Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stranger in a Strange Land: First Weeks

Our first weekend together after the arrival in Brazil was lovely. Saturday morning we went to the feira (street market with fruits, veggies, meat and fish I don't trust, and a few other vendors) down the street. Jake introduced us to pastel, a pastry filled with various substances like cheese or chocolate or meat or bananas or guava paste, and deep-fried. Joseph is still talking about it, and rightly so. We got a four-cheese pastel and a chocolate pastel, and both were amazing. Because our internet hadn't been connected yet, Jake and I listened to the first session of General Conference via the unsecured wireless network some kind neighbor unwittingly provided while Joseph napped. We listened to less of the next session because Joseph was awake, ate dinner, and Jake went to the Priesthood session, which started at 9 pm because of the time difference.

Sunday morning was lovely. Our friends from New Jersey, the Wallentines, moved to São Paulo shortly before we did, and our apartments are only a few blocks from each other. They invited us to their place for cinnamon rolls, and we had a great time catching up. Our kids took naps during the morning session, and then we met up again for dinner and the afternoon session later that day. They introduced me to some delicious new foods, and our kids had a good time playing together.

The next week was a little rough. The bulk of our furniture won't arrive until probably January (pleaseopleaseoplease get here before this baby comes!), so Joseph and I have had to find things to do in a mostly empty apartment. I've never looked forward to Jake's homecoming each evening as I have since we moved here. Our complex has a great children's play area, and Joseph and I are down there most days. I also was brave enough to venture to the grocery store down the street and start purchasing some of the many, many items we need to stock our kitchen. There was also some cleaning to do, and I'm learning how to clean like a Brazilian (squeegee water all over the tile, and then your water goes down a drain on the floor).

Joseph developed a hacking cough during that first week, so we thought it wise to avoid getting the other kids sick during Nursery that first Sunday back to church, so we only went to Sacrament meeting, which is the last meeting of the block here. Guess how much fun that is with a hungry, tired child. Jake is the Executive Secretary/Ward Clerk (again), and before the meeting a member of the bishopric noticed that the regular pianist wasn't there. He asked Jake if I would play. It is nice to know that music reads the same in any language, and I played in Sacrament my first week in Brazil. Somehow, this did not surprise me in the least.  It was Fast Sunday, and as I listened to the testimonies as we attempted to wrangle our boy who hadn't been to a Sacrament meeting in weeks, I realized that as little as I thought I was getting out of church in the US, I was going to get even less...for a very long time. This thought, naturally, put my emotions right over the edge. Tears. Everywhere. I was overwhelmed with all the new faces and all the people trying to be friendly, but mostly with my complete inability to communicate.

The next evening, we were invited to a ward member's home for Family Home Evening, along with a number of the other American families. Joseph was kind of awful, but we were introduced to a delicious new food, pão de queijo, which means cheese bread. They are these delightful little rolls with slightly gooey cheese inside, and they are amazing and apparently gluten-free. Each one has about as many calories as a cookie. So. Good. I was also invited to a playgroup at the American consulate, as all of the Americans in our ward except us work there.

Playgroups aren't really my thing, but I'm glad I went last week. One of the women gave me a reference for an OB/GYN that has only a 20% C-section rate, compared to the 80-90% average in Brazil. That made three convincing recommendations for her that I'd either read or heard in the previous week, and Jake called today to get me an appointment, hopefully before we head back to the US at the end of the month to take care of our visas and spend Thanksgiving with our families.

The next week at church was worse than the first. We were late, for starters. Then, I don't read Portuguese well, and I barely understand a word here and there, and I definitely don't speak. Ward members are trying so hard to be nice to me and include me and make me feel welcome, and all I want to do is say, "Leave me alone! I can't talk to you and you can't talk to me, so why are we trying!?" which is possibly the least Christ-like thing on the planet. Relief Society was humiliating. At least in Sunday School, Jake could sort of translate for me. But once we got Joseph back from Nursery for Sacrament meeting, all hopes of a peaceful Sunday vanished. I had forgotten snacks, he didn't want any of his toys, he wouldn't stay by us, he couldn't manage a voice quieter than a shout, and I had to take him out, which I haven't had to do in a long time. After the meeting, I rushed out and got the boy home before he could be more destructive. I'm worried I was thought rude for not lingering or chatting with anyone, but I just can't do it right now. Can't. And I had a complete breakdown while washing the dishes that afternoon before Jake got home. I can't say I didn't know my freak-out Friday (or Sunday, in this case) would happen eventually. I was sure it would, but I didn't realize how hard church would be. Because I know I don't make friends easily, I've always been able to count on church for necessary social interaction. I feel far more isolated right now than I ever have in my life, and that's coming from the girl who happily lived alone for two years in college.

