, I wanted to reflect on everything that's gone right and that I've changed for the better in my life.  Actually, looking back on the past year (which has flown by!!!), I'm a little disappointed, yet not at all surprised, that I didn't keep my New Year's Non Resolutions.

1.  Blog more funny stories.  Well, just by counting the number of posts this year vs. last year, I've already failed on the NUMBER of blogs I've produced, but at least my blogs haven't gone down in quality!  (Well, you all can be the judges of that one)

2. Start taking Portuguese classes.  Do the two classes I took count?  I took two, didn't really like her, made up some crappy excuse, and never looked back.

3. Settle in and make Rio my 'home'.  After a rocky start with our first apartment, I can happily say that this one we have accomplished.

4. Learn to drive stick shift.  Ha.  Well, I did go out for one driving lesson with Ro when I got back from Canada.  But we sold our car earlier this year (thank the lord!).  So no stick shift.  But also (happily) no car.

Alright, so if we were to evaluate purely by what I wrote down, it looks as if I didn't do so well.  But some other "non-resolutions" that I came up with throughout the year I did better with.  So let's examine my B-Side resolutions instead.

1b) Read more. (And later, read more Margaret Atwood).   Win!  In the two months I read a book per month and one of those was Margaret Atwood.  That equals 2 books in case you were feeling confused (it happens).

2b) Try to find my own Happiness.  I read the book The Happiness Project but more importantly, after moving to Botafogo, I was able to pursue my friendships, spend more time with my husband, ride my bike, and run in some beautiful places - HUGE sources of my happiness.

3b) See a Psychologist.  I found the most wonderful woman (thanks to a good friend) who speaks English!  She is not covered by my Health Plan but it doesn't matter.  Paying her with my hard-earned cash has been one of the most releasing experiences in understanding myself, my actions, and also how to let things GO! 

4b) Do acupuncture.  Before we moved to Botafogo I did 3 sessions of Acupuncture which made me feel AMAZING.  It was a quick run, but it made a big difference.

So did anyone else out there make any 'non-resolutions'?  How are they going?  Do you usually keep your goals or let them shrivel up like George's penis?  :)  Happy December!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Afternoon Dance Request


Today this song came up on my iPod playlist - I had almost forgotten all about it!  I first heard it in Canada and was disgustingly drawn to the tune.  I guess there's no stopping a repetitive dance-instruction song and a white girl.

Ahhh hahaha... I'm going to stop laughing and just let you watch it.  It's like Brazilian funk music meets the Macarena.  Oh the hilarity.

It's even more hilarious now that I actually understand about 60% of it.  I DEFINITELY played this song at my wedding.  Not even joking.

All I ask is that if you watch this video,  PLEASE try to do the dance.  And if possible, film it and post to your blog for my laughing pleasure.

Without further ado.... My favourite characters are all of them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feel like an ass in Brazil? Read this post.

I felt inspired by Rachel's post today about life in paradise not always being easy.  Many of the commenters were relatively new foreigners living in Brazil and their stories of their struggles brought me right back to my first months (ok, year and a half) here as well (even though I still feel like I'm new and I've been here almost 2 years, crazy).

Some of my old posts were a liiiiiiiiitle depressed and frankly, depressing.

Looking back on all my whining, bitching and cries for help whining, bitching and cries for help (not a typo), I'm impressed at how much things have changed for me.  Rachel said that she was being a big baby in the beginning - I was a giant baby too, but at the same time I don't know if I would have been able to do it any differently...

Anyone out there who is new to Brazil or thinking about coming - the biggest challenge in moving to another country (and it could be any country) is that usually you are dealing with a million new things at the same time.  Language, culture, social norms (like how to eat/not eat in public), lack of friends, lack of knowing the city, and in many cases a completely new marriage or baby as well.

Word to the wise, your inevitable psychological breakdown in your new country is not the country's fault (although, it definitely feels like it is).  It's not even necessarily the fault of your specific situation in Brazil.  It all comes down to you and how you deal with these firey demon-balls you are faced with.  
How many times can you face defeat, frustration, or conflict and still get back up and do it again?  Don't be fooled into thinking that crap is constantly falling on your head just because you live in a foreign country.  Even at home in your own country you feel the stress of your job, your friends, your housing situation, your new marriage/relationship/baby or whatever.  The common denomonator in all of this is you and your attitude will ultimately determine your success or lack thereof.

