Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This is really just an excuse to post a viral video...

Merry Christmas!  Hope y'all had a nice holiday.  As I mentioned in my last post, we are in the US, having a very UN-Brazilian vacation.  Right now it is -4 C outside, and snowing like mad.  I've been playing with the very large dog in the woods.  I have only been shopping ONCE in the past week.  Today we went roller skating.  And it's been wonderful. 

Yesterday (Christmas) we unfortunately had to call customer service here.  There was an issue with a Kindle, and we had to call  I felt very bad, because it was Christmas morning, and it was so sad to think that someone had to work.  But the person we talked to was VERY helpful, and got things taken care of very quickly.  It was a great experience.  It is always easier calling customer service in a language that you are proficient in.  I've gotten to the point in Portuguese where I don't dread making phone calls, but I have to prepare myself for the many challenges.  Most of the time I feel like it's just me and my inability to understand and be understood.  And then I come across something that makes me feel better.  This is a video from a comedy show that has been popular in Brazil the past year.  It will really only make sense to you if you speak Portuguese, but even if you don't, it might give you a taste of the "challenge" of trying to get things done here (the guy is trying to cancel his phone line), and how funny it is to hear certain names pronounced in Portuguese (like Judith).  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

time for vacation!

Well, I made it!  7 Christmas performances, report cards, LOTS of birthday parties, a kindergarten graduation, and all the normal things of life are over.  It's time for vacation.

We are so fortunate that we get to spend the holidays with my hubby's family in New York (upstate).  We got here yesterday, and I'm trying to figure out how to relax.  We've been going going going for so long, it is "work" to wind down and to stop.  But one of the many things that I LOVE about Brazil is the value for vacation.  Not only is it the law to give paid vacation time to employees (and pay an extra 1/3 of the salary for vacation expenses), but it is part of the culture.  It's an expectation that you would travel, rest, relax, spend time with family.  I like this.

I haven't decided if I will be posting much during my vacation, but you can be sure that I will be enjoying it. 

Feliz natal!  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I need some recipes!

Hi there!  We are so fortunate to have a great helper (empregada) come 3 times a week.  She cooks, cleans and irons.  And on some days she watches the kids for me while I run to the store, or schedule a dentist appointment, or run errands.  But we're kind of in a recipe rut.  So, I'm asking my fellow expats in Brazil for some inspiration.  What Brazilian recipes do you like to make?  What do you have your empregadas make?  Here's what we currently do:




Bife (frango, lombado, ou boi)

Frango milanesa

So, what do you guys like?  I notice that we are very heavy on the meat, so I'd love to get your suggestions.  The other challenge I have is that we have kids (i.e. picky eaters) and there is a dairy intolerance issue (a certain someone can't eat strognoff, so we don't have it all that often.  Thanks!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Countdown to the end of the year and a brush with fame

I'm getting a little tired of using my blog to vent about just how busy thing are.  But, this is my life.  Three kids.  Working.  Living in a foreign country.  Studying Portuguese.  It is very full.  We've run out of Brazilian holidays until Christmas, so now everyone is just "suffering" until the end of the year.  The weather has gotten worse (think "hot" and "humid").  Traffic seems worse (at least to me, since I'm driving the girls to and from school every day).  And then there is the realization that the end of the year is coming, so everyone has to finish all the stuff they've been putting off all year.  I'm a little bit angry about this, since my oldest daughter is someone supposed to miraculously complete 6 projects (areas of study, like "Mesopotamia" and "Protists") in 10 days.  Arg.

But!  Vacation is coming!  Christmas!  13th Salary!  School is out for summer!  No more driving across town!  Time with family!  A trip to the beach!  Just as long as we can all keep this in mind, we are going to get through it.  Right??!

And, on a totally different note, guess who my husband saw on his flight today? 

My son knew right away.   Of course he plays for the wrong team (according to my son), but I know he's going to tell all his friends at school on Monday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

our neighboorhood makes the front page of the New York Times!

My husband is a daily reader of the New York Times (online).  Yesterday, he found an article about a pet shop that's within a 5 minute walk from our apartment!

Yes, it's a love motel for dogs.  For those of you who don't know about "motels" in Brazil, they are not the same as hotels.  Hotels are for families, places to stay while you are traveling.  Motels are rented by the hour.  For couples.  I've never blogged about them, but you can read about them here, or here.  I'm sure there are other bloggers who have written about this, but I can't find your posts (sorry).  Anywhoooo, now there is a motel for dogs.  So TOTALLY ridiculous in my humble opinion, but it is what it is.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dia do Saci

Happy Halloween! 

