Oh Brazil…

Living in Brazil is awesome.  It’s an adventure.  It’s exciting.  It’s new.  But it is also constantly reminding me that I am not in Kansas anymore.  So, with that, here are some funny little Brazil-isms.

1.) Kitchen Cabinet Installation
So, the cabinets that came in our kitchen originally were crappy, totally insufficient and a complete misuse of space.  Therefore, we knew that when we moved in we would need to buy new cabinets, so we just looked for something cheap that would get the job done.  This was a little challenging because most of the cheap cabinets that they make here are metal – like, high school locker style (which, by the way, is what the previous cabinets were).  It’s weird, right??  Do they do this anywhere else in the world??  Anyway, I just wanted something that was NOT metal and a better use of space.  Casas Bahia is a cheap store that has a lot of kitchen stuff so we found 2 cabinets there and placed the order.  We knew that they would be delivered in a couple of days, but they come in small boxes – Ikea style – with major assembly required.  Thankfully, the products come with free assembly so we called to request assembly with delivery.  Here is the process that followed:
– First they told us that we had to have the actual delivery before we could request assembly because they wanted to be sure that everything was delivered in good condition, HOWEVER if you are getting assembly, you are not allowed to open any of the boxes so there is no way that you would know if anything was wrong.  Does this make sense to anyone?  No?  OK.  Moving on…
– After receiving the delivery, we could then call to put in a request for someone to call us back within 20 days to schedule installation.  Is that not ridiculous??  You wait for delivery to call, then you call and wait for someone call you back to then schedule…
– OK so all of that happened and eventually we got the call back and scheduled it for one morning at 8am.  But, 8am rolls around and no one arrives.  9, 10, 11, 12 o’clock roll around and still nothing.  We call Casas Bahia to see what the problem is and they proceed to tell us that they work completely separately from the installation people and cannot help us track anything, nor can they put us in touch with them.  Unbelievable.
– Finally the guy arrives to assemble the cabinets and tells me that he only has an order for one so that’s all he can do.  I’m like, clearly we have two here.  Two of the exact same thing.  Just do the exact same thing twice.  I mean…  Eventually we figured it out and all is well, but a VERY typical Brazilian experience of bureaucratic, inefficient processes.

One of the cabinets…

2.) Dishwashers
I have already posted on the fact that when you rent an apartment in Brazil, you buy your own appliances to go with it.   We are going without many things here (a dryer, a disposal – eww) but a dishwasher was on my “must” list.  Now, I realize that this is not very common in Brazil because most people just have maids who do all of the cleaning, but I’m American and I don’t really want a maid, I want a dishwasher.  Plus, you will never believe this, but  kitchens often (ours included) do NOT HAVE HOT WATER.  What?!?!  How on earth do you clean the dishes without a dishwasher and without hot water??  No one knows if it’s even possible but due to the “service” culture here, you will see apartments with helicopter pads on top that do not have hot water in the kitchens.  People just assume that things get clean because the maid cleans them.  OK anyway, with a dishwasher, you get hot water.  ANOTHER reason I was determined.
Since dishwashers here are not super common, selection is not very good.  Also, because they are more of a “luxury” item, they are expensive and usually very small.  The dishwasher in Michael’s office is probably 2’x2′ (max) and this is in one of the nicest buildings in all of São Paulo.  OK, so we ended up finding a freestanding unit that would work in our apartment and (like with the kitchen cabinets) after delivery, we scheduled installation.  The installation guy arrived and started poking around our kitchen.  Soon he told me that the kitchen was not equipped for a dishwasher.  What??  After a while of struggling in Portuguese I learned that we had an “in-hole” for water to flow into the dishwasher, however there was no “out-hole” for the water to get drained.  There was a long tube with the dishwasher but nowhere in the kitchen to hook it up.  He said that my only option was to have the tube hang over the sink and spit the water out there.  So…that’s what we’ve got.  Anytime we are running the dishwasher we have to stick something heavy on top of the tube to be sure that it doesn’t end up shooting nasty water all over the kitchen.
Furthermore, although it is a Brazilian dishwasher, Brazil is in the process of changing their plugs or something so it wouldn’t fit into the outlet.  We didn’t have the right type of convertor at first so the guy who installed it literally attached wires to the end of the plug and stuck it into the outlet.  And…we used it like that for about 3 weeks…  Eek.  Thankfully no one was electrocuted before we found the right convertors, but it looks like an even bigger mess with all of the plugs, cords and tubes going all over.
And still, even after all of this, our dinner plates don’t fit in the dishwasher.  Actually, they don’t really fit in the cabinets we bought either.  And they are normal dinner plates!!
Oh, and the other day, Michael put laundry detergent in the dishwasher (since here they are both powdered soaps) and you can guess…bubbles and water EVERYWHERE.  I love you Michael.

