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Now that I have been home for a while after my time in Brazil I wanted to share various images that just didn’t fit in some of my other posts and re-share a few of my favorites.  Enjoy!

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They say all good things must come to an end, and that is what is happening. As you might know, I headed back to the US earlier than planned as I was needed back there for various reasons. So, not having done everything I would have liked to, but having had a great time doing what I did and having grown immensely through my just over 3 months here, I left with mixed emotions.

Here is what I was feeling in the days before my departure….

Things I know I will miss (I am sure there will be others that I have forgotten):

  • Lot’s of New Friends
  • BBQ
  • Futebol (especially Inter)
  • A Great Office Environment
  • Giant Paper Airplanes (need link)
  • Cheap Mendoza Malbecs
  • Cachaça
  • Chimarrão
  • The women who work at Café 32 who are always helpful with my lunch order (especially the Inter fan)
  • A Very Vibrate Office
  • Great Weekend Destinations
  • Staying in One Place Unless I Choose to Travel
  • Having Enough Free Time to Catch Up on All of Those Little Things
  • The Brique Market
  • Colorful Money
  • Free Laundry
  • The Convenience of Grabbing a Cab to Work Each Day
  • The Cab Driver Who Practices His English as He Drives Us To Work
  • Doing Absolutely Nothing on a Weekend
  • Whole Office Email Threads
  • In Office Projectiles
  • Juggling
  • Paddle Ball (including Trevor almost getting beamed as he entered 417)
  • Approximate Cab Fares
  • Colorful Buildings
  • Not Having to Clean Up After Myself
  • Calebresa
  • Quatro Queijo
  • Music in the Office
  • Beach Opens http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4YDVeHe4v4
  • Elevator Close Buttons that Work
  • Feijão

Things that I won’t miss:

  • Not Being Able to Communicate
  • Take Out Places that Don’t Bring Utensils or Napkins
  • Plastic Napkins
  • Shot Glass Sized Cups for Pop (though this one does make me laugh)
  • The Overuse of Plastic Bags (US is very bad, I think Brazil is worse)
  • Buildings without Insulation
  • Buildings without Ventilation
  • Weather Changes Every Day (Oh Wait, I Live in Chicago)
  • The Maid Leaving My Windows Open and My Drain and Shades Closed
  • Cabs that Barely Make it Up the Hill on Lucas
  • Only Having a Small Portion of My Wardrobe Available
  • Not Being Able to Use My Credit Card On Line, Especially to Book Flights
  • Gaining Weight (likely related to the calebresa and the quatro queijo, and the BBQ)
  • Broken Seat Belts
  • Bela Vista (though it is nice being greeted on the way in & out each day)

In addition there are some things that I am looking forward to doing when I get home

  • Seeing my Friends
  • Seeing my Family
  • Sailing
  • Alumni Band (yes I’ve already signed up)
  • Church and Choir
  • My Gym

Of course there are also the things that I know that I have to do when I get back as well and won’t have an excuse to ignore when I am not in another hemisphere (escapism is great while it lasts)

  • Finishing Putting Shelving in my Closets
  • Redoing my Bathrooms
  • Cleaning and Refurnishing my Den so that it is not Just a Storage Locker

They also say that everything happens for a reason, so hopefully my next adventure will enlighten me with that reason and allow me to grow even more.

…and now that I have been gone for nearly two months I think that my lists were pretty accurate. While I have kept in touch with some folks in POA I really miss them and the office and so many things that I shouldn’t bore you by re-numerating all of them. That said there are some things that I got to do by being back in the States that I would not have been able to do if I were still in Brazil.

  • Seeing my friend’s sister in two full length films Conviction and Polish Bar
  • Going to a reunion of the Greece trip in Las Vegas to get a short dose of warm (well actually hot) weather
  • Restarting my French studies

Please don’t think that this is the end of the blogs, I already have some posts in the queue and am sure I will continue to find things to blog about (that is after I finish all of my posts from Greece), maybe not as regularly, but stay tuned to see what life brings me next.

Tchau,

Wendy

With it being my last weekend in Brazil I really wanted to get to one more place to explore things I would never otherwise had the opportunity to see. My first choice, Iguazu Falls, was too expensive at short notice with the round trip flight alone topping $400. So I opted for a bus trip to Gramado which I had heard was a popular destination for the locals.

The first challenge was booking a hotel room, yes here again was that pesky language issue. Verônica from the office was very kind in making phone calls for me to try to reserve something. However, the one that had been recommended only had 1 room left, a suite for I think around $1000 per night, no thanks. So we tried a few others and there were no rooms, speaks to the popularity. It was not looking good as my translator left for the night and I was hoping to head out the next evening. Thankfully almighty Google came to the rescue and I was able to find a booking site, in English, and a couple of places that had rooms. I think there were 3 rooms left total through this site, so I figured it was best to just book something that looked nice and was reasonably close to downtown. It was a bit more than I wanted to pay, and since I actually went for the higher priced of the two remaining rooms it came to a bit over $200 for the night (it turned out to be worth every penny). The less expensive room was only $20-30 less if I remember correctly.

I still didn’t know exactly what I was going to do once I got there. I knew there was shopping, not that I needed to buy much more stuff to get back to the US. I had also been told about a city tour, the chocolate options, and a few things in the neighboring city of Canela.

As I headed home Friday, thinking of my adventure ahead, I realized that I had forgotten to ask anybody about where the bus station was in Porto Alegre. So in a bit of a panic I quickly got online once I reached my apartment and found Barbara still at the office and ready to help. Whew.

So I chilled out on Friday night, packing a few things trying to travel light since I didn’t know if I would be able to get a late check out or secure bag storage on Sunday afternoon. I decided not to try to push too hard to make the first bus in the morning, after all this was to be a relaxing weekend, so I wound up heading out for the second bus (9 am) of the three I had been considering. Here the waiting began, that bus was sold out so I had to wait for the 10 am bus, not too bad of a delay and there were plenty of places to relax at the bus station, so I picked one and had a double expresso which was once again the size of a standard cup of coffee. This time however, as opposed to at the São Paulo airport during my first trip to POA, I had time to enjoy it.

