After less than two days here, I am ready to proclaim that Sao Paulo is just way too big. Despite pockets of potentially redeeming architecture, color, and culture, I could never live here. It's likely only the Brazilian affection (or endurance, in my American paradigm) for extreme human contact that makes this city even habitable. The guide for today's Fulbright orientation tour said that Sao Paulo's beauty -- unlike that of Rio or Salvador -- is not "obvious." In my opinion, that is a gross understatement.
For someone like me who can't even identify the redeeming qualities of the much-lauded New York City, the monstrous Sao Paulo seems preposterous and grotesque. That said, being in Brazil and surrounded by Brazilians once again is almost soothing -- in the hurricane of humanity, I feel completely at peace.
The anxiety and unbelonging that I felt in Boston (despite a net good experience there) is simply non-existent in Brazil -- yes, even with the reticent and haughty Paulistas, even in another culture and language, and even after a mere 36 hours on the ground. The fact of Being feels delightful, joyful, even giddy in Brazil.
Although I speak as someone with knowledge of only half of my metaphor: I have to liken Brazil to a drug, to intoxication, to addiction. Arriving here is such a release, such a high, such perfect felicity -- and its absence leaves only a profound longing for the next "fix."
Little wonder then that all but two or three of the Fulbrighters have been here before -- at least once -- and from talking to them, most seem to have a drastic compulsion to wade neck-deep into Brazil, to devour the experience.
At the Portuguese Language Museum -- a stop on today's very sanitized tour of Sao Paulo -- I was introduced to a writing by Jose de Alencar that sums up Brazil... and the rest of us:
"O povo que chupa o caju, a manga, a cambuca e a jabuticaba pode falar uma lingua com igual pronuncia e o mesmo espirito do povo que sorve o figo, a pera, o demasco e a nispera?"
"How can a people who suck [the flesh from] the cashew fruit, the mango, the cambuca (fruit) and the jabuticaba (fruit) speak a language with the same accent and the same spirit as a people who savor the fig, the pear, the apricot and the nispera (a dry, quince-like fruit)?"
I always say that I like Portuguese because the words feel so good in your mouth, and -- whatever the academic, "correct" meaning of this poem -- that same sentiment is perfectly portrayed in the provocative act of sucking out the pulp of sweet, sticky, juicy fruits; in fact, the description holds for all of Brazil -- the language as much as the people, the culture, the food, the land... The measured nibbling that I imagine accompanies the pear or the apricot in this phrase is the sorry state of the rest of us who struggle to seize life with the same ravenous vigor.
(Apparently, apples wouldn't make the list of chaste European/American fruits; they are expensive here and something of a special treat; when Leo would get sick as a child, his dad would splurge on Oreos and apples for him.)
It is so funny to me that this country, with its ability to enchant and addict, spends so much time looking outside of itself. Brazil has an almost adolescent need for both self-definition and reassurance, which I continually find surprising and demoralizing; why should such a singular, thriving, life-exalting culture submit itself to the appraisal of us pear-nibblers?
They may mock the Argentineans as wanting to be Europeans, but Brazil has an unhealthy fascination with everything foreign. Sure, this has allowed for the open-armed embrace of cultural elements of its many peoples and immigrant groups, melding elements from Japan, the Middle East, Portugal, Spain, Germany, West Africa, Angola, Mozambique, as well as native cultures. But what bothers me most is that -- even with a little world already inside of Brazil -- they care far more about the opinions of the wealthy and white beyond their borders.
It's that desire that leads to uncomfortable games of 20 questions for white Americans like myself. It also means that we get lopsided introductions to the country from well-to-do Brazilian hosts who would rather display their Gucci stores, French dining, and American university degrees. As perverse as the "favela tours" offered to tourists in Rio may seem, they no doubt sprung up to address the desire that many have to leave see something beyond the "bairros nobres" (the exclusive neighborhoods of the uber-rich).
Truth be told, the rich are fairly uninteresting to Americans, who I think are seduced and boggled by the prospect that warmth and joy can exist in tandem with poverty.
