Monday, February 28, 2011

Banking in Brazil

You've all heard the rumours.  Bureaucracy in Brazil is a nightmare, everything takes 10x longer to complete than other places, everything is disorganized and inconsistent and you just end up wanting to kill yourself (or someone around you) before the whole thing is done.

Oh, did I say rumour? I meant the absolute god-awful truth. 

So, yet another experience trying integrate myself into Brazil has been opening a bank account.  I've actually gone a whole year without one, which wasn't so bad because I was squatting at my in-laws.  I didn't have a lot of 'money-management' to worry about.  Living on cash made me feel like a millionaire and when it was gone, I just couldn't do any more things! 

Now, I need to up the responsibility factor.  That and it's so much easier for students to be able to pay for their classes by making deposits directly into my account.  I've heard that opening a bank account requires a lot of information ie. Your CPF, your Brazilian ID, a proof of income (if you want a chequing account), a proof of address (that can ONLY be a a fixed telephone line or a gas bill), your first-born son, a skin sample and a pap test done by one of their official Bank Doctors.  (Ok those last 3 I made up but I swear to God it would be easier to give my first-born child if it would just get me a damn bank card already!)

So I head on into a Bradesco (because that's where my husband banks).  Well, the first trip in, I ended up waiting for 2 hours and falling asleep before being wakened by my husband to say that we had to go because I had to get back to work.  Alright, I could chalk it up to a bout of bad luck that time. 

Next time, I go alone with my cpf, ID, and my cell phone bill (which is all I have in my name with my address).  I walk up to the guy sitting behind a desk at the front of the bank and I ask him to open an account.  He asks me if I would like Life Insurance with that but I'm really just looking for the most basic thing ya got. 
I showed him my cell phone bill and asked him if it would be enough to use that instead of a fixed telephone line and was so happy because he assured me that yes! It would be totally fine. 

So I go in, ready for the second marathon wait.  Surprisingly, the bank is empty, but that of course doesn't mean that people are being serviced any faster.  In fact, I asked a lady sitting at the accounts desk if I could sit down and asked me to só aguarda while she continued her ti ti ti with all the co-workers around her.  Cool, no problem.  I'm opening an account!  Nothing could go wrong today!

So after about an hour, that same lady decides to do some work and calls me over.  I sit down, give her the speech... I'm not from here but I have all the docs.  I confidently hand over my info and she takes a quick look over.  Then she says,

"Oh, you can't use this cell phone bill.  It has to be a fixed bill"
Me: Blank Stare.
Her: "Yeah, you need to come back with a fixed phone or gas bill."
Me:  "But I just asked that guy at the front of the bank if this bill would be ok and he said yes..."
Her:  "What guy?"
Me:  "That guy right there!  At the front of the bank!"
Her:  "Oh that guy?  That guy doesn't work at the bank."
Me:  Blank Stare.
Me:  "That guy wearing the Bradesco shirt, sitting at the desk, giving out information doesn't work for the bank?
Her:  "No."
Me:  "Well, maybe you should tell him to stop giving out random information???"
Her:  "Mm hmm"

Gah!  So, I left in a fury almost giving up on banking altogether.  At least after that I gave up on Bradesco. 

I decided the next week that I would try Itaú. 

I took Ro with me for sanity.  We took all the documents (learning that we needed to bring a bill in his name plus our marriage certificate to prove we live together).  Everyone was super nice in Itaú.  Really helpful.  It was our turn.  Everything was going swimmingly.  Until my CPF didn't work. 

Something about the system not reading it, something something I am going crazy.  I leave in another fury of frustration. 

I go back again today.  The Fourth Time.  I am bitter.  I am expecting problems.  I encounter more problems!
The first one is that my ID card and my CPF have diff names.  Namely, my ID doesn't have my maiden name and my CPF does.  Somehow Awesome Bank Guy overrides that.  Next.  Our bill doesn't have our CEP on it (type of postal/zip code).  Somehow Awesome Bank Guy overrides that.  I don't know what stars aligned today because despite all of the new problems of today ... I GOT MY BANK CARD!  For that, Awesome Bank Guy gets Danielle's Caught Being Good Award.

