Monday, June 28, 2010

Minha Familia Brasileira

I really am incredibly lucky that I am getting to spend time with such an amazing family! They are all people that I like to be with and are all really interesting to talk to. The bonus that theyre fun and very patient with me is the icing on the cake.

I look just awful here, but oh well - this is Graça, the maid who is here in the evenings. I sit with her in the kitchen most afternoon/evenings and have coffee and talk with her. I am lucky I have someone who enjoys listening to me babble on in broken Portuguese :)

My Brazilian family :) Javier, Monica, Alejandro, Monica and Felipe (holding Bobby, the dog). Alejandro left for a 1.5 month tour of Europe so I snapped a pic of the entire fam as he was leaving...

I am going to be back home in the USA in just under a month. As excited as I am to get home and see everyone and start my "real life" up again - I am really going to miss my friends and family here. And it might be a long time before I see them again...I need to make the most of these last few weeks :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The World Cup Has Taken Over My Blog

I have to admit, my life is pretty much ALL about soccer these days. I learned soccer when I lived in England and followed the Liverpool team. I learned the rules and enjoyment of the game in pubs (in fact, it is because I had learned about off sides using pint glasses that JGB had to clarify the rule a bit for me when I was in BsAs...), and I have continued to like watching soccer. Every four years, that is.

I don't know why Americans, in general, don't watch soccer. I think every child played it between the ages of 4 and 11. So why do we abandon it then and only watch every 4 years when the world cup rolls around?

I'd love to say that this time it will be different; this time I will watch soccer regularly during the year. But come on...I fell short of that promise I made myself to follow curling just days after the closing ceremonies this winter. Besides, I need to think about what is the most important: do they even have tailgates before soccer games?

I suppose I will just make the most of my next few weeks of daily soccer watching and good soccer related news and websites.

Speaking of good soccer related news and websites:

For the record: Although I am very excited to be in Brazil for the world cup, and I am certainly cheering for Brazil in their games, I am American and fully supporting the USA team first and foremost. As such -- Come on you Yanks and, in the alternative, Vamos Brasil!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Soccer and Portuguese

So as it turns out, I only have about 1 month left here in Brazil. Wow, time really does fly! In that one month, though, I am going to try to experience as much as possible and pack in as much more Portuguese as possible!

And of course, I will be watching soccer (futebol). It is pretty different watching games here. In the US we love going out to bars and watching games - but here everyone watches the Brasil games in their own houses with their families. And nothing is open. Today, nobody went to school or work and stores didn't open until 2, after the game was over. I have a language lesson set for next week that we decided would be either Monday or Tuesday, depending on when Brasil was going to end up playing.

I will have a couple more of weeks of some language lessons before I go. I found a school that I think is pretty good and I managed to barter the price down a little (which is something I have a huge problem with, usually). I want to get in as much practice as I can before I head home and don't have the opportunity to speak it daily.

Not much going on this weekend - I have no set plans but might try to see a few friends. And, of course, I do plan on watching The USA and England games this weekend :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Buenos Aires, Argentina

It took all of 2 seconds for me to fall in love with Buenos Aires.

Last weekend, I went to visit my friend Josh in BsAs. Josh is also a deferred associate working, travelling and learning during his deferral year. We became friends when we interned together and he might be one of my favorite people to talk to in the world! Plus, he is really fun.

This is Josh, or JGB (his initials). He looks like (in the minimum): Mr. Schuester from Glee, Timothy Geithner, somebody on RHONY, and Tio Miguel (Javier's brother). No joke, everyone who has seen a picture of him has said, "Oh wow, he looks lilke____." Feel free to comment with your own thoughts on the matter.

When I arrived, Josh collected me from the airport, we cracked open a bottle of red wine, and we started catching up. Before I knew it we were out the door for some Mexican food!

Josh is a great friend and all, but we should be honest about something: I came to Argentina for the wine!

We ate at a closed door Mexican restaurant. Just 6 of us at a guy's house. It was OK. I wanted it to be better (as did Gina), but some of the food was pretty tasty and the company was fantastic. I met several of Josh's friends in BsAs including a couple from Australia (Ed and Gina) and Jessica from Chicago!

The whole gang posing with our food and Quilmes, which is possibly one of the worst beers ever and will give you a raging hangover if you so much as look at it.

The next day we grabbed some lunch at a cafe and walked around Recoleta. We visited the Recoleta Cemetery -- Given my fear of anything remotely creepy, I was surprised at how cool I found it. It was like a little city of tombs. Among other famous and incredibly rich people, Eva Peron (Go read about her. I will wait. Even if you end up in a wiki wormhole. She has a pretty amazing story.) is entombed there. Josh also told me a cool story about a grounds keeper there that worked his whole life to get a spot there and when they finally let him get a plot, he offed himself cause his life's work was complete. Creepy, but interesting!

Evita's grave is really easy to find because pretty much everyone in the cemetery is going to see her. We just saw a guard giving someone directions somewhere and followed them.

That evening and the next we met up with friends and went to steakhouses. Now when I say steakhouse, I am not talking Outback. I am talking massive steaks, amazing wine, out of this world chorizo. It was really fantastic!


