Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Welcome to Iowa

After the most fabulous travel ever between Brasil and Iowa (I highly recommend the new American Airlines flight between Belo Horizonte and Miami!), we have received a very cold welcome . . . quite literally.

Yesterday morning we woke up to -2 F (that's -18 C) with a wind chill of -30 F (-34 C)!!! Today it started snowing at 9:00 am and it isn't supposed to stop until tomorrow morning. I would like to thoughtfully request some global warming - immediately. Gather up all your styrofoam folks and start burning it in your backyards, please.

Assuming I am not buried alive in a snowbank somewhere, I'll maybe post some pictures tomorrow. As much as I do hate to admit it, it is awfully pretty with everything out there covered in snow; so long as I stay inside with my cup of hot chocolate and just look out the window, winter and I can get along just fine!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Beginnings of a Nursery

With the delivery of Z Baby's crib yesterday (almost a month after they said it would be delivered, which was already a month after we ordered it to start with - glad we didn't wait until the last minute on that one, huh?), what used to be the spare guest bedroom is slowly taking shape and becoming a nursery.
We started on the crib/bedding search sort of early on since we knew we'd be traveling for a month and time would no doubt fly by once we returned. (Plus I wanted to have a theme set before we went to the US so I could indulge in a little shopping there too!) We are both pretty big fans of wooden furniture, but we found there is a lot more selection down here if you go the MDF route. We figured it'd serve our purposes well enough for now. And the sturdiness/safety/craftsmanship on this particular crib seemed to be much better than others that we saw.

We found the bedding at the Afonso Pena Feira shortly after finding out we were having a girl. We walked through the handcrafted baby items a long time before this set jumped out at both of us at the same time!

Even though it's mostly tan and minty-limey green, I am going to use lots of pink accents in the room to girly it up a bit. Plus, I really, really love pink and green together!

And I am totally loving that in Portuguese the sheep say "béé" instead of the English "Baa". I am on a mission now to find out all the animal sounds in Portuguese to teach my little filha brasileira. :) It never really occurred to me before that the 'sounds' animals make would be different in a different language!

When we come back we still have to buy a crib mattress, and then the kiddo will be set with a place to sleep at least. There's still a lot more that I want to do in there though! The ol' honey-do list is going to be growing rapidly next year.

And this is the dresser we bought that we are going to use as the changing table too once I put away all the goodies we've started to acquire for the little one.

I am really excited to be able to start decorating and organizing the nursery in January! It's going to make the impending arrival of Z Baby feel all the more real to me!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Babymoon Part II

Monday and Tuesday were absolutely gorgeous! We had bright blue skies with clouds only off in the distance. It made for fabulous days of laying on the beach, playing in waves, snorkeling, and pretty much just taking it easy!

Monday we took a boat over to Praia Pouso and walked the short trail to Praia Lopes Mendez.

A couple pictures around Ilha Grande from the boat.

When we got to Lopes Mendez, it was almost totally deserted! Three kilometers of natural beach pretty much to ourselves for the day wasn't too bad!

Eric is highly entertained by my growing belly these days! He thinks it is funny that now even when I lie on my back, it still pokes out. I find the resemblence between my belly and the mountain behind me rather disturbing . . . ;)

Not a bad view for the day!

After spending most of the day in the water and in the sun, we found a shady spot under some trees to enjoy a late afternoon nap.

Tuesday we spent most of the day on a snorkeling trip to Lagoa Azul along with a couple other stops around the island.

The aptly named Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon) above and below. We got to see lots of interesting coral and fish while snorkeling.

Tuesday afternoon we took a boat back over to the mainland and hopped a bus back to Belo Horizonte overnight. Despite being quite tired when we got back (sleep on a bus isn't exactly the most restful), it was a fabulously relaxing four day mini-vacation!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

4-Day Babymoon on Ilha Grande

We had the most wonderful long weekend on Ilha Grande! We got back home about 5:30 this morning a bit exhausted, but it was totally worth it! Given that I'll be in my third trimester when we come back from the US in January, we figured now was as good of a time as ever to make a trip to an island where you are a 45+ minute boat ride from the nearest hospital. And since we will probably keep the traveling a bit more low key for the next several months, we went ahead and dubbed this our Babymoon. Because, well, why not?

