Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Enya alarm?

Every morning about 7:10 am, we hear about 20 seconds of Enya's "Shepherd Moon" outside our window. Sometimes we hear it more than once, sometimes just once. Matt thought I was crazy, until he heard it this morning. Dora just came in and heard me playing it, and said "hey, that's that song we hear!" Just another noise to add to the multitude we hear!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Surprises around every corner

After the kids went to bed tonight, I decided to go to the corner drug store and walk around the neighborhood. I was hoping to find some good deals on Easter candy, but no dice. Kids get these big hollow chocolate eggs filled with cheap plastic toys and all wrapped up in cellophane for Easter. Walk into any drug store or grocery store, and there are huge displays, almost cave like, of these chocolate cellophane eggs hanging from the ceiling and any surface area.

But I digress...after leaving the drugstore, I decided to wander around. I passed two bars that are usually dead during the day, but there were all sorts of people, sitting at tables on the sidewalks, drinking beer and eating bar food (of which Belo Horizonte is famous for). I'm dying to try coxinha, churrasco, pão de queijo, and the breads! Then I walked down a street very close to our house, and voila: ballet school! One of the things that Matt and I talk about is how stores, restaurants and the likes seem to be in the most unlikely places. We'll be walking down a street that seems entirely residential, and all of the sudden there is a clothing store. Or cooking school. Or ______ (you fill in the blank).

Other random details: the kitty is named George. It's perfect. Call him Curious George, "George of the Jungle" and not to mention the Seinfeld reference. The kids love him--Beatrice smothers him, but he puts up with it. I'm making Mark Bittman's bread and trying to figure out what to make for Easter (do I go Brazilian? Do I go traditional American? What to do, what to do...) Sebastian tried figs (figos) and persimmon (caqui) and like both, but especially the figs. Today we bought passion fruit (maracujá). I'll let you know how it is!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Can't tell you how happy it makes me!

Sebastian just got back from the pool, where he was playing ball with a 7 year old boy who lives in our apartment building. All our kids have been pretty timid about playing with kids here, feeling like they don't want to initiate or respond because of the language. Sebastian saw this boy swimming, and asked if he could go down, and asked me to go with him. I am really proud of him, and we talked about it afterward. It doesn't take much to make a friend. And the fun thing is that this new buddy invited him to come over to play video games and play sometime!

Just made manioc fries (Mandioca Frita). Very yummy. Pretty time intensive, but good.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tired, but don't think I'll be sleeping soon...

due to the fact that there are TWO rowdy parties happening within our "general" neighborhood. General neighborhood meaning within one mile radius. When we were walking home from Mangebeiras Park, we heard the first one. I've heard that Brazilians enjoy loud music, and parties provide the perfect opportunity for loud music and enjoying people (two of Brazilians favorite things). But it sounds like there is a concert happening right outside our window--crazy!

Kitty is here, a little traumatized by leaving mom and dad, but not meowing incessantly. He doesn't have a name yet, but hopefully by tomorrow. Beatrice is just diving right into pet ownership, smothering him with love. Sebastian likes to watch him in his little travel "cage", and Dora, well, Dora is giving him lots of space. I'm kinda surprised at Dora's apparent lack of interest, but I'll take it as obeying my wishes (I gave them a "talk" before the kitty arrived). He's cute, and Matt really likes him. I don't know if he's eaten or peed since he arrived, but he hasn't jumped out the window yet. And the wonderful thing is that his previous owner said that we have to come over to her house sometime, and she said that she would give me any new English students that come her way (she's an English teacher). She also said that she'd be willing to help us out on the school front--hooray! Matt posted pix on Facebook, but I might try to throw some pictures up here tomorrow. Boa noite.

Friday, March 26, 2010

School saga continues, kitty, and what we're up to...