Finally it was time to board my bus, though not after a bit or nervousness that perhaps I was at the wrong “box” since with 10 minutes until departure there was still no sign of a bus, and this was the origin, not a point along the way where they just stop to pick up folks. Not to worry, I was in the right place and shortly was settled into my seat reading away as we headed out of town.

I am not sure I have mentioned in previous posts that I purchased a Nook eReader before heading to Brazil the first time. Next to my Bose headphones it is probably the best travel purchase I have ever made. Before buying it I considered both it and the Kindle as well as just getting an iPad. My decision against the iPad (which I still may buy for other reasons) was that I wanted a true reader with a screen adapted for reading in any condition. My decision for the Nook (v. Kindle) was that it has a touch screen interface instead of an alphabets worth of buttons, runs Android, and  gives one access to countless free Google books. Five months later I am still happy with my decision.

Back to the weekend at hand. Since I could only buy a one-way ticket in Porto Alegre my fist task upon arriving was to purchase my return ticket for the next evening so that I could plan my time in town well. After that I headed off in a cab to my hotel. Here again I should have done a bit more research early on as the hotel was about 6 blocks away and given that I had only a small backpack with my, I could have easily walked.

Getting checked in went ok, despite the language issues, however trying to find out about tour bookings and schedules was not so easy. Eventually the first person with whom I was working called on his associate who spoke more English and some headway was made. But that is jumping forward a bit, first I must tell you about my fantastic room. As I mentioned above I went for the fancier room, mostly because the photo showed an awesome canopy bed. I was not disappointed. The whole decor was stunning and it all felt very elegant. Of course it also felt as if it might be a place seen by many-a-honeymooner (maybe the heart shaped chocolates added to this feeling), my take on that is if I waited to book a room like this for that I could be waiting a very long time. I am not saying that what I have, with all of these travel opportunities is not great, it’s just a trade-off. Of course there is also no guarantee that if I had stayed in one place that I would have met anybody either.

There was also a lovely double door the opened onto a balcony with a spectacular view. And the fact that it was turning out to be a very warm weekend added to the enjoyment. It was so nice that I actually contemplating buying some lighter weight tops to wear as I had only brought some fairly warm long-sleeved ones given what the weather had been and given that I was at a higher elevation than that of Porto Alegre. I guess that’s a better problem to have than being too cold.

Since I had been traveling for a number of hours and hadn’t eaten much before leaving I was getting quite hungry so I decided to set out for some lunch before figuring out exactly what else to do with the day. I had found out that there is a city tour that runs pretty regularly so it would be possible to hit that after feeding the beast. After a short walk past numerous shops with lots to buy, danger Will Robinson, I settled in at an outdoor café whose menu looked quite interesting. Here again I had to wait for an outside table, but only for about 10 minutes which gave me enough time to peruse the menu and figure out what I wanted for lunch. This was not an easy task as many things looked good and most were quite different from the standard southern Brazil fare in that there was quite a bit of French influence visible. I decided on a steak in a port wine sauce and then waited for my table.

After being seated I thought the only decision I would have to make was my choice of wine. I didn’t really want half a bottle so was quite happy when there was an option to purchase a couple of wines by the glass. That done all that was left was to order the steak. Being so engrained in the entrecôt I had beeneating lately I completely forgot that I would have to specify how I wanted to steak cooked, and of course I had no idea how to say what I wanted in Portuguese. I almost ordered something else, and after what felt like forever, just as I was about to change my mind, the waiter determined that he understood what I wanted and went off to put in my order. Once again I was not disappointed, having pink meat was so divine.

Very full, and happy, I set off to find the city tour which was supposed to leave from in front of a church at the end of the street where I had eaten. It was easy to find the church and not so easy tofind the tour, there were no signs that this was the location, thankfully I waited anyway (seeing a few other people show up, especially the family with two kids, that looked like they might be there for a tour made this a bit easier). Finally somebody official (and the trolley) looking showed up and I was amazingly able to communicate enough with him to make sure that I was in the right place.

And we were off. While I didn’t understand any of the commentary, it was too hard to guess some of what was being said, and it was quite easy to admire the large houses and the French feeling of so many things. My co-workers had told me that the city had a Swiss Alps village feel to it, and while I can’t comment on whether or not that is also true, to me it felt very French. From the menus which I mentioned earlier, to the names of the hotels and restaurants, and even down to the trees. Yes, the trees. Fairly early on I noticed a tree that looked just like the plane trees that all all over Aix-en-Provence. What is so interesting about these trees, at

least in Aix, is that during the winter they are trimmed back to have virtually no branches. And when spring comes they send out new growth so fast that within a week or so it looks as if the branches have been there all along. Sadly I didn’t get a photo at that time and spent much of the rest of the tour hoping for another sample as well as a good part of my walk the next morning. The best shot I could come up with was of a much smaller specimen.

Most of the time the trolley was moving, so it was hard to get good pictures of some of the homes, however the one here was probably the most impressive estate, yes estate, as I am sure you can see the lovely iron gate separating it from the rest of the world.

After winding past a few other lovely homes we wound up at Lago Negro where we were able to get off of the trolley and walk around for a bit. Of course this meant one more bout with Portuguese to make sure I really know when to be back. The lake was OK, but a bit too touristy for me with the swan rides and pirate ships. That said, there were some live swans as well. And if I had been staying a bit longer, I could have gone for a carriage ride, yes also touristy but a bit more in my book of things to do than a navigating around in a swan paddle boat.

Since I had a bit of time left after wandering to and from the shore I checked out the nearby shops, yes more tourist stuff and bought a magnet, since I had yet to get something for Brazil and a few other small things for gifts.

