Monday, March 31, 2008


So I wasn't even there when this was said, but I laughed so hard when it was re-told to me that I figured you would do the same if I wrote it down. Tonight in my friend Sergio's English class at the church, he was teaching his students about phrases with "have"+verb (i.e. have been, have seen, have gone, etc.) One of his students, Andrea, who is also one of my readers, was having a particularly difficult class after a tiring day. From what I understand, she was to pick out words from a list to form a phrase that was supposed to end up as "How long have you had this jacket?" What Andrea came up with, poor thing, was nothing of the sort, and she actually gave herself more trouble than necessary by including words that were not even on the list.

Her end result?

How long have you been a jacket?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I just got back from an extended-weekend trip to the famous and oversized city of Sao Paulo. I had 3 objectives in going: a conference, a problem, and a friend. I took advantage of the fact that there were two holidays last week (Good Friday and Good...Thursday? Who am I's just a holiday. Brasil doesn't have to have a reason) and found a good deal on tickets.

The conference was ENOCA, an annual 2 day women's retreat for members of the Church of Christ. I went to accompany Marisa, who was speaking at it, but ended up having a great time and really enjoying the speakers and classes. It was great to be with several missionaries that my family knew when I was young, and to get treated like a rock-star when some people found out whose daughter I was. If I'm here and funds are available, I would love to make ENOCA a traditional trip. Definitely on the top of my list.

The problem involved a huge mess entirely to be blamed on UPS. Unresolved, my problem would have cost me upwards of US$800. Resolved, it cost me about $60. FYI, I would advise all of my readers out there never to use UPS again, for anything. I never will, that's for sure. And I would firmly suggest to never, ever, EVER use UPS for international shipping. I can 99% guarantee that you will regret it and they will make two months (more or less) of your life an absolute chore.

The friend involved Rafa, who is really more a brother than anything else. Rafa studied at OC for two years and lived in my house with my parents for one semester. We have been close for a long time but haven't seen each other in 5 years! When I found out that I would be in Campinas for the conference and to resolve the problem, Rafa was an added bonus. It was like no time had passed and we had a great time catching up!

Rafa and I on Easter Sunday at church

The weekend was so great and so many things happened that I couldn't possibly fit it all into one post, so I'll make a bullet list of everything that went down, in chronological order.
  • Got asked if Christmas and New Years was on the same day in the US as it is in Brazil
  • Learned how to make long distance phone calls on my cell phone
  • Fell in love with a puppy
  • Sang happy birthday to Marisa at midnight
  • Had girl talk in our pajamas with Marisa at midnight
  • Re-met the famous Maria Dutton, and she remembered my name after like 15 years
  • Understood a whole bunch of Portuguese
  • Got tired and sleepy from understanding a whole bunch of Portuguese
  • Dropped my clean clothes in the shower into standing water
  • Listened to the scariest snores ever coming from a 3 year old girl
  • Learned how to get along with my mother-in-law
  • Learned how to get along with my adolescent children
  • Learned that worship is liberating, and it liberates us from all kinds of things that can be listed on the Do Re Mi scale...
  • Cried when I saw Rafa
  • Ate the biggest pastel ever (see picture below)
  • Thoroughly enjoyed time with Robin and Allen Dutton Jr's family (Yes, Memorial Roaders, the same Allen and Robin that MRCC supports. Yes, people familiar with Brazilian COC missionary history, the son of Allen Dutton Sr, the Brazilian missionary legend.)
  • Thoroughly enjoyed the showerhead the size of a basketball in Robin Dutton's house
  • Worshiped with the church at the Guanabara church of Christ
  • Ate Easter lunch at a chinese food restaurant
  • Spent 6 hours resolving the problem that UPS caused
  • Cried at the end of the 6 hours
  • Laughed between tears at the guy who was shamelessly hitting on the girl who was helping me and mercilessly getting shot down
  • Cursed UPS
  • Took a bus to Sao Paulo, got off at the bus station, got onto the subway, and road halfway across the city alone at night with Marisa, 2 suitcases, and a giant plastic sack of home decor
  • Slept in the most comfortable bed with the most comfortable sheets EVER
  • Did some way cheap bargain shopping in downtown Sao Paulo
  • Ate homemade lasagna
  • Took a bus alone halfway across the city to the airport
  • Had the funniest pilot EVER (seriously...that is not an exaggeration. This guy just spent the whole flight coming on the speaker and talking to us, making fun of Brazilian culture, making jokes, making fun of us for not being able to see out the side what he could see out the front, making the airplane make "werid" noises and then asking who passed gas, and just being hilarious. One guy behind me just kept letting out these huge, bellowing belly laughs and people were almost falling into the aisles they were laughing so hard. Definitely made the miserable SP-Natal trip a little more enjoyable.)
  • Spent R$6 on juice and a tiny piece of pao de queijo in the airport
  • Got home
If you read all that, good job. Goodnight!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Boa Pascua

