Monday, December 9, 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Proud to present "Moby Dick"

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Important events in my life

    There are so many important events in a person’s life that is very difficult to mention just a few. How could I name one event and not mention another one? However, I will try to name the few that certainly changed my life. The first event was the day my father gave me my first notebook. I was seven years old and was eager to write down everything that happened during my day. I became a child that observed more than talked. From then on, barely a day passes when I don’t put some thoughts on  paper. The second event was the day I met my husband. We were just college students interning at the same institution. I never believed in love at first sight until it happened to me. Even before we exchanged our first kiss, I had no doubt we would be together for the rest of our lives. The third event was the day my husband and I moved to California. From that day on, I learned to understand and respect other cultures in a deeper way. The fourth event was the birth of my son, Nicolas. On the day I realized I was pregnant, I became a mother and that changed me even more. I became more patient, more dedicated, and less lazy. Another very meaningful event in my life, until now, was the day my father passed away. His passing has changed the way I look at life. I try to enjoy every day at its fullest: no more sadness, no more regrets, no more harsh words. I laugh more and I don’t complain because every day should feel as good as a vacation day. Therefore, every day should have important events. Even if they are as simple as brushing my son’s hair, cooking dinner, calling my mother, taking a picture with a friend, or saying “I love you” to my husband.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chico, the monkey

When I was seven years old, my family and I lived in a very big house in the suburbs of Sao Paulo, Brazil. My two sisters and I were fascinated by animals. My parents encouraged us to be loving towards all animals, so they allowed us to have many pets. We had one dog, two turtles, four cats, six chickens, a pair of ducks, eight rabbits, countless birds, and a monkey. The monkey was the most unusual pet I ever had. His name was Chico and he lived on a diet of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and, sometimes, a small cup of milk and coffee. The milk and coffee was a treat my mom would give him, but she would not let us give him any cookies or sweets. My mother gave Chico away one day. An uncle, who lived in the rural area, came to visit and Chico fell in love with him. It was so obvious, we all agreed with my mom. The monkey lived a very happy life and died many years later at my uncle’s house.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

“They've Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil”

The day of a Brazilian is filled with coffee, figuratively of course. The beverage is not only drunk at breakfast but is also the literal word for breakfast in Portuguese: morning coffee. During the day, people have so many coffee breaks that offices and government departments have a thermal bottle of coffee available for their employees. Having a cup of coffee is not just a habit, it is a social occasion. So, with this cultural background, my first experience at a Californian Starbucks was quite shocking.

Before starting my story I have to say that, eight years ago, when I moved to California there was no Starbucks in Brazil. Our coffee shops are straightforward places where you simply drink a cup of coffee, or espresso, and relax. In Brazil, all the offices and government departments hire an old lady to be in charge of making fresh coffee throughout the day. Meetings, for example, won’t start till the coffee arrives. I remember very well having to wait patiently for the coffee, staring out the window. Everybody at the meeting room would be exchanging half smiles, clicking pens, crossing and uncrossing legs till the coffee arrived. Then, the mood suddenly changed: everybody enthusiastically getting up to go to the coffee tray, taking a cup to their seats, and happily chatting.

The first time I had coffee in the U.S. was on my third day living in California. I barely spoke English, but I was confident enough to order something simple such as a cup of coffee.

I went to a Starbucks and I asked the cashier, “May I have a cup of coffee?”

“Tall, original or short?” He replied.

I had no idea what he was talking about. Surely noticing that I didn’t speak English, he pointed at three different sizes of cups. Well, after all these years living here I still don’t see a “short” cup as a small size. In my opinion, the “short” cup at Starbucks looks like a medium size. So, I pointed to the short cup and paid for it.

When my name was called, I picked up my cup and opened to pour some milk. I immediately felt discouraged. I wasn’t even able to order a cup of coffee in English! Instead, he understood tea and gave it to me. But I felt that I should speak up for myself and fix that situation, even with my poor English. So I went back and said that he made a mistake, because I didn’t ordered tea. I had ordered coffee, of course. Tea sounds completely different, I was thinking. He made a mistake, not me.

The guy looked at my cup and said “That’s coffee.”

“It’s not,” I replied.

Well, we went back and forth a few times. He thought I wanted tea, after all, and showed me a tea bag. I kept repeating the word “coffee” until he showed me where my beverage had come from. Oh, oh… that was really coffee. I sat, took a deep breath and drank: it was disgusting. I felt I was having a tea with coffee flavor; or even worse; it tasted as warm water with something inside. There were no fruity or roasted flavors. There was not even the delicious smell of fresh dripped coffee. I didn’t finish that thing. I just returned the cup and left the place.

I laugh at the situation today, but eight years ago it felt like a big learning experience. My cultural shock involved not only learning a new language but also a new culture. I learned to order my coffee and I no longer miss Brazilian coffee. If you are wondering if I went back to Starbucks, I have to answer no. My favorite place is a coffee shop called “Chromatic” in Santa Clara. There, they serve real coffee.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Mystery Letter

When my husband and I moved to our current place, everything was brand-new: the community, the house, the furniture, and the appliances. After all, it was a new life. During the walking through, we noticed the empty spaces reserved for the big appliances. There was no washer or dryer - not even a dishwasher. We hadn’t noticed anything strange until the day the fridge was delivered. Then, something quite mysterious came into my view.

The house we moved in belongs to a new community called Mission Gardens. The community has a big courtyard where the children like to run, a beautiful blue swimming pool where ladies like to sunbathe, and a tennis court where old couples like to play. The house itself is not unique or special. It has 3 bedrooms, one used as our office; it has two bathrooms with bathtubs (we couldn’t care less for the bathtubs), and a spacious living room. It’s not unique, but it’s quite comfortable. The office has a calming view to the gardens, which helps to get the work done. Sometimes, I even see mother duck walking with her babies.