Seriously. This is Brazil.

3.) Washing Machine
This one isn’t really a big deal but I think it is a little funny.  We bought a washing machine and when it was delivered we realized that it didn’t fit through the kitchen doorway into the laundry area.  We had to literally rip off part of the door frame to get it through, but for about 3 weeks we had an enormous washing machine sitting in our kitchen.  🙂

4.) Couch / Wardrobe Delivery
The theme of things being too big continues — from dinner plates to washing machines to our couch and wardrobe… Our shipment of ALL of our stuff finally arrived two weeks ago.  (I will post on that soon!)  Everything made it in OK until it came time for our couch and an Ikea wardrobe that we had.  Now, these are not huge items.  Not even all that large.  We have this couch from Pottery Barn and a random wardrobe from Ikea.  However, they would not fit through the stairwell or the elevator.  So, what happened?  Well the movers left the two items in our parking spot in our building’s garage (since we don’t have a car yet) and returned the next morning to hoist them up THROUGH THE WINDOW!  We have a large window in our living room and the movers said that it could fit through there, but please keep in mind that we live on the 4th floor (which in the US would be the 5th floor since Brazil counts the first floor as “0”) of this building.  They acted like this was somewhat regular so I expected them to return the next day with some type of pulley system.  Nope.  Just a bunch of ropes, men and muscles, pulling our furniture up through the window.  Ri-diculous.

5.) Cashing a Check
The other day I went to a bank to cash a check.  Simple.  At the first bank I went to I waited in line for almost an hour (it must have been pay-day or something?) and then finally a woman told me that I couldn’t cash it without my original passport as proof of identity.  (Normally I carry my CA Drivers License and then just copies of passport and Brazilian documents.)  I tried to ask her something and she just started yelling, “No MONEY for you, no MONEY for you!!!” in front of everyone.  For a second I thought that I was in a weird Brazilian remake of Seinfeld but then I almost started crying so I ran out.  Later in the week I went to a different location, armed with my passport, ready to go.  The bank had a glass revolving door with 4 sections so I walked into a section and started pushing on the door like a normal person.  Then, just as I took a couple of steps and had gotten trapped  in between the outside and the inside, the door stopped and an alarm started going off!  I was so confused.  I was just trying to get inside!  I wasn’t armed or suspicious, I mean, what was going on?!?  The security guards came over to me and started yelling things at me but I couldn’t understand.  I was trapped in the glass and everyone was staring at me.  I felt completely embarrassed AND completely helpless.  Finally a woman who spoke English came over and asked if I had keys or a cell phone.  Yes, of course I did.  Those are normal things to have.  She told me to drop them in this little bowl in the door and once I did, the alarm stopped.  I don’t know exactly what happened but soon the door was moving again and I made it in.  Then, feeling like a serious CRIMINAL, I was finally able to deposit my check.  Whew!

6.) The Alarm
Speaking of alarms… last Friday afternoon I wasn’t feeling well so I was laying down, trying to rest.  Just when I was getting comfortable, an alarm started going off.  Now, I hear car alarms going off relatively regularly from our apartment, so at first I didn’t think twice.  This one was a little different though because rather than just being noise, it included a portion in Portuguese.  Also, it did not stop.  After 20 minutes I went to the window to look for the source.  I couldn’t tell where the alarm was coming from but aside from some other people in the apartment across the street looking out their windows, everyone on the street seemed to be acting normally.  After about 45 minutes I started getting worried that I was missing some serious warning.  I called Michael but there was no way for him to tell what it was.  He said that he would ask our doorman when he got home in a couple of hours.  Well, sure enough, a couple of HOURS later, it was STILL going off.  Michael told me it was just a motorcycle alarm that was making noise followed by the announcement, “Attention, this vehicle is being robbed.  Please call XYZ.”  In total, the alarm went off for  over 3 hours.  Needless to say, I did not get any rest.

