Thursday, March 31, 2011

RECIPE: Grandma's Homemade Cough Syrup

Vovó Zilca meeting my youngest and her 5th great-grandchild

So Grandma was nice enough to share her cough syrup recipe with me and now I will share it with you.  Look at how efficiently this train of information works! You ask, I deliver.

Diabetics beware! This is an old school recipe. That means that it comes with a lot of sugar! I'm just happy it doesn't have something crazy like whiskey in it.

What you need:

2 Cups Sugar
1/2 cup water
Well washed leaves from 1 stem of Ruta graveolens (also called common Rue)
2 tablespoons of bee honey (I don't know of any other kind of honey but since she specified...)

How to Make it:

  • You first need to caramelize the sugar in pot on the stove. Be careful not to burn it! It can not be burnt! 
  • Once nice and caramelized, add 1/2 cup of water. Mix well over low heat.
  • Now is the tricky part. Take the leaves and mash them into the caramelized sugar and water mixture. We are talking serious mashing. I don't know how the woman does it but you can't see any leaf in there when she's done. 
  • Let cool a little
  • Add in the 2 tablespoons of honey and mix well
And there you have it! Something tells me that it's not as easy as it seems. The stuff is the perfect consistency. It's amazing. Then again, after making a few thousand batches I bet it becomes second nature.

Finally, put it in a glass jar and this bad boy will last you for a while. Here's a picture to see what my fresh batch from Grandma's kitchen looks like:

Disclaimer: I have never actually made it. It would be a bitch slap to the Grandmother's face if I didn't call her and request it. She has called me twice since this morning to discuss the syrup.  When it was finished she said that she would find a way to get it to me tonight. Since it was late and raining, she did not expect me to come over with the boys. I told her I would be there first thing in the morning. 

A half hour later she called back. She told me she loved making the syrup for her great-grandson and that I was to call her for anything and everything I need.  

Then asked to talk to my husband. 

She told him was sending his cousin to bring the syrup so that my youngest could start taking it first thing in the morning. 

Sweet and stubborn, just like I like my Grandmothers-in-law! 

Great Grandma Saves The Day

Homeopathy is on the rise as people are getting over the side effects of medical treatment. Here in Brazil, there are many homeopathic options.  Personally, I think the one I use is the best.

I call my husband's Grandma. After 7 kids this woman has a few secrets of her own. Hell, she even did home births before it was considered cool or dangerous or whatever you think of it. In her day, the baby came out of the vagina whenever and wherever it wanted.

So this is the woman I call when someone has a cough. It didn't start out that way of course. My oldest was about 10 months old when I was introduced to her syrup. She heard through the family gossip line, aka Grandma telepathy, and showed up at my house with some weird stuff in a jar.

It was her homemade cough syrup. All natural and with a base of honey, she said this was the cure all for cough, mucus, and allergies. I of course turned to my American ways and said that my child could not have honey yet, he'd obviously die. No honey before 2 years old!

I swear, they entire family almost disowned me for this. Everyone, EVERYONE, had been eating honey since birth. NO ONE had died, gotten that mysterious illness from it, nor had they ever taken another medicine for cough. This honey mixture was it.

I was finally worn down about a year later. I figured he was almost 2 anyway. And you know what, he took it without a problem. Honey seems to go down even easier than butter. And while I can not confirm if it was a coincidence or repeated use, but my son stopped have mucus/allergy issues a couple months later. A teaspoon a day and a lifetime of a difference.

Now my 2nd is dealing with the same thing and I've just called the Grandma for her secret syrup. She insisted on mixing it up with her own 87 yr old hands. I think that's wise. After 60 yrs of mixing, I'm pretty sure those hands know what they are doing.

And with that we start our own little Brazilian homeopathy experiment, honey syrup mix versus the doctor. Just call me crazy but something tells me that 87 yrs of life may beat out 7 yrs in medical school.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro's Chinatown

I had an out of body experience today. Nothing special, I just went to Ipanema. I felt like I was in New York City's Chinatown but was swearing, upside down and sideways, that I was in China!

Before you call me judgmental or a hater, I do have a point. Every third person was an non-Portuguese speaking foreigner. In the middle of the day, at any given moment, I could have translated for someone in need.

Did I? Nope. I was never asked directly and I've learned to blend. You know, kind of like a wolf in sheep's clothing. We all know I'm there but I'm trying so damn hard. Why ruin it?

But something did come to mind, with all the issues to complain about, why are foreigners complaining? There's an entire neighborhood, the chicest one mind you, dedicated to you and your money. It's there with nice restaurants, English speaking doctors, and even imported products!

I was so excited when my neighborhood got jam in more than one flavor that didn't have a picture of Monica (Brazilian cartoon character) and the top ingredients of sugar and jello.

Of course one would ask why I don't live there. Well, I'm married to a middle-class Brazilian, we can't afford it! But even if we could, I would think twice. The weekends would be wonderful, who doesn't want to be steps from the beach, but do I want that day to day life?

Personally, I love my neighborhood. I love the cranky people pushing past my stroller, the doormen gossiping, and the bread shop guy telling me that my child is tired. I love the involvement.

Hell, an old lady joked with me today that I was missing a child. She saw me taking my son's friend to school the other day and mocked me. That is awesome. That is a Carioca neighborhood.

The thing that really pisses me off is all the stuff foreigners miss. They sleep in Ipanema and drink until oblivion in Lapa. There's a lot there in the middle there.

I'll break it down like this. If Rio de Janeiro was a woman's body, Ipanema would be the breasts. It's pretty, all ages like to go there, and it feeds the young. But it is not the heart.

To stick with this, to know Rio you have to be the blood. You have to travel to all the organs. One evening, without even knowing it, you will find yourself in the heart of a Carioca moment.

Take it from me, nothing can compare. 

And When the Whirlwind Romance Doesn't Last?

When we read about cross cultural relationships and the relocations that follow, we think all about the love. The story of the chase, the move, and the adaptation are just so romantic and interesting. 

We rarely stop to think about what happens when things don't work out. Oh, don't get all excited. Mr. Rant is not on the market. We said til death do us part and if it comes down to that it'll be his. 

So what happens to us foreigners when the relationship that caused us to move in the first place goes down in flames? I bet you all think I'm going to get sentimental. Come on, I'm American. I'm going to get legal! 

After exchanging some emails with a lawyer friend, and reaffirming her that I'm not about to leave my husband, I found out some details. 

We get jack!  Well, you can't say exactly that.  For starters, it depends on the type of marriage contract you entered into here in Brazil. Are you  universal, partial or 100% separated? Mr. Rant and I went universal as we had nothing so it really didn't even need to be discussed. The newbie love and lack of belongings made the decisions easy. I was, however, worried about the security of my Havaiana collection until I realized he has bigger feet. 

