Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dyke March in Rio - Mark your calendar

Mark your calendars – this year’s Dyke March in Rio is scheduled for Sunday, August 28th, in Copacabana.

The annual LGBT Pride March is set for Saturday, September 10th, also in Copacabana.

This video has lesbian and bi women speaking to the newly elected female president insisting on equality.

Come join the action to raise visibility for Lesbians.

Be there or be square.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Oh my sweet Detroit - what happened?

There is a word in Portuguese that is often mentioned as one without a real equivalent in English: “saudade.” It essentially means longing, or homesickness, or emotional wishing-for, missing.

Sorry to say, I rarely, rarely have saudade for the United States. Sure, I miss my friends, but the country itself? – not so much. Even when Brazil drives me crazy with its high prices, under-educated populace and corrupt elected officials, I still do not pine for the days of living in the United States.
But at times my heart aches for the folks living in places I used to haunt. In this case I am referring to Detroit. I was born in Detroit. I went to school in Detroit (well, a block or two from the border of the City). My first real girlfriend (yes, I had a girlfriend) lived in Detroit. I loved Detroit.
But nowadays I’m sad for Detroit. It has fallen so far. I have saudade for how things used to be.

When my extended family lived in or near Detroit it was the heyday of the auto industry. The Big Three, we would say (GM, Chrysler, Ford). Almost everybody’s parent worked for the auto industry, or some other job supporting the industry. My grandmother used to joke that if she had a dollar for every slice of pie she served to auto workers in the diner she spent her working life in, she would be a millionaire.
But now things are different. Most of that is gone.
My brother and his wife moved to a cute little historic block in Detroit some time ago, bought an old Victorian house and refurbished it (Dan did a fantastic job!). They were one of the star homes on the neighborhood Christmas walking tour. But they saw the writing on the wall, sold the house, and moved to the country.
Now Detroit lays feral – or mostly so. Good luck my friends in Detroit. I know you are all rooting for success.

For a real taste of Detroit today – go take a look at the Sweet Juniper blog.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

World Military Games in Rio

The World Military Games just came and went in Rio.  In some ways they were a dress rehearsal for the World Cup and the Olympics; but on a smaller scale.  There were thousands of athletes put up in several villages who needed three meals a day and language-specific services throughout their stay.

There were competitions, the use of smaller venues (plus the big Copacabana beach venues) and the simple need to get athletes from one place to another. Athletes who had already placed out of their competitions needed something to do every day while others continued to compete.
Luiz was a volunteer during the games.  He was among the volunteers who spoke English – placing him among the more desirable guides. He spent 10 days arriving early and leaving late to facilitate the experience of visiting athletes and their organizers.

Thanks to a friend of ours who is a career military man, we got pairs of tickets to lots of events, including the opening and closing ceremonies.
Since the opening ceremonies conflicted with the Blogger Meet-Up, I just went to the closing ceremonies – with my mother-in-law. It was an adventure. And a beautiful show.

Luiz had a great time working with other volunteers and meeting international athletes. There were lots of cool people eager to discover Rio. He spent long days showing the athletes various parts of the city.

It was a great event. And I hope there were lessons learned. Luiz expressed some frustrations about the overall organization. It would be great to assume these problems were being recorded to help improve the planning for the World Cup and Olympics. One can hope.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Keeping things real in the USA

Even though I maintain a blog in Brazil, I keep an eye (albeit wearied) on the politics in the USA. In that regard, let’s take a look at the lie that is the Republican’s idea that they are economic conservatives and Democrats are the party of spending. (Barf.)

Just a simple graphic reminder.

 The Conservatives/Republicans have a communication machine that feeds ideas into the general public’s mind – but they are lying, based on the facts.
My cardiologist is so happy I live here. If I had to confront this felony of truth and/or stupidity on the TV every day – I would not be as tranquil as I insist on being…

Good luck my US American friends (and I also vote).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You know you are getting used to living in Brazil when:

You can overhear the television commercial from the next room – and understand what they are talking about.

