Monday, December 12, 2005

Santos!

Foolz and I took a day trip yesterday (Sunday) to Santos, a beach town about an hour outside of São Paulo. We took a bus, it was easy as pie and only $7 US each way. Santos, it turns out, is like the opposite of São Paulo -- it is simple, small, and quite beautiful. It is sort of a delapidated little city -- it kinda reminded me of Valparaíso in Chile, and a little bit of Havana as well. There was a lot of peeling colonial architecture and tight streets, which gave me deja-vu of Centro Habana.

Anyway, it was raining the whole day, so we just ate lunch in a cutesy Italian place that was showing "Home Alone 2" on TV, walked around a bit, looked at the beach (which had a lot of potential, if the weather had been nice), then got on a public bus that just happened to go everywhere in the city, including the creepy shipyards and loading docks that cover like 1/4 of the town. Overall, a nice day, and very nice to get out of the city. I love São Paulo like a brother and all, but it's good to change things up every once in a while.

This is the official Santos website: http://www.santosbrasil.com.br/ If you click on it, you'll see that the city focuses on shipping. And boy, do they have some shipyards there. I am telling you.

uniformly unflattering pics and stuuufff





Boat party!!!

COpa, copacabAna!

My email describing my Thanksgiving trip to Wee-oh:

Hello my long lost friends and family --

It's been, what, WEEKS since I last regaled you with tales from the southern hemisphere... since I took a week off work for vacay in Rio, I might as well fill you all in on that trip. Let me just start with last Friday (not the movie!!!!) and go from there.

Last Friday, Clifford Chance hosted something called a Latin America Alumni dinner, supposedly for people who had at one point worked for Clifford Chance in São Paulo, and for other people from the New York office who seemed to have little or no connection to Latin America whatsoever. It was held at Figueira Baby Beef Rubiyat, which is supposed to be "the best restaurant in São Paulo..." That is quite a claim, seeing as I think every kiosk selling fried balls of dough in this city is the best food I have ever had in my life. It was a bit unclear whether I was actually invited to this dinner, since I received an email invite at one point, and then was verbally disinvited by Stephen, the partner, then RE-invited like 15 minutes later by the same. But I showed up anyway, with Julia in tow. We got there just in time for cocktails and peanuts, then were whisked to a lavish and delicious dinner with centerpieces made out of flat bread and topiary constructed out of parsley and stuff. Since this was a hob-nobbing, socializing-with-bigwigs type function for me, I wanted to impress, especially because I was seated next to one of the new partners in the firm. So, I made sure to spill red wine all over the table and on my white pants, make a scene, then spend a good 20 minutes scrubbing ineffectively at my crotch with a brush and some white powder, while muttering obscenities under my breath. I also used that time-tested remedy of dumping loads of sparkling water into my lap, because that worked so well the last time I emptied a glass of wine onto my white pants at a nice dinner in South America (Bing Dinner, 2003, Santiago, Chile).

Soooo, that was embarrassing, but pretty soon everyone was drunk so it didn't matter. Afterwards, all the old fogies wanted to go clubbing, but mercifully that (clearly ill-fated) plan ended up getting vetoed, and Julia and I ended up with two partners from the NY office, Jaime, and two other NY lawyers at a bar in this super swanky hotel near the restaurant. THEN, somehow, it was 4 am and I still hadn't packed for Rio... uhhhh... so when the cab driver called at 4:40 to take us to the bus station, neither of us were feeling on the tip top of our game, but we sucked it up and got on the bus.

So, we started off our trip in Rio sort of on the hungover foot, but things got better. We stayed at the new-and-improved Che Lagarto hostel in Ipanema, which now sports marble floors, air conditioning (!!!!), bathrooms for each room, a bar (the cleverly named "Bar Code") and a "chill-out room," which was always deserted, even though Julia and I dutifully checked it out every day for signs of chillage-outtage. Foolz and I were determined that this time in Rio, we were going to partake in activities other than drinking rum and going shopping (not simulataneously, those were two separate and equally demanding activities for us two years ago). In the spirit of adventure, we signed up to go on a "boat party," knowing only that there would be a boat, free food, and possibly other people. Turns out there WERE other people, a boatload (har har) from two other hostels in Rio, the seedier Che Lagarto Copacabana and the Mello-Yello. We quickly made friends with all the desirable males on the boat, ate lots of sandwiches and little hot dogs, and danced to "pump up the jam." It was so fun!!

Some of the kids we met on the boat were American and we ended up meeting up with them later for Thanksgiving and stuff. It was great. I also befriended some English blokes from Southhampton, one of whom was covered in a layer of sunscreen so thick you could only see his eyes. Do bottles of sunscreen in the UK not advise people to rub it in, or is this an English fashion statement, or what? I'm just wondering. By the way, I am allowed to say that now since I am employed by a British corporation -- I practically have dual citizenship. Anyway the guys were cool -- well, not really, but one of them was hot -- and we ended up meeting up with them later too. I'll get to that.