I am now a happy, satisfied customer of Itaú.  Anyone who wants to give me money, can!  Isn't that great?! 

As a final afterthought, I love how I now enter into these situations expecting problems and when I DON'T, I think it's the most awesome service experience ever.  I've been so conditioned here. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Carnaval: Guide to Blocos 2011

I'm really not the best person to write about Carnaval in Rio.  In fact, I don't really know why I'm writing about it now.  Last year, we barely participated, minus going to the beach in Recreio for a couple of hours to have some beers before getting tired of hearing Samba music and drunk people and returning like hermits from the holes we came from.

Yeah, it would appear that we really suck?

But to be honest, I've never been, and can't pretend to be, a big party girl.  Going to a quiet pub for a max of 4 beers or heading out once in a while to the club (once in a rare while) is about all that I can muster.  Friday nights I much prefer to stay in the house, drinking and eating in comfort, with the freedom to sit on my toilet seat and throw my toilet paper in the toilet if I so choose.  Hell, I can even lay down if I want with no worries of being kicked out for "over consumption" (not that I've EVER seen that happening in Rio but I'm programmed to think that sleeping in a bar is a no-no).

Carnaval, therefore, isn't really that appealing to me... at least as far as the party aspect goes!  But one thing I do love is to see people having a good time.  You can really feel the love for Carnaval and see the joy in people's hearts during this time - whether it's booze induced or not!

Well, this year, Imma give it a try.  I've got some friends... my husband is most certainly working... I am most certainly NOT working (side note: I really actually tried to convince my students that we should keep having classes during Carnaval so as not to be inconsistent (read: I'm poor) but they would not fall for accept any of my insisting.)  I've heard that the blocos in Santa Teresa are the best.  And it's pretty exciting to see the big banners with balloons in the streets saying "Carnaval de Rua", meaning that the streets will be closed for the blocos and lots and lots of people.

So, just to help out my fellow Carnaval go-ers... I dug up the list of blocos all over the city.

Zona Sul
Barra, Recreio & Zona Oeste

The site is available in English as well.

Bom Carnaval para todos!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lots of space!

Isn't it great to live on your own?  (The answer to that rhetorical question is YES).  I wake up every morning thankful for this space that is MINE - maybe I'm sounding like a spoilt North American here, but space, space and more space is what I crave and is something that I felt was lacking very much in my first year in Brazil. 

The next blog is my 100th post (yay!) and so for my 100th post I will celebrate by sharing pictures of our new, fabulous space and hence the official mark that "We Live In Brazil".  Up until this point I felt like we really weren't living ... in all senses of the word.  We had little to no responsibility and in my opinion, this is when one can really say they are 'living'.  When one is taking care of oneself.   

I just finished baking some banana muffins (so easy - recipe here - sorry Mal, they're not glutton free) and appreciating the very simple fact of waking up when I feel like it (12 pm today and with no shame!) and walking into my kitchen without having to make conversation.  I thought I would be lonely with the sudden lack of people around me but I am pleased to announce that I'm not!  Actually, things couldn't be better and I find myself calling my MIL on the phone just to say hi... a very nice relationship that I'm happy and excited to cultivate.

So, in case you were sitting around wondering "I wonder how LINDSEY is doing lately", this blog is to update that my feelings lately have been all good in the hood (albeit with moments of frustration, but let's be real... that's because I live in Brazil!) 

On a final note related to banana muffins - I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before but repetitions sake - There is no baking soda in Brazil so if you feel like you can't bake traditional cookies/muffins due to lack of baking soda, fear not.  Just triple what the recipe calls for in baking soda with baking powder for the same effect.  You might get a bit more baking powder taste but it's ok, still works!

So there's my helpful tip of the day.  Have a lovely Saturday all!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Locked INSIDE the house?

Folks.  I'm locked inside the house.  Yes, you heard me.  I am unable to leave my house because the door is bolted shut from the outside.  What the hell kind of security is that, you ask?  Well, I was hoping someone could answer me that very question! 