You know when the aipim (yucca) is not going to be tender and you banter with the vendor to pick out (and show to you) better quality roots.
You feel less inhibited about cutting to the front of the line if you only want to ask a brief question (although this still drives me crazy when others do it!!)
You never, EVER assume the driver in front of you is going to use their turn signal – or if they have it on that it has any  connection to their intention to turn or not.
Sipping coconut water with a straw out of a chilled fresh coconut on a hot day is better than (lousy) sex.
You stop bursting into laughter when you see the price of ordinary things (now you nearly burst into tears).
You know when the knife sharpening guy is nearby, where the pots and pans fix-it guy is, where to get your keys copied, which pharmacy has the best price (usually), which beach is your favorite, how much to pay the parking mafia, and when not to return your friend’s call because they were just being cheap to let it ring and then hang up so you would have to pay.
If you eat GLOBO biscoitinhos in traffic you have moved to native status.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Danielle in Niteroí

Thanks for the long weekend visit, Danielle.  It was great to have you here.

We did the Blogger Meet-Up, naturally. But we also toured through Niteroí and went back into Rio several times to visit with Lindsey and Rachel. Fun!

One night we cooked up a fajita extravaganza. Yum!

Come back any time grrl, and next time we hope Alexandre is feeling better and can join us.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blogger Meet-up in Rio – report back

Gathering at our point of departure.

Phew – it’s been a great weekend spending time with fellow bloggers. Saturday was our planned event in Rio which attracted a great crowd (many bloggers and their husbands, partners, children, etc.).

Inside the Arco do Tellez.

The Arco do Telles area is PACKED every weeknight for Happy Hour.

It was my intention to arrive early to stake out the meeting area and be a responsible leader.  But, the best laid plans… We missed our ferry and given that it was Saturday, the next ferry was 30 minutes later. So by the time we arrived there was already a good group gathered. Thanks to cell phones, everyone was informed of our delay, and some who arrived a bit later were able to hop into the tour in progress.
Confeitaria Columbo has hosted dignitaries and the rest of us for over 100 years.

We somehow stumbled upon these happy barber shop workers...

Luiz was his beaming, charming self as he walked us through some very historic streets, showing us an old home of Carmen Miranda’s and pointing out an ancient street which still has the small gutter running the length of the center of the street (aka: the old open sewer channel).
Rua da Carioca is fantastically scenic busy old street lined with historic archetecture.

While we wandered from historic site to historic building, only a few were open, and many are best seen during the week when you can enter and take tours of. Luiz and I did a lot of encouraging folks to return and spend more time discovering Rio’s history. There is SO MUCH to see we could have walked for three days!
After peeking into the modern Cathedral and walking under the Lapa arches, we made our way to Cinelandia and pulled about 6 tables together and settled in for a LONG and social lunch. While we did get up and switch seats now and again, it was still impossible to chat with everyone.  There were just so many of us present! The meet-up was a total success!

Not everybody (sorry) but a nice group shot at the restaurant Amerelinho in Cinelandia.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blogger Meet-Up final reminder

We’re ready to go. Don’t miss the action. The Rio/Brazil expat blogger world is about to get smaller. We’re about to meet each other in the flesh (imagine that!)

On Saturday, July 16th everyone is invited to join us for a blogger meet-up in Rio. It seems to be shaping up into two gatherings: one at 10:00 a.m. sharp at Master Velentim’s Fountain in Praça XV in Rio Centro for a walking tour of about two hours or so through historic sections of Centro, and other interesting parts of downtown.
The second part is lunch at Amarelinho on the square in Cinelandia (not an expensive place). That should be around 12:30 p.m. I’ve heard from some that they cannot make the walking tour, but they will join us for lunch.  Wonderful.
However you can join us – we are eager to see you.
People have confirmed their attendance from all over. It is sure to be a great time. Please plan to join us. Contact me if you have any questions.
See you Saturday!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

USA upset at the Women's World Cup

Wow - did you see this? I must admit my loyalties were split when the US matched up against Brazil. Then it turned into a fantastic victory for the women of the USA team.

Watch this... and who said US guys don't get excited about women's sports?

And here is an interview with player Ali Krieger discussing the win.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Helping Luiz outlive the rest of us

More times than I can count, Luiz, after revealing that he is living with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, is hit with the blithe question: “Why don’t you just get a bone marrow transplant? That would be a cure, right?” Trust me, if that were the case we would have been there, done that by now.