From there we go into work and independence. If you are a stay at home Momma who makes next to nothing, you usually get 30% of your husband's income. Of course this is all situation based. If you are young like myself, this will be limited and you'll be told to find a job. Oh the humanity! 

If you are an independent and working woman, you get your own paycheck.  Children will open you up to a bit of child support. Of course, as a woman, if children are involved you usually get to keep the homestead. Primary custody usually goes to the Mother but that can be discussed and if the children are 12 years or over they can voice their opinion. 

Now all of this varies on how much the husband makes and/or can afford, the situation of the household, the wife's income, and the phases of the moon. 

Seriously, this is a very fair system. I'm starting to understand why it takes so damn long to get your case heard in court! They actually figure stuff out down here. 

Of course, as a Mother, I will say that it does not matter how much a husband can afford to give when it comes to child support. If there are children involved they should get enough to keep their lifestyle. The Mother and Father can live on Top Ramen and black beans if money is an issue. 

So there you have it. A rational system that takes time to run.  

Emotionally, that's a whole new ballgame. Personally, I wouldn't leave Rio de Janeiro. This is my home, and more importantly, the home of my boys. Their Father is here.  Then again, I'm not in that situation and single Motherhood anywhere, but especially here, is not easy. Props to all the single Mothers out there!

What would you do? 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meet a Carioca Monday Part 2

I 'm very honored to have this Carioca take part in my Meet a Carioca Monday. He's a local team player, always giving back to his city and community. He's also the writer of the very interesting blog: Life in Favela of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Without further ado, I introduce you to Deejay Zezinho.

I asked Deejay Zezinho:

Q. What made you move to the US and what made you come back to Brazil?

A. I was born to an American mother and Brazilian father. My father thought it best that I go to the USA to learn, study and know more about life there. Also he thought I would have more opportunities there. I was born in Rocinha and I plan never to leave. The people here expect big things of me. I need not disappoint them...

I will say Zezinho, I don't think you will!

American Mail Order Bride

I'm just going to put it out on the table and say I was a mail order bride. I decided that I needed to leave the difficulties of my middle-class American life and be saved by a Brazilian.

Ok, maybe that isn't true but there is some truth to it.  I do feel that moving to Brazil saved me in a way. It saved me from a lifestyle that didn't suit me.

And I find that the more I adapt to living here, the less I'm asked by strangers as to why my husband and I chose his country over mine.  Of course there are some obvious benefits living in North America, but in the words of Jim, what about the quality of life?

Everything is a compromise, right? So here's what I compromised.

A good and inexpensive car for an ok car that gets us from here to there. While it would be nice to have something sporty, we don't use ours that much in the first place. We walk and use mass transit. The car gets us to places on the weekends and Mr. Rant to meetings where mass transit would be a bit of a bitch.

Ready made and frozen food for homemade and fresh foods. I'll be the first to say that this took some getting used to. I never thought I'd press this much freaking garlic in my life! Hell, dried beans used to scare me and now we buy and eat them regularly. Canned food? What's that? And you know what, I can feel the difference in my energy level, my regularity, and my weight. It also makes me happy to I know my kids are eating well. Sure that may not mean veggies daily but whatever they eat doesn't contain more preservatives than actual food.

Convenience stores/Target for Lojas Americanas. I really spend a hell of a lot less money in Brazil. There's little to no spontaneous shopping going on as it would cost a pretty penny.  I mean, do we really need more crap? As much as I love a good Target run, no we don't. Living here has lowered, slightly, the consumerism that is so a part of my blood.

Bottled drinks and snack packs for vendors. I love the cute little snack packs and juice boxes in the US. They are so practical. But you know what, I don't need them because I have vendor dudes selling anything from fresh coconut water to corn on the cob to popcorn anywhere I go. I can even get Popsicles!

Public Bathrooms for Brazilian Public bathrooms. Ok, this one is just sad. I still miss a good Starbucks bathroom on every corner. Here we have public bathrooms in the form of a moldy and urinated on, single man prison like boxes with toilets.

Good playground equipment for something from the 50s. Sure, I used get scared of my boys getting splinters in their little asses from the wooden slides, but it never happened. And there are some good parks, you just have to find them.  Some of the slides and stuff look like a death sentence but no one seems to be dying. Hey, you work with what you got. Of course, I'm the first to bitch about this but my boys have only slightly noticed.  They know that the playgrounds in Grandma's town are cooler but a playground is a playground. It's never stopped them from enjoying the ones here.

Disherwasher and dryer for at home help. I have to hand wash all dishes and hang my freaking laundry to dry almost every single day.  Of course I have a wonderful woman who comes into my home twice a week and cleans the absolute crap out of it. I doubt you could find one dead skin cell when she's done! I have never lived in this standard of cleanliness and I now know that every Brazilian living abroad thinks we are DIRTY!  Dirty dirty nasty little people.

And there's a lot more stuff but I let me say, there's nothing a good day at the beach can't cure! A very true Carioca saying! Even when I'm in a huge funk of I just want to hate Rio today, I go to the beach and think "holy crap, I live here!"  The view, the blue skies, the green of nature, the wonderful people, and the even better food. I really can't complain too much! 

Meet a Carioca Monday

Today's Carioca is a born native of the famous city of Rio de Janeiro.

Luís Cláudio stumbled upon Meet a Carioca Monday when he offered to sell myself and a friend some peanuts at a Leme beach kiosk.

While a little shy for the camera, Luís was a good sport. I always ask permission to take a picture. You never know who believes the camera can steal the soul.

Anyway, the question we asked Luís was:

Q. What makes Rio de Janeiro such a great city?

A. The people.

I'm going to have to totally agree with the man on this one! However, I'm still waiting for a long-winded participant. Maybe we'll have better luck next week. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stream of Consciousness Sunday

The Rules as told by FadraThis was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…
  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes only.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
  • Link up your post below.
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.
I've decided to finally join in on Fadra's stream of consciousness Sunday. A 5 minute open writing exercise similar to verbal vomiting but only in writing form.

I remember doing this is my creative writing class in high school. I would spend half my time doodling.

And here I am again. My youngest calling my name over and over again just to come look at his finger. That's my life, a serious of distractions that are too interesting to pass up. Of course I want to look at his finger. Goodness knows it's only an excuse to call my attention but who cares.

And I sit at this computer blabbing away while surrounded by far too much to do. An exciting/disastrous ladies night on Friday put me out on Saturday. The kiddos fever on the same day gave me the perfect excuse for dumping my responsibilities and just laying around with him.

