Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Monday, 22 June 2009

No more excuses

seal language

"A man who wants something will find a way; a man who doesn't will find an excuse."

Stephan Dolley Jr.

It’s been said that some of the smartest people make lousy entrepreneurs. How can that be? The problem is that some people are so smart they can easily predict all of the problems, roadblocks and hurdles they’ll need to overcome to succeed. They can think of all kinds of reasons why an idea won’t work. This foresight can crush possibilities and dreams. When you want something, do you focus on the positive things, or the barriers? To reach your goals, you have to really want them. More importantly, you have to believe that you can do it. Think more about why you CAN make it happen instead of why you can’t.

from Sparkpeople.com


This weekend was spent in a flurry of spring cleaning, making picture frames, and moving furniture around. This morning was our first interview here with our first caller from the ad we put out. I went to bed nervous, knowing the house was ready, but was I? I looked at the 'office' this morning and was satisfied. There was no more we could do to be prepared. I went off to teach. We did the last swapping out of chairs and flicked the dust off the table. You won't believe the amount that collects overnight!

Then we waited...

In fairness to the student, she's Brazilian and it's almost cultural to arrive late and, again, in fairness to her, she apologised for being late. She wants a one month intensive, three times per week. She has no English at all. Tat will have to take this one on. She is delighted, naturally, except.... the student wants classes at 7:30am... not teen 'awake' time! My Portuguese was the subject of much hilarity during the interview *groan* In all, it went well. Now we need a few more like that : ) A large chunk of our students are stopping now for the mid-year holidays. Many of them may not return to class or they will return, but to other teachers.

If ever, then, there was a time to move forward and not make or accept excuses, now is it. This can work. It has to work. We're once again moving into a phase of big change. Once before, I worked for a school, then moved to private teaching. I can do that again. In fact, this time will be even better! Yes... it will.... right?


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Friday, 19 June 2009

The drag, the nose, and the economy

the nose
Not my photo ; )

As taken from my notebook... that which I can read, of course, as it was scrawled on the bus...

It's a beautiful day today. Clear blue skies; the only thing marring them being the ever-present grey city haze. The warm winterish sun is delightful, a playful breeze being the only reminder that it isn't high summer... that and the fact that most Brazilians around me are wrapped up like Eskimos. The temperature is a 'chilly' 20°C.

As the bus stop-started along Avenida Paulista, I was engaging in one of my favourite pastimes, people watching. It is a great area for strange sights, especially around Masp and today was no exception. Skipping along, blowing some sort of horn sounding like a sick duck, was a drag 'thing'. I didn't say 'queen' because he was making absolutely no attempt to look female other than in dress. His long, plastic Barbie hair lay glistening in a pinkish-blonde mass over his shoulders. His thin, hairy legs were encased in white stockings, topped by a chunky body in the proverbial 'little black dress', sporting enormous stuffed boobs. When he wasn't blowing his horn or shaking hands with onlookers, including two beaming hobos, he was doing a strange fluttering thing with his top lip. My imagination has failed... I can't describe it. It was really weird to watch.

The film crew, though, seemed more interested in the little guy and the tall guy. The tall guy was an ordinary Brazilian-looking chap, dressed in a black suit. It was the little guy who stole the show though. Picture a cross between a toucan and a vulture, his very large, sharp nose curving out from between tiny black eyes in his pale face. It was definitely the focal point of his face, almost, but not quite, obscuring  his toothy grin and deep, long dimples. A queer-looking fellow, to be sure. Oh, I called him the little guy, right? He was no taller than an average 7 year old boy! And skinny to boot. To add to the contrast with the tall guy, he was dressed in a white dinner jacket.

Aroun the outside of the Masp are some short concrete pillars to prevent cars entering. On a signal, the little guy and the tall guy wove in and out of the pillars, the little guy in the lead pretending to steer and doing the whole 3yr old "Vroom! Vroom" thing. Who knows what TV show this was for. I'm now not sure if I'm glad or disappointed that I don't have a TV. I think I'll stick with 'glad'.

