Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ah, yes this is paradise

So after all my complaining about the rain yesterday, would you believe that it didn't rain at all today?

I was anxious to get out and enjoy this new found beautiful weather, but I had to wait around on the cable guy, our sofa delivery man, and my Portuguese lesson. Well, of course the cable guys and the sofa all arrive during the only 1 hour of my day that is planned and inturrupted my lesson. But, by noon I was free! (Oh, and I am proud to report that we are no longer stealing, well actually I prefer "borrowing", a random un-password protected wireless network anymore-one perk of living in a highly populated area. But we now have our very own high speed internet bill and cable television. Woohoo!)

I needed to handle a few household duties, so I did that first. Then I had a manicure/pedicure appointment at 4:00 (Have you noticed a lack of blogging about this activity? Would you believe I haven't had one since we got back January 4? Yes, I was waaaaay overdue. The weekly ritual is back on now though! Especially since my new place only charges US$6.67!) On my walk home from the salon the thin layer of clouds that had been hanging around all day broke free and the sun was shining through a clear blue sky. I rushed home, being careful not to stump my toe or something and ruin my new pedicure, changed into my swimsuit, put on a cover-up (because really I should have been going to workout not layout), and took myself and my snazzy new nails across the street to the club to layout by the pool and start reading a new book. The clouds came and went for the next hour and a half, but it felt good to be outside and not get rained on. It was sometime during my lounging that I remembered just how great I've got it and ah, yes, this is paradise!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The sky is still blue!

Well, whatayaknow! The sky is in fact still blue! Brasil really just has two seasons: rainy season and dry season. And let me tell you, rainy season is upon us! This is the most blue sky that I've seen in over a week, and it has rained most of the day for everyday the past 2+ weeks. (Today included, it just decided to stop for about 30 minutes and a little blue peeked out from behind the clouds.)
I think the thing I love most about weather is people's reaction to it. For example, data shows that December through February are very wet months in Belo Horizonte. When we returned back from the US the first of January it wasn't raining that much and everyone told us how strange it was to be so dry. Now, for the last couple weeks it has rained everyday and everyone is saying how odd this is. Seriously, can it be that weird that it is raining? I've seen the charts.(It really reminds me of people living in places with cold winters. During the days or weeks when it gets the coldest everyone says "wow, this is one of the coldest winters I can remember!" But then, once it warms up in spring, everyone changes their tune to "well that was a really mild winter!") I think we as humans just have this mental block that allows us to forget the nasty weather so that really deplorable parts of the world (you know, mostly those places that get way too cold, yes, like Iowa haha) are still inhabited.
So even though we don't get winters down here in paradise, our summers are not always the most pleasant either. All the cloudy, rainy, dreary days don't exactly leave you peppy! In fact yesterday I saw a guy across the street go walking out on his balcony and lean over the edge. I felt this urge to run over, throw open my window, and yell, "Don't do it!!!" As it turns out, he was just looking around, but you never can tell on days like these! ;)
I started writing this to advise people against visiting this time of year. But then I remembered the forecast I saw yesterday for Iowa: something along the lines of actual lows around -10 (yes, Fahrenheit!!!) with wind chills down to -30 or -40.
Hmmm, come to think of it, this rain ain't so bad.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gettin' Neighborly

One of the challenges of living in a new country is trying to learn their customs and figuring out what is polite, what may be considered rude, and what the locals are just complacent about. For example, while I wouldn't dare dream of whistling to get a waiter's attention in the US, here that's how it's done. In fact, I had to remind myself not to be offended (I'm NOT a dog don't whistle for me to come to you!!!) when the guy delivering our entertainment center today whistled to call me back into the living room to ask me a question. "Excuse me ma'am/sir," or rather it's Portuguese equivalent, doesn't get you anywhere here-you must whistle. (Which, by the way, is a super big problem because I can't for the life of me whistle! I've tried since I was about 4 but it just isn't happening for me. Hmmm, can all Brasilians whistle? I need to look into this...)

When we moved into our apartment, we were really curious about the dynamics in our building. Do the neighbors hang out together or does everyone just mind their own business? Should we introduce ourselves when we run into someone on the elevator or do we just say hello and then stare at the door? Our building is 11 stories tall. The upper 10 floors each have 2 apartments, so we share the floor with 1 other family. The lady who cleans all the common areas told us right away we would be the youngest people here-in fact I think the way she put it was that "it is a real quiet building; everyone who lives here is old." (Of course, she said it in Portuguese.) Anyway, Eric and I ran into our 'across the hall' neighbors last week one day. They seem to be a real nice couple with 2 grown sons at least one of which I know is not living at home anymore, but I'm not sure about the younger one. Both of their sons are very fluent in English, but the parents don't speak a word of the language. They asked us if everything was to our satisfaction and if there was anything that we needed to please don't hesitate to ask them. We were excited to finally meet them and even more excited that they were such a nice couple! We've been talking about inviting them over for drinks one night once we get the rest of our furniture delivered and we are a little more set up for entertaining.

