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.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

How to Find an Apartment in Rio and Not Kill Yourself

We're about to enter a new stage of life and it feels like the night before the first day at school.  Or, maybe the night before the next 3-4 years of University, because that's sort of what it is.  Little piece of advice, when you rent an apartment here in Rio, the typical contract is 30 months (2 1/2 years) so you better love the place you're living in, like you love a French hooker.  And who doesn't love a good French hooker.  

I sure do, now!  (love my apartment, that is)

Not that that means we'll be here fo shizzle (Mom!) but that has sort of been our plans in terms of length of stay in Rio for the next little while.

Now that it's (almost) 100% a done deal (we still need to sign the contract and get the keys), I'd like to highlight the joy that it is to rent an apartment in Rio.  Oh, wait, did I say joy?  I meant pure headache and bane of my existence.

First, when you are looking for that apartment of your dreams, be prepared to never find it.  Or at least for it to take a solid week (I'm talking 8 hours a day for 7 days straight) or more, of searching.  You will go through countless apartments that should be ashamed of themselves for showing up to The Ball dressed like that.  I mean, I wouldn't let people see me with literal streaks of dirt running down my body and broken arms and legs.  But they have no shame.

So you'll see the crap apartments, but you'll know immediately that they are crap and quickly move on to the next ones.

How do you find these apartments, you ask?

You'll need to buy the O Globo paper every Wednesday and Sunday (that's when the majority of apartments are listed, and even more-so on Sunday).  Don't even both with the online stuff.  Most of the same apartments, plus way more, are in the paper. 

Then, don't make the mistake of calling to arrange a time for a couple days into the future.  No no, you'll have to make sure you take an entire day off work and then call the apartments the day you want to see them in the hopes that they haven't already been rented.  It's that easy impossible, folks. 

Once your hard labour has paid off and you find the apartment of your dreams, you'll run into more problems!
Most places in Rio these days are asking for a fiador.  This is a co-signer and this person has to OWN property in RIO.  Forget about your uncle who owns a million dollar mansion in São Paulo (ok, still not us).  Fiadors can be Rio-owning co-signers ONLY.

Well, we don't have that, which makes life so much more interesting for us. 

Option Two: Seguro Fiança.  Here you can opt to pay R$2,500 (per year) to the bank so that they will act as your fiador.  This is not a deposit.  You do not get this money back.  You must pay it every year that you are living in the apartment.  Ridiculous option?? I agree.  FAIL!

Option Three: Capitalização.  It's like a deposit/savings account done through the bank.  They ask for a minimum 6 months rent/condo fee, which in our case is about R$2000.  The owner of the apartment can accept the minimum or ask for more.  The other apartment we were looking at was asking for TEN.  That's twenty-thousand reais.  R$20,000.  !!!???  The freaking 1 bedroom apartment costs R$2000 per month!  What makes you think I have R$20,000 just sitting around, waiting to be used?!?

Option Four (and the options that the angels made available for us): STRAIGHT UP DEPOSIT!  This is probably the least common method, which really limits your options, but also your decisions!  Our apartment is still asking for a bazillion dollars (3 months deposit and 3 months of rent up front) but since we did have a little bit saved up, we can do it. 

My advice would be to have about 6 months worth of rent saved up so that you can offer this as a deposit option to people who are being jerks and insisting on a fiador.  

As for you, if you don't have one of these options available to you, you might be renting a room in a party house or in an older lady's house.  I'm serious.  Does anyone else have experience renting outside of these options?  If so, I believe you found a miracle.

As for us, we got our place and we get the keys on Monday...!!! Wahoo!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Moving to Zona Sul....?

The view of Pão de Açucar from Botafogo Beach

We are so close to moving to Zona Sul I can taste it and it tastes like a delicious glass of cold milk after you just ate a big piece of chocolate cake.  (P.S. Milk.  It's that delicious.)

Don't believe me?

So, the apartment in question is in the lovely neighborhood of Botafogo.  It was always a neighborhood that I thought really fit my personality - Botafogo has a lot of good restaurants, cool and interesting bars, big trees, bike lanes & parks, a neighbor-ly personality...