My student was telling me today about how his CFO pays an exorbitant amount for a nanny for his kids, as the nanny needs to be able to speak English (the CFO is German). He laughingly asked why I don't do it. Why not? We then embarked on a lively discussion on the pros and cons of being a nanny. He decided that he couldn't do it. It all started with a discussion on being without an income, as apparently British Airways has asked their staff to work for 1 month without a salary. My student said he'd rather recycle cans, but that I was perfect for the job of nanny, as I could offer English lessons to the family at the same time. He wasn't keen on losing his teacher though. It was an interesting discussion though, as we spoke about what people do in different countries and cultures when forced by the economy to be without work or means to earn a living, as so many are doing now.

I'm off to bed now. I have a really early class tomorrow and my Monday Monsters have an extra class tomorrow afternoon. That should be fun  ; )


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Thursday, 18 June 2009


been better

Ugh… click on the image to see the legible version =/

That is the word I taught my student tonight... 'jinxed'.

My day started with Jorge powering on my pc and making coffee. Yes, I know I'm lucky and no, he's not for sale (though good offers will be considered). I went to my pc, only to find it dead as a doornail. I think I'm jinxed. Seems the socket it was using on the strip connector is faulty. Ok, so we sorted that out and powered on only to be told by a morbidly black screen that my slave drive is facing an imminent implosion or something to that effect and that I'd be wise to back up the contents. Huh?! *disconnects slave drive just in case* We powered the pc on again and all went well until I got my first post-format blue screen. Can you see now why I think I'm jinxed?

I had a new student to go to. He's a retired gentleman who travels the world. He wants to go to Turkey for his next trip. He asked for an American teacher and got me. Poor thing. By no stretch of anyone's imagination do I sound like an American. I consider my accent to be pretty neutral, but American it is definitely not. He raved about his previous teacher who has returned home to Delaware for the winter. Seems he spends summers in Brazil and winters in the USA... Brazilian winters, that is. He'll be back here in October. I got home to find that he wants to try a different teacher, as he has trouble with my accent. He also wears a hearing aid and I'm notoriously soft-spoken.

I left the old man to go to my next student. In the process, I learnt something about myself. At night, I lose all sense of direction in the city. I tend to go by landmarks. Landmarks in the city at night change dramatically! Google maps and my own map book told me to take the bus on a certain road. That bus does not go down that road. It took a song and dance to get 'bus info' to give me the correct directions. My cell phone battery died while trying to get directions, so I missed a call from my student saying "not to worry... let's have the class tomorrow instead". I eventually found my way to her. Note to self: those boots are danged uncomfortable. Do not wear them for more than a couple of hours!! I have blisters under the balls of my feet. It was a lot of walking.

In short, I arrived home after 11pm. Tonight, I give myself permission to be disgruntled. Tomorrow is a new, albeit long, day.

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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Third time lucky

This is the third time tonight I'm trying to get to post. Our ISP is playing mind games again. Most pages aren't loading. Shh... don't tell it I'm in!

A couple of weeks ago, I put an ad into our neighbourhood newspaper. I got one call from that ad, only to find later that the ad had no subject, just content and the content was misleading. There was a subject to my e-mail in which I gave the text for the ad. I wasn't terribly surprised, as the person I was communicating with got their banking details radically wrong and had typos all the way through her e-mail response. With trepidation, in case of further errors, I decided to take a full month's worth of ads in the same paper, starting this past weekend. The paper gets delivered to each household in the neighbourhood over the Friday/Saturday period. We saw no paper on either day. Yesterday, I asked around. Apparently no one received their paper. Let's just say I was a little agitated when I arrived home and asked Jorge to call their offices.