Now, to switch gears a little bit. There is another neighbor from the floor below us who is always parked in one of our parking spots. We have a garage under the building and each apartment has 3 parking spots. One is a single car spot and the other is a double long spot so you have to park one car right behind the other. (Which is a little inconvenient if the car in the front needs to get out because then you have a car parked behind it that must be moved.) Our double spot is in a tricky location. It is a narrow spot with a concrete pole on one side, a big Mercedes parked in the spot beside us, and a very tight turning radius. The single spot though is much easier to get in and out of, BUT the owner of the Mercedes parks one of his 3 cars in that spot all the time so he doesn't have to double park. At the risk of sounding like a 2 year old (i.e."That's MINE!") it sort of bothers us that he is parking in one of our spots without asking. (Even slightly more annoying when we found out that it is not uncommon to rent one of your parking spots out for a fairly hefty price tag!) Mostly, we just want to be able to use the more convenient of our 3 spots though. Yesterday afternoon, when we returned home from a little Sunday drive, we found all 3 of our parking spots open - the neighbor was out with the car that is usually in our spot. Eric looks at me and asked, "Should we do it?" I feel like we are entitled to park in any of the spots with our apartment number posted above it, so we parked our rental car in that most coveted spot. Victory!!!

Last night we settled in to watch a movie and try out the new DVD player we got as a wedding gift, but hadn't yet used. About 30 minuted into our movie, the doorbell rings. Eric and I looked at each other and I said "Hey, that's for you. If an angry neighbor is here to yell Portuguese at us for parking in 'his' spot, you're gonna have to handle this one!" Eric reluctantly went to the door and opened it. It was our neighbor alright.

It was our neighbor from across the hall with this for us:

She brought us some pão de queijo and bolo (cheese rolls and cake slices-very, very typical food for our state here.) She also said that she wants us to come over to their home some night when her sons were there. So this IS done here! Yea! Now, I just have to figure out what "American" dish to take to them when I return the jar. I'm thinking either cookies or going All-American with an apple pie.

And for the parking update: no angry neighbor knocking on our door last night. But he didn't park in his own parking spot either. Nope, this morning we found his VW in our double spot. I guess this goes down in the 'things the locals are complacent about' column. But at least we have our better spot!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Market and a Flying Love Seat

So happy, happy day! Our shipment arrived with everything in good shape with the exception of 2 picture frames that suffered some serious damage (yeah, the box full of glass shards was fun to handle!) I got it all put away for the most part and even managed a couple other little projects today (like going to the market and watching my neighbor's delivery people.)

One of the best parts of living here (both in Brasil and in the big city) is the prevalence of markets. Every Friday morning there is a food market that sets up on a street 2 blocks from our apartment. It is a great time to get some awesome deals on fresh fruits and veggies (and more if you're brave enough.)

Here's a shot looking down the street. They don't actually close the street, so you kind of have to dodge cars, but hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to get her bananas, you know? Also worth noting is my issue with eggs down here. Right there to the right in the photo is a stand selling eggs - it was about 83 degrees this morning. But the thing is, eggs are never refrigerated here, not even in the grocery store. Ummmm . . . ick! Eric likes to remind me that chicken don't lay eggs in refrigerators and I have been in my fair share of chicken houses in Georgia. But still . . . ick! I'm sorry, I just can't get over that one.

There is such a great variety of stuff. Almost every fruit and vegetable you can imagine. And it is so cheap! I came away with 5 stuffed grocery bags and I spent about US$10! (And that was after I splurged on a couple high dollar items!) Trying doing that in your local produce department!

And if you're really brave, you can buy sausage hanging from the tent-top. No, I'm not that brave yet. There is refrigerated meat in those coolers on either side of the dangling sausage, but I'll stick to buying mine from the grocery store or butcher shop. Street side meat isn't my thing. (It's kind of like my whole egg hang up.)
This afternoon, as I was putting away all the glorious things from our shipment, I carried a box into the office. As I walked in I saw what appeared to be a levitating love seat right across the street. Turns out somebody was having one delivered and I am assuming it wouldn't fit through their door or something. I've heard of this situation in apartments, but I've never seen anything quite like it. It was a real Kodak moment for me. ;)

These 4 guys (bless their hearts!) were working their behinds off trying to get this thing hoisted up there. Pulleys, I really wanted to go talk to these guys about pulleys...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Healthy Shopper Once Again

For anyone concerned about my health after the post about being tired of shopping, well, I'm back in the saddle again! I finally got to buy my 'Brasilian' china. I thought the red and black really adds a little something to the black marble table. But then again, a true Dawg (that would be University of Georgia Bulldog for those who may not know) thinks red and black looks good on anything! And let me tell you, {insert sarcastic tone here} I can't even begin to explain Eric's excitement over this whole thing. He especially liked the part where we were walking out of the store after buying 8 not-so-cheap place settings and I said, "Hmmm, now we need to figure out what color chargers we want to go under these." I was encouraged by the fact that he remembered what a charger was, but I did have to explain why we needed them so badly. (You don't want to scratch the polish on our marble now, right babe?) It does take a good man to be married to me! :)

And I guess it's a good thing that I am back in shopping mode because we are going to test drive a different car this weekend. Eric went in to order our Fiat Siena last week and then learned that if we were to purchase the Stilo, we would get a higher discount. Back to the Excel spreadsheet we went, and well, it looks like we might come out about the same or a little better buying the Stilo. The operating costs are higher, but with the higher discount we lose less at resale time. The Stilo is a much nicer car and the Brasilians are very encouraged by our consideration of it (much less Grandpa-ish they say.) The best way to describe it is like a small crossover. Think Ford Edge - which I have been totally obsessed with ever since it came out last year - except a lot smaller. Who knows what we'll end up buying, but by next week we should have done enough homework to go place our order!

