Sunday, August 29, 2010

You take the good, you take the bad...

"You take 'em both and there you have,

The Facts of Life, oh, The Facts of Life!"

More than once in my life, I've been told I look like Natalie. Sure, I would've preferred to be likened to Natalie Portman or something, but... facts of life, ?

Other facts of life, at present...

I am stressed out about work, or rather, the lack thereof. I knew that this move was my biggest leap of faith yet, and that this period of uncertainty awaited me in São Paulo. Nevertheless the weight of it bore down on me today (like Mary Cooke with an axe to grind [inside joke]). Aside from employment worries, I've hit a bureaucratic snafu. I can't complain as it's my first real paper-chase drama in Brazil, but the processes I had hoped to complete in this first, workless week were out of my grasp. You see, I need proof of address to change my cell phone, my bank account, and to register, well, my address, with Polícial Federal. However, I can't get proof of address without proof of address. You see my dilemma.

In the spirit of my Natalie, though, it'll be ok. Besides, as my friend counseled, "Jenny, if anybody can do this, you can." Thanks for the reminder, Thiera.

On the bright side, I had a successful interview with an English consulting/teaching organization and begin training with them on Tuesday. I submitted an application for a freelance writing studio--fingers crossed. And, I met with the publishers of Juliana's book and received the go-ahead to start the translation work.

Moreover, I had some fun! My new flatmate, Carolina, is fantastic. She's intelligent, witty, laid-back, and curious. Heck, she's a writer (use Google Translator, it'll be worth it)! She's everything I could want in a companheira de apartamento. She has excellent taste in restaurants and nightspots, as well as nice friends, like Filipe.

Filipe e Carolina

Victoria was in town from Porto Alegre this week--one advantage to living in a mecca like Sampa is that friends will come to you!--and we went to a quaint French bistro in Vila Madalena last night. Yum.

Afterwards, we headed to the bar at Casa Club hostel to mingle. Even later, Victoria and I headed to Filial, where we met Ricardo, Pedro, and Luís--three guys from Porto, Portugal--here on a study-abroad with their international MBA tribe. What hilarity ensued when, after an hour of conversation in English, our new friends learned that we understood, and even spoke, Portuguese. I found immense gratification in the juxtaposition, being the one that, theoretically, didn't understand side commentary, but actually did. Fortunately for Victoria and I, our new amigos were sound... true gentlemen.

Victoria, Ricardo, Eu, Luís, e Pedro

It's all part of the process. I'm still the optimist.

Mindy-ish Paulistinha

P.S. This... winter in São Paulo?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Welcome to Fazenda São Paulo!

One of my favorite activities is to get lost. On purpose.

I remember when, shortly after moving to Porto Alegre, I marveled at walking familiar streets I had meandered during my first visits to the city. I had no idea that, in a couple years time, I would walk those same streets but call them my neighborhood. Today, walking around Pinheiros, I had that same recall. Just last year I photographed street art, sat for coffee in cafes, and shopped in the stores which are now my neighbors.

So today I wasn't lost at all. But tomorrow, and in the coming months, surely I will be.
And who knows where I'll live in two years.

I arrived at my new apartment yesterday without a hitch. As I mentioned, my roommate Mariana is in Singapore so I won't meet her for about a month. Carolina was supposed to be here but had to travel last minute so I'll meet her tomorrow. In her stead, though, was her sweet mother, Neida, waiting to welcome me with some presents from Carol.

How thoughtful! I can't wait to get acquainted with everyone!

I've been here one day and I already have a funny story to relate, which bodes well for my stay. This is the view from my bedroom window looking left...

...and right.

Did you spot the rooster?


Huh, neither did I. But when I woke up to its call, I thought (in this order):
"Is that a rooster?"
"In São Paulo??"
"Huh. That's weird."
"Crap, is it really morning already?"
"Well, that will either be irritating, or I'll learn to sleep through it--just like my alarm clock."

Then I realized it was only midnight. I was hazy from the travel. I heard it again in the early morning, and again around noon. Do roosters really crow sporadically throughout the day and night, or did this one have a special request? I guess I'll find out. Luckily, for now, I find it very amusing.

Obviously I had to buy this mini-watermelon.

Lastly, tonight's full moon--for my Dad with love.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jets to Brazil

I'm at about 35,000 feet right now en route to São Paulo, with a sensation of boundlessness to match.

I'm excited and energized by the serendipitous events and connections that have already come to light since my decision to move.

Tomorrow I will see my new Pinheiros apartment, where my possessions arrived without incident a couple weeks ago. Funny enough, the flat is just a couple blocks down the street from my friends at Casa Club in Vila Madalena. My new roomies, Carolina and Mariana, are writers (so I will be surrounded by great creative energy), travelers (Mari's covering the Youth Olympics in Singapore at the moment and both will be in Europe for much of September), and playful (they host canasta on Mondays). I have a second interview on Wednesday with a consulting firm I'm quite interested in, and a meeting with some private students that evening. I'll swing by Juliana's publisher early in the week too, to discuss translating her book into English. There's also an interesting collaboration in the works to develop some City Walking Tours.

In 2008 I was looking for time, diversity, challenge, stimulation. I wanted to own my choices. Today, my hands are in almost every bowl I want them to be in. Pretty cool, huh?

I grew and re-shaped myself in Porto Alegre. But the most valuable change was learning to love myself. I'm taking that one, especially, with me.

Bring it on,

*Jets to Brazil!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Internacional wins (again)!

