Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A day in my life...

Now that things have settled down and I'm...

oops - eder just said "Carly, she's hungry, no?" I guess this blog is to be continued.. ; )

(one hour and much breastfeeding, and then cleaning up spit-up later)...

So, that is such a typical occurrence in a typical day, and it happened so authentically, I kept it as part of the blog because it is so telling of how my days unfold. So many attempts to do something, just to start it, and then oh! she's awake, or, she's hungry. Or, some family arrives to visit... Nursing seems to take up the bulk of my time though, with cleaning and family visits coming in a close 2nd and 3rd. What research?

At least when I nurse, I can read!!! I tried doing a lot of good non-fiction research-type reading but that led to a lot less reading than I'd like so, instead, I am allowing myself to indulge in fiction! Right now, I'm absorbed in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower... I seem to be into futuristic anti-utopias, I also read a Handmaid's Tale a couple months back. I managed to blaze through Jorge Amado's Tent of Miracles and Into the Wild by... can't remember that author's name. Fiction is a sinch and a delight to read as I get to remove myself from my own reality for a moment. I think I use to get that fix when I went to work and became absorbed in that reality, so now that I'm home all day and I've only got my own, then it's a nice respite. I'm jumping ahead, but while we're on the topic, I have started to allow myself to indulge in something embarrassingly sinful and baseless: I top my day off not with a nice glass of wine or a fresh cold beer, but a telenovela - soap opera - "Passione." I'm thinking of it as a cultural study, an ethnography, part of my research into Brazilian life and culture, & hey, and I get to learn some dramatic vocabulary too! ("CHEGA! CHEGA!") Anyway, to say the least, its fun to jump into the lives of my imaginary friends - Melina, Diana, Mauro, Fred, Toto, Clara, Dona Bete, Danilo, etc... - and forget, for one hour, all of life's stresses so I can focus on theirs.

So that's the end of the day (the novela ends around 10:30 so I'm off to bed then unless the internet pulls me into that lonely late night abyss if I happened to have a late afternoon cup of coffee). My night is spent trying to get some sleep. When Zaya starts to make fussing sounds on the monitor, the first to hear it will jump up out of bed, oops, that's not correct here. I mean, we will crawl out from under the mosquito net trying not to let it get untucked too much, go to her room, remove her from the crib (and around the mosquito netting), and get her on the breast asap before her now crescendo of cries starts to wake neighbors. I'll nurse, nodding off as those hormones are released making me soooooo tired. she snoozes too, eats, snoozes, eats, snoozes (on the boob). But when she's done, and we try to get her to bed, she is wide-eyed and ready to party. So me, him or usually both of us will stay up hanging out with her, eat some cereal, start the tv to catch part of a late-night movie, and try to tire her out, give her a night-cap and get her down so that she'll sleep just a little bit more til around 6 am when she's up again. How do working women do it???????????????????

By 6 or 7 a.m. she is stirring, and me and eder will take turns to play with her after her early morning breakfast of milk, milk and more milk. I'm not a morning person as you know, this one is the torturous shift, and I usually end up having her lay down next to me, both of us on our sides, her nursing and me sleeping.

Once we're up and about, Eder is making coffee, I'm starting to move around to put things away, sweep floors, wash dishes, take out the garbage, clean up dirty diapers, put clothes away, start laundry and hang the wet clothes to dry, check email, prepare breakfast, try and squeeze in a shower, and get her bath going (today, Eder had already left, and I hadn't showered, so I brought Zaya down to Maria, grabbed our now-clean laundry - our washing machine has been broken so we have to wash downstairs and usually she ends up hanging it all up to dry)... so then I ran upstairs and showered etc... ran back down to get Zaya)....

Her bath is one of our favorite rituals as me and eder both dote all kinds of love and attention as we wash her hair, playing with her toys, getting her all dressed up and cute. After the bath, nurse, and try and get her down for her first nap of the day. Today that took forever, no nursing, David Gray and Eder's soothing her on the bouncing ball, nor just laying her down in the crib with things to stare at above her worked...