Three posts in less than a week? I know, none of us can contain our excitement...

Just wanted to give you a reader update for the week, with a mix of a little comedy and a little inspiration. The following quote came from the mouth of a reader after I told him about the Jewells, the American missionary family who just arrived in Natal.

"So, are they like...high-level"

Ouch. At least we low-level missionaries can have entertaining blog entries.

The second came from a reader whom you have heard a lot about, I just never tell you his name so you probably didn't realize most of my stories are about the same guy. This came out of nowhere, as we were reading yesterday out of the Good News book (sidenote: the GN book is seriously great. Just wanted to point that out for those of you who understand LST lingo.)

"You know, Cris, some things in my life have been changing lately, I think because we have been studying these things. I have stopped blaming other people for problems in my life. I take more responsibility for me."

Hey, that's a start! I'll take it!

This same reader also gave me a chocolate Easter egg, the traditional, way overpriced Easter goody in Brasil. His is the black one on the right, and this is what's inside all the cellophane! Yum!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Power Failures & Blasts from the Past

Last night at about 9 it started to rain ridiculously hard. A few minutes later the power flickered a few times and then ultimately threw in the towel, leaving me in an entirely dark apartment, terrified of how many lizards would manage to get under the door without me knowing. Apparently the "oh no, the power just went out" scream is universal, as the screams from surrounding neighborhoods confirmed my suspicions that it was just a power failure rather than a ploy by bandits to siege my building. Left with little to do (no internet, no TV, no fan, no hot water shower head, no light by which to read AND no candles...good one, Cris) I determined that I would abandon my plans to clean (ok, I really had no choice) and just go to bed. I also determined that, in my extensive history of behavioral studies (read: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology) the converse of the Universal Power Outage Scream is also true, and remaining consistent with the celebratory nature of Brasilians, I would know that the power was back on when I heard cheers and applause in the neighborhood down below (the way a packed movie theater cheers when the projector is fixed of its little glitches.) I took a dark, freezing cold shower (again, no choice) and got in bed. Not 10 minutes later my theory proved correct. Thunderous applause and joyful cheers filled my 8th story bedroom, and I reached over to turn on my fan. As the blades began to whip cool air into my face, I smiled smugly that I had predicted so accurately how the human race responds to power failure.

I had an amaaaaaaaazing weekend this past weekend, spent with my childhood neighbors. I met up with them on Saturday night at the mall at around 6, and had so much fun I didn't leave until 10! Then we went out again the next day, and had Sunday lunch together at Mangai, the really cool restaurant I always mention/post pictures of. They loved it, and we had such a great time together. I hadn't seen them since I was about 8. They had just as many memories as I did (particularly of the Nintendo we had in our basement, haha), and had updates on all of our neighbors whom still live on the same street! I am excited and antsy to go back and visit Brasilia now, and they made sure I knew I would always have a place to stay if I went back...2 doors down from the house I grew up in! Life is crazy. Below are some pictures of our time together. Though they mean nothing to most of you, some of you know how much they mean to me!