The last bit of the bus ride into Angra dos Reis, (in Rio de Janeiro state) was beautiful at dawn. This was one of the many shots Eric took out the speeding bus' window. It is one of the few that isn't blurry!

Once in Angra dos Reis, we walked from the bus station down to the docks and hopped a boat over to the island. We had blue skies and it looked like a beautiful day was ahead of us!

So we arrived on the island about 9:00, checked into our pousada (which I just realized I have no pictures of, but it was a nice place and quite inexpensive - Pousada Praia D'Azul), got slathered up with sunscreen, put on our swimsuits, and ran back out planning to catch a boat taxi around to Praia Lopez Mendez.

Unfortunately, clouds had started setting in thick in the 20 minutes we were inside. We ended up just going for a short hike near the main city on the island, Abraão, and checking out some of the historical ruins.

We saw the old farmhouse, turned quarentine quarters for European immigrants feared to have cholera, turned prison. It was used to house new immigrants prior to allowing them on the mainland 1884 - 1913. In 1940 it was turned into a Federal Penal Colony and served in that capacity until 1954. It was ordered to be demolished in 1963, which is a shame, because it seems like it would have been a really interesting historical site if there was a bit more left of it!

You aren't allowed inside the little piece of the existing remains, but a view through the barred windows definitely lets you know it last served as a prison!

A little further down the trail, we came across the aquaduct that was constructed in 1893 to bring water down to the European holding area. It is 15 meters high and 125 meters long. Pretty amazing construction for way back when!

Our second day on the island was pretty much a repeat of the first weather-wise. A thick layer of clouds set in while we were eating breakfast. We decided to make the most of it and use the cooler, overcast weather to do some hiking. I was feeling ambitious and decided I could handle a 9 kilometer hike through the rainforest-covered mountains to the other side of the island to check out the remains of the island's newer prison.

One of the best parts about hiking through Atlantic rainforest is that you come across all kinds of fun flora and fauna . . . like vines you can swing from and get in touch with your inner Tarzan!

And I suppose maybe I'm biased, being that he's my baby's daddy and what not, but I do think he makes a darn cute Tarzan.

The other fun {feel free to go ahead and use a sarcastic tone here} part about this particular trail is that it is completely uphill and then completely downhill. No back and forth elevation changes throughout the hike.
This view was about halfway through the elevation climb. We started down there at sea level. Eric later admited he was expecting me to decide to turn back at this point . . . oh, ye of little faith!
And this was when we were about to start our downward descent to sea level on the other side of the island. I was excited. And about ten minutes later I remembered that going downhill for an extended period of time is more painful on the ol' legs. I had a good 1+ hour reminder of it though!

After about 3 hours of hiking, I was pretty exhausted and my legs felt like they might not make it much further. So I got excited to come to flat land - and see our destination: the old (newer) prison on the island.

It was built in 1903 to house some of Brasil's most dangerous/notorious criminals, sort of an Alcatraz of Brasil, I suppose. It was still being used until 1994 when the government decided it was too old and dangerous and had it imploded.

Which meant it wasn't nearly as cool to see as I was hoping for. The picture above does a good job of showing how the inside is nothing much more than rubble now - that they won't let you wander though. (Nope, those aren't rocks, that's the remains of the imploded concrete walls.)

The perimeter of the prison is still pretty much intact though, so you can walk around the outside and check out the old guard towers and exterior walls.

The prison sits just a short walk from a really beautiful beach, Praia Dois Rios, which seems like it would be extra punishment (being that you can hear the waves from the prison!)

When we set out on our hike, I was fully intending to catch a boat taxi on this beach and ride back around to the other side of the island. It was pretty much deserted over there though. And it pretty quickly became obvious that we were going to be hiking back over the mountain to the other side. I was confident I could do a ~3 hour/9 kilometer hike. I hadn't really considered doing a 6+ hour/18+ kilometer hike.

And that's what I get for my dadgum positive thinking ("Oh, of course they'll be boats over there! Boats are all around this island!", I said to my husband who questioned me on it before we took off on our journey.)