On our fourth day there, Pat (Julia's namorado from Nova Iorque) showed up and we upgraded to the Atlantis Hotel in Copacabana. There were some minor plumbing issues (like when I turned on the sink and water started shooting out of a pipe in the floor) but it was very nice, plus we got to catch America's Next Top Model, so it was totes worth it. With Pat, we did some real sightseeing -- we went to the Cristo statue, which was really impressive, and also embarked on a long and circuitious journey to the Vista Chinesa ('the Chinese view') that my friend Mariana had recommended. I think we saw every inch of jungle that Rio has to offer on our way to this vista...at one point I was pretty sure we were going to get eaten by those creepy little monkeys with the pug faces that were watching our cab hungrily from the trees. But, afte r an hour of aimless driving, we got there, took a few pictures, and left. Sightseeing in a nutshell. We also ate at two churrascarias, one of them on Thanksgiving night -- delicious -- and partook in some "local cuisine." At one place, Pat ordered chicken and rice and ended up with chicken HEARTS AND LIVERS and rice. I, like a damned fool, ate some of it. God only knows what kind of innards-born bird flu strains I exposed myself to, but, whatevz, a girl's gotta eat.

On our last night in Rio, we went to Lapa (scene of the Alex 'Rats 'n Cats' Bleyleben comment, "what, one gunshot and you guys get scared?") with some Americans and met up with the British lads -- sunscreen boy, some kid who looked like a plump version of Jamie Oliver, and Steve, who had dazzling green eyes. DAZZLING. I tried to stare into those eyes and block out the majority of what Steve and his mates said, because it was about 90% moronic and foul, but it didn't really work...they ended up coming with us to a club in a strip mall somewhere but then Steve couldn't get in because he was wearing flip flops (and $300 diesel jeans, as he pointed out). I was like, OK, see ya! and went in. I felt bad the next morning when he called to apologize for not getting in and said he tried to go back and "put on some trainers," but by then it was too late. Awwww, I love British people. I am allowed to say that, too, since i am like half British now.

Sooooo, that was Rio, in brief. We came back Saturday evening, went to a decidedly non-lively party, then spent Sunday looking around São Paulo. We went to brunch in Moema, to the Parque Ibirapuera, on to Liberdade (Asian section of town) to peruse the extensive Hello Kitty jewelry and incense selections, then to Centro, for another market. I got some "real Chanel" sunglasses for US $10. Chanel pastes on their logo sort of sideways, right? Right?? Isn't that how you know it's real?... anyway, after that we went back to Moema, rested, then went to the Unique (where else) for drinks. I love the Unique and I LOVE those Japanese peanuts they serve. I could eat those all night.

So now I am back at work, and seeing as I just took a good half hour to write this email, it's safe to say that I have nothing to do. Foolz and Pat are in Buenos for this week, then F. is coming back to SP for another (final) week. I am already missing her -- I have gotten used to having a roommate. We're practically married now -- we sleep in a double bed with matching endtables and do crosswords together on the couch at night. I make dinner, she does the groceries. I am definitely the breadwinner in the relationship, although she does have her adorable "volunteer work."

Well I think this email might be violating some sort of law for being too long and in a cutesy font, so I am going to stop. Write back soon you pug-faced monkeys!!

Love, Etefi

P.S. my white pants are ok!!!!!!!!!! God bless the ladies who do my laundry, they are miracle workers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

being open about being lazy

So now that I am out in the open about how much I suck at blogging, I figure I will stop trying to be clever and sneaky and will just post the emails I write to friends/family as-is. No strings attached. A more honest, albeit half-assed blog. At least you'll know what's going on in my life. Here goes!

Hi all --

Apologies for my slackishness in writing group emails lately, but, ya know, merda happens. Sooooo since it's been like three years since I last wrote, I won't even attempt to update all of you on what I have done/seen/eaten lately, because I honestly can't remember. Life is such a whirlwind. Instead, I'll fill you in on some of the big things that have happened, IN CONVENiENT LIST FORMAT!!

1. I got a raise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! now I am making enough to keep me out of favela range, but still not enough to pay for my sandal habit. regrettably, i have stopped shopping here altogether, not because I can't afford it (which I can't, duh), but because I absolutely hate it. See number 2, below.

2. I have developed Shopping Social Anxiety Disorder. you know those commercials for social anxiety disorder meds (anti-psychotics or whatever they are) that show some poor person paralyzed with fear and stress at the prospect of dealing with some basic social interaction? We all know the symptoms -- nausea, hot sweats, cold sweats, fingernail sensitivity. Well, i FINALLY understand what those people are going through because the malls here inspire in me an acute case social anxiety disorder. The problem is that in Brazil, all the salespeople work on commission and they mercilessly HARASS you, the shopper. It's not like in the US when you go into a department store and an overeager salesperson tries to sell you that waterproofing stuff for your shoes at the checkout --- NO. This is like, fullblown, all-or-nothing retail harassment. Here's how it goes -- you walk in to the store, and three girls immediately surround you. Even if you say you're just looking and avert your eyes, they trail you around the store, either wordlessly breathing down your neck or else offering sizes, colors, fabrics, etc., all of which are ugly and not what you want. Then, once you escape into the dressing room, they practically crawl under the door to see how you're doing, whilst plying you with piles of (unrequested) tackiness, usually t-shirts with nonsensical English phrases on them ("Be Princess -- Lover" or "Las Vegas Rock Down" or something equally inane). Oh it's awful, it stresses me out so much. Plus, there are stores (usually shoe and jewelry shops) where you aren't even allowed to get the merchandise yourself, you're forced to ask a salesperson to get it for you, even when the item you want to look at is cheap and ugly and not worth putting behind a protective glass barrier. ANYWAY, long story short, I hate shopping in Brazil, and I think I need to be heavily medicated to be able to do it without freaking out.

