Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tara, Tara, Tara

I took the first step in what could be a big plung.

I made an offer on an apartment here in Copacabana. It's just an offer, no one has exchanged any money, yet, but I hope I'm able to get it.

The asking price was R$175.000. I countered at R$130.000 and she countered at R$163.000--"and don't even think of going lower", she warned. So I countered at R$150.000 (about US $84,000) and a 1/2 hour later the realtor called and said lets draw up some paperwork to make the offer official so the woman can present it to the condo board.

It's the day before new years eve, so pretty much the world is starting to shut down. The condo association is supposed to give me a response back by Saturday. But the realtor thinks they'll accept the offer.

So what exactly would I be buying?

Well to start, a TOTAL fixer-upper if you want to live in ANY place half-way decent. I'm thinking I'll need to put in another US $40-$60,000 to make it the place I'd wanna live in. BUT, once done it'll be a really cool 1 BR/LOFT style Penthouse apartment overlooking the city, the mountains (and some favelas), and a sliver of the beach through the tree lined streets. It will have an outdoor patio, with an outdoor shower, on the 12th floor, with a wall of glass sliding doors to give you access to the patio. Total square feet won't be huge...maybe 800-1,000 WITH the patio, but still, a nice apartment for a couple or single.

I think the resale value could be very attractive, and the price of real estate is bound to climb in this city with the Olympics coming up. It's only three blocks from the metro station, and six blocks from the beach--about a 10-15 minute walk.

The only challenge now is How/Where to get the money...but the wheels are in motion for that too.

Oh, and being that I'm leaving in 18 days...well, a lot would have to be negotiated and finalized...but hey, I could ALWAYS rent it as is...and wait to fix it up.

GETTING BETTER

Yes, the cold which turned into a chest infection IS getting better. I sense it day by day. Hopefully tomorrow, even better still.

I hear Jamie has been bed-ridden for a couple of days. Mine was NOTHING close to that...so I don't have nearly as far to go for recovery.

NEW YEARS CELEBRATION

The weather forecast for New Years Eve and New Years is RAIN, RAIN, RAIN...so that might put a damper on the expected 2 million people that will pack themselves onto the beach of Copacabana...but even with the rain, they are expected to come. As my roommate said, "oh yeah, I'll go...New Years is almost like a religious thing for Brasilians".

So I guess I'll be there, Rain or Moon-shine.

One thing of interest--according to the TV news, as of tomorrow, no one can take more than $100 reals from their ATMs each day until Sunday. Why? Well, and don't freak out about this cause I'm not the target audience here, the "bad guys" here in Rio have been kidnapping foreignors and asking for randsoms...you know, sending their friends to the ATMs to withdraw $1,000 or so in cash to pay them off. So limiting the amount one can withdraw in any given day to $50 "should" thwart that plan...hopefully. :)

Foreignors are being advised to walk with about $50 reals ($30 US), and only one credit card to take out more...the limit again is $100 reals per day.

Now, I think it's all been sensationalized and blown out of proportion...but that's what my roommates told me they heard on the news today.

:)

Ahh, HAPPY NEW YEAR!




Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Think I Fan, I Think I Fan

Cough, Cough, Sneeze, Blow...oh what a relief it is.

And thus is my life the past couple of days. I have FAITH that the antibiotics will work, but it's a five day regimen and at best I'm only on day two...actually, day 24 hours, but I've taken two pills to try and Jump Start the process.

Day three in the morning...we'll see. We'll see.

ISSE LEFT ME HANGING

Yep, she writes me an e-mail changing my portuguese class to 4 p.m. versus 2 p.m., and when I show up ON TIME, no one's home.

Hum...I wonder again if I have a portuguese professor. Does no one want to teach me portuguese?

Que Pena!

A PARTY EVERY NIGHT

Rio is in HIGH PARTY MODE. New Years is a huge thing down here...and then Carnival comes just six weeks later, so everyone is thinking HOLIDAY. There seems to be a party every night, events going on around the city, and huge structures being erected on the beach for the New Years show and fireworks.

Me, I'm not feeling ANY OF IT because of this stupid chest infection. And because I'm on antibiotics, I need to limit sun exposure, so yeah, I'd just as soon get to the fireworks show and get on with the new year.

Of course, I've never been a huge New Years Eve celebration guy. It seems like so much adu about NOTHING...more a chance to sell liquor and funky eyeglasses I think.

But this year I really want to see how Brasil/Rio celebrates it.

If I can just get my body to behave.

DRAMA IN THE HOUSE

Apparently, the two brasilian guys that are living here had a knock-out, drag-out discussion/fight yesterday and I'm wading through the aftermath of it today. I'm staying out of it as best I can..Out of sight, out of mind. Not my issue.

But the house does look different now that it's decorated with eggshells.

THE WINDS OF TIME

Last night's sleep, with my new and improved high-powered ceiling fan, went pretty OK...not great, but passable. I didn't sleep soundly, but didn't wake up in pools of sweat either, and although I woke up a bit early, was able to go back to sleep for an hour or so so I'm not complaining.

Here's hoping for a healthier, happier day tomorrow.

And an even better nights sleep tonight.

Go little fan-helper, GO!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Doctor..err...Pharmacist, Give Me the News


It's nice to play doctor.

So I've been coughing and blowing my nose for about a week now. And like every year, what I think is a mild mannered cold slowly persists and before I know it, I have a wheezing cough and a lung infection from all the sinus drippings going on back there. I finally break down, drag myself in to see a doctor and he prescribes antibiotics. After four or five days, WALLAH, all better.

Well, here in Rio, I don't have a family doctor to go see...and apparently, you don't need one. Anyone can play doctor.

Yep, I talked to a couple of friends and that's the case. One friend took me to a pharmacy and said I have a chest infection, can I get antibiotics. SURE she said, but what type...there a many types that treat different parts of the body. Hum, I didn't know the name, he didn't know the name, a quick call to his doctor friend resulted in a busy signal, so we couldn't get anything there.

But I know my chest and it's feeling heavy, so I thought I need to get this taken care of. So I talked to a couple more friends...and they seemed to be very knowledgeable. So, with names and doses in hand, I walked to my local pharmacy, said I needed this drug in this dose for this duration. NO PROBLEM. But when I explained my chest infection, he suggested I up the power factor and use another antibiotic instead--and another pill to help coat the stomach lining so it didn't react negatively. Starting tonight, I'm on a pretty powerful antibiotic and hopefully will be better in four or five days.

Fingers crossed.

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

I'm back in the A/C less apartment in Copacabana again--and just as the days get longer and warmer. Anyway, they did fix the overhead fan, and it seems to move the humid air around a lot more, which all helps, so I'm not complaining yet...well, a little, but not a lot.

COMMENCE COUNTDOWN SEQUENCE

I was thinking today...I have 18 more days of life south of the equator, then back up north, to the cold and work.

Again, a very unsettling feeling.

OK, enough...I read somewhere that blogs should be kept short or people won't read...mine might have been a little long.

Short is good.

Usually...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A White Christmas

Did you miss me? C'mon, you know you did.

So, unbeknowst to me until last Thursday, I had to head back to NYC to take care of some business stuff--including legal matters for the lawsuit which had to be submitted by January 4th. So rather than wait til after the new year, I just used my original return air ticket and went back.

But I didn't want my family to know, so I didn't tell them I was home...and writing on here would have given away too many clues, so I stopped writing.

SURPRISE, IT'S ME

Two days before Christmas, I walked into my home in Provo...to what I'd say was the delight of my Father and Mother. It's nice to know you're wanted and loved. And then two days latter, at the family Christmas party, I surprised everyone else.

It always works so well in the Hallmark commericals...military son, home on leave, surprises the family. Well, no music played at our heartstrings when I walked in, but I dare say they WERE surprised, and they WERE happy to see me.

Ahhhhhhhh

AND START ALL OVER AGAIN

But since I'd booked a trip to Argentina LEAVING from Rio, I had to return to Rio on Christmas day. And one little gift that the US gave me was a pretty intense cold. I managed it well while in NYC and Provo, but that flight down to Rio was a little rough. My sinuses fought against me the whole way, and in the end, they left the battle scare of a pretty good sinus headache.

