Monday, November 29, 2010


This past week embodied a lot of emotional highs and low's.  We found the so called 'perfect' apartment, much larger than I had prepared myself for with multiple bedrooms for visitors to stay. We put in an offer for a 30 month lease (very normal lease length) and waited. After not hearing anything for 4 days our relocation expert said it didn't look good. Thanksgiving morning just after I had spent the week designing every bit of space in my head the owner decided to rent to a family member instead. We looked at 9 places and didn't have a back up.  I felt a little lost that day, hanging out in the hotel room skyping home to friends before their feasts and then with my family for two hours while they cooked and watched football together. Virtually connected but physically hiding behind my computer alone. When Alex got home from work we decided to do dinner at Fogo de Chao. Even though it started here in Brazil, it is a very popular chain in the US and we used to go in Chicago so for some reason it felt like we were able to blend our new home with our old.

Friday I pulled my head out of the gray clouds and got excited for the weekend. We had been invited to a Thanksgiving at a new friend's place with lots of other Americans. We got an email with more apartments to look at and it just so happened another place opened up in the same building as before 3 floors higher! Those blessings, they do disguise themselves sometimes. My mood completely turned around and I reminded myself that Brazil is a beautiful adventure. Friday night was spent at an Australian bar with live music, more new friends, some from Alex's school that also just moved here and of course lots of caipirinhas. The Saturday Thanksgiving feast was beyond welcoming, the host thought of everything from candied yams to replace sweet potatoes, incredible turkey and delicious pumpkin pie. People everywhere from New York to Alabama, Argentina to the Brazilian countryside had moved here for some of the same reasons we had, adventure and exciting opportunities. At the end of the day stuffed with everything comforting we plopped on the couch together and smiled. Every person we meet is wonderful, smiling, happy and ready to help.

Sunday we went to the Bienal de Sao Paulo, a large modern art exhibit in Ibirapuera park and found ourselves at home eating leftovers from the day before flipping through the channels. I stepped away to clear dishes and Alex started screaming. Yes there it was, on cable tv... good ole American football. Life was now complete.

A old neighbor posted on facebook, "The real thanksgiving, is thanksliving." I put all this pressure on one day, when really its about so much more. When I look back on the last 4 days all I can think is how lucky we are... to be here, have each other and to have found such a welcoming new home.  We are so thankful!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A satisfactory way to have a coronary

Today I thank the Italians for settling into Brazil some good time ago. The Mortadella Cheese Sandwich… don’t worry about it. It’s greasy, guilty and shameless. It is what the Chicago hot dog is to Wrigley Field, you just don’t go there without getting one, its a disservice to your fanhood.  Anthony Bourdain sort of put it on the map for Americans that have yet to encounter this delicacy a la Sao Paulo. A friend and I decided to travel straight to the source for the best, the market of markets, Mercado Municipal. There you will find several places to indulge your fancy. Instead of playing obvious tourist and eating where Bourdain had his first, we asked one of the locals. It was a little more off the beaten path I should say, but it was also where the soccer played on repeat, the chopp (local draft beer) poured like wine and the sandwich of sandwiches held its court. You couldn’t look a vegetarian in the eye for a week there is so much meat on those buns. It’s the pride of the market and yet it’s so simple: bread, ridiculously yummy cheese and mortadella, lots and lots of mortadella. Melanie and I split one, it’s probably against the rules but we couldn’t possibly move had we each finished our own. Plus we had to make room for dessert, you can’t just go there for the cake, you have to eat it too! Chocolate covered strawberries and a side of flan later we circumvented the Mercado waddling and merry. It is probably one of the first places I will take friends and family when they come to visit. It’s cheap, authentic and so very incredible! Happy thanksgiving to me!!  