This is not to say that my life is awful. Joseph and I have fun playing in the play area, reading books, and singing songs. I'm learning how to cook (Brazilian stroganoff, which is nothing like regular stroganoff, went pretty well, and so did beans and rice). And about once a week, Jake orders this amazing pizza with chopped ham and cheese and a crust stuffed with chocolate. It's dinner and dessert without putting your slice down! I'm writing this post while making pavê, a Brazilian dessert involving ladyfingers and sweetened condensed milk and cocoa. There are lots of good things about living here, but it's going to take a lot of work for me to feel at home. Furniture might help a little. :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Best Defense of the Electoral College... Ever

This is the best explanation that I've read addressing the benefits of having the electoral college.

 Teaser quote:
"[I]f the presidency was decided by majority rule, I'm sure we'd hear a lot more about regional differences.  Could a presidential candidate get 75% of the votes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida by promising broad-based Gulf Coast subsidies and a few other goodies?  Could a candidate get 85% of California's and New York's votes partly by offering housing subsidies for people facing high housing costs?

I don't know: But if we got rid of the electoral college and had a popularly elected president we'd sure have a chance to find out."

- Ashley and Jake. We both get credit for finally updating the blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Flight and Arrival

Our flight to Brazil was not nearly as horrible as it could have been. That said, I don't wish to repeat it without a husband any time soon. I was able to get the flights at reasonable times, and that helped a lot, and that red-eye from Dallas worked out pretty well.

Joseph fell asleep almost as soon as we were in the air on the way from Vegas to Dallas, and he slept for maybe an hour before waking up cranky, crying, screaming, and inconsolable. It was a good 10 minutes before he calmed down, which for the man sitting next to me, was probably an eternity. He was a little fragile the rest of the flight, but not too bad.

We had about two hours at the Dallas airport, which may have been the hardest part of the whole ordeal. Letting him run around enough to get the wiggles out while not allowing him to run off or destroy other people's belongings was kind of exhausting. I had a few snacks, but not a ton because I knew we'd be having dinner on the flight. Once we got on the plane (bulkhead seats, ick), it was a challenge to keep him awake for takeoff and drink service and then dinner. Dinner was pasta that was too hot and took forever to cool down, and he probably didn't get enough to eat. I was also under the impression that we wouldn't be served breakfast, so I was saving the roll and other sides from our dinners for that morning.

He fell asleep after dinner without too much fuss. Thank heaven for Hertz paying for his own seat. That kid on my lap for 10 hours would have been nightmarish. I even slept a little bit, which is rare for me. After a few hours, he woke up again, just as cranky and inconsolable as on the previous flight. Over the course of the night, I realized that the boy just wanted to be horizontal. As soon as I got him out and put him in my arms, he settled down. I'd leave him like that for 15 minutes or so and then put him back in his seat. We played that game several more times during the night.

He woke up far too early as the sun was rising over the wing on the other side of the plane. We played some games on the Kindle and read books and found some snacks. I was starting to butter a roll from dinner when the flight attendant came by with breakfast. Yay for food! Shortly after breakfast ended, we began our descent into São Paulo. Getting onto the ground was a relief, and passport control wasn't too hard; there was a line for people with kids/the infirm (because they're pretty much the same thing). Jake said he'd try to get me some help to get through customs, as he couldn't go behind security. Either the help didn't show up or I didn't see it, so I was on my own.

The worst part of the airport was waiting for my bags. I had two large bags checked, I was carrying a diaper bag on the stroller handle, and I was carrying a backpack. Oh, and did I mention I had a Joseph with me? The bags took forever, and people kept pushing in front of me at the carousel. One bag that looked like mine kept coming around and around and would get my hopes up every time. I had to keep going back to Joseph in the stroller (his feet can touch the floor and he can move it Flintstones-style) and telling him to stay seated and not go anywhere. I finally got smart and locked the wheels, which just made him mad. Our bags came out at last, and I made a valiant effort to put the bags on the cart (6 months pregnant, remember?) and then push the stroller. Not happening. I took Joseph out of the stroller, put it and the diaper bag on the cart, put the hand-holder/child leash I probably get judged for on him, and pushed the cart with everything but my kid on it through customs.

