Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Chove Chuva, Chove Sem Parar...

For the non-lusophone out there, it continues to drizzle and rain. The skies are gray and heavy, and we haven't seen the sun in 4 whole days. Beth washed our clothes the other day because I'd run out of long pants and wintery things in general, but they hang damp and cold on the line, forcing me to wear variations of the same outfit yet again. I don't really mind this weather - it's nice to bundle up a bit and have endless mugs of tea and coffee - but my secret hope is that all the gloominess this week simply means it will be beautiful sunshine and clear skies for the wedding.

Even if it rains, however, it won't be a disaster. We are spending an arm and a leg to cover the courtyard with a temporary awning in case of bad weather, so at least we'll have the satisfaction that it wasn't money down the drain in case it does rain on our wedding. And, as Rico's brother told me the other day, rain on a wedding brings good luck. Apparently it pissed down rain when they got married several years ago in Búzios, a beach wedding, and now Rico's brother and his wife have just welcomed their first child to the world.

I got a haircut yesterday (finally!) after 3 months of snipping my hair at home using nail clippers, and having my friend A. clean up the back with kitchen shears one day when we were over for beers and a braai. Given the potential for disaster, I have to say my hair wasn't looking that bad, but I was aching for a proper cut and style.

I am super happy with the results - I told César, the hairdresser recommended by my makeup artist, that my dress was 1920s-inspired and looked a bit flamenco-ish in the skirt. I said I wanted something easy to deal with, that I could literally wash and wear. He went to work, and now I have a haircut that, while not radically different from what I had before, is exactly what I was hoping for and makes me look as if I could join the women with long dresses and cigarette holders in the pages of an old French calendar whose pages I've framed and hung in the stairwell.

Yesterday we met with the DJ and put in music requests. The party should have a great soundtrack, complete with Freshlyground, the only specific artist Rico and I wanted to include in the reception music. I am excited - I think it is going to be a really fun party. In a few hours we are meeting with the wedding planner and the Reverend. We're meant to do some pre-marital counseling, and I'm guessing today we will find out more of the details. I'm actually looking forward to it. ;)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

11 Days to Go

Things are progressing quite nicely in terms of wedding planning. There are 11 days to go, and I'm thankful that we're not completely stressed out and running after a hundred different things in a frenzy. Instead, we are reaping the benefits of early planning. We started preparing for our wedding a year and a half ago, and while it ate up some of our vacations during that time, it was certainly worth the effort as we are able to enjoy time with friends and family now.

My mom arrived, and we've been enjoying the Casa Rosa together and constantly marveling at what a good investment we did 8 years ago when we bought the house. Back then Santa Teresa was a bit run down, had a bad reputation for violence (though in my opinion it was no worse than any other area of the Rio, it just had an image problem amongst cariocas), and was full of hippies and musicians and students. There were a few prominent families in the neighborhood who maintained beautiful mansions, but not that many foreigners and not that much new construction or revitalization.

Now, the scene is completely different. Santa Teresa is enjoying its moment in the spotlight, with multiple articles in the Rio newspapers talking about how the neighborhood has undergone a cultural, architectural and commercial revitalization and has grown to be one of the secret corners of sophistication in the city. You can certainly see the evidence of this evolution - there is construction everywhere to restore old villas and transform abandoned palaces into hotels and restaurants; the movie theater on the corner is thriving; there is music in the streets every night, and people milling through the shops and eateries nearly every day of the week.

There has always been a steady flow of tourists in Santa Teresa, but the big difference I see is that now there are many more cariocas in the mix, and not just the bicho-grilo hippie types that hung out here before. You now see well-to-do, chic carocas up here on the hill to enjoy an afternoon stroll, or out on a date, or whatever.

The coolest part is that, for now at least, it doesn't seem that Santa Teresa has succumbed too much to the dark side of gentrification that plague other historic neighborhoods - the essential character of the neighborhood is still in place, along with the traditional residents and long-time characters of the bairro. It is super encouraging to see the direction in which Santa Teresa is going, a direction I intuitively knew would happen since the day I set foot in the bonde for my fist trolley-car ride back in 2000.