In the end, it turned out that the best views of the lake were actually from the other end that we drove past after restarting the tour.After we wound our way around back to downtown I headed to the tourist office I had seen as we headed out and asked about things to do the next day. Again, a challenge which once again somehow resulted in a success. I booked a 5 hour tour to Canela that included most of the things I wanted to see there, and being a tour a few things that were not on the top of my list. Before finding this, my option would have been to have the English speaker from my hotel drive me around which I must admit made be a bit uncomfortable.

With the booking done, I stopped in one of the many chocolate shops to buy a few sweet treats for later and then headed back to the hotel for afternoon tea. When I told them about the tour I had booked, they called to verify that I had things right and to let them know that if a morning tour opened up I was actually not interested in it, earlier I thought I was and then decided that sleeping in was a better option. And this resulted in the tour company offering to let the staff person accompany me on the tour free of charge as an interpreter. At first I didn’t think this was a good idea other and then I remembered something I had been told about the culture, that when folks offer to help in Brazil they really want to do so, not like in the US where often the offer is made with fingers crossed that it won’t be accepted, and that furthermore, refusing such an offer is often seen as an insult, so I figured the best thing was to go with the flow and that it would be more comfortable this way than with just the two of us in a car.

Post tea, I headed back into town (this was only a few blocks away) and did a bit more shopping, mostly of the window variety. I had had my heart set on a fondue dinner as it is one of the things that for which Gramado is well known, however after my large and somewhat late lunch I was just not getting hungry enough to enjoy it even after stopping for a glass of wine and chilling for a bit.

The day turned into a wonderfully warm night as I just kept walking and wandering around.

On the way back to the hotel and the fondue place that I still hoped to check out I stopped to grab some artistic photos of a tree that was lit by some amazing purple lights that I had seen earlier that evening.

Still not hungry enough for a massive fondue meal, I opted to get a bit more wine at the grocery store along with some light fare of olives and cheese and settle in next to the hotel fire place. And to then relax in the whirlpool tub in my room. All in all it was a nice evening to cap off a wonderful and quite busy day.

Finally it was time to crawl under the canopy for a well deserved night of sleep.

Given that the return time of my tour was fairly close to when my bus back to Porto Alegre was to depart, after a huge breakfast at the hotel I decided to make sure I knew the most direct route to the depot so that I could get there quickly that evening. Then I set out on that search for my unsuccessful search for that tree. Although it was not a complete waste as I needed the walk and I wound up wandering through some interesting and colorful areas.

I also got to get a good shot of the church I had been seeing all day the day before poised on a hill above downtown. We had actually passed it the day before on the trolley tour but I didn’t realize it as it was across the road from something else that was catching my interest at the time.

Overall it was just great to meander and take in the feel of a relaxed Sunday morning viewing everything from parks to street signs adorned with larger than life grapes to a cat that wasn’t quite sure whether to look at me or search for a reflection in a murky pool. Mostly I think it was nice to be somewhere with weather that made me want to be outside and it was nice not to have to think of the fact that I would be leaving Brazil in only a few days.

It was now once again decision time, do I go for it and eat fondue for lunch, despite my big breakfast or possibly regret not having sampled this famous fare. I must admit I had been checking out the many fondue menus during my walk and stopped to look at one last one as I headed back towards the downtown area. I was leaning towards coming back to that one and trying to figure out the right timing to eat as late as possible before the tour yet had not made up my mind when I reached the hotel. Eventually I caved and was not unhappy that I did so, and could justify it given that I wouldn’t have time to eat dinner before getting on the bus after the tour.

No, I didn’t need a three course meal, but it was amazing. First was the cheese, a definite weakness, yet I couldn’t eat all of it as there would be no room for anything else. So it was on to the meat, which was very interesting as I had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be some very thin cuts of beef, pork, chicken and sausage that one cooked on a very hot grill at the table. Prior to cooking a slice, the grill is salted to keep the meat from sticking.

And of course there were the sauces, you can only see about half of them in the photo and sometimes the best results came from mixing a couple together. I didn’t know what all of them were for sure, that Portuguese issue again, but was able to enjoy none the less. Yet I think the best part was that in addition to enjoying the meat, I recognized the picanha, I was learning something during my stay here.

Again I didn’t finish everything, I didn’t even touch the chicken as there was too much other good stuff, as I had to leave room for dessert which of course was chocolate! Here again there were many ways in which to enjoy it, some of which I had not thought of before, such as the chocolate cookies, which actually while interesting were not the best. I think the old standards of pineapple and banana tied for that honor.

Now, very stuffed – maybe even more than if I had eaten fondue the night before, I headed back to my hotel to wait for the tour group. And in typical Brazilian fashion, the van was late, sigh, as this is something I just could never get used to in India and was also unable to get used to in Brazil.

After picking up some folks from one other hotel, everyone else had already been picked up, we headed to our first stop, the chocolate factory. Since it was a Sunday, the factory was not in operation so we watched a short film, in Portuguese, and then had some time to wander in the gift shop. We did also get a sample of hot chocolate, which was quite nice. If I wasn’t leaving Brazil in only a few days I probably would have bought a few things as chocolate is hard to pass up. Sadly, despite my love for chocolate I had to pass on any large purchases as they would have gone to waste.

Next it was off to the Museu do Vapor (yes, the steam museum) which definitely would not have put on my list if I were building my own itinerary, and I must say, it lived up to my expectations. I guess I would compare it to the plethora of wax museums in the US, also which do basically the opposite of peaking my interest.

Next was an old mansion which was pretty cool. Unlike many similar places in the US we could just wander through without a guide and we could go upstairs. Each room had many items that were interesting as well, and here things were the same as back home where you can’t actually go into the rooms.

Some of my favorites were the music room and the toy room. There was also plenty of antique furniture as well and an old stand alone bathtub and a very fancy chamber pot.

Though I think my favorite spot was an empty tower with a multitude of windows that let in copious amounts of light and a nice breeze. It would be a great place to sip some coffee or just sit and read.

Speaking of coffee, of course there was also a restaurant where you could get food influenced by the past. Given my huge lunch there was no need to sample anything, though I did grab a Coke-Zero for the road before we wandered out to look at the surrounding grounds.