Have a great week!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I would like to make an announcement and let you know that moths are now #2 on my list of Hated Creatures that Infest Brazilian Homes. (Second to lizards, of course.) The recent climate change (or so I'm told, I have sensed no change in climate whatsoever the last 4 months) has apparently brought the moth migration to the 8th floor of Residencia Saint Paul. Usually they stay outside, stuck to the wall of my hallway only to die during the night and blow under my door so that I have a colony of dead moths to sweep up in the morning, but recently they've been coming on in before their already-short-but-not-short-enough lifespan comes to an end. Ok, no problem. I can handle that. They typically stay in my living room anyway, and so at bedtime I just shut my door and wait for them to die.

Well, just now, as I was looking at pictures of my friend Lauren's one-week-old baby girl online (congratulations!), I saw that one of these pesky little brats had found his way into my bedroom. "Stay calm, Cris," I literally said out loud. "He really won't bother you. As soon as you turn off the light he'll fly out. Just ignore him." "Okay," I responded, and proceeded to lay back, relax, and continue with my bedtime internet surfing ritual, trying to ignore his nasty brown body fluttering about. Just then, as I began my third time through her album (her baby is seriously cute,) the moth FLEW INTO AND PERCHED INSIDE MY ARMPIT. In one fell swoop, I screamed, jumped out of my bed, and grabbed my flip flop, prepared for battle. He must have realized I wasn't kidding around, and he's nowhere near cute enough for me to give him a name and post pictures of him on my blog like I did with Chatinho the lizard. I stood at the foot of my bed, flip flop in the air, beckoning him to come out of hiding (under the bed I believe, no longer my armpit,) with a few choice words. (PG words, don't worry, Mom.)

The coward never showed. I pray that maybe the landing in my armpit that elicited my battle cry did enough to cause premature death. There's one body I'll gladly sweep up in the morning...

*****Change of Subject******

I just thought you might like to know that tomorrow I will be meeting up with my childhood neighbors from when my family lived in Brasilia. A few houses down from ours lived a family with 4 teenagers when Kelly and I were little. We idolized them, and they used us to get good grades in English. Some of my fondest and most vivid memories from my life in Brasilia include Tatiana, Cintia, and Kamelzinho. Through Orkut, a popular Brazilian networking site, I was able to contact them after losing contact like 15 years ago. I found out, by pure coincidence, that they already had a vacation to Natal planned for March. Here we are in Natal in March, and tomorrow we have plans to hang out. What a small world, made only smaller by the wonders of the internet. Hooray!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My New Favorite Place

I thought I'd share with my blogging audience that I have a new favorite place in Natal. No, it is not here:Ponta Negra, my favorite beach in Natal

nor here:The church building, where I spend most of my days

nor here:Mangai, the coolest restaurant EVER, and will you please just look at those desserts? (Sidenote: I used to be so pale!! HA!)

nor even here:The hotel pool where I have hung out with Andy and Jonah this week. See Ponta Negra in the background? Yeah.

Are you ready? My new favorite place in please....HERE!!
"What is that, Cris?" you ask. "It looks like a very bad picture of a post office." You're right! It is the only picture I could find online of a Brazilian post office, and though it is not the exact post office of which I speak, it is a representation nonetheless.

Do you find it strange that My Favorite Place in Natal is a post office? Maybe if you had lived here for 6 months then went to this particular one, you would love it too. You see, my friendly neighborhood post office has the single best air conditioner I have ever experienced in my life. I walked in, took my number, and sat down. Usually in this type of setting, you sit watching the number-shower, cursing the machine because the numbers go by so slowly. Today, however, I sat watching the machine, wishing "Please don't let my number come up. Please don't let my number come up. Just five more minutes...just five more minutes." I knew that when 456 finally came around, I would have to get up. And getting up meant that I was seconds closer to leaving. And leaving meant I was back on the street, walking home in 150 degree heat (ok...95.) I sat in that chair and closed my eyes. I breathed in the frigid air, the kind that leaves your nose pink. The facility is rather new, and still has that new-building smell. I breathed in the new-building smell that is only made purer by cold, processed air. Soon the machine sounded, and 456 popped up in big, red lights. "It's been a good run," I told myself, walking dejectedly to the counter.