My favorite part of yesterday was helping my son make a zombie costume that he can wear to school today.  Ripping up and old shirt and an old pair of pants is so strangely satisfying.  Then we poured red food coloring on it (Brazilian red food coloring is remarkably blood-like).  It wasn't until I was finished making the costume that I realized that my son would NEVER be allowed to wear something like that to school in the US.  Too violent, gruesome, etcetera.  And that's what I think that many Brazilians think about when they think of Halloween:  dressing up as ghosts/witches/goblins/zombies/mummies.  They don't realize that the whole point of Halloween is


Just in the 3 years that I've been in Brazil, I've noticed an increasing amount of recognition of Halloween.  Lojas Americanas sells Halloween costumes now, and I've even heard that there are some large apartment buildings in Belvedere that actually have trick-or-treating. 

But I also just found out that today is Dia do Saci. Saci (pronounced sauc-EEE) is a character from folklore that is considered an annoying prankster, that can be blamed for missing items, small problems, and generally causing trouble.  He only has one leg, and he smokes a pipe and wears a red hat.  From what I've heard, he can also be used by parents to threatened children, as in "if you don't clean up your room, Saci will hide your toys..."  You can read more about him here.

Back in 2004, a law was passed to recognize October 31st as "Dia do Saci" in Brazil.  The hope was that giving Saci his own day will help combat the influence of Halloween (that is in no way Brazilian) and celebrate Brazilian Folklore.  I'm not so sure that this law has been all that successful, but my youngest daughter is happy because she gets to dress up as a butterfly and go to school today. 

Friday, October 26, 2012


Honestly, mosquitoes haven't really been much of a problem in our Brazilian experience.  We've had some bites, but nothing too bad.

Until now.

Our new apartment, for whatever reason, is rife with mosquitoes.  As I write, I can count 5 bites on my legs (yesterday the count was 20).  I woke up in the middle of the night because I had been bit on my pinky finger.  The kids now know how to apply their own "medicine" to their bites.  I'm getting really annoyed by the bites, and what feels like a losing battle against these evil creatures.

Thankfully, mosquitoes are mostly just annoying.  But you do have to be careful about dengue fever.  There was a VERY big campaign last year to educate the public about dengue, and according to one report, the campaign has been very successful.  In 2011 there were 1415 cases of dengue in Belo Horizonte, and between January and August of 2012, there have only been 440. 

I'm not sure what it is about our new place that makes mosquitoes so bad.  It did start raining since we've moved here.  Maybe they were breeding here?  We have a house next door that has a "garden" in the back with lots of overgrown trees and shrubs...who knows.

Here's how I'm trying to deal with it:

1.  Bug spray.  We bought this when we went to Cabo Frio last year.  It's just what we have, and it seems to work ok.  But I'm not sure if there is a certain brand that works better than others.  My preference of course would be to use something more natural, but I haven't had time to research.

2.  Plug in room repellant.  We bought a device like this at Araujo (the main drug store chain in Belo Horizonte).  You are supposed to leave it plugged in while you sleep to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  We only bought one (we're cheap and we weren't sure how effective they are), and I pretty much use it as needed (both day and night).  Not really sure it's such a great product.

3.  The racket.  Pronounced "ha-ketch."  This is my favorite weapon of destruction.  Notice I didn't say mass destruction because it is pretty hard to kill many mosquitoes with it.  It has a little button on it that you push to activate a small charge.  Then when you swat the bug, it gets electrocuted and makes a loud crackling noise.  It's so gratifying, and I love saying something like "DIE SUCKERS!"  or "take that you &*^%#."  But it's also maddening when you see the mosquito flying around and you miss it, or it eludes the racket.  Arg.

So fellow Brazilian expats, please weigh in on this matter.  What tools do you use?  Anybody know if they sell citronella plants in Brazil?  Natural products?  ANYTHING???!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wonders never cease

Oh, it's SO busy around here.

*We moved.
*I have deloused a child (ew).
*I am SUPER busy at work because there is a big event on Saturday.
*We turned in the keys to the old apartment.  This took A LOT OF WORK.
*Dear hubby is getting ready to go on an international tour with the Filarmonica.
*We are trying to fix some minor issues in the new apartment.  It would nice to not get shocked when using the shower.
*We're trying to find a good school for Dora for 2013.

Things I'm just not going to be able to accomplish:

*Halloween.  It's just not gonna happen for my kids this year.  I don't know how to break it to them.
*A hair cut for me or any of the kids.  I've been trying to get my hair cut for MONTHS.
*Making good arrangements for transportation for the girls to school until the end of the year.  I think I'll be spending about 8 hours a week commuting.  Ug.

But all this wasn't why I'm posting.  This is just the stuff of life.  Nothing really unique to Brasil.  So back to my point.  Yesterday, I saw several things that surprised me.  I would think that after 2 1/2 years in Brasil, it would be hard to surprise me.  But I can still be amazed by this wonderfully crazy place we call home.