3. I have turned into a real clubber. Remember that movie club kids? yeah, me neither. Anyway, I have become really good at partying, my stamina is unbelievable. Coming home at 5 or 6 AM is now de rigeur (is that French?) for my weekends. I am very proud of myself, clearly. Plus, I have learned to steer clear of bad clubs like Lov.e that promote ear drum bleeding and only go for fun places with a reasonable Destiny's Child certainty. Oh and I made friends with this DJ who now emails me like every 13 hours to see how I am doing (ummmm), but maybe I can milk that somehow into him letting me into clubs for free. Or maybe I will just leave that alone.

4. Julia is coming down for 6 weeks!!!!!!!!!! so egg-citing I can't handle it. I already called the Che Lagahto and told them to reserve the tennis court and book us for a spa day WITH seaweed masks.

5. 'Rents are coming for Christmas. Yippee!

6. Guess that's about it. Work is same ol. Everything else is good. I am turning 23 in a few days, which is frightening.

beijos, Etefi

So that was my email. Not too much else to add. I suppose I could write about my weekend. Well let's see here. Friday was a thunderstorm so I stayed in and chatted with my parents on the phone. Saturday I bummed around during the day, and at night went to a club in Jardins called Nasty. And it wasn't just a clever name. At around 2 am when I realized my cute (absorbent) wedges were slowly soaking up a mixture of other people's beer, sweat and barf, I decided to call it a night and went home. Yucksters. Sunday I cooked, went grocery shopping, and went and saw the movie The Constant Gardner (o Jardineiro Fiel), with sad-eyed Ralph Fiennes. Wait, was it Ralph or the other one...? Which one was the Nazi in Schindler's list? There are two Fiennes, right? Anyway, this one was mournful with his sad eyes for the entire movie. The film was pretty good --- kinda long, kinda preachy, but I dug the beautiful Africa scenes and the plotline about evil pharmaceutical companies. I topped off my night with my normal dose of TV (Law and ORder SVU, Supernanny and Life as We Know It) and crosswords, and went to bed. My life is thrilling. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

day in the life

Oh man I am SOOOO bad at blogging. Part of it is laziness. Part of it is that all of the buttons are in Portuguese... "Salvar como rascunho," etc., and I am using that as an even lamer excuse. Sorry to disappoint. But let's be real... all this blog ever was was me cutting and pasting group emails that I wrote home to friends. My blog was a cheap impostor of a blog. But I will try to be better. Let's see, I can recap today, which was a Typically Brazilian day in the life...

7am: wake up. watch first 10 minutes of The Wonder Years (os anos increveis!!) on tv, which has become a cherished morning ritual
7:15 am: take a cab to the Academia Reebok...
7:30 am: lift weights (kinda), bike, look at the gente bonita barely breaking a sweat as they vigorously pose for each other in the mirrors
8:30 am: shower, fight for mirror space in the locker room
9:00 am: take cab to Petrobras offices of Sao Paulo, 30 min. away
9:05 am: hit up the Petrobras free cappuccino machine!! highlight of the day...
9:06 to 4 pm: do tedious work in Petrobras
4:oo to 4:25: wait for cab driver to show up... am disappointed that he actually looks mentally ill when he does finally appear, 25 minutes late, because it means i can't stay mad at him
5:00: arrive back at Clifford Chance to fill out forms to renew my visa
5:00 to 5:42: while waiting with dread for supervisor to give me work, do a little bit of blogging. ohhhh so bad. this is NOT going on my time sheet, by the way.

So yeah. that's that. Of course, life has generally been more exciting than that, especially on the weekends, but, you know, work is hell.

Ok, I think I have fulfilled my blogging obligation for the next month or so. Done and done!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fun With Bullets


Oi gente...