Matt's friend Michelle from the Orchestra came over today, and accompanied me to the Public School that is right behind our apartment. Unfortunately, we were told that there is a waiting list, and we can come back the first week of April and put our kids on the list for the chance to be enrolled. We were told that it is more hopeful to get Dora and Sebastian in than Bea (we weren't really thinking about enrolling her, but hey...). I guess it is very popular because it is one of the few schools in the area that has all day instruction. So I'm feeling a little disappointed, but trying to look on the bright side, and realize that at least we know more now! Michelle offered to call a few other schools and see if there are openings.

Tomorrow the kitty arrives, and we have most of what we need. It is very popular in our neighborhood to have pets (especially cute lap dogs), so there are LOTS of veterinarians and pet supply stores within walking distance. It will be a little boy kitty, which makes Sebastian happy: we will have an equal male to female ratio in our household.

Matt is searching online for an oven thermometer. Our gas oven does not have any indication of what the temperature is, so we're pretty much guessing the temperature. I've been looking online at information on Cruziero. We're completely oblivious to soccer, and realizing it might help us relate to folks if we have a little knowledge. Plus the other night, in a game of "What's that noise?" I realized that there HAD to be a soccer game, because everyone outside our apartment started yelling, and fireworks went off. Kinda like when we were in Arizona our first year, watching Shrek on our computer and we heard all our neighbors freaking out when the Diamondbacks won the World Series....Might be helpful here to pay attention to soccer.

That's all for now!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tommy Mango

I love mangoes. I love, love LOVE them. I told Matt some time back that someday I would like to live in a place where I could eat mangoes everyday. And little did I know that Brazil would be my future home. I haven't had a mango every day since I've been here, probably more like once very three days. But I'm moving towards my daily dose. Today I ate something called a Tommy Mango. Very very good. Had to hold myself from eating the whole thing. These are what are for sale at the market across the street. I've heard people say that there are lots of mango trees around, and they actually can be quite dangerous when the mangoes ripen, making very large dents in cars as they come falling down. I'm hoping to go to Farmer's Market on Saturday, and hopefully get some really fresh, really cheap, local produce. Yum!

Getting closer to a decision on schooling

I knew when we moved to Brazil that finding school could pose a challenge. I did what I could ahead of time, but I knew that most of it would have to wait to get worked out until we arrived. And once we got here, I asked everyone I met their opinion. I heard that we had to hurry to get our kids in school because tests happen in March, and they might miss an important deadline. I heard that schools are horrible, and that there are only a few good schools. I heard that we HAD to send our kids to private school for safety, in order to really learn, for the right ratio of teachers to students, and for them to make friends with other children in their "class". I learned that the American School is very, very good, and also costs $10,000 a year (not to mention it is about a 45 minute drive away). I visited a private school within walking distance to our house, and was very impressed. The instructors and administrators were very helpful, and very willing to accommodate us. It was a very nice school. And children attend school for 4 hours a day. I also visited the local public school, and had not such a great experience, mainly due to the fact that we had to wait 30 minutes and the kids were climbing the walls. And I had a hard time communicating with the assistant principal, but I came away feeling like she really didn't think it was a good idea for us to enroll our children there. But every morning I look out our bedroom window, and watch all the families arriving with their kids, and see the moms chatting away, and see how happy the kids are, and I hear and watch them playing at recess. And it's free. Matt and I decided that our main concern for the kids is meeting other children and learning Portuguese. If they don't learn another thing all year, that's okay with us. I spoke with an American woman I met here with two small children, and Matt spoke with a Brazilian mom-to-be from the orchestra, and they both thought that if all we want is socialization and Portuguese, it doesn't make sense to shell out hundreds of dollars for education. We could afford it, but we'd love to spend that money on other things (vacations, helping friends and family come visit us, etcetera). I've gathered that among middle class Brazilians there is a lot of competition to get their kids into the right preschool, then elementary school, and so on. If you start on the right path, then you could end up getting admitted to Federal University (UFMG) that is free. So there's a mindset that you spend money on early education, so you don't have to spend it later. But we don't anticipate that our kids stay here for college, so this is not an issue for us. So, we're going to try to go back to the public school. A friend has offered to return to the school with us to talk to the principal, and we'll propose that it would be beneficial for both our kids and the students already there (exposure to another culture and language). And of course all this might change again, but this is our plan for today.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Matt was home yesterday afternoon, and I had the opportunity to go out walking in our neighborhood without children. I wandered up and down some of the local streets, enjoying looking at the people, the architecture, and this beautiful new place. Sometimes I feel like I'm back living in the Pacific Northwest (Puget Sound area, to be precise), because of the narrow streets, the cute houses, the clouds and rain, and the damp smell. I also got to go shopping at the local market, buying two different varieties of bananas, mango, tomatoes and potatoes. There are lots of different kinds of produce, but I'm taking my time in trying different things for a couple of reasons. First of all, I don't usually know what it is, and I don't know how to cut/prepare it. Secondly, I'm still in american grocery shopping mode. I was REALLY into getting things dirt cheap in Arizona (coupons!), and it's hard for me to shell out more money here. Plus I think that we haven't figured out where to shop where things are inexpensive (perhaps the Super Nosso Gourmet is not the best place to buy yogurt? I think it's like Whole Foods in the states). And I'm still thinking in cost per pound. Matt pulled out the calculator this morning to help me figure out how much bananas are here (.99/kilo = .25/lb). I probably just need to start thinking about everything in kilos and reals, but it's another element of transition, and trying to make sense of my surroundings. It just takes time.

