Thursday, January 29, 2009
I would have a hard time quoting all my sources of information, but I do try to do my homework. And this whole driver's license thing was no exception. Before we moved here, I tried to figure out what we needed to do to be legal drivers on these crazy roads. I discovered that there is a reciprocal agreement between Brasil and the USA to recognize each other's driver's licenses. However, we would need an Inter-American Driver's License issued by AAA (which basically just provides a translation of our driver's licenses in Spanish and Portuguese.) So, that's what we did.
After moving here, we were told that what we actually needed was an official translated copy of our driver's license. We were directed to a lady who provided us with these very snazzy sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 paper with a fancy ribbon and seal explaining every bit of writing on our Iowa Driver's Licenses.
For the last 14 months or so, we've kept our Inter-American Driver's License, our fancy translations, and our driver's licenses in the glove box of our car. So if for any reason we should end up needing to prove our legality on the road, we'd be covered.
And as you might recall, we got to test out the legality of it all last March when we had the unique opportunity to spend an afternoon with the Polícia Militar. (And at that time, there was lots of confusion as to how to enter Eric's documents into the system, but in the end it all worked out and we seemed to have all we needed to satisfy the lovely police of Brasil.)
But over the last few months we've been hearing all sorts of tales about what is really necessary to be driving here legally. It all started with someone mentioning that insurance companies won't cover your claims if you don't have a CNH (Brasilian driver's license.) More than a bit concerned about that, Eric called our car insurance company and they told us that if DETRAN (the Brasilian entity which issues driver's licenses) approved our documents, then it was fine by them. We did a little more research on our own and a lot more talking around and got all kinds of information: if you live here more than 6 months you must have a CNH; there's a gold seal that DETRAN puts on your translation that makes everything legal; if you have a US driver's license then DETRAN will let you bypass all the usual requirements that they have for Brasilian driver's and just issue you a CNH for a fee; etc.
Things were getting more convoluted the more information we received. Everything we read contradicted something else we'd been told. One day last week, Eric decided to ask the attorney in his office for the official word on what we're supposed to do. After a bit of research, the lawyer sent us the actual law outlining the requirements for temporary residents wishing to drive here. Finally!
The not so good news was that it was going to be a bit of work. Besides the translations, which we already had, we needed to pass a physical and psychological examination administered by a DETRAN approved doctor, pay some fees at the DETRAN office, and then we would receive a CNH and everything would be legal.
Earlier this week, Eric called up to the DETRAN office to find out all the details of these requirements. The person he spoke to there told him all he needed to do was bring a translated copy of his driver's license, his passport, and R$100. Hmmm, no mention of any testing of any sort . . . fine by us, I mean, the law we were quoted spelled those things out pretty clearly, but hey, whatever.
So first thing this morning, we went down to the DETRAN office just at opening time. We were a bit concerned when we saw a huge line wrapping out the unopened door and down the sidewalk. But by the time we got parked, the doors had opened and everyone had taken a number and was sitting in chairs in a large waiting room. We spoke to the guy giving out numbers and told him what we needed. He directed us to a small room around the corner where we found three men, who presumably all work there, sitting around talking. We explained that we were temporary residents and wanted to be able to drive legally.
We were told we needed copies of our passport (ID page and visa page), front and back of our driver's license, and of the two fancy pages translating the license. Of course, they couldn't make the copy of our documents - we'd have to go back behind the building to the lanchonette (snack shop) and pay to use their copy machine.
Upon finding the lanchonette, we are told their copy machine isn't working and they direct us to another place down the street where we can get copies. Place number two tells us that their machine isn't functional and directs us yet further down the street. The third place was the charm and we were able to get all of our copies for just R$1.60. (Of course, then when I tried to pay with a R$10 bill, she didn't have change for that. Despite there being a nice line of people making and paying for copies at her place of business. I eventually dug a R$5 bill from my purse which she reluctantly accepted . . . I still for the life of me can't figure out why stores here almost never have money in their drawer! Who opens for the day without enough change to break a ten?!?!?)
We returned to the little office with our copies. We handed them to one of the guys and he began slowly entering our information into his computer (typing only with his right index finger - which was rather unbearable to watch and wait for). Meanwhile, one of the other men in the office was trying to entertain us with some story about stomach problems and the doctor, and the third guy clipped, and then proceeded to file, his fingernails over his small wooden desk.
