Wednesday, July 27, 2011


After 10 days at my new job I was sent to Guatemala. I love the idea of traveling, especially to faraway places, so I jumped at the opportunity. There was an extra attraction in that, since the return flights were full, I would "have" to spend a day in Miami. I was looking forward to my trip to Guatemala, but was also very curious how the return to the US would be.

Horrible, huh? (got the pic here)

On the way to Guatemala I had a short layover in Miami and was bit frustrated that it did not feel special or anything. Besides the long immigration lines (come on... for 2 hours at the airport?) and rushing to the next gate since my earlier flight was late I did not see or feel much about the whole thing.

Then I'm off to Guatemala, where I spend 4 days at an amazing hotel in boring meetings and manage to crunch in some shopping time before hopping in the cab to take me back to the airport. Not the best way to get to know the country, but...

And then I find myself in Miami. First things first, rent a car. I did not want to do it online since I only have a Brazilian driver's license and not an international permit, so I was wondering whether they would accept it. When I asked the guy at the counter about it he replied with a question: "Do you have a credit card? If so, you are all set..." Ah, letting cash talk makes great advances here. Soon I am off to find the hotel and about 10 miles later realize that the GPS is not on, and the directions it was giving me were a simulation... 20 miles later I arrive at the hotel: beachfront room view in Miami Beach. Not bad at all. But when I am checking in they swipe my card and... nothing! The damn thing demagnetized! And I needed a credit card to pay for incidentals and nothing could be done without it. Somehow they swiped and accepted my Brazilian debit card (a last ditch effort on my side to produce another card) and as soon as that was over I was in their good books again. But this posed a great problem: how to go shopping without a credit card and without being able to take money out at an ATM? Well, an issue to be dealt with the next day, as I had dinner at the hotel to avoid further trouble.
Hotel view... just A. was missing...

Next day comes around... I try my card at 5 atms and 4 banks to no avail. Then, at a last attempt the final bank offers to do a cash advance! Ta-da! Green bills are soon in my pocket and now I can have breakfast and lunch! I head off to Marshalls for some sale shopping and then, at the counter, realize I spent more money than I had withdrawn. But it goes by easily, with the clerk simply typing in the credit card numbers instead of swiping it. Why didn't the hotel do that? Then came Ikea and soon it was time to head back to the airport. As I was driving back, listening to NPR I wondered about my friends, a few states up North and I realized that it was not the US I missed, but the people I met there. Of course there are several positives about the country, most obvious is the ease to get things done, but there is nothing pulling me this way. At least for now :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

House chasing

Moving back to Brazil has been interesting. I know how things work, my family is around to help me out, and food is very comforting. In no other place would I dare to drive around without a license 2 days after landing, in very few places (especially developing countries) would be able to get my ID and driver's license ready in one and the same day due to my mom's research into all the documents I needed to bring, where I needed to go, which tests I needed to study for.  And in no other place would I consider buying a house right off the bat...
Just not that big...

I landed in Brasília on Sunday and on Tuesday, while riding home with my brother I saw a house for sale in his neighborhood. I called the number and went to see the house immediately (since it was the house owner that put the sign up and he happened to be at home then). The owner was not what I could have imagined: white long hair, white long beard, wearing all white clothes, and he calls himself Sadhu. He showed me the house: it is very simple, small (1 bedroom and a loft for an office), and has an amazing garden, full of fruit trees. We ended up talking for an hour, a very different conversation about meditation, yoguis, mixed with some mediumship, life experiences, and talks about finding the "right" person to buy the house. But no mention of price...

Two days later I went back with my brother, he wanted to see the house and we were determined to talk about the price. This time we spent another hour and a half talking to Sadhu but again, no mention of price. It just seemed like bringing up money issues was too shallow a point to make. And Sadhu kept saying that money is just a transaction but that the wants the right person to have the house, that the right person will know the value of the house,  etc. We left and determined we needed help: we called my mom. She is an architect and as such would know the value of the house and also a keen negotiator, which could give us an edge over the initial asking price.

