Sunday, October 4, 2015

Toga, Lessons and Astonishing Dental Hygiene

Life is going on in sunny Rio de Janeiro. We have just endured a long and dark winter with average daily temperatures of 72 degrees and sun only five days of the week. Oh, yeah, and the ocean is pretty cold, too! OK, fine, in all honesty, this year the winter was a bit capricious, raining copiously for days on end, taking turns with 90 degree weather and back to freezing rain. The other night, we had the loudest and scariest thunderstorm I have ever seen in my life.

To save ourselves from the suffering, the Diplomat has been drowning his sorrow in various sports. Now, most of you already know that he is an avid tennis player. To that effect, he still takes a tennis lesson with a teacher once a week, because, well, one can never be good enough. Some of you would also kindly remember that the Diplomat has picked up the noble pastime of golf, for which he also takes lessons because perfection there still eludes him. And recently, he has also applied himself to swimming since, he says, “it is a life skill.” Believe it or not, when I met him, the Diplomat could not swim at all. With the help of his devoted swimming coach, I am proud to say that the man is now swimming. Not to be left behind, Son is also taking swimming lessons with the same teacher (arguably, with less remarkable results for now), a soccer class (coach just quit, apparently working with kids proved to be too much for him) and, lest he be any less well-rounded, an art class with a super artsy teacher, Rafael, who comes to our house once a week for a two-hour, free flowing creative session. To the horror of my housekeeper, Rafael wears crumpled artsy clothes and has long, messy hair, which, according to her, smells something awful (they apparently had to ride together in the elevator one day). Son, however, seems to think that the sun shines out of that horrendous hair so Rafael is staying. So, in this very learned family, I am in a distant third place with paltry weekly tennis lessons. Clearly, my tennis game leaves a lot to be desired.

Another way we have recently entertained ourselves is by hosting the annual birthday parties for Son and me – we both have birthdays in September. Last year, I decided to prove myself and hosted a riotous kids party in the apartment, which resulted in astonishing amount of high-pitched screaming and cupcake frosting in various tough to believe spots afterwards. This year, we tried to distract Son from the thought of having yet another party in the house by promising to take him to the Amazon, a trip we have been planning for years now. I spent a whole day convincing him of the value of travel over gifts and cupcakes and actually succeeded. Except that in the end, the Diplomat and I decided to go to Uruguay instead. Not missing a beat, the child immediately posed the problem of having a birthday party again. Faced with total destruction, I came up with what I thought was a lesser evil – a sleepover with his best 3 buddies. It was met with glorious delight. One of his friends could not make it, so it was down his two besties. And boy, party they did – I can safely say that the three kids more than made for the lack of a bigger party. Somewhat embarrassingly, Son fell asleep eventually at 9.30, while his friends kept the action going till 11 pm. Everyone was awake and agog bright and early at 6 am. What gives, children??? And there still were cupcakes everywhere. At least I was pronounced a cool mom by Son.

My birthday was celebrated somewhat differently, if not less childishly. I decided that I needed a twist to the usual, and announced a toga theme. I am happy to say that half of the guests valiantly did show up in toga after all. There is no sight like a bunch of international diplomats, all draped in white sheets, drinking the night away in the balmy warmth of a Rio de Janeiro night.

On a completely unrelated subject, I wanted to tell you about an aspect of Brazilian life that has always amazed me, namely – dental hygiene. Along with samba and string bikinis, Brazilians are also obsessed with their teeth and their cleanliness. They brush teeth seemingly after every single thing they eat. Son was asked to bring to school toothpaste and a brush to use them after snacks and lunch. I was impressed. But the day I saw two homeless people sitting on the ground, carefully flossing while asking for change, I was simply left speechless. While food might be an issue, old rotting teeth would never be!