Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not Frozen to Death Yet!

All the 'kids' in Eric's family. From left to right is: Kelly (the baby sister), me, Madison (the 3 1/2 year old niece), Eric, Kaylee (the 20 month old niece), Brian (Tanya's husband), Tanya (Eric's older sister), Ryan (Tammy's boyfriend), and Tammy (Eric's middle sister).

So we've made it through more than a week of Iowa winter and I haven't turned into an icicle yet! Quite an accomplishment given the snow, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures!!! (Although, I will get into trouble if I don't tell you that it 'warmed up' yesterday. We had a high of 36 degrees. Eric kept saying, "It is really nice out today!" I still think we need to work on the definition of 'warm'!) Eric is loving the snow and the cold and says that it feels like Christmas now to him. I am tolerating it all, but I hear the tropical Brasil climate calling to me!!! I tend to agree with Madison, our niece. She looked out the window this weekend at Eric and Kelly out in the snow, looked back up at me and said, "They are NUTS! I don't know why they like to be cold!" All I could do is laugh. She is getting so grown up (and so smart too!)

We got to go up to Urbana, IA on Friday to help Eric's mom celebrate her birthday. All his family was there, so we had a really good time with everyone. The most fun was being able to give our nieces an early Christmas present. (I love seeing kids reactions at Christmas time! We don't have any kids on my side anymore, so I have a blast shopping for our 2 nieces and getting to play with them.) Eric's sister, Tanya, told us the girls needed snowboots, and given the current base of snow out there, we decided to let them open their boots on Friday. Of course, that led to Madison (who is only 3 1/2 and shouldn't be able to read, right?) finding every gift under the tree with her name on it and trying to convince her Mom to let her open up some more presents. And then came the challenge of convincing the 20 month old niece that she should take off her new boots so that her feet would stop sweating while she was inside. But all that pleading was met with an insistent "boots . . . on!" My nieces share my love of all things shoes. And with little girl shoes being so stinkin' cute . . . well, I have a real problem walking past a pair in their sizes. Throw in a sale (regardless of how small it may be) and I'm a goner for sure! But, much to Eric's dismay, it is soooo much fun!

We've been enjoying getting together with some of our Burlington friends since we've been in town and are looking forward to a couple more days to catch up with everyone. Then it is back to Urbana this weekend and then to Georgia on Christmas Day! We are expecting our visas to be finished up and ready for us shortly after Christmas and are supposed to be shipped to us in Georgia. If all goes as planned and we have our documents in hand, we leave January 1st to head back South. (You know, where it is WARM!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How We Ended Up in the Frozen Tundra of Iowa

So, this is where I am today. (The picture is taken out of my hotel window because it is too stinkin' cold to go outside again right now!) This is the frozen tundra of Burlington, IA. We made it into town last night just in time for the ice storm that is passing through the area. Luckily, the temperature has risen just enough to stop the rain from freezing right now, but tonight it is supposed to go back to getting icy. Brrrrrr and YUCK!

So I haven't yet shared our travel story and I guess I should tell you how it is we ended up here (and maybe why we spent the weekend in Mexico!)

Thursday started out a normal day. The day we were supposed to fly into Chicago. Our plane was to arrive in Chicago at 5:00 Friday morning. We were going to the consulate's office on Friday to finish up our visa paperwork and then we were heading to Urbana to spend the weekend with Eric's parents.

We arrived at the airport in Belo Horizonte with plenty of time to check into our flight. Our flight was delayed about an hour, but we had a 5 hour layover in Sao Paulo, so we knew we'd be okay to catch our flight to Chicago.

Once we arrived in Sao Paulo, we had to take a taxi over to the international airport. Traffic was bad and so it took an hour and a half to get there. The check-in lines were terrible and we stood in line from about 8:00 until 10:30. Our flight was to leave at 10:30, but while waiting in line, we learned that the flight was canceled due to bad weather in Chicago (or at least that's the reason they gave us.) At 10:30 we got to the ticket counter and were there for a half hour while the agent tried to find another flight to put us on. Finally, she said our only option was to fly to Mexico City and then catch a flight to Chicago from there. She said we would arrive at 1:00 pm in Chicago. Yea! We will still have time to get by the consulate!

United Airlines was putting us on an AeroMexico flight, so we then had to go over to their ticket counter to check our baggage. No line there-PERFECT! Especially since we had just an hour now before our new plane was leaving. At this point it is 11:00 pm on Thursday and we haven't eaten anything since lunch.

We make our way over to the international security station so we can get into the terminal and board our plane at midnight. The international line is a mile long. Holy cow! We knew there was no way we would make our flight to Mexico City now! And we are starving and we both get a little cranky when we are hungry. Eric left me in line while he ran to find something for us to eat. He came back with a yummy hot croissant sandwich and an ice cold beer. A beer and sandwich had never tasted so good to me! We stood in the security line convinced we would never make our flight and try to scarf down our meal.

Luckily, the plane got delayed and we made it on board just in the nick of time! On to Mexico City. We took a dose of Simply Sleep and settled in for our 8.5 hour overnight flight.

We arrived in Mexico City and had 3 hours until our Chicago flight left. The airline was transferring our bags for us, so we wouldn't have to go through customs. We checked at the gate to make sure the boarding pass we had would be all we needed and the airline employee said we were good to go, just wait until boarding time. 9:00 am rolls around and they are boarding our plane. We get in line excited that we are about to be on the last leg of our journey to the US. When it was our turn to hand over our boarding pass, we were told we couldn't board the plane! Apparently, we needed to go through immigrations and get a little piece of paper before they would let us out of the Mexico Airport. (Remember how we had asked the lady if we had everything we needed? She lied . . .)

So as our plane left the gate, we went to immigrations. Here we had to answer all kinds of pertinent questions like how many days we had been in Mexico (0.125 days), where we had visited while in Mexico (the airport?), and then we got our little piece of paper that would allow us to leave the country. Now, it was off to find our luggage, since the lady at the gate told us they would be removing our bags from the plane.

