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

The hoisting

I am pleased to report that the couches and dining tabletop all made it out, over and down the side of the apartment building. 

The building unfastened one side of the construction net to allow for better access and the moving company set up their pulley machine and ropes and away it all went. 
There's a lot of faith put in that little pulley machine!

The netting was unfastened.

One sofa was balanced on the edge of the balcony while they hooked on the tabletop. (The second sofa came down by itself.) 

And then the whole kit and caboodle came down the whole long side of the building. 

Safe and sound on the ground!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

More on the Sofitel

Jimmy and I never made it out of the wine and cheese party last night because it turns out they serve more than cheese!  Our new BFF Romulo, one of the club lounge waiters, kept bringing out things for us to eat - in addition to the wonderful cheeses, salamis and prosciutto we'd already helped ourselves to on the buffet, he brought out a little tray of pretty hors d'oeuvres, a bowl of delicious homemade potato chips (twice) and about $40 worth of warm cashew nuts. Then we got a tray of decadent desserts. It was like a cocktail party without the cocktails AND we got to sit the whole time. 

We all slept well and got up early today so Mac could catch his temporary school bus which comes 20 minutes earlier than his bus at the apartment. 

After he got on the bus, I went to breakfast on the club level. 

(The flowers in the lobby, which I would like in my house, please)

There is just about no meal I love better than a good hotel breakfast. I'm not a huge fan of Braziliian breakfasts generally. But I knew an international hotel would offer more than stale white bread and wet, white cheese. 

And boy, was I right. 

All these breads and baguettes and croissants and little sweet rolls and pain au chocolat. Four different kinds of yogurts. Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, grapefruit, passionfruit, and papaya. Eggs cooked to order. About 10 different kinds of cheeses. Four types of fresh juices. A hot rice dish and a soup.  Little pots of jams and three different types of honey. French press coffee. Oh and did I mention the pain au chocolat?

I was pretty sure I'd died and gone to heaven. 

Now that I'm fortified, I'm heading back to the apartment to finish up this move. More later on the plight of the furniture hoisting. 

We returned from walking Leo last night to this:

(Mac lounging about in the plush hotel robe)

Clearly we've all embraced the club level life!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Living the high life in the Sofitel

The movers came today and almost got the apartment completely packed up before they ran out of packing materials. They'll come back in the morning to finish, take everything out ***, drive it to the residence, and unload and unpack it. 

*** I am foreseeing great issues with this part of the day. Why?  Well, because of that blasted construction. To get the sofas and the dining room table into the apartment, they had to hoist them up and over the balcony because they wouldn't fit in the elevator or the stairwell.  The elevator hasn't gotten any larger, so naturally, they intended to remove the sofas and table by hoisting them over the  balcony and lowering them down. They cleared this with the building administration who said no problem, despite the construction netting and scaffolding. The moving company anticipates a problem tomorrow and after viewing the situation from the outside awhile ago, I anticipate a problem as well. I hope I'll be proven wrong.  Stay tuned. 

So the moving company left and I hung out until Mac got home. Then we headed over to the Sofitel where Jimmy had already checked us in. 

And guess what?

We got upgraded to the club level, where I have never been before. And now that I've been here, I'm not sure I can ever go back to the regular level with the normal people. 

We went to the special check-in place and got the special check-in treatment. 

Then this man materialized and took us to our special room. 

I quickly read the hotel book and realized that there were only 10 minutes left on the afternoon tea service (at which they were advertised to serve macarons). I sent Mac quickly to get me some macarons. He returned with none, but instead brought a plateful of yummy, fattening goodness, of which I ate almost everything. 

I then decided to take a quick shower and use all the yummy L'Occitane products under the rain shower head.  Nice. 

While I was in the shower, Mac went to the desk to ask about borrowing a DVD. They provided him a book of options, he chose "Batman", and they said they'd deliver the movie after they popped his popcorn. 

Are you kidding me?

I want to live in this hotel. 


Mac is now enjoying his movie and freshly popped corn (it was still warm when they delivered it.). 

Mac has decided to order room service tonight, and Jimmy and I are going to enjoy the wine and cheese service for a minute before eating at one of the restaurants in the hotel. 

If I don't report back anytime soon, come find me at the Sofitel. I'll be the one squatting on the club level because it was too nice to leave. Possession is, after all, nine-tenths of the law. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

more volleyball

I went this morning to watch the volleyball tournament.  The three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross, her partner since 2013 when her former partner Misty May-Treanor retired, were scheduled to play at 8am, so I had Jimmy drop me off on his way to work.  I got there at 7:20, and they were already on the court warming up with their Austrian competition, so I had lots of time to watch them and their coach.  

As the match got ready to start, the coach came and sat in the mini-bleachers, down a bit from me.  I kept thinking I should go speak to him.  And I also kept thinking, "What would Jimmy Story do?" The answer to that question is simple:  he'd march over, plunk himself down next to the guy, introduce himself and find out everything he ever wanted to know about volleyball.   