But misanticipating the desires of foreigners, Rio is going through a period of intense Giulianization before the upcoming Olympics. Our lunch table today was bemoaning the "shock and order" campaign sweeping Rio's formerly famously democratic beaches and the favelas are being subjected to "pacification" by anything but pacifist means. Instead of dealing with the real problems of the city (for example, the fact that Brazil is a net drug importer, that much of Rio's employment is informal, and that Brazil's K-12 public education system leaves a lot to be desired), they're just sweeping all things unsightly under the rug. Apparently, the chairs rented by beach vendors must match; permits will be issued for absolutely any food, drink, or experience that foreigners might ever possibly come in contact with; the vendors who sell sunglasses, tiny bikinis, and beaded necklaces on the waterfront have to run from the police; and -- horror of horrors -- the salty cheese-on-a-stick grilled right before your eyes (I have been fantasizing about it for months) has now been black-listed!
Whether or not Brazilians -- who suck the pulp from a mango, with all of its messy, stringy, sticky pleasure -- are able to duplicate our dry, crisp, deliberate spirit, they sure as heck seem determined to try. Meanwhile, those of us who've had a mouthful of Brazil are guzzling as much as we can before Rio is just another Miami.
We met up with a few other Fulbrighters and went to a boteco (a corner bar with outdoor tables; they specialize in large bottles of super cold beer and salty snacks). Leo had been saying all day how he wanted to find a boteco, so these 4 ladies also doing the Fulbright made his night! They seemed like a really great group, and one of them -- Kirsten -- has been here for weeks already and seems to be a voracious explorer, so she was also our intrepid guide. Oddly enough, she's also the step-sister of a good friend of mine; the world is so tiny.
It's strange how this country -- which is so unusual and so audacious -- makes me feel so at home, almost relaxed. Still, there are two things that I really struggle with: 1) the violence, and 2) street kids.
Whenever you're seated at a boteco, you're fair game for anyone hocking, begging, or publicizing. Tonight, it was a skinny kid of about 12 or 13 who stopped and asked whether we had any food left over. Everyone at the table donated a little something from their plate, and the boy sat down at the next table to eat the leftovers; the moment he sat, two smaller ones -- about 10 and 8 -- appeared out of the shadows with big eyes and baggy t-shirts. They sat down to eat with the first, but the restaurant owner tried to shoo them away, so Leo got up and ordered two more dinners for the little ones. When the restaurant owner told them to scram a second time, Leo tracked him down to explain that he had ordered food for them and that they would be waiting for their meals -- and only then would they go.
Walking home, Leo was still troubled by the experience. "I know that I've got a soft heart," he told me, "I just can't see anyone hungry when I have so much to eat." It seems like such a no-brainer, the sort of thing that we all fantasize that we would do automatically to ease the suffering of another human being, but you'd be surprised...
And that's on the list of reasons why, despite all of the immigration confusion it will cause me, I married Leo.
I'm usually a fabulous traveler, but this trip was actually awful. I started feeling weak and lightheaded early in the day but was determined to power through it. By the time we arrived in Miami, however, I was already freezing and feeling sick to my stomach. Leo was ravenous, so we stopped at a Cuban airport cafeteria, where all I could choke down was a yogurt and a fruit cup -- it felt like the lesser of two evils given how hungry I was. The long and short of this story is that 8 hour flights are the wrong place to develop a vengeful case of the stomach flu. The upside, however, is that I got to use the barf bags! Fascinated with them as a child, I would demand that my father collect them for me on his travels. Kids are weird.
But for whatever ails ya, there's a cure: 70 degrees, tropical air, and Brazil! I still have a barf bag, though, just in case.
That experience kind of colored most of my trip and that achy, humming exhaustion post-overnight flight means that I'm less than eloquent at the moment.
Leo, however, is brimming with energy; despite not sleeping a wink, he's zipped all over the neighborhood in search of salgadinhos (savory snacks -- often fried and meat filled) and other such nonsense! He seems truly happy to be back and keeps saying how free he feels at last.
When we arrived and were waiting for a taxi, Leo turned to me and said, "I think I'm like you. I think I like these adventures!" I second that when barf bags are not a part of the equation.
