Paulista Ladies

March 17, 2010

Today I felt very much like a lady of Sao Paulo, a Paulista.  I woke up in Karen’s gorgeous apartment and was reading the New York Times on my computer when Marta, the woman who’s worked for her since Mark and Gi were small asked me if I wanted breakfast.  She opened the door to the kitchen (which had been closed) and there was hot coffee with hot milk and a basket of breads, cheese, jam, Nutella, it was blissful (By the way, breakfasts like this are the same at Paulo and Edite’s, just as wonderful and luxurious).  Soon after, Karen came home and we picked up Elen and went to Jardins, poking in and out of small boutiques.  I fell in love with a dress that was dusky purple silk, demure and high-necked from the front with a wide open back and exquisite details.  With five or six weddings coming up, I now feel constantly on the lookout for new dresses. Listening to Seu Jorge in the car we went to go see a new Chagall exhibit at MASP, and then returned to Karen’s for lunch.

In the afternoon Karen and I went to go look at wooden furniture in Vila Madelena, some like the rustic pieces we had ogled in Tiradentes, and some more refined and polished, beautiful, warm woods formed into modern shapes and designs.  I can’t wait to have a house to decorate with all of these Brazilian things.  When I’m a real grown up I’ll definitely come back here and pick out all of the pieces.  After we met up with Karen’s chef friend Simone, her mother Frida, another friend and Edite for coffee.  We talked about Simone’s daughter, who’s applying to colleges in the US, and Frida’s life in Minneapolis, where she spends half the year.  It’s all been excellent practice for my Portuguese, and I’m getting better at understanding rapid-fire conversation, not so slowed down for the gringo.  IT’s all a learning experience, with the perfect kind of teachers who will stop and explain, if necessary.  I should be doing more work–more writing, more for Cidades Sem Fome, but it’s too wonderful to spend this kind of time with the family, who have so generously opened their home to me (you know the saying after three days fish and house guests start to stink?  well I think I must be getting a little smelly) and taken off from work to keep me company, show me around.  No matter how much I insist that I can take care of myself, and entertain myself, it’s no use.  These Brazilian ladies are stubborn.  But I love it.


Speaking Portuguese

February 6, 2010

I feel ready for our trip to the north.  I feel armed with a more comfortable handle of Portuguese.  Somehow, in the last few days of staying with Paulo and Edite and visiting with all of the cousins, I have become less shy, less afraid to speak.  I still feel mostly inarticulate, like a child, and stumble over the pronunciation all the time.  I’m sure my conjugation is way off more than I know, but I feel more at ease.  I think because we’re going back to one of the first places I went to in Brazil– Pipa– it feels like an accomplishment, a way to measure our progress.  Scott and I were talking earlier about how we tried to speak Spanish with the receptionist at Pousada Dos Girassois last year because we didn’t speak Portuguese and he didn’t speak any English.  This time communication will be so much smoother.  We’re ready now, we’ve studied, and returned.

A Subjunctive Cold

November 19, 2009

Angelica, our Portuguese teacher came for the last time today.  We’ve been learning the subjunctive, and it’s really hard.  I’ve also been totally consumed by applying to graduate school, and not studying as much as I should have, and threw a veritable tantrum in the middle of class.  I apologized, but still feel terrible. I was just so frustrated.

I also managed to get a cold during the course of our two hour class. I’m not sure how that works, but I wound up with a pile of tissues next to me.

The Home Hotel on Honduras Street makes for excellent people watching.  For less than a nice dinner in New York City, Scott and I are staying at an industrial chic, super cool hotel (on the wrong side of Palermo Viejo’s tracks).  I’m falling for it’s polished cement floors, shaggy rugs, warm wood furniture, and giant pump bottles of high-quality shampoo, conditioner and bubble bath.  I also just got back from the included breakfast, where the small dining room was filled with the most universally attractive tables of hipsters and carefully ruffled jet-setters.  As we all spread jam (served in shot glasses) on bread there was an Asian couple next to me, he with tattoos up his forearm, she with perfectly mussed hair and a cute flowered dress.  At another table, two Brits in plaid shirts mused as they sipped apple basil juice from another shot glass.  The conversations that floated through the small space were quick and witty.

Another table had a young British businessman and a stunning Brazilian woman.  He was asking her questions in English, she was speaking to the waitress in Spanish, and every once in a while she peppered her sentences with Portuguese.  It reminded me of something Fabio had said as we were driving to Democratica a couple of weeks ago.  (Fabio lives in Rio and we were connected to him though Marshall’s manager who was in town for the Rio film festival–he’s a mover and shaker in the Brazilian film industry).  He was talking about doing business in English–that there’s one English that people have to know to do business with Americans and Brits, and then another sort of international English.  He was describing meetings that he’s had in LA, or New York, or London with Parisians, Spaniards, Japanese people, and they speak in English, but it’s grammar is less precise.  The sentences can be wrong, but they all know what they’re trying to say.

