Friday, August 29, 2008

The 24-Hour Turnover

Out with the old, in with the new.

Jared vacated our apartment at about 7:30 this morning, and I have since been on a mad rush through the house trying to get things ready for Phase 2 of Casa E & E's month-long stretch of guests. We depart for Foz do Iguaçu tomorrow morning on a 7:50 flight. And when I return to my humble abode on Thursday next week, I will have four new guests accompanying me.

So in preparation for Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandad, I am washing sheets and towels, scrubbing bathrooms, mopping floors, dusting, and goodness knows I need to get in the kitchen and shine up all my stainless steel appliances with are currently covered in fingerprints and worse.

I think there is always a sense of urgency in the "perfectly kept home" department when a twenty-something's parents come over to visit, but it somehow amplifies about ten times when we throw grandparents into the mix! It's not that I think Grandma would think less of me if she slept in clean, but unpressed, sheets, it's just that I've never slept on wrinkled sheets at her house and so . . . I'm ironing sheets today.

My grandparents have always amazed me. I swear you can drop by Grandma and Grandad's unannounced at any time and if they are home, which is sometimes a feat in and of itself, you can be sure that the house, yard, garden, pastures, and pool will be immaculate, there'll always be enough supper to go around, and more than likely a cake, cookies, or some other fabulous baked good will be sitting there - as if Grandma knew you were going to drop in. (Which in all fairness, not much gets past Grandma so there is a good possibility that she knew you were coming even before you decided to stop by!) And it's not only since they've been retired that things have all been so perfectly put-together around their place; I can remember well when Grandma was still working as a nurse at the hospital and Grandad was putting in his 40 hours every week in the HR office of the Air Force base. So anyway, what I'm trying to say is that fingerprints on my refrigerator and pigeon poo on the window just won't cut it for me when my grandparents come to town. (Especially when they are coming all the way down to Brasil - I don't have the "Oh, I wasn't expecting company!" excuse this time, I'm afraid.)

So, if you'll excuse me now I need to get back to my chores. I have pillows to fluff, closets to straighten, and cabinets to clean. Oh and sometime before the end of the day I need to get packed for six fabulous days at one of the greatest natural wonders of Brasil: Foz do Iguaçu. (But I have my priorities: no packing until linens are pressed!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Weekend in Búzios

Despite the weather not cooperating 100% of the time, we had a nice trip down to Búzios in the state of Rio de Janeiro over the weekend. It was cloudy part of the time which made it a little cool and it rained on Saturday afternoon, but, even so, we had fun. Búzios has several gorgeous beaches and the town is clean and very safe.

You can see it was pretty overcast when we first arrived Saturday morning.

But even with the cloudiness, you still get a feel for how blue-green the clear waters are!

Eric was told by one of the locals that there was a trail that cut through the forest between a couple of the beaches. We took about 50 steps and decided to turn back. Not even my husband was ambitious enough to try the trail (or rather, lack thereof. The "trail" - which reeked of urine - disappeared into thick vegetation just moments after I took this picture.)

We took a boat ride over to one of the more popular beaches (João Fernandes) and spent most of the morning and early afternoon there on Saturday.

The sand at João Fernandes is a really deep red. It's quite beautiful!

The boys went for a hike around the rocks while I laid out and enjoyed the sun. This picture comes compliments of Jared. I thought is really shows just how clear the water is there!

The three of us decided just to share a room at a pousada in downtown Búzios. I found one place online that advertised a special room with two bathrooms and space for up to six people. We thought it would accommodate us well! It turned out to have a convenient location and simple, but clean rooms.

What they didn't advertise was that the special room had a bit of a cheesy honeymoon suite feel to it complete with a round bed surrounded by mirrors and, as you can see above, a huge square mirror on the ceiling above said bed. Admittedly, there were two other smaller beds, but I still don't think I'd call it spacious enough (or quite designed) for six! Jared picked on me endlessly for choosing the "Honeymoon Suite" for him to share with us on our anniversary weekend!

We ended up eating at an Argentinian steakhouse on Saturday night. It was most fabulous!

We got out to another beach (Geribá) Sunday morning while it was sunny, but the clouds followed us.

We still had fun with paddle ball and playing in the giant waves though.

