To Write Or Not…

hemingway

I took a haitus. I couldn’t help it. I write.

I’m a wannabe writer. I can’t help but call myself that. I’m saying this as a blogger, which is like the white trash version of writers. No offense to white trash nor to bloggers, though I wonder which group is going to be more offended…

What I’m basically saying is that I am far from being F. Scott Fitzgerald or George Orwell, just to name a few.

Anyway, the thing about being a writer is that we are a type of artist. When I say artist I mean a temperamental person who can’t always produce what they are supposed to. It is also sometimes called unemployed.

As writers, we produce something that we hope will reach others. We do what we do to express ourselves and to cause some sort of reaction from our public.

A writer is expected to produce words that reach people and yet very little credit is given to the energy in which it takes to find those words. Like Contemporary art, everyone seems to think they can do it and yet they don’t.

But the fact of the matter is that a writer has to try to write. That means that we usually spend hours killing trees, or virtual ones thanks to computers, by writing and then essentially throwing everything we just wrote out.

Trust me, anyone who has written anything that has been published has thrown far more pages out than were actually printed.

So then why do we do it? I can’t speak for everyone but I find passion and a voice in writing. I play with grammar and vocabulary, sometimes making stuff up as I go. Hey, to google wasn’t always a verb, was it?

The thing about writing is that you have to be completely involved in the life around you while separating yourself. There has to be a novel voice but it also has to reach a large populous.That is a serious bitch.

Basically we are expected to be ourselves completely while still being likeable, edgy and yet somewhat controversial. Trust me, half of you wouldn’t be here if I didn’t piss you off occasionally.

The thing is that you can’t just sit down and write. Writers are not in the area of mass production. In the words of Hemingway:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway

At the same time, I feel that writers do not get the credit that they deserve.

The American Epidemic

 

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Americans suffer from an epidemic. Obviously as a parent of two little Americans, I want to protect my children.

I have realized that as wide-spread as this sickness is, I can work to prevent my children from suffering the same fate as their Mother.  As someone who has endured the difficulties related to this disease, I refuse to stand by and watch it continue.

That is why, for the sake of my children, I have decided to take action.

I am going to teach them geography! You all so thought I was talking about childhood obesity!

Gone are the days that I, as an ineptly tutored American lacking in the basics of world geography, will allow any sort of confusion between what is a continent and what is a country! My little Americans will be different! They will know that there are sovereign countries, other than the US, that have states of their very own.

I will not allow them to suffer the same embarrassments I have suffered at the hands of the American tendency towards the under-stimulation of geographical studies…

That is why I have decided to start collecting postcards from all over the world. When we receive them we will eagerly find the city featured in that postcard on a world map and mark it. We have actually already started the working towards the cure and thus have a growing collection and a wall map.

wallmap

Of course certain areas have been missed: Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the vast majority of the Eastern Hemisphere other than Guam and Vietnam. Then there is Central America, Mexico, and South America.

While we are doing pretty damn well for this being a project run by some random Geographically-challenged Mom, we could be doing better.

That is where you come in! For the price of a coffee (depending on the country in which you live), you could help make a difference to two little boys. They may have food, shelter, education, and love but they still don’t know what the hell a Moscow is.

Feel free to send your postcard to the address below:

Rachel’s Rantings

Rua Pedro Americo 97 – A

Catete

Rio de Janeiro, Rj

Brazil

22211-200

Don’t worry about what to write. Write anything G-rated that you want. Tell us about your city. Bitch about your country. Write in your native language so we can laugh at the ridiculous Google translation. What matters is that we teach these young Americans that yes there are other people in the world other than themselves.

And for any potential stalkers, no that is not my home address. Seriously, you thought I’d do all your work for you?!

On a serious note though, thank you for your time and the money spent on postage! My boys have loved each and every card. They are pointing out potential flight plans should we go and visit. Plus I’m getting major cool points for knowing people in from around the world! I’m stocking them up for when they are teenagers.

I’ll be posting pictures of cards on my Facebook page so keep an eye out for yours!

 

Portuguese is Such a Bitch

Photo from www.Sodahead.com

I understand why Brazilians laugh at me when I speak Portuguese. I know I sound ridiculous half the time. Hell if I’m going to be honest with myself, I sound ridiculous about 75% of the times. Sometimes it is due to my accent, sometimes poor grammar, and other times it’s because of plain old confusion.