I went to an expatriate book club meeting with the hopes of getting some tips on finding some work teaching English, and I had a fun time! I did meet someone at the American School who offered to help me out. I also scored us a kitten. Dora has been wanting a pet for a while, and LOVES cats, so one of the things we offered was to get her a cat once we got to Brazil. One of the women at the meeting randomly asked if I wanted a cat, and next thing I know she's showing me pictures of her cats, grandkids and family on her Iphone. Matt has a concert tonight, and then five glorious days off, so I think we'll take the plunge and become pet owners within the next few days.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Not the greatest day. Had a great time with Paula and kids at the Parque Municipal, but then got on the wrong bus coming home, and was 1 1/2 hours late, with no way to contact Matt. Poor guy was worried sick. And the kids were so tired and hungry by the time we got home. Not fun at all. Then I let the homemade bread cook too long (no timer, no temperature on gas oven). And I'm trying to be good and do my Rosetta Stone Portuguese lesson, but it keeps telling me my pronunciation is wrong. Duh! I feel like moving abroad as made me dumb, and blown my logic and judgment to the wind. As my expat sister said, transition (especially into a new country) is never easy. And as Beatrice says, "the sun will come out, tomorrow!"

After two weeks, our "routine"

We're starting to get a little bit of a routine here! We usually wake up early (6:30 if we're lucky) because it starts to get a little noisy and because we have no window coverings. Apartments tend not to come with much here--we are lucky that ours came with an oven, kitchen cabinets, some light fixtures, and wardrobes. We were without toilet seats, curtains, a refrigerator, any towel racks, and shower heads. But back to our schedule. After a breakfast of yogurt, bread and fruit we get ready. Matt usually has rehearsals in the morning, or goes to the office to take care of some paperwork, of which there is endless quantities. I try to do a little shopping in the morning, visiting the local butcher, bread store and fruit stand. Then I cook, do laundry (drying on the line) and clean up. Lunch is the main meal of the day in Brazil, so we've been trying to make our lunch the main one. Yesterday I cooked sausage, and the day before Beef Stew. Bea goes down for a nap, and I send the kids outside to play, to swim or ride their scooters. Sometimes there are other kids outside--so far we've met an 8 year old girl named Victoria, a 7 year old boy named Ian, and a 3 year old girl who talks a lot (in Portuguese, of course) but I couldn't understand her when she said her name. Then it's more cooking, sweeping, washing dishes (we have no dishwasher, so there is a lot of time spent on washing dishes). Then bedtime for the kids and I try to catch up online or we watch a movie.

