Thursday, September 24, 2009

Easy listening

And by easy listening I mean delightful on the ears, as opposed to the elevator kind. A friend and ex-Portuguese-classmate from Chicago sings one of my favorite Brazilian classics...
Homenagem ao Malandro
by Beaba do Samba


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Woah, introspection.

A two-point post.

A. I’ve been busy. Really busy. One thing, of many, that I’ve learned about teaching English is that it’s either slower than you want (i.e. not enough students/classes), or it’s too fast. I’ll take the too many that I have, at the moment.

B. I’m going home soon. Before you get crazy, it’s just for a little while. Nevertheless, now that I’m thinking about that—going “home”—I have so many diverse ideas and emotions about it. Life has a way of lulling you into routine; it just happens. Life simply unfolds. But when you consider a major change in the routine, all sorts of things surface.

I am really excited to hug my Dad. I feel happy about seeing my other family and friends again. Kinda like the theme song to Cheers, I feel good about going where everybody knows my name... about experiencing my old life—in as much as one can return to the past—again. But I also feel apprehensive. I feel a little stuck, I guess, between two different worlds. I live in both every day, but I don’t acknowledge it daily. Only now, whilst I am keeping up a life in one and making plans in another, do I really look at the two Me’s that co-exist (reasonably) quietly within. I think that the relatively short break is going to be wonderful and costly at the same time…if that resonates.

More usual LG hyjinx as soon as I find some time to document them. In the meantime, enjoy this slideshow from the archives…

Bjs (beijos),

(Photos courtesy of my distant, but not forgotten, Clair.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bilingual (in which I use more parentheses and commas than usual)

When you were learning something, did you ever experience one of those phases when it just didn’t click in your brain?

When I was in the 2nd grade, I had a really (memorably) hard time learning basic subtraction tables. In my child-mind, and based on the reaction of my teacher, Mrs. Hockspiel (uh, there’s a good reason I remember that name), and my parents, I remember feeling like I must be severely deficient because I had a really hard time mastering the concept. I remember that my Dad (the mathematical parent) tutored me at home for hours (I am still, today, grateful for his patience and will).

I also remember, one day, I got it. I understood it, and I moved on with my education and my life.

I have been “studying” (in quotes because it has been sometimes to a mild, other times to a major, extent) Portuguese for about four years now. I learned the four survival tenses (the indicative present, past perfect, past imperfect, and future [which were two, actually]) before I moved here. There are 16 verb tenses in Portuguese, mind you*.

In my pre-departure lessons, I touched on the subjunctive tenses, but my brain—reasonably distracted by the immediacy of life transformation—didn’t hold them in. I have dabbled in the subjunctive in my time here, understanding more and more, bit by bit, of TV news programs, newspapers, and daily conversation. Still, there was always this... block... a haunting of 2nd grade subtraction.

So I avoided it, like we do.

Three weeks ago I enrolled in a writing course in the Português para Estrangeiros program at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (the federal university). Actually, the class is Leitura e Produção do Texto, (Reading [Comprehension] and Text Production). My professora, Simone, is wonderful. I love the class. I love the homework assignments—for their stimulation and diversity.

But today I had a little breakthough. Yay me!

Backtrack: When I did the placement test for the university course they told me, unsurprisingly, that my speaking was good, my vocabulary was good; (pause) but…what about my subjuntivo? I smiled, knowingly. When Simone read my first text, she said, “your writing style is very complex, but what about the subjuntivo?”

I admitted, on both occasions, that I had hit a wall with the subjunctive. I explained that I'd made fits and starts, but I, embarrassingly, never managed to wrap my head around it.

I realized that the time had come to get over it. I spent hours, today, looking at grammar books and dictionaries...until I had a huge eureka moment. Ah-ha!

I figured it out. I compartmentalized the tenses I knew with the tenses I knew I should know. If my brain is a complex system of "wires", and some wires are supposed to go in easy, direct channels, but don’t—then I just needed to figure out another method, albeit longer perhaps, to connect the wires and obtain functionality, right? Like Dad helped me do with 2nd grade subtraction, I re-wired today. I comprehended something I’ve been stalling on for a long time, making into a much more impressive monster than it was. I am so thrilled to know that an old dog (more or less) can learn new tricks.

Bring on the bilingual postings. I’m one step closer to achieving my goal of being a polyglot.

Happy girl,


* For the mathematically inclined (ha!), there are 14 verb tenses in English**, in case you care to know. And, to complicate matters, generally speaking, each verb tense has 2 conjugations in English, whereas, in Portuguese, there are 6.

** A good estimate, anyway, though some linguists may argue. I'm no linguistics expert—trust me, I'm a simpleton.

***I know, now, through my English teaching experience, that English speakers get screwed on learning the conjugations of Latin-derived languages, but native speakers of a romance language get it back on phrasal verbs and erratic pronunciation. So we're even (I figure)!

**** Surely this addendum is thinking too far ahead, which is always my foolish nature, but I can't decide which language I'd like to learn next: French or Russian. French is certainly more practical, but also more cliché, n'est-ce pas?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Odds & Ends (09-09-09 edition)

I walk into this glass door approximately twice a week.

As I've noted before, puxe (pronounced "POO-she") means pull.

Oi Galera! The Brasil x Chile World Cup qualifier* is on and has most of my attention. I can focus just enough to post a few random photos that have been collecting.

First, let's talk about quase-obsessions.

Brazilians love the fusca (the old VW beetle). They are everywhere. I saw this lovechild of the fusca Victoria captured (featured on and the Torres dune buggy in the neighborhood recently.

Like the rest of the world, it seems, there has been no shortage of Michael Jackson sightings.

I kinda understand the massive outpouring of... whatever... for MJ, but I'm not sure I'll ever understand the omnipresence of Pica-Pau (Woody Woodpecker, to USAmericans).

This super-manly restaurant sign makes me giggle.

As I recently shared, I assumed my oven didn't work during my first year here. Now that I know how to turn it on, no frozen food is safe. Interesting though, that the instructions on this pizza simply say: 1) take out of box, 2) remove film, 3) put pizza on baking sheet, 4) put in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

A temperature would be helpful, particularly for those of us unaccustomed to cooking in Celsius. My second attempt was better.

How much is that doggy in the window?

Lastly, another in the Sul Café fun-mug series – previously featured here and here.

"Those who drink coffee are more amorous." Dang straight.

Hope you have some random-happiness, or better, happy-randomness in your week.

*Brasil defeated Agentina, under the ultra-smug Diego Maradona's guidance, 3-1 in Rosario, Argentina on Saturday. That is a hot topic here these days. As if that wasn't humiliating enough (even the New York Times had a say on the matter), earlier this evening, Argentina lost to Paraguay (ufff), putting them out of the Top 4--the automatic entrants in the 2010 World Cup.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Let me spare you the sting of repeating my terrible mistake.

I was walking back from the laundry mat when I looked down and noticed a tiny yellow spot on the chest of my white tank top. It appeared to be mustard, which was weird since today wasn’t Hot Dog & Laundry day.

Why, oh why, do we instinctively swipe and lick in these situations? Or perhaps it’s just me?

I think it might have been a tiny speck of bird poop.


Brazil x Argentina tonight, gaúcho style, with a churrasco at Shelley and Rafael’s.

Vamo vamo Seleção!