On the day we did the walking through, the only things I noticed were the strong smell of wood from the cabinets and the sharp smell of the new carpet. There was nothing else there, besides the chandelier that my husband kept bumping his head on it.

Then we moved in. We hired two strong guys to move the heavy furniture and had the help of some friends carrying the many boxes of books, kitchen utensils and clothes. It was not much, but it was enough for two.

Two days later, I had to stay home to wait for the fridge delivery. Before its arrival, I double checked the empty space and cleaned the floor. Then, I went back to our office to get some work done. I lost track of the time until I heard the doorbell. The fridge had arrived. I opened the door to a humongous smiling boy. His body was of a giant, but his face was of a timid boy; even his voice was quiet. He carried that double fridge by himself. The other guy was just giving instructions on how not to hit the walls. I decided to go back to the office. I didn’t want to be just a nuisance in the middle of the kitchen, but before I left something got my attention. I saw an envelope on the floor where the fridge was supposed to go. Without thinking twice, I got the envelope and went to the office.

A letter? Was that really a letter? The envelope was sealed. How did this letter end up on my kitchen floor? No return address. What is this letter doing here? The postmark was from twenty years ago! Twenty years ago I was 15 years old, living in Sao Paulo and having no idea what I was going to be when I grew up. And now I had a sealed letter from twenty years ago on my hands. I was going to open that letter. I was going to do it as soon as the guys left.

Then, the boy called me. “Madam. I’m afraid there is a problem.” When I got in the kitchen, water was rushing from behind the fridge. A broken pipe. “Let’s shut off the water fast,” I said. There was water everywhere: under the dishwasher, inside the cabinets, in the living room. Oh, my brand new carpet. To tell the truth, after having to clean up everything in the kitchen, I forgot about the letter.

But it was there, on the office table, still sealed. I closed the door and the curtains, turned my phone off, and prepared myself to open that letter. The envelope was yellowish, the stamp was one of “Alice Paul”, and it was bulky. The letter was addressed to Virginia Mcky, 54 Ranch Drive, Santa Clara, CA. There was no return address, not even a sender. My hands were shaking as I was afraid to destroy the letter trying to open it. I had to quickly grab a kitchen knife and then, carefully, cut the envelope.

What I saw blew me away. It was a package of wildlife pictures of birds: a crane, a toucan, an eagle, a kiwi, a flamingo, an owl, a woodpecker, and many others. It reminded me of a kind of international and modern version of “The Birds of America” book. And the letter said:

“Dear Virginia,
I hope this letter finds you well. You can tell I’m writing from Australia right now. The weather here is fine, the people are friendly, and the food is ok. I’m enjoying my work. Australia has such an incredible variety of animals that makes my work seem like a pastime.
I’m sorry for not being direct with you. The truth is that I miss you very much and I wish you had chosen to come with me. Now, we are not just miles apart but it also takes months to hear from you. I’m not even sure if you are getting my letters or if you just don’t want to reply to them.
I understand your brother is mad at me, but I couldn’t help falling in love with you. Please, tell him I still consider him my best friend. I was going to tell him about us before the party, but you were so beautiful I just had to kiss you. It broke my heart that he had to find out about us that way.
Would you reconsider my proposal? What can I do so we can be together? I’m leaving for Japan next week. Below is my new address, so you can write to me there. I will always write to you.
Address in Japan:
23-2-5 Yoyogi. Shinjuku, Tokyo. 100-8994”

Who sent that letter along with those pictures is still a mystery to me. I wish I could have found Virginia Mcky just by googling her. I can’t hire a private detective just to deliver a lost letter (and to amuse my curiosity). If you ever hear about her, please let me know. I still have her letter with me.

Increase in life expectancy: the jump from the Middle Ages to Modern Times

Even though life expectancy is a statistical measurement that varies from country to country and between gender, data shows that it has increased in the last centuries. During the 1600s, for example, life expectancy was an average of 35 years for women and men. On the next two centuries, people lived an average of 20 years more. Nowadays, the average is 75 years for both sexes, according to reports from the World Health Organization. The biggest causes of this increase, over the centuries, are the simplest ones: improvement of water and sanitation, development of agricultural techniques, and basic advances in medicine.

To begin, lack of drinkable water and of sanitation were some of the worst issues causing premature deaths in medieval world. Not everybody had access to fresh water and when they had, it could have been contaminated by human or animal waste. Beer and wine, for example, were drank often because the alcohol contained in such beverages killed all types of germs. The lack of hygiene also caused the spread of many diseases such as cholera, bubonic plague, and diarrhea. So, when water started being treated and sewage was collected and disposed in a safe way, less people died due to lack of sanitation. At the same time, people were improving techniques to transport water through long distances.

Consequently, the combination of potable water and better irrigation systems gave farmers the opportunity to develop agriculture techniques such as the use of water or windmills. These better and stronger mills accelerated the process of grinding grains to make flour, resulting in an ample availability of products made using that ingredient, such as breads, pies, and pottages. One more important example of basic agriculture technology that contributed to life expectancy was the invention of the mechanical seeder, which spread seeds uniformly throughout the land and made the crops bigger, resulting in more produce to be harvested. The more food available, the less people dying from hunger, marasmus, anemia, or other malnutrition related diseases.

