Portuguese is hard!

I have been here for almost three months now and I wish I could say that I am fluent in Brazilian Portuguese…I’m not even close. Portuguese is hard! I have learned a tremendous amount of words since I’ve been here and I am able to communicate simply with people but that’s about it. It’s the speaking part that gets me. I’m beginning to be able to read quite a bit and I can even understand a lot more but my speaking is minimal.

Before I came to Brazil I read the book, “Eat, Pray, Love” and one of the things I so appreciated about the author’s journey was how much she loved learning the Italian language. When she talks about the perfect word being “Attraversiamo” meaning let’s cross over, she describes the word as containing all of the beautiful sounds of the Italian language.

I’ve always tried to keep this perspective in my head as I learn Portuguese because Portuguese is a beautiful language. I love the “ão” sound in São Paulo or pão. My teacher says I pronounce this sound perfectly. I also love the fact that you can add the ending “inho” to almost any word and it means small. For example,  the word dog in Portuguese is “cachorro,” if you add inho to the end you get “cachorrinho” which means little dog or puppy.

The problem is I don’t always feel this way about learning Portuguese, a lot of time what I feel is pressure. I mean the only way I am going to survive here in São Paulo is to learn this language, so I put pressure on myself to learn quickly and when I can’t I feel defeated. My teacher, husband, friends, and family all very encouraging and I will continue to try but there are times when I don’t think I’m going to make it because Portuguese is hard! But there is a bright side…at least I’m not trying to learn Chinese.


Beauty Services

One of the best things about living in Brazil is that in general services are pretty cheap. For a woman this is a wonderful thing because everything from your hair to your nails is reasonably priced. I wish that I could tell you that I found some great salons in São Paulo, but the truth is I had a really hard time getting into any of them. And for convenience purposes I ended getting both my first haircut and my first wax in Brazil in Curitiba.

Things to know about getting your haircut: everything is not included, the wash, cut and style are all priced out so you need to specify that you want all three. The woman who cut my hair did a fabulous job and she also blow dried my hair straighter than it has ever been in Brazil. Unfortunately I do not have the natural frizz free Brazilian hair and living in a tropical country has only made my frizzy hair angrier.

Getting a wax in Brazil was a bit intimidating at first but it ended up being the best wax I’ve ever gotten. The woman was extremely professional and I felt no pain. When I left I tipped her R$10.00 (approx. $5.00 dollars) and she hugged me like I had given her a hundred dollar tip. I found this also to be true when I tipped the girl for my manicure as well. That’s the thing with services in Brazil, Brazilians don’t generally tip for anything, but being the American that I am I couldn’t help myself.

The Hot Vet

We’ve had Nina for almost two weeks now and I kept bugging my husband for us to take her to the veterinarian just for a routine checkup. My husband’s sister is a vet and went to the University of São Paulo; so we asked her for a reference. She gave a woman’s name and we emailed her but she no longer lives in São Paulo. She gave us another name and again that woman no longer lives in São Paulo. Since we were striking out right and left we decided to go to my mother-in-laws vet because we are traveling to Curitiba this weekend for Mother’s Day.

In the meantime, we have been taking Nina to a small park near our place to get some exercise and play. We met a very nice woman there who is a dog walker and has a dog of her own named Alice. Nina loves Alice but because Alice is an older dog she doesn’t really like to play. Alice’s owner was kind enough to refer us to vet within walking distance of our place. She said that all of the women she works for take their dogs there and really like Dr. Randi.

Wednesday as we were walking home from the park, we stopped into the vet’s office to make an appointment. They happen to have an appointment in 30 minutes so we decided to wait. As soon as I saw the vet I could see why all the women in the neighborhood are taking their dogs to him. Only in Brazil do you find a veterinarian that looks like a model. The vets back home were all old men or women. Nina got her check up, everything was okay and the vet was very nice. When we got home my husband and I were joking about how good-looking the vet was. Finally he said jokingly, “You are never to take Nina there alone!”

If there are any single ladies out there with a dog or if you’re just looking for a good vet that is reasonably priced and live in V. Madalena, here is Dr. Randi’s information:

Dr. Randi

Randi Centro Médico Veterinário

Rua Agissê, 35 – Vila Madalena

São Paulo, SP 05439-010



Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo

My husband, two of our friends, and I went to a Mexican restaurant in São Paulo this Saturday to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Americans, especially Californians, often celebrate Cinco de Mayo probably because America and Mexico have such a close relationship and Mexican food has a huge impact on America culture. Brazilians on the other hand could care less about Cinco de Mayo and most Brazilians don’t even like Mexican food. This makes it extremely difficult to find good Mexican food in Brazil.

