The noise level here in Canada is nothing compared to what we had to endure in Brazil : the constant barking from the neighbors dogs every time someone walks by in front of their house, the noisy motorcycles, the vendors announcing loudly what they’re selling by yelling or playing their jingles on loudspeakers from their bike, car trunk, or pickup truck (eggs, cheese, bread, sweets, or gas canisters — they all came around at least once a week if not everyday) and, of course, the neighbors who honk the horn when they leave (to say bye?) and when they arrive home (to have someone open the gate for them). Those were the daily, constant, background noises. There were also the occasional days when a neighbor decided to a party and every one else, many streets over, had to enjoy whichever loud music was being blasted through (again) loudspeakers, for as long as the party was going. Brazilians are just loud people. All the time. I don’t think I ever got used to it.
During our last year in Brazil, we were living in a dead end street in a relatively quiet neighborhood. But even so, in contrast, when we arrived in Canada, here in the house were we currently live, which is not in a dead end street, it was shockingly quiet.
And yet, when I started recording, I became aware of the many noises that I would unconsciously tune out: the train that blows his many whistles at the railway crossing some streets away on one side, the ships that blow their whistles too when they pass by the river (as they pass under the bridge, I think) on the other side, the neighbor that mows his lawn during summer, the occasional airplane, etc. The house makes many sounds inside too: the fridge, the water pipes, the heating system, even my laptop fan makes a small humming sound!
So I had to find the quietest room in the house, which was surprisingly not upstairs where the bedrooms are, because I could hear too much noise from the streets (cars passing by), even with closed windows, but downstairs in the basement… Yes, the dungeon of the house. Small windows, very little light : not necessarily the most agreeable room, but indeed the quietest.
Besides, as I would learn soon enough, producing an audio book is : 10% of the time recording and 90% of the time editing. I absolutely need to have the best recording booth possible (which should ideally stay in the same condition during the duration of the whole project), but once I have the raw recording, I can bring my laptop/headphones/mouse upstairs with me and do the editing wherever I want in the house.
I don’t know why I can wax lyrical so much about something so… ugly? ordinary? boring? Maybe because to me, even if I had to set it up in the basement where it’s cold during winter and humid in the summer, my recording studio is functional, extra-ordinary, and far from boring (the job I get done with it is not boring to me anyway).
The desk with the bright light (it’s my light therapy lamp — I had to lessen the intensity for the picture) and the microphone is where I record. The surrounding soundproofing is done with moving blankets. The structure holding them are 3 clothes racks (1 at the back that I found for $5 on Kijiji, and 2 better ones on each side that I bought at Ikea), topped with a piece of plywood that was lying around the house and some cardboard (to prevent sagging), all topped with another layer of blanket. D was thinking of building me a real solid wooden frame, but it would have been heavier and harder to take apart when we need to move again.
I covered the table top with a small blanket too and I put a carpet on the floor to absorb as many little noises as possible.
The white desk is where I usually put my laptop, a bit further away from the microphone to avoid picking up the hum of the fan (very small noise, but the less sounds I need to edit, the better).
The boys have started school again, and you know what I miss about Brazil? The uniforms.
There are a lot of things that can be said about the superior quality of education in Canada, but I miss the uniforms of a third-world country!
In Brazil all the kids wear uniforms for school, from kindergarten to secondary school, public and private schools alike. People like uniforms so much that a lot of jobs that I wasn’t used to see with uniforms, require their employees to wear one (pharmacies, supermarkets, restaurants, gyms, driver’s schools, etc.). It usually consists of comfortable shorts and T-shirt, sometimes a pair of pants and a light jacket too (optional — in states with cooler climates only), in a resistant and very washable fabric. It’s cheap, durable, and oh so practical. The boys had each two pairs of uniforms, and I simply needed to wash the dirty one while the other was being used.
We have been doing quite well over here. Winter is slowly coming to an end, with snow flurries here and there, but nothing stays on the ground anymore. In the past few weeks, I finally bought a new (second-hand) bike and went for a ride along the river. It was still chilly but it made me feel alive. There is something so simple and freeing to be on a bike. I don’t know if it’s speed, the wind on my face, or the simple fact that I can go fast with the sole strength of my legs. In any case, I visited two different swimming pools, subscribed for a monthly membership (it can be used for any of the four city’s swimming pools and their fitness centers), registered the boys for swimming lessons (90% of which was paid by the city! — a program for low income families), and have accompanied them for their first official swimming lesson! It was all very exciting for me and for them.