This weekend has been just that, a realization of the imporantance of being there for one another. Talking to friends, giving attention to family, and seeing where each other are at.

We can get so caught up in our own lives that we don't even see what's happening to the people around us. We have no clue that there's something behind someone's smile.

But it all turns out ok, one way or another. For now, I'm going to try to clean up our daily messes that have accumulated over the past couple of days. That and get together my friend's clothes as ladies night turned into a fashion show. Let the world's strength be with me as I return everything. She has far more style than I do and I would so love all this stuff just to disappear into my closet! 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Feira Friday

I love going to the Brazilian Farmer's Market,or feira, first thing on Friday morning.  I always arrive right at the beginning, as the last pieces of fish are being laid out for display.

There's a calm to the early morning feira.  The workers are chatting amongst themselves and laughing as they help each other tie tarps up over their produce. It's pleasant out at the moment but the sun will not be so forgiving in a few hours.

The entire street smells fresh. This is amazing seeing that this particular street normally has a strong smell of urine. Somehow the clean leafy greens, fresh seafood, and newly cut watermelon cover up the nasty.

I like to stroll along with my boys, letting them point out and lightly touch the fruit. The vendors encourage it and offer them samples of fruit that I can't even name in English. One boy always says no and they other always says yes.

And then we start to buy. My vegetable man calls me dear and shows me the American broccoli. My fish guy already knows which cuts my kids like and he gives me a little discount. My chicken person asks how my in-laws are doing, by name, as she was their chicken person when they lived in the city. My fruit man laughs when my youngest grabs a berry and offers him another.

We top off our early trip to the feira with a visit to the pastel stand. My two boys walk home happily eating a cheese pastel half the size of their heads.

A lovely way to start a Friday. 

Oops I Missed a Rite of Passage

I didn't get my wedding. I have never danced in a white dress with my husband in front of our friends and family. Hell, when we married I hadn't even met his friends and family.

It was a true whirlwind and it's a great story.

But I find myself sometimes missing that rite of passage.  It's strange considering that I never really imagined my wedding as much as I imagined being married with children. I've never thought of colors or bridesmaids. Hell, picking out a maid of honor seems like a sure fire way to just piss people off.

Still, I find myself thinking about having my Father walk me down the isle. That is one part that I truly miss from the whole wedding fiasco. Call me a traditional girl, but I want my Daddy to give me away.

It does not help that I'm at 7 years of marriage and my Father is not getting any younger. I, however, am getting younger every year. It's amazing how that works out.

While Mr. Rant and I have always planned to have a spiritual wedding and reception, life has gotten in the way.  We have a mortgage and children, and it's not like we can expect my parents to shell out money for the costs. Hello, cow sold and bought here.

We are planning to have this wedding though. Apparently it's supposed to happen on our 10th anniversary. We made that plan on our 3rd when it seemed so far away.

Regardless, I'm holding onto the idea of a wedding on our 10th anniversary.  This is Brazil and it's ok to throw something together last minute, aka. 8 months or so before the event. Since the idea is to have it in the country, surrounded by nature, it shouldn't be an issue.

That's right, my husband is a retired Pagan and we will have our wedding in the woods.  Actually, he would like a Shamanic wedding. Since I've never had an actual had a plan for mine, I really shouldn't mind.  That's his theory anyway.  I may never have considered what mine would be like but, then again, I never imagined that I would get married circa Cowboys and Indians.

Honestly, I don't mind at all. I think it'll be one hell of an experience!

The thing I find funny is that I'm holding onto this tradition. After so many years of a successful marriage and partnership, I still feel the need to display it in front of our family and friends.  For the first time in my life I can imagine myself in "the dress" dancing with Mr. Rant in front of all our loved ones.

Where did that come from?! I blame hormones.

Then again, in a world where 50 % of the marriages fail, communication is being limited to 140 characters, and people buy spouses online, wouldn't it be nice to celebrate a couple that has made it this far?

With all our ups and downs, life lessons, and baby making I feel like showing off a little. We still love each other. We actually enjoy each others company. And we would like to sign up for more.

That and I would like for him to know how proud I am to be his wife.  Goodness knows that I haven't said it nearly enough in our marriage. Then again, can you?

Which rite of passage sticks with you the most, if any? 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Brazilian Police Do Not Eat Donuts

There's one core difference between Brazil and the US, and that is the police.

The first time a friend came to visit me, I informed her that if there was trouble to go AWAY from the police. Don't go towards them or you might as well just throw yourself right in the middle of the battle.

It was a weird concept for me to get when I first arrived. Police aren't necessarily good. They aren't necessarily bad either. But let's be honest, when there's a gray area concerning people with large semi-automatic weapons, it's just best to avoid them.

And when you are confronted with them, take it seriously. Two friends of mine were arrested at a Festival where the military police were providing security. That right there is not a good thing. The military police lack the humor required when dealing with drunk music fans watching their favorite bands.

Anyway, one police officer informed my friend that he could take a leak over in the woods. A second officer approached him after he had and arrested him.  Talk about a lack of communication.

My Brother-in- law had been waiting for our friend and loyally followed him and the police officer back to the police tent at the entrance of the festival.  My sweet Brother-in-law inquired after our friend, who was in the tent, and tried to explain the situation to an officer standing outside. What was the response he got?

"If you are so curious about your friend, why don't you just go in and check!" With that my Brother-in-law was taken in and arrested as well.

When we got the text message saying they were arrested, I automatically thought it was hysterical! I was all excited about seeing a Brazilian police station for the first time and take some pictures of our friends in their moment of shame.

Mr. Rant immediately told me NO! He told me not to say a word, to definitely not take any pictures, and if that was too difficult I needed to wait outside.  This was not the US.  It fully hit me when we went into the station and found them with their hand bound behind their backs and every single belonging that was on them spread out neatly on a desk. They had even removed their shoelaces.

Of course they were released that night but were put on probation for a year. And for what? A miscommunication and urination?! That in and of itself was proof enough that these guys are not ones to even talk to unless absolutely necessary.  This goes double for the Military Police. They are a special breed of hardasses.

Don't get me wrong, talking to a cop isn't going to get you arrested. And if there has been a crime against you, they will do their job and help out the best they can.  I have seen that as well.

It has to do with general safety. I'm sure even a crooked cop would give correct directions if asked, but do I want to be getting information when there is a random cop drive by? Nope.

While uncommon, I still prefer the avoidance technique.  And you know what, I recommend you do as well. Cops here are actually engaged in a real power struggle. They aren't running around giving tickets to j-walkers or asking kids why they aren't at school.  So leave them alone and let them do their job.