After a few minutes, our information was entered and printed out on a dinosaur dot-matrix printer. The guy stamped the top of the paper with a blue seal, signed over the top of it, and handed it to us. He told us it was valid for one year (after which time we'd need to come in and repeat the process) and should be kept with our passport (or RNE card), Iowa driver's license, and the translation whenever we drive. He then sent us on our way. Without ever collecting the R$100 each.
It was easy enough. It was cheap enough (free?!?). And I suppose it looks official enough. But, I still can't figure out if we're completely legal or not. Nobody around these parts seems to know either though (which we find is pretty typical when trying to figure out the legality of a situation), so I guess we'll just go with it. I'm just glad I didn't have to take a psychological exam in Portuguese. Would misunderstanding a word and answering wrong label me psychotic for life? Or are you required to be a little crazy to drive around here? Those are the kind of questions that I'd really just rather go unanswered.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Z Baby has flipped positions since our last ultrasound at 21 weeks (which actually I already knew . . . I told Eric last week she had flipped during the day - there was really no mistaking that feeling), so she now is hanging out with her head down just like we want her to be! Although the question remains as to whether or not she'll stay there; our little gymnast does like to move a lot!
They estimated her weight to be 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs) and her length to be 38 cm (15 in), so she is right on target. In other words, perfect (and not so different from her mommy-dearest!) ;)
Given her position yesterday and the fact that it's started to get a wee bit cramped in the ol' Hotel Uterus, we didn't get any super great pictures of her this time. We did get a third confirmation, however, that she is indeed a she. Which is great since either way the kid is going to be wearing a lot of pink now!
The doctor even went so far as to label the girl parts this time (menina is girl in Portuguese). And that's the kind of confidence we like to see after our many pink purchases and gifts!!!
Monday, January 26, 2009
And then we were invited to a party on Saturday night. It was a party hosted by a Canadian couple for expats they knew - and us, whom they had just met. There were signs in the entrance of their apartment building directing everyone to the Gringo Party.
Woohoo! I was so excited! After living here for 14 months and basically knowing a total of 4 gringos (with three of the four being one family), I was going to a place where I would be surrounded by the chatter of native English-speakers. I was going to blend in!
After our arrival at the designated 4:00 pm start time, the introductions began. And after just a few minutes it became obvious that we were still going to be minorities . . . most everyone (um, okay, actually everyone) else is here due to their involvement with the mining industry. Our meaningful purpose here, meanwhile, is related to the construction equipment world. And as we made our rounds among the 30 or so people at the party, chit-chatting, and enjoying the English-speaking company, we found many people from Australia and a whole heck of a lotta Canadians. There was one other American there for a while too, but still, we were majorly in the minority! So, we took to introducing ourselves as "Hi, I'm Emily, this is my husband, Eric, we're Americans and in no way involved with the mining industry." It went ahead and saved us from the "Now, do you work for Company X or Company Y?" and "Which project are you on?" questions. And it also saved us from the inevitable question of "Where are you from?" and the Oh-REALLY?-and-here-I-was-thinking-that-I-might-actually-like-you looks that followed. (Just kidding about that last part, as we do all co-exist quite nicely even if each country is full of jokes about the other one, but the couple of times that it was revealed that we were Americans midway through a conversation, we'd get this really shocked look as if we just told them we landed here from Mars . . .)
But anyway, we had a really awesome time Saturday night. It was the first time we had been in a social situation with that many people speaking English since we arrived. We hung around until after midnight, and as we walked home (the hosts live on our same block, three streets over - how crazy is that?!?) I couldn't believe how not exhausted I was. There is something about socializing in Portuguese that still completely wears me out - it just takes so much concentration for me to follow the conversations around me and try to interact with so many people in my new language!
We met a lot of really fun people that I look forward to hanging out with some more (including some other expat wives who live within walking distance and have rather flexible days like I do!)
My speech patterns tending to be highly influenceable though, it could be interesting to see what kind of transformations my dialect might take from this association . . . I reckon we'll just have to wait and see, eh? (<--imagine that sentence with my hint of a southern accent. Yeah, I can't even keep a straight face typing it.)