Last night, like in 2006, I watched my darlings win the Libertadores championship from Chicago. I missed a fantastic spectacle in Porto Alegre, but I had fun cheering and chanting with Guilherme, Victor, Stacee, Thiera, Rick, and Marcelo at The Globe Pub.

Most memorable moment: when Tinga, after taking a cleat-side kick to the forehead, re-enters the game with a red Speedo swimcap on to contain the blood. Ha! O Tinga, eu te amo.

Follow the links to get a glimpse of the madness down south. Check back for pictures of our small but still spirited commemoration up north.

Paulistinha Colorada

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dunes

I spent two gorgeous days at the family beach house last weekend, surrounded with great friendship (with Andrea, Thiera, Stacee, Melissa & Iain, and Beth & Aaron).

Four-legged friends are always a fun addition to beach time too! Dudley the Greyhound and Iggy the Pugle were (successfully) introduced to each other, to swimming, and to the best nights' rest they ever had.

Sunsets are like sporting events. Armed with binoculars, beers, and cameras, everyone arranges the deck chairs on the patio just so... and basks, mesmerized, in the half-hour spectacle.

Iain's fancy camera-ing captured a nice zoom-in of the Chicago skyline, 30 miles northwest.

My grandparents purchased "The Dunes" in the 1960's, so, for everyone in my family, visits are packed with nostalgia. Prior to my current adventure in the Southern Hemisphere, I went to the cottage every summer since before I can remember--so after three years without, it was a treasure to hug it again.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Rant: American Airlines and the TSA

Fernando used to make me laugh with the amount of sentences he could begin with the phrase, "You know what pisses me off?" Well, Fernando, Readers... it's my turn.

Air travelers beware: in the name of your safety, ahem, the United States TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and the airlines seem to have newfound carte blanche when it comes to the appropriation of your personal items.

Redeeming AAdvantage miles for my recent Brazil-US trip, American issued a rather undesireable (if not all-out ridiculous) routing, sending me from São Paulo to Miami to Jacksonville to Chicago. Due to mechanical problems, the second leg was delayed. The AAgent informed us that "the FAA won't let us take off." That was less than reassuring. Why wouldn't you word that, "For your safety, we choose to delay this flight while we further inspect the aircraft," I wondered. In any case, the delay caused me to miss my Jacksonville-Chicago connection and I was bumped to a direct flight. Unsurprisingly, my two pieces of checked luggage were not. Wait, there's more.

I had noticed that the signature orange zip-ties, which Gol Airlines had fastened to my luggage in Porto Alegre, were still in place when I retrieved my two suitcases in Miami. After clearing Customs I left them with the TSA. When I received my bags from American's delivery service the day after I landed, I noticed that one bag was quite misshapen and there were white zip-ties on both. Opening them, I found that several items were missing--weird stuff too: my favorite sweater (hand-knit, from Uruguay), several DVDs (but not the cases), a modem--and others were damaged. There were notices of TSA "inspection" in each.

I called the TSA to complain and they told me that there's no way to prove that the theft and damage happened when they "searched" my bags. Sorry, Charlie. I filled out the online complaint paperwork anyway, just on principle. Unfortunately, I couldn't oblige the request to photo-document most of the missing items as I'm not in the habit of photographing the contents of my suitcases prior to travel.

I also emailed American Airlines, in accordance with their protocol, relaying the details of the event and, a week later, received an email saying, essentially, "too bad." Actually, they instructed me to--conveniently--take my bags back to the airport to file an incident report, presumably to receive that same "too bad" response a few weeks from now. They explained that it was unfortunate that I reportedly suffered a loss but hadn't advised them upon arrival. Of course, that was impossible to do since I didn't actually receive the luggage until the next day, geniuses.

If, in the changing dynamic of travel and security, the government agencies and airlines have ever-increasing authority in the handling of travelers' personal effects, is it too much to ask that they be held accountable for employee theft by adhering marked zip-ties to luggage and ensuring proper channels of recourse to travelers?

For now the answer appears to be yes. I am, we are, outta luck.

In a fit of aggravation, I cancelled my long-time AAdvantage Miles membership and Citi AAdvantage Mastercard. At least it made me feel a little better, and in my experience, United and Gol have provided better customer service and problem resolution. I have no way of protesting the TSA (scowl), so I'm just spouting off here. Harumph.

With that off my chest, I will resume my usual, sunny disposition now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chicago (II)

Chicago's lakefront from the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock

I am a tourist in my own city: walking familiar streets lined with unfamiliar places; feeling simultaneously foreign and native; embarking on tourist missions after punching out at the office.

The Sears Tower (Willis who?) beyond the Picasso

Marina City

I took a stroll through Millenium Park after work last week, pausing to appreciate the Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate (a.k.a. The Bean).


Afterwards, I accidentally found myself savoring a goat cheese sampler and flight of white at my old haunt, Bin 36, where I installed myself on one of the bar sofas and read Juliana's book.

I fell back into the local music scene, catching Silvia's floaty, angelic rendition of Homenagem ao Malandro at Bêabá do Samba's Pritzker Pavilion debut.

My parents and I went on an architectural boat tour which, despite my best intentions, I never did when I lived here.

The Wrigley Building and Michigan Avenue Bridge

The new Trump Tower

The Tribune building

The West Loop from the South Branch

Tomorrow, a corporate picnic dinner and concert in Millennium Park followed by Chivas x Inter at The Globe Pub.

Vamo vamo Inter!