Equally, significant advances in basic medicine resulted in the increase of life expectancy. Improvement of childbirth practices, study of anatomy, and the development of vaccines are just a few examples. Physicians relied as much in Astrology as on their limited knowledge of medicine. As artists started to study anatomy to improve their paintings, their drawings also helped doctors and scientists to learn more about the human body. At the same time, the invention of the printing press enabled these drawings to be copied and shared, thus spreading the knowledge of the human body. This awareness facilitated the work of midwives and doctors during childbirth, resulting in less casualties during childbirth. However, babies were not safe from smallpox, measles, or influenza until the invention of vaccines. The discoveries of Louis Pasteur, who was a French chemist, about the causes and prevention of diseases has saved the lives of many people since the 1800s.

As shown above, with all the improvements in water treatment, sanitation, agriculture, and medicine, it isn’t a surprise that we now understand the increase in life expectancy in general.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

São Paulo and Tokyo

Sao Paulo and Tokyo are more than 10 thousand miles apart. Their language, diet, and people couldn’t be more different. Still, these two cities have many things in common such as: size, skyscrapers, immigration, and even the love for food.

The first difference we notice is the language; however, there are similarities. While Japanese is spoken in Tokyo, Portuguese is the language in Sao Paulo. It’s a surprise when we learn that many Japanese words were invented by Portuguese influence like: kappa (raincoat, capa in Portuguese), koppu (cup, copo) and pan (bread, pão), just to name a few. On my last visit to Japan I was startled when I understood the word “metoro”: subway. Subway, in Portuguese, is metro.

Another difference is the people and I’m not just talking about looks. I’m talking about friendly and helpful people. I feel sorry for people who get lost in Sao Paulo because they are not going to be helped in any way. Paulistas (how people born in the city are called) are very busy people who don’t stop what they are doing to help in anything. On the other hand, people in Tokyo are very friendly and helpful, even though it’s obvious they are busy and in a hurry. I can’t count how many times I was offered help in Tokyo without even asking for it. Also, a couple of times, people just stopped what they were doing to walk with me to my final destination. That would probably never happen in Sao Paulo.

One more difference is in the diet. While people in Tokyo eat a more balanced meal every day, in Sao Paulo the meals are heavier and high in protein. Even though Sao Paulo has many vegetables and fruit farms, beef is the prefered food. On the other hand, beef is very expensive in Tokyo, but vegetables and fruit are more affordable.

Despite all these differences, Sao Paulo and Tokyo share important characteristics.

Both cities are huge in size and have high in density. There are people every where, every time of the day and night. Neither city seems to stop: there is always an open shop, a late night snack bar, and a taxi waiting somewhere.

Similar are their skyscrapers. When walking on the streets and looking up, they seem like giants surrounding you. They are also similar in modern architecture and style: big glass windows, elegant elevators, marble entrances, giant doors.

Who would know that pizza in Tokyo tastes as good as in Sao Paulo? Although there was no big Italian immigration in Tokyo, pizzas are as good as the ones in Sao Paulo, which received an Italian mass immigration for almost one century. Also, the Japanese restaurants in Sao Paulo are very similar to the ones in Tokyo; maybe because their owners are of Japanese ancestry. Both cities have high-end local and international restaurants spread around the most expensive neighborhoods.

Speaking of immigration, Tokyo and Sao Paulo share a history. The first Japanese arrived in Sao Paulo in 1908 to work at the coffee plantations. Almost 80 years later, Japanese-Brazilians started making the journey back to work in industry. Sao Paulo is home to the biggest Japanese community outside Japan; it concentrates in a neighborhood called Liberdade, which means freedom in English. Tokyo, on the other hand, has few Brazilian markets to make Brazilian immigrants happy.

Sao Paulo and Tokyo are so different, but at the same time they share a positive history of immigration, love for food, and similar modern architecture that created a bond between these two cities.


 São Paulo

Monday, October 21, 2013

Advice to my son, Nicolas

Keep playing with your friends as much as you can. Pretend you are pirates on a mission, car drivers on a race, or paleontologists on a dinosaur quest. You are going to learn that being able to work with other people is an important skill in life. Team work makes pirates listen to one another and find their treasures; car drivers negotiate race tactics to win competitions, and paleontologists can transform pieces of bones into dinosaurs.

You should listen to your friend’s ideas with an open mind and a compassionate heart. When you are sympathetic to others, people are sympathetic to you, too.

You have been negotiating with me since you were a baby. That was easy, of course. Negotiating in real life is not going to be as easy, but if you learned to listen, you will be able to negotiate anything you want.

Then, you are going to see how easy your ideas, and your dreams, can become real.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Five Senses of a Book Loving Story

Being a librarian makes people think that I like reading, and books. Of course, I do. However, people have know idea how much I indeed love books. Besides the stories, books please all my senses. To the sense of sight, there is the pleasure of looking at the beautiful covers, the fonts, the binding. Then, the sound of the pages turning is a delight to my sense of hearing. Next, there is the unique smell of every book. Lastly, the flavor of the pages on my tongue amazes my sense of taste, while my sense of touch likes to play with the weight of the books and the texture of the paper.

For instance, just to see a beautiful cover is enough to make me run to the book. I’m not ashamed of that and I guess the publishers are right to spend thousands of dollars in cover art. It pays the price! It’s the first thing that attracts people to the books at the bookstore. A good cover gives you a hint of the plot, without spoiling the story. The binding tells you a lot about the price of the book: if it’s a collector’s item or if it’s just a paperback. When I browse its pages, I like to look at the fonts, the special capital letters that, sometimes, start a new chapter, the arrangement of the page numbers. The English edition of 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, plays with the page numbers. In each page, the number is in a different part: at times on the top, others in the middle or at the bottom. Sometimes it’s reversed: a clever detail that makes sense with the plot.