We ended up spending a lot of time walking around the neighborhoods, hanging out talking, and watching the world cup. Josh's friend even made us a Russian dinner one night(no photos, oops)! But amidst all of the relaxing, we did find a little time to get some sightseeing done as well.

Josh and me in front of the Puente de la Mujer (I just learned it got the name because many of the streets in the area are named for women).

La Casa Rosada - I guess there are quite a few stories of why it is pink in color...If anyone knows, please share!
Every week mothers of those who disappeared or were abducted under the military dictatorship gather here in the Plaza de Mayo to protest for information. I suggest you go learn about it (here is always a good place to start. then maybe try here or here).

On my last night in BsAs, Josh took me to see a band/drum corps/I don't know how to explain it? It wasn't La Bomba, but it was by the same producers I think, and I am pretty sure the idea was the same. Either way, it was really cool! My camera was out of batteries at this point, though, so no photos of that night :(

I really had an absolutely fantastic time. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, I felt safe, it was easy and nice to walk around, and I would really love to return (mostly for the alfajores, wine, and coffee!) sometime very soon!

That is a thumbs up for BsAs!

Festa Junina

If you were to have asked me when I moved here, "Sandy, what is the thing you think you are least likely to see in Brazil," I might have answered square dancing.

Yet today, I saw square dancing in Brazil.

Well, it is called quadrilha, but it pretty much looks like square dancing.

Today we went to a festival where the kids go to school to celebrate Festa Junina, which is an end-of-summer festival based on three saints. The festival was enormous with lots of big carnival type games for kids and SO many food tents.

I didn't get a chance to check out many of the food tents and choose the best because as soon as I saw the Arabic food tent I knew my fate was sealed. I grabbed this amazing falafel kebab.

There was also some pretty good meat on sticks. And everyone knows that all food tastes better on a stick! We also had really good coffee and some amazing cake, but those were eaten before I could get a photo!

We had lots to eat and passed the time with good company and conversation :) I still don't understand everything being said around me but it is getting better. I talked with Marlay, basically my Brazilian Grandma, today, and I can understand SO much more of what she says than I did just 2 weeks ago (which is great because she is a riot!) so that makes me pretty happy.

This is like maybe 1/5 of the total space and people that were present.

Mariana and her boyfriend Silvio showed up and we went over to check out Silvio's brother in the quadrilha. Which, as I mentioned above, is square dancing. Down to the checkered skirts and straw hats - square dancing!

I know, I know. You didn't believe me that it actually was square dancing in Brazil. Here is the photographic evidence. I'll throw a video of it on at the end here, too!

One of the saints celebrated is São João (St. John) and his day celebrates marriage. So, the quadrilha cetners around a bride and a groom. At the end, the boys and girls separate, and the bride throws her bouquet. The girl who catches it then has to go get a boy from the boy's side. And this is all done by 16/17 year olds who must be mortified about it! Luckily, it seemed the girl who caught the bouquet had a boyfriend who she picked. I know this because (a) when she caught it all the other boys roared laughing and jumped on him and (b) they kissed.

Throwing of the bouquet. I just really couldn't stop giggling.

Today was one of those days that makes me so happy that I moved to Brazil. I am learning a new language. I am having new and very different experiences. I am learning so much about my self and about other places and cultures. And I am getting to spend time with really amazing people. Most of my family was together today, and I when that happens I miss them even more. Today, though, while I missed them it was fine...because I got to be with family here.

Monica and Monique

Monique and Javier

Monique and Marley

Me with Mariana, her boyfriend Silvio, and their friend

Here is some brazil square dancing for your enjoyment. I don't know why, but I was just so tickled by this, haha!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Dish: Minas Gerais

I promise that I am continuously taking pictures of neat food that I am eating to post about it for you, but I am really forgetful. As a result, I have a backlog of these sorts of posts. I hope to get some of them up soon...and there is no better time to start than the present so here we go!

When I moved to São Paulo I went out to eat with Javier and his friend Luis Carlos to a restaurant that serves traditional food from Minas Gerais, a Brazilian state. The only thing I knew about Minas Gerais was the Minas Cheese that I like putting on sandwiches!

My love of the cheese should have tipped me off, because Mineiran food is great! It is sort of best described as farm-style cooking. Real comfort food, for sure. Here is the bad part, I mostly forget the names of everything we ate. Oops! But I have pictures.

We had rice and some sort of bean puree with sausage in it. Mmmm sausage and black beans = :). We also had bisteca de porco and couve Mineira (which was kale and really tasty). And then there was also fried pork fat, which I was not a big fan of!

Maybe it was the restaurant overall, but Mineiran food gave me the feeling of a big family-style meal on a farm, albeit a Brazilian farm!

Felipe and the patio area of the restaurant. The place was really beautiful but sort of tucked away off the street. I don't think I would have recognized it to be a great restaurant had I just been walking by. There is also another little patio area on the other side (so opposite this one).

The food...well, some of it!

The interior. I wish I had a better shot of it. I think I felt really "farmy" about the place because it looked really "farmy" (tables, art, walls, etc.).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Copa do Mundo

As most of you probably know that right now the World Cup is going on.

