What’s Up?

There has been so much traveling lately that I haven’t had a chance to post pictures of our everyday stuff in a while.  So, here’s a little catch-up:


The view of SP from Paige & Trent’s apartment never gets old…

Out with friends at Terraço Itália — best view in the city!

The group at Terraço Itália. Brazilians are awesome photographers.

My sweet cousin, Chloe Lewis, came to Brazil to visit her boyfriend, Jon, who recently moved to São Paulo for work!

Jon, Chloe, me & Michael out at Espirito Santo

Best chopp in the hood.

Chloe joining in on a girls’ lunch,

Expat girls at Oba!

where we sampled the cricket appetizer

Crickets — tasted a little like bacon…


BOS*BBQ – out to dinner with friends after a beautiful day and a free concert in Parque Ibirapuera

Date night!

Michael’s friend from BC, Jon Lennon, came to visit.  The boys first met up in Rio:

Out at the Santa Teresa Hotel bar in Rio where the whole Harper family had been in April!

Loving the Acai at Polis Sucos in Rio.

Jon in SP!  Cheers!


Out with Joe (plus Jon & Michael) at Nagayama for amazing sushi



FAQ: Safety

Question: You live in SOUTH AMERICA.  Is it really dangerous?  

Short Answer:  I feel totally safe, although I half expect to get robbed while we live here.  🙂

Long Answer:  We live in a big city, and just like in any big city, you have to be careful.   Although I never feel like I’m in danger of getting assaulted or hurt, robberies are definitely the most common crime where I am.  That being said, I follow a few simple rules that I think will serve me well while I’m here.

A.) Don’t make myself a target.  This means I don’t go into bad areas.  I don’t walk alone at night.  I carry a small purse.  I don’t wear flashy jewelry or use my iPhone in public.  (In fact, Michael and I left my engagement ring and some other valuable, potentially flashy items with our families back in the states.)

B.) Stay Alert.  I am always on alert when I am walking around outside.  I am always looking to be sure that no one is following me or getting too close.  I always know where I am going and I walk with a purpose.  If I get turned around, I PRETEND I know what I’m doing until I feel like I’m in a safe place to ask someone or check my phone.

C.) Stay Calm.  Even with all of these safety precautions, I realize that I still might get robbed.  Robberies are fairly common, and the key is to not freak out and just hand over my stuff.  Once they see a phone and a little cash, I will be free to go.  I hear of plenty of robberies but almost no “horror stories” because the idea is really not to hurt anyone.  So, if I can stay calm, I think all will be well.

All that being said, I really do feel ABOUT as safe as I did living in San Francisco or DC.  You just have to be smart.

FAQ: Things I miss

Question: What do you miss the most from home?

Short Answer: People, my job and our church.

Long Answer: Here is my Top 5!

1) Friends and Family.  Although we are SUPER thankful for the new friends that we are making AND for the blessing of having family in São Paulo (we love you Joe!), there are still so many people who we miss tremendously.  And not only do we miss them, but sometimes we feel really far away.  Like when something tough happens and we can’t be there.  Or when friends get engaged and have babies and I can’t just hop on a flight to see them.  Or the fact that my sweet niece is growing up so quickly and I feel like I am missing it.  That is the hard stuff.  So, we treasure our visits home and welcome visitors at any time.  🙂  Seriously.

Our families (just missing Brad, Suzanne & now AC!) – Thanksgiving 2010 – Hidden Valley Ranch, AZ.  And yes, we are all wearing custom-made, matching vests.  So what?

2) My job.  I have said it before, but emotionally, this has been one of the toughest parts of moving to Brazil for me.  I don’t have a work visa and therefore the process of getting a job is VERY difficult.  Thankfully I have been finding some cool things to do that keep me out & about and busy, and I am feeling pretty adjusted to this new phase of life, but I do miss having a career.  Plus, I worked with some pretty awesome people in SF (FM shout out!) and I miss it!

3) Our church.  City Church.  We miss you!  We have been really blessed by some of our Christian friends here who have brought us to a really cool, international, primarily English-speaking church called Sampa, and we think that this is where God has us for now.  We also continue to go (about once/month) to our neighborhood Portuguese Catholic mass that has an awesome priest who is super fired up about the gospel (as much as I can tell since he is preaching in another language).  And so we are thankful to be so blessed here.  Thankful to have Christian friends and community. Thankful to be in a country where we are free to worship the Lord.  But our hearts still miss City Church.  It is the community in which Michael and I started our married life and where we made some very dear friends.  It is where God taught and fed us as a couple.  And so while we are thankful for His provision here, we are still missing City Church.

We miss you friends!

4) Conveniences — sort of.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss having a dryer, a big dishwasher, heat and AC, a car (although we do hope to get one at some point), online bill-pay, and oh yeah – speaking the language.  So, yes, I miss these things.  But at the same time, they are all reminders that we are here.  We are doing this.  We are not just recreating the life we had in the US.  We are making a new life here in Brazil.  And that makes me happy. 

