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I miss Sephora

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I stopped by a Cosmetics store the other day, a larger one as I needed to pick up some blue hair dye for some highlights.  They had a lot of hair products, but one thing that I have consistently found lacking is makeup here.  I’ve seen the MAC store, but to be honest I’ve never bought into the whole MAC cosmetics world.  I do however miss Sephora, walking in and looking at the various beautiful brands just makes me happy inside.   I’m more of a Laura Mercier and Tarte girl, and I don’t get that option here so I have to buy makeup whenever I go back to the US.  Well that was until I remembered a little site I had run across a very very long time ago.  www.strawberrycom.net.   I remembered they did free international shipping (from China), and they said if you got charged customs they would reimburse it.

Yes ladies, that’s right in English bren.strawberrycom.net and br.strawberrycom.net in Portuguese.  They have it all on the site, and they usually have deals as well, not as sweet as Sephora, but close enough.  I did read their FAQ, and all I remembered was right, they do reimburse and shipping is free.

 

**Update! Looks like we won’t be missing Sephora anymore.  http://vejasp.abril.com.br/noticias/sephora-abre-primeira-loja-no-brasil

Is it better to be pregnant in the US?

I thought I’d do some comparing of the US to Brasil.  I’m an expat, that’s what I do 😉

Obviously Brasil is more baby friendly than the US, so I’m expecting lots more love here… and I kind of get it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can cross the street and people will not run me over… not that I want to test that.

My nanny told me it’s 6 months of maternity leave for women, at 100% pay (verified by Wikipedia) Men only get 5 days of paternity leave.  Which my husband calls 3″ days”, as it’s consecutive, so if I don’t time my baby for a Monday, part of those 5 days are weekend days.  Contrast that from the liberal state of California that I came from… 3 months of paid leave on disability at 80% pay because I also had disability insurance through Met Life (6 weeks normally), and my husband got 2 weeks off.  Paternity leave isn’t mandated, it’s a company by company thing, but 2 weeks seems to me to be standard in California.  But as I said, LIBERAL.

Head over to Nevada and they don’t consider pregnancy a disability, thus no pay, and your job may not be safe either.  Check out your state here.  See in the US, unless you work for a big company you don’t get leave by law. Yeah a company may do it because they are nice, but there are no laws mandating it.  Other countries may think we’re awful for not providing leave or pay, heck even countries in Africa give dad’s 3 days of leave.  But the general US thought is people have vacation time, and if their wife get’s pregnant, the husband can use his vacation time. Unfair perhaps, but big companies that can afford to do more, do. Some companies give months off for dad’s and mom’s, that you can take at anytime, and break up into chucks over a full course of a year.  Pretty cool huh?

But if you think about it, and you’re a small start up with just a few employees, the burden of providing leave for months at a time is difficult, even holding open a position for someone who may or may not come back can hurt a small business owner.  Compound that with disability leave, in the US my company and I pay about 7% each into it, and I get it back.  Other less baby friendly states may have lower disability (I didn’t check).  Here in Brasil, its like 20% company and 12% employee, or something big like that… so yeah you ARE paying for your own leave… or the leave of your friends who have 8 babies 😉  The US, unlike many countries isn’t a government run health care/benefits system.  So it’s a trade off. I can live in a less socialist country, and just save money knowing I’m going on leave, or I can live in Brasil and pay for everyone’s leave, even if I only ever have one baby, I’m paying into it for my whole career.  My nanny pointed out she knows many a girl who plan jobs around getting pregnant, because they know they get 6 months of paid leave… sneaky yes, legal absolutely!

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.

xkcd

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.

Cute Furniture.. and Slavery??

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As I don’t have a car, I rely on the internet for some things and mostly just walking around my neighborhood.  Here in São Paulo don’t just go to the “furniture area” or the shopping area, as nestled amongst houses can be the cutest boutique, chocolate shop, or furniture store.  So every day I manage to make it out of the house to somewhere other than the grocery store, I try and visit a new street.   In my neighborhood my husband ran across a cute rustic furniture store.  I would have loved to buy a bunch of cute things from the store, but the money miser pointed out that we are here for a little over a year now, and have to ship things back or leave them here.  So all I picked up was a cute office desk, which I will be shipping back.

