*I'm back to work and back in the swing of things, more or less. Except Almost none of my private students have started back up yet because Brazilians take a LOT of vacations. ... It's kind of ridiculous. Like I didn't work for 10 days and I felt really bad. Does anyone have thoughts on this? Businesses close for every holiday. There's no concept of a "bank holiday" because every holiday results in mass city shut down and an excuse for people to drink or sleep or both, at least here in Caipiróplois (that's how to say HickTown in Portuguese... I made it up, haha). Like, even silly municipal holidays. (City Hall was built on this day? Let's close up shop and go to the chácara!) So if you remember once I counted, and the last school I worked at was closed for 25% of the year. ONE FOURTH. How did this turn into a rant already? The point is, many of my students are on 6-week vacations. I think some are working for part of that time, but they've stopped things like English class and the gym.
Another student admitted that January and February are tight months for people money-wise because they've spent so much of December spending money and not making any, and that some kind of car insurance/tax/I don't really know is due in January and it's apparently expensive. And then everything's just gonna shut down again for Carnival 6 weeks after New Year's. So a lot of my students have said things like "Oh, let's just start up again after Carnaval. I don't want to come back to class for 5 weeks just to stop again for 2."
Ughhh. The result is that I'm spending a lot more time on my American job (which closed for exactly 4 days during the holidays) to try to make up for the lost money from my private students. But the good thing is that I was expecting this lack of funds more this year than I was last year, so I saved up a bunch back in October and November when business was better, and I can pay my bills.
*In happier news, I bought a nightstand. The word for "nightstand" in Portuguese is one of the ones that makes me laugh: it literally translates to "mute servant". It's right up there with the word for nylons ("half pants") and answering machine ("electronic secretary"). Anyway. I could only buy one because our bedroom is too small and somebody (ahem) won't accept moving the furniture around, even though it would allow for 2 matching nightstands, because he insists that the sun will be in his eyes from the window (we have shutters on the windows and eye masks...). So for now the room looks a bit lopsided, but it's still great. It's amazing what a difference a nightstand makes. Things always feel more permanent and comfortable when you've got a consistent place to set your glasses when you go to sleep. :)
*My new year's resolution was to eat better and stop undoing all my work at the gym with delicious fried food. We do cook a lot, but when it's things like coxinhas, fried tempura and my grandmother's chicken and dumplings, it's not exactly healthier than eating out. So during the break I looked up a bunch of healthy recipes and made a little menu, and went to the grocery store for healthier things. We've been making smoothies for breakfast and trying to eat a lot more vegetables and less country gravy that my mom and grandmother mailed to us. (It doesn't help that they also sent me 2 bottles of the wonderful Girard's Ceasar Dressing, which has 23% of your daily fat needs in each serving...and to which Alexandre is also now slightly addicted. But I mean, it's healthy if it's on a SALAD, right?)
Part of my healthier eating (and also Alexandre's by default, since I do most of the cooking and shopping) has been less red meat (it's cheap and delicious here, and it's culturally common to eat red meat EVERY DAY) and more chicken and soy. The textured soy protein that we bought comes like this or like this and is relatively easy to cook with. (Sorry Kristin-- it's a new addition to the local grocery store! I totally would've bought it while you were here!) Yesterday we worked together to make a kind of soy stir-fry that a local vegetarian restaurant makes.
It came out pretty well for a first try! Here's what we did:
1. Follow the directions on the bag for preparing the soy. Just put it in water, boil it, and once the water is boiling, turn it off and let the soy soak for 10 more minutes. (However, it didn't say "add some kind of spices to the water, because the soy has zero flavor." So I'm adding that in for you.)
2. While the soy boils, chop up the veggies that you want. We used asparagus, onion, green beans, cucumber, and carrots. The carrots didn't really go well with it. I think green bell peppers would've been better. The vegetarian restaurant in town adds okra.
3. We steamed the vegetables in the handy dandy rice cooker while cooking the rice on the bottom. I added vegetable stock cubes (caldo de legumes) to the veggies and rice cubes (caldo de arroz) to the rice, because I looovvveeeee Knorr caldo cubes. (No, I don't pick tiny pieces off of the chicken ones and eat them. What are you talking about? That would be gross.)
If you're using the rice cooker, be sure to put a little extra water in with the rice to account for the vegetables absorbing it.
If you don't have a rice cooker (so sad), steam the vegetables and cook the rice separately.
4. Drain the soy from the water that it's in.
5. Put a little bit of water and a little bit of oil into a frying pan (like in the picture).
6. Once the vegetables are softened to your liking, take them and mix them with the soy in a frying pan.
7. Add in some smashed up peanuts or cashews (caju) if you'd like. I did. It came out well.
8. Add in whatever spices/salts/caldo cubes that you want. Remember that the soy is super bland.
9. To make thick and delicous sauce à lá Panda Express, do what Alexandre did:
a) take 3 tablespoons of corn startch (Maizena: Amido de Milho)
b) mix them in a cup or bowl with some water and soy sauce (enough water to thicken but not to be watery... good luck)
c) dump this mixed sauce into the frying pan
10. Add soy sauce and salt to your liking.
Ta-Da! So easy, right? Then you've got some rice on the side and some juice and you have a delicious and healthy lunch (aside from all the salt). MMm!
That's all. Oh, someone killed the moth. Thank God.
Have a good weekend!