And for all you tourists who think that it'd be cool to report your belongings stolen to Brazilian officers and get money from your travel insurance, think again. Many have tried and many have been arrested. Is that how you want to spend the end of your vacation?  Is $1000 worth potentially getting stuck in a concrete cell with cockroaches and urine?  I don't think so.

The cops here do not like to be made fools of. Let's all keep that in mind. 

When Did Poverty Become PR?

Going into Favelas in Rio is really becoming all the rage. There have always been favela tours for tourists but now even large events are happening in these special parts of Rio.

I think it's cool. It's nice that The Rio animated movie will have it's premier in the German Complex Favela (Complexo do Alemao).  The first screening will be for the stars, public school students, and guests. This one will be followed by 3 additional screenings open to the public.

That rocks! I can barely afford to see a movie here, I bet it's a real bitch for others. This is the kind of thing that boosts moral and really excites kids. Everyone loves a good movie and it's even better when it's about your city.

Now the thing I wonder about is the celebrity factor.  Ok, so Jamie Foxx and them are going to watch a movie in a favela and take pictures. So what?  Why does that cause warm fuzzies?

First off, the kids don't know who the hell they are.  It'd be a much bigger deal if these kids got to watch the movie with the latest cast of Big Brother Brasil.  Now that would get them excited!

And what are the kids really getting from this?  A photo with some skinny white girl? The free movie is obvious, but why make the whole premier there, other than for media attention.

I just don't think it's cool to use the poor to attract attention to your movie.  Sure, they have a great new movie theater, but open it to the public and let the families and people of the neighborhood enjoy the film in peace.

But if you did that, you wouldn't have all the photo-ops of poor children with Hollywood Movie Stars.

That's really something the American public loves, seeing their stars holding hands with someone less fortunate.  And you know, I love it too, if they are really doing something.  I'd like to see Anne Hathaway opt to wear a new pair of Havaianas and donate the $600 to $800 she would normally spend on shoes to  a program inside the favela.

Of course Jamie Foxx will end up playing soccer with some child. That is the picture they are waiting to see! If you are famous, have a penis, and you come to Brazil, you have to play soccer with a poor little boy. Just ask Bush and Obama.

I know I'm being a bit of a downer here. It doesn't hurt anyone to have this kind of event in a favela. Everyone enjoys a bit of stardom and a party.

I just can't help seeing the "good" PR they know they are getting. These stars get chauffeured from Ipanema or Leblon to their staged event. They take a few pictures and watch a movie and it's supposed to be a big deal.

Who are they kidding? Do the kids and families of Complexo Alemao a favor and bring in some of the Brazilian Soap Opera stars to really get the party started! I guarantee you, that would really rock the world of any Brazilian. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Weird Jobs

For a foreigner, there are some interesting jobs here in Brazil. Let me show you a few that I see around Rio de Janeiro.
 The Corn on the Cob person. You can buy fresh, and extremely tasty, corn on the beach or the street.

 The Street BBQ dude. This is very weird but quite common. These guys set up their on bbq, bring the meat, and sell it on random corners. Get this, people buy it! Hell, I have too! Eat meat, chicken, chicken hearts, sausage, and more. 

 The beach Mate Guy. One tin lime juice, the other a Brazilian ice tea called Mate. You take a cup and mix the proportions yourself.

 Knife sharpeners. I think the picture says it all

 Beach Empada guy. He sales salty cupcake type things filled with meat/cheeses/etc. Random beach food but a job with a view.

Massages in the park. Go to Aterro in Flamengo and you'll see a couple of massage tables set up. You can also find them on the beach. Sorry guys, I prefer licensed people rubbing my body parts.

Called Flanelinhas because they used to carry flannel and clean your car, these guys are the unofficial parking meters of Rio de Janeiro. You pay them to help you get your car in the spot and make sure it doesn't get stolen. Not government regulated but culturally accepted and hated.  You leave your car in neutral and this guy pushes it up to make room for more.

This is the abacaxi guy in Ipanema. If you are standing on the beach there and get the crap scared out of you buy some dude screaming "AAAAAAAAABACAXI!" you have met this man. 

How Cool is Rio? Angry Birds Cool

Rio de Janeiro has always been cool. It's like the cat's pajamas when the cat goes nude. 

Rio has now hit a whole new level of fame. No, I'm talking talking about a whole animated movie about the city thing, which is awesome in and of itself.

But movies about Rio has so been done! Of course you want to do a movie about Rio. Hell, what else are you going to do an animated movie about now that a villain turning to a hero has been done? Megamind anyone.

Yeah, we have hit the next level here in this city and it comes in the form of an itouch, iphone, and ipad app. It's called Angry Birds Rio, and I can tell you that it rocks.

In a very PC way of course. You don't actually kill anything. That'd so be crossing a line when talking about this city. No, instead you rescue kidnapped birds. You'd almost think it was Angry Birds Mexico City DF but no, there's a view. 

So check it out. Rachel's Rantings in Rio recommends this app. It's fun, rated G (no Carnaval glitter boobies that I've seen yet), and only costs you $0.99. 

Get your piece of Rio de Janeiro in the form of sassy little birds cracked out and aiming for boxes. You won't regret it. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why I Blog

I've danced around this question a couple of times. I always feel self-important talking about my blog. Oh yeah, I'm so cool that I need to write about my life and opinions so that the world can experience the glory of them.  It couldn't be further from the truth. It has nothing with ego, although it has helped pump mine up.

The reason I write is obvious, it's a great excuse to not exercise or do the dishes. Oh but I really need to post today!

Ok, not really.  The real reason I started to blog was to do something for myself. I live in Rio de Janeiro with my Brazilian husband and my kiddos. Moving here was for both practical and emotional reasons. Mr. Rant got a job, I had no healthcare, and we both really love Rio.  Honestly though, I wasn't in real love with Rio when I first moved here. It was puppy love. The real love only happened in time, once we got to know each others quirks and learned to accept them.

The fact of the matter was that my husband is happy in Rio de Janeiro. There is a spark missing when he's abroad, even during visits. The true Glory of Mr. Rant needs the Carioca spirit to fill him. Can you blame him?

Anyway, I had yet to have my thing here, even after all these years. Having the bambinos didn't help. While it's amazing and wonderful to have kids, it is a lot of giving.

So the blog is my thing. I do it for me. I talk about things that come up in my head that my 2 and 4 year olds do not want to discuss with me, much to my delight. If my boys had an opinion things like the statistic that 70% of Brazilian men cheat, I'd be quite alarmed.  I'll wait until they're at least 10 to bring that bad boy up.

