Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Samaritan Hospital

No overseas experience is ever really complete unless you have the opportunity or misfortune to dip into the medical establishment in a foreign country.  When I think through the last 17.5 years of overseas living vis-à-vis medical care, I remember...

     ...having my eyeglasses stolen from a hotel room in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and having to go to a Mexican eye doctor to get a new prescription for my glasses.  I obviously answered the questions wrong because when I put the new glasses on and left the doctor's office, I couldn't manage to step off the curb because the prescription was so wrong.

     .....being pregnant in Maputo and having regular check-ups in South Africa with a humorless, but good and pragmatic, OB/GYN. 

     ..... Mac having a massive allergic reaction in his eye to sunscreen on a vacation in Fortaleza.  His eye looked like a fish eye, all puffed out and lumpy.  It was the most horrible experience of my parenthood.  We frantically asked the majordomo of the rental house to take us to the hospital, and naturally but unbeknownst to us, he took us to the free public hospital with a surly female doctor who whipped out a humongous needle and gave Mac a big shot in the backside.

     ..... taking Mac to the ER in Sao Paulo one Mother's Day very early in the morning where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Jimmy had already left the country for his Afghanistan training, and I was sure I didn't understand any of the terminology or medicine doses.

     ..... having Lasik surgery in Bogota as a 40th birthday present to myself and hoping that I understood everything correctly and wouldn't go blind.

And now here we find ourselves at the hospital in Rio after 3 months of living here.  After years of suffering from a bum shoulder, Jimmy is finally having surgery to repair the shoulder today.  The anesthesiologist just called to tell me that surgery is underway.  He has promised updates along the way.

I am sure this procedure would be outpatient in the US, but they are keeping Jimmy overnight.  After checking out the place and the service, I'm wondering what I could have done to spend a few nights here.

For starters, when we were checking Jimmy in, they gave him a bag of Granado toiletries.  Granado is my favorite Brazilian soap/cream company, and I was tempted to steal the bag because Jimmy was using the restroom when they handed it over and he never would have been the wiser.  Let's be honest:  is he really going to need shampoo and conditioner for one night in the hospital?  I bet he's not even allowed to take a shower.
Shampoo, conditioner, soap and cream.... all wasted on the patient.

Then they brought us up to his room, which is called an apartment.  I know small apartments, and this is definitely just a room, but still.  Calling it an apartment sounds way nicer than "room".  He got settled in, the doctor and anesthesiologist came in to visit, the nurses came for a survey, and then they brought him a pre-anesthesia pill to make him sleepy. 

He requested the XXL size and this is what they brought.  It was a little snug.

When he was getting sleepy, this nice lady from food services came in with a fruit tray for us and a tray of waters, juices and soft drinks that she left in our mini-fridge.  Um, hello.  There's a mini-fridge in the hospital apartment and it has a big bottle of Perrier in it, thanks to that nice lady.  Perrier?!?  I don't even buy that for home. 

As she was dropping off all her goodies, she asked if I'd like lunch delivered to the room.  

Um, hello, again.  

I am my mother's child, so I'd brought a bag full of snacks, but I'd heard the food was good here, so I demurely said that if it wouldn't be too much trouble, I would love to have lunch delivered.  She said she'd be back in a moment with the menu. 

The menu.


In the hospital apartment.

So she returned and I had a choice of two salads (I chose the green leaf lettuce and beets), a choice of several entrees (I chose chicken in a mustard sauce) and as many sides as I wanted (I chose rice that has a lot of veggies and egg in it and some black beans).  Then we got to dessert and drinks.  The dessert of the day was something with plums in it, which in hindsight was probably delicious, but I got confused with vocabulary and thought "ameixa" was prune and I said, "no thank you".   Instead I got a delicious fruit salad that was not your average can of US hospital canned fruit cocktail.  It was freshly cut-up mango, papaya, grapes, apples, oranges and pineapples.  As for the drink, it felt greedy to request anything more so I said I would drink something from the mini-fridge.  Like the Perrier.

