Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My love/hate relationship with Sleep

I have a dysfunctional relationship with sleep.

Don't get me wrong... I love sleeping.  If I were to chart my history with sleep, I'd say it's been a pretty good ride.

But let's look at functional sleep of an average person.  When we're babies we sleep a lot. Probably... 15 hours a day, let's say.  Then into our teens we started to realize that staying up was more fun - especially to watch a movie, or stay awake at a sleepover.  Into our adult years, we develop a real appreciation for sleep as we look forward to that deep state of relaxation after a hard day's work.

Well, I did say I have a dysfunctional relationship with sleep, didn't I?

You see, I feel like I'm living in a constant state of sleepiness.  It has stopped me from doing things I like - being social, going to the gym, eating healthy, even *gasp* having sex. Because I'm always tired.  And when you're tired, well it's a lot of effort to roll over and ask for a snuggle.

The real problem for me is that no matter how tired I am, or how little sleep I got the night before,  around 9:30/10 pm I am, as the Brazilians would say, 'electric'.  I have lots of energy and produce some of my best work at that time!  It's the time I choose to start planning my classes for the next day and then consequently I am in bed around midnight every night.

And I wake up at 5 am.  So you do the math.

The mornings are so difficult.  I usually hit my beloved snooze button for 30 mins before literally forcing myself to get out of bed, where I often shower with my eyes closed.  Sometimes I wake up 15 mins later than I should (and I already wake up with less time than I actually need!) convincing myself that I don't need to dry my hair or put on makeup today!  Or it's ok if I'm 10 minutes late!  This is Brazil!

I walk around like a zombie after getting only around 5 hours of sleep a night 5 days out of the week.
And every day I get home, die nap, eat, watch tv, plan classes at 10, and repeat.

And I know I'm not alone out there!  So many of us are living this way!  As if it's a test to see who can function the best on the least amount of sleep.  We get through our days with coffee, energy drinks, sugar and sheer will-power.  It's torture, I tell you! 

So I am taking a stand.  I am saying NO MORE!  No more 'napping' from 6-8 pm.  No more eating a big meal after waking up from said 'nap'.  No more staying awake just to watch more TV, since it's a show I don't even care about anyway!

No, I'm taking these steps.

  • I am going to get organized
  • I'm going to plan my classes before sitting down to relax or going to the gym.  
  • I'm going to go to the gym as soon as I'm finished my class planning  
  • When I get home I need to eat a small meal
  • I want to be in bed by 10 pm and read to relax me into a peaceful sleep.... (that being said, it's 10 pm right now and look at what I'm doing... DAMMIT!)
My MIL also told me to take Maracujina, which is like passion fruit extract (you all know how these Brazilians think that passionfruit helps you sleep!)  Well, I'm not turning anything down so I'm taking it as well and we'll see what happens....

Anyone else have helpful suggestions as to what helps you sleep at night??

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Online and (Offline?) Worlds Collide...

This weekend was such a whirlwind of 'new' that I feel today should be Saturday.  I need a weekend from my weekend.

But Oh!  What a weekend it was!  I suppose you could say this is the pinnacle of what all blogging communities could hope to achieve - to get out from behind the computers and talk IN REAL LIFE about, well, everything.  Actually, I've been speaking sooo much English this weekend it was almost as if I were on a vacation from Rio, while simultaneously enjoying more than I knew it had to offer!  So many amazing people to connect with.  Such great conversation, sharing of ideas, and discovering, in so much more detail, other foreign experiences of Life In Brazil. 

I was even lucky enough to go beyond the amazing Blog Meetup and spend the rest of the weekend with Jim (who was an incredible host and who makes DELICIOUS pies!), Rachel (hilarious and entertaining as always!) and of course, the guest of honour for the weekend, Danielle (who is 10x better than I could have expected!) 

It's pretty big, meeting up with these people.  I'm sure many others can relate when I say that reading blogs has helped me through one hard time or another.  I read blogs while in anticipation of my move to Brazil, and have read them all the way through.  This community has been a really solid form of support for me and without it I'm not sure what sort of outlet I would've had.  So, that's why when I say it was a gigantic honour to spend time with these guys, whose words have helped me more than they know, you can all understand where I'm coming from. 

This blog meet-up was a huge success!  I hope that many more (meetings and bloggers!) come out of the shadows in the near future... 


Saturday, July 9, 2011

It is NOT cheap to live in Brazil

Today's post is brought to you by the letter F.  F-RUSTRATED.  Consider yourselves warned for a rant.

WHY?  This is my first question.  WHY is it so impossible to make a comfortable life in Brazil?  Ok.  That's a complete exaggeration.  I'm not 'uncomfortable' per say.  But I'm being completely cock-blocked by the Brazilian class system!

Why is it it that I don't have the option to live 'wherever I want to' in Rio?  I guess that's more accurate.  Ok, I don't want to live in a mansion with aquarium walls and butlers.  I just want to live in a neighborhood with culture and convenience.  I want to be able to walk to the supermarket EASILY.  I want to be able to catch ONE bus to work, not two or three.  I want to live less than 30 mins from downtown, ideally RIGHT downtown (right now we live about 2 hours from).  I want to live close to a bookstore.  I want to have a variety of restaurant options (not just rice and beans), possibly some places with live music (not just MPB).  Shit, I want to have a martini and I don't even drink martinis.