The surprising part of blogging was all I gained. I'm not talking about wealth or fame because that is far from anything in my reality. I'm talking about these:

1. Friends. Blogger friends are amazing people who become quick friends after you read each other's thoughts and ideas. My Rio blogger friends have, more or less, become flesh and blood buddies who I've met on some occasions.  I've met people who can relate, understand, and actually care about what I have to say and vice versa. Priceless.

2. Inspiration. I have this forum to write and so I do. I had lost my will to write, something I used to do a lot of. Of course I'm not Shakespeare, but it's nice to do something I enjoy.

3. A New Perspective. I had stopped paying attention to the world around me. It was my every day, nothing special. That couldn't have been further from the truth.

4. My Voice back. Holy crap, I have something to say and it has nothing to do with Woody and Buzz or how to say Pickles in Portuguese. It's me saying things I normally say when I have a chance to talk to other grown ups. Awesome form of release.

5. A chance to share what I know. I know I rarely do this, it's more rants than facts, but I love answering people's question and, possibly, making a process that I had a bitch doing a bit easier for someone else. I've done the marrying a foreigner, moving, translating documents, marrying in Brazil, Green card applications, Brazilian visa extensions, Brazilian residency applications, Portuguese, and many more things I can't even think of. Hell, the accomplishment that made me the most excited was ordering food here for the first time by myself. And they understood and brought the right thing! So if there's something I could help you with, please let me know!

6. The fuzzy feeling that I get realizing that people actually like to read what I write. I get embarrassed by it because I find it so amazing that people want to!  I love it! And to get the emails/comments from you guys saying that I make you laugh just make my week. Not day, week!

7. The readers. I love you guys! I LOVE the comments you make on posts! I love it even more when my comment section turns into a debate. I swear, half the time the comment section is far more interesting than the freaking post! You guys rock. I have readers who really kick ass. That is a hell of a big compliment for me! By the way, I am not easily offended. Even if I get defensive in posts, I'm not offended. I have an open blog for people to share their opinions. Please do!

So I started writing my blog for me and now I also right for you guys. It's like a great blog sex with all the give and take going on here. Gold stars all around!

Now you tell me, why do you blog and/or read blogs? 

I Got a Box!

A treasure was delivered to my place yesterday. A treasure full of Easter candy, American magazines, and knick knacks I forgot at my parent's house while visiting. 

I'm telling you, there's nothing better than receiving a box when you live abroad!  It's as if you revert to 8 years old again and it's Christmas. You may even know what's inside, but that doesn't matter. Seeing it with your own eyes is so much more amazing than anything you could imagine.  

And I am a very lucky expat. One thing my family have always done well is send me boxes. It goes doubly well now that I have the little ones. Jokes on them though, like I share with my kids!

Ok, I do but in little bits because sugar is not good for them. However, it's wonderful for Mom because it gives me spurts of energy that enables me to keep up. All I have to do is eat more when I hit my sugar low and BAM I'm up again. 

The metamorphosis that happens after the box is amazing.  Any free moment, I am found sitting in sweats, eating chocolates, and reading trash. I'm sure seeing what I could have been if we have stayed in the US is damn sexy for Mr. Rant . 

Anyway, the message is this: Do you know an expat? Is your second cousin's brother's daughter living abroad? Make a box. Fill it with random stuff. You could put in nail polish, lotions, candy, magazines, or a pack of chocolate chips. The list is endless.  

Pack it up and mail it over! You can't go too big or too small. It's not the size of the box but the speed of delivery that matters. 

So do yourself and expats all over the world a favor and send a little taste of home today. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meet a Carioca Monday

My new friend André

I'm starting a new trend for Monday posts here on Rachel's Rantings in Rio.  It's Meet a Carioca Monday. I will be introducing you to a new Carioca (Rio de Janeiro local) each and every Monday, when I remember.

Each Monday guest will answer one simple question.  It's like playing the getting to know you game only with far more people and over a long, drawn out period of time. Yay for you!

Today we will meet André. He's the serious man above.

André sells bread from his bike. Oh yes, you heard me right. People buy bread from a dude on a bike.

Anyway, very nice man who was completely confused when I approached him, barely understood my fabulous Portuguese, and still said yes to asking a question. Got to love Brazilian hospitality!

His question: What do you love most about Rio de Janeiro?

His answer: Pão de Açúcar. (Sugarloaf for the English speaking crowd)

 The blushing beauty in all her glory

Got to love a man who loves the view of his city! Of course he could have chosen the beach, the ladies, the beer, weather, or anything else. But no, he loves the beautiful natural landscape.

Not saying anything but that makes me think he was a bit confused. That and the weird expression and long drawn out silences.

Regardless, great answer!

Now all I need to do is find a Portuguese teacher before next Monday.

** Thank you to my wonderful blogger friend at for this great idea!

All the Cool Kids Hate the USA

Hating Americans isn't a new thing. As a traveler, it's kind of something you just get used to.  I try to not get offended and to understand the viewpoint of the natives.

The thing is, we Americans can be annoying. We are everywhere.  We're in politics, cinema, television, internet, and Twitter. We are a force that can not be escaped.  That and the majority of our citizens' lack of knowledge about the rest of the world can make us a bit much to handle.

I think that's fair enough.  But some reactions Obama's visit to Rio de Janeiro really pissed me off. Hell, I blocked my husband's cousin from my facebook because of it. Yes, I'm that mature like that.  I just can't handle someone saying that my president should "F**k off" because he "ruined a peaceful Sunday for Cariocas."

I'm sorry but when the hell is anything peaceful in this city?!

It brought me back to one of my first bad experiences with a Carioca. I had finally started being able to have decent conversations in Portuguese and was excited to go out with a group of friends and friends of friends.

Imagine my surprise when some dude showed up wearing a shirt that said, instead of I heart NY, I *two planes flying towards the twin towers* NY.

I almost threw my chopp at the bastard's head but that's considered alcohol abuse in this country.

Instead, I finally managed to enter into a civilized conversation with him. How very British of me. I asked him if he had ever been to the US. Of course he hadn't because he doesn't like the US.

Amazing how that works out. It seems totally acceptable to declare your distaste for my country without ever visiting. Fine.  Benefit of the doubt.

He said he also hated Americans. I informed him that I am American. He said I seem ok. I asked, do you know any other Americans? No he didn't because he doesn't like Americans.

See the problem with this line of thought?! You hate a country and a people based on ZERO personal knowledge of them.

I like to call these people Hater Sheep. They hate because they think that it's cool. They follow someone that they once met who actually knew why they hated something and followed. It's fairly common due to the fact that passionate people with strong beliefs are quite magnetic.

I think it's fair to say that I did not like this man, this hater sheep.  At the very least he should have had some sort of political standpoint that would justify such open distaste as to wear a shirt like that. He had nothing. NOTHING.

