I am expecting to get a lot of flack about this post. I decided to write it anyway.
Other disclaimer - no, I am not a psychologist or a sociologist. This is just based on my own observations, questions and thoughts. Okay so here goes...
At any park or public place that is children-friendly in Rio, the photo below (taken at Parque Lage) is a fairly typical sight:
In case you were wondering, it's not "mom's wear white" day. These women are wearing white to identify themselves as "baba's" or nannies. And you see more of them than you do mom's.
Since announcing my pregnancy, almost every single Brazilian I have had a conversation with has asked me if I intend to get a baba. I shock them all by responding that I have someone who can help with things around the house, and potentially with the baby, after a few months, for a couple of hours at a time. I answer the "but how will you...??" the same way all the time - to me, it's my job to take care of the baby. I then joke that I certainly am not a martyr and am more than happy to have someone to help with other household tasks, and add that it is much more than I would ever have for help in Canada, so I feel very lucky.
Middle-class families often have baba's here in Brazil. To generalize, most people who are in this line of work are not well-educated.
Back home, early childhood education is a major concern for most parents. Books such as Raise a Smarter Child by Kindergarten: Build a Better Brain and Increase IQ up to 30 Points (yes, I have a copy) are best-sellers, and parents seem to compete to see whose child will read/be toilet trained/count to 100/name countries around the world/write a screenplay first. It is widely believed that teaching children these things very early on sets them up for success in the future and forever affects their ability to learn and process. Montessori schools are all the rage, and in some cities, parents get on waiting lists for the best pre-schools at the time of their child's birth. All in hopes that these actions will give their children a head start in life.
In Brazil, even amongst well-educated folks, and with foreign-educated folks, in my experience, there seems to at times be a disconnect as far as ability to think critically. I may be mistaken and this may be a cultural difference and a preference not to. In fact, Mr. DRL and I recently had a very interesting conversation with a Carioca who feels that the stem of Rio's problems is that everyone is too accepting of how things are - crime wise, corruption wise, a general lack of questioning things, and so nothing really changes.
But part of me wonders if this lack of critical thinking is in part because most of the population spends those formative years with primary caretakers who are not well-educated, in the case of the less fortunate, or by nannies in the case of the more privileged, who can't possibly be as invested in the child's development as a parent would be, nor are they well-educated.
Since it's inevitable this will provoke some response, let me invite you to do so - what do you think about this?
Part III of a series on how my guests responded to a little survey I gave them after their time in Brazil...
The third question in the survey:
Did you feel nervous or afraid for your safety at all? If so, in what situations?
My Mom: I was probably the most nervous and hot:) when we were walking in Lapa and trying to find the steps.
[DRL's note: I try to make my tours of Centro & area "authentic"... meaning that I take different routes every time and without fail I lose my way for a short period of time each time. You know, as though my guests were wandering it on their own! This time, it was really hot and we walked from the cathedral to the steps in Lapa, after a taxi driver told us it was too close to drive us... I don't think we took the most "express' route and it took about 40 minutes in scorching heat. My mom has since told me that she does NOT want her grandchild going there (we passed some sketchiness on the way!)].
My Bridesmaid & her Boyfriend: For the most part we felt pretty safe. We just kept our wits about us and if something didn't feel right, we just went the other way. There were only a couple of times that I felt a little threatened. One being on the last day...it was an overcast day so hardly anybody was at the beach and 2 very young girls started following us. I saw them and turned around to face them and pointed right through them saying "look at the waves" and they hesitated and then took off.
My Mother-in-law: Not so much, certainly due to the forewarning (didn't wear jewellry) and organization of DRL on our expeditions. Without the Portuguese expertise of Mr. DRL and DRL, I think we may have felt more nervous.
Engaged Couple Friends: No, we didn't (except for that one crazy cab driver who pulled out to the oncoming lane to pass some cars!). Our tour guides definitely steered us straight!We were certainly aware of the danger though, and very thankful that we weren't staying in hotels in Rio or relying on public transportation and maps to figure out our own way. Thanks guys! You made this trip so much easier! We have been spoiled for our next trip.
My Dad: A bit uncomfortable in Buzios in the wee hours when walking back to our accommodation. Encountered a group of 10 guys walking towards us and made a quick 180 and ran like hell once we were around the corner. Would not have been out like that in Rio. Also both of us had our credit cards compromised which was surprising since mine had the new microchip technology. My brother and I stuck out like a sore thumb....whitest guys in town and definitely looked like tourists...
For many reasons.
