Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Was Left Unsaid... / New Goal

The end of November is pretty intense every year, so it's a bit of a pity that this month has been arbitrarily chosen for "National Blog Posting Month" to follow the novel writing month movement. I'm always a bit sad when the month ends, but hopefully I can still continue to blog often -- without the obligation of it.

As a matter of fact, I decided that I want to try to blog more than I did back in 2008 (240 posts) and for that to happen, I will need to write 26 more posts before the year ends. So... you'll get almost a repeat of NaBloPoMo in December. Ever since I started the blog I had been blogging more and more each year, with the exception of 2009 which was the worst year ever, really. I'm thrilled that 2010 was way better, but that'll be the subject of various end of year posts.

OK, so because of our travels in the past two weeks, I posted lots of light-hearted, pretty boring "fluff" (well, except for Sunday's really serious post) and now there is a back-log of serious posts I want to write. I think it will be useful to post the list here for future reference!

A short overview:

- The negative side(s) of "staying" (positive side here);

- More about "working in the margins" (related to the topic above);

- How I'm missing Brazil lately;

- My insecurities;

- More documentary watching & blogging;

- The terrible "warfare" situation in the city of Rio de Janeiro (if I don't write about that soon, it will be old old news);

And I'm sure there's more, I just can't think of it right now. Is there anything you would like me to blog about?

I'm happy with NaBloPoMo 2010, now I'll try to find a cute badge to put in the sidebar!

P.S. I went to the eye-doctor today. I have a form of conjunctivitis caused by contact-lens wearing. I will have to wear glasses for three long weeks (sigh) while I'm using prescription eye-drops -- which Costco didn't have today so I'll have to wait until tomorrow to start. :(  I do NOT like wearing glasses, ever. That's why I've been wearing contacts for 20 years. This will probably be the longest I'll ever wear glasses. And they are two years old and not that comfortable. :( oh well... I'm glad it's nothing more serious, that's for sure!

Monday, November 29, 2010

One Year to Grow 3 Inches

My almost nine year old son has one year to grow from 51 to 54 inches tall if he wants to go to roller-coasters with me next year.

You see, it has been determined that K's immediate family (plus the grandmothers on both sides) will finally have a reunion next year, and it is to be in Orlando, FL for Xmas and New Year's. I have to try to blog sometime about my troublesome love/hate relationship with the mindless (and really costly) entertainment of theme parks, but I'm happy about the location -- large rental houses can be found there to accommodate the family comfortably and that's not an easy feat.

In any case, I don't know how the logistics of the trip will work out because I'm sure each family, each person, would like to go to a different park/place, but if Kelvin is 54 inches tall by then I will have to go to one or two parks that have roller coasters with him. There are a few options, this is the main one (I've never been there), then this (there's one of it in this state, maybe we should consider a season pass? nah... K will be totally against it) and that (only two, but one really awesome).

So, yeah... I love to live in anticipation of things to come, that's why I enjoy planning trips and thinking about them.

Meanwhile I'm telling Kelvin to eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of sleep. He may just make it! :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Study Confirms What I Already Felt About "Voluntourism"

When I came to the U.S. I quickly found out that Americans, particularly those who are religiously affiliated, are passionate about going abroad to help less fortunate people in struggling countries. When I first came across the concept of the "Mission Trip" my gut feeling was that they did much more good to those who went than to the people in developing nations. It seems that I was very right about this one.

I felt particularly bad about the sometimes exorbitant cost of the trip for those involved and always wondered to myself that it would be WAY better that all that fundraising and all that money spent on costly airfare and hotel accommodations would be better employed if sent directly to those countries and used to employ local people to take care of the needy.

Of course one can argue that doctors, dentists and nurses could be in short supply in developing nations and thus medical excursions can be justified. I agree with that, up to a certain point. In the trips that I've known about in addition to medical professionals, lots of other people go and, generally, help build a school, a church or something. That I think is a disservice to the local population since it would cost much less to build the same structure using the money provided by foreigners and local, paid employees.

Although I felt uncomfortable about these trips, particularly with the way those who came back talked about the "poor needy people" in such and such a country and how lovely it had been to go down there and help them, I justified their actions by reasoning that they had had a learning experience and seen a reality way different from them, so they could grow as people.

You see, traveling the world is a life changing experience, I know that because of my expatriate experience. However, what this enlightening and also frightening Guardian article by Ian Birrell describes, particularly in what concerns children, is very sad. The title speaks volumes already: "Before you pay to volunteer abroad, think of the harm you might do."

Birrell calls the recent findings by South African and British academics "incendiary" and he concurs with my "gut feeling" about these trips: "The harsh truth is that "voluntourism" is more about the self-fulfilment of westerners than the needs of developing nations."

He also writes: "In recent years, a disturbing form of slum tourism has taken off, with rich visitors sold a glimpse into the lives of the very poor. In Asia, unbelievably, tourists pay for trips to hand out food to impoverished rural families." His article and the aforementioned study concentrate in the effects of "voluntourism" in children which can, in extreme cases, lead to abuse and the removal of children from their families. Absolutely outrageous!

Birrell ends with these cautionary words:
The desire to engage with the world is laudable, as is the desire to volunteer. But we need to tread more carefully. Unless we have time and transferable skills, we might do better to travel, trade and spend money in developing countries. The rapid growth of "voluntourism" is like the rapid growth of the aid industry: salving our own consciences without fully examining the consequences for the people we seek to help. All too often, our heartfelt efforts to help only make matters worse.
I hope many people involved in this kind of despicable "tourism" may heed his and the study's advice! 

There's More!! Birds on the Wires II and III

After posting about the Birds on the Wires video I found a couple more videos on Vimeo (love this service, just joined this morning and uploaded a video already) and I think you'd like to see them too!

The first  is a TED X (São Paulo) given by Jarbas Agnelli. If you don't understand Portuguese, fast forward the video do 3:30 to see an extended live version of the song performed by an ensemble:

Apresentação Jarbas Agnelli from Daniel Foka on Vimeo.

The second video is pretty recent. Victor Nunes saw the above mentioned video, decided to flip the image and got a new melody from it. I think it's really cool! Both musicians are Brazilian, obviously ;-).

Birds on the wire - Another side from hventorin on Vimeo.

Which song did you like the best?

Birds on Wires -- Perfect Song for a Sunday Morning

I promise there'll be a post of more substance later today, but I've wanted to post this for almost a year, but keep forgetting. Listen to this song, it's awesome!

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

This is what the composer Jarbas Agnelli had to say about it in Vimeo:

Reading a newspaper, I saw a picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes (no Photoshop edit). I knew it wasn't the most original idea in the universe. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.
I sent the music to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who I Googled on the internet. He told his editor, who told a reporter and the story ended up as an interview in t he very same newspaper.
Here I've posted a short video made with the photo, the music and the score (composed by the birds).
 Amazing, no?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas in November

Tonight we drove to MD to see our youngest nephew -- so cute! Really big, and smiley, but we didn't take ANY photos before he was put to bed. :(  K's parents are returning to Brazil in two days, so we came to say good bye too.

This evening, the grandparents went upstairs and disappeared for half an hour. When they walked down the stairs holding several gift bags and saying it was "Christmas" the boys promptly started cheering, jumping up and down and joyfully screaming!

The Christmas presents were handed out from oldest to youngest and the biggest surprise was that my  nephews got a Wii (from their four grandparents and parents). The boys were ecstatic, but they will have to wait until tomorrow to play since we're leaving to go back home tonight. Sigh. That's why I can't blog much more tonight. I know this blog has become the "boringest" blog ever this NaBloPoMo, but I haven't had time to blog properly. So... hopefully tomorrow I'll have time for a post a little better.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Safely Back Home

After exact 12 hours on the road we made it safely back home. We're always thankful to get back without the car breaking.

We're leaving again tomorrow and will probably go to MD and come back on the same day (we have to clean the house and get things ready for the week on Sunday). I think it's a crazy thing to do, but BIL's house is small for so many people and K really wants to do it. Let's see if we'll be able to get the boys away from their cousins and in the car to come back! (Linton is already complaining).

The trip was good, except that when it was time to eat dinner and we wanted to eat at Taco Bell, we had the hardest time finding one! First, we tried with the GPS, but it led us all through a small town and we couldn't find the eatery. Then, we followed a road sign, in spite of the fact it said that Taco Bell was 2.4 miles away and then... we couldn't find it again!!

The boys were almost in tears and really hungry when we finally found one right next to the highway at a service station, phew!!

Now we need to get to bed, so Good Night!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving at the Beach

Today we went to the beach again. It was a bit chillier and we got there a couple of hours later than yesterday, but it was nice! Quite empty as I expected (only one other family joined us later).
The boys played frisbee with K, Kelvin convinced K & I to play his new card game with him, Monopoly Deal, and the boys jumped countless waves in the sea.
I even spent the drive to the beach and a few minutes there grading (to quiet my conscience since I have a pile of grading and hadn't done any of it). The photo of me grading didn't come out so nice, so I'm not including it. ;-)

This is what it looked like before we drove home to have a Thanksgiving meal at our friends' house:

If you are in the U.S. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and/or friends. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I was feeling a bit sad this year to break a tradition that went on for eight years (well, except that last year K was away in Brazil and only arrived on Friday): getting together with my oldest brother-in-law and his family. From 2002-2004 we actually drove from 14-16 hours from MA and PA to Michigan to be with them! 

This year they had a house overflowing with guests and we had the whole week off (K & I, not the boys, but they only missed a day and a half), so we decided to come to Florida instead. We're still going to see them on Saturday (we're driving back tomorrow) because we want to see our youngest nephew who's visiting from Canada. Speaking of which, I think next year we're going to Montreal for Thanksgiving break. 

All right, I think I'm going to end up going to a couple of stores tonight. The most important thing I need to get is an airbed (12 bucks!) so we can sleep at BIL's house on Saturday. Ours has a hole in it. :(

How was your Thanksgiving(if you had one)? 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Long Time Friend

I've always had many friends, particularly after we moved from a rural place (my parents taught at a boarding academy in the Brazilian countryside and we lived there for five years) to the big city of São Paulo in 1984.

Most of my (girl) friends were my own age, or slightly older, but I had a few younger (girl) friends (i.e. my brother's age, 2+ years younger). My two best "younger friends" were in my brother's class, but we sang in a choir together and I always enjoyed spending time with them. I blogged about one of them here and the other is a friend that moved away (to Canada and later to the U.S.) back in the late 80s, so I've seen here very rarely over the years.

When we decided to come to Florida we were coming primarily to visit our closest friend in the U.S* and his family. Our last visit was in Dec. 08 and we hadn't met their son who was born last year in April. I hadn't even thought of checking to see if my long-time friend would be visiting her parents (who happen to live here) and when I met the parents last Saturday and found out she was coming from Texas I was thrilled!
*We have so many close friends that we have to create categories for them.

I hadn't seen D and her daughters since 2006 when I saw her at a wedding in Brazil, so it was awesome to be able to catch up and see her daughters all these years later (her youngest was a baby four years ago).
I know we would look way better with some make up on :) but I still like this photo a lot!

YAY for friends! Particularly pleasantly unexpected meetings like this one! Our kids played and played together and our husbands' talked lots. I hope we can find a way to meet again sometime in the future. Too bad Texas is so far away from VA. :(

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I never, ever thought I'd like roller-coasters so much...

When I was a child I was always scared of moving too fast. I liked swings and would even jump off a swing, but whenever kids were playing of being swung really really high on a hammock I would get really scared, terrified, even. Note: Brazilian hammocks are really large and made of sturdy fabric and can swing pretty high if one wants them to. They're never put in a frame like the ones here in the U.S., but connected to hangers built on cement walls or between two trees.

Then, when I was about 14 we went to Playcenter, the only "theme park" in São Paulo with my family (it was a very lame park compared to its American counterparts, particularly over 20 years ago). My dad took me to their "roller coaster" (very lame too, "Super Jet" for those who knew it) and I was terrified all over again. I hated it!

Fast forward to 1993 and my trip to the U.S. with K's family (his parents and three brothers).* After visiting several parks in the Orlando area we decided to finish the trip at the Busch Gardens in Tampa. Kumba, their brand new roller coaster, had just been opened that summer. I was really intimidated and we decided to start with a smaller coaster. Scorpion or something like that. I was so scared, but went and, lo and behold, I was really surprised when I loved it! That day I rode on Kumba many times, including on the front seat and I became a true roller-coaster fan.

So today I got to experience another brand new coaster -- Manta! I took the photo below from this website that has a nice and thorough description/review of Manta.

I obviously loved it! I also rode on Kraken, their 65 mph coaster (and have to confess that I got a bit dizzy after that one), but Manta is one of a kind, given that you ride it facing down. It was amazing!

I'll have to finish here because I'm losing power & the cable is in the bedroom where the boys are sleeping. More tomorrow, then! We had a great day!

* I have to blog about this trip sometime. Every time I come to Florida I remember it so clearly! It was my first time in "the land of Uncle Sam."

Monday, November 22, 2010

False Advertisement - Sea World doesn't care (edited)

Edited to add -- this post is now moot, blogging about the problem managed to un-jinx the site! That means we'll be going. I still have mixed feelings about parks, but I know they're fun. And of course it helps if it ' doesn't hurt" one's pocket so much. ;-)

I want to come back and post some photos of our afternoon walk at the beach, but first (while I watch The Empire Strikes Back with hubby and friend -- I'm enjoying it too!) I want to express my disgust at the false advertisement in the the SeaWorld Cares campaign.

I'm not a big fan of theme parks although I really like roller-coasters and I've been to lots of parks and intend to visit more with my sons in the future (in spite of my reservations). Apart from several issues with theme parks -- I don't like Disney and I'm concerned with wild animals being kept in captivity for the enjoyment of the masses -- my main problem with parks is how much they cost and, being a thrifty person, I can't fully enjoy the parks if I'm not getting the most for what I paid. So... I generally prefer season passes or weekly passes that allow several visits. In the times when we've bought day passes in the past we've stayed for as long we possibly could and tried to see everything.

Back to our current short trip to Florida. When we visited back in 2006 for over two weeks we went to two parks only: Wet'n Wild (a water park) and Sea World and visited both relatively leisurely, since the boys were two and four and we had plenty of time. This trip is much quicker and we wanted to spend only one day somewhere special, so we were debating whether to go to the Kennedy Space Center (K's choice) or Sea World (Kelvin's choice and mine).

It turns out that Sea World has had a special promotion since April 2010, "Seaworld Cares" in which a paing adult who buys a single day admission can pay only 5 dollars for a child's admission. And the five dollars are donated to nature conservation. The problem is that when one tries to buy the promotional tickets, there is an error message in the shopping cart:

We're sorry. There is a system error preventing us from completing your request.
Please try again or come back later.

Nice, huh?

I tried in different browsers. I even tried using other promotional codes, but nothing. Of course because we need to go tomorrow, it's no use complaining, trying to contact them, etc. And because the promotion seems to be online only, I don't think we can simply go there tomorrow and try to have it honored at the park.

Why can't they have an announcement in the website making it clear that the promotion is sold out, no longer available or something? Why make us feel utterly duped? I tried to google to find out whether other people have encountered the same problem, but I haven't been successful so far. Even MORE frustrating.

Anyway... There are two little boys who will be very disappointed when they wake up tomorrow morning. And K and I still haven't decided where we're going...

The good thing is I've taught the boys well and I'm positive they'll understand that if we can't use the five dollars promotion, we shouldn't go anyway. ;)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

May the Force Be with Me (& You :)

That's just a joke, that title...

It's just that my friend Wally has helped "initiate" me into Star Wars tonight. And he wants his name mentioned on the blog too!

Can you believe it that I'm 39 nine years old, I like to watch movies (though I've very rarely seen them in theaters), but I'd never seen any of the Star Wars films?

I have no good reason for that other than the fact that I decided to watch other things instead, but I always knew I'd watch them and, hopefully enjoy. I just finished the first one released (episode IV) and I can't wait to see the rest.

OK, I can't keep writing right now because I'm watching this "random"* film that was in my Netflix queue: Impromptu.

* not really random because I like films about literary figures. This one even has a lovely musician (ok, I don't know if he's lovely, but his music is), Chopin. Let's see how it is.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In Florida... catching up blog reading

Edited to add... this whole obligatory posting leads to empty posts like this one, but I still think NaBloPoMo is worth it/fun in spite of it.

The trip was really long and tiring, but we're here. phew!

We would have made it in 11 hours, were it not for hitting traffic in North Carolina. We were very upset about it, but there was nothing we could do. : (

I took a few naps and had to help K drive at the very end because he was nearly passing out because he was so exhausted.

OK, boring trip talk, right?

The weather is nice here (even more boring statement). My husband is upset because I'm blogging right now, so I will just post this and go back to the title activity after everyone is in bed. Addicted me.

I'll go talk to our friends, "live" a little. :-)

Friday, November 19, 2010


It looks like for the first time ever we'll be able to leave for a trip on time -- if I can just stop blogging, finish loading the car and leave, right?

scheduled post appearing soon.

Second Wind

I thought I'd never be in the mood to get this post written...

You see, when our nicely configured trajectory "derailed" a little bit earlier this year when K decided to pursue the position in Georgia, I didn't suspect how hard it would be to go through this strange detour trip. I will blog about that later, but today I want to concentrate on the positive aspects of staying here, not on the detour.

Amidst the sadness of letting go, I told K that we'd now been given a "second wind" and that this was our chance to finally be able to enjoy life here. Easier said than done (oh boy, maybe I should have written the negative post before this one! Sigh), but yesterday I finally began to feel a nice "breeze" coming back to me.

This place is growing on me as new places usually do. It's just that some take way longer than others, like Pennsylvania ;-) and other places just seem "right" from the very beginning. Well, back in July I thought that this place here was perfect and I was literally "grieving" and lamenting the possibility of moving away from here instead of enjoying the beauty, the calm, the newness of it all. I'm a defensive pessimist, remember?

But then... I began to earnestly try to convince myself of how nice there would be, so it wouldn't be too hard to change gears if we decided to move. Things went downhill from there (subject of the other post! back to the subject at hand!).

Yesterday, however, when I was driving, I thought about the place growing on me, about how right it feels -- in spite of some struggles for me professionally (yet another post -- how many posts have I got in me? I'm crazy my friends and I still have to pack to travel) and then...

... then for whatever reason K and I began to look at houses for sale and that felt great!

So, yeah... second wind. I want to fly again, to soar above the clouds. Life was pretty miserable at times in the past three years, but now, I trust, has come the time to be at peace and, hopefully start to get comfortably settled.

How many years again have I been waiting for this?

P.S. this is a scheduled post so I don't miss posting on the day of our trip.

PS.2 I wish I could post photos of here. Maybe in facebook. ;-)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Small Accomplishment & Whirlwind Day Coming Up

I'm so thrilled that I finally finished a project that took me over two weeks to complete! I hope my parents don't read this (they probably won't), so I'll spill the beans -- I finally surrendered to photo books!

I had seen some of them before because my mother-in-law made several to document and advertise her travel agency's wonderful trips and my sister-in-law has several of their trips too (I saw them in your spare bedroom when we were there, sis! but I had already seen them online too). But I had never ordered one with photos of our family. I took advantage of one of their promotions (a free book!) and ordered a small book with some of our photos and I loved it!

So I went ahead and spent countless hours designing a book for my dad which came out really nice (although it was very expensive -- I ordered the 12 X 12 book). Thankfully, we joined Costco last week, so I was able to make another book (this time for mom's 70th birthday) and it cost much less. I just ordered it and now I'm just hoping it's ready before next Friday (or next Monday) so my sister-in-law can take it to Brazil with her on the 30th.

I'm so happy that this is finally done that I had to come and blog about it even though I have a test to prepare (my students are taking it at 5 pm).

Oh, and what about the whirlwind? We have finally decided on the details of our upcoming trip to Florida!! We're driving one of our super-old cars instead of renting one (we figured we'd spend the $ from the rental in new tires for the mini-van) and we're leaving tomorrow, even though K teaches until 11 am and we know we won't get to our friends' house (thankfully in Northeast Florida) until way after midnight.

It will be exhausting! And the most exhausting for me will be preparing everything in less than 24 hours... I'm not looking forward to the crazy whirlwind of activities that that will require. I don't know how much sleep I'll get tonight. Now K NEEDS to sleep or we won't be able to get to FL tomorrow. We'll take turns driving, but it's best if one of us is well rested.

OK, gotta go now get that show on the road. Wait! It's not a show, just a boring old test. I decided to give them tests before the break because when we're back they might have already forgotten what we just learned. ;-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

They Are Just TOO Happy!

I was going to blog about something entirely different,* but K's comment about the boys just a few minutes ago was too fun not to quote and discuss.

He's having a hard time to put the boys to bed tonight (in fact they're looking for books to read right now) because they are just way too happy! Everything is funny, everything, even taking one's clothes off is reason for playing a game (such as getting it into the hamper, basketball throw style), they are just the bubbliest, chattiest boys on earth almost all the time. Bless their hearts.

Oftentimes during dinner K and are "forced" to burst into uncontrollable laughter (especially K who -- together with his mom -- always has these never ending fits of laughter) because of things that Kelvin says or does. The boys are obsessed with arithmetic right now and spend lots of time quizzing each other, "How much is 200 minus 100? How much is 3 times 2? etc." The good thing is that they won't have any trouble learning their multiplication tables, the bad thing is that sometimes it gets a bit tiresome. :)

Tonight they were fascinated by the dark and wanted to turn all lights off after dinner. Then they went exploring and made lots of noise as K and I sat in the living room (I had the laptop, which was lighting the room a bit, for Kelvin's chagrin). Their on and off obsession with trains continues and this week they have the upstairs covered in a complex railroad. In fact, Linton keeps begging for a basement where they can have room to play trains and store all their toys that are in the garage right now, most out of reach.

The truth is, that essay I wrote about exaggerates the negative side of parenting a bit. It IS exhausting, but it is also fun most of the time.

I wish I could be better at writing down the things the boys say as I used to do when they were learning to speak (I wrote down their new words until their reached 200 -- they were not yet 24 months old when that happened), but the truth is that this blog is much more about me, the mama, than about them, my sons. Early on it was because I had to translate the things they said into English and that wasn't fun, so I just didn't record them here. Later, I didn't do it because it hadn't become a habit or a regular feature of the blog to write about the boys. Maybe I'll try to be better about this so I can share some fun conversations with you once in a while.

Well, I'm glad I wrote this post instead of the other one. The paragraph below is enough, too much, even.

* Here, I'll give it to you in a few sentences. If new asthma medication and eye-patch worries were not enough, I have had to wear my glasses for the past two days because with the contacts my vision is blurry in my right eye. I think I have this problem and I'm really upset about it. I will go to the doctor at some point although I have by now realized that the only thing I go to a doctor for is to have my self-diagnosis confirmed and a prescription written (if needed -- no prescription for IBS was needed, just the confirmation of what I already knew after a colonoscopy). So, yeah... I hope it's not that, but it could most certainly be, given that the virus that I already have expanded from the lips to inside my nostrils too -- sorry, TMI, I know! Why not the eye(s)?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I hope to be able to write about this more thoughtfully later, but now I'm trying to deliver my daily post already a bit late.

The visit to the ophthalmologist was not the only major doctor's visit last week. We also took the boys to the allergist. We've taken them to two specialists and they don't even have a primary care provider! I guess that's an advantage of a "better" health care plan, but I digress...

I'm not to thrilled to report that they are taking a new medication (an inhaled steroid) to help control their asthma. I know that we need to treat their condition (even though the symptoms are not severe at all, particularly in Kelvin). Oh, and irony of ironies!, the drug company is K's former employer. BLAH! I don't like to think about that time in our lives, I guess I haven't yet healed completely or if I ever will.

I don't like to think too much that we're pumping our boys' bodies with chemicals... it's just too sad. And it's also depressing to think that all doctors do nowadays is to fill prescriptions, right and left. It's a tangled lucrative web this is. It doesn't help one bit to have a bit of an insider's glimpse into it.

OK, time for bed. I have the cards, but now I'm working to try to get a photo book done before next week. Sigh.

P.S. Thanks for your lovely comments to my "blogiversary" post! I'm thrilled to know that you're still out there reading. More on that later...

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm a Blissful, Confessed Addict

And it's not to blogging, though that is my confessed addiction of choice.

According to this great Slate essay, I'm totally addicted to parenting!!
(thanks for the link, Laura! Gotta love your post's title Kiss Junkies!)

According to Shankar Vendantam "Parents Are Junkies" because "If parenting sucks, why do we love it?" There can be only one explanation: "we're addicted" and I couldn't agree more. One of the most important arguments used is that even after we have one child and we know how tough it is, we generally have more!

I am again going through a phase that I keep on saying over and over again that I want(ed) a baby. I know!! Wasn't I over that ages ago already? Shouldn't I be reading and re-reading my journals from Kelvin's infancy to help me realize my insanity? No, we aren't going to have more babies, K won't let me and thankfully my age is a huge deterrent, but... this explanation about addiction makes perfect sense to me right now.

Vendantam writes that lots of recent research has demonstrated that "becoming a parent does not make people happier; it makes them unhappier." However, "Research may depict parenthood as a bile-inducing, rage-fueling, stress-producing ordeal, but parents tell us that becoming parents is the best thing they ever did."  That's totally absolutely how I feel!! I have this overwhelming conviction that becoming a mother was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me.

Then, you look at photos of K and I before the boys came along -- we look so much younger! K's hair was nice and black -- now it is entirely salt & pepper in his temples. I like his looks, but there's no denying that we visibly and quickly aged after becoming parents. And yet, we love it. Not every minute (not even Every Other Minute as Andi Buchanan said in the title of her book Mother Shock), maybe we don't love it most minutes, but Vendantam is absolutely right in her evaluation here:
Parenting is a series of intensely high highs, followed by long periods of frustration and stress, during which you go to great lengths to find your way back to that sofa and that kiss. 
We have a name for people who pursue rare moments of bliss at the expense of their wallets and their social and professional relationships: addicts.
Children regularly give parents the kind of highs that only narcotics can rival. The unpredictability of those moments of bliss is an important factor in their addictiveness.
So, yeah... We're Kiss Junkies all right.  And I do my best to improve my odds of getting my fix every day or several times a day ("Like addicts, parents will sacrifice anything for the glimpses of heaven that their offspring periodically provide.").

Ah... that explains the life-long withdrawal symptoms that parents experience. My poor mom broken-hearted that I don't go back to live in Brazil.

Yeah... we parents are sad, hopeless specimens of humanity... I'm not looking forward to my lifelong quest towards a "recovery" that will never come. :(

I guess you can go cross out "blissful" from the title now. I'm officially grieving my dark future.


I still can't believe it's true, but I just ordered our holiday cards and will be picking them up at Costco tomorrow.
This is the most efficient I've been about holiday planning in my life. (Can't you see my grin? :)

We just joined Costco, having been faithful BJ's customers for years, but now it's our best option. And we're loving it. The produce section is really great (if you don't mind non-local stuff, that is). You see, I love, love, love our farmer's market and eating as locally as possible, but I'm sorry, I really need to eat fresh fruits and vegetables year round. We're seriously considering slowly transitioning into a vegan diet, so we'll need even more of the colorful and green stuff.

Note to self: I need to sign up for a CSA for next year!!!

Anyway... I've also found great presents for the boys at Costco (books! more about them later in the season). This year it's going to be all books all the time for everyone!

I'm going to wrap up, but this wasn't mean to be today's post. Maybe I'll post one of the other ones (a linky post to a Slate article), but the other will have to come later (a more or less whiny post about health).

So, yeah... I'm really happy with my efficiency right now. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Six Years seems a long time, but it's not, really...

One more Blogging anniversary is rolling along and while I sometimes feel that six years is really a long time (that's how old my youngest son is!), it's really not that long. Let's see, I've been in this country for fourteen years, been married for fifteen and a half, known my husband for 20 years and... been alive for nearly four decades -- and people tell me I'm still young. So, yeah... not a long time.

Nothing like putting things in perspective like that! Which brings me to thinking once more that I shouldn't be depressed about my birthday next year, but I still am. I do feel pretty "young," but I know I'm not and that's what scares me the most about getting old. Feeling like a little girl in an old lady body must feel so sad!

So, yeah... Today I can't deliver the upbeat "blog anniversary" post I have had for you in previous years. In getting the links, I decided to look at the number of comments. I'd like to be positive and think that they don't really reflect that my readership has steeply declined, but the reality that any folks left reading are probably using a feed reader and don't comment as much anymore. Or... well, maybe some of those readers did vanish, but I know others are still around.

5: Five Glorious Years!  (1 comment by my SIL)
4: Four Great Years (4 comments -- one by my BIL!)
3: Three Meaningful Years (14 comments!)
2: Two Years and Counting! (5 comments)
1: Happy Anniversary, Blog!! (7 comments -- one my own)

And now, for the traditional photo. I really don't know if I have a recent one, let's see... Hmmm, no, not one of just me (I'm the photographer in the family, you see?). And I just used up the ones I could have used for this post, so I will try another one in that series.

So... since the very first post in this blog shows Mama (Mamãe) & Linton:

Here you see us again, six years later!
Look at how much my "baby" grew! My brave boy who will wear an eye-patch 8 hours a day from tomorrow on (thanks for all your encouraging comments).

So, yeah, happy blog anniversary for me!! Blogging is truly a gift. Totally worth the time & energy it takes. I hope to keep on blogging for years to come, even if the medium becomes obsolete. :-(

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Documentary Watching Continues: Casino Jack and the United States of Money

Last weekend I watched Food, Inc., right now I'm watching: Casino Jack and the United States of Money. Disgusting is a weak word to describe how one feels while watching this! Here's a good review, and there's also a site that helps one to take action. The review above says:
It is nice when a documentary comes along that doesn’t just stir up your rage like some Michael Moore propaganda, but carefully dissects why you should be even more pissed off than you are already.
That's how I felt about Food, Inc. too. Against fact, there should be no argument. Too bad so many people don't seem to believe facts either. Well, the trailer is below. I have to finish watching right now. I wonder all that's behind the recent election... The other thing that upset me a lot is the description of how several of these powerful and unscrupulous congressmen (like Tom DeLay) were "born again Christians." And Abramoff himself -- he used religion (earlier in his life) to turn to conservatism and greed. Sigh.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Blind Side

I'm borrowing the post title from a Brazilian friend (K's former middle school student and a talented singer) because her son Lucca is experiencing the same problem that my "baby" most probably has - amblyopia, or "lazy eye." Since we're going to the doctor this afternoon, reading her post was good, and, at the same time, very sobering.

You may remember that my six-year old is wearing glasses now, and I feel truly terrible that it took us so long to take him to the optometrist and find out that his left eye has very poor eyesight (-3.5 each astigmatism and nearsightedness/ myopia). Because of the move we were unable to take him back to the doctor for a follow up visit, but we received a huge blow and reminder when a free Lyons club sponsored vision screening at school last month revealed that he still can't see well with the left eye even while wearing his glasses.

Carine researched and wrote in her post that if amblyopia is not treated until the child is 8 years old, it may become irreversible. I hope that both Lucca (who is 4) and Linton can fully recover the vision in their affected eyes. I'll let you know how the doctor's visit goes. All I know is that I am going to ask the ophthalmologist lots of questions. I just don't know if he'll be able to give many answers. It will probably take time (up to a year with an eye patch!! that sounds so hard!), but we'll have to deal with it.

Edited to add: I wasn't paying attention to my own links, look at what Google Health says about the prognosis: "Children who receive treatment before age 5 usually have a near complete recovery of normal vision. Delaying treatment can result in permanent vision problems. After age 10, only a partial recovery of vision can be expected."

OH NO!!! He's six! Now I'm despairing a little bit. or a lot. or... oh, wow. my poor baby, we failed him! :-(

Please, go take your own young kids to the optometrist right away!! They have these cool machines that "read" a person's eye prescription. I can't believe I didn't take Linton earlier. :-(

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Little Sick

I'm a little sick with a sore throat and a bit allergic too... so I need to go to bed. I'll leave you with a photo then, OK?

I can't wait for Thanksgiving break. We're going to Florida!!!!!!!  YAY!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some Worries... Radioactivity & Loved Ones' Bones

"And then there's the issue of the bones that's worrying me..." said a cryptic line in my mom's email.

After talking for a few minutes on the phone with her this afternoon I asked, matter-of-factly... because I knew she might be dreading the question, "Hmmm, mom, and what about the bones you mentioned in your email?"

Well, it turns out that my aunt and uncle (mom's older "middle" sister, who had had my living grandma at her house before she died) hadn't been able to afford the cemetery yearly payments for several years and hadn't told anyone about it (why they did so is beyond us, but they're always struggling financially because my uncle is a lawyer who doesn't work in a big firm -- I don't know why they had to be responsible for these payments!). And now there's a judicial order that was given to my aunt saying that she either pays up (about 2,300 dollars + the yearly cemetery fees from now on, about 200 a year) or my grandparents' remains will be transferred to the city's bone repository or a city mass grave or something.

Oldest uncle, who's really rich, was a bit upset, but didn't seem to want to pay up either. "Guilty" aunt said she didn't have the money and that these were just bones -- her parents' bones, but simple bones. My mom seemed to be OK with the idea, but then thought about it overnight and felt really bad about it all. So... yeah, something will have to be done about it. I agree that it would be nice if the family could contribute the money to be able get their remains exhumed and transfered somewhere. One option is to transfer the remains to a church cemetery in my grandfather's birthplace (two states further South) -- my (paternal) aunt who lost her husband 34 years ago has already said that his grave there can be used for this purpose. And my mom has volunteered to drive South to bring the bones.

Interestingly enough, once in a while I think about the cemetery in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil where my four grandparents are buried. When my second grandfather died in 1986, after the burial we walked to my the grave of my first grandfather to die (back in 1979). I was not at my grandmothers' funerals (1997 and 2008), but they were both buried there as well. I had thought of maybe visiting the four graves in my next visit to Brazil... and now there's this. I know the problem will be solved somehow, but it is interesting to think about these issues, if a little sad. This situation has pushed my mom to think about her options and choices about what she wants to be done after she dies. I don't like to think about it, but I know it's necessary.

My parents will have plenty of time to discuss these issues because they're traveling tomorrow to Curitiba. They're not going there to visit family, though, in spite of the fact that most of my paternal and maternal relatives live there. They are going so my father can get a radiation cancer treatment on his nose. My parents  live in a rural area and they would have needed to drive 50 minutes (one way) to a major hospital and back daily for a couple of weeks for his treatment, so they're going to get it done in a big city, where they will only need to drive a few minutes to the hospital.

It's nothing serious -- my dad has had a couple of carcinomas removed from his nose and face before, but it seems that there were pre-cancerous cells in his nose that had reached the cartilage and couldn't be removed without significant disfigurement of the nose. Therefore, the oncologist suggested he gets localized radiation therapy treatment in his nose. I hope it really is not a big deal. I was asking my mom if they had gotten second or maybe even "third" opinions and she told me that they'd do that there.

I'll keep you posted, I really don't know much about radiation therapy. All I want is for my dad to be as healthy as he can be, without worries of cancerous cells lurking below the surface of his skin... and I'm determined to never again get suntanned. I just bought another rash guard shirt last week in a seasonal clearance.

So... yeah, these are some of the latest things crossing my mind. Life, health, and death...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Crazy Musings

I don't like the title & the what I wrote in the previous post too much -- although I do think those videos are interesting -- so, let me just share some crazy musings with you and move forward a bit.

K is upstairs & I'm in the living room downstairs, so we're chatting on Gmail. Ah!... modern life. :-p

I don't know if you remember that our first choice of place to move to was actually Florida, but it was. It turns out that there are four advertised positions in K's area in FL right now. (two of them are positions in the same school/dept). Isn't that crazy? K is lamenting the timing of this. I'm saying he could still apply, but it's a crazy idea, isn't it?

Oh well... Life is a curious thing sometimes. Nothing will come of this, most probably. I just don't know why in the world he had to go look this stuff up! Usually I simply don't check job postings. This year I did, and it was a bit sad to find a handful of positions that matched my qualifications pretty well (you have no idea how difficult that is).

In any case, yeah... crazy bad timing.

My Open Wound: academia, the (useless) phd, etc. & Animated characters!

Go ahead, skip this post. Nobody likes to look at open wounds, or, do they? Sure, maybe they do in an irresistible attraction to trainwrecks kind of way. I won't write much, though because I can get these Xtra Normal animations to speak for me. So, yeah... a pinch of bitterness for nothing right now (as usual).

The first animation: "So you Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities?" has become ubiquitous in the academic blogland at this point (and elicited several responses, this one which makes graduate student life sound amazingly great -- mine was pretty good, I have to admit -- we had full health benefits, tuition waiver, etc & my husband, in the sciences, traveled a lot). My sister-in-law blogged about this animation today and commented: "My dream is a tragic joke" to which I promptly replied "If your dream is a joke, my life is a joke." And I urged her to learn from others' mistakes.

 Since I've made the mistake alreay, this last video is more on target. It was created by a blogging friend in a similar situation as mine. Adjunct-Mill:

My situation is not that dire just because I do have free access to the photocopier and a small office with two computers shared by only six or seven other adjuncts! ;-) In any case, I shouldn't whine. It's hard, though, quite hard.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Why I Don't Like Facebook - Zadie Smith said it better than I ever could

Obviously, I had to spend a few minutes on facebook before writing this post. I do it, but I often feel sad and disconnected afterwards. I mostly enjoy reading the updates of those people whose blogs I read, so I already have a "bigger picture" of what's going on and/or who they are before reading their snippets.

In second place, I enjoy the updates of a handful of people I know really well and about whom it doesn't bother me in the least to see just bits and pieces out there. This category also includes colleagues (particularly from grad school) whose updates make me feel that I still know what they're up to to some degree. Oh, and people who are acquaintances and who post lots of photos of their gorgeous newborns so I can keep up with that new development in their lives. ;-)

More commonly, though, facebook just makes me feel disgruntled and disconnected. "What is really going on in his/her life?" I often wonder after a cryptic post from a friend with whom I'm not really in touch. "Hmmm... I wonder what happened to him/her." There's no underlying narrative, no context, nothing. When really serious things happen (like a death in the family of the friend in question) I am eternally thankful when the person spells it out for me -- or someone else does in the comments. More often than not, I'm just left hanging.

One classic example was that over a month ago someone posted a prayer request for someone who was gravelly ill. A commenter asked whether this person was such and such's father and I commented too, asking for more details. Nothing else was forthcoming and in the busyness of everyday life, I forgot to call a friend in Massachusetts who might have more information (calling her would have involved awkward apologies as to why I'm not in touch and a lengthy "catch up" conversation -- see? that's why I feel upset when friends don't read the blog). Yesterday, K was on the phone with another friend of ours (one with whom we're regularly in touch) and he happened to ask about our common friend. It turns out the man died two weeks ago. I felt so bad!! Facebook gave us a hint to the situation, but that was that... oh well.

Last, but not least, most of the people in my contact list are random folks I met 20, 30 years ago and in whose lives I'm not interested in the least (thankfully, those hardly ever post and I can easily hide them, now that I FINALLY figured out how to do that! Phew!).

So, yeah, when Laura (Apt 11d) wrote this post today, I really identified with what Zadie Smith has written about facebook. Thanks, Laura!

I want to cite the same excerpt Laura included in her post. And here is Zadie Smith's full essay, "Generation Why?" in which she reviews the film The Social Network and the book You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier for The New York Review of Books.
When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned...
Shouldn’t we struggle against Facebook? Everything in it is reduced to the size of its founder. Blue, because it turns out Zuckerberg is red-green color-blind. “Blue is the richest color for me—I can see all of blue.” Poking, because that’s what shy boys do to girls they are scared to talk to. Preoccupied with personal trivia, because Mark Zuckerberg thinks the exchange of personal trivia is what “friendship” is. A Mark Zuckerberg Production indeed! We were going to live online. It was going to be extraordinary. Yet what kind of living is this? Step back from your Facebook Wall for a moment: Doesn’t it, suddenly, look a little ridiculous? Your life inthis format?...
It’s a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore.
That's why I shall stick to blogging. It is meaningful, messy, full of individual character. This is still a small, virtual slice of who I am, of the fullness of me, but it's infinitely more than one can get with status updates or 140 characters on Twitter. Those who care enough about me will read what I write. And it's been a real pleasure to make so many wonderful friends through this virtual "window on the world" that is my blog. Too bad nearly all of my "real life" friends are caught up in the superficial tangle of facebook and other social media. Ha! And last, but not least, this blog is all green, because that's my color, not the impersonal white with a bit of blue over there...

Sunday, November 07, 2010

So it is ILLEGAL to criticize how certain foods are produced in this country, depending on where you live?*/ Monsanto is EVIL

I had to add a new label to the blog after watching Food, Inc. last night: OUTRAGEOUS! I watched it by myself last night and when I woke up this morning the first things I said to K were about it.

Seriously. After I saw it I just want to sit down and cry. You know, this world we live in now is CRAZY. And every day I get more and more convinced that every single aspect of the world we live in is rotten to the core. Because there's no escaping big business. Big business crushing individuals.

I still remember the day -- years ago -- my brother (who is a forest engineer and was a student in the school of agriculture of the University of São Paulo at the time) told me about Monsanto and the patented seeds and how horrified I felt about the idea of a farmer not being able to keep his own seeds. In Food, Inc. they talk about how in a matter of a few years (11, I think) farmers went from being outraged to 90% of them adhering to Monsanto's exigencies and buying their evil super seed. Yikes!

The meat producing parts of the film disgusted me a bit, but since I already am vegetarian, they didn't concern me personally. Everything else upset me, though. And, as I was telling K this morning -- this is NOT the Michael Moore-style appellative documentary. Food, Inc. is almost too low key at times, but it addresses sensitive issues that are extremely serious and haven't been addressed satisfactorily by the government.

To make matters worse, food is probably one more subject in which the recent election will have unfortunate consequences... oh well.

I apologize for these "filler" posts. I have a nagging suspicion that I'll totally blow NaBloPoMo this year... I'm just too tired and uninspired most of the time. And we'll travel to Florida at the end of the month. We'll see.

* I generalized, apparently, it's not so extreme, but the documentary says that in the state of Colorado one can go to jail by criticizing how meat is produced.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Xmas Photo Teaser

Today we had our visiting friend take photos of our family for our Christmas card. Here's a sample take (I'm not including K):
Nice, huh? Closer to the holidays, after the cards have been mailed, I'll share more . Does this count as a NaBloPoMo post? We only see these friends once a year or less, so we have to spend time together, OK?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Nearly Blowing it.../ Reminiscing

Well, it's 1 am, but there are other time zones in the country, so, can we pretend I'm in Pacific time right now?

You can blame it on our dear house guests... we're telling them the whole epic tale of the job search. It's pretty thrilling to relive all the details...

... the nine and half hours driving in the worst snowstorm in a generation...

... the key locked in the rental car that had K's computer and everything else less than six hours before he needed to give his talk four states away!

... the unexpected email that nearly changed the course of our lives.

So, yeah. Even I can't believe everything we've been going through. I hope it's made for entertaining reading, at least.

more tomorrow, we'll keep on talking for a few more hours. I don't know who will watch two active boys all day tomorrow. ;-)

Thursday, November 04, 2010


As usual... I live my life constantly thinking of blog posts, but lately, I just can't seem to be able to get the words down for most of them. I don't want to sound ungrateful and whiny, you see?

Right now, the main reason it is so difficult to try and wrestle with the words is that there's so much I wanted to write about, but which I think won't be productive to discuss. I don't know exactly for whom, though...

This whole "working in the margins" thing. The keen awareness of one's situation, the reality of it, unsurmountable nature of the problem. Hard to swallow facts such as these: part time faculty "now make up at least 50% of the nation's higher-education faculty." (from here -- I wish I could find the energy to write more about this thought provoking piece). 

Is there a way out of this systemic problem? Is there a way we could do something from the bottom up to try and see if we could have some rights? Highly unlikely. And thus I feel stuck. Shut up (in all its meanings), shut out. 

Yeah... the ones with "the room of their own" have a hard time understanding this/us. Maybe I will come back and write more about, or maybe I will have to find another (wholly anonymous) outlet. I'll keep you posted.

And sorry for the depressing post.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Beatriz: more amazing Brazilian music for you (English Translation too!)

At the end of nearly every Portuguese class I teach we listen to a Brazilian song whose subject is related to what we just studied. I am passionate about Brazilian popular music (MPB: Música Popular Brasileira) and I want to share that passion with the students.

Of course more often than not, the students just listen to the songs as a curiosity, but last week I think they were moved by one of my many favorites, Beatriz, a song by the amazingly talented songwriter/lyricist/novelist/singer (he's not the best singer, but he sings OK) Chico Buarque in a partnership with Edu Lobo. The best interpretation of the song is by another amazing Brazilian singer, Milton Nascimento.

After my students seemed so touched by the song I went to research a little bit more about it and found out that it is part of a ballet called O Grande Circo Místico. The spectacle first took place in 1982, but the CD was not released until last year. The ballet has a great website (in Portuguese) which is where I learned what it is all about --  it's fascinating!

The inspiration came from a really crazy poem by Jorge de Lima which, in turn, was loosely based on a real story! The story of how the Knie Circus (nowadays, Switzerland's "national circus" -- site in German) and how this Austrian medical student fell in love with an equestrian acrobat (Agnes in real life, Beatriz in the ballet). If you're interested I can give more information in the comments (translating some of the circus' story from Portuguese). For now, I just want you to listen to this song... it's beyond lovely, I should include the lyrics and translation in the future too. Last see. I hope you like it!

Note: the slide show is really cheesy, so you don't have to look at it. ;-)

Spanish subtitles only:

Edited to add (on 3/22/2011):
Someone found this post Googling for the English translation of Beatriz and he emailed me to ask for a translation. Here is is:
Edited to correct the translation, see comment below (07/07/2014) -- thanks Jules!

(Edu Lobo/ Chico Buarque)

I wonder,* is she a virgin?
I wonder, is she sad?
I wonder, is it the contrary?
I wonder, is it a painting?
The actress’ face
If she dances in the seventh heaven
If she believes it is another country
And what if she only memorizes her role
And what if I could enter her life
I wonder, is it made of porcelain [or china]?
I wonder, is it made of ether?
I wonder, is it madness?
I wonder, is it a set decoration?
The actress’ house
If she lives in a sky-scraper
And what** if the walls are made of chalk
And what if what she cries in a hotel room
And what if I could enter her life
Yes, take me forever, Beatriz
Teach me not to walk with feet on the ground***
Forever is always by a thread
There, tell me how many disasters are there in my hand
Tell me if it is dangerous for us to be happy
I wonder, is it a star?
I wonder, is it a lie?
I wonder, is it comedy?
I wonder, is it divine?
The actress’ life
If she one day falls from the sky
And what if the costumers [payers] demand an encore
And what if the archangel passes the hat around
And what if I could enter her life.

* Será means “will be,” but será que ela é cannot be readily conveyed in English. I have decided to use “I wonder” in spite of the fact that Será que is impersonal.
** I had originally translated "E se" literally as "And if..." but decided to add "what" because I think it makes more sense in English and makes the "wondering" of the narrator stronger. I made this change on 6/24/12
***she was a tight-rope walker on the play

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Democracy in America: When the voice of those who care to vote (and only those) gets "heard"

I was mildly annoyed all day. It all started with a facebook app that asked me whether I'd already voted. "I can't vote!" I replied in my wall, "I really wish I could, but I can't 'cause I'm one of those 'scary aliens.'" BLAH!

Then on campus I saw several people looking smug while walking around with their American flag backed "I voted" buttons and I wished I had this button (I just made it on Picasa):
Well, I'm not really that bitter about it, you know... Politics is tricky stuff. And I know if I stick around for a few more years and I decide to become a citizen, I'll be granted this "privilege." The worst part of politics for me is that for an overwhelming number of people, this privilege does NOT come "with great responsibility" -- they don't really care to vote. 

When I came to this country I couldn't understand the two party system and how it really worked or what each party stood for. In Brazil there were two parties only when there was some kind of dictatorship or when elite minorities were in charge. Once the political opening took place in the 1980s, many political parties were created, fostering a diverse political climate (almost circus-like at times, literally! This year people voted an allegedly illiterate circus clown into the house of representatives as a lame protest: BBC). It's not only here that people seem to be losing their minds in the political discourse... :-(

In any case, for me the most remarkable difference -- which can be looked at from a positive as well as a negative point-of-view -- is that in Brazil, voting is mandatory. Sure, that can lead to the clown representative, but one can also argue that the elected officials are truly the ones chosen by the majority of the population, 16 years old and older (between 16 and 18 years of age one can opt to vote on a voluntary basis -- but one can't get a driver's license until one is 18 in Brazil, this all makes much more sense to me!!). 

When the Bush Vs. Gore debacle took place in 2000 and whenever there's a presidential elections here, a lot of people in Brazil get really confused and cannot believe that a president got elected without the majority of the popular vote. I know how it works (it took over 10 years, but I finally understood), but lots of people around the world don't get it (and of course Americans could care less, right?).

I think what I wrote in the title is one of the things that bothers the most about American politics. And I know that you, "my fellow Americans" will argue that this is the very basis of your "democracy:" people have freedom not to participate in the election process. Fine, but when people don't get involved, they have no say and that is not good for them or the country. 

A couple of days ago Laura (Apartment 11D) blogged about Saturday's Rally and a productive discussion ensued in the comments. One of the things that her friend Suze wrote here exemplifies one of the things I feel is "wrong" in the current political sytem/climate:  
But I know a lot of others who did attend the rally. And they are not particularly political. Voting is the most political thing they do, and they only do that when there’s no line and they’re passing by anyway after picking up milk. It’s not that they’re so disillusioned they won’t vote, but rather that it may not fit conveniently into their day. They’re likely to go into the voting booth having only the vaguest idea of who’s on the ballot. 
Yeah... so only the voice of those who care to vote is heard. And right now there's lot of screaming and screeching out there. :-(  (at least the clown is comparatively harmless, no?)

Monday, November 01, 2010

NaBloPoMo - 4th year in a Row

Well... here we go again, this is my fourth year of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month).

I hope to write some mildly interesting posts, but this will not be one of them. :-p

November... it's an OK month. I think Fall is pretty and all, but it's not my favorite time of the year. And winter, which this month begins to usher, is my least favorite season too... I do think that summers are just exceedingly hot in the U.S. (they really aren't bad like this in Brazil, only perhaps in the Northeast or for a few days at a time) and that's why a lot of people seem to enjoy the cooler temperatures in the Fall, but I prefer hot weather.

Today I was walking on campus when one of the reasons why I don't like winter dawned on me. One can't wear cute clothes in winter, particularly not cute shoes (I love cute, and cute shoes are one of my weaknesses). I pretty much wear clogs-style shoes all winter long, boots once in a while or sensible waterproof shoes if it's snowing or wet. Not pretty, not cute. I also wear lots of dark colors (and I'm OK with that) and I enjoy wearing hats, but they make one's hair get all weird. Oh, and not to mention how cold I get (I know, it's part of my "small body privilege," I'm not complaining, I swear). I wear long underwear or leggins under my pants all winter long, six long months.

So, yeah... I don't much care for a winter wardrobe. If I could afford really nice winter clothes I think I'd be fine, but, as it is, summer clothes are way cheaper (in the off season) and I have tons of cute summer dresses, sandals, blouses, crop pants, etc.

I can't wait for summer and I'm already tired of my winter clothes even before I get to wear them. I bought a few new things and a pair of boots, but I know I have to be sensible and not spend money on clothes when we have to save to buy a house. (ah, that will be exciting!).

OK, this has probably bored you to tears, so I'll stop. Is there anything you'd be curious to know or that I should blog about? I will try to post some photos too.