They confirmed that the newspaper was out with my ad in it. Apparently, because of last Thursday's public holiday, none of their delivery guys came to work over the weekend, so no one got the newspaper, but the paper was placed in stacks in strategic places. I don't know what their idea of strategic is, because I didn't see a single paper in the village. The big shot (don't know if he's the owner or manager) was very apologetic though and has given me an extra week's worth of advertising. That was nice of him, but he didn't stop there. He drove around to our place personally to give us a copy of the paper. Now that was really nice : )

My student today was talking about immigration. He said he thought he'd apply for the Diversity visa (Green card lottery). I said, "Why not?" and told him it is fairly easy to apply online. I explained the process as I've found it to be the last few years. He got happy and said he'd apply as soon as possible. A little further into the discussion, I mentioned the time period you have in which to immigrate. "What? I have to go to the US??" Uh.... well, isn't that what it is about? Apparently, he just wanted to apply for a Green card, so that he didn't have to apply for tourist visas and could just come and go as he pleased *sigh* He changed his mind when he heard he'd actually have to live there. That makes me wonder now how many other people apply with the same motive.

He then went on to tell me about a friend he has who went to the US illegally. Apparently, his whole family was over there and sent money to him to get in via the 'coyotes'. Coyotes? These are people who take the illegals across the border. He told the story of how his friend was on the boat crossing the river when one of his fellow passengers got sick. He tried to help the guy and the 'coyote' got mad at him. Eventually, the sick man either fell overboard or was tossed, so the rest of them could go on. This story made me sad. The people pay a fortune to get help getting into the country, only to be thrown aside if things get rough. Dispensable. I understand that a sick person would slow them all down, but it doesn't make it any better. Then there's all those who try so very hard to get in legally and get stonewalled at every turn. Did you know that 80% of Brazilians in the US are there illegally?

On computer news... we got my C drive working, but I'm making sure I'm well backed up just in case. We had to format twice, as the first reinstall went badly. Everything is running smoothly now.

I had a lot more to blog about, but you know how it goes... when a blog takes too long to get 'out there', you kinda lose that 'oomph'. I'm off to bully Tat into working out now. G'night all!

Repost from Y! - Feijoada

It's lovely and cool tonight. Tomorrow night I only get home at around 10pm, but I think that Thursday merits a pot of steaming feijoada (my style). I saw a post on 'not so Brazilian' rice and beans by another expat living here and decided to rescue this blog from the clutches of Yahoo. I'm sure I did bring it over to Multiply, but can't find it right now.

woodcollector statue

Tonight we had a typical Brazilian dish we, as a family, tend to reserve for cooler weather. Seeing as cooler weather isn't happening and Jorge was nagging, we had it anyway.

Feijoada is a dish that originated with the slaves here. The slave owners would give the slaves no good meat, only the offal... the pig's tails, ears, snouts, etc. With this meat, they were given beans... either black beans or sugar beans, as a cheap form of protein. From this comes one of Brazil's most well-known and well-loved dishes, best served with caipirinha.

Here is a recipe for feijoada I found online some time back when I was looking for 'the genuine article'. Few people make it with offal now. I personally wouldn't touch it made with the likes of ears and snouts. The main ingredients are salt beef, Italian sausage (calabresa), bacon and stewing beef... and of course the beans. The dish is meant to take up to 3 days to prepare, but I do it overnight. Its a dish designed to feed the entire extended family. We're only 3 people, so I scale it down drastically and we eat it over 2 to 3 days. Traditionally, Feijoada is served on a Wednesday and Saturday, regardless of the season or the temperature outside. How they can function on a hot day after eating a hot stew at noon is beyond me.

Don't let the very long process put you off if you want to try it. My quick way tastes just as good and I most Brazilians I have met do it the abbreviated way, which I posted below the main recipe.