In the meantime, I gotta do something mindless and sedentary even though Leo keeps talking to me and wanting to show me stuff on the balcony.
In January, I applied for grad school at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. I almost went to the school for undergrad, and so fell in love with the area that I considered returning many times. When our exile became inevitable, I began thinking again about doing my graduate work there -- especially since their immigration laws would allow me to bring Leo and would allow him to work while I study. Imagine that.
Turns out, UBC is also home to the incredible Dr. Karen Bakker, who heads up their Program on Water Governance (yes, there is such a thing; I am not alone in this world). Oddly enough, it's part of the Geography Department. I thought it'd be awfully fun to introduce myself as a Geographer.
In characteristically understated Canadian fashion, I was informed of the results of my application this evening. Email surfing, I came across an email entitled "Grad Application Outcome UBC." As I vaguely remember reading that acceptances are sent sometime around April, I hadn't expected anything and opened the email assuming that it would inform me that the department had received and was reviewing my applicationblahblahblah...
"Dear Corin," it read, "Congratulations! We are pleased to recommend to the Faculty of Graduate Studies that you be admitted to the Master of Arts program in Geography at the University of British Columbia, to start in September 2010. Your application won immediate acclaim from our Graduate Committee, and colleagues in the relevant fields are thrilled at the prospect of working with you. Dr. Karen Bakker has agreed to act as your supervisor. We hope very much that you will decide to come here..."
Needless to say, I went tearing across the apartment yelling for Leo, "pumpkin, Pumpkin, PUMPKIN! PUUUUUMPKIIIIIIN!" He was in the shower. I ripped the bathroom door open. Terror in his eyes, Leo spun around to meet me, flinging the shower curtain aside.
"WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAT?!" It was obvious that his first thoughts included apartment fires, ax-murderers, terrorist attacks, and perhaps even alien invasion.
"CANADA!" I shrieked, "I got in! We're going to Canada!" I hugged Leo -- still in the shower -- and then proceeded to do an elaborate victory dance in which I bonked my wrist on the door frame, "ow!" I howled, "ow! But guess what? If we were in Canada right now, I could go to the emergency room for free! My victories are covered by universal health care!"
Canada is my America, if that makes sense.
So, we'll be in Brazil for 6 months of my Fulbright and then head to Vancouver just in time for one of those balmy Canadian winters.
The best part about all of this? "Hello. My name is Corin, and I am a Geographer." That's what Canada looks like in my head. From "Hark! A vagrant!" (http://harkavagrant.com/)
So, we're looking for rooms on Easyquarto, but it's an exercise in futility since -- sight unseen -- we don't trust them, they don't trust us, they don't like email, and the website doesn't seem entirely functional anyhow. In the end, finding housing seems to work like most things in Brazil: the only way to actually get anywhere is to know someone who knows someone who knows someone... or to be a foreigner.
Brazilians have an almost unhealthy affection for foreigners, which is why I eventually stooped to taking the route of "Hello! I am an American! And I have been given a fellowship from the American government to study in your country!" Yes, I hate being that person, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
And it worked! We finally started getting responses, although a few were from folks expecting us to pay the "foreigner tax" (one, for example, upped the on price of her posting, and another "cara de pao" told us "well, the price I quoted on the site is for one person and since you're two people, it'll cost more"). But then we received an email from Carla.
Carla is a recently divorced educator in her early forties. She has a 7-year-old son and began renting out rooms while she was waiting on the determination of her child support. She enjoyed having the company, and she continues to rent out two nice, furnished rooms in a fancy part of town only blocks from the university where I will do my research. Her price is expensive but not outlandish, and she didn't try to up it on me.
My emails with Carla began a bit formally, signing off "atenciosamente," but within 4 or 5, I knew her life story and we'd arrived at "abraço afetuoso!" (an affectionate hug). Within 10 emails, we were officially at "beijos!" (kisses!) -- now we're old friends.
While Carla doesn't have a room available until May, she has told us: "independente de qualquer decisão quero conhece-los. Já reservei um espaço em meu coração" (whatever your decision, I would like to met you. I have already reserved a spot in my heart for you).