Two and a half hours later and after being sent from one end of the airport to the other a couple of times, we had our luggage in hand and we made the long walk down to the AeroMexico ticket counter to get new boarding passes for another flight. They then directed us to another counter elsewhere in the airport. Well, no luck there either. Because our original flight (from Sao Paulo to Chicago) was with United Airlines, we would have to talk to them about a new flight. And have I mentioned yet that while we are being shuffled all around the airport, we have a suitcase monorail going? Because we had Christmas gifts to bring back to the US and because we need to take some things back home with us, we have 4 very large suitcases along with 2 carry-on upright suitcases and a small duffel bag. There are two of us, which makes 4 hands, which means we had to strap suitcases together and try to maneuver them all through the crowded airport.

At some point on our way to the United ticket counter, Eric looked at me and said, 'we aren't going to get to Chicago during business hours anyway . . . we should call my uncles and just spend the weekend in Mexico and go to Chicago on Monday.' So we did.

Eric called Arturo (who happens to be in charge of customs at the Mexico City Airport). He was a bit surprised to hear we were standing just a couple thousand feet from his office, but he came over and picked us up. He took us out for lunch and then drove us out to Cuernavaca to the summer house that Eric's grandparents owned.

We were met by the other 2 uncles in Mexico, Rafa and Luiz, and their families. Friday night we ate some more tacos (yummy!) and hung out with all the family. We woke up Saturday morning and Arturo asked us if we would like to go to his home in Puebla. I wanted to meet the rest of the family and Eric was excited to see his other 2 cousins, so off we went to continue our 2 day Tour de Mexico.

After a fun day in Puebla of horseback riding, some awesome Mexican food, and getting the tour of the city, it was off again on Sunday to head back to the airport. We hopped on a bus and took the 2.5 hour ride back into Mexico City.

Our plane from Mexico City was delayed about an hour, and then we boarded, and then there was a computer problem in the flight deck, so we sat out on the taxiway for another hour and a half or so and THEN, FINALLY, we were in the air and on our way to Chicago. We got into O'Hare about 9:00, stood in line for immigration and customs, and then had to wait an hour for our hotel shuttle to arrive. (We were getting a little cranky again by this point!) But we finally arrived at our hotel about 11 that night. So, 84 hours after we started our trip, we were at our final destination.

The next morning, we got our paperwork dropped off at the Brazilian Consulate, picked up our rental car, and made it into Burlington about 6:00 Monday evening. We were both rather exhausted.

We had a fun time in Mexico and it was great to finally get to meet the rest of Eric's family, but WOW! If I don't have to step foot into another airport for awhile I think it will be just fine! At one point during our 5 hours of standing in lines in Sao Paulo Eric told me I had better like Brasil. When I asked why he informed me that we may never leave the country again until our time there was completed! A little later on I suggested to Eric that we just drive next time we want to visit the US-I still think it might have been quicker! ;) Hopefully our flight back in a few weeks will go a little smoother and we will forget our vows not to fly ever again. hehe

This was Friday night in Cuernavaca with some of the family. Eric and I were both in serious need of a shower (and maybe a nap!) We apologized repeated to everyone for looking so rough, but they just kept telling us 'Hey, you're with family, it doesn't matter!'

Here we are getting ready to head to Puebla on Saturday morning. We are with Arturo and Rafa. (We were feeling so much better after a good night's sleep and a shower!)

This is in Puebla with Arturo's family. They really showed us a good time!

And this is Popo - an active volcano just outside of Puebla. It is really beautiful.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

So, um, we just got back from Mexico

Mmmmm . . . tamales (and sombreros!)

Yeah, this beats air travel!

Yeah, seriously, MEXICO. We had a direct flight booked from Sao Paulo to Chicago for Thursday night into Friday morning. We were supposed to be in Chicago at 5:00 am Friday.

It is going to take more time than I have right now to explain it all, so that will have to wait until tomorrow. But for the overview:

We stood in line no less than 5 hours in Sao Paulo.

Our flight got canceled on Thursday.

We were rerouted through Mexico.

We missed our connection due to Mexico immigration issues.

We spent the weekend in Mexico.

Our flight was delayed.

We finally arrived at our hotel in Chicago at 11:15 pm Sunday night.

It is to the consulate tomorrow morning for us and then on to Burlington. But right now, it is on to bed for a travel weary girl and her tired hubby! I promise to fill you in on all the fun details soon.

And for those of you concerned, the weekend in Mexico did not include any time in a Mexican jail. (Although the way things were going for us, we were pretty sure on Friday that we might end up there-HA!)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

As for me and my house

we will flush the toilet paper.

I try my best to be a lady and not bring up unbecoming subjects, but this is one I cannot avoid any longer! My very first trip to Belo Horizonte, Brasil was back in July. I was so excited to come check the place out and get all immersed in a new culture. About my third day here, I began to notice that every public restroom had a trashcan in each of the stalls. Now, for you ladies, you know that this is not an uncommon practice. BUT, I started noticing that the trashcans were all full of little wads of toilet paper. Now, my first thought was 'wow, these people blow their noses a lot!' On the fourth day, I became a little suspicious and I asked Eric, "Are there trashcans in the stalls of the men's bathrooms?" He hadn't noticed any, but he surveyed the situation for me on his next restroom visit. There were indeed trashcans there too: all with little wads of toilet paper. I presented him my oh-good-grief-these-people-don't-flush-their-toilet-paper! theory. He thought I was crazy at first, but the more he paid attention, the more he realized that oh-good-grief-these-people-don't-flush-their-toilet-paper! We are in a city of 5 million people and they aren't flushing toilet paper and this concerns me from a sanitary and hygiene standpoint. Especially since trash pickup works by piling the bags of trash on the sidewalks each evening and the trash truck comes around and picks them all up (and since the are a lot of people on the street going through the trash bags looking for cans and other recyclables) . . . yes, I know . . . EEEEEWWWWW!

Now this brings me to the present situation at hand. I did some research and apparently the reason for the no-flush rule on the paper is that the in home sewer lines tend to be small and paper clogs them easily. Well, now we have our own apartment. And I'm going to be real honest with you, clogging a pipe is a risk I am just going to have to take! Because as for me and my house, we WILL flush the toilet paper!

Sorry. That's been weighing on my mind for some time now and, boy, do I feel better sharing it. hehe ;)

Anyway, I believe I promised some pictures that I haven't delivered yet, so here they are: our new apartment!