So, this is what it’s like to live here.  OH BRAZIL…I love you.  🙂


On Thursday, June 7th, Brazil celebrated the Corpus Christi holiday, so Michael had Thursday and Friday off from work which meant…time to plan a little adventure!  And an adventure we had.

We looked at a ton of places but ended up choosing Buzios, a small beach town settled a couple of hours outside of Rio.  Buzios is known to some as the “Gisele Bundchen” of beaches, and since it’s “winter” here in Brazil (a cool 79 degrees out today), the deals on the beaches are great.  Furthermore, Michael needed to work in Rio the week following the holiday, so all things considered we decided to fly into Rio, rent a car and drive to Buzios.

So it turned out that adventure #1 was the renting of the car.  Naturally all of the rental cars are stick shifts and I have never in my life attempted to drive a stick.  Michael learned a couple of years ago when we were in a similar situation, renting a car in Bariloche, Argentina, but it had been over two years since this one-time event.  We sort of forgot about this little detail, so as we were literally stepping into the car, we were simultaneously pulling up YouTube videos on “How to Drive a Stick Shift.”  This actually proved to be really helpful, however it did not prepare us for what laid ahead…

Michael miraculously remembered the feel and after a couple of laps around the rental car area, we hit the busy highways of Rio.  We drove for a couple hours on everything from jam-packed highways to unmarked cobblestone roads.  We frequently found ourselves on roads that did not show up on our iPhone GPS so we did our best to follow signs and literally, a compas — making sure we were going in the right direction.  Eventually we pulled up at our Buzios “home” — the Pousada Saint Germain.  We were exhausted so we checked in and immediately took a nap.  We woke up around 7:30pm, hungry and excited to check out a restaurant in town.  The only issues is that it was STORMING outside.  Storming is really a major understatement.  The roads had rivers flowing through them.  You could hardly see 5 feet in front of you.  We knew that the main downtown area with food and fun was a quick, 7 minute walk away, and we also knew that it would not be safe to drive in this weather.  Was it safe to walk?  In my opinion, not really.  In Michael’s opinion, absolutely.  I slooooowly got ready and suited up to weather the storm.  We tried to wait for the rain to die down a little but it looked like that may never happen, and we were hungry and knew that a sweet pizza place was just down the road.  So, eventually, there was nothing to do but head out.  We made our way to Capricciosa and arrived SOAKING WET from head to toe.  Thankfully they still served us, the pizza was hot and TASTY, and it was the perfect start to our trip.  🙂

The next day we had an amazing time exploring the town and hopping around to different beaches.  Buzios is full of cobblestone streets lined with fun bars and restaurants on the water in what was once an old fishing village turned major tourist destination.  The peninsula is absolutely full of charming pousadas — little bed & breakfast type inns.

Red sand!

Oh the car…

We stopped for lunch on the beach and enjoyed fresh fish and ice cold beers.

love the “Amar” carved into the cliff in the background

That evening we ventured downtown and had a fabulous seafood dinner, sitting outside, listening to live music from next door.

Day 2 was not so…carefree.  It started out nicely — we wanted to continue exploring the peninsula and so we hopped back in our ride and started touring around.  We stopped off at this amazing spot for a fresh squeezed OJ,
and then we got more adventurous.  Most of the roads we were driving on were not showing up on the GPS so we just felt our way around.  We could never tell if the road we were heading down was going to lead us to an amazing view or a dead end so it made for some interesting situations.  It was a little tricky too because most of the roads were these narrow cobblestone paths, up and down hills, and some of the roads were pretty broken up.  As we were trying to make our way back to town, we found ourselves getting lost in a maze of random roads.  Each one seemed unnavigable and we were getting a little nervous about making it home.  And then we came upon a major roadblock.  The road ahead was flooded and blocked with fallen trees and debris.  So, we tried to turn around.  But the road was so narrow and it was now really raining and the reverse was giving Michael a hard time and somehow we ended up driving into the bushes.  We were on a slope and so we just could NOT get the car to go backwards.  At one point, I was in the driver’s seat, Michael was outside in the bushes trying to push the car…but nothing was helping.  Then – praise God – Michael figured out how to move us backwards.  We moved back and then realized that it would be almost impossible to for us to turn around because right in the middle of the road was a giant hole.  Now it was my turn to get out in the rain and act as a guide while Michael maneuvered the car back and forth, back and forth again, until we felt like we could drive over the hole without getting trapped by it.

