Friday, June 24, 2005

Even More São João

Sao Joao
Originally uploaded by russandval.
Just had to share one more picture. This is where the taxi let us off. Incredible. It was so beautiful I almost cried. It's not that this is a "good" photo- the place just looked so incredible any idiot with a camera could snap a picture of it!

More São João

Sao Joao
Originally uploaded by russandval.
We decided to go down to the Pelourinho (the old part of town) where the main São João celebrations are. It was absolutely incredible. We felt pretty safe because there were cops everywhere and everyone was in a festive mood. The music was incredible and we just walked around and took it all in.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Originally uploaded by russandval.

So we all brought "typical" São João food. Let's see, we had corn cake, corn on the cob, corn goo (don't know how else to describe it), corn stuff wrapped in corn husks...we forgot to make popcorn. Anyone notice a theme? We also had peanuts, peanut brittle and several other cakes made of unusual (to us) things. Though a little less than diverse, the food was great!

I forgot to mention what São João is- it's the holiday for John the Baptist that, especially here in the Northeast, has morphed into a huge holiday season. It's like Christmas- stores started decorating over a month ago! The festival aspect started in the small towns and everything about the holiday has the small town feel. The traditional dress is plaid, bandanas and straw hats. The food is simple (and apparently thought up by corn farmers!) The music is fun and bouncy and there's a sort of square dance that goes with it. Mostly it's an excuse to have some fun all through the month of June. Everywhere you look someone is having a São João party. Now that the actual holiday is here, it means two days off. Most people in the city will head out to the small towns to participate in the festas there. We'll stay here and check out the festas here in town. It's so much fun to get to learn a new culture!

São João!

Originally uploaded by russandval.
We had a São João party today instead of class. It was great fun. We spent yesterday's class time making the decorations. Our teachers insisted that we all dance to the forro music. Some of us did better than others...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Slowly But Surely

It's really easy to look around our apartment and feel discouraged. There's so much left to do to be settled. We've got furniture and air conditioners to buy, curtains to make and I won't even mention the o-word (let's just say Electrolux didn't come as promised!)

But every so often we have little "this is home" moments. Like tonight when we got in the taxi. We often stay at the Parkers' until late and call a taxi service to come pick us up (nowhere near as expensive as it sounds). We meet a lot of drivers. Tonight though, the driver knew exactly where we were going. In fact, it was the third time he's driven us (though we didn't remember him- I guess something about us is a little more memorable!) It was such a nice feeling, though, to not have to explain to the driver where our apartment is or to have to argue about which is the shortest route. It's nice to enter the gate of our neighborhood and have the guards smile as they let us in. It's wonderful to walk in the gate of our building and see Russ high-five our doorman. Little things like that make this place feel like we live here. Like it's home. And it is.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Best Yogurt Ever

The Best Yogurt Ever
Originally uploaded by russandval.
A definite advantage to living in the tropics is all the incredible fruit we have. Not only do we get the fruit fresh, it finds its way into all kinds of products. Yesterday we discovered this yogurt- it's graviola flavored. Graviola (aka cherimoya) is a gentle flavor, mixing all the tropical tastes into one perfect experience. The only problem now will be not drinking too much of this yogurt!

I'm feeling much better now. I was off my feet for a week but I'm starting to get my energy back. I did lose about seven pounds though! Not my prefered method of weight loss, but I'm not complaining.

Electrolux is supposed to come this morning with the parts for our oven. We'll see.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Jennifer Porter is one of my favorite people right now. Russ came home from Portuguese class with a can of Campbells Chicken Noodle soup, my ultimate comfort food. Jenn, thanks for making the sacrifice for me!

Yup, still sick. I think I'm on the upswing, the fever's gone. My stomach is so medicated it doesn't dare act up (but when the medicine wears off things can get dicey). I just don't have any energy. Blech.

I was supposed to help babysit the Parker kids tonight. Tomorrow night is the Valentine's Dinner at Bonoco- hopefully I'll be up to going to that.

We received some good news today, though! (Russ was indeed on phone patrol, as I promised earlier.)