The store is kind of a shabby chic, Brazil style store.  Deposito Mineiro The wood is all brightly colored,pink, blue, and yellow.  It is supposed to be made of wood from old houses (some of it at least). The website pretty much shows everything in the store, so you can check all of the cute furniture out, but I also took photos, and wrote down a few prices.  The desks were about R$540 to R$600.  The wrought iron rose decorations ranged from ~R$20 to R$300

I would have loved to buy one of the armoires made from old shutters, but they were around R$1950 and well, we have so much space in our house, we don’t really need it.  AND it would be HUGE to bring back to the US and heavy, but I think it is very cute, and would look great in a kid’s room.

They also had lots of various doves, kind of Spanish Catholic decor. I think they are really cute, and would rather put one of these on my wall for decor, than those 50’s style sun clocks that seem to be so popular with all of the interior designers lately.  I may just come back from the US with one of these.  This is the larger one, and they had little small ones, but I would much rather the larger one.

Finally, this is a bad photo as I took it from outside the store, but I found this HIGHLY unusual, and I know I would never see this in the US, nor would a store prominently display it in their front window.  The store calls the larger than life figurine: Mucama em Madeira Maciça or Large Wood Mucama… which I tried to tell myself was just a woman of the house (come on I was trying to give Brazil the benefit of the doubt).

So what is a Mucama?  Per Wikipedia:

Chambermaid is the name given to a slave who was once black in Brazil concubine, the slave masters but also the sexual girl who was chosen to assist in domestic service or accompany family members, usually Sinha. She was chosen specifically for these functions and ended up being taken as a slave pet. Sometimes also was the wet nurse . Example in the literature have the Maid of Lucinda Joaquim Manoel de Macedo . The maids were often subjected to torture and threats to their masters. There are few novels that put such characters as heroes and as advisors of the daughters of coffee barons and owners of farms.

From a Brazilian dictionary site:

sf slave who helped in household chores, accompanying family members of Mr. and sometimes it was the wet nurse.

So yeah, a larger than life, slave figure is considered completely acceptable to use to decorate your home.  Race in Brazil is such an interesting thing.  Stereotypes, political correctness, all of that doesn’t seem to exist here.  People do not get offended over you pointing out their race or pigeon holing them due to their race.While slavery was practiced on a much larger scale here in Brazil than it was in America, the attitude towards slavery is very much different than it is in the US.  What I mean by that is I feel like in the US there is a shame of slavery, and for African Americans there is the sense of the injustice of what occurred in America.  However, here in Brazil, I get a sense that it is accepted that it was part of history, there is no ill feeling of deserving reparation for the former bonds of slavery.   The fundamental difference is that in Brazil slaves were just considered the lowest form of labor, they were (and probably the lowest workers are still looked on in the same way) looked down upon for being unskilled or uneducated.  However, they were not looked down upon because of their race, that never entered into the equation.  Slaves were able to marry, and today and then, Brazil is a huge melting pot of various ethnicities.  So it was not just the white plantation owner who had a slave, it was simply a matter of the classes (whatever ethnicity or ethnicities you may have been). In America, we turned them into nothing more than objects and took away their humanity… which probably links to why we were so incredibly horrible to our slaves compared to the Brazilian people. So in the end, I guess a Brazilian statue of a black maid, is just that a historical bit of decor, not as it would be in the US, a constant reminder that we actually thought another human to be nothing more than an object to be bought and sold.  I do think that the huge injustice felt by African Americans, probably provided them more opportunities to be considered equals in society easier and be given more opportunities, than the black Brazilian, whose role in society is still it seems, affected and stereotyped.  I know, I know, this was supposed to just be a piece on some cute furniture I found.

