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 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


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.


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


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...


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.


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


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!!