We're still trying to determine what we want to do with the kids and school. Apparently public school isn't really an option: the assistant principal I met with said essentially that she wouldn't allow our kids into the school that we can see out our window because the students there come from the favela, and it would be bad to have our kids there. However, private schools cost money, and they only hold school for about 4 hours a day. So once I get a job we'd still need to figure out childcare. I was feeling pretty anxious about getting the kids enrolled, but Matt reminded me that just being here is educational for the kids, and learning a language is an experience that they wouldn't have had we stayed in the states. I think it's ok to take our time and make sure that we find the right place, and not make the kids too anxious in the process. So in the meanwhile, we're playing lots, swimming, trying to talk to the kids who live here, and just allowing ourselves to be in transition. Dora is reading lots, Sebastian is building amazing things with Legos, and Bea is...well Bea is eatings lots and needing lots of attention and love. Sounds just about right for moving ourselves across the world!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Moved in

I'm sitting on the floor in our new apartment, drinking a lovely cup of Komodo Dragon coffee (french press, of course) and listening to the kids play in their rooms. It finally feels like we are here, now that we have our own space, and we can start unpacking. We'll try to post some more pictures of the place soon!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First Impressions

It’s been five days since we’ve arrived in Brazil! What are my first impressions?
1. It’s beautiful—the city, the trees, and the people. It is so nice to see green, to have streets lined with tall trees, to see mountains, and enjoy blue sky with big white fluffy clouds. The people are so diverse, and are warm, hospitable, helpful and talkative. I’ve had several people strike up conversations with me, and all I can do is nod and smile.
2. It’s hot! Humidity does a lot for 80 degrees, and anytime we’re walking around (which is frequently) I’m sweating like crazy. Now it doesn’t help that I’m usually carrying a backpack and a 2 year old while I’m out of doors, but it is pretty warm here.
3. Portuguese is very, VERY different from Spanish. I do understand some words, and it will help me, but when I’m trying to buy a bed, it doesn’t help me. Nor does it help me when I’m lost and asking for directions. Or trying to understand our friend’s nanny. Today I thought she was telling me that I could go upstairs and leave the kids with her, when she was actually suggesting that we all go upstairs together. Oops!
4. It’s hard to say if the kids are reacting to the fact that we moved, or being in a foreign country, but it’s probably a bit of both. Sebastian is having a hard time with the food, and we really have only had one traditional Brazilian meal. Dora is more sensitive than usual to the silly things her siblings say. Bea saying, “I don’t want to share a room with you,” in jest reduces Dora to tears. She’s also anxious about school, and I wish I could comfort her by saying where she will be going, but we just haven’t had the opportunity to make any headway on that matter yet. Bea is having a hard time sleeping, and wants to be carried when we walk. And none of them like walking, which we do multiple times a day. Walk 15 minutes uphill to Marcio’s house. Walk 10 minutes back to the hotel for swimming. Walk to the fruit store. It’s good for us, but pretty tiring. But overall, I’m really proud of them and how well they are handling it. It helps that we are watching lots and lots and lots of TV.
5. I’m truly humbled by the hospitality of our hosts, Marcio and Luiza. They have opened up their home to us, fed us, bought cleaning supplies for us, chauffeured us around town, bargained a few hundred reals off mattresses, a fridge and washing machine for us, interrupted their work schedule, and made us feel very, very welcome. Even though I just met them on Friday, I feel like they are friends that we have had for a very long time. They are wonderful people, and I’m so thankful that we have met them, and they are welcoming us. I hope that we can become more like them, in their generosity and kindness.
Hopefully by the next time I write we will be in our apartment—we have the basics, we just need to get our 600 lb of stuff over there! Ciao!

Monday, March 8, 2010

We made it!