Jared told us Saturday morning that this was his first trip to the beach. I responded with shock and disbelief and he reminded me that he was from Iowa. Oh, yeah, that's right - the land of frozen tundra, far far away from all thing coastal. Would someone please remind me again why people live there? ;) (Oops, I think I'm going to be in trouble when the boys get home from work - I forget I'm outnumbered this week! And I'm sure they'll be ever so quick to remind me that I voluntarily moved there. And that I plan on returning. And that eventually I'm going to have to embrace the Iweegan beachlessness and bitter winters. But, to quote the great Scarlett O'Hara, "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.")

Here's Eric, after deciding that Havaianas are exactly the proper footwear for a little rock climbing. Silly boy!

Upon returning home and reviewing my pictures, I discovered that one must be careful while taking silhouette shots of one's husband - especially when he is holding a paddle. Shadows have a way of doing crazy, sometimes obscene-looking things that can render several photographs too R-rated for the general viewing public. I decided to stick with the picture where the paddle is well above his head here - it's a much safer option, trust me on this one.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Anniversary . . .

Now can you please take me to the hospital?

That was pretty much how my day started off.

As of today I've been married to the love of my life for 1 whole year! It's crazy to believe how fast these last 12 months have flown by! But it's even crazier that I started my anniversary celebration in the ER. And then have so far spent the rest of the day trying to play nurse to my Hubby Dearest as he lies on the couch with a heating pad and his laptop. (I'm starting to think he is just testing out that "in sickness and in health" line from our vows.)

We took our trip down to the coast on Friday and spent the weekend in Búzios with Jared. Sometime yesterday, while playing paddle ball on the beach, Eric realized that his back wasn't feeling so great. By the time we got off the bus this morning, 9 hours after leaving Búzios last night, he could barely walk. We did some calling around, got the name of a good doctor, and called to try to get an appointment. After explaining to the receptionist over the phone that he had hurt his back and it was painful to sit or walk, the lady informed Eric that the doctor would be glad to see him, on September 4th. Eric laughed and told the woman he was lying on his back on the sofa and it hurt to move, next week wasn't going to cut it! And she informed him that he should go then to the hospital where they could see him without an appointment.

So, like a good wife, I drove him over to Life Center Hospital anticipating a nice long day in the ER. As it turns out, Brasilians use the hospitals for anything that needs attention sooner than within the next couple weeks. Running over to the doctor's office because you're sick today really isn't the norm, so the hospitals are set up to handle things such as a back that aches every time you move.

We were in, saw the doctor, got a prescription, filled the prescription, and were out of there in less than an hour! The doctor examined Eric and determined he had just pulled a lower back muscle (much as Hubby suspected) and ordered rest, some time with the heating pad, Advil, and, if that didn't bring enough relief, pop a Tylenol with Codeine. The combination has brought considerable comfort thus far, so hopefully he is well on his way to recovery now!

It's still uncertain how exactly he hurt his back . . . I have my theories though.

Watching him move today makes my back hurt, so I've pretty much banned him from leaving the couch. I'm not sure the previously planned anniversary evening is going to go off quite as anticipated, but we are at least going to eat wedding cake - just as soon as I get in the kitchen and get it decorated.

Whether he's confined to the couch or not though, I am more in love with my husband every day. It's been an amazing 12 months and everyday I am reminded of how blessed I am - I have an absolutely incredible husband and a life more wonderful than I could have ever planned. I can't say that the dreams I had as a little girl have all come true; instead, they have all been far exceeded! So, here's to another 80 years or so, just as marvelous as the last one.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Food and Travel

I love it when my two favorite things take center stage in my life.

Since Jared has been here, we've taken this opportunity to eat out every single night. (I'm blaming it on the need to share Brasil's culture with our guest.) So far, we've been to some of our favorite places to enjoy the fine cuisine: Adega do Sol, Rancho do Boi, Vale Verde, and Bar Ideal. We also threw the very un-Brasilian Outback into the mix on Monday since they just opened up in our city and we hadn't been there yet. The bacon cheese fries, bloomin' onion, and hot wings were a nice change of pace too for a night! Tonight we plan on heading out to Baby Beef (another great churrascaria.) So far, our evenings have revolved solely around where we are going to eat. I kind of like it that way. (My hips, not so much though.)

This week, between meals, we have been busy finalizing plans for a weekend beach trip too. We've heard great things about Búzios in the state of Rio de Janeiro ever since we arrived in Brasil. When Jared mentioned he'd like to spend a weekend at the beach, we figured it would be as good of a time as ever to head that way. We take off Friday evening on an overnight bus, arrive at 6:30 Saturday morning and come back to Belo Horizonte Sunday night, arriving at 7:00 am Monday. Sun, sand, and surf are three things I just can't ever get too much of. And combined with all the fabulous food we've been indulging in, well, life is pretty grand! (I must admit some concern about donning the bikini after this rather gluttonous week though!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I should've known . . .

that when six of the other teachers started laughing at my schedule and wishing me good luck, I was going to have an interesting experience!

