Violence and boredom

Great news- P and I made it out of São Paulo without being robbed, threatened, or murdered even once. Quite a feat if you consider that the favela near Erin's home had 141 murders in the month of September (retribution killings on the police and their families for a huge drug raid apparently) and Erin's housekeeper was mugged right outside the condo gate by a 13 year old boy and his sister. When she recounted the story to us the next day she was laughing.

"I don't have any money" she said, "you should go rob a bank."

"My dad died because he robbed a bank." said the boy, knife against Vera's waist.

Okay then. Cash it is.

Violence and loss (and the accompanying fear of both) are a part of everyday life so many people it blows my mind. I don't even know the half of it, I know. At least, it seems, Brazilians seem to know how to shake it off and party on.

I just finished a book about a woman who worked in the slums of Bahia (a norther coastal town where we'll be going in mid-December) and at one point she's at a festival and is enraged at some something that happened, a guy getting beat up I think. Something that happens all the time but really shouldn't. Her friend from the favela grabs her back into the samba line and says "Dance. It's the only thing we can do."

Always down for a party. We were telling Creoza about how Mardi Gras is our version of Carnival. There are floats, drinking, etc, just no samba. She stopped completely. "No samba? Then what's the point!" More on Brazilian music later.

In thinking of violence, I do wonder what's worse: fearing for safety on a regular basis but filling life with proverbial and actual music or working in one of those superfactories in China - you're safe, sure, but you work 15+ hours a day in a dank, cement room putting labels on some cheaply-made souvenir that will get sold all over the world as a 'local' trinket.

I'm curious, which would you prefer?

The high life. The expat life.

The few days we spent in São Paulo were plenty, even though we didn't see barely any of the few sites listed as Go To's in guidebooks. We did see an interesting corner that I don't know many people get to see by staying with my friend Erin.

First of all, Erin is a great reason to be on Facebook and read blogs, because we were friends for like a year in Jr. High, really only at Girls' Camp and stake church activities, until she moved to Utah. I bumped into her some six years later at the MTC- it was my first day as a missionary and she came to send off her brother. She had a baby with her (her second baby, it turns out) and I remember thinking how different people's lives can turn out. Not in any way bad or good, just different.

Fast forward six more years and we've been Facebook friends and following each others' blogs, so I know she lives in São Paulo and she kindly offers to house us for a few days while we're in the city. Erin and her husband Brandon have been in SP for a year or two. Brandon works for the finance department of Mercedes Benz' truck and bus division (yeah. I didn't know that department existed either. In Brazil or anywhere. I can tell you the bus we rode and ditched after it broke down an hour outside Paraty wasn't a Benz.) and they've got the perks to prove it.

There were tunz o' expats in the Inter ward in Bangkok when I served there- government employees, businessmen, "consultants", English teachers, from all over. The perks have some variation on:
*Sweet accommodations, selected by you and paid for by the company
*Company car and/or paid for transit
*Private school education for kids
*And then some

Erin and Brandon are mad about the lifestyle. Erin says she'd be happy to never move back the States again. Good thing, since 80% of the success of an expat placement depends on the satisfaction of the wife. Because work is work, I guess, and women who are unhappy get feisty and mean?

Not me. I think I'd be and expat champ. There was a time in the International Ward where Raelle and I met and starting teaching a string of expats. There was a woman who worked for the South African embassy who had us over a few times. She lived in the apartment side of a fancy hotel (we can add free maid service to the list of perks). One lunch she invited a woman who worked for Care International in Afghanistan right when 9/11 happened (nightmare for many. Dreamy for me. She talked about how there was so much HOPE... for a while... and then it got ugly and she had to leave). In Sunday School this week were more fascinating people- lawyers, embassy staff, two guys who are starting Brazil's version of Baby.com.

Point is, you don't just stumble into a job like this. You have to want it, and want to make it work for your family. And I love that. I love the idea of raising kids with a picture of life outside the sterility of the US. Maybe not forever. I have a huge sense of home and roots (comes from 18+ years on the bottom of Demery Hill) and I want that for my posterity. And yes, the expat life has its downsides. Distance, obviously. Safety (in the case of many places I want to live. Not to much for where Porter would want to live). Languages or cultural discrepancies can be exhausting. Food, aggressive driving, and always being an outsider can be exhausting.

But life on the outside would be worth a go, I'd say. Especially if someone else is paying for it!