What can I say, Portuguese is confusing. Actually, to be completely honest, it is a bitch. It is so bad that at least half of the Cariocas I know speak crap Portuguese unless they are in a situation where they are required to do otherwise.

And the hardest part about learning Portuguese is the ease in which Brazilians laugh at you during the process.

I can say that Brazilians are super patient when it comes to speaking to foreigners, you can’t deny that. They will sit there, and listen, and try to understand just about every single time.

But they are also the first to openly laugh at, and make fun of, the stupid things foreigners say. No exaggeration, I have had strangers call out to other nearby Brazilians to tell them what I said and what I meant to say.

It is even worse if you are with a group of your Brazilian friends. One time a group of my Brazilian friends quite literally spent 10 minutes laughing because I said pigeon (pombo) in Portuguese instead of something else.

Given we had all consumed a decent amount of alcohol by that point… and I do believe we were talking about sex… I can only imagine what I actually accidentally said.

So as you can see, you really can’t blame them because when you say something stupid as a foreigner in Portuguese, it’s usually pretty damn stupid. That’s why Portuguese is such a bitch.

That said though, I challenge my Brazilian counterparts to give us a break! Your language is so much harder than English! Think of it this way. You want me to remember feminine and masculine, verb conjugations, and accent marks when you can’t even figure out how to correctly use the word ‘at.’

Given we are in your country thus we should be speaking your language. Of course two very large international games are coming into town, and that will require a variety of languages.

Thus a little tip for my Carioca friends, it’s beach (eeee) not bitch (iiiii).

See, every language has their potential for funny mistakes. Learning a language is like walking through an intellectual field of landmines. Just when you feel like you found the path BOOM.

So instead of laughing when someone blows up, why don’t you help them pick up the pieces. That way everyone wins.

 

 

 

 

This Is Discrimination

I witnessed something exceptional and extremely depressing at the same time on Friday afternoon. In truth, my friend and I technically caused it.

We had met up in at a simple restaurant to discuss an upcoming project. It was a typical Carioca small street restaurant with red plastic chairs on the sidewalk in front, which is where we chose to sit.

While catching up we were approached by a street child who was about 14 years old. She asked if we could buy her a meal. We said of course, asked what she wanted, and requested stroganoff to go. The to go part happened somewhat automatically, as if a there was an understanding between the girl and the restaurant.

It is quite typical in Rio de Janeiro for street kids to ask diners for a meal and the restaurant to wrap it up for them to go. They normally take it back to their group to eat on the street somewhere nearby. This is the social norm here.

After we ordered the waiter went inside and the girl sat at a neighboring table to wait. The restaurant, aside from a couple other people, was basically empty.

While she waited she was joined by two more street children, a girl around 15 or 16 and a boy around 18. All of them were dressed appropriately for a casual restaurant and no one was acting erratically, which is an important thing to note with this story.

When I saw the three of them at the table it hit me, why aren’t they just eating here? After confirming with the kids that they were all going to share, I called the waiter over. I told him that the three of them were sharing the meal and requested that he instead bring three plates and the meal to the table.

In retrospect, this was a very naive gringa move. There was no way they would let them sit at the restaurant. Of course it didn’t even cross my mind at the moment. However I did notice that the waiter who had been taking care of us was replaced by some sort of manager. I assume his presence, which only happened once we offed to buy them a meal, was because of the kids.

After hearing my question he gave a look, that could be translated as “Fucking hell this woman is going to cause some drama,” and said that they could not eat at the table.

That pissed me off.

I looked the manager dead in the eye and told him, in Portuguese: “They are clients, I have purchased their meal, and they can sit at a table!”

I was dead serious and feeling very proud of myself. Of course that ended quickly.

He replied, in only a slightly condescending manner, “I understand what you are trying to do but it is more complex than that.”

He continued to comment on safety, glue sniffing, and the lack of government care for those who need it.

Seeing that the 3 three kids were sitting next to us, they heard everything. I watched the young man, who was standing next to the table, stand a little straighter. He stuck out his chin and took a deep breath.

It was as if had been waiting for a moment just like this. If I had to bet on it, I would say that he had been waiting for this moment for a long time.

“This is discrimination.”

It was not the voice of a beaten down street kid who has forever been ignored by society, it was the voice of a strong young man standing up for himself and those he cares about.