Finally it was time to head to what was the main driver in my trying to get to Canela in the first place, the waterfall and the sky ride (think ski lift) to get a better view of the waterfall. Here again the waiting theme played out as as we pulled up we were told that we might not have enough time to ride as the lines were quite long. At first I didn’t understand this at all as I thought my interpreter was talking about “fires” and was wondering if there was smoke causing things to be closed. But no, it was “files”, aka lines, and it was not clear we would be able to get to the front of them in a timely enough fashion to stay on schedule. Thankfully we were able to, as I would have been pretty bummed to have to have passed this up for a steam museum.

It was quite a long wait, around 45 minutes I think, but it was a pretty cool site once we embarked, and even better when we got off and were able to hike down the gorge a bit for better views of the falls. Of course I wish we had had more time as I would have hiked even further down, and if I had come with just the hotel staff person and not the tour I might have been able to do so, but in the end I still think I made the right choice. Interestingly enough, here, as everywhere else, he was able to get into the attractions for free because he was serving as a translator. You would have a hard time finding that kind of support in the states. So we rode the chair lift together, although I thought he was going to back out for a while as he was quite nervous, but we survived and I got some good views along the way.

There were some similarities with the US again, as there were photo posts set up at a couple of places to take snaps of people as they cruised by in their chairs. Anyway to get another buck, or Rais, out of folks.

As it was getting on towards evening, in addition to photos of the falls, I was able to get some great shots of the colorfully painted valley and the sun itself. It was a great stamp on the end of a wonderful day.

But the day was not quite over. We still had one stop to make, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes also known as Catedral de Pedra (Rock Cathedral). We were given about 20 minutes to wander around and get photos, but for some reason I thought we only had 5 so did a power effort at seeing and shooting the site. Also, as it was Sunday, there was a service in progress so I didn’t feel right taking pictures inside.

Having seen things and not really feeling like going for a second look I passed the time practicing my creativity by taking moon shots. After that I wandered into a few of the shops across the street but I wasn’t really in the buying mood, I know, a rarity. Of course as I was doing this my stress level was rising as the time until my bus back to POA was shrinking and it was looking like many folks from the tour would be late getting back to the van.

In the end it all worked out and I was able to get back to the hotel with enough time to spare to pack up a few last things before heading to the depot. This also gave me one more interesting hotel tidbit as when I walked in they gave me the wrong key. Now that can happen, but here it got me thinking that maybe it didn’t matter, as the key really didn’t look all that unique.

Finally it was time to leave, so I said my good-byes and made the short walk to my bus only to arrive before the bus. Some things never change, at least not in the course of one day.

This time I was not as lucky as on the day before and had someone sitting in the seat next to me, and it was someone who thought the the arm rest ended about an inch or two into my seat. So I had to adjust accordingly, as well as to find a spot where I was able to get just barely enough light from the waning overhead to read.

And the trip back was longer, it was still an Executive trip, but it did not stay on the highway as the one the day before did. Eventually we made it back to my staring point, but here again I got confused and thought we were at the airport as our first stop as on the way out we stopped there after leaving downtown so it made sense that we would stop there first on the way back. I was wondering why so many people were getting off at the airport, but still remained oblivious until we pulled out and I realized where we were. Oh well, I couldn’t do much at that point.

So I figured that it was ok anyway as it might feel safer to get a cab at the airport at that hour of the night anyway. And it probably was. Of course I also thought I might get a better driver, and that was not the case. The guy just didn’t seem to understand my address at all no matter how hard I tried. I often have the problem of having the driver think I am saying 1801 instead of 1081 and this night was no exception, so to try to make my point I dropped the 1000 part and concentrated on the 80 part. Bad idea,the driver then thought wanted 800, so he drove to the end of my street and I had to then get him to circle around and get back to 1081. With the prevalent one way streets this added at least R$ 3 to the fare which I refused to pay, I figured that at home I make the case to not pay extra when a driver makes a wrong turn, so why should I do anything different here. Of course, I had to make my argument in Portuguese, and you all know how that has been going for me. Well tonight somehow I was able to get my point across, between my words and my body language, the driver finally gave up on getting any more that the R$ 20 that the fare would have been, heck it might have been less, but it was definitely not more than R$ despite what the meter said, and I was home, or at least at the place I would call home for a few more days.

Tchau,

Wendy

In preparation for leaving I began the packing effort last  Tuesday and am continuing it this morning. While the bulk of things will somehow be packed tomorrow afternoon I wanted to get a bit of a head start on some things that I just wouldn’t need here anymore as well as my metal globe as I had to make sure I could fit it somewhere.

As I started packing I realized that I never posted pictures of my second apartment here, the bigger one that I got when I came back from holiday. So I finally took some this morning to share.

Yes Roxie, those are the pictures  you drew for me hanging on the walls. Actually, one of them is from Juliette.

Overall Bela Vista has been a reasonable place to stay. It’s not the best digs I have had, yet also not the worst  (the place I had in London or maybe La Quinta in San Bruno take that honor). While knowing that I was staying there again would not prevent me from coming back (there is not much that would), I am glad to hear that ThoughtWorks has found another building with long term stays that is closer to the trendy neighborhood with restaurants and night life and has more staff members that speak English.

I think the two things I miss most are a couch and a bathtub. Here as you can see the bathroom is quite small and the sink is actually outside of it, not a design that I find very attractive in general. Also, there really isn’t any storage space for the daily products so the counter gets quite cluttered and the maid has to work around all of this stuff daily.

Of course I do also miss having a gym and despite bringing a bunch of my own equipment down here, I really was not motivated enough to work out regularly without a class to go to. Yes there are other creature comforts that I have back home such as a full (still almost new) kitchen and a flat screen TV, but  I don’t miss those that much, I think the excitement of being somewhere different and all of the relationships one makes as well as all of the things one learns make up for a lot of the stuff left behind.