If I were to put the events of the last week or so into convenient bullet format in which I refer to myself only in the third person, it would go something like this:
Vicky and Matthew leave --> Stephanie sinks into deep depression, tearing up at the sight of the McDonalds ChocoMac Branco machine that she and V. used to frequent on their many trips to the mall
Stephanie stays depressed and mopes around her flat for a weekend, rousing herself only to go shopping
Nathan arrives, is okay, Stephanie guesses.
Brazilian independence Day comes, Stephanie goes clubbing until 5, receiving complimentary glowsticks and balloons at club
Dwight makes an impromptu balloon animal in the club that is frankly amazing, only Stephanie notices
Dwight and Stephanie freak out every time any of the following music comes on:
J Lo
50 cent
lil kim
Britney
the Killers!!!
Destiny's Child (didn't come on, but suffice to say Stephanie WOULD freak out if it had)
Brazilians freak out whenever any of the following music comes on:
boring samba
confusing songs involving choreographed hand motions (brazilian hand jive?)
bad techno
bad Brazilian rap
bad disco
Nathan freaks Stephanie's Portuguese teacher AND her surly friend
Stephanie has a boring week at work, but thank God for Brazilian independence day
Stephanie buys SWEET puma shoes -- black and silver and light as a freakin feather
S, N, Ana Carolina meet up with Mariana and her friend Daniel to indulge in ALL YOU CAN EAT PIZZA, including pizza with dulce de leche and bananas, and chocolate pizza covered with sprinkles and coconut. oh yes.
Stephanie loves this freakin country
Phil (new trainee, Irish) arrives, is pretty cool, Stephanie guesses
Stephanie, Phil, Nathan go to Hotel Unique, eat peanuts, drink alcohol
S, P, N meet up with Dwight, eat unlimited meat and palm hearts from the salad bar at churrascaria
P, N, S continue on to Vegas, club that includes an ugly dancing transvestite and bad music, PLUS they give you dirty Asian porn playing cards as tickets to get in the door. "No thanks," Stephanie tries to say, but to no avail
DJ at Vegas ignores Stephanie's request for either Destiny's Child or the Killers
bad techno ensues
Stephanie goes to bed at 5, drags lazy ass out of bed at noon
work week begins anew
Stephanie has nothing to do and teaches herself all tenses of the subjunctive in Portuguese. Otimo!
Stephanie writes email referring to herself in 3rd person, feels oddly liberated
Aaaand that is the email for this week. A lot shorter, a lot quicker, and you get the idea. I guess my only additional comment would be that I am slowly pulling myself out of the dumps after Vicky's departure. I miss her SO MUCH, and I am just now realizing how much it is going to suck not to have a good girl friend around, although I have started to hang out more with Mariana (who is awesome but really busy with school) and Ana Carolina, a girl from work. Yay for females. Don't get me wrong, Nathan and Phil seem cool and they definitely know how to have a good time, but something tells me that they won't be jumping at the opportunity to go on manicure/ice cream dates with me. So, I guess this a learning experience in male bonding for me. I have already embraced the world of all-you-can-eat pizza and meat, so this shouldn't be too difficult.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Typically Brazilian

So, a quick update on this week...

I spent Tues - Thurs working at the São Paulo offices of Petrobras, in a room that was so cold I lost circulation in my hands and feet, and could almost see my breath in front of me. On the upside, I got free cake from a lady's birthday on Wednesday, and a chocolate from another birthday on Thursday, so I guess a little frostbite is worth it. Despite the tundra-like conditions, the Petrobras offices are nice because a) they have free cappuccino/hot chocolate/espresso machines and b) everyone leaves at 5:30 because the building locks down at 6:30. If our office locked down at 6:30, everyone would just have to spend the night, because no one ever leaves that early at Clifford Chance. The idea!

Last night I went to the symphony, which was in a gorgeous, gorgeous room in a building that used to be the train station. It's in sort of a bad neighborhood -- and by sort of, I mean REALLY, but the place is really swanky. The symphony hall is decorated in blond wood, with black walls and white pillars, and has a ceiling made up of pale wooden squares that move to optimize the acoustic environment. Amazing.

The music was lovely, although I started to drift off after the intermission since I am not used to being awake past 10 pm on weeknights. Ah, the working world takes quite a toll on me.

In other news, this is my work friends' last week in SP before they go traveling and then head back to London, so we have been trying to make the most of it. On Monday night we went out to dinner at the shocking hour of 10:30 pm and had to wait for a table. South America kills me. The restaurant, Spot, was really good -- yummy, light food and good wine. I definitely recommend it. This weekend I think we will try to do some sort of celebratory blow-out for M and V, it should be fun.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Life is still good here in SP. Since it's been over a week since I last updated, I can't really remember all the stuff I did. Rest assured it was all typically Brazilian. Ummm, what I do remember is that Wednesday and Thursday I went to Rio again, and it was lovely, despite the fact that I was caged up in Petrobras again for the whole two days. This time I noticed that not only are female Petrobras receptionists forced to wear blue and green polyester suits that look like they were lovingly preserved in a time capsule since 1974, they are mandated to wear either blue or green eyeshadow (LIBERALLY APPLIED). Wish I was kidding, buuuuut I'm not. Keep in mind that this is the country in which a popular airline (TAM) came up with the idea a few months ago that all its employees should wear flowing red capes. It goes along with the whole "flying" theme, I guess.

So, yes, Rio was super nice, as always. We stayed in the Pestana again and got our lovely free caiprinhas on the rooftop bar, and we also went to this amazing Lebanese restaurant called Amir in Copacabana. OH, and on a completely random note, and I had this revelation when I went for a walk on the beach Thursday morning. I saw this guy attempting to do some fancy footwork on the beach, kind of running sideways and crossing one foot behind the other, just like what my cross-country team used to do for warmup. Back in Ernest W. Seaholm High, we called that move "karioka," which I always assumed was a Michigan-ized bastardization of the word "karaoke," although why we would name a running exercise after a campy (and addictive!) form of entertainment imported from Japan is anyone's guess. BUT ANYWAY, I saw this guy doing karioka, and I was like, wait a minute, KARIOKA = CARIOCA, which is what people from Rio are called!!!!! It was like my whole life suddenly made sense.