On speaking and small towns

For sure the worst part about only kind of speaking another language is messing up the punch lines. I'm funny, you know. Especially in other languages where humor is often more slapstick. But I've got no timing, and no one is really sure if they're sure I'm making a joke or telling a funny story. I told an entire story about how my mom's college boyfriend bought her a sewing machine IN PORTUGUESE all for nothing as I fumbled over the whole point- that the broke up and he stuck her with the payments.

But whatevs.

Creoza and her husband, with a name I don't remember, were the ultimate hosts. We mostly just ate, and cooked, and ate, and recovered from eating by walking around the town in the best temperature ever (warm with a cool breeze, not so your bones are cold, or even your skin, but so just every once in a while when the wind blows longer or harder than usual, you notice the cold and are grateful for the warm when it returns in a moment), checking out what many regional hub towns are: a main drag with markets and shops full of people, surrounded by homes in varying degrees of finished. This particular town had a tendency to advertise whatever their business was with painted cartoons. Maybe signs are expensive, who knows. But I sure hope brightly painted human or animal mascots for grocers, auto salesmen, and sex shops become a trend everywhere else. We also talked love and missionary service with Brenda, a girl Porter baptized when she was a pre-teen, but is now very much an adult. There's nothing quite as exciting as seeing someone you taught make the gospel a priority in their life. Nada.

Photos to come!


Commence Smile and Nod

Eu falo Portugues. I mean it, I speak Portuguese. Slowly, stuttering, with a Spanish accent and Thai interjections.

But mostly I smile and nod. We´re spending a few days in Porter´s mission- an hour or two outside Sao Paulo - and I´m convinced that if we scheduled the meet and greet at the end of our 7 weeks in Brazil I really  could have decent interactions with indivuals who do not speak my language, without the help of a willing and able translator husband. I´m counting on it for when Porter goes cyclismo for 4 days and his mom and I will be navigating the countryside sans fluency.

But for now is smiling and nodding, stumbling through 5 years of Spanish with one of those stereotypical overly generous and wonderful women. The kind that are patient with the stumbling and try to make discreet eye contact with Porter to let him know what I´m saying makes no sense.

Eu entendo. For realz. I get it. Just give me another few weeks.

Departures Arrivals and accidental meanderings

Seems like I should have been busier the week or two before we left. I was busy- getting things ready at work and and home, but it never felt frantic. I guess that's a good thing.

Best idea ever is a 1pm flight. A holiday the day before doesn't hurt. Especially when you can put everybody to work moving furniture and boxes out of the apartment and into the garage. The only thing that didn't make it out was the MyButtler (or bidet, for those of you who haven't experienced true clean), which we left half attached to the toilet. No time to find pliers. My dad got instructions for removal and we were off. Bags packed and feeling fine.

The only thing I didn't consider was the route from the São Paulo airport to my friend Erin's apartment, where we planned to stay our first night. There are many times -- most times- I would recommend to any traveler to go where the wind takes you. Fly by the seat of your pants. Figure it out as you go. Not, however, I was reminded today, after an overnight flight. No matter how flowy you go, it is always wise to plan an airport exit strategy after an all-nighter. Know the price of a taxi. Know if there is public transportation and roughly what options there are. Know, in the case of São Paulo, Brazil, which neighborhood your destination is located in, so you can get there.

I printed out the address and booking confirmations for all destinations until December 13, but did not get that last bit of info for Erin's home. And, while the 5 hour meander around the city was not all that unpleasant, despite Porter carrying around a vacuum cleaner we 'imported' on my friend's behalf (seriously, that man can carry like a champ)(maybe because half the wrong turns were his fault)(or maybe he's just tough)(or compensating for poor navigation), it would have been a lot easier had I printed a map instead of going off the image in my brain of when I Googled the address 3 weeks earlier. 

All the same, we've arrived in SP. We've been warmly received with food and conversation by Erin and Brandon and immediate snuggles by at least 2 of her 4 children.


50/50 is a great movie

If you've ever thought about cancer, or if you've ever had a best friend, or if you have a crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt like I do, you should watch 50/50. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets cancer, Seth Rogan is his BFF, and Anna Kendrick his therapist.

There's rampant profanity and overall boy/potty humor, but it's really quite good. Made Seth Rogan tolerable, and Anna Kendrick even more likeable. Made me laugh, cry, and cringe, multiple rounds over.

And it takes place in Seattle. 

This one hits close to home, the dynamic between Porter and me.

And this is the most intense part of the whole movie (don't watch if you want to not spoil the dramatic tension of watching it yourself

And this is more indicative of what the movie's really all about

Sao Francisco

Continuing our sibling tour, we FINALLY got in a weekend to San Francisco to visit the Krnudsons, and their little'uns. Brent and Mia have one of those houses that is just comfortable. Which is great because it was Conference weekend so we spent a good amount of time lounging around listening to good old guidance from God. Mia has that annoying ability to decorate and make everything look amazing. Seriously, so annoying. Their house is perfect.