Like me, she originates from Vancouver Island - she even wrote a song about the Malahat highway. Now, she's singing about Brazil. (Quiet Nights is her new album, it came out in March, and it's Brazilian-inspired, even featuring a version of "The Boy from Ipanema"). She loves the Bossa Nova genre and so here is her interpretation.
Mr. DRL set up a vonage phone for himself and the business, back home in Canada. His messages this morning were quite hilarious - someone has been fake-numbering, methinks... by the name of "MANGLE" and "FLAVIA". Anyway we are enjoying the messages not meant for us, but meant for these special individuals. What would be even better is if someone fake-numbered this guy with the vonage #...
I am also excited for the day we get a call from a charitable organization claiming that they will have "a truck in our area" to pick up donated goods. I will be like: "Is that so? Fantastic!" haha...
It's amazing how in Rio, a person can see so much just going to the lagoa for 45 minutes for a picnic. I doubt highly that there is a better place to people-watch than Rio de Janeiro.
A cute little CHUBBY boy rubbing his stomach, looking at the ice cream cart saying "Que delicio!" I wish I had it on video... so cute.
Brazilians playing baseball. There is no way to accurately describe it, you must see it for yourself.
A wide variety of smells. Sometimes they would change as often as every three steps ago.
Vehicles on the bike path - ranging from everything from roller blades to bikes to bikes for two to bikes for four to skateboards to skateboards with super-big wheels to every variety and brand of stroller on the market to wagons and mini-cars for kids to foot.
I had promised to write up my stay in Florianopolis/Santa Caterina awhile back, finally I am getting to it!
First of all, I would just like to say that if you have a week to do a sidetrip from Rio, I highly recommend this Buenos Aires/Florianopolis combo that we did. We felt as though we'd "travelled" ie) explored a new city, and "vacationed" - relaxing in Floripa, all in one week. A full week of doing either would be "too much" in my opinion, so this was fantastic.
I was a bit confused when we started booking our trip - were we going to Florianopolis, Santa Caterina, or Floripa? All three... SC is the state, Florianopolis is the main city on the island, Floripa is the nickname. I had at some point made notes to visit all three - recommended by different people - so it was nice to kill three birds with one stone ;)
We flew into Florianopolis at night, and really did not experience any of the city as we immediately headed out to our Pousada. It was about a R$100 cab ride from the airport. In hindsight, renting a car from the airport would have been a better option for us, but I will get to that later...
We stayed at the Pousada da Vigia on the north end of the island. We were absolutely THRILLED with the service we received there, and with our accomodations. They were sooo great. Even let me order off the kids menu :)
We enjoyed our resort SO MUCH. It was small, just 10 rooms, a governor's mansion converted into a hotel. Below is the view from our room.
Each day at 12:30, the peace and tranquility of Lagoinha beach, where we were staying, was temporarily disrupted by "the pirate boat" - which we figured was either inhabited by
a) the severely, permanently intoxicated or
b) actual pirates threatening passengers to "walk the plank" if they didn't keep up with their dance moves, or
c) a hypnotist show.
On Saturday we decided to venture out and do a scuba/snorkel tour of Arvoredo Island, a nature reserve located off the north coast of the island of Santa Caterina. Obviously Mr. DRL did the diving, I stuck to snorkeling. I was a bit nervous about him diving as it had been 2 years since his last dive but was very relieved when one of the dive masters spoke perfect English. All he really needed was a 5 minute refresher but as we often say, there are certain things where you can't afford to have misunderstandings with language barriers! It was muito tranquilo.
After the scuba trip we spent some time "in town" at Canasvieiras beach, but quickly realized we were not missing much back at our isolated little spot... but enjoyed lunch there nevertheless.
It seemed we parked right in front of the beach's "geriatric" ward... looked around for the senior's center but couldn't see it:
A storm seemed to be rolling in but it blew over quickly. Made for some great shots though!
After lunch, we embarked on another adventure that is deserving of another separate blog post. I am not yet sure how that story ends though as I am still dealing with some of the repurcussions today, so I will save it (nothing too bad just a company we were dealing with, etc.). I don't want to ruin the tranquility of this post so I will keep it separate.
We enjoyed every moment in Florianopolis, we realize we did not see much of what the island is all about, being up in our little isolated corner, but for our purposes we didn't mind. We read, spent time together, named our baby, walked the beach, swam, ate, and soaked up every moment. It was the most relaxing few days we'd had in quite a while!
Besides baby books of course...
Loved this one - it was a gift from a friend back home. I had to really hide out when on vacation reading the last couple of chapters (crying)... good book.
