May 31, 1975

Bridge over Paraíba river, inaugurated in 1905
Bridge over Paraíba river, inaugurated in 1905

In 1975 my parents lived in the city of Itajubá, in the mountainous region where Minas Gerais meets the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. My mother’s family lived on the other side of the mountain range, in the city of Resende, a pretty town in the valley of the Paraíba river that now has about 120,000 inhabitants. Living so close, when my parents got an invitation for a wedding in Resende on May 31 at 8 pm, they saw it as a good opportunity to visit the family, perhaps the last one before I was born since my mom was in her final month of pregnancy. I was born on May 31st at 6:40 pm. I guess they missed the wedding.

Although I never lived in Resende, I came to know the town well over the years as we would always spend vacations there at my grandparents’ house. The city began its history, in the 19th century, as a coffee-producing town reaching a population of about 18,000 in 1840s (9,000 of whom were slaves). Coffee-production in the region was a labour-intensive activity, which demanded constant clearing of new land, and with the end of slavery towards the end of the 19th century, it was no longer economically viable and coffee producers moved to the state of São Paulo where land offered better prospects. The local economy then switched to cattle as ranchers occupied the unproductive lands abandoned by the coffee producers. By the beginning of the 20th century Resende produced 1/3 of all the milk in the state of Rio and was the second largest producer of cheese and butter. Located by the main highway connecting São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and half way between the two, the city attracted other industries and in 1940 the only officer-training military academy moved to the city. My grandmother’s family was originally from Petrópolis, where she was born, a city high up in the mountains near Rio, and her father was attracted to Resende for its cattle potential. I’ve written about my grandmother and her family before.

I never liked Resende much when I was young but now, living as I do in Canada and having taken Alan and Canadian friends there on numerous occasions, I see the city with different eyes. Alan and I love the mountains and when we took our friend Geneviève to Brazil, we had to go to Itatiaia National Park, next door to Resende and where the second highest mountain in Brazil is located. The picture below was taken at over 2,500m high!

Moi, Alan and Gegê on top of the world
Moi, Alan and Gegê on top of the world

Since my grandmother passed away, my parents have been talking about moving so perhaps next trip might be the last we see Resende for a while.

As for today, we went to Kensington Market to enjoy Pedestrian Sunday.

and some pictures from the bottom of the chest:



Things I don’t need to do before I die

I saw this at my friend Denise’s blog, which she got from the Feministe blog. The idea is to make a list of things you feel no need of doing before you die. So here are some of mine:

  • Climb Everest
  • Stop learning, whether it be a new language or a new craft
  • Eat tongue (or brains for that matter)
  • Eat at McDonald’s again
  • Skip meals at a regular basis
  • Wear high heels to work
  • Have a regular 9-5, two-weeks-vacation-a-year, kind of job
  • Dye my hair
  • Go to a tanning salon
  • Have plastic surgery
  • Stop taking time to smell the flowers
  • Go ice climbing
  • Down-hill skiing
  • Buy a house in the suburbs
  • Actually, I don’t need to buy property. Period.
  • Get a driver’s license (this may change, of course)
  • Move back to Brazil
  • Do an Iron Man Triathlon (although a regular triathlon would be fun)
  • Stop dreaming
  • Wear UGG boots or Crocs
  • Worry about what other people think about me
  • Try to be the same as everybody else
  • Support Harper and the Conservative Party
  • Identify with conservative ideals
  • Be condescending
  • Visit Euro Disney
  • Smoke a cigarette or miss the days when smoking was allowed in bars
  • Shop at Wal-mart

Those are some of the first things that came to mind… what about you?

Running progress

I’m still at the run-and-walk stage but I made good progress today. Last week I ran 2 1/2 laps at Hart House and walked 1 so this week I planned to run at least 3, possibly 3 1/2. The day didn’t start well – I went to bed past midnight last night, which made getting out of bed at 6 AM really hard. It is still warm and humid and since I had to meet a friend at Hart House, I decided to run inside. The first few strides felt awful, my legs weighed a ton. But then I got to the end of the 3 1/2 laps still feeling ok – or at least not dying yet – so I kept going. I ended up doing 7 1/2 laps before I started feeling a little bit of a stitch. I then walked for 2 laps and then run again for a full five minutes (something around 5 laps maybe). It felt really good!