The match got underway and the American ladies won the first game.  The second game progressed and I knew it was going to be over soon.  The whole time, I kept thinking, "What would Jimmy Story do?"  
(The coach and his son during warm-ups)

When the match ended with the Americans easily winning 2 games, I channeled Jimmy Story, put my big-girl pants on and marched myself over to the coach.  I introduced myself, he introduced himself (Marcio Sicoli) and his young son who was with him, and we talked about Kerri and April as if I knew what I was talking about.  He was super cool and friendly and discussed strategies with Kerri's shoulder injuries, how they encourage each other on the court, etc..  And lo and behold, Kerri came up to the net and asked him where she and April should meet him.  He introduced me - by name - to her and asked me if I wanted a photo taken with her.  Are you kidding me?  A 3-time Olympic gold medalist and me?  Um, okay.  

Let me also just say that this woman is in amazing shape.  She's 37 years old, has had 3 babies, and still she looks like this.  I've decided I need to take up beach volleyball...

I met up with friends and we watched a few more matches before going to an Arabic restaurant for lunch and returning to the big court for the match between Walsh and Ross and a Brazilian team. We found some Americans from the Consulate there and sat as one little unit of Americana in a sea of Brazilians.  The first game was close but the Americans pulled away in the second and won the match.  

After it was over, I watched and Kerri Walsh went around to every single person on that court from the main judges to the line judges to the ballboys and girls to the crew who levels out the sand and thanked each and every one of them.  Class act all the way.

Way to represent and stay classy, Team USA!

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Some days, you lose and some days?  Well some days, you win.

And yesterday, my friends, I was a winner.

My day started at the dog park where in addition to the regulars (of which I am now a member), I met an older couple who have just moved to this area.  They brought their two Westies to the park just as the rest of the regulars were leaving (they get there much earlier than I can because of Mac's school bus pick-up time so they always leave before I do).  Leo and the Westies had a great time playing and running and playing some more.  

I found out that the woman's mother is from Michigan so I asked if her father was Brazilian.  She told me he was (he's passed away now), so then I asked how they met.  Her father was a doctor who came to work for awhile in a Chicago hospital where her mother was a nurse.  They met and fell in love and way back in the 1940s, her mother followed this man back to Rio Grande do Sul in the south of Brazil, where she went on to live and have seven children.

Can you even begin to understand how cool that whole thing is?  In the 1940s, she took a chance on love and followed a man to what was then a very remote part of the world.  She wasn't able to phone her parents, but could she at least send them letters?  How long did it take for the mail to even go from Rio Grande do Sul to Michigan?

I remained inspired by her carpe diem attitude all day long.

After the dog park, I went to Pilates where I worked hard and even got to try this crazy trapeze-esque pose.  And my Pilates instructor figured out what was wrong with my Whatsapp app, so it was a win on all fronts.

After Pilates, I caught a cab over to Copacabana Beach where the International Federation of Volleyball is hosting the Beach Volleyball World Tour Rio Open.  I watched Americans Walsh and Ross in the distance beat Italians Momoli and Cicolari, and I watched up close Americans Summer and Carico beat Canadians Broder and Valjas. 

I also met American Brittney Hochevar who was supposed to play yesterday afternoon with her partner Jen Fopma.  Jimmy met both of these women when they came to the Consulate on Wednesday for a meet and greet and I was so bummed I couldn't be there, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity yesterday.  Jimmy learned that Hochevar has been an Olympic alternate twice and that she's trying her hardest to qualify for the Rio Olympics and was using this competition as a qualifier.

Hochevar and her volleyball partner Fopma learned yesterday morning at breakfast that Fopma's father went into cardiac arrest that morning in LA.  By the time I spoke with Hochevar, they knew that the father had stopped breathing and was on a breathing machine.  They forfeited their game so Fopma could concentrate on getting home to her father.

Hochevar, who had just lost another opportunity to prove herself worthy of a spot on the Olympic team, seemed genuinely and only concerned for her partner and her family.  It was so moving to see her place value on what's most important in life.

As an aside, and much later in the conversation (so you don't think I'm totally insensitive), I asked if she needed a substitute partner because I was available.  Without missing a beat, she said absolutely.  I told her I wasn't sure how those bikini bottoms would fit and that I might not look like much of an athlete, but I was sure I could fill in, all in the name of serving the country and all that. She was super cool and played along.   I really, really like this lady.  Class act all the way around.

While at the volleyball, I also negotiated for a job!  I'm going to be working remotely for one of the offices I worked for in DC over the last year.  The job offer called for full-time, but really, how am I supposed to enjoy beach volleyball tournaments, I mean take care of official responsibilities for Jimmy's job if I'm working full-time?  So I told them that I just couldn't manage it but to see if the program office could come down in the hours required.  And they did. So it looks like I'll be working 25 hours a week starting at some point in the near term.

I left the volleyball and came home to cook Mac's requested dinner for the first Gamecock football game of the year:  Argentine empanadas, chicken wings and steak fries.  Not super well-balanced, but what tailgating meal is really all that balanced?

Dinner was cooked and served in front of the television on which I managed to get ESPN to stream via my iPhone using a VPN, which is all pretty remarkable since I'm the least tech-savvy person in the universe.  I should be granted a PhD from Stanford for figuring that out. Seriously. 

Exercise for Leo and me?  Check. 
Watching world-class beach volleyball?  Check. 
Getting a job?  Check. 
Cooking awesome football dinner?  Check. 
Getting football game to show on our tv? Check. 

Put one in the W column. 


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???