Vale do Paraíba

(Uriel turned five! He had a party with his grandparents, uncle and tía — it feels so good to be surrounded by family!)

Now reporting live (meaning once in a while, really) from SJC, state of São Paulo, Brazil.

We have  officially moved more than one month ago already, and a lot has happened. It has been a whirlwind of packing (boxes & luggages), cleaning before and after, traveling, unpacking, school registration, vaccinations, transferring bank account, changing addresses, etc… I am only barely starting to catch my breath.  It was the second time in one year, and though all moves, big or small, are exhausting, this one was in a category of its own.

The house where we are now has been rented for three years. That is a relief in itself, because at least we know that we will stay here, in the same house, for the next three years. One very unsettling aspect of our lives so far had been NOT KNOWING for how long we would stay somewhere: a few months or a few years? We didn’t know. We couldn’t get too comfortable.

Another big relief has simply been to get things done that had been dragging for so long because we have been living in remote locations.

Examples:

The oven light bulb had fried when we were in Rondônia and I had not been able to find a replacement. I haven’t been able to look at my baking for MORE THAN ONE YEAR. In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal, I know, but still I like to have things in working order around the house. Here, I walked down the street to a small electronics shop and found what I was looking for in mere minutes. I couldn’t believe how easy it had been! In SJA (Goiás), I had to go through all the small stores of the small town for every single stupid little thing that I needed, and sometimes I wouldn’t even find it. It was exhausting.

The same miracle (?) happened with our fridge. We had bought a brand new big fridge in Rondônia that had stopped working after only 2 years . We suppose that because of the many power cuts, uneven current, and the constant heat and humidity, some electrical circuit had fried. In SJA, we called a repair guy who charged us for the visit, told us that he needed to order the defecting piece, but never showed up again. In the mean time we just used that big piece of appliance for storage… (Again, no big deal, but hey, I don’t like to live like that). Here a repair guy didn’t charge us for the visit and came back a week later with the replacement piece. And voilà! The fridge is working!

Oh, oh. And there is more!

There is a cyclovía (a BIKE PATH!!!) in our neighborhood, a real bike path, just for bikes, right in the middle of the main avenue!!!! (There is another one too, but I don’t use it as much). Did I tell you I like to bike? I love my bicycle. Unfortunately, even if (mostly poor) people use that mean of transportation all around Brazil, a lot of small towns are not paved and touring the countryside is far from pleasant on dirt roads with random speeding vehicles trying to murder you. But here, I first took my bicycle for a spin when we had just moved in. I went from my house to my in-laws taking the bike path and I couldn’t — gah — I was so00 happy! I felt exhilarated, a bit on the crazy-happy way. I wanted to smile, laugh, sing! Oh, bliss!

There is more, yes, yes, much more to tell you, but it will be for another day.

Até mais! (See you later!)

As provas

I have been writing and editing this post for so many days now that it’s starting to stale!

The children should usually be in school from 7am to 11am every morning, I say usually when I actually don’t really know what usually means here; there is always something or other to change that. For example, last week I saw a sign at the entrance of the school to ask parents of the afternoon shift to pick up their kids half an hour earlier than usual “because of the heat“. The heat! I don’t see how finishing classes half an hour earlier is going to change anything because the worst of the heat is early afternoon (around four is actually starting to get better), but I discarded the info since it didn’t concern me. However this week, there was a little note on the kids’ agenda informing parents that we should pick them up one hour earlier, everyday of the whole week, because they will have provinhas (little exams)… Please, can someone explain to me on which planet do preschools need the kids to have LESS hours of school in order to give them exams? I can’t even begin to understand. We must be living  on a parallel dimension.

The weather has indeed been very hot and dry. So dry that we all wake up coughing. The kids complain about their throat and nose. In Canada I would probably have bought a humidifier at the Walmart without a second thought, but here in a small town in Brazil, even if humidifiers do exist they are hard to find. One has to do many little stores around town and ask for it. Sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you have to wait for weeks for the next shipment. It’s a lot of work to spend money! Chatting with friends I have been told to leave a humid towel at the head of the bed before sleep. It did seem to help! Also, the damp towel was amazingly totally dry the next morning. Dry, dry, dry. I’m telling you.