Acouple other things I have done in the past week in a half that bear mentioning: I went to the Mercado Municipal, where they sell every kind of food imaginable (and whole pigs strung up by their noses), took several thrilling bus rides (like a rollercoaster ride without the hassle of safety restraints), toured another mall of São Paulo (Shopping Ibirapuera), went to an Argentine steakhouse (omg, amazing), went to a terrible, terrible club called Soul Sister, twice, even though it was awful both times, met up with another Stanny kid who is down here, went to Parque Ibirapuera like a million times, finally got over my fear and met with a personal trainer at Reebok to start lifting weights like a pro, and received my first gas bill!!! Oh yeah and in Rio I saw a sandcastle in the shape of a bunch of women bending over, with real thongs built into the sand. You have to admire the workmanship, if nothing else.

So that's that. In other news, my friends Matthew and Vicky are in their second-to-last week of work here before leaving to go back to CC in London and I am bummed. But two new trainees are coming in and they are rumored to be really fun, so all is well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Stephanie Goes to Work

.... me going to work is like Ernest going to camp -- hilarious pickles abound! Except it was more hilarious when Ernest went to camp, and more crippingly tedious when I went to work. But, you know, still similar.

I went to Rio for Thursday and Friday, which was actually nice b/c the Clifford Chance office there looks out on a tiny sliver of beautiful blue ocean. However I spent most of my day in the offices of Petrobras, the state-owned oil and natural gas monopoly, whose offices are perhaps the Most Depressing Offices Ever, underscored by the fact that they are just footsteps from the fabulous beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Yeah, Petrobras had it all -- employees in hideous green and blue polyester uniforms and/or grossly inappropriate streetclothes with exposed midriffs/buttcracks, buzzing neon lights, fake plants, cubicles as far as the eye can see, and a sad little man who wheels around a cart of espresso every 4 minutes. The coffee man was perhaps the saddest. Anyway, after V. and I spent all day Thursday laboring away, we got to retire to our Fabulous (capital F) hotel, the Pestana Rio Atlantica in Copacabana.



Ummmm let it be known that I have never stayed in such a posh hotel, EVER. It was magical. However, I still hold a special place in my heart for the Che Lagarto, dahling, the sweaty-ass (wonderful!) hostel we stayed in last time I was in Rio. I remember it fondly.

After Rio, I came back to SP for the weekend. Friday it was this kid from work's bday, so we went to a bar that also serves meat, which really is all you can ask for in life. Copious amounts of chopp (pronounced "shope-ee" for those of you boning up on your Portuguese alcohol vocabulary words) were consumed, and by 1 am I was so tired I decided to "sack it in" as the Brits say and go home. I later got a call at 2 am or so from a Stanford kid who is down here, noting that I obviously hadn't yet adjusted to the São Paulo lifestyle of "partying till you drop dead." All in good time.

Saturday, I went to the Afro-Brazilian culture museum in Iberapuera Park, which was an odd mix of art by Afro-Brazilians and historical displays about important Afro-Brazilians. There were also some decidedly phallic sculptures (what museum would be complete without them) and a section of religious art in which everyone pictured was white. Go figure. It was a nice museum though and I enjoyed seeing the photography on display.

That night, V. and I went out to dinner. We wanted to go to this Thai restaurant called Sutra, which my Fodor\'s guide promised had a real coconut tree growing in the middle of the restaurant, but when we got there, the restaurant had apparently burned down in a tragic curry powder accident, because it wasn't where freakin' Fodor's promised it would be. So, we decided to go to a backup Thai restaurant, from another guidebook, which, alas, was also non-existent. I will never trust Fodor's again, and I am considering writing a strongly-worded letter to their editor, that assface. So that sucked. But it was okay, because we ended up at this Italian cantina which turned out to be good -- and they gave us free garlic bread! We ate a crapload of lasagna and then met up with Mariana, John's friend who I am shamelessly usurping. She is from SP and really knows what's up in the city. V, M, and I went to a bar and listened to a stupendous band that actually did GREAT covers of songs. They were like the other cover band's non-sucky twins. Eventually Mariana's boyfriend and two of his friends showed up (before the friends came, she said, "only one of them speaks English, and only one of them is cute"), but by that time the gringas were tuckering out, so we went home unfashionably early. I hope this doesn't become a trend...

Sunday I went to Iberapuera park to run with V., then we caught a bus to Liberdade, the China/Japantown section of town. São Paulo has tons of Japanese people but apparantly they don't have their own section, because Liberdade was sort of an amalgamation of Chinese and Japanese kitsch in every direction. Every Sunday they have a little market with lots of tacky stuff -- doilies with Chinese characters and neon sand paintings and such -- but it's horrendously tacky in a fun way. They also have this outdoor food section that specializes in fried dumplings, fried meat, fried noodles, fried veggies, fried shrimp, etc. I looked at the milieu -- people standing up and shoveling food into their mouths with chopsticks and sneezing on the spits of meat, etc. -- and decided that if I was going to get food poisoning in Brazil, I was probably going to get it at that market, so I opted out and we ate at a Japanese place instead. It was one of those Japanese places where you have to sit on the ground on little pillows, which at first seems cute, but once your legs have gone numb, seems torturous and cruel. After that ordeal, we walked around the market a bit more then caught the sketchy bus home to Moema. Use your imagination.