I was quite excited to learn that Wally Lamb had a new book out when I was back home. I put off reading it for awhile as in the past I have become so consumed by his books that I could not put them down and ended up finishing them in a day or two - this one took me a bit longer, but I really enjoyed it.
I love Elizabeth Gilbert's writing so I bought all of her books after reading Eat, Pray, Love. The Last American Man was my favorite of the three additional books I read. It's about a man who lives at one with nature - very interesting.
Another Elizabeth Gilbert book - I liked it okay but mostly because of the way she writes, rather than the story itself.
This is a collection of Elizabeth Gilbert's short stories. Some were great, some I couldn't get through. Hit and miss in my books.
Has been really into this book and laughs out loud frequently when reading... must be good! He wants me to read it when he finishes.
Something I don't think I've commented on but ALL of my visitors have commented on while here - the lack of regard on the roads for emergency vehicles. No one pulls over for ambulances, police, fire trucks. It certainly takes some getting used to!
The perceptions of my guests...
Which differences between Canada & Brazil surprised you the most?
My Mom: The difference I found surprising was the restaurants and kiosks, everywhere, food, food, food, and the beauty of the city of Rio is number 1.
My Bridesmaid & Her Boyfriend: Shopping is sooo difficult there! Nothing has prices on it already, so you have to constantly ask 'how much' on every single item. Then when you go to ring it in, it takes like 20 minutes and you have no idea why! I commend DRL for all the furniture shopping and appliances she bought because apparently it take 6 hours to ring in a refrigerator!
My Mother-in-law: We had researched before coming down, so had been prepared for the favelas and sheer size of Rio. The difference in the store types really does show how difficult it was for Mr. DRL & DRL to set up in a new country. They have done an amazing job and we are really impressed with their Portuguese! A little surprised perhaps that there wasn't more English on the streets...
Engaged Couple Friends: We loved the tropical vegetation and beautiful country side (not that Canada's not beautiful - just different). The flowers everywhere were amazing. It was also strange to see the number of people employed in the restaurants and shops - there were always twice or three times as many people as there would be at home. Big population, low labour costs.
My Dad: Drivers are crazy here, "muito louco".
Although you can't see it nearly clearly enough in this photo, this fellow is sporting quite the combo of looks. Runners, a sunga, and a FANNY PACK. I wish you could see the fanny pack more clearly, really I do. But it felt awkward enough to be pretending to "check a text message" on my phone with it faced in his direction at this distance...
I have not used this service for organic grocery delivery myself, but have seen the trucks around lately - Sitio-Moinho - click here to be directed to the web site, which looks quite good. I think I will have to try this out...
The Bachelorette starts up again on ABC tonight with none other than my friend JILL in the hot seat this season, calling the shots. Can't wait to watch :) Jill and I used to work together.
Unfortunately I don't get to watch when everyone does back home, I have to wait an extra day for it to be posted on iTunes. But that's okay - I'll be ready!
Rio has been a wonderful place to be pregnant. Plenty of places to walk and swim, and I've been over the legal benefits and general bow-down attitude towards the "gestantes"... it's been great.
It's also been a optimum place to have a healthy pregnancy - here are a few Rio treats that have contributed to my well-being, if you are prego, pay attention.
1) ACAI. Of course. Nutrient-dense, refreshing, high in antioxidants, fiber and protein. Also, did you know that eating acai helps your body absorb omega fatty acids?
2) COCONUT WATER. Refreshing when you are dehydrated, comforting when nauseous... and incredibly beneficial if you suffer from swelling.
3) PICANHA. Let's face it, many pregnant women suffer from low iron. Eat red meat with something rich in Vitamin C to absorb more iron.
4) YOGGI. Frozen yogurt was definitely a favorite treat...
5) FRUIT JUICES. When you can't drink anything more "fun" it sure is nice to be drinking the best juice ever (and watching it be made right in front of your eyes) - available in more flavours than you will find time to try.
Closer to the end of pregnancy I heard about the benefits of the following items:
6) PINEAPPLE and EGGPLANT. Both plentiful and delicious here, in fact I have never eaten so much eggplant as I have since living here in Rio - it is often featured as appetizers/couverts in restaurants. According to a number of sources on the internet, eating these two items can help bring on labour...
7) WATERMELON. Seems to be amazing year-round. I read recently that Halle Berry swore by eating it after she gave birth, as it helped her shed excess water retained. I mean, she was Halle Berry to start with, but I figure this is worth a shot.
