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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.   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 and 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.


The obgyn in Brasil

Isn’t this a face of an angel?

Being here for practically a year now, I can actually hold a fairly elementary level conversation with someone.  That being said, there is no way I want to go to a doctor who doesn’t speak English for a birth. The last thing I want to be doing in labor is conjugating a verb properly, or trying to get my husband to translate.  So I began the doctor hunt, as finding your obgyn is a pretty important process, this person is going to be pretty intimate with you, and they’ll be delivering your baby, so you want the best.

I asked around on the INC facebook group for moms and got a few recommendations, some spoke English, some Portuguese, and most were ok with “natural births,” which here really just means non C-Section not really natural.

I also discovered, just a few blocks from me was Casa Moara/Prima Luz, a \doula, midwife, “let’s help you have a natural birth” kind of place.. and really natural.  I do have to admit picked my last obgyn based on her proximity to my work (2 blocks down), so I decided to check out Prima Luz.  They said their midwife spoke English.  I went in, but I felt like English wasn’t as strong, and we did most of the appointment in Portuguese.  No tests, no pee in a cup, though she did feel up my chest and tell me to go to a clinic to get the tests done.  R$260 later I left. The place WAS nice, and I didn’t have to wait or drive in traffic, and yes, I am losing the Brasilian experience, and a very pro NATURAL birth.  But, I don’t want to go to some clinic for tests via taxi, and then have to see my doctor with those tests in hand. Also, my husband’s a butt, and thinks C-sections are great, so I needed a doctor he would “respect,” and a midwife/naturally clinic wouldn’t work with him.

So I found Celula Mater, they did everything in house, and the obgyn used to run the maternity ward at Einstein… which put my “we should have a C-section, it’s safer” husband at ease. I swear he’s Brasilian.

Here are the take aways.

  1. They love to draw blood. First visit was like 8 viles.  This weeks was another 4.  And I’m sure they’ll think of a reason to take more somewhere along the line.
  2. If you’re not comfortable laying buck naked on a table with the robe limp beside you, the doctor is not for you.  They don’t seem to have issues with your nudity.  Whereas in the US I never undressed, just always pulled down my pants a little, and shirt up to expose the belly.
  3. There was also like a doctor’s assistant. I use like, as I felt more like she was the doctor’s maid, it was a different feeling than the US nurse, who comes in asks questions and leaves, then the doctor comes in.  This lady assisted me with everything, and then stood around and assisted the doctor. No nurse doing 93% of the doctor visit here.
  4. I got 4 pages of all of the ultrasound photos, and 2 pages of Portuguese telling me about my kid.
  5. Be prepared to wait, Brazil is not on time, and nor are your doctors.  So the waiting room is posh..cookies, hot cafe and chocolate, and they always treat my son like he’s the real star of the show.

I was going to top this post off with my gestational diabetes test experience, because I was SUPER curious how they did that here.  But I ended up having to fly to the US, so just went to my old doctor’s office, which was nice.

Buying expat stuff in Brasil

I’m not dead (well I’m sick and super tired, but not dead).  I’m just in the US, and have been for like a month now, letting our monkey visit the grandparents and great grand parents (and well doing a lot of flying for work).

And after a month, I realize while it’s nice to see the family I miss Brasil.  It’s grown on me.  I miss being able to walk to the stores, and buying fresh veggies and bread.  I miss the “Brasil” of it.  Of course while in Brasil, all I could dream about was all of the things from the US I missed.

It’s funny, I never bought sparkling pomegranate juice in the US, but now that I can’t find it for $3.50 in every store, I want it! I rarely ate cheddar, because I’m a havarti, muenster, jack fan, but now I want it, and I want to eat mac n’ cheese!  I also want havarti, muenster and jack, but they don’t have that in Brasil.  It reminds you of home, when the flavor hits your tongue you remember more than just food, you remember the place.  Cherry Caprisun reminds me of sitting on the edge of a hotel bed in Germany as a 7 year old… not that I like it, or drink it EVER, but every now and again I want to be taken back to Germany. Kind of like feijoada for my husband.  Even though my nanny swears she loves my black beans, my husband complains because it’s too American, not feijoada!  And now that I’m in the US, I want my morning Pão, and cooking everything with loads of garlic.  I miss food and baked goods made from scratch not a mix (gasp! I know, but I’ve really gained an appreciation for REAL cooking).

With that being said, here’s my list of the foods expats (American) miss the most:

Cheddar cheese: I’ve seen it at Pao de Acucar in Brooklin Paulista, and bought it (R$88 a kilo!) because I wanted mac n; cheese. I have also found it at the CEAGSP cheese stands.  Neither consistently.

Chocolate chips: They do have them here. Chocorob in Brooklin has it for R$5 for 250 grams.  It’s a bit waxy and not creamy like the good stuff in the US.  But I just buy the bars of Garoto chocolate they sell and chop it up, white, dark, semi-sweet, milk, it’s all really good.  If you get Crocante, you get the nice little toffee with the chocolate, and it’s better than a Hershey bar any day.

Corn syrup: My Pao de Acucar doesn’t have it, but my friend in Morumbi says Karo is in the same section as the honey.  I buy it for a tiny jar at Chocorob because I don’t cook with it that often ever.

Agave Syrup: They sell it and it’s expensive as is Maple Syrup.  I bring both of this in from the US, as a bottle usually lasts me about a year, so Merry Christmas to me… and I do buy the BIG bottles 🙂

Mexican Spices: I’ve found them, although they’re not cheap.  Same thing with Lemon Pepper.  It’s just a matter of learning what they call things. Like Nutmeg, it doesn’t come ground, but I’ve learned to love the freshness of grating my own nutmeg!

Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake: R$65 at Sam’s Club. I’d rather just make Cheesecake from scratch, and never really ate it anyways.

