Friday, August 26, 2011

Coconuts, Bananas, and an Alligator Head

We've been here five weeks today.  Still no UAB (air baggage) and I won't even mention our HHE (the rest of our stuff), so it still feels like we're living in a hotel. A hotel without even any bad art on the walls. I nearly swooned with excitement over some potted lilies we bought and some cheery green placemats that arrived in our Big Delivery this week. I've started carrying those damn lilies from room to room with me as I move about the house, I'm so starved for decor. We are all finding ways to keep ourselves amused. I found about forty pictures on my camera this morning. It seems Henry has been entertaining himself by taking pictures of the only items he brought:
A Kindle, a few other books, a tiny skateboard, a string, and an alligator head. What? Like you don't take an alligator head with you when you travel? 

Obviously, if I'd known it would take so long for our stuff to get here I would have packed differently. I could go on and on about that, but there's that whole, "if you can't say anything nice, come sit next to me don't say anything at all" adage.

Fortunately, the kids are kept so busy at school that there's little time for them to worry about toys. They're all doing after school activities, and after homework, their day is done. We've gone to a few outdoor markets on the weekends. The kids discovered that  they love street food. Fried packets of meat or bananas and nutella, icy cold coconut water, charred meat on sticks. What's not to love?

 Although Olivia loved the coconut drink, the drink did not love her back. 
 And that's all I'm going to say about that.

There are things I like very much about living here.  Today my favorite thing is having a gardener. He speaks zero English, but he does a good pantomime.  This morning he told me if I could get a hold of  a ladder, he'd get these bananas down out of our banana tree for me:

Although, he may have been saying, "Lady, you are crazy like bananas and your dog eats monkey poop."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Doing My Part for the Economy

My long-suffering husband pulled up to the house in the middle of the day today. It seems all the stuff I've been ordering from Amazon over the past month arrived on the same day.  I've been banned from Amazon in the past a few times.  Can you guess why?

 But, we got cereal!  And whole wheat bread flour! And.....Stuff!

But most importantly, tortilla chips.

And water bottles and more stuff.

And a knife sharpener and scrubbing brush.

Soccer gear. And a bunch of art supplies and face cream and books and other stuff.  YAY!

 I do feel a little embarrassed that the pile above all came on the same day.  Yikes. I hope I don't get a reputation for being a shopaholic, because I assure you, I AM NOT one.  And why didn't my Macy's stuff come yet?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Monkey business and a tour

I've been meaning to put pics up of the inside of our house, but we've been very busy doing important stuff.  Like this:

And this:
That's right, it's a monkey in our backyard.  We have lots of them living up in the trees. Today Olivia decided to see if she could get one to come down by feeding it a banana. The minute the banana was placed on the roof of the rabbit house, this little guy popped right down to eat it. Until Seamus came to tell him to get the hell away from his kids, that is. It will be interesting to see how this dog/child/monkey relationship plays out.

So, the house. here are the few pics I've taken. Keep in mind that none of our stuff is here yet (not even our UAB-still no toys or KitchenAid mixer or knife sharpener or pizza stones), so this is pretty much what it looked like the day we got here.  I did rearrange the livingroom furniture, because it was all put on one end of the super huge room, leaving a large, empty area on the other half. We tried using the empty space for a dance floor for a while, but I kept hitting my head on the ceiling fan.

The entry way. To the left is a guest bathroom, and to the right is what will be the kids' art room. But first, the living room, which is straight ahead. Brace your eyes:
This photo does not do justice to the white, gray, and MAUVE striped Drexel couches. On top of the stripes is also a raised floral pattern, because they had to throw every early-80s style trend they could, apparently.   I have two sets of slipcovers coming.

Also to the left of the entry way, just past the guest bath, is a tv room/office with an appropriate dirt colored couch. It is made of burlap.  I'm not kidding. However, I find that even burlap is lovelier than mauve and gray floral, and so does the dog.

The kids' art room. Lots of storage, more 80's stylings with the cabinets, but I think this will be great for all their stuff. So glad we packed the art table, which is currently, finally, on it's way from Maryland.

The soul-sucking lightless kitchen. Do you see a dishwasher?  Me neither.  Thank gawd I had all these kids or I'd have to handwash the dishes myself.  On the positive side, there is plenty of storage and the countertops are nice. 

To the left of the kitchen is the ginormous dining room, with the same dining furniture everyone from state has. But do you FS people have tiny ants marching by after every meal, providing your children with an extra shot of protein?  No?  Suckahs!

On the other side of the kitchen is the huge utility room. At the end are two maids' rooms and a full bath.

The maids' rooms are small, but do have windows. Mitch is going to set up his drafting table in one and Jack has plans for a drum kit in the other one. God help us all.