She has also put us in touch with a number of friends and acquaintances, including her ex-husband, a gentleman in his 40s who teaches international business and currently lives by his lonesome in a 4-bedroom apartment also down the street from the university. He called (unfortunately without checking the time change, although I should have been awake already anyway) to say "hello" in both perfect English and rather formal Portuguese and wrote a tome of an email by way of introduction, detailing the apartment, neighborhood, city, and his book chapters, hobbies, soccer team, and basically anything else we might ever think to ask him.
He's a sweetie. She's a sweetie. And we're hoping that this works out!
In the meantime, does anyone want to rent MY apartment?!
Fake Empire -- The National
Solsbury Hill -- Peter Gabriel
Graceland -- Paul Simon
Afternoons and Coffeespoons -- Crash Test Dummies
Panis Et Circenses -- Marisa Monte
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa -- Vampire Weekend
Good Things -- BoDeans
Send Me on My Way -- Rusted Root
Iè -- I Muvrini
Dreams -- The Cranberries
Merry Happy -- Kate Nash
The Underdog -- Spoon
Slow Show -- The National
Looking At the World from the Bottom of a Well -- Mike Doughty
The Obvious Child -- Paul Simon
Segue O Seco -- Marisa Monte
This is why I'm going with Leo and we're leaving on our own terms. This story is -- in many variations and differing incarnations -- disgustingly common. Not everyone dies physically, but everyone loses something that can never be gotten back: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/nyregion/12family.html?pagewanted=2&hpw
Instead, I watched my favorite novela (I was worried about vovô Valdemar, who disappeared at the hands of his despicable eldest grandson... it's okay, though, because he's not dead -- just with memory loss) and made some banana bread. But then I thought I ought to post my Fulbright project here so that folks know what the heck I'm going down there to do (aside from denouncing, dissenting, objecting, opposing, and generally making myself a thorn in the side of my malefactors... I mean, it is exile, right?).
Anyway, part of me wishes I had a Master's before taking on this project, but my hope is that I do a pretty good job with the tools I have now and then, for my Master's (c'mon UBC!), I can expand this project to the basin committee of the Rio São Francisco (of which the Rio das Velhas is a tributary):
So without any further ado, this was the proposal that got me my Fulbright:
Objective: Between March 2010 and January 2011, I propose to research the elements that have fostered stakeholder collaboration regarding water management goals within Brazil’s Rio das Velhas basin. Specifically, I will explore the social and situation dynamics that led diverse stakeholders to commit to and carry out an ambitious river clean-up effort known as Meta2010.
Rational: Always a valuable resource, water is fast becoming “blue gold” in the new century – frighteningly finite yet fundamental to all that we do. Understanding the elements that foster collaboration in water management will be key to creating cooperation and avoiding conflict over this resource in the coming decades.
Because water has a tendency to run not only downhill but also toward money and power, organizations in many countries are increasingly searching for a more egalitarian way to incorporate stakeholders into water management. Consensus is quickly moving in the direction of basin-level dialogue and decision-making. Basin-level management presents considerable rewards: from creating a community sense of investment, to building trust, to providing a non-adversarial venue for redress, to incorporating creativity and flexibility, to making decisions more relevant geographically, economically, ecologically, and culturally.
Within the past few decades, this approach has also gained wide acceptance as an important new water management tool in the developing world. However, developing countries like Brazil face additional challenges. Decentralization mandated from above has a tendency to produce water management bodies that “rubberstamp” higher government agendas. In other cases, state and local governments lack the resources, expertise, and enforcement capacity to ensure success. And if the elite and special interests go unchecked, decentralization can also risk further prejudicing the system against “the little guy” rather than fostering a more democratic process.
Against these odds, the Rio das Velhas basin in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais is home to model stakeholder participation and democratic governance: the two largest players in the basin – the state’s Rio das Velhas Basin Committee (CBH-Velhas) and the Federal University of Minas Gerais medical school’s Manuelzão Project – represent a flourishing marriage of civil society and state-sanctioned power. Together, the groups have overcome traditional obstacles not only in their respective decision-making and mobilization roles but also in facilitating collaborations and finding the resources to sustain them.
