Wednesday, September 2, 2015

big day in Portuguese-land

Because our car hasn't arrived yet (and even after it arrives, has to go through a thousand steps so we probably won't get it until Christmas, assuming the Customs strike is over by then), I take taxis and use Uber a lot.

(As an aside, Uber may go away in the next week here in Rio, which is a tremendous cause for sadness in my life.  There's the normal taxi vs Uber battle that goes on everywhere, but the taxis appear to be winning here.  The City Council voted last week to outlaw Uber and unless the mayor ix-nays that in the next week (he had 2 weeks), we'll be without Uber.  To put things into perspective, yesterday I took a taxi one way and an Uber X (the cheapest of the two versions of Uber here) on the way back home.  The taxi fare was R$14 and the Uber X was R$6.  At yesterday's exchange rate of something like 3.66 Reais to the USD, both fares were good deals but the Uber X was incredible.  I will cry a river of tears if Uber goes away.)

So back to the big day in Portuguese-land.

Today was a crazy day of running from one part of the city to another.  I rarely schedule multiple things in one day in different parts of the city because traffic is a nightmare but today could not be helped.

The day started at my favorite cafe in the whole city, near the Botanical Gardens, with two cute ladies who I met a couple weeks ago.  One is British and the other is a New Zealander and they're both fun (and funny!), entertaining people.  I took a cab from home to the cafe but the driver only required minimal engagement so I didn't have to speak much.  Which was a good thing because I was saving up my daily coffee allowance for the cafe.

After the coffee, I caught an Uber to the consulate to attend a lunch. This Uber driver started talking and did not stop for the 30 minutes that it took us to get to the consulate.  It turns out he's a music minister at an evangelical church here and he is BIG on religion.  I didn't follow a lot of the conversation because he was engaging in seminary-level discourse on religion - in Portuguese - so I found myself alternately uh-uh-ing randomly and staring blankly at him in the rearview mirror, hoping he would get the hint and stop talking.  Oh, and also alternately on a third alternate wish, I was praying that my phone would miraculously ring and I'd have to have a long-winded conversation with someone - anyone - on the phone.  The phone did not ring and my blank stares at him in the rearview mirror did not work. The random uh-uhs didn't work either because I used them inappropriately.

For instance, he asked me if I believed in "something".  (Remember this is all in Portuguese and I'm tuning out by now.)  I thought he was asking if I believed in John the Baptist.  So I said, "uh-uh".  I got John the Baptist.  Jesus' cousin. Elizabeth was his old mom who thought she'd never have children but she had him.  Got it.. Sure I believe in John the Baptist.

The driver acted surprised so I realized I'd answered in a way that he hadn't expected.  I asked him to repeat the question.  What I think he was asking me was, "do you believe in - blah, blah, blah - John the Baptist - blah blah blah - speaking in tongues?"  Now I'm still not sure that's what he said, but I definitely heard something about speaking in tongues. I answered that I don't know whether I "believe" in it, BUT that I do not engage in it and nor has any church I've ever attended in my life practiced it.  So speaking in tongues is not my thing.  (These, by the way, are discussions you don't generally have when learning a foreign language at the State Department, which is where I learned Portuguese.)
I wish he'd just have bought my original but incorrect "uh-uh" because then I had to get a lesson on why speaking in tongues was ordained by the Bible.  Or at least that's what I think I got a lesson in.  It really was all above my Portuguese level.

The next stop on the Bible Uber ride was a discussion on how we're at the end of times.  Oh dear, my knowledge of the book of Revelation is really minimal.  But not to worry, my Uber driver came to the rescue and explained exactly the signs of why we're near the end of times. Except that I really didn't understand much except something about a fig leaf and Israel and a fig leaf is the symbol of Israel and that all means we're at the end of times.

At this point, I made a mental note to myself to google "how to make iphone ring on its own" so I could be better prepared next time for a fake conversation with myself.

Thankfully and mercifully, we got to the consulate and I got to escape the car.

I did the lunch thing and hopped back in another Uber to go for a haircut.

Getting a haircut in a foreign language is possibly the most frightening thing of all to do in a foreign country.  Unlike a bad conversation with a taxi driver that's over in minutes, you might have to live with a translation screw-up during a haircut for a LONG time.  I'd gotten a recommendation from a woman with a cute short haircut that we met via the UFC - she said her guy is the best short-hair hairstylist in all of Rio - so I'd made my appointment with her person.  Half the battle is always making the appointment so I was very pleased to arrive at the salon and the receptionist to see my name in the schedule.