I did however get three seats to myself on the flight, which helped. But because of the annoying headache, everything annoyed me. Like this girl four rows up that continually kept twirling and flipping a strand of hair. I know, minor, but it got to me. Finally I had to turn away from here...couldn't take the flipping, twirling, swishing of blond hair ONE MORE HOUR--yes hours...I think she did it the whole time she was awake on the 8 hour flight.

So now I'm here in Rio and it's HOT and MUGGY and I really like it. Coming from the snow and cold of NYC and Provo, it's refreshing to walk this evening along the beach, see the beautiful setting sun, the people tanned and tired heading back home from a day in the sun...and me with nothing to do but wile away the hours.

I just hope this cold goes quickly, cause I wouldn't want the last couple of weeks here in Rio to be tagged with a post nasal drip epilogue.

BRUTAL READING

I picked up a small book in the airport in Charlotte (one of my two lay-overs--Phoenix the other) called PUSH (soon to be released as the move Precious). It's about a young black girl cheated and abused by society and her family in many ways, in the 80's living in Harlem. It's a BRUTAL read, but actually a very insightful read. If you can make it through a story about one of the saddest childhoods imaginable, pick it up. So far, I recommend it and I'm 3/4 the way done.

IT'S NOT MY PARTY

Last night with two friends, I went to a dance club. I have to say, people seemed to be having a good time. But I might have to say my club days are about over. The music got old. The scene got old. And then I realized I was way too old for the music and scene. :)

Give me a beat you can dance to WITH WORDS, please.

The fact I had a cold and a slight headache still from the flight didn't help matters. But still, I was ready to go an hour or so after I arrived.

WHICH SHELL IS BRETT UNDER NOW

My paradise apartment ends tomorrow. (I missed out on a good week of it while in the US), and I return for the last days of the month to my other apt. Hopefully, the weather will hold up and it will cool down at night. If not...UGHH, I don't wanna think about it.

In the first days of the new year, a friend who'll go with me to Argentina said I can stay in his hotel room. (with A/C). Then off to Aregentina for 5 days and back here for six days--which right now, I don't have a place to stay...I need to work on that.

Anyway, it's a beautiful apartment I'm leaving...outdoor shower and all, which I love...and I'll miss it.

TOURISTS, TOURISTS EVERYWHERE

Because of the holidays, the area is packed with tourists.

I like my Brasil better when I'm the novelty act, not thousands of others vying for that spot.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Golden Contact

It's not good when things do go as planned.

This past week I'd planned to do some sight seeing, but one thing led to another, more work-related things than I expected, and then i realize it's the end of the week and I've yet to see some things I really want to see.

BUT, I will do them before I leave...I promise myself I will.

DOCTOR, DOCTOR, GIVE ME THE NEWS

So yesterday and I was speaking with this successful dermatologist. She'd studied medicine in South Carolina I think. Anyway, one thing led to another and it came out that I'd served a Mormon Mission in Brasil, etc. She then said, "oh, I've always wanted to be a Mormon". As a Missionary, that would have been GOLD TO MY EARS, you know the golden contact. But I laughed and said, "oh really, why's that?". She said that during her training, she'd encountered a training physician that was Mormon. He had a large family and they all seemed to happy and loving. I said, that my family upbringing had been a happy family life..with several kids and lots of love.

She said that some Jewish groups put a strong focus on family, but they seemed a bit cultish, but not the Mormons (wow...so far she was saying all the things a Missionary would be drooling over). She then said that she'd even thought of hiring a Nanny from Utah at one point to help her raise her kids.

I then said, "well, I'm sure they'd take you if you really want to be one." With that, the conversation ended...I guess the dream of being a Mormon was better than the reality. Although if anyone ever does knock on this woman's door, I'm sure she'd be open to it. I have her contact info, maybe I'll send some missionaries to that door.

BRAS-ODDITIES

1. SKINNY SIDEWALKS. For some reason, sidewalk planning has gone awry. Whether certain buildings have been given special clout or not, but it's a hit or miss on sidewalk walking. Some buildings are allowed to jut out, barely leaving enough room for one person to pass before stepping down into the street. Other areas, you could ride four horses side by side, and still have room for a fat woman. It's a bit challenging to navigate during rush hour...and I just hope one day they have the courage to force those buildings to give up their land and create a better walking access.

2. JAMMY CONDIMENTS. I may have brought this up before, but it's starting to gross me out. Their ketchup really looks and moves like a jam...versus a paste. It's rather gross to look at, but tastes the same. And in the end, Ketchup is pretty much all sugar, so I guess it's fitting that it mimics a jam.

Heading out...have a good day.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Funny Funny You

I missed a posting again.  It happens. The elderly misplace their keys, kids miss a tooth, women miss a period, I miss posting occasionally.  :)

SINGING WITH THE INSANE

Ok, she's not crazy, but sometimes she does some crazy things.  Thursday in Portuguese class, we're humming along, going over the present imperfect conjugations, and then my professor gets this idea that listening to a song would be fun.   Hey, it sounds like something I'd do if I were teaching--you know, break it up a bit--so after she recited the lyrics to me, and I had to write them down (testing my ability to write well), we moved into her elder daughter's bedroom (who still lives at home with her--very COMMON in Brasil.  She also rents out two other bedrooms to people--gotta make a living I guess), because the stereo system was there.  She put in a CD, handed me the lyrics sheet and we listened. It's actually a very beautiful duet by a man and woman.  Half way through, she started to sing along.  Sweet, right?  And then she got this hair-brained idea that it would be better if we both sang along.  LOL  

So the next time through, she and I were sitting together, reading from the same lyrics sheet, trying to sound relatively harmonious, while I tried to form the right sounds of each word and she tried to hit the right key.  I had a reminiscent moment of when Grandma Stevens and I would sit beside each other on Christmas Eve singing carols.

It was fun.  She makes me laugh at times.  I've decided I like her a lot.

THINGS I'LL MISS ABOUT BRASIL

1.  Nature all around.  Where else can you be in the middle of a Portuguese class, look out the window and see a family of six small monkeys climbing through the trees.    Or walking down a hallway, and there on a windowsill is a beautiful butterfly with a 6 inch wing span.  Just sunning himself.

2.  Meals by the Kilos.  You aren't so hungry, you don't pay so much.  You're famished, you pay a lot.  You only want meats and a taste of salad..it's yours.  It takes the buffet concept to another level.

3.  FAST buses.  Buses always pretend like they are in a race to get somewhere.  And generally with no thought to anyone on the bus.  You get on a bus and you have to go through a turnstill and pay a fare.  But once you step on the bus, the race resumes.  Off it jerks to a start and you have to hold on for dear life.  Not that hard for an able bodied young man or woman, but it's the same if you're an 80 year old woman on crutches--or a foreigner holding his stuffed portuguese book fumbling for cash and coins.  Hold on or fall down.  That's the policy.  THE GOOD THING IS they do move quickly through the city.  The same distance driven, if comparing a NYC bus versus a Rio bus,  the times would be:  NYC: 30 minutes, Rio: 10.   I'll take the 10 minute ride any day of the week.  And relatively cheap too.  NYC:  $2.25, Rio:  $1.50

SUE ME AND I'LL SUE YOU

I may have to go to NYC to prepare some stuff on the lawsuit--search for files, etc.  If so, that might happen quickly.  

And speaking of the lawsuit, nothing ever goes as planned.  Timing, costs, etc.  We are working towards finalizing damages and preparing documents.  We had to switch representation, because of the costs of our original attorneys.  Things look promising, based on some other things that have happened in other states/suits, but you never know.  You never know..and I can't plan my life around it.

If we do win the suit, and are compensated for damages, that will go a long way towards me meeting some financial goals that were taken away when DHL left the US.  If not, I'll have to figure out something else...at 50...it's not something I had planned on doing.

FUNNY CULTURE THINGS

Every culture has their funny things, but I experienced some Brasilian customs recently you might find interesting:

1.  An over turned sandal (shoe) is an indication that someone will die close to you.  Don't leave shoes overturned.

2.  When leaving someone's house, it's not appropriate to reach for the doorknob.  By doing so, it means you will never return to the house.

3.  If you leave someone without the double kiss, cheek-to-cheek, goodbye, it means you didn't like the visit and may never see them again.

4.  The OK sign we American's give all the time with our hand, is a MOST offensive sign...worse even than the middle finger left upturned.

OK, outta here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Here Comes Papai Noel

Well, another day, another dollar (or several). Without a job here, it's all money out the door. But I have been trying to live frugally--as best I can and still enjoy life.