And so back to the rainforest it was for us.
At some point on the journey back, as Z Baby was going crazy kicking and staging a full scale protest in my uterus (really, I'm pretty sure she had picket signs in there from the feel of things), Eric looked at me with a great big grin on his face. As I took a quick break to catch my breath and have a stern talking to with my daughter (who is going to be grounded just as soon as she's born!) my dear husband, who had been so complimentary and telling me what a trooper I was being and how impressed he was that I was doing so great on the rather strenuous hike while 22 weeks pregnant, says to me, "I am REALLY glad this hike was your idea." When I questioned what he meant by that, he added, "Because usually these kinds of things are my idea and about this time I am in a lot of trouble. At least this time I'm off the hook and I don't have to worry that moments of silence are indications of your increasing anger." {Insert Hubby's huge grin and laugh here.} I told him it was probably in his best interest to keep any more thoughts like that to himself until we made it out of the forest . . . you know, where they'd never be able to find his body. (Oh now, calm down. You know I'm just kidding! But really, if there's one thing he should have figured out by now it is to not mess with a tired, crazy, pregnant woman who has managed to get herself in over her head!) I was actually pretty good humored and positive about the whole thing and quite content with my accomplishment when we arrived back to the town. In fact, I treated myself to a big ol' hand scooped ice cream cone to celebrate making that return journey that I never intended on embarking on in the first place!

Tomorrow I'll share all the pictures from our last two days on the island which featured a whole lotta sun, sand, and salt! But before we leave the rainforest and the well-intended hikes behind, I'll leave you with an interesting plant we came across. It was roughly a meter tall with the most mature leaves being about as long as my hand. The stems and, more interestingly, the leaves were completely covered with sharp spines.

And while I haven't gotten around to researching just what this is exactly, I can tell you that it hurts like the dickens when you get a little too close with your camera and end up snagging your middle finger on one of the thorns on the stem. In fact, it makes your entire finger go numb for the next couple hours and a large welp to develop. (Which is actually rather helpful to make you forget about your legs that don't want to take another step.) And then a couple days later it is still sore and you have what looks a whole lot like a fire ant bite to remind you of the err in your ways. It appears that whatever poisonous substance this thing carries does not, however, cause immediate death. In case you were wondering.

Friday, December 5, 2008

And . . . We're Off!

Next week will go quickly. Monday is a holiday for our city, so we're both off work. Tuesday is a make-up day for a holiday Eric worked back in March. Friday we leave for the US (on a new direct flight from BH to Miami - YEA!) and the snow-covered Iowa awaiting us.

Instead of spending our days off responsibly packing and preparing for our trip, we've decided to do something more fun: Ilha Grande. Before heading north to the frozen tundra, we figured we should go spend our 4-day weekend soaking up some rays and playing in waves. Because heck, we live in a tropical paradise, we should probably show up with some fresh tan lines and rub it in a little, right? hehehe

We wanted to go to Bahia and check out the beaches there, but airfare was awfully expensive. So instead, we are hopping a bus tonight at 8:30 that will dump us off to catch the boat to the island around 6:00 in the morning. And then we'll make our return overnight Tuesday.

And then I'll start packing the sweaters and coats and scarves and gloves we'll need for our highly anticipated trip back to the homeland. And I'll remember why I'm happy to call Brasil home for right now (despite the problems trying to buy a frozen turkey, the plumbers who don't show and/or make a mess, the food that ends up on the floor of the restaurant without apologies, and the drivers without respect for anyone else on the road.) Yep, nothing like one last island beach trip fresh on your mind to make returning home in January after vacation a little bit easier!

Plumber Tales

So I'm not sure if it was because I am a woman, a gringa, because I have an accent when I speak Portuguese, or if the plumber just preferred to learn on his own, but maybe next time he'll consider listening to what the blonde chick tells him!

We had been trying to get someone out to fix the leaking cutoff valve in our main guest bathroom for awhile. Last week on Tuesday, a guy came out to take care of it. Eric had told his boss over the phone exactly what the problem was and what needed to be done. The plumber arrived a couple hours later than the scheduled appointment time and after taking over a half-hour to figure out how to shut off the water to the bathroom, followed by about an hour of banging around and chipping the tile on the bathroom wall, he emerged with the valve removed to show me the problem. I was less than impressed as we had already diagnosed the problem: the seal on the screw-in part of the valve was no good. The plumber then told me that he needed to go to the store and buy a replacement valve. Since he had arrived so late, by this time I had to leave in 30 minutes to get to my night class. I asked him to just put the leaky valve back in and come back the next day. He said that he was busy Wednesday, but he could come Thursday morning and we agreed to that.