After a little bit of research and reading of reviews we decided to go to “El Kabong.” http://www.elkabong.com.br/ Like almost all Mexican restaurants in Brazil, El Kabong is a nice sit down restaurant with prices averaging about R$40.00 a plate, with drinks included you are looking at a bill of around R$260 for 4 people. But if you like Mexican food and are craving it, this place is worth it. The four of us ordered three different plates and all shared to get a good range of Mexican food. My favorite out of all of the dishes was the Fajitas; they were awesome! The Fajitas are actually for two people and comes with a lot of food including chips, refried beans, sour, cream, guacamole, cheese, and of course the Fajita meat. My only disappointment was that they only gave us four tortillas which were not enough and so we had to order four more which they charged us R$2.50 each.

We also order two combination plates which included a taco, burrito, taquito, chimichanga, and enchilada. Everything was good but the enchilada was terrible. The cheese had a weird taste and the enchilada sauce had much to be desired. All of the plates also came with chips, a small amount of refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. It was a lot of food!

For drinks I ordered a red fruit margarita and our fried ordered a regular lime margarita, we both agreed not the best margarita we’ve ever tasted. So if you are planning on drinking I recommend sticking to the imported Mexican beer.

As for El Kabong, I recommend going there if you are in the mood for Mexican food and I am definitely planning on going back.


Damming the Amazon is Complicated


I saw this video this weekend on the NYTimes website; this is a very controversial subject about building hydroelectric dams in the Amazon because it can cause flooding, deforestation as well as displacement of the Native Brazilians.

I find that most Brazilians have mixed emotions about this situation. My Portuguese teacher Lavenia and I discussed it in class on Friday, and she described the situation as a double-edged sword because both energy and the Amazon are important concerns in Brazil. I think if America was in the same situation as Brazil we wouldn’t hesitate building the dam because of the amount of clean energy it would produce to run our iPhones, iPads, Laptops, etc.

I found this video to be a little bias and self-righteous. I definitely think Brazil has the opportunity to both build the dam and help millions of Brazilians get affordable energy and do the right thing if it affects the Native Brazilian’s water source. With this issue I can see both sides of the argument and what I think will need to happen in the end is a compromise.


Is São Paulo a dog friendly city?

One of the interesting things about Brazilians is that some of them really LOVE their dogs. In America there is a culture of pet owners that has sprung up and dressing up dogs in sweaters and costumes is the norm and carrying around your tiny dog in a purse is fashionable. Well, can I just say that some Brazilians are even more extreme than that! When we adopted Nina, she had on a butterfly Bindi in the center of her forehead, earrings, and a bright pink bow with a bunny on it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I saw a little Chihuahua in the park with a pink tutu dress on. Brazilians love to dress up their dogs; one of the biggest isles at the pet shop is the dogging wear isle. And let me tell you these things don’t come cheap average costume was about R$50.00.

Because Brazilians like to dress up their dogs and groom them fanatically; there are about four Pet Shops within walking distance to our apartment but ironically no parks. This is the problem with São Paulo there are no neighborhood parks to walk your dog; so you have to walk your dog on the busy street and hope she pees. I just blogged about how wonderful Villa Lobos Park is and Ibirapuera park is just as wonderful but if you don’t live near these two parks then you are out of luck.

So people are forced to walk their dogs on the street, and because of this the streets are full of crap! Brazilians don’t pick up their dogs crap. In America (as in São Paulo) you can get a fine for not picking up your dog’s poop but I don’t think that’s why America’s do it. I think America’s do it because there is a societal pressure to keep the streets and sidewalks clean. As a developing country Brazil has not gotten to this point yet, although I think things are changing. A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were walking to the store and a woman was walking her dog, the dog pooped on the sidewalk and she kept walking. Amazingly my husband didn’t say a word, but a cab driver waiting for a fare said to the woman, “You need to pick that up.”

Our building provides bags to pick up dog poop which is awesome because in America these things are expensive. There are also several trash bins specially designated for dog poop around the neighborhood, what could be easier than that?

So is São Paulo a dog friendly city? In some ways yes, there is easy access to Pet shops as well as veterinarians which in Brazil are reasonably priced. But in other ways, São Paulo needs to grow and realize that people need neighborhood parks not only to walk their dogs but for their kids to play and families to enjoy. Also Brazilians need to start picking up their dog’s poop, it’s a dirty job but don’t get a dog if you are not going to take responsibility for what comes out of it.