1.  A truck full of meat scraps.

Sorry for the gross visual, but it is necessary.  We had to go to the power company to get a copy of our final bill and to prove to the rental company for the old apartment that we had paid everything (even though every month we'd been sending them emails to confirm that we had indeed paid everything).  There was a truck with the back doors open, and it was full of bones, and meat scraps.  Yum.

2.  A boy eating a HUGE chocolate bar at 10:45 am.

While waiting for said rental company to check and double check all our receipts (yes, they had to call the companies to check to make sure we had paid all our bills), I went to the grocery store.   There was a boy (probably 7 years old), waiting for his Mom/Grandma/Aunt to finish checking out.  He was devouring a HUGE chocolate bar.  Gosh, do you think that's going to spoil his lunch?

3.  Live models advertising for a cheap clothing store, in the crosswalk.

 I love the stoplight entertainment in Brasil:  clowns, men juggling flaming bowling pins, people selling candy, cell phone chargers, mosquito rackets, and all sorts of other goodies.  But yesterday was the first time I've seen models using the crosswalk as a catwalk.  There was loud music, and they were striking all sorts of poses.  Now that's something original!

Just when you think I've seen it all, I get a special gift like yesterday.  Thank you Brasil!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Boneco Fofão

It's Sunday morning, and I'm enjoying my coffee and reading the free paper that comes on Saturday before we embark on cleaning the new apartment.  It's almost Dia das Crianças (Children's Day), which has become about buying your kids presents.  The paper has an article about toys that were popular in the past, and there is a little tiny picture of one of the scariest things I've ever seen:

This is Boneco Fofão (or The Cutest Doll).  I guess he started out as a character on a children's TV  show (Balão Mágico) in the late 1980s, and then was made into a doll.   Now it's kind of become like the doll "Chucky" and there are urban legends about it.  This needs to be added to the Brazilian Creepy Doll Phenomena, and pretty much secures another CBD award.  Any Brazilian readers out there have one of these?

Sorry if it gives you nightmares.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How to make yogurt

Hey there--I'm here to preach the gospel of homemade yogurt!  It's super easy, and it is SO much better than most of the stuff you can buy in Brazil (no weird ingredients, and no sugar).  Here's how we do it:


One 70 g container of Activia Natural (you have to use a starter that has live cultures, the container says BIFIDOBACTERIUM).

One liter of fresh milk (not boxed, but I have heard it will work).  We can find fresh milk at the padaria in bags for R$2.50 , or at the fancy schmancy grocery store for about R$4.

Take your yogurt container out of the fridge and leave it on the counter while you heat the milk.  Pour the milk in your cheap, aluminum rice pot.  I suggest using this one because I know the amount of time needed to cool the milk so you don't have to use a thermometer.  Cook the milk at medium heat until it just begins to boil.  You probably want to stir it every so often so it doesn't get the skin at the top, but if it does, it's still ok.

Once you start to see bubbles at the top of the milk because it is just at boiling, take the pot off the heat, and leave the milk uncovered for 45 minutes.  This allows the milk to cool to the right temperature.

Turn on your oven light (this might be the most challenging part of the process, because some ovens don't have lights.  At one point we were using a plug in light in the oven....)  Pour the milk into a tupperware and stir in the yogurt.  DON'T seal the container, but set the lid on top so the milk doesn't spill out.  Wrap the tupperware in a towel or small table cloth.  Put it in the oven with the light on, and leave it there for 8 hours.

Then you have yogurt!  Of course, I like to refrigerate mine before eating.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hello October!

Got a full plate.  We are signing a contract for a new apartment tomorrow!  So, in the next few weeks we are moving!  And I'm finding a new school for Dora (which involves, visiting, tests, paperwork, schmoozing...).  And I've got extra work projects (like teaching kids a song in Portuguese, videoing myself on YouTube, and doing 2 video projects for a Knowledge Fair in a few weeks).  And, then there are all the things that happen in the it's going to be very busy around here.

But for a good cause!  Our new place has doors that close!  Our new apartment is bigger, with 4 bedrooms!  Our new apartment is closer to my work and Sebastian's school, so he no longer will have to spend an hour + each day commuting!  And overall, it's just a much better apartment. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Brazilian (?) Finger Snap

Over our nice Sunday lunch of leftovers (gasp!  So NOT Brazilian...), we started talking about the Brazilian Finger Snap:

None of us can do it.  What does it mean?  My husband said he thinks it's just for emphasis.  But I think it's more to indicate that someone had to hurry (used when someone is telling a story, and they get to the party where the said person had to move fast or work hard), or indicating something was hard, someone had to work hard, etcetera.  I don't know if I would say this is a uniquely "Brazilian" trait, because I had a friend from Argentina who would do this ALL THE TIME.  But I thought I'd share this because it is a quirky little cultural thing that I encounter every day.  And maybe some day I'll learn how to do it...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Portuguese homework: O Barquinho

