Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I'll post some of our comments later on. I figured I'd just let you read the article for now!
Monday, October 29, 2007
Yes, truth be told we spent another weekend avoiding anything that might be considered even the least bit strenuous or unpleasant. We started off Friday night by going out with Fabricio and Carla to have some carne e cerveja (beef and beer.) [Courtney: you said you wanted some Portuguese in my blog - there you go!]
Saturday, we started off the morning real exciting: we took some clothes to the cleaners. Then we went to Casa Geraldo's tasting room and tried some more of their wine. This place was right across from our hotel when we visited in July. We absolutely fell in love with the place! The Casa Geraldo Vineyard is in our state (Minas Gerais) but about a 6 hour drive south of here. They have the most incredible wines! Just ask my brother, Travis, and his wife, Brii. We brought them a bottle and they too are lovers of ol' Geraldo now! We also brought back a bottle of their champagne and that's what we used for the toasts at the wedding. Anyhoo, it is awesome stuff, comes at a great price, and we are now the proud owners of 4 bottles. Which, should get us through this week anyway. ;) It's really good stuff - and good for our hearts they say! We just want to be healthy, you know?
So we went all American for lunch Saturday and ate at Subway to sop up the wine in our bellies from the tasting room and then we came back to the hotel. We spent our afternoon laying out by the pool, and then we spent a little time in the sauna. (I would call it a streamroom, but they call it a wet sauna.) It felt pretty awesome though whatever you want to call it! We got cleaned up and went out to supper at a Churrascaria we hadn't been to yet. The food was marvelous as always. On our drive back home, we stumbled upon the stretch of road that is home to the ladies of the night (and also to the "looks like a lady but is not actually a woman" of the night!) The jury is still out on a few of them though - Eric just didn't want to believe that the long legs beneath that short skirt could belong to a man, but I am pretty certain there was an adam's apple on "her" throat! Admittedly, we were a little bit entertained by the abundance of all the colorful characters along that street, but that was eventually replaced with a mixture of disgust and sadness. It kind of makes you wonder how exactly all these these girls (and, eek!, guys) get to that point. What was so much worse that this was the better option???
We drove past an older church on Saturday that we decided we would visit on Sunday. When we got up Sunday the sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning-not a cloud in the sky! We checked the weather forecast and the church's service schedule and decided we should spend our morning at the pool and then go to the 4:00 pm church service. In between those two, we drove up to a city park that is up on one of the mountains on the edge of town. The high elevation gave us some beautiful views of the city even though it had started to get a little cloudy by then!
A shot of the city from Mangabeiras Parque
This was the only American couple we saw in the park - we had to take a picture! ;)
This is the inside of Igreja São José (the church we attended Sunday). The architecture and the detailed painting of ALL surfaces along the walls inside was absolutely amazing! Construction began on this one in 1902 and completed in 1910 (I think.)
Friday, October 26, 2007
This is in the common reception area. You can only reach this though if the 24 hour door man will let you through the gate.
This is the living room. It has huge windows behind the camera and along the wall on the right. I liked the floors a lot - stone. I'm still convinced I can make my Iowa boy fall in love with solid surface flooring. I love my hardwoods and tile, but he thinks you have to live on carpet. Remodeling / building a house together later in life will be much simpler if we can resolve these issues now . . . you know, make him see things my way. ;)
This shot doesn't do justice to the master suite. But you get an idea with the hardwood floor and decorative exposed beams (not actually structural). It also has an absolutely huge walk in closet and an additional smaller closet built into the wall.
This is a guest bathroom. Okay, I still laugh looking at the picture. But hey, if I give my guests a jacuzzi tub and glass encased shower, can they really complain about the avocado green sink and toilet???
Again, I couldn't really capture a good picture, but the kitchen has granite counter tops, 2 sinks, a place for 2 refrigerators or a fridge and upright freezer, stone flooring, and a TON of cabinet space. The cabinets are all around the kitchen and go all the way up to the ceiling. It is larger than you can see here. Also note the absence of a stove. No appliances come with the apartments here. In fact most of the apartments we looked at didn't even have light fixtures or shower heads. I guess this way you can get what you want, but it is somewhat strange to see just wires hanging from the ceiling!
We'll keep you updated, but hopefully we can make some decisions soon and be able to tell you where we will be calling home. (And even share with you an address down here where we can receive mail and where you could deliver yourself if you got the hankering to come visit us in Brasil!)