Funny thing is, he reminded me exactly of the type of American he supposedly hates.

And I saw a lot of this with Obama's visit. I actually got a phone call from a close friend complaining that she was in traffic because of my president. I informed her that she was in traffic because of all the damn Brazilian lookie loos and the lack of organization in this city. She said she couldn't disagree with my logic.

And because of my president.

As pointed out by Mr. Rant, many visitors have come and caused chaos in this city. Many visitors who are openly guilty of far more than Obama*. Did they get crap? Nope.

Then again, it's only cool to hate the USA.  It's like a Chanel Suit, never goes out of style.

I'm putting out an ad. It goes like this: USA seeking new scapegoat for world. Please contact us at or

*note my lack of saying the US as there is considerable question about our guilt in reference to many many things. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Obama Visit Causes a stir in Rio de Janeiro

Signs read "Get Out Obama"

So Cariocas are supposed to be peaceful people but they definitely have their opinions... and know how to show them.

O Globo newspaper reported:

“I was in the center of the protest when people began to run and I heard shots,” said AFP photographer Vanderlei Almeida. “I had to get out of there because it was hard to breathe.”
According to the Reserved Service of the 13th Military Police Battalion (Tiradentes Square), the protesters threw a Molotov cocktail at the U.S. Consulate. Part of the device reached a vigilante and his vest caught fire. To counter the confusion, MPs threw stun grenades and tear gas.

Almeida was struck by two rubber bullets — one hit him in the leg, and the other in his stomach. Several protesters were detained, Almeida said.

The march began in front of the Candelaria church in downtown Rio, and followed by the Rio Branco Avenue until you reach the consulate. Were displayed banners reading “Obama, go home” and “Imperialism no! Obama, take the jaws of the pre-salt. All the solidarity of peoples in struggle.”

Several protesters were detained, Almeida said.

Translation by and more information at:

Friday, March 18, 2011

In Love With A Brazilian - Q & A

Question: My name is Sass, I am American and I am living in Brazil--my contact with Brazilians in the US and Brazilian culture is vast but over a year ago I fell hard for a guy, in a similar situation as you, unexepectedly and at a bar.  I had to leave the country in order to graduate and everything, and we swore to each other we would wait for each other.  He's from Rio Grande do Sul.  I moved back to Brazil on my toursit visa, but am living in São Paulo--we have decided that we do want to be together more than anything else, and are trying to resolve how to do this--we want to be married.  

I'm sure you know how hard it is for a foreigner to get married in Brazil, but we have 90 days to figure this out.  I am 23, and although I always said I would wait for a while to get married, I'm sure this is right-- I wanted to know: do you feel like you got married young?  You said your family was very supportive-- I'm sure mine will not be, they have high expectations of my and my career etc'--but how is it between you and your family, you being here in Brazil and them being in the States--how often do you see them, what sort of compromises are to be made.  and perhaps any other opinions, advice you could give me...

Have a wonderful day in the marvelous city, I dream of being on a beach right now.

Answer: This is a hard one, I will say. I did marry Mr. Rant at 23 years old and only knowing him 5 months (physically being with him for about 2.5 of those months).  My family was supportive. I don't know if they thought it would last but at least they didn't say they didn't. My husband's family was also supportive. That I find crazy seeing that they had never met me and knew that I didn't speak a word of their language.  Talk about having faith in the decisions of their son! 

In the end, this is your life. You make the decisions and you live with the consequences. Of course the beauty of a family is that they have a tendency to absorb a bit of the responsibility if they are supportive.  It is a bitch to get married in Brazil. If you did not get your US documents certified at the Brazilian consulate before you came, you have to get them translated and made official here.  That takes time and money. I know that you at least need your birth certificate and a document with your parents' names on it.  Then you'll need to go to the US consulate and get a little paper that says you are able to get married, ie. aren't already in the US. They give it to you the same day, which is nice. Once you get all your documents and manage to put them in to be processed at the Catorio (the government place that does this kind of thing), you have to wait 30 days with your name in this national paper. This is so anyone who knows something on you or is married to you can check and come tell on you. Like anyone reads it! Anyway, you may or may not have to pick up a copy of this paper and bring it to get married. I'm not sure, it's been 7 years since I did the whole process. 

Since you are young, and if you go back, you could get your University degree certified at the consulate and use that to try to get into a program in Brazil. Or, if you don't manage to get married in 90 days and your family freaks out, you could compromise by signing up for a study abroad in Brazil. 

I do not recommend doing what I did and coming down and teaching English right away. It's more likely you'll stick to that and not look into other options. Have a frank talk with your family, tell them you are getting married regardless, but ask for their support. With a little money you can get a great Portuguese tutor and work on your language skills. There are wonderful masters and PhD programs down her and I know many foreigners who have gone this route and now have successful careers.  

As for visits from my family, that only started when I had children. I went up there before that, partially because we could fly for cheap due to Mr. Rant's Aunt working for Varig. Now we try to go every year to 1.5 years. I doubt it'll happen this next year but that's ok. My parents also come once a year so we see each other quite often considering.  Grandkids are great ways to get Grandparents to travel. FYI - I recommend waiting AT LEAST 3 years before babies.  Get the rhythm of marriage first. 

As for me, I do feel I married young. I compromised a part of youth.  But if this is right, and he is a good partner, it is not a bad compromise. Just because you are married doesn't mean you become old.  On the other hand, it does mean that you have another person who's opinion you have to take into account when making your decisions. It stops being about what is right for you and becomes what is right for us. That in and of itself does make you grow up a bit.  Marriage takes a lot of patience, and one in which you haven't been dating in the tradition sense needs even more. Marrying and moving in together means you'll be really getting to know each other quickly. And I know you know him but until you live with someone, do you ever really know them?  So there will be some arguing but that is ok. It happens in relationships. And there will be miscommunication. Mr. Rant was fluent when we met and we still had some issues. Some things in Portuguese are not that offensive but they sure are when you translate them to English and vice versa! We'd have to stop and explain what the phrase the other person said meant to us and see if that was really what they were going for. Tough thing to do mid-battle.  

Overall, love is a powerful thing. Can get you through everything. Just be prepared, especially if you are going down this path sans the family, that there will be tough moments. But if life is just better with him in it, it'll never be that bad.  

Personally, I am very happy with my decision! I could not imagine my life ever being this full if I hadn't taken a jump into the unknown at such a young age. Nay sayers will be there regardless of the decisions you make. So put on some thick skin and choose what's best for you. Isn't that what growing up is all about? 

What would you all add? 

The Bacon Theory

I've had the bacon conversation with a couple of different people over the last couple of months. What's the bacon conversation?  Actually, it's more of a bacon theory. 