Like I've proven you can go months without paying for a gym membership--tried out a new one today, ON THE HOUSE. Even got a private training session--FREE. AND, it was air conditioned.

DASHING THROUGH THE SAND

So to try and give the place some holiday cheer, in upper 80 degree heat, I stopped by a dollar-type store and bought four strings of lights and 10 christmas tree balls. I've now hung the balls from the chandelier in the dining area, and the twinkle lights are out on the terrace in the tropical plants...doing what they do well...TWINKLING. It's a little much for me, all that twinkling, but hey, for $1.50 a strand of 100...who's complaining.

Overall, it's not a lot, but hey, it will help Santa find his way. (Or as they call him here, Father Noel).

WHAT'S THAT PULLING ON MY LEG

I remember that story Dad used to tell about being out hunting with his brothers...and shooting a mountain lion, and chasing it, following it's blood trail. Then spotting it up a tree, climbs the tree and suddenly SOMETHING was grabbing his leg!

At that point, he'd end his story with a laugh, after he'd scared us all to death, with this line, "just like I'm pulling yours".

For some reason, as a little kid, I couldn't hear that story enough. I loved it. Every time he told it, I loved it.

Well today I was entering the ocean to do some body surfing (around 6 p.m....as the sun set), and as I got waist deep, something was pulling at my legs. And then they were pulled the other direction.

In this story, it wasn't a mountain lion, but I think it was a riptide...so I promptly exited. I've said this before, THOSE THINGS SCARE ME, so it didn't take long to exit to higher ground, without water around me, where no one was pulling my leg.

GIVE ME THAT AND THEN PAY ME

Tomorrow I have to change my flight back to NYC. If not, I'm on the flight Friday or lose it's value. Of course I'll have to pay some extra, but what you gonna do. The way the airlines work with money is just so irrational. Anyway, DON'T LET ME FORGET!

Ok, off to bed.

Choveu hoje a noite.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bread For Those Who Hunger




The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.

That's Portuguese for me. I do fine..I can get by...but far from fluent right now. And as I sit in my lessons and realize all the words and all the conjucations yet to learn, well, I better get CRACKIN'!

THAT AGNOSTIC TAUGHT ME A THING OR TWO ABOUT CHRIST--MAS

So again I kind of got some insights from my Portuguese Teacher. At the end of today's class, she was giving me some slang that people use, and one of them was Step-by-Step. I countered with the question, how do you say Line Upon Line...it's very common in the English vocabulary.

She'd never heard it. I said it was in the Bible. She's never read it. I said, WHAT, this is such a Catholic Country, how could you not have read even some part of it? She said her parents were Agnostic and so is she. In disbelief I said but you must have heard some lines from the Bible--especially during Christmas.

No, she's never read any part of the Bible. EVEN about Christmas--I couldn't let that go. Jokingly I said, well you're a SINNER then.

And then she enlightened me a bit.

She said she didn't know sin as most people do. She said that to her, seeing all the people go hungry, is the real sin. That we as a civilized society will allow the sin of hunger to still exist on the earth.

And then she said that Christmas is a very sad time for her. She sees all the happy faces, the merry making, the frivelous gifts being given to one another...and all these people are walking past the starving child on the street to get to their next party. THAT, she said, is a TRUE SIN if there is such a thing as SIN.

I'm not so sure Christ would disagree with this person that professes she doesn't believe in him.

As I left, she said that when her Father sat his family of seven children down for dinner, these are the words he offered before eating (in my humble translation from Portuguese to English):

"Give bread for those who hunger, and give charity to those that have bread."

It's a good thought. One to live one's life by.

THAT BRASIL-ILOGCAL CLOCK IS TICKING

I had a sinking feeling today. My original ticket was to leave Rio this Friday. 2 1/2 months have almost come and gone.

Even so, I'll be returning the first part of January. I'm not gonna get all melancoly about about it now, but I really am going to miss so many things about living here.

So many...

BACK TO SEEING THE SIGHTS

If the weather holds up...I'm gonna take in a couple of museums, maybe the Christ Statue, and some palaces tomorrow. One never knows. :) But I'm gonna make a day of it.

So pack the sunscreen and maps...I'm off.

BTW, tomorrow I try my second batch of beans...maybe even tonight. We'll see how this one goes...hopefully without burning--although I finished of the pot i made a couple of days ago yesteday and actually they weren't half bad.

Even tasty, if I MUST (and I MUST) say so myself.

I called them CAJUN BEANS...Mom, you should have done that.

Hey everybody, Mom's Making Cajun Toast again...and she LOVES eating it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm Late for a Very Important Date

Drama back at the old place...the oven without A/C.

Well, one of they guys got a boyfriend that pretty much never leaves the apt. They stay in their nice A/C'd room, so what did/do I care. But the other guy told me today that he overheard them making plans to move to another state and start a business there, which essentially could put the other roommate in a living situation bind.

I'm glad I'm out of there...I just go back occasionally to do some laundry, or pick up some clothes. BOTH really nice guys, but the house needed some work.

SPEAKING OF HOUSES

So I took Max, my British friend who's remodeled 17 apartments, to this MESS of an apartment to see if there could be any hope for remodeling it into something cool. He had to leave before I could pull him aside, but his last words of advice were this..."have you ever remodeled a place before? I responded in the negative. He said, "well you might not want to make this one your first...it's a LOT of work!"

:)

I'll get more scoop tomorrow, but I think it's gonna more on that theme. MOVE ON, as my NYC roommate always says...Just Move On!

BRASILIAN WAYS

One thing that does kind of annoy me is that they can't seem to keep an appointment of any kind. NOT everyone, and NOT everytime, but definite times don't exist here.

I had an appointment to go with my realtor, his boss, an architect, and my british friend to revisit this apartment. Over the past three days, we've exchanged several phone calls confirming...everything was always a go.

One hour before I am to show up, I get a call from the realtor..."um, we can't do it today. My boss has other appointments, etc. etc.." "We'll didn't he know this earlier?" He mumbled something in Portuguese I didn't understand. "Thiago, are you saying that the other appointments are more important than My appointment." (I thought that ought to get him). He answered very professionally..."if it were me only, yours would be the most important".

And with that, three days of planning, getting people there, were just OFF.

It wouldn't fly in the US, but here, people accept it as common place. I'm sometimes amazed they get anything done. But overall, business and the economy is thriving. So maybe everything doesn't have to be so rigid.

And don't get me wrong, they work long, hard hours. They stay late at work. They have a strong work ethic, just not a strong "appointment on time" ethic.

CHRISTMAS AROUND THE CORNER

I bought some Christmas gifts today. Now I just have to get them shipped there. I wish I knew a good shipping company--that wasn't running on fumes. :)




Sunday, December 13, 2009

Simple, No Nothing Day

Passed by a catholic church and witnessed a bit of mass. That in itself isn't that special, but the overall church was a bit interesting.

It's kind of a modern church, built withint two buildings. On the front steps, they have several statues of children, singing, reading, etc...I guess it's the church of some saint that loves and protects children.

I've passed by it before and always thought it bit creepy, but this time on the step landing, they have build a nativiy scene. Since it really doesn't feel like Christmas here, I thought taking a moment to look at that might be a good way to get more into the spirit of things...but not really. That didn't work. The nativity was rather tradtional, but whoever was in charge of decorations this year went too far...she threw in some little lawn variety statues...you konw the statue of the girl with basket gathering flowers. I didn't know she showed up at the manager. Or a little boy plahing a flute...looks like a roman child...hum...well, they had a drummer boy, why not a flutist. Sara Palan plays the flute...it could happen. Maybe she'll be in the scene by next week.

Needless to say, didn't get much feeling from all that.

WHERE'S MY MORTON SALT GIRL WHEN YOU NEED HER

It rained pretty much all day today. Hum...it's good, I'm nursing my sunburn anyway, so good to have to stay in doors.


And with that, gonna log off today. Sorry, a slow writing day, but really don't have that much to chat about.


Location, Location, Location


I thought yesterday when I went to the Favela (Slum) Gym, I'd reached the gamit of gym variations in this city, but today I experienced JUST ONE MORE.


There's a section that divides Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach...it's called Arpoador. It~s a rocky penninusla that actually is quite beautiful. See the picture. If you look closely, you see the part where to the two sandy beaches come together right before the rock that sticks out like a ship. well, there atop the rocks is my lastest gym find. (By the way, my new apartment is very close to this area).