The other peice of advice I have is RELAX.  Seriously, sometimes you need to just go with it and accept that you're going to feel like a 3 year old in an adult's body learning how to speak for the first time.  News flash.  You are a 3 year old in an adult's body learning how to speak for the first time!

If you're totally frustrated because your umbrella poked an old lady in the eye and you couldn't apologize because your Portuguese wasn't at that level yet, that's ok.  Feel shitty about it, and then learn from that situation.  Practice saying "ahh desculpa!  Peço mil desculpas!" 1000 times until you've got it down.  Feeling like an ass is the best way to learn how NOT to speak Portuguese.

And finally, speaking Portuguese is the best way to learn how NOT to feel like an ass!  www.livemocha.com is a great free site to get you started.  

You can dooooo it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I'm Not a Gringa!!!

Ok, yes, I am.  But I'm not! 

A little something that seriously annoyed me I noticed while Laura was here was how everytime her blond hair and blue eyes were standing beside me, I got the "Gringa Treatment".  Let me just clarify that when I'm alone on the street (which is usually) people don't even bat an eye.  They don't usually ask me if I'm a Gringa, or if I'm from another place, or even comment really.  But standing next to Laura, it was like their Gringo-Spidey Sense was on full blast. 

I've never been asked, "Você é Gringa?" "Voce fala Português?" "Você e da onde?" SO MANY TIMES.  Argh. 

So you may be thinking, 'but, uhhh, you ARE Gringa....'.  I see your point.  And you are correct.  Technically.  But when you've put as much effort into learning a language, trying to understand a foreign culture that goes against many of your instincts, and just trying to be normal, you'd be pissed too when people are calling you out like snowflakes in July.  Or just snowflakes in Brazil in general.  Which is what we were.  Snowflakes.  Big ass, white, shiny snowflakes. 

I have reached a level of Portuguese that makes people look at me and think "Oh, she must be handicapped.  I know she's speaking Portuguese, but it's kind of funny.  Good for her!  Doing things in the world all by herself!  Way to represent the handicap, Weird Portuguese-Speaking Girl!"

And I take that as the utmost compliment. 

But I don't stand a chance to even be a handicapped Brazilian with other Gringas around me!

So Gringo Friends, if in the future I suddenly run away from you on the street in an attempt to stand out less, please dont be offended.  I just don't want my hard-earned efforts to go to waste!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Friendship in Brazil

Or rather, friendship COMES to Brazil!

I've been M.I.A. for the past two weeks because my good friend Laura was visiting me here in Rio.  We spent two great weeks together doing all things Brazilian: Travelling to São Paulo (seeing Danielle for a millisecond); Riding bikes around Zona Sul; Going to Leme Beach; Visiting Pão de Açucar; Getting manicures, getting waxed, getting tipsy; Eating a great restaurants, eating at home, eating HEALTHY; But most of all enjoying each others' company because we hadn't seen each other in a year.

It's sometimes a hard reminder when you spend time with your really old friends from your former home.  A reminder that even across time zones and languages your friendships can still remain strong, if not stronger, despite the distance.  The fact is, these kind of friendships take time to cultivate.  Time and quite probably embarrassing moments - my friends from Canada can attest to the fact that we've all had some awesomely embarrassing moments together.  For God's sake, I watched Laura get a Brazilian wax last year when she couldn't communicate with the waxing lady and the waxing lady insisted I stay to help.  Nothing builds a friendship like watching your friend get her thang waxed.  (Sorry Laur, I needed that story to emphasize my point) ;-)

And while my new friendships in Brazil are also fantastic, they just don't have that 'time' factor yet.  As Leslie says on the show Parks and Recreation "So what did you guys talk about? Old times? Oh, I love talking about old times. New times are great too, but there's just something about old times. You know what I mean?"  Well said, Leslie.