The theory goes as such: If a person in a family is bringing home the mouth feeding portion of the money each month (the bacon) you can not give them crap about working.  No, not "working" but that annoying stuff like answering business calls at 10pm when you are trying to get them to go "downtown." 

This theory is interesting and I find that Brazilians do not give their partners much crap at all about working a lot. Contrary to popular belief abroad, Brazilians put work horses to shame! Working until 830 or 9pm really isn't that big of a deal here, and I have a theory as to why. Shocker, huh.

There are numerous factors in this. First off, it's really not uncommon at all to have 2 income families down here. You are totally not going to bitch at your husband for answering that call if you were on the phone in the first place. 

There's also the Nanny/Maid situation. People have them. They are a buffer between overworking spouses and stay at home moms/dads.  Hell, they are the stand-in parent for the 2 income households.  And in the case of the Nanny/Maid, they can't complain to the bacon bringer. Hell, they are paid to wait around and cook the bacon that's brought.  

And that fact that there is someone in the middle, who's job is to pick up the slack, makes a huge difference.  The biggest complain of this stay at home Mom is the lack of buffering. I can get pretty chafed sometimes and it's not pretty! 

Of course, that's only with my minis as I do have a maid twice a week to help me around the house.  It's a good thing for Mr. Rant. He sure as hell would get a lot more crap for his socks being littered around the entire apartment.  He denies it but it's either him or we have a serious sock-mold situation growing in this place. 

The point being, it can be hard to be a supportive partner for a busy spouse. It can be upsetting to see the kiddos little faces pressed on the window as they look for Daddy on the street because they know he's going to be home before bedtime.  

And when they complain, I open sacks of bacon and throw pieces at the ungrateful little bastards. Actually no, that would be cruel. Good bacon is far too expensive in Brazil to be wasting it like that. 

But we have had the talk that everything costs money and the reason Daddy works so hard is to help pay for things like food, soccer practice, and cable tv. Priorities. And they get it. The chatter box even offered to not have snacks for a week if Daddy could come home early. 

Then when I put them to bed after a day that had, I swear, 321 hours in it, I go out to the living room. I sit down and I have the same conversation with myself using wine, internet connection, and staying home with my babies as my examples. 

Freaking Bacon, always expanding our minds. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Recipe: Amish Hash Browns Brazil style

Dinner time was coming close and I had no idea what I was going to make for the family.  Since I hate throwing away food, I usually look in to see what will go bad first. I had some old potatoes and collard-greens (couve in Portuguese).

Since my boys hate mashed potatoes, the weirdos, I had to come up with something else. Thank you!

I found my inspirations: Amish Hash Browns. This is particularly great since I love me some breakfast for dinner. Here's their recipe:

1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 cups peeled and shredded potatoes
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 onion, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder. Add potatoes, 1/3 cup of oil, eggs and onion and mix until evenly blended.
  • Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop heaping tablespoons of the potatoes into the hot oil, flattening slightly. Cook until browned on the bottom and then flip and cook on the other side. Keep in a warm oven while frying the rest.

Since the whole point to this was to use the ingredients I had in the house, I substituted the cornmeal for farinha de mandioca. I also washed and finally chopped my couve (collard-greens), pre-cooked them a bit with some filtered water and olive oil in a pan, and mixed them into the mixture. Nothing makes a Mom happier at dinner than her kids eating something green. 

I also cooked ONE semi-heaping tablespoon so that they weren't too big.  That also cut down frying time. 

Served with  a side of meat and BAM dinner is done!  Both kids and Mr Rant ate everything and gave rave reviews!

Wow, just one more reason to love the Amish. 

I think it's making me Constipated...

I am having an issue verbalizing my Sass today. It's quite unsettling and I think it's making me constipated.

As a means to express myself, I have turned to a still image. When one can not mock or joke, rainbow toe nails and florescent flip flops will always do the trick.

Seriously, I walk around like this.  Brazilians must think I'm "special" or a hipster.

Can you spot the toe I've broken twice? 

Where's Waldo of Rio de Janeiro

While I live in a big city, my neighborhood has it's own small town feel.  One of the beauties of Rio de Janeiro's Zona Sul is that the neighborhoods are all almost self-sufficient cities of their own.  Each one has it's own schools, daycares, grocery stores, bread shops, bars, restaurants,and about 1 million pharmacies. 

I sometimes walk around feeling like I'm in a big Where's Waldo book.  Just look at my sights on the short trip to drop my boys off at school. 

I walk out of my building to see the government parking man (think of it as a personal parking meter that will help you park your car) washing someone's car that's parked on the street.  

Then you run into the nannies/parents taking their own children to school. Each kid in a different uniform and all of them heading in different directions.  

You pass the gas station where there's 3 cars filling their tank, one getting it's tires filled, and a bum using the free water to hose himself off. 

Passing one of the restaurants there's a line of people waiting to pay while an equal line files in to get their bellies filled. 

The newspaper stand has a couple of older men reading the sports page that is pinned up against the wall. A woman is inside buying cigarettes and a coloring book for her little boy.

Steps away enter in the dog walkers. Men and women of all ages taking their 4 legged babies out to poop in the street. I hope they brought baggies.  One woman sticks out as she tries to lead 4 miniature pups of different breeds down a narrow sidewalk.  She was not having an easy time but seem to enjoy it just the same. 

We pass the police officers next, all of whom are leaning on their car. There are three of them and they seem to me more engrossed in their conversation than with public safety.  A pilates student passes by and their attention is diverted. 

The bar-zinho (little bar) has about 6 men standing on the sidewalk in front having an afternoon beer and laughing.  A couple of old guys sit inside at tables listening in. 

A large group of business men pass, I'm assuming, on their way to lunch. They looked nice in their dark suits. Must be torture in the heat. 

Cars sit waiting behind the line of school buses trying to squeeze into spots in front of the schools.  I'm no expert but my observations say that the honking did not, in fact, make the parking happen faster.  Someone should publish that little piece of information. 

Teens are loitering around the neighborhood of the school. This usually means they stand in a little herd in the middle of the sidewalk. After saying excuse me 3 or 4 times, someone notices and moves the group over. When in a bad mood, a good bump to the heels of one with the stroller will do the trick.  

I swerved around the homeless woman sprawled out on the sidewalk in front of the school, the magazines she's selling lined up on the edge of the school wall. I'm never seen anyone actually purchase one.

There's a woman passing out flying to unsuspecting parents rushing their kids into school. Half the time they also give a the little paper to the wee one in the stroller. I find that annoying. 