As you may recall, I had about 5 months straight of visitors (from September to the end of Jan, almost inclusive). Visitors ranged from good family friends (a father-daughter combo), my dad & his brother, engaged friends of ours, my mother in law and her husband, one of my bridesmaids and her boyfriend, my mom and sister, my girlfriend and her husband and two small children (2 yrs old & 7 months). I think I'm remembering everyone...
We gave them all a short "survey" to complete after their trip, which has become a bit of a guestbook of sorts. I thought I'd start sharing their responses with you as you must be getting tired of just my perspective ;)
Our guests all had slightly different trips, did slightly different things and of course had different priorities and experiences.
Question 1: What were the highlights of your trip?
My mom: Definitely the best New Years ever, meeting all the friends, and every day was a highlight, just walking down the streets was an experience.
My bridesmaid & her boyfriend: We loved Buzios! Driving around in the 'Buggy' (pronounced "boogy") was so much fun. Make sure you put the top on at night though because if the rain comes you may have to sit in a pool of water to drive back to your hotel....or ride standing up while holding on to the windshield like I did.
Other highlights....definitely the Lagoa Christmas Tree Lighting (beautiful views and the best damn caiprhina's ever...my boyfriend had to cut me off because they were pure alcohol and fresh fruit and I could only taste the fruit after a while); Centro & Santa Teresa Tour run guided by the lovely DRL; favela tour and last but not least, the three sunny days we had on the beach!
My mother-in-law: What else! The big news and being with our kids (all 3 of
them). Iguazu Falls were out of this world so we do recommend the trip
to any of your other company. With the timing being spring run-off, the
volume was no doubt the best of the whole year! The beaches at Paraty
and Prainha were wonderful with the boat trip being a highlight. Having
the beach a block away from the apartment for all our walks was
certainly not hard to take. We loved just having the time to spend
making dinners with DRL and salsa with Mr. DRL. Hugs are much better
than Skype! (DRL's note: we were able to first share the news of our pregnancy with her when she arrived).
Engaged Couple Friends: Buzios was amazing - one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen. We also really enjoyed the futebol game, walking the beaches with Mr. DRL and DRL, and, really, pretty much everything, including an evening of Rock Band at home!
1. Finding out my daughter and my son-in-law are going to be parents. You know what that makes me. Giddy-up!!
2. Spending time with my daughter and my son-in-law.
3. Spending time with my brother, who came with me.
4. Visiting Corcovado, Sugarloaf Mountain and Buzios.
Cachaça... Brazil's famous liquor. If you have tried it, you likely love it or hate it and so the recipe below that I found on the gorgeous site "Bloomacious" might be the answer to your prayers either way. The lovers have yet another way to enjoy the potent stuff, the haters may have found the solution to getting rid of the rest of it they have lying around. Either way, Bloomacious gets an A for presentation in my books! Theirs just looks soooo pretty!
Leblon Iced Tea
4 oz Leblon Cachaça
2 oz apple schnapps
1 oz fresh lemon juice
t tbsp white sugar
12 oz strong, freshly brewed black tea
Fill half the pitcher with ice. Add all of the ingredients over the ice and stir. Garnish with lemon wheels and edible flowers (optional).
Alternate title: why you should always make your exits while driving in Brazil. (Well, to be fair, anywhere, but this was quite an extreme case and it happened in Brazil, so...)
The wedding we attended recently was held in a community we were unfamiliar with, north of Barra. As Mr. DRL had enjoyed a glass of wine when we went out for a quick pre-wedding salad & appetizer, and Rio has a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving, I drove. He is also a much better navigator than me, so this worked well. Well, for me anyway.
As is often the case, the turnoff we were supposed to take was not as clearly marked as we expected, and so we missed it. We immediately realized it and looked for a "returno" - of course there were none in sight. We soon approached a tunnel, and realized it was 2 km long. At this point Mr. DRL was getting agitated as he was the navigator. I was still finding the situation quite funny (yes, partially because for once it was not my fault!). We came to the end of the tunnel and still there was no returno. But there was a toll booth. Which we of course had to go through. Twice. (Once on the way through, then again on the way back once we had finally located a returno...)
Again, to reiterate - catching your exit can be VERY important! Especially if you want to avoid hitting a long tunnel and toll booth twice!!! Both times unnecessarily...
This post could also be called why you don't need to buy many maternity clothes or making the most of your maternity wardrobe. I found most actual maternity clothes to be quite frumpy and matronly. Luckily, I realized I didn't need to wear too many of them... so before you go blow a bunch of money on maternity wear, consider what you may already have in your closet or what you can buy that you could wear afterwards. It's such a short period of your life that you will be wearing these clothes, it seems silly to spend much. Besides, I think it will be much more fun shopping for "reward clothes" afterwards than it could ever be shopping for maternity clothes...