Also, I like the sound of pages turning; either browsing the book slowly or turning the pages very fast, all at once. The sound of a hard cover closing suddenly can scare me. However, the best sound of a book comes from reading it out loud. I love reading to my son, to his friends and to some of my friends. Reading out loud with my friends it is a special moment.

Even more, how I love the smell of books; it doesn’t matter if they are new or old because each one has its special aroma. At the bookstores, I always try to be very discreet while smelling books. I pretend I’m so farsighted that I have to touch my nose to the pages to be able to read. Oh, how good is the smell of paper! The smell of old books tells many things. The books of a used-book store are capable of telling the personal short stories of its previous owners, if you can smell them. You can tell the book belonged to a cigar smoker or a lady who loved strong perfume.

Furthermore, it’s a pleasant sensation to touch a book. One can feel the detailed work done to the binding, the special textures applied to new editions of art books, or even play with the pop up drawings of children’s books. The quality of paper gives different sensations to one’s fingers. Good paper, that makes books more expensive, is smooth and shine, making turning pages more slippery. Low quality paper, used on paperbacks or pocketbooks, are rough and yellowish, making turning pages easier. However, those books can discolor and even disintegrate over time. I like to pretend I’m an archaeologist when touching such fragile books.

Finally, have you ever tasted a book? I have. If you turn the pages of a book with a slightly wet finger, you can taste it. Of course I would have died if I had done that centuries ago when monks would make copies of secret or dangerous books and poison the pages to stop people from learning the truth. Am I confusing reality with fiction or Umberto Eco was right when he wrote about that in The Name of the Rose? Did the monks really poisoned their books’ copies so people would not share the knowledge obtained through the reading? There are books that one can’t put it down. They are so involving, intriguing, captivating, and consuming that by the end you feel fulfilled as if you had really eaten the book.

When I choose a book, before reading about the plot, I like to try connecting with it at a deeper level. Looking at the covers, smelling its pages, listening to the pages turning and trying to taste a little bit of them. I need to know if they are going to be worth it to take home. After all, loving my books so much, sometimes I even take one, or two, to bed with me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some reasons to abolish Capital Punishment

There are many reasons for capital punishment to be abolished. For instance, the wrongful execution of an innocent is a barbarity that can never be corrected. On the other hand, there is no evidence that the fear of the death penalty stops or even discourages crime. Also, all the money spent on capital punishment could be better used towards the families of murdered victims.

The most common causes of wrongful execution are eyewitnesses’ errors, false confessions or fabricated stories told by fellow prisoners who want to lessen their own penalties. All these examples can be called “human mistakes”. Society can’t afford this type of mistakes when lives are being considered.

Murders are still being committed; therefore capital punishment doesn’t seem to be a fear not to commit those crimes. I don’t believe people who will commit a murder, or when committing one, stop to consider the death penalty as a consequence of their actions. The homicide rate in the United States is five times bigger than in any Western European country, where there is no death penalty, for example.

Instead of spending money to punish murders with capital punishment, it would be more efficient to use these resources towards the victims’ families. To explain, money could be used towards therapy for the family members, tuition for the victims’ children and other things to help people put their lives back on track. In addition, money used in death penalties could be used for unsolved crimes and education programs about non-violence, for example.

In conclusion, capital punishment is not a real solution. It doesn’t heal the victims’ families, doesn’t prevent crime, and it absolutely doesn’t deter the criminal.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Breve guia de Napa - meus lugares favoritos

- Bottega. Sem dúvida o melhor restaurante italiano da Bay Area que já fomos. O chef é o famoso Michael Michael Chiarello. O restaurante é super chique, mas mantém um ar de aconchego como uma cantina italiana. As massas são feitas na casa, o vinho vem direto das vinícolas da região, os legumes e frutas das fazendas de Napa. Além de tudo isso, tem um ótimo custo benefício. Um almoço para dois que inclui: entrada, prato principal, sobremesa e duas taças de vinho sai por volta de U$ 120,00. Not bad at all.

- Morimoto. Outro restaurante de chef famoso. Comparável ao Nabu de Nova Yorque pela sofisticação, cuidado com o cliente e qualidade dos ingredientes frescos. Lugar para comer sushi sem medo, tomar saque, e experimentar os pratos inovadores da casa. Salgado no bolso, mas vale a pena como um evento especial.

- Bouchon. O restaurante é muito bom, mas a padaria é muito melhor. Não se assuste com a fila enorme na porta. Vale a pena esperar 30 minutos para comprar macaroons. Então, já que ficou na fila todo esse tempo, compre um sabor de cada um (e traga um de chocolate pro Nicolas e um de pistache pra mim). Aproveite e compre uma baguete e um sourdough.

- Dean e Deluca. Mercadinho para se abastecer antes de degustar vinhos. Só lá você encontra presunto de Parma, presunto Pata Negra e outras maravilhas da Europa. Compre pão, presunto, queijo, água e vá para a Chandon! Atenção: não se aproxime da vinícola do outro lado da rua! É armadilha para turista desavisado.

- Chandon. Gosta de champagne? De sofisticação? De romance? Essa vinícola é o lugar perfeito para uma tarde romântica, degustando "bubbles" que você não vai achar em outro lugar. O lugar é lindo, coberto de plantas verdes, pássaros, esculturas de pedra. Recomendo fazer o tour, que além de informativo é super divertido. Tem o cliché de abrir a garrafa de champagne com o facão, mas ainda assim é surpreendente.

- Cheese tasting. Degustação de queijo é muito divertido. Você pode visitar as fazendas, ver como o queijo é feito e comer, comer e comer. A única coisa que oferecem, porém, são umas bolachinhas de água e sal safadas. As degustações estão disponíveis em diferentes meses, então para saber qual fazenda visitar é melhor checar esse site:

- Fábrica de chocolate? Sim, senhor! Há vários lugares para comprar e experimentar chocolates. Eu gosto muito da Anette, mas nunca fui na fábrica. Quem disse que chocolate e vinho não combinam?