The manager walked straight up to the boy. He stopped about three inches from the young man’s face. It was a very alpha male move if you want look into it deeply. The manager was challenging him. It was as if he wanted a fight. It felt like it would almost be easier for the manager if the kid got aggressive. It seemed as if this manager was so jaded at this point in his life that he would rather fight the street kid than let him eat at one of his crappy plastic tables.

Both my friend and I were afraid there would be a fight, which would obviously make trouble for the young man as he is homeless as opposed to the manager who is considered “a respectable working man.”

It didn’t matter that the young man wasn’t the aggressor, we all knew that.

Regardless the young man continued. He completely ignored the man in his face and continued with the utmost composure. I don’t think I will ever forget it. If I were that young man, with all my education etc etc, I would have hit that mother fucking manager in his holier than thou jaw. Then again, by societal standards, I am allowed to feel that way.

The young man spoke, even stronger than the first time:

“I have no money so I am no allowed to sit at the table. They (pointing at us) have money so they are allowed to sit here. Even when someone with money invites us to sit, and pays what needs to be paid, we are not allowed to sit. That is discrimination.”

And it was. Both my friend and I strongly agreed, and we told the manager. Hell, we basically told anyone walking by at the moment.

The young man didn’t lower himself to the managers level. He said his piece (I must say that I have the desire to throw in peace as a play with words) and then told us that he would return to the plaza as to not cause anymore trouble. The thing was, he wasn’t causing any trouble. What he was doing was pointing out a very serious problem.

He walked away and we lost the battle with the restaurant. They brought the meal to-go for the girls. They did give, quite literally at the very least, extra to-go bins and silverware for the three of them to easily share the meal… in the plaza.

In retrospect we should have left the restaurant that very moment. I should have stood and said that we would then take all of our business elsewhere.

What do you think? Should we have left and taken all of our business elsewhere? Is this just something we have to accept? Was I being overly naive to think that maybe we could start change with the person in the mirror, which is very Michael Jackson of me?

Or is life not that simple? Have street children, with their drug related crime, made their own bed? Is something caused by extreme differences in class and education?

When it Rains, I Fall

When it rains in Rio de Janeiro, the streets have a tendency to flood. Actually, that is a bit of an understatement. When it rains in Rio de Janeiro corners of intersections fill with rain water, quickly flooding the already poorly managed sewer system. That is when the sewer system overflows, adding even more water to the flooded area. Oh, did I say water, I meant human waste. My bad.

That is exactly why I decided to bust out my old boots on Monday. I had dropped the boys off at school earlier in the day only to come home wet with God knows what up to my mid-calf. If it were just water, I wouldn’t have cared. Hell, I am a huge fan of puddle jumping. The issue here is what I mentioned above. It feels like you could practically puddle jump yourself into Cholera.

Back to the boots though, my rainboots had finally cracked so the only remaining boots were my old cute work boots, with a decent heel, from my pre-kid US days. I knew heels plus rain wasn’t necessarily a good combination for me, but I went for it anyway. At this point in my life, I can be seriously uncoordinated in heels, but poop filled puddles made me ignore that fact.

I picked up kid one from his classroom and headed down the hall to get kid two. I was moving quickly to keep up with kid one, so much so that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was stepping. I should have been keeping one eye out for puddles on the floor.

I was practically there when I realized my feet were in the air. Seriously, it was as if time paused for that one second and I thought ‘This is not going to end well.’

Then I totally ate shit, in the middle of the hallway, at my kids’ school. At least I was a little late picking up the kids so the hallway was fairly empty. If it had been peak pickup time, I would have taken out at least a couple of kids. Trust me, I am a long girl, throw me in the air in a crowded area and a couple of people are going to go down with me.

I jumped to my feet a split second after touching ground and quickly moved to get kid two. I thought for a moment that maybe my fall would just pass without any acknowledgement. I thought wrong. I was turning away from the classroom with both kids in tow when one of the adult hall monitors ran up to me.

“Are you ok?! ARE YOU OK?!”

Oh crap. I tried to brush her off and said I was fine but now a group was forming.

“What happened?!” asked one teacher.

“She fell really hard!” Said the hall monitor.

Awesome. I assured the new spectators that I was indeed fine. The truth is that I am more than familiar with the art of eating shit. I then attempted to keep moving away and towards the door. Of course they followed.