Our Empty Home

Because we are in Brasil on a temporary basis, and because my husband’s firm offered to ship down 1000 lbs. of goods (and cover the import taxes), we shipped down a few items we felt were necessary, but went light on the homier items.  Now that I sit on our couch (purchased at Tok&Stok an overpriced Ikea of sorts) and look over my large, house like apartment I wish I would have brought a few more “nick nacks”.

My husband did a wonderful job of finding an apartment in Brasil, and has landed us in an older apartment building in Brooklin-Paulista. The newer buildings, with their shiny glass covered balconies are much smaller on the interior, so we are happy with our large and spacious old style building.  I also think the apartment has a charm to it, as it is old.  The street is a quiet, rarely traveled, one-way street with bits of the original, hand-lain brickwork poking through the modern asphalt.  The trees are covered in the emerald green moss, with roots pushing the narrow, bumpy sidewalks into further distortion.  As I stare out my apartment window with my son, I watch the never ending parade of Brazilian’s walking their dogs (which is definitely one of the drawbacks of Brasil, no one really picks up their dog’s messes).  In short, I really love it here.

I read on one blog about how no one ever walks anywhere, and people drive out of their driveways and back in again, never stepping foot on the sidewalk outside.  I think a life like this may have been something I experienced in Morumbi, where there wasn’t a cute corner bakery, or the local feira, or the really great restaurant that sells Frango de Asado (grilled chicken) every weekend that I could easily walk to.  I am glad we chose Brooklin.

 

I love that Orchid’s grow on the trees in front of my house, I couldn’t have asked for a prettier view!

Our balcony is much larger than all of the other balconies in the complex, and wraps along the entire side of our apartment.  I also have my own private balcony for our bedroom.  This will make for a great gardening spot I think, and an even better play area for my son, as there are no little bars for him to chuck random kid objects through, little legs, or big fat heads.

 

The common area comes with a Brazilian style bbq pit and from the looks of it a wood burning oven. To the left is the Olympic sized lap pool (for my son), and a little play area that I may let the little licker on one day when he stops being the little licker. Behind the play area is a soccer goal, and off to the side is the gym with sauna.  Overall not bad.


The interior of the home is all dark wood. I really feel like I’m living in an old Southern home.  I have a living room, with the attached dining area that has swinging doors that head into the kitchen.  I guess if I had maids and a cook bringing out delicious meals to me, that’d be a very helpful little door.  The kitchen has a breakfast nook and then flows into the full sized laundry room.  I absolutely LOVE that there are racks above the washer/dryer that I can hang my clothing from.  Living in a small apartment in Los Angeles, I found that our apartment was strewn with my “do not dry in the dryer” clothes every Saturday and Sunday morning.

 

In Brasil there is always the service entrance.  The maids, nannies, service men who come to your home always enter through the back door. Brazilians take this formality seriously (as my husband learned when transporting his suitcase up the main elevator).  The service entrance is where we leave our trash to be taken away by the building maid every day.  It is where our mail is left for us to pick up, and it is the door that leads straight into the laundry room.  Off of the laundry room is the maid’s room.  This could be where the maid kept her belonging for the day, or if we had a live in maid where she slept.  The room is not bigger than a small walk-in closet and is meant merely for a bed from what I can see.  Across the hallway is her bathroom.  I’ve tried to take photo’s to capture how awful this bathroom really is… think cruise ship, but worse.  Yes the shower head literally hangs above a drain on the floor between the sink and the toilet.

 

Overall, the apartment is large.  With a living room, and attached dining room, two bedrooms, an office, a master bedroom, 2.5 bathrooms, and the maid’s bathroom. Along the hallway are floor to ceiling closets, which change to mirrored doors in the master bedroom.  This is the main hallway, which leads to the master bedroom hallway (another 7 feet of hallway after the door until you get to the room itself).

 

 

On all accounts we are very lucky to be in a large apartment, versus a tighter apartment.  The only issue is we only have 1000 lbs. of belongings coming down, and most of that will go in the kitchen or the closets!

And rent, well the rent for this space is better than I could ever find in LA.