- Old Faithful Geyser. Lembra do Zé Colméia voando num jato d'água? Aquilo era um geyser. E um dos mais antigos da Califórnia, que ainda avisa quando um terremoto esta vindo, fica no norte de Napa Valley. Passeio interessante, melhor aproveitado depois do verão, que vale a pena por conta das fotos e do aprendizado sobre terremotos. Cuidado com as lhamas! Elas cospem mesmo. E levem um picnic. Da última vez que fomos, eles ainda não vendiam comida.

- Petrified Forest. Outro passeio ecológico. Floresta de redwoods que foi petrificada por um vulcão há mais de 3 milhões de anos. A temperatura muda muito dentro do parque, então é uma boa idéia levar um casaco. Ah, cuidado com as cascavéis que passeiam pelas trilhas; nem sempre elas fazem barulho.

- Wine train. Don't take it! Não vale a pena. A rota é super curta, o trem balança pra caramba, faz um barulho desgraçado e a comida é caríssima.

E as vinícolas? Bem, se só um de vocês pode dirigir ou se vocês não querem beber muito mesmo, é melhor focar nas que são mais bonitas.

1. Sterling. Tem até bondinho que leva para o topo da montanha! A arquitetura é linda, a vista relaxante, e o vinho é bom. Fica em Calistoga, norte de Napa. Bom para combinar a visita com o geyser.

2. Artesa. Uma das primeiras vinícolas na rota de Napa. O lugar é lindo, cheio de obras de arte, tem uma vista espetacular e um salão de degustação com cheiro delicioso de madeira. Eu não gosto de vinho branco, mas o Chardonnay deles é um dos preferidos do Breno.

- Museus? Bem, só se for o Museu do Snoopy. Não é museu para crianças, apesar do Nicolas adorar, mas a gente volta a infância ao ler as histórinhas que ficam expostas na parede. E ninguém resiste não compartilhar um cookie de chocolate com o beagle. Saindo do museu, não vá embora. No jardim tem um labirinto em forma de Snoopy e do outro lado da rua tem a pista de gelo e a loja de presentes.

Friday, September 27, 2013


There is much to say about prejudice. One thing we know is that prejudice is a learned behavior. Children are born innocent; they don’t discriminate against skin color. For example, they don’t care if a person is white, black or even green like the little monsters they see in their books. It’s important to help children move from innocence to adulthood and not let them practice stereotyping during this process. Moral education is something parents should teach and teachers should support, even though many schools don’t offer this subject anymore in their curriculum. One way of doing this is to encourage children to try to see life through other people’s eyes. A famous exercise was created by Jane Elliott, a school teacher and anti-racist activist, during Segregation in the United States. Known as “blue-eyed/brown-eyed” exercise, it showed the children in her class how it felt to be treated the way a black person was treated. The exercise had a positive impact on the children’s attitudes towards all their classmates. In conclusion, to treat others with sympathy and try to understand other people is an everyday exercise that can help children grow without prejudices.

This was the experiment she did at class.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lunchbox: Soba noodles

Today I sent Nicolas his favorite lunch. Soba noodles with shredded roasted seaweed and quail eggs, plus the dipping sauce. As a side dish I sent pickles salad (eggplant and cucumber) and for dessert fruit salad.

You can find the all the ingredients at Mitsuwa. It's very easy to make the noodles: just boil it for 3 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water.

675 Saratoga Ave  San Jose, CA 95129
(408) 255-6699

Hoje na lancheira foi o almoço preferido do Nicolas. Como prato principal, soba com alga marinha seca fatiada e ovo de codorna, além do molho feito a base de soja. Como acompanhamento, salada de pickles japonês. Para sobremesa: salada de frutas.

Todos esses ingredientes podem ser encontrados no mercado Mitsuwa, em San Jose.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Room with a View
It was my grandma’s room and I wasn’t supposed to go there. It was the last room of the huge house we used to live in and no one went upstairs during the day anyway. It had her books, perfumes and a nice window toward where the sun set. She had a single bed with a flowery comfort covering it. On her nightstand there was a vintage lamp and few knick-knacks on top of a handmade doily. The scent of baby powder, her beauty secret, in that room was so pungent I almost can smell it again. My grandma had a big bookshelf with lots of grown-up books that I wasn’t allowed to read, although I was 15 years old. I remember borrowing, without the proper authorization, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Back, “Perfume” by Patrick Suskind and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera.

The window was my favorite spot there. I loved to sit on the window seat to read. If somebody called me from downstairs, I could say I was studying in the next room, the office. I would wait for the sunset and when it was coming, I’d close my book and start paying attention to the sounds of the city: rush hour, lots of cars passing by, people running on the street, some children still playing outside. Then, suddenly, the loud sounds stopped and twilight reigned. Time to put the book back on its place, close the window and head downstairs for dinner. No worries, tomorrow would always be there.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Friendships of a Married Woman and a Mother

I've been living in the US for 8 years now. Honestly, I have to say that all I know about friendship I learned here. And, a woman has all kinds of friends.

Wife Friends
When I moved to California, Yahoo - Breno's company at the time - paid our moving expenses, rented us an apartment for a month and offered us a rental car.

At that time, all the people I knew were my husband's coworkers' wives. I joke saying that they came in, what I like to call, the "moving-to-the-US package.”