Thursday came and went and I never saw or heard anything from Mr. Plumber. But I can't say I was overly surprised - I'm starting to get used to that kind of stuff here.

Eric called this week and talked to the guy's boss again explaining that he had never shown up. Oh, well, yeah, he wouldn't have - he left last Wednesday to go out of town for 20 days. Lovely.

The guy said he had someone else who could come out though and replace the valve for us. Perfect. Eric explained again exactly what the issue was and what needed to be replaced (adding that it was no longer just the screw-in part of the valve, but the whole unit as the last plumber had managed to strip out the threading.)

The second plumber showed up right on time Wednesday, much to my happy surprise. I took him into the guest bathroom and showed him the valve that needed to be replaced. I also explained to him that we had discovered that the last plumber completely stripped out the screw-in part of the valve in all of his banging around and whatever else he did in there. I informed the new plumber that it was only barely hanging in there stopping the water and he should not try to mess with it until he had turned off the water. I explained that a large stream of water would come shooting out if he tried turning the valve while the water was still on. He shook his head in agreement, told me he understood, and I left the room to get back to my work in the next room.

Well, I guess he couldn't take my word for it. Not 20 seconds after I walked out I hear water spraying everywhere and about 15 seconds after that he is shouting for me to come back. What I witnessed next I really wish I had on video to share - it looked like something straight from The Three Stooges! The guy is rather short - I'd put him just over 5' tall. The valve is rather high on the wall behind the toilet - he just can reach it standing on the floor. I walk in to find the screw-in part of the valve in his hand and a hard stream of water shooting from the now wide open valve. The plumber has stepped up onto the toilet and is frantically trying to push and hold the piece in his hand over the gushing stream of water, but his shoes aren't getting a very good grip on the toilet seat lid and he is slipping from all the force he is exerting against the open fire-hydrant in my bathroom. Meanwhile, water is spraying everywhere, the bathroom already has an inch of standing water and he is completely soaked. (I've never been more thankful that bathrooms here all have a drain in the floor!) It took everything I had not to laugh. I really wanted to casually say, "See, I told you so" and walk back out of the room. But he wouldn't have understood me anyway, and my entire apartment probably would have ended up flooded, so I restrained myself.

He starts yelling for me to go to the roof and cut off the water. But I had a better idea. I took the valve part from him and shoved it into the wall. He was trying to stop me and telling me something about how much force was needed to stop the flow of water (obviously thinking a woman couldn't handle such a job.) Since I was much taller and could stand with my feet on the floor and get more traction, I was able to more or less stop the water. Much better than he was able to anyway! I told him I would wait while he went and got the water turned off (I've never been on the roof of our building. I really have no idea how you even get up there or where the water shut-off valve would be once I got there. And with the lack of success he was having in the bathroom, well, I figured it'd just be simpler for me to hold back the water and send him up.)

Once the water was turned off, just like someone had suggested in the first place, he came back down to get to work. Well, he didn't have a wrench big enough to remove the valve from the wall. And his prepaid mobile phone was out of minutes. So he asked to use my phone and made four phone calls to locate a wrench. He left and after nearly an hour he returned with a wrench. But he didn't have a replacement valve. So then he left for about 30 minutes to buy parts. He returned empty handed as he couldn't figure out what he needed. So he leaves a third time, taking the valve with him this time, and returns an hour later with a new valve but the old one is not with him anymore. After 20 minutes he has the new valve installed, the water turned back on, and he is showing me that it works now. I paid him and saw him out. I'm not sure if I've ever been happier to see someone leave.

Meanwhile, we have water in our guest bathroom again and no leaks. Oh, and the wall opposite the cut-off valve got a real good power washing at no additional charge. It probably needed it anyway, I suppose.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oh dear, please let this pass quickly!

Eric and I were just talking last week about how healthy we've both been since moving down here. Although we've both had a couple colds in the last year, we haven't had anything more serious than that. I attribute it to a lack of seasonal weather change - back home I always seemed to get sick when the weather turned cold and again when it started warming back up! But we apparently made the mistake of not knocking on wood as we made our good-health observation.