[30 min pause to give her the night-time bath... back now]

... so we skyped with my dad, walked outside the apartment a bit, and then after fussing, nursing, she finally went down. phew. She slept almost 2 hours, in which time I managed to accomplish diddly squat. I really wanted to write at least one bio of one graffiti artist for our book. But, I procrastinated, posted facebook statuses, replied to starred emails, browsed Pirate's Bay for new movie downloads, downloaded photos from my camera and edited some of them, flossed. swept the bedroom, back porch and bathroom. I just didn't want to write that stupid bio!!! Let me share, the bio i was trying to write - this guy's interview had been great! He was more interesting than most, had sprinkling of good quotes to boot. I spent daaaayysssssss transcribing his one hour interview. But when I read through the transcription, I had nothing interesting to say about him. urgh! So, to my delight, Zaya started to cry, and Eder's aunt comes over talking (that's Aunt Rita, she doesn't stop talking), and we decide to go the grocery store together (not a "quick trip to Wegmans for all your Rochestarians) it's quite an ordeal to go to the grocery store (next paragraph). So I quickly heated up the food that I'd eat for lunch (lunch is the big meal of the day): Beans (Eder's mom Maria had given us a few days ago, I dethawed from the freezer), rice (made with day before yesterday's meal), baked chicken (from Maria downstairs), and I managed to make a salad - purple cabbage, canned corn, tomatoes, cucumber, oil and vinegar. As you can see, we're not really doing that much cooking and it's pretty non-creative when we do. So I wolfed down that food as Aunt Rita kept saying "Embora Carly" (let's go Carly) because she had to pick her kids up from school by 4:45. It was 2:15. I'm telling you, shopping is an ordeal.

So we take off - Zaya in the Bjorn-imitation pack on my front (thanks Laura for the hand-me-down). She is happy as a clam as soon as we get in the street. Damn cute too with the dress Aunt Sandra bought her, and the shoes that Aunt Angela gave her. I love my extended Sicilian family!!! We head out of the house, down the small walkway in front of our house, to the main strip, up the hill (5-min walk) and to the garage. Unlock the doors (not easy), pull it up and open (even harder), wipe the gross dirt from our hands, situate Zaya in car seat, get in, pull car out, turn car off, get out and pull garage door down (the hardest of them all), lock the doors (urgh, very frustrating to line up the lock while pushing down the door with your foot), wipe dirt off of hands again, and get in and drive away. Yes folks, that's what it takes to jump in the car and go.

So we are off, winding through the 'hood, crossing speed bumps with care, dodging pedestrians, shooting out in front of trucks, weaving around buses, and we are at the neighborhood "bulk" grocery store called Maxxi (but pronounced "Max" by most Brazilians). It's owned by our good friend Sam Walton by the way. in fact, Walmart is the owner of not one but three chains of grocery stores here in Brazil - Bom Preco (which turned Sheekee sheekee so they opened up Maxxi as a bulk alternative as well as "Todo Dia" (everyday) which I haven't gone to yet, both in the favelas. One thing they all have in common: their infamously long lines to check out. You spend more time waiting in them than you do gathering your goods. I had plenty of time to contemplate the problem of going to this grocery store, as hundreds of people are checking out thousands of reais worth of food from these densely populated favela neighborhoods - Pau da Lima, Vila Canaria, Sao Marcos, Castelo Branco

[pause for a 30-minute nursing session. now I'm back]

So there I was, in line at the store, looking across at the carts filled with Nestle, Hershey, Nabisco, coca-cola products, pouring money into the coffers of Sam Walton. The world's poor buying their weekly ration of food, and all the profits being wired north to line pockets of north americans. Brilliant business plan. Brilliant capitalism. It made me so sad, and yet, there I was, in line with all of them. At least I was in the "priority" line for elders, pregnant women, and people with small children, so our wait was cut in half. The total, 146 reais (U$80) is roughly one months' minimum wage - 525 Reais (U$325). That's just for me, Eder, and Zaya. How do people do it? They don't! Eder's aunt made her purchase - 45 reais... I think she was much more economical about her selection. She has 3 kids, and only works once a week to clean Eder's other aunt's house for 50 reais a day. I decided to hire her to clean our apartment with me each Thursday afternoon for 25 reais... I figured it's a good happy medium - I've been vacillating about whether to hire her, whether we can afford it (we really can't) but feeling obliged to help out a bit and really could use the help, and motivation, to clean this place inside-and-out once a week. I'll let you know how that goes.