5) Peanut Butter.  OK, so not really peanut butter per se, but that is almost like the expat code word for all food American that you can’t really buy here.  My list in this category includes: Safeway Salsa (it’s amazing), brownie, cookie and muffin mixes (don’t judge me for using mixes!), tortilla chips, easy mac, good oatmeal, fruit snacks, etc. etc. etc.  That being said, we have been pretty good about loading up on these types of things when we go home so we have a pretty good stock-pile and would, of course, survive just fine without any/all of them (I think).  AND, I have an equally long list of Brazilian things that I have fallen in love with and now cannot live without, too.  🙂

Treasures.  Don’t judge me.

FAQ: Language

Question: How is your Spanish… I mean, Portuguese?

Short Answer: Yes, the language of Brazil is Portuguese (but don’t feel badly — not long ago I thought it was Spanish too).

Long Answer: Well I am happy to report that Michael is a total rock star with Portuguese.  He is seriously amazing.  When he speaks, no one can believe that we have only been here for 6 months.  He was recently told that it sounded like he has been living here for 6 YEARS he is so good.  And even more, he’s loving it.  He speaks it as often as possible, going out of his way to talk to our doormen, the waiters, whoEVER he can.  I feel confident that by the end of the year he will be mistaken for a Brazilian.  I think his being fluent in Spanish definitely helped him in this process in a few ways.  First of all, the languages are similar and he said that once he figured out how they differ, he basically knew 60% of Portuguese.  Secondly, I think it’s helpful that Michael had already gone through the process of learning a language.  He knew HOW to learn it.  Finally, he is just super awesome, smart and talented.  He says he’s not especially gifted with languages but is just really dedicated and hardworking which is hard to argue with since he did spend like, 1-2 hours every day for a YEAR studying Portuguese while we were still in San Francisco, before he even asked to get transfered here… Impressive?  I think so.

Oh, wait, you’re asking about MY language abilities??

Well… I’m taking classes and I think I’m doing OK.  I am no where CLOSE to where Michael is, but I’m also a lot better than I was 6 months ago.  At this point I feel relatively self-sufficient.  Recent successes include: going to a doctor for my physical and getting through the entire appointment mostly in Portuguese, ordering dinner to be delivered (talking on the phone is MUCH scarier), and other general, daily communication and SURVIVAL.  I mean, guys, learning a language is freaking hard.  It’s an entire LANGUAGE.  Is anyone else getting how overwhelming that is??  I have never gone through this process so even nailing down which tenses are which in ENGLISH is a challenge.  Seriously, does anyone know the Present Perfect Simple vs. Future Progressive II vs. Conditional I Simple??  No.  We just speak.  And although it would be grrrreat if I could learn like a little baby and just take it in and not worry about these pesky tenses, I can assure you that I’m not a baby and I sure ain’t learning this language by osmosis.  SO…time to get back to the books.  🙂

My really hot translator and me

US Whirlwind Tour: Stop 3 – Christy & TJ’s Wedding

From South Carolina, Michael and I made our way to the beautiful island of Coronado, off the coast of San Diego, for Michael’s oldest sister – Christy – and TJ’s wedding.

But first, let me back up a little bit…to December 2010.  Michael and I were in Phoenix for Christmas.  Christy was single and ready to mingle.  So, in the most tactful way possible, I tried to encourage her to get on Match.com as a way to meet new people.  One month later, Michael & I received the following email from Christy, “So I thought about what Ashley said and bit the bullet and went on Match.com. I now have a couple dates lined up….if this fails I am hunting u down.”  Thankfully for me, Christy and TJ, this did NOT fail and she met the love of her life.  🙂
**Apologies if you heard this story at their wedding, but it’s the closest thing I have to a matchmaking success, so I want to take full credit.**

Anyway, ever since Christy was a little girl, she knew that she wanted to get married on the beach in Coronado.  In fact, I think she says that she has had the whole thing planned since she was about 12 (which actually proved to be quite helpful since Christy and TJ were only engaged for 7 months and didn’t have a ton of time to plan).

Last Christmas, Christy & TJ handed out cards to all of the kids asking us to be in their wedding.  I was so honored to be a bridesmaid, Shannon & Lise were co-maids of honor, Joe was a groomsman and played music at the ceremony, and Michael was the OFFICIANT!  A major honor with a lot of pressure!  But he did an absolutely beautiful job.  The entire weekend was spectacular, so let me get to it!

Wednesday night out:

Family dinner at the Brig!

Thursday, Rehearsal Dinner:

Rehearsal Dinner at Il Fornaio!

Friday, Wedding Day:

Beautiful Bridal Bouquet – I love that Christy chose to use the same family brooch on her bouquet that I had on mine when Michael & I got married!

straight gorge. as in, gorgeous.

photo opp with the hot wedding officiant

Parents of the bride looking quite dapper! Side Note: Sharon bought her FAB dress at Gloria Coelho in Brazil!

With the beautiful bride!

Sweet moment. Sharon getting seated by her two, handsome boys.

Here comes the bride! And her proud daddy…

Michael the officiant!

Ty, the ring bearer.

The new Mr. & Mrs. Harp! (yes – Christy only needed to drop the “er” from her last name)

The Harpers love the “crazy” shot. Although Sharon seems to have missed the memo. 😉

Dinner Time!  Reception at the Loews.

