Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Making it work

I was going to post a very cool bit about my recent fling with French Onion Soup. I have pics and everything.

But for some reason I cannot get the pics off our camera and onto my computer. I just did this a month ago with our Peru pics, but now the wires don't fit. WTF?

So instead you get my mini rant and another thought.

Life has been good and Luiz is thriving. (Me too, for that matter.) Everything except the camera has been great.

One observation here at home is that I can tell the time by the sound of the traffic outside our window. Speaking about after dark...

Laying in bed, trying to sleep, I know the time by the sounds I hear.

It's not yet 1:00 until the adolescent chatter calms across the street at the pizzaria,

It is 2:00 when I hear the soft (yet quite audible) rumble of plastic wheels of a small army of night shift street cleaning workers rolling by with their trash containers, on their way to their stations.

Just about 2:30 the private trash pickup company pulls up to the restaurant across the street. For a good 20 minutes we are treated to the sound of clanging trash containers and the mechanics of a truck compacting its load. Nice...

Then on most nights - Friday and Saturday excepted - we have relative quiet from about 3:00 - 5:00.

Starting at 5:00 the busses start their rotation. Now, I love me some busses. They are my saving grace when I want to go anywhere. But we have somthing like 10 different bus lines passing in front of our apartment. That's good when you want to go somewhere, but not so good when you want to sleep.

So I don't need an alarm clock. But the good part is I have no reason to wake up early. I just roll over and let the sounds wash over me until I am ready to get up and take a walk along the beach.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Polishing English at Zanna Sound

As an expat without a sponsoring employer, my employment options in the short run here in Brazil distill down to teaching English (even if you don’t know crap about English grammar). To be fair – I never suggest to potential students/clients that I am an English teacher.  I state that I am simply a native speaker with some smarts. So I describe myself as an English “polisher”, which is of value to bi-lingual professionals.

Get it right. Speak clearly and concisely. Communicate effectively. Be articulate. Connect with those who speak English. That is my job.

It has been very exciting this past year to work with Zanna at Zanna Sound.  Learning about Sound Branding as an English consultant for Zanna Sound in Rio has been very interesting and it has certainly been innovative stuff. 

Zanna, principle of Zanna Sound, is more than an intriguing and inspiring client. She has changed and is changing the landscape of marketing via sound, and I have found it remarkably interesting to be in this process.

There is nothing more fun than a smart client with sophisticated content wanting my assistance. Thank the goddess that most of my English students/clients are advanced professionals with interesting things to engage in.

Zanna lights up the room. She is a brilliant innovator and has built an international reputation as a leader in Sound Branding. She is in fact the premiere professional in this field in Latin America.

Sound branding is that thing you already know about – think about the sound that happens when you turn on your computer. You instantly recognize the sound – and the association with the brand. Think about the ambient sound you hear when you go into some retail spaces (good or bad). Think about the sounds associated with some companies when you are put on hold on the phone. This is all thoughtful stuff on their part. (Or it should be.)

Zanna Sound works to educate companies about the significant value of working this sound dynamic to their advantage. And Zanna has developed an innovative methodology for securing results.

I will not go into the details – but do follow the links to learn more.

Suffice it to say that Zanna is an innovator, she is opening new spaces for companies to grow their brand, and she will be a force to be acknowledged for many years to come.

It is a delight to work with her – and I look forward to more collaboration in the future.

Check out her website!

Sometimes it is fun to go to work.

Note: - Zanna is currently in southern France at Cannes Lions (the 59th annual conference of creativity) as a juror and a presenter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'm playing it

OK -  it's Valentines Day here in Brazil. Game on!

I'm making a ham quiche (per my love's request) and a chocolate torte - in spite of his diabetic quadi quadi quadi. - Take two pills.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Festa Junina whoo hoo

It's Festa Junina season.  That is to say it is country food and tradition party time.

From my point of view it is a corn thing.Sweet corn pudding - canjica - oooh so good. Then boiled whole corn served in the husk with butter and salt. Or, creamy corn polenta-like "pudding" combined with savory special ingredients - just like your grandmother used to make.

Everything designed to keep you warm on a cold winter's day.

Goddess bless corn.

Love me some Festa Junina.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Visiting Machu Picchu

I can honestly say that you never (I never) expect to see something so amazing as the preserved ruins of Machu Picchu. To see the clouds clear in the early morning so high in the mountains – moment by moment. It would be breath-taking except that the air is so pure we were able to breathe so deeply. We took it all in.

