And just like that, we’ve been in Brazil* for five months! (*We’re currently in Argentina for the holidays.)
It’s hard to put into words just how happy I am with our new lives as ex-pats. I’m pleased to report, and maybe a bit surprised, to say the transition has been easy on us. I think our previous stints in other metro areas, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco, not to mention having “commuted” to New York City, helped soften any growing pains of living in a large city. And Sao Paulo is a big city; it’s home to about 12 million people! If anything, this is probably our best city yet: our neighborhood is walkable, the food scene is incredible, and the traffic isn’t nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be. (Again, I think having NYC, D.C., Chicago, and the Bay Area as comparison cities, helps!)
Our biggest challenge has been the language barrier as Portuguese is a difficult language to master. Fortunately, we’ve been bailed out of sticky situations by kind passers-by and Rishi has been annoyingly quick to pick up the language. (He’ll tell you he’s not very good, but the man was able to custom order a couch, totally in Portuguese, and what we ordered actually arrived as expected!)
Now that the first semester has wrapped, and I’m on summer vacation until late January, I’ll have more free time to catch y’all up on all things Brazil, our recent trips to Ilhabela and Florianopolis, and not to mention our current trip through Argentina. Tchau!
Last Saturday we landed in São Paulo and a whirlwind of a week began. With the exception of a small delay at JFK, our travel to Brasil went smoothly: all of our eighteen checked bags (including R.’s entire office set-up) arrived with us and both the cat and dog acted as if they were frequent flyers.
Until this weekend, we had very little time to explore and acclimate as my new faculty orientation programming started immediately. The school did a bang up job keeping us well-fed and organized while simultaneously pummeling us with information about the school, our students, and life in São Paulo and Brasil. Fortunately, with their help, we’ve avoided much of the red tape Brasil is known for: our RNEs (federal identification cards) were issued quickly and we only waited a week to have internet installed (hooray for watching Game of Thrones in bed tonight!).
Today and yesterday were blissfully our own in our new city. This spring, we purchased a car from a co-worker of mine so we took a morning trip to the mall to stock up on supplies (and almost had to take up permanent residency there when we couldn’t figure out how to pay for parking) before having lunch with a b-school classmate of R’s at the cutest bakery. We managed to get our apartment entirely unpacked and (mostly) organized, enough so that we could host people over for wine tasting. And today, we spent the afternoon strolling through Ibiraquera Park with the dog.
It’s hard to overstate how much we’re enjoying São Paulo. Every morning I pinch myself while walking the dog and admiring the flowering trees and stately mansions in Jardim Europa, quite the oasis in this concrete jungle. And while the language barrier is a challenge, it’s pushing us to take risks and use our Portuguese, often to much fanfare. Our biggest pain point has been navigating meal planning: we haven’t found our go-to grocery store just yet and I’m not entirely sure what items will reliably be in the produce section. But I suppose if that’s our biggest gripe, we’re doing just fine as we adjust to life as ex-pats in bustling Sampa!
We’ve been sitting on some pretty big news: R. and I are realizing a life-long dream and moving abroad to Brazil!
It all began during our trip to India last year when we had a chance to reconnect with with a friend and former colleague of mine. He’s been living in New Delhi, teaching at an American school for the past few years. We spent an evening with him, hearing about his experience as an ex-pat. And then we got home to the States and started to wonder, could we follow a similar path, too?
As you may know, I work in education and previously taught for several years. Most major international cities are home to at least one American school, which typically serve children whose parents work at the American embassy or an American corporation as well as local children whose parents want to give them an American education. Given my background, I decided to pursue a position at one of these schools and joined with a recruiting agency. I spent most of the fall months contacting schools, participating in Skype interviews (many in the wee hours of the morning due to timezone differences) and the like, until I finally accepted a position in São Paulo where I’ll be teaching at the elementary level again.
Now that we’re less than two months out from our departure date, our feelings vacillate between excitement and “OMG, are we really doing this?!” (A totally normal state to exist in, apparently.) We have our visas, plane tickets, a car, and housing, not to mention a few trips planned for the “fall” and “winter” months (actually Brazil’s spring and summer), but there’s a lot of be done: selling most of our worldly possessions, replacing cashmere with linen in our wardrobes (I literally have no warm weather clothes), attempting to learn Portuguese, maximizing the remaining weeks in California… the list goes on and on.
And so now, to respond to the frequently asked questions we’ve fielded from friends and family:
What about your pets? They are coming! And since they love laying in the sun and the warm weather, I think they’ll be quite pleased to escape San Francisco’s fog. We actually ruled out a lot of locations in Asia due to strict quarantine requirements, too, instead opting to look for positions in South America, Europe, and Africa where the import processes for pets are much easier.
What’s R. going to do in Brazil? He’ll work remotely and send me pictures of our pets looking adorable all day. Essentially, we’re flip flopping our current employment situations.
Why Brazil? First and foremost, the school that hired me sealed the deal. I loved everyone I interacted with during the interview process and during a visit this spring. It’s a place where I can grow and be challenged as a professional. Second, we’re incredibly excited to travel throughout South America, a place that we’ve longed to visit. And São Paulo is a major city with cultural events and an amazing food scene as well as close proximity to both beach and mountainous rainforest spots for weekend exploring. It’s just the right balance of the familiarity of a big city mixed with culture shock and discovery.
We know we’ll be ex-pats for at least two years (the length of my initial teaching contract), which will go by in blur, I’m sure. While we’re there, I can’t wait to fully immerse ourselves in Brazilian culture and not just experience a new city for a few days at a time. And obviously, I’ll be blogging more actively, both about our transition into our new lives as ex-pats and as we explore South America. If there are specific things you’re interested in seeing on the blog (e.g., where/what to eat, how to get an international teaching position, etc.), let me know in the comments below!
This past January, I snuck over to London for five days (really four, on account of spending a day in Paris, too) and finally realized: I love London. On previous visits, I merely appreciated London for it’s familiarity: a vibrant, diverse city, the lack of a language barrier, and endless culture. But in the past, I got swept up in pounding the pavement and trying to visit every must-see attraction and flat out missed its character. There was also the time R. and I were visiting while managing on one salary and the exchange rate crushed most of our enjoyment (e.g., “$40 for a mediocre hamburger?!”). But, the third time was a charm: the days were leisurely paced and un-rushed, I revisited favorite museums and exhibitions, got lost among the English mansions of Notting Hill, and the food, oh, the delicious food! I get it now, London is lovely.