One such collaboration, known as Meta2010, is an ambitious partnership between CBH-Velhas, the Manuelzão Project, state government, business interests, and community organizations to improve significantly the severely degraded water quality in the urban reaches of the Rio das Velhas, where 90 percent of the basin’s population lives. The ultimate goal of Meta2010 is to make the river safe for fishing, swimming and boating by the end of the decade – a bold initiative requiring community education, coordination across organizations and a significant investment of money and political capital. At the beginning of the project, the river was classified as a “Class III” waterway, meaning that it contained fecal coliform levels above 1,000 per 100 ml (in reality, levels were closer to 23,000 per 100 ml). Some estimate that the river actually reached Class IV ranking, making it unfit for any human contact whatsoever. Although the ultimate success of Meta2010 remains to be seen, there is already considerable evidence of improving river conditions and growing awareness of water issues. This prospective crown jewel provides an excellent encapsulation of the potential of decentralized water management.
Methodology: I plan to conduct my research in two parts. For the first months, I will assist the Federal University of Minas Gerais’s Professor Antônio Thomaz Gonzaga da Matta Machado, head of the Meta2010 project. The purpose of this placement is to gain an organizational perspective on Meta2010 as well as to build relationships that will allow me to conduct my research effectively. Although I will shift focus as I begin the second stage of my project, I plan to continue under Professor Machado for the duration of my fellowship in order to maintain relationships and a real-time understanding of water issues in the basin.
In the second portion of my research, I plan to conduct stakeholder interviews beginning in August 2010. I will interview representatives from all parties including members of CBH-Velhas, the Manuelzão Project, government officials, private business interests and investors, and involved community organizations. These interviews will consist of a uniform set of questions that will give me a standardized framework as I examine the forces underlying stakeholder mobilization and cooperation. Questions will focus on such dynamics as how key water issues were framed and reframed, the patterns of communication between various stakeholders, how trust relationships between stakeholders were built, and stakeholders’ perceptions of participants and the process. In the interviews, I will also encourage extemporary answers that will invariably demonstrate more nuanced perspectives, allowing me to achieve an organic understanding of stakeholders’ interests and beliefs expressed in their own words.
As Meta2010 and Manuelzão Project efforts are linked largely to public health work by the Federal University of Minas Gerais medical school, I will also audit public health courses at the university. These classes will supplement my knowledge of the ways in which water affects public health issues and will also give me a better understanding of the context and priorities of Meta2010. I also plan to volunteer as an English tutor for low-income youth through a local organization called “Meu Quarteirão no Mundo e o Mundo no meu Quarteirão.”
In conducting my research, I will draw upon my water-related academic and professional background. At Smith, I majored in Government and received the Dawes Prize for the Best Undergraduate Work in Political Science. As part of my coursework, I studied Latin American political systems and wrote a research paper on neoliberalism and water privatization in Bolivia. I also completed a year of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, focusing my semester-long project on the role of water in the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. My undergraduate honors thesis focused on the legal, policy-related, and dispute management tools and constraints that shape and direct conflicts over in-stream flow in the US state of Colorado. In my current position, I am the office's point-person for several water quality, access, and planning projects on the Mystic River, including one establishing a “steering committee” that closely parallels efforts on the Rio das Velhas.
So that's what I'll be doing for the next several months, and I cannot wait to get started! Yeah, I know... "water governance" and "can't wait" don't end up in the same sentence very often -- unless it's "I can't wait for this woman to stop talking about water governance," but I love this stuff. If you made it to the end of this, you have anti-boredom super powers. Now, go watch paint dry.
Leo is starting to see the move as inevitable, I think, because he's relaxed considerably... although yesterday he was insisting that we bring our air conditioner to Brazil because the whole country has run out of them (his words). I am sorry to say that I laughed at him because I later looked on the website of Casas Bahia (which is like the Brazilian Sears) and was surprised to see that he was actually (mostly) correct. Turns out, Brazil has been a whopping 12 degrees hotter than usual; a few days ago, Rio reached a "feels like" temperature of 120 Fahrenheit, and so air conditioners are understandably in high demand.