We get to the car and I drive her over to the street she lives on for her to put the groceries away so she wouldn't have to walk with them from where we live. I held Zaya in my arms, standing at the top of the hill watching her short body and extremely fit and strong legs under her jean mini-skirt descend the steep slope. Her street has been increasingly infiltrated by drug dealers, I guess she heard them on the roof one night, and they have been known to beat up people who venture there. But at the moment, it's totally peaceful, regular people getting off the bus and heading to their homes, a slight breeze, partly cloudy sky, nice music plays in the distance, some old men hang out in front of a house. Zaya and I are playing together, I nuzzle my nose in her neck and her hair and am intoxicated by her sweet smell. Everything feels right. Aunt Rita emerges from below the slope, hauling one leg in front of the other quickly to get back to me in a hurry so that I'm not waiting too long. She has a brilliant huge smile on her face, despite her racing heart. She does this walk at least twice a day, her 4 and 6 year old in tow.

We head back home, unload groceries, greet Eder who has painting a house today (no graffiti) that his aunt will be renting out soon. He is excited to see Zaya after being away from her for some hours. I decide to try and get the car washed (vacuumed inside, washed outside for U$5) but it's too late by the time I get there, so I just fill it with gas (80 reais, U$50) which will last me about 7-10 days. crazy expensive. It's 5pm when I head back home. I decide to hang on the corner where our little walkway towards our apartment meets the main street of our neighborhood. The neighbor is there with her candy cart selling sweets to kids and crocheting. She's there every day from around 4-7, and her face always lights up when she sees Zaya. The 15 year old girl who lives across the street is there too, hanging with a friend, and making goo-gooing sounds with Zaya. They comment that she looks like me. Aunt Rita shows up with Camile and Pedro her kids, Pedro in his cute Capoeira outfit (Wednesdays is Capoeira day) and Camile in her uniform. Maria, Eder's mom also shows up on her way to go buy fresh bread and asks if we'd like some too... yes! terrific, saves us a trip. I give her the money. (are you getting a sense yet how often Maria is there to help us out?) (are you also getting a sense of the abundance of community we are living amongst?)

Back at home, me and eder play with Zaya taking turns, checking email, straightening up... she gets cranky, we get her evening bath ready - a nice body massage and then a hot water splash minus a soapy sponge-down)... snuggled in her pjs she does some house-visits to see grandma and grandpa downstairs and aunt luissa and aunt tais next door and comes back all grumpy and tired, nurses, and is out. it's 8pm. i get to finish writing this and will drift into the kitchen to heat up leftovers for dinner before watching my soap opera at 9:20. I use to watch the national evening news right before it starts (that's how I got addicted in the first place - the networks are so smart!) but right now there's an hour's worth of political campaign ads on because it's election season... each party gets free air time that the networks are mandated to give them, and each party creates a new and different advertisement every single night for their candidate.... the president, governor and several state and federal deputies are running. It's actually quite interesting to watch and analyze, but that's for another blog post.

I think I covered most of it. It's a detailed and verbose email, I know, but there's a lot to say!! I'd like to write more of these "day in my lifes" because honestly, each and every day is unique... you never know quite what is going to unfold... that's the beauty of living abroad, of traveling, of exposing yourself to knew and different cultures and traditions.

please feel free to comment!!! I'd love to hear from you.

ate mais,


  1. Aww, Octavia Butler! Miss you!! Haiwen

  2. I know we met in Spanish class our freshman year, but I forget who the teacher was, of it you ever had Dr Trapani. He liked to show Spanish soap operas in class. Anyway, that's what this made me think of.

    Your days are much different than mine, but I had some quality time with a cute baby today too. Maybe I'll send you a picture.

    Great post.

  3. it was that aweful portuguese woman who taught sitting @ her desk. pereira??? that room was packed, the best part was mtg u and was ben there too??

  4. omg! carly esta super grande y hermosa la bebe.. al igual que tu y tu esposo!
    te extra~amos!