Besides the English classes that I was assigned this semester, I also have a few individual students. One of those students, who I'll refer to as Walter (which is not his name) has already, on the second day of the third week of classes, earned the "Biggest Pain-in-the-Behind Student of the Semester Award". And I haven't even met him yet.

I'm sure Walter is a fabulous guy that I am going to like a whole lot, assuming I ever get the chance to meet him. But his reputation preceded him, and he has not disappointed.

Of the six teachers that wished me luck and laughed that I was the "chosen one" (as in chosen to be Walter's teacher for the semester) half of them had personally had him as a student and the other three knew all the stories about the guy. Supposedly, he is notorious school-wide for being a class canceller and a no-show. He is, as I understand it, a bit of a big shot at a local business in town. He wants to improve his English, so every semester he signs up for private classes two days per week at his office.

The first day I was scheduled to have class with him, I took the bus downtown and walked to his office. I went through security and made my way up to his floor. I walked in, told the receptionist who I was, and she responded with something along the lines of "Walter? Walter is traveling. He isn't here." More than a little surprised, I asked when he would be back. The receptionist said she had no idea and that Walter's secretary was out to lunch.

And this is the curse of being the "chosen one". He either has his secretary call the school and cancel his classes the evening before or the morning of class or he doesn't even bother to do that much even and you end up going all the way down to his office only to learn he isn't there or isn't available. Meanwhile, you have to block off the two classes in your schedule every week on the odd chance he actually decides he wants to have class. Which so far, here on week three of the semester hasn't happened.

Today was another one of those fun show-up at his office and get told he is in a meeting and cannot have class days. On the positive side of things, I get to turn around, go home, and yet still get paid for the class. Quick, easy money. But really, I'm not a big fan of wasting my time. I have plenty of other things I'd rather be doing that don't involve killing time on city buses: I could go get an overdue mani/pedi, bake something fabulous, clean the new pigeon poop off my window, do further research and find a good way to destroy pigeons . . . you know, important stuff.

The good news is that they never make a teacher deal with Walter more than one semester. So I just have to put in my time for a few more months and after that I get to join the ranks of so many others who have come before me on this mission to meet and have class with Walter. Wish me luck, or um, maybe patience. Yes, patience, that's probably what I need more of this semester.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekend #1 of Entertaining

My husband's colleague and our good friend, Jared, arrived at Confins International Airport around 1:35 Friday afternoon. He was met by yours truly and shown to his accommodations at Casa E & E. He scoffed at my release of blogging liability, told me I was crazy if I thought he was going to wear a sunga, and maybe mentioned something about me being nice if I wanted him to give me all the stuff he brought down for me.

I let him get settled in and gave him four hours or so (at least enough time to get my hair dryer, Brita filters, etc. from him) before I started giving him a hard time. On a side note, one of the side effects of growing up with three brothers is that you treat all male friends a lot like brothers which usually calls for a little bit of 'mothering' them, picking on them, laughing at them, and just a general 'giving back plus some' of all the crap they try to dish out to you.

Once Eric got home from the office, we went out to Adega do Sol, one of our very favorite churrascarias, and introduced Jared to the very best in the Brasilian dining experience. After eating our weight in beef, we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and back to the apartment.

Saturday morning, the boys had to go into work for a little bit. I decided to show Jared how good Eric has it by making breakfast (complete with fresh squeezed orange juice) and having warm chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven when they got home. We decided to go out and spend the afternoon at the club. The boys played tennis and then joined me out by the pool where I was able to discuss all the benefits of marriage with our dear friend (while my husband agreed - by virtue of silence). Saturday night found us out with three other friends at Rancho do Boi where we once again ate until we were stuffed.