Our shipment from the US is scheduled to be delivered at 10:00 am tomorrow morning. I am rather ecstatic! All my STUFF! And I do like my stuff. I spent today giving the whole apartment a good scrub down so my things arrive to a sparkling clean home (and I guess so the delivery guys can get it all good and dirty tomorrow?) We're wishing for the best and hoping to receive our shipment in good condition with no busted up toaster ovens or Belgium waffle makers!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Preparing for Brasil Travel

Lately, we've had a number of people talking about wanting to make a trip down here to Brasil. Number 1, that excites us! While we aren't quite ready yet to play tour guide, we are certainly looking forward to doing some of that in the future once we are more fluent in Portuguese and have found the top spots to take people. We even bought a bed for the guestroom a couple weeks ago, so we'll be all set up for hosting company!

Eric and I were discussing this weekend though how a trip to Brasil takes a lot of planning and it's not something you can just decide to do one day and leave the next. We were thinking it would be a good idea to post a run down of everything you would need to do if you want to make a trip down here. (Not to discourage by any means, but to inform!) You really need to start at least 6 months before traveling in order to get immunized and have everything ready to go.

The two major things you would need to do is 1. get immunized and 2. get a visa.


Yellow Fever: If you plan to visit us, it is really important to get immunized for yellow fever. There is an advisory out right now because there has been an outbreak of it in our state and a bordering state during the last 2 months (10 people are known to have contracted yellow fever, 7 of these 10 have died, see the importance?)

Yellow fever is the trickiest of the vaccines to obtain. It can only be given at CDC Yellow Fever Vaccine Sites. You can visit this website to find the site nearest you:
It must be obtained at least 10 days before traveling.

Another side note: the USA and other countries reserve the right to deny entry to the country to people who have traveled in “infected” regions and do not have proof of immunity. They can institute the policy at any point. How much fun would it not be to get quarantined in an airport??? Get the vaccine and carry the yellow card with proof of such with your passport.

Typhoid: This is transmitted through food and water. There isn’t a high risk for it in the city, but if you want to do any other traveling with us outside of Belo Horizonte (and we think you will!), it is a necessity. And for those who hate needles, you’ll be glad to know that this vaccine is in pill form!

Hepatitis A and B: The most important of these two is Hep A because it is transmitted through food and water and is not uncommon here. Hep A is a series of two shots given 6 months apart. That means you have to plan ahead, you need to start this vaccine at least 6 months before traveling so you can get both of them.

Hep B is transmitted through bodily fluids. Not a huge risk unless you were in an accident or something down here, but it isn’t a bad idea while you're at it!

MMR: Most Americans should be immunized already, but you want to make sure that you have had your MMR vaccine. A couple months ago there was a substantial outbreak of rubella in our city.

Tetanus (DPT): It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re up-to-date (as in, you’ve had one in the last 10 years) on your tetanus vaccine before traveling out of the country. You don’t really want to have to visit a Brasilian hospital just because you get a cut, right?

Malaria: If you decide to tack on a trip to the Amazon or other more wilderness areas, you’ll want to make sure you get a prescription of anti-malaria medicine to bring with you. You have to take it before, during, and after exposure to malaria risk areas. It is also important to note that the most commonly prescribed anti-malaria medicine, Chloroquine is ineffective in Brasil. You would want to make sure your doctor gives you one of the others available.

Other Meds: Our doctor also gave us a prescription for CIPRO to have filled and bring with us to Brasil. It is to be taken in case of 'travelers stomach.' Apparently, the usual cause of travelers stomach is bacteria from food or water that your body is not used to. Taking imodium or something along those lines can actually make you sicker, since it just stops the bacteria from exiting your system. Cipro actually kills the bacteria and has you feeling much better in about 24 hours. We, luckily, haven't had a problem yet, but it is good to have just in case. Who wants to be in a new country and stuck in the bathroom the whole time?


Besides the immunizations needed to travel to Brasil, you will need to obtain a visa (not just a passport!) It is a simple process for tourist, but it is still something that takes time. Before obtaining a visa you need 1. a passport, and 2. airline tickets purchased. Once you have those two things then you just have to fill out the visa form, follow all their instructions, and mail it to your Brasilian Consulate's Office. If you live in the midwest, your consulate is in Chicago. If you live in the southeast, then Miami is yours.

The Chicago office doesn't have a website, but can be contacted through email for visa forms and instructions at

The Miami tourism visa website is:

I would allow 3 weeks or more to get your visa. It shouldn't take but 2 weeks, but if something was filled out incorrectly, they will mail you back your application and you will have to try again.

We don't want to discourage anyone from coming-we are super excited about the prospect of visitors on down the road. We just thought we'd let you know what all is involved so you can plan accordingly!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Where We Stand in the Big Scheme of Things

according to a 3 year old.

Eric and I are blessed to have 2 incredible nieces. They are the cutest girls ever (and not that we are biased or anything.) When we first talked about moving to Brasil one of our first thoughts was the nieces-it would be so hard to be away from them for 2-3 years! Madison (the older of the two) will be in school when we get back! While we miss all of our family and friends, it is hardest for us to miss out on watching the girls grow up. Apparently though, Madison is not having as much trouble with the whole situation as we are.

Last night we called and talked to Eric's sister for a little while. Madison wanted to say hi to Uncle, so she got on the phone. The conversation went a little something like this:

Madison: Hi Uncle!

Eric: Hi Madison! How are you?

Madison: Hi Uncle. Guess what? We went to Chuck E. Cheese's yesterday with Nena and Papa.

Eric: Is that right? Did you have fun?

Madison: Yeah. You don't live near my house anymore because you moved to a place far away in Brazzzzzil. But that's okay, we don't need you anymore. There are some kids coming over to my house today and they are my age. There are some older kids too and we are going to have fun playing. So it's okay you aren't here because we don't need you Uncle.

At this point Eric had to hold his hand over the microphone because we were both about to die laughing! She was so matter-of-fact about it all!