I remember back when we bought the Casa Rosa, many of my friends from college told me that 1) we were crazy to buy in such a dangerous neighborhood; and 2) that none of them would come visit me, pick me up, or drop me off anymore after nights out. I had to make the schlep down the hill if I wanted to see my patricinha girlfriends. At the time, I understood where they were coming from, but couldn't help being irritated at the incredible closed-mindedness of my friends. Now, 8 years later, and after Santa Teresa has been featured in novelas and has made it onto the "cool" list for Rio's socialites, the story is wholly different. Now the same girls that wouldn't dream of setting foot in Santa are gushing about how trendy our wedding is, how amazing the Casa Rosa is, bragging about how they know the family that owns the pink palace in front of the bar and the church. Ah, how things change...

Enfim, the house and neighborhood both are looking great, and we are all just counting down the days for the wedding. So far we've gone to church service and met briefly with the reverend, bought shoes for Rico to wear with his Italian suit, picked out ties for our groomsmen, and scheduled a series of meetings with the caterer, the dj, the photographer, the awning and generator people, the wedding planner and the makeup artist. Today I am going to get a haircut (yay!) and we are going to have lunch with a friend of Rico's up here in Santa. We were supposed to meet with the caterer, but she called off at the last minute to a buffet for an event downtown that the Prince of Japan will attend today. Brazil is celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants, and I imagine this event must be part of the official commemoration of the two countries' history.

It's cold in Rio - to the point where I'm wearing boots and a jacket and pashmina every day. However, the weather can change at any minute, and I'm secretly hoping to be able to use our newly-refurbished mini pool in the courtyard before the wedding to get a little bit of a tan to go with my dress.

Hope you all are well. More news from wedding planning central soon. :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Santa Chegada

I am in Rio, in the Casa Rosa with Rico, incredibly grateful that I had a safe and uneventful trip. The house looks beautiful, especially the Copacabana-style waves of Pedra Portuguesa we had done in the courtyard. There are still several things to be done before the refurbishing obra is considered complete, but we are very, very close (a great relief since the entire process was coordinated from Maputo).

My mom arrives tomorrow, and I am looking forward to antiques browsing (we need to find 2 large crystal chandeliers for the living room), fresh fruit and veggies that we can't find in Moz, a ride on the bondinho, and a walk around the neighborhood to photograph new street art and get in a bit of exercise.

Also, super cool, we just discovered that our wedding falls smack in the middle of Arte de Portas Abertas, a twice yearly, neighborhood-wide open studio weekend. This means Santa Teresa will be full of cariocas and tourists alike, strolling around having a peek inside artists' ateliers, browsing boutiques, eating at the many cute restaurants that have popped up over the years, and very likely looking on as an unexpected audience while I enter the church next to the Bar do Mineiro in my ivory gown.

Life is good in Santa Teresa. Every time I come back here, my love affair for this house and this special place comes flooding back. It's not in the cards for us to live here for the time being, but it is exciting to know it's an option for the future.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Finally, the day has arrived. No, not *that* big day, but the other one I've been eagerly anticipating: today I am leaving Maputo en route to Rio.

I have a hundred things to pull together this morning before getting on the plane, including packing what is perhaps the world's most challenging suitcase (wedding + Rio in winter + Vietnam in hot steamy summer + transit time in freezing-ass Joburg). In all, though, I am ready to go.

This is all quite a bit surreal to me still. I had my bachelorette celebration this past weekend, and I had to keep reminding myself it was to commemorate this giant event in my life and not just any other girls' weekend at the spa. It was a lovely trip, by the way. Summerfields Spa is incredible, located in the middle of a working rose and macadamia farm on the banks of the Sabie River just outside Hazyview. We all had treatments on outdoor tables with the rushing river as a soundtrack. It was so divine it melted away all stress, including that which had accumulated during the, shall we say, "scenic route" we mistakenly took to get to the spa.

