Releasing my Inner Jack Bauer

I have never felt threatened while walking the street of London, but now I am a bit apprehensive. A coworker and friend had her purse snatched, just like you see on TV cop shows. It happened so fast that she couldn’t even scream. It was one of those grab and run encounters every woman fears. Now I am thinking of learning a few self defense moves. I won’t carry a concealed weapon although it is perfectly legal if you have a permit. I prefer some recommendations for the average woman confronting an assailant. Most of them do not carry guns either, but it can happen. I have heard horror stories about victims being sued by robbers because they were injured in some way. This is indeed a reversal of fortune. While it is rare, I wanted to know more about defending myself legally in a manner that will not entail repercussions.

I don’t have time to attend a martial arts class, although it is certainly a great idea. I might resort to it later. For now, I am going to watch one of my favorite shows, 24, to get some basic ideas. My husband Gus is leery and appreciates my efforts, but he has reminded me that there is a big difference between what is done by Jack Bauer and what I can do on the streets of London. Of course, I know this but I am looking for inspiration as a start to a new self defense program.

Jack may be fictional but he has the moves when needed. He is a highly-trained agent in Los Angeles (also working with the FBI in Washington, D.C. He would be a good role model—better than Jackie Chan, who is super human. So, Jack, teach me some tricks! He employs a combination of martial arts techniques taking the best that each has to offer. He is an expert at hand-to-hand combat and can do it at the drop of a hat. Will I ever be that proficient?

While I enjoyed watching episode after episode as I skimmed through many seasons, I knew in my heart that most of these moves would be illegal. Isn’t it like the law against professional boxers using their fists as weapons outside of the ring? They are as deadly as knives and guns. I would never be able to master any of Jack’s methods but it was fun to witness him in action. Now that I have come to this realization, what can I do? I can carry a can of mace to immobilize an assailant or go so far as to buy a stun gun. Would I have the moxie to use it? In a crisis situation, you have to think very fast. I know there are other products such as collapsible police-style batons and body alarms. Any of them will do.

I love living in London with Gus and don’t want to fear walking the streets alone. Most often we go as a pair when we want to stroll at night and we avoid dark places. So far so good.

Such a Thoughtful Man I Married!

I love the nightlife and coffee houses of London. When I am bored with the tele, I pick a new restaurant to explore. I like a variety of food and the city has much to offer on that score. It is a big metropolis full of exciting propositions. You can never run out of things to do. You can walk the streets forever and find new things at every turn whether it be a shop, a café, a movie house, or a theater. London is a grand place to live with all its regional magic. I am not a native so everything is a novelty to me. My husband usually accompanies me and we share rich experiences.

Gus is a thoughtful husband and let me tell you why. Recently he gave me a keychain flashlight so I am never completely in the dark. I’d been looking at them online, and he saw this web site over my shoulder – http://www.flashlightpro.net/best-small-edc-flashlights/. He worries that I might wander occasionally alone and need a small device to light the way. Nothing too imposing, mind you. Just enough illumination to read the outside of doors for example. Maybe I want to see the menu before I venture in. He heard about a friend of mine who got lost in the depths of St. John’s Wood. While it is a safe neighborhood, you feel unsettled when you are unfamiliar with the territory and can barely make out the street names, not to mention a map. She had gone off for miles before she got her bearings. He didn’t want this to happen to me. I am more practical, however, and usually plan my treks in advance. I often just repeat old paths and wait to be with Gus before I try something new and daring. I want to go to places where we have never been, even riding the tube to get there. This way we can select a new region each weekend and bone up on the highlights to be seen there, day or night.

I am sure that each and every one of you has a favorite London story and romantic spot. The pubs are quaint, the architecture is phenomenal, and there is the vast glory of Hyde Park. Day trips are easiest when we can remember how we have proceeded to our destination, but the city is a special place at night. Just keep that keychain handy. You never know when it will be needed. I have often tried to read signs posted on walls or directions that I am carrying in my bag. I keep a journal of places I have been so that I can share them with newcomers or family back home. Each location has its story to tell. The people are unique and all together dozens of neighborhoods comprise the varied cosmopolitan city. But even with ethnic conclaves, there is something very British about it all, especially as you tour the major monuments and landmarks. Let’s give a big cheer to the city of London and all the treasures it holds.

