Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's like pulling teeth!

Brazil has a national holiday on my birthday - Tiradentes Day (pulling teeth day). Joaquin José da Silva Xavier (called Tiradentes because he was a dentist) was a patriot of the Brazilian independence movement. Each year they celebrate the day he was hung, quartered, and had his body sent to the four corners of Brazil. They call it Tiradentes Day which is easier to say than Joaquin José da Silva Xavier Day.

Several in the office took Monday off as well, so we decided to do likewise. We went to Livraria de Cultura (bookstore) to see if they had any good books. We got a São Paulo tour book and a new dictionary (ours is well worn).
Sample a book before you buy
We surprised everyone by going to the office later in the afternoon since we had Family Home Evening at 5:30 there.

Tuesday was Tiradentes Day so we went to the zoo as a group of senior couples. Getting there involved watching reflections of buildings while waiting for a bus ride, a bus ride, three metro rides, and another bus ride. 
Modern example of Cubism art form
Bus ride (with the Hales)
Metro ride (the uncrowded leg of the trip)
Another bus ride
 Because it was a holiday all of the 22 million plus inhabitants of São Paulo were going to the zoo. The traffic was worse than San Jose, California during rush hour (why do they call turning a road into a parking lot a rush hour?). While we were on the bus we had a real downpour. Once we got there (3 hours after starting a 20-minute car ride on a normal day) the rain had stopped and we had a nice day.
Rainstorm on the bus
We really had a good time. We had lunch and saw a lot of nice animals.
Turtles and crocks
Monkeying around
Behold the hippopotamus 
Bengal tiger
A Mormon Missionary
The fish was this big!
 As part of the zoo we had a dinosaur exhibit with animated dinosaurs.
Watch out! It's the dinosaur's hatchday
Do I dare go in there?
Sure, it's no big deal
Unless he eats my companion
 It took a lot less time returning home after the zoo. My birthday dinner was "pomanha" a typical Brazilian dish made out of corn meal wrapped in corn husks.
Have some pomonha
 We also had a Brazilian version of strawberry-banana pie (tastes better than it looks).
This is not a birthday cake
My brother, Richard sent me some gluten-free licorice that arrived in time for my birthday. I also got some American Cheetos (they have gluten in them in Brazil) and a Meet the Mormons DVD from the family.
Birthday gift
I also got a birthday card from the grandkids and a lot of Facebook birthday wishes.
My birthday card - crazy bunch!
On Thursday Elder Hall came by with a request. He was asked to give the devotional at the CTM next week and asked if we could make a Power Point out of a talk by President Hinkley. I turned it over to Diane to do. By the end of the day she had it ready in three versions - English, Portuguese, and Portuguese with no quotes so he could choose the version he wanted to use. His response  to her email with the Power Points was "WOW". He was so surprised how professional it looked and how quickly she did it that he said he cried. I have a great companion who can do anything!

On Friday we took off a little early and went to a produce market down the street to get some fruits and vegetables. We then got an invitation from the Hales and DePaula's to see "The Avengers" for dinner and movie night. It was sold out so we saw "Fast and Furious" in 3D which started earlier, then ate at a pizza buffet afterward (I couldn't eat it so I got a regular buffet for half the price). 

On Saturdays, after cleaning the apartment, we like to go out and explore the city. The goal this week was to see Liberdade (the Chinatown of São Paulo). Actually it is where more Japanese live than anyplace outside of Japan, but if I called it Japantown no one would be able to picture what it is like - and there are plenty of Chinese there too. There were crowded streets and even more crowded arcades selling all kinds of "stuff". It did have an Asian flavor to it, but nothing like Tokyo and Beijing.
Everyone wants to buy something (except for us)
We waited in line for a quick photo in a small garden
This is São Paulo - busy streets and tall buildings
You are now in Liberdade
 We decided to go see the Municipal Market. We passed Sé, the main cathedral on the way. The praça was even more seedy than when we visited a few weeks ago.

Cathedral Sé
 We passed by a house of a wealthy Portuguese family, now a museum. It was fun to walk through.

Museum of early São Paulo
Internal courtyard
A guardian of the streets of São Paulo
 We stopped at another museum that was the actual founding site of São Paulo. We looked in it, but because of time we left it for another day.
Museum of São Paulo
Courtyard by a restaurant
 We walked along 25 de março (they don't capitalize their months), a street known for it's Middle Eastern markets. It was very busy and crowded with people selling all kinds of things on the street as well as in stores on both sides of the street.
Approaching 25 de março
We finally got to the municipal market, which is another busy and crowded place with a lot of wild foods. Everything is indoors. By this time we were peopled out. Maybe all 22 plus million people of São Paulo went to the zoo on Tuesday, but they were all downtown on Saturday. Such is big-city life.
Municipal Market
Does she look like she has had enough?
One section of the indoor market
 It was nice to get home in our peaceful apartment complex. As we entered we saw a man at the top of one of the palm trees pruning off the branches.
Look out below!
Sunday is a nice, peaceful day in our neighborhood. We can even find breaks in the traffic to walk across the street without fear of getting run over.
View of our apartments (left) taken from the temple
With shops closed on Sunday we get a full art exhibit on the way home from church.
 Everything closes down on the street next to our apartments
A row of closed stores
Tonight we had a stake missionary fireside. Current missionaries and former missionaries were asked to attend and wear their name tags. They went around and had everyone tell their names, what mission they served in, and what years they served. We were very impressed with all of the returned missionaries in the stake. Most of them served in Brazil. The church is in good hands in Brazil.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Another day another dollar