So in case you are feeling important or worried about someone missing you too much, well, just call a 3 year old. They'll let you know where you stand in the big scheme of things! Hehehe

We love our Madison and get such a good laugh every time we talk to her!

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Sunday Hike in the Park

We stayed in town for the weekend. It is such a big place and there is so much of the city to explore! We went for a hike yesterday in Mangabeiras Park. It is a huge park right on the edge of the city. Besides soccer fields and picnic areas, they also have several trails through the woods and mountains. We decided to go for a little hike and check out some of the trails yesterday. The lack of maps made for an interesting journey, but we found some awesome lookouts. Here are a few shots from our hike.

We got up to a big open area and had an awesome view of the city. It is hard to capture it in a photograph, because as far as we could see for 180 degrees there was nothing but city!

This was taken at the same viewpoint, but away from the city.

This is what the trails there look like. I can't imagine how much work went into laying each of these stones by hand! It makes for nice trails during the rainy season though. It rained Saturday afternoon and evening and we were a little worried the trails would by muddy-but not so!

Here's a little bit of the wildlife we came across. I still haven't spotted a monkey near this town. I am promised a monkey sighting soon though-there is a restaurant out in the country not far from here where wild monkeys come out of the woods and sit at the table with you. I can't wait! (Don't worry, I've already been vaccinated for yellow fever.)

And to prove we were there together...

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Good Day After All

Despite yesterday's Portuguese class and the trauma that went along with it, Thursday ended on a happy note.

Eric got home from work about an hour earlier than usual (he's been putting in a lot of overtime ever since we got back here.) Fabricio, a coworker and friend, came with him. The three of us walked across the street to Minas Tênis Clube. (It takes up 2 city blocks and is about 5 stories tall. It has everything from pools, to tennis courts, to racquetball, a restaurant, social events, cultural classes, etc. Think country club mixed with YMCA but minus the golf course. It is pretty awesome!) Fabricio is already a member there and we are about ready to join, so we went to see what all we needed. Turns out, Fabricio was able to get us a 1 week free pass so we could check it out before we join and we learned that we already have all the necessary documents needed for membership.

Then we got home and the doorman had our mail for us. Three pieces of mail exactly: a card from our friends Courtney and Dave, a letter from our dear Cherie, and a letter from Banco do Brasil that had Eric's official CPF card. A good mail day to say the least and we were really needing that CPF card! It is necessary to open a bank account, get a cell phone, and a whole host of other things. We were told it would take 30 days to get it, so we've been pretty bummed and Eric's last paycheck was a bit of an issue since we didn't have a bank account yet!

So, the day is getting better already and then Eric tells me that he got an email and our air shipment has arrived in Brasil! Which means as soon as it clears customs (< 1 week hopefully) I will have a fully stocked kitchen along with some other things we've been missing. YEA!!!!!

Eric then looked at me and asked if I had made anything for supper. I told him I was planning just sandwiches and salad since I didn't know how long it would take at the Clube. His suggestion: let's go out and celebrate good news! When does a wife turn down an offer like that? So we went to one of our favorite places and had really cold beer, filet mignon, and the best ever seasoned fries. (We've been on a healthy eating kick ever since we returned - we were due a cheat day!) Then we came home and made caipirinhas for a little night cap.

I know it seems pretty trivial and all, but these few little things are going to make life around here so much easier!

We have plans to go hang out at the Clube and do some touring of Belo Horizonte this weekend. Hopefully I'll actually have some pictures to post for Monday! Eric told me my blog is not a blog without pictures. I believe that my readers (all 7 of you) are able to, um, well, read, but just the same, I'll try to have more pictures next week. :)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Trouble Learning Portuguese

Speaker 1: You know? I am going ficar these books. They are going ficar around $40. That is great.

Speaker 2: Ficar???

Speaker 1: I fico concentrated on reading a good book for hours on end.

Speaker 2: Fico???

Speaker 1: It is even good ficar at home on cold days with a good book. At times, I fico afraid of ficar alone, because my house fica in a bad neighborhood, but . . .

Speaker 2: Wait! Wait!

Speaker 1: What is the problem? You are confused because of my frequent use of the verb ficar? I will explain.

Now, a little insight into my Portuguese lesson today. I have previously learned the verb "ficar". It means "to stay" or "to remain". Now, you read the dialogue above that I had in my Portuguese lesson today. (I translated everything but ficar for you, so it is understandable.) Now, you tell me what "ficar" translates to in English.

Here's the thing, ficar can mean any number of things. It may mean any of the following:
to stay
to remain
to be
to buy
to aquire
to cost
to get

Oh, the beauty of learning a new language! (And not to mention the frustration-ugghhhh!) The other fun part is that they have other words for each of the words that I mention above. So I am pretty certain I am just going to avoid using the word "ficar" in any form! I have other options and plan to use them!

(I should have known this was going to be tough though - the Brasilians we know who speak English told us that they believe Portuguese is much more difficult to learn than English. I'm a believer!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

10 Random Facts for Wednesday

1. Eric and I are rarely ever assumed to be American. Eric is called Argentinian quite often and I have been called a little bit of everything else: German, Australian, Swedish. They all know we aren't from here, but we get some weird looks when we tell them we are Americanos.

2. When you rent an apartment, you are responsible for carrying 'homeowners' insurance on it (fire, etc.) The owner of the apartment does not carry insurance on it except for when it is unoccupied. Interestingly, you have to add on coverage for planes crashing into your house. (Okay, I'm not sure who thought up that one, but somebody has to be making a killing off that, because apparently, everyone here adds that to their policy. Eric and I declined. If a plane crashes into our apartment...well, the airline will be hearing from our attorney!)