On this beautiful rocky stretch of beach, they've built an every man's gym--sort of. The benches are concret slabs. The barbells are flower pots on each end with cement inside to give weight. There's pull-up bars, dip bars, bench press bars...etc. The best way to describe it is it's kind of like a Fred Flintstone gym set on the sea shore, in beautiful Rio, with the sun setting and fresh smells of trees and flowers and salt air as you watch the surfers and ships passing by.


Nice picture, right. Abba, Dabba, Do!


So, I tried it out, and as nice as the best gyms can be, this one seemed to do the part just as well. (I might have been overcompensating for the surroundings). There were some men there with great bodies, and I'm pretty sure they only use this little open air gym.


A lot to be said for less-is-more.


Got a good work out, and it was so beautiful...God's A/C, and the walls were bautifully painted with God's masterworks, (not that horrible green color at the one gym).
I'll go back, I'm sure.


PLEASE WAIT FOR ME ARGENTINA


So the British gentleman I'm renting from in Ipanema (Max) and my American friend doing the New Years Celebration here (Mark)--we've all decided to take 4 or 5 days and go visit Buenos Aires the first week in January. I'm excited to go do that. Should be interesting. I've never been there and have always wanted to visit. They say it's got an European flare with a Spanish Accent. We'll see how right THEY are.


More on this to come.


DANCING QUEEN


Last night I went to a big dance club called The Week, International. It's located near the downtown area, in not the best neighborhood--they never are. It's a big club, big dance floor, big price tag to get int ($30) etc. However, the music was thistechno, tribal beating, pulsing bass, laser lights, etc. etc. that I think you have to be drunk or drugged up to like--I've never liked that kind of music, much less at 2 in the morning. So I have to give a big thumbs down on the music, but the space was really cool and clean.


SLASH AND BURN


Stupid me...I went to the beach yesterday with sunscreen. But thinking I'd be OK under a umbrella, I was there for like two hours, and at MAX only out in the sun for 30-40 minutes.


But that did it. Plus, I think the sun relfects of the sand (which is really just glass), and i burned my face for the first time since I've been here. I ususally get my shoulders and back, but no, this time I'm looking like a drunk Irishman.








Friday, December 11, 2009

Mansions in Heaven



You heard me say I've been on a mission to find all the free visit gyms in this city, right? Well, I've not exhausted them, but I've been to a lot. So far I've only paid for two weeks, and I've been here over two months.

Well, today, I resorted to the GHETTO GYM...it's up in the hills in the 'favelas'. I thought it would be interesting--living on the edge. You know the American tourist tasting a bit of the local "danger" culture.

It was GROSS...I think every machine hadn't been cleaned in YEARS...it just felt like there were years of sweat and grime on EVERYTHING. I couldn't wait to get home and wash my hands. (I tried to do it in the bathroom, but it had about an inch of water on the floor--not sure where that came from-- I didn't WANNA know.)

The good side of the gym is the owner of the gym is a woman that won three national championships in body building several years back. She performed as a blond (the pics are plastered around the gym (they looked grimy too), but now has lost the muscle, gained some normal curves, and has black hair. But very sweet. This gym is her livelihood. I hope she makes enough to do whatever she wants.

I'm guessing she's skimping on costs by not CLEANING the thing.

MANSIONS ON THE HILLS

Really, one big issue with Rio is the favelas are everywhere NORMAL construction couldn't go. So they have literally build these small ramshackle homes on the hillsides--on rocks. It's a problem because slowly they keep creeping up on all the natural beauty that Rio is known for.

But by so doing, they must have GORGEOUS views of the city and the breach/oceans. Quite a paradox, right? Peace and Quiet for Wealth and Security.

Up in the favela is actually very peaceful. Because most don't have cars, plus the streets are so sidewinding and narrow going up, well, not much traffic. The sounds of the city are very distant and really not heard. Walking home, at dusk, I heard crickets, birds, and little else. Very peaceful.

ALICE I AINT

Well, I did my first batch of rice and beans today. I think they both would have been VERY GOOD, if I'd cooked them correctly, but as it turned out, I think I cinged the beans (nice way to say I burned the bottom--letting the water boil out while not attending it), and the rice was a bit undercooked. But I'll get better at it.

The problem is, I made a BIG pot of beans...enough to last me for a full week. They aren't horrible, but they could be better...I'll keep trying--and keep eating.

Lesson #1. When making a new recipe, never make more than one serving--that can be thrown out if you have to start over.

RAIN RAIN GO AWAY

And it did. The sun made a strong showing today, and I did too on the beach for an hour. But because of the hard rains, the beaches were lined with signs warning of riptides, and I could feel it when in the water. Most everyone staid out of the water, or in shallow areas. Me included.

Those things scare me. I was sucked out once while in Taiwan...I really thought I was going to die...you know, life passing before me eyes type stuff, and then just as soon as I was going out, suddenly, i felt my feet land on a sand bar, and I was ok.

But it scared the begeebers out of me. (I also thought I would drown in Mexico once, but that's another story--not a riptide story). I've been catious of them every since.

A guy died last week on Ipanema Beach because of a riptide, so you (read I) need to be careful.



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rainy Night in Rio


Little by little you get a glimpse of what is supposed to be. I'm talking about a new language. Today in my class, Nila mentioned that you don't say this, you say that. You move you mouth like this, not like that. You keep that sound in the back of your mouth, not pressing against your lips. And when she says it, it all sounds so RIGHT. When I try it, it all sounds so wrong...but with practice, it gets better and now when I hear the sounds, I see what she's talking about.

Anyway, it's that old principle, "line upon line, dipthong upon accents". You've all heard it.

Class went well. She was prepared for me, with teeth IN, and the fan in place. I actually think she's pretty good. And she insisted on a two kisses goodbye--if not she said, it means that you may never return.

So she got her two cheek kiss.

LEAVE YOUR WORK IN THE USA

Well, easier said than done. Today I had about three hours of conference calls and work that had to get done.

With the lawsuit, and selecting lawyers, and all that other fun stuff, well, we're right in the thick of making some decisions that will affect us short term and long term, so it moved to the top priority. Not that there was much else going on...IT RAINED CATS AND DOGS here today. And as I write this at 11 p.m. it's slowed a bit, but the rain is expected for another couple of days.

I didn't think this was supposed to be their rainy season, but hey, what do I know. :)

MOVE THAT WALL, RAISE THAT FLOOR...AND START ALL OVER AGAIN

So today I looked at a roof top apartment that really WAS the rooftop. It's one of those hodge-podge add on things..."I think we could make an apartment up here on the roof", but this thing was a MESS. Walls going no where. Floors raised up 2 feet for a room, slanted ceilings, etc. etc.

BUT, the good news is that is has a large terrace, which is a sought after comodity...and slight view of the ocean, and a good view of the huge rocks around Rio (with accompanying slums), and all that other good stuff.

SO, since it doesn't cost anything, I asked the realtor to contact an architect and have them come by and tell me what walls have to stay, which can go, etc. etc.

I'm thinking maybe a LOFT type apt on the top of the building...we'll see if he agrees. I really think it's impossible, but hey, WHO knows.

As Dad always said, at the right price, anything is a good deal.

THINGS I"LL MISS ABOUT BRASIL

1. The rain. When it rains, it REALLY rains. But the good thing is it cleans everything off. I always love rain for that reason. I remember the smell of rain on the farm...LOVED that smell, and the fresh color it gave to EVERYTHING GREEN. (Which if you know our farm, GREEN was a sought after commodity).

2. Nice people. They really are nice people. Today I sat on the bus next to a guy and within a couple of minutes he was telling me about studying Spanish, and working on Royal Carribean, etc. The check out lady at the super market couldn't be helpful enough...Here you weigh each fruit item at the produce section, and they put a sticker on it there. You then check out and they just ring up the price. Well I forgot to do this on my two bananas, and when I got to check out--you'd have thought the whole store was coming to my rescue. NICE PEOPLE.

A TRUE ACCOMPLISHMENT

And I was actually proud of myself today. A couple of days ago I splurged and bought a PINT of Haagan Daz, Dolce de Leite Ice Cream...it cost about $10...so it really was a splurge.

