Ouro Preto

After having a great time in Belo Horizonte, Michael and I rented a car and drove 2 hours to the charming town of Ouro Preto – translated, Black Gold, as it was the focal point of Brazil’s gold rush in the 18th century. Ouro Preto is a former colonial mining town of about 60,000 people which has what seemed like just as many old, historic and very ornate churches (they are known for their Baroque architecture). The town is full of romantic little cobblestone streets that wind up and down the hills which provided us quite the workout each day as we explored. And at the top of every hill there seemed to be yet another breathtaking, picturesque view.

In Ouro Preto we basically just walked around (a lot), ate great food, saw museums, attended an awesome little classical music concert, checked out a million churches and had a great mass at one!  Also, we stayed at an Oscar Niemeyer hotel which, although was not overly impressive in itself, was still a cool bonus about the trip.  To all of my friends living in São Paulo, I would totally recommend making your way to Ouro Preto at some point.  Here is a little of our visit in pictures…

Igreja Nossa Senhora das Mercês e Misericórdia 

Praça Tiradentes

Igreja São Francisco de Paula

Restaurante Bene da Flauta

Museo da Inconfidencia

Igreja São Francisco de Assis

Belo Horizonte

If you haven’t noticed, São Paulo has a lot of holidays. November has been extra special because it had the special “bridge” holiday where Thursday, Nov. 15 and Tuesday, Nov. 20 were both holidays so many people take off from Thursday – Tuesday which is super sweet because you get a 6 day weekend and two 3 day work weeks. Obviously we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to explore more of Brazil so Michael planned a fabulous trip for us to the state of Minas Gerais.

Our first stop in Minas Gerais was to the capital city, Belo Horizonte. Belo Horizonte is the third largest city in Brazil (following São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) and is about an hour and a half flight from us. The population of the city is about 2.5 million and it’s amazing how SMALL it felt coming from SP.

Also, there is this amazing little thing in Brazil called pão de queijo (bread of cheese). Pão de queijo originated in Minas Gerais and they are known for having the best so… we may or may not have researched to find the best pdq spots along our tour and stopped to eat at all of them. Here is a bit of our trip to BH:

Breakfast & already on PDQ stop #2 of the day:

Walking around — Another thing that Minas Gerais is famous for is its production of local cachaça – also known as pinga. Palácio da Liberdade
In their main square they have a giant digital countdown for the World Cup — love the enthusiasm! — unfortunately the camera couldn’t capture the digital part… We really enjoyed the local museum and would totally recommend checking it out if you visit: Memorial Minas Gerais Vale. (Free and very interesting!) Inside of the museum:Cachaça room in the museum: Next we headed to the local market (mercadão). The market is a must-see — they have EVERYthing. We entered in the animal section and were greeted by chickens, puppies, fish, kittens, birds, rabbits and everything in between. The market also sold everything from clothing to gifts and souvenirs to household items to lots and lots of food including every kind of meat and cheese, spices, nuts, candies, and more. They also had a few cafes — two of which had some great pão de queijo. PDQ Stop #3 for the day at Donna Diva.PDQ Stop #4: Sabores & Ideas.
Before leaving the market, we stopped for a couple of tasty local beers at Botiquin do Antonio. That evening, Michael and I met up with Luiz – a Brazilian attorney who Michael initially connected with at a conference and with whom he has since become buds. Luiz currently lives in São Paulo but is originally from Belo Horizonte and he was home, visiting family for the holiday. It was so cool to have a local show us around that evening. Luiz gave us a great driving tour of the city and then we went to a really cool bar for drinks followed by dinner at a restaurant that served very traditional Minas Gerais food — chicken stews of sorts that were delicious. However, our first stops were at a couple of amazing lookout points that give a dramatic and beautiful view of the city. Michael and Luiz: **UP NEXT: Our next stop in Ouro Preto!**

Workin’ Girl

Well, I am happy to report that a MIRACLE has occurred and I got a job in Brazil!  A super sweet job that I am super excited about.  Let me tell you all about it…from the beginning…

Back in April, some of Michael’s family (Sharon, Ollie, Lise and Shannon) came to visit us in Brazil.  Very soon after the visit, Shannon, who at the time was working for a family foundation, attended a conference in LA.  At the end of the conference, Shannon randomly shared a cab to the airport with a fabulous Brazilian woman named Helena.  Shannon told her about her recent visit to São Paulo and about her family living in Brazil, and Helena told her about the non-profit that she ran in Brazil.  So Shannon, being the amazing person that she is, connected the two of us.

Fast forward to late October when I heard from Helena that they were looking to hire someone!  Preferably someone who could work as a consultant out of the US because although the only office is in São Paulo, the company is a US non-profit for tax and infrastructure reasons.  (Translation: no work-visa problems for me!)  So, I interviewed, I was hired and I started on Wednesday working for WINGS

WINGS is a non-profit organization that works to strengthen philanthropy and a culture of giving worldwide through mutual learning and support, knowledge-sharing and professional development.  It’s a little hard to explain, but basically there are foundations that give money away to non-profits and other causes/organizations.  Then, in most countries there are associations that organize and connect these foundations so that they can learn from each other, collaborate, etc.  So WINGS brings together these associations of foundations from all over the world to promote smart, efficient philanthropy and to look for ways these organizations can work together to solve global issues.  Pretty cool right?  And every 4 years WINGS hosts a conference where all of these organizations can connect in person.  This conference is called WINGSForum and the next one will be in the Spring of 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey.  And among other things, the focus of my job is to help plan this conference!  

The WINGS office is about a 20 minute walk from our apartment and I work with two other Brazilian women, Helena and Ana.  We share the office space with two more Brazilian women so it’s a really fun work environment.  Because the work is international, the working language is English, however since everyone else is Brazilian, the spoken language in the office is Portuguese which is like a DREAM for me.  I am really hoping that this will help me improve my Portuguese.  I’ve just started on a part-time basis, working Monday – Thursday from 10-5 which has made it a nice, easy, perfect transition.

Anyway, all in all it has felt like a total miracle + dream come true.  When we moved here, I knew that this is where God was calling us to be and it was so clear with Michael’s career that this was the right thing.  However I always struggled with what the move meant for my career.  And now I feel like I can’t imagine anything better for me.  I am really excited about so many aspects of the job — all that I am going to learn about the sector from a global perspective, the amazing people all over the word with whom I get to work, the great work environment here… everything.  Such a blessing.

SO…that was a long-winded and overly detailed way of saying that after 9 months I finally have a job & I’m pumped!  🙂  Woohoo!!