Butt Beautiful

When you tread upon the gorgeous sands of Ipanema, in your itty bitty thong of course, your butt is there for all the world to see. You get so used to seeing these body parts, in fact, that it is no big deal. They come in all sizes from small and round to big and brawny. The butt is the most coveted part of the body in Brazil and they name surgeries after lifting it. It is that important!

But I am no longer under those sunny skies. I am in cold, wet London. I don’t have to ever reveal my backside since no one wears bikinis. The Brits go on vacation to various islands like Mallorca for that but they are not known for parading in public with little on. In England, it is not a culture of the body beautiful. I didn’t need much motivation in Rio. You exercise for fitness and healthy, but mostly for appearance. You can do it on the beach right there in broad daylight. The confines of the gym are eschewed. I loved working out by swimming in the sea or a pool, lifting weights, doing crunches, and the infamous plank. (That one is tough). I loved Brazil right down to my rippled core.

Now I have a dilemma. Do I want to stay fit or do I lose the look and succumb to laziness. Not one to automatically veer to the latter, I will make an effort in this foggy town. I will keep to a regular exercise routine that does not dwell on just one body part. It will be a kind of circuit program to tone the entire physique. That way I won’t care about the thong exclusively.

I plan walking in the rain, and there is a lot of it, to supplement the indoor stuff I do with weights, that big inflated ball, and a yoga mat. I also stretch with a set of the best resistance bands that I found here. I don’t have room for a treadmill and I wish I did because it is one of the fastest ways to burn calories and gain strength. I am doing this for energy and for the endorphins that wash over you as you flex and bend. Being in a good mood is hard when there is no sun!

Just so you know, my routine is as follows three times a week:

  • 100 sit-ups with legs flat or knees bent (arms behind head)
  • 30 push-ups with straight legs
  • One minute plank or more each session
  • 30 squats alternating days with lunges
  • Stretching inner thigh after routine
  • Stretching hamstrings after routine
  • 20 knee bends
  • Arm lifts and curls with weights (8 pounds)
  • Head rolls and shoulder rotation to reduce stress
  • Leg lifts to the side to tone upper thighs with pointed or flexed foot
  • Leg lifts to the back to tone the butt (lots and lots of these)

It might seem like a lot but it takes less than an hour and with the walking days it is enough to keep me hale and hearty, without added weight, not even one stone.

Life in London: Never Look Back

lifeinlondon

Being Brazilian in England is often a big adjustment.  I come from a very loving and heritage-rich family and a culture that is equally as strong.  I have unbreakable ties to my home country and love it dearly but I adore my stay abroad as well.

My decision to leave was a difficult one but I had to follow my heart.  With the blessings of my dear Papa and my mother as well, I set sail to find what my dreams held in store for me.  I enrolled in school in London and left without looking back.

The language was a bit of a barrier. Although my first language is Portuguese, I have spoken English since I was a child but it is different actually communicating and in London, they have an English all their own.  I didn’t fanny around.  I determined to speak English in England and nothing else.  I have managed to be successful and think that I do quite well.

Brazil is a hodgepodge of cultures so I am quite used to skins of all colors and languages as well so that was not a shock.  The culture shock I experienced was that for the first time, I was the fish out of water.  The main thing I had to remember was not to panic.

I miss my family so much.  We keep in touch through phone calls and via the internet.  It is fun to Skyppe with my father who is not technically savvy at all.  But he loves and misses me so he has learned and I find that to be heartwarming.  My sisters have come to visit and that was fun.   I go back as often as I can but cannot afford to do so that often.  I have met some beautiful people here but still, I miss my family and extended family back home.

It can be scary being in a different country.  Its things like the difference in traditions and holidays that probably hit me the hardest.  There are some holidays that Brazil shares with England like Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Life goes on as usual in London when Brazil is busy celebrating Children’s Day, All Soul’s Day and Tiradentes’ Day.  That is odd to me but I just try to do something within my day that reminds me of what I would be doing if I was at home.

I miss the music of home too and the dancing too.  I love a good Samba.  Forro music is a passion of mine.  It is country music, Brazil style.  Believe it or not, I really enjoy square dancing.  Of course I put my own signature moves on it.