We got up Sunday morning and took Jared to the feira (the 'hippie fair'/market) and also walked around the city's main park. After a brief city tour, we spent the afternoon out in the country at Vale Verde, the ecological park that also makes one Brasil's best cachaças. We had their fabulous lunch buffet and spent some time tasting cachaça, looking at exotic birds, checking out big-busted gnomes, reminding Jared that he has been dating his girlfriend just about as long as Eric and I have known each other, asking Jared what the heck he is waiting for, and basically, just enjoying a beautiful day in Brasil. I got to talk briefly to Steph, Jared's girlfriend, last night and let her know I was keeping him out of trouble and stressing to him how fabulous marriage is. (As I talked to her, Eric was washing some dishes in the kitchen while Jared looked on - I told her I was making sure Eric set a good example for him too! She doubts he's very trainable in the dishes department, but did appreciate my efforts.)

I made waffles for breakfast before seeing the fellas off to the office and getting myself ready for my English class this morning. Eric came in the kitchen as I was slaving over the Waring Pro Professional Belgian Waffle Maker and said something along the lines of, "Hey, I could get used to my wife getting up and making breakfast every morning!" I have no idea what he's talking about. (Note if Jared is reading: because see, I am his wife, and this is what wives do every morning. Yep, regardless of what some expat American husbands living in Brasil might tell you, wives never sleep in while their hard working husbands have a bowl of cereal by themselves for breakfast. Nope, it just doesn't happen really.)

Ah, yes, it is going to be a fabulous two weeks with Jared here with us. Despite the fact that at this rate I am going to gain twenty pounds before he leaves, Eric and I are having a blast playing host/tour guide. And having a second guy around to pick on and harass only makes it that much more fun for me. (Man, I miss my brothers now though.)

Pictures will be coming soon. I forgot my camera and then forgot to get the pictures from Jared's camera before he left this morning.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sign Here, Please

I go to the airport to meet Guest #1 in less than 5 hours now. As I was running around giving the floor one last Swiffer-ing (yes, I brought a year's worth of Swiffer products down with me - we have all solid surface flooring here, can you blame me?) and putting away all my underwear that was hanging dry from yesterday's laundry, it occurred to me that I had forgotten one important detail. I have the guest room all prepared: clean sheets on the bed, pillows fluffed, hangers in the closet, and a little Brasil welcome gift including a pair of Havianas, a box of Brasilian chocolates, and yes, even a Brasilian swimsuit to wear if he dare (or just as a souvenir as a reminder of what he observed at the pools and beaches while down here South of the equator.) But it occurred to me early this morning that I had forgotten one vital detail: the release.

Because hey, what fun would it be to host visitors down here if I couldn't blog all about our adventures? I have people to entertain here folks! (Referring to the seven or so people who keep up with me here, not the people that are coming to Brasil that I have to actually, um, entertain.)

So, that being said, I need to print off a copy of the release. I think I'll make him sign it at the airport today. That way, if he tries to refuse, I can threaten to leave him there. Surrounded by an all Portuguese speaking general public, I think he will be just concerned enough to put the pen to the paper for me. {insert yesterday's evil laugh here again}


Release of Blogging Liability

I, ________________________, hereby release Emily, Eric, and from all liability in regards to what may be written on the blog during the period of August 15 - August 29, 2008. I understand that my name, photo, and likeness may be used and that I will receive no financial gain from such uses. (Unless by some odd freakish turn of events Emily starts getting paid to blog thanks solely to my appearance and then, if she is feeling especially friendly, Emily may offer me a quarter or something.)

I understand that Emily uses very little discretion in regards to the stories she tells and such lack of consideration could cause me embarrassment and other emotional damages. Emily, et al will not be held liable for such damages.

I understand that if I were to decide to don the Brasilian men's swimwear of choice, Emily's camera will be out and shooting pictures as fast as the paparazzi on the Bragelina twins. I understand that said pictures could end up posted on her blog, spread across the worldwide web, possibly sold to Brasilian and American tabloids, and without a doubt a life-size poster would be printed and sent immediately to my girlfriend in the USA who would probably take it into my office and hang it above my desk prior to my return. If such an occurrence were to materialize, it is highly likely I would never be able to return to work thanks to the inhumane verbal abuse I would receive from all the guys at the office. Under no circumstances will Emily or her peeps be held responsible for such actions.

As per Eric, I acknowledge that Emily likes to tell her version of the story, which may often differ greatly from my version. I understand that anything I say (or even think for that matter) may be poorly quoted, taken out of context, and all together twisted if it makes for a better story.

Basically, what I'm saying here is that Emily will blog as she pleases and there ain't too much I can do about it.