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
It's kind of crazy what can happen in eight short weeks! And yes, we are going to totally disregard the fact that the holidays were included in that stretch of time. We're blaming all this belly on baby! ;)
The third trimester is upon us. At my doctor's appointment Monday, I was told that she'll be seeing me every two weeks now! Everything looked good at our appointment, and I didn't get in too much trouble for my weight gain - 2.5 kilos (5.5 lbs) in 6 weeks.
I have to get over to the lab this week for my glucose screening and some other routine bloodwork. And then on Monday (January 26), we're scheduled for our 4th ultrasound. We are loving that my doctor likes having ultrasounds regularly with all pregnancies!
I'm feeling great, but my need for a daily nap has resumed after the glorious 2nd trimester energy boost and nap-free days. Meanwhile, Z Baby Girl has been super active and beginning to pack a real punch these days. She likes to entertain her Daddy in the evenings by making my belly do all kinds of contortionist tricks while he cheers her on with praise. Yesterday we pretty distinctly made out a foot pressing on the side of my gut!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
* Speaking Portuguese to the sales associate at Radio Shack in Burlington, Iowa doesn't get you much help. It does, however, get you some strange looks.
* While a thumbs up is the generic symbol for thanks, please, good, etc. in Brasil, you sort of just look like a hugeamongous dork when you flash a big smile and a thumbs up at the guy who just stopped to let you cross the parking lot in front of his vehicle. (Same applies to waiters who ask you how your food is.)
* We can speak English quietly between ourselves anywhere in Belo Horizonte and talk about pretty much anything; there is a gigantic chance that no one is going to be able to understand a single thing we are saying. The same doesn't apply while we are in the US. ("Yes Babe, I agree, that short skirt was revealing entirely too much of her cottage cheese thighs and I think even some butt dimples, but next time you want to talk about the person standing in front of us in line at Target, how about telling me in Portuguese, okay?")
* Fresh fruit is dang expensive in the US, and watermelon is not readily available in December.
* It is important to maintain your lane while driving in Iowa or Georgia; similarly, you should obey all stop signs, traffic signals, etc. And you probably can stop expecting motorcycles to go flying by between you and that tractor-trailer on the dashed white line.
* Americans cannot appreciate your politeness when you use words like com licença, desculpe, por favor, and muito obrigada.
* Taco Bell and Chic-fil-A have an aurora of heavenly light around them that I never noticed when I lived in the US. Nor do I previously remember hearing the Angels' Chorus while pulling through the drive thru.
(Dang it, now I really want a bean burrito and cookies n cream milkshake . . . not necessarily together, mind you . . . but then again . . . hmmm, maybe.)
* Greeting people with cheek kisses can make for an awkward moment. Especially people you are just meeting for the first time.
* One that I never could figure out the answer to: on a plane from Brasil to the US, or vice versa, do you speak English or Portuguese to the flight attendants who you know to be fluent in both languages?
* Orange juice from a carton isn't very good (at all) once you've become accustomed to fresh squeezed.
* American men don't hug each other very often. (After working in Burlington for a week, we were on our way to the airport to go to Georgia when Eric said, completely out of the blue, "Huh . . . nobody hugged me today." Replaying the earlier events of the day in my head, I conceded that probably I had just given him a kiss when I dropped him off at the office and again when I brought the car back to him, as a hug while sitting in the car bundled up in a heavy winter coat tends to be a bit difficult to pull off. Eric replied, "No, I mean, at the office today. Nobody hugged me when I left." A bit perplexed, I asked him, "Um, did you want somebody to hug you?" Giving me a grin and shaking his head, "No, it's not that I wanted a hug, but it just occurred to me how different it is here. When I left the office in Brasil - and I was only going to be gone for a month - everybody came around and gave me a hug on my way out and wished me a Merry Christmas and told me they sent kisses to you and our families . . . and today I just sort of said, "Hey, see ya" and walked out. It was really pretty uneventful!" I giggled that I thought he just wanted the guys to hug him, and I think he thumped my shoulder or something equally mature to my adult-like response. Poor guy, it is a wonder he puts up with me some days!)
Monday, January 19, 2009
We enjoyed getting to spoil our nieces a little bit (including turning the oldest into a Brasil soccer fan).