As a sidenote - I do not work and therefore I did not need as many things as someone who has to go to work dressed a specific way every day. I lucked out with the timing of my expat-ness.
Below are examples of clothes I wore throughout my pregnancy that are NOT maternity clothes, rather REGULAR clothes (with the exception of a couple of bottoms, which I have noted).
It was pretty easy to not buy maternity tops - there were already so many appropriate things in my closet and in regular stores that worked from the beginning of pregnancy right to the end...
This top was purchased at My Place, which is in Shopping Rio Sul.
The pirate top is just a regular tube top from Dex Brothers, bought back home.
This top has been one of my favorites. The wrap will also be good after the pregnancy (for nursing etc - it has a built-in cover up!). These bottoms are borrowed and maternity.
Another great top from MNG and non-maternity bottoms from lululemon. I also have this one in yellow. As you can see, it lasted right until the end...
The two dresses pictured above were both purchased at one of my favorite spots in Rio - Checklist.
This knit dress got a lot of wear as well...
Maxi dress above was purchased from Eclectic, which is also where I bought the "skirt" below, which I wore through my pregnancy as a dress. Being that it's my non-pregnant size, I can wear it afterwards as a skirt. (I thought it was a dress when I first tried it on but then realized it was a skirt, and thought this could work well...)
As you can see, living in Rio where it is hot hot hot, dresses were my main staple of my wardrobe. I think this may be why I got away with avoiding maternity wear so easily.
Although I mostly wore bikinis throughout my pregnancy, I did enjoy this swim suit quite a bit around the 4-6 month mark, where I had a "paunch" but not a discernable "belly" yet, as it sort of distracted from that area.
Above- beach cover-ups made great tops! This one is from J.Crew (a couple of years back, now), and the skirt is from Drops here in Rio.
Finally- the can't live without it when you are pregnant item: Lululemon bottoms. Thanks to the amazing lack of actual waistband (see how wide it is? Especially the brown ones) in the bottoms, I was able to wear these ones pictured througout my entire pregnancy. I also have a few other items not pictured that I wore through most of it. As for the tops, I purchased a few one size bigger than my usual, in longer styles, and they worked for the entire duration as well. Great activewear (definitely needed them for my yoga classes) and also for walking, lounging, etc... and in this climate, the wicking can't be beat.
So anyway! That concludes my 2-parter on the old maternity wardrobe! If nothing else, now you know a few places I like to shop in Rio...
On Friday, my water broke at about midnight (right after asking Mr. DRL if he was prepared to not go back to work for a while!) a weekend later, we're home and parents to a healthy (8 lbs, 5 oz) baby girl... life will never be the same!
I thought I had done a pretty good job of bringing everything I'd need for my baby's arrival that would be difficult to find here/expensive from North America. But I must have morphed into a mom from the second I got pregnant, as the baby has more sleepers than it will probably get the opportunity to wear, whereas I realized I was lacking in the "PJ's to bring to the hospital" department. (i.e. camera-okay, good coverage, yet possible to nurse in).
So I went shopping. Brazilians must not be big on the pajama thing as the pickings are slim, and expensive. Being the fantastic deal finder that I am, I did finally manage to find a couple of semi-cute, reasonable things, but it was very time consuming. Most women's pajamas that I found in Rio were about R$150, which is about US$75. Just not quite what I am used to paying, especially for something that I don't feel is good quality.
I also have been unable to locate nursing tank tops. Oh the poor men who read this blog...
So don't forget to pack your jammies, kids! You don't want to buy any here!
I made it through my pregnancy buying VERY few maternity clothes. Mostly thanks to the current styles, and great friends who loaned me their maternity wardrobes. Also by being a bit innovative, and as always I hope that perhaps some of my ideas can help others, so I am sharing.
What I did buy and borrow (and recommend!)
Be Bella Bands in white and black - this is the more "lightweight" version of the bella band, which was great in a hot climate. I wore mine with regular non-maternity clothes (you just wear your regular bottoms undone, and use the band to expand/cover the opening, big money saver!), with maternity clothes that I had trouble keeping on - just stuff that kept falling down. I also even wore it as a tube bra a few times. Friends have said they also wear them post-partum. Cheap. Great. Versatile. Click here for info on where to buy.
I bought mine very early in the pregnancy (and may need to buy more, in different sizes, for that reason) as I have not had luck buying regular bras in Brazil. I really like the Elle McPherson maternity collection, which is available on Freshpair.com. I also received some from a friend, among which my favorite is the original basic Bravado style.