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
My first inclination was to take on the elevator situation here. You know how in the US if someone is trying to catch the elevator you are on and the doors start to close, you can throw your arm in the door and it will open back up for them? They thank you, everyone is on the elevator, and all is well in the land. Well, my first week here, I got on the elevator to come up to my room and a lady comes running quickly towards the elevator - just as the doors start to close. I threw my hand up to catch the door for her . . . and the doors didn't open back up! My right hand was totally slammed in the door and I couldn't get it out no matter how hard I pulled! Luckily, it was only a 7 floor ride and my hand was released from the death grip the elevator had on it. But, I had a goofy looking swollen hand for the rest of the day.
Then, this weekend, Eric and I were heading back to our room after breakfast one morning. Just as I was about to step on the elevator, the doors began to close. I tried to quickly leap inside before the killer doors attacked, but I wasn't quick enough! You know how in the US elevator doors close kind of slowly? Yeah, well, they slam shut pretty darn quick here. The good news is that when the elevator door hits an entire human body it does open back up. But it comes at you with such force that I was nearly knocked over, the water I was drinking went flying everywhere, and Eric was nearly hurt too - from laughing so hard! His response: "Elevator 2 - Emily 0." Admittedly, I was laughing too. BUT, had I been some little old lady I would have definitely broken some ribs or a hip or something! So, I could take on the elevators in a public health concern type of forum and fight for some elevator door reform.
Then we went for our walk around Pampuhla Lake on Saturday. This is a big lake (it is 18 km around the perimeter) situated in the middle of the city. There are always tons of people out there walking the trail that goes around it, fishing for their supper, and enjoying other recreational activities. Well, I just might have found my calling for a cause.
The first thing I noticed was a nausea-inducing stench. The second thing I noticed was green slimy water. The third thing I noticed was the trash all along the banks. I have taken enough water quality classes to know that clear water doesn't necessarily equal healthy water when it comes to lakes and ponds. But geez! This is terrible. I have seen lagoons behind hog houses that I would rather eat fish out of! And everywhere that there was an outlet into the lake, the water was even worse. I would feel pretty comfortable saying that there is raw sewage flowing into this thing. Eutrophication is certainly an issue and I would hate to see fecal coliform numbers from a sample of this water!
Okay, water quality in a huge body of stagnant water is a bit of a challenge, but somebody could at least pick up the trash! I didn't get a good picture of it, but the shorelines along many parts of the lake are littered with tons of household garbage. I still need to do some research, and I still need to learn more Portuguese, but I think in a city of 5 million people, surely you could find 100 or so to volunteer to pick up trash once a month or something! Hmmmm . . . the wheels are turning now.
So, here are some pictures.
Here's a shot of some guys wading out in the water while fishing.
Monday, October 22, 2007
We ended up with another 3 day weekend, but it didn't start out too fun. Eric was a little bit sick all last week - a sore throat and a head cold, followed by a cough, followed by an array of other symptoms. He thought he was getting a lot better Thursday night, but he woke up not feeling well at all on Friday morning. He decided that he better stay home and rest. By this time, I had caught his cold and wasn't feeling great either, so we spent the day Friday in bed - the sick being nurse to the sick! Saturday we had both improved, but we got tired pretty quick when we drove out to the lake and went for a long walk. So, it was really Sunday before we were feeling like doing much.
Belo Horizonte has some absolutely gorgeous churches scattered around. Some are pretty historical and others are relatively new buildings. Many of them are Catholic, but there are also huge, beautiful Baptist and Methodist churches. Eric and I talked about it and being that all services are in Portuguese, we probably wouldn't get a whole lot of the message! So, we've decided to begin a tour-de-church and at least enjoy being in God's house and check out some awesome architecture. Every Sunday we are going to visit a different church, so we began our tour yesterday at Basilica de Lourdes. It is a catholic church and was built in the early 1900's in pure Gothic style. (I had some flashbacks to a college course I took called "History of the Built Environment" in which we studied historical buildings and gardens. I could have been sitting in one the basilicas my professor showed us in Europe built in the 1600's!) It was a very impressive place!