Brazilian food is the best in the world, in my opinion and of course, I miss that tremendously.  My mother is the best cook I have ever known so I grew up accustomed to the best Brazilian food on the dinner table every night.  Feijoada is the dish I miss the most.

I have found a few cracking Brazilian restaurants in London.  There is one in particular that I frequent because it is authentic Brazilian cosine.  I try to eat at one of the locations every few weeks so I don’t miss the home food too much.

Living in London is triumph and tribulation at the same time.  It’s a whole different life than it was in Brazil but I take with me the things and the people of Brazil in my heart and in London, I am finding room for more.

Home is Where the Heart Beats

Home is Where the Heart Beats

There are a lot of similarities that Brazil and England have in common I have learned during my two year stay in London.  There are a whole lot of things that are different too.

One of the things I find alike about the two countries is that they both have their share of cultural mixes.  Where I lived in Rio de Janeiro, there were a huge array of skin colors, nationalities and languages as well.  I find the same is true in London.  I suppose the fact that they are major cities may play a part in the fact.

Another thing that is similar is that families seem to have close ties in England as they do in Brazil although maybe not quite as much so.  Holidays and vacations are often spent with family members I can tell because I see them enjoying the park and visiting the sites, hand in hand.  Take the Royal Family for instance.  The fact that the entire family is so prominent shows that England respects family that consist of parents and children as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles and so on.

In Brazil, our family bonds are strong.  Family is everything.  Although the family unit is pretty much the same as the English, we extend our kinship to distant relatives and even in-laws and in-laws of our in-laws.  Friends are oftentimes even considered family.

One way in which the two cultures are different is that in Brazil, family members usually continue to be close, even after marriage.  That doesn’t just mean close at heart either.  It is pretty common for the new couple to move right down the road from the family.  Now you can understand the drama that accompanied my decision to move to England and leave my family in Brazil.  We have since gotten it sorted but at first, it was not alright and my family was furious and very hurt.

Another difference between the cultures in the two countries is the food.  It is much cheaper to eat healthy in my homeland.  It seems the fresher the food in England, the more expensive it is.  That does, indeed, make it difficult for students and the lower income people to eat properly.

The difference in the food we eat is vast for the most part.  In Brazil, we eat a good share of meat, beans and rice.  We also eat cassava which is a bitter sweet root and is a mainstay for us.  It is hard to find in England and is practically never used in cooking.  That is odd to me.

Potatoes are abundant in England and you are likely to find them in all manners such as baked, stewed, fried and even in dishes like fish and chips.  Potatoes are not found as freely in Brazil.

I love feijoada.  My mother prepares the best.  It is made with black beans and meat, my preference is when it’s made with pork.  It must be spiced just right.  When I have found it in London, it is lacking the pizzazz that my mother’s has but it is better than not having it at all.

Family, food and the mixing of foreigners are things that Brazil and England have in common and at the same time, those things are worlds apart in other ways.  Funny how when I am feeling adventurous and brave, I seek the differences out and celebrate them but when I am lonely and homesick, I look for ways in which I am reminded of home.  Perhaps it is true, or I hope it is, that no matter how far I am from my home, it’s really just a heartbeat away.

England is Bad for my Weight

The food is far better in Brazil, so why have I put on a few stones since moving to merry old England? I would trade pasteis for mutton chops any day of the week. The meat is better in South America (they actually boil it in the UK), spices at least exist, and the array of colors in a dish is so delightful. Bangers and mash are bland, bland, and more bland. Give me a bauru sandwich any day filled with roast beef, mozzarella cheese, tomato and pickled cucumber and I am in heaven.

So I ask once again, why have I gained? I conclude that in spite of food that I almost disdain, England is bad for my weight. It must be the climate, or maybe I have misread the bathroom scale. Maybe I need a more accurate bathroom scale. They say that these digital scale devices don’t lie, and are more accurate than ever, but mine must be fibbing for sure. It is downright mean.

Now what? I can’t east less of what I already don’t like to consume. It could be a lack of exercise. It is too rainy and foggy sometimes to take a jog or even a nice walk. Give me the beaches of Rio just one more time! Let me bask in the warmth of the sun, get a tan, and look healthy year round. Let me hear a samba that sizzles my soul. Oh, to sip a Cachaca rum on ice.