1. The parts for our stove have arrived. Someone from the gas company is coming at 1:00 tomorrow. It may or may not be working after that visit, but it's still progress!

2. The phone company is sending a DSL guy out on Monday! That will be most awesome and useful.

So I'll praise God for our progress, my continued recovery and little things like cans of soup that cheer us up!


My friend Rachel told me that when she first arrived in Brazil she was afraid to answer the phone because she didn't know enough Portuguese. Well, I guess I'm doing better than she was, because I keep having a different problem that makes me not want to answer the phone. This has happened three times now. The first time was funny. The second time was cute. Now it's getting old.

A guy calls up. Asks for another guy. It's a wrong number. Checks the number he called and we determine it is indeed the right number. I explain that our number is new. Now, up until this point, I am fine. Wrong numbers happen. We get calls all the time for the doctor that used to have this number. But then the guy will ask what my name is. And where I live. If I'm Brazilian. What I'm doing here. What I like about living here. How old I am. Finally, the conversations turn to who I live with. When I answer, "My husband," I know the call will end soon. They usually say, "Oh, your husband. Hm. Well, good luck in Brazil. Thanks and goodbye."

Friends, I tell you this has happened three times! And I swear it has been three different guys! (Okay, I don't swear it because for two of the calls I did have a high fever, but I'm pretty sure!) I have got to ask our language teachers if it is normal for guys to turn a wrong number into a pickup or if guys dial numbers hoping to find girls to pick up! Either way, it makes me want to make Russ answer the phone for a while.

(On the other hand, it does make me feel pretty good about my Portuguese, since they don't guess I'm a foreigner right away!)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Far Far Away

I've lived away from home for a while now- for almost nine years I have lived in a different country than my parents. I've gotten fairly used to it, but there's one thing that remains difficult- being sick.

Today I woke up feeling mostly fine but by lunchtime I felt pretty lousy. We headed home at about 3:00 and I was experiencing crazy chills. I was walking down the street with goosebumps. I went straight to bed and fell asleep. At about 7:00, Russ headed out to buy me Tylenol and a thermometer. My temperature was 40 degrees (about 104). I have spent the afternoon aching and moaning and all I have wanted was something comforting! I didn't think to bring "sick clothes" with me when we moved here! When I chose which clothes to pack, I wasn't thinking, "And a sweatshirt and my fuzzy socks for when I have chills." I had to improvise- I instead wore my workout clothes and two pairs of Russ' socks. I couldn't make our apartment any warmer because we don't have a heater. We barely have any blankets. I lay wrapped in our two little quilts with beach towels pilled on top.

But the worst part about being sick like that is that my parents are far away. Russ does a wonderful job of taking care of me, but it's just not the same. Russ can make suggestions as to what I do, for example insist I take a shower, but he just doesn't have the clout of my mom and dad.

I don't know if anyone else on the team has felt this way yet, but they will. I've felt it many times before. And it doesn't get any easier.

Thanks for putting up with my pity party. My fever has broken but I am probably still a little delirious. I just thought I'd be honest about how it feels to be far from home and feeling so bad.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Oh What a Night!

We just got in the door from an interesting evening out. Matt and Mary Virginia invited us to go with them to the home of some members of one of the Churches of Christ here in town. That was about all we knew.

We left the apartment just before 4:00, utterly confounding my brother, Dave, who I was chatting online with (with the time difference, I was telling him at 1:30 his time that I needed to go get ready for dinner). We had plans to meet our hosts at the church at 4:00 because they were going to be there for a class. We arrived about twenty minutes late, but that didn’t matter because the class was still going on and our hosts weren’t even there. But, we discovered, their son and his girlfriend were.

We walked to the bus through the rain (it has rained nonstop today- many streets are flooded) and quickly caught a bus. It was quite full. The capacity of most buses is 70+ and we were left standing. And we remained standing, because for some reason no one was getting off! Finally, though, seats gradually started opening up. We were on the bus for at least forty-five minutes, but with the rain, the windows were fogged and I had no idea where we were. When we got off the bus, I asked the girlfriend what neighborhood we were in. She told me it was close to Luciano’s house. My jaw dropped. Luciano (who we had visited previously) lives on the far north (and a little west) side of town. We live in the south-east.