Tropical treats

Being from Hawaii I grew up eating very fresh tropical fruit. I have missed yummy mango, huge avocados, guava, and passion fruit. I was sad that while I could find most of these in LA they were poor excuses for very delicious fruits. So I have VERY much been looking forward to Brasil. Pathetic, unripe fruit is obviously not the case in Brasil. My son will grow up eating the yummiest, and exotic of fruits.

I thought I would just go to the Feira and buy fresh fruits and mash them, but these are the exotic baby food mixes I can find here. This is guava with milk (bananas and apples), and a jar of cashew fruit.  I never knew cashews grew on fruits! Hubby says that it makes you thirsty so I don’t know how bub will like this. They were R$2.79 for the state 2 jars, so all in all not drastically more than the US … and well they’re exotic, so worth it.

We also picked up some mangoes at the Feira the other day.  Yes, I finally have a cheap farmers market close by (I never really liked the one’s on the Bank of America plaza in downtown LA, they weren’t really farmer’s markets). My son absolutely loved mango!  We gave him a strip to chew on, and he sucked it clean.  So we tried to take the chewed piece from him and trade for a chunk of fruit but he was mango crazed and snatched it back.

Don’t mess with me mom!

We have also fed him passion fruit juice, which he liked a great deal more than apple juice. I still can’t get him to drink apple juice out of a sippy cup, but passion fruit juice was not a problem. At least we know he knows how to use the cup now.

And of course, he threw a fit at the restaurant the other day so the waitress brought him pao de queijo (cheesy balls! Ok, only I call them that). You can see he is quite proud he scored free food.

imageIt is sooooo Good mom..give me more

Shopping at the mall

Fancy title I know right? I don’t have the energy to come up with something witty. Needless to say I have no desire to go to the mall again soon.  I’ve seen on a few blogs people mentioning their visits to the mall. Honestly, there is no draw for me.  The clothing is super expensive, and the quality just isn’t there for me. If I am going to pay high prices ($R100 for board shorts), I’m going to pay those prices for designer apparel in America. That and the parking is not free, so yes the country will get every last centavo you have.

So why was I at the mall then if I’ve already imposed a no shopping for shoes or clothing at the mall ban on myself? Well we need a cell phone (because I am a moron who left her tablet on the seat pocket in front of me, and was a trusting fool to think that the cleaning crew would turn it in), and a WHOLE house full o’ furniture.  So we headed to Casa Bahia and Fast Shop to price out …well pretty much everything.  Casa Bahia reminds me of those furniture stores from the 70’s… um yes I realize I wasn’t even born yet.  The selection was almost all purchased and mostly white.  Next door was Fast Shop, more of the Best Buy of all in one shops.  The interior was modern and fancy and all of the workers were young and cute.  Needless to say we were swayed by all of the silver appliances, and ended up purchasing all of our goods here.  No not really, we’re too cheap to be swayed that easily.  They actually will negotiate with you a lot on pricing if you are buying a bunch all at once, AND you have prices from next door that you are holding them to.  There are also all the “sale” items, which is pretty much what we bought.

Being someone who always lived in furnished apartments, it was kind of fun initially to pick out my own appliances. I finally have a sweet stove to get my cook on.  As the whole expedition took about 3 hours, by then end I’m not 100 percent positive what we bought. But here are the photos… I think. We may also have got a range hood and an air conditioner…or two, and I know at one point my husband went off to look at TV’s and found a 40″ TV (without internet, but with USB ports) for about R$1500, but don’t know it looks like to post a photo.  We could have got an LG 32″ for the same price that came with wireless internet. Either way, all done and said with delivery and install everything rounded out to around R$10,000 give or take a few hundred. For the record, HSBC’s debit card was part of the reason we were stuck in the store. The card would not let us run it through for even R$5000 (the daily limit), and we wanted to pay on debit as it was saving us R$500.  We ended putting it all on our Capital One, but boo to HSBC.  We finally left the store at 11pm, thanks to the whole HSBC debit card issue. And had we not been so tired, the husband is pretty sure we could have negotiated down further.  We did get them to give us a 2 year warranty on most of the items for free.