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Brazil is on my nerves

Ok Electrolux is on my nerves.. and I’m only using Electrolux because I live in Brasil, so there Brasil take that!

For the second time our stupid Dishwasher has broken.  Last time the Electrolux guy said the panel on the front with all the buttons was loose and needed to be tightened to work again. So I’m going with that’s why it broke AGAIN.  I’d be even angrier if we didn’t have someone who washed the dishes.. but it really sucks for her.

On top of Electrolux’s dishwasher sucking, our freaking washing machine is also Electrolux.  If any of you are still in the market for equipment, Brastemp.. buy it. Yeah as an American you’ve never heard of it, well it’s mostly made here, so I guess they don’t cut all kinds of crazy corners to keep the cost down due to the stupid Brasilian import taxes. Stupid taxes.

Oh yeah, so the washing machine keeps stopping mid load and flashing an error message. Of course said error message exists nowhere in the manual of error messages, because it’s a Brasilian manual that’s why 😉 So now not only do I not have clean dishes, I have dirty clothing piling up.  Now I already really hated this washing machine for the sheer fact that it’s an all in one, takes about 6 hours to wash and dry my clothing, and I’m always manually pulling the lint out of it.  So it’s probably just clogged with said lint somewhere in it’s many chambers. Both of these just require a simple call to Electrolux to fix as they are under warranty — but none of the 3 Electrolux repair centers I called seem to know how to fix their phone systems or answer a phone (always a good sign).

Either way Brasil sucks because I can’t have high quality electronics, especially when I already paid a ton of cash for said equipment, because they have crazy high taxes.

And while I’m on a rant about Brasil, it sucks because all of my closets I have to leave the doors open on, and make sure to rotate my clothing, or else my pretty silk dresses end up growing little patches of mold. Yes mold, because it’s so freaking humid here that mold grows on my husband’s ties and my pretty dresses. So there Brasil you suck!

I feel better now. Brasil doesn’t really suck, but this week certainly does.


How do you survive

So Sao Paulo is one of the most expensive places to live, more than New York but less than Tokyo.  We lived in LA for a bit, which is also up there, but not as up there as Sao Paulo, and I have to say it’s not so bad.  But then again, I nor my husband are paid Sao Paulo wages.  I think that’s the big difference here from Tokyo, at least in Tokyo people are paid pretty well too.  In Brasil, the wage discrepancy is pretty big.


We are doing pretty well here (but like I said, US wages).  However, if we had an older kid, or even more kids, different story.  I often wonder how it is that Brasilians survive. On top of the price of rent, food, and insanely crazy gas prices, I’d also have to pay for school tuition (and they start young here, like pre age 3 in school), dance classes, instruments, athletic supplies, and the list goes on and on.  So if you look around Brasil and wonder why you only see a few kids in families, even though it’s a highly catholic society, I think you’ll know why. .. the avg is 1.9 kids as of 07.  I’m sure has declined further since then, as it was 2.1 in 2004.  Per 2010 stats in the US the average per family is .84.

Even still, with just a few kids per family, Brasil is still one of the most child friendly countries, so when people tell me that all the friendliness is because people in Brasil have kids, I find it interesting, because in such a tight economy as this, you’d think kids would be viewed as a burden, but they are not, they’re viewed as a wonderful gift, and hopefully that is what will keep Brasil from turning into Europe, where the birthrate is almost non-existent.

So exactly when are we going to be mugged?

I think that’s the question on most of our family’s minds.  They told us not to go, it was too dangerous.  Let’s face it, there are some scary things that happen here in Brasil.  While in Utah on the international page of the newspaper I happened upon an article noting how a judge was killed in broad daylight by 8 dirty cops (they’d taken over the Favelas from the drug lords and were running it mafia style).  Anyway, people ask all the time how safe is Brasil? Can you drive down the street with your windows open? Can you walk anywhere? Have you been mugged?  I’ve been told by people that you never walk anywhere, it’s too dangerous.  And to all of that, I laugh.  Maybe I’m naive, but I tend to think that my odds in life are good.  I will walk to the store at 9pm at night.  I drive with my car window down, and I take photos all over Sao Paulo with my smart phone.  I’ve even been known to flash a 50 at the feira. 🙂

from Aljazeera

This morning (6am ish) we awoke to 2 gunshots.  Followed by a very very loud shouting match between what sounded like a husband and wife, and then some other guy (to which they all silenced down).  Fairly sure some angry guy shot off a gun in his house, thus the sudden eruption in yelling.  We couldn’t figure out where the sounds were coming from, as there are so many complexes around us, but it happened, it was interesting, and it made us laugh. And yes they were gunshots, we know what they sound like.  So it made me think, how dangerous is Brasil really? Even with gunshot sounds, my husband and I were more curious WHAT the fight was about then that someone shot a gun.