I bought this one from Target for US$15.
This maternity dress was borrowed from a friend:
I didn't purchase any maternity tops as I could easily just wear/buy flowy, long tops in bigger sizes. This one was borrowed from a friend:
A few pairs of maternity shorts were essential. As I borrowed three pairs from friends, all I bought was one pair of white shorts. (I wore non-maternity skirts just fine).
My sister-in-law sent these shirts (I'm wearing mine as I write this, just took the photo a minute ago) from Old Navy down to us:
This billboard for "Bob's Burger's" caught my attention the other day.
I haven't personally eaten at Bob's Burgers, although it is not for lack of trying. It has almost become a joke for Mr. DRL and I - we will be on our way home from somewhere and the "what to have for dinner" question comes up and we say Bob's! Every time - we end up not passing a Bob's.
The new, revamped Bob's in Ipanema looks pretty nice though, for a fast food joint.
Although I have yet to try Bob's out, pregnant and all, I DID however have a fantastic burger in Brazil the other day though... at Outback Steakhouse. Outback is pretty popular here in Brazil. People get dressed up and everything! It cracks me up, however, to find out that many Brazilians refer to it as "Australian food" and will tell you that they like "Australian food"... (based on their love for Outback - which is very much a steak and burgers joint). I am soooo bringing these people some vegemite, and we'll see how their "passion for international cuisine" continues.
Anyway - if you want a really good burger, with a proper pickle and all... Outback. Yeah, I might just be back there again soon. Especially if this baby keeps sticking around! (Today is my ACTUAL due date).
I would like to do an informal survey of expats here in Rio, to provide some info and insight and different perspective to the blog. Recently I made a page on the blog about things that were hard to find in Rio and it seemed to be a hit, the expats I knew were willing to share trade secrets which was great.
If you are an expat living in Rio and interested in participating, either send me your email address to dailyriolife at gmail dot com, or in the comments section of this post. If you are an expat in Rio I am already in touch with, I already plan to send the survey to you once I get it all figured out ;)
All others: what are you interested in learning about expats in Rio? What questions would you like answered? Leave your suggestions for survey content in the comments section.
After a year of whining that we haven't had much interaction with the locals, we were invited to a Brazilian wedding recently!
I found some of the subtle differences between this particular wedding and what we are used to back home to be very interesting. Of course I don't know if these particular differences are typical of Brazilian weddings, but seeing as how they are all I have to go by, I will write about them. Meaning: I don't intend to generalize that anything I saw was exemplary of what every Brazilian wedding is like, this is just my experience.
We arrived a bit late (the reason why is funny and will be featured in another separate blog post), but not by much, and were relieved that we didn't miss anything. We weren't sure what to expect in terms of how people were dressed, but they had pulled out all the stops. Most of the women were in evening gowns and the men all in suits. We had suspected we might be overdressed but in the end I felt under-dressed, but I figure that when you go to something full-term-pregnant, people are just impressed that you showed up and wore something other than pajamas or yoga pants, so my long dress was just fine even though I did not feel super dressed-up.
We immediately felt incredibly welcome, as the groom (who we had NOT met before) immediately figured out who Mr. DRL (I guess we gringos stood out) was and came over to greet us.
My favorite part of the wedding ceremony was the music - it was live, and the singers were awesome.
The groom was the first to enter the church, accompanied by who I assumed was his mother. They were followed by 18 other couples (I counted) who consisted of the bride & groom's families and close friends, who all stood at the front of the church around the couple as the ceremony took place. The bride and her father were the last to enter. Getting a good photo of the bride and groom was impossible as there were two videographers and at least as many photographers within a 5 foot radius of the couple as well, complete with blindingly bright lights. Everyone was dressed to the nines and looked fantastic.
The service was of course in Portuguese and I did miss some of what was said, although from what I caught, the priest was almost more like what our MC's would be like at receptions, cracking jokes and telling stories about the couple's history and certain individuals who were in the "wedding party" (again, which consisted of 36 people!).
After the ceremony, the bride and groom signed the registry, made a small speech of thank-you's, and had the singers perform an additional song, to which they sang along.
Traditional rice was thrown as the couple made their escape from the church.
The reception was held nearby, and I thought the chocolates and cake displays were just gorgeous (see photos below). A formal RSVP was not asked of us, which puzzled me, but when I saw the setup I understood why - there was not actual dinner but rather a small appetizer buffet, and waiters circulating all evening long with other salgadinhos, etc.
