The state of things, 2020

Now that we’re overseas, a traditional paper Christmas card was impossible. I’ll write this post instead and include photos that I might have put on a card.

2019 was our first full year in São Paulo, Brazil. We all felt more confident, our language skills grew, and our sense of direction improved (unless you’re me, in which case I’m always lost). I asked Calvin this year if he felt like Brazil was home. He looked at me like I’d asked him which farts he enjoys smelling the most. “Of course Brazil is home! Where else would be home?”

This is the kid, mind you, who was purposefully resisting his Portuguese classes at school because he thought we’d leave soon.

Matilda keeps asking if we’re Brazilian or American. She keeps repeating it to understand: “Are we Brazilian? No. We’re American ’cause we were born in Nashville.” But I can tell she’s wondering how Brazil fits into who we are and where we are from. As a kid who grew up overseas myself, that is not easy to answer and it will always be a challenge. Especially when she returns to the US for college. She won’t feel traditionally American, but she won’t be officially from any of the countries she’s lived in. It’s complicated.

We’ve just decided to move to a new apartment in our same building because everything started breaking, and our landlady has no interest in fixing anything. The landlord culture here is to just let your tenants make repairs. So we found a remodeled apartment a few floors down and we’re moving in early March! Hooray for a bigger kitchen and newer bathrooms. And hardwood floor pieces that don’t get stuck to your feet and pop out.

I have really enjoyed the return to teaching middle school. 7th grade is the hardest year of human existence, but there’s something rewarding about teaching them. Not sure I can even articulate why. They’re less jaded and guarded. They are super hyper and disorganized, but there’s something about their hearts being more open. There’s still a sense of wonder.

David is enjoying his computer science classes. It’s still his first year in this curriculum, so he gets frustrated as he learns and tweaks his teaching, but he’s enjoying the challenge. He is using an outside curriculum for his electives, but he’s realized he doesn’t love it and wants to go in his own direction next year. Year one is all about learning and growing.

Everett started a pre-school in our neighborhood this August. It’s a Brazilian school and his Portuguese has really blossomed. Colleagues from our school with a son his age also send their son there, so Everett has a buddy. He really likes his teacher and he’s happy. He goes there in the morning until noon, then comes home with our nanny.

2019 was the end of diapers for us! I could throw a ticker-tape parade! I got peed on last night, so it’s not perfect (it never is), but it’s such an improvement.

Everett will start at our school in the K3 program next August. It’s a half day, so he’ll ride to school with us in our car, then take the bus home at noon and our nanny will pick him up. Someone reminded me today that in our first year here we had one kid in school full day, one kid in half day, and one kid home with our nanny all day. Hard to notice that it’s hard when you’re so busy.

Matilda is learning to read and write in kindergarten and loves her teacher. We’ll be sad to say goodbye to Ms. Julia in June. Matilda has really enjoyed the Montessori program and I’m glad she’s had that experience.

Calvin is enjoying 2nd grade. He spends almost all of his free time after school reading books. He’d be playing Minecraft all day if we let him, but he gets some time on the weekends for video games. In the afterschool program, Calvin is doing some science and engineering classes, tennis, and piano in our apartment. Matilda takes tennis and piano as well, and she’s joined Calvin in the Mad Science class.

I helped coach the 2nd and 3rd grade swim team last semester. I enjoyed it, but I have a really hard teaching schedule, and losing those 2 hours after school each week was really pushing me to my limit. So, until next year, I bowed out. My plan is to return to coaching swimming next year when I go down to two different classes instead of three.

David helped with the Lower School musical last semester, which was fun for him. Similar to me, he struggled with losing that after school math help time with students, and the time to prep and grade. When our kids are older and off at their own activities, I hope that we can do more on campus after school. Right now, the evening shift of parenting is about all we can handle!

Our quality of life is very high living overseas. No place is perfect, but we are happy with what we our decision to make this leap. I will say that I’m grateful to work with an exceptional group of educators. They motivate me, they support me, they inspire me. I love being in an environment where everyone is working hard to teach kids in the best way possible. It’s intellectually stimulating and exciting. I feel like my talents are appreciated and my ideas are welcome. That’s a great feeling as an educator.

Brazil is great. The weather is amazing, the people are kind and friendly, and there are amazing travel opportunities. The food is delicious, the culture is active and healthy. Our condo has 4 pools, tennis courts and a restaurant. No place is perfect, but there are many wonderful benefits to living here. Are we still in our honeymoon phase with Brazil? Maybe. The fact that many teachers stay here at least 6 years is testament to the beauty and joy of this place.

I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the challenges. Unsweetened peanut butter takes some looking, kale is hard to find, as is breakfast sausage. Imported cheeses aren’t common and they’re very expensive. Plugs for the bathtub are super hard to find, the walls are hard to hang pictures on. It’s just little stuff. Potholes in the roads, traffic cameras that give you tickets. Socially, we’re still new in many ways, and making new friends and establishing bonds is hard. It’s hard as an adult anyway. But we’re working on finding our people, carving our niche, creating new routines.

The first semester living here was especially challenging and I took some time off of my own writing. However, as you may have seen in other posts, I’m finding a way to keep it a part of my life. Because my work life is demanding, I feel more grounded with regards to querying and pursuing publication. I can’t dwell on rejection or spin my wheels as much–no time!

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Brazil, we have a guest room and are happy to host. We recommend December/January because the weather is good and we’re off school. But early June or late July will catch us just after or before the school year. June and July are “winter” here, so you may need warm jammies and some sweaters and hoodies.

Here are some photos of our year.

Any given Wednedsay restaurant night.
Goof ball
Juquei beach.
Juquei beach.
Sidewalk lunch in Buenos Aires
Botanical garden in Buenos Aires
Morro de São Paulo
Sunset walk in Morro de São Paulo
Morro de São Paulo
Any given Saturday at our condo pool

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