3. Toilet paper isn't usually flushed here. (I won't get into that again, just see the December 6, 2007 blog entry.)

4. Clothes dryers are a very rare commodity here. :(

5. Maids are very, very common here. (I think the plumbers that came yesterday were confused as to whether I was the occupant or the maid. I was cleaning windows while they were here. We are probably the only people in this neighborhood without a maid. Not complaining though! The trips we will get to take with the money we are saving will be well worth me having to scrub my own toilet.)

6. No one, except Eric and me, looks twice or giggles when a horse and homemade buggy come racing through the streets of downtown Belo Horizonte. (Now remember, the city is very modern and about the same size as Chicago or Atlanta.)

7. Fiat hatchbacks with a 1.0 liter engine are the standard here. Everyone picked on us for wanting a 'grandpa car' (since the Siena has a trunk, instead of the sporty hatchback.) We might be making up for the grandpa-ness of it since we are turning it in to a race car with that 1.8 liter engine. (Oh, and by the way, we haven't actually bought the car yet-it has to come from the factory which will take at least 30 days. We just decided what to order this week. Take a look at if you are just dying to see the Siena.)

8. In this city of 5 million people in South America, there is only one Mexican restaurant. It isn't that great, it is pretty expensive, and no one goes there. Furthermore, no one here has ever heard of a tortilla or a taco, much less ever eaten one. They don't drink tequila or margaritas. So, no the food here isn't like Mexican or any other Latino country. It is Brasileiro.

9. Antibacterial soap is non-existent here. They don't have hot water in their kitchens. Dishwashers are hard to come by. Now you tell me how a girl is supposed to feel like her dishes are clean with no hot water, no antibacterial dish soap, and no dishwasher to heat and disinfect? Well, this girl bought a big bottle of cleaning alcohol and after I cut up raw chicken everything gets a good wipe down. My kitchen smells like a hospital now, but I haven't food-poisoned my husband either. (I did bring back a supply of Bath and Body Works Antibacterial Soap for the bathrooms at least!)

10. A garbage disposal is called a "tweeny" here. Our tweeny wasn't working when we did the walk-through on the apartment. The tweeny guy (seriously, there is a company in town that only sells and services garbage disposals) came and took it on Monday to see if he could fix it. If not, he is bringing us a new tweeny. Not really important, I just like the word tweeny. It sounds so much nicer than garbage disposal. And I laughed a lot the first time I heard the word. Go ahead, say it out loud, it will make you laugh too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tired of Shopping?!?

Dare I say it? I am officially tired of shopping. I am worn out from having to think so much! Last night marked the end of our ~3 month shopping spree that we have been on and, as out of character as it is for me, I was happy to make that final purchase decision.

I have always thought it would be fun to be able to completely furnish a house from scratch and all at the same time. You know, so things look like they belong together and everything comes from the same decade and what not. Eric and I, like millions of college students and young adults before us, had quite the hodge-podge of furnishings back in the USA. When we combined households, we realized that neither one of us had actually picked out any of the furniture we owned. Although we had paid money for a few things, it was all bought used. So when it came time to move to Brasil we decided it would be rather ridiculous to move all our hand-me-down furniture to a different continent. We needed some nice furniture anyway (no offense to all the things people have given us over the years!), so why not take advantage.

But here's the thing: we got here with nothing! (Okay, we did pack the inflatable love seat, but other than that...) So over the course of the last couple months, we have bought a stove, refrigerator, washing machine, a bed for our room, a bed for the guest bedroom, night stands, a dresser, a sofa, a television, a dining room table, and geez it took us forever to pick out dining room chairs (finally ordered yesterday-yea!), and then, last night, we made the big car decision. We probably over analyze way too much, but I am so tired of making our budget, reviewing our budget, editing our budget, trying to decide if we should spend the extra money for these really awesome chairs or do we buy the cheaper ones to get us by for a few years, are we going to sell this in Brasil or will we move it back to the US, should we go modern or more rustic, which fabric do we want on this, and good grief at the spreadsheet we had to create last night to decide whether it would be more economical to buy the 1.4 L car and load it up with options or to order the 1.8 L one that came with more options standard (because you know we had to look at list price, our purchase price, depreciation and resale value, operating cost differences, and so much more-yeah, I'm totally serious here, it felt like I was sitting back in my Engineering Decision Making class. I mean, thank goodness that we aren't financing because then we'd have a whole other set of considerations to factor in there! I'm very thankful for Excel-it wouldn't have be fun by hand, I can tell you that much.) It felt so good to get our dining room chairs ordered yesterday and make the car decision. We visited no less than 35 different stores over the course of about 8 different shopping days looking for chairs and we've been debating over the car for at least a month. I've always thought I was a pretty decisive person, but holy cow, these last couple months have had my head spinning and I felt like I couldn't even process all the options anymore to make a decision! (And did I mention that we had to throw Christmas shopping in to the whole mix of the last couple months???)

So it is official people . . . I am all shopped out!

Oooohhh wait, I still haven't bought my Brasilian china. Hmmmm, okay, I guess maybe I can shop a little more. (But only because I'm a good wife and don't want my hubby to have to eat off paper plates anymore. You're welcome dear.) ;)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Do you know Ouro Preto?

This is the first question people down here always ask when they find out we just moved to Belo Horizonte. Ouro Preto is the pride of many Mineiros (that is, people from our state, Minas Gerais.) It is just over a 1 hour drive from our apartment, so we decided to take a little day trip on Sunday so we can finally answer that question with a big resounding "Sim! Nós conhecemos Ouro Preto."