Two little girls caught sight of my very pregnant belly and came over to chat and hug the belly. They asked what the baby's name was and when I said I didn't know because I didn't know if it was a boy or a girl, they seemed quite puzzled. To be fair, that is generally the reaction I get from most Brazilian adults too! They asked me if I spoke English and I said I did, and that I was a "gringa" - which they thought was the funniest joke they had heard in awhile and we all laughed for a good few minutes... so cute.
The "paparazzi" with the bright lights stalked the bride and groom for the entire night, which meant that even at the reception I failed to get a single good photo of them. But I am sure they have plenty. The bride and groom circulated the room and greeted each table and took photos with all of us, and of course the belly got a kiss from the bride for luck, I assume.
Although we did make a bit of an early exit given my condition and the long drive home, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and felt very grateful to have been included.
... is apparently much different here in Brazil!
A couple of years ago, I had an idea to do a book about the phenomenon of the boss' wife in small, family-owned businesses. The idea stemmed from observing the behaviour of my boss at the time's wife, and also looking at the wife of a family member's boss and a friend of the family whose husband owned and ran his own company. In all three examples, the boss' wife was not an integral part of the day to day business activities from the staff's point of view, but felt as though they were because of their contributions in various ways. The stress of owning or running a business is rarely left at work, and often taken home. Usually they "knew too much" - notably the negatives of the staff's performances, as their husbands would vent frustrations at home. Yet they didn't get the full perspective or both sides, as they weren't in the office on a daily basis.
In my opinion, all three women at times felt as though they did not get enough respect from their husband's staff or acknowledgment for their contributions, sacrifices or involvement. This, combined with only hearing the negatives, caused them to at times treat the staff members coldly. That said, the smart employee in any of these three organizations knew that to mess with her was worse than messing with the boss himself. Not that it stopped people. Soooo not a smart move.
That said, despite their frustrations, I don't think any of these three wives ever experienced what I did on Saturday night.
Here in Brazil, my husband is second in command in the company he works for. So here, I find myself in the role I was so interested in before - yet from a different perspective - the boss' wife.
Before I get into it - I realize there are some significant cultural differences between women back home and women here in Brazil. I realize it is considered kosher to talk openly and directly about people's weight and looks here in Brazil, whereas back home the same conversation could be considered catty, judgemental, inappropriate and in poor taste.
I can't imagine this ever happening back home: one of my husband's employees asked me how much weight I have gained over the course of my pregnancy. I responded. Her response was that it was too much, I had gained 5 kilos more than I should have. This was in a social setting, in front of several people. Days from my due date.
Maybe it's just me, but back home, I think that most people would be wayyyy too terrified to say something like that to their boss' wife.
As a sidenote, I have gained more than the Brazilian doctor's recommendations. However, I am still well within the North American recommendations. I realize that I am not exactly looking my best these days, and did not need reminding, especially not from a member of Mr. DRL's staff.
When our time in Brazil is done (in about a year, maybe more) we are not sure what our next move will be. Mr. DRL will not be going back to the position he had before (which was known to us when we took this opportunity). Before we moved here, we lived in Calgary, AB, which is where Mr. DRL and his family are from. I am originally from Vancouver Island in Canada, and am still a westcoast girl at heart. Most of my family is in BC as well. Although I tolerated living in Calgary for a few years much better than I expected, enjoyed it in fact, and have amazing friends there who I miss constantly, I don't particularly want to move back there. I cannot imagine living there for the rest of my life, never could. Especially because I know we'll always spend time there, being that the family is there. Where would I like to move instead?
2) San Francisco
4) Somewhere in Europe
Mr. DRL is getting more on the Vancouver bandwagon by the day. He is even considering cheering for the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs now that the Flames are out. This fits perfectly into my plans (yes, you caught me, I am doing "Mr. Burns" from the Simpsons hands between typing on this particular point).
However, I realize that in the end, making this change will not be easy. (Yes, even after moving to Rio...) So I have started a "reasons not to move to Calgary after Brazil" file. This is what I've come up with just today alone! Imagine how thick the file could be after a year!
1) This year, the last week of April, it was forecast to SNOW every night. EVERY NIGHT.
2) Apparently many people living there feel that breastfeeding in public is akin to pedofilia. Click here for more details.
3) Alberta seems to be dealing with some sort of identity crisis. $25 million was just spent on a new ad campaign that at one point features footage of children running on a beach in England. A tad misleading, methinks. (If you are looking for beach, do not go to Alberta. You will be sooooo disappointed).
4) When we were in Calgary in August last year, it snowed. Okay, maybe it was September 1st. Seriously! SNOW!
