Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Doped by the Brazilian Universal Health Care System

I almost refused the corticosteroid shot, but then in the end I took it. I was feeling a bit better tonight (after taking ibuprofen), but I was just horribly sick for the past four days, so my mom and I thought it would be a good idea with the trip coming up tomorrow.

It was my mom idea to take me to the small public local health clinic -- they call them "Postos de Saúde." Many are open 24h for emergencies. Mom wanted to make sure I didn't have a viral case of pneumonia, so she wanted a doctor to check my lungs. Of course the lungs were clear, but the doctor heard my croaky voice and saw my bruised nose & lips (from 3 days of constantly runny nose) and ordered the shot.

I think that maybe it's weaker than most steroids given in the U.S. since I'm not all awake, I think I'll be able to sleep ok. The weird thing is that it was the very same corticosteroid that the doctors gave me 35+ years ago when I was a little girl suffering from acute asthma attacks in a small town in Paraná. A couple of years later when my family moved to the state capital my mom learned that continual use of steroids are very bad for small children and I never had it again... until tonight, that is.

I will have to come back and tell you more about Brazil's universal health care some other time, but the best thing was that my mom had called ahead and the clinic was empty, so we hardly had to wait! And it didn't cost a penny.

Five Feverish Days

sorry for the long, boring post
I don't recall having had a fever for so long before (though maybe I did)... I'm really tired of being sick.

I'm pretty sure it's viral, so I don't want to go to the doctor (especially because they don't do strep tests here, they just prescribe antibiotics, that's what I've been told). I don't want to have to pay either, or have to go to the free public system (I would have to wait for a long time).

It's probably taking me so long to heal from this case of the flu because we've had absolutely crazy intense days since Friday when we picked K up from the bus that came from the São Paulo airport.

- About 12:30 the boys, my dad & I picked up K from the bus.
- We stopped at his grandmother's house where we had lunch and heard her complaints about some family members. We got the keys to my father-in-law's car and drove away.
- Then we stopped at K's "aunt" (his mom's cousin)'s house so we could talk with the aunt who was going back to Germany last Sunday -- it was K's only chance of talking to her (she's awesome, we love her).
- We finally arrived at my parents' house, but we stayed less than half an hour because we had a dinner to go to!
- Dinner was at the house of this family who had visited us in the U.S. earlier this year and they had also invited our former choir director & his wife an we had a good time talking about the old days.

Saturday: (I was feverish all day and my nose started running like an open faucet)
- After a short night of sleep K & I had to leave for São Paulo (without the boys) where we had scheduled a reunion with friends from college (we had a Bible study group at the university and we were together for 5 years, organizing retreats, potluck lunches, etc) and the group that is currently there at the university now.
- It was a looong day with unconventional "church" meetings in the morning, potluck lunch, meeting at the university in the afternoon and pizza together in the evening. We didn't say goodbye until 11 pm.
- We drove in two cars (wives in one car, husbands in the other) to our friends' house -- and I was finally able to have some acetaminophen (the pills my friends had earlier in the day had caffeine & I didn't want that). We talked with them until close to 2 am.

- I took more acetaminophen with breakfast and then K and I headed to a reunion lunch with my 8th grade classroom at this great, but über-expensive Brazilian steakhouse. It was wonderful to see my friend A again -- we hadn't seen each other in almost 17 years! Some friends arrived really late to the lunch, so we were there from 1-5 pm.
- We recharged my mom's cell phone at a drugstore, but forgot to buy acetaminophen for me, so my fever kept rising (I never measured it until Monday);
- At 6 pm we met up with a childhood friend of mine I hadn't seen in about 25 years -- he's dating my friend Ci (whom I'd seen earlier in the week) -- we picked Ci up and drove her boyfriend to his night shift work at a hospital as a pediatric respiratory physical-therapist.
- Then we drove to Ci's favorite spot in town where I stayed in the car resting while K & Ci went to buy me some Tylenol (my fever must have been pretty high by then).
- After the Starbucks where we were talking closed, we drove to her house where K & she talked (I was pretty sick and napped a bit) until three in the morning. She and K hadn't talked in 16 years, so 8.5 hours was barely enough to cover all that ground! ;)
- We arrived at our friends' wonderful apartment (photos of the views forthcoming) at about 3:50. I did a breathing treatment (with saline solution), took a shower and went to bed.

- We slept until 11 am and that felt great. My throat was hurting again, so I got a bit worried and called my mom so she could schedule a doctor's appointment.
- I still had a fever and I checked it for the first time: 100.94 F (38,3 C), not that high. 
- We left our friends' apartment around 12:30 and drove to the university again because K is trying to validate his PhD here in Brazil. Bureaucracy is absurd here, though, and they couldn't proceed because the phd diploma that he presented to them has only his first and last name and his identity card has the first, middle and last names. They said we needed to go to a public notary and get a declaration that would recognize the document.
- We drove to the notary and K gave up on doing it because it was over 100 dollars and it would take a long time.
- We finally drove back to my parents' house and I called my mom and asked her to cancel the doctor's appointment. We stopped in town on our way here to buy medicine and for K to check the notary public there.
- Last night we had dinner with a "cousin" (my mother-in-law's cousin's son) who is moving to the U.S. and K & I shared with him our experiences from our 16 years there.
- We talked to him until past midnight and it was great, but we were overly tired when we finally went to bed (and I was still pretty sick).

Tuesday (today)
- I'm still slightly feverish, but it's the lowest possible fever, 98.6 F (37 C). I don't feel that great, but I read stuff about strep versus viral sore throats and I think it was definitely a virus.
- We'll try to see some more friends today that K hasn't seen. I'm just hoping I can find enough energy to pack, because..

...Tomorrow we'll fly to Maceió in the Northeast and I don't feel at all excited or willing to do it, but... hopefully I'll feel better once we get there. :(

OK, I will try to post the photos later. São Paulo as seen from the 21st floor of it's fanciest neighborhood, Morumbi.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ci & Li Take Sampa, or Lovely Day with a Dear Friend

Last night and this morning were awesome! I stayed in São Paulo (or dear Sampa) -- the city where I lived the longest in my life, 13.5 years -- with my friend Ci.

OK, before I keep on going, a video of Caetano Veloso's "Sampa" with images of the city:

Last night we ate some delicious pizza (and a risotto al funghi) and this morning, after a brief business meeting  that Ci had, we headed to downtown São Paulo. Talking like crazy the whole time. Some pics:
 These guys represented Fernando Pessoa and Mário de Andrade, two awesome poets, the first Portuguese and the second, Brazilian, from "Sampa."
 Here we are at the largest used bookstore in Brazil (they claim Latin America):
I bought "only" 21 books, here and at another store across the street. Ci had never been there and she loved it! My trusty backpack* fit all but four of the books and after my purchase I had lunch and headed straight to the subway and bus station and then to my parents' house (2h30 hours away). It was an amazing day!

* My Vera backpack looks totally weird in Brazil, it stands out like an eye-sore because nobody uses anything like that. I'm sure it looks very "American." But I don't care!!!!!

Super Extreme Tele-Teaching

This is too surreal to be real, but it is real and it's coming to be in the Fall.

I still can't believe I've agreed to to this and I think it's the most horrible pathetic thing that technology ever did to me and to education...

OK, I'll blurt it out, though I don't really want to share this because I hate the idea so much...

So... I am supposed to teach 17+5 students at two different universities from an empty teleconference room  -- I mean, I'll be in the room, but there'll be no students in it. I don't see how this can work, I think the person in charge is just not thinking right but just desperate to get this class to be taught and my hubby talked me into doing this as well (so I can maintain affiliation).

Look what'll happen: I will drive early to other university and from there I'll teach students from former university and another university. Then, I'll teach two other classes back to back after that "sweet" distance learning extreme experiment.

oh... and the all of the experience I have with this whole "tele-teaching" (which is what I decided to call this) experience and concept is one advanced Chinese class that I attended. Once. And I get back to the U.S. less than a week before classes start.

sooo sweet. But, you know what, I will survive this. somehow.

guys, wish me luck. I will need it. (at this point I don't really care about what's going to happen...)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"The Eye" or MON: Museu Oscar Niemeyer (Curitiba, PR Brazil)

My sons love it and call it simply "the eye." It's one block from my aunt's house, isn't that just amazingly awesome? A wonderful architectural gem? They remember it from 4 years ago (Linton not so much because he was 4.5) and they couldn't wait to go inside again.

Just a few photos from our visit... hopefully I'll share some more at a later date (including those from years ago)...
these works of art were made with dominoes, my boys loved that detail! 

Oscar Niemeyer designed Brasília (Brasil's capital). Some NYT photos and his own website.

My Dear Cousin - II

Last night (OK, Tuesday night), I got to spend sometime to my other favorite cousin (and his wife):
My visit to Curitiba was way too short, but it was lovely nonetheless...
(I'm already in São Paulo, this time visiting with dear friends).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Dear Cousin - I

I love you Vânia Helena!
P.S. I wish I could stay with these cousins of mine who have wifi, but I'm staying at their mom's house instead. :( ;)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In ten days...

... my husband will be here. Actually in 9 days since it's Thursday already...

I miss him, though I'm really used to this by now: me in Brazil doing the usual "Brazil things" and he at home working and tying lose ends around the house before joining us.

It'll be so much better when he gets here, though! The boys miss him like crazy, especially Kelvin. I think they haven't missed him so much in the past like this time. It's just that K is the best father ever... and he's been doing a wonderful job disciplining the boys when I continue to be pretty lame. :(

Tomorrow we travel again (though today we had a short day trip to shop for clothing at a town in the nearby state) to visit my extended family on both sides in Curitiba, Parana (the place where I might have been born, but wasn't). I sold my camera & the new one will get here with K next week, so... I don't know how I'll take more photos, probably with my mom's little camera, we'll see!

OK, it's really really late (1h later here than in the U.S.) at 1:30 am, and I have to go to bed, so... I'll write from Curitiba next time!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rainy Days & Mondays

Today, Monday, I obviously didn't have to go back to work, but it was raining, and rainy days with two boys at someone else's home can be tricky.

It didn't rain all day, but thankfully my parents allow the boys to ride their scooter and caster board (or "ripstik" as Kelvin prefers to call it, even though theirs is from the Wave brand, not RipStik) inside the house, since their ceramic floors are very resistant and not fancy at all, so the boys spent a lot of time taking turns with the scooter and ripstik, sometimes perilously near-crashing into each other.

Here's Kelvin "ripstiking" a week ago, wearing his church clothes:
He does a good job going through doors and around furniture:

I also got them to do some of their math summer homework and they spent the requisite time (1h30 max, split between  morning and afternoon) in the ipad or laptop.

I wasn't very productive, though, since the boys spent most of the day listening to music through Spotify on my laptop as I tried to work on the computer and which was maddeningly distracting for adhd me. oh well...

Tonight, after putting it off for nearly a month for no good reason other than my irrational adhd fear of filling form, I finally submitted my textbook requests for the Fall. I hope it's OK! I also had a lovely chat on facebook with a good friend from graduate school who is also starting a new lecture post in the Fall.

I did something else that was lots of fun today... looking through several boxes of kitchen stuff that I left behind back in 1996 when we moved to the U.S. This time I finally discarded lots of things (my mom is planning a tag sale or donations) and selected other items to bring with us. You have no idea what kinds of things I brought over the years from Brazil to the U.S.: all kinds of bedding, including comforters, blankets, sheets and also towels; all manner of cooking and dining utensils: china plates and cups, cutlery, baking pans, pots, pyrex dishes, etc. And this time I'll be bringing more of the same!

I have to go to bed, but I hope to post some photos of our cousin's wedding yesterday, it was amazing!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Nanny at My Brother's Wedding

The nanny didn't come to my wedding and neither did our 3rd-4th grade teacher, but they both made it to my brother's wedding seven years later...

Reading this provocatively titled essay by Mona Simpson in the NYT didn't bother me one bit because long time readers know that my children never stayed with anyone that wasn't me, my husband or my parents (except for a few nights with close friends of the family). Their very first day with a baby-sitter happened earlier this year, when they were 10 and nearly 8. I know this is rare and that I'm spoiled, privileged, or whatever, but that's how it was and that's what K & I wanted for us and our sons. That is not how my husband and his brothers and my brother and I were raised, though, and Simpson's article reminded me of that, particularly the ending about the nanny in the girl's wedding.

We always had household help growing up here in Brazil. My husband actually remembers a brief time when his parents had two live-in nannies because his youngest siblings were very young and only one year apart. Most nannies in Brazil aren't merely nannies (unless you're a bit richer and can afford multiple domestic helpers), they cook and clean, wash, iron clothes, etc. (I only saw the very beginning of The Help, but I think it was/still is up to a certain point similar to that). Nowadays nannies/domestic helpers generally commute to their jobs, but when I was growing up it was more common for them to live with the family.

In Brazil in the 70s and 80s these young women were generally from poor rural families and they moved in with middle class families in towns and cities so they could go to school in the evening and try to ascend socially. Many of them lived with the families they worked for until they found a good steady boyfriend and got married.

Loide (Lois in English) was the nanny who lived the longest with our family. She was replaced by her younger sister Alice for a brief period, but she came back. One of the reasons why my parents eventually let her find another job and hired another person who studied part time and lived/worked for us, was that Loide & I didn't get along very well. She was pretty bossy and I rebelled against her authority (I don't think you would know it from reading my blog or even from knowing me in person, but I have a really strong rebellious streak in me, I just don't look at all rebellious. ;) In the end, she was the first and last of the young women who lived with us for a long time, since the next ones were only with us for one or two years.

I think Loide came to live with us when my brother was 2 or 3 and when she left he was 8 or 9, so she got really attached to him, so she came to his wedding, though she couldn't stay until the end of the ceremony because she had to catch a bus to travel back home to her family (a 7h bus ride). The most important thing was that my brother remembered her and made sure she received an invitation to his wedding... I'm not sure I invited her to mine. I did invite our 3rd &4th grade teacher (who was also my language arts teacher in 6th grade, an excellent teacher whom I admired), though, but she only came to my brother's wedding... (OK, I think my wedding coincided with commencement at the academy where she taught, so she couldn't come, but she did like my brother best, anyway... I don't think he ever rebelled against her authority they way I did! ;)

anyway... the article reminded me of the nanny at my brother's wedding.

And I really liked the photos of the nannies and children/babies. I wish I had time to listen to the interviews, but I have to go to bed to go to... a wedding tomorrow morning! No nannies in this wedding, since our cousin was raised in Germany! ;)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Caldas Novas -- a Hot Water Resort Town

The photos below are a panoramic view of the town from up there (the "volcano" at the "Acqua Park:"

 The theory is that there are hot water springs all around that flat mountain you see in the background because it used to be a volcano many years ago.
 You can check the satellite view of the mountain on Google Maps.

And you can see part of the water park below (most of those pools have cold water, unlike the rest of the town):

This is one of maybe three photos in which I appear during the whole week (I took most of the photos, obviously). The boys only wore those swim trunks on the first two days, in the last two, they had to go all Brazilian (wearing speedos) or they wouldn't be allowed on the water slides.

These photos took forever to load, so I don't know how to post lots of photos here in Brazil. :(

Safely Back Home, but internet-less

We made it back from Caldas Novas to where my parents live in the Sao Paulo countryside, a 400 mile trip.

My parents' house doesn't have internet because we left the modem with their tenant and it's still locked up in his bedroom. Thankfully he'll arrive later tonight, but Kelvin & I were upset for no internet.

We're online because we came to have dinner at my in-laws (who happen to live in the very same gated community as my parents) and we're using their wireless...

I'll try to post a few photos in the next few minutes. Not too many captions, though, OK?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bullet points from Caldas Novas, Brazil

- I'm blogging in our iPad to make less noise typing ;) [too bad it's still pretty noisy, but I just figured out how to shut off keyboard clicks!!! yay!!] - Sharing a hotel room would be easier without internet access :( - I really want to share more photos as I promised, but we drove hundreds of miles to be here going to hot water pools and water parks where the boys can go on water slides for hours, so that's what I'm doing... - My birthday was great!! It was lovely to spend it with two of my best friends & their families, as well as another dear friend who married my favorite high school teacher (of history). - one of the friends drove for 2 hours to be there with me :D - K sold our old Civic today!! & I think maybe I forgot to tell you we bought our friends' old Hyundai right before I traveled... - I guess I'll go to bed now... The iPad experiment was highly successful! Am I ready for the iPhone now? ;)

Friday, July 06, 2012

Bright Beautiful Breezy Brazil

The light in winter here in Brazil is stunning. The blue skies, the dark greens all around and the warm & cool (yes, such a thing exists) breeze... it's just perfect!
 I'm going to share better photos soon, I promise! I started this post this afternoon and I want to put it out there before midnight. Because tomorrow is a special day and I want o celebrate it here too.

I miss K, our house, our gardens, our cats, but I'm glad to be here. And 40+1 here I come! ;)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Airport Blogging from Canada

Yes, you heard that right, Canada. Because the boys's tickets are award travel, we have a funky itinerary.

Dulles - Toronto - Sao Paulo.

The boys love flying and traveling, so it's no big deal for them, quite the contrary, it's one more adventure. The only challenge here was finding outlets to plug my laptop (its battery doesn't really work) and to charge Linton's ipod touch.

Kelvin used skype on the ipad to talk to grandma for several minutes and to his auntie and cousin too. And my aunt called me on skype all the way from Curitiba, Parana, Brazil. She's so cute!! I'm so glad we'll get to see them.

Well, our gate was changed and we need to walk over there, so we're going. I can't wait to get to Brazil. Everyone says it's warm there (it's winter) and that's great, I hope we don't have to face any cold fronts!! Winter days in Brazil are just beautiful. I'll post photos... even though it looks like tomorrow I'll sell my Nikon 3100 and K will be able to buy a 5100 just in time for my birthday!! YAY!!! Wish me luck (that the buyer doesn't bail out).

So... I will have to take photos with my mom small Sony...

Packed and almost ready to go...

... to Brazil for 1.5 month.

All things considered, getting ready for this trip was comparatively easy. We only stayed up until 4 am packing and got a few hours of sleep. ;)

Of course I needed to put some plants on the ground and K will have to do it for me. Sigh...

We need to leave soon, so I'll talk to you again from Brazil! (Oh, they do have free wireless in Dulles, but it's pretty slow).

It's been 2.5 years since we've  been in Brazil, so I'm happy we're going. For the first time, though... I already miss my house before we go. That's a really good sign, it means I finally feel settled and I love our lives in this particular location!

Off we go! There'll be lots and lots of traveling in the next 6 weeks and I'll keep you posted!