We made it! It actually wasn’t so bad; not that I’d like to travel internationally with three sick children by myself again, but things went pretty smoothly. After shedding a few tears at the airport (thank you Wendi, Jacy, Stephanie, Grandma & Grandpa Kelzenberg!) we made it thru security without losing anything. This is a major accomplishment, considering that I had three kids, four backpacks, a small suitcase, a carry on bag, a Ziploc of mucinex, and a car seat! I decided to do some shopping while waiting for the airplane, and only managed to drop all our bags and the car seat twice in the middle of the store. Our first flight to Orlando was not so bad, and the kids did pretty well. Getting thru the Orlando airport was a bit of a challenge—I kept dropping the bags, the kids were tired and hungry, and the TAM check in counter was at the very end of the terminal. Sebastian and Beatrice were super energetic after being contained for 5 hours, so they kept running around, and Sebastian pushed Bea down and she smacked her head pretty hard (oh, and did I mention that my baggage was all over the floor at this point as well?). Thankfully some other travelers took mercy on us and helped me find a cart and load everything up and get Bea calmed down. We went to McDonalds for our final stateside meal, and of course the kids didn’t eat a thing. At this point Sebastian was coughing lots, and Dora looked miserable. After a few more hours, we got on our 2nd flight, and I was getting really tired at this point, and thankfully the kids fell asleep pretty quickly. Bea woke up several times during the flight, and really one of the highlights of my traveling experience was taking Bea to the tiny, hot bathroom in the middle of the night, during an especially turbulent part of the flight so she could poop. Twice. After the 2nd trip to the bathroom, she couldn’t go back to sleep, but thankfully the TV screen in front of her was working so she watched a movie. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, but when I finally did wake up the stewardess was cutting Sebastian’s fruit and helping Bea butter her bread! As we were landing in São Paulo, I unfortunately got sick, but I had the foresight to give the kids some new books to keep them somewhat entertained. I waited for everyone to get off the plane before starting to pack up, humbly holding my barf bag in my lap, and it took us a good 10 minutes to load up all our stuff and get off the plane. The stewards kept asking if they could help, and they were all kind of hovering over us. I gave them some bags and things to carry, and as we got off the plane I saw why they were trying to rush us: the bus to take us to the terminal was waiting, full of our fellow passengers. Oops! Once we got the terminal, it was super crowded, and I really had no idea where to go. I asked a few people, and kept getting different answers—I knew that I had to go through customs and get our luggage. It was blazing hot, we were tired, and I kept dropping the darn carseat, and it took us over an hour to figure out where to go. Once we got to customs, there was no one there, and it was a piece of cake to get through. At baggage claim I saw our bags right away, and I started to cry! I just couldn’t believe that we had made it that far and our bags were actually there. I’d been told in Orlando that there would be carts and people to help us with our baggage, but of course there was no one there. I found someone who worked there, and asked if he could help, but he said no (this is all in hand gestures, because I speak NO Portuguese, and my Spanish doesn’t seem to help much). Finally this gentleman took mercy on me, and helped push one of the carts towards baggage claim, and even got us to the front of the line. Check in to our final flight was no problem! Then to our first meal in Brazil—I got the kids smoothies, grapes, and what I thought was cheese bread (turned out it was tuna, and not even I could stomach that at that time of day). We made it to our gate, and after a while boarded, and Sebastian immediately got a nosebleed. And of course I used up all my tissues! The steward seemed really concerned, but I told her it was ok, we just needed Kleenex. An hour later we landed in Belo Horizonte, and at this point, Bea was at her wits end, screaming like mad. So, I carried her, and pulled our mound of carry on baggage for what seemed like miles. Once I got to baggage claim, I was practically running looking for Matt to dump all the kids on him—I didn’t even hug him, I just threw the kids at him, and ran back into baggage claim (of course the security guards were not pleased with me going back and forth between the waiting area and baggage claim). But all of our luggage arrived, and Luisa’s father and brother came and helped us schlep our luggage to the hotel (Luisa is Marcio’s wife, and they have been our lifesavers here—more about them later). That was our trip! I’ll write more later about our first few days here, but they have been marvelous—ciao!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Our trip to LA to visit the Consulate, February 23rd

Finally, Visa in hand!
Matt & Kyoko--the Brazilian Consulate is in the Flynt Publication Building

Nice parking job