I was all excited to try it out and when I peeled back the lid, and took my first bite, I realized that the ice cream had melted, and then refroze leaving it crystalized. I HATE THAT!!!! It's worse than a mealy peach. Or a bruised banana. Yuck!

So using my best bravado, when at the grocery store, and trying to use my best remembrances of Portuguese, I tried to explain melt, froze, crystalized, soft, pint, etc. etc. Words I don't usually use or even KNOW.

The good news is she got it the first time--without giving me dumb stare, or looking to a co-worker in a state of panic, like a new father might do if he feels his new baby wetting his diaper!

I felt pretty good about myself.

Thanks NILA. I've really sunk mine and your teeth into learning this language and it's paying off--I can return the ice cream for a new pint.

YEAH.



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Second Chance

It rained all day...I'm asking Mother Nature for a refund on the day. Brasilians are very much into red-tape, so maybe I'll have them fill out the paperwork for me. First, paying more for a room with an A/C that the past couple of days I don't need...AND what's up with Rio without the sun.

A refund I say...REFUND.

I'LL BE SOMEWHERE FOR CHRISTMAS

A couple of you have asked when I'm coming home for Christmas, or where I'll be spending it. I've avoided answering that question, because I really don't know yet.

I may extend my exit from Brasil until the first week of January...making my stay a full three months. It would be great to see the New Years Celebration on Copacabana Beach--I guess it's a sight to behold. PLUS, I've made a friend of one of the guys in charge of putting that celebration on...so I might have some good seats for the fireworks.

Or I maybe decide to spend a week or so in Buenos Aires, Agentina. If I do that, it would be the first week in January...which would require that I spend Christmas here in Rio.

And then there's always my original plan...return on the 18th and be home in Utah for a white Christmas.

At this point, I'm leaning on extending through the New Year, visiting Buenos Aires, and then returning back to New York...and my life.

I'll keep you posted.

SECOND TRY AT LIFE

Why'd I make that title of my blog. Hum, well today I was thinking about that. Did I come to Brasil to find myself. Nah...I think I found myself many, many years ago. Did I hope to explore a unique part of my life that I hadn't done in the US. Again, no. So why? Why think THAT heading fit my life here in Brasil.

In short...I think it's because I kind of am at a crossroads in my life. My career...the demise of my NYC business, and watching that all unfold now in the courts, and dwindling bank accounts. But as much as I hate to admit it, I think I'm kind of experiencing a Mid-Life Awareness (not a Crisis, because I don't feel that way about it). But yeah, I'm 50 years old. Who'd have thought? Who'd have thought?

This morning I think I found a gray hair on my stomach. I've had gray hair on my head now for a couple of years, although this past year, it's becoming much more prevalent. But so far only a few on my chest--I pluck them. Now my stomach...what's next? You know it goes downhill...I don't think I'm ready to find one in my nether regions. :) Help me no, not there. Ha Ha.

But aside from some grey hair, a thinning spot on my crown, and some wrinkles in all the expected places, I'd have to say I'm holding up pretty well. And I don't feel the effects of age that much. (aside from aches and creaks early in the morning). I never understood why older people stood up so slowly, but NOW I understand. And tying your shoelaces early in the morning is almost impossible.

I have started to think more about my downhill years than ever before--my career has a part to do with that, but also the fact that I might have to face those years alone. Not ALONE--I always have my family--but alone...without family, spouse, or loved one(s). I still hold out hope/expectations that will change, but yeah, if there's one thing that makes me feel a bit melancholy, that's it.

So Second Try at Life...well, it was kind of a misnomer...it should have been My Try at accepting my Second Half of Life.


And with that, off to bed. Night. Soul searching can be wrentching work. ;)

Choveu ontem a noite.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Can Really Sink My Teeth Into that.

It was a rainy day here in Rio. And it looks to be a rainy next several days....WHAT, this isn't supposed to happen. Not on my last couple of weeks in Brasil.

But what you gonna do, right?

TEACH ME TO TALK

So I went to my first lesson with Isabella, or as she likes to be called, NISA. I was freeting it all day long, because she made a big stink about not forgetting and standing her up when we first met. So right at 2 p.m., I show up at here door. I ring. I ring again. I ring AGAIN. I hear a, "who's there". Me, I say. Then the door opens slowly, she peaks her nightgowned head through the crack. "oh, you...". Yes, I say, we have our lessons today, right? "Well, you didn't respond to my e-mail saying we should schedule a time." But, I say, we confirmed last week that I would be here now, taking the space of the Danish girl that return to Denmark. "Oh, yes...right. Well let me go put in my TEETH", and off she went to her bedroom.

I'm thinking, what have I gotten myself into.

But actually, I left with some good tools, some good insights into pronunciation, and some homework...so right now I'm happy.

THE AMERICAN DREAM IN RIO

So, I got a burr up my "horses patoot" recently, thinking I should maybe buy some property here. So today, my realtor Friend, Thiago, showed me a place...the first I've seen.

It's about $282,000 and has a view of the Christ and it's got a roof top terrace. Very nice, in that regard. But it also need some work...probably another $50,000 to fix it up. BUT THE KICKER is that there is no lobby. You have to enter through the garage. CRAZY right. For this reason this apartment has sat on the market for over 3 months...and will sit longer.

Anyway, still looking and will see another tomorrow.

HOMESICK FOR BRASIL ALREADY

Today I got a sinking feeling that I'll be leaving here shrortly. I'm not gonna dwell on this now, but it makes me a bit sad...

More on this latter.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Enough Already...I'm Tired

I'm gonna make this entry short. It's lake, and to be honest, nothing much of "interest" happened today.

Do you mind? Will you hate me? Will you leave me? Will you find some other blog that is more fresh, more tantilizing, more in the "know"?

Well, trust me, they are out there.

UPDATES

1. First Portuguese lesson tomorrow--boy, do I need it, even though at this point I can pretty much stumble my way through and out of any situation.

2. I need a haircut...it's not long, but the humidity makes it puffy--I hate that. One thing that does work well with my hair is the ocean...I find that if I swim in the ocean for a day or more without shampooing, it does wonders for making my hair more "asian-esque" if you know what I mean...More brittle, less soft.

3. Looking at the possibility of buying an apartment for an investment here in Rio. If anyone is interested in putting down some money in a booming real estate market...and should only get better with Brasil expected to be a world economy moving forward, um, let me know.

Off to bed.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Obama vs Three Strippers

So the flight back to Rio was pretty uneventful, EXCEPT that I got a whole row to myself on the plane...THAT never happens. So all is good.

I made it back into the city around 6:30 p.m. and as I transfered from my bus to the subway on my last leg to the apartment, I noticed LARGE crowds of people around street side cafes watching a soccer match. Apparently it was for the Brasilian title, and in the end, the Flamingos won. When that happened, pandemonium took place in the stadium AND the streets...Brasilians do love their soccer. No doubt.

OBAMA vs DAVID LETTERMAN

As I was riding up the elevator to my new apt, this older woman got in and commented on the game. By my response, she picked up that I am a foreignor, and asked what country I was from. American, I said. She then went into a tirade about the joke David Letterman had made about Brasil getting the Olympics and Chicago losing because Brasil had sent three strippers and Chicago sent Obama & Oprah. Ha Ha. Well this woman found that very UNFUNNY, and said she would never watch his show again (he comes on here at 8 a.m. each morning), and she thought it was very bad of America to do that.

Um, I guess it doesn't matter what Obama does, Letterman's gonna screw it up.

Off to bed.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

And a Partride in a Pear Tree




Today really was kind of a lazy day of summer. Summer because it was HOT, and lazy becuase I didn´t accomplish that much.




I woke up around 8:30, went down for a second effort on that really good breakfast, and then headed over to the hotel´s designated gym. It´s about a 10 minute walk away, and actually a nice Air Conditioned gym. I was working out and began talking with the lead trainor, Hector (or it could be Edgar, I´m not really sure). He spoke some portuguese with his Spanish, and we were doing pretty well communicating. He mentioned that he´d been a professional body builder...still is...and that he knew where I could buy some neutracutical supplements rather inexpensively, so we hopped on his motorbike, and weaving through the traffic made our way to a very ¨hole in the wall¨ shop. And yes, they were cheaper. MUCH cheaper. So I bought some...now I just have to lug them back to Brasil on the city buses (see yesterday´s post) to the airport. Again, anything for a bargain.




