Tuesday, 29 November 2011

iphone in Brazil

All I want for Christmas is an iphone!!

1. all my friends that live overseas have one (yes, i'm a sucker for peer pressure)
2. they look pretty
3. essential breastfeeding app
4. sophie has claimed the ipad, ipod and other phones

But I just can't bring myself to pay the extortionate fees / contracts for one here. I see lots of Brazilians walking around with their iphone, tapping away a message in a coffee shop (so much for not flaunting one's wealth...) and I think - how the hell can they afford one?!?!!

I'm waiting in vain that Tim has ordered one for my sister to bring over from HK, and we have some friends who have cut their pay-as-you-go sim cards to fit.... I'll let you know on the 26th December whether I'm a new iphone owner or whether I'll be languishing in Sao Paulo iphone-less...

Do you remember that the iPhone 4 8GB was supposed to be a cheaper model, launched alongside the iPhone 4S? Well, it seems that Brazilian operators didn’t pay attention to Tim Cook... read rest of article here.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Moving house

It occurred to me the other day that we have not had our ‘own’ apartment / house to live in since we left London in December 2009. We’ve been travelling, staying with family and friends, hotels, house rentals, sub-lets (a 2 month sublet in Moema, an 8 month sublet in Vila Madalena, a friend’s house for a month over Xma  and most recently a 10 month temporary lease in Jardins). It is SO nice to finally have our own place with our furniture which has been in storage since March. 

We had been looking for a place pretty much all this year. Earlier this year we looked at places to buy and reform but the currency is too strong, and at the same Tim was offered a stake in his company so we put the money into that and decided to look for rentals. The place we were staying in was pretty convenient – we had a rolling month lease on a 3 bedroom apartment in Jardins, so we didn’t feel the pressure to get somewhere straight away. Tim hated the commute but since having a car at least it was in his own space, even if he was stuck in some awful traffic jam. We had the idea of moving before Olivia was born but the house hunting was disheartening.

We started looking before our Europe trip in August and found a couple of places but firstly, real estate agents were SO slow in responding and secondly the market is pretty depressing – big ugly houses that are our of our budget. We also needed to organise house insurance. This isn’t a problem for most people as their companies will organise this on their behalf but Tim is (will be) a partner in his firm and doesn’t draw a big salary so it turned out to be a pain for us. We found a house we liked literally driving around the neighbourhood we wanted. The owner let us have a few visits and we thought we were in but it turned out she was just using us to put pressure on the first couple.  We found another house we really liked walking distance to his office on a private road, and in our budget but the real estate agent (who turned out to be the owner as well) only returned calls after Tim had left a couple of dozen messages, and insisted that we had to be approved by one particular insurance company which we just couldn’t get. I think he either didn’t want to rent (he wanted to sell it as well) and/or didn’t like dealing with gringoes.

Looking online* is futile – most of the places advertised are probably gone already, don’t look like the photos or don’t have any photos. My favourite agency I liked to look at was AXPE but they were out of our budget. Agents / house owners will also negotiate with you based on who is paying for the rent – a common first question is ‘Is your company paying?’. Unfortunately for us / them, we were paying rent out of our own savings. If you can find a place direct with the owner you are looking at 15-20% cheaper than what is advertised through agencies.

Through a random cupcake contact (thanks Nicole and Myrna!) who had just seen a place in Butanta that was direct with the owner. Tim tried calling but there was no answer, but the next time we met up with my friend she texted the guy straight away and he replied saying it was still available. Tim went to see it, and took it straight away owing to earlier hesitations not getting us the very first place we liked. I didn’t want to get excited but surprisingly (shockingly!), Tim had the insurance (we were able to use a different company) and the rental contract signed within 2 weeks! It came at a price of fixing up the guttering, and we had to repaint and re-do the bathrooms ourselves but it balanced out net/net with the monthly rent. We moved in on the weekend and just waiting for NETS to turn up for the second time for internet (just prepping this blog while I wait) even though they were scheduled for 8am-12pm. Fastshop is the best place to buy electronics – our fridge was delivered at 6:30pm on Friday night, the washing machine on Tuesday night (even though it was scheduled for 8-12pm). We have a great painter, and electrician and tiling man if anyone needs recommendations and have been spending a lot of time at Leroy Merlin.