So my mother flew in the following week and early the next day we went to see Sadhu and the house. My mom liked the house a lot, and very swiftly steered the discussion to prices and settled on a final price 20% lower than the asking price! Amazing! I got all excited and started to see how to get the money. And then Sadhu called her the next day and said he did not like how she was all business and that he was not sure about selling the house to us anymore... After all of this we were basically back to square 1.5. I was traveling but as soon as I got back I called him and we had another long conversation... He said that he was unhappy about the price, although he knew this was the right price (the spirits told him so) but he had not arranged the purchase of the house in the village he's moving to (apparently the owner lost the documents).

And then I traveled again, and he is supposedly working on finding the documents of the new house with that owner. This is the position we are in now... supposedly have a house but no firm deal about it. A. keeps telling me to keep looking for other places, but on the other hand I do think this deal will come through... it is just a matter of how long we will stay with my brother until this materializes...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fellow countrymen

Today, my first day at work, I sneaked out for a long lunch break to take a look at some apartments. To see an apartment here in Brasília you need to find the apartment you like online (or call a real state agent and see if they have any in the neighborhood you want) then call them to reserve the apartment key for you, then you go to the real state office, get the key, go to the apartment, check it out and return the key. This makes for a considerable hassle since real state agencies are scattered around the city.

As I was coming back from seeing an apartment and waiting for the elevator to go to the real state agency I see a 50 something guy approaching and, without missing a beat, asks: where are you from? A question like that, from a complete stranger startled me and I wondered if it was directed to me at all. Seeing no one else I answer:
"I am going to the real state agency."
"No, I asked where you are from."
"I was born in Bahia..."
"Really? I am also from Bahia! Really? So you are my fellow statewoman! Where in Bahia are you from?"
"I was born in Alagoinhas..."
"Wow, I'm from x."
I never heard of it, but just nod on... and he takes that as a clue to go on:
"Do you know Milton Santos?"
Me, trying to minimize conversation:
"Yes." Although I had no idea who he was talking about.
"So who was he?"
S*! Caught on the spot!
"He was... He was... "
And as the guy kept waiting anxiously:
"Sorry, I don't know."
"You don't know him? Are you sure? He was a great man!"
And this goes on and on as we head into the elevator, and surprise, he gets out on the same floor as me and continues chatting while I return the keys and all the way until I head back into the elevator to go down. He wasn't nasty or too pushy...  but it did feel weird. I guess I have just lived too long in places where strangers don't look at each other in the elevator, let alone talk to them!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Life in limbo

If you've moved to a far away place you know this feeling: everything you own is packed, and mostly out of reach (usually in transit), you've said goodbye to good friends that will be left behind, and while sad you are also anxious for what is ahead. The fact that I still have to look for a place and then start putting an apartment together also contributes to this sensation of living in between worlds. Currently I'm in Paris, spending my last few days with A. in Europe before moving to Brasília tomorrow. My stuff is in storage at the airport, waiting for me to pick it up and check it in for the next flight. Oslo is gone... the last days were very bittersweet. But as this is certainly not the worst of "limbo" life I've experienced...

When I was moving from Virginia (USA) back to Brazil I flew to DC and, having a short connection and being late, ran as fast as I could (considering all the carry-ons that I was dragging), only to arrive at the gate in time to see the plane slowly move away. I slumped on a chair and cried. Since the delay was due to air traffic I was not entitled to any vouchers, except for changing my flight to the next one: 24 hours later. I did not know what to do... If I booked a hotel I would have to check out at 12pm, just to wait another 12 hours for my flight. On a whim I rented a car... My first thought was to drive back to VA, after all it was "just" 4.5 hours away. Crazy, I know. About 100 miles from DC at 2am I gave up on my plan, realizing how absurd it was in the first place. I checked into a road side motel and slept until the next morning. I spent the next day roaming the Shenandoah National Park and pondering about life. I had no clue what was waiting ahead of me, I did not even have my suitcases with me, and had said bye to many good friends. It was a day that felt like it would never pass... a day that should not have been. It dragged on, and while it was a beautiful Summer day I could not wait to get on that plane. Life seems so volatile in such situations, like sand in between your fingers: when you have it all planned out but you realize nothing is set in stone and there are tons of possibilities open where you least expect them. I finally drove back to DC and checked in around 5pm... and then the flight was delayed another 3 hours! Anyway, I finally made it.

Any limbo stories to tell? Any moving experiences?