Monday, February 28, 2011

Miss Bliss, My Baby Girl

Gratuitous Cute Pictures of The Kiddo....

Sundry Creatures Brazilian..

Enjoying the Flora and Fauna of Brasilia. The animals are incredible! From spiders to caterpillars to monkeys in the trees, we always have something to look at. Here are a few images to share so far..

Brazilian Birthday Parties or Don't Dress like a casual American...

Our lovely friend Ana invited us last weekend to her house for her daughter, Sophia's 2nd birthday party. We gladly accepted the invitation knowing that any time at Ana's is a great time and since I had been to countless 2 year old birthday parties in the States, how could I possibly embarrass myself?
Oh where, oh where, shall I begin? Well, as anyone with a lick of Brazilian sense will tell you (and as I have seen on just about every etiquette booklet), DRESS UP.

These women, these Brazilian women are like Wonder Woman, stunningly beautiful, long flowing hair, stunning dresses, sparkling jewels, and high heels...oh lordy, the high heels. These ladies never sweat, never look like they've been attempting to herd preschoolers all morning, never seem ruffled in the least.. clearly, i am NOT Brazilian. I live in a perpetual state of frump...and I like it. I think that a tank top, a knee length skirt and Havaiana flip flops are, in fact, the Mother's Uniform. We would call my style (that's pushing it of course, to call it style): Obviously Pacific Northwest Americana. Here in Brasilia..they would call this look 'The Emprigada (translated: The Maid)'.

We arrived 45 minutes AFTER the time we were told to arrive and were still the first guests there. Yes, Brazilian parties start late and go long. We entered into Ana and Jim's already opulent (yet completely comfortable) home and were greeted by the kind of finery that I may have last experienced either at my Senior Prom or maybe my Wedding...actually no, that's not true, my wedding was not nearly as fancy as this birthday party.

We're talking balloons galore, tables and tables of candy and sweets, a trampoline, a blow up bouncy house, a 'gladiator style' blow up stage for knocking each other down, video games (ala arcade), and life sized cloth dolls of all of the characters from Tinkerbell. Did I mention the giant tiered (plastic for show) cake on the table in the dining room with the huge foam flowers all around, complete with more Tinkerbell themed creatures? It was amazing.

What was even more amazing was that instead of looking like a mommy about to chase a preschooler all over a party, the guests of this suare were all decked out as though they were headed to the Oscars instead of a 2 year old's birthday party. Note to self: In Brazil, Birthdays Are A Big Deal. Every woman there was wearing a silk dress or sheath or cocktail attire. Every one had impeccable make up, jewelery, and those crazy heels again.. 4 inch stiletto wobbly ankle breakers...and yet, not a single lady wobbled, not in the least, while I attempted to stay upright in my flip flops...

In the end, I learned a valuable lesson for next time (which is kind of my life story... attempt activity, mortify self, learn for next time.) which is 'do it up' for any occasion. I also learned that gracious hosts will still love you even if you look like you're there to take out the trash (in comparison), and will graciously explain to their Brazilian relatives in Portuguese that this unkempt looking woman, ambling around, muttering in some strange dialect is not to be feared or reviled but simply an American, as of yet, uneducated in the ways of the Brazilian Glamazons.

I can't say for sure that I'll ever learn how to be 'Glamorous', but I will say that I will give it a shot, I'll try not to be quite so nervous in showing my own skin, in reveling in what God gave me, and PERHAPS I'll try the heels more often.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I think the housekeeper has forsaken me....

We shall find out tomorrow if she shows for us...unlike the two other families that employed her until she didn't show this week... I have a feeling that tomorrow the mop will be firmly in my hands.

Thoughts of the haves and the have nots and the 'do we really need thats'...

I have no idea how most Brazilians afford to live here. The prices are so inflated and the quality of what you get for those prices is not at all what I expected. When I hear some Americans complaining about taxes for schools or the cost of living, I can't help but wish that they could see what it's like to try to survive here.