So Butanta is not exactly the area we were looking at but it’s only a 5 minute drive across the river to Pinheiros where Tim works. I don’t know the area well though I’ve seen a few American style strip malls. We are close to USP which is good for cycling, and Instituto Butanta which I have been meaning to visit (future blogs).  I figure my life has changed with 2 children now. I won’t be popping out to the shops or restaurants anytime soon, even if I lived in Jardins the pavements are barely made for one buggy let alone a double buggy. I just need to learn to drive, on the otherside of the road / car, to get around Sao Paulo. Wish me luck (and other people on the road more luck).

*Here is a list of property websites I used....


Monday, 21 November 2011

Giving birth in Sao Paulo...

Our little brasileira, Olivia Chian Yi Chamberlain, arrived on Thursday 3 November at 10:45pm at Sao Luiz hospital in Itaim. I know everyone’s birth experience is different – and this was certainly different from my first labour in London.

I went for my weekly checkup (2pm). Dra Fernanda couldn’t find any amniotic fluid and I was 4cm dilated already (maybe something to do with the ribs AND chilli cheese burger I had for lunch at Butcher’s Market – for another blog!). She told me not to rush but to call Tim, go home and get my things and head to the hospital. It was rush hour, and our rodizio so we had to jump in a cab who decided to take us the longest route but I wasn’t in pain so wasn’t too stressed (another thing to put on my to-do-list is how to complain in portuguese.. ). We arrived at the hospital at 5pm and I didn’t get into a room until 8:30pm!!! I had a minor flip-out at reception when she printed 100 pieces of paper that I had to sign with the wrong name* and then had to print them again...

First I had a checkup downstairs with a hospital doctor and then when I had finally signed all the documents they had someone to escort us upstairs. (A friend who gave birth the night before said that they had a 2.5 hour check-in and that was at midnight, so it seems to be the norm for natural births at least.) I had mentioned in my previous blog that I had picked Sao Luiz because of the natural birthing rooms. When the nurse came back in with a hospital gown I asked for the natural room, and she said this was it! The bathroom door slid open and there was a big bath, birthing balls and blue dim lights on the ceiling. They said I couldn’t give birth in the pool and they would be taking me out regularly to monitor me, which I already knew. I was 6.5cm by the time I got checked again at 8:30pm. They put the fetal heart monitor on and I waited for Tim to come back down, who had been sent straight to the room to drop all my stuff off.

I got into the pool with my saline drip. They also gave me glucose later for energy. My first labour (in London) I had tried to hypnobirth but Sophie didn’t come out in the pool and ended up being a vontouse delivery. I hadn’t had time this pregnancy to practice my hypnobirthing but it came back to me in the pool; the water was really hot and my visualisation was drinking an ice cold beer! My doctor arrived, and I got out of the pool again so she could check me. I was at 8.5 and the contractions were really fast and strong and I decided I wanted the anaesthetist. I had said earlier in the day I would decide during the labour and didn’t want the anaesthetist there waiting during the labour and would just use a hospital one, but it turned out she lived really closeby so she came in straight away.

I was 9cm when I had the epidural. I know that in the UK you wouldn’t be allowed the epi this late in the labour, but hey, this is Brazil! I pushed for about half an hour and Olivia arrived at 10:45pm. Compared to my natural, no drugs labour in London this was almost enjoyable. I felt so much more in control because there was no pain. We also did a very Brazilian thing and booked the webcam and Tim sent all our family the link (thank god the link actually didn’t work) and the video guy for the last 15 minutes of labour, who I would’ve punched if I had been in any type of pain...  It was actually comical and surreal at the same time. I’m not sure I ever want to watch it but we figured if it’s that bad then we can just burn it! Another very Brazilian thing; my Dra said that she would do some ‘plastic surgery’ down there because since I had the epi, why not? I won’t go into any graphic details but she told me she made everything look better down there. Lucky Tim!

Olivia was put straight on me and I got to breastfeed her before they took her away to the bercario. They wheeled me upstairs to my room and Tim stayed the night though it turned out to be a mistake. Olivia was in the bercario for the first half of the night, and someone came in every hour to either give me medicine, check my drip, just check, and the best was a 5am wakeup call for a shower!