August 15, 2008


On the way home from the airport we will then have to stop by the Polícia Federal to have his passport/visa approved as indeed valid. After that we will need to make a run by the mob office, oops I mean the Cartório, and have his signature put on file there. Afterwards we will need this document signed by two witnesses. Then we can return to the Cartório where we will pay dearly to have the release stamped, sealed, and signed by a couple more people. This is Brasil, this is how it's done. I like to keep things legal, you know. (Have I not blogged about the Cartório yet? Hmm, I need to do that soon. It's an interesting system, to say the least. But let me assure you, my release above will not be valid until I pay the Cartório.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Birdicidal Thoughts

What you are looking at below is one of my living room windows. One of the many windows that I spent hours yesterday cleaning. And I really dislike cleaning windows . . . more than toilets, in fact.

See those streaks down the window? Yeah, those weren't there when I went to bed last night.

That was just a lovely little surprise left for me by the pigeons who apparently decided to have a little party while perched on the little ledge above my window.

They left their calling card at the bottom of the window too.

The white marble of that bottom ledge was also sparkling clean last night when I went to bed.

There is currently one very unhappy resident on the 5th floor. She has murder in her sleepy eyes this morning. She is about to do some googling of things like "common household items that are highly toxic to pigeons" and "how to kill a pigeon without a gun" and maybe, just maybe if the birdicidal (that would be like homicidal except more pigeon-related) thoughts leave her brain for a moment she might look up "pigeon repellent".

See, I'm not sure I would be so annoyed except that the pigeons have never, ever sat on the top ledge of my windows. And I've never, ever had pigeon poo streaks down my windows. And I am pretty dang sure right now that the pigeons watched me slaving away washing windows yesterday and formulated their evil little plan just out of spite and meanness. Which proves my previous theory regarding pigeons; they are the devil. (Say that with your best 'Mama Boucher' Cajun accent - from Adam Sandler's The Waterboy.)

Current score: Pigeons 1 - Emily 0

But my oh my, how things will soon be changing! {insert evil laugh}

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Visitors Pay a Price 'Round Here

Once word gets out about us back home, I don't think we're going to have any more visitors.

Since we have a good friend coming in on Friday, and then a couple weeks later my parents and grandparents are coming to pay a visit, we thought we'd ask them to bring us a few things we needed from the US. When they agreed to it, I'm not sure they knew exactly what they were getting themselves into though.

Our meager little list kept growing and growing as we thought of more things we needed, or um, wanted. Jumbo cookie sheet, jellyroll pan, chili powder, syrup, Gatorade powder, Miracle-Gro, blow dryer with diffuser, replacement filters for our Brita water system, ink cartridges for our printer, soap from the Antibacterial Collection at Bath & Body Works . . . oh the things you desire as an expat! (They're just lucky we're not asking for what we really want: an entire suitcase full of tortilla chips, or at least a year's supply of masa harina and a tortilla press. HA!)

I've tried to rationalize my requests by telling myself that this way they will be sure to have plenty of room for souvenirs on the return trip home. It really makes me feel better about the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

People Pleasin'

There was once an old man who was going to sell his donkey at an auction in town. It was a long walk from out in the country where he lived, so the man's young son volunteered to go along and keep his father company.

Since it would be a long walk, the man put his son on the donkey and walked along beside him. A little ways down the road, they passed an old woman who took one look and said, "What a disrespectful child, making his aging father walk while he rides." Not wanting people to think ill of his son, the old man told his son to walk while the old man rode the donkey.

It wasn't long before they passed a couple on the road. The old man overheard the woman say to her husband, "Would you look at that! That man is making his young son walk on the hot dusty road while he rides comfortably on his donkey!" Afraid that people would think he was a bad father, the man hopped down and walked with his son, leading the donkey.

Some time later they passed a young guy on the road who said to the old man, "Are you crazy? Why are the two of you walking when you have a good donkey you could be riding?" The old man certainly didn't want people to think he was crazy, so he and his son both hopped up on the donkey and continued their journey to town.

Just outside of town, they came upon a small group of people. Someone made the comment, "Good grief! Look at that poor donkey! He looks like he might give out under the weight of that man and boy. I can't believe they would be so terrible as to make that donkey carry them both into town!" Not wanting to be seen as cruel, the old man jumped down, ordered his son off the donkey, threw the animal over his shoulders to carry the donkey, and proceeded onto the bridge which led into town.

About halfway across the bridge the man lost his balance, fell, and the donkey went tumbling over the edge of the bridge and died in the rushing river below.

Moral of the Story: If you try to please everybody, you'll just end up losing your ass.

