Friday, June 26, 2009

November Rain

Ouch! I burned three fingers on my left hand on the stove, so, as I slowly peck at the keyboard with my one good hand and some fingernails, I warn…it’ll be a short post.

The other night I had a dream which, I only vaguely remember now, was about Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday, and I was celebrating with my family (tenho saudades, eu suponho) in Illinois. Later that day, while walking along chilly, rain-soaked streets, I noticed that some leaves had fallen and—for a moment—it was a November day. It felt nice.

I will have a weekend visitor in a few hours, but I'll post more pics and coisinhas next week!

Bom Findi! (bohn feen-dgee, or "Have a good weekend!")


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Party’s Over

Over? No. Suspended. For the moment. This week, my socializing was scarcely 40% of the week before—when I had a Festa Juninha party, an impromptu bachelorette do, a wedding, a churrasco, two “Girl’s Night” outings, and a boa viagem pizza party for Ivan. This week, the celebrations of the previous week were catching up with me. In the coming days, I am striving for a little quiet.

The casamento of Shelley & Rafael on June 12 was a delight. The intimate ceremony was held in a room at the Sheraton, perhaps Porto Alegre’s most chic hotel. The room was a romantic indoor garden, with bamboo and palm trees (and other green things I can’t name) along the perimeter, glowing candlelight, and swaths of sheer, white curtains dividing the ceremony-space from the dinner-space. The dinner (main course: Roquefort encrusted chicken, yum!) was outstanding and, because the group was so small, everyone was served a warm meal, simultaneously—imagine! Plus, the fact that everyone was seated together at one big table made the occasion cozy and personal. The entire evening was simple, elegant, and genuine.

As predicted, we all had our dancin’ shoes on for the reception.

Good times.

So Ivan’s back in Spain for a couple months. This week I will also bid a (temporary) tchauzinho! to Fifi, Lisa, and Christiane as they leave on extended holidays, and a (more lasting) tchau! to Clair, Carlos, and little Rafael as they depart for Amsterdam. Bummer.

Speaking of travels, my site traffic has increased a lot lately (thank you!). In addition to the usual suspects (from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Finland, Spain, Sweden, France, Australia, Japan, etc.), I’ve noticed virtual visitors from a handful of new countries. Seeing this always brings a smile to my face—there’s something amazing in knowing that a stranger, whether 1,000 or 10,000 miles away, and I are having a moment together. Cool. Hi there Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan! Hello Warsaw, Poland and Semarang, Jawa Tengah, Indonesia! Bem-vindo!

Coisinha charmosa #4

So, yesterday I took a long walk to Jardim Botânico. The gardens are beautiful, of course, even in winter, and I enjoyed watching the turtles and black swans sunning themselves. I lamented my forgetfulness, wishing I could photograph some of the peaceful scenes to share. But I regretted leaving the camera at home even more moments later…

Coisinha charmosa #5

…when, as I was making my way out of the gardens, I came across a strange scene in Environmental Area 15. “Scene” indeed! There were about 15 men standing around in a field where an equipment truck and a crane, suspending some sort of catapult mechanism, were parked. About 40 feet from the dodgy-looking catapult, a cameraman crouched behind a stack of foam mattresses. I stood in anticipation, imagining some “Jackass” type stunt that was certainly about to transpire, and almost as certainly (judging by the flimsy mattresses) about to go wrong. After watching the discussions and various scientific (or not) calculations for a while, I determined the men must have stage fright because a small crowd of spectators had gathered by this point. I left before they launched, presumably, the poor chump skyward. Still, the juxtaposition of this scene in my afternoon of tranquility made me laugh.

It’s closing time on the shortest day of the year. I have to call my favorite Meathead to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. (Again. What can I say? He's just one of my favorite people to say "hi" to!)


Friday, June 19, 2009

It’s easy when it’s new.