Unlike Leo, I am becoming more and more anxious, and I don't know whether it's the thought of exile or just packing/travel jitters.
On the one hand, every time I think about arriving in Belo Horizonte, I get six-year-old-on-Christmas-morning excited. Sure, a big part of it is that this white girl can't wait to soak up as much of that 120 degrees as she can without becoming a "camarão" (shrimp). Mostly, though, I'm thirsting for the buzz that comes with plunging head-first into a new place: new streets, new fruits, new smells, new faces, new words, new trees -- travel is an intense high; everything is somehow more vivid, more textured, more sensuous when there's so much of it, like the shivery pleasure of wriggling your hand elbow-deep into sack of grain.
Travel so bombards the senses that, boiling forth, they roll and push through one another: you taste the sweet, bright song of a little bird in a wicker cage hung above the sidewalk; you see the smooth, glinting-gold scent of just-cooked french bread twisted up with a square of paper; from green cliffs above you feel crush and rumble of waves pounding sand, confounding “liquid” and “solid.” Aix-en-Provence tastes like anise; Rio sounds like the plink of a cavaquinho; Geneva is hot and cold, like its roasted chestnuts in winter-chapped hands.
You learn the freedom that comes with not trusting your expectations: in the corner grocery, you pick up what looks like lumpy green pine cone, bite into it, and -- low and behold! -- nature makes an ice cream-flavored fruit!
You learn that time doesn’t march forward at 60 tick-tocks to the minute: as you drive a few hours from Toulouse, your perception recedes centuries. You arrive at an abbey to the muddy green scent of spring stirring, and spread out before you is a carpet of snowdrops – delicate downturned cups, demure and indifferent to the ages.
Travel is an subjective anthropology as you sort through customs, stumble through language, and sift through history. A repetitive tic of the hand blossoms into an articulate gesture. The exaggerated flounce of a skirt, the tile trim on a building, a curled lock abused straight, even a single ingredient in a favorite dish -- all speak volumes more about a culture and its past than could ever be catalogued. And the moment a local expression drops effortlessly from your lips – an “organic ‘quoi’” for my Geneva friends – is when you celebrate your ingress into understanding a people on their own terms.
I can’t wait to feel that way again, and that top-of-the-rollercoaster anticipation reassures me that I’ll enjoy the ride… but I think two years out, ten years out, and I worry about how much I’ll enjoy it when it’s old news, my day-to-day. Unfortunately, some questions can only be answered in hindsight.
I also felt safer knowing that whatever happened in Brazil – or anywhere else I traveled – I could come home. Now – from the moment Leo and I get on that plane – even if I had to return to the US for some reason, part of “home” can’t come back with me, and that’s a really scary thought…
That said, running down the clock on packing is almost as scary, so perhaps I’ll go make a few piles and do my best to seem productive. It might help if I look out the window every once in a while just to remind myself how incredible it will feel in BH with the windows flung wide open and that tropical heat pressing in on me – like submerging myself in hot chocolate after a long day of sledding.
- Taxes: we made an appointment with tax preparer for next week; Leo and I need to find out what happens if we file together since he's an "independent subcontractor" and "business owner" (or rather, his boss is a cheap jerk who violates employment law with abandon; he made him set up his own business, pay his own workers' comp, and supplement his own taxes all with the objective of paying peanuts and taking as little responsibility as possible for employing undocumented workers), I have two jobs, and we need to know the ins and outs of how his status affects our filing... and tax returns.