After church, we decided to get out of the city and go for a drive. We got on the highway to Rio de Janeiro. Our first stop was just outside of Belo Horizonte at Rancho de Boi. It is a restaurant that we were taken to during our first trip down here. It has great food, beautiful views of the mountains, and is landscaped really nice. We had lunch and then jumped back on BR-40 and drove 1.5 hours towards Rio before turning around and coming back. Yes, we went for a destination-less Sunday drive - we are exciting like that! ;) We got a feel for the condition of the highway (um, a little less than perfect), a peek at how people drive outside of the city (we were almost run off the side of the mountain by a lettuce-carrying truck and saw a small motorcycle carrying 2 people almost wipe out when they hit a pot hole while avoiding a car that cut them off - Eric puts emphasis on the ALMOST, but we were both glad to get back to the hotel and out of the death trap, I mean car), and we got to see some pretty interesting countryside!
We ended our weekend last night by walking (we had had enough driving for one day!) down to the mall and watching a movie-in English with Portuguese subtitles. We made popcorn and diet coke our supper, had some hand dipped ice cream on our way back home, and decided to call it a night.
I will now leave you with a few pictures from our weekend!
We got to sit right at the edge of the mountain - a prime location (especially if you want to see giant lizards!)
We came across this guy on Saturday when we went for a walk around Pampuhla Lake. I considered going for a ride, but I was wearing a skirt and I didn't know if Zebras could be ridden side saddle!
A neon light around Mary's head??? I totally didn't see that one coming!!! I have to admit that I giggled a little. I don't recall any discussion in my class about neon lights in the basilicas! But who am I to judge . . . maybe Michelangelo would have incorporated some neon lights into the Sistine Chapel had they been available!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Anyway, so the phone rings and a woman on the other end is speaking Portuguese some kinda fast and it sounded rather urgent!!! I couldn't make out a single word and so I let her know I speak English . . . the line went silent and then another female voice comes on the line and very calmly says "Um, Ms. Emily?" "Yes," I replied. "We need you to please leave your room and evacuate the building immediately. The 18th floor of the hotel is currently on fire." I grabbed my room key and purse and opened the door. The hall was thick with smoke and so I rushed to find the stairs. The stairwell had even more smoke in it, but I made my way down and got outside. I took a look up and huge clouds of black smoke and the occasional flame were billowing out of the top floor windows!!! Now keep in mind that no alarms were sounding or sprinklers spraying water (both are apparently very uncommon here!) A fire truck was parked at the front door and paramedics and police were rolling out caution tape to keep back the many curious bystanders. At that moment, I was really wishing I had grabbed my camera! "Oh, what great blog material this would be," I thought to myself.
It didn't look like anything was going to change anytime soon, so I grabbed a cerveja and stood back to watch the action. I kept an eye out for Eric, since he should be home at anytime! Well, they got the fire all put out and the fire trucks left about an hour and a half later, they began letting people back inside a very smoky hotel lobby, and I was still trying to find my husband! I came up to the room to see if he had snuck in past me, but he had not. So, I went back downstairs to get away from the smoke and waited outside hoping to see Eric. About 30 minutes later, he comes rolling up in the rental car - long after I expected him! Apparently, while I was watching the top floor of the hotel burning, he was lost, and then he hit really bad traffic. I suggested the taxi service for another week. He is excited about driving his car. I am going to insist on a cell phone.
So, what do you know!?! I had something to blog about after all! I think every news service in the city was here today, so I'm hoping to find a picture to post tomorrow. Meanwhile, maybe I'll go buy a smoke alarm and plug it in the hallway beside my door. I'm not so sure about this no alarm thing . . .
On another note, it is raining for the first day since we've been here. I guess that the rainy season will be here soon. (Oh yeah, did I mention it started raining while I was standing in the street watching my hotel on fire and wondering where the heck my husband was???? And he wonders why I wasn't super duper happy when he arrived . . . It was kind of one of those, "you don't even want to know the kind of day I'm having" kinda moments!) ;)
Oh, and by the way, when visiting (or living) in Brasil, it may be helpful to know that fogo means fire.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Some of Eric's co-workers and the girlfriends/wives.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
You must have the following for it to work though:
*High Speed Internet (dial up won't work)
*A microphone for your computer
*Speakers for your computer
(Or, you can buy a headset that has both and plugs into your computer)
*Optionally, you can also add a webcam if you want to talk face-to-face!