In Brazil, I think you would have to have been born yesterday to not know that it is happening. And even then, I'm not so sure.

I was actually in Buenos Aires, Argentina (more on that later) when the Cup started. I watched many of the games and am once again remembering that I like soccer (futebol here)...a lot! We actually missed the first 5 minutes of the Argentine game, and since the goal was scored in the first 4 minutes, we actually "heard" the goal instead of seeing it. The noise from the streets was awesome when they scored!

We also had a lot of fun watching the USA/England game at an ex-pat bar filled with both Americans and Brits. It was hard for me to hide my love of the English players, but I still chanted USA along with the best of them during the game. And no matter which country they were from, EVERYONE cheered when they showed David Beckham on the sideline.

Getting pictures was difficult. Getting into an ex-pat bar that wasn't already at capacity was even more difficult!

The National Anthem sounds so much cooler during the Cup at a bar with tons of other Americans.

On my return home, my layover in Porto Alegre, Brazil thankfully coincided with the Brazil match. I found a table at an airport restaurant - there were chairs and TVs set up everywhere for people to watch. I threw on my Brazil shirt from my carry on and laughed when the man at the next table over commented on my action with a "now Brazil will win easier," and a thumbs up.

One small portion of an airport crowd

Though it is just the beginning of the Cup, I feel like it really is everything you would imagine it to be like here. And I love that. Don't tell America, but I'm really sort of hoping Brazil wins this one.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Some São Paulo Exploring

Exploring Sampa is a little more difficult than exploring Rio was - the city here is much more spread out, and I don't have a car. But luckily I have friends who don't mind taking me around!

There was a holiday last week so Javier and his friend Luis Carlos set out with me to do some sight seeing! Our fist stop was the Saint Benedict Monastery. This ended up being fitting because of the holiday - Corpus Christi. We were just checking out the inside of the church when the all of a sudden the mass processional began. We stayed for a little of it and then ducked out the back - On the way out, I managed to trip over an altar and face planted in front of everyone, so that made my visit even more special.

A view of the entrance to the church from the outside. It also extends quite a bit more to the left of this and the back. I actually remember coming to this church before when I visited São Paulo a while back which was really neat since my memory is generally horrible!

Here is me being completely disrespectful to the monastery and my religion by snapping a quick picture during mass. If God brings it up to me, I'm going to play the foreigner/tourist card.

After seeing the monastery we walked down Rua 25 de Julho (a bustling street with tons of really cheap merchandise/clothing vendors) and headed over to the Municipal Market (Mercado Municipal). This place is amazing, guys! It is a HUGE farmer's market in the city - there are tons of stalls with the most amazing fresh produce, cheese, meats, and nuts. There are also tons of little restaurants, cafes and food stands mixed in, too.

Here is one of the rows, decorated subtly with the Brazilian know, in case you forgot where you were?

I am not exaggerating at all when I tell you that I had a sample of each and every one of these fruits. It was ridiculously tasty - I was seriously in heaven. And I mean, who doesn't like free lunch!

I don't remember the name at all, but this one was SO good - a really mildly tart taste!
I wish I could tell you that I ate one of these bad boys, but I was too full from the fruit. So I took a picture as a reminder to go back!

After we left the market we did stop for lunch and then headed to see some museums. I have no photographic evidence of this, though, as my camera was in the car - whoops! Our first stop was the Museum of Sacred Art, which is full of religious relics and artifacts. It was so cool to see all of the really old altars and artwork. The museum is located in a monastery (yeah, I am practically a monastery expert now) and there is also an exhibit of nativity scenes. This was the coolest part, I thought! One room houses nativity scenes from artists all over the world - the different depictions and styles of art were really impressive. Then another room houses the largest nativity scene I have ever scene - it depicts a small town in Rome and only a tiny part of it is the nativity scene we think of. The rest shows life in this place - it was so impressive.

We tried to go to 2 other museums but so did a lot of other people - the lines were really long so we decided it would be best to come back another day!

We ended up at an enormous bakery, instead, where we had coffee and pao de queijo :)

This weekend I also did some exploring of night life in Sao Paulo :) I went out with my friend Fabiana (Roberto's sister, who lived in Champaign for a while too - for those of you playing along with the Brazilian/American connection game at home) and her boyfriend and friends.

It was really nice to see a familiar face, especially one that was so kind and so fun. We both agreed that it was a bit strange to have known each other in the US and to now be hanging out in Brazil speaking only Portuguese (and of course we both agreed that we missed Hobby and wished he was there). We went to a bar for appetizers and drinks and we ended up dancing into the morning - I had so much fun and it was great to hang out with such welcoming new friends!

Me and Fabiana

Me and Paulo, Fabiana's boyfriend

Fernando, Diego, Paulo, Fabiana - Everyone was so nice and fun...They made me so comfortable that I sort of had the overwhelming feeling that I knew everyone already

I have an exciting trip ahead of me this week - on Thursday I am heading to Buenos Aires, Argentina to visit my friend Josh! I will stay there through Tuesday and can't wait to get to know the city (read: eat a ton of meat and drink a ton of wine)!