I got a great cut and the price was cheap, but I wasn't 100% crazy about the stylist's attitude.  For starters, he was trying to part my hair on one side and I told him I part it on the other side.  (I do switch parts but I have a predominant side and if he was going to cut lopsided, I wanted it cut lopsided the right way.)  He acted like he understood me and still when he styled it, he put the part on the wrong side.  I don't think he cut it lopsided so it won't matter but it's the point, right?  And then I told him I wanted really short bangs.  He assented and then proceeded not to cut them short.  So he finished up and I said I wanted them shorter and that he could cut them now or I'd cut them later.  His pick. I could tell he was not amused. He cut them slightly shorter but I may be taking scissors to bangs in the next day or two after I've seen this cut in action.  If you don't do what I ask, then at least explain why you're not doing it.  Tell me my facial structure is such that short bangs won't do because of x, y or z but don't just not do it.

I also got a manicure while my hair was being cut.  It's very disconcerting to have cut hair flying everywhere while your fingernails are being painted.  I didn't want hair stuck in the wet nail polish.  I ended up with a pretty decent manicure but my shirt was literally covered in hair when the whole thing was done.  It was all very messy but I walked out the door with a haircut and manicure for less than $30 so I can't really complain too much.

Then I caught a cab home and had a blissfully normal cab driver who talked endlessly about the weather, which I can handle even on a bad Portuguese day. Oh, and he complimented my Portuguese so he was favorite driver of the day.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

this apartment is slowly sucking the life out of me

Yesterday I was home all day and of course, there was construction in the bathroom column, so I closed off the door from the living area to the sleeping areas to try and block out the sound.

Imagine my surprise when I opened that door up around mid-afternoon to put up clean clothes and I saw red dust everywhere in the hallway.

Unlike last week when the construction workers pushed shut the bathroom windows from the column, this week they only closed one of the two windows.  Thankfully Jimmy's and my side of the house was clean but the other side was filthy with a fine red dust.  The floors were covered, the bathroom counter was covered,  the bedspreads in the two bedrooms on that end of the hall were covered.  Everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - was covered in red dust.

I nearly had a conniption fit.

I called down to the front desk to complain and they told me I needed to speak to the Administration office.  So I called them and informed them of the mess that was now in my apartment and asked why hadn't they closed the windows.  (I explained that if we leave the windows closed all the time, our whole apartment smells like a sewer and thus, we'd opened them back up over the weekend.)

The lady told me that they couldn't just stop construction.  To which I responded that I never asked them to stop construction, but I would ask that they have basic respect for the residents of the building who are having to live with this nonsense everyday.

After I cleaned, I sent a raging email to Jimmy about the potential need for a visit to a loony bin (he's in Brasilia by the way), and then I calmed down.

Today at 8:45 am, I got a phone call from Administration to make sure my windows were closed because construction was starting back.  That was nice of them.

And then this afternoon after Mac got home and finished his homework, we decided to go play ping pong on the patio near the pool where they have several games set up.  We do this nearly every single night and nearly every single night, we take Leo down on his leash and hook the leash onto the knob of the foosball table so he can hang out with us outside.

But today, we were early and that was my major mistake.  We walked past the Administration office, and they spotted the dog. We hadn't even gotten to the ping pong table when the lady came out wagging her finger, pointed at the dog and said "senhora, nao pode".  Ma'am, you can't.

I said nothing but "okay", turned on my heel and walked past her.  I am really growing to hate this building.

But then I got good news when I got back to the apartment.  Jimmy called and said we are moving to a hotel on Monday instead of Tuesday.  And we're going out of town this weekend on a consulate trip so really my nights remaining here are dwindling in front of my eyes.  I think we probably will stay here Monday night so we can get organized after the weekend getaway, but even with that night here, I only have 5 more sleeps in this apartment.

Do you know how utterly and blissfully excited that makes me???

Monday, August 31, 2015

a matter of semantics

Here in Rio, there is definitely crime to be wary of.  From what I can tell, the crime is mainly normal big-city street crime.  Pickpockets, grabbing cell phones, etc.  Obviously, bigger, more serious stuff happens, but this is a big metropolitan area and bigger, more serious stuff always happens in big cities.

The word for "robbed" in Portuguese is "assaltado", which sounds remarkably like "assaulted" in English.  So I hear these stories that everyone tells of being "assaltado" and I'm sure everyone has been physically assaulted at gunpoint. That their person has been violated in some way.  Maybe not raped, but they've been beaten up at knifepoint for $20 in their pocketbook.

And I freak out a little.

But then I remind myself that they've been robbed.  Like pickpocketed.  Which is still horrible, but their person has not been attacked, which to me is the worst thing I can imagine.  What's happened to them happens all over the world, every single day, to tourists and residents alike.  Crimes of opportunity.

And then I calm down a little and feel like I can go outside to face the world again.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A piquenique at the lake

On Sundays, the banks of the lake in front of our apartment are packed with children's and dogs' birthday parties; people running, cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading and strolling; and families and friends having picnics, which is called a piquenique in Portuguese. 

One of the cool ways to have a piquenique here is to hire it done. And by "hire it done", I don't mean stop by the KFC on the way to the lake and buy the family bucket of chicken. 