Eric came home yesterday and mentioned that his stomach hadn't felt so good all day. And my tummy had been a bit rumbly too. We figured we must have eaten something that wasn't agreeing with us very well. But then some sort of serious crud took hold of Eric last night and had him pretty much camped out in the bathroom the whole night. I swear I woke up every 30 minutes from about 3:00 am on to him jumping out of bed. I have spent the latter part of our morning trying to pump him full of gatorade and a little bit of leftover mashed potatoes and noodles. I decided to pull out the Cipro that our doctor sent down with us last year and get him started on that too. (And just last week we were talking about how we hadn't had any stomach issues down here and how our bottle of Cipro had gone unopened!)

He has gone over an hour without a bathroom visit, which I think is the longest he's gone since this whole episode started last night, so hopefully he is on the mend now. My diagnosis: I think he's going to make it - I'm just hoping he doesn't pass along whatever this is to me!

And meanwhile, I learned that I am not quite conditioned for having my sleep interrupted all night. I was so dead this morning that I stayed curled up in bed with my sickly husband until after 10:30! He says last night was good practice for me. I contend that I have a few more months before I am supposed to be kept awake all night!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Z Baby's First Close-Up

We went to our morphological ultrasound appointment very excited this morning. We couldn't wait to see our little girl again (and Eric really wanted some confirmation on the gender after a couple of his coworkers shared "Yeah, they said ours was a girl at the first ultrasound, but we had a boy!" stories.)

As we entered the room and I laid back and exposed my ever-growing belly, it occurred to me that this was the appointment where we learn whether or not all organs are developed properly, the appointment where we get to count fingers and toes, the appointment where we really find out if everything is normal or not. And then a small wave of nervousness crashed over me.

Things were going great and the doctor was talking a lot as he made his measurements and kept telling us what we were looking at when he would zoom way in and we'd get lost. (Hmmm, is that a kidney or the frontal lobe of her brain? Sometimes, it's really hard for the layman to tell.) And then the doctor showed us her heart. He watched it beat, listened to it, zoomed in and studied the chambers. And then he was silent. He went on to try to get several different angles on her heart, each time stopping the video, replaying it in slow motion, and not saying a word. That's when I started getting really nervous and said a quick prayer asking that everything be fine or else to please be granted peace with whatever we were about to find out. By the way Eric kept squeezing my leg, I could tell the silence and detailed study of Z Baby's heart was starting to worry him too.

After several minutes, the doctor moved on without saying a word about her heart and continued checking out other body parts and discussing them. At one point we got a pretty dang firm confirmation that she is a girl with a hiney-on-the-Xerox-machine-like shot. (I didn't think I'd share that one with the general public . . . when she comes across this as an adolescent I think she'll appreciate that! hehe)

A bit later, the doctor went back to looking at her heart again, and I was trying my best to flash back to biology and recall where the heart valves are supposed to be and which way blood is supposed to flow. I was completely straining my neck trying to get the best look possible and figure out what was causing the doctor to spend so much time examining my baby's heart.

Finally, at the end of what seemed like eternity, but was actually only about 20 minutes, he told us everything was perfect. He said everything was right on track and all of her organs and everything else were developed exactly how you want them to be, including her heart. I'm pretty sure Eric and I both let out a huge sigh of relief at that moment.

I guess with all the complications that can exist with a baby's heart, the doctor just wanted to spend a lot of time watching and listening and verifying that it was all normal! But you can be sure the second they handed us the full written report to take back to my OB that I was scanning down quickly to the heart section and making sure!

So, here are her latest glamour shots.

The facial profile

Looking at the camera (If you look just above and to the left of the yellow arrow, you can make out her two eyes, nose, open mouth, and little round cheeks. This one completely melts my heart, but maybe it's a face only a mother could love right now; I'm a bit too biased to know.)

An adorable little bitty foot (with 5 little bitty toes). We kept trying to count the toes on the other one, but she was holding her other foot and all you could see were fingers!

A very fine looking spinal column

And here is a close up of her (thankfully!) very healthy heart, the four chambers are labeled.

In other developments, she is 9.4" long (24 cm) and is estimated to weigh 0.86 pounds (390 gr). It appears that she has been busy practicing her eating skills this Thanksgiving too. Her little belly was full of amniotic fluid, and when I just re-watched the exam (via the DVD they sent home with us) I am pretty sure she had hiccups at one point this morning! She spent a lot of time with her thumb/hand in her mouth today.

We go next week for a final check up with my doctor before heading north for the holidays. (Oh my goodness, are we really leaving for the US next week?!? I have work to do!)