1lb carne seca
1 smoked beef tongue (1 ¾lb)
1 salted pork rump (1 ¾lb)
1lb salted pork ribs
½lb salted slab bacon
1lb pig's trotters
½lb linguiça
½lb calabresa
2lb dried black or sugar beans
1 medium onion
4 bay leaves
1tblsp oil
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

Day 1:
In a large stock pot, add the carne seca, tongue, pork rump and ribs. Cover generously with water and stand for 24 hours, changing water once or twice. In another stockpot, add bacon and trotters. Cover with water, stand for 24 hours, changing water once or twice. In a large pot, combine beans and cold water; cover and set aside. Soak for a minimum of 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Day 2:
Take meat and beans out. Wash out the meat pots and add carne seca, tongue, ribs and trotters to one. Put pork rump in a separate pot. Cover meat in both pots and bring to boil - + 5 minutes. Remove meat, drain water and repeat the process 4 times. Boil bacon over high heat for 5 minutes in another pot. Drain and set aside. Prick sausages with a fork and set aside. Boil sausages separately. Reduce heat and simmer calabresa for 5 minutes and linguiça for 10 minutes. Remove sausages and drain water. Brown sausages on both sides. Drain the beans, add onion and bay leaves in a large pot. Cover with water by 8". Bring to boil; simmer covered for 1½ hours. Add bacon and continue cooking, covered, for 1½ hours.
(To test the readiness of the beans, remove one bean. Press with thumb onto a board and rub along. Bean should be smooth and pasty)
In a small skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic mixture, salt and pepper to beans. Add meat and sausage to beans. Bring to boil and simmer, partially covered for 1 - 1½ hours, stirring from time to time. Keep checking the liquid level - add boiling water as needed to keep level at 8". Remove meat from beans and cool. Cover separately and refrigerate.

Day 3:
Remove from fridge. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add beans and meat and enough cold water to cover by 8". Cove and bring mixture to a simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Cut meat onto serving dishes. Pour a cup or two of bean liquid over meat. Place beans in a large ceramic bowl and serve with rice.

Serves 15

My method? I presoak the sugar beans and salt beef (if I have it) overnight. In South Africa, I simply left the salt beef out. The next evening, I put the beans, stewing meat, calabresa (in SA, I chose Russian sausage as an equivalent. Any spicy sausage will do), and bacon in the pot. Season and cover with water. I use a pressure cooker, but I'm sure a slow cooker will work magic or you cook it for 3 hours. In the pressure cooker, I cook it for about an hour and a half. I then cook up some rice and serve the feijoada over the rice.

With supper filling our bellies, I fully expected to spend the evening relaxing, but Jorge decided he couldn't find his belt. We virtually emptied out the bedroom cupboard with no luck. Turns out, it was on the ironing board, under the hot water bottle, which is put there in the hopes of a night cold enough to warrant it.

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Saturday, 13 June 2009

A rainbow umbrella

Tat and I went in to town today to do a recording. I was grateful, as all my students had cancelled this week for one reason or another. Tat did a narrative on the internet. Mine was interesting, on Freud and the power of dreams and their place in the study of the human mind. What is the correct pronunciation for Freud anyway?

While in town, we saw a crowd around a trio electrico, a huge truck with mega sound systems from which performers play. It was a forerunner to tomorrow's gay parade, rather ironical right after Brazil's version of Valentine's day, Dia dos Namorados. The place was cluttered with gays of all kinds. They were selling rainbow wrist bands, rainbow ties, rainbow everything. I sooo want one of those rainbow umbrellas!!

Note, the photos aren't mine. They were found on random blogs. If I could give credit, I would. The top one is particularly lovely. Which brings me back to my next gripe... my C drive is once again being formatted. It seems my boot sector is damaged. I was fine until I powered off and wanted to turn the pc on this morning *sigh*

Getting back to gay umbrellas... can someone tell me why they get all the colour? If I bought one and actually used it, I'd be labelled as gay. That is so not fair. Bearing in mind, we are living in what is known as the gay capital of Latin America or something to that effect. They're shutting off one of São Paulo's main business districts' roads for their parade tomorrow. Tat said we should go... just for fun... with the camera, but then, I don't want to take the camera into town without my body guard, who, incidentally, won't be caught within a thousand miles of anything remotely gay. I just can't win.