Well, I must get to it. I have tea to drink, clothes to pack, a bank to visit, and cat litter to purchase. I am incredibly excited, trying to focus on the tasks of the moment rather than the superstition/paranoia that is lurking just below the surface.

Last night I dreamt that Rico and I decided to take a midnight expedition in Rio, hiking up mountainsides and sneaking about through favelas to reach our destination, the National Library. We visited the library at night, and roamed around together in the colonial building listening to the echo of our footprints and marveling at the endless shelves of precious books. We slid down the banisters of the massive staircase in the Library foyer, and giggled to ourselves as we hid from the roaming security guards. At one point, however, I realized that our midnight expedition qualified as a Trip, and that I had neglected to say my travel prayer. At this point the Library had opened, and Rico and I were standing in the midst of university students and tourists. I said my travel prayer out loud, and burst into tears it moved me so much.

You can be sure I'm going to say that prayer multiple times over the next day as I make my way across the world...

Monday, June 09, 2008


Today it is legitimately cold in Maputo. Well, cold for tropical Southern Hemisphere standards. I am wearing a silk sweater and boots, and a lightweight quilted overcoat to keep out the wind. A storm system blew in yesterday, and though it hasn’t brought any moisture yet, a cold wind howled through the flat for most of the night. I snuggled with the boys and watched a movie, complete with homemade watercress soup and a glass of Nederburg Baronne. It was a lovely evening, but getting up this morning was an entirely different story!

This past weekend was really enjoyable. On Saturday my friend C. and I went to the gym for a mid-morning workout, then hit the crafts market with Jenny. I picked up a few small gifts for people in Brazil and coveted, as usual, the beautiful Zimbabwean hand-printed textiles and the tall, intricately carved blackwood sculptures and clean-lined vases. I’ve had serious decorating fever lately, and am dying to finish beautifying our flat. We’ve already done several “improvements” – mainly painting the walls colors other than white, and putting paintings and framed photos on the walls. However, there is still much to be done. Thanks to the wedding, we are looking to get a lot of new furniture and finally upgrade from our locally-made wicker living room set. My goal is to remodel our bathroom and grotty kitchen, but that will seriously depend on our post-wedding budget.

So, after a quick tour of the crafts market, C. and I went to lunch at my neighbor’s house, a new friend we met a couple weeks ago while walking up the stairs. Hassan is my first friend in the building, something highly overdue after over 2 years living in the same flat. It is strange to me that Rico and I haven’t met our neighbors until now, in particular compared to my apartment in Austin where I was friends with just about everyone in the small courtyard complex and would regularly get together with neighbors for dinner, a swim at the pool, coffee, parties, etc. Anyhow, Hassan is a really interesting guy, probably in his late 30’s or early 40’s. He has traveled all around the world with his job in border and immigration security systems, and is full of incredible stories about Angola and Sudan and India and all of the other places he’s lived and worked. Hassan, C. and I all got along quite well, and he kindly invited us over for a lavish lunch on Saturday. It was delicious – homemade apas, lamb curry, daal, salad and for dessert Sharon fruit and ice cream. The meal prompted me to do internet research on Sharon fruit, but that is the topic for another post.

After lunch C. and I hit Woolworth’s for some grocery shopping. I cruised the nearly-expired items as usual, as the shop’s normal prices are far beyond what I am willing to pay for food in Maputo. I picked up some ricotta cheese, hake fillets and yogurt.

Later that evening I went to Marcos and Kelly’s house to watch a movie and hang out. They kindly invited me over, as they know Rico is away and wanted to be sure I wasn’t feeling lonely.

