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.