My husband is a professor of Special Education at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. It's a small town, very sheltered, very American. When the opportunity arose to take a year sabbatical in Brazil (one year away from Tom's normal duties as professor), we thought, "Why not?" I mean, we have 4 young children ages 14, 10, 8, and almost 6; this is the perfect time to move, to see a little more of the world, to teach our children to appreciate all the abundance they have...right?! Even now, reading the words that I type, I'm thinking, "yeah, another opportunity like this will never come around again--go for it!"
Reality is setting in fast. Now don't get me wrong...I still know somewhere deep, deep, DEEP down inside that this is a fantastic opportunity. I'm just thinking, "Why does it have to be so haaaard?!!!" (Is the whine coming through in this font?) Everything is so different here--it's almost as if we moved to a foreign country! Wait...oh yeah...I'm not in Kansas anymore.
I think the difficulty started when we began trying to pack up our lives in 12 suitcases. I mean, what do you bring when you are moving away for a year? What can you not possibly live without? Simplifying is one thing, but going without the basic essentials is just crazy. The problem is, I am just now (after one week) realizing what is "essential" for our family, i.e. peanut butter, syrup, a garbage disposal (can you pack that?) This spoiled American is learning a few lessons already about doing without. And like any true- blue- blooded spoiled American, I'm doing it with a lot of kicking and screaming!
We arrived to our destination-Sao Carlos, Brazil (it has a little squiggly above the a in Sao, but I can't figure out how to insert it...sorry) tired, but in pretty good shape. Some of the post doc students were here at the house to welcome us with a beautiful housewarming fruit basket:
You can't get most of that in the states! I mean, what the heck are those salmon colored things on the top?! It looks like something out of a movie. Apparently it grows on trees here...Actually, it's cashew fruit, and it's pretty good made into juice. The little cashew nut is on the top. And I always thought cashews came from the store. Weird.
Our house is very big and very nice. With the exception of the dirt floors and seat-less toilets. Let me explain...Apparently it is not uncommon for everything that is not bolted down to be removed from the house upon leaving. I was prepared for no appliances in the kitchen (I do watch House Hunters International) it just never really crossed my mind that someone would take the toilet seats. No problem. We can remedy that. As for the dirt floors...there is beautiful tile and wood under the dirt, your feet just don't come into contact with it. The house had just been cleaned by a professional-- that we payed for(!), so we began to complain (whiny Americans!) about our feet being black after a few hours of walking around indoors. We were then kindly informed that the floors are impossible to keep clean because the windows and doors are left open all day (air conditioning) and it is very dusty. It's a reddish/brown dust if you want to know. Everyone in Brazil wears shoes in the house; usually a special pair of house slippers to keep their feet clean. I smile when I think of all my neighbors back home who want everyone to remove their shoes upon entering the house to keep the FLOOR clean. ----hehe----we've had it backwards all these years!
The grocery store is a whole new adventure (this is how I have ALWAYS chosen to look at it...I NEVER complained about the selection!) For someone who is used to buying flour in 25 pound bags, the tiny 1 kilo bags were a bit of a shock. (Can I get one batch of pancakes out of this bag, or should I buy 2? oh, wait...there's no such thing as syrup here. Never mind.) I did actually find peanut butter in a tiny 3 serving size container for about $2.00 (US), but it tastes, of all things, like mashed up peanuts! Where is the sugar, the high fructose corn syrup, the wholesome additives and preservatives?! My kids won't eat it-and peanut butter is a staple at our house! That's it! Tom--I'm going home!!! (that was the first of my many melt-downs). In fact, I had a melt down in the store just today as I struggled to think of ONE meal that I know how to make that I can find all the ingredients for. This occurred while I waited for the hamburger to be ground. That's right, you pick a slab of meat hanging on a hook and they grind it up for you right there. Now, that's fresh! Actually, it made very good hamburgers which EVERYONE ate with high compliments! (even if there is no cheddar cheese)