So I guess the point of this sappy, sad post (gimme a break!  Laura went home yesterday and I'm all depressed) is that I am really grateful for both of my worlds.  My Aldous Huxley world and my Old World.  But it sure is hard living in a parallel universe.  I wish they could exist together as one life but at the same time, one wouldn't really even exist without the reality of the other.  I did manage to bring them together, just a little bit ;)

On a positive note, I got to learn about my friend in a different way than either of us had experienced with the other.  I suppose you could say that we uncovered each others' neuroses after sharing a house for 2 weeks.  It was great waking up with her here in the morning, making breakfast together and sitting in front of the 'sitting' window (it's a great window we have for sitting and looking outside).  Working together to keep the house in order then deciding what to do for the day.  It was really nice to have her company.  And the time went by so quickly.  Le sigh.

It does keep me excited for the next guests we have coming - my mom and sister will be here for New Years this year!  Lucky me! 

For now, it's sad movie watching and laying on the couch.  Tomorrow I'll be good as new ;-)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Impromptu Hallowe'en Party

If the mountain won't go to Mohammad....

We'll bring the Hallowe'en Party to us!  So I've met a few new people here over the last couple of weeks who are really filling out my lovely group of 'friends' here.  No, no, friends deserves no quotations.  For the first time in my Brazilian life though, I really feel like I have people I can call up to hang out with for all kinds of different reasons.  People who fulfill different parts of my life and who are all amazing, wonderful people.

Some of those people live in Rio.  Some don't.  A few of the Rio-dwellers were feeling sad about not having Hallowe'en, so at the last minute we decided to shut up and plan a 'party'.   Party gets quotations because the whole purpose was really to dress up, eat candy and watch a scary movie.  Not an epic Hallowe'en party or anything... but decent all the same.

I, for one, LOVE Hallowe'en!  It's right up there with Christmas, for me.  But Brazil doesn't really love Hallowe'en so much so it's kinda difficult to find a costume and other Halloweeny things.

We coped.

I carved little jack-o-lanterns into some clementines.  I found R$15 jack-o-lantern votive holders.  My friend Emily found an awesome trick-or-treat pumpkin and filled it with Brazilian chocolate.  Julie and I even found gummy candy in the shape of teeth and worms!  Score!

Plus everyone found/made awesome costumes! I was so impressed!

Then I worked my magic with the help of a little friend I like to call 'Martha'.

Made some 'devilish' eggs. 

 Some Bloody Sangria.  Some Slime Rickeys punch.  And topped it off with bleeding eyeballs made from lychee and blueberry.

Everyone else brought wine and snacks.  We ate and talked and then cuddled up to watch The Exorcist.  Classic.

I love celebrating my traditions here with people who appreciate them.  While I also love celebrating and learning about the Brazilians traditions, there's nothing like bringing 'home' to you to make living here just a little bit more familiar and fun.

Hope everyone had a nice Hallowe'en!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Happiness Project

I just finished reading an excellent book called "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.  I've linked her blog there, which was actually something she started as a part of her personal project.  This book has me feeling really inspired.  First, because it's the first book I've gotten all the way through in... a pretty long time.  Second, because her personality seems so much like mine (with all its faults) and the changes she makes in her life are totally achievable, totally manageable and very positive changes. 

That and I'm on a self-help, self-improvement kick lately. 

Gretchen's basic idea was an approach to improve her life.  She began by settin a Resolution List, followed by a List of Personal Commandments (the woman loves her lists).  Her Resolutions were all of the areas that she wanted to find more happiness and her Personal Commandments were the rules she had to maintain throughout all of those resolutions. 



Areas she wanted to find more happiness were your basics - energy levels/health, family, friends, career, spirituality but she also looked at other things like money, pursuing passions, mindfulness and leisure.  Her set of commandments were as follows:

Of course, you need to really read her book to understand how she uses these tools to help her pursuit for (more) happiness.  But certain aspects of her journey really spoke to me. 

Things like 'showing up'. 

Something that I really value in others is when they show up to things they promise to show up to.  It really really makes me upset when people cancel at the last minute, flake out with some ridiculous excuse, or don't come at all to something important to me. 

But then I had to ask myself, do I always show up?  One thing about Cariocas and living in Rio is that people are pretty flaky and it's pretty common to make plans with someone that you don't actually intend to follow through on.  This has kind of given me a carte blanche to cancel plans when I don't feel like going. 