I used to swim a lot, eons ago, when I was a young (and fit!) student. The only team sport that I actually liked to play was water-polo, which I played regularly for a couple of years in Montreal. I like to find myself in the rhythmical balance of breathing and movement, it’s soothing. Ironically, before moving to Brazil, I thought that with the year round beautiful weather over there I would certainly find a pool and swim more regularly than I did here. Unfortunately, unless you pay hefty condo fees to have access to a pool or a club membership, there are no public swimming pools like there are here in first world countries. Sure, theoretically there are amenities such as schools, pools and libraries in Brazil, but like most things, there are not easy to find, not easy of access, not affordable for the general population.
As the Brazilians say, é complicado.
Early morning view of Detroit on my way to the pool on the pathway with my bike. Happiness.
WARNING: This is a very long tale of Brazilian bureaucracies. If you haven’t the heart to read all this, please just have a look at our last pictures of Brazil (Parque da Cidade, work of the well known Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx) and wait until I write about something else. 🙂
One of my student who was learning German in Brazil told me one day that he had family relatives in Angola. Some of them were trying to move to Brazil, some of them to Portugal, but it was particularly difficult for one cousin who was born during the civil war and could not get a birth certificate… That person couldn’t travel because she couldn’t prove that she was born. I can’t even imagine in what state of chaos the country must be to not be able to provide vital documents to its citizens!
Our problem (if I can say such a thing in comparison) is other. My children were born with three citizenship ; Canadian (their native land), French (because of me) and Brazilian (because of their dad). When we want to travel, not only do we need to decide which passport will be the most useful, check if it’s not expired (like any normal person), but we also need to make sure that we have all accompanying documents because it is required of all travellers to comply with the laws of all countries, where you come from and where you are going.
In my case it was a nightmare to figure out what was needed to leave Brazil with the children to come back to Canada.
Since Canada now demands its dual Canadian citizens to always travel with a valid Canadian passport when traveling to or transitioning to Canada, we were happy to have those passports ready since the children’s Brazilian passports were expired. However I also learned that Brazil has now the same law, which means that if the kids ever want to travel from Canada to Brazil for a visit one day, each one of them will need to have both passports valid to travel. Luckily renewing a passport is about the same price as asking for a visa (Canadians need a tourist visa to visit Brazil). (Not that we are planning to travel again any time soon).
D was already here in Canada, when I realized that in order to leave Brazil, the federal police requires Brazilian children to have an authorization from the other parent to travel. So at first, since we were going to travel back to Canada with our Canadian passports, I checked for the Canadian consent letter form to travel with children. I filled it, emailed it to D for him (and a witness) to sign, and asked him to mail it back by regular mail (we had plenty of time then), because the signature has to be original to be certified by a notary public…
While I was freaking out because after 2 weeks the mail had still not arrived, I was also in doubt about which form was going to be asked of me. Was the Canadians form good enough for the Brazilian federal police? Would they stop me from boarding if that was not the correct form? Did the signature need to be recognized at the cartório (notary public) only por semelhança (by similarity) or by the more expensive authentication (in which case the person who signs has to be present — not possible) ??? I emailed the Canadian consulate in Sao Paulo to ask these very specific questions, but I got a standard reply of “check with the Brazilian authorities”.
The problem with the Brazilian authorities is that with a great air of certainty everybody tells you something different, even if they don’t know what they are talking about. What I wanted is to get the information in written somewhere online, which was very difficult to find indeed, but here is what I found. So, yes, I needed to have the Brazilian authorization form filled and signed by the other parent (D who was in Canada) and go to the notary public to have the signature recognized, thankfully, only por semelhança.
All this preparation finally concluded in the very last week before departure. I received the Canadian form (by the extremely slow air mail that took one month to arrive) and the Brazilian forms (by FedEx which took 3 days instead of 2 to arrive because the Brazilian customs were on strike — again). Just in time to have them recognized by the notary public. Thankfully I had my awesome in-laws to look after the children and I had no more job or home responsibilities because I was otherwise already running around like a headless chicken.
The same week, I also had to go to the veterinary with the cats, get their health forms filled, stamped, travel to the Guarulhos airport (2 hours of bus travel, to and from) to leave the forms at the Vigiagro (Vigilância Agropecuária Internacional) and go back to pick them up two days later. They certainly could have simplified the process and saved all travelers with pets from a second trip to the airport in the week before traveling… But that would be too convenient in the eyes of the Brazilian bureaucracy. (Don’t tell me they need two days to put a stamp on a form!).
So, until the day we were to travel I had no certainty to have all the necessary paperwork to travel, but at least I did all what I thought could be done…
So, what happened the day of departure?