I liked all the ladies I met. I just disliked the feeling of being an attachment of my husband even when meeting new people. They were the only people I knew and I'm glad they were there to welcome and help me. I still wonder if every wife, who's been in a similar situation, had the same feeling about this.  Another thing that scared me, during those first days, was the feeling of becoming a "desperate housewife". I had left my job behind and I had not even the permission to work in the US at that time.

There was a jewel in that first package of wives. Someone who's been with me since then and who I love very much.

School Friends
Then, after 6 months, I started taking English as a Second Language classes at Mountain View Adult School.

School was fun! Imagine a bunch of woman, of all different nationalities, trying to communicate and laughing about the difficulties in doing so. We were so happy together! My group consisted of girls from Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand, India, and Russia. Actually, we didn't need to speak the same language to understand each other. We were walking in the same shoes. I stayed in school almost a year, going from a basic level to advanced. I stopped going when my morning sickness got the best of me. However, all the ladies kept seeing each other and I still keep in touch with a few of them.

Friends Who Are Mothers
After Nicolas was born, I started doing baby/child related activities like taking him to play in the park. Besides that, I still had to breastfeed, change diapers, and do all the housework, of course. I think it's possible to go almost crazy if you live in a child’s world your whole day: baby toys, diapers, lack of a decent shower, cartoons, silly stories, etc.

In my experience, going to the park every day is only possible if you have friends to meet. I mean friends not just for your children, but especially for you. How do you think it's possible to endure going to a sand box every day of the week without the hope of meeting your girlfriends there?

Children need their sand to play in as much as mothers need their friends to chat with. Because I don't know many husbands who are willing to hear about the color of your children's poop or the mess the little one made with the marinara sauce, after work.

Friendships with other mothers are easy going. Just a mother knows that when a friend goes mute on the phone, it's because her child is doing something mischievous. Plus, there are no finished conversations during play dates either.

PS: I love, love, love my friend Linda, who doesn't have a child yet. I'll be talking about friends with no children soon.


Picture on the left: Eugenia and Linda. Picture on the right: Aline

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Letters from Tokyo: a Month in my Favorite Place on Earth - Part 2

Day 20

Today we went to Zojoji Temple. It was beautiful and it's impressive how you can see "old" and "new" in Tokyo side by side.

I'm craving pizza again. Hahaha, food is too good here. I'm glad we walk a lot every day, otherwise, I'd have gained some pounds by now. This morning I went grocery shopping by myself (Nicolas was building a tower with all the empty boxes I've collected so far) and I timed my walk: 15 minutes up hill, plus 40 steps of stairs on the way to the supermarket. It was 34F outside, but I came home so hot I thought they turned the heater too high.

I think I can say I know Tokyo well enough by now (third time here). Nicolas and I can go everywhere by subway, we've seen the major tourist attractions, so the only thing that we can never have too much is trying new food. Many people think Japanese food is just sashimi and sushi, but it's much more than that. When we came here last April, for example, we had sashimi just once as an appetizer, and we didn't even have sushi.

Nicolas' favorite Japanese food are ramen, soba and tonkatsu. Not that he doesn't like sashimi; he can eat raw fish very well. I have been eating lots of yakitori, tonkatsu, noodles, and tempura. We've had sashimi, shabu shabu, pizza, french food, and yakiniku so far.

Yakiniku was the best, I have to say. It's similar to Korean bbq, but it was with Kobe beef! We went to this yakiniki restaurant with one of B.'s friends from Brazil. We were talking a lot, but when we tasted the food we got very quietly. Even Nicolas settled down, eating the marble meat very concentrated. But it was so expensive we decided to eat dinner home: miso soup, rice, dried fish, pickles and a salad with broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms and carrots. Actually that was the breakfast I didn't cooked today. The vegetables were snacks Nicolas asked me to buy for him. I guess he was missing his vegetable snack time. ;)

When I say you should came here, I really wanted you to experience all of this. I think you would love Tokyo (and Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Nagoya, Nikko etc).

Saturday we went to Shinjuku and today we took B. to Midtown Tokyo.

We have some plans for this week: buy our Shinkansen tickets to Nagoya, visit the museums in our "backyard" and go to the Zoo. I'm waiting to see which day this week is going to be the least cold. Not for us (we have snow jackets), but I bet the animals hide in their caves when it's too cold outside.

Oh, I found a belt for me today! My pants are not like the rapper's anymore.

I finished the book "The Call of the Wild". It was a surprise book for me. Now, I'm reading "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" and starts with a dog that looks so much like the one from Jack London's story. It's a funny coincidence. I choose this book because it's from Oprah's bookclub (so it should be easy, quick and light), and the library had the digital version to lend. I'm in saving mode: I just spend money on food (or food related matters).

How's your reading going? Anything good to share?

Day 22

I'm so glad you've replied my letters! Now I have questions to answer.

Last night was horrible. I almost didn't sleep. B. brought sandwiches and soup for dinner. Because I'm always hungry, that was not enough for me. Then, I started reading my book and it got really exciting. When I decided it was better to stop reading, my legs started trembling with spasms, and my feet were hurting so much I could not find a comfortable position. Today I didn't eat much either. I really need to carry some onigiri with me now, you are right.

We went to Ueno Zoo yesterday.It's beautiful! The animals are magnificent, and it's quite a good size zoo. I was very tired as we spent 4 hours there. 

I've never tried the katsu from California. Here is very good, it's moist inside and crunch and dry outside. It's served with two sauces: one is for the pork and it looks like bbq sauce, but it's not too sour, nor sweet. The other one is for the cabbage salad that is sliced really thin.

No McDonalds for me. I just can't do it. I've tried the first time we came to Japan, but I didn't care much. The McDonald in Argentina is really the best one. The pizza, though, is just like in Napoli. Yes, it was everything I was expecting to be. Oh my God! I'm going back there tomorrow with N.. I want to take it easy before we go to Nagoya. So just playground and pizza for us.