Which European city?

You Belong in Milan
Stylish and sophisticated, you want to enjoy a truly European life – away from tourists!Milan fits you perfectly. Great shopping, high quality food, lots of culture… with very little hype.

Hmmm, not quite the result I wanted…

I redid the test and got this:

You Belong in London

You belong in London, but you belong in many cities… Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sidney. You fit in almost anywhere.

And London is diverse and international enough to satisfy many of your tastes. From curry to Shakespeare, London (almost) has it all!

Go figure… But I think it got one thing right – maybe I just fit anywhere ;)


1. Eat more regularly at home.

2. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with enough calcium-rich fruits and vegetables daily (since I’m in a risk group for osteoporosis)

3. Go to the gym every morning before school – six times a week, alternating between weights and swimming

4. Write at least three chapters of my thesis by December

5. Publish something

6. Spend less time browsing aimlessly on internet to be able to achieve #4 & #5

7. Recycle more

8. Devote more time to learning Hebrew

9. Travel to places I haven’t been before

10. Keep a healthy perspective about work

If I were…

Answering Denise’s question, here’s my list:

What would you be if you were…

If I were a kind of music, I would be… fusion.

If I were a month, I would be…may

If I were a day of the week, I would be… saturday.

If I were a time of the day, I would be…sunrise or sunset.

If I were a planet, I would be…… pluto. oh…wait…that’s not a planet anymore.

If I were a direction, I would be…… north.

If I were a piece of furniture, I would be… a comfy chair by the window.

If I were a sport, I would be… dragon boating!

If I were a leisure activity, I would be… a trip.

If I were a moment I would be… a laugh

If I were a liquid, I would be… water

If I were a precious stone, I would be… ruby

If I were a tree, I would be… a maple tree – always different

If I were a flower, I would be… a yellow rose

If I were a musical instrument, I would be… a guitar

If I were a colour, I would be…yellow

If I were a feeling, I would be… love

If I were a spice, I would be… oregano or curcuma

If I were an animal, I would be… a sea turtle!

If I were a fruit, I would be…. a strawberry

If I were an element, I would be… air

If I were a book, I would be…thought provokingIf I were a fictitious character, I would be… Death, of the Endless

If I were a food, I would be… a red curry (from Thailand)

If I were a place, I would be…. Paris

If I were an object, I would be…. a book

If I were a movie, I would be….. Life of Others

If I were a gesture, I would be….. a smile

 What about you?? What would you be?

Another Q & A meme…

Ok, we all know I can’t resist a meme… Landismom had this one in her blog and I couldn’t resist!

1.)Q. Can you cook?

A. Definitely. I LOVE cooking and I’ve learned a lot about cooking this past year in Barcelona.

2.)Q. What was your dream growing up?

A. That I would leave in a farm. I don’t know what I was thinking… Three years in a suburb was enough to teach me that I cannot really live in the country…

3.)Q. What talent do you wish you had?

A. I wish I could play a music instrument or draw.

4.)Q. Favorite place?

A. Paris.

5.)Q. Favorite vegetable?

A. Hmm, that’s a hard one. Any roasted vegetable really…

6.)Q. What was the last book you read?

A. La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Zafon. 

7.)Q. What zodiac sign are you ?

A. I’m very Gemini.

8.)Q. Any Tattoos and/or Piercings?

A. Not yet. But it should be remedied soon.

9.)Q. Worst Habit?

A. Correcting people. I guess it’s the teacher in me but it’s very annoying. I’m trying to bite my tongue more often…

10.)Q. If you saw me walking down the street would you offer me a ride?

A. I don’t drive so I couldn’t really offer you a ride… 

11.)Q. What is your favorite sport?

A. Dragon boating. Loved it.

12.)Q. Negative or Optimistic attitude?

A. Generally optimistic with a tendency to worry about nothing…

13.)Q. What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?

A. chat?

14.)Q. Worst thing to ever happen to you?

A. Having my arm broken by a doctor at cold blood when I was 6. Very traumatizing.

15.)Q. Tell me one weird fact about you:

A. I’ve had many people call me weird in the past but I don’t think I’m weird…

16.)Q. Do you have any pets?