The house was about a five minute walk from the bus stop (past Luciano’s house). Once there, we greeted the family. Rosie, the mom, had all but lost her voice but was thrilled to see us. She lead us into the bedroom, saying, “Jackson has a fever, but come see him!” We all surrounded Jackson in the bed and were exchanging pleasantries when the subject of us spending the night came up. Apparently they were under the impression that we would all be spending the night there. (We had wondered why Tania, the girlfriend, kept asking us about sleeping over!) For several reasons, it just wasn’t an option tonight. First we said, “We didn’t know the invitation was to spend the night!” Rosie explained that it had been for the night from the beginning (but given our fledgling Portuguese skills, we miss a lot of information!) Then we tried gently saying, “No, thank you, we didn’t bring any clothes with us.” That didn’t fly. They started pulling clothes out of the closets for us to wear. Finally it was brought up that I didn’t want to spend the night because I’m getting sick and really needed to go home to my own bed to get a good night’s sleep. Or that’s what we were trying to communicate. It went back and forth and finally the story was “Valerie is sick and needs her specific allergy medicine.” The offer was made for Russ to go home with Leo to get it for me. Somehow, maybe from the panicked look on my face, it was understood that no, we really did want to go home tonight, it didn’t matter that it would be late, and that yes, we would absolutely like to spend the night at their house some time but we need some advance warning.

The rest of the evening was quite nice (though Leo kept telling us it made him sad we weren’t spending the night!). We had escondidinha, which is a layer of meat and black-eyed peas covered in a layer of white goo. It’s absolutely fabulous. For dessert we had mousse de ameixa, which sounds nice in Portuguese but is actually prune mousse. Very good, though unexpected. We had a great time conversing with the family and getting to know them better. It was excellent practice for our Portuguese skills and we treasure any time we get to spend in Brazilians’ homes. And we really would like to spend the night some time, just when we know it’s coming and have things like contact solution, pajamas and clean underwear with us!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Daily Life #1

I really had no idea what life in Brazil would be like until I started living here. But to help you understand our lives better, I will try to give you little glimpses of daily life on a semi-regular basis. Here goes:

Today Russ and I had lunch at a kilo or quilo restaurant (while Portuguese has "official" rules, people don't necessarily follow them). Kilos are buffets- grab your plate and fill up- but when you get to the end, you put your plate on a scale and are charged accordingly. (It definitely keeps you from taking things you aren't sure about!) The food, however, is usually incredible. Today I ate scalloped potatoes, grilled chicken breast, tempura vegetables, pasta, tomato and mango. You can usually find steak as well. While your plate is weighed, your drink order is taken and you have the chance to snag any number of great desserts. We like eating at kilos for several reasons:
1. The food is great. (I will admit, they're not all created equal. But we stick to our favorites and they are consistantly good.)
2. They're fast. Eating in a regular restaurant could take a couple of hours, but at a kilo restaurant you can be in and out in twenty minutes.
3. They're cheap. My plate today was R$ 9, less than $4. It was a lot of food. I can't imagine what it would have cost in the US.

Sure, some days I'm not in the mood for buffet. But most of the time, kilo restaurants are a great meal on the go!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Pam and Gina

Pam and Gina
Originally uploaded by russandval.
One afternoon I came home from the grocery store. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I had bought two of our favorite people! Gina is toothpicks. Pam is, well, Pam. (For which I paid a scandalous price). I'm glad I found a way for Pam and Gina to be with us here in Brazil!


Originally uploaded by russandval.
Here's one of our bedrooms. One day, it will be a tv/guest room. Until then, it holds all the stuff from our shipment that we haven't yet put away. I'm sure it's not so exciting to look at, but it's great to have our stuff here!

Display Cabinet

Display Cabinet
Originally uploaded by russandval.
Look! Our knick-knacks are making themselves at home! It's kind of nice...makes the whole place seem more homey.