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Police Jeito

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So this weekend we headed off to Maresias. There was a 40% chance of thunderstorms, but weather prediction in Brazil is pretty fickle… as you can see from this lovely photo.

As we pulled out of Sao Paulo city, my husband mentions he forgot to grab his passport, and how he’s essentially driving illegally. I was confused as he’s never brought this up before. So he explains, that a cop could pull us over randomly (um ok paranoid much hon?) and we’ve been here long enough that he should have got a Brasilian license. With the passport he could weave a story about how he just got here (since he was recently in the US). Then I start thinking about how in Brasil you have to have some kind of documentation to travel with your kid, to show that they’re not kidnapped. Then I realized this is just crazy think that we’d get pulled over, and went back to sleep for the long drive.

That was until my husband was waived off to the side by a cop? WTF?!! Yeah, at one of the roadside police stations, a cop was just standing in the middle partition of the the road and decided to wave US over. My husband immediately turned on his charm (he can seriously talk his way through any ticket), but then the cop asked him to get out of the car and step away from it. Crap right?

No this is my weasley husband here…he’s good at weasling.  When he got back to the car, he let me know that the cop was enjoying the conversation about California and the tv show C.H.I.P.S.  so much, that he asked my husband to step into the police station for a “cafe”… yeah okay that makes sense. My wife and children are sitting in a tiny hatchback in the “pull off area” on the side of a small freeway, and we’re going to go inside and drink some coffee and talk about C.H.I.P.S.  He actually had to explain to the cop why he couldn’t.. the fact that we were clearly on our way somewhere before we were waived over seemed to slip through the logic that was being used.

Otherwise, Maresias was as lovely as ever. I did get eaten alive by these tiny vampire mosquitos.  You can see the little bits of blood they left all over my ankle.  It actually hurts to walk on my right foot due to the sheer numbers of bites.. and that’s just my right ankle (9 on just the right side of my right ankle).


multi-car accident

So like Hawaii, Brasil is a no-fault state.. i.e. you have to have insurance and you have to pay for everything 100%.  My husband (thinking how bad could it be) signed up for a 2k deductible.  SOOO re-thinking that decision now.  See a car rear ended another car a few weeks ago, followed by the next car in line,  and then my husband slammed on the breaks and slid through the Brasilian rain into the car in front of him.  It was a small fender bender, or in our case the hood is now bent down– possibly permanently locking our hood shut.

So of course with an accident the Brasilian jeito has really come out.  Because my husband was last in line, everyone wanted him to take the fall.  The guy my husband hit doesn’t have insurance to cover himself, just those he hits, so he doesn’t want to cover things.  The first guy obviously doesn’t want to pay for anything, and the girl who hit him, well she didn’t hit my husband, so doesn’t have to pay for our damages.  It’s no-fault remember.  Of course, my husband wasn’t going to go down for a 4 car accident, and reported what happened to the police exactly as it happened.

Jeito is stronger than reality however, and so the insurance agent of the woman called my husband..

“um can you take full responsibility for everything and have your insurance pay it?”

Of course, even though I’m married to an American, the jeito is even stronger with my husband (the stories I have of him and his jeito… well they can’t be published for obvious reasons).  My husband told the agent he would be happy to take full responsibility and make his insurance pay, if the other cars cover our deductible.  The agent told him he’d think about it, and then the answer turned out to be no.  No biggie for us in the end, just would have been nice.

Then a few days later the call came from the agent again.

“Hey can we take you up on that offer, where we pay your deductible?”

At this point my husband had already filed with the insurance company, as he was anticipating an after the fact move where the female driver’s agent tried to pin it on my husband anyway.  So we said no, too late already file.

And that’s when the threats began.

“We’ll lie.  We will make the other drivers say you did it, as then they’re off the hook for paying for damages too, and it’s in their incentive to help us.”

You can see how we could have been on the line for everything right? Oh yeah, did I mention the girl’s dad is a lawyer?  Hubby called the driver he hit (the one without insurance) and explained that with my husband’s insurance report, his statement and my husband’s statements to the police it was likely that our insurance would call foul, not believe the lies, and then the tricky girl would then blame the whole accident on this guy, since he was next in line and he didn’t have cool, awesome expat car insurance.

It worked, no more threatening calls, and it seems that our car that was already in an accident from the previous owner, will finally get the fixing up it needs.  We won’t look so sad an pathetic driving the streets of Sao Paulo.  Although I often tell myself, by having a crappy car we are less of a target for break ins and robberies (not that I’m really worried about that).


San Francisco comes to Brasil

Ok not really, but kind of…see plastic bags are prohibited in San Francisco.  This really shouldn’t be a surprised as San Francisco is the most liberal, green, super government regulates everything city in the US.  But today a friend mentioned that at Extra they were charged .50 for a plastic bag, as in January all plastic bags will be outlawed.   So thanks to Google I confirmed it, I totally missed the announcement in May when the law was passed.  It was also put on hold by the supreme court, but I think it will still take affect in January now.