“But this was a bad fall! Are you sure you are ok? You should go see the school nurse!”

Now I appreciated the care and concern, but unless I could apply the nurse’s homemade ice pack to my ego, it really wasn’t necessary.

I finally got away and we made it home without incidence. My feet remained dry and free of fecal matter, though I am not sure if it was really worth the trade.

In unrelated news, I’m giving away a pair of black boots…

Language Wars

Yesterday I busted out my old Portuguese workbooks. I have recently decided to start studying again. Of course I have only managed to go as far as dusting off the covers and reviewing my old work before stopping to reflect. What can I say, it’s part of my nature.

A conversation with an older Brazilian woman is what caused me to bust out my old books in the first place. She told me about the hurdles she faced while learning English. The main one, in her opinion, was that she could never think in English. That was her problem, she couldn’t think in English thus could never speak it anywhere close to fluently.

She immediately took me back to memories that I possibly blocked on purpose. I had completely forgotten about that phase, the one where you have to translate what has been said into your native language in your head. It is the phase where your brain can translate the language but not yet think in it.

Thus while in a conversation you can only come up with a response after translating what has been said. Then you have to translate your response so you can share it.

How I forgot that frustrating phase is beyond me! If you have ever been in a conversation with more than one Brazilian, you know you have about a second and a half before the conversation completely changes directions.

During this phase I could finally understand what was happening in the conversation but couldn’t produce a response quickly enough to stay in it. Not only did I not get to actually participate in the conversation, I would once again find myself completely lost due to the time I spent mentally translating my response.

At that point the only thing you can do is stick your tail between your legs and ask someone what the hell everyone else is talking about. Then you catch up, think of a reply, and BAM you are back in the same spot.

Looking over my workbooks only brought back more and more Portuguese learning memories. I remembered how confusing it all seemed. I remember thinking that I would never fully understand it. I also wondered why in the hell any language would need two different kinds of “to be.” It is a bit a bit much.

Thankfully though, I can now understand. I can take part in just about any conversation without getting lost. Hell, I don’t even translate anymore, my brain jumps between both languages like a young 60 yr old who regularly participates in water aerobics.

Of course I have my Portuguese limits, in case you didn’t pick up on my fabulous analogy. I am inventive at best when it comes to verb tenses and conjugation. Don’t even ask about feminine and masculine, I just make that shit up as I go. Also, please don’t ask me to write in Portuguese. Part of me was hoping that I would learn how to via osmosis but let me just tell you now, that method doesn’t work.

So as much as I have grown when it comes to my Portuguese, I have also failed myself. That is a very difficult thing to admit, especially because initially I had planned for this to be a fluffy “you can do it” post.

Honestly though, you can do it. You can learn another language, especially if you are in a country where it is spoken. You just have to remember that you get back what you put into it. You would think that fact would be obvious but I am here to tell you it isn’t.

I have been half-assed with my Portuguese  inquisition acquisition and thus my language skills reflect it. I thought I would learn everything just by being here. While you can learn a lot with this method, there is a definite glass ceiling. Seriously, I am not being hard on myself. I may be able to hold a normal conversation, even read, but I can’t write as well as my 2nd grader. I have been here for over 8 years. There is no excuse for that.

Think of it this way. Learning a language is like going to the gym. The harder you work, the better the results. Yes, both are incredibly annoying at times, but you will never regret doing them.

My Little Chauvinist is Growing Up

On the way to school yesterday, Chatterbox and I were discussing boring adult responsibilities. We basically covered household chores and other mundane day to day activities that are usually taken care of by a grownup.

At one point Chatterbox looked up at me with his big innocent eyes and said “Laundry, cooking, and washing dishes really are a Mommy job. My wife can just do it.”

My little chauvinist pig is growing up so fast.

In my head I immediately blamed Brazil, the machismo country that has obviously been teaching my little boy nonsense. Of course it only took about 30 seconds for me to admit to myself that he was getting this not from “society” but from home.

I am the one at home with the kids. I do the majority of the washing up, laundry, and cooking. My boys stay with me and thus see me domestic goddessing my ass off on a daily basis. In his little world, Mommies are the ones who do those things.

That is how our family works. Our one family, which is exactly what I then attempted to explain to him. I told him how all families are different. I explained how in many families both the Mommy and Daddy work so they have to share the responsibilities at home.