But then how can I be such a hypocrite?  The truth is, this bothers me in others.  The solution is that I have to make an effort to show up 100% of the time.  It's the old 'practice what you preach' saying, which could be one of my commandments if I were to start my own Happiness Project (which I'm seriously considering). 

That leads into another of the elements about Gretchen's project that inspired me.  Do it now.  If I'm thinking about doing a happiness project, or re-starting acupuncture, or joining the yoga studio down the street, or making an appointment at the doctor to look at this funny spot on the bottom of my foot - well why not just DO IT NOW?  It would be a big source of happiness to follow through on my thoughts and ideas and not just let them float around in space. 

Anyway, this is a starting point for me to consider what I need to do and I really don't think there's a better time to start than now.  With all of the changes (and happiness) that have come into my life in the last 2 months (which quieted some major sources of unhappiness) I was beginning to wonder "ok, so now how can I get even happier?"  My basics are now covered in Maslov's hierarchy when they weren't before, and now I want to keep growing. 

And I wonder... Do you think it's possible to be too happy?  Do you think we can max out our happiness?  I don't want to reach a point of 'ok well, I achieved that! Now what?"  What are some of your sources of happiness and what do you do to keep finding new happiness?  Very interested in this idea of personal happiness.....

 A Happiness Manifesto
  • To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
  • One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
  • The days are long, but the years are short.
  • You're not happy unless you think you're happy.
  • Your body matters.
  • Happiness is other people.
  • Think about yourself so you can forget yourself.
  • "It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light."—G. K. Chesterton
  • What's fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa.
  • Best is good, better is best.
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  • Happiness comes not from having more, not from having less, but from wanting what you have.
  • You can choose what you do, but you can't choose what you like to do.
  • "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy." —Robert Louis Stevenson
  • You manage what you measure.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I've got the 'gripe'

Sick, sick, sick.... It's terrible to be sick.  It's great if you're faking it to get a day off work but as usual, karma bites you in the ass and then you really get sick.  I don't know what I have exactly but anyone in Brazil will tell you that if you're sick, you've got gripe.  Technially it means flu, and I could have the flu in this case, but even if I just had a sore throat, or a sniffle, I've got the gripe.  To me, it sounds like I've got the clap.

Side Note****In case that sentence wasn't 100% clear, I do NOT have the clap.  I just think that I've got gripe sounds like I've got the clap....

One thing I miss about Canada is being sick.  'Say what??', you ask?  It's true.  In Canada (with its mostly uninhabitable plains, where people live in ice and snow year round*) it's really common to get all kinds of sicknesses.  They come in with the chinook winds**.  But this means the pharmacy is always stocked up with all kinds of cold and flu medicine.  With CLEAR images and descriptions on the box to verify if what you got is what this medicine will cure.

Brazil doesn't have the same cold-and-flu season popularity as Canada does, so when I walk into the pharamacy it generally takes me a long time to figure out what I HAVE first, then I can decide what I need.  It doesn't help that, to me, Brazilian medicine all looks exactly the same.

What I have found in terms of over-the-counter medicine is that they generally will treat cold & flu symptoms like:
Runny nose: Coriza
Fever: Febre
Nasal congestion: Congestão nasal 
Headache: Cefaléia
Body Pain: Dores Musculares

Ok, that's fine.  But every single over-the-counter med does the exact same thing.  Where's my all in one medicine for a sinus and chest cold?  Or, in my specific case this time, sinus and sore throat?  In Canada they got this covered.  But I guess the common cold is to Canada what dengue is to Brazil?  I'd like to see them come up with a quick diagnosis for dengue in Canada.

As a final observation - something that is very common, potentially dangerous, but at times super convenient - is the ability to buy prescription medication from the pharmacist without a prescription.  For me, this was kind of awesome because I have always suffered from terrible sore throats.  I always visit the doctor during these episodes and they always prescribe me amoxcicillin.  I've had them so many times that I can completely tell when one is coming on and how bad it's going to get.  It's pretty handy to just walk into the pharmacy and ask for my amoxcicillin without going through the hassle of visiting the doctor's office.