Sunday night I got a real treat -- I got to go to a two-year-old's birthday party, which was bigger and more elaborate than any party I have ever had. In Brazil, they really go all out for kids' birthdays, and this was no exception. There was a huge cake, a full bar, tons of people, and a bounce-house for the kids -- sooo tempting, by the way. I am really glad I went because I got to talk to a lot of people in the family, and this family is really wonderful. They are Jaime's adopted Brazilian family, and they seemed to suggest that they had no problem adopting me, too. I think it's important to have a surrogate family in every country one travels to, which may seem unrealistic, but I am going to try. These people were super nice and complimented me on my Portuguese, which really helped my self-esteem. Good times all around.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Living the Top Life

Hi everyone --

So the big news for the past week is that I finally got my own place. It's a small flat in a building called Moema Top Life (pronounced Top-ee Life-ee in Portuguese), and it looks like a little hotel room. I have a tiny fridge, tiny tv (with tiny cable), tiny balcony, tiny stove with tiny burners -- the tininess is fine for what I need though. The building is nice -- it has a pool, a mini gym, a sauna (sketchy?), a bball court, a restaurant, and a lounge. Plus it includes maid service, which is kind of a weird thing to adjust to. I come home and the plate that I left in the sink is washed and put away. Spooky.

Work has changed somewhat for me, as I now actually have things to do. My first week was largely spent reading celebrity gossip on msn.com and making minute changes to my facebook profile, but now I am really busy. In fact, on Friday I was at work from 9 to 8:30, which sucked, and I was busy the whole time. My job involves a lot of shuffling and editing of documents, so it can get sort of tedious. On the upside, I'm learning tons about law, finance, business, etc., and I think it's going to help me a lot when I get to law school. On another upside, I get to go to Rio on Thursday (or so I am told) to make copies of documents. I mean, some people go for the beaches, I go for the xeroxing. It's AMAZING. I only get to go for the day, but it's cool to get to travel to Rio on business. On business! Hehe. I love saying that.

This weekend was pretty fun, as well. Matthew was out of town for a beach vacation with some friends from home, so I hung out with Vicky and her friends from the UK, who were also visiting SP for the weekend. We went out to dinner with them Friday and Saturday (Italian and sushi) which was nice, and then on Sunday I finally got to visit one of São Paulo's many malls. This one is called Shopping Morumbi, and it is a three-story monstrosity with lots of tacky clothes. I guess some of the other malls have more upmarket faire, but Morumbi, not so much. They had a bargain-basement version of my favorite store outside of the U.S., Zara, which was one small room of discounted, ugly piles of lycra shirts and candy-striped skirts. Anyway it was nice finally getting a taste of the SP consumer culture, aaaah how I missed shopping. After the mall, I came home and watched cable TV, which really is wonderful. I esp. like watching Extreme Makeover with Portuguese narration. Wonderful.

Other than work and home, I continue to spend time at my gym, the fabulous Academia Reebok. I tried Spinning (or the wacky Brazilian version thereof) last week, and it was, as expected, nutsy. First of all, when I walked into the studio, I immediately got whacked in the head with the large screen that was descending from the ceiling, so THAT was embarrassing. Secondly, the class consisted mostly of crazy disco lights, weird DVDs of Ian Van Dahl concerts, and a muscle-y Brazilian teacher who gave no instructions but would occasionally bark stuff like, "Mais," (more) and "Isso" (that's it). Really helpful. He paled in comparison to my Chilean spinning instructor, the fabulous Fernanda, who really cared about the sport -- and, dare I say, art -- of Spinning. Another thing about the class was that i was the only one NOT wearing black. I showed up in my bright pink shirt (and black shorts) and stuck out like an American sore thumb. Apparently I missed the memo on wearing all black that day -- it was like a freaking Spinning funeral. So I have found yet another way to stand out as a foreigner at the gym, but I continue to stand firm in my refusal to wear Spandex and boob-popping bras to the gym. Sorry.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Don't Let This Be Me

tee hee!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Cover Bands and Caipirinhas

My first weekend in São Paulo was... insane. On many levels. Let me give you a rundown of what went on....

Friday:

After work, I went with the Brits (Matthew, Vicky, Martin) and a Brazilian (Paola) to this Irish pub near our office to hear this band that Paola had been raving about. She said it was her favorite band, they were SO great, they practically brought tears to her eyes, etc. Long story short, they were horrifically, scarily bad. I don´t think they meant to be ironic when they stood up there in tight white jeans and did Spice Girls and Cher ballads. We all pretended to like them for Paola´s sake, and sung along with their uplifting rendition of Whitney Houston´s "it´s not right, but it´s okay," but holy shit.