For a little background info:
The city was founded back in 1711 during the big gold rush in the area. Brasil was still a Portuguese colony back then, so the current Portugal ruler, King Dom João V, took 1/5 of all the gold found and the locals brought in slaves from Africa to work in the gold mines. Because of the abundance of gold, the city was able to hire artisans to come in and build beautiful churches and other buildings throughout the 1700's. The most famous of the artisans is mostly known by the name Aleijadinho. He was the son of a Portuguese architect and a black slave. His name means 'little cripple' and he got that name when he was in his 30's and due to a terrible case of either syphilis or leprosy he lost all his fingers, toes, and the use of his lower legs. His disability didn't affect his work though. He would strap chisels and hammers to his arms and still do his work. He is responsible for creating a style known as Barroco Mineiro, which is a simplified version of baroque. Aleijadinho used local wood and soapstone to carve out some of the most beautiful tables, statuary, columns, etc. in several of the churches in Ouro Preto. Also due to the abundance of gold in the area at the time, the insides of the churches have gold accents on everything over hand-high. (Everything below that level seems to have been scraped off since then!) The city is built into steep hills and is known for it's cobblestone streets, 23 churches from the 1700's, and lack of any buildings from the 1900's! It served as the capital of Minas Gerais until 1897 when Belo Horizonte was designed and built to serve as the new capital in an attempt to keep from ruining the colonial charm of Ouro Preto.

So, that's your history lesson of the day. :) And here are a few of our pictures from the beautiful town.

This is the main square. There is a big statue in the center, shops and restaurants around the perimeter, and the old capital building (which is now a pretty interesting museum) is in the background. The touristy part of the city extends in all directions from this square.

One of the many churches from the 1700's.

This one was perched on a hilltop. The street ran behind it, but nothing else was built in the immediate area.

This was one of the more recently restored churches- it was really gorgeous (this was one of two that we toured the inside of as well.)

This is the front of the church above. The detail work above the doors was incredible.

Many of the streets were too narrow and/or steep for car travel. It made it really great for walking around (and getting an awesome thigh and calf workout! I was really glad I chose to wear my cross trainers. I saw more than one girl trying to manage the cobblestone hills in strappy sandals or heels. Ouch!)

In the background is one of the most famous churches of Ouro Preto, Igreja de São Francisco de Assis. The entire exterior and most of the interior was carved by Aleijadinho himself. I am standing next to the town's Artisan Fair. (Also worth noticing is all the people in jeans, long sleeves, and coats. It was overcast and about 72 degrees and everyone was freezing! Nope, I am not missing the 12 degrees of Burlington, IA right now! hehe)

And here we record our presence in Ouro Preto together. The infamous 'self-shot'!

It was a really great town and it is so close to us. We plan to go back to take in a few more of the adventures. There is a gold mine close by that you can take a cable car down into and tour, waterfalls you can repel down, an 18 km hiking trail that takes you to a tall peak overlooking the city, and of course, more of the town to explore. It is definitely on the schedule for a day trip when we have visitors! (Just be sure to pack your walking shoes!)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Little 1 AM Sertaneja Anyone?

After supper last night, Eric asked me what I wanted to do for the night. Well, I didn't really have any plans (hence the reason I was still wearing the jeans and t-shirt that I was wearing while earlier on my hands and knees scrubbing the spots on the stone floor with my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser-which is absolutely magic by the way!) I returned the question to him and he said, "Well, we could go to Minas Casa to look for chairs, or we are invited to go out tonight to Alambique for Bragaia's birthday." Well, why not, let's go out and be social!

We got to Alambique (which is basically a country dance club) at about 9:30. Nobody else showed up until about 10:30. We expected the band to start playing about 11:00, but it didn't go on until 12:40 this morning! It was a lot of fun and the band was really good, but it was a little later than we normally go for on a Tuesday night! The music was Sertaneja (which is Brasil's version of country music.) The place was packed and we later pondered on whether or not all those people had to get up and go somewhere this morning. Especially the ones who were standing in line to get in still when we were party poopers and left a little after 1:30 am. We arrived home sometime right around 2:00.

I felt pretty bad for my sweetie when the alarm went off at 6:30 this morning. Not bad enough to get out of bed too, but I did get up temporarily to kiss him goodbye and walk him to the door. :)

Here we are with Bragaia and his girlfriend. He is one of Eric's co-workers. They are such a fun couple!

As you can see, the place was absolutely packed! (Oh, and for those of you worrying that I am the only blonde in Brasil: see? more blonde hair! And even some curly hair-although most of the curly-headed girls have dark hair. But still, improve on my Portuguese and I can sort of kind of almost pass for a Brasilian.)

And this is a shot from outside as we were leaving at 1:30 this morning. The line wrapped back and forth a few times. There were A LOT of people still waiting to get in! Good thing the clubs here don't close until after 4:00 am, I guess!