Up the stairs (shhhh, everybody is sleeping) are the bedrooms and more bathrooms.

There are three bathrooms upstairs and they all pretty much look like this:

The master bedroom, with more Drexel furniture. You can't tell by this photo that the mattress is entirely made of concrete, but I promise, it is! 

The girls' bedroom. They have a private bath like us, while the boys have a bath between their rooms. The best part of this set up is that I never have to go in the boys' bathroom, which, if anyone who has a couple of boys can tell you, is most definitely a good thing.  The boys have identical rooms, but with only one twin bed, so I'll spare you more boring bedroom pics. I have a bunch of cute stuff in the UAB to help jazz up the bedrooms, but I may have mentioned that we DON'T HAVE OUR AIR BAGGAGE yet. 

Oops, I  almost forgot. Cupcake, shortly after he shed his skin:

So, there you have it, the 10 centavo tour. I will do after pics when we get our stuff. We are pretty happy with this house, and will be overjoyed when our stuff gets here so we can clutter it up.  Meanwhile, you can find us lounging on the patio, doing hard time while we wait.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We gots the innernets.

Finally! Now I can catch up on what everyone else in the world is doing, and get busy ordering stuff. After a few rocky weeks, we are settling into life fairly well here in Brasilia. The kids are making friends at school and marveling at how different everything is. For example, their school bus has an aide in addition to the driver that rings the bell when they arrive at our house, then holds the door for them as they climb into their leather reclining seats to watch an American movie or Spongebob in portuguese. The cantina at school is an all-you-can eat buffet of tasty, healthy food. I may never have to pack another lunch. Their class sizes are small, about 20 kids, and they have a full-time teacher’s assistant in each room. They also get an hour for lunch, although the younger kids spend most of that time playing soccer futebal.  Jack thinks an hour isn’t enough, what with all the lovely, um, students to chat with and whatnot. His social life is very busy. This past weekend, I was busy wringing wet clothes out  (thanks to a broken washing machine), while Jack was at a party at the Dutch Ambassador's house, being served pizza by private chefs.  Grace noted that one thing hasn’t changed from America, in that 8 year-old boys still only talk about butts, farting, and poop.

Here the kids are on their first day of school. Seamus is in the picture because he matches with his khaki hair. I briefly considered humiliating him with a navy polo shirt on top, but I’ve put him through enough in the past few months.

I have lots of pictures of the house, which I’ll save for another day (it’s not that interesting, anyway, white walls, zero decor, lots of Drexel Heritage furniture).  We actually like the house very much. It’s one of the oldest houses in the embassy pool, but it’s a mid-century prairie house style, which we really like. Five bathrooms and four good-sized bedrooms, plus the maid’s bedroom which Jack plans to turn into a music room. That’s right, no live-in maid, although we do have someone lined up to clean once a week. If you leave one drop of food anywhere, tiny little ants swarm, so everything has to be super clean. Also, the dirt here is red clay and it gets everywhere, and now that I gots the innernets I can’t possibly be expected to clean all these floors on top of my busy schedule of social networking, taking breaks, and ordering stuff. And if it sounds like I’m trying to justify having a maid and a gardener so I don’t sound like a spoiled ass, believe me, I am. 

Our favorite feature of the house is the huge, beautiful yard and gorgeous view.  There are many nooks and crannies in the yard to hide in and build forts, and plenty of critters to watch for out there. Now that we have figured out how to make Spongebob broadcast in English, though, I imagine the little darlings will be occupied for a few days while they get their tv fix.  Seamus has been trying to catch the lizards and monkeys that hide in the trees every day. Mitch likes the built-in bbq, but I prefer lounging on the patio with a beverage of one kind or another. You’ll notice everything is kind of brown with lots barren trees, since we are in the dead of winter here. It hasn’t rained a drop since we arrived and I’m told it won’t rain for another few months.  There are no pics of the exterior of the house, for security reasons, but rest assured, our house is the one you want to come to in the event of a zombie invasion.  Anyhoodle, here is our lovely backyard:

A tire swing! And perhaps the best thing we stuck in our suitcases was the iPod (which has our entire music collection on it) and a sweet little Bose sound dock, so we can enjoy tunes on the patio while Mitch chars dead animals and I applaud him from my lounge chair.

Who needs a snowy winter? Every few days, these dead giant palm leaves fall and the girls use them as sleds on the little hill. I tried to explain/pantomime to the gardener that I didn’t want him to get rid of the palm leaves and I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m insane now, plus he still threw them out.

Pretty much all we do around here. The relaxing, I mean. Not the drinking of wine.
Oh, who am I kidding?

The kids playing Shawshank Redemption, and the elusive American teenager plotting ways to get his siblings to do his bidding.