Everyone was super generous to us and Z Baby too! And Eric learned what people mean when they say your life changes after a baby . . .
While the farmers in the family got new Carhartts and power tools, the new Daddy-to-be got a man-friendly diaper bag and microwave steam sterilizer. (Admittedly, we had asked for baby stuff for Christmas, but he thought it was pretty funny given some of what his Dad and brother-in-law-to-be received!)
The next day we were joined by extended family and friends to celebrate New Year's Eve.
After we were complete bums and watching lots of college football for the next couple days, Eric's three sisters graciously threw a baby shower in our honor on Saturday, January 3.
Despite some yucky weather (an ice storm moving in!) there was a great turnout of family and friends; Z Baby and her parents were royally spoiled!
After it was over and we were surveying all the goods from Christmas, my birthday, and the shower, Eric and I agreed that it was going to take some fancy (or um, miraculous) packing to get our child's things back to Brasil!
The next week Eric's mom and youngest sister had to go back to school, so Eric and I took the opportunity to spend some extra time with the nieces and catch up with some more family and friends around Iowa.
Monday night we met up with the Ditchs and Cress' for supper in Cedar Rapids. Tuesday we drove up to Waterloo to spend the day with Eric's sister's family and play with our nieces some more. Wednesday afternoon we drove over to Des Moines and had supper with his cousin, Stephanie, and a college friend. After spending the night with Stephanie, we drove over to Dubuque to meet with a midwife certified as a hypnobirthing instructor. (One of only two in Iowa, and since none exist in Brasil (as far as we can tell) we wanted to get in for an appointment to receive some reassurance that we were doing what we need to do in preparation for Z Baby's arrival - the 2+ hour session went great and we feel better than ever about using the Mongan Method of hypnobirthing to bring our little one into the world!) We returned to Eric's parents' on Thursday night and Friday night we had a get together there to see a few more people and hang out with everyone before leaving on Saturday.
After spending part of Friday and Saturday morning packing, we managed to get most everything into 6 checked bags (only 2 over the international limit and all 6 within the 70 pounds per bag allowed to Brasil!) and a carry-on each. And that included a car seat, jogging stroller, car seat carrier/stroller, pack-n-play, a Bumbo seat, Bobby, one entire suitecase of nothing but baby clothes, a maternity summer wardrobe for myself, and a whole lot more!!! Granted, we had to be taken to the airport in the F-250 and it required 2 taxis (one for us, one full of our stuff) to get from the airport to our apartment, but given the amount of stuff we brought back and the fact that everything made it safely is truly a testament to our ever-more-amazing packing skills! :) Living abroad seems to improve more than just your foreign language abilities!
Friday, January 16, 2009
We drove down to Perry to my Grandparents' that night and then got up Saturday morning and went to Tifton, birthplace of yours truly and location of the extended Tyson Family Christmas Gathering. After spending the day with Grandad's siblings and their families, we hit the road and made the drive up to Colbert (near Athens) to Mom and Dad's. (Less than 24 hours in Georgia and we had already logged more than 400 miles on the highway - a trend that would stick for the remainder of our US trip!)
That Monday, Dad had planned a trip to Atlanta to see the King Tut exhibit and visit the new World of Coke. The cold weather from Iowa caught up with us and Monday was pretty dadgum cold - luckily, it only lasted a couple days before returning to unseasonably warm.
My two younger brothers who we have forever referred to as 'the little boys' (which they always hated, but they managed to get us back, since they are both over 6' tall and have significantly outgrown my older brother and I!)
The next day, everyone stuck around for lasagna followed by angel food cake, strawberries, and the opportunity to pick on me about getting old (27, if you must know). Well, mostly I guess it was just my husband who did the picking on me . . . everyone else was just there for the food. :)
That afternoon, we headed to Dublin to visit some dear friends.
Eric put in his request for my Dad's ribs some time before our return to the US. Since the weather was so cooperative, Dad obliged and fired up the grill Saturday afternoon.
By nightfall, the scent had attracted quite the gathering of hungry supervisors!