Scott and I were talking about that last night, too.  As we spoke together in Portuguese over dinner to practice, I was saying that I’m less shy about it now.  Even if some of the conjugations are wrong, I’ve realized that I should just go for it and not be self-conscious about speaking.  We were talking about the collaboration of speaking a foreign language–that even if someone speaks English badly, you’re still immediately at ease when they speak your language.  You work to figure out what they’re saying, meet them half way.  I like the idea of language being a collaborative effort between the speaker and the listener.

I’m also still trying to figure out what I think about Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Price.  I guess everyone is, huh?  Thoughts?

Bombeiros and Vibrams

September 22, 2009

We’ve started taking private Portuguese lessons with a woman named Angelica.  Perhaps it’s because I’m super excited to see Julie & Julia whenever it happens to get here, but I think she looks a bit like Julia Child, and has a big, loud, motherly personality.  She’s wonderful.  And today she cleared up the bombeiro question.  Apparently bombeiro is sort of a generic word, and bombeiro hidrolico is plumber, there’s also one who fixes issues with stoves and ovens, etc.  Phew.

Additionally, I know no one really cares about this like I do, but on Marshall’s suggestion, I bought a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes and I’ve been running in them for the last few days.  They’re supposed to simulate running barefoot, and miraculously, they sort of do.  They look totally ridiculous, but I’m loving them so far.

It was wonderful to be home for a few days and to see my family, but it’s also really nice to be back in Rio.

It was nice coming back to Rio.  The sun shines, the flip flops go back on, the waves crash.  I said while I was in São Paulo that living in Rio is like dating a gorgeous girl who’s not that bright.  When the sun shines the right way, when her hair catches the light, she’s so beautiful that nothing matters and you love her.  When she’s in a bad mood, or having a bad hair day, the beauty gets boring and you need more substance.  São Paulo is like the complex, very pretty girl that takes a while to get to know, to figure out.

Today was a perfect Rio day, super bright and sunny. I ran errands in preparation for the arrival of our guests on Saturday and cleaned, picked up a few things.  And most importantly made sure that our guest bathroom is back in working order–which it is, good as new.  We came home last night after four days away to water coming from the ceiling.  Not just a scant drip, but a serious downpour through the vent and the light fixture.  We called the guy we pay rent to, but he was not around, and so we asked the doorman to come help.

As an aside–our doorman is awesome.  He has dark hair and a bushy mustache, and in his uniform looks something like a perfect caricature of a fellow who saves the day.  We have amiable conversations where he asks me about running (I’m pretty sure he thinks of me as the girl who runs) and he and Scott have casual futebol banter.  I think he’s amused by us in general, the wacky young couple from the US.

He came up to help and asked if we had a flashlight.  No luck.  A ladder?  Again, no luck.  He went and got one, and said that the pipes in the building are acrylic and sometimes burst.  Bad luck for our guests.  Turns out something happened in the apartment above us (not sure what it was, as the water just started dripping more slowly and eventually stopped).  This morning our doorman said something to Scott about the bombeiros (firemen), but we’re not really sure what.  Anyway, it’s all fixed, the bathroom is again clean, and crisis was averted at Rua Dias Ferreira 199.  We think, we didn’t really get that part about bombeiros.

Minha Familia

July 30, 2009

Minha familia tem oito pessoas.  Meus pais moram em Larchmont, perto de cidade de Nova Iorque.  O nome de meu pai e Glen.  Ele e um capitalista de riscos.  Antes, ele era um homem de negocios, e antes de isso, ele e um abogado.  Ele gosta muito de jogar e assistir golfe.  Ele gosto de falar com os filhos deles tambem.  O nome de minha mae e Cheryl.  No passado, ela era a prefeita de Larchmont por dez anos.  Ela gosta muito de velejar em Long Island Sound, e andar a bicicleta dela por Larchmont. Meus pais viajam muito por visitar os filhos deles.

Meu irmao grande mora em Londres com a mulher e o filho dele.  O nome de meu irmao e Zach.  Zach e um homem de negocios.  No passado, ele gostava de jogar beisbol.  Agora, ele gosta brinquar com meu sobrino.  Minha cunhada, Anja, e uma economista.  Meu sobrinho e Yannick, e tem dois e meia anos.  Ele adora carros, trems, e caminhaos.  Meu pai diz que ele vai ser um engineiro quando ele e um adulto.