They do sell small avocados here, and they’re not sweet, they’re perfect for making guacamole.  The big ones are too sweet for my liking. It did piss me off to find Avocados for .44 at Walmart here…. in the snow… when they’re like R$5 a kilo back in the tropics of Brasil.

Everything else you want, you’ve got to make yourself.  Brasil isn’t like the US where you can buy everything pre-made. If you want black beans, you cook it from scratch. You want diced tomatoes with spices, you can buy a can of whole tomatoes (though most boil the tomatoes themselves) dice it and add your spices. That goes for rotel tomatoes. You want them, then boil the diced tomatoes, chop up some hot peppers, and add a bit of salt, boil, and you’ve got something pretty close. There are not huge sections of canned veggies and fruit, or ready made dinners.  Which is good as canned food is bad for you anyway right?

Tortillas are pretty much Wrap 10s, and they’re not that great if you like REAL tortillas… and if you do, well learn to make them yourself.. and give up on corn tortillas all together.

You want chicken broth, substitute their bouillon cubes, or boil yourself a chicken! I usually buy Swanson flavor packets, as they’ve got a great brothy flavor, but are just packets so easy to bring a bunch in the suitcase.  I’m too lazy to boil a whole chicken to get that yummy broth.

Things I have yet to find:

Clorox Wipes: I’ve seen a “how to make your own” online, but they don’t have the same super sturdy paper towels here.

Cheap Toys: Well you can buy them in Centro, but they’re “cheap” as well; you know ala China. Cool toys are more expensive here. So I’m loading up during the holidays for future birthdays.

Bath and Body Works: If you’re into room sprays, I would bring them over from Bath & Body Works, as they are super cheap during their sales. And all the smelly stuff is either lavender or something else yucky, or super expensive fancy stuff.  Like hand soap, if you want nice you go to L’Octainne (which I like) but would rather put out some froofy B&BW pump soap.

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.”


The Jeito of Water

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So there have been some public workers in front of our house for the past few days.  2 days ago we got a call and a flyer noting that the water would be turned off for a full day and a half. In the US this would be unthinkable, because if the water is off.. the WATER IS OFF.  In fact growing up on the island of Hawaii, all I learned in elementary school was how to make conserve water posters for the state art competition (seriously don’t ask me what else I learned). So I’m already pretty paranoid about using a lot of water and being wasteful… your neighbors would turn you in if you watered your lawn on a “non water day.”

Here in Brazil though, most houses have a backup water supply on the roof. So we were all set.  It was more, please use a little water and don’t do the wash. My husband (and I’m sure most of the other tenants here) would have gone nuts without the morning shower if the water was truly off.  Today, exactly at 10am, my husband insisted I start the load of wash, he insisted he didn’t see any of the men at work, and the water should now be on for us.  I was hesitant, in fact this whole time I’ve been trying to conserve as much water as possible, fearful that all of the other people won’t be able to flush their toilets.  Hubby and nanny have not been as fearful, they’ve got the true jeito going on.

So today, as my load is running we get a call, “Hey water’s not on yet, water is really being used a lot and we only have half a tank of water left and it’s going fast.”  OH CRAP! My load of wash just took down the building! I knew it, I should have waited longer till I got an all clear sign, I’m a horrible wasteful American.  These are the thoughts streaming through my naive little head.

My husband and maid laugh. Turns out she (super plugged into the building gossip this one) heard the building maid or something and the Portero talking about how everyone in the building was acting like everything was normal the entire time and using a ton of water.  He wasn’t singling me out, he was just calling everyone to let them know.

So moral is, everyone is in it for themselves.  Get your water while you can, because if you don’t use it someone else will.

Good things come to those who wait

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My husband has been rather frustrated with the length of time it has taken for him to be able to get his car.  First, just getting the money to buy the car has been quite a process. We made sure to sign up for an HSBC bank account while in Brasil, so we would be able to transfer our US money into Brasil with the least amount of “Bank Fees” withheld.  As HSBC is an international Bank, one would think that the first time you attempted to transfer money from your US account to your Brasil account it would be second nature to them.  It was not, and it took 3 hours for them to figure out how to do this.  Once you initiate the transfer, it then takes between three and five days for the money to be released.  I’m okay with this, as I understand you don’t want foreign drug money floating around your country.  If you are transferring a substantial amount ($15,000 R), you will then need to prove where the money came from.  Again, the drug money legitimacy.

Second, there is the irony of trying to find a car while not having a car – how do you get to all of the cars for sale?? The car I had found on internations was stick, and we didn’t want to deal with that.  So we found a leather interior Toyota for sale for R$40500 at a dealership.  It was a bit fancier than we wanted, but we figured we would be able to sell it for close to the same amount.  The keys to this beauty of a car unfortunately have not passed through my husbands hands.  Having the car today would have been nice as my husband started work today. It is necessary to pick me and the bub up on Saturday am.

Well the point of all this.

I got an email this week from Internations again, someone had a  Honda Fit – Automatic Transmission for only R$25000.  The honda is a better car for Sao Paulo, as well it’s not as flashy, it has a few dents, so we don’t have any worries about it getting any more scratches– kinda the same theory we held for our cars in LA.  As the seller is moving out of the country, we were able to completely go around HSBC Brasil, and transfer money from our account into their account. Poof! Instant transfer, amazing.

Now, if you DO ever buy a car from a private seller, you do want to go to the Federal Police and speak with a despachante.  You will need the registration number for the car and the sellers CPF.  This is free. When we did it we discovered there were R$2500 in parking tickets and back taxes unpaid.  This step is very important, as these type of fees are linked to the car, so should we are buying the car AND the unpaid fines. Crazy right?  You can also check for these fees online at the DETRAN.