It's also the home of 'our football team' (put in quotations because that would imply that we have a team, which we do not, but everyone in Brazil MUST have a team.  I'm pretty sure it's a federal law. So, our team is Botafogo).

Anyway, I've compiled a list of reasons why moving to Botafogo from Jacarepagua will greatly improve my quality of life:
  1. The sidewalks are not broken into a million peices. 
  2. You don't have to walk up a gigantic hill to get to the apartment, and then walk up another giant hill once you enter the condo just to get to your building.  (It's like a mountain)
  3. The buses are comfortably full, not literally bursting at the seams.  
  4. You have a variety of options for restaurants and bars.  And no, Bar do Tio Joao, Tio Paulo & Tio Orlando do not count as 'variety'. 
  5. There are actual trees, not sprouts of grass that have found life through the dusty cement.  
  6. People understand that at 6:30 a.m., on a dangerously crowded bus, it's inconsiderate to scream and laugh LOUDLY, sounding like a bunch of parrots, and give the bus driver fliers (while he is driving at about 100km/hr) about buying purified water filters, while I am holding on to the railing with the tips of two fingers and my backpack in my other hand.  (true story, happened to me yesterday). 
  7. I hope to God people don't do number 6 in Botafogo. 
  8. THE METRO!!!!!
  9. I have friends close by! (Bia, if you are reading this, you still live far away from me, even in Barra!)
  10. Leme Beach, Praia de Botafogo, Rio Sul Mall, Metro, Friends, Bars/Restaurants, Culture, Theatres, Parks, Bike Lanes, Close to Work = QUALIDADE DE VIDA!
Ahhh!!!  Guess what?
Ro just called!

WE GOT THE APARTMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'M MOVING TO ZONA SUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mini Accomplishments on an Emotional Roller Coaster

Ok it's blog time!

Phew, what a week.  It's been an 'emotional roller-coaster' week for me.  I go through these periods of 'the whole world is going to end and everything sucks' every so often but this time was pretty bad.  It made me realize that I seriously need to see a psychologist.

There are just so many highly negative emotions I experience living here.  So many feelings of anger that I have for reasons that I can't even explain to myself.  Feelings of sadness.  Loneliness.  Frustration.  Resentment.  I wish I had more friends.  I wish things were easier (bureaucratically).  I wish I saw my husband more often.  I wish I made more money.  I wish I had more free time.  I wish I had less free time.  I wish I had more hobbies.  I wish I wasn't afraid to make a phone call in Portuguese.
Yeah, it's pretty much like a child has smeared poop all over the wall, up there in my head.
I thought a pic of real poop on a wall would be too much... You're welcome.
On the other hand, there are very highly positive feelings that I experience living here.  Little accomplishments bring me so much happiness.
I have way more friends now than I had a year and half ago.  Brazilian jeitinho can actually help you out a lot.  The tiny slivers of time that Ro and I can spend together lift my mood so much.  I make a decent salary for someone who doesn't have any formal training teaching - just me and my serious love for teaching (and researching like crazy).  I have weekends and almost all day on Friday off.  My free time is a good opportunity to get things done in the house and with work.  I have more time for reading, which I love!  I actually know how to speak on the phone in Portuguese so I don't know why I let that get to me.  
Also, I'm just lucky to be living in another country having this experience that I'll mos def look back on and think "why I be so crazy?"

So, I gotta clear that shit up, because it's crazy up in here.  (In my crazy head)

You know what?  I'm going to start with some mini goals.
  1. I need to find a psychologist who speaks English in Rio.  Anyone? 
  2. I want to book a dentist appointment
  3. I want to start Portuguese classes
  4. I want to start acupuncture
  5. I want to find a new apartment in a better neighbourhood
Today's mini accomplishment were:
  1. I successfully booked an acupuncture appointment (all by myself!)
  2. I successfully found and spoke to a dentist (I have to call back to book tomorrow but I found it!)
  3. I saw a Portuguese teacher giving a class randomly and I approached her and we're trying to find a time to meet
  4. Ro and I rearranged our schedules to have one day per week to see apartments. 
Good day.  Good day.
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