Hi there!  My wonderful Portuguese teacher has given me some homework that I'm enjoying so much, I thought I'd share it with you.  Mostly what she does in class is makes me correct all my bad pronunciation.  And there's a lot.  And she is a stickler.  She doesn't let me get away with it.  Here are some of the words I have a REALLY hard time with

trabalho (that nasty LH combo is really tricky for us gringos)
engatinhar (to crawl, NH is another challenge)
pão (bread, the nasal "ão" kind of sounds like ouuuwwww....kind of)
anything ending in M

and that's just a few.  But here's the homework that I'm liking.  Enjoy some nice music for your Friday afternoon:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My first podcast

Hi there!  Well with my celebrity status as a blogger, I get requests.  I usually have to fight off the crowds, and wear my sunglasses in public...

But seriously, I was asked to do a podcast with Kinsey at Brazilianisms (check out more on the website.  There's a lot of interesting stuff).  He just posted it.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The leak is back.

I've avoided this post for a LONG time.  It's been sitting there in my "to do" list for months.  You remember that stupid leak that was plaguing us?  Well, it is back.  For those of you who aren't faithful daily readers, here's the time line:

1.  Moved into apartment.
2.  After 1 month, noticed growing wet spot on the ceiling in our 2nd bathroom.  It quickly turned into peeling paint and then mold.
3.  Talked to almost everyone in the building and at the rental company, and found out this leak has been an issue for well over 1 year.  But they rental company/owner just kindly painted over the problem and were grateful to get some stupid Americans in the place to pay rent.
4.  Ranted.  Raved.   Made threats.  Enlisted help.  Called daily.  But FINALLY got the leak repaired, and the mold/damaged paint removed and entire situation "fixed."  Hooray!  We felt so proud and happy that we had achieved something. 
5.  Two months later, the leak/peeling paint/mold returned. 
6.  Called the rental company.  And they actually came back in a timely matter and began fixing the leak. 
7.  After one month, the ceiling in the bathroom looks as good as new!
8.  After 2 days (Yes!  TWO DAY!!!!), the water returns.  At this point THERE IS NO ONE LIVING ABOVE US.  It is a mystery as to why there is any water running upstairs.  My husband thinks that the owner of the apartment upstairs has come in the middle of the night and dumped water on the floor just to spite us.  I have to concur, because I can't come up with any other logical conclusion.
9.  We call the rental company.  The "fix it guy" is mad.  Maybe he will get things done???
10.  The rental company calls us back 1 week later to ask if the wet spot has dried and the leak has stopped leaking.  My husband said that it was still wet.  They ask us to call back when it's dry.  Wait a it our job to tell the rental company when to do their job?  Oh, I's Brazil....

By this point, I have just given up.  I actually can't believe we got all worked up about the initial problem.  It seems so trivial at this point.  Now, we are ACTIVELY looking for a new apartment.  This is not just due to the leak.  I wish it were so simple.  Here are some of the reasons that we are looking for a new place:

A.  I don't like hearing our neighbors practice their farmer blows, clearing their sinuses, hacking, and coughing up lugies (as I WRITE THIS SOMEONE IS FARMER BLOWING!  Thank you.  I wish all you readers could be here to experience this moment with me). 
B.  Dora has had to put up with a lot of "love" from her little sister, and is begging for her own room.  We are looking for a 4 bedroom.  Plus next year, Dora will start going to school in the morning, and Bea and Sebastian will be studying in the afternoon.  Logistically, it would be helpful to have the girls NOT sharing a room.
C.  We'd like to be on the other side of town to be closer to my work, and the kids school (more on this later).
D.  We have a neighbor who has become a BIG problem.  Not only is she blowing her cigarette smoke into our apartment every day, but her 3 grown children that live with her in her basement apartment without windows (I think her living situation must be a wee little bit challenging) are now calling us uneducated, accusing us of throwing trash into their apartment, trying to take our parking spot, and just generally being very unkind.  Ugh.
E.  Termites
F.   Is it too much to ask that bedroom doors would shut?  Apparently so in this apartment.
G.  Living on the first floor and having a lack of direct sunlight starts to make a person's soul feel a little dark.
H.  Oh, and just to help me remember, another neighbor just threw their juice box out of their window onto the neighbor's roof.  Not only do we get the joy of looking out our window and seeing all this trash, but we also get to pick up the chewed gum, candy wrappers, napkins full of chicken and rice (?) and other yummy trash out of our area privativa (patio).  Ew.

All to say, we are all done with this apartment.  It has been good to stay in the neighborhood, it's been good to save money.  But it's time to have a little better surroundings so that I we don't start to think that our living situation is how all of Brazil is.  I've been very actively looking for apartments on the other side of town.  It is a challenge.  But I keep telling myself that we will find a good place.  Eventually....

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Portuguese Class begins!