So, I'll be looking for more reasons to stop by the post office. Anyone have a craving for mail from Brazil? No matter that it's absurdly expensive to mail things to the US...that air conditioner is 100% worth it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

So pretty much the biggest confidence booster EVER in learning a new language is when you get the chance to translate for a person who doesn't speak it. They depend on you for survival, primarily in ordering coffee, and there is sweet satisfaction when that coffee arrives exactly how they wanted it. I'm on Cloud 9 this week.

So, it's been a while since I've checked in with you, and you are about to find out why. Remember that reference I made to not being the only American in the church anymore? Well, here is your explanation. Last week a new American family arrived to join the missionary work at Comunidade. They were missionaries in Porto Alegre, the complete opposite end of Brazil from Natal, for a few years in the early 00s. There they met and worked with Roberto and Marisa before their move to Natal, and due to family needs/priorities had to move back to the States for a couple years. They have spent those couple years resolving those family needs/priorities and raising money to come back to Brazil. They finally made it, with a mom, a dad, a 6 year old boy, a 3 year old boy, and a grandma. And they are my new best friends.

I seriously had not realized AT ALL how much life as the Lone American here had affected me. I didn't realize how much I missed the company of Americans (not because We are a superior people, but we are a similar people, and they look like me and sound like me!). In the span of one short week I have already been blessed so much by their company, and have spent some serious quality hotel-pool time with the boys.

As John and Samantha (the parents) have been running around trying to buy furniture, a car, an exterminator, etc, Joann (grandma) and I have been hanging out with Jonah and Andy (the boys) during the day, primarily keeping them out of the hair of Mom and Dad and right smack dab in the middle of the hair of every hotel guest who happens to be in the pool at the same time as we are. :) I have learned all kinds of things about Spiderman, as well as how quickly kids pick up on new languages. It's quite remarkable, actually. As Jonah accidentally kicked a girl in the face in the pool on Monday, he smoothly turned around and said "tudo bem." (It's all good...) Wow.

We haven't only played, though. I've had some great conversations with John and Samantha about how we can work together in our ministry. I explained to them how HUGE of a window of opportunity English provides in outreach for the church, and they were gung-ho to start meeting my readers, holding English Bible studies, hosting get-togethers, etc. Every single one of these things were ideas I already had, but they beat me to the punch in laying them out on the table. It has not been easy for me to plan these kinds of events all alone, and so having teammates who are just as excited about it as I am definitely gets me jazzed about all the possibilities! This morning John even stopped in on my advanced group class to answer a quick question we had, and I saw a twinkle in his eye as he was able to participate, even if only briefly, on the discussion we had going on.

The Jewells (the whole family) are definitely an answer to a prayer I didn't know I was praying. When I prayed for God to bless this work, He had them in mind. When I prayed for God to grow this work, He had them in mind. When I prayed for God to keep me happy and sane, He had them in mind. When I prayed for God to keep me from getting lonely, He had them in mind. It's only been a week since they arrived, but already I can see how God's timing is impeccable!

Please keep their family in your prayers as they begin this adjustment. They've made it once before, which definitely helps, but it's still exhausting and challenging. I'll definitely keep you updated, and even if you aren't interested I'm afraid I won't be able to help it. They seem to already take up a rather large part of my life here, and I'm all smiles.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Congratulations are in order to...well, I don't really know to whom...the readership? of Living and Loving in Natal, Brazil for surpassing the 4000 mark at some point this week. That's a LOT of hits, and special thanks to my Mom for taking care of about 75% of those. Haha, just kidding. Only 50% I'm sure. I hope you'll all stay tuned for the day we reach 1 million. Yes it can be done, my friends, it just might take a few, or 25, years. We're well on our way!