See the thing about Brasil is it is dangerous.  I would be unrealistic and lying if I didn’t type it out.

But when you think about this mega-city you don’t think of small town life, but it’s here.  If we took my mother in law and put her in downtown Los Angeles, she’d have the same stories of fear and death that I hear from the average Brasilian.  It also doesn’t help that the media here loves plastering bloody shot up corpses on their front page (sensational much). Brasilians are close, walking home I get accosted by random grandmas and grandpas all the time that just want to chat.  The last time some old guy approached me in LA he smelt of beer and urine.  People here are connected at a level that you don’t see in the big cities of the US, and with that comes sharing of stories… so I do think there is some exaggeration going on to a small extent.

They also live REALLY REALLY close to everyone, kind of like downtown Los Angeles.  See in downtown Los Angeles all the wine drinking yuppies with their teeny house dogs live just a few streets over from all the whino, druggies, with their tents and cardboard boxes.  The closeness means, the rich encounter the poor on a daily basis.  Unlike the rest of California, where those in Beverly Hills can feel nice and secure in their happy little utopia, as they know all of the “trouble” is freeways away in South Central.  Sao Paulo is like downtown Los Angeles, with favelas smashed up against the homes of the super rich…. you get all close and chummy like that rich folk are going to have bad things happen to them… those same bad things that probably happen to most poor folk in South Central.  Except if you’re rich and something happens to you, you’re going to exaggerate it 100% over because “things like that just shouldn’t happen to people like me.”


Day 5: Jericoacoara… paradise

So we basically drove to Vegas for a day.  Four hours into the desert of Fortaleza is a tiny town called Jericoacoara, and old fishing village, turned Pousada town.  If you take a bus it’s 6 hours, as they drive slower.  We’re pros at driving long distances with our kid, and so is our kid.  He figured out how to take his snack ball, and “pimp” his binky as a way of entertainment.

Once you’re “there” you actually aren’t yet. As you can’t just drive your car in… well unless you pick up one of the guys standing on the side of the street that will let air out of your tires, and drive the car down the beach for you… best R$30 we spent. It’s a long sandy beach drive into Jeri.

You park your car at the parking lot, as cars aren’t allowed into the city (unless you live there).  The city is really quaint, the streets are made with sand, and there are tons of cutesy shops everywhere.

The Pousada we stayed  at, Surfing Jeri, had a giant caju tree in the courtyard.  There were tons of caju trees everywhere we went up here by the way.  I’m glad I didn’t pay the R$18 in Sao Paulo for a small pack of caju fruit, as it’s everywhere here.  We picked up a few and ate them when we arrived.  You don’t really eat caju, as much as suck the juice from the fruits flesh– perfect for my son who loves to do just that with his fruit.  Those are a bunch of Caju fruit piled up.

We had lunch at Pimenta Verde, which was amazing and fresh.  There was an Italian guy behind the counter, so maybe the owner and the reason why the Risotto was sooo good.

View from Pimenta Verde to our Pousada

Now I preface the activity for our first day with the statement, “We are bad parents.” There it’s been said, you don’t need to say more.  My husband visited one of the ATV rentals and negotiated down with the owner for an ATV for 2 hours. And then we were off, with our 1 year old smooshed between us. It was soo relaxing he fell asleep.  We could tell the foreigners from the Brazilians as well by the looks of shock and panic on the foreigners faces as we passed them.

The reason we took the ATV was to get to this rock arch in the ocean – Pedra Furada. It’s an easy hike in once you get there, and really pretty.  At the right time of year you can time it so the sun is right between the arch.

We generally let the little guy run around, the photo below was taken before he decided to run straight for the crashing waves in the arch.  I guess it looked like fun.

When we got back, our plan was to hike up the huge sand dune outside of the town.  Everyone climbs it at sunset to watch, unfortunately we have a kid, so by the time he was fed and cleaned and we walked out to the beach this is about as far as we got.  It was still beautiful.

Jeri really comes to life at night, when street vendors and food stands set up, and everyone seems to come out.  Since it’s so hot, it seems like the city wakes up early, then everyone retires to their bed for the afternoon, and then comes out at night.For dinner we ate at Cafe Brasil.  Their bread is home made and their sandwiches are delish.  Not to mention the waitress totally took our kid off our hands for the meal to play with him. Score!  We found our front porch also came to life at night to the trill of our son.  A cat, a large frog, and a small frog were all waiting for us.