England is a lovely country. Don’t get me wrong. The countryside is charming and quaint populated with villages and rural lanes. London is bustling and exciting. There are shops, restaurants, pubs, parks, and numerous historical sights. You can’t get bored—ever. So why the complaints today?

My bathroom scale is giving me a meaningful warning—flashing its hostile red lights. So I am going to keep a log of what I eat for two weeks, weighing myself at the end of each day. We’ll see.

Two weeks later: I have a report! I have news. I am overeating as the scales have indicted. I wasn’t facing facts. One ice cream a day can do it—two hundred calories for two scoops. It had become my favorite indulgence and it took its toll. I can either alternate days, give it up entirely, or buy the sugar-free stuff. Big decision. I will go for one serving a week until I shed the unwanted pounds and then assess. England should not be bad for my weight. No place of residence should. I must have better habits and a bit of self-control or I will balloon up in no time flat.

Now that I am thinking about it, I always eat a few digestive biscuits with each serving of my cold treat. That’s going to have to go. Most people eat them at tea time, and fortunately that’s not my practice. The tea thing has not taken me over as yet. Perhaps in due time as a kind of oral gratification substitute for tastier things.

What a Tangled Web We Design

Web design is my passion.  Several year ago, I left the comfort of my home country of Brazil and relocated in London, England to study.  I learned state of the art technology and learned it from the best of the best.  But what attracted me to web design in the first place?

One reason I chose to go into web design is the demand for it.  The internet is exploding constantly.  Every day there are more sites and more people going into an online business endeavor.  It isn’t likely that the internet boom has an end anytime soon so I wanted to be part of it.

I also wanted something that did not tie me down to one particular spot.  I love to travel and to try new things and live in new places so I wanted a skill I could easily pack up and take with me, no matter where I end up.  Now that I am through school, I do have a job in London but I am still mobile if I wish to be.

So along with the supply and demand being right on target for web design, the main reason I chose the field is the ability to use my creative skills.  I can be artistic and use my imagination too.  I can blend what I think looks and feels good with what my client wants and come up with a fantastic site.

My favorite thing to do is to make something out of nothing.  I like taking an idea and making it happen.  When a client comes to me with scattered pieces of his or her dream and usually little to no details of how to go about it or final product requests, it’s up to me to figure it out and to put the puzzle together.  I don’t always get it right and sometimes it is a painstaking process that requires redo after redo but the end result is incredible.

It take skill to design a web site.  That’s what is taught in school.  There’s more to it than most can even imagine and what you do in HTML is generally not as you would expect when you flip over to the way it will look on the page.  That is something you learn with time and get a feel for.

Flash is my forte.  I just love learning more and more about it and really like animation effects too.  Color psychology is intriguing to me.  And the funny thing is that it tends to really be true that people react certain ways to certain colors.  I incorporate color psychology into all my work and any other psychology I can rustle up as well.

Graphics are ultra- important.  There’s an art to graphics too but also there are technical aspects that must be addressed.  There are rules to follow that will help make the design successful.  There is still lot of room for creativity too though.

It takes diligence and patience to design web sites.  HTML is not easy at first and can be challenging even for the more advanced.  It can be technical which can get boring and that is when I keep the end product in mind.

I am a very organized person which certainly helps in web design.  Everything has a place and I like everything to be in that place.  It’s important to be organized and to be precise also.

Web design is perfect for me.  It gives me flexibility but also offers a stable platform for which I can build my career.  I feel knowing web design gives me an upper edge in a field that is known for its cutting edge.

Learning to Sew

If you are looking at a giant, and very heavy, box, you probably can’t imagine what is in it. It could be wrapped to hide the contents written outside, and that would keep you guessing a bit more. Once torn open, you finally know what a real sewing machine looks life, even though you can’t fathom what to do with it.

This was my experience. A great birthday gift, the machine sat there all sleek and modern in its plastic and metal wonderfulness. It looked a little scary, too. (There are metal knobs and things called bobbins and feet. A manual comes with it but it is daunting and not terse.)