Your job. Your home. Your relationship. Your chucking-everything-and-moving-countries-without-the-usual-arrangements-in-place. Maybe my self-diagnosed A.D.D. is more severe than yours, but I find that after six to nine months in any of the above, I need new stimuli. Still, that old feeling of stagnation has been but a minor tugging—compared to some of the other molehills I’ve recently been crafting into mountains.

I’ve been swirling around lately, contemplating (in a decidedly bah-humbug sorta way), well, everything: a dwindling financial security net; a wave of frustration over less-than-ideal circumstances that are outside my control; and a feeling that I haven’t made as much progress on my personal goals as I wanted to by now.

Enter my good friend Thiera. I spoke with her at length yesterday and she helped put all the pieces back into a manageable perspective. She suggested I start making mini-goals. “Each night,” she instructed, “list three things you want to achieve the next day which are both reasonable for a one-day time frame and attainable without dependency on an external agent.” I checked off my mini-goals today and have created my list for tomorrow, the process of which has recast my mood in light.

In addition to my three daily mini-goals, I made some other resolutions:

  • documenting (for myself) one new, interesting, unusual, and/or entertaining observation or experience each day,
  • including some of those in my updates, which I will make a concerted effort to post twice a week, and
  • re-implementing the concept of Single-Serving Friends in my life.

Reinvent what you can, always.


Coisinha charmosa #1

Despite the chill that winter brought to Porto Alegre the past few weeks, today Mother Nature gave us a delightful break. It was positively perfect—dry, sunny, and approaching the 80s—with a gorgeously clear blue sky. (I know it’s a bit cliché to be thankful about the weather, but it is coisinha charmosa Number One.)

Coisinha charmosa #2

After nearly 15 months in my apartment, tonight, I figured out the pilot light contraption that lights the oven. Huh. It does work! Well then...I suppose I should cook something.

Coisinha charmosa #3

The aforementioned Sul Café coffee cups. This one says: “Café pode ajudar na prevenção de drogas.” Coffee can help in the prevention of drugs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

O que estou pensando agora?

What am I thinking now? Good question, Facebook.

I am thinking about the Ladies Night tomorrow at Bere’s. Bere (Berenice, actually) is a super-bacana chica I met through my friend, Natália, and is but one of the new girlfriends I’ve recently gained, yay! All brasileiras, each of them my age give or take a few, very independent, well-educated, successful, sassy, and inspirational. We’ve been getting together for home-cooked meals, make-overs, boy-chats (and more heady conversations, too), and libations of course. I adore them and am learning a lot from my new inside connection.

Ana, Natália e Bere

Tatiana, Bere, Natália e Fifi

In the name of cosmic balance I suppose, sometimes when we gain one treasure, we lose another. I had a lovely lunch at Clair and Carlos’ home last Sunday. (Drat, I forgot to take a picture.) They will be leaving us soon to return to Amsterdam. I will miss them dearly until we meet again.

I am thinking about Friday–Dia dos Namorados, Valentine’s Day–when I will be an honored guest at Shelley and Rafael’s wedding. It was a warm and fuzzy reunion when the duo walked into Santíssimo last Saturday, Shelley having just landed from her visa-required, pre-wedding sojourn back to Florida. It will be a small ceremony, just sixteen guests, but certainly a very moving one. And the after-party at Clube da Saudade should be a hoot. Shelley, Rafa, and I ended up there one rambling evening. The nightclub targets a more, ahem, mature clientele (but they let us in anyway!). They have a fantastic band that plays all the hits one would expect at a wedding reception and serve not-so-dainty cocktails. We danced like fools last time and I expect Friday will be no different.