Meu outro irmao e Marshall.  Marshall mora em Los Angeles com a mulher dele, Heather.  Marshall fez filmes.  Na dois anos passado, ele tinha um filme chama “Estado Azul” na Tribeca Film Festival.  A mulher dele e uma abogada de falencia.  Ela esta muito ocupada agora com este recessao nos estados unidos.  Eles gostam de correr, e correm maratons.  Ainda, eu corro mas rapido do que eles correm.

Tenho um avo e uma avo em Florida, mas nao moram juntos.  Meu avo (o pai de meu pai) gosta de Yankees, e naceu na Alemanha em 1919.  Minha avo (a mae de minha mae) e uma mulher elegantissima.


July 16, 2009

Here are some pictures of our school.  With five hours of Portuguese a day, it’s been like having a whole week of a college language  course each day (now that the teacher’s consistently show).




Portuguese para estrangeiros take two. Will we have a professor today? Can Scott and I learn some of this language? Back to the rain forest/zoo school to try again.

Also, for those of you who have been reading for a while, our washing machine now works. Another note is that you can get my blog as an RSS feed, so you get an email every time I write something new. Don’t worry, I can’t see who subscribes.

Não temos um professor

July 13, 2009

Our teacher didn’t show up on the first day of Portuguese for Estrangeiros.  Welcome to Brazil.

Scott and I woke up early, excited for our first day of school in Brazil.  We set our alarms for 7am, walked to class to be there early (school started at 8.30am).  We waited.  We watched students come and go from the office (it was closed), sizing up friend potential, waited to find out which classroom would be ours for the next three weeks.  We’re so ready to learn this language!  we said to one another.

We figured out which room to go to (112) and walked through the rain forest foliage, up some stairs and to a classroom.  We sat in the second row and waited more, listening to the getting to know you chatter of the other students.  There was Party Time Ted who was telling a sweet, innocent looking girl that the samba clubs of Lapa, spilling out onto the sidewalks and over to the Arcos, was like Bourbon Street, and Mendoza was like Tucson.  There were the three girls in front of us–one European, another British, blond and mousy with a wedding ring.  We surmised her husband got moved to Rio and she was shading in her life here, and an American hipster who sat quietly with them.  There were the two American guys behind us, one with a nylon computer case, the other in shorts and sneakers, blond buzz cut and Oakleys at the ready, maybe sad that he didn’t have his frat bros with him.  There were a few others as well.

And so we sat and waited, holding our receipts that we had paid in our hands, since our names, inexplicably, were not on the list.  At 9.15 (45 minutes late) a petite Portuguese woman walked in.  Portuguese para estrangeiros? Sim!  We’re ready to learn! The teacher didn’t show up today.  Come back tomorrow, she says.  If you haven’t paid yet, go back to the office.  Damn.  Not an auspicious beginning at PUC-Rio.

PUC-Rio, Gavea

July 9, 2009

Scott and I went to register for our Portuguese classes today at the local University, PUC-Rio.  It’s in Gavea, a neighborhood just north of where we live.  After standing in what amounted to the continuing education office for about half an our trying to make headway with the administration person who didn’t speak any English at all, we wandered around the campus for a little bit.  It looks like a zoo, in a great way.  There’s foliage everywhere.  To your left is the chemistry building, or the monkey house.  To your right, the cafeteria, or the savannah preserve.  It was awesome, I can’t wait to explore.

I had a good driving with my eyes closed moment today.

We have been asking around for good Portuguese lessons and everyone has recommended PUC-Rio, the local university here.  I found the course that we were looking for (intensive, for foreigners: Portugues para Estrangeiros Intensivo) and there was an online application (great! no need for phone calls! or exploring neighborhoods I don’t know yet by myself!)  The deadline to sign up was today (we didn’t miss it!) but Scott needed clearance from his boss to work half days for three weeks, but his boss is New York and this is a long way of saying that I had to call PUC-Rio and ask them what time registration closed today.

So I called, and no one spoke English, and I got transferred to another office where someone maybe spoke English, but they didn’t.  This happened a few times, I got different numbers, I looked words up one by one.  I spoke enough Portuguese so I got long answers in Portuguese that I didn’t understand.  In my frustration I hung up, worked out and wrote down the whole sentence in Portuguese like I was twelve, or in the (terrible) movie He’s Just Not That Into You. Eu quero saber a que hora e fim de prazo para applicar hoje por Portuguese para Estrangeiros Intensivo.  It didn’t work, they didn’t understand. Damn.

But it wound up being okay.  Scott and I are now taking Portuguese para Estrangeiros Intensivo from 8.30am to 1pm, Monday through Friday for three weeks.  Esta bom.