We arrived well ahead of time at the airport. My in-laws had paid for a small bus with chauffeur to bring us all at the airport, our tearful good-bye committee and us, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, his girlfriend, and us. I was the one with the three children, two cats, 7 luggage, 1 small carry-on bag and a heavy back-pack. When the lady at check-in asked me for our traveling documents, I showed all our Canadian passports. Then she asked what was our status in Brazil and which documents we showed upon entering the country (5 years ago) (what does it have to do we anything, I don’t know, since we were LEAVING THE COUNTRY!). Start of panic attack here. I said that I am permanent resident and the children were born in Canada. I showed their official Brazilian transcription of their birth certificates. She had to call another guy from behind to double check. That wasn’t good enough. Breath in, breath out. My heavy backpack was full of all our documents, a dozen passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates (French, Canadian and Brazilian — ALL THE SHIT). What could I possibly show the lady that would suffice?!!! Luckily I remembered, in the midst of my very jumbled thoughts, that I had the children’s (expired) Brazilian passports. Hey, that’s what we showed when we entered the country, no?! “Yes, that’s fine, you can show this at the federal police agent when you pass through customs – Even if they are expired?, I asked – Yes, even expired.” she replied.
Ok. Big sigh of relief.
After leaving the 7 pieces of luggage and paying for the cats, now was time for good-byes. There wasn’t a dry eye around, even if the men pretended to be looking elsewhere. The kids quickly caught on the emotion, and Uriel was soon sobbing profusely. It was the saddest thing.
After passing through security, where I had to take each cat individually OUT of their cages, take off their collar, and put them back again (thankfully they were both too scared to try to escape), we arrived in front of the Brazilian Federal Police officer. Now I was prepared and showed him the boarding passes, the Brazilian letters of consent (dully signed and certified), and the children’s Brazilian passports. After 10 WHOLE MINUTES, he exclaims, “Ah, but these passports are expired!”, “Well, yes, but we are traveling with the Canadian passports! Those are valid!”. Then I showed him the Canadian passports, I mean, the lady at the check-in had already explained that in order to LEAVE the country I didn’t need to show the Canadian passports, but rather the Brazilian documents. They were driving me crazy! Anyway, so the guy had 7 passports, 4 boarding passes, 3 consent letters and photocopies of D’s Canadian passport in front of him, he read EVERY SINGLE LINE of the passports very slowly, checked, and double-checked the names on the passports with the names on the boarding passes, and the consent letters, and after what must have been 45-minutes or one hour (a very long time to hold one’s breath), he gave me back all the documents (except the consent letters) and nodded his head ever so slightly. I wasn’t sure. “Esta tudo bem?” (Is everything alright?), I had to ask, just to make sure. Yes, yes, we could go!
After this I felt as if I was flying to the gate, even with the heavy backpack, the two cats, the cumbersome winter coats (please, carry your own coat, I only have two arms), the extra carry-on bag which kept knocking on one of the cat’s cage, and the three children that I was trying to herd… We made it!
And then a couple of hours later, after waiting in a very disorganized boarding area (nothing new here), and piling up in a bus shuttle, we somehow boarded the plane!
I will never more complain about the headaches of Canadian or, even, French bureaucracies.
Things are seriously getting real over here. I told both schools where I teach that we are moving soon, how “soon” is still uncertain but I wanted them to start looking for my replacements. They won’t find someone who can teach both French and German, so it will have to be two people. I’m particularly concerned about the German group, because I really like those guys. Best students ever; intelligent, eager to learn, good attendance and mostly doing their homework. As for my French students, there is only one or two of them that I care about, she studies and hasn’t missed a class since we started, as for the other ones I am still wondering why they are taking lessons. I mean, if you come to class once in a while and never do your homework, what’s the point?!!!
Since we will be paying for the international move on our own this time, D and I have started sorting through our books… again. Surprisingly I still had a bunch of photocopies of music scores, copies of entire operas (piano reductions, not the orchestral scores) , and copies of the songs of all my recitals that I sang during my studies (uh, 15 years ago!!!). It was a huge pile. Why did I keep all this, I have no idea. In my ten years of teaching music I never had a student asking me about the songs I sang as a student myself. And why would they!? I still have in my possession a lot of “real” printed music that I bought for references while I was teaching. Most other books that I want to keep are novels and hard covers that I love. So, although I can’t bring them all along with us this time (too heavy), I don’t want to give them away either. I have save my precious books in boxes and stored them at my in-laws. Eleven boxes of music and novels. My in-laws will bring them along with their own stuff when they join us in Canada. In a year or two. Or if that doesn’t happen (they can still change their mind, after all), we’ll find a way to have them shipped to us once we don’t have to count our pennies anymore.
The kids don’t seem to be worried about anything. Even if I did go through their books today and discarded about half of them in various boxes and bags (I am giving some of them to their schools libraries)…
I am constantly going through my mental list of things I will miss about Brazil (the weather), and things I definitely won’t miss (driving here — manual transmission and insane people), and things I’m looking forward to (driving in Canada — automatic transmission is heaven). It is necessary to keep in mind all the good and bad stuff, so that we embrace the change with the eyes wide open.