If you have all that, go to http://www.skype.com/
Download Skype 3.5 for Windows
Then you will have to set up a username and profile
Add us to your contacts (our username is "e_zieser")
Now you are all ready! They have a free Test Call you can make to check that your microphone and speakers are working properly (I always make that call before I call someone else to double check my connections!)
It is free to download the program, it is free to call other people from your computer if they are Skype users, and if both people have a webcam (we do) you can even see each other and have a face-to-face conversation for free! The only catch is you would both have to be online at the same time to make and receive the phone call. We could always set up something ahead of time through email though or we could call your landline for pretty cheap and ask you to get online to continue the conversation for free.
I kind of feel like an ad for Skype right now, but it really is helping to make the world a little smaller! (insert big cheesy grin here)
Monday, October 15, 2007
Now for the real hard part: picking our favorites from 812 photos and working with Javon to create an album . . . from Brazil!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Since I have been making Emily work so hard lately at keeping up our Blog, I thought I would finally let everyone know that I too know how to use a computer, and give you a little insight on our latest adventures.
I finished my first (almost full) week of work recently. Things are off to a good start, and all the people at CNH are great to work with. My work hours are a little different here than in the US, but nothing too terrible. We start our work day at 8:00 am and work until at least 5:30 in the afternoon. Everybody must take an hour lunch break, but it is almost necessary to fully enjoy the restaurant or cafeteria in the plant. I am definitely eating much better here than I do in the US. My two options for lunch at work is the all you can eat Brazilian buffet (for the large cost of $0.28!!) or the higher class order off the menu restaurant (for the much higher cost of $3.75!!) We generally eat at the buffet a majority of the time, since the food there is great and at a great price. The only downfall is that you can only get one cut of meat (steak, pork loin, fish, chicken breast,etc) but you usually don't need more than that anyways by the time you have some salad, soup, veggies, bread, dessert, and soda!
Saturday Emily and I spent some time getting to know some neighborhoods in the city. We are currently trying to decide where we would like to make our permanent residence, so we walked the streets of our potential neighborhoods trying to figure out where we like best. (All in all part of our decision will depend on what apts/houses are available, but which neighborhood they are in will have a weighted factor as well.) We had no problem with any of the places we visited, and everywhere seems to be pretty safe. This day we also spent some time checking into the wonderful Fiat automobile that we will be soon purchasing. We swung by a Fiat dealer and tried to look at several different models, and also spent some time online checking out the features of these vehicles. Basically in Brazil cars are much smaller, simpler, and more expensive (and did I mention stranger-looking?) If you have some free time, feel free to check out the sweet options we have. http://www.fiat.com.br/
Today Emily and I visited the famous Feira. The feira takes place every Sunday in Belo Horizonte and is a must visit event. Basically it is a huge open air market where you can buy all sorts of hand made arts and crafts. There are over 3 thousand exhibitors setup in tents that span the length of several city blocks. These tents are split up into 17 different, color coded sectors, where there is a different commodity in each sector. (For example you can find jewelry, clothing, paintings, hand made goods, and many other things.) This place was packed today, but we had a good time checking it all out, and also visited the large city park that is directly beside this. After our visit to the feira we decided to walk around the area and find somewhere to eat lunch. I was slightly concerned when we came across another mall in the downtown area. (One more to add to Emily's list of visited malls in this city, hopefully we were lost enough she won't be able to find her way back!) Despite my concerns, it turned out to be a successful trip for me. We ate an awesome Brazilian lunch consisting of some filet mignon and sirloin, then we stumbled across a great sale at one of the shoe stores inside. I have been in need of some new Brazilian shoes to help me blend in a little better down here. Everywhere we have looked has been very expensive, but finally today we found some great ones at a great price!
Well, that has been enough rambling for me for one day. I hate to take away all of Emily's fun, so I suppose I will let her have her job back for now. I will try to keep in touch every now and then, but don't worry I will make sure that Emily shares some of my perspectives in her entries. Take care everybody!
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I had a couple questions about our hotel room (you know, since we have to live here a month or so!) They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so maybe I can keep this more concise by posting pictures. We are actually in a 1 bedroom suite, so we have a living room with mini-kitchen and then a separate bedroom. I also included a shot of the pool from our balcony . . . one of my favorite places to reside as of this morning. :) The living in a hotel thing isn't all that bad right now anyway. I am sort of enjoying having someone else make my bed in the mornings and having to send out our laundry. (Eric says I better enjoy it while I've got it, and not get too used to it! hehe)