I had a pretty decent room which was spacious and had lots of light. I also had a small balcony for that fresh SP air and beautiful view... Breakfast, lunch and dinner were edible, and Tim was given an accompaniant meal which turned out to be Sophie’s lunch or dinner. They are very particular about security – you’re not allowed to take the baby out of the room as I find out when I was told off for going to visit a friend who was just next door. A nurse will come and take the baby away for tests 2-3 times a day which I really appreciated. I was an emotional wreck watching Sophie have her heel prick test, and her vaccines. Tim was given a special wristband which allowed him in and out of the maternity ward.

My cupcake-partner-in-crime, Nicole, baked some beautiful pure vanilla cupcakes as lembrancinhas*. Tim’s colleagues and our Brazilian friends were the first to visit in the first 24 hours, and other friends over the following days. The Brazilians would say it’s much easier to have all your visitors in the first 3 days while you’re in the hospital as you don’t have to serve people tea and biscuits, and they don’t stay for very long. I would agree; the nurses at Sao Luiz were great, and I got a lot of sleep in those first 3 days knowing we were about to move house the next weekend...

We were given the all clear by the paediatrician on Sunday morning to go home and check out took less than an hour. Olivia’s BCG was done at the hospital by Clinivac for R70 which we opted for instead of going to the clinic once we left the hospital. The registry was also available at the hospital which we did on Friday since they were closed on Sat and Sun and neither of us have the appetite for queuing in government buildings. The only paperwork they required were our identity documents (our RNE’s or passports) and our original marriage certificate which did not have to be translated, consularised and notarised (thank god, because we unfortunately didn’t get that document back during the RNE process). The next step is getting her her Brazilian passport and our permanent residency***- we were sent a list of paperwork required, let’s just say we might put it off for a few more weeks.

We were escorted downstairs by a nurse who carried Olivia herself before handing her ceremoniously over to me to take home. I use to be confused why Brazilians would move back to Brazil to have babies rather than stay in the UK or even the US.... as my Dra would say - ‘It’s a much more beautiful process for everyone.’

*Your name has to be correct as the baby wears a name band with your name on it and the nurse will ask you what your name is to make sure that she is giving the right baby to the right person.
**Lembrancinhas are gifts that you give when people come visit, come to your party / wedding / event etc. I’ve heard of some lembrancinhas being as extravagant as Tiffany boxes.... Yeah, I’d like to know those people too!
*** Brazil gives permanent residency to parents who give birth to a baby here in Brazil. I don’t know of many other countries who do the same.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

2nd Hand Sale

I miss my ebay, gumtree and craigslist here. Mercadolibre is not the same! The INC runs a facebook page where the members are quite active and they have set up a separate facebook page for selling second-hand goods here in Sao Paulo. Once they get it up and running will definitely be worth logging on and having a look. There are always expats leaving, children sales etc.

Our little brasileira arrived last week but will post next week, once we have moved house this weekend. Nothing like doing it all in the same week!!

Hi folks,
I would like to inform you about our Facebook group called 2ndSALE_the group and 2ndSALE page.
We've created it as a virtual garage sale, a place to post all your good stuff you need to sell or you don't want it anymore.
We've worked with INC doing the bazaars and now we have this private group where we have friends from INC and non-INC members, who are having fun posting. We are trying to make 2nd stuff popular cause in Brazil this is a cultural issue. Now with all the sustainableprograms and recycling work maybe people will start to pay more attention on great opportunities like this! :)
Feel free to invite your close friends to participate too. Most people are Sao Paulo based so it makes easier to sell and buy being here. but it does not stop anything. If you are not in Facebook you can send us your stuff with light pictures and contact info and we can post it for you.
We have an e-mail 2ndsale.svk@gmail.com  if you want to ask about the sales or send us more info & etc please feel free.
our best,
2ndSALE team.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Awkward conversation

The grandmother of the family next door passed away last week.

So I bumped into the father earlier last week in the lift and said 'muitas desculpas' (even though probably - ok definitely - wrong, I thought he would understand the sentiment). I think he was as confused as I was so  we talked about the weather instead. The next day I had a portuguese class so I asked my teacher what was the correct form to pass on our condolences...

So 2 days later as I was leaving I saw the parents standing out at the main gate. I had to hide behind a pillar to remember what to say before I walked past.

Me: Ola, bom dia. Sinto muito.
Her: Obrigada.
Awkward silence for about 15 seconds as I nod my head in sympathy...
Me: Ok, ciao
Her: Ciao.
... and eventually continue walking.

I'm SO good at this stuff in english but in portuguese... next time i'm just going to hide until they walk by!!