August 27, 2007

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips

This is an incredible website/book/documentary/blog started by Kris Carr, a young actress, now writer/filmmaker, who in 2003 was diagnosed with a rare incurable cancer.

For four years she documented her journey to find a cure or at least peace within herself to live with such a scary illness. Now her documentary will air on TLC Thursday at 9.00 PM and I can't wait to see it.

For more info on this courageous woman, visit her website

August 22, 2007

Uncle Sam, wake up!!!

I read this article today and hope the US can revert this trend. As a foreign student who came to the US on a Fullbright/IIE (Institute of International Education) scholarship, I know exactly how important this experience is for both the foreign and the American students. I can't tell you how much this experience has changed the way I see world and how much it has impacted everyone around me.

I am sure there are excellent schools worldwide but nowhere is the academic environment as rich and diverse as in the US.

U.S. Education Secretary wooing students from Brazil, Chile to reverse post 9/11 decline

The Associated Press
Monday, August 20, 2007

SAO PAULO, Brazil — U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings looks more like a college recruiter this week, traveling through South America with American university leaders to woo back international students spooked by lengthy visa delays linked to post-9/11 security.

"American higher education is open for business to students from our neighbors," Spellings said in Santiago, Chile, before meeting Tuesday with Chilean students and university rectors. Her next stop on Wednesday is Sao Paulo, the continent's largest city.

The number of foreign students enrolling in American universities is rebounding following a drop due to extra visa security precautions after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the number of visas are granted to students seeking to study for a year or more is still less than before the terrorist attacks.

Only 5,881 F-1 student visas were handed out in Brazil in 2006, the latest year for which figures are available, down from 12,325 in 2001, according to the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia.

And competition for students is growing fast from nations like Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Even South Africa is in the race to attract South America's best and brightest.

American universities depend on foreign students for teaching and research help, and policymakers consider them essential so that future foreign leaders will be familiar with the United States. It also has an economic effect: Foreign students provide of billions of dollars annually to the U.S. economy.

"If they got rid of the visa difficulties, I think most Brazilian students would choose the United States," said Leticia Amorim, a 22-year-old business administration major who will head to the United States soon to perfect her English and learn Spanish.

But she says many of her friends contemplating study abroad are still concerned about U.S. visa requirements, and some are worried that they might not be well-received. She said the U.S. visa process is still viewed as cumbersome and is the main reason "why people are going to other countries."

Education experts credit American officials for speeding approval visa approval in recent years, and Spellings insisted that the trend of falling enrollment has been reversed.

"We have started to regain ground that had been lost after Sept. 11," she said in Chile.

But Australia, Canada, France and the United Kingdom have launched intense marketing campaigns to attract students from Latin America, where improving economic conditions have swelled college enrollments and demand for study abroad.

Renee Zicman, who heads international cooperation efforts at Sao Paulo's Catholic University, said Australia doubled its share of Brazilian students in just two or three years. An annual event to attract students to South African universities now draws heavy interest.

"We've just had a boom in the market, and these countries have calendars of events seeking out students in Brazil," she said. While the United States is also marketing, she said a bigger push is needed.

The U.S. Education Department said the number of student and exchange program visas hit an all-time high of 591,050 in 2006. But the number of F-1 student visas for study in the United States for a year or more was 273,870 in 2006, below the high of 293,357 in 2001.

Spellings' made a similar trip to Asia in November, and Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes made the same rounds in India in March. Accompanying Spellings on her tour to Chile and Brazil through Friday are university presidents and chancellors from the U.S. states of California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri and Oklahoma.

"It's true that the UK, Canada and Australia are aggressively marketing and increasing their percentages of international students, but they don't have the capacity to take the millions the United States can take," said Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice president of the New York-based Institute of International Education.

She added: "The problem is getting the word out to the people that the situation has changed, and making them believe it."


August 21, 2007

The Tipping Point, Freakonomics & other readings...

Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do...I can't remember the first book I read, but I am pretty sure it must have been one of those children's books with very little text and lots of pictures. My grandmother, who was a fourth-grade teacher for 30 years, start buying me books even before I was born and as soon as I started sitting up, she would put a book in my tiny hands. Whatever her trick was, it worked! I am what most people call a bookworm. I don't care what it is, as long as it has some letters in it, I am reading! Doesn't matter what language it is, I will read it anyway! (This might also explain my passion for languages.)

I have never been one of these people who always say "If I had the time, I would read more..." or "If I did not watch so much TV, I would spend more time with my books." I've always watched a lot of TV (except for a few years in college and in Grad School, when I did not own a TV set!), but finding time to read never seemed to be a problem.

So now, while job hunting and getting used to life in the suburbs, I have done so much reading... I read everything I bring home in addition to a whole bunch of books that grab my attention when I visit the local library about three or four times a week.

My latest was was Freakonomics. I had heard a lot about the book, but since the title rhymes with Economics, I thought it would be too dry for me: endless numbers, tables, stats and analysis that require too much interpretation, so I must admit, I got scared.

But while browsing the library, I came across Blink and The Tipping Point, both by New York Times writer, Malcolm Gladwell, both supposed to be excellent books. I finished The Tipping Point last week and am about to start Blink now.

I really liked the The Tipping Point probably because it talks about people and the different types of people that make up groups and society in general and what it takes for a trend to become an epidemic phenomenon. Gladwell says his book is about change and why it happens so often and so fast. He claims that "ideas and behavior and messages and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease. They are social epidemics. The Tipping Point is an examination of the social epidemics that surround us."