(That was one of my favorite stories as a young kid, although I can't remember now where I first heard it. And truthfully, probably part of the attraction was that I could get away with saying "ass" without having my mouth washed out with soap. You know, since it was technically in reference to the animal and not the anatomy, and since that's the biblical term for the animal and all. My mom probably still didn't really like her well-mannered-lady-in-training telling this story, but I had a pretty strong argument.)

My fellow people-pleasers, repeat the moral of the story over and over until it sticks. It would please me greatly. (And not that I've been able to give up my people-pleasing ways or anything, but I have faith in the rest of you.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Fruits of Our Labor

Sometimes my inner Martha Stewart likes to come out and play. Sometimes my poor husband gets pulled into my projects too. And actually, both have been happening a lot lately. Luckily he is a good man and doesn't get too fussy about my antics or his role in them.

"We" had some fabulous ideas this weekend. Most of which meant spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking, and a lot more time in the kitchen cleaning up.

We've been talking about making pickles ever since Eric's sister so kindly sent me a whole bunch of spices I couldn't find down here a couple months ago. We finally got around to making a small batch this weekend (I don't have canning jars here, nor do I know where to find any, so it is going to be a make-as-you-eat venture in pickles around these parts) and are the proud new owners of 2 quarts of the most delicious bread and butter pickles. (Well, actually, as of today, make that 1 and 1/2 quarts . . .)

I had also been toying with the idea of making homemade yogurt and granola for a while. Beth, a friend of mine, posted a great-sounding recipe on her blog for granola a while back, and I recently read French Women Don't Get Fat which has a recipe for yogurt. Despite substituting roasted soy nuts for the pecans, the granola turned out really awesome. The yogurt, though more of a drinkable consistency than spoonable, isn't too bad either!

We also made a huge pot of spicy chili, some creme de papaya, overstuffed omelets, vanilla pudding, and pineapple-lime-mint juice (which is totally yummy btw) among other things over the course of our two days around the apartment. My dicer/slicer/chopper/stir-er/dishwasher (aka my hubby) put in lots of overtime this weekend. Have I mentioned what a good man he is?

We did manage to sneak a couple hours in over at the club yesterday so we could swim, catch a few rays, and just relax around the pool enjoying this beautiful Belo Horizonte weather. Overall it was a pretty uneventful weekend though . . . which will probably be the last one for some time since guest number 1 of 5 over the next five weeks arrives on Friday!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The USA Craze

I remember one day in the beginning of my tenth grade year, a senior guy who was a good friend of mine stopped me after school and said, "Hey! I need to talk to you! What’s all this stuff I keep hearing about you?" I stood there listening as he recalled all these things people - lots of different people - had been saying about me through the gossip chain. I remember my jaw dropping at some of the crazy rumors and then this really weird sensation came over me: why the heck would anyone care enough to be talking about me (much less take the time to make up stories)?

It's not that I had "low self-esteem" or thought I was completely unimportant. I went to a small school and the fact that I was a cheerleader, a good student, a party girl (just being honest here), and involved in every organization on campus put me in that not-so-exclusive "popular kids" group. But I had heard my share of rumors about other people, and I just couldn't think of anything that would make me so interesting that people all over town and around school would be talking about little ol’ me!

Last week, my post about my immersion class experience evoked some interesting comments, comments that took me back to my first couple of months living in Brasil. The couple of months that sort of reminded me of that day with my friend in tenth grade.

This time it wasn't that people were spreading awful rumors about me though. The first couple months in Brasil, I was constantly shocked at how much people wanted to talk about the United States. And not just because they were talking to me. Everyone I came across seemed to want to discuss US politics, culture, or problems. And they knew a lot! People here are following the presidential election closely and often have stronger opinions (good and bad) about my country than they do of their own! They certainly have more to say about President Bush than they do President Lula! (And oh, how uninformed they often are on that subject!)

I felt like that little 16 year old girl again as I listened to everyone talking about my country. Why the heck does everyone care so much? Why is it that there is something about US politics on the Brasilian news everyday? Why do people watch American movies and listen to American music, even though plenty of them don't understand English? Why do they think Americans eat fast food every single day (which most of us don't/didn't!), and furthermore, why do they care what we eat anyway? Why do they have such strong opinions about who my next president is - they don't pay US taxes, their national and personal security doesn't depend on who our next leader is. I went between flattered, that they spend so much of their time thinking about my country and embracing my culture (movies, etc.), to totally bewildered as to why.