Magic – I typically don’t believe. But that morning exiting our mini bus at the gates to Machu Picchu – I was reconsidering. I definitely reconsidered.

We were inspired by the whole of it all: spiritual sites, lavish places of rest for Inka dignitaries, spaces for workers, tiered agricultural areas, lots of uncanny scientifically spot-on bits. Plus seeing the beautiful lamas wandering the grounds.

We spent over two hours on a guided tour (recommended) and then another several hours just feeling the energy and exploring the site.

It is possible to take a tour from Cusco – to and from Machu Picchu - in a single day. Totally possible. But as is our style, we chose to stay in Aguas Caliente and get the early morning bus to MP to see the clouds rise. But you can do either – think about your priorities.

Only the photos tell the real story.

The clouds clearing.

Could it be more beautifu!?

The tiers are partly to stop erosion - and partly to provide gardens.

Luiz and our guide.

Is my husband the cutest man ever, or what!?

We are singing Happy Birthday to Luiz here -- he got a bit emotional.

Tell me - is it possible to be more inspired?

Slow and steady!

We LOVED our trip to Machu Picchu!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why Peru?

The older walls (dark grey, in the center) were part of a large Inka ceremonial site but then the Spanish tore it down to make a cathedral and convent, Cusco.

Typically, when Luiz and I take off on a travel adventure abroad, we spend 6 – 8 weeks in the country to get a decent feel for the people, culture, food, music and the rest. We move about at a quiet pace. No rushing from bus station to bus station. We unpack our luggage when we settle in at the hotel or hostal.

Church belltower.

In this particular case, we had time constraints imposed by Luiz still attending tourism classes in Rio. Luiz had to negotiate time away from class with his instructors. The rules at school include a maximum number of missed classes before you are automatically disqualified from graduating. So we settled on a two week jaunt to and from Machu Picchu.

Cusco has many Inka archeological sights, some with incredible stonework (those which survived the Spanish looting the stones to build their churches...)

This year Luiz turned 60 years old on May 16th. His great desire was to spend his birthday wandering the ruins high in the Peruvian mountains. So we planned our itinerary around his birthday.

Basically we hopped on the gringo trail, arriving in Lima, then flying to Cusco, then riding a train to Aguas Caliente and finally a 20 minute mini bus up to Machu Picchu. Then back again.

We were not disappointed. Well, actually, we found the price of hotels and hostals a bit high, but groceries, restaurants, consumer goods and entertainment were quite reasonable – certainly much cheaper than here in Brazil. Every hotel/hostal we connected with posted their rates in US dollars. Two and three star establishments ranged from US$40 – US$75 per night.

In Lima we enjoyed several excellent museums, amazingly cheap and tasty meals, and wicked scary private bus transportation (as in, not municipal busses). Our hostal was located near the Central/Historic district. I recommend the area over Milflores, which gets all the hype.

Old gate leading to the central market, Cusco.
After a few days in Lima we flew to Cusco, the celebrated biggest tourist destination in Peru. Travel agencies were lined up four and five on every block. Everyone wanted to help you get the train to Machu Picchu, or take you on a jungle hike, or hook you up with a day-long bus tour stopping at numerous Inka ruins (including a tasty lunchtime meal).

Luiz and I bought a tourist discount ticket for $130 Peruvian Soles (S/) that gave us access to 16 different sites (churches, museums, archeological sites, a cultural dance performance and more) over a ten day period. It was a GREAT deal. We went to 11 of the 16 sites. One of the sites was charging S/$70 entrance fee. Most were S/$10 – $30. So we saved a bundle.

We worked with the proprietor of the hostal where we stayed to arrange day trips and our train transportation to Aguas Caliente, the thriving little village at the base of Machu Picchu.

View from a second story pub balcony, Cusco.

It was a surprise to me that the city of Cusco is actually higher in the mountains than Machu Pichu. From the photos of MP it appears you are way up in the heavens.  But in fact, Cusco is at an altitude of 11,800 feet, with Machu Picchu at 10,200 feet. It was cold up there! Both Luiz and I over-packed Tshirts and shorts and under-packed sweatshirts and long pants. But we managed…

After a few days in Cusco, we caught the train to Aguas Caliente (and then to Machu Picchu the following morning). More about that in my next post.