When it comes close to leaving somewhere there is always a large last minute list of things to do, both on the leaving end and on the returning to end. Here there has been no exception.

First up was the “need” to see one more destination before heading stateside. From the beginning I had wanted to go to Iguaçu Falls, however with the short notice of the change to get back early flights there were just too prohibitive, especially after Greece. Instead I went to Gramado which is reachable by bus. I won’t relate the tales of that trip here so stay tuned for a dedicated post.

So yes, second is to finish up the blog entries that are in process and get them posted so that I can concentrate on the remaining Greece posts when I am back in the U.S.

The rest of the things are much more mundane and on the leaving side include

  • packing
  • managing the cash balance
  • managing the food supplies, or at least somewhat attempting to
  • figuring out how much stuff I bought
  • giving away things that I can’t or don’t want to take back
  • buying a few more gifts for folks back home
  • contacting work about getting my new laptop a few weeks earlier than planned

And  those on the destination side include

  • restarting services such as NetFlix, satellite TV, DSL
  • deciding whether or not to restart my land line phone
  • looking for a boat that needs crew for the few weeks left in the season
  • planning for Alumni Band weekend
  • changing some appointments scheduled for immediately after the original return
  • figuring out which French class to register for (if AF-Chicago replies to my email that would help a lot)

Of course there is one more not-so-mundane thing and that is planning and having a good-bye night out. So tomorrow night a bunch of us are going one more time to Z Café as I count the hours until flight time.

There was more that I wanted to include here, pictures of the area around Bela Vista where there are some great buildings, statues, and flowers. I am simply out of time and will just have to hope that I really do get back some day to capture those and to take the trips that I didn’t get to take this time. In addition to Iguaçu I really wanted to get to the Amazon as well as Uruguay and Peru, especially Machu Picchu, and I never did make it up to see the folks from Columbia that I met on the cruise in Greece. I did investigate that and it was just too long of a trip for a weekend, not to mention quite expensive.

OK, I guess I need to get back to that packing and get ready to go to work.

Tchau,

Wendy

Given that I am leaving Brazil shortly I figured it was time for another language post which will likely be the last for a while.

One of the things that many of the folks in Brazil note as confusing between Portuguese and English are the words for push and pull. Essentially they have the opposite meaning in the two languages. The English “to push” is equivalent to the Portuguese “empurrar”, which kind of sounds like it has “pull” as its root. And the English “to pull” is equivalent to the Portuguese “puxar”, which kind of sounds like it has “push” as its root. I am sure you can see how this can be quite confusing.

We stumbled across another set of opposites in our Portuguese class the other day, the one where we read about the Inter victory. The first sentence in the article was “A torcida colorada esperava uma noite tranquilla de comemoração…” which essentially means that the colorado fans expected a tranquil celebration, of course this was referring not to the celebration after the win but that they expected an easy game, but that is getting off topic. What is interesting is that the Portuguese word used for celebration is closer to to the English word for commemoration, and, you guessed it, vice versa. In Portuguese you would talk about celebrating someone’s achievements post mortem rather than commemorating them.

And I am sure there are plenty of other examples that I just don’t know of yet.

These situations remind me of what in to English speakers learning French are referred to as faux amis or words that you would think you know the meaning of in French because they look like something you know in English and in fact mean something completely different. For example, you would think the French verb attender would mean to attend, however it actually means to wait. And as a matter of fact I can think of a Portuguese word that falls into this category as well. You might think that lanches means lunches, especially when you see it at many places serving food, when in reality it means snacks.

Switching gears a bit I want to relate a story of a shopping adventure I had right after this class. In lieu of a normal lunch I headed to the nearby mall to pick up a few last minute things that I wanted to take back to the states. When I got to the check out I was apparently the main attraction as there were four women gathered around, the cashier and three others who seemed pretty amazed that I would be venturing out to do some shopping when I didn’t speak fluent Portuguese. They all tried to be very helpful, and one of them who is actually studying English was really trying to help, not that I needed it as I kind of know what to expect when checking out, but they didn’t know that. So she was practicing here English and I was practicing my Portuguese and we were having a bilingual conversation. Of course when the cashier wanted something translated she spoke to me, rather than to the woman who knew some English so the whole thing sort of became a “who’s on first” situation.

To finish things I want to fast forward to today, as a matter of fact to within the last hour or so. I was returning from an excellent trip to Gramado, there will be more on that in a future post complete with pictures, and as usual had a hard time getting the cab driver to understand my address. The street name has become pretty easy and there is rarely confusion over that anymore, the address is a different thing. For some reason, the way I pronounce 1081 makes it sound like I am saying 1801 and tonight was no different. After a couple of times of the driver repeating the wrong thing I concentrated on the 80 instead of 800, figuring he had the 1000 part figured out. Well, I was wrong, he tried to drop me at the end of the street, I don’t even know what the address is there, but it was clearly wrong. So finally I got him to understand what I had been trying to say all along and loop around to take me to the right place. When we got there he said the fare was R$ 24 something and I said I wouldn’t pay more than $20 – I couldn’t really come up with the words to say he took me to the wrong place, but just kept saying something. After a bit of shouting (I am not proud of that part) and exchanging “you said” – “I said” I took out a R$ 50, the smallest I had that would cover the fare, and low and behold he gave me R$ 30 in change. I was kind of shocked and felt that I won a little bit of a battle in the war of Portuguese pronunciations and getting native speakers to at least try to understand my accent. Again, I am not happy that I had to get a little mad to make it happen, just kind of satisfied that I kept trying at least partially in Portuguese and apparently made some headway.

Tchau,

Wendy

I have mentioned that I decided to follow Inter futebol after attending one of the games shortly after arriving in Brazil. Little did I know that I would be following them as a major champion before leaving.

Over the past few weeks Inter won enough games to put them into a championship battle against C.D. Guadalajara.

Leading up to the game there were signs throughout the city that something big was happening. There were vendors on street corners selling various Inter themed items. There were people flying huge flags from their car windows (not wimpy clip ons ones that you see for US teams, actual full sized flags).  There was a flag being flown out of the window on a bus.