Sunday morning started off with a bang, as I was woken up at 6am by an insistent pounding on the front door. It was the guard, Sr. Augusto, informing me that once again they had failed to adequately look after the cars the previous night and that the side mirrors had been stolen off our CR-V. Grrrrrrrr. I understand that this is part of Maputo life, but I find it very frustrating that there are 2-3 guards in front of our building at all times, and the cars are parked not 20m from where they sit, yet things are still stolen all the time. The reason is that most of the time the guards sleep through their night shifts, which I suppose is understandable if they doze off while sitting outside the building at their watch-posts, but the other day I came home to find one of the guards inside the covered entrance, lying down under a blanket with his jacket bunched up to use as a pillow, snoring contently and not even stirring as I walked by and said quite loudly “Boa noite!” I think it’s time for another discussion about what we expect from the Guardas once Rico is back in town.

Today Zeca, our super taxi driver, bought 2 replacement mirrors for me at Estrela, the stolen car parts market. Last time they were 1.000 meticais for a pair; now they’ve hiked their prices up to 1.500, though Zeca negotiated them down to 1.200 meticais, the equivalent of US$50. I had our license plate number sand-blasted into the mirrors, so supposedly they won’t be stolen again because they now have no resale value, however I wouldn’t be surprised were they to disappear anyway…

I’m getting really excited for the wedding. It’s less than a month away! I leave for Rio on the 18th, so this next weekend is my last one in Maputo as a single woman. Instead of a wild bachelorette party, we’re going to do something a bit more my style. Jenny has planned a girl’s weekend at a spa on a rose farm in Mpumalanga Province just across the border in South Africa. I’m looking forward to massages, manicures, facials, rose petal and milk baths, lots of good food and wine, and quality time with my girls – something we sadly don’t seem to get enough of on a regular basis.

Rico and I have been apart several times before, and while it was never easy (especially the times he was gone for 3-5 months at a time), this is by far the hardest it’s ever been for me to be separated geographically. I am overwhelmed by paranoia, or superstition, or whatever you want to call it. I’m having a hard time controlling disastrous thoughts of plane crashes, violent assaults, car accidents, lost wedding rings, lost wedding dress, sudden illness, and many other flourishes of my imagination. I have this acute fear that now, just as everything is about to come together and I am incredibly happy, the floor will drop out from underneath me and life will have a spiteful laugh in my face. I’m afraid that all of my past poor choices, moral transgressions, mistakes and sins will karmically come rushing back and take away the good things I have coming my way.

I know I can’t control anything but myself, but it’s been difficult to let go and accept that what will be will be. I’ve been trying to breathe, mediate, journal, etc. but I haven’t found much relief. The one thing that has made me feel more grounded has been praying, out loud, to God. I’m not much of a religious person (though we are set to be married in the Anglican church next month), and I don’t tend to pray like this in my “regular” life, but it is the one thing that has made it easier to get through this time of crazy emotions. I feel like if I am praying to God and things still go wrong, at least it wasn’t for lack of expressing my desires and fears clearly. I will feel somehow comforted, as if it were all part of a grand plan that I don’t yet understand, but that I can have faith in and believe is the right thing for me. Still, Please God watch after me, everyone I love, and everyone who loves me. Watch over Rico and everyone he loves, and everyone who loves him. Let our families and friends travel and stay in Rio safely. Let us come together on our wedding day in happiness, peace and love. Amen.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bilene: Mostly Gray Weather, But Satisfying Nonetheless

Our trip to Bilene last weekend was incredible. I fear I may have cursed us a bit, however, by my boastful post about the good weather prior to leaving. The first day was lovely, though we made the critical mistake of only hitting the beach around 3pm, just before the sun slipped under some hills behind the cottage we were renting. The beach was wonderful, though. No waves, the whitest sand I have ever seen, and water so shallow you could nearly walk across the lagoon if you were so inclined. No seashells, but I suppose no beach can be 100% perfect in my book. :)

We stayed in an amazing little house at a complex called La Perla. All of us had the same reaction - "Can't we just move in here forever?" Seriously, the house was delightful. Super simple - whitewashed wood walls, locally made wicker furniture, spacious white bedrooms with mosquito nets - but so tastefully decorated (deep red and magenta as accents!) that it could have been featured in an interior design magazine. We were all in love with the place, and tried our best to find a way to stay an extra night, though in the end we conceded that it was better to return to Maputo on Sunday afternoon as planned.