Coming off the elevator on the 5th floor, here is our front door

Just inside the front door on the left, is the social bathroom (half bath)

On inside, this is on the right, it is the first part of the great room. Where the TV is sitting on the floor, will be our entertainment center and the couch we just ordered will go in front of the window on the left of the picture
Standing next to the TV now, these are built in shelves along the wall that divides the kitchen from the great room

The built ins are on my left and this is the great room area that we will use as our dining room for now. This is a table that was left here that we are using for now until our tables gets delivered in January. Going through the doorway on the left takes you into the dining room

Here is standing in that doorway looking towards the master suite and all the other bedrooms. The kitchen is just to my left
And here is standing in the kitchen doorway

And the door is to my back now as I take a peek into the kitchen

Continuing through the kitchen and to the left, you enter the laundry room, here is the maid's quarters which is off the laundry room (don't be fooled, the only way this is getting used is if Eric's maid [that would be me] sleeps in there!)
Across the laundry room, this is the maid's bathroom, again, probably won't get used too much!And here is a shot through the laundry room back towards the kitchen. The maid's quarters are on my right and bathroom on the left
If you go back through the kitchen and into the dining room, you can access all the bedrooms. Here is the first one if you go to the far right. This will be our main guest bedroom.

The next room you come to is the office. It also has a twin bed in it, but on the right is a built in desk and bookcase, so we will mostly just use it as our office.

The next doorway in the dining room is the oh-so-lovely avocado green bathroom. Someone described it as walking into a forest, um, okay. I would tend to go more with walking into a giant vat of guacamole . . mmmmm, now I'm hungry. :) This is the main guest bathroom though.

Next up is the other guest bedroom.

And, here is the last doorway in the dining room, it takes you into the master suite. There is a walk in closet on the left and the bathroom is the second door on the left.

With my back to the bathroom, here is our bedroom (yes, I was supposed to be packing my suitcase, but took a break to shoot a few photos!)

And here is a peek inside the master bathroom.

And, then standing in my bedroom door, looking through the dining room. The kitchen door is on the right and the great room is straight ahead.

Well, that's the best tour I can give in blog-land. You'll have to come down here in person to get a better one. :)

We leave in just a few hours to head towards the airport and make our way to Chicago. We hope to see lots of you soon!

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Ahhhh yes, things are blooming, I am wearing my sundresses, Eric is enjoying the 'shorts-weather' . . . it must be getting close to Christmas! I have read that most parts of the midwest have had between 2-16 inches of snow along with some ice in the last week or so, and in Georgia, the evenings are getting cooler and leaves are falling off the trees. I have to be real honest here, I think I prefer the 'looks' of Christmas in Brasil better than the US! Like for example, this picture was taken Saturday at the CNH Engineering Department Christmas Party. As I recall, last year at the Burlington CNH Holiday Party we put the Explorer in 4 High for the drive home because there was a nice thick layer of ice forming over the snow covered roads. Do I really need to explain myself any more than that?!?

We will be leaving here Thursday to fly to Chicago and then wait it out through the holidays while the Brazilian Consulate gets our final visas all in order and ready for our return to Brasil. I am excited to see everyone, but I am really hoping for some massive global warming between now and then. My body has gotten quite accustomed to the 75-85 degree days of Belo Horizonte, and I am quite certain I will go into some sort of shock when I step off the plane in Chicago! (Everyone please start burning some styrofoam in your backyards, and, ladies, it is time to pull out that aerosol hairspray!) ;)

Last week was spent mostly trying to get the apartment all cleaned up and ready to move into, so it left little time for blogging (and little to blog about: today, I scrubbed the bathtub, oooo-ahhh-the excitement!!!) We also received our stove, fridge, washing machine, and bed last week. We got our couch, which might I say is really awesome and I can't wait to get it, ordered this weekend. So hopefully when we return we will get our table and couch delivered which will make the apartment much more livable! We had big plans to move this weekend, but after a series of events and further consideration, we decided to stay here until Wednesday and then just spend our last night there before we leave for the US. It makes things a little less complicated that way.

Between the beauty of online ordering and the shopping we've done down here, we have the majority of our Christmas shopping completed with the exception of a few people who have not given us a Christmas list or any ideas . . . I won't mention names, but you know who you are!!! ;) The fun part now is trying to get it all packed into our suitcases and somehow manage to stay under the weight limit. For some reason we have been exceptionally drawn to really heavy items this year. Which might make sense except the part where we have to get it back to the United States and then that part where we have to fly with it once again when we go to Georgia. Thank goodness for suitcases with wheels, that's all I'm saying!

My goal is to go get some more pictures of the apartment tomorrow, since it is all clean now. I will try to get them posted in the afternoon for your viewing pleasure!

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Cinderella Story (backwards)

So here I am today playing Cinderella. I know, everyone thinks I've been playing Cinderella all along - marrying my Prince Charming, wearing the 'princess' wedding dress, being whisked away to some land far, far, away, getting the royal treatment with my weekly manicure and biweekly pedicures, you know, a typical princess life really . . .

But my Cinderella story continues today (in reverse.) So far, my day has mostly consisted of scrubbing floors, cleaning toilets, and degreasing a kitchen. (Insert heavy sigh here.) But, I must admit that I am kind of excited about it. Not because I have missed house work that much, but because this means that we got the keys to our apartment this morning! YEA!!!

We decided exactly 4 weeks ago today that we wanted this apartment and started the process of renting it (it's the one I posted pictures of back in October.) And it has taken this long to get all the paperwork in order and the keys handed over to us. I thought maybe it took extra long because we are foreigners or maybe because the lawyers at CNH had to approve the contract. But no, I am told 1 month is typical for getting an apartment here!