I understand that the US is a key player in the international world. I understand that we export lots of goods. I understand that we have a huge entertainment industry. But I still don't fully understand the obsession.

So meanwhile, Americans get dubbed as not caring about or taking an interest in other cultures. But sometimes I think it's just that we are interested in the same thing - the United States of America!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Sound and Smell of Rain

If you turn on your speakers and play this video, you will hear what I heard yesterday . . .

Ahhhh, the sound of rain. A good hard rain, which is the only kind that exists here in Belo Horizonte. The kind that turns the sides of my street into rivers that look like they might wash away the cars parked there.

About February this year, I didn't think I would ever like the rain again. Something about rain six out of seven days during the week for a couple months straight tends to do that to people, I guess. But yesterday the bright blue sky was overtaken with dark ominous clouds and a good hour of hard rain followed. I cracked my windows so I could smell the wet air and listen to the rain. I wanted to take a nap, but resisted and was actually productive with my day.

It occurred to me yesterday that I haven't seen a drop of rain in BH since sometime in May, and even then it only rained once or twice and only for a few minutes. I really haven't seen any good amount of rain since March, I think. (I heard it did rain a little one day back in June, but it was while we were on vacation.) The seasons here are so crazy! How it goes from raining practically everyday for three months and then just completely turns off one day and doesn't rain again for months . . . it's just amazing.

We should have gotten enough yesterday to make everything green up and throw some plants into a full bloom just in time for our visitors! Perfect! I just hope the rain will go away again now and not come back during this dry season I've been encouraging everyone to come enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Does "what if . . ." have any merit?

(I hate to generalize in reference to an entire population, but I'm going to have to today to avoid the use of "not all, but the majority or at least a large majority of" three million times in order to make my point here. I am entirely aware of the fact that generalizations breed stereotypes and there is no way to make broad, sweeping statements and have them true for every person. So please begin reading with this in mind, okay? It's just my experience. I know there are plenty of exceptions!)

The Brasilians are going to cause me to have a heart attack at the tender age of 26. I kid you not. The laid back, mellow, don't-worry-too-much Brasilians are taking years off my life. And it's not because I am an obsessive over-planner either. (I've actually been doing pretty good backing off my always-gotta-have-a-plan way of life.) The lack of "what if" question analyzation on the part of the Brasilians is causing me to play out all the "what ifs" for each and every person around me. And it is starting to stress me out! And beyond that, some of the consequences from the lack of forethought have really been wearing on me.

I'm not naturally a worrier. But the lack of worry on everyone else's part has made me feel the need to worry for them. And in a city of dang near 5 million people, that's a heck of a lot of worry to take on!

Here are some common examples of why I may need to hefty supply of Xanax before it is all said and done:

-I am on the city bus. A bunch of young school kids (8-12 years old maybe) get on the bus. Despite there being seats available, they all stand on the steps of the bus and lean against the doors. The bus is flying through town zipping around curves, and the kids are leaning on the doors. In my mind, I'm playing out the what if those doors swing open? scenario and have an overwhelming desire to order the kids away from (or at least off of) the doors. No one else seems concerned; I sit at the very edge of my seat ready to jump and grab the youngins if any of them start to tumble out of the speeding bus.

- Eric and I are driving through Belo Horizonte with moderate traffic in our three westbound lanes. We are in the second lane from the right. A car comes up beside us on our left, passes us, and then proceeds to make a hard right turn across two lanes of traffic to take the road perpendicular to ours. We slam on brakes to avoid hitting the driver, who never evens looks our way. The motorcycle in the far right (turning) lane makes his right turn and is tagged by the car making the turn from the left lane. The motorcyclist somehow manages to keep his bike upright; my heart misses a few beats.

- We are at softball practice. There is a guy at home plate getting some batting practice while the rest of us field the hit balls. A couple people are standing on the field having a conversation with their backs towards the batter. A line drive comes flying towards their heads and I yell "BOLA!" hoping to get their attention and keep them from getting knocked out. The ball barely misses them, they look at me, give me a thumbs up, and then calmly return to their conversation with backs still turned to the batter; it takes me several seconds longer before I start breathing again.

- I am walking to class. A car parallel parks on the right side of a narrow street. The driver swings open his door to get out, never even looking to see if there is traffic coming behind him. Just behind him, a motorcycle is passing a car on the right side, even though there is only one lane of traffic on the narrow one way street. The motorcycle nearly slams into the open car door and the guy getting out of his car. No one looks even slightly phased by the almost really bad situation; I gasp as my eyes bug out of my head.