At night we had a braai, complete with the largest sack of charcoal I've ever seen in my life (purchased by Marcos on the side of the road). We drank wine, ate meat, sang along in earnest but off-key voices while Marcos played the guitar, and even took a midnight trip to the beach to look at the breathtaking swath of stars in the sky.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip (for me, at least!) was starting - and finishing! - the hardest jigsaw puzzle I've ever attempted in my life. It's been a good 15 years since I did a puzzle, but the necessary skills came creeping back and, with a team effort, we managed to put together the image of Swedish fish without going too crazy. Very satisfying in the end, and perfect for the gray weather that rolled in after we'd gone to sleep.

In all, an excellent trip. I really look forward to going back to Bilene and getting in some decent beach time. I also hear there are some really cool dunes about 25km outside the little town that would be great for exploring.

The Moment in Gerunds

Listening: to "American Boy" by Estelle, featuring Kanye West. I love this song, I love this video. I especially love that I can see it on TV Trace, one of three fabulous music channels we get with our basic cable package. TV Trace is out of France and is very urban-focused, including lots of Latino and African music; Channel O is South Africa's answer to MTV - I love watching their country-specific programs and getting acquainted with Nigerian, Angolan, etc. music; Afro-Music channel is all in Portuguese and features a mix of Luso-African music and lots of Zouk and artists from Congo.

Coveting: clothes from some of my favorite shops in Brazil: Cantão, Shop 126, M. Officer, Claudia Simões and Corpo e Alma. Can't wait to go shopping in Rio!

Missing: Rico. He left yesterday for Brazil to make sure the remodeling of the Casa Rosa is on track. The wedding reception will be in our house, and we've done some significant work on it that needs to be ready within the next couple of weeks.

Cursing: the massive downpour of rain that soaked me this afternoon and left the cat boxes soggy. Oh, and the black cat who vomited all over my shoes (this makes the 3rd time).

Smelling: the wet scent of asphalt mixed with earth and garbage. It's actually not unpleasant.

Craving: picanha, crusty ciabatta bread, cherry tomatoes and arugula.

Planning: to go to a garage sale this evening to see if there are any pieces of furniture or random appliances I'd like to pick up for our flat.

Wondering: how to get out a massive stain on one of my favorite shirts from a bottle of spray sunscreen that leaked from my necessaire while in Swaziland.

Remembering: going to the balloon fiesta each year when I was younger. Today Google featured a sketch of a hot air balloon and I immediately knew what the special date was - the anniversary of the first hot air balloon flight. My favorite balloon growing up was always the Mongolfier, a beautiful old-world design with royal blue and gold designs. I imagine this is a unique aspect to childhood in New Mexico: having a favorite hot air balloon.

Thinking: that I don't feel like leaving the house, despite the lure of second-hand shelves and toaster ovens. It's chilly, I'm in pajamas, the TV is on, and there is a warm cat curled up in my lap.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Meme: My Mosaic

As inspired by Secondhand Gods, who was in turn inspired by Pea Soup.

1. Alexandra leaving, 2. Luk Chup - Thai Marzipan, 3. Impending Storm, 4. Bosque by Twilight Star Trails, 5. OUT916512, 6. Coffee & Cigarettes, 7. Cuba - La Habana, 8. Malva with Chantilly Cream, 9. one would., 10. The Photographer, 11. Enhance Your Beauty..., 12. Castillo de La Mota

To play:

a.) Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b.) Using only the first page, pick an image.
c.) Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into the fd's Mosaic Maker.

The Questions:

1.) What is your first name?
2.) What is your favorite food?
3.) Where did you go to high school?
4.) What is your favorite color?
5.) Who is your celebrity crush?
6.) Favorite drink?
7.) Dream vacation?
8.) Favorite dessert?
9.) What do you want to be when you grow up?
10.) What do you love most in life?
11.) One word to describe you.
12.) Your Flickr name.