A very lovely toast from Ollie.

Wedding cake with two HARPs on top.

Two of my fav girls! Elizabeth & Shannon

Party time – Ashley & Joe

I just love this one. Sharon & Father Eddie Reese on the dance floor!

Wishing you a lifetime of love & joy, Christy & TJ!!

US Whirlwind Tour: Stop 2 – South Carolina!

Stop #2 of our trip back to the US was my sweet homestate of South Carolina.  We arrived at my parents’ house Sunday night just in time to enjoy one of Michael’s and my favorite home-cooked meals (poppyseed chicken – shout out Mere!) and The Bachelorette finale — LIVE.  Now, this may sound bad to those of you out there who don’t know how to appreciate the amazingness and glory of The Bachelorette (Laine Evans – I saw your Twitter status the night of the finale!), but this was truly a highlight of the trip for me.  Maybe THE highlight of the trip.  OK, maybe that is an exaggeration.  MAYBE.  Anyway, after struggling under the harsh conditions in São Paulo where I have to wait until Tuesday for The Bachette to be available on iTunes, it was amazing to be able to watch it in real time.  Especially since this was the finale.  I am so happy that Emily picked Jef and I am SURE that they will live happily ever after (and have the best looking children of all time).

Speaking of adorable babies, the true highlight of South Carolina was spending time with Augusta Clare!  Although Brad was sick with a double ear infection, Suzanne was so awesome and came to Columbia to let Michael and me hang out with her and Augusta Clare. Michael hadn’t seen AC since Thanksgiving and couldn’t believe how much she had changed.  She was crawling around, pulling up on furniture, laughing and squealing…lots of fun!

Augusta Clare loves Uncle Michael!

On Monday we went to my grandparents’ house in Chapin.  They live on a beautiful lake and growing up, my brother and I used to spend summers there.  It is truly one of my favorite places on earth.  While we were there, we had delicious meal of BBQ, hash, green beans, coleslaw, boiled peanuts and homemade peach ice cream (thanks Aunt Sheryl!!) which I think is my absolute favorite food on earth.  It was a beautiful day so we also swam and rode jet-skis on the lake.  All with my sweet family.  A little piece of heaven… 

Augusta Clare eating lunch in our old high-chair

Don’t both Augusta Clare and I look so comfortable and natural?  I’m so great with babies.

Tuesday was filled with even more family.  My parents had my relatives who live in the Columbia area over for drinks and I think there ended up being 27 of us in total.  I absolutely loved it.  

AC with Gigi!

Siblings! Papa, Great Aunt Sister and Great Uncle Bill

Me and AC with sweet Margaret

AC loved her cousin, Jack

Dad, very calmly and seriously, teaching Augusta Clare to read.  I have to say, she seems pretty focused…

AC & Aunt Sheryl!

We love you, Nanny and Papa!

Love my sweet, beautiful parents!

Wednesday morning, Michael and I packed up with Suzanne and Augusta Clare and headed to Charleston where we were happy we got to see Brad who was recovering from feeling sick.  After catching up a bit, Brad drove us to the airport.

So proud of AC’s sweet dad, my big brother Brad!

Thanks to my sweet family for hosting us and making every moment so incredibly special.  Spending that time with all of you was priceless.

US Whirlwind Tour: Stop 1 – BWad & Katie’s Wedding

Last Tuesday, Michael and I returned from an 11 day, whirlwind trip to the US.  We realized that, including all stops and layovers, we went from: São Paulo, Brazil –> Panama City, Panama –> Newark, NJ –> New York, NY –> Charlotte, NC –> Columbia, SC –> Charleston, SC –> Kansas City, KS –> San Diego, CA –> Los Angelas, CA –> San Salvador, El Salvador –> Bogota, Columbia –> São Paulo, Brazil.  No wonder I was jet lagged for a few days.

So, we started our visit in New Jersey to attend Bradley Walbrdige’s wedding!  BWad is a dear friend of Michael’s from Boston College.  To put it mildly, he is…full of life and personality.  🙂  We were so happy that he found his perfect match in Katie, and they threw one heck of a party to celebrate.  There is no way I will do the weekend justice, but check out some pictures of the fun below:

Rehearsal Dinner:

Hey Tim – thanks for being in the pic

Included the most over-the-top (aka amazing) cocktail hour of all time, an absolutely beautiful dinner, an amazing DJ / dance party, Karaoke after-party back at the hotel bar…it really never ended.  And who wanted it to?

Sausages, Philly cheesesteaks, fries, onion rings, milkshakes…

Handsome men

Lobster, anyone?


Still Cocktail Hour:  Michael – always bettin’ on BC!

Former roomies! Edmunds 515

ICE cold cocktails

Dinner time w/ M&M!

More of the table: Andrea, Hodge, Mark & Elise

Bride & Groom Entrance – coming in hot & ready to party

Boston College! Michael in the back, trying to show off his BC cufflinks…

nothing but love

After party karaoke w/ Moira & Margaret

My husband the singer

Thanks to Brad & Katie for having us & for hosting such an amazing weekend!!  Lots of love & joy to you both!