So, I spent the first part of the day at the apartment to start the cleaning process and receive the appliances that were being delivered today. And when I say that I started the cleaning process, that is exactly what I mean - this is going to take awhile! While we love the place, boy is it dirty! There is a thick layer of dust covering everything from the floors, to the built in shelves, and even the bathtub. The kitchen has a nice layer of grease protecting all surfaces. The bathrooms are, well, let's just go with very dirty. And even the walls need to be scrubbed throughout the place. We questioned the owner about the dirty condition and asked if it would be cleaned before we moved in. He said no and to just not worry about cleaning it when we leave. Hmmm...sounds nice I guess, but seriously, I have no idea how we could ever get it so dirty, much less leave it in that condition!!! (I come from a long line of people who believe in the 'leave it cleaner than you found it' school of thinking. I have a lot of memories of camping trips with my family: as Dad would pull the camper out of our spot, my brothers and I were responsible for cleaning up the site. Inevitably, Dad would come inspect and find a gum wrapper or little piece of paper towel we had left behind. As we would start complaining that the wrapper was half deteriorated and we obviously didn't leave it there, Dad would pull out the ole 'we leave things cleaner than we found them' line. Apparently, the last occupant of this apartment didn't have such home training!!!)

I went though an awful lot of buckets of dirty mop water as I swept and then twice mopped all the floors. I scrubbed down the kitchen surfaces and tried to get everything clean where the appliances would be installed. (Our refrigerator, stove, and washing machine were all delivered today.) Later in the afternoon, once I drank too much diet sprite, I cleaned one of the bathrooms out of necessity too. :)

All the shelves still need washed down and the walls need cleaning. I think I am going to have to mop everything once more before they meet my specs as well! And I have a couple more bathrooms that need my attention. At one point today, I was remembering a comment someone here made about how cheap maids were and how shocked they were that we wouldn't be hiring one. I almost considered rethinking that decision and then I thought of how hard it would be to get someone to clean how I want things cleaned! So, I guess it is a few more days of the Cinderella life (pre-prince) for me. (I know I am not getting any sympathy from anyone . . . one too many posts about pedicures and laying by the pool, I know!) ;)

I am going to have to convince my Prince Charming to manage one task at home for me though. I have a small problem at the apartment that I am not too sure how to handle. We have built in window boxes on a couple big windows in our living room. They need some serious attention after I get done with all my cleaning (everything planted in them right now is dead!) But, a pigeon decided to make my window box her home and decided to have a baby there! I have been a hunter for the better part of my life and I also don't have any trouble shooting a nuisance animal. But, what do you do when shooting is not an option??? I've considered poison, but then will I have 2 dead birds in my window box to deal with? Carcasses aren't really my specialty either. So, my conclusion today was that I make my husband dearest handle this problem, and then not tell me what he did. I'm pretty sure I won't want to know!

So, I am feeling a little grimy at the moment and I think my nose is full of dust, so I will close now and head for the shower! As soon as I get things a little cleaner around the house, I will take some more pictures to show off our new digs! :) And if Santa Claus happens to be keeping up with my blog, I could sure use some heavy duty Mr. Clean Magic Erasers in my stocking this year. I am seriously missing my cleaning supplies of choice and I am quite certain some things just aren't going to come clean until I have my Mr. Clean miracle product in hand!!!

Rock Table and Hard Rock

The countdown can officially begin now! We will be back in the United States in 11 days! Which leaves us not a lot of time in Brasil to get a lot done before we leave for a couple weeks.
Saturday morning, we got up and went to one of the malls in Belo Horizonte that has nothing but furniture stores in it. Eric and I had been trying to make up our minds on a dining room table for more than 2 weeks. There were 2 gorgeous tables that we fell in love with and couldn't decide between them. I had emailed pictures to my little brother, Justin, who just finished defending his master's thesis in Forestry with an emphasis in wood properties (or something along those lines.) And actually, his research was done down here in Brasil last summer. So, between that and his love/knowledge of all things tree, wood, and construction related, we were trusting him to give us some insight into the durability and quality of the two tables. His opinion: both were great options and he gave me a whole long list of the pros/cons of each piece of furniture. So, off we went to look one more time and try to decide and purchase one of the tables. After looking again at both, we ran across a marble topped table out in a display of a Christmas table setting in the middle of the mall. We both fell in love with the table and about an hour later, we had made the purchase! On December 28, our new dining room table gets delivered. Now all we have to do is find and buy some chairs (we didn't see any we liked on Saturday) and then we will be ready for a dinner party! Well, I guess I probably will have to wait on my shipment of kitchen goods from the US first . . . hard to serve guests dinner when you don't have anything to prep/cook with!!! (Sorry if we broke your heart Justin, I know you are more a wood man than rock lover these days!)

A closer shot of the wood and marble

There is one building that is visible and stands out throughout much of BH. Up on top of a mountain near the South end of the city is a tall blue tower. We were told that Hard Rock Cafe was in that building and we decided to go check it out on Saturday night. There are a couple restaurants in the top of the tower, but Hard Rock is actually in the building that is under the tower (although it also has a great view of the city.) We went up in the tower to get a good look around before we came down and had supper. The funniest part of it all was that at 9:30 pm, Eric and I were eating supper at Hard Rock Cafe and there was only one other group of people in the whole place! When we left at 10:30, people were just starting to arrive. Where can you go in the US where on a Saturday night no one is at Hard Rock Cafe at 9:30 pm!!!

A view at sunset over the mountains and into the city from high up in the tower

The CNH Christmas Party was on Sunday afternoon. It was a really fun family event. They had it at a Clube in a neighboring town. It was quite the event! They had tons of inflatables and games for the kids. They served sticks (think wooden kabob spears) of filet mignon, chicken breast, chicken hearts, and cheese cooked over fire. They had pizza cooking nonstop and tons of coke and beer flowing from the taps. There were 3 different bands that played throughout the afternoon with lots of people dancing and then they gave away tons of prizes (everything from new refrigerators, microwaves, digital cameras, and even a brand new car!) I think a good time was had by everyone - including us! We were just wishing that Eric was a CNH Latin America employee already so that he could be entered in all those drawings!!! (Better luck next year, I suppose.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

And a Happy Thanksgiving it was!

We had decided earlier in the week that we wanted to go to Xapuri for our Thanksgiving supper. Eric got home about 6:30 last night and we got ready to go out. Xapuri is an open air restaurant here in BH that serves typical Minas Gerais food family style. We figured it was about the closest thing we could get to a Thanksgiving dinner! (And not to mention that we do really love this type of food!!!)

So, here it is folks, Thanksgiving . . . Brasil style!