After a mighty fine supper with the fam, Eric, my sister-in-law, and I drove down to Swainsboro (in southeast Georgia, just a few miles from where I grew up) to watch my older brother's band play. The event venue was marked by a sign labeled only "The Barn". I knew at that moment Eric was in for quite the treat! I hadn't really had the opportunity to take him down to that part of Georgia much yet. After a little bit of me translating for the first few minutes of our arrival, a good time was had by all, and my Yankee husband walked out of the party with a Southern accent that night! He went back to Iowa using "y'all" with disturbing regularity, and I couldn't have been more proud! hehehe
The night of the 28th, we spent a couple hours figuring out how to fit all of our belongings and newly acquired baby gear (thanks to lots of generous family and friends) into just three bags for the journey back to Iowa. We must have gotten a little too creative with our packing since the rather disgruntled Airtran Airways employee at the check-in counter greeted Eric with a scowl and "What's that?" when he walked up and placed the first of our bags onto the scale. One extra checked baggage fee and another oversized luggage fee later (one bag was 63", not 62", and she was in no mood for sweet talking by Eric), we left The South and it's sweet tea, camouflage, and warm weather behind.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Upon securing our luggage and rental car in Cedar Rapids right around noon, the first order of business was the Taco Bell drive-thru. One bean burrito and one beef soft taco (with lots of fire sauce) later, this pregnant woman could have died content. Rather pathetic, I know, but I had really been craving Taco Bell! After a quick run in to Wal-Mart to buy a few toiletries, etc., we headed up to Urbana, Iowa to see Eric's family.
Shortly after our arrival, the main attraction showed up: our nieces! We had an awesome afternoon of playing with Tinker Toys, reading books, and catching up on stories. And we can't leave out our excitement about meeting our newest niece, who was born in October!
Eric with his parents and three sisters
It also happened to be Eric's mom's birthday, so we got to celebrate that all together on Sunday as well! The two older girls (and probably with just a little help from their mom) made a pecan pie for Nena's birthday . . . and helped her blow out the candle.
And when you load up a gingerbread house with lots of candy and then give the green light to dig in and enjoy a little bit of it, then what you end up with is . . .
a serious sugar crash!
That Monday morning, Eric and I got up early to head down to Burlington. He was scheduled to work in his old office for the week and coordinate with some folks up that way on his Brasil projects. While in town, I got to finish up our Christmas shopping, visit my old office, and handle some paperwork. We went out to supper each night with friends and coworkers.
We were treated to some lovely weather while in Burlington. We got everything from dangerously low wind chills to snow, sleet, and freezing rain while in town. Which made for cruddy driving conditions and miserable conditions to be outside in, but gave us some pretty landscapes.
A random snowy shot from along the highway
The Burlington bridge across the frozen Mississippi River: proof that flowing water does, in fact, freeze
The side mirror on the Ford Escape we rented, notice the 1/2"+ layer of ice! The entire car was enclosed in a layer of ice one morning. We literally had to bust through 1/2 - 3/4" of ice to open our car doors. You might also notice that I am sitting inside the car (with the heat turned on full blast) while my Hubby scrapes ice from the windows so we can drive. It was about this time that I rolled my window down and told him, "You know, Dear, people don't have to live this way. There're lots of other places in the world to live where this doesn't happen." And then I quickly rolled the window back up as to not loose too much heat from inside the car. (I just thought that might be the ideal time to toss the idea out to him.)
Monday, January 12, 2009
Eric was up at 6:30 this morning to get ready for work, and I left with him at 7:30 so he could drop me off to pay rent. I had an awesome walk back home in shorts with temperatures somewhere in the low 70's and bright blue skies overhead (I can't describe how much I missed the weather) and I even decided to extend my walk and not come straight home - it was just so nice outside. I had great intentions once home of attacking the multiple bulging suitcases, but the couch started calling my name and next thing I knew it was almost noon. I guess I'm not quite the travel warrior these days . . . or at the very least it takes a little more for me to recover now!
From being able to walk barefoot in the yard and grilling ribs in Georgia to beautiful snow-covered landscapes and fun with the nieces in Iowa . . . we have lots of pictures to share from our travels, so I'll work this week on getting some of those up. Meanwhile, I'm going to finish the roast, potatoes, and carrots, and bake the homemade yeast rolls so I can at least have supper ready when my darling dearest gets home from work this evening (it only seems fair after my extended nap this morning while he was trying to catch up at the office after being away for a month!)