When 18 million people need to move around

Don’t ever have a medical emergency in Sao Paulo between 7-10am – 4-8pm. Traffic here feels like LA threw up on Atlanta. The only difference is that Sao Paulo’s traffic is much more urban in nature… making it way more fun to pace yourself. All the beautiful people passing you at the stoplight and 10 min later you’ve moved 10 feet and you still see them strolling along up ahead like a Sunday in the park, smiling eating ice cream, holding balloons…while you sigh in caged misery. Oh yes and you are paying for the pain. The agonizing, hitched my cab to a snail pain of impatience and unimportance. Today I justified spending $30 dollars to ride barely a mile and it took just under 2 hours. Why? Well it was pouring outside and I was an idiot to wait until 6pm to head home, launching myself smack into the middle of (rush?) hour. Not sure what’s so rushed about it with the exception of my temperament.

How do people do it? Literally the worst traffic I have EVER seen, heard or read about.  The city’s current solution besides expanding metro train service (which I fully support regardless of what it costs) is to mitigate through fines. Once a week according to the last number on your license plate you cannot drive during peak hours. Tomorrow is Alex’s ‘off’ day so he has to leave around 6am to make it to work before the cops swarm the highways and ticket all those breaking the rules (same goes for the evening between 5-8)! It’s certainly an interesting idea to try and curb a piece of the problem but Paulistas (people from Sao Paulo) with a little money instead buy two cars with different license plate numbers to avoid the inconvenience! According to CNN, the city is adding cars at a rate of 1000/day! Or better yet, if you have even more money you just buy a helicopter. This is the ‘City of Helicopters’ and around rush hour you hear lots of them buzzing over the financial district like flies on poop. The Washington Post says, “Helicopter companies estimate that liftoffs average 100 per hour. The city boasts 240 helipads, compared with 10 in New York City, allowing the rich to whisk to and from their well-guarded homes to work, business meetings, afternoons of shopping, even church.”  For the rest of us ants down here we have to fight it or avoid it.  Today I hope I learned my lesson and may I be lucky enough to avoid it as much as possible but it’s a reality and coarse welcome from a buzzing metropolis.

*Picture courtesy of Getty Images

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stop, Drop and Make Out

It was like something out of a funny movie. Im sitting in Ibirapuera Mall on a bench waiting for Alex to figure out cell phone plans at Vivo having an absolute blast people watching. Then I see a young man of about 20 meet up with a young woman about the same age. They run to each other, embrace, start passionately sucking each other's faces off, clothes a miss, shirts practically coming off, hands everywhere and they did this for literally 10 minutes. I didn't know if I should leave, I felt like I was invading their privacy but instead of course I watched in hilarious amazement. Most Brazilians would laugh at me for making such a big deal about this and I realized why later. Its everywhere, people make out at stop lights, walking down the street, over a nice lunch and when I mean make out I mean the way I described it above... like they've been away at war for years and finally get to embrace. There is no reason to waste time pecking each other, just go for the gold. Its intense and according to a friend I met for dinner last night, it happens before you even exchange names at the night club. I guess you have to test drive the goods before you waste your time with conversation. I love it. That and other fun things I saw at the mall. Like half the bookstore is used to play xbox 360 dance central. Its 2pm in the afternoon on a week day and there is a huge crowd watching girl after girl do the 'Soilja boy' dance on repeat. Thats also when I realized what a great sense of pride the Brazilians have for their backside. From brand new moms carrying 2 month olds to grandmas... you gotta flaunt it. 4inch heels and tight jeans at 80? Whatever! A face may succumb to gravity with age but somehow brazilian butts never do. These women would have made soilja boy blush!

Later in the evening around 11pm we headed out to watch the Bears play the Miami Dolphins at the expat bar. We met some new friends and I got a little lost in translation. I had this great beer the day before everyone said was the good local stuff, Chopp so I tried to order it again. Instead of that being a specific kind of beer I guess that really just means 'draft'. So when the waitress brought my beer, I was eagerly awaiting a refreshing cold ale. Instead it was hot pink. Apparently I ordered a specific draft of grenadine beer. Not only was it disgustingly sweet but all the waitresses were laughing at me because I guess that is what the young girls order that haven't really learned to drink yet. Silly American. So, instead I just enjoyed watching more couples passionately sucking face since the football game wasn't nearly as entertaining.