So we ordered frango com quiabo in the big black pot (chicken with okra), couve in the cast iron skillet (sort of like collard greens), in the small silver pots starting at the top left and going clockwise: chuchu (a green veggie sort of like cucumber), arroz (white rice), angu (think grits with a smoother texture), and feijão (red beans), and in the red dish, vinegarette (chopped tomatoes, onions, and peppers). Oh, and I guess I shouldn't leave out the bottle of Riesling grown and bottled in Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil.

My thought here was something along the lines of "hurry up and take the picture-this smells awesome and I am hungry!"

Enjoying our after dinner espresso (very common here)

One content fella - he's got his belly full (and he's so good looking too!!!)

We really wanted dessert, because, well, it was Thanksgiving and no matter how full you are you HAVE to have some dessert. We decided against it at the restaurant though because we were seriously stuffed. However, we stopped at the store on our way home and bought a 2-liter carton of sorvette de coco e abacaxi (coconut and pineapple ice cream ). We sat down at the table, each grabbed a spoon, and dug in! And let me tell you something, the Brazilians are serious about their ice cream and man is it good! We were then presented with a minor issue: the ice cream carton was too big to fit in the freezer of our mini fridge. I suggested that we would just have to finish it all off, you know, cause you hate to have it go to waste! ;) Eric wasn't up to the challenge though. So, I am sitting here now having some very, very soft ice cream out of our refrigerator. And yes, I realize that the time gets put at the bottom of my post and I am busted eating ice cream for breakfast, BUT it is fruit ice cream (which makes it healthy) and women need their calcium!!! :)

So, it was a fun Thanksgiving for us, even if it didn't quite feel like Thanksgiving Day! We had an awesome meal and a lot to be thankful for. I've already started thinking about next year though and since I will have a kitchen then, noodles, mashed potatoes and turkey are coming back on the menu for 2008! Maybe we will even invite some friends over and introduce the Brazilians to Thanksgiving Tyson/Zieser style!

Good luck on the After Thanksgiving sales today . . . we looked online at a bunch of the sales papers yesterday, and, I must admit, I am a wee bit jealous! I may have to go get a $4 pedicure or layout by the pool and enjoy the 80 degree weather today to remind myself that I don't have it so bad here. hehehe ;)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Feliz Dia de Ação de Graças!

Yes, that is the best Portuguese translation available of Happy Thanksgiving! (I just confirmed it with my tutor about an hour ago!)

This is our first major American holiday outside of the good ole US of A. It is kind of weird that Eric got up and went to work this morning. We both have been talking this week about what we wanted to do to celebrate Thanksgiving tonight, and, then somehow this morning, we both forgot it was here already.

This might be the first time since we moved that a little twinge of homesickness is upon us (well, I guess I can't speak for my husband, but for me at least . . .) All afternoon the only thing I can think of is how hungry I am for some of Grandma's homemade noodles with mashed potatoes, a slice of turkey, cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, greenbean casserole, some pumpkin pie . . . Yeah, this is pretty much torture right now typing this! ;) And actually, all my family is probably gathering around right now snitching little pieces of turkey and ham anxiously awaiting the rolls to come out of the oven so Grandad can ask the blessing and everyone can start piling their plates full. My brother, Travis, is probably making some awful pun or telling an 'ughhhh' joke and my cousin, Lindsey, is no doubt ready to fill her plate above the rim with nothing but noodles. These are the moments that make living in Brasil not quite paradise - it's hard to be so far away from the people we love (especially during the holidays!)

BUT, we have an awful lot to be thankful for this year and no longing for a chunk of gobbler can diminish that! This year: I married the most incredible man in the world who also happens to be my best friend, I got to wear my wedding dress twice!, we are making wonderful new friends in Brasil, the paperwork is almost finalized and we will get our apartment here real soon, we have been kept safe and healthy, we have the most incredible friends back home, we spent a relaxing week in Jamaica on our honeymoon, our families have been so supportive of our move, we were given this wonderful opportunity to come to Brasil, we are learning Portuguese fast enough to get around, our families have been blessed with good health (even though some have required a little attention to keep them that way), we have many good friends who have given birth to healthy babies (even if a couple of them did come too early!), we have been surrounded by lots of family and friends, our relationship and now our marriage has grown stronger with each passing day, I survived my first Iowa winter, I don't have to go through another winter for awhile ;), we got our house rented and all vehicles sold before we moved to Brasil, I got to retire! hehe, I finally got to take the cake decorating classes I have been wanting to take for a long time, we got to help our 2 nieces celebrate their 3rd and 1st birthdays, oh, I could go on forever and still not be able to count all the things I am thankful for this year . . .

Maybe the one thing that stands out in my mind as the greatest blessing for me this year though, and for what I am most thankful, is the wonderful peace that the Lord has given me this year. I started off the year a little disappointed 1. because I felt certain Eric would propose to me sometime before Valentine's Day, but he didn't and 2. because I was searching really hard for a permanent job (I was in a temporary, grant position) and was not having much luck finding something in my area. But as frustrating as those two things were for me from time to time, I felt some amount of peace about it all, like everything was going to be okay. And then, as the year progressed, Eric and I made the biggest 2 decisions of our lives to date: he (finally!) proposed and we decided to accept the offer to come down to Brasil. And have I mentioned that because of the latter decision I only had 4 months to plan our wedding??? In a matter of about 48 hours we made 2 huge decisions that would play a pretty big part in everything that comes later . . . and I never once had a doubt that it was exactly the right thing to do. I never got cold feet or wondered if I was marrying the right man, I didn't question the ability to plan a wedding in 4 months, I never wondered if Brasil was the right place for us to be going, I didn't even freak out when 5 weeks before we were supposed to go to Brasil we hadn't sold a single vehicle or got our house rented. (And then there is the part where everything has happened with such perfect timing this year, even when we didn't know it at the time, but anyway . . .)

All of my life, I have had to have control of every situation and this year, for the first time ever, I feel like I haven't had a lot of control of much. Normally, that would totally freak me out. But I believe that God has had a hand in everything that has happened this year and He has given me such peace about it all. Ever since I was a little girl, I've prayed for all the things I want and think I need, and then I'd finish with, "but Your will be done." To be totally honest, I am not really sure how much I always meant that last part though. What I really wanted to say was "please let my will be Your will and let that be done." But for the first time this year I think I've really meant it when I've asked for Him to guide my life. And strangely enough, ;) I have felt really good about everything happening in my life this year. Not to mention how smoothly things have gone!