“But Mommy, wouldn’t they just have a maid all the time?”

That one came from Brazil.

After that I decided to change techniques. My son didn’t need an explanation of how different families work but instead needed to understand that he can not expect someone else to take care of his shit. I told him, calmly but firmly, that no self-respecting person needs someone else to take care of their basic needs for them. Everyone, men and women alike, grow up learning how to do things for themselves, and that he would be no exception. I then told him that by the time I am done with him, he’ll even know how to properly clean a toilet.

Of course that last part got some ewws but it also got giggles from both boys. The thing is, kids get a lot of information from observing the world around them. I honestly never stopped to think that Chatterbox was watching me and assuming he would move straight into another woman’s arms and have her do his laundry, though it is a very Brazilian thing to do.

That said, this parenting fail gave me the opportunity to explain the reality of things. In this house we are raising men and real men cook, clean, and do laundry.

 

Why This Brazilian Mother Is Trafficking Illegal Drugs

stonermom

It doesn’t matter what you call it. Weed, Marijuana, Cannabis or whatever else it goes by in your neck of the woods. The fact is that Marijuana is on everyone’s mind these days. It shouldn’t be legalized, it should be legalized, where is my bong, pass the munchies and so on and so forth.

I, for one, am highly pro legalization, and no it isn’t just for obvious reasons. There are numerous reasons as to why the legalization of marijuana would be a positive thing, especially in Brazil. For starters, the government could make a shitload regulating and taxing the good stuff. Maybe if Brazilian politicians had all that money to steal, they would leave the public health and school funds alone. Stranger things have happened.

On a health front, weed is much more than just something to get you high. It actually helps people. It’s illegal though. It seems that because the vast majority of people use marijuana to get high, we should ignore any possible health benefits.

I get the perception of medicinal marijuana and I agree with it to an extent. Hell, if I could get my hands on a card for some half-assed reason, there is very big possibility that I would not turn it down. That said, for the ones who actually need it, it can make all the difference. And they don’t even get stoned!

The medical potential of Marijuana goes far beyond making you hungry, so far that a Brazilian Mother took part in the video I am about to share as a means to explain why she is trafficking a technically illegal substance into Brazil for her young daughter.

Don’t worry, the video is only 5 minutes and 40 seconds. No, it doesn’t actually feel like 15 minutes and 45 seconds. Trust me, it’s worth watching. There are even English subtitles. Go check it out!

April Fools and A Brazilian Dictatorship

dic

Once upon a time, Brazil had a military dictatorship. It actually started 50 years ago! Of course my Grandmother is under the impression that Brazil was a communist country, sometimes she still insists they are, but that is a different story entirely.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the Military dictatorship’s first real day in charge was on April Fool’s Day. How many Brazilians wished the military turned around the morning of April 1st, 1964 and said “Just kidding!”

Did you know that right wing Brazilians actually wanted a military intervention as a means to remove constitutional president João Goulart? Regardless, I doubt they knew what they were getting themselves into, that or they were a part of it.

There is no joke to make here, the dictatorship was seriously fucked up. The military government ruled by repression, torture, and murder. Those who didn’t play along and do what was expected by the dictatorship had a seriously difficult 21 years, if they even lasted that long. You would think that there would have been a backlash, but those behind the military dictatorship instilled an Amnesty Law in 1979.

Call me crazy but I would have thrown that law out come 1985, when the dictatorship ended, and put a hell of a lot of military people into some very unpleasant Brazilian jails. Of course the new Brazilian democracy had to bust its ass just to keep its head above water. I can see how other issues may have been considered a priority at the time.

What I do not understand is how it was put off until 2010, nor how the Brazilian Supreme Court could actually uphold the law!

Thankfully Brazil created The Truth Commission (Comissão Nacional da Verdade) in 2011 to investigate rights violations originally from the military dictatorship but now ranging from 1946 to 1988 (the dictatorship was from 1964 to 1985).

This history of mistreatment, followed by the protection of those who were responsible, still sits in the memory of all Brazilians. Now those who were small children during the dictatorship, and those who were not even a thought in their parents groins, are standing up. They are following in their parents and grandparents footsteps and are fighting against a corrupt government.

It is almost as if Brazil is coming full circle and are once again finding their voice.