Then, suddenly, it rained!

 

EDIT: To add to the endless list of school related complaints (sorry, I need to vent!). The following week, I was told on Monday that my kids wouldn’t have classes for the rest of the week because the results of their exams were satisfying. In other words, they were penalized for passing their exams. I am not complaining that the teachers take time apart for the students that need extra attention, but surely there is a way to deal with advanced students (not that my kids are particularly advanced, they simply know their letters and numbers, I think that the rest of the kids must be particularly behind) and keep them studying some more while doing catch up with the tardies, no?

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Um dia de inverno em Brasilia

It’s winter break for the whole month of July. As usual, it seems, I didn’t know when would the children be off school, and for how long. Parents were not given a calendar at the beginning of school year, you understand, that would be too simple, too organized. What would be the point of it, anyway, if everyone in town (except the lone foreigner -me-)  knows everything about everyone?

On other news, we finally drove the whole family to Brasilia one day before the winter break. We all need to have our Canadian passports renewed before our other (Canadian) supporting documents expire too. Sigh. My Ontario driver’s license is about to expire in September and that stresses me out to no end because I’ve been REFUSED the exchange to the Brazilian driver’s license. Their reason? I don’t have the EXACT same last name on all my supporting documents; in some documents I have my maiden name, in some others I have my married name, and in others yet I have a combination of both. Apparently it’s all very confusing and showing the marriage certificate is not enough. I was told to show my Canadian passport with the stamp of entry into Brazil. Considering that I entered the country with my French passport and that have my permanent visa on that same passport, and that I have already shown all these documents (original and copies), the document they are asking for now DOES NOT EXIST. So yes, I am a little stressed about all this. If we stay in Brazil I will probably need to go through driving instruction all over again, but if we move back to Canada, could we please do that before SEPTEMBER??? Ha ha (?). Uh. (Frankly, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. It’s quite ridiculous.)

The two hours drive to Brasilia was uneventful. The countryside and the city are quite beautiful, but unfortunately, since it was our first time driving there ourselves, the beauty of our surroundings was a bit lost on us. Brazilians have had the genius idea (sarcasm) of not naming any avenue of their capital (except one, I think). So we were looking for the L4 bypass and the 234 entry and the C3 block. Nothing was clearly indicated anywhere, or when it was, oops we just missed it! We had planned our trip to the consulate thinking that if we didn’t succeed with the paperwork at least we’d know where to go for the next time… because I indeed foresee many more trips in the near future.

Our first order of business was to find a photographer to have our passport pictures taken (because there is no such thing as a photographer in our town) (middle of nowhere, I’m telling you.) Seeing on the map that there is a shopping mall right across the embassy district in Brasilia, I thought, well, there probably would be a photographer there, right!? (RIGHT!?!) Wrong! Who am I kidding, I’ve been living in Brazil for four years, I should know better. In all the Brazilian logic (or lack thereof), there was (obviously?) no photographer in that shopping mall. So we drove across the avenue to ask directions at the Canadian embassy (thankfully the guards were all very kind), then drove some more across the city center, got lost a bit, found another (bigger) mall, had our pictures taken, did some much needed “retail therapy”, had lunch (the kids were overjoyed with their very first Happy Meal, sigh, don’t judge ‘k?), and finally headed back to the embassy.

Got lost some more on our way there.

Somehow found our way again.

And then, we waited for the lunch break to be over in front of the embassy. The time stood still for a little while, we were in a bubble of happiness because the place was quiet, stress free, and the weather just perfect.

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ô Canada!
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across the street we can see the Paranoá lake
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the artificial lake and the useless shopping mall
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beautiful trees (and my favorite one) 😉
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the embassy is over there (electronics were not allowed inside)
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trees, shades and the lake

The rest of the affair, paperwork, payment (sh*tload of cash) and all, went quite smoothly. The person in charge of the consulate services at the embassy seemed quite efficient and was remarkably trilingual (English, French and Portuguese). It’s so rare to find in this country that I had to point that out.

So after all was done, we drove back home. And now we wait.

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