So, yes, I have an awful lot to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving, but more than anything else, I praise the Lord for the peace that He has given me. I hope everyone has a wonderful day, please eat some turkey for me, and be thankful for all the many blessings!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Galo, Galo, Galoooo!

Oh, Brasil . . . where futebol is practically a religion all of it's own! I have been dying to write this post, but I was waiting for pictures from the big day. Now I have them, so here you have it: Eric and Emily's very first Brazilian soccer experience!

It is important to know first off that there are two professional teams here in Belo Horizonte and everyone in the city is passionate about both. Everyone passionately loves one team and passionately despises the other! Ever since our very first visit people have asked us which team we will pull for, and they then proceed to tell us why their team of choice is the best. We have maintained all along that we will have to attend one of each team's games and then decide who will be 'our' team.

Our first opportunity came on Sunday, November 11. A co-worker of Eric's invited us to attend a Galo game. When word got around that the Americans were attending their first futebol game, a bunch of the other Galo fans at the office decided to come too. We were given few, but simple instructions on Friday before the game: don't take your wallet, don't take your purse, don't wear any jewelry, don't wear a watch, put a little bit of cash in your pocket, and dress down (jeans and a t-shirt were suggested.)

I wasn't real sure what type of place we were going to when given that set of instructions, but we both were excited to get our first taste of futebol. It also helped knowing that we all bought the 'expensive' tickets; I was hoping that might put us in a safer part of the stands! And by expensive, I mean that we paid about $18 each for the tickets, while the cheap seats sell for $3 each. Felipe and his girlfriend (who is actually an avid fan of the other BH team and only went to the game because Eric and I were going) picked us up at the hotel and we headed to the stadium to meet everyone else.

Before the game, everyone hangs around outside the stadium. There are tons of little vendors selling everything from popsicles to beef kabobs right off the grill. Tons of people were selling cokes and juices and then there were the people with small 'lunchbox size' coolers who were "illegally" selling beer. (Apparently, in an effort to keep people a little less rowdy, they banned beer in the stadium a few years back and also made it illegal to sell beer outside. It is still ok to drink beer, you just aren't supposed to sell it. And by illegal, it really just means you have to hide it in a little cooler. That way everyone knows you have beer to sell and the police are content because you have it covered . . .)

While we were 'tailgating' everyone informed me that my t-shirt of choice for the day wasn't acceptable. No one had bothered to tell us the team colors, and honestly, it never even crossed our minds. I had inadvertantly worn Cruziero's (the other team in BH) color: blue. OOPS! I felt like I was getting the evil eye from an awful lot of people in the crowd, so I decided to buy one of the bootleg Galo shirts for sale on the street. Everyone agreed that was much better!

About 45 minutes before gametime, we headed into the stadium to try and find some of the other people who were going to the game with us. I have to include this video clip here. This is one of the guys trying to get our attention as we entered through the gate . . . you finally get to hear my husband's name pronounced in Brazilian Portuguese. The really funny thing is that he has started introducing himself as "Earrikee" now, so people understand his name and how to spell it. Also, you might notice that on the left side of the screen there are 2 police officers. One is male, to frisk the men coming into the stadium and the other is female, to check the women for weapons. We were warned pregame that this would happen. Unfortunately, it wasn't caught on film, but as we entered the stadium, I walked up to the lady cop. She let me by and then Eric stood in front of her. Everyone was yelling and trying to tell Eric he had to go to the male cop, but he didn't even notice until the female officer looked at him, shook her head no, and pointed over to where all the men were being checked. By that point we were all cracking up, and Eric just shrugged his shoulders and said, "She was better looking than him . . . I wanted her to frisk me." It was quite humorous!

If you can't get the video to work here, try this link:

Once in the stands, we observed the stadium as it began to fill up with people and then as the crowd got more and more excited. I spent the better majority of the game trying to figure out how to describe the experience. The best I could come up with is this: It has all the enthusiasm of a Georgia football game between the hedges in Sanford Stadium on a Saturday night against Auburn MINUS any amount of refinement and sophistication. It was an intense 2+ hours as everyone in the stadium was chanting, singing, taking off their shirts (ok, mostly just the men) and swinging them around their heads, and yelling everything from the famous "GOOOOOOL" to all sorts of Portuguese profanity directed at the other team, specific players, and the officials. Despite that Galo was in the lead the entire game, if someone missed a good shot or a pass, everyone in the stadium experienced what looked like gut wrenching pain and misery. Then, something good would happen and everyone went right back to their chanting, setting off fireworks in the stands (yeah, really), and jumping up and down continuously. (Eric and I also spent a bit of time discussing the structural stability of concrete and our concerns given the construction techniques we have been observing down here lately. With like 50,000 people all jumping at the same time, your strength of materials classes are replayed in your head as you try to remember what exactly you determined was the failure point in that one problem . . . and then you decide you'd be better off not thinking about it. Eric finally looked at me and said- "Just remember the safety factor!") I don't know a better way to describe the action than with a video. Please note that this was before the game even started, the crowd was just warming up here.

If you can't get this video to work here, try this link:

A few of us just as we got to our seats

A couple other observations we had that may be 'blog worthy':

In this picture, you will see a large moat around the field. It was probably 10+ feet wide and even deeper. While it lacks water with hungry crocodiles and piranhas, it was built to keep the fans off the field we were told. Eric later questioned the presence of the drug dogs on the field with all the police. "Oh," someone told us, "those aren't for finding drugs, they are trained to attack anyone from the crowd who might run onto the field." At that point, Eric was like, but there is a huge moat??? To which our friend replied, "Yeah, but Brazilians are crazy enough to try and jump it . . . and some of them make it onto the field." I would suggest that maybe the crocs would be a good idea, but I guess that if the risk of a hard fall onto concrete doesn't intimidate you, nor does the dog on the other side waiting to make you his lunch, then flesh eating water creatures probably don't phase you either!