I can't describe the utter relief it was to see Jake again after two months. Joseph gave him a giant hug, and we all just held each other for a minute before heading to the Hertz lot with our excessive baggage. When we got there, I asked if there was a bathroom. Jake laughed a little and said, "Well, there's no running water on the rental lots, but there's a portapotty over there." Welcome to Brazil, I thought.

Joseph slept on the ride home from the airport (and still took a nap later that afternoon!), and I shuddered with terror at the thought of driving in this city. The sea shipment with most of our belongings won't arrive until about the time our baby is due in January (so much for that nesting instinct), so we came home to a mostly empty apartment. Jake had bought flowers for me, had schlepped home a foldable couch/bed (not exactly a futon, but close) just in case our air shipment with the air mattress hadn't arrived in time, and set up the playpen for Joseph. 

I have a trooper of a husband and a trooper of a kid. We are so happy to be back together again

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Utah, We Love Thee

Joseph and I spent a lovely month in Utah while we waited for our tourist visas. Tourists, you say? Aren't we moving there? Why yes, yes we are, but we've heard the phrase "30-60 days" so many times in the last several months that in order for the three of us to actually be in the same hemisphere any time in the near future, Jake got the ball rolling on tourist visas. Otherwise we probably wouldn't have seen each other until Thanksgiving.

Here are some highlights from our stay with my awesome parents:
  • Ultrasound: It's a girl! Due January 11! Girl clothes shopping! Yay!
  • Joseph begging incessantly to have the fans and lights on
  • Morning routine with my dad (feeding the cat, opening the garage door, turning on all the fans, pushing the cup in on the coffee grinder so the blue light comes on)
  • Khara and Shelby's visit and Joseph's first hike
  • Tragedy/utter meltdown when the water balloons broke
  • First camping trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and lack of sleep for everyone involved, courtesy of my son
  • Two baby showers for my beautiful sister-in-law, Aly, and her daughter, Jane
  • A valiant attempt at Rosetta Stone (I made it through the first unit before I left)
  • Seeing "Stones In His Pockets" at the Utah Shakespeare Festival (go see it, Cedar peeps! Chicagoans can see it in March)
  • Walking to the New Harmony post office with my mom
  • A lovely birthday lunch with my mother-in-law
  • Sunday dinners with the whole family (minus Jake, of course)
  • Costa Vida, lots
  • Hearing Joseph ask to "tawt ta baby sistah" and giving my belly hugs and kisses
  • Watching Doctor Who while crocheting a blessing blanket for my daughter (Daughter...still sounds weird)
  • Talking to Jake on Skype whenever we could
  • Letting Joseph run free all over my parents' yard with no fear of goose poop or traffic (though there was a rattlesnake once)
  • Being able to sleep in a little because my parents were so eager to get Joseph in the mornings
  • Late-night chats with my siblings
  • Watching my kid devour hummus
It was a great trip, and I was sad to leave my family, but I was so ready to be with Jake again. And judging by the sheer quantity of his blog posts, I could tell he was ready to have me with him again too. More to follow soon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Things that Come in Two's

Ideas why having cars run on alcohol is a bad idea:
- Rush hour smells like a really low-end bar
- It's 45 degrees and it's too cold for the engine to start

Copy and pasting operational ideas from one country to another is a bad idea:
- Free Big Macs if you don't get your order in 60 seconds only results in everyone getting free Big Macs, and there is no tracking mechanism to count how many or when they were given out.
- Using single queuing in a shopping market (everyone is in one line instead of a separate line at each cashier), but only calling people one at a time, wasting 20-30 seconds per customer. It's like socialism: "Yeah, it's way less efficient than each of us getting in our own line, but we all suffer together!"

Great date ideas that I've seen so far:
- Go to the entertainment section of a retail store and watch the entire movie of the Avengers
- Make-out... everywhere... seriously.

My favorite TWO people are coming in TWO days, and one of them will be turning TWO years old in exactly TWO weeks and the other will be TOO enamored of me TO notice that I have just dragged her inTO a different hemisphere.  :)