5) It's cold. It's dry.
6) See point #3. How am I supposed to adjust to this after living in RIO?
7) My personal feeling on Calgary is that too many people who live there are there solely for the $. Which is kind of drying up these days... Hm...
8) Did you happen to catch the Flames' performance in the playoffs this year?
Maybe I just think the grass is greener elsewhere... ?
HELP Discoteca is a famous "landmark" on Copacabana beach. Here is the web site. I've often heard it referred to as the biggest brothel in South America.
It's right along Avenida Atlantica in Copacabana, across from where the outdoor market sets up nightly. Most of the female "clientele" consists of prostitutes and transvestite prostitutes. The male clientele consists of 1) men looking for this type of thing and 2) men who are gullible. I did a quick internet search while looking for the web site, and came across some hilarious travel reviews from men who didn't clue in to the club's actual setup 'the chicks were all over me!' haha... yeah you the man.
Anyway, word on the street is that Help Discoteca is closing its doors, and that the building will become a music museum.
Obviously there are positives to a place referred to as the biggest brothel in South America being shut down. However, there are also negatives.
Such as... displaced sex trade workers. Where will they go? Where will the work? On the streets? This does not seem like a positive thing to me.
"Having help" takes getting used to. I know that's not what the folks back home want to hear, but it's true. If I were not in the apartment as much, I think it would be much easier, but it is still very awkward for me to be around when someone is here cleaning, after all this time.
I don't enjoy "managing" our help. I figure the job is pretty simple; clean the apartment. I do not think that when I have a maid in twice a week I should on a regular basis be able to find cobwebs and dust bunnies. Maybe that's just me. Maybe this happens occasionally because of my lack of a training system.
My lack of a training system consists of pointing things out every few times the maid comes. Please, could you not put that filthy dustpan on top of my dry-clean-only five lb chenille blanket? Thanks. (No wonder I sneeze every time I go near it.) Would you mind cleaning the toilet once a week? Thanks. Could you please dust this shelf?
Recently, we cut our cleaning lady back to one day per week rather than two, and hired another person to work for us 1-2 days a week (also cleaning, but she will help with the baby as well). So far, it's working well. The original cleaning lady is great at doing the "hard clean" - windows, floors, walls, etc. but I think she was starting to slack off a bit. In fact, since we cut her back she has done a better job than ever. I trust her (to not steal, etc.) but would not have felt comfortable ever leaving the baby with her. Why? If someone is to be trusted with my child, they have to be straight with me all the time. Maybe I should illustrate this point. I have a few examples...
So as much as I don't think she will steal from us and think she does a great job cleaning, she is NOT taking care of my baby! I don't even want to think about what could go wrong that I would never know about. The new girl we hired is doing a great job so far, mostly laundry and more organizational/household random stuff, and she is very sweet. I can definitely see myself leaving the baby with her for a couple of hours at a time once it's a few months old. She is also willing to be flexible with evenings in case Mr. DRL and I ever want to go out on our own.
One thing I really liked when we met her - we asked her where she lived and she told us she lived in Rocinha. Many people who live in favelas are not honest about this point, so I found it very refreshing that she was. She came recommended by a housekeeper of a friend.
Before she started, I did a quick internet search of ways to train help around the house. Recommendations varied from spending an entire week shadowing them and showing them how you like every single task done to letting them take the lead and correcting afterwards. I think option one is pretty OCD and takes away the point of having someone come in, although I am sure that the person is very well trained afterwards. I can't be bothered. I think the happy medium is somewhere in the middle. Lay out expectations, empower them to do the work themselves, correct when necessary. Or am I out to lunch?
My new idea for managing my help is going to be having a bunch of sticky notes in a file with various tasks that need to be done (above & beyond the standard "clean") and putting them together in a see-through envelope for them the night before so that they know what needs to be done. Also a good way for me to practice portuguese, etc.
What do you think? Any suggestions for best practices in training hired help? What has worked for you? What hasn't?
This week marked one year since we'd moved into our apartment. While I am pretty happy with our place, this anniversary also brings to mind exactly how long it can take for things to be accomplished here in Rio.
For example, here is a list of items that were not "taken care of" when we moved in and we were assured would be fixed/provided immediately. Note that these do not include all of the things that went wrong after we moved in.
I'm sure that there were more things but I have probably surpressed the memories over the past year in order to survive. The moral of the story? If possible, do not take possession of your apartment until all of these little things are taken care of. OR, be prepared to take matters into your own hands. In our case, we finally just contracted the work out that had to be done, and took it off our rent.