We see curry everywhere, even at the zoo cafeteria, but it's kind of spicy for N.. Here at Ark Hills there is a small restaurant that serves just soup and curry. It's called Soup Stock Tokyo. Every week they have a variety of 5 soups and 2 curry dishes. I'm gonna try some day. 

Ok, I didn't find a bloody Mary beer, but I found something called Bacardi Apple Mojito. I have no idea what is that, but I guess I'll found out when everybody goes to sleep. ;) So, buy some of those special Budweisers for me, please. When I come back, we can celebrate my birthday and have all of them! And let's go to BJ's too!

Nicolas talked with his friends last Friday. It was a bit confusing, but it was a good trial. It was so nice too see everybody's face. The babies were the most excited (Kyle didn't stop blowing kisses and saying bye).

Yeah, he did melt with the puppies. His favorite was the cat, and the cat liked Nicolas too. We went back there today, but the nice lady who let us pet the puppies wasn't there. A regular puppy cost around U$2,000. The monkeys are U$4,000. The funniest thing is that you see lots of old (very fashionable ladies) walking their dogs in special strollers. And at the mall's entrances are signs that say you should carry your dog inside in a bag. If you hear a purse barking don't worry, it's just a small dog.

Here in Japan they have the concept of micro cities. The ideal situation would be you live close to work and all your entertainment is close by, too. The first micro city was built in Ikebukuro in 1978, Sunshine City. It is still there with malls, hotel, convention center, theatre, playground, a museum, a planetarium and an aquarium which I intend to visit next week. Today the more populars micro cities are Roppongi Hills (20 minutes up the hill from here) and Tokyo Midtown (15 minutes up the hill). However, even Ark Hills, where we are, offers you everything as I told you. Did I mention they have a mini market, a bank, a tourist agency and a super nice Starbucks? Oh, we even have Suntory Hall, a concert hall just around the building.

Most Japanese don't believe in one specific religion, but combine aspects of several religions in their daily lives. Often unaware which one they are following. Just like my personal experience in Brazil (till the day I said enough). I've read that Japanese are superstitious and their religion are based on superstition. They simply follow certain traditions.

Besides "Antonio", the ice cream vendor, Nicolas already has a small collection of stuffed animals. He got a Shoe bill stork (I swear that one will be mine when he grows up), a mini crocodile, a green triceratops, a small polar bear (Eri from Facebook gave it to him) and Perry, the platypus.

I got a nano block for myself so far. It's a statue of the Budha of Kamakura. I really want Tokyo Sky Tree (it was opened last October and Nicolas is asking me every day to go there, but B. wants to go along), but is more than 20 dollars and I think I'll let for last.

How did you guess that I'm getting tempted to cut my hair? I just don't think I will be willing to pay the price.

I really liked "The Call of the Wild". And yes, it's Jack London from JL Square. But now I'm reading a book called "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" and I have to say that is the best dog-and-human-book I've ever read it. I'm thinking about reading Underground from Murakami because I'm taking the subway all the same. Or maybe not, right?

Day 25

When you are so used with Tokyo, Nagoya seems very different. It's an industrial city with lots of grey tall or large buildings. It has very large streets, something really different from Tokyo. And I would open a bicycle store if I had to live there because you see people riding their bikes everywhere all the time. Even the crosswalks have a lane just for bike crossing.

I was looking forward to eating a lot, but we had just one dinner that was memorable with traditional Nagoya food. It was a kind of tapas bar. We had chicken wings (so good), tonkatsu with thick miso sauce, cheese tempura, yakitori and some tuna rolls. We ate a lot, had beer and spent 60 bucks. We would have spent a lot more here in Tokyo.

We took the Shinkansen there. In the afternoon that we arrived we visited the castle. Very beautiful, clean and totally recovered from the fires from World War II. I noticed that Nicolas and I are more used to visiting museums because we really take our time, taking pictures, reading the information, hands on when it's allowed. Dad has no patience for all of that: "I came, I saw, I'm gone" is more of his style.

Than, the second day, we visited the Aquarium. They had so many sea turtles! I haven't ever seen so many adult ones together. The beluga training was nice, the dolphin feeding too.

Last day we visited the Science Museum and Nicolas just went crazy. As soon as we got there, he asked me "where are the buttons for me to push?" They had so many hands-on things to see and do he was getting more and more excited by the seconds. We lost him for 5 minutes, when I tried to play on a toy and B. stopped to watch me. He was close by, but we had to remind him that we don't speak Japanese and that it would be very difficult trying to find him in case he got lost.

I guess N.' favorite thing was the ride on the Shinkansen. It's the first thing he talks about when he meets someone.

When we came back I went straight to doing laundry. And at night we took Dad to eat pizza. We came home almost at 10pm and Nicolas slept until 10:30 on Monday.

Today we didn't do much. I had to buy laundry detergent and some groceries, then we had a late lunch and got home by 3:30pm. The sky was telling us it would rain sardines and mackerels, so we stayed home. It didn't.

I'm planning my week based on the weather. It's supposed to rain (or snow) on Wednesday, so we are going to a museum tomorrow and to the mall on Wednesday. Maybe I'll buy myself something, a head scarf maybe.

My hair is totally rebellious. It doesn't stay nice, no matter how I comb. This morning I decided not to comb at all, and it was the best hair day since we arrived.