I am pleased to tell you that lunch was delicious.  She's already asked if I would like to see the dinner menu to make my selection, but I've got to go home to feed Mac something for dinner.

Hmmmmm.  I wonder if they do to-go meals here....

More on the patient post-surgery!

Monday, September 21, 2015


There is a moment (or two) in every move when you're almost done unpacking boxes and you realize you don't have item x.

And you panic.

Because item x is either something crucial to your survival that you just can't live without or it's something of such sentimental value that you can't imagine life without it. 

There's always an item x in every single move, and item x changes in every single move. 

I had item x and item y on this move. 

We've plowed through boxes, we've sorted and arranged and placed and replaced items. All boxes have been opened, and we're not in the re-boxing phase of stuff we can't use in this house.

And today I couldn't find two things that would've rendered my life incomplete. 

The first was my collection of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, which I use for regular weeknight dinners and for every dinner party I ever host. I am not exaggerating. These are entirely replaceable, but I was panicked they weren't here. 

The second was a large mailing tube that contained an original painting by my dear, dear friend Anika. I knew I'd seen the tube a few days ago, but I woke up in the middle of last night panicked because I didn't know where it was. And nothing would do - and I mean nothing - until I found it.  Had the tube been thrown out because someone thought it was empty?  I could not bear the thought. 

I am pleased to tell you that the world is right again.  I have the cookbooks and the painting. 

I've lived to see another move, albeit with a few more gray hairs.

Friday, September 18, 2015


On Monday night, we hosted our first official reception at the residence. More details to come on that in another post. What I wanted to share with you in this post is what a superstar my boy was at the reception. 

Mac has basketball on Monday afternoons after school. At our temporary apartment, he didn't get home on the late bus until 7:30. So I was very surprised (and so thankful) that he's one of the first kids off the late bus at our new house. While I was getting ready for the party at 6:00, I heard the dribbling of a basketball on the sidewalk and knew he was home. 

I came downstairs about 6:20 and found lots of activity with the caterer working and consulate employees and officers arriving early to work the party. But there was no sign of Mac. 

He materialized a short time later- freshly showered, hair fixed and wearing his khakis, dress shirt, blue blazer and church shoes. He'd dressed up for the party because the Ambassador was coming and he wanted to make a good impression.  Be still, my beating heart. 

He circulated among the consulate people who were already there, introducing himself and shaking hands, before disappearing for awhile with Leo downstairs, and he met the Ambassador when she arrived. He came back upstairs for a bit during the party to check things out, but I don't think it was his cup of tea. (Really I think he was checking out the food situation and lost interest in the party when he didn't see any food he recognized on the caterer's trays.)

I wish I'd taken a photo of him. He was so handsome and so "adult" (but I need to buy him dress clothes in a larger size pronto because he looked a bit stuffed in them). 

This boy is definitely a keeper. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Swim Meet

Yesterday morning Jimmy and I went to a swim competition called Desafio 2015 Raia Rapido  (2015 Fast Lane Challenge), which pitted four swimmers each from Brazil, the U.S., Italy and South Africa against each other. Each country had an entrant in one of four 50m races - butterfly, backstroke, freestyle and breaststroke - plus a team relay that featured all 4 swimmers. 

To explain how it worked, let's use the  butterfly race as an example. The first butterfly race started out with 4 swimmers, one from each country. After the first race, the slowest swimmer was eliminated (taking 4th place).  After a short rest break, the remaining three swimmers swam another race and eliminated the next slowest swimmer (who took 3rd place). After a short break, the remaining two swimmers raced for 1st and 2nd places. 

These short races happened for all four events and the whole thing ended with the team relay where each swimmer swam his specialty.  The Raia Rapida was televised live on the Globo channel so the event moved along at a quick clip. 

The four U.S. representatives were David Plummer on the backstroke, Mike Alexandrov on the breast stroke, Giles Smith on the butterfly, and Anthony Ervin on the freestyle. 