But back to Freakonomics. The book is surprisingly easy to read probably because the examples are related to our everyday life and yet the correlations are totally wacky. In one chapter they compare High School teachers in Chicago and sumo wrestlers in Japan. Pretty crazy but really interesting. In another chapter they talk about how names can have an impact (or not) on an individuals life. Their are theories are thought-provoking and by no means controversy-free, but that's exactly what makes the book worth reading. It makes you look at ordinary things in a totally different way. I am pretty sure the next time I sell a house, I will not take the first offer that comes matter how desperate I happen to be and even if it goes against my realtor's advice. Patience is a virtue and usually pays off that's why I need to keep developing mine.

I just finished the book and have become a fan of the authors, so now I am checking their blog a lot and sure enough I always find interesting bits of information that I end up missing when I read the news... Worth checking out:

August 19, 2007

Veneravel Ordem Terceira de Sao Francisco da Penitencia

This is the church Blake and I got married this last March. It's such a long story, but I just fell in love with it the moment I laid my eyes on it...

It's one of the oldest churches in Rio and in Brazil -- construction began in 1657 -- and has one of the largest and most important art collections in Brazil. It's the symbol of the Portuguese Baroque style in the country: the facade is very plain and ordinary, but the interior is absolutely breath-taking. Among those who contributed to the decoration of the interior, which was completed only in 1773, were Manuel and Francisco Xavier de Brito, two leading Portuguese sculptors and woodcarvers. Both of them had very similar styles - the "Brito style" - with decorative forms which influenced Aleijadinho and other masters of Brazilian Baroque. The ceiling of the choir has the earliest trompe-l'oeil painting in Brazil (1732-36), the work of Caetano da Costa Coelho, who later painted the ceiling of the nave in the same style.

It is a true gem hidden in downtown Rio and unknown to most of us cariocas born and raised in Rio. The church remained closed for a number of years and recently reopened -- surprisingly -- without much fanfare. Since then only a handful weddings have taken place there... Ours being one of them!

August 17, 2007

Dry Run

Yes, today we are going to do a dry run to the location I will get my first interview next week. Wish me luck!
I have no sense of direction and can easily get lost while walking around the thank God for those wonderful gadgets called GPS. I don't know how people lived without them... Just like I have no idea how people worked before the advent of computers.
But anyway, back to my lack of sense of direction, I have admit that even with a portable GPS in my car and following my mother-in-law, I have managed to get lost on my way home from the mall!!!
So yes, I will need lots of luck to get to that interview site on my own next week. I will have a few reasons to be nervous:
1 - I am not a big fan of driving
2 - I do not know my way around here yet
3 - I tend to get lost quite often
4 - I get really panicky when I get lost
5 - I am going to my first job interview since I got here!
6- I could not find much background info on the company...

But I will take a couple of deep breaths in the car and I am going to be just fine... or so I think.

August 15, 2007

Advice to a New Bride...

Everyone knows that weddings are among my favorite things in the world... I enjoyed my wedding so much (as I never thought I would!) that I ended up becoming something of a pro-bono "wedding consultant"... My friends, friends of friends and a whole bunch of women out there getting ready for their big day come to me when they want to talk about their weddings and I love it.

I have just received an email from a bridal magazine in Brazil. Surprise! They've asked me to come up with a few tips for their avid and anxious readers, so there are a couple of my tips.

Sorry if it is all in Portuguese for the time being... I will get round to translate it to English eventually, depending on how much interest I get.

Hope at least the Brazilian/Portuguese brides to be find it useful.

Meus conselhos para uma futura noiva sao:

* organize-se: mantenha um caderno, um fichario, ou uma planilha com todas as informacoes sobre o casamento. Eu nao primo pela organizacao, mas a pedido do meu marido, centralizei tudo num caderno e nao sei o que teria feito sem meu "caderno-biblia". Anotava tudo: nomes, telefones, enderecos, orcamentos, ideias, conversas, websites. Anexava cartoes, notas fiscais, fotos, recortes de revistas. Ate hoje, amigas me pedem informacoes sobre casamento e tenho tudo ali arquivado.

* priorize: no inicio tudo parece essencial para que o casamento saia perfeito, mas a menos que voce seja a Athina Onassis (que apesar da fortuna, negociou muito com seus fornecedores!) ou a Eva Langoria (que tambem conseguiu varios "brides" com seus patrocinadores), vai acabar tendo que abrir mao de algumas coisas, ja que todo orcamento tem limites. Saiba o que e imprescindivel e o que e dispensavel na sua lista. Procure tambem alternativas menos caras. A caixinha de bem casado forrada em piquet e com cristais realmente e maravilhosa, mas a caixinha branquinha simples com a fitinha de cetim rosa tambem tem seu charme. A pista de danca tem mesmo e que bombar ate o final, mas quantos convidados sabem a diferenca entre "moving heads" e "moving lights"?

* negocie
: sinto que no inicio, provavelmente por inexperiencia, nao negociei tao bem quanto poderia. Estava ansiosa para garantir certos fornecedores e profissionais para o meu casamento, entao fechei algumas coisas muito rapidamente. Hoje em dia o mercado de casamento e imenso e ha muitos profissionais excelentes no ramo, entao se o tal fotografo que voce queria tiver um preco exorbitante, tente outro... Se o buffet dos seus sonhos nao tiver disponibilidade, experimente o concorrente. Nestas horas o importante e ter a mente aberta e estar disposta a descobrir coisas novas. Por incrivel que pareca, tive supresas maravilhosas com fornecedores que contratei sem recomendacao nenhuma, seguindo a minha intuicao. E outros superbem recomendados deixaram um pouco a desejar...

* aproveite: embora seja um periodo estressante na vida de qualquer noiva, esta tambem e uma das epocas mais gostosas na vida de uma mulