Sunday, December 30, 2007

Brasilian Culture 101

Well, Brasilian Christmas 2007 was a great success. I successfully ate a lot and successfully spent Christmas Day in the pool, successfully getting a mean tan. Really, just success all around. What I predicted would happen happened, and I rationally attempted to become emotional and instead got distracted by the fact that was spending the holiday in a tropical paradise. I arrived home from four days in Genipabu to two Christmas packages waiting for me, with lots of American goodies inside. I hastily unwrapped the presents, and then remembered that I had wanted to take a picture of the presents under my tree. Woops. So I re-wrapped them, put them under the tree, and here is my Christmas cheer:

You may be thinking "Wow, Cris. Sure sounds like you're getting to play a whole lot. Where are your readers?" Well, let me answer that question for you. My readers are living their lives to the fullest, fully taking advantage of this vacation season, and leaving little room for practicing their English. "Do you want to continue your classes during December and January, or wait until after Carnaval?" I ask. "Oh, I want to continue my classes!! I want to practice my English!" they say. So we schedule a time, they confirm it, and one of us shows up. I bet you can guess which one. :)

I am learning a big lesson living here in Brasil, and it is what the definition of the word "vacation" truly means. In the States you get your standard two weeks, and often those two weeks are broken up into a day here, a day there, adding up to a full 10 days by the end of the year. Well not here, my friends. Here the country begins to slow down in December, and from what I'm told (and am beginning to see) the country really just stops functioning as a whole in January. Not only are students out of school, but businesses close early or all together, people go on extended trips to the beach, and they really just take full advantage of the summertime. They are not lazy, they are passionate, so priorities are shifted and English gets shoved to the bottom of the list.

So how do I deal with the unanticipated change of pace? I embrace it. I have spent more time with my friends from the church this month than I have been able to since I arrived in September.

We have fondue parties...
We have birthday parties:We go to the beach:
We take zipline rides into little lakes:
So, don't worry, I'm staying busy. Tomorrow we leave again to spend New Year's Eve in Genipabu. The group will be much bigger this time around, so that means an earlier bedtime for Cris (big groups of Brasilians make sleepy...really. They've all come to accept it...) but lots of laughter and fun. I have three reading sessions scheduled at the end of the week, so I'll be sure and check back with you and give you a much-anticipated update on how many sessions I spend practicing English with myself :).

Have a safe and happy new year!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?

*Editor's note: I wrote this post, published it, and when I went back to read it over I found a giant..but hilarious...mistake. I've left it in, because it made me giggle so much I couldn't delete it. When I refer to myself as a 23 year old, please note that is a huge lie. I am actually only still 22, and have no idea why today my little fingers decided to type out 23 without a second thought. Enjoy. :)*

This song, though not usually one my favorites this time of year, has been playing through my head for about the last week. Not only did one of my favorite bands record a cover of John Lennon's original this year, but on Saturday night I heard the famous Portuguese version at a live Christmas show put on by the city of Natal.

So, tomorrow is Christmas, and what have I done? Another year (almost) over, and a new one just begun. Although I seriously doubt this is what John meant when he penned the chorus (I'm pretty sure his was a more global, political message, given that the title of the song is "Happy Xmas (War is Over)", I've been thinking about what exactly I've done since the last Christmas. Turns out 2007 was a big year in the life of this 23 year old. Since the last Christmas, I have:

-Graduated from college














-Been in a wedding














-Visited the Motherland (America's)


















-Moved home with my parents for 3 months






(Haha...I actually enjoyed my 3 months at home, I just thought the picture was a funny illustration)






-Sold my baby (not really a baby, just my car)














-Moved to the Motherland (mine)














-Moved into my own apartment. In Brasil.














-Attempted to learn another language




(Haha...just kidding again...except not kidding at all...)










-Introduced Brasilians to Thanksgiving














-And today I am leaving to celebrate my first Christmas ever without my family. I expect it to be the same as Thanksgiving, where I try to rationally make myself emotional about the fact that I'm away from family, but get too distracted by this ->>

to get too upset about it. :)










I'll be spending Christmas in Genipabu (the location of the Carnatal retreat) with Roberto and Marisa's family and a few other church members. I've been promised that it will be nothing but a relaxing 3 days, with a huge Christmas Eve dinner tonight at midnight. I'm excited to be a part of this tradition with my new family here in Natal, and I guess I am willing to forgo a white Christmas for a beachy one!

I wish all of you, any of you who are reading this, a very Merry Christmas. Thanks to all of you who took the time to send me holiday cheer on the last post. I'm still accepting gifts, by the way. :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is....an air conditioner

Ok, just kidding. Kind of. Christmas is less than a week away and it still continues to freak me out. For some reason my apartment has refused to cool off today, and as I rearranged the pathetic little ornaments on my pathetic little Christmas tree, I could only laugh at the irony that I live in a city called "Christmas" (the translation of "Natal") but right now it feels like anything but Christmas.

But really, I've been thinking, my dear blogging community, and I have decided what it is that I really want for Christmas. It will not cost you a thing, maybe just a minute or two and a little effort that you aren't accustomed to putting out there.

All I want for Christmas is comments on my blog. (Kelly, this doesn't mean I will send back your package when it arrives. Sorry, that baby's already shipped.) Whoever you are, whether I know you or not, you are reading my thoughts and you are putting red dots on that map to the right. Recently, Europe has been making a name for itself on my little map, and I'd love to know who you are. There are a few areas of Brazil that continue to grow, and I have absolutely no idea who you are. I have some visitors from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Africa, and all over the US, and I just want some Christmas wishes from you. Please?

I will even give you a template to copy and paste in the comments section to reduce the amount of energy you waste on my Christmas gift.

If I know you, please copy and paste:
"Hi Cris! It's (insert your name or family name here)! Merry Christmas from (insert your city/country here.)"

If I don't know you, please copy and paste:
"Hi Cris! My name is (insert your name here) and I'm the dot in (insert your city/country here) on your map. Merry Christmas! (And then please insert "Merry Christmas," or any holiday greeting you would like, in your native language here, just to spice things up a bit.)"

See? So easy. If you're feeling a little extra generous, by all means, feel free to skip right over the copy and paste and write an original message of your own. All greetings are appreciated. :)


Friday, December 14, 2007

Hey, those are my shorts!

When I was 9 (same time that I was starring in those Donut Hole productions I told you about...) I participated in a basketball clinic put on the UCSB women's basketball team. (Ok, done laughing? Let us go on...) Not only did I participate in these clinics for a few years, but I also worshipped the ground the players walked on and went to every single home game they played. Sometimes alone. (I know, seriously, what were my parents thinking?)

So anyway, my last year to participate in Lil' Gauchos, my parents bought me a pair of high quality, Champion-brand, UCSB Gauchos basketball shorts. For some odd reason I chose an entirely too conspicuous royal blue in what seems to be a Men's XL. That's how they fit me anyway. Since the age of 9, I have worn these shorts faithfully. Due to their size and lack of chic-ness, I have spent most of the last 13 years sleeping in them, but oh what a delightful pair of shorts they are. I have few material possessions that really matter to me, but this pair of shorts is among the few.

So you can imagine the degree of devastation I experienced when these shorts disappeared my first or second week in Natal. They traveled with me to Natal once last year, so maybe they just liked the city so much they decided to venture out on their own for a little vacation. We had no idea what happened to them, and the only logical explanation I could come up with was that they flew out the window, literally, while line drying in Roberto and Marisa's apartment. I was almost sick, Roberto and Marisa felt bad, but assured me they were sure the shorts would turn up eventually.

So flash forward to this past Monday when we were at the Braga's apartment helping them move. Roberto went back to the bathroom to change into moving clothes while I was sitting on the floor eating lunch. He came out wearing a pair of entirely too conspicuous royal blue basketball shorts and passed right in front of me. I would have thought nothing of it had I not seen the yellow "UCSB Gauchos" logo printed right in front of my face.

"Hey!" I yelped. "Those are my shorts!" "Huh?" he looked at me with a confused look, probably because I was yelling in English out of nowhere. "My shorts!" I switched to Portuguese, "that flew away!!" He looked down, then looked back up, "Seriously???"

Now you need to understand one thing. Roberto is a big guy. I, however, am not. So it's understandable that when they looked for my shorts, they didn't really think to look among Roberto's clothes. And when he put them on, it's understandable that they fit, because they're HUGE. But that's exactly what makes them so delightful.

So the sad, sad story has a happy ending. My shorts had been taken good care of and have now found their way to their new home. I have a feeling I'll be getting much better sleep now that things are right again in the pajama world...

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Politics...

Just some thoughts on a Friday....

One of the nights this past week I had a dream about Mike Huckabee. There is not a single explanation as to why this occurred. It just did. He was very nice.

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I went to the beach with 45 SPF sunscreen and got sunburned.

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Vacation season is beginning in Brasil, and I'm beginning to understand what that means. I had 6 readers scheduled yesterday (yes, scheduled, meaning they confirmed with me that they would come.) Two showed up. This could be an interesting couple of months...

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When I come home at night my apartment is hot. When I lean against the tile wall in the kitchen, it is hot. When I open the cabinet to take out a plate, the plate is hot. They say this is just the beginning of summer, it will get worse.

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All you can eat pizza is a great idea. All you can eat pizza with friends and readers is an even better idea!

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Today a girl got on the bus carrying a kitten. Then a little girl sitting behind her began to pull the kitten's tail. Then a man got on carrying a crate of eggs. Then an egg fell and broke and he made a joke about making an omelette. I think he was referring to the heat. I don't know how to spell omelette. Then a man with a large-proportioned midsection got on and leaned over with his belly in front of my face for a long time. At one point he saw me looking around and asked me if I was needing to get off. I told him I couldn't see to tell. It was an interesting bus ride today...

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way to the beach

It's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it's 6 gazillion degrees outside. Okay, fine, I'll admit that's a bit of an exaggeration. I think the weather man said this morning it was only 6 trillion. Okay fine, I'll admit that that's a bit of an exaggeration too. I learned two important little words while living in Oklahoma in the months of July and August, and those two small but deadly words are HEAT INDEX. I learned that heat index allows you say "I don't care that it's only ___ degrees, it FEELS like 6 GAZILLION degrees!" God bless that heat index factor, because I declare that the heat index in Natal today was 6 gazillion degrees.

Anyway, Christmas. My calendar says it's December, but I refuse to believe it. Usually, if I were in the States, I would be listening to Christmas music by now. In particular, the Greatest Christmas Mix of All Time, compiled by yours truly. TGCMOAT is waiting for my in my iTunes library, begging to be played, but it's hard to think about chestnuts roasting on an open fire when my body literally feels like it's on fire. Just wanted you to know that this little chestnut is definitely roasting, 24 hours a day. Just some pleasant Christmas imagery for you folks out there....

So really the reason I sat down to blog tonight was to tell you about the Carnatal Retreat, the Carnatal Retreat that was W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L with a capital W. (Ok, all the letters were capital.) Not only did I get to relax with my friends for 4 days at an amazing house...



And spend some great God time on Friday afternoon here...








And listening to fantastic messages (really, they were fantastic, and I actually understood them...) from many....

The HIGHLIGHT of the retreat, without a doubt, was on Friday afternoon when two girls who have been visiting our church decided to be baptized. This is always an exciting event, but was particularly exciting for me because one of the girls is/was (haven't determined the protocol yet for how I will continue with her!) one of my readers.

My precious, precious friend Sarah first came to the church through the LST team that was here in June. She soon began a Bible study with Marta, one of the missionaries, in Portuguese, but continued studying the Luke and Acts LST books with the other LST team and then with me when I arrived. This day was a long time coming, and everyone knew it (and she made no secret of it with me,) but oh what glee filled my heart when she told me on Thursday night, just as I was drifting to sleep. (So much glee, in fact, that I yelped and jumped on top of her on the bed. Yep. Yelped.)
On Friday afternoon, we all made a trek from the house down to the river for the baptisms. There was an amazing, "John the Baptist" feel to the whole thing, as we prayed on the bank and then as they waded into the water for the baptisms. But, in true Brasilian fashion, the guys running the little ferries for dune buggies back and forth across the river brought me back to reality and provided nice background noise for the lovely moment. :)

So, December is getting off to a great start, despite the unfortunate weather. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement, as always. When I tell you that YOU are a part of my work here, ^^^^^ this is what I'm talking about! Without you, and all the people who support the LST ministry, contacts like Sarah wouldn't have been reached with the Gospel. You are doing good work...keep it up!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Carnatal!

Today the church here is leaving the city of Natal for a weekend retreat. The famous Carnaval season is upon us, but not really. The way it was explained to me is that Brasilians can't wait a full year for the traditional Carnaval celebrations, so each region or major city has their own at other parts of the year. This is so utterly Brasilian that it makes me laugh every time I think about it-- I told you Brasilians love to party! Carnatal (yep, that's the real name...) begins tonight, about a mile away from my apartment and the church building, and thus we are getting out of the city for a few days to avoid the madness. Should be a relaxing few days. I need it.

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I've never been good at reading the Old Testament. I just didn't quite know what to do with it. However, this week, I've found special comfort, peace, and strength in the words of my buds Isaiah and David. I hope you can as well.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. -Isaiah 46:4

I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:9-10

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. -Isaiah 43:2

Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you. -Psalm 25:20-21

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. -Psalm 121

Happy Carnatal!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blessings

Last night I carried home 28 blessings in my purse. On any other day of the year, I could guarantee you that by "blessings" I meant "Reais," (Brasilian currency) but last night they actually were real blessings, written on pieces of paper by my readers and friends.

Our Thanksgiving "party" was a huge success. (FYI, the reason I keep putting "party" in quotes is because I tried really hard to call it a Thanksgiving Feast. But, in sticking to their true nature in which every occasion is an occasion for a party, the Brasilians morphed the name slowly into Thanksgiving Party and so with reluctance I succumbed. But seriously...they love to party.) About 15 readers showed up (of the 20 who said they would...that's a great turnout!) and all of them contributed something to the feast, whether it was drinks, napkins, homemade desserts, and even homemade Farofa!! In addition to my readers, a few of the church members and a couple special American guests helped make the party a delight. The food was incredible and everyone was returning to the table to get seconds and thirds while truly enjoying themselves.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I was actually really bummed out about missing out on Thanksgiving with my family this year. On Thursday I kept trying to get emotional about it, but it just wasn't working when the temperature outside was upwards of 90 degrees. :) Anyway, it was a blessing to get to expose my Brasilian friends to the holiday and to the idea of setting aside a full day of the year to be thankful.

I wanted to share with you some of the blessings that the party goers hung on the blessings tree.( If one of you is reading this and this is yours, don't be embarrassed, I have no idea who wrote them.)
-Pela minha family I am agradesso very much, much. (For my family I am very thankful.)
-I am thankful for the breeze.
-I'm really thankful for have a really special friend by my side ALWAYS!

-Thanks God for get a job.
-Health, job, family.
-For my life, my family in Christ, and for all the blessings. :)

-My parents, my friends, and to have a chance to change.
-Love and peace in the world.
-Thanks God for my sons.

-Thanks God for I get buy my car.
-I thank for Cris's life.
(Ok, I really liked that one!)
-Thanks God for the health and for my family stay united.

Sergio, the true party planner, and I in front of the blessings tree

What Brazilian Thanksgiving would be complete without a GIANT pot of rice and beans?! You also see there homemade rolls, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, farofa, batat palha, and turkey. MMMMMMMM!!!

One of the turkeys...it was amaaaaaazing!

Half of the long feast table, waiting on dessert!

Marta, Osmildo, Andressa, Roberto, and Catherine enjoying the feast. This was the Bragas' first Thanksgiving experience, and Catherine told me about four times "Cris....I LOVE Thanksgiving!!"

Special thanks this time around to Marisa, Marta, and Sergio for doing the cooking and helping me with the planning. Seriously, this party would have been no party at all without them! Just another reminder to me of God's faithfulness!



Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving...not.

You’re probably expecting a post on my opinion concerning what it’s like to spend Thanksgiving out of the country and away from family. While I had every intention of doing so, instead I would prefer to tell you that today I was in my elevator, going up to my apartment, and the power went out. That means the elevator came to a screeching (literally) halt, all the lights went out making the tiny 4-square-foot space pitch black, and I (not kidding) began to have images of that episode of Saved by the Bell when Mr. Belding’s pregnant wife gets stuck in an elevator with Zack and coincidentally goes into labor, only to have Zack save the day and deliver the baby minutes before the power comes back on. They named the baby Zack…in case you missed that one.

So, in this season of thankfulness, I am thankful for a few things:
1. Cell phones that can illuminate the tiny space of an elevator.
2. That I was not pregnant, nor in a labor, all alone in the elevator.
3. That my debilitating phobia is of bridges over bodies of water rather than small, dark spaces.
4. That last night the GIANT lizard that was hanging out on the wall directly outside my bathroom window did not enter my apartment.

Okay, so #4 is entirely unrelated, but man did I thank my lucky stars about that one last night…

You can expect the real Thanksgiving post tomorrow, after we have our Thanksgiving “party” with the readers.

Happy biggest shopping day of the year!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sou Brasileira

I keep finding out that I am actually more Brasilian than I thought I was, and this is great news. I have a propensity to use 5 words where only 1 is necessary, and I'm pretty sure my friends and family suffer for it. You've already experienced this through reading my blog and emails. Or perhaps you have received one of my "just calling to say hi" voicemails, in which I basically have a conversation with myself for a solid minute. "Hiiii....I was just thinking about you, sooooo I thought I'd call and see how you were doinggggg....something funny happened today (insert funny thing here) and it made me laugh so hard because remember that one time when (insert funny memory here) happened and we couldn't stop laughing? Sooooo, anyway....call me back if you feel like it....and if not.....then I'll just talk to you laterrrrrr!!!" Yep, it's annoying. I know it. But it's me.

So today my friend Sergio was asking me how to phrase an email that he was trying to compose in English to Americans. I said: "Say this: 'Hi, Our plans for our Thanksgiving party on Saturday have changed. It will now be at 12 instead of 2. I hope you can still come! See you then!"

"That's all?" he said. "Yep...you're writing to Americans, right?" I asked. "Yeah....but I don't need to say anything else?" I heard the discomfort in his voice. I recognized it. It was the same discomfort with which I told him what to write. "I know, right?" I said, "With Americans, it's perfectly acceptable to be brief, to the point. No need for flowery language and 5 words where 1 will do. They appreciate it." "Okay...." he said.

As he walked back downstairs, I smiled to myself. Now I know where I get my verbosity. (Okay, I really got it from my dad...) And now I know why it has never gone away. And now I know why I'm perfectly fine with it...

Eu sou brasileira!!! (I am Brazilian!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Life without God's love...is like a donut...'cause there's a hole in the middle of your heart.

If you knew me when I was 9, I have two words for you: Donut Hole. If you didn't know me when I was 9, Donut Hole was a Christian video "series" (pretty sure there were only two...and only one of them was good...) made for children in which a gaggle of children (the majority of whom were from the same family, there were like 12 kids with the same last name) acted out skits and sung songs to tell Bible stories. I, along with my friends and sister and sister's friends, watched these Donut Hole videos like they were the latest Hollywood Blockbusters, and even put on our own Donut Hole production at the Turnpike Road Church of Christ in Santa Barbara, California. (Oh, how I wish YouTube existed back then!) I knew the songs from Donut Hole backwards and forwards, and as was evidenced today during one of my reading sessions, apparently I still do?

As I was reading and talking with one of my readers, who is extremely intelligent and does not believe the way of Christ is the only way...if a way at all, we began talking about an idea called positive thinking. He told me that he believes in positive thinking, where when he thinks positively about his life, positive things will happen. I asked him if he had ever considered the possibility that, in those positive things that happen, could God be trying to get his attention? (I know...HUGE limb...but I decided to venture out on it...) So we talked about this idea further, and I remembered the story of Paul's conversion. Paul, I explained, the most famous of all apostles in the world (my current residence in Natal is named after him...) began his career by persecuting Christians. Then, one day, on the road to Damascus, God got his attention in a BIG way. (Acts 9) The only problem was, however, that as I was telling this story, I was forgetting a LOT of details. Without my Bible there, I tried to remember what I could of the story, when all of the sudden an image popped into my mind from the Donut Hole video with the words "Saul! Saul! Saul! Why do you hurt me?" (repeat 3 times.) By playing the story from the video through my mind, I was able to tell my reader the story of Paul's conversion.

I also vividly remember that really the main reason I watched Donut Hole so much was because I had a small (ok, huge) crush on the boy who played Ananias in Paul's conversion story. I attribute my vivid memory of the story to my crush, as I watched and rewound that particular skit many, many, many times to squeal and giggle over how cute Ananias was. As a precocious 9 year old, I also went to find the story in my Bible. Imagine my surprise when I actually found a story about a different Ananias, and rather than helping Paul to become a believer, this happened: "Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him." -Acts 5

Ok, so apparently Ananias was a common name back in the day. But I will never again say that those kinds of videos don't work, and I will always be wary to condemn an innocent crush. Mine taught me the Bible, and lasted 13 years... :).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cows Holes and Lizards

*After you read this post, please make sure to read the following one. I posted it earlier today and want to make sure everyone sees it.*

Today was another one of those days where I just absolutely fell in love with my readers. They all did something this week to further endear themselves to me, whether through their excitement that they are speaking English well, or by always saying "bye bye" as they leave, or by thinking long and hard after reading the lesson from Luke and saying "Wow...this is very important." Today, as I read this lesson with my final reader of the day, we began talking once again about the difficulty that money can bring to the Christian life. Many of our conversations recently have turned to this subject, and he has very strong opinions on how money can come to control and ultimately strangle a person. As he explained to me yet again how the love of money can be evil, he attempted to quote, from memory, one of Jesus' more famous statements. Before you think condescending thoughts, keep in mind that he was not speaking in his native language, and then tell me if it looks familiar. :)

"It is easier for a cow to pass through a hole than go to heaven."


On the eve of yet another Brasilian holiday, I am home feeling refreshed, encouraged, and happy as a lizard. Perhaps you have never heard the expression 'happy as a lizard,' and perhaps it is because I just made it up. I don't actually think this lizard is too happy, because if it's the same one I've seen for the last three days, he's been imprisoned in my apartment since Monday:(To give you a size comparison, my hand is as long as the part of the door handle that's pictured to the right of the little guy.)

If he's not the same one, then I have a much bigger problem on my hands and need to find a way to get rid of these tiny lizards quickly. Last night as I tried liberate him onto the balcony, I decided to affectionately name him Chatinho, a word that I really don't know how to translate. "Chato" means annoying, and "chatinho" I guess would mean little annoying one. To give you a hint, my mom used to call me "Chatinha" quite often as a child :). ('Ooooooh Chatinha! she would say. It brings back such pleasant memories...) I am not a fan of lizards in my home, but he is small so he's more cute than disturbing. I do hope, however, that Chatinho finds a new home soon.

I think I managed to bring the strange summer weather Oklahoma endured during the months of May, June, and July with me to Natal. It has been raining quite a bit for the past week, and I'm not talking normal Natal rain where it rains for 5 minutes then disappears like it made a mistake, never to show up again. I mean it rains, hard, for like 10 minutes. Then it stops, but comes back again an hour later and rains hard again. Somehow, though, I manage to always be inside during the rain and needing to go somewhere during the sunshine. And I bet I just jinxed myself by telling you that. Here's to me getting soaked the next time I leave my apartment...

Happy Proclamação da República tomorrow! Hope you enjoy it as much as I will!

A Way to Feel Smart and Help the World

Special thanks to my former roommate for directing me to this site...

Kelly, if you didn't already know about it, I feel really, really cool.

Improve your vocabulary, give away some rice:

http://freerice.com/index.php


A Natal update is coming soon!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Just to Clarify

I was thinking last night about how most of my blog posts are about life in Natal, and not necessarily about my day to day, 8-5 job (or 10-8, actually) that I'm here to do. Every few posts I'll mention the reading sessions, or readers in particular, but that's not because I'm not enjoying them or don't find them important enough to write about. On the short-term LST projects, LST trains its workers how to blog appropriately, talking mostly about the reading sessions and minimally about what they do on their days off. I think this is extremely important, as you do spend 5 days of your week working all day and only 2 days resting/sight-seeing. Sometimes on the short-term projects you even end up with more pictures of the sight-seeing than your reading sessions, even though most of your time and energy was spent on reading. That's just the way it goes, especially when you're in a beautiful city like Natal!

However, my internship is much more than a 6 week project. When I moved to Natal, I moved to Natal. My life here consists of waking up every morning and "going to work," but it also consists of making friends, hanging out on the weekends, going grocery shopping, learning how to clean my apartment, finding weird Brasilian game shows on TV, spending time with the missionaries, going to church activities, learning the hang of public transportation, and yes, even going to the beach sometimes. I hope that you don't get the wrong impression when the pictures I post are of sunsets and friends. I work a 40 hour week just like you do, I promise! (FYI, my 40 hour work week consists of individual reading sessions, group reading sessions, preparation time, talking with my LST supervisor, writing correspondence to my supporters, studying Portuguese, other areas of ministry with the church, spending time with readers outside of sessions, etc. Yes, it adds up to at least 40 hours, but now you understand why I put "going to work" in quotations. It rarely feels like "work"!)

I wanted to maintain this blog for my friends, family, and supporters to know what was going on with me here in Natal. Therefore, the things I take the time to write about are "what's going on with me." I hope you have been enjoying it, and I hope you know that you are a part of furthering God's Kingdom in Natal. Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for your encouragement!

Friday, November 9, 2007

How To Score Serious Brownie Points With Your Missionary

I would like to dedicate this post, and the rest of the posts in 2007, to my friend Jim Kizer. Some of you who keep up with the comments section have seen him comment a few times under the moniker "Kizer," always with a encouraging word and maybe some advice on how to send mass emails more efficiently. :) I dedicate the rest of the posts in 2007 to Jim because he was able to make a group of 10 Brasilians the happiest Brasilians in Natal, no doubt, for the rest of this year.

Jim is a friend from ACU, and for the past year he has been an employee of the Acappella company. A couple months ago he let me know that Acappella would be making a stop in Natal on their Brazilian tour, and I shamelessly asked what my friendship with him could get me (or save me...the tickets were expensive!)

Being a man of his word, Jim talked to his friends who were traveling with the group and let me know yesterday that I would be able to get in. I brought my friend Sergio with me, as he did not have a ticket but is a huge Acappella fan, and we went to look for Jim's friend. Not only did Jim's friend let us in, but he seated us before the doors opened, let us move to VIP seating once all the concert-goers were seated, arranged with the head of security (a Baptist missionary from around here, also my new friend,) for us to meet the group privately afterward, and gave me a free, autographed CD to boot. It was really fun for me because I've never been given special treatment like that before, but also exciting because my friends were SO EXCITED. Roberto's eyes were glowing as we sat on the floor in the VIP chairs, so close to the stage, and Sergio was giddy as we took pictures with the guys afterwards. All of the Acappella guys were so nice, and acted just as excited to meet us as we were to meet them!

Roberto, Marisa, and Sergio have done so much for me since I've been in Natal, I had been feeling overwhelmed, almost defeated, by the prospect that I would never really be able to repay them, let alone thank them enough. So, I think this helped.... :)

Sergio and I with happy eyes because we were in disbelief that it actually worked

Waiting for the show to start

Roberto, Marisa, and Sergio with the Acappella guys

THANKS, JIM!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Joao Pessoa Retreat

The group from Natal the first night. Everyone dressed in black that night...we're not just a bunch of weirdos.

Watching the sunset from the roof Saturday evening
(L-R: Rejane, Kelly, Marisa, Sarah, Catherine)

Our group waiting on the van to arrive to take us home!
(Me, Nathalia, Sarah, Kelly, Andre, Catherine, Rejane, Roberto, Rafael, Pipa)

Once again...the group from Natal minus Andressa, who managed to get the chicken pox after working so hard to raise money for everyone to go! :(
(L-R: Nathalia, Rejane, Pipa, Andre, Rafael, Kelly, Roberto, Catherine, Sarah, me, Jaime)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Newsflash

I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with creative titles for my entries, so my apologies for the incredibly lame-o ones I do end up using. I have good news to share with the blogging community of Living and Loving: as of today, I am officially a fully-documented Brasilian. Sure, I always had the Passport. Yes, I paid an absurd amount of money for Brasilia to send me a color-printer copy of my birth certificate on printer paper. Yes, I am registered to vote (and paid a penalty because I didn't do it when I was 18...woops. How could I have forgotten to do that on my 18th birthday 3 days before my high school graduation?) Yes, I received my CPF card in the mail a few weeks ago and don't really know what it's good for but everyone makes a big deal about it. After all these things, I was still missing one, last document. Today I finally got my Identidade, my general ID card that serves the same way as a driver's license serves in the US. (Except mine doesn't let me drive...and don't worry, I don't want to get that one.) The picture is terrible and my thumbprint looks like my finger is the width of my foot, but nevertheless, it's here and I'm a real person now. My skin might be white as a ghost and my hair might be blonde (according to them,) but I am legally as Brasilian as my doorman and the President. I just took a picture of all my documents laid out to show you, then realized that putting a photo on the internet of all my legal documents with my ID numbers clear as day was about the dumbest thing I could ever do. So, sorry. I guess you can't see all my cool Brasilian things. :(

Today I also bought an English/Portuguese Bible, which was actually more exciting for me than getting my Identidade. I have been waiting to buy this Bible for a while, until I had a little extra money, but after using my friend's at the retreat this weekend, I realized that it was invaluable and I needed to have it now. I spent the rest of the afternoon staring at it, so excited for every time I will use it and get to read the same verse in English and Portuguese, side by side! It is going to be a great learning tool for me to learn Portuguese, and will be so helpful to use in my classes when my readers don't understand a certain story or scripture in English. Fun fact: the Portuguese translation for "Passover" in the Bible is what we call "Easter." I could not figure out last week why my friend was complaining that his birthday is close to Passover, and therefore he only ever gets chocolate on his birthday. I found this strange, as I thought about how I personally had never given anyone chocolate on Passover...until I read the Portuguese-English Bible this weekend and realized what he had been saying. And thus I just demonstrated to you another perk to having a Portuguese-English Bible.

Two of my readers believe in Predestination and this is weird for me. Not weird because I think they are weirdos, but weird because when I was preparing for this internship, I prepared myself to show Jesus to non-believers, and did not prepare to discuss the validity of the doctrine of Predestination with fellow believers...like not at all. If you have had this same experience, please send an email or comment my way with some advice. The battles are entirely based on scripture and our individual interpretations, which is what makes it so hard.

Okay, I have more to say but I want to be respectful of your time. I'm thinking that this is the week I'm finally going to buy the things I'm missing in my apartment. You know, maybe some silverware, a spatula, pots and pans. It's amazing how long you can go living without those things. :) Have a good week!

Verse of the week, just because it's my favorite:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. -Philippians 2:3-4

and in Portuguese...

Não façam nada que seja motivado por despique, nem que seja provocado por interesses pessoais. Mas sejam humildes: que cada um considere os outros superiores a si mesmo.
Não pensem unicamente nos vossos interesses, mas procurem também aquilo que interessa aos outros. -Filipenses 2:3-4

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Great Weekend, a Great Brother in Law, Everything is Great Today

My creative writing juices just aren't flowing today, but I wanted to check back in with you and tell you two things.

1. I had a wonderful weekend. I traveled with some of the church members to a nearby city, Joao Pessoa, for a youth retreat. (Here, 'youth' actually includes anyone between the ages of like 11 and 25. I count.) They church there did an incredible job with the retreat, and I hope I'm around next year to go again! :) Like a true Carpenter, I forgot my camera and therefore missed out on some pretty great pictures of sunsets, friends, and the bathrooms without doors (just kidding, I wouldn't take a picture of that,) but hopefully I will get some of the ones my friends took and upload them later. I made a new friend, an American girl who has been living in a city outside Recife as an AIM worker for 2 years, and really enjoyed getting to talk with her and share our experiences. I am in the infancy of my internship and she is at the end, so it was good to have someone to talk to who really understood where I am coming from and was able to offer me insight and little inspiration for where I am headed. We were shy to talk to each other at first because I thought she was a missionary kid, and therefore had really good Portuguese and maybe didn't claim the US so much and wouldn't want to talk to me, and she was afraid to talk to me for the same reason. We ended up playing Uno together on Saturday evening and I wasn't saying a word in Portuguese, afraid of speaking incorrectly and with an accent in front of her. Turns out she was doing the same thing, afraid that I would judge her Portuguese. :) It was so funny when we realized that we had had the same misconceptions about each other and it had prevented us from talking earlier! She also told me that up until we talked, she and everyone else at the retreat had been trying to decide if I was American or Brasilian (rather than actually talking to me or any of my friends and finding out, which I also find hilarious. I'm like a "blonde" haired blue eyed tiny monster here.) She said they had come to the conclusion that I was Brasilian, which is exciting for me, but also explains why I got stared at a lot...again.

2. My brother in law whipped up an amazing newsletter for me to send out to my supporters, and I want to brag on him for it. I had written something out to send to supporters who aren't on my email list, and asked him if he would be able to format it to make it entertaining to look at. What he came up with was about 6 gazillion times better than what I had even been hoping for, let alone expecting. It was only going to go through the mail to a handful of people, but it looks so cool that I think I want to email it, too. So if you're on the email list...be expecting something soon. And if you're not on the email list...leave a comment and ask to be. Or email me at my last name dot my first name (cris) at gmail dot com.

Have a great Monday! I'm sure I'll be back soon...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Great, Great Day

Yesterday in an email to my mom, I asked her to pray for me because I had a feeling this week would be a "Cris, you really live in Brasil" week. I got this feeling after a few less-than-desirable things happened in a period of two days (two scary car accidents on my street, and I thought my friendly neighbhorhood bakery was going to be robbed while I was in it...it wasn't, thankfully, and I know these are things that happen in the US, but they are much scarier when you don't speak the native language fluently to figure out what is going on....). (That was a very long parenthetical aside...my apologies.) When I got this feeling, it wasn't a good one. It meant that this week I would struggle, and really be reminded that I am here, living alone, in a foreign country, away from the luxuries and conveniences of my life in the US.

Well, I am here to tell you that God has done an amazing job of reminding me today that "Cris, you really live in Brasil," and I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful day. You weren't expecting this? Neither was I. Let me explain. This morning I had my group class for advanced speakers, (pictured below,) and it went marvelously well. Although the readers may not agree, for there was quite a bit of heated debate, that's precisely the reason I wanted them to all get together to talk about their faith...but in English. When we talk about things that are important to us (faith) and other people don't agree, we become passionate about defending/proving our point. In order to defend/prove your point, you must search for answers within the Bible, therefore making us all better readers of the Word, and further deepening our belief and our faith. This was my first objective when I formed this group, knowing full well that we all come from different Christian backgrounds and therefore believe different interpretations of Scripture. However, as we all are Christians already, I knew that we would learn a lot from this time. And we did! (Please let it be known, however, that I'm not saying you should always passionately and heatedly PROVE your Christian points to others at all time. I'm saying that within the context of this particular group, where we all believe in Christ and the Bible as God's Word, we are able to do this in a constructive manner.) So I felt good after this class, and I thanked God that He brought this group together.


Then, this afternoon, God blew the door right open for me to very openly and boldly talk with two different readers (I'll call them Tiago and Jose, although those are nowhere near to their actual names) about the message of Christ, what God wants from us, why I believe, how much God loves us, etc. They were the types of conversations where, as you're talking, you get goosebumps as you listen to the words coming out of your mouth because you realize they are not your own. One of my biggest fears in this job is that I will cross the line, be too bold, and scare my readers to the point where they don't come back ever again. But today they both responded with even more questions, and it only allowed me the opportunity to talk further. At the end of the conversation with Tiago, whom I have talked with about this kind of thing several times, but who says he does not know if God exists or not, I asked him to just think about what we had talked about. He looked at me and said "I think about this every day..."

And that is how God reminded me that I live in Brasil...and that this is exactly, without a doubt, where He wants for me to be.

Would you please be praying for Tiago and Jose? Although those aren't their real names, (people here in Natal read my blog, so I want to respect their privacy, sorry Carol e Sergio!) I bet God will know who you're talking about. I told Tiago that I pray that he will open himself for God to work in his life, so that he can have certainty that God, the God of the Bible, exists. Will you pray this too? Yes, that was a bold thing to say to him, but faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, right?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I would like to applaud the Californian public school system (namely, the Goleta Union School District) for not only teaching me that littering is wrong, but for ingraining it so deeply in my conscience that it is now an irrefutable moral issue. In particular, I'd like to give a hand to Mrs. Melanie Dickey, my teacher in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade at Isla Vista Elementary School, because it was through her environmental science lessons that I learned that Styrofoam products are not biodegradable, and to this day I still feel guilty when I use a Styrofoam plate or cup. One day in 4th grade we all brought lunches in which everything was recyclable and we wouldn't have to throw anything away. (Except I remember Mrs. Dickey forgot to bring a cloth napkin, like she had told all of us to, and had to use a disposable paper towel instead. I kind of lost faith in her a little bit that day...a class of 25 4th graders all managed to bring cloth napkins, but the teacher couldn't? Come on...) Anyway, yesterday I carried around a candy wrapper for an hour because I couldn't find a trash can. Had my sense of littering morality not been so strong, I would have done what every other person in Brasil does and just thrown it on the ground. Looking around, it wouldn't have made a difference, maybe made the ground a little more colorful. But I just couldn't. I could not throw it on the ground, to blow around for several years to come, when I was bound to find a trash can eventually. My conscience really could not have handled it. So good job, California. You taught this 4th grader a lesson that she can't forget.

On an unrelated note, I would like to know what it is that compels a person to play with fireworks at 8 in the morning on a Saturday. I think I've figured out that fireworks explode at about the 8th-story level in the sky, which is why I bet they're much more fun when you're on the ground than if you're sleeping in an 8th floor apartment with an open window. I went out on my balcony to watch, and the crackles and pops were at eye level. Not only is that annoying, it's kind of scary as well. Just add it to my "Why Living in Brasil is a New Adventure Every Day" list. :)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stupid

Note: I title today's post "Stupid," because in it I will tell you three separate stories in which the main character did something stupid. Luckily for you, in 2 out of those 3 stories the main character was me, so you get something to laugh at today. I use the word "stupid" in its 2 contexts: first, lacking intelligence. Second, silly and embarrassing. And now, storytime.

I have a family of stupid, immortal flies living in my bathroom. I don't use "stupid" to describe the way I feel about them-- I use "stupid" to describe their thinking abilities as insects. They're not your regular house, trash can flies, but little flea looking flies that don't even fly away when I go to kill them. (They must lack that hexagonal dome vision that regular insects have...) I don't even get the satisfaction I feel I deserve out of killing them every day, the way you feel accomplished after actually succeeding in killing a real fly. (Come on, you know exactly the feeling I'm talking about!) So every day my task is the same: get in the shower, turn on the water, wait for the little flies to come out and drink (about 9 today,) and then smash them all against the wall and spray down the walls with the awesome little sprayer that comes in all Brasilian showers. I kill them all, and they still multiply. Scientific mystery, if you ask me.
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This week I received a packet of papers from the real estate office that handles my contract in my apartment. There were 12 sheets, all similar to the invoice I used to pay my first month of rent. The amount due seemed fine, but in the "Date Due" section the dates were really bizarre. It started with 5/11/2007, 5/12/2007, 5/1/2008, 5/2/2008...etc. I could not for the life of me figure out why they were asking for so many rent payments in the month of May, and why they were on consecutive days, and why some of them were in May of 2007, which already passed. (You know where this is going...) I thought about it all night, and figured it was some kind of information Roberto had requested sent, like history of the apartment. You would think that at some point I would have an "Aha!" moment and figure out the mistake was mine, but I actually waited a full day to retreat out of my Stupid Hole, when I asked Roberto what it was. He told me it was my rent invoices for each month until September of next year. Great, I said. Why do they want all of the payments in May? He smiled his sweet, "poor girl" smile and gently reminded me that here in Brasil you write the date day/month/year. And I'm the one who even chose to pay my rent on the 5th day of every month...

Oh.
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Yesterday one of my readers told me that he dreams of one day seeing snow. I began to tell him all the reasons why I love snow, how it makes everything quiet, how I don't really love cold weather but I don't mind it if there's snow, how it's so beautiful, etc. I started getting really sad that I wouldn't see snow this winter. I was reminded of this when I went to the mall, and wearing shorts and a tank top and wiping sweat off my face, I saw the whole place decorated for Christmas with wreaths and red velvet ribbon. I went on with my day like normal, no big deal. But last night, as I was recounting the story to one of my friends in the States online, I began to cry. I cried that I wouldn't see snow. Shouldn't I be crying that I won't see my family? Haha...maybe it was a little of that, too. :)

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thoughts on a Tuesday

-I appreciate the value of heavy iron gates that serve as extra security to a building. I don't appreciate them, however, when they smash my thumb while being pulled closed. It's been numb for 7 hours now.

-In the last post I referenced the idea of "explaining a concept that is far too simple to explain" and how it is my most difficult task every day. How would you explain the word "throughout" to someone who doesn't understand it? This word has come back over and over to bite me in a place I don't want to be bitten, and it is not getting any easier to explain.

-Xuxa, my childhood heroine, is in Natal right now. This is a BIG DEAL. My friend Andressa saw her by chance yesterday, and I'll admit, I was quite jealous, even at the age of 22. Xuxa's songs define my childhood in Brasil, and to this day I still know many of the lyrics by heart, despite the fact that I have no idea what they mean.

-If you received my mass email yesterday, I just realized that I forgot a major detail when I gave you my address: the word BRASIL at the bottom. :) I'm too embarrassed to send out another email, and I don't believe in doing that to people's inboxes, but I figure two things:
1. Anyone who is dedicated enough to actually send me something is also dedicated enough to read this blog, so you're getting the memo here.
2. People know that when you send international mail you always write the destination country in big, capital letters at the bottom...right? Now you do. You don't have to raise your hand if you didn't.
(If you don't know what mass email I am referencing and you are interested in receiving it, please let me know.)

-Today I purchased 20 liters of drinking water (approx. 5 gallons) for R$4 (approx. US$2.25). It arrived at my door 15 minutes after I ordered it. How many times have you paid more than $1 for a 20 oz. bottle of Aquafina? The bottled water industry is a sham, I tell you, and the Brasilian water industry is awesome because it functions by motorcycle.

-I hope that the people who invented Skype are really, really rich, because they deserve it. Skype is a free internet telephone service that allows you to talk "by phone" (really, cute little microphone headsets that plug into your computer,) to any person around the world who also has the program. This is how I have been able to talk to my mom and friends back in the US so frequently without paying a dime. You can also pay to call from your computer to a phone line, but I haven't done that yet...because talking computer to computer is so FREE! Sometimes there is a bit of a delay, but the calls are always clear and I get to talk as long as I want to without worrying about a phone bill!

-I would much rather pay extra money for someone to take the time to prepare my food serve it to me at a restaurant than prepare it myself. I most definitely did not inherit the love for cooking that my sister inherited, and every time I go to cook for myself it's depressing. It's not that I can't, it's that I really just hate it. I find cooking in general, but especially cooking for one, impractical. So much time is spent preparing the meal and so little time is spent consuming. It's just a giant let down. Therefore, I usually end up eating some version of ramen noodles or bread and butter. Those take very little effort on my part. (And don't misunderstand, I could actually eat bread and butter for every meal of the day and be perfectly content in life. It's just not socially acceptable...And don't feel sorry for me. This is definitely of my own free will.)

-Of all my many favorite things about Brasil, one at the top of the list is the availability of fresh fruit juice at a low cost, everywhere. (Even at McDonald's.) Even though Brasil has the best soft drink in the world, I still split my time between Guarana and juice when I go to restaurants. Fresh orange juice, grape juice, passion fruit juice, lime juice, and other fruits that I'm pretty sure you've never heard of are available to me literally anywhere I go, including stoplights when vendors come to your windows and try to get you to buy stuff.

Ok, I think that's enough for today. If you're interested and can remember, please say a prayer for my dad (and consequently, my mom) at the end of this week as he is directing this year's World Mission Workshop on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University. He has been working hard and losing sleep for over a year, and if you know my dad you know that he puts his heart and soul into any task he undertakes. So pray for his heart and soul, too, please, that they survive the next few days! I am excited for yet another chance for people to come into contact with the idea of missions and begin preparing their own lives for what the Lord has asked of them. I wish I could go...but I think I'm okay being in Natal. :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Celine Dion as my lullaby

Last night I had trouble falling asleep because someone in the neighborhood behind my apartment decided that it would be a good idea to play -what else?- a CD of American love ballads from the 90s at 12:30 am. If they had just been playing it softly, then there would have been no problem, I doubt I would have even heard it. But when I live on the 8th floor and can hear Mariah and Shania and Celine's words perfectly clear, then my only option is to feel sorry for the people who live at the ground level. When I stuck my head out the window to see where it was coming from, I think I determined that it wasn't even coming from the neighborhood directly behind me, but a few neighborhoods over.

I had this same problem on Thursday night when a house behind my building decided to throw a party and let it last until 5 am. I know for a fact that it was very close, because I could see the people dancing inside, but when I woke up at 4:45 am to the loud start of yet another song, I wished for a moment that my source for ventilation was an air conditioner and not an open window.

In related news, this morning was the first morning since living in my apartment that I have not woken up with the sunrise at 5:15! This was my eventual goal when I decided to train my body to sleep with open windows and open curtains. Since I don't have AC, or even a fan (which is my fault,) I have to leave the windows open all night to keep me from dying of heat exhaustion. However, due to the early sunrise, my window is equipped with very nice blackout curtains. But, if I pull the curtains all the way across the window, that defeats the purpose of leaving them open for ventilation, and if I choose open window over blackout curtains, that defeats the purpose of having blackout curtains. So, I compromise. I open my window halfway and pull the curtain over the half that is still closed. I'm pretty sure it does absolutely nothing for keeping the sunshine out, but hey, I don't mind waking up to sunshine. I'll take that over an alarm any day!

A few pictures from the weekend, which I'll tell you about later this week:

Marta Braga, one of the missionaries

Thursday, October 18, 2007

When Learning a New Language, Be Careful Who...or What...You Trust

This really might not be funny to anyone who doesn't speak Portuguese or has not had a cross-cultural language experience, but I laughed for a good 10 minutes tonight when this happened. One of my favorite readers, Jaelson, came to our session tonight with a lot of questions from our last lesson (the lesson in Luke 7 about the sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet). He is a pleasure to work with because he is so eager to practice his English and such a joyful person. And he giggles a lot, which is never a bad thing!

So tonight he arrived with a furrowed brow and said "Cris, I have a question. I've been looking up some of these words from the last lesson in my dictionary, and I just don't understand." "Okay..." I thought, as I prepared myself to explain another extremely simple concept that is too simple to explain...my hardest task every day. "You told me that the word 'sin' is 'pecado,' right?" "Yes..." "And that the word 'sinner' is 'pecador,' right?" "Yes..." (a continued furrowed brow...) "Okay...but when I looked it up in my dictionary, it said that a sinner was a pescador." (Fisherman).

At this point I started laughing...and laughing...and laughing, realizing that whoever had typed this dictionary had made a gross error, adding an 's' where it really didn't need to be, completely changing the meaning of the story for my poor friend. (Also a bit ironic to use the word 'fisherman,' don't you think?) So here is how Jaelson read the story, with his new definitions in hand:

"When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a fisherman." -Luke 7:37-39

In unrelated news, I had a dream last night that as I was riding the elevator to my apartment the bottom fell out at floor 6 and I fell down 6 stories of an elevator shaft. This has proven very, very unfortunate for me today, as I live on the 8th floor and riding the elevator is necessary multiple times each day. You better believe I'm watching the digital numbers pass as I ride along, holding my breath between floors 5 and 7. My subconscious is out of control sometimes...

Have a good weekend!


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Brasil is playing soccer right now, and fireworks go off every time they score

Yes, it's true. Every time Brasil scores the town erupts with gladness and show that gladness through fireworks. Thankfully, scoring is minimal in soccer. But I have the game on in the next room because I have a TV now. Finally, a roommate! I have found myself not even watching it that much, mostly because I'm gone most of the day, but I like the background noise. Especially the background noise of Brasilian soccer games! I only have basic cable though, which is about 40 Brasilian channels and one English channel, so I hope to find some good Brasilian TV to be addicted to...not.