I made a resolution to learn to sew. Maybe stuff for the house, maybe me, maybe my husband Gus. I could make gifts, costumes, accessories, and all sorts of this and that. I may be getting ambitious, but this is how you motivate yourself to begin something new. You sit down, turn it on, stick in some fabric, and hit the foot pedal. You hope you don’t go over your finger and burst a blood vessel.

I envision some nice cotton fabric, no doubt Liberty of London. It’s the best. It’s great for floral prints, its signature style. Blouses and shirts are suited to it, or sundresses. Kids’ clothes look so fine made of this fabulous finery. I buy thread, scissors, patterns, seam binding, a self-belt kit, and some piping. I read and read as I unfold endless tissue-thin pages of notes and lines. It’s a maze of instructions.

I start to cut and pin. The beginner’s sewing machine sits patiently waiting for me to finish the hand work. It will be humming along in no time, and for hours. It has a nice little light so I can work after hours when the sun is down. I presume after dinner and a TV show or two, I will indulge. I do a seam or two and cringe. There is puckering. I pull out the work and redo it. Now I caught an edge. Help! I cried and called a friend.

The next day I had a few timely lessons in the basics. It went a lot better after that. I wasn’t ready for Vogue patterns or buttonholes, but I was going in full elementary level gear. I look forward to the day when I can make coats and jackets—something really challenging. It is a wondrous machine, so well-crafted and full of opportunity. It is programmed like a computer to do zigzagging, embroidery designs, appliqué, and top stitching. It can make pleats, smocking, and gathering like a breeze in seconds. Pockets are no problem and a belt is a snatch.

I love my new sewing machine, its great for beginners. What took me so long? After all, it is a kind of computer in principle. It has endless capability with software updates. Someone knew me inside and out by selecting this wizard. They saw some kind of creative itch that needed to be fulfilled. I, for one, am happy they did.

The Dynamics of “24”

I am a huge, huge fan of the show “24”.  I cannot get enough of the action packed episodes and all the wonderful characters that I have come to know and love…or detest.  I have my favourites, of course.  Some I love and some I love to hate.

Let’s begin with Jack Bauer.  Jack is a federal agent but he has an approachable and very likeable air about him.  He’s always saving the day.  He’s cute too and comes from good blood in real life.  Donald Sutherland is his father and is a superb actor who was in some really awesome movies like “The Hunger Games”.

Chloe O’Brian is so me.  She is always doing favors that are not on her list of things to do that often get her in a bit of trouble.  She goes above and beyond but doesn’t stay within the descriptions of her duties.  She is very intelligent and is Jack’s trusted co-worker.  I like her and can relate her in many ways.

Gotta love Tony Almeida.  He is just plain good at what he does.  He’d better be for he is the highest paid member of the cast.  Tony is always the character in suspense and I love that.  You just never know what’s going to happen with him.

The show teaches me a lot about real life every time I watch it and maybe that is why I love it so.  I learn the importance of being a leader and how to be a good one.  There’s a huge responsibility that comes along with being a leader.  To be a good leader, you have to not only give orders but do so in a way in which others respond to.  I guess I have learned the most about leadership form Jack.

Being a good team player is important in life too.  That is easily learned in the show.  Chloe is one of the best to learn from.  She goes the extra mile and I respect that and do that in my own life as well.  Sometimes there are those who are pulling the opposite way, just like in real life, but when it all comes down to it, the goal is accomplished with everyone works together.

There are personality traits and quirky characteristics about all of the roles played on the show.  That is just how it is in everyday life.  We all have our bad side and hopefully, our good side as well.  It’ that coming together with tolerance and acceptance and that feeling of comradery that sets the tone for the show and makes it the classic that it will always be.

I can watch “24” over and over again and in fact, I do.  My friends and my husband don’t understand why I am such an obsessed fan and sometimes, neither do I.  Every time I flip it on and settle in for another episode, I get a warm feeling, like I am at home.  I am from Brazil and live in London so feeling like I am at home with my favourite people is a warm and wonderful thing.

Fixing a Leaky Faucet

London is a known major urban metropolis, so you shouldn’t have to do anything yourself such as fixing a car, tweaking household appliances or repairing faulty plumbing and risking failure. You call on the professionals for that. I am not talking about myself, mind you, but my husband. In this day and age of absolute gender equality, you expect women to do anything; but in some areas we are still quite traditional and don’t venture forth. This includes addressing a dripping kitchen faucet.