I love Brazil.
Oh yea and I took a few pictures...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The beginnings....

We finally left in the same fashion as characterized by the last few months. Backward steps mixed with spurts of great fortune. All day was spent weighing and perfectly packing our 4 large bags so as not to be fined heavily for a single pound we didn’t actually need. When we checked in that never even crossed the Canadian Air representative’s mind. Ugh, all the shoes and shampoo I could have probably found room for! She didn’t so much as glance once at the scale!! But she did seem to pay attention to other details, like the order of my husbands name. Its simple, Richard A Pearl. He was booked in the system by his company’s travel agency as Alexander Pearl Richard. That is a big problem when the rules are rarely bent at the security check point. She basically said, well its up to their discretion as to whether or not they will let you through and if they don’t well you will have to get in touch with the travel agency tomorrow and get this fixed. Hahaha, if only you knew the ease in which THAT would happen. Well stroke of luck, they didn’t seem to care either.  If it were really necessary I would now get into finer detail about the last month of hellacious issues we’ve had just trying to book the tickets so you could truly appreciate the relief of walking through security… but it doesn’t matter at this point, what matters is that I, Jana Pearl with my husband Alexander Pearl Richard made it through successfully!  =)

So we only had 60 minutes in Toronto to catch our flight to Sao Paulo and the O’Hare flight was delayed 30 minutes. Of course it was. When we landed we made buddies with the flight attendant who cleared the aisle at landing so we could be the first off the plane. We ran an olympic sprint to passport control at 955 with our flight scheduled to depart at 1015. We were then met by a Canadian Air official who politely said to follow her as they were holding the plane for us...Well how generous, we felt so important! Still running we made it and were surprised to see such a crowd?! Well they had in fact delayed the plane, for other reasons and so really they held the plane for everyone.  The official just smiled, just another silly moment to make us appreciate how lucky we were to be sitting on that plane!!!

11 hours, lots of ridiculous turbulence and 6 episodes of Mad Men later, breakfast was served and we landed. Standing under the carport at the rental car agency Alex tried to convince me that after only an hour of practicing a stick shift in Chicago he was ready drive us into the city. We stalled three times trying to leave. Rarely am I proven right but this one was obvious and hilarious. I was really scared though, I’ve read too many expat blogs about driving in Brazil and I had hoped to ease into it. Sweaty and nervous I battled with the motor bikes, ignorance of rules and horrendous traffic. We rented a GPS which we couldn’t have survived without however even with it, the lady would demand a left and we were presented with three variations on a left so it took about two hours to drive 18 km! I learned how to put the car in reverse in front of 10 car salesman, while they watched and laughed at us as I tried to turn around. (trust me it was tricky). Then I got it, pulled out and went the wrong way and had to turn around again on a steep sloped road and was literally so close to hitting a parked car Alex had to get out and push me… ohh I wish I was exaggerating!  I may have won the road battle today, but my scars and a few stressful tears cast glim victories ahead.

So with that we arrived, settled and celebrated at a Churrascaria, an authentic version of an American Brazilian steakhouse. Caipirinhas made fresh in front of you and lots of yummy newly found comfort food.…

Pictures attached are views from our hotel and the pool which Alex bragged to his mom he would be lounging at all week. Hahaha… 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Alex, Jana meet Brazil

Finally. We've been waiting for a date, a simple date of when we would depart for the last 4 months. From visa issues to passport trauma and ticket confusion, we have seats on a plane for November 15. Alex begins work the next week so we have 4 days to find an apartment and the weekend to settle in. Lots of things to do this week but mainly celebrate and finally say goodbye to the many people we have already said goodbye to several times in the hope we would have left weeks ago. What an emotional journey and we haven't even gotten there yet. Stay tuned... Hello Brazil!