Y'see.  Locks in Brazil are a tricky thing.  Don't expect to come and find your 'easy to open-easy to close' simple North American key locks.  Here you've got the world at your feet in terms of options for locks.  In our old house, we had the Hotel-Style "once you shut the door it's locked and you can only open it with a key" lock. 
Now, we have the "star-shaped key that can only open the bolt if the little dot on the key is facing up and whose lock can only be opened and closed WITH said key" complicated as hell lock. 

So the issue is that Ro and I left the house together last night and both took our keys.  We had a grand time shopping for new stuff for our apartment so I was understandably high-on-buying when we got back, and I left my key in the car.  This morning he went to work and we both forgot that the key was still in the car.  Well, being the safety advocate that he is, he locked the door to keep me safe inside.  (I know, what a good guy!)  And when I went to leave the house to go to my classes... well, without my little star key, I can't get out! 

So here I am ... trapped inside my own house.  I started to wonder if maybe it was a ploy to get me to clean the house or something... "Oh, you can't leave the house?  Ohhhh well... I guess if you have to stay in you could do the dishes!"

Mm hm. 

Oh, I'll do the dishes alright.  But don't be surprised if one day next week you discover your precious little star-shaped key is missing, the door is locked and I'm laughing at you from right outside the door!  At least I know that if my husband ever tries to escape I have a way to trap him.....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Apartment Comes Complete with All Amenities Plus Ghost

So, my apartment is haunted.  I'm absolutely certain of this fact.  Alright.. let me just back up a little....

So we moved into our own apartment all by ourselves!!  Yay!!  We've been living like adults again for almost two weeks and it's spectacular.  Tonight as I walked home, I looked forward to picking up some groceries on the way, tidying up the kitchen, cooking and then ironing.  Yes.  I am now Dona de         MINHA Casa.  And while we're on the subject, I prefer not to call myself "HouseWife"... rather I prefer to call myself "AwesomeWife".  AwesomeWife does it all and also manages to fit in a glass of red wine and orange Fanta (delicious, swear to god).

So, on nights that Ro is partying it up working and I'm left to tend the house all by mah-self, I feel the ghost's presence.  Let me just back up again for a sec...

We rented this apartment by a stroke of luck.  Seeing as it's almost impossible to rent an apartment in Rio unless you have a fiador (co-signer) or you're a millionaire and can afford like 4 months of rent up front.  Also, rent is also very high and your average salary definitely doesn't match up.  So Ro has a friend whose father passed away (unfortunately) but offered to let us rent the apartment without all of the normal necessary requirements(fortunately!).

It's not in the best location ever - it's still just as far and maybe even more difficult to get to places by bus.  But it's ours.  And it's haunted.

How do I know this?  Well, I don't.  I only think.  But I swear swear swear that sometimes, only when I'm in my bedroom, I feel someone enter the room.  I feel it so strongly that I look up thinking that Ro has come home to surprise me!  The other thing is that my cat goes into crazy stare and meowing spells.  Just now she was sitting in the office (which was the father's room) just meowing and staring at a spot on the ceiling above the window.  Ok, so sometimes she's looking at a bug but when I went in just now, there was no bug to be found.  She stayed in the office for, like, 15 minutes.  Shivers.  

THEN, I was sitting here all scared and all of the power went out!!  I was suddenly sitting in pitch black thinking 'for sure the ghost is to blame' but then I heard Familia Favelinha next door start yelling and laughing and screaming so I knew it wasn't just me.  Thank you to my Little Favela Family for always making noise and making me feel like I'm not alone.

So anyway guys, I gots a ghost and I don't know what to do!  I tried to just accept living together with my new ghosty friend but even making silly jokes doesn't take the icey cold fear in my heart go away.  And P.S. We already did a spirit cleanse before we moved in so I hope it's just that it's taking a little while for Ghost Dad to pass.

Here are the options I've come up with for coping with my fear.

1. Continue watching Home & Health Channel all night as I have been doing because What Not to Wear and 10 Years Younger DOES make me feel safe and happy.
2. Stay up until Ro comes home at 3 am.

Actually that's all I got.  I'm really spooked over here!!
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