I have lived in Brazil for 2 years, 5 months and 23 days.  I have yet to take a Portuguese class.  I've been getting by on what I vaguely remember of Spanish, what I've learned helping my kids do their homework, a bit of Pimsler, a bit of Rosetta stone, learning some songs for the Festa Junina last year and for Kindergarten graduations (amazing how music will help vocabulary and pronunciation) and a whole lot of luck.  I can survive, but it's not easy.  And I sound like an unintelligible 2 year old many times. 

A few weeks ago Sebastian got an invitation to a friend's house, and when I went to pick him up I ended up staying at their house for 2 1/2 hours just talking with the mom, in Portuguese.  She is one really cool person, and she recently returned from a month in Canada where she studied English.  She's also considering getting her Master's in Portuguese so she can teach foreigners.  And what do you know:  she wants to give me free classes to see how it goes!  I'm pretty excited, and hoping that I can make some good progress. 

Here I go!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

100 Brazilian foods you have to try

A fellow blogger posted this, and I just had to repost/link.  The idea is taken from the Onmivore's 100, a list of 100 foods that you have to try before you die.  But this blogger changed it to 100 Brazilian foods.  So, I'm going to copy the list and cross out the ones I've already tried. You can get this list in English here, and the list in Portuguese here:

100 Brazilian dishes to try
  1. Doce de batata doce (sweet potato purée/jam/jelly)
  2. Churrasco (Brazilian-style BBQ)
  3. Bala de banana Oliveira ou similares (some sort of sweet)
  4. Tapioca (made of mandioc starch…it´s complicated)
  5. Pizza assado no forno à lenha (Pizza made on a wood fire grill, very common)
  6. Feijão tropeiro (a variation of the feijão or beans)
  7. Arroz carreteiro
  8. Açaí na tijela (very common in the NE and N, served with granola in the NE or with regular food in the N)
  9. Paçoca de amendoim (peanut sweet, a little like fudge with peanuts)
  10. Pato no tucupi (some sort of duck dish)
  11. Maniçoba
  12. Baião de dois
  13. Acarajé (amazing street food served in Bahia, mostly. Made of feijão paste with all sorts of goodies and shrimp. Ask for it without chilli the first time and make sure the oil used for frying is not too nasty)
  14. Pamonha (sweet corn paste wrapped in corn leaf and boiled, very nice)
  15. Dobradinha (tripe stew, tastes better than it sounds if made well)
  16. Rapadura (pure juice extracted from the sugar cane)
  17. Farofa de içá
  18. Barreado
  19. Pastel de feira (they vary depending on the region, but it´s basically a fried pastry with various fillings.
  20. Couve refogada com alho (a common side dish, greens with garlic)
  21. Sanduíche de pernil (a pork sandwich, pernil is the pork leg)
  22. Palmito (palm hearts)
  23. Umbu em natura (a fruit, the juice is good too)
  24. Pacu (a type of fish)
  25. Camarão na moranga (a shrimp stew served in a pumpkin)
  26. Doce de abóbora (pumpkin jam/sweet)
  27. Feijoada (the classic Brazilian dish, based on beans and varied meats served with rice, orange and couve, a sort of cabbage.
  28. Galinhada com pequi (a chicken stew)
  29. Peixe na telha (a fish dish)
  30. Biscoito de polvilho (very Brazilian, and irresistible little biscuits)
  31. Galinha à cabidela
  32. Pão de mel com doce de leite (literally honey bread, very nice)
  33. Any fish baked in folha de bananeira (banana tree leaf)
  34. Queijo coalho na brasa (usually sold at beaches in the NE, cheese grilled on a stick)
  35. Curau
  36. Torta de liquidicador (I can´t believe this is here, but it´s a must-eat! Any Brazilian housewife should know how to make it, cake mixed in a blender)