Since the TVs in the rooms at Bela Vista are fairly small I decided to head down to the lobby and watch the game on the flat screen inn the café.

The game itself was nerve wracking and it was 0-1 at half. If it had remained that way there would have been overtime since this was a 2 game series and Inter had won the first game 2-1. It was also a very physical game, not nearly as many yellow cards as in the World Cup finals, but 1 red card and a lot of things that went uncalled such as the 3 punches delivered to the back of one of the Inter players late in the game. There was even a time when one of the Inter players had to leave for a head wound that caused so much blood he had to change his shorts on the sideline before the ref would let him back in the game and in doing so wound up wearing a pair with a number that did not match his jersey.

As I mentioned in one of my early Brazil posts the atmosphere at these games is insane (and puts anything we have back home to shame). The best way that I can describe it is to compare it to old school 5th quarter celebrations (sadly they aren’t even the same anymore) which have been put on steroids and then expand that to the the whole stadium (not just the student section) and have it go on during the whole game (as well as before and after).

Oh, and then add smoke flares and possibly even sparklers, it was kind of hard to tell from TV.

After the win, the city went wild. There were honking car horns and extremely loud firecrackers in seemingly every direction.

Sadly I couldn’t venture outside after the game to get any photos of the revelers as I had to lead a class at 8 A.M. the next day, and given that the game didn’t start until 10 P.M., and thus it was now midnight, there already was not a lot of time for sleep. In hindsight I wish I had wandered out at least for a bit as it was probably quite a sight to see.

Since about 80% of the office supports Inter, the mode there the next day was quiet joyous and lots of folks were decked out in their finest red and white Inter wear, myself included.  There was even one woman, Priscila who brought around chocolates in the shape of futebol shoes.

In that day’s Portuguese class we actually had an article about the match as our reading for the day (actually it was only the first three paragraphs) and learned what bicampeão means. It is the second win, and it doesn’t have to be in a row. In this case Inter last won this title, for the first time, in 2006 and yet it is still a bicampeão and thus can’t directly be compared to a repeat (or three-peat or four-peat) in the states.

When I ventured out at lunch I saw a large flag being flown by the passenger on a motorcycle. Definitely a lot more vibrant that when a US team wins something big, even the Super Bowl.

Tchau,

Wendy

Despite it being Friday the 13th, yes that is a superstition here as well, this past weekend started with a trek to Dublin. No, not the city, just a bar on Padre Chagas in Porto Alegre. I almost went there the week before as had made tentative plans to meet the guys from the Friday night pizza outing there after the Vive la Fête show and when it lasted until nearly 2 due to the late start figured that they would not be there anymore. I actually figured wrong as they were running late as well that evening.

Anyway, moving forward, a large group of folks, probably 20 or more, from the office decided to head to Dublin Irish Pub after work on Friday. So I dropped my computer at my apartment and headed off to meet back up with co-workers. This meant that not only did I have to get home in a cab, which is getting routine, I had to get to an address on Padre Chagas as well. I did my normal trick of writing down the location on a piece of scrap paper in case I need to show it to the driver and this time it wasn’t necessary. I was able to communicate the address vocally. Now I didn’t say it exactly right in the format of 3 hundred 40 and 2, instead saying 3-4-2, but it worked.

Entry was fairly standard where you get a card on which they record your food and drink for the evening as you order, a pretty great system by the way as there are no issues with splitting the tab and no credit cards left behind bars. One thing was a bit different here as they wanted ID as we entered, I’m not exactly sure that they were carding as they were getting our names for the cards from what we gave them. However, if they did think I was too young to enter that’s pretty awesome.

Interestingly in my case they didn’t exactly write my name on the card. My first name was there and then instead of my last name it had the name of my street. I am not sure if the person at the door had just never seen and IL driver’s license and didn’t know where to look for the name, or if they just couldn’t comprehend my last name enough to write it down.

Being that we were at an Irish pub they had quite a nice selection of beers, including Guinness which I would have later in the evening as I opted to start out with an Erdinger Dunkel, yes it’s German, not Irish, it just sounded good and tasted good as well. Since we had come right from work we also ordered some things to munch on, including the fish and chips I has seen on the menu, they were OK, after all it was just bar food.

When I did move on to Guinness, with my second beer, I was treated with a Guinness like you get in the UK, not the watered down version served in the US. I kind of figured when I ordered that this would be the case since it was listed under chopps and not beers on the menu which from what I have been told simply means that is is unpasteurized thus it tastes better. And after tasting the Guinness here it is a story that I can buy.

As Dublin has live music every night it wasn’t long before the band (Marcelo Brusius) started, I couldn’t find much on them on Google so I don’t have a link for you. What was interesting is that everything they sang was in English so some of us got to talking about this and figured that they actually must also speak English pretty well since while it is possible to sing a song or two in an unfamiliar language it would be hard to do a whole show with feelings regularly without understanding what you are singing.

Over the next few days this made me think more about how much English you actually hear on the radio here. One cab driver even gave me a CD he had pressed of Elton John songs. Given that most people don’t speak much English it seems interesting that there is that much programming. My guess is that people just like the melodies and are OK without understanding the lyrics. That said, I was talking to some folks from the office last night who commented on how they work on their English skills by watching US movies and TV programs with subtitles which is something I have been doing as well, but to work on my Portuguese and is something I have done with French as well. They also commented on how they think it is easier for folks from the US to come to Brazil and feel welcome than for others because they can discuss said TV shows and movies with them so there is a shared culture that does not necessarily exist with folks from other countries.

I spent the rest of the weekend pretty much doing nothing, which was awesome. Partly it was because I have been fighting a cold and wanted to rest up and partly because I know that when I get home I will be faced with all of the unfinished projects I left behind when I came here.