Just before the victory drive over the hole! Only took us about an hour to get to this point…

And finally, we prevailed!  Free at last, we drove home, parked, and got OUT of that car – not to return again until we were leaving Buzios the next day.

That evening we WALKED downtown to eat crepes and catch a “friendly” soccer match between Argentina and Brazil.  Countries play these “friendly” matches in preparation for the World Cup — although everyone here knows there is no such thing as a friendly soccer match between Argentina and Brazil.  🙂  Although Brazil couldn’t pull out the win, it was really fun watching the game with the a big group.

Go Brazil! (Although I think Michael was secretly cheering for Argentina)

Later in the evening we headed back downtown for another lovely dinner on charming cobblestone streets.

On Sunday we drove back to Rio and finished off the trip with a great sushi dinner at Sushi Leblon.
Such fun exploring this beautiful country!

This & That

It’s great to be back in SP.  Michael and I are really enjoying it more and more all the time.  We are having a lot of fun getting to know our neighborhood, hanging out with friends and planning excursions around Brazil.  Below is quick look at some of what we’ve been up to over the past month, but first, a quick

***Update*** Our shipment arrives TOMORROW.  5 months ago TO THE DAY that the movers showed up in San Francisco to pack us up.  We hardly remember what we own but are EXCITED to be able to really unpack, settle, and stop living out of boxes and suitcases.  We still have a couple little things to do around our apartment, but I cannot wait to get the shipment!!  Fingers crossed that everything made it OK!!

Joe turned 33! Parabéns!

Double date w/ Joe & Tom.  🙂

Vaca Veia

In Brazil, thumbs up!

Love spending days at our park…

Welcome home flowers from my sweet husband

Saturday mornings = grocery shopping at our street market. 1 block from our apartment.

mmmm spices

Fun night out with friends

Brazil has some gooood pizza.

Sushi on May 31 – celebrating that 1 year ago Michael was visiting Brazil, officially requesting to be transferred. Way to make it happen babe!

Country Roads, Take Me Home

to the place I belong…
(not West Virginia.  South Carolina!)

I know we’ve only been in Brazil for 3 months, but it still felt SO nice to get back home to SC and see my family.  I already posted on the “main event” of my trip, but honestly, every day that I was home was just as fabulous, getting to spend time with the people I love.  My mom is so cute and immediately threw me a lunch to get to know her “Columbia crowd” which consisted of some new neighbors and friends, some of my mom’s old college friends (reunited once again in Columbia) and a couple of cousins who now live close by.  My parents were still living in Newberry when I got married so it was fun getting to spend time with her Columbia gals.  Here are a few shots from the day:

Drinks and appetizers outside on the patio

Sunshine & chit-chat

The table set beautifully! West Point china, hydrangeas from the yard and place cards

I was so happy to be visiting over Mother’s Day, too!  That Sunday, my mom and I headed to Edisto (Dad had work obligations) and spent a few days with my grandparents, my brother, Suzanne and their sweet Augusta Clare, Suzanne’s parents and Suzanne’s sister & her boyfriend!  To me, Edisto is truly like heaven on earth.  I loved every second that we were there, and of course it was amazing to be surrounded by so many special people.

Brad and his beautiful baby girl

My mom, “Gigi,” and Augusta Clare swinging in the backyard. Looking good AC! 😎

From the dock looking back at the house. oh, the moss….


Kayaking through the marsh

The whole crew out at a wonderful dinner!  Thanks Papa!

Clearly Augusta Clare was the highlight / entertainment of the weekend.  She’s so awesome.

Augusta Clare and her great grandmother, Clare Fincher!

Suzanne’s dad, Billy, went crabbing in Edisto and somehow my mom and I took all of the crabs with us when we left so we made a night of it — watching American Idol or The Bachelorette, picking out crabs and dipping them in hot, melted butter.  🙂


The rest of the visit was so great.  I loaded up (2 suitcases full!) of random odds & ends to bring back, and had a ton of fun seeing family.  I miss you already!!

backyard with Mom & Dad.  They are so cute.

I love my grandparents!!!  Also very cute.  🙂

Great lunch in Chapin at my grandparents’ favorite new spot. With my amazing Aunt Sheryl! xoxoxox