Now, I know that I takes my meds responsibly and I take them until the end.  I can't speak for the rest but I can definitely take a guess that this generally isn't true for many others.  Now they are really tryin to crack down on prescription meds only with prescription.  Hell, we even tried to buy some last night and we got rejected.  Now I'll have to find a rogue pharmacist who can support my habit - er - my basic needs.

Probably won't be so difficult.  We are in Rio after all!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dear Son-of-a-bitch Who Stole My Bike....

This was my actual bike
To the stupid a**hole who stole my bike yesterday while it was parked (AND LOCKED) in front of a busy finance office on Praia de Botafogo where I was giving a class for only ONE HOUR, please kindly burn in hell.

I don't want to believe you stole my R$1000 bike to sell her parts for R$50 to support your drug habit.  I want to believe that you desperately needed a bike because you can't afford the bus.  Because you needed a way to get your kids to school.  Because you wanted to be a delivery boy and it was the only way to get the job.  I want to give you the benefit of the doubt that you weren't just a stupid jackass and believed, for some reason, that you were entitled to what was mine, just because it was left locked and unattended.

Am I the sucker here?  I locked my bike.  Why do I feel so guilty?  Like I didn't lock it enough... like I should have put two locks on it.  Or I should have tried harder to find a garage to put it in.  Like I got too comfortable and this was just a bit of reality stabbing me in the kidney just to put me back on the right track.  The track of fear and mistrust.  I hate this feeling.  I want to be able to trust people and to live in a safe place where I can leave my bike locked on the sidewalk in front of a busy building and trust that nobody will steal it.  I want to at least trust that a bystander on the street would see a guy with BOLT CUTTERS cutting the lock off my bike and try to stop him...

I've been told, and I believe, that I've been very lucky living here for almost 2 years.  I've never had any kind of trouble with theft, or even with suspicious people.  I take the bus alone. I take my IPhone out on the bus.  I walk through tunnels.  Things that people constantly tell me not to do, I do.  Because wtf!  I don't want to have to give up my right to freedom!  Sometimes I swear that if I were robbed I would not give in easily.  But again, I've never actually been in that situation so I can't say for sure how I would react.  In my 'robbing fantasy" (yes, I have fantasies about being robbed - well, they're more like daydreams) I always grab the guys' weapon and scream "No! You give me YOUR money!" and they get scared and run away and I'm a hero.

But I dunno.... I can't really trust that I'll follow through on that... especially since everyone who comments here will say "Are you crazy!  Just give him everything he wants!"  I know, I know.... 'thing's aren't worth your life'.  I agree.  I just feel so pissed that my husband worked so hard, saved his money for months, bought and surprised me with this beautiful blue bike, and some jackass comes along and takes it.

Probably to sell for R$50 to support his drug habit.  Prove me wrong, thief.  Return my bike and prove me wrong!

Here are some pics of me enjoying some beautiful days on my bike.... Tear!  I love you my beautiful bicycle!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Getting a Manicure in Brazil

Just got back from one of the most aggressive manicures I've ever had here in Rio.  Manicures are a very interesting experience.  Nothing like your tender, relaxing manicure from home (at least in my experiences they have always been a relaxing experience).  That's not to say you can't find that kind of experience here too, but when you enter into the salon that says "Mão e Pé: R$20" you know you're not going to get the tender relaxing experience.

You're gonna get the 'let's do this as fast as possible so we can push more people through the salon' experience.

My toes are burning!  Bitch cut my skin off!  Lol, sorry for the foul language, but really.  That was one of the sloppiest mani/pedis I've ever had.  She really went to work.

A little advice if you're going for your first (or millionth) time, I really really stress that you need to keep a completely open mind.  In the beginning, it will seem like a giant mess.  Plus, everyone does it a little differently.  They really go to work hacking off any little tiny speck of cuticle (even the invisible specks) causing you to bleed occasionally (and then they put some sort of anti-bleeding foam on the wound).  You can see they are prepared for bleeders.  They don't always put your hands and toes in water.  Especially at these 20 dolla places, they usually just spray your tips and put a glove on you.  Haha.  Even as I write this I can't believe how cheap it sounds.