We also decided that paying for the pricier tickets was probably worth it. The stadium is divided into 4 sections : one on each side of the field, and then one on each end behind the goals. The cheap seats behind the goals are divinded from the better side seats by 12' tall fences with spikes at the top. (With the spikes directed towards the cheap seats.) You enter through different gates depending on your section and there is nowhere to cross between sections. The loudest, most energetic and rowdy fans with the most fireworks came from those cheaper end areas. I was pretty content just to be surrounded by shirtless men and a chanting crowd. I just don't really need sparklers being thrown around me to enjoy the game, ya know?

The food inside the stadium was new for us too. Not actually what we were eating, as it was very normal Minas Gerais stuff. But to be eating a plate full of pork loin, rice, fried pork skins, farofa, vinagarette, fried egg and greens was a bit different than your hotdogs, nachos, and peanuts in the USA. It was nice though, especially since we got an entire meal for less than what you'd expect to pay for a coke.

And, I thought this would be a final score shot of the scoreboard. Then, Galo scored one more goal in the last minute of the game. But anyway, they won, 4-1!

Oh yeah, and one more thing . . . listen to the chanting on this video. I swear it is to the tune of "Popeye the Sailor Man"! See what you think because Eric thinks I'm crazy!!!

Again, you may have to follow this link to get the video:

For a little more information about the teams in our city, here is a blurb from Wikipedia:

"As in the rest of Brazil, football is the most popular sport among locals. Belo Horizonte has two of the most successful teams in the country, and the city also has one of the biggest football stadiums in the world, the Mineirão, opened in 1965.

The older Independência Stadium hosted a legendary victory of the United States World Cup Team 1950 in a 1-0 triumph over England. See England v United States (1950) and [1]

Atlético Mineiro, which is also called by its nickname and mascot "Galo" (rooster) is one of the oldest football clubs in the city and was founded in 1908. Atlético Mineiro was the first Brazilian champion, in 1971, and has also won two CONMEBOL Cups (nowadays called Copa Sudamericana) and 39 State Championships. In spite of so much tradition, the team has suffered through very difficult times recently and was relegated to the Brazilian Série B. However, the club won the championship in 2006 and is back to Série A in 2007.

Cruzeiro was founded in 1921 by the members of the local Italian community. Cruzeiro has been one of Brazil´s most successful clubs in the 1990s and early 2000s, winning 4 National Cups, 1 National League, 2 Copa Libertadores, and 2 Supercopa Libertadores, and is also the winner of Taça Brasil in 1966 and 34 State Championships."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Another Weekend Ends :(

Our 4 day weekend is drawing near an end, sadly enough. It has flown by, as all of our time here has, but we got a lot done and played some too!
After I blogged last night, we went to a small party that Xavier (one of the guys that went with us to the waterfalls) and his family was hosting. There were about 13 of us there. He grilled a bunch of different meats and his wife made rice, farofa, vinagrette, and mandioca. We ate too much, as usual, but we had no regrets . . . it was way yummy!

I got a free Portuguese lesson while I was there too. Xavier's ten year old daughter brought out a bunch of children's books in Portuguese and tested my vocabulary. It's amazing how many words you don't know when you first start learning a new language. And really funny how if you asked a 2 year old Brazilian kid, they would know the words for things like butterfly, grass, caterpillar, gosling, etc. I failed my test pretty miserably, so she sent the books home with me so I could study! Last night Eric was sitting on the couch looking over the Portuguese version of Pinocchio when he looked up at me and said, this has hard words in it! All I could do was agree. With any luck though we'll be reading at a 1st grade level before too long. ;)

a few of us from the party last night

Yesterday Eric and I got a feel for just how laid back Brazilians are here . . . While the appliances we purchased are going to be delivered to our apartment once we take possession, the Sony Wega we bought was actually a floor model, so we had to take it with us. We were discussing how funny it was going to look to go walking into the hotel with a 29" television (and maybe how much more suspicious it was going to be to check out with it!) When we entered the lobby, one of the very English-fluent staff members, a guy with a great sense of humor and jokes with us a lot, was working the front desk. As Eric was toting the tv towards the elevator, he looked up and told the guy "We broke the TV in our room, so we just bought a new one." The guy looks at Eric and the TV, said, "OK, no problem" and then went back to looking at something on the computer screen. That wasn't quite the response Eric thought he'd get! It was pretty funny though! Eric laughed and let the guy know he was just kidding and that we were actually buying a few things for our apartment. But, it didn't really seem to matter to the guy one way or another. This is why Brazilians tell us we'll live longer if we adapt their attitude and disposition: no worries!

We spent this morning at the feria (the big market Eric wrote about a few weeks ago) to try to do a little Christmas shopping. Then, we made a trip out to the single Wal-Mart and Sam's Club in this town of 5 million occupants. (Yeah, seriously, Athens, GA has 2 Wal-Marts and we only have one in all of the greater Belo Horizonte area. And even more disturbing . . . no Target!) You don't realize how much you take those places for granted until you don't have them at your disposal. There are just some things that I don't know where else to buy them if not some giant superstore! There are a few things that we need cheap versions of just to get us by until our air shipment arrives with our 'good' apartment things we wanted from the US (which will be sometime in late December probably.) Where else can you find a cheapo sauce pan so you can do some sort of cooking until your Calphalon arrives???

This afternoon we spent some much needed time laying out by the pool at the hotel. We have spent the better majority of the last 4 days running around and have spent a bunch of time on our feet, so it felt pretty good to just lay around for a little bit! We came in a little while ago, got showers, and now I think we are going to order room service and watch a movie tonight (Mission Impossible III is on tv in English with Portuguese subtitles.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Updating on the Last Week and a Half

I am getting in trouble for not posting anything for the last week and a half . . . oops! Eric says with my busy schedule (insert sarcastic tone here) it's no wonder I haven't gotten around to updating our blog (insert punch to his shoulder here.) ;)

We have been enjoying Brasil as usual and even handling a bit of business over the last several days. The week of November 5, we got to hang out at night with some other Americans for the first time since we moved here. Two CNH guys (Larry and Hank) were in town, so we went out to supper with them each night. Eric's boss here in Brasil, Humberto, had a bunch of us over to his house for supper on that Thursday night and we had a real good time.