The Brazilian Government taxes imported toys at 30% so it's not at all surprising to see a Barbie doll that costs R75...that's around $50!!!! FOR A BARBIE. Being a veteran of shopping at Target and finding Barbies there for $6...ouch. It's a good thing that I really dislike Barbie. :)

Unfortunately, everything (except beans and rice and a trip to the Zoo) seems to cost way too much. We broke down and went to the Evil Empire (or McDonalds, as my husband would say) and two 'meals' and a 'feliz meal'... it was around $40....which got me thinking..... why not charge more for things that will cause you woe in the long run??

Shouldn't a cow, pastured, fed, antibiotic-ed (this is mcdonald's beef we're talking about here), bovine growth hormoned, and rain forest destroyer..shouldn't it cost ALOT??? Even if we're talking a free range, grass fed, antibiotic free, happy, healthy, tasty's still a life, right? Shouldn't meat be expensive??
What about booze?
fat, salt, sugar, cake, cookies...shouldn't we expect these items to be of less value and more costly than preventative medicine, vegetables, fruit, access to education?

The fact is that I don't want to put a hamburger in my mouth that took even a year to turn from calf to medicine dump to cow to ground muscle sitting on a sesame seed bun, that only costs a dollar. What kind of process that time consuming, financially extracting and labor intensive ends up only costing us a dollar? Who else just paid for my gluttony and how am I secretly paying?

I'm assuming that a people that will attach such a low value to the price of a life and a year do not give a damn about attaching value to things like QUALITY, SUSTAINABILITY, OR THE WELLBEING OF MY COLON (or even more importantly, the well being of my child). It's not a's just a thought. A thought that keeps pestering me and buzzing in my ear like bloated little mosquito, sick to death on excess. Maybe there is something to be said about the cost of living here...maybe its a lesson in choosing wisely with what little I have. Maybe the fact that the mangos out back are free and the luxury of a salad is a delight should mean something more than a little buzzing in my head. I wish the Americans complaining about their Big Mac being too small or that they have to pay taxes to keep the roads free of potholes could all come here. A little perspective, a little of that Brazilian joi de vivre, a little unaccustomed restraint, and a little appreciation for the VAST comparison of our wealth purely by being American. Grossed out and thankful. I think I'll sit and ponder that for a bit.


Yes, yes. Indeedy. There are monkeys in our trees. Little, cute, fluffy faced, ring tailed chatterbox monkeys. They are cute. Adrian and Katie were taking a dip in the pool, which Adrian has since become the master of (he's built for chemistry and perfect linear vacuum lines) when the little monkeys came to watch the strange giant monkeys in the pool.

We also have the most wonderful thing... a HUGE, almost dayglo green caterpillar has opted to suspend himself from our carport ceiling and encase himself into the beginnings of a cocoon! The new gardener (I know, I know, but he only comes twice a month and our yard is HUGE!!) has been asked to leave our little morphing fellow be while it slumbers.

The entertainment value of american words (used not so correctly) on food products at the grocery store still gives me the giggles and atleast a shopping trip worth of entertainment.

We enrolled Katie into a local preschool and she's really doing well. She goes 5 days a week and loves the time with the other kiddos. I love the time for myself and seeing her in her uniform. It occurs to me that while the powers that be say that uniforms are to 'even the playing field' of obvious income disparity, it occurs to me that at the prices we're paying for her schooling, no one is fooled, you have to be wealthy (or budget all of your we have) to afford preschool in Brasilia. The Government will pay for Katie's schooling once she's in Kindergarden, as it would be covered in America but until then...we pay out the nose. Let's just say that I could have bought a really nice car for what we'll shell out before she's in Kindergarden.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Sisterhood of the Trailing Spouses