After you've gone through the wet, cut, and file period, they SLLLOPPP on the nail polish of your choice.  Whatever colour you want.  Slopped right on there.  Everywhere.  Then they sllloppp another coat over top of that.  Next they remove nailpolish at the tip of the nail with their thumb, leaving an ugly little white line at the top, sort of like a french manicure but ugly.  Next they remove their messy work using a pointy little stick and some cotton and polish remover.  Seems a little backwards, but ok.  I don't see why you didn't just put it on neatly in the first place, but alright.  Finally, a little oil to dry you up quick and pull the whole thing together.

This was my first impression of manicures here.  Now.  Funny story.  I went back to Canada last Christmas, if you recall, and had a manicure there.  Guys.  It was terrible.  I see the benefit to slopping on the polish.  That way you cover the whole nail.  I see the benefit to massacring my cuticle.  My hand looks so light and skinny after.  I see why you leave that ugly little line.  It helps keep my nail polish from chipping!  The oily substance in the end really does dry the polish faster.

So all in all, my verdict for best manicure goes to BRAZIL!  I guess once you go bloody massacre, you never go back.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cutting your Hair in Brazil

If you came to this post looking for some helpful tips on how to find a good hairdresser or useful vocabulary to help you with cutting your hair while in Brazil, move it along.  You ain't gonna find anything helpful here.  In fact, if you HAVE helpful tips or useful vocab, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD post them in the comments!

It's taken me 2 years trying to find a good hairdresser, trying to build up some helpful vocab, trying to show pictures and explain (at least with actions) what I want.  I've never gone back to the same hairdresser twice.  I've gone back for a re-cut about 5 of the 7 times I've had my hair cut.  I've cried afterwards 4 of the 7 times.  It has been truly traumatizing for me to find a hairdresser.

I think it all started when I was about 8 years old and my mom took me to her hairdresser, a bald European man named Ram.  I cried after that cut because "I looked like a lion and I didn't want to look like a lion".  Damn beautiful mane.  There began my complex.  

The problem is that I have such a SPECIFIC idea in my mind, that no other cut can live up to what I am imagining.  Trust me, I have done serious research so that I can explain accurately the tool needed for some effect, or how high my layering should start (in English, of course).  I am a freak, I know it.  I just wish I could cut my own hair.  Oh, ps.  I've gone home and cut my own hair MYSELF all 7 times I've had my hair cut in Brazil. 

So hair cutting time arrived again yesterday.  I looked for lots of pictures online because this time I was getting a drastic cut.  This time I was going short.  I've had short(ish) hair all my life - I like it better on me and I think it looks way more modern and cool.  This long hair business in Brazil was overwhelming (see: about 80% of women have long long LONG hair).  I tried to grow it just to fit in a bit better.  In fact I've been growing it out for the last year.  But I've been getting sick of long hair.  It's just not me.

So yesterday I went to the salon.

I have this idea that more expensive is better - I don't know if it's necessarily true but I want to believe that they are more experienced or it's more difficult to get into the fancy salons.  I went to a pretty big chain here called Werner's (tip: It's 10% cheaper if you go Monday-thursday and it's 10% more on that if you pay in cash.  But it still costs freaking R$62 after all those discounts.  Ugh).

Fast forward to the end of the cut.  I didn't like it (obviously) but I asked him to fix up a few parts here and there.  Problem is, my vocab is limited to "Eu queria que ele ficar mais curto aqui, Nao queria tao comprido.  Pode usar aquela coisinha (make action of a razer slicing) para cortar este parte aqui?  Na verdade, eu queria mais (make action of different levels in my head implying layers)".  So you see, it's the filler parts , the most important parts, that I have trouble with.

So at home, I started to hate the cut.  That and my husband didn't react with a lot of excitement, so then of course I was in a bad mood for the rest of the night.  I decided to go back today.

I hate going back because they always look pissed off, like I interrupted his lunch (which I probably did since I went in at noon).  The guy said "Fala" when he saw me, so abruptly so I abrubtly said "I don't like it anymore".  Haha, blunt gets blunt!

This time we sat down at the chair and he spent another hour with me trying to decipher my made-up language.  This time, I told him the name of the hair cut I wanted.  Lucky me, he recognized it.  (Tip: LEARN THE NAME OF THE STYLE YOU LIKE!  ASK YOUR HAIRDRESSER BEFORE COMING TO BRAZIL SO YOU CAN TELL THE HAIRDRESSER HERE THE NAME OF THE CUT.  Sometimes they know, sometimes they don't, but it's helpful).