I mentioned on Monday that I would be coming back on Tuesday to offer a 6-month reflections post, which turned out to be a lie because today is Thursday and I'm only now checking back in with you. I think I need to stop making promises about things like that, because I never follow through. It must be an aversion to deadlines left over from 4 years in college. I was never the student who casually turned in assignments late, I was always on time. So maybe now that I don't have anyone or anything holding me accountable I just throw caution to the wind. See it out there, flying? That's my caution, in the wind. Wow, such a lame joke. But I will not delete it.

So yeah, I hit the 6-month mark on Tuesday. How did it feel? Like a normal Tuesday. It also felt like Thanksgiving and Christmas, in that I willed myself to get emotional and it just did not work. But really, 6 months is a big deal. I remember back in September or October when I was trying to study Portuguese and I just sat in Marisa's office and cried...and cried...and cried. I was so frustrated because I thought I would never learn. Later that night, Marisa told me to not be so discouraged, I was doing so well that within 6 months I would be speaking fluently. I politely thanked her, and then laughed secretly at how delusional she was. It actually cheered me up I thought it was so funny. Well, Marisa did turn out to be wrong. I was speaking almost fluently by the 4 month mark. And at 6 months, the only English I use is in my reading sessions, where that's kind of the whole point. Would I ever have predicted that? NO. Am I so thankful that God has blessed me so much in this area? YES.

What else is significant about 6 months? Well, it also means I'm halfway done with my first year. When I first signed up for this internship, the idea was 2 years. Then all people wise and knowledgeable encouraged me to take it one year at a time, for several different reasons. I followed their advice and got here with enough money for 12 months and no plans come August 2008. Well, 6 months later, I now have money left for 6 more months (given that the dollar doesn't continue to fall ridiculously low as it already has) and plans to raise more. I'm not leaving any time soon, and August 2008 is definitely soon.

So, that's my 6 month reflection. I still live in an apartment alone, I still go to the beach sometimes, I still spend all day everyday at the church building, I still have amaaaazing readers with whom I love working, I still love my church family, I still get made fun of by my friendly neighborhood bakery workers if I go in to buy breakfast after 9 am (is it my fault that their jobs start at like 5 am? I think not) and I'm still deathly afraid of lizards. Yep, things seem to be rolling along smoothly.

Great votes on the Democracy post, I will be weighing the opinions soon and begin to address the topics at hand. And Justin, although I am interested in "avoiding detection by the Brazilian police force," you can be sure that the "series of blog posts detailing [my] diabolical plot to take over the Brazilian government, install [you] in a puppet regime, and wield power from behind the scenes," is coming soon. Just wait patiently...ever so patiently...

Monday, March 3, 2008

This is a Democracy

The staff here at Living and Loving has heard your cries, and the blog color scheme has returned to green. A total of 4 readers weighed in on this matter, which really isn't a lot, but one of them was my dad, and so that makes it uber-important. I actually didn't understand my dad's suggestion, but I got that he wasn't a fan of the white, so back to abrasive we go. Maybe one day I'll change the font on ya, just to mix things up. I'd like to draw attention to the fact, however, that although the background colors may change, the theme will always be the colors of the Brazilian flag, which is why you will never see red, orange, black, or purple here. (Although you would never see purple anyway, I really can't stand purple.)

I'd like all readers to know that this blog is governed with a system of democracy. Even if the important issues such as color schemes only get 4 votes, you better believe I will listen to the majority of those 4 votes. I, in true political fashion, will do anything and everything to just make sure you keep reading.

So, with that affirmation in mind, I'd like to make a call for suggestions on blog topics. Are you particularly interested in knowing how my Portuguese is coming along? Would you like to hear more about my readers? Would you like me to weigh in on what it feels like to be the only American (until tomorrow) at this church? Are you interested to know what it's like to be an American living here in general? Would you like me to explain what my parenthetical 'until tomorrow' is about? Do you want to know what my future plans are?

Stay tuned for my next post, which should come tomorrow, entitled "Well It's Been 6 Months...WHAT??" It should be a fun one. Until then, please vote (either on my blog topics or in the primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, Rhode Island, etc, etc.) Happy March!