The large frog then proceeded to attempt to eat the small frog to the shock of my son and delight of his father.

And then it was off to bed, as we had a big day of buggy adventures planned for the following day.

Day 4: Out and about

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Today we just hung out downtown. Picked up an obligatory hammock, looked at cheap clothing in the center, ate and checked out a cathedral.

A few sites from today.
I don’t like the design layout of cathedrals, but the actual art is beautiful.

I think the menu says horse meat..Cavalo…or hubby is messing with me. Restaurant Barcelona on the beach.

And finally, we had dinner at Colher de Pau. Great food, but we misread the menu and each got a 2 person dish. The $60  shrimp dish I ordered my husband tried to make me finish off….I am so over seafood. He got the salmon, which was great as well.


Day 1: Praia de Iracema, Fortaleza

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I started the vacation at the airport… I unloaded the 1 year old off on my husband on the 3.5 hour flight up.  To be fair, I get the lil guy in a few weeks for a 14 hour flight back to the US, so I’m fulling enjoying this vacation… I need to store up.

See daddy is holding baby…not so baby anymore, more like wild bundle of energy that never stops wiggling, squirming, and pinching.

Fortaleza this time of year is a nice get away from Sao Paulo, as it’s warm here! I think it’s perfect, not too humid, not too hot, great ocean breeze (this is the windiest month of the year).  My husband found an apartment online and it’s a block off the beach, which is nice.  Not that I’ve really found the beach to be that stunningly clean that I want to have my son swim in the water.  This beach has great night shopping… ok fine, this one has lots of kitschy tourist crap to suck us tourists in with.  There are also rollerbladers galore due to the rentals all over the place.

Because all of the little stands on the beach selling tourist kitsch weren’t enough for us, we headed to the Mercado Central, which was four stories of shops, mostly selling the same stuff and yes I bought a few items.  As you can see, beach wear, kitsch, and a lot of hammocks and tablecloths.

I bought something in this photo

I wanted to buy a sun hat (R$50)… and we figured that was a bit steep.  I found one for R$15 at the beach, and was accosted at least twice by the wandering salesmen selling the hats for R$10… so keep that in mind prices vary wildly.

Down the beach a bit is the seafood market, and man did I want to eat some shrimp after looking at all of the amazingly fresh seafood.

My son wasn’t so sure, and the sales guys were even more wary that their lobsters were gonna pinch off the lil guy’s finger.

The snapper didn’t make me want to eat them however…. something about the teeth.

My husband said that you can buy the shrimp, and there are places right nearby that will cook it up.  The fish is that fresh.  And man, was I hungry for some seafood.  Hubby not being from Hawaii, is more of a meat and potatoes guy, so for lunch we hit up Geppos on the beach. Not cheap for Fortaleza standards, but good priced when you compare to Sao Paulo, and the food was great. R$35 for the garlic shrimp and the same for Filet Mignon.

They also had highchairs, not those little wooden chairs they try and pass off as acceptable for a squirming 1 year old, but real highchairs, that you can strap the little guy in with.  That alone made the restaurant 5 stars in my book.  The waiter thought we had a cute little girl, so he made a girl for him to play with, and by the time he finished painting on red lips, he realized the error in his assumption. Granted I do have a very beautiful son.






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The Parrot Farm

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So I had to break this into a separate post.  During last weekend’s visit to the sitio, during the day some of the fun my son got into, was a visit to a parrot farm.  The sitio is right next door to a parrot farm. Really cool for us visiting American’s, probably not so fun for the neighbors.  I had my concerns about the permanent hearing damage I was possibly inflicting on my son, but figured how often would any kid get such an awesome experience.  It wasn’t until we were in the first room full of screaming parrots, that the owner exclaimed how shocked she was our son wasn’t crying like every child before him (umm thanks for the pre-warning?).  He actually didn’t cry at all, although he held onto us a little tighter, and was quiet and wide eyed.

We saw soooo many different types of parrots, parrots who spoke, tiny parrots, giant squawking parrots that we were told attack each other. Parrots building their nests, so their feathers were all plucked out.  It was crazy, and really fun.

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In the nursery room, which was a ton quieter, my son was more interactive and got to pet a parrot, while my husband and I got to hold one.  When the Hyacinth Macaw was put on my arm, it slowly began to inch up my arm– which was the first clue to me that my eyes were going to be gauged out– and as I got warier and warier, it began to pick at my hair. Yes the dang thing ate my hair! The owner also had it flap it’s wings, and man is that bird strong!!