Get Real.

OK.  So, a lot of people have written me saying something along the lines of, “I love your blog, it’s great to keep up with what you guys are doing.  But HONESTLY…how are you REALLY doing with it all??  How do you really like it?  How do you really feel?”

The truth may surprise you, but we REALLY LIKE IT.  Michael and I are really happy and we are really happy HERE.

To be honest, I didn’t know how I would like living in Brazil, I mean, I had never been here until we stepped off the plane almost 2 months ago.  I had never spoken Portuguese.  I didn’t have a job lined up.  With the exception of Michael’s brother, Joe, I didn’t know anyone.  So in most ways it felt like a pretty big leap of faith to move here.  But it was a carefully contemplated and thoroughly prayed over leap.  And while I didn’t exactly know what I was getting myself into, I knew that I didn’t know.  What I mean is that I knew that what laid ahead was an adventure.  I knew that I would need to be flexible, patient and not too serious.  I knew that simple things would suddenly become difficult.  I knew that I was leaving my career behind and that I would feel dependent on Michael in a new way (that is not necessarily a fun way).  I knew that I would feel lonely and miss my friends and family…  So although I didn’t know WHAT to expect, I think I knew HOW to expect it.

And it turns out that while simple things ARE difficult and I AM dependent on Michael, while I DON’T have a career here and I DO miss my family and friends…it has actually been fun.  No, I should say it IS fun.  We are really enjoying the day-to-day and we KNOW that this is the right place for us right now.  Michael and I are constantly saying to each other that we can’t believe we are really here, doing this.  I mean, I get to be on this great adventure in a really cool city with my best friend.  We have met a ton of awesome people – expats and Brazilians.  Honestly, I feel incredibly LUCKY that Michael is working so hard to provide us with this amazing experience.  And I know that he feels lucky too, that I am supporting him in as he goes after his dreams.  Maybe I expected it to be harder than it is, living here.  And there are definitely moments when it’s difficult.  But I think that’s more just LIFE than Brazil.  I mean come on, life is just tough sometimes, right??

I will say that I have cried ONE TIME since we landed in Brazil.  Only once, but it was a big one.  It was about a week after we had moved here, Michael had started working, and I felt sadness about the “loss” of my career and confusion about my place here.  I think that at this age and especially in big cities, we tend to place a lot of value on being BUSY all of the time.  It makes us feel important.  And the reality is that I’m just not that busy here. I have FREE TIME.  And free time might sound nice, but I bet if a lot of you had free time for a month straight, you might feel a little insecure.  A little like, “What the eff am I doing?”  So I was feeling that way.  But, it has truly been a blessing to me.  It revealed to me that I was finding some of my value in places that were neither real nor lasting versus in Christ.  A friend once told me that business [of activity] is sometimes a mask for laziness of mind and spirit.  I have definitely been guilty of that and I feel like over the past few months God has been sloooowing me down.  Not just for the sake of slowing down and stepping back.  But stepping back in order to step TOWARD Him.  After all, that is what we see Jesus doing throughout His life.  Taking time to withdraw not just to “get away” but to get closer to God.  And so this is what I have been learning lately, or trying to learn.

Clearly I do not mean that working or being busy are negative things.  (In fact this may be the busiest time in Michael’s career.)  I think it’s normal for me to feel sad about not being able to continue my career AND I feel confident that over time I will find my place here more and more.  I’m just saying that right now, for me, this time has been a blessing and God is using it to grow me in new ways.  To grow me in my love for Him, my trust in Him, and my security in His promises.  Which makes me all the more thankful to be here, and all the more certain that this is right.

So.  THAT is the real deal. 

30 months

Michael and me in our new apartment! Holding the keys

Praise the Lord, today Michael and I celebrated the SIGNING of our apartment lease.  Our 30 MONTH lease.  Which is totally normal here.  And maybe 30 months doesn’t sound so long to most people, but for a girl on her 15th or so move, it is a serious COMMITMENT.   But it’s a good commitment.  So, in light of this momentous occasion, I thought I would take this opportunity to fill you in on what it’s like to rent an apartment here in São Paulo.

First of all, it’s EXPEN$IVE.  We feel like we got a great deal on our place but I’d say real estate here is comprable to San Francisco or New York.  Some people will say it’s more, some will say it’s less, but all in all I think the rental market is pretty similar.  Although in São Paulo, when you are calculating your monthly cost, you have to remember to factor in 1) Rent, 2) Condominium Fees, and 3) Taxes.  Instead of the landlord taking everything into account and giving you one bill, it is the renter’s responsibility to cover all of the costs.  You will quickly see that this is a common theme.

So secondly, when you rent in São Paulo, you are usually renting a place BARE BONES.  I’m talking no appliances, no light fixtures, sometimes no toilet seats or shower heads.  It is NORMAL for there to be random wires sticking out everywhere.  Renters here purchase their own appliances / fixtures and TAKE THEM WITH THEM when they leave.  This translates into being a major pain that ADDS to the cost of renting.  Our place LUCKILY had light fixtures and faucets, but we will definitely need to purchase appliances.  A quick note on this — appliances (and basically EVERYTHING else that one might need to buy in Brazil) are about about twice the price that they are in the US.  I can’t get into this right now (as it deserves to be it’s own post) but in the meantime I will link to THIS POST by my friends, the Joneses, on cost-of-living here.  BOOOO.