It turns out there are services that will set up a whole fancy picnic for you, including comfy seating, and provide food according to your budget. You just show up with your friends, lounge around and eat. How cool is that?

Here's an example of one picnic we saw today:

Gorgeous setting, nice umbrellas to block the sun, and comfy seating... They even have a teepee for the kiddos to hang out in. Are you kidding me?

I'm a sucker for ambiance so if I'd been invited to this piqueniqueit wouldn't even really matter if I got sick from bad mayo in the chicken salad. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

P.S. on the construction in our apartment

Our building has hollow ventilation columns that run right up the center of each half of the building.  (There are two apartments on each floor and presumably there are two ventilation columns per building.)  Two of our three bathrooms have tilting windows that open out into this column to vent the moisture and heat from the showers since there are no ventilation fans in the bathrooms.

After posting yesterday morning about the construction noise making me crazy, I went to take a shower before attending an art exhibition.  I entered the shower to this racket:


The hot and cold water knobs were literally vibrating from the drilling going on just on the other side of the shower wall. If there were ever a way to ruin the calming effects of a nice shower, it's taking a shower with this nonsense going on.

I was so rattled and ticked off by the time I finished getting ready in the bathroom that I just wanted to run away from home.  I grabbed my handbag, threw my Pilates clothes in a bag because I intended to stay away from home for hours until my Pilates class, made profuse apologies to Leo for deserting him with all that noise, and left.

I got in a taxi and promptly realized I didn't have my house keys.

I dumped out my bag, I checked in and around the seat.  I lifted up a floor mat in the taxi that was covered in some sort of animal hair.  

No keys.  Nada.  Zilch.

I called Jimmy to ask him to call the police officer on duty at our building to ask him to look in the elevator, out on the street where I got the taxi, in the back hallway, etc.

No keys, Nada, Zilch.

Jimmy's driver met me at the art exhibition (which thankfully was very close to the consulate) to bring me his set of keys.

Instead of staying out for a couple hours until my Pilates class, I went back to the apartment because I had to find the keys.  Naturally they were right where I left them.  On the kitchen counter.

I don't think I've ever lost my keys before.  Not ever.

All of this is to say that I must, for reasons of health and sanity, get out of this construction-ridden apartment building sooner rather than later.

Eleven more sleeps.  Eleven more sleeps.  Eleven more sleeps.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

quick update on housing situation

Jimmy was told yesterday we're moving into the house on schedule on September 10.  Hurray!!

We stopped in on Saturday and everything looks GREAT!  The bathrooms are gorgeous and the painters had already done at least one coat on the interior of the whole house.  I guess they're doing a second coat now and then the house will be cleaned and the furniture arranged (along with moving everything out of the temporary apartment).

The move, for me, cannot come a moment too soon.  The construction is ongoing on the outside of our apartment building and it's quickly driving me crazy on the days I'm home to hear it.  The entire building is covered in a bazillion little tiles.  Like 1/2" tiles.  They are drilling off all the tiles in order to put up new ones.  Do you know the noise and the dust and the commotion that is caused by drilling off a bazillion little tiles from a 10-story building?

Leo does not like it one bit either.  He goes totally bonkers when he sees the construction elevator passing by our apartment balcony.  And if the elevator stops at our floor so they can drill the tiles in our area?  Let's just say there's stiff competition for what will drive me crazy faster:  Leo's non-stop barking at the construction workers or the noise from the drilling.

I leave you with yesterday's view of a construction worker fixing his zipper on the construction elevator when he didn't realize I was sitting in my favorite chair in the corner of the living room:

Welcome to my world. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Random lesson learned on a Tuesday morning

This morning Leo and I went out for our customary walk at the lake. We don't make it too far because Leo is very easily distracted by all the smells. 

We had turned around and were heading back towards home when I spotted some capybara by the lake for the first time since we've been here. 

These animals are like giant rodents that live all over Brazil (and probably other places, too, but I think I've only ever seen them in the wild in Brazil). 

(An image from Google of a capybara). 

We stopped to look at them. Or rather I stopped to look at them, but I'm not sure Leo even noticed them because they were so still. 

We walked on, but stopped a few seconds later because Leo was once again distracted. I turned back to look at the capybara and also saw two men with their large dogs that I see just about every morning. We were all up on a raised walkway a couple feet above the lake level where the visible capybara were. The golden retriever, however, spotted a capybara out of our sight line. That rodent was still below us but right up against the wall where we were walking. 

The owner of the golden retriever yanked the dog back and jogged away from the edge with the dog. 

He then explained to me that the capybara has three babies and the mother will attack dogs with her long fangs to protect the babies. He said there are stories of this capybara taking big bites out of dogs. 


Now in addition to protecting Leo from the attack bird across from our apartment that squawks and buzzes the poor dog's back (and gives me a near heart attack in the process) if we dare walk too close to her tree, I now have to be on the lookout for killer capybara. 

Rio is literally and figuratively an urban jungle.