All four are super accomplished in their specialty but two of them jumped out at me:

Giles Smith is 23 and just won the gold in the 100m butterfly at the Pan-Am Games this summer in Toronto.  After the awards ceremony, Giles made the day of a bunch of Brazilian fans who stood in the freezing cold rain to get autographs (it was 64 degrees which is like Antarctica for Cariocas) when he asked if he could take a selfie with them. 

Anthony Ervin is 34 and was the gold medalist in the 50m freestyle at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He retired from swimming in 2004 but decided to return to the sport in 2011. In 2005 he sold his gold medal and donated the proceeds to UNICEF to help the tsunami victims in Asia.  Super cool gesture and super nice guy. 
Unfortunately there was rain on my iPhone lens, but here's Jimmy with Anthony Ervin. 

But he got to present him his trophy plate for winning the 50m freestyle. 

Me with the other three from Team USA

Jimmy got to put the medals around the Americans' necks - they took 2nd place overall. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

This morning from my bed

The Christ the Redeemer statue is off on that mountain in the distance. 

A "close-up" from my iPhone. 

Loving this house so much and feeling very privileged and blessed to wake up to this view for the next 3 years. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Pillow Menu

I don't know if this is special for the club level, or if everybody gets it, but we have a Pillow Menu booklet in a room. They offer 10 different types of pillows "to make your stay memorable and for a perfect night's sleep". 

The choices:

I did not order from the pillow menu, but I think next time I shall order a different pillow every night.  The possibilities are endless...  Goose down or not; back sleeper, side sleeper, stomach sleeper; restless sleeper; young or teenager; internal ventilation system...  It is apparent that the Sofitel does not buy its pillows from the Target. 

Signing off from the Sofitel. We are moving into the house today!!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A day in the life of Copacabana Beach

Today was a very lazy day for me. If I didn't have Leo with me, I might have used the beach service of the Sofitel (but dogs aren't allowed on the sand in Rio. I've taken him several times but the Sofitel beach attendants were very nervous about the municipal police showing up).  Or I might have had a massage at the spa (but Leo's having some anxiety issues and since an exception was made to let us keep Leo on the club level, I don't want to leave him and have him bark to the annoyance of neighbors). 

For the record:  The Sofitel does accept small dogs up to 5kg, just reportedly not on the club level. So we are on the DL up here in the rarified air with our dog who may weigh more than 5kg. I just pretend I'm French (since the Sofitel is French) and that Leo is a little frou-frou Frenchie lap dog and I carry him from the room to the elevator and through the lobby until we exit the hotel. It suits him, and since he may weigh more than 5kg, my arm muscles get a good workout. 

Leo and I walked Copacabana Beach (on the sidewalk, not in the sand) from 8:00 to 10:15 this morning. And when I say we walked, I mean we walked some, we rested on benches some, we people-watched a lot, and Leo got carried a bit when he just refused to walk another step. 

I cannot tell you how much activity there is on Copacabana Beach in the morning. It is nonstop. I don't know when these people work but they definitely enjoy the morning hours on the beach. 

Some photos of what I saw:
A military unit running in formation 

An ad for a Gillette razor...
... That was created for the male body

This lady ran to the beach, stripped down to her bathing suit, swam, did her yoga-esque stretching, swam again and left. 

Beach clean-up

Group exercise class 

Personal trainer helping a client stretch 

A swimming club, post-swim (they were all freezing as the water is very cold right now)

Leo's fancy new friend Tookie!  (I took this photo just for the Harrop clan!)

Hats for sale!  Lots and lots and lots of hats. 

Setting up the bikini stand - this umbrella will end up dripping loads of bikinis 

Drinking a beer. At 8:21am. I'm guessing he doesn't work the day shift. 
Group exercise class

The paddleboarder is the guide for the swim club swimmers. He's sort of like the mother duck who makes sure all her ducklings are okay. 

A kayaker acting as the support vehicle for a lone swimmer (in front of the kayak)

My beloved Leo on the famous mosaic Copcabana sidewalk