After writing all this down, I find it surprising that my brain doesn't steam a bit on particularly busy days.  What do you see when you are out and about? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Brazilian Food

Here are some of my favorite types of Brazilian Food:

 Bife a parmeggiana: Breaded beef with sliced ham and cheese. Cooked in a tomato sauce. 

 Bolinhos de bacalhau: Cod Fish balls. Seriously! A must try when out for beers. Great with olive oil

 Pastels: The above kind come with cheese or meat. A great snack morning, noon, or night. Best when bought at the farmers markets.

 Chicken hearts!

 Cozido: Meat and veggies cooked to death in a big pot. Can't explain it and it's an exact science. Eat at a good place because there definitely are good and bad cozidos

 Picanha: Only the best meat ever. Eat it rare and let the juices slide down your neck.
 Mmmmm Meat!

Classic rice, beans, and farfoa: Only Brazilians could manage to make something so simple taste so damn good. Regardless, I still can't eat it every day. 

Panquecas: Kind of like a blend between a super weird pancake used to roll enchiladas in.  I rarely get to eat this but I love it!  You can also eat your panquecas with basically anything else in the fridge.

Why You Should Drink Fresh Coconut Water

I love the water in a cold freshly opened coconut. It's seriously good stuff. Now, Brazilians believe that this water is the cure all for everything.  When in doubt, drink some coconut water.  This goes double for the poops, dehydration, vomiting, and hangovers.

You know what, they have a point!  Check out these coconut water facts I found:

  • Coconut water is more nutritious than whole milk.  It has no casein and a good balance of magnesium and calcium.
  • Rich in Vitamin C
  • Acts as a natural diuretic and helps cleanse the liver and kidneys.
  • Reduces problems for infants helps with GERDS, failure to thrive  and other intestinal disorders
  • Also helps other digestive problems such as indigestion, colitis, gastric ulcers, and diarrhea,  
  • It's an antioxidant, scavenging many types of destructive free radicals and protecting hemoglobin from nitrite-induced oxidation
  • Chelating properties the coconut water contains "gold: and "silver" and sulphurated proteins, which is crucial to detox mercury and other heavy metals out of the cells and membranes.  It also has certain fatty acids and sulfur holded amino acids to attach to the mercury. It is said to be water which contains  nature's own "trick".
  • Found as a blood plasma substitute because it is sterile, does not produce heat, and does not destroy red blood cells and is readily accepted by the body.
  • Coconut water was used during World War II in emergency transfusions.
  • Kills intestinal worms.
  • Aid the body in fighting viruses that cause the flu, herpes, and AIDS
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Helps eliminate Candida yeast infections
  • Inhibits the growth of mycoplasma
  • Helps eradicate eczema
  • It contains sugar, fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and provides an isotonic electrolyte balance, making it a nutritious food source. It is used as a refreshing drink throughout the humid tropics, and is used in isotonic sports drinks. It can also be used to make the gelatinous dessert nata de coco. Mature fruits have significantly less liquid than young immature coconuts, barring spoilage
  • Coconut water contains more potassium (at about 294 mg) than most sports drinks (117 mg) and most energy drinks..
  • Coconut water has less sodium (25mg) where sports drinks have around 41mg and energy drinks have about 200mg!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When Obama meets Rachel's Rants

Obama is going to be in Rio de Janeiro and I think it's only fair that he meets with me, Rio's self-proclaimed ambassador.

Now I bet you wonder, what I would ask Obama if given 10 minutes with him.  Well, I have a couple of things in mind.

1. Which Brazilian kind of meat do you like the best? Personally, I'm a fan of the picanha.
2. Are you going to change visa regulations for Brazilians? The big gossip going around Rio de Janeiro is that you are. Personally, I don't believe it.
3. Do you think that making Brazilian bikinis mandatory in the US would boost morale?
4. What was your first impression of our City of God?
5. What is your stand on the immigration process for foreigners married to Americans? Personally, I think the whole process is an absolute bitch.  Planning to do anything about it?
6. Which restaurants have your personnel actually let you go to? Do you need a recommendation? I have some good ones.
7. What have you seen in this country that you would like to bring back to our own?
8. Why visit Brazil, beside the whole look like a nice guy thing?
9. Which Brazilian brand of beer do you prefer?
10. What is one thing you would like Americans to learn from Brazilians?

Obviously I like to mix up the serious stuff with something that gets a giggle. I find conversations are smoother that way. Plus he is the leader of my country. I'm a bit out of my league, don't you think!

If you could ask Obama a question, what would it be? 

Monday, March 14, 2011

It Was My Dream Home

This was the home of my dreams in Rio de Janeiro.  Just look at her shining in all her glory.

But we didn't meet that way. No no, I'm not one to fall for something so shiny.  When I first saw her, she had been abandoned for a while. Grey and moldy. My diamond in the rough.   

Imagine my surprise when I passed her a few years back and saw she was getting some work done.  I never judge a lady who gets things lifted up and put back in their place, but it broke my heart a little. I knew she now had someone and would never be mine.

You see, there are many abandoned homes in Rio de Janeiro. A lot of them are too expensive for the owners to fix up, have back taxes, or have relatives fighting over the rights of them in court. Regardless, the poor homes suffer as they are left to rot in their own stink.  

I saw the house above my first visit to Rio in 2003.  I fell instantly in love. As with all my romances, I immediately started forming ridiculous fantasies about the lives we'd have together.  

I saw Mr. Rant and I somehow making a crap load of money and buying that house out from under whatever drama it was drowning in. We would hire an amazing architect who would bring our baby back to her prime. Obviously we would do a lot of the work with skilled workers to help with the hardcore stuff. Hell, we would have the time and money.   

We would bring Villa Sylvia back to life and then fill her with even more.  Our world would be grand with our numerous children running around filling the spacious rooms and tiny yard with laughter.  

Ah well, unfounded fantasies normally leave us disappointed anyway.  But this time that is not entirely true. 

After a tad bit of researching, aka 10 minutes on google, I was able to find out who fixed up this little lady.  Apparently someone does own it and they busted their ass trying make things right. Since the building was originally built in 1913, it is considered a type of historical landmark. The owner had to jump through quite a few hoops and maybe even over a barrel to get this home fixed up.

Everything had to be as close to the original as possible, including saving whatever building material salvageable.  They looked into old, old, crazy old Rio de Janeiro water records and stuff!  No new tiles here. Just shiny up the good stuff from a classic age. 

And while there will be other houses and fantasies, this one will always have a special place in my heart. You see, it was my first fantasy about living with Mr. Rant in Rio de Janeiro.  Every time I walk past that place I remember the white California girl who wandered around lost in the streets, the language, and the culture.  

It seems that while the building developed, so did I.  

For more on this story, check out: Oglobo  Fyi, this site is in Portuguese.