Don’t get me wrong. We love that people are concerned and click into problem-solving mode when they learn of Luiz’s situation. But as most of you know, it’s better to hold your tongue until you know a little bit more about what you are talking about.
Let me take this opportunity to share some information that generally helps people understand why the “watch and wait” approach employed by cancer specialists in this field is the standard course of action for someone like Luiz. And then I’ll challenge readers to step up and be a part of the solution to Luiz’s long term worries. (I’m not asking for money.)
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) is “chronic” because it progresses slowly in most cases, and people generally live with the disease for many years. (There are unfortunate exceptions, but Luiz definitely fits into the chronic category.) It’s true that it has been detected that Luiz’s bone marrow is producing white blood cells that are non-functioning and failing to die already and make way for more functioning cells. Over time this will lead to too many dud white blood cells taking up all the space and too few functioning white blood cells to adequately protect him from opportunistic infections. Thus is the simplified understanding of CLL.
Since it is our bone marrow that produces healthy white blood cells, we can see that Luiz’s bone marrow is asleep on the job.  Replacing his degenerate marrow with more enthusiastic marrow with a good work ethic would certainly be an improvement – if it were only that easy.
A bone marrow transplant is a life threatening procedure. In order to introduce a whole new colony of bone marrow ready to get to work, you would first have to destroy Luiz’s immune system so it doesn’t go after the new marrow as enemy tissue.  That means ridiculously high (life-threatening) doses of chemotherapy and radiation to strip him of his natural ability to fend off infection. Then you have to hope that the new marrow doesn’t go crazy thinking that it is now in an alien and enemy organism that it must destroy – going after Luiz’s cells (graft versus host disease).
So things can go wrong going in and things can go wrong coming out of the procedure. That’s a lot of risk for a patient that continues to live a-symptomatically for the time being. Better to watch and wait.
If and when Luiz’s disease (or the symptoms thereof) become more life threatening than the risk of the “solution,” then, and only then, will we move for transplantation. It is generally considered a final stage Hail Mary pass. But hey – when it works, it works great for the patient!

Oh – I forgot to mention the difficulty finding a suitable bone marrow donor. None of the possible good health outcomes are even in the picture if we cannot find a suitable donor.  The best-chance possible donors are brothers or sisters. Luiz is an only child.
According to the National Cancer Institute in Rio, the leading bone marrow transplantation facility in Brazil, the odds of finding a non-first-relative bone marrow donor match are about 1 in 100,000. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that Brazil maintains the third largest registry of volunteer bone marrow donors in the world, the US and Germany being first and second respectively. Better yet, most countries with a donor registry participate in a global registry that lists more than 18 million donors from 47 countries. That helps close the odds a bit.

So here’s where you can be a part of the solution for Luiz and others, when the time comes. Register as a bone marrow donor volunteer. In the USA you can do this from the comfort of your home (the "Be the Match" National Marrow Donor Program will send you a kit and all you need to do is take a cheek swab for testing). In Brazil blood centers in every state will draw just 5ml of blood for testing. (No appointment necessary at INCA in Rio.) In the US, donors must be between the ages of 18 - 60; in Brazil it is between 18 - 55.
Once you are registered, the chances of your being called upon to be a donor are less than 1 in 500. However, if you have the opportunity to donate, the procedure is nearly painless and totally risk free. Localized discomfort from the procedure will likely not last even a weeks’ time. Less than 2% of your bone marrow will be extracted and this will be naturally regenerated by your body in about a month.
So what do you say? Can you spare a little time to join the global bone marrow donor volunteer registry – and maybe save a life? The life you save may be one we all love and hold very dear.