And then, here is a link to a video of the music last night. You know, in case you were wondering what sertaneja music sounds like. We tried to get some crowd shots, but it was just too dark for the digital camera's video feature.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Helpful Hint and a Few GA Pictures

A helpful hint of the day: If you happen to be married to an engineer, especially one with a strong interest in all things mechanical, then you should never ever over-exaggerate when discussing something like torque. (See previous blog entry.) Instead, you should discuss how he uses a torque wrench and precisely tightens down lug nuts to the manufacturer's recommended specifications and how maybe the problem with you removing a tire is that 1. your manufacturer-supplied lug nut wrench is under sized, 2. the person who put your tires on that particular time used an impact wrench instead of a precisely calibrated torque wrench, or 3. you are too weak and need to get to the gym. I don't know, I just thought maybe that could be helpful for someone out there. LOL

I have had a productive last couple days around here, despite what you may believe after seeing how well I have been keeping up with the blog lately. :) We both started back with our Portuguese tutor yesterday, so I have something to plan my day around once again. I did in fact get the floors mopped yesterday too along with a good scrub down of the kitchen including wiping out all the cabinets so that I can start storing and organizing in there! The bathrooms have returned to their pre-USA trip cleanliness and I even have everything unpacked and put away. I also have been giving the new washing machine a workout. I was a little weary of it at first given it's tiny little size and puny agitator (not to mention I wasn't sure how I was going to get by without my Tide detergent!) But, I managed to find Tide down here (although it goes by a different name, same manufacturer and logo), I also found Snuggle fabric softener under a different name, and boy, oh boy, the Brastemp washing machine does a fabulous job even if it is one small load at a time. And I was happy to discover that if I set up our fan in the laundry room, the clothes will even dry in about 12 hours on a rainy day. I still miss my clothes dryer though (I am wearing awfully crunchy jeans right now-even after using the fabric softener.)

The very best part though of being able to start settling in is, by far, being able to cook! I haven't been doing anything too extravagant yet, since I only have the kitchen tools I could sneak in between shoes and clothes in all those suitcases, BUT, it sure does beat having to go out to eat every night. We might even be able to drop the fluffiness we have gained during the last 2 months now too! I have most enjoyed being able to make fresh juice with my juicer that we managed to fit into the suitcase. This morning it was mango-orange and I'm thinking tomorrow will hold in store some pineapple-lime. The combinations are endless and the fruit is so super cheap here! I'll never be able to afford to run the ol' juicer once we move back, so I figure I better wear the thing out while we're here!!! I think we have all our documents in order now and they should be able to release our shipment to customs sometime real soon. So hopefully in a couple or 3 or 4 weeks I can cook for real!

Our table was delivered yesterday during my Portuguese lesson, which I thought was sort of ironic since that is the only thing that is scheduled all day long and so of course that is when I am interrupted to see the table get moved in. It took 6 men to haul the marble top up the 5 flights of stairs (too big for the elevator) and it looked like they were really struggling with it. So, Eric and I decided yesterday we will probably loose a few good friends if ever we ask for help moving once we are back in the States. ;) I am now up to a table, two benches, TV on the floor, and an inflatable love seat in the great room now. Hopefully our couch will be coming soon and we can get some more shopping done so we can start making the place look lived in. It is a pretty pitiful sight right now!
And then, here are a few random pictures from Georgia while we were there.

This is a little log cabin my middle brother, Justin, built completely by hand by himself. (I think he used a chainsaw to cut down the trees, but after that it was all hand tools!) It is on my parents property and he uses it to store wood for future projects. He also turns bowls, rolling pins and such on the lathe, builds wooden furniture, puts in wood flooring, and does all kinds of other awesome stuff in his free time. I keep trying to convince him to sell his work-it is all so gorgeous, but I guess he has too many personal projects right now to worry about commissioned work.

This is a favorite view of mine: Georgia dirt roads! This is the road my parents live on. The first time we drove down it Eric swore it had to be a farm road - no county would maintain a little narrow road like that! hehe

And this is the bridge on my parents' dirt road (if you come the back way.) There are actually steel I-beams underneath it too. Eric's first comment, the first time I took him to my Mom and Dad's (going the back way, of course!) was "Hmmm...nice bridge...did your Dad build that?" I was glad I took him the back way there - it really gave him the full experience, I think! ;)

I miss the little quiet Georgia dirt roads on nights like last night when I couldn't fall asleep for all the city noise!

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Best of Intentions Gone Awry

Sometimes even the best of intentions can cause you to make a mess. I might have had this experience on Friday afternoon.

While I was intending on mopping my floors, I got distracted by a couple other projects. Then, it was finally time to do the floors. But, first I needed to make a quick stop in the bathroom. As I was washing my hands I thought, "wow, this faucet needs the aerator cleaned out or something." So, I figured I might as well handle that while I was there. If it was bothering me, it would be bothering my hunny in no time too. So being the good wife that I am, I intended to take care of the little problem. I tried to twist off the cap on the bottom of the faucet, but it wouldn't come off for anything. Hmmm, maybe I wasn't getting a strong enough grip; off to the hallway closet to get the toolbox. Vice grips-perfect!

Now, I should probably stop here and make a quick confession: every time Eric picks up a screwdriver, wrench, or anything else that he intends to use to tighten something I always remind him that he isn't working on an army tank and DO NOT over tighten. He does really nice things for me, like rotate the tires on my car. But after one particularly bad experience with a flat tire and a factory supplied lug nut wrench that was all of about 6" long, I always insist on tightening my own lug nuts when anyone else touches my tires-that way I know I can get it off if need be. Well, that's never good enough for my husband. He thinks that until he uses 2000 lb-ft of torque (ok, maybe I'm exaggerating here) on my lug nuts, they aren't tight. Uggghhhh... anyway, the point is I am always lecturing Eric that you can cause a lot of damage or just create a problem for someone else if you use too much force!

So, back to my faucet in need of cleaning. After a very gentle turn attempt with the vice grips, it still wouldn't budge. Hmmm, maybe I am doing something wrong. I go to try the faucet in the other bathroom. It comes right out no problem and I happily clean the inside parts of it. But now back to the original bathroom. I try again, and it won't turn. Then I wondered what kind of condition the aerators in the other sinks were in. I went around the house and cleaned all the other faucet. Okay, now I HAD to get this one cleaned. It probably is just corroded on or something and I need to use a little more force. Oops!