I told him i wanted to gain some muscle weight, so he wrote a three page plan of what I should eat to gain muscle mass...so nice of him, really. All without communicating very well. Now I just have to find a spanish dictionary to translate his suggested menu. Ha Ha.




I WENT TO PARAQUAY AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY SUNBURN




The hotel here has a pretty nice pool...but because of special events, etc., I´ve not been able to use it. But this afternoon I did, and thinking I wouldn´t be there long, I didn´t apply much sunscreen...mistake #1. Mistake # 2 was thinking the sun here wasn´t as strong as Rio. Mistake #3...well, that will be thinking I can sleep peacefully with this sunburn on my shoulders and back.




LIFE IN THE PARAQUAIN SUBURBS




So my friend Oskar that works at the hotel, invited me out to see his house tonight. And what a big house it is. Complete with two dogs, two turtles, a monkey, two parrots, a pond that used to hold two crocodiles (he swears by that story'--til the neighbor came over, killed and ate them), and a lots of mosquitos (that came over and started eating me).




And the area he lives is so quiet. You drive down a rock paved road...pretty cool, and come upon what apparently is a little subdivision consisting of German families. It really was a peaceful place out of the hustle-bustle of downtown City of the East, Paraquay.




WATCH OUT BELLAGIO




Oskur then took me to Itaipu (see the pictures) for their weekend light show. On the weekends, they don´t illuminate the damn until they bus in about 500 people to watch the Lighting of the Damn Show.




I will say this, the music was loud and very powerful. And the damn itself is VERY impressive in it´s size--the largest output of hydroelectric power in the world. Even larger than the Three Gorges Damn yet to be completed in China.




But someone should have taken a tutorial from Disney or the Bellagio when it comes to light and water. It was nice, but too short, and not that creative--especially since the bus and watiting took us about 1 1/2 hours and the show itself lasted no more than 5 minutes preceeded by a 7 minute slide show of the damn construction.




BUT, something to see ONCE in a lifetime IF you happen to be in the part of the world.






And now I´m back in the hotel, for my last night...STARVING, and about to devour a salad from the restaurant that has gotten RAVE revues from the staff.




We´ll see. We´ll see.




Oh it just arrived...and it DOES look tasty.




Friday, December 4, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere





BEAUTIFUL AND MAJESTIC and AWE-INSPIRING...but enough about me (I mean the FAlls), I'll come back to that.

First let me fill you in on my day long excursion to get to there.

PENNY SAVED IS A DOLLAR HEADACHE

I woke up this morning after a good nights sleep in my $70 a night hotel (apparently the nicest hotel in the city (the vice-president of Paraguay is about to stay here tonight). I went downstairs to a VERY TASTY and FILLING buffet. And who should be there at a table near me...Elders Callan and Peterson and their wives. (I'm guessing regional rep and maybe a counselor, not sure). The first missionaries I've seen and they happen to be relatively big ones.

We didn't speak, they were pretty engrossed in their scrambled eggs and melons, but it did bring back memories.

So rather than fork out $100 for a taxi to the falls and back, I thought, I can do this with local buses...it will be an adventure.

That was an understatement.

I started out with a taxi ride to the local bus station here in The Eastern City, Paraguay. $15. From there, I took a bus that basically sat in a line to cross the bridge for over an hour. $1.50 While waiting for that bus to move, I asked if I could get off and look around, do some street vender shopping, and catch him further down the line. I knew I had about 45 minutes I could burn before he made it to the bridge, so that's what I did.

You know those street scenes of vendors selling everything and anything and NOTHING you want, well that was my case today. After winding through what this man found as TRASH, I found myself 30 minutes into it and all the way down the river. Trying my luck further, I thought, "why not get the border guard to stamp my visa?", so I could re-enter into Brasil with another 90 day visa.

Well, that was the plan...I'm lucky I still have my passport.

The guy at the window was basically a JERK. You can always spot them when you politely ask, "do you speak English?", and they snarl back with, "do you speak Spanish?". It wasn't pretty much downhill from there.

In the end, he agreed to stamp my visa but for a little bribe--$7o. Which later came down to $50 and then $30. I finally countered with $20, and he held firm--$30. Well, I did two, and luckily was able to grab my visa back before he held it hostage, and left. And lucky for me, just as my bus was approaching me and the bridge. I hope on and within a couple of minutes was back in Brasil. (It's a friendly border zone, so no visas needed as long as you stay within I think 30 KM from the border).

So far, I'm just up to $16.50.

Well, i think I misunderstood my directions, but was able to relay what I thought I wanted to the driver...45 minutes later I was at the Iguazu Falls Bus Terminal, only to find out I didn't want to go there...I wanted to go to the Central Bus Terminal OF Iguazu Falls, which would have cut 30 minutes off my commute.

I had to catch another bus back to the Central Bus Terminal ($1.50) and finally a bus that took me out to the Falls themselves. $1.50

Total travel time, about 3 hours. Total travel time back, About 1 1/2 hours...and another $4.50, so all together, my travel cost was $24 versus the $100 I would have used with the Taxi. And actually, figuring out the buses, and even taking a VERY LOCAL one on my last leg here (wow, that was an experience--riding in a 1940's style bus, jam packed, and me not sure where to get off, how to pay, or how to ask either in spanish.

But I made it.

IF THERE IS A GOD

Yes, if there is a God, he would have made the Falls of Iguazu. They are simply spectacular. Take Niagra falls and multiply their size and power, and scope and beauty by 10 fold. I took some pictures and will post here...but they really don't do it justice...you HAVE to see them in person. Or again, rent the film THE MISSION.

I'm SO glad I made it here...and witnessed their majesty myself. You know, about 32 years ago I almost made it here. When me and my MTC group, now in Brasil, were leaving the country after six months to renew our visas, Brasil decided they wouldn't play that game anymore with the church, and wouldn't renew them. So for a month we pretty much had a Mission vacation. We couldn't work here, because we didn't speak Spanish, and the Mission here didn't want us in their hair. So we site-saw and saw a lot of movies.

But what we wanted to do was come down from Assuncion and see the falls...and we probably could have but the Church was nervous about us crossing into Argentina...so close and yet so far away.

The Brasilians have done a good job of the site. There are some trails that actually take you out ONTO the water, where you can feel the spray and the power of the water cascading down near you, past you, and down more balls behind.

But one of the more beautiful things is that as you leave that spot, and look back, a perfect rainbow follows your every step and as move past the fall. It was very pretty.

I thought Brasil really has been my lucky pot...I found it here in Brasil this year.


Border Patrols




It's HOT here!

The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane (yes, off the plane onto the tarmac), is HEAT! Apparently, it rains about every day in the late afternoon, and the humidity is generally VERY HIGH. But (and Mom, you'll love this), EVERYTHING is so green. Everywhere you look there is fresh grass growing. It's lush and beautiful.

But again, I warn you, HOT!

My internet friend, Oskar (from Germany, but living in Paraguay for almost 17 years), and his driver picked me up at the airport and wisked me off to this rather nice hotel on the outskirts of the only country club in this part of Paraquay.

To explain a bit, the falls border Argentina and Brasil, the airport is located in Brasil, but his hotel is across the Bridge of Friendship (ironic since Brasil and Paraguay are always fighting about something...they've actually had some pretty bloody wars) in Paraquay, so here we came. (He works here and got me a good deal on a hotel room). Well, you know me and a good deal...how could I refuse. Plus he's a very nice guy and I'm happy to finally meet my internet pal.

Tonight after a short couple hours break, he walked me into the country club to the club area itself and we had a pizza that I must say was GREAT!

The homes around this very exclusive club are BIG, and relatively cheap. Rob, your home here might sell for $500,000, on the golf course, in a gated community. So yeah, pretty inexpensive--relatively speaking. That's the upside. The downside, you're in Paraquay...a VERY developing country. But developing countries always have their perks. Meaning you could have your home at that price, all the maid service, driver, etc. you wanted, and still have cash left over for about anything you wanted.

For example, my friend says that the country club is SO special, that even the police can't enter if not given permission. In other words, it could harbor terrorist, etc., and the police force is powerless to apprehend. Interesting, right?

If they are living there, they all have nice lawns and big homes.

YOU PAID WHAT FOR THAT

Tonight I had to buy some toothpaste, so we stopped off at the local grocery store. My small tube of paste and a Twix bar came to about $15,000 quaranies, or about $1.20 (lol). Supposedly they plan to drop the 0000000's in two years...thinking it will take that long to educate the population about the new valuation. But those high numbers...talk about sticker shock.