I live in a neighborhood that is classified as a "C" Class neighborhood, although that title was probably given by "A" Class citizens.  What's after "C" class?  I guess favelas... ?  It's not even the money, or lackthereof, that gets to me.  It's the lack of convenience and culture specifically.  It's like the affordable neighborhoods have been pushed and pushed away to the outskirts of society.

I have obviously been conditioned after spending 5 years living on my own in Toronto, but in Toronto all you have to do is choose.  And even the lower-end apartments are pretty awesome and are downtown.  I pay the same amount of money (in relation to my salary) living in Jacarepagua that I did living in a fully equipped condo, right downtown Toronto.

What I don't understand, and what I can't accept, is why there is so much class-ism in Rio.  Classes are divided in a disturbing way.  My husband and I work HARD and, in my opinion, do fairly well financially.  I have always lived very comfortably in the middle class, but even though my salary is similar to home, here I live in almost low class.  We have to choose housing that is so far away in the 'suburbs'.  We can't even afford to live in Barra, which again in my opinion, IS INSANELY OVERPRICED.  BARRA IS CRAP AND YOU NEED A CAR TO LIVE THERE.  WHY OH WHY WOULD PEOPLE BE CHARGING R$3000 A MONTH FOR A ONE BEDROOM IN BARRA DA TIJUCA??????  THERE IS NOTHING IN BARRA!!!!!

Living in Barra is the equivalent of living in Scarborough, across from Scarborough Town Centre.  Oh, awesome, you live near a mall. 

I am shaking my head.  It's infuriating how much of a glass ceiling exists in Brazil.  Today's apartment search made me hate Rio and the person who is responsible for making independent living so unattainable.  Congratulations Rio.  You live in a Stone Age.  An unequal opportunity Stone Age.

Today's post is also brought to you by the letter G.  Gah!!!!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

American Party

It's a complete coincidence that this post is falling on the 4th of July; it has nothing to do with America's Independence Day.  (First because I'm Canadian, and second because it's just not).

It IS about a concept that is new/strange/totally uncommon amongst Brazilians (at least in MY circle of Brazilians, before you Brazilian readers blow your socks off).  This concept is the POTLUCK party.
As the picture indicates, a Potluck party means that all guests need to bring a plate of food to share!  What an awesome concept, you say?  I KNOW!

However, when I presented the idea to our B-zilly poss, EVERYBODY'S HEADS EXPLODED.  I kid you not.  Nobody could really comprehend the idea.  "We have to BRING something?"  "We have to COOK it OURSELVES?"  "We can't just bring a bottle of wine??"  YES, YES AND NO!

Now, I understand that there are several possible reasons that this misunderstanding existed.
  1. I was writing a Facebook Party Invitation in Portuguese.  Perhaps there was a little bit of language barrier.  But even after I seeked the help of a Brazilian friend who wrote the actual message for me, we were still met with confusion.
  2. I was trying to describe the party, calling it a Potluck.  I didn't realize there is already a name for this party.  It's called an American Party.  Go figure.
  3. This was a birthday party.  In Brazil, you do not bring anything (minus a gift - which is always a tshirt???) to a birthday party.  It's fine to bring food to a Festa Junina.  But a birthday party, no.  Usually birthday parties are at a restaurant, or they're catered, or feature a full pizza rodizio, or maybe MAYBE the host will prepare the food, but asking people to bring food has quite possibly never ever happened in the History of Birthday Parties in Brazil.  Ever.  (Based on complete non-fact).
  4. Finally, once everyone seemed to understood the concept of a Potluck, they could not understand why they had to physcially make the dish themselves.  This was by far the most challenging aspect.  I was met with 'I have no idea what to cook", "I don't know how to cook!", and "I'll ask my mom to cook something."  Crazy!!!!
With all do respect to my crazy, lovable, Brazilian peeps, I know things are different here.  That being said, after all of the confusion, everybody managed to come up with something totally awesome and creative to bring and the result was a table FULL of delicious home-cooked food to share!

And of course, we provided all the drinks, including a full make-your-own caipirinha station.  That's how the Potluck works!  

Woohoo!  I did it!  Maybe this is the start of more Potlucks to come here in Brazil.  For us, parties at home are where it's at.  Here are a few of my tips on how to make your party more special (and cheap!).

  • Create an event on Facebook and message your guests regularly.  You don't have to be annoying; just remind them and get them excited for the big event.  
  • Decorate with unexpected surprises - for example, 10 balloons are cool but 100 balloons are stupidly cool!!!
  • Stick to one colour (or two) for a classier look.  We went with green and silver and used streamer paper to put on the tables and then covered them in plastic for protection. 
  • Rearrange the furniture to make sure people aren't separated from each other.  Or if they have to be, at least so there are distinct areas (we had a sit-down conversation circle and a games area)
  • Expect that there will be spills and messes to clean up.  Have lots of paper towel ready.
  • Make sure you have too much.  Too much alcohol.  Too much food.  Too many napkins.  Too many plates/forks/knives.  You never know how much people will want to indulge!
  • You better make sure that music is pumpin'!  Make a great playlist that will keep going for a few hours so you don't start repeating. 
Happy Partying!  Oh, and P.S.  Happy Birthday to the love of my life!
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