A couple of arguments against the ban made me laugh.  One of them was that the lower income people use the plastic bags as garbage bags, and now they’ll have to buy real garbage bags.  This totally made me laugh, because that’s what we horde them for, all of the little trash cans in our house.  And in Brasil, with the whole don’t flush the toilet thing, I can see how families go through these little plastic baggies in bulk!  Yeah I have a nice big bag that I use to carry stuff in, as it’s sturdy and helps in walking home, but those little plastic baggies are so useful.  And when you have a kid in diapers, those baggies make things nicer when you’re on the go (for everyone).  I had to laugh at the argument against this, basically that the poor people should be happy that they won’t get to use the plastic baggies anymore, as then people will buy the proper plastic bags for trash, so then they won’t break and get all over the street especially when it rains, or clog the gutters (at least that’s what I got from my portuguese readings).

Per the law however it seems there still will be plastic bags for use at the feiras (street fairs), or for putting your meat (cuz seriously I don’t want my samonella mixing with my fresh fruit), or milk/dairy products.

The interesting thing is, in San Francisco they at least provided an alternative… these cornstarch based bags or paper bags. Here the only thing they’ve got are these teensy plastic bags, so they’re even one step more hardcore than San Francisco.

It will be interesting to see how the Brasilian jeito comes out, as even though buying a reusable bag once isn’t too much money, it does kind of suck when you bring one of those bags and then buy a little bit more than can fit in one, and are at the store forced to buy another one. For me not a big deal, for a Brasilian on a tight budget, I’m gonna say that’s the difference between milk for breakfast or not.  Plus why pay for something you know you could get for free… I guess we’ll see people using boxes to load things more now too, as like I said, paper bags don’t exist here.  Probably a good thing, as we all love the rain forest as it is now, not as a big soybean farm.


Americans are rude

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So are the French, as long as I’m classifying entire populations.  Seriously though, when compared to Brasil, us Americans are down right rude.  I am pretty rude as a person too (my father constantly points out I’ve been on the “mainland” too long and have lost my Aloha).

Brasilians are not as direct as Americans, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about how we treat each other. Recently on my trip back to the US I was able to more clearly see the differentiation between Americans and Brasilians.

I’m traveling, I’m tired, I’m alone, and I’ve got a 1 year old strapped to my chest.  To an American, I’m just another weary traveler, they don’t notice me any more than any other person they pass.  In fact if they do notice me, it’s because they’re eyeing me with the look of “PLEASE let her not be near me on the plane.”

Brasilians, and I could always tell them, they asked if they could help carry one of my bags, how I was doing, if I needed help.  On planes with Americans, I felt the “please don’t let that child make a damn noise on this plane, touch me or kick the back of my seat” vibe… and I felt it VERY strongly.  I felt even more pressure for my angel to behave (and he travels EXTREMELY well trust me).  In fact the only time he cried was when the infant 2 seats behind us started screaming, and his mom started going through the overheads looking for her bag (She opened about 10 bins, before finding it) at about 2 am waking his sleeping highness up.  Wen I flew back to Brasil, the woman  helped me shove my extremely heavy backpack up to the shelf, moving around other luggage (I’ve never had an American woman help lift anything heavy when traveling).  As I sat down, a guy a seat back on the aisle, asked the woman to ask me if I wanted his coveted aisle seat since I had a young child, and may want to get up and down frequently.

Let’s contrast this with the experience my friend who was 9 months pregnant taking a bus in LA.  No one would stand up for her and no one cared.  A couple of our co-workers chimed in that when in the “zone” they don’t really notice what’s going on around them, and maybe they had earbuds in.  That’s the thing though, in Brasil SOMEONE is always watching, and if they feel that you’re the person who needs to help or give up their seat, they’ll make sure that if you don’t realize you’re being rude, you’re told to help.  It’s just the culture here. I’ve always gotten a seat on a bus or the metro when traveling with my son, and everyone is soo friendly and loving towards my kid.

I’ve also noticed and seen this mentioned around the web, that Americans are very obsessed with what people to do.  It’s true, it is part of the “Hi, what’s your name, why are you here, what do you do?” line of questions.  Brasilians seem to care about what you feel, your stories, where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, your family, how you feel.  They’re not interested in the boring day-to-day dull stuff that let’s be honest, us Americans don’t care about either.  Brasilians want to know who you are as a person, what makes you happy, what makes you sad, and I love that about this country.  I sat next to two Brasilians and they never once asked me why I was going to the US, just questions about my son and told me stories about their kids, and how they would miss their children.  Stories about cute things their child did, things they love about Brasil, or looking forward to in the US, not one thing about their job, or what they were doing in the US.

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.