SHORT CHANGED ON THE VISA

Speaking of shock, while I was waiting for dinner, I actually took a FIRST look at my Brasilian Visa in my passport. What I thought was a 180 day visa, is actually just a 90 day visa, so I guess I would have to be home and out of the country by the 10th of January. Of course, being that I'm in Paraguay right now, I have left the country so I could get another visa if I wanted to...hum, I'll think over that tonight.

Ok, off to bed...tomorrow I get to figure out how to take the local buses to the Falls, and avoid a $100 taxi charge. TRUST ME, I'll figure that one out. It's kind of an adventure/challenge I'm looking forward to.

Night.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Technology at Times HATES me

First off, I leave tomorrow for the Falls of Iguazu. Now for any of you that don't know about the falls, I strongly recommend you rent (this week) the film THE MISSION. First off, it's an EXCELLENT film, but secondly, it has many scenes shot at the falls. So rent it and get a glimpse of just how majestic and beautiful they really are.

ATE IT ALL UP

Yesterday I went to a HSBC ATM to get some money to pay rent. I requested R$ 800 Reals. ( see the brasilian currency to the left). The ATM gave me a receipt saying it gave me R$ 800, but the machine only gave me R$ 360. I immediately called over a secrutiy guard at the metro station (where I took out the money from the ATM), and said "look what this did...will you be my witness", and he just walked away from me. LOL

I called up HSBC and they said I have to take it up with my Bank (CHASE), so so far I've gotten a pretty good run-around, and I'm not sure how it will be resolved. But I will keep you posted.

A LITTLE TIFF

So I told my roommates that I would be moving out of the apartment at the end of the month, and as expected, one of them said nothing and the other went ballistic. It all rests on the fact that when I moved here, I bought a bed, and that bed was agreed to go against the cost of the last months rent (at a depreciated rate). Well, now that I'm leaving, that didn't go over very well. Thankfully I put it in an e-mail a month ago...so he can rant and rave, but it's all there as to what we agreed.

But I'm sure I haven't heard the end of it.

THINGS I'LL MISS

As I was walking home along Copacabana Beach tonight at sundown, I began thinking that all this will come to an end sooner than later...and i began to think of things I'll really miss. So as I think of them, I'll list them.

1. The sunset/twilight hour on the beach. People come to the beach at this time to work out, run the beach, stroll and unwind, or even for soccer/volleyball camps...lots of little kids learning to play soccer. It's a nice peaceful time.

2. Juice stands on every corner. It's very refreshing to be able to have a fresh fruit drink at any time of the day or night for only $2.00

SLEEPING WITH "CHILLED" ANGELS.

Last night I slept with the A/C on...need I say more.

But I will say that the auto thermostate on the A/C is in Centrigrades, so I set it at 32...which is too hot, apparently. I woke up in a sweat and quickly lowered it to 25...ahh, refreshing.

Plus this new house has an outdoor shower. I LOVE outdoor showers. If I ever build a house, I'm doing one for sure. It's so great to have the sun beat down on you as you wash the dirtiness of the world away.

Try it...everyone make a HOME DEPOT run tonight! :)


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Now That's a Brief, Santa



Sometimes you just have to wait for things to happen on their own timeframe.

Today, I THINK i finally found a Portuguese tutor. She responded to my ad a week ago, and today I met her. At first sight, well, she seems a bit scattered and frazzled. And that she may be. But after spending an hour with here, and looking at some things she can--and will--do to help me perfect my language skills, we agreed to TWO sessions per week of 1 1/2 hours each. And only $23 per session.

I start next Tuesday. So better late than never.

HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS

Finally, after seeing Santa dressed in full fur coat, belt, etc. in most stores around the city, I came across a Santa that better fits the southern climate. Take a look. Now THAT is how Santa should be dressed here in Rio. And he's parked right in front of my supermarket.

SPEAKING OF GEOGRAPHIC DIFFERENCES

As my professor of Portuguese was going through some stuff, I don't know how it came up, but we got around to me living n Rio. She took a look at me and her assessment was that from the waist up to the neck, I looked Brasilian (I had on a simple tshirt). Then she said, from the waist down, you're very American, pointing out that i was wearing shorts with a madres pattern--apparently, they don't do Madres down here. And the shorts were kind of baggy, which they also don't go for. Then to my gym shoes and socks...again a dead giveaway she thought.

I had to laugh. As did she, but then she followed up with something very wise. She pointed out that dress patterns were all very regional, not right or wrong. To drive down here point, she pointed out the swim wear here in Brasil. For women, it's barely dental floss in the back and a bikini top. For the men, the small brief style bathing suits. She then said, but it's not a sign of immodesty. It's just that brasilians appreciate a beautiful body and a nice butt. :)

To make her point, she pointed out that in Europe, the women go topless...but here, that is COMPLETELY taboo! No one goes topless...NEVER. Yet in Europe, going topless is no more "sexy" or "immodest" than the brasilian woman wearing a very skimpy swimsuit.

And I have to say she's probably right. To a muslim nation, looking at the young girls in full piece bathing suits at a YMYW ward swim activity would be completely scandelous...Immodest, and a shere portrayal of a promiscuous young woman--one that doesn't adhere to God's rules of modesty. Yet, most Mormons would see the one piece suit as completely modest and appropriate.

So...the next time you see someone from another nation (or neighborhood) wearing certain things, take into mind that it's all regional...and may have nothing to do with modesty, religion, or self worth.

SLEEPING IN A STRANGER'S BED

Well, that stranger is my new apartment. And tonight is the first night in it...WITH a A/C. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Green Acres




Back from the farm.

And what a trip it was....amazing. Sunday Afternoon, I boarded a bus at the central bus station here in Rio. From there, it was about a 2 hour trip up to Max's farm outside of Teresopolis...a town dedicated to one of the once reinging monarchs family of Brasil. Another neighboring city is Petropolis, where the King ruled during the HOT summer months--escaping the heat of Rio. (Smart Man).

I'm not sure of the elevation, but it's up there in the clouds. The sleeping temperature is perfect. It's quiet, green, VERY GREEN, and just a nice break away from the hustle/bustle of Rio.

On the way up, we passed what is known as the DEDO DE DEUS (Finger of God) and from the picture, you can tell why it's called this. It really does look like a hand and finger pointing upward. The remains of the ice age, it's a beautiful site just outside the city.

Teresopolis really is a mess of a city--very unplanned, and not so attractive. But outside the city is where it becomes more jungle and VERY green.

Needless to say, I loved my night away in the mountains on a brasilian farm thanks to the hospitality of Max.

A NEW LEASE ON LIFE

I've got to give my notice to the other apartment...given the uncertainty with the lawsuit and other things and not sure exactly when I'll be leaving. I have found another apartment in Ipanema with a share that has A/C and will allow me to catch some respite from the heat of December. More on this later.

LOOKING FORWARD

I leave Thursday for my trip to the Foz de Iguzu....and I can't wait. I'm very excited about this.

The countdown starts today...three more days.

And counting...

1...2...3..


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Four-to-Five Deep



I'm a little early today because in a couple of hours I'll take an hour and 1/2 bus ride up to Max' farm. He's British, nice guy. And needs someone to drive his Jeep back into the city...so I volunteered.

I thought I'd write this now and not have to worry about lugging the laptop with me on the bus.

EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE

Disney really is amazing.

I was walking down the street this morning, looking for something to eat when I looked towards the beach area and saw a line of people, and then heard a roar go up from the crowd. Instantly, I thought..A PARADE, so I decided to go check it out.

Come to find out, Disney had organized, and I'm sure paid a pretty penny, to have a parade down Copacabana. Not quite as spectacular as the Disney Parade that winds through DisneyLand, it still did a pretty good job of spotlighting all the Disney characters, Sleeping Beauty and her castle, etc.

The songs were all translated into Portuguese, and the skin tone of most of the characters was a bit darker, but where natural hair color didn't match the image, wigs too it's place.

And what a marketing machine Disney is. I was amazed at how international all those characters are. Children were lining up, sitting atop shoulders, just to catch a glimpse of Mecke Mos (as they pronounce his name). One little girl was sobbing as Mickey's float passed by, she was so overcome with joy. Shortly thereafter, an ambulance pulled up to take another little boy and his mother away...not sure why...but I doubt it was because Pulto was too much for him.