A. Does Alan count?… My little doggy died last summer…

17.)Q. Do u know how to do the macarana?

A. Nope.

18.)Q. What time is it where you are now?

A. 12:31 pm

19.)Q. Do you think clowns are cute or scary?

A. Neither.

20.)Q. If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be???

A. I wouldn’t mind if all my cellulite got erased overnight  but other than that, I’m happy with how I look. Would just like to work out more and be more fit.

21.)Q. Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?

A. It really depends on what you are up to…

22.)Q. What color eyes do you have?

A. Greenis-brown.

23.)Q. Ever been arrested?

A. Nope.

24.)Q. Bottle or Draft?

A. Definitely draft. Preferably a dark ale or stout.

25.)Q. If you won $10,000 dollars today, what would you do with it?

A. Buy a digital SLR – probably a Nikon D80 with at least 3 lenses (10-20mm, 30mm, & 50mm) – and a fully-equipped iMac. There would probably be some money left over for a trip somewhere to test the new camera ;)

26.)Q. What kind of bubble gum do you prefer to chew?

A. I don’t chew bubble gum.

27.)Q. What ’s your favorite bar to hang at?

A. Any pub with a nice selection of draft beer.

28.)Q. Do you believe in ghosts?

A. Yep.

29.)Q. Favorite thing to do in your spare time?

A. Internet. Blog. Shoot pictures. Chat with friends. Cook.

30.)Q. Do you swear a lot?

A. Only in Portuguese. Swearing in other languages lack the necessary punch for me.

31.)Q. Biggest pet peeve?

A. Stupidity.

32.)Q. In one word, how would you describe yourself?

A. Tall.


Anybody else?

The positive side of being forgetful

I’ve been studying hard since I started my undergraduate degree back in January 2000. One of the side effects of this life devoted to books and knowledge is my increasing absent-mindness and forgetfulness (I tell Alan I’m training to be an absent-minded professor). I’m always forgetting the little things of daily life. But even that has its good side: I’m constantly finding money in my pockets or that I “forgot” I had. When we were packing our stuff to move last week, I found 40 euros (2 x 20 euro bills)lying under some books on my desk. The receipt with it indicates that it dates back to our trip to Portugal in December. Today I reached into my jeans’ pocket and found a 5 euro bill. Of course, to be able to “find” this money I had to have lost it before but truth is, I’ve been so forgetful these days that I never remember I even had that money so it never really feels like I lost any. I just assume I must have spent it… So it feels like finding money on the street ;) And 5 euros is enough to buy lunch at the bakery near the archives! woooohooo

A strong woman

Heloisa Bezzi was born on April 1, 1916 in the mountainous town of Petropolis, Brazil to a very influential family. She was the oldest of four children. Her great-grandfather was the Viscount of Ouro Preto, the last prime minister of the Brazilian monarchy, and her grandfather was a famous writer and founding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Her family was extremely well connected and she was assured of life of leisure and education. She learned English and French and played the piano and the accordion. But a life of leisure was not what she wanted for herself.

Her father, a cattle rancher, died when she was 14 and the day after the funeral, she packed her bags and moved in with an aunt. Her relationship with her mother had always been difficult and she saw no reason for staying. “Where are you going?” Her mother asked when she saw her suitcase packed. “The only person I cared about in this house is now dead – I see no reason for staying”. She was hard, very hard.

She studied. She went to university in a day and age when few people did. Not satisfied with that, she moved a thousand kilometers south to work as an accountant in an Engineering firm. She still has a picture of all the employees together – she’s the only woman.

At 28 years old, she was engaged to a diplomat but still unmarried. She then met João Paiva, an illiterate cowboy at her father’s ranch, four years her junior. Their relationship shocked the family. They accused him of marrying her for the money. She promptly gave up every penny and they got married. He had to teach her how to wash dishes and she had to teach him how to write his own name. They were poor and both worked full time. When asked about her fortunes she simply replied “I’ve had the life of privilege, now I want to experience the other side of the coin.”

He died from congenital heart disease at the age of 64, after 40 years together. She never forgot him. Together they raised seven strong-willed daughters, one of which is my mother.

Vó, esse dia é para a senhora…

Me & gramma