Tuesday, December 21, 2010

House of Midgets?

I'm living like a queen this holiday season. Ok, it just feels like it.  While my parent's house is considered a good size in Maryland, it would be a mansion in Rio de Janeiro.

I find that part of Americans funny, the need for space.  That need bit me in the ass when I first arrived in Brazil. My Father-in-law picked my husband and I up at the airport.  I was told to dress nice for the flight, as we flew with buddy passes. That meant heels in my book.  3 inch heels to be exact.  I was exactly 3 times the size of my Father-in-law.

We got to the apartment and were greeted by my Mother-in-law and Brother-in-law.  It was official, my husband was from a family of midgets.  Ok, maybe I just really needed to take off the shoes.

But honestly, it felt like everything was smaller than it should be, including my husband's family. I felt HUGE. Then again, maybe it was just my American ego getting the best of me.

I was given the tour of the apartment and started out my adaptation then and there.  There was NO alone time.  There was no privacy or space for it.  I even came home one day to find my Brother-in-law and his friends listening to music and sitting on what was supposed to be my bed.  Mine.  Of course, it was his bed, in his room, that he was lending to me. But it was supposed to be my space.

My mind was blown.  How can people be together this often and enjoy it?  All the chatting, touching, kissing, and co-existing.  I can clearly remember feeling somewhat violated by all the togetherness. It was exhausting.  Can you believe that I came of as slightly cranky.

Now, I can't imagine it any other way.  I feel like all this space is a waste. You really don't need it.  And my kids are turning out even more Brazilian in that way.

My Father went in to relieve himself in the bathroom connected to his bedroom. My 4 year old charged in and asked why he closed the door.  Then, upon realizing that my Father didn't have a book to read on the toilet, a crime to my oldest, he ran out to get one.  Grandpa was a good sport about having his privacy intruded on and also enjoyed reading The Magic School Bus.

As awkward as some moments can be, I don't think I'd trade for the bigger place. First off, I'd hate to have to clean it. Secondly, I kind of like the extra closeness.  So what if our entire Brazilian family knows I'm somewhat gassy.  It's that kind of thing that brings people closer.  Not the gas.  The knowing of odd realities about each other.

But don't get me wrong, I do enjoy a good visit home and being able to hide away from everyone else, even if it's just for a few minutes.


  1. Lesson learned. Me too.

    But let's face it, if you had a bigger place you would just bring in the house keeper twice as often.

    I like the idea of using the bathroom without entertaining vistors.

    Happy holidays...

  2. Yeah, I don't know if I will ever get used to having a bathroom right off of the kitchen...in fact I would prefer to have them as far away from eachother as possible.

  3. Not only is out apartment small, but our apartment building is small.

    If our ap is really quiet, we can here right through the walls. If we raise our voice we can even talk through them (usually its making fun of Justin Beiber and letting our 14year old neighbor know she should turn it down a notch).

    Now that's its hot my husband and neighbors seem to think leaving the door open to "let a breeze in" is a good idea during the day. You can walk down the hall and see into everyone's living rooms and stop and chat. If someone has alcohol or good smelling food, then you invite yourself in. A little too much neighborly closeness for me, but that is Brazil.

  4. I'm not there yet. My inlaws house is pretty large by Santos standards, but there's still not enough space for me. People have to sit squished next to each other on the couch, at the dinner table, in the rooms. It seems like I'm always rubbing against another body! I breathe much easier when I get back to the States, lol. When we move there, then I'll have to adapt I'm sure, but for the time being I just can't get used to it!

  5. I totally relate to what you are describing...
    Not only the space situation, my parents place seemed smaller, I had gotten used to more space...
    But the silence versus loud chatter...
    I don't speak as loud as I used to and my parents first thought I was sick or there was something wrong with me...because I didn't speak as much anymore and when I did, I wasn't as loud as everybody else...
    I sometimes leave my parents house for some fresh air/space and quiet, recharge and go back in...geez they can talk like the world is gonna end in the next 30 minutes...

  6. When we first arrived in Rio almost 3 months ago, my first comment when we arrived in the hotel was "I'm glad I lived in Europe before, because it got me used to less space!"

    And just this past weekend, I commented to my hubby that in order to reach one thing, I always have to move something else first.

    Indeed there is less space here in Rio, no I don't like it, but yes I am used to it! ;-)

  7. I really liked this post. Being back in North America, I feel even though I was only in Brazil for 6 months, that my mind, heart, and time are more accommodating and welcoming of others than before living in Brazil... it's a nice thing to learn.

  8. We live in a small 2brm and it's not enough space for the three of us. We're getting ready for a 4 day visit from some friends and their 4 year old and 6 people in this apartment is a lot! But it's quite fun and it doesn't bother me, I have adapted to little space and privacy surprising well. Another plus to having so little space is that you can't hoard things. I have to constantly toss or give things away as there's just no space. Someday, it is my dream to have a big kitchen and my very own room. Problem is that my husband refuses to move out of our neighborhood and with prices the way they are, I wonder if we'll ever get into a bigger place. I can dream...

  9. Oh, and forgot to say, loved the story about your son busting in on Grandpa in the bathroom, and the book...so funny! My son also has no qualms whatsoever in this department. A while back he asked me why his vovó's boobies were dark and mine weren't...can only imagine he barged in on her when she was changing!