I was remiss in my last post, probably because it was so late, and didn't finish my commenting on the comments section. I mentioned Deborah Niccum and then got distracted. I would like to also welcome Carol, my boss from ACU, Patrick, a fellow former overseas-liver, but he was in China so he's more adventurous than I, my aunt Nette, my aunt Glenda, my aunt Nell again, a girl named Nina whom I don't know but lives in Germany and was cool enough to leave a comment, Lee Ann Paris, a fellow Brasilian-MK who has family living very, very close to me in a nearby city, my friend Katie from ACU, Melanie, my roommate from ACU, my friend Ann, my sister and brother in law, Karin Bryan, my dad, and....drumroll please...MY MOM!!!!!!!!! to the comments section of Living and Loving. If I left anyone out, I apologize, that list came from memory. But hey, my mom finally commented! That's like 25000 points for Team Oklahoma. Sorry, Arkansas.

This week has been a wonderful week, despite the way it started with the little cleaning debacle. I had to say goodbye to a dear friend, though, which is never fun. After I left the States, my sister wrote an interesting blog post about what it feels like to be one of the ones left behind, rather than being the one doing the leaving. When I said bye to Pollyanna, I had the same feeling as I realized that she won't be in all the places in which I'm used to her being anymore.

Almost 2 years ago, she married a Canadian guy and has been waiting for 1 year and 7 months for the Canadian government to approve her Visa to move there and be with him. I've never been married, but I'm guessing that 1 year and 7 months is a long time to wait to see your spouse again! (I met her, returned to the States, and moved back to Natal during this time that she has been waiting!) As we said goodbye, we rejoiced that she would finally be able to begin her married life with her husband, but we cried as we realized that we'll have to get accustomed to life without Pollyanna. She has taught me so much about what it means to walk with the Lord, and what it means to sacrifice for His sake. She is a strong, strong woman, and Canada is about to be a much better place! I wish there was a way to watch their reunion in the airport...we're all imagining what kind of joy will take place! So this week, as I'm praying for my readers and praying that my adjustment to life in Brasil will continue to go smoothly, I'm also praying for Pollyanna, that in the same way that I'm learning how to live in Brasil, God will bless her as she starts her life in Canada.

Here I am with Pollyanna the night of her going away party. Not only is Canada about to be a better place, it's about to be a PRETTIER place!

Pollyanna and her just-as-beautiful sister, Fernanda.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jim Carrey has nothing on me

It's been a while since I commented on the comments section of Living and Loving in Brazil. I'm not sure who is winning the great race between states, I'm not good at keeping track of these things, but I do know that Team Oklahoma received a special member when Deborah Niccum requested to join of her own free will. I also would like to mention that not once, but twice in the last week has my mom e-mailed me to tell me she liked my recent blog post, rather than simply clicking on a link to leave a comment and tell me in the obvious manner. However, in her defense, I will say that she e-mailed me today after reading the last post to tell me that she had been trying to post a comment and it wasn't working. I must acknowledge and appreciate that kind of effort, right?

Thank you to all of you who have been commenting. I've said it many times, but I'll say it again: it really means so much to me to know that you are out there, somewhere, being interested in what's going on with me and taking the time to read. I really am so encouraged by the comments you leave, even if I don't acknowledge them in a timely fashion.

Also, I wanted to direct your attention over to the awesome little map on the right and make a point to welcome Pakistan, Malaysia, Australia, and a variety of European countries to the blogging audience. I have absolutely no idea who you are, but welcome! Even if you came by accident, it's nice to see some red dots over on your side of the world. Won't you come again?

I have much more to say but I have a reader in exactly 8 hours and really should not be here, but rather in the next room, in my bed, listening to the dog chorus that likes to practice outside my window at 1:45 in the morning every day. I wrote the following yesterday, just another insight into how my adjustment to Brasil is going. As always, please enjoy and feel free to laugh at me. Yes, at me. You may join me in laughing at myself. Goodnight...
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I'm pretty sure I could have been my own episode of "The Truman Show" today, and the whole country of Brasil would have tuned in to watch the dumb American girl try to keep her head above water as she cleaned her apartment for the first time. It had to have been Emmy-worthy to watch me try to clean this with that.

Don't misunderstand me here. This was not my first time to clean my apartment. Because the whole thing is floored with tile, I sweep about every day since I keep the windows open all the time and my shoes track in dirt. But this was my first time to pull out all the stops: mops, liquid cleaner, toilet brush, etc, and then some other stuff that I don't actually know what it's for, but I figured Roberto bought it for a reason, so I just got creative and used it anyway.

When I lived in Abilene, I cleaned the house, but never all at once. I would vacuum one time, clean the kitchen another, clean the bathroom another, and dust another. (Okay, I'll be honest. The dusting didn't really happen too often.) But in those cases I had a vacuum, Swiffer, Pine Sol, Lysol, and English to work with. Here, I have a giant Squeegee, two large rags, a bucket, some bar soap, some disinfectant, some stuff in a blue bottle, and a broom. The stuff in the blue bottle has no section detailing its purpose, even in Portuguese, so I guess I can use it for anything. The bar soap seems like maybe it would be used to wash clothes by hand, and the disinfectant looks like a bottle of Snuggles fabric softener.

What would you do? Hire a house cleaner? Yeah, that's what everyone else does, too. :) So if you'd like to make a contribution to the "Cris Has No Idea What She's Doing, Still" fund, you can send your checks my way and I'll hire someone who knows what this stuff is for. Until then, maybe I'll turn on the webcam so you can see what me getting creative with housecleaning looks like.

Using dish soap in the toilet,

Cris

For Dad, and for Vovô

If I've learned anything from my father in the 22 years I've spent with him, it's to always appreciate the sunset. And by "always appreciate," I mean run inside the house and get your whole family to come outside to look at it. My dad learned to do this from his own father, and although Vovô ("grandpa" in Portuguese) died several years before I was born and had the chance to meet him myself, from the stories I hear it sounds like he was a pretty special guy. Wouldn't you say that any father who teaches his son to always appreciate the sunset is a special guy?

Before I left for Natal, my dad reminded me that my coming here is actually a part of a long legacy that my family has in Brazil. Had my great-grandparents not moved to Sao Paulo back in the 40s (or 30s?), and had my grandmother not met my grandfather while my grandfather was working for her father's company, and had my parents not met while they were both in Brazil doing their own thing, and had my parents not decided to move to Brazil as missionaries, then maybe I wouldn't even be here. That's a lot of "what ifs," but I know I definitely wouldn't be here.

Although I didn't think too much of it before I came, this "legacy" has become very special to me since being in Natal on my own. I am exploring a new part of Brazil that the rest of my family has never really ventured to, but I can't help but wonder what my time in Natal is going to mean for the future of our Carpenter lineage (although the name dies with me...they just couldn't produce any boys!) Anyway, as cheesy as it sounds, every night as I go home and see the sunset just as I walk in my front door I think about my dad. And then I think about Vovô. And then I think about how I'm not the first person with my DNA to be here, trying to learn this language, trying to find my place, trying to learn how to samba (not really, chill out.)

I took these photos with my dad in mind, the first from my front door and the second and third at the beach this weekend. My photography skills aren't so good, so please use your imagination as to what these sunsets actually look like on a day to day basis. I'll be back soon with more thoughts and better grammar (it's late, and I'm sunburned.) Enjoy!