OK so next up about apartments in Brazil… the built-ins/small bedrooms.  All of the apartments that we looked at had TINY bedrooms.  This is influenced by the fact that all bedrooms have these random built-in closets which eliminates the need for Brazilians to put much furniture in their bedrooms.  Sounds OK but in my opinion the closets are usually really unattractive, poor quality, AND hello, we are bringing down a ton of bedroom furniture that will most certainly NOT fit in our bedroom.  It’s OK though.  We have a plan to re-do the built-ins and we’ll squeeze some of our furniture in the second bedroom. (Hear that friends??  Second bedroom = room for you to stay when you come VISIT!!!)

Another oddity that we had to get used to here is the inclusion of a Maid’s room/bathroom and a service entrance for each apartment.  This is really amazing to me for a few reasons.  First of all, we were not looking at large apartments.  These are small, compact, 2 bedroom places.  And yet it is such the cultural norm to have hired help (that often lives with you) to the point that even in these small apartments, there is still a designated (albeit TINY) room and bathroom for the maid.  The rooms seem hardly the size of a double mattress and the bathrooms are like those on an airplane, but nonetheless, there they are.  Usually they are off the laundry room which is off the kitchen.  Which leads me to the point that most kitchens here are more closed off and separated from the rest of the apartment.  The tradition is for the Empregada (maid) to work in the kitchen/laundry area so you would want to be able to close it off.  This is a bit sad to us as our place in San Francisco was totally open from the kitchen to the living & dining area and we loved that!  Oh well.  And, as I mentioned, there is always a separate “service entrance” that opens into the kitchen whereas the “main entrance” usually opens into the living area.  All a bit ODD to me.

So, when will we move in?  Well, this is a little tricky because we still haven’t gotten any of our stuff yet.  Supposedly our air shipment landed in Brazil on March 30th and is going through customs and our sea shipment is set to arrive in Brazil April 26th, but we expect 2 months of customs nonsense after it arrives so…we’ll see when we get it.  Right now our plan is to do a little work on the apartment and get our appliances this month so that we can move in May 1st, and we’ll just be renting furniture until we can get our stuff.  At this stage in our lives flexibility and a sense of humor are the key to happiness.  And tonight, we’re just happy that we found a place that we can commit to for the next 30 months.

At the Copa…

Last week I took my first trip to the amazing city of Rio de Janeiro.  Michael’s law firm was throwing a couple of big parties to announce the opening of their new office here in São Paulo, and last Thursday’s party was in Rio.  And not just in Rio, but at THE Copacabana Palace.

At the Copa, Copacabana

So even though Michael and I are going back to Rio in 2 weeks (when his family visits!!!), we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for me to join him on this trip as well.  It’s just not everyday that you get to stay at the Copacabana, right??

Michael was actually called to Rio on some “emergency” work meetings ahead of time and flew there last Monday, so Thursday morning I met up with his coworkers in São Paulo and flew with them to Rio for the party that night.  It was really interesting meeting people from his firm because partners from Jones Day offices all over the world (Germany, Spain, Mexico, Singapore, DC, San Francisco, Dallas, an Argentine native who is practicing in Atlanta, and obviously Brazil) came to celebrate the opening of the São Paulo office.  Lots of languages being spoken!  But everyone was incredibly nice.

Speaking of incredibly nice, the party that they threw was awesome!  I wish I had more photos but for some reason I only took a picture of the Caipirinha station at the bar.  Although it was pretty impressive.  The bartender made me the best Caipirinha I’ve had yet…

Thursday night at the office opening party -- the amazing Caipirinha station

During his week in Rio, Michael ended up having to work around the clock (I’m talking, 18 hour days the entire week) but I didn’t let that stop me.  Friday morning I headed off on a little tour with the other Jones Day folks and the first stop was the Christ the Redeemer statue.  The fog was seriously San Francisco style so we couldn’t see much of the city below, but the statue was pretty stunning in itself.

Christ the Redeemer statue -- 130 feet tall, 98 feet across

Next we stopped for lunch at an amazing spot in Santa Teresa called Aprazivel.  It was such a unique atmosphere – reminded me of eating in a tree house (albeit a really nice tree house!).  Here is a quick virtual tour of the place.

Restaurante Aprazivel

Appetizer: Hearts of palm -- in the palm!

I left the tour early to take care of a couple of travel logistics and quickly found my way to the pool.

Copacabana Poolside

And the remainder of the trip was a lot like that.  At least for me.  Someone else was working the whole time…

The beaches of Rio

Pina Colada + Strawberry Daiquiri = Amazing. Seriously.

Rio Beaches

By Sunday, Michael was exhausted and ready to take off.  I’m hopeful that our next trip we’ll see more of the beach, more of Rio and more of each other.  But, I can’t complain about my first trip.

Driving to the airport. Be back soon, Rio!