FEEDING FRENZY

From there I walked past one of the Street Fairs (I mentioned that daily these street fairs travel to different locations...selling all kinds of produce, meats, flowers, fruits, etc.), looking for some lunch.

I stopped at a little PASTEL stand. It's a deep fat friend pastry, filled with meat, or cheese, or shrimp, or chicken...AND VERY GOOD. And served with it is a freshly squeeze sugar can, quickly chilled over ice and served fresh. DELICIOUS. But because the parade had just ended, there was a mob around this square stand two/three/four deep. And they were hungry!

It reminded me of the KOI (not sure how to spell that) fish ponds where tourists throw bread at the fish to see them swarm all over each other.

There were four men inside trying to fulfill orders, but really, the jockying for position, andyelling for this or that...I'm amazed they were able to keep anything straight.

The biggest surprise is that they don't take your money until you're finished and ready to leave, but they also don't pay particular attention to any one customer. Different men filling different aspects of your order. It's done entirely on the HONOR SYSTEM. Pretty impressive. But it seemed to work. I'm sure maybe someone made off with the free drink and a pastel, but I'm guessing the majority of the people were honest and paid for what they ate.

Because in the end, I think the VAST MAJORITY of people are honest and want to do what's right--pay for what they consume.

And good-hearted. I see more giving to the poor/invalid/street people here than in the US. Probably because in the US, we think there is a social program we're already paying for that is taking care of those people. That isn't the case here...those social programs don't exist, so I think people reach out more to help.

I was walking into a grocery store the other night and sitting right by the door was a begger...he looked skinny, but not sick.

Just as I was about to pass him, a man and his little daughter exited the store, saw the Man and said, "What, you still here. Come on, I'll go buy you some food. C'mon!" So a bit reluctantly, the begger got up and followed the man across the street to a shop. I'm thinking the man has seen this man before, but also didn't feel the $4 or $5 bucks was too much for him to give the man a meal.

As I left the store, the begger was back in his spot, wiping the last few crumbs from his mouth with one hand, the other hand outstreched asking for some change.

Life goes on. But because of one man, another man had a full stomach that night. And maybe he can save the spare change he gained for a BEER or DRUGS. LOL (Isn't that the reason most of us don't give to the homeless...we feel they'll misuse our good deed.)

Ahh, give anyway...a sinful beer to someone is a carbohydrate refreshment to another.

UPDATES

1. Still no A/C
2. Return date uncertain
3. It's HOT






Saturday, November 28, 2009






I did it again...I went a day without writing. I was going to, and then didn't, and was going to, and then didn't...well, you know where that one ends. I didn't.

Anyway, I'm back.

IS THE MUSEUM FOR ART, OR THE ART

Today I took the ferry from the center of the city over to visit a couple of friends--and then to see the Museum of Contemporary Art. First the friends.

One is an ex Missionary for the church (I think I mentioned him before)...and living now in Niteroi and working for the phone company OI, which by the way is robbing me blind everytime I make a phone call (he promises to fix that...but I've yet to see that.) He is no longer active in the Church, and seems content with his life. And tall Brasilian--about 6'4", and always has a smile on his face. It was fun to have the mission as a common background as we walked through another American Style Mall (with GREAT air conditioning), looking for nothing in particular, but just enjoying a cool afternoon indoors and away from the sun.

The second friend has a CAR...a nice little perk, and was able to drive around the area and show me some points of interest. I'll post a couple of pictures to give you a feel for what we saw. He's a young attorney, just starting out on his career.

I may have mentioned this before, but children live with the parents LONG into adulthood. He is I think 28 and has NO INTENTION of moving out any time soon. I've encounterd men, women, even families in their 30's/40's that still live at home and think nothing of it. In fact, being a very FAMILY ORIENTED culture, it's the an accepted practice.a

So watch out Mom & Dad...I could still show up anytime, any time at all. :)

Anyway, one of the places I wanted to see...and the primary reason for my trip across the bay was to Visit the museum. It's such a unique building...more like something you'd see in a space
fantasy.

The art within was mediocre at best (always in the eye of the beholder, so I'm cautious not to say it wasn't anything worth seeing), but the space is so unique I liked it.

Below, there's a restaurant we rested and ate some Strawberry Cheesecake--and good Cheesecake at that.

Afterwards we continued our drive, and some of the views looking back at the city, were spectacular with the setting sun...JUST BEAUTIFUL.

Having taken the ferry over, I decided to take the bus back. We went across this huge bridge...and since the drive back hit about the Twilight Hour , the ligh hitting the city made it appear peaceful, inviting, and beautiful.

I've always look the twilight hour. I remember on the farm, after working a long, hot day, the respite provided by twilight was always so inviting. The greens were always a darker color, and there was a peace (and a smell), that just made the day seem complete.

I loved it, and miss the twilights on the farm.

THE LONG THANKSGIVING WEEKEND

Being the holidays up north, a lot of people flocked down to a warmer climate. The beaches were pretty packed yesterday and on the streets and restaurants, I could hear a LOT of English being spoken. I even ran into a couple of people I knew from NYC. It's always weird when you run into people in unexpected places. But fun, just the same.

DOWN HOME ON THE BRASILIAN FARM

Tomorrow, I plan to visit a British Man who owns several apartments in the city (Hopefully I can land in one of them) at his farm about 1 1/2 hours away from the city. It'll be good get away, and kind of reduce the temperature by 15 degrees (it's up in the mountains), and relax away from all the CITY stuff.

New adventures are always good.

Always.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks for Being in Brasil


I've lived away from the US during Thanksgiving before, and it's funny how the rest of the world goes on it's way without the hustle/bustle of Thanksgiving...you know what I mean, travel, food, dinner, family, traffic, delayed flights, etc. etc.

I did get a couple of Happy Thanksgiving's from Brasilians, or mostly Ex-Patriots either from the US or Europe. But just in a fleeting way. There's no sentiment around the holiday. None of the emotions that "Thanksgiving" brings to most Americans.

Which makes me think a bit about cultural differences and how they drive our thoughts and actions. I'm sure there are millions of people so happy today in the US, being with family and friends. And on the other hand, there are probably millions of people miserable today...dreading the time with family, the travel, the "conformity" of the holiday. It would be interesting to see how many suicides are committed around this holiday. I mentioned yesterday the woman that was doing the cruise to ESCAPE Thanksgiving and the sad memories it would bring her.

Yet it's all because of a man-made "hoiliday" designed to give thanks for everything. Thankfully, it's about the LAST holiday that hasn't become completely commercialized.

Makes me think how much cultural barriers have been created that limit the human race from really getting to the core of humanity--that is knowing and loving each other, for no other reason than we are "family".

I believe it's a wise and better man/woman that is capable of stepping outside of his "culturally imprinted" thoughts and actions, and look at the world/mankind without the shroud of culture, nationalism, race, religion, sect, class, neighborhood, or clique.

I think the best way to do that is to step outside one's "comfort culture" and experience others as they are, within their world.

Once you do this, the world becomes more simple and understandable. It's easier to see a Brother/Sister, than a stranger, enemy, infidel, threat, liberal/conservative, good-for-nothing or even a cock-eyed son-of-a-buckin'-son-of-a buck :) .

On this day, I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to do that in Brasil.

Oh, and I'm also very thankful for my great family, friends and life.

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND I SAW WHAT YOU WROTE

I think I've mentioned before that I LOVE the comments you write. If anyone can tell me how to respond to them individually, without writing something to the entire world, I'd like to know.

I'm happy to welcome JULIE...Hi Julie. I don't know you, but I read your comment last night...just a stranger passing through my blog. Thanks for you comment and welcome back anytime.

SOAP OPERAS THAT WORK

I might have mentioned that Brasil has had a long tradition of soap operas. But they are a bit different than those in the US.

In the US, they are broadcast mid morning to early afternoon. They are a continuing story that could go on for 30+ years or more.

In Brasil, they are a nightly affair, and the story line only lasts for about 3-6 months, and then it ends. And a new one starts up. Each night, you can walk down the streets and hear the familiar music of the soap coming from most apartments.

It is a very CULTURAL phenomenom, and one that is GOING STRONG--where in the US, Soaps are dying.

As I close off, I'll say one more time to all...Happy Thanksgiving!