Lisa, Shelley, Rafael e eu

I am thinking about all the things I have to do before Friday, and that I’ll have to miss tomorrow night’s World Cup qualifier match—Brasil x Paraguay. Should be a good game, but I can read about it in the papers on Thursday (praticar, praticar, praticar). In related news, the unsurprising, but official, announcement came out last week that Estádio Beira-Rio (Inter’s stadium) will be one of the venues for the World Cup 2014. (Hmm, I wonder if I’ll be here then?) Also last week, Inter lost against Coritiba 1x0, but thanks to their 3x1 win at home the week prior, still moves on to face the Ronaldo-reinforced powerhouse, Corinthians in the final round of the Copa do Brasil. Yikes! Hopefully I’ll manage to get tickets for the big match in Beira-Rio.

I’m thinking I wish I could give my Dad a hug. In the interim, my friends are keeping me warm.

Oh, and I’m wondering why nobody corrected my misspelling of Louquinha in the start-up phase?! Ha! Too late now!

Loquinha Gauchinha

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Caixa: a monument to efficiency

It’s been a long time since I talked about the humorous (or aggravating—depending on one’s mood) process of taking care of business here in Brazil.

I think Caixa Econômica Federal ranks Brazil’s third largest bank now, since the recent merge of Itaú and Unibanco usurped Banco do Brasil. In any case, there is a huge Caixa branch in Centro, where I went today for the first time to pay a bill. Incidentally, I normally bring my bills (the electric, my internet service, my membership dues to Internacional, etc.) to a lotérica, or lottery shop, where they sell a myriad of scratch-offs and quick-picks, make photocopies, and accept most bill payments, as one would expect (ha). Today was different because I was paying a new bill—my pre-paid membership to the health club has ended and I am now receiving a monthly statement. The club banks through Caixa, unlike my other accounts thus far, so I wasn’t sure if I could make the payment through the lotérica. Besides, why not check the place out, right?

After I removed my keys and cell phone from my purse, set them in the designated Plexiglas pass-through for inspection by the armed guard on the opposite side of the (presumably) bullet-proof barrier, made it through the revolving door with the built-in metal detector without getting trapped (as sometimes happens), and nodded congenially to the other SWAT personnel manning the entrance as I collected my things, all of which is customary, I headed toward the Information Desk.

“Eu preciso pagar uma conta, por favor.” (I need to pay a bill, please.) Two clerks and an armed guard advised me to turn 180-degrees and take 15 paces toward the two young ladies stationed atop the down escalator, where I would be given further instructions.

Arriving at said young ladies (one Colorada, one Gremista, as I learned... always time for a brief “how-do-you-do”). “Eu preciso pagar uma conta, por favor.” I was directed upstairs to retrieve a senha, which is like those little numbers you get when you wait in line at the butcher, only computerized—to be more efficient, ironically.

Upstairs I was greeted by a young girl. “Eu preciso pagar uma conta, por favor.” Ok, please wait in the line here, marked by this tape outline on the floor. One of these counter agents will attend to you shortly.

At the desk agent’s counter: “Eu preciso pagar uma conta, por favor.” Ok. (Agent presses a single button on senha dispenser and hands me a number.) Take that downstairs and have a seat in the middle waiting area.

On the way downstairs I pass the information desk and the two ladies by the escalator (old friends by now), and several more covert military agents. Downstairs, I take a seat for about five minutes while soaking in simultaneous reactions: I am mystified, delighted, and indignant all at once. Being summoned by a beep and a light board to Counter 5, I hand over the statement: “Eu preciso pagar esta conta, por favor.” The woman scans the barcode, stops to discuss her preference for the recent cold over summer’s stifling heat with two colleagues, collects my money, turns toward the coffee-clutch to reaffirm her opinion since one colleague has agreed with her, hands me some change, swivels her chair to face opposite me in order to better engage in the conversation (still about the weather), and after I demurely clear my throat, swings back around to hand me my receipt.

I promise, trusting reader, I am not exaggerating. Ok, the use of “covert military agents” I embellished because it sounded more fun—but the rest is completely true. And actually, I didn’t mind the experience. I wasn’t in a hurry and I believe it’s good for me to relate to the complaints of locals with first-hand experience. Nevertheless, next time, I’ll just go to the lotérica.

Patiently yours,