I got a blessed call from Morgan today, fellow Sister of the Trailing Spouses, informing me that she would be picking us up for a playdate in 15 minutes. I think I may have suggested, in my profound haste to successfully make human contact with an actual grown up, that Katie 'shotgun' her yogurt breakfast. Morgan came with her adorable son and her NEW NANNY. I was practically salivating as I wished Ms. Maria a 'Bom Dia'. We all hopped into Morgan's borrowed car (which is the current high standard of luxury in my tiny world. 'You have a car? A Honda Fit?!? Ooohhhh!' I am truly impressed.) We took off on an adventure to Erica's house. In the world of isolated motherhood, the bigger the herd of children, the higher the mama's rank (It's all about playdate options). With 5 sweet and beautiful kids, a well stocked pantry, a Kitchenaid, AND a car, I'm pretty certain that Erica is an Empress. Mama Elise met us too with her precious little guys in tow and for 4 delightful hours, the world was a perfect and normal place. The kids played and stuffed themselves on grapes, cucumber wedges, and the contraband of Wheat Thins. I think Katie was ready to trade me in for any one of the STS's. We talked the 'Mama Shop' of schools, foods, recipes, and volleyed around ideas for our socially conscious entertainment. Looks like I will not shrivel up and take on a hunch back as I had suspected would happen with long term isolation and despair. At afternoon's end, I found myself back home with Katie, baking powder and baking soda in my pantry, vanilla in my fridge (a million thank you's, Erica), the phone number and offer of a nanny/housekeeper (Morgan, you're the best), and a renewed friendship with the ever sparkling Elise. It seems as though I have been plucked from obscurity by the Sisterhood of the Trailing Spouses....and for that I will forever be grateful.

On a side note, I then delved into the fascinating world of 'Pool Cleaning 101', of pump priming, chemical balancing, and random other lessons in 'things I cannot possibly afford to allow other people to do for me'. And for the final thanks of the evening, I send my father the biggest hug and appreciation. Your example has made me a fearless tinkerer of things which may or may not be repaired, McGuyver Style.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Be Thankful..

Be thankful that you are not a chicken in Brazil. This little fella gave me quite a start when I opened the wrapping, only to find his head and feet sticking neatly out of his bum. Yes, they use EVERYTHING here. I quartered it and saved the wings and back for soup. I'm not quite ready to use the head and feet, yet.

Hello Brazil!

After years of consideration (cultivation of a home, a family, a suburban life), hubby went and joined the Foreign Service. With stars in our eyes we sold the house and the cars, said 'so long' to our friends (thank God for Facebook, Skype, and email), and headed off to Washington D.C. for 8 months of training to prepare us for....Brasilia, Brazil. I had every intention of starting this blog way, way back when but as life often does, things got busy.

So we find ourselves here in Brasilia, it's the rainy season, green, wet, lush. It's beautiful in an unbridled kind of way. One can almost feel the land straining to break free of the last six months of drought and to grow, unfettered.

The two mango trees in our back yard are HUGE. Django Mango and Fandango Mango drop their prize fruits like rocks and it's a race between people and insects to claim them. We've given many away and I try to pile the 50 or so extras in various states of decay around the base of the trees to rot in a tidy pile, which is laughable because nature here is far from tidy. We have a lovely little kidney shaped pool, the tiles lining the bottom are indigo blue and covered with a murky film of insects and dirt. I have yet to glean the knowledge of how to work the pumps and such but as soon as that occurs and a good cleaning takes place, we'll be swimming.

The house is big and echoey. It smells a bit like neglect and wear but it has a Brady Bunch meets George Jetson charm that can't be denied. It is large and I still easily get lost in the halls, attempting a quick walk from one end to the other often ends in retracing my steps on the cool hard wood floors. There are so many turns from here to there, I almost get dizzy doing the daily minutae.

I have managed to find a kind of comfort in the daily chores like cooking and laundry. As that there is not yet a car nor neighbors we know nor anything familiar, it is a lonely, quiet, anxious feeling that sits in me most of the time. I feel so funny for the time being, playing minute by minute entertainer to my 3.5 year old daughter, pretending confidence in doing the dishes, and heaping the hopes and joys of my day onto the expediency in which my hubby can get back home to me. I believe a walk and a car will work wonders. We have yet to explore the 'neighborhood' on foot. A road branching out to another road, tall grass, unfamiliar people speaking a rolling and exaggerated language like poetry and nagging. Farther than I know for sure, a store, brimming with laughably overpriced, somewhat familiar goods. Something to let my mind pretend to find fascination in, just to roll up against the mild nausea of monotony.

I know, I know. It will all change and improve and worsen and run into a future but for now, it's an experience, moment by moment.

Hello Brazil