The only other tale of the week revolves around cab fares. Last Thursday I noticed little posters in the windows that showed there was a fare increase and how to calculate the new fare off of the meter until the meters can be reprogrammed. That alone isn’t remarkable. What is more interesting is the conversation I had about this increase with Verónica who mentioned that it was because petrol had gone up, again not super remarkable. The good part is that I related to her how we have the temporary surcharges in Chicago to deal with such increases and decreases and how she was amazed that the price would ever go down. So apparently here they don’t have the seasonal fluctuations nor those tied to the prices of oil, just increases ever so often.

Also somewhat interesting is that while for the first few days the drivers were all diligently consulting their charts for the actual fare by yesterday they were just estimating it. And that brings to mind how the fare is generally only an approximation anyway, as nobody seems to care about monetary demarkations of less than R$ 0.25 and sometimes even R$ 0.50 so the fare is rounded, sometimes down, to a workable number.

Tchau,

Wendy

Between the folks who have left for the US and the awesome fact that Sameer and Disha were finally able to move into their apartment, I am now the last ThoughtWorker staying at Bela Vista. And I would also have been able to move if the change in plans causing me to have to head back to the US early had not happened. Sigh, both because it would have been nice to be in a proper apartment and one near Padre Chagas as well and because I am going home early.

This change of events that left me as the last outpost could have had me bummed about not having folks around that I know, but instead I decided to take the bull by the horns and make sure I had folks to do stuff with and fun things to do.

For the past few weeks I had been hankering for some good thin crust prizza, yes we have pizza in the office at least once a week, sometimes more, that’s not the same. I had a place in mind and you probably know how that can be. So I sent out an email to the office (we are still small enough in Brazil to do that) seeing who might be interested in heading to Punto del Diablo and I got six takers. Between the seven of us we devoured 3 large pizzas and consumed 2 bottles of wine and then some. It was a great start to the weekend.

My plans for Saturday were quite late in the day, a concert (Vive la Fête), yes French music in Brazil.  The start time was advertised as 9 pm so I was able to take care of someblogging (you may have already noticed that), personal budget stuff, grocery shopping, and even worked out a bit. Whew – I’m tired just thinking about it (or maybe that’s the 13 1/2 hour day I worked yesterday).

Typical of Brazil, the show didn’t really start at nine, so after meeting at 8:30 we hung out at the bar next door until 10:30 or so before heading into the venue and the opening band had not even started to play. The best part is, nobody really cared, it was a Saturday night, people were relaxed and they knew the band would eventually take the stage. And so they did, a few minutes before midnight and I was glad I went.

The opening band, I don’t even know there name, was OK. They had a good beat to their numbers but their vocalist pretty much screamed everything, and not in a supported way so you just knew she was trashing any voice she may have once had. In contrast, not only did Vive la Fête have an even better beat, their lead was supporting her vocals, she was still close to screaming, but somehow in a good way where you can tell she had had some training. I’ll leave any discussion of whether or not she was pitchy to the experts on American Idol.

Despite still having energy around 2 am when we left the show I opted not to go on the the next club as I had had enough smoke filled venues for one night. As I think I mentioned in a previous post, here it is technically illegal to smoke in bars, restaurants, and clubs, it’s just not enforced. So when I got home everything reeked of smoke, even my hair, which made laundry a top priority for the next day (or actually that day, just after some sleep).

Sunday plan’s were to go see Inception, which was recently released in Brazil, with Sameer and Disha. Though I am not a Leonardo DiCaprio fan, I was able to look past that and thoroughly enjoyed the movie. And contrary to my thoughts when I left the theater I have not been having crazy dreams based on the movie, or have I?

All in all in was a great weekend. I got a lot done and had fun too, it’s hard to ask for more. As a matter of fact, in preparation for the day when I would be the only person in Bela Vista I had picked this title sans not, the positive way things played out enabled me to change it.

Tchau,

Wendy

I decided to do a short post about the week and then another post for the weekend this time around (mostly because I had two good titles and wanted to be able to use them both).

The week started out kind of slow and I was still feeling a bit homesick, for some reason I was having a much harder time adjusting to being away after my trip home than ever before. I think it was just the timing of everything: my getting a (short) taste of summer before coming back to winter, lot’s of folks that I had been hanging out with leaving right when I got back, knowing that I had spent a lot of money on the trip to Greece so probably shouldn’t travel every weekend here. And to top all of that off, folks are really busy in the office so some of the sessions I am facilitating wind up getting cancelled.

Of course there is plenty of work outside of running the actual sessions as we are constantly refining and updating the material, scheduling the next set of sessions, working on getting a career development framework in place, and adding new optional sessions such as presentation skills to allow folks that have completed the core set of activities to continue learning within the company.

So I was in the office at lunchtime on Monday and joined a group to grab some food. We didn’t know where we were going to go when we left and decided quickly to stay in our building when we got downstairs and felt the cold air coming in the front doors. The menu is fairly limited downstairs as they only have about 10 options, however a few of them change daily and today there was a chicken roll with ham and cheese option that sounded interesting so a couple of us ordered it.

When it arrived, it was a bit different than what I had expected, and really did look like a chicken cordon yellow, i.e. chicken cordon blue with yellow cheese (and I’m not hinting at a good sharp cheddar here) instead of blue cheese. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted just fine, it was just yet another thing that I would never have expected. And as with most things from the downstairs cafeteria, there was way more than one person can eat at a meal.

Given the struggles that we had been having filling the sessions we decided to try something Lourenço suggested and offer some sessions over lunch. This has the advantage that folks can come in an hour early or stay an hour late instead of having to add two hours on one side or the other to attend a full session before or after their client work. It’s been a hit. We have had two such sessions, one with 8 participants and the other with 6 while we have been struggling to get more than 3 to sign up for the morning and evening ones. And since we do a lot of group activities and discussions, the sessions are much richer if we have a larger group, not too large of course as that would make it hard for everyone to participate.