So, what do we do here? Let me give you a typical day... The alarm goes off at 6:00 am which starts our day. We exercise, shower, eat breakfast, and get ready to leave the apartment around 8 am. On Mondays we need to be in the office for an 8 am devotional. Other days of the week we need to be there by 8:30 am so we can get through the back gates before they close. We have two ways to walk to the office, both requiring us to cross Avenida Professor Francisco Morato, a busy street. The most direct way is to walk along Ave Morato and enter the front gate, which is very noisy. The second way is to take the back roads to the rear gate, which is nice and peaceful.

We give a lesson on the Leadership Pattern (a training program set up for church employees) in English every day from 9:00 - 9:30. Sometimes we only get through one slide of the lesson, but that's OK because we have no time schedule to finish the program. We then work on technology - updating the spreadsheet of technology specialists (Sister Wheeler is getting quite proficient in Excel) or preparing training modules of the time we will be visiting the coordinating councils across the country. We do this while the rest of the group answers phone calls about anything technological that doesn't work for church employees, mission presidents, or the CTM. They are the ones who have to solve the difficult problems. Most of them live a long way away from the office and may take up to two hours of travel each direction.

We usually go to the temple cafeteria for lunch (except on Monday when it's closed) for a good Brazilian lunch for about $5 for the two of us. On Monday we can go across the street to the mall for a more expensive lunch and a lot more noise. Come about 5:00 pm we go back home (a 10-minute walk). On Monday and Wednesday we have a half-hour choir practice for a big meeting scheduled in the mosque at the end of the month. We have now been disinvited because of time. There are many churches and dignitaries who want to speak at the occasion that they won't have 5 minutes for the choir. We will sing at several other occasions, however.

In the evenings we have a nice home-cooked meal. We often go to the market on Tuesday evenings to get stocked up with groceries. On Friday morning we often leave early and go to the Feira for fruits and vegetables. Other evenings we are free to remain at the apartment to read or watch TV, etc. or we may go out for a movie.

As you can see, our life isn't really exciting, but we have work to do and good people to be around as we do it. Now of the photos of the week:
The sun on a hazy day
 We had a guest speaker for Family Home Evening - Alex who had quite a story. He grew up in Bahia  where his family was so poor they were often evicted from their home. He joined the church, left school to go on a mission, got involved in the production of the short movie "Brazil, Meu Lar" and went on to work with Faye Dunaway in Hollywood. His parents were opposed to the direction he took in joining the church, but felt better after he was able to buy them a house. He left all of this to work for church productions in Brazil
Alex, our producer
 This was the last week for the Fergusons who went home on Tuesday.
Goodbye gifts
 We like our back-street walks to the office.
A green wall with green plants
 The streets really have deep dips. This bus got caught on one in front of out apartment.
Stuck bus
We have already mentioned the parrots that like the trees around the temple.
Anyone for a free parrot?
On Friday mornings we go to the Feira, an open-air market.
A melon cutter
 We have a basketball court in on the church property.
Hey, that's not basketball they are playing it's soccer!
Our office building taken from the mall
The train in the mall
 I came down with a cold and spent Saturday morning resting. In the afternoon I had to get out so we went on a little walk around the neighborhood. By now you should know that a little walk is really longer than we expect it to be.

The São Paulo soccer stadium
 We saw signs to the Palácio dos Bandeirantes and didn't know what it was so we stopped (we needed the rest) and saw it. It ended up being the home and government offices of the Governor of São Paulo state.
Entrence to the palácio
 We had to wait for the next tour which gave us time to sit in the shade and look at the orchids.
The grand hall
Here we are :-)
 We had another family on the tour with us. The father was from Goa (a Portuguese area of India) and the mother from Mozambique. They met in Mozambique and got married in Portugal where they raised their family. One daughter is finishing a residency in São Paulo and the other studying economics. Paulo, our tour guide (next to Sister Wheeler in the photo) had trouble understanding them at times.
Our palace tour group
 My cold was worse in the morning so I stayed home listening to the Mormon Channel while Sister Wheeler went to church at the Morumbi Ward. We have an old apartment building across from us that looks fairly drab except for one apartment that puts flags outside their window to brighten things up.

We like the flags
Another week has gone by and we are still alive (I think). Our choir was asked to sing for an area public relations meeting tonight. I took some decongestant and got through OK, even playing the harmonica (with guitar and flute) for an instrumental interlude. It was raining when we got out and we forgot the umbrella so we are soaked.