Also perfect? Ice cream cake for Brent's birthday.

We also spent an awesome, perfect temperature day in Santa Cruz, walking around the pier and through the arcades and sugar crashing on churros. Well, that was just Sofia. 

Our flight home was also epic. We flew down stand-by and had kinks there as well. Mostly lots of airplane delays (like an hour and half fully boarded and sitting on the tarmac delays). But the way home was the reason people hate stand-by flights. I like to think I'm cool with the ambiguity of schedule, the possibility of not making a flight or almost making it. But I'm really a mess about it, especially when I gotta get back to work. In this case, I got literally the last seat and the woman who I believe it belonged to ran down the gateway right as I was entering the gate.  Still worth it for the price, but my nerves were a mess.

Library Music

I hate iTunes for a lot of reasons. Overcharging, overspending, overMac-ing. Slow and clunky. Inflexible. Blah blah blah. Mostly I feel like it's a rip-off.

Especially now that I remember that the library doesn't just have books and books on CD, but CDs- regular ones. And a pretty good collection at that. Case in point: I checked out 32 CD's tonight. I've had 'Load up mp3 player with travel music for trip' on my To-Do for a while. So now I can cherry-pick my way through ripping CDs, illegally listening to songs long after I return them to the library. It was a spectacle getting them through the self-check-out without the library attendant seeing me. Not that it's against the rules to check out that many, but I jammed most in my purse all the same. It made my next stop at the hardware store a bit awkward, but the evening was spent in my favorite way possible, sampling song after song to my heart's content.

Among my spoils:
  • Justin Timberlake, because whoever said Samba is the music of passion hasn't listened to JT
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn, because of Guitar Hero
  • Radiohead, Gwen Stefani, Wilco, and Sly and the Family Stone, mostly because I want to be cool.
  • John Mayer, 3 albums, because I unabashedly love his music
  • Muse, James Taylor (Best of), Mariah Carey (the Ballads!), Lady Gaga, Ingrid Michaelson, Fiona Apple, and Elton John, because you can't go wrong
  • A bunch more worth a song or two (Gotye, Christina Perri [to mess with Porter], Sigur Ros, Brandi Carlile
  • A few wild-card surprises (Idina Menzel, Rita Wilson (as in Tom Hanks' curly-haired wife [she's not bad!]), and Almost Alice "Imaginative compositions brought to life by the fantastical world of Alice in Wonderland")
I left the library realizing that I know- most people know- just a tiny sliver of all musicians who produce CDs. There are so many non-celebrities out there making music who no one will every listen to. Good ones probably. And American Idol losers. And there are are at least 3 Britney Spears albums that I've NEVER heard of. How did that happen?

In better news, 3LW and JoJo are still on the shelf, so generations of library piraters can enjoy subtly autotuned 8th grade divas of taking a stand against cheating no-good boyfriends. (Each of these videos is seriously well worth watching, especially the rap interlude in 3LW's No More)

All travel playlist recommendations are welcome.


Pre-holiday cheer

Soundtrack: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We'll be missing Christmas this year. Well, not missing it. Just missing it in America. I've been asked a number of times if I'm sad about it and my response is generally something to the effect of, 'I just love seeing Christmas in other cultures. We forget that most of the world celebrates the day with much less commercialism and way less snow." I don't think I'll miss it, really.

But yesterday I was going through boxes and found the few Christmas decorations I have and got sad. I'll be missing the holiday season. The hap-happiest season of all.

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South America mapping

Big trip ahead of us. Big plans. Complicated plans. Plans that seem to be coming together.

Different iterations of our route:
Initial idea. Ticket booked into Sao Paulo
A friend in the north!
Simple. Ticket booked out of Santiago
Must see all the places!

Current itinerary

Every once in a while - just every once in a while - I think we've bit off more than we can chew.

83 days to see half a continent, in-depth, inexpensively, at a comfortable pace. NBD.

So far we have 6 flights planned (cheap ones! I got deals!) and 4 long bus rides over 5 countries, including 2 backpacking trips, 6+ towns known for their beaches, my friend from Jr. High, at least 3 colonial cities, one European enclave, Christmas with Joao Paulo and a fair amount of wilderness, urbanity, and everything in between.

All's I know is I've got 12 days of work left, 3 more purchases to make, a bed reserved for me to sleep in until December 8th.

Planning's not over yet!