So with things running smoothly, of course something was bound to change. And it did. Due to needs within my company I am going to have to head back to the US 3 weeks earlier than originally planned so I will be leaving here on August 25th instead of September 17th. This definitely puts some extra pressure on me to get things to a state where they can move forward without me here, I have been working towards that from the beginning and have some things in place since I knew I would be leaving eventually, it just means that the last pieces need to come together more quickly than originally planned. And on a personal note it means that I have to make some quick plans to travel the next two weekends to see at least a couple more things here before heading back.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some benefits to going home early as well as I do miss my friends there and I have lots of work to do on my condo. However, the work could easily have waited another few weeks and I have at least been able to talk to most of my friends given the wonders of Skype and Vonage. It is just one of those things that come with long international travel, you miss home while you are away and you miss the place you relocated to as soon as you are home.

OK, enough of the sappy stuff, back to the food theme. One of the things I have sadly been doing in some of my free time is catching episodes of Top Chef whenever I can. In the recent show the contestants had to select countries on which to base their dishes and one of them, well I can’t really say selected as it was sadly the last choice available, wound up with Brazil. Also he sadly went home for his dish as he really didn’t embrace the challenge questioning at one point “does Brazil even have a cuisine?”. And his competitors weren’t much help either as one of them asked “did you get Brazil nuts?”. Basically he cooked some beef and rice, an OK choice but he could have been a bit more creative and open minded.

Well, it’s time for me to go off and enjoy my weekend, and maybe work on my next Greece post.

Tchau,

Wendy

Last week we had two more people return to the US, Apurv and Udit. While Udit slipped away silently Apurv decided to go out in style.

First up was a new twist on the BBQ tradition. We all met at the same location and instead of having our standard skewers of meat we forayed into cooking (and eating) carreteiro. Basically think of it as the Brazilian version of biryani. In addition to the change of our featured food item we also drank a traditional winter drink, quentão, which translates to “big hot” and is essentially a mulled wine where the alcohol that has been cooked off in heating the wine is replaced with cachaça.

Turns out, even though the party was in Apurv’s honor, it was not his last night in town, the next night was. So after a training session that ended at 10, Carlos who was helping me with the session decided to join Apurv and a friend from his hometown that he had met recently, quite a chance meeting given that Apurv grew up in India, for a drink at Z Café. Probably needless to say with it being Apurv’s actual last night, it was more than one drink, especially when he started buying. So sometime around 2 we shut the place down and ambled home for a short rest before another day in the office.

The rest of the week was fairly uneventful so on to the weekend.

Saturday was ugly, rain, rain, and more rain. One of those rains that is just steady all day long and makes you want to crawl under a blanket and stay there. So that is pretty much what I did. I did make it out to get some groceries without melting too much and then it was back to the apartment, some downloaded TV shows, lots of Facebook messages, and not much else.

Thankfully Sunday made up for it. It was around 15 and sunny so my plans to head to the Brique da Redenção to do a little bit of shopping were followed through. I headed out around noon with only a fleece as an outer layer, and even that was too much by the end, and wandered slowly down one side of the market and up the other. I didn’t venture into the antiques area as I was really more interested in the artists works and wound up buying a scarf which was not unique but that I liked and four pairs of earrings that were all interesting and different than I had seen elsewhere. Yes, I will definitely now need to get serious about buying a larger jewelry armoire when I get home as things were already overflowing.

An interesting observation at the market was the number of people campaigning for the upcoming October elections. Shown is only one spot where there were many signs being toted around. There were also plenty of folks handing out pamphlets, I turned down the offer figuring I could neither read it nor vote, and booths set up with more information and folks to talk to. I didn’t get any more pictures than this since I had stupidly left my camera at home and the battery on my iPhone was quite low.

Since it was so nice I decided that after stopping back I decided to head back out and walk to Padre Chagas to check out a park down there and maybe look for the one pair of shoes I wanted to buy before leaving Brazil. Brazil is known for their shoes, and as such they aren’t cheap so one pair was a good goal.

Given the gorgeous weather the park was filled with people from all walks of life. There were kids playing on the playground which included a mini zip line, how cool, we didn’t have anything like that when I was a kid. Everyone just seemed to be having a great time and to be very thankful that for once one of the warm sunny days fell on a weekend. Though I did get a kick out of the boy on the left with his winter cap still firmly planted on his head despite the warmth of the day. That said, there was one guy trying to sun himself wearing only shorts, think styles from the 70s and you will get an idea, stylish or not, it was not quite that warm.

Being Rio Grande du Sol there were also many people just hanging out drinking chimarrão, something else on my shopping list. I have yet try the beverage, though I want to, since my crazy US bred inhibitions against sharing something like that with others, it is drunk through a shared straw, always kick in.
And no sunny day park visit can be complete without the Coke and cotton candy vendors. These I was not tempted by as I am pretty picky about the form in which I eat/drink my sugar. Do notice that the cotton candy vendor appears to be listening to a portable radio, probably a futebol game. I am pretty sure Inter was playing sometime that day, though I don’t know exactly when, since as I was leaving for Padre Chagas, passing the Blue Tree Hotel, their bus was outside and the team members were boarding and signing autographs. And shortly after that the bus, accompanied by a police escort, passed me as I was talking to Sameer and Disha who happened to be returning from the grocery store at that time.

Of course that park itself had some sights to see so all in all it was a nice relaxing bit of time spent soaking in some much needed fresh air.

After the park I was off to find the shoes. It was a successful mission, costly, but successful (it is one of those that if you have to ask how much, …..). The shopping itself was interesting as the store where I got them was a temporary store meaning that they will be open for a couple of months, selling what they can, and then they will shut the doors. The reason being that rent in Padre Chagas is very high, which probably also contribute to the cost of the shoes, which by the way are awesome – I may never be able to walk in them, but as my co-workers noted when I was describing them, “that’s not the point”.

And the whole shoe thing came full circle yesterday when upon returning to my desk there was a Dove chocolate wrapper sitting there that said “Shoe shopping is therapy!” as one of my Facebook posts over the weekend had asked if shopping qualified as group therapy.

Tchau,

Wendy

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