And then there are the pedestrians who casually cross the street in front of cars, assuming the drivers see them and are going to slow down. Or the red lights people run, never even slowing down to look for oncoming traffic that might be oh, you know, driving through the green light. And then there was the time I watched as another American frantically grabbed a little kid who was trying to shove a fork into an electrical outlet and the parents of the kid (who had been sitting back and watching the whole thing) were like, "what?" Then there are things like the construction worker I once saw using a tall ladder on a steep hillside by himself: he had the downhill side of the ladder propped up on an upside down bucket made level with a cinderblock.

But it all came to a head yesterday as I witnessed a bright yellow motorcycle come flying down the hill next to my apartment and pick up speed when we saw the light at the bottom turn red. Just as he was almost to the bottom of the hill, a car on the other side of the intersection decided to use the red light as an opportunity to back out into the street from a driveway. The motorcyclist came cruising really fast through the red light, the oncoming traffic sat at their green light and waited for him to pass, but he couldn't stop in time for the car that was backing out. He laid down his bike, which ended up underneath the car; he was extremely lucky and only ended up with a bad case of road rash. Meanwhile, I am pretty sure I suffered some serious damage to my cardiovascular system.

Accidents happen everywhere, I'm not about to say that they are limited to here. But holy cow! I witness so many more potentially dangerous situations on a daily basis that never seem to occur to those around me. I am really starting to wonder if those I live among ever, ever think through a situation and say to themselves, "hmmm, what if . . ." Or maybe they do and they are just such optimist that they only play out the positive outcomes and ignore the negative ones. I don't know really. But I do know that my little heart can't hardly take anymore of this! Not to mention I'm really starting to feel like a worry wart and pessimist of the strongest variety! It’s just not my style at all really.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Honey-Do List

Few things are sexier than my husband checking off items on the ol' honey-do list. It certainly doesn't hurt if he is doing it with his shirt off either. (My apologies to you guys, but you girls know what I'm talking about - it's like walking into the kitchen to see your man washing dishes . . . which I also observed on Saturday morning. Yes, Hubs racked up lots and lots of brownie points this weekend.)

The window boxes that line the exterior wall of our great room have been in great need of attention. Whatever had been previously planted in there was mostly viney, too big for the location, overgrown, and, ever since we moved in, crunchy from months and months of neglect and a lack of water. It was one of those things that had been bugging both of us, especially me, but we just hadn't gotten around to shopping for plants and doing any "yard work". (Hey, I know, but this is as close as it gets to a yard for us these days. It was also the first time in a long time we got our hands in the dirt. It was nice.)

Now, I am also obligated to include a more representative photo of my Darling Dearest working on my project. He is going to come home, take one look at the picture above, and be upset that I posted a picture of him in "sissy gardening gloves". The truth of the matter is that I insisted he wear my gloves while he was pulling out the prickly viney mess over there. I preferred his hands and arms not look like he got in a fight with a dozen cats this weekend. And then there are the pigeons that have been pooping in our window box; you know those nasty creatures carry all sorts of diseases, so open wounds plus weird bird illnesses . . . well, he wasn't going to get out of wearing the gloves completely. But anyway, plenty of his work was done sans gloves. So, for the record, a real man doesn't wear gardening gloves. Okay, whatever. Happy Dear? (Although he may use pliers to rip out roots. Lacking all the proper window-box gardening tools, we had to improvise a bit.)

I didn't go nearly as exotic as I had wanted to on the window box. The selection of small plants was rather limited, so I ended up using liriope and impatiens. Real original, huh? But, impatiens do really beautiful things here - you know, like grow and bloom all year long - so I think I'm going to get along okay with them.

I also got a new planter and some herbs this weekend that I am going to try to grow inside (away from the pigeons). I really miss having fresh homegrown herbs at my fingertips, so hopefully it will work out. We also added a couple new houseplants to the collection, including a really awesome jade plant that Eric came across. Our living room is slowly turning into a little tropical escape. :)

But more important than the exact details is that we pretty much finished all those little things that were still in need of attention to get everything guest-ready. Our good friend (and Eric's colleague) that is coming down this month had to put the trip off a week, so he won't be here until August 15. He plans to leave on August 29 and then my parents and grandparents arrive on August 30 to stay for two weeks. Only eleven more days and we start our guest marathon. I am excited to play hostess. Eric is excited that I'll be getting up early with him and making breakfast every morning.