What I will miss the most is to leave my windows open all day, every day, and step out into my small garden and watch green stuff grow.
Ce matin j’écoutais la radio en allemand (sur Radio Garden, je conseille vivement) et je grelotais de froid. Il ne faisait que 20°C chez moi. Que voulez-vous j’ai perdu l’habitude, c’est le vrai hivers brésilien ici, quoi! Et puis, cinq minutes plus tard, j’entend les allemands se plaindre de leur été frisquet cette année… Il ne faisait que 17°C chez eux. Ha ha.
Quand j’ai raconté cette petite anecdote à D, il a bien rigolé. Lui qui a le sang chaud n’a jamais souffert de l’hivers canadien, par contre ici son malaise est extrême pendant les mois chauds. C’était carrément l’enfer pour lui en Rondônia. Par contre pour les enfants et moi qui sommes plus frileux, nous allons avoir un sacré choc quand on retourne au Canada.
J’ai bien dit “quand” et non pas “si”, parce qu’en effet, oui… Nous retournons au Canada!
Ce n’est pas un secret, même si je n’écris plus souvent par ici, les cinq derniéres années au Brésil ont été très difficiles pour nous. Spirituellement, émotionellement, financièrement, culturellement. Et en fait, depuis que nous sommes ici nous avons eu le constant incomfort de ceux qui ne font que passer. D’abord Rondonia était tout simplement la fin du monde. On voulait que le supplice (qui a duré 2 ans et demi) passe aussi vite que possible. Puis ça c’est un peu amélioré pendant l’année passée à Goias, mais c’était quand même pas super; la ville trop petite et loin de tout pour s’imaginer “grandir” là trop longtemps.
Alors puisque nous étions a une distance raisonnable de Brasilia, nous sommes allés mettre à jour nos passeports canadiens au service consulaire de l’Ambassade du Canada. Juste “au cas où”. Je pense que ce que l’on aimait le plus de nos brefs passages à la capitale fédérale est que tout y était tellement propre, la ville bien planifiée, et le climat tellement agréable que l’on se sentait presque de retour au Canada!
Maintenant que la décision est prise, on se souvient de plusieurs moments avec une sorte de double vision. Par exemple, quand, tout juste arrivés au Brésil, D a fait les démarches pour nos contributions pour la retraite, il a eu la forte sensation que c’était de l’argent jeté par la fenêtre. Et chaque mois, quand je retournais au guichet de la Loterica pour faire le paiement, je me disais la même chose… Était-ce une vision, une intuition, ou wishful thinking?
Autre exemple plus récent, quand L (ma belle-mère adorée) a offert des manteaux d’hivers aux garçons au mois de mai (début des fraîcheurs hivernales ici), je me suis dit: “Ça c’est bon pour l’hivers canadien”, mais j’ai repoussé cette pensée en me disant simplement que ces manteaux étaient un peu exagérés pour le Brésil!
Pour l’instant, nous sommes encore à l’étape préliminaire. D va annoncer sa décision dimanche l’église. Il n’y a pas grand chose que l’on puisse faire pour l’instant à part en parler avec nos meilleurs amis canadiens et américains qui prient pour nous, et penser à tout ce qu’il faudra vendre, donner, jeter, emboîter (une fois de plus).
D ira loger chez nos amis qui habitent à W (Ontario), d’où il cherchera un emploi dans la ville-même ou plus loin si nécessaire London, Guelph, etc. Tout est incertain de ce côté là. Aprés avoir empaqueté nos choses, prètes à envoyer, et libéré la maison, j’irais vivre chez mes beaux-parents avec les enfants en attendant de savoir quelle sera notre nouvelle adresse. Je n’ai encore rien dit ni à mes parents, ni aux écoles où je travaille… Notre période d’attente risque d’être plus ou moins longue dépendement du marché du travail en Ontario, et je ne veux pas avoir du stress supplémentaire.
Nous sommes quand même tristes que ce soit la situation de l’église qui nous pousse à retourner au Canada. Nous sommes aussi tristes (gros PINCEMENT au coeur!!!) d’aller vivre encore une fois loin de la famille. La lueur d’espoir, quand même, est que maintenant qu’ils sont tout les deux retraités, ils envisagent de vendre leur (grande et belle) maison pour venir nous rejoindre plus tard, quand nous seront installés! Et E (mon beau frère) et M (sa copine) envisagent eux aussi de nous suivre… Qui sait, peut-être que d’ici quelques années, nous vivrons à nouveau tous proches de l’autre côté de l’Amérique!