So without further ado, here is a before (a few months ago) and after of my new hair cut!

 Am I cute?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Botafogo Baby

AAaaaahhhhhh!!! (Imagine it's angels singing that heavenly note when something magical appears out of nowhere ... 'aaaaaahhhhhh')


I'm writing this blog from my new couch in my new apartment in my new neighbourhood - BOTAFOGO Y'ALL!

Life is like, spectacularly good.  I'm serious.  Is it even possible that my mood can change so drastically that I can now actually understand WHY people like this city?  Because I do. 

This morning I woke up at a completely reasonable hour, laced up my running shoes and went for the most beautiful run I've (ever?) been on.... It was really really lovely.  I'm running on Praia de Botafogo (Botafogo beach) and in one direction, I'm looking at the Pão de Açúcar and in the opposite direction I'm staring directly at the Cristo statue.  Surrounded by warm sun, calm water and moutains?  Are you kidding me??

We've been here since Thursday and life is feeling completely different already.  Gah, it's impossible to explain how peaceful I feel. 

That could also be a combo of acupuncture and psychologist working (which I found, by the way!)  But I'll save those for a future blog.  Just a little check in for today!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Acupuncture in Brazil

One of the items on my list of goals last week was to start acupuncture.  By start, I mean start completely from scratch and add Portuguese into the mix.  Hoorah!

I've never done acupuncture before but I've heard really REALLY good things about it.  Everyone that I know who has done it (and there are a surprisingly large amount of people who have), has said it fixed them right up.

Now, the traditional view on acupuncture is that is helps with pain.  It sure does.  But did you also know that it is also very effective in treating emotional difficulties as well?  People use acupuncture for stress, depression, weight loss (rather, controlling your food intake), sleep disorders and general well-being.

I went for all of the above. 

As I briefly mentioned before, I just came out of another rather lengthy bout of depression that left me feeling pretty directionless and, in spite of sounding melodramatic, hopeless.

But I've taken medication in the past for depression and I don't like what it does for me.  I am really determined to beat, or at least control, my depressive episodes chemical-free and as holistically as possible.  For one thing, I personally enjoy holistic activities, so it's almost a morbid excuse to pursue a hobby when I'm in a state of depression.  Kill two birds with one stone.  har har.

So, acupuncture.  Have you done it?  You should.

I found my acupuncturist by looking on the website of my health plan, Amil.  On the Amil website you can look up services by which plan you have.  Pretty simple.  They let you search by neighbourhood too so that's what I did.

The first appointment was a consultation where the doctor asked me a lot of health-history related questions.  It was a real interesting experience, trying to understand in Portuguese.  First, he asked me if I experience TPM.  Well, what the hell is that Doc?  It's that period that women go through... when they menstruate.... Ahhhh... PMS.  Later on, more vagina-related questions that were awkward as hell to act-out.  Even our hand puppets were feeling uncomfortable, as they shamefully tried to demonstrate what secreção vaginal anormal might mean.  (abnormal vaginal secretion).  Lovely.

But we got through it with only a few tears.  Literally, I cried at one point.  But only a little.  Ok, actually a lot.  It was stressful!

Today's appointment was the real thing.  The nurse took me into a tiny private room and told me to put on the gown, opened at the front.  That gown barely covered the back half of my body, even though I shouldn't be uncomfortable with full-frontal nudity in front of strangers anymore in Brazil.  I did try my best to at least cover my privates.

Then the doctor came in and I lay down on the paper bed while he did some tappy tappy thing on my rib cage and asked me to stick out my tongue.  (Do doctor's still ask to look at your tongue??)  He had shown me the needles in the consult and assured me that they are so small, they could fit inside a standard needle.  Basically they are even thinner than a pin.

He stuck the first needle right in my forehead, which I thought was an interesting place to start, because that didn't freak me out at all.  I wish I could literally write sarcasm into words.

Then he continued down my body.  Two in my sternum.  One in my belly.  Two on the side of each bicep.  Two on the side of each calf.  Two on the tops of each of my feet.