Tokyo is not perfect, you know. It's my favorite place in the world, but I have to say that it could learn something with California: smoking ban. It's a nightmare. The other night we went to a restaurant and we were the only ones not smoking. I couldn't stand waiting for my food inside and when they brought it, I ate so fast I couldn't believe myself. Next day I had the worst chest pain ever. I couldn't understand at first, because it felt my ribs were aching. Then I realized it had to be from the smoke. I took my inhaler and started feeling better 5 minutes later.

The best thing is the feeling I'm being pampered by every Japanese all the time. They are so kind. I'm friends with some ladies from the market, and the waitress (and Valerio) from the pizzeria. They are so nice, I'm gonna ask to take a picture with them.

I'm not really missing home and I'm starting to get so sad one month is passing so fast. I guess I could live longer in Tokyo. I miss you though.

Day 26

We visited Edo Museum today. It's a very important museum that shows the history and culture of old and modern Tokyo. I loved! Nicolas didn't like so much. I was very impressed by the old books, printings and bookstores. You should have seen. So beautiful, so precious. I could imagine the smell of the books when they were being printed and sold. I was imagining so hard people buying fiction or colorful magazines that I almost could hear them. Maybe I bored Nicolas or blocked him off while having this experience because he found a bench and had a seat. Hilarious! You have to see the pictures!

Lunch was at the museum. It was a Japanese restaurant that served the food in the old Tokyo style (Edo). I thought it was very similar to the food we eat at sushi/sashimi restaurants. Nicolas had soba that came on a beautiful weaved bamboo plate. Surprisingly, it was not very expensive: around 24 dollars for everything, including the tea. The gift shop was one of the most beautiful I've seen so far with lots of old style souvenirs. The pin for my collection was kinda expensive (12 dollars), but because it was handmade I didn't feel so guilty. And it's a good luck cat, black. (Reminded me of Kafka on the Shore, that's my I got it).

Dinner was in a fishing restaurant. Super exciting! You get a table, rent you pool, buy some bait and go fishing. Using a net, you deliver your fish to any waiter with your cooking choice (grilled, deep fried, sashimi and something else) and table number. Nicolas fished 2 and we ordered them deep fried and grilled. The grilled one was the best with lemon juice and some chopped chives. We ordered some edamame, omelet stuffed with roe and soba (Nicolas didn't like it; he's getting very good at telling what is a good soba or not): a feast! We had beer, Nicolas had water and I'm glad we walked a mile to get to the subway station because I was feeling totally stuffed.

It's supposed to snow tomorrow, but I just don't care. I'm in countdown mode and I'm going out anyway. That's why I brought snow boots and snow jackets for Nicolas and me, right? And it's not really a problem to go out when you know where to go. That's because you can get to your destination without leaving the underground. I think I'm headed for Ginza then: get Tameikesanno Station (5 minutes walking taking a shortcut inside the office buildings) and then straight to Ginza Station, exit A7 and you arrive at a huge department store with a lot to do on a snowy day.

That was me today. Hope to hear from you soon.

Day 28

Ghibli Museum today! The guides say two hours are enough to see everything. Yes, indeed. However, I think I would love to spend two days there. So many details, so much things to see and just stay and stare.

You are not allowed to take pictures inside. The goal is for you to enjoy the place through your eyes and not through the eyes of a camera. I say it's fair, but I'm afraid I will not keep memory of all the details.

To visit the museum you need to buy your ticket in advance using a machine located at a supermarket called Lawn's. You should be fluent in Japanese, too. Or know someone who can buy it for you. Then, there is day and time to get there. "Refrain from arriving late", Japanese would say, "otherwise you can't get in. Sorry."

All those rules don't make things very easy, and it should make the museum less crowded, but it doesn't. When we arrived, we went straight to the third floor so Nicolas could play at the "Cat Bus". I wish they had another "Cat Bus" for adults to play. The children were having fun, but I bet all the parents wanted to be inside the furry bus, too. Then, we went up to the roof to see the Robot Soldier (have you seen "Castle in the Sky?"). Then "Museum Shop".

Do you remember Disneyland shopping? Yeah, it was similar. I bought 5 pins, a mini cat bus and the "baby that turns into a mouse" (from "Spirited Away"). I was going to get a t-shirt but I couldn't pay 50 bucks for it. Nicolas got a huge Totoro that I loved, hugged, and wanted to sleep with it. (I told him he could never give that Totoro away, not even if a girl told him she would give him anything for it.) B. wasn't going to go with us, because he was really busy. However, I guess he was so afraid to let me go with Mister Credit Card that he finished work earlier to met us at the Subway Station. He got himself 3 pins and a nice Robot Soldier figure.

We had a late lunch close to the train station in Mitaka. I thought they were making fresh soba, as it took almost 30 minutes for our food to arrive. It was so delicious we forgot the wait and the lady smoking on the tatami next to us. It was a huge lunch: a portion of soba, a bowl of rice covered with vegetable and chicken tempura, salad and pickles. Nicolas chose soba and rice with raw tuna (pardon me: he really likes sashimi). We were so hungry, we ate everything; even the onion salad. The sad thing about not speaking Japanese is that you can't ask them what's is in the seasoning. The onion salad was amazing!

We got back home and decided to cook dinner. So, I went to the grocery store and let Nicolas home with Dad (and Totoro). The wind was so strong, it was difficult for me to walk. We had a simple meal of rice, salmon, cabbage salad with tomatoes and red pickles. For dessert, strawberries and grapes. And a tasting of new flavors of ice cream: rare cheesecake, pumpkin (actually, it's kabocha) and murasaki imo (purple potato). Delicious! Even Haagen Dazs is better in Japan: not too sweet and very original flavors.

Are you going to get sad if I say I could stay another month here? There are so many things to do and to see! It's so easy to go everywhere, people are so nice, food is so good, I have cleaning service twice a week!

However, next Friday we are back in California.