Saturday, December 28, 2019

Resolution Time!

Well, what a long strange trip it’s been!

2019 was not really what I expected but looking back I’d call it a success and I still feel immensely privileged to have all the blessings I do.  My brother’s family got their immigrant visas and moved to the states this year. My house started paying off - both financially and personally. Offspring is healthy as a horse and has started walking and talking. Work is going well. It really is a wonderful life. 

But enough of that nostalgia! Time to review those resolutions for 2019 and see how I did!

New Year’s Resolutions 2019
  • Learn to make sushi - done! Don’t do it often and I usually do sushi bowls rather than rolls, but São Paulo has been a great place to practice with its huge Japanese community and plentiful Asian groceries.
  • Visit one new country (Brazil doesn’t count) - Done! We visited Argentina this summer which I wrote about previously.
  • Go on a big vacation within Brazil (something like an Amazon cruise or Carnival in Rio) - um, no. Unless the farm visit counts we went NOWHERE in Brazil. Big disappointment. The lack of trains and easy travel infrastructure has been challenging, but maybe next year.
  • See the top 75 films according to the American Film Institute - Done!
  • Earn $100 via one or more side hustles - so, it’s kind of cheating to use my house for this since it isn’t a side hustle, but I have done zero other earning so I’m just going to have to cheat and say the rental income counts
  • Take tennis lessons and/or join a sailing club in São Paulo - exactly one tennis lesson
  • Read one book each in Italian, Portuguese, and either French or Serbian - will make it. Italian and Portuguese done and I’ve only got a few pages left in the French book
  • Turn my last area for improvement into a strength on my EER - I certainly think so. I have certainly taken on lots of opportunities and feel more confident with my new skill set. I hope others have taken notice!
  • Host some sort of group - yes! I hosted a brunch, plus a kid party, a baby shower and I’ve got a couple of other plans in the works
  • Get promoted - sadly with almost no time in the rating period this was a long shot
  • Learn a DIY skill - I totally forgot this was even a goal. Oops. Obviously no progress was made.

And now for next year...

New Year’s Resolutions 2020
  • Make bagels from scratch - never know when this might come in handy and in the Foreign Service it’s often difficult or impossible to find bagels
  • Learn to stir fry and make tomato sauce without a recipe
  • See a dermatologist and/or have laser hair removal - I would like to do just ONE thing for my own self/ego this year
  • Complete duolingo Arabic
  • Take one international trip
  • Take one Brazil trip 

(is it cheating if I have these trips both booked already?)

  • Solve a rubix cube
  • Finish the Suzuki piano book 1
  • Watch the AFI top 90 films -(top 100 would have been too many)
  • Blog once/month
  • Write 100 pages of whatever I want
  • Eat 90% of our family meals at the table like civilized human beings 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

International Baby ... and his assistant

The Offspring has now visited his third country and has the photos to prove it!

First off, I would not necessarily recommend 9 months as a good age for traveling solo with a baby. Offspring was much wigglier than a few months ago and also has started to experience separation anxiety so in an unfamiliar environment he wanted to be held approximately 110% of the time. Like, to the extent that it was hard to put on pants because he wouldn’t let go for a millisecond. 

However, we powered through and of all the international locations we could have chosen, Buenos Aires was probably the best choice. Stroller accessible, only a 2.5 hour flight away, safe... We also took it pretty easy schedule wise which helped. We walked Recoleta and saw the cemetery (and the very anticlimactic tomb of Eva Peron), we did a short (and wiggly) wine tasting, we very briefly watched a tango Milonga (meetup) until Offspring got too wiggly again and we sampled the gritty neighborhood of La Boca. 

My overall impression is that Buenos Aires is very liveable, if cold, and that Argentines don’t like kids nearly as much as Brazilians. But we had a good time nonetheless and I’d highly recommend a visit if you want to eat well, enjoy European-style architecture, and practice being very sophisticated. 

Surviving this trip also gave me a boost of inspiration and confidence to try more travel, hopefully within Brazil this time.

La Boca

La Boca again (it was seriously cold that day - as in it could have snowed - so we only stayed an hour or so but I'm glad we got to see a different side of the city than fancy Recoleta

Recoleta cemetary

Recoleta cemetary x 2 - I liked the architecture styles here but didn't take many photos

Eva Peron's tomb - see what I mean? Underwhelming

I loved all the French-style architecture

And baby just loved goofing around

Thursday, August 1, 2019

July in Sao Paulo

I would say I can’t believe how long it’s been - but I can totally believe how long it’s been. I have been pretty busy with small fry of course and now that he’s a little older I’m also trying to force myself to get out of the house more and enjoy life.  So what did you miss in July?

The offspring and I went to a real life fazenda (farm) for the weekend. We saw pigs, sheep, horses and chickens and we had a carriage ride and a big churrasco (BBQ) party. I was very glad to get the baby out of the city for a change both for the fresh air and so he can taste just a little bit of what my own childhood was like - my grandparents had a farm and we used to spend weekends there with the cousins running wild and exploring.  I hope he gets the chance to have more moments like that as he gets bigger.

We also celebrated Brazilian country culture at Festa Junina (a few weeks late, but better than nothing!)

