Monday, October 18, 2010

A few Brasilia pictures

So today is October 18th, and we arrived on October 3rd.  I'm somewhat conflicted on my feelings about this.  On one hand, it feels like these last two weeks have just flown by because we've been so busy.  On the other, Brasilia is already starting to feel like home and it's hard to believe we've only been here for two weeks! 

On first impression, I really like Brasilia.  Sarah does too, though I don't think she's quite ready to call it home yet.  She'll feel more at home once our things arrive. 

The best thing about Brasilia, which I'm sure our families will be very glad to hear, is that it's very safe.  During our two months in DC, we had training on security.  We were told to take different routes to work every day, vary our schedule, be aware of our surroundings, etc.  It made us somewhat paranoid for our safety overseas!  Luckily, Brasilia is probably the safest post we could get.  I have yet to feel unsafe or threatened.  I'll continue to be careful and aware, however the it's almost entirely unneeded here. 

I have to spend some time explaining how Brasilia works.  It's a very modern city that was built in less than 4 years in the 1950's out of nothing.  It was basically a desert on which a city was erected for the sole purpose of becoming the nation's capital.  Brasilia is looked to as a successful model of modern urban design, especially for the transportation system.  It is built in a way that makes travel flow relatively quickly without need for stoplights through roundabouts and use of primary roadways for travel.  Built in the shape of an airplane,  there are primary roadways, called eixao's, that bisect the city.  They run along the fuselage and across the wings of the airplane.  Most addresses are very easy to find in the central Brasilia area.  The addresses are 3 numbers followed by a quadrant and a Bloco, as ours is 113 Asa Sul, Bloco F.  The first number signifies how many blocks we are from the eixao, and even numbers below it.   The second number is how many blocks you are from the center of the fuselage of the airplane.  So 113 is one block above the eixao, and 13 from the fuselage.  Asa Sul signifies that we are in the "South Wing," and Bloco F is our apartment building.  There's a red circle where our apt. is below.

Between each quadrant is a strip of stores called a commercio.  We have a couple in walking distance with some great restaurants, fresh fruit, pharmacies, etc.  Below is one that is pretty close, with Abby sniffing Brazilian dirt.  I took a walk last Tuesday afternoon, which is a Brazilian holiday, so everything is pretty closed down.  I regret to admit that I really still have no idea what the holiday was, but with that and Columbus day we ended our (Sarah's) first work week in Brazil with a 4 day weekend!

In the first picture, you can see the sign saying that it is Sul, Comercio Local 312 313.  So if you look at the map above, just above and to the right of our apartment building you can see where 312 & 313 meet.  That's where I was standing.

That afternoon we also visited Abby's favorite place; the park behind our house.  Brasilia was built with SQ's (Super Quadra's) as the bread in an EQ (Entra Quadra) sandwich.  So in between SQ's 112 and 113 Sul is EQ 112-113.  Brasilia was built to be a community-centered city, as the architect, Oscar Niemeyer, was a very communal minded individual.  Each SQ has it's own stores, public areas, restaurants, and walking paths.  So between each of these SQ's was a public area meant for some kind of cultural or community minded service.  Some of them are churches, somehow a McDonald's snuck into one, and many of them, like ours, are parks.  Ours looks like it was a great park 50 years ago...  It is perfect for us, as it is a big empty area where we can let Abby run and play ball, but it is usually empty and very run-down.  Lots of the original playground and sporting equipment has been removed, but some still stands.  There is actually a tennis court that I've seen people playing on so I'm excited for the tennis equipment I ordered to arrive!  Have I mentioned I'm taking tennis lessons? :)

Those are all the pictures I could get uploaded in the short time we had internet on Saturday afternoon.  We went to a friend's apartment to steal his internet and watch Nebraska vs. Texas.  I still get agitated when thinking about the game  (grrrr) but I got some really great news!  My sister Emily and her longtime boyfriend Brett are engaged to be married in April of 2012!  We were actually able to use Vonage and talk to her for a little while.  Congratulations Emily and Brett!!

I realize I am great at giving facts in a "newsy" sort of way, but not so inclined to describe personal events or feelings.  I'm prone to show maps of Brasilia instead of pictures of Sarah and I.  So here's a quick recap of personal information about our lives for you:
  • Sarah and I have a game that we've played every night since we've been married where before we go to sleep, we ask each other "what was the best part of your day?"  We've added another installment to that which is "what is something you like about Brazil?"  It helps us to look at the good things that we are experiencing instead of focusing on what we miss about home, or how at times we can feel alienated from the country around us.  It really hasn't been bad yet, but I have a feeling tougher times will come.
  • We miss our families!  We've been disconnected since the end of July, not just the two weeks we've been here.  We wish we could cheer on Ben and Elijah at their football games, ask Lilly about kindergarten, or be around to congratulate Emily and Brett in person.  As much as we miss them now, we're dreading Thanksgiving and Christmas  which are approaching quickly...
  • Possibly my favorite and most bizarre moment in Brasilia was a grocery store visit last weekend.  Before noon on a Sunday, we were cut in front of in the cashier's line by a guy with groceries and an open beer can he was guzzling just prior to the cashier picking it up and scanning it!  I think there are some things I'll really like about Brazil. :)
  • I just found out that our cable and internet are being connected on Wednesday morning!  Woohoo!
  • Although it is easy to feel lonely occasionally, over half of the embassy was turned over within the last five months so we are far from the only new people!  We have met some great young people just like us and have had a great time exploring the city with them.
  • We have been fortunate enough to be guests at the Ambassador's house the last two weekends, and are invited to a newcomers welcome next weekend as well.  I can't describe how nice his house is!  Two outdoor entertaining areas, huge yard, swimming pool, hot tub, clay tennis courts, a great view of the lake, and round the clock servants and guards make for a pretty posh living environment. The Ambassador and his wife are incredibly down to earth people who are genuinely nice.  It's been fun to visit!
  • I need to call a girl named Angela today who is a maid that works in our building.  I think we are going to have her come twice a week to help us keep our large apartment clean and presentable!  Lucky us! :)

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