  37. Café coado no filtro de pano (coffee passed through a cloth filter)
  38. Caldo de cana (sugar-cane juice usually served with ice and lemon. Careful with hygiene.
  39. Arroz, feijão, bife e batata frita (rice, beans, steak and fries, not very healthy, but you can remove the fries. This is a typical PF, prato feito)
  40. Buchada de bode (mutton dish)
  41. Bolo de rolo (no idea, some sort of cake)
  42. Furrundum
  43. Chá mate gelado (chilled mate tea)
  44. Rabada (oxtail stew)
  45. Vaca atolada
  46. Pitanga (a fruit)
  47. Quibebe (pumpkin dish)
  48. Pintando na brasa (BBQ fish)
  49. Cuscuz paulista (corn-based dish)
  50. Quebra queixo (hard sugar-based sweet)
  51. Pingado de padaria (a must-have, served in Brazilian diners, hot milk with a little of coffee)
  52. Quindim (egg-yolk-based sweet)
  53. Cajuzinho (cashew-nut sweet)
  54. Sorvete de milho (sweet corn ice cream)
  55. Sarapatel (very common in Bahia)
  56. Bolinho de chuva (mmmmm, try them!)
  57. Caruru (a type of stew, also common in Bahia)
  58. Frango com quiabo (chicken with okra)
  59. Leitão à pururuca (pork dish)
  60. Canjica doce (sweet corn pudding)
  61. Pinhão (type of pine nut, usually baked, common in the South)
  62. Vinho quente (hot wine)
  63. Cachaça artesanal de qualidade (artisan quality cachaça)
  64. Pão de queijo (mmmm, sold almost anywhere. Make sure they are fresh)
  65. Caldeirada de tucunaré (no idea)
  66. Moqueca (very common in Bahia, a fish stew with lobster and shrimp, coconut milk and other goodies)
  67. Mandioca frita (fried cassava)
  68. Broa de fubá (a sort of pastry made from corn flour)
  69. Jaca (you have to know how to eat this fruit, but it´s worth it. Very nutritious. Ask a native to serve it)
  70. Sonho de padaria (a type of doughnut)
  71. Anything made with cupuaçu (a fruit)
  72. Requeijão cremoso (the Brazilian version of cream cheese)
  73. A whole cumari pepper (hot)
  74. Churrasco grego (literally Greek BBQ, no idea what it is)
  75. Queijo de Minas fresco (fresh cheese from Minas Gerais, sold in other parts of Brazil)
  76. Misto quente (amazing stuff, grilled ham and cheese sandwich that somehow tastes better in Brazil)
  77. Caldo de piranha (pirana broth???)
  78. Doce de leite mineiro (doce de leite from Minas Gerais)
  79. Brigadeiro (the all-Brazilian sweet, chocolate with granules… just try and it and tell me about it)
  80. Acerola (a small berry-like fruit, similar to pitanga, with lots of vitamin C. Usually in juices or ice-cream)
  81. Bobó de camarão (a shrimp stew, or similar)
  82. Pudim de leite condensado (condensed milk pudding, like a flan but more consistent and sweeter)
  83. Manjar de coco (a very sweet coconut pudding)
  84. Refrigerante de guaraná (guaraná soft drink)
  85. Coxinha (street/fast food, with chicken filling in potato and bread crumbs and fried)
  86. Caldo de mocotó (mocotó is the marrow from the hoof of a cow, calf, ox, used to make a broth)
  87. Romeu e Julieta (a slice of goiabada, guava jelly, and cheese served as a dessert)
  88. Chimarrão (like the Argentinian, mate)
  89. Virado à Paulista (haven´t tried this yet)
  90. Jabuticaba no pé (a fruit picked from the tree)
  91. Bala de coco de festa de aniversário (birthday coconut sweets, very typical, with the brigadeiro)
  92. Bolinho de bacalhau (cod croquette)
  93. Beirute (a very nice meat sandwich)
  94. Caldinho de feijão (bean broth)
  95. Melão produzido em Mossoró-RN (melon from Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte, in the North, never tried it)
  96. Milho assado (baked corn on the cob, tough to eat if you ask me)
  97. Batata doce assada (baked sweet potato)
  98. Caipirinha (made with cachaça)
  99. Geléia de mocotó
  100. Caju (the fruit, not the nut)
    I've got a ways to go....