And we went to a fantastic performance - sorry no pictures - of a visiting American jazz group. It felt just like a Sunday afternoon at the farmers’ market back in DC and it was another needed change of pace from our usual routine.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Brazil with a capital B

Me and the offspring found a new favorite spot in São Paulo a few weeks ago and I have to say it’s one of only a handful of times since we arrived that I really felt like I was in Brazil. Not that São Paulo isn’t great, just that it feels very much like home most of the time. (But with bad sidewalks)

It was raining a bit, so that may have scared off the majority of visitors, but the botanical garden (Jardim Botânico) felt just right with everything dripping. This is the rainforest after all.

Baby wasn’t actually in the mood for a stroll, but we managed and once he can walk I think he’ll really enjoy this place.

So check it out if you get the chance - ie if you are in São Paulo on a rainy afternoon. It costs 10 reais (about 2.50) and is right by the zoo.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Nursery reveal

Technically I finished decorating baby’s nursery a few weeks ago but I never seem to get around to photographing it when the sun’s up and happy.  So forgive the slight delay. But with no further ado I am happy to show off the room I've been putting together for this cheerful, chubby 6 month old.

(from my adventures in West Africa!)

As you can probably tell, I went with an ocean theme for the offspring which is a bit ironic since we never really go to the ocean. But I guess it serves as inspiration.  Big thanks to my mom who gifted us the toys, many of the books and the best crib.

Yes, he's already reading (ok, chewing on) books in two languages. 

I like this crib so much because it can be adjusted for short parents like me to actually be able to reach my baby. One of the biggest reasons his loaner crib in DC didn’t get much use is that I was super nervous about dropping him since it was so hard/awkward for me to reach him at all. But no more! He’s napping 2-3 times a day in it and I’ve just started trying to get him to spend some time there at night.

This rug was SO hard to find. First off, no one seemed to have much variety as far as design so even though I knew I wanted something super simple it still required a ton of searching. Also, the rugs for sale seemed to be generally pretty poor quality.  Finally - on the world's hottest day (and at the world's least ventilated, un-airconditioned rug store) we found this. They wouldn’t even show it to me (even when I said I wanted dark blue, thicker material). But I kept circling back and saying I wanted to check it out. It’s actually almost twice the size of his room but I have it doubled up which gives some nice padding and I like the little sparkles woven in. All in all, it was a lucky find and I’m glad I held out for what I wanted.  Still - a great example of how customer service in other countries can be so different from back home.

Hopefully this room will grow with the little guy and be a fun place for him to hang out - at least for the next two years!

And special thanks to my helpful baby model!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The dance of the working mother

A story in honor of Mother’s Day...

I sometimes forget how accommodating my team and work schedule are when it comes to the realities of breastfeeding.  Twice a day I mysteriously vanish for 20-30 minutes - whether it’s a good time or not - and I’ve never gotten a word of grief about it. (Yay for progress!). But a work trip the other day brought home how the logistics of many jobs would be so hard to manage for a breastfeeding mom.

I volunteered/was selected for an outreach trip - my first chance to leave the city of São Paulo since my arrival - and give a presentation to local businesspeople. I luckily remembered the day before to pack my pump and accessories and leave an extra half-hour early so I could pump before the presentation.  I googled how to say “I need to pump”. I even brought a plug adaptor in case they have the slightly less common plug types that won’t work for US appliances. I was prepared with a capital P.

But you can’t control everything.  The first Uber driver canceled - 10 minutes gone. Then the second dropped me 10 minutes away from the event location by mistake. I still thought I could squeeze in a few minutes... but the private bathroom outlet wasn’t working.  I ended up waiting til the end of my presentation - 2 more hours on top of the 3ish I’d already waited (my fellow moms know what a big deal that is) and pumping out in the open in a public restroom. Needless to say, it was a messy situation, but I made it work and the Brazilians were incredibly understanding. It takes a village after all. And the presentation? It went great!

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, grandmas, and of course all the other wonderful mothers out there!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Picture dump

Rather than bore you with any philosophic musings this evening (or more whining about how I don’t get out anymore now that baby is around) I thought I’d share some more of our adventures in São Paulo now that we’re 4 months in.

Overall I’ve found São Paulo to be really livable, safe (at least in my neighborhood), and surprisingly similar to home.  So don’t be afraid to visit if you’re planning a trip to Brazil.

Early on we visited Ibirapuera park - the largest park in the city with museums and other activities inside. It’s great for an afternoon walk and I want to go back and see the museums sometime.

While I don’t have the pictures to prove it, we did visit and enjoy Avenida Paulista - a major street reserved for pedestrians on Sundays. There’s a bit of shopping and music but it was mostly just nice to get out and walk. We also visited Liberdade - the Japanese neighborhood with amazing restaurants and Asian grocery stores (my fave!). And we’ve been to Embu das Artes on the outskirts of São Paulo. It’s a little artsy village with tons of craft items for sale, cute architecture, and street food. Oh and randomly - puppies. For that reason alone it was a bit win and I definitely intend to take future visitors there.

Ok, back to actual photos.

This is the municipal market, I went there with my mom. We had a great time trying out the fruit vendor (and learned some important lessons for next time). The neighborhood was really rough and it wasn’t a very comfortable visit because the building isn’t air conditioned but they have some interesting items for sale and it’s worth a visit if you’re in town for awhile.

The children’s bloco (Carnival party) that we attended until baby started freaking out - so for about 30 seconds. Looked like lots of fun for older kids - costumes, candy, music, games - but it was a bit too much for us this time around.