Follow these links for additional information about being a donor volunteer in the USA, Brazil and beyond.
And I want to acknowledge this column by Chris McGowen on the Huffington Post that stirred me to post something similar (using some of his words) on my blog.
Thank you in advance for whatever you may be able to do in this effort. Feel free to re-post on your blog or to your Facebook page. We are working to surmount the odds.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

You know it is winter in Brazil when

Photo source:

You know it’s winter in Brazil when:

The women break out their shin-high boots (even if it’s still warm out).
You close your windows for the first time in 10 months.
The electric shower head water heater does not have the oomph to heat the cold water.
All the windows on the bus are closed, and the air conditioner is off.
Scarves are everywhere – everyone is wearing a scarf.
The gringos’ toes are white in their Havaianas.
Ice cream parlors are selling hot chocolate and coffee drinks.
Weekend street festivals (Festa Junina) feature hot corn on the cob and a super delicious piping hot stew over polenta to warm the belly (Angu à Baiana).
Locals will spend an hour in the sun on the beach (for exercise), but gringos will try to pretend it is sunny and warm all day.
Even the most unlikely among us will learn to cook bagels – if only to heat the kitchen.  =;-)
The mosquitoes are oddly absent.
You dig around and find your socks.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Luiz's school success

Our Luizinho has completed his first of two semesters of formal technical training to become a certified tour guide in Rio state and beyond.  For the past several months Luis has awakened, Monday through Thursday, at 5:20 a.m. to catch a bus to Rio to sit for five hours of coursework. He has made LOTS of new friends and has demonstrated he has the natural ability to be a leader, a guide, an engaging teacher and a charismatic guide. I’m personally excited to report that he earned an average of 9.0 out of 10 points each for the 10 courses he took. (Said the proud husband.)

All modesty aside, Luiz was voted by his peers to be the class leader/liaison to the course administration; he was cheered as a natural speaker by his colleagues; and credited by his professors as a valuable resource to any agency that will certainly utilize his services.
But we knew all that.
It has been wonderful for me to see Luiz so engaged and excited about this new professional path. He has had a bounce in his step (even at 5:20 a.m.) and I know he is proud to have been recognized by his peers.
The additional fun aside to all of this is that we have enjoyed many, many free tickets and back-stage passes that come from being a desirable tour guide. Lots of venues want you to know about them and work to encourage you to bring your tour guests to their venues.  Thus the free bits for us. Nice. Work it Luiz!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rio readies for the future

It’s not your father’s Rio anymore.  Whether you agree with the strategies employed or not (or believe entirely their reports of success), Rio’s government has been taking what they consider to be strategic actions over the past few years to clean up corruption, increase transparency in government, professionalize the police force and take technological steps forward to alert and coordinate various first-responders to emergencies, both natural and criminal.

There is a great post about this effort over on the outstanding new blog Rio Real. If you have not already been following Julia Michael’s postings there – start now.
Here is a taste. This is an official brief video (with English subtitles) that lays out the vision of the “new and improved” Rio in terms of service, safety and coordination, using high tech urban planning and other technology.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Luiz health update

More or less every two months Luiz treks over to the National Cancer Institute in Rio for his periodic checkup.  Actually he does it twice, one day to have blood drawn (he has to get there early, they stop drawing blood at 8:00 a.m.) and then again a couple days later for the consultation.

His appointment is always 2:00 p.m., which is really more like they have a morning batch of patients and an afternoon batch of patients.  The afternoon batch begins 2:00 p.m. So inevitably he sits and waits in the ever-so-depressing waiting room. That said, yesterday Luiz waited 4 ½ hours before he was called in. (I was not there because Luiz would not let me come along – I got into a near shouting match with the arrogant, smarter-than-thau, “shut up and just do what I say” young medical team leader last time over a simple question.)
Luiz’s current doctor indicated that (for some reason) Luiz’s spot is almost at the end of the day, so he will always be called near the end.  Oh really – was someone going to tell us this?  His appointment slip always says 2:00 p.m. – but if their secret scheduling thing in the back has Luiz never seen before 4:30, why not tell him that? Needless to say Luiz was exhausted by the time he got home.
On the bright side – all of Luiz’s Complete Blood Count numbers were wonderful.  Things remain stable and some ticked in the better direction. Our “Watch and Wait / Worry” period continues.  It has been nearly three years since Luiz’ Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia diagnosis. He continues to maintain a healthy state of affairs.
This time around I’m going to add a health update for myself.
I’m about 15 days post gastric bypass surgery. I feel great, my doctor assures me all is going well, and I’m out walking twice a day. By Monday I’ll be up to 70 ml of puréed food every 45 minutes. Oh the possibilities! I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds.
Thanks all for your well wishes.