Apparently somebody used some J.B. Weld or something of the sort up in my faucet prior to it being my faucet. I got the bottom part of the faucet off, but I left behind the threaded portion of the little cap. Uggghhh! I just did exactly the thing I am always reminding the ol' hubby not to do. This will be fun to explain! Well, it was fun-for him. And let's just say he didn't take me real seriously last night when we were putting together a new computer chair. He started tightening down screws and I said, "Be careful! Don't over tighten those!!!"

It wouldn't be quite such a big problem except that a faucet (as we have learned while trying to find a replacement) is not a cheap fix here. Meanwhile, we have a sink out of commission (unless you want your pants and the bathroom floor to all end up soaked; yes that was a bad lesson to learn too but luckily I learned it in time to warn my other half before he tried it out.) And I guess my ability to get sidetracked is an issue to address some other day. But hopefully, this afternoon, these dirty floors are really going to get mopped!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Why we make bad house guests...

5 Checked bags - all weighing over 60 lbs a piece
1 way over-sized carry on
1 normal sized carry on - but very heavy
2 laptop bags
1 giraffe bag (a birthday gift from my sister-in-law, thanks Brii!!!)
2 over-sized travelers (yeah, the holidays fed us too well!)

I told Dad to show up at the airport with the Expedition empty. It was . . . and then we completely filled up the back (with the back seat down!) You don't even want to ask him how many times he loaded and unloaded our bags either.

A couple over-ambitious taxi drivers thought they could fit us and our luggage for the trip to our apartment from the airport. After a feeble attempt or two, a mini-van looking taxi pulled up and we barely squeezed in with all our bags.

The whole trip I felt it necessary to explain to passing strangers that we were moving to Brasil . . . we kept getting such strange looks as the two of us wheeled the luggage monorail (all our bags strapped together) through the airport. Remember that story about having to run around the Mexico City airport with all our bags-understand my complaints now?

A big thanks to all the people we visited and the help with loading, transporting, and unloading our not-so-light-load!!! We understand if we don't get an invitation back anytime soon though! ;)

Friday, January 4, 2008

To Georgia and Back Home to Brasil

The Entire Tyson Crew
(My Dad's parents and the families of their 3 kids: there are 19 of us now)

Well, let's see, the best news of the entire Brasil-Mexico-Iowa-Georgia-Brasil trip: we made it all the way back home on January 1-2 without standing in any long lines or having a single plane delayed! I am pretty certain that is a record for us (we usually can't even fly Moline, Illinois to Atlanta, Georgia without our plane being delayed!) So, who knows, maybe Eric will allow us to leave Brasil at some other point in the future if enough time passes that he can forget about our travels TO the US! :)

We had an awesome Christmas though and got to see tons of family and a few friends too! We spent December 21-25 in Urbana with Eric's family and got to go to Grandpa Zieser's house for the big Zieser Christmas Eve gathering. At 4:15 Christmas morning, we left Urbana to catch an early morning flight to Atlanta. We made it Grandma and Grandad Tyson's in time for Christmas Dinner at noon! I was a little bit concerned since we left Iowa prior to Santa's arrival and then got to Georgia after he had already left. I wasn't sure he would be able to find us this year, but we were lucky enough that the big man in red is pretty dag-gum omniscient and left us some presents in Georgia! :)

The day after Christmas, I got another year older. Eric now gets to boast for the next 4 months about how old I am. Lucky for me, he catches up in April, so his fun is short lived! It was nice being in Perry at my grandparents' house for my birthday again. It has been tradition for as long as I can remember to have my birthday dinner there. (Although I did miss it the year I turned 18, due to working at J.C.Penney that year. Seriously people, is it REALLY necessary to make your returns the day after Christmas?!?) But anyway, we had my traditional birthday meal: lasagna, salad, garlic bread, angel food cake, strawberries, and whipped cream. (I write this all here, so in the future if we don't make it to Grandma and Grandad's Eric has a record of what he is supposed to make for me!) ;)

We traveled back to Brasil via Rio de Janeiro this time instead of Sao Paulo. The airport experience was much nicer and I would recommend going that route if possible when traveling into Brasil. Sao Paulo has been a complete zoo every time we have ever been through there. We stood in line less than 1 hour total between customs, re-checking our bags at the TAM ticket counter, and security while in Rio. Compared to our most recent trip through Sao Paulo where we were in lines for near 5 hours, this was so much nicer!!! Who knows if it is like that all the time, but we had a positive experience on this trip!

We made it back to our apartment about 5:00 Wednesday evening. We spent some time yesterday and today checking in with the Federal Police here. They have to issue us some documents, get our finger prints on file, etc. since we will be here for more than 90 days now. There is a whole list of other things that we have to get handled too in the next week or so before our shipment of household things can be shipped to us. Add that to needing to get bank accounts opened, cable/internet hooked up, electricity changed over into our name, checked in with the US Embassy, and a sizable list of other tasks, then you can imagine that we will be keeping ourselves entertained with paperwork over the next couple weeks. My feet turned black while walking around the apartment barefoot yesterday, so I guess that after I worked so hard to have it nice and clean before we left it is in great need of a good scrubbing again. Hmmmmm, I guess I have to quit procrastinating now and get to work with my new best friend, the mop.

Coming up tomorrow: why you don't want to invite Eric and me to come visit you . . . a story told with a single picture.