This mural is on a wall in the backyard. I will talk about this at a later date. I recently found out that the characters depicted are the Black Eyed Peas. So. Yeah.

A lovely place to read a book.
Or a few Kindles.

And a few photos from our arrival in Brasilia:
Twelve giant suitcases, six carry-ons.  No barf bags were used in the making of this trip.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Still no innernets.

Alas, we still don't have internet or air baggage yet, but we're told we may have it next week. We were also told we'd have it this week. I believe this is the Brazilian way. I'm spending the morning using the slow computer at the embassy so I can order some stuff and catch up on my email. Yesterday was a low point for me, as I have now read all the crappy free Kindle books AND the kids' Kindle books. Basically I sat inside staring at the plain white walls for seven hours after I went for a walk and cleaned the house, which, when there isn't any "stuff", is surprisingly quick and easy. Not being able to call my family and friends has been physically painful. Today is a new day, however. We finally got a humidifier and I was able to get a good nights' sleep.  The air here is so dry that I wake up several times a night with my eyeballs burning and my throat scratchy. I know my Seattle peeps will kill me for saying this, but I wouldn't mind an overcast, drizzly day. Anyhoodle, I'm feeling much better today. It's Friday, which means we have a car for the weekend. I'm also thinking of rewarding myself with a nice little visit to Zappos. I was going to reward myself with a walk up to the shopping center to get a pedicure, but as I was getting ready to leave, I ripped half my big toenail off. You win another round, Universe.  Jerk.

School is going great for the kids. The little bus (yes, you may call it a 'short bus') picks the kids up from the house and they get to ride in their reclining leather seats while watching Brazilian cartoons or American movies. The cantina serves fabulous buffet-style lunches that the kids actually like. They're making friends and have discovered that they are the only kids in ALL OF BRAZIL that don't have a swimming pool. I don't know what they're complaining about, there's a dirty old rabbit hutch in the corner of the yard that is just fine for playing in. Actually, our yard is beautiful, and I'll have pics to share soon. The girls are in separate classes again, and were terrified when they played soccer futebol in PE and got their butts kicked this week. Grace wants to sign up for futebol lessons so she can keep up. Olivia wants nothing to do with it because if she can't excel at something on the first try, she won't do it at all. I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE SHE GETS THIS.  Virginia schools got them all in good shape for their new school, and Henry was even placed in a small group of fast track mathletes/math olympiads or some such thing.  I'm pretty sure he gets his mathematical ability from his father, although I have gotten pretty good at figuring out the exchange rate in my head. For example, one spiral notebook (Jack needs four, Henry one) costs R$24.  That, in American dollars, is like a whole pair of open-toed wedge sandals. 

I want to keep this short, because, like I said, I need to go find a reward for myself, in the price range of about five spiral notebooks.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Week 2

Greetings from the embassy, where the internet is s-l-o-w. I just spent two hours trying to order uniform bottoms for my kids, since the school gave me wrong information about color (no navy bottoms), and my boys were horrified that I had them in "uniform khaki shorts" rather than khaki skate shorts like most of the other kids were wearing. They'll live, I'm sure, with their knobby knees poking out until the new stuff gets here. The good news is that Mitch's visa is finally straightened out, which means we can begin the process of getting the necessary information to get our internet, phone, and cable hooked up. Does that make it seem like it will happen soon? HAHAHAHAHA!

We also discovered that our stuff, which was packed over a month ago, is STILL sitting in Maryland.  Getting it by Christmas is looking iffy at this point, but at least we have a concrete bed to sleep on until our beloved bed arrives, so that's lucky.  See how positive I am? With no stuff, the kids were actually excited to begin school today, knees showing and all. They've been reduced to playing invented games with each other, just like we used to do in the olden days before internet and video games. Yesterday, the game was "Shawshank Redemption", in which Warden Jack had the kids locked in the rabbit house in the yard or doing things for him, such as retrieving glasses of water and fanning him with palm leaves.

Despite not having any stuff, or a car, we have been having a good time. We walk down to the lake and spot the monkeys in the trees or up to the small shopping center to get little treats. We love our house, except the soul-sucking lightless kitchen and ugly Drexel furniture, but we'll jazz it up when we get our stuff. The weather is sunny and beautiful every day. Since it's winter here, there hasn't been a drop of rain, which makes the air very dry. Olivia had a visitor drop on her arm the first time she took a shower, and after a bloodcurdling scream that could be heard for miles, has decided to name him/her Cupcake the Gecko. He/she is currently residing under the girls' bathroom cabinet. A few days a week, I'm going to ride in to the embassy with Mitch now that the kids are in school (PS, for the first time I didn't cry on the first day of school-maybe I've had too much 'Shawshank Redemption'?) and we'll take Portuguese lessons together. It is murder trying to get anything accomplished without language.