Saturday:

The highlight of the day was seeing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (NOT DUBBED thank the Lord), which was great. I was skeptical going into it, wasn´t sure how I felt about remaking a modern American classic, ya know, but I loved it. Afterwards we went to this pizza place in Jardins (a really cool area of town), and ate tons of delicious pizza for practically nothing. After dessert and coffee, Vicky suggested we go somewhere for a glass of wine. We ended up at the place next door, which appeared at first glance to be a furniture store, but was actually a bar. What a happy discovery -- this place was a hidden gem! Five bottles of (excellent Chilean) wine later, we were having a GREAT time, as the other patrons of the bar looked on in horror. I think there were several things going on -- first, we were a good 20 years younger than the average patron of this establishment, which was surprising, since it was such a cool bar and played such great music. (They even had a DJ upstairs who took requests!!! I requested Destiny´s Child, obviously...) Second, it was some lady´s birthday, and we were inadvertently crashing the party, even though we had been there since 9 pm, before the party started. At least I had the good sense to turn down the piece of cake that was reluctantly offered to me, but to be honest, it was because I was too busy dancing and not out of any sort of courtesy to the poor woman whose birthday it was. Oh man...it was an epic night, to say the least. We left at 3, which was ridiculous in itself since we had walked in at 9 intending to have a glass of wine each and then go home to bed.

Sunday:

I had to force myself out of bed at 12:15, just because I knew if I didn´t get up then, I´d languish in bed all day. Yes, languish. I met up with V, and later M, in the Parque Iberapuera, which is full of bikers, runners, walkers, dogs, children, couples making out, middle schoolers, soccer players, and doofy foreigners like us.



It reminded me a bit of Stanford, what with the reckless, free-for-all biking going on.
The three of us felt like death warmed over and it was good to be out in the air. We did a couple laps of the park and took in the scene. It´s a pretty cool place -- really huge, with a lake, a gym, a museum, etc. Kinda like a dirtier version of Golden Gate park, if you can imagine such a thing, with fried food vendors and women in Spandex everywhere. Speaking of which, Brazilian women are like Chilean women in that they insist on wearing really unflattering, tight-ass Spandex pants instead of shorts, no matter how hot it is or how bad they look. I refuse to buy into the Pants-to-work-out philosophy and wear shorts, even though I am the only female probably on this side of the equator who does, but whatever. Brazilians also wear these itsy-bitsy sports bras that look like bikini tops -- NO support whatsoever. But I digress. So, after walking around, we went to lunch at this place where everyone checks everyone else out while eating lunch. I guess people dress to impress to come to this place, even though it´s just a regular café, but MAN, I saw some weird outfits. Just plain odd. After gawking at all the fashion disasters, I walked back to Jaime´s house and was delighted to find my boyfriend, Alexandre Pires (see photo), performing on a show called Domingo Legal. I LOVE HIM. So that was good.

Today:

I went to my FABULOUS gym, Reebok, which is so nice I don´t even feel like I deserve to belong there. Besides having awesome facilities, it has a L´Occitane de provençe (or however it´s spelled), a Redken salon, a dry cleaner, a gourmet restaurant, a spa, and free internet access. It's ridiculous! Apparently there are only 5 of these, one in NYC, one in London, Paris, Madrid, etc. Anyway it´s amazing, quite an upgrade from the Page Mill YMCA.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Getting Lost

I knew it would happen sooner or later... I guess I just didn´t expect to get lost on my 3rd day here. This morning I decided to try to save on cab fare by walking to work -- it seemed like a simple enough journey in the car ride home last night. I knew that I had to look for a street called (Someone) Cardoso and follow it all the way till it intersected with the street the office is on, Rua Helena. However, what I didn´t realize was that there are TWO ruas named Cardoso (Someone Cardoso and Someone Else Cardoso), and they run in opposite directions. I was wandering around looking for the right Cardoso, and I asked two women if they knew where it was, and they told me that they had never heard of it. Not a good sign. Then I asked a taxi driver who also didn´t know, but tried to explain to me how to get to Rua Helena another way. I knew that if I tried to walk, not only would I probably get lost again, I´d show up late for work, so I decided to throw in the towel and take the cab. Dang! Anyway, I got to work and everything was gravy, but that was frustrating.

In other news, I had my first São Paulo sushi experience last night and was not disappointed. After work around 7:30 or so, some people from the office went to a restaurant called Hazan sushi. The outside of the building was reddish-pink stone, and the inside was dramatically lit with purple stone walls. Classy. We ordered the all-you-can-eat option, which for us was a huge boat of sushi that took up the entire table. All the fish was really fresh and delicious, plus the dinner included ice cream, so that´s a bonus. I found it interesting (but not surprising) that when we left at 9:15 or so, the restaurant was just starting to fill up. How I love being an unfashionably early, gringo eater.

Another side note --- all the Brazilian couples in the restaurant were making out like there was no tomorrow. I hate gross PDAs, especially around food, ESPECIALLY around raw fish. Ugh, welcome back to Latin America, Stephanie.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

In Brazil for real


Well, here I am in my office -- that´s right, I have my own little escritorinho, if that´s a word -- after my second day of work at Clifford Chance, São Paulo. So far, so good.