I love my telly time and really don’t want to be interrupted when certain shows are on. Everyone knows this. I won’t look at email, post on social media, or answer the phone. Having to constantly check on the faucet is not high on my list either when I am settled in for an evening of guilty pleasure—popcorn by my side. I don’t have kids to intrude on my space. I expect my husband, Gus, to deal with it and call a good service. He laid down the law, however, at more and more household expenses and said, surprisingly, “no.” After some debate and heated argument, I had to acquiesce. I can’t argue with logic.

Now there was the issue of who would do the dirty work. I waited a week and Gus was just not looking into it at all. I know he doesn’t have much talent in the household sector and frankly I was relieved. I really did not expect good work and maybe the faucet would get worse and start gushing. There was a dreaded thought. I had to take matters into my own hands. I went online and looked up dripping faucets—how to fix. I got a list of tools (not many) and made a bee line to the hardware store where I picked up a simple all-purpose wrench and a new fancy faucet.

Back at home, I stood staring at the old faucet and then the fancy new faucet. I was intimidated by the feel of the large, heavy device in my hand. I slowly lifted it up and started to grasp the neck of the faucet just below the open end. It was a breeze. It came off in a flash with no injuries to me or scars on the shiny metal. I replaced the faucet with a new one as instructed and restored the cap. Now the true test: I turned on the faucet and grimaced. But it came out in a nice, even flow. When off, there was no leak, not a drop.

I was pretty proud of my handy work. This was a mind opener. When Gus came home he didn’t notice. “Gus,” I whispered. “Gus.” Finally I caught his attention and took his hand. I led him to the kitchen sink and stood still. He got the message. Kissing me on the check he said, “I’m proud of you.” I beamed. The problem was that now I was expected to do all the work around the house due to my less than skilled mate.

A Brazilian in London: Trials and Triumphs of a Girl Just Finding Her Way in Life

GoLivingIn-London

Living in London is exciting and challenging at the same time. As a transplant from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the adjustment has been a life-changing one for me. In this new and barmy country, I have lived to learn and learned to live.

I came to London to study web design at one of the most notorious schools in the field. At first I was lost. Everything seemed so outrageously expensive but I soon learned the ins and outs of student living on a shoestring budget. I found the coffeehouses with internet access and also the places I could afford to eat at.

It rains a lot in London. It’s a much different rain that we have in Brazil. Brazil is known for having the largest raindrops on earth but I believe that London has many more of them. London can get blooming cold too. It’s a wet cold that I was not accustomed to at first. But proudly I can say that I have acclimated and don’t too much notice the weather at all any longer.

I was petrified to take the tube for the first time. I occasionally ride a folding bicycle when the weather allows but that is not so often. Compared to a cab, the tube is bugger all so I really had no choice but to learn to ride it. I had heard tale of people being pushed under it during rush hour and was shaking with fear when I first did it but now, two years later, I must admit that I am a pro. The tube is cracking now that I have mastered it.

The pubs here in London are just as I had imagined. Oftentimes in the winter you will find a fire ablaze and picked eggs for the taking. I am an avid sports fan so I fit right in to the scene. I also like a good ale.

I actually met my husband at the pub I frequent so pubs are close to my heart. Funny, but I thought Piccadilly Circus was an actual circus with elephants, clowns and dogs jumping through hoops. Was I ever surprised! Piccadilly Circus is actually a road junction on the West End of town where you can find an underground theatre, fabulous shopping and a whole lot of fun. Gus and I still jump the tube and head on over at least once a week.

I have had the pleasure of meeting quite a number of students and others from Brazil which makes me feel closer to home. We dine out regularly and one special friend was even in my wedding party. We
share memories of home and comical stories of when we first arrived in London.

I have been fortunate enough to land a great job here. That is not easy to do for I have heard it said that you need to have family in London to get a job in the city at all. Such is not the case. I attribute my new career to the excellent schooling I have received which is chuffed, for sure.

Being a Brazilian in London is challenging but it is wonderful too. I love my home country but would not trade my experiences here for anything. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.