He explained that he would leave me for 10 minutes and then *someone* (because I didn't understand *who*) would come in and warm up the needles.  Huh?  That part I didn't understand but, as usual, when you don't understand something in Brazil, you just say yes until you learn what it is you have accepted.  Then you know whether you like 'that thing' or not.  Fun times.

So I waited.  I was fully aware of the needles on the entire left side of my body because that side was pulsing strongly.  I felt that the equilibrium in my body was totally off and was especially not liking the left side.  It pulsed like that for about 3 or 4 minutes before finally relaxing... and I mean really relaxing.  Everything felt very peaceful.
My heart beat was also very loud and strong and with every beat, it felt like a big ball of energy was passing itself back and forth over my chest, from needle point to needle point.  It was crazy and I was so aware of this feeling of flowing, moving energy!  It was like a ball of energy that actually had some weight to it, floating back and forth over my chest.  Very cool and interesting sensation. 

After the forewarned 10 minutes had passed, the nurse came in with this smoking thing (no idea what) and she proceeded to HEAT UP the needles.  Ahhh... so this is the elusive *someone*.  And hot damn, that's hot!  She really heated up the needle in my belly to the point that I almost said something, but she stopped before I could and left me for another 5 minutes.  Then she told me I was free!

After I left the consult, I was feeling pretty good, but I'm not sure how much of that was purely psychological.  I did read that when treating emotional conditions, acupuncture usually takes about 4 sessions to notice a different.  Either way, I'm really happy I went and plan to go back every week for more.

So, anyone else have super interesting stories of how acupuncture changed their lives?   For good or bad?

If you're interested in knowing more, this is a good article which talks about if acupuncture is for you or not. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lazy Sunday...

A redundant title for today... Every Sunday = LAZY for me!

Today's lazy Sunday weather is: Rainy.
Today's lazy Sunday's breakfast is: Pancakes.
Today's lazy Sunday activity is: Watching a movie with my cats.  Yes, we do this together.  Shut up!
Today's lazy Sunday chore is: Ironing.  Simply because it's gotta get done and I didn't do it on Spectacular Saturday.  

I think I'll add vacuuming to my Sunday chores because, damnit, there is cat hair is everywhere!  Damn all this cuddling with my adorable cats! 

Also, just for your own personal pancake-eating pleasure, I'm posting the recipe for the most AMAZING, perfect-every-time, even-your-Brazilian-Inlaws-will-love-them, pancakes.

Kudos to Amelia, and her delicious blog, for the recipe!

Here are some tips to making perfect pancakes:

1. Before you ladle on the pancake batter, wipe access butter off the griddle with a folded paper towel. This will make sure you have perfectly browned pancakes.

2. Use all purpose flour in the batter. Cake flour can turn soggy when you top it with syrup. Experiment with different flours like buckwheat or whole wheat just substitute half of the all purpose for any of these.

3. Never whisk batter until it's smooth. Lumps are a good thing and will result in fluffier pancakes.

4. Flip pancakes just as the surface bubbles begin to burst. Flipping them after makes for flatter pancakes.

5. When adding blueberries, bananas or chocolate chips (only some of the many additions you can make) sprinkle them over the batter right after they have been poured on the griddle. This will make sure they are distributed evenly and it also makes them look prettier on the plate, which can sometimes be just as important as how they taste.

6. Warm pure maple syrup before serving. It makes for a certain extra little bit of specialness to the morning (or evening, whatever, no judgement here)

Here's a good (basic) recipe that should keep 'em coming for more:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Assorted toppings, such as butter, maple syrup, confectioners' sugar, honey, jams, preserves, sweetened whipped cream, or chocolate syrup
  • Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees; have a baking sheet or heatproof platter ready to keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter (or oil), and egg. Add dry ingredients to milk mixture; whisk until just moistened (do not overmix; a few small lumps are fine).
  3. Heat a large skillet (nonstick or cast-iron) or griddle over medium. Fold a sheet of paper towel in half, and moisten with oil; carefully rub skillet with oiled paper towel.
  4. For each pancake, spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto skillet, using the back of the spoon to spread batter into a round (you should be able to fit 2 to 3 in a large skillet).
  5. Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven. Continue with more oil and remaining batter. (You'll have 12 to 15 pancakes.) Serve warm, with desired toppings.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...