Last Saturday night, we were invited to a party at a friend's (Marco, a coworker of Eric's here) mother-in-law's home. Did you follow all that?? Marco warned us that no one else there would speak ANY English. We thought it might be good practice for us - force us to speak some Portuguese and not be surrounded by people eager to practice their English. It was quite the experience as roughly 20 people cycled through the house that night. We felt like the main attraction- hey, look, real live Americans! I found I could sit next to the 5 year old little girl and have something resembling a conversation, sort of. We had a blast, but we left the party early at 1:00 am because we could barely stay awake any longer. Marco said the last people left after 3:00 that morning.

This last week was a short one for Eric. Thursday was Republic Day here in Brasil and they also took Friday off to bridge it into a 4 day weekend. We looked into taking a trip to the beach, but our first choice in locations (Ilha Grande) was all booked up. We decided to stay back here in BH instead and take care of some apartment things instead.

But before we did too much work, we took a trip on Thursday to some waterfalls about an hour and a half from here. We went with 3 other couples (two of the guys work with Eric) and the 3 kids of one of the couples. It was a beautiful day, the scenery was gorgeous, and we got to do some swimming/sunbathing. I have several pictures that we took Thursday, but I will save those for the end of my post here.

The trip was made especially fun by having the 17 year old boy and 10 year old girl ride with the Americans. Fernando (the boy) has been studying English and is very fluent. He wanted to practice his English, so he rode with us on the way to the waterfalls. His little sister is super cute and she is just learning English. Her brothers say she loves to talk, so when we drove to lunch and then sight seeing, she jumped in the car with us too so she could try out her English. They are great kids and they made the drive a lot of fun.

Next week, we are supposed to do a walk through of the apartment and sign the papers so we can take possession. It is hard to say whether all of that will go as planned or not, but Eric and I decided to take advantage of him having a weekday off and did some shopping for the apartment. As I have mentioned before, apartments here come without any appliances at all. (Some even are lacking light fixtures, showerheads, door handles . . .) We spent all day Friday shopping for furniture and pricing appliances. Then, we went back today and made ourselves the proud owners of a new stove, refrigerator, washing machine, and television. I was pretty excited about it all, since I am getting the stainless stove and fridge that I have been dying for! Eric is feeling a little left out since he didn't get the LCD TV he wanted . . . but I am pretty sure I would have needed a defibrillator for my hubby had we put anything more expensive on the bill. In all seriousness though, we felt good about our purchases. They had a bunch of floor models marked way down and we ended up getting new in the box stuff delivered for an even slightly lower price. Our Brazilian-style negotiating skills are improving. :)

So for some pictures now from Thursday:

This is the group we were with (minus yours truly - the photographer). This is a statue of Juquinha, a man who was very famous in the area near the waterfalls-although I am still unsure of what he did or why he was so well known.

This is the waterfall we hiked to. It was really pretty and the most famous waterfall in the area. Notice the people walking across the top of it. We also had to make the somewhat treacherous journey across the top of the falls walking on algae covered rocks and wading through rushing water so we could get down to the swimming area. It was one of those things I am pretty certain my mother would have forbid my brothers and me from doing as kids (or even now for that matter!)This is a shot downstream of the waterfall. It was really quiet, peaceful, and absolutely beautiful. The landscape is very different than the waterfalls I am used to visiting in the mountains of North Georgia and Tennessee. Although maybe it was just the lack of Deliverance music in the background . . . who's to say?? ;) (Don't you northern folks just hate it when I beat you to the punch and make the Southerner joke before you get the chance?!? hehe)
This is just a landscape shot from a lookout along the way. Beautiful scenery!

This is a cattle pasture. I love that they have palm trees in their pastures! You will notice one area that has been plowed up as part of pasture renovation. The farmer planted some grass seed and, of course, some young palm trees.

And these last two . . . well, I thought maybe you would like some clarification on an earlier comment about Eric and I standing out as very American in our swimsuits. These are typical (and maybe even on the modest end of things.) We are still trying to get brave enough to conform . . .

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Transportation in Brasil

Alright, yesterday I promised some more pictures. Taking our weekend drive of 16 hours, we saw a lot of interesting things. I had to keep my camera ready at all times . . . I didn't want you to miss this stuff!

We like to call these guys Kamikaze Bikers (and don't think they drive more conservative just because they have 2 tanks of flammable material strapped on). You might also notice how great it is to be on a motorcycle: see how the guys behind Mr. Kamikaze can bypass the traffic?

On our way home, we got stuck in some traffic for a while. Once we came around this curve, we saw why:
This guy, assuming the crash didn't kill him, got really lucky! On the other side of the guard rail that he busted up is a no less than 40' drop off- straight down!

Apparently, before he flipped over, he ran into this dump truck full of sand.

A little further down the road, we were slowed by the 2nd of 3 trucks we saw that had flipped over. The truck here had already been pulled up by a wrecker, but his cargo (crates of mangoes wrapped in paper) were still on the edge of the road. Luckily, all these nice people stopped to help pick up his cargo . . .

. . . and load it into their cars??? Hey guys, free mangoes just lying on the side of the road!!!

But we can't quite figure out how the trucks manage to flip over when they are so carefully loaded. (This guy actually almost ran us into oncoming traffic when we passed him. Once we got around him, we realized that he was scrubbing the side of the mountain on that curve!) Geez, talk about top heavy! I'm pretty sure we would have seen a 4th truck flipped on it's side if we had stayed behind this guy a little longer!

Some of you might remember that Eric bought a 7.3 liter powerstroke diesel F-250 just 2 weeks before he was offered the job in Brasil. We had to sell it along with our other 3 vehicles before we moved down here. But, eat your heart out powerstroke fans (Jared!) We can buy a big beast of a truck down here too . . . sort of.

But, in case you can't handle the power of a 2.8 liter engine, you can always drop the horse power down to a single horse. Yes, we are on a major highway here.

My apologies for the sarcasm dripping from this entry! We were pretty entertained though by the things we saw on our drive. It made the 8 hours go a lot faster! I read in a book written about Brazilians that they generally don't place much value on human life (even their own). By the looks of the things we saw on the road this weekend, I would dare agree with that statement!