First things first -- the city. SP, as promised, is gigantic and sprawling. Driving from the airport to Jaime´s apartment, the city reminded me a bit of a wintry version of Havana, but I think that´s just because it has roundabouts and ugly public artwork. There are a lot of skyscrapers, tinted glass windows, and halfhearted palm trees throughout. The neighborhoods, as I predicted, range from gritty and depressing to carefully manicured and cutesie. I happen to be staying in one of the tony neighborhoods, Vila Nova Conceição, which is chock full of ritzy boutiques, hair salons, restaurants, and apartment complexes. For the time being, I´m staying in Jaime´s apartment, until he gets back on Monday and I get a flat of my own. It´s a really quiet and safe area, although last night when the wind was howling and banging things around outside my window, I was positive someone was breaking into the apartment and was going to come murder me. I tend to think in worst-case scenarios when in an unfamiliar situation.

The work environment is quite nice -- the office is in Vila Olimpia, another nice area that is populated mostly by big, foreign businesses. The office building that houses Clifford Chance is big and modern, with a marbled lobby and electronic codes for all the doors. The office itself is clean and tastefully decorated, and there are ladies in blue who come around and offer coffee, tea, and cookies all the time. Everyone who works here, with the exceptions of the coffee ladies and janitorial staff, speaks English and Portuguese -- it´s pretty impressive. Portuguese has been going surprisingly well for me, especially in the realm of comprehension. I understand almost everything that is said to me, and can pick up most of what is said in general. For some reason, I don´t have the mental hangups about speaking Portuguese like I do with Spanish. I think it´s because I imagine that no one really expects me to speak Portuguese, while I have this weird notion that everyone expects me to speak flawless Spanish because my mom´s half Mexican or something. Don´t ask.

The food so far is great. Jaime´s housekeeper made me a Brazilian almoço (lunch) when I first got to SP, with rice and soup and a chicken/potato dish (plus gross fruit juice that probably took hours of hard labor to make). Today we went to lunch at one of the wonderful Brazilian buffets where you fill up a big plate with food and then pay based on the weight. They had an awesome and beautiful selection of food -- kebobs with salmon and pineapple, all types of salads, moqueque, cheese, desserts, you name it -- and it was pretty cheap, which is definitely a plus. Tonight I am going to grab some Japanese food with people from the office, which I am looking forward to. SP has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan and the cuisine here is rumored to be outstanding. By the way, I´m famished.

I guess that´s about all for now. I can´t wait to explore the city and get acclimated.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Moving day

I just got an email from my contact person at the office in Brazil telling me to go straight to the office when I get to the airport in Sao Paulo. The taxi costs $80 reais, which is a nice chunk out of the $300 reais/month budget I have. Oh well, what can ya do.

I am starting to get butterflies in my stomach (barriga) already! I just hope those butterflies won't transform into a cold knot of dread (like the way I felt when I flew into Havana sans visa last summer, I nearly gave myself an ulcer). I think everything's gonna be okay. I have my passport, visa, luggage, sensible business clothes, and Portuguese/English dictionary. I am so ready.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Palavra on Portuguese

Here are some things I've done to prepare myself for being immersed in a Portuguese speaking country:

1. Read half of a novel (Dois Irmãos) by a Brazilian author... IN PORTUGUESE
2. Made flashcards of words such as "enxoval" (trousseau) and "manga" (sleeve) that I think will really help me when I get down there.
3. Found a Portuguse-language radio station (96.1) that is pretty much all commercials for furniture stores interspersed with accordion music. Actually, for half the day, the station is in Mandarin, so it's about half furniture store/accordion, half Beijing opera.
4. Took one quarter of accelerated Portuguese (1a) at Stanford.
5. Went to a Brazilian restaurant in San Fransicso and ordered the "salada de berinjela" (eggplant salad). It was good.

That's about it.

T-Minus 2 Days


It's Friday night, July 15, 2005. I leave for Sao Paulo on Monday. I get there on Wednesday. It's a long flight.

Right now I am at my grandparents' quiet house in San Francisco; it's foggy, I am drinking Irish tea with milk, and my grandfather is watching crime shows in the other room. Sitting here, it's hard to imagine that in a few days I'll be in the middle of a city of 18 million people, on the opposite side of the globe, in my own apartment, with a Real Job in a Big Global Law Firm. I gave up trying to make the whole thing feel real, because it still seems like something I made up.

Here are some of my expectations for what I will encounter in Brazil:

1. Initial shyness about speaking Portuguese, followed (HOPEFULLY) by competency and finally, fluency, if such a thing exists.
2. Hot guys. (Please God don't let Brazilian men be
as into mullets/rat-tails/hair gel as Chileans/Argentines are. Please.)
3. Mangoes
4. Hot guys.
5. Hot shoes and handbags which I will NOT allow myself to buy because I have a budget of like negative $800 a month.
6. Smog and uncleanliness.
7. Smoke.
8. Traffic and horrendous drivers.
9. Hot guys.
10.
Good Lebanese food and sushi.
11. Intimidating webs of public transportation that I will undoubtedly get lost on and end up crying in the bus depot in the middle of a favela.
12. Shocking disparities between the rich and the poor. What else is new in Latin America.
13. Disappointing gum options. Not that I have the money to spend on gum.

Some of these predictions/expectations may sound a bit dour but actually, I am incredibly excited and, dare I say, PSYCHED to go to SP and have a great time. I can't wait!