Thursday, August 16, 2012

uai, uai, uai....

Minas Gerais (our state) is known for the word "uai," which is pronounced "why."  There are  speculations as to the origins of "uai."  Apparently President Juscelino Kubitschek said that it was the abbreviation of União + Amor + Independencia, which was the password for the Inconfidentes back around Tiradentes time.  But most people agree that it comes from the English word "why."  Mineiros would hear English speaking foreigners saying it, and they adopted it.  Why all those English speaking foreigners were abiding in Minas Gerais is beyond me, but that's the commonly held opinion.

And today Mineiros may hear another English speaking foreigner wandering the streets of Belo Horizonte, shouting


It's been one of those days.  Why do people say they will give you an answer on Wednesday, and then when you call them on Thursday they say, "oops, sorry.  Can you wait one more day?"  Why do customer service agents tell you that you will be able to access your account in one hour, when they know it's not true?  Why does the delivery man show up with a delivery 4 days after it was promised?  Why do all the teachers have to talk at the same time at the meeting?  And these are just a few of my complaints today....I'm not at liberty to divulge other complaints to the world wide webs while things are in still in the works....but lets just say I've got a lot to gripe about.

I know it's a bad day.  And bad days happen all over the world.  But I think that dealing with Mineiros will lead to lots of hair pulling, teeth gnashing, expletives and uai.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our experience with the Emergency room

It wouldn't be school vacation without some accident.  Thankfully, it was minor for us.  Two Thursdays ago, Bea and Sebastian were bored and engaged in typical sibling horseplay.  Beatrice was sitting on Sebastian's back, and he decided to launch her off.  She went flying, and hit the bridge of her nose on the edge of her bed.  I was outside hosing down the patio when I heard the screaming.  I looked in the window and didn't see any blood and asked Sebastian what happened.  He did the usual big brother deferring blame thing.  I came inside, and by that time there was blood everywhere, and I knew right away we were taking a trip to the emergency room.  I have to admit it was a bit scary to see my child covered in blood; especially not knowing where the wound was (mouth?  internal?  a cut?)  Matt was home, so we all loaded in the Fusca and drove to the Unimed Hospital.  We live VERY close to LifeCenter, which is one of the best (so I've heard) hospitals in the city, but when Sebastian hit his head at school and we were concerned about concussions, we were told that LifeCenter doesn't see children.  Since Bea's incident, we've learned that LifeCenter will do stitches, but not much more.

I sent Matt in with Beatrice, so all I have to say is based on Matt's experience.  But overall it was VERY good.  It's easy to pull up and to do a drop off.  Matt went up to the counter to get a number, but a "greeter" came up to him to ask if everything was ok.  Matt showed her Bea's wound, and the greeter helped get them get a ficha (ticket) that was bumped to the front of the line.  Within 1 minute, Beatrice's name was called and she was back with a doctor.  He cleaned her up, and she got 4 stitches.  I meanwhile was trying to find parking (I'd only brought R$6 with me, so I was rather limited.  Yet another reason to always carry some cash....) and console the older two children.  Dora was crying and upset:  she thought Beatrice was going to have to spend the night.  I stuck around the waiting room for about 45 minutes, and then realized I had to leave or else I wouldn't have enough money to pay for parking.  Matt said that Bea had to wait for x-rays (because she bumped her forehead they wanted to take x-rays just to be safe).  By the time we got back home, Matt and Beatrice were done.  I cleaned up the blood on the floor, and we went back to meet them at McDonalds at Boulevard Shopping for a "were going to be okay" dinner.  Bea and Matt spent a total of 60 minutes in the hospital, and the nurses, doctors and staff were very efficient, helpful and did a great job.  

Beatrice had to go back to the Unimed hospital to get the stitches out a week later.  This was the most annoying part of the whole process.  We had thought about calling our pediatrician to schedule and appointment to get the stitches out, but just didn't do it.  Matt took Bea to the equivalent of the walk in clinic (urgent care), and there was a HUGE line.  Matt guessed that it was going to take 2 hours, and he hadn't planned for that, and he knew it was going to be a problem for him and for Beatrice.  He went to LifeCenter, but it was the same story there--long line.  So, he brought her back home, called his sister who is a nurse, and took the stitches out himself!  I have to admit I wasn't so keen on the idea of him playing doctor, especially since I had attempted to remove George's stitches (the cat) last year and caused a mountain of problems.  But his sister assured us that it was ok.  And it is.  Now we are just applying Rosehip oil to help it heal and hopefully minimize any scarring. 

I think it's pretty much a given that we will have visits to the Emergency room.  Kids are kids.  Accidents happen.  And like I said, it could have been worse.  Thankfully it wasn't, and we are thankful that we have good health insurance, that we live close to good hospitals, and that we had a good experience.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I changed the chuveiro!

I can't remember if I've written about showers in Brazil.  Many people have.  Most apartments and houses do not have hot running water.  And contrary to popular believe, not all of Brazil is in the humid tropics, so it's nice to have hot showers.  So, we have these:

It's called the chuveiro.  There is an electric current that runs through the apparatus that heats up the water.  The nice thing is that you have almost instantaneous hot water (if the water pressure is right).  The not so nice thing is that it's a mixture of water and electricity.  Just a wee bit risky, I must say.  But it works.  At least most of the time.

Friday night, our oldest daughter was taking a shower, when we heard her start yelling, "MOMMMMMMM!"  I've heard that before.  It means something is malfunctioning with the shower.  A few times there has been smoke (a horrible plastic smell).  And once or twice just really hot water and lots of steam.  But it means it's time to change the chuveiro.  My informal YouTube research helped me learn that you can actually just change the little coil "element" inside the head, and all is good.  We had 2 leftover shower heads from our last apartment (yes, we took EVERYTHING with us when we moved.  We left it as we had found it:  barren).  Rather than being totally Brazilian (fixing it rather than throwing it away), we opted to just get rid of the old shower head.  Unfortunately, my husband couldn't change the shower head because it was night.  In order to change it, you have to turn off the power, and that means turning off the lights.  And also unfortunately, my husband was leaving in 45 minutes for an orchestra tour.  But he assured me that I could do it the next morning.