- Dentist: appointment next weekend. I love my dentist's office because they can handle whatever I throw at them. Last time I went, they were going to yank one of my wisdom teeth and everyone I knew was preparing me for the worst: "your face will swell up like a melon," "that sound as they wrench the tooth from your mouth is the worst sound in the world," "you can't eat for two weeks and you'll have gaping holes in your gums and everything will hurt," "you'll probably die and the tooth fairy will eat your soul..." When I sat down in the dentist's chair and was informed that this would be "easy" and that I wouldn't even be put under, I started shaking and sobbing, imagining the marathon of Abu Ghraib-like treatment I was about to receive. The dentist whipped out his array of glinting torture devices and began forcing his way into my mouth. I squealed every time I felt any sort of pressure, convinced that on the other side of the anesthesia was a reality of squirting blood and leaking brains. The dentist seemed coldly immune to my terror, deftly switching from one silvery implement to the next. The nurse took my hand and asked whether I would like to listen to my iPod. Weeping pathetically, I nodded. With trembling hands, I wedged my headphones deep into my ears and began searching frantically for something loud, screamingly loud, to cover the deep, sucking sound of my tooth dislodging from my head. As I spun wildly through my song library, the hygienist tapped me gently on the shoulder. I looked where she was pointing, and there was the quietly triumphant dentist with my tooth in his hand. "Would you like to take it with you?" he asked. "We're going to make so much fun of you the next time we see you," added the hygienist. Thank God it's just a cleaning this time.
- Car tune-up: appointment next Friday. Since my mom’s is driving our car Molly -- and everything that doesn't fit into four 80 lb suitcases -- back to CO, we're gettin' the old gal tuned up and road-ready... not a bad idea since Molly is still doing that weird sputter that was supposedly caused by spark plugs and wiring. If I get into grad school at UBC, my mom will drive Molly out to Washington State where she has a little cabin, and I will swing down from Vancouver to pick everything up! If I don't get into grad school, my mother will begrudgingly sell all of it.
- Find out about bringing year-long supply of Rxs to Brazil: I will look like a drug dealer going through customs, but I've got enough of everything to get me through a year... pity my insurance only pays for one month of that year. And why are birth control pills so damn expensive? I complained about it once, but the pharmacist told me rather unsympathetically "it costs less than a kid."
- Rent apartment: I've informed our landlord that we're leaving. We have yet to find a subletter, though. I was very worried that I would have to talk to the same landlord who told us to just tape our fire escape shut when I complained that someone was smoking in it and that the smoke was coming into our bedroom. Thank goodness he is on vacation. A rather sweet woman called instead to explain the options and offered to answer any of our questions. Whew. But I still don't have a subletter. Unwhew.
- Sell/donate furniture: my kid sister swung by and laid claim to almost everything in the apartment, which helps out a lot.
- Find someone to adopt guinea pigs: the indefatigable Jessica found a wonderful young mom with two kids who are nuts about guinea pigs. They house the school pig, George, on weekends and have been looking to get their own. She came by today to pick up Pablo and Juan Carlos. I shed some tears, but I am really glad that they will be going to such a good home where they'll get lots of love. It's hard to overstate my relief. I had gotten a lot of responses to our ad on Craigslist, but they all seemed to be from hoarders and crazies:
"hello. i live in meddford also. i really want ur guinea pigs. please write backi love animals. and would take amazing care of them. just wondering do they play with you or run away? i would love one that cuddles and plays. thanks"
"HELLO MY NAME IS ***** AND I LIVE IN ROXBURY AND MY KIDS BEEN WANTING SOME GUINEA PIGS AND WE SEEN THE ADD ON CRAIGSLIST AND I WAS WONDERING IF THEY ARE STILL AVAILABLE CAN WE PURCHASE THEM WE HAVE THE 30 DOLLAR FEE"
"i have daughter that would take of them and really would like to have them as her pets. and animals are birds. thanks. i live in malden."
Leo is also home having gotten the stomach bug in the middle of the night. It's just as well since he is nursing his knee after steroid shot that left it worse than his arthritis, and his insistence on working despite not being able to walk was leaving me downright exasperated.
We've had a blissful few months with him on my health insurance. He was filled with a childlike delight after he got an MRI ("do you know how much this would cost in Brazil?!") and finally a diagnosis... albeit an old man's diagnosis. He'll be thirty next year; I think it's funnier than he does.
Time is moving so fast now. I am grasping at the hours as they tick by like seconds. It's making me dizzy... or maybe that's the stomach flu. It's hard to tell.
Oh dear... the landlord just called (we have to break the lease). I have to call him back. This isn't going to help my stomach at all...