However, Saturday morning arrived and I had my hands full with 3 children.  I couldn't call the dear hubby, and his sporadic texts weren't giving the me the confidence I needed to deal with electricity and tools.  So I ended up taking a bucket shower.  You know it:  fill the bucket with warm water and attempt to get yourself clean as shampoo runs in your eyes.

Sunday morning I decided that I was done with the bucket, and I was going to face the chuveiro.  And I did it!  Turned off the power.  Unscrewed the square boxy like thing that the wires go in.  Removed the old shower head.  Screwed on the new shower head.  Put the new wires in the square boxy thing.  Turned the power back on.  Hot water!  Nice, warm shower!

Someone saw me disposing of the old chuveiro today (yes, it sat around in our apartment for a full 24 hours before I got around to taking it out with the trash.  It was one of those kind of Sundays).  She was SO impressed that I, an AMERICAN WOMAN could change the chuveiro.  I feel pretty dang proud of myself!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


No, we're not leaving Brazil.  No plans to do so.  Days when I want to, but we are fully here.  Friends, work, and now we're thinking about moving to another apartment in Belo Horizonte.  We're here.

But I've been thinking about the "despedida" or "farewell" recently.  We went to a birthday party a few weekends back.  It was very nice:  about an hour outside of the city, at the family "cabin," lots of kids and bikes and a swimming pool.  The invitation said that the party was between 10 am and 3 pm.  For various reasons, we didn't even arrive at the party until 1:30 pm.  We ate, played, walked around the lake, and at about 5:00 pm it was birthday cake time (yes, that was a full 2 hours after the "end" of the party).  It's winter here, so the sun goes down at about 5:45 pm.  I had driven the Fusca (VW Bug), and even though I had another passenger that was going back with me who knew Belo Horizonte like the back of her hand, I didn't feel so comfortable with driving in the dark in an unfamiliar neighborhood.  So at 5:15 I started telling my kids and fellow passengers that I would like to leave.  I knew that nobody was happy that I was leaving (the hosts, the other passenger and her daughter),  but I also knew that if I didn't do a little pushing, we weren't going to leave until 9 pm.  After 45 minutes, and making the rounds to say goodbye to everyone and their grandpa, we left.  And we made it back safe and sound.  And I was only mildly annoyed by the long, drawn out departure. 

That's how departures are in Brazil.  No one really wants to leave the party, the restaurant, the Sunday afternoon lunch.  So Brazilians linger, have one more saideira (that last drink before you leave), tell the kids you are really going to go in 5 minutes for the 7th time.   The hosts complain and say that you just got there (5 hours ago), and convince you into staying for another 2 hours.  This is one thing that I still have not learned to adapt to in Brazil.  I'm just so dang American.  When it's time to go, it's time to go.  I don't like to do this meandering, in between, hanging out thing.  And I especially don't like it when my kids make it harder for me to leave.  I have to confess that I've resorted on occasions to bribing my children, especially the youngest in regards to departure time.  "Beatrice, if you are a good girl when we leave I will give you candy."  Ug.  But I've realized that it's hardest for her.  She's American, because we are.  But she's celebrated more birthdays in Brazil than she has in the US.  She loves the prolonged despedida. 

For example, about 2 months ago I decided to pick her up from school and walk back home rather than drive.  Leaving school was no problem, and I told her that we were going to eat dinner at the padaria (bakery) on the way home.  A little special mommy/daughter time.  After we left the padaria, we saw her best friend from school.  Shrieking and jumping ensue.  Best friend's mom offers to give us a ride home (even though it was totally out of her way, and it would take longer to drive than to walk).  I politely decline but the best friends protest loudly so the mom convinces me to get in the car.  Ok.  She drives us home, and we were in the car a total of maybe 10 minutes.  I get out of the car, find my keys, and Beatrice tells me she has to say goodbye to her friend.  This involves a conversation, and Beatrice tries to make plans for a play date, and convince both mommies to let them play just a little bit.  I continue to try to get Bea out of the car, and finally after 5 minutes she gets out.  But then she won't let go of the car door, and she has to sing a song and tell a story and hug her friend again.  Finally I pry her from the door, and then the best friend is crying because she didn't get to say goodbye.  They roll down the window and Beatrice and best friend yell back and forth "goodbye!"  "good night!" until the car is a block away.  I proceed to pull my gray hair out as I drag my daughter to our apartment.

I felt so annoyed by this, but it wasn't until the birthday party that I realized that this is just the Brazilian part of Beatrice doing the normal Brazilian thing.  She isn't (always) trying to manipulate me, or be obnoxious, she's just doing what little kids do here when the love someone and they don't want them to leave or say goodbye.  It also made me realize that Brazilians must think I am SO rude and condescending.  What feels like a warm embrace and nice cheek kisses to say goodbye (which is much more that most Americans would do) must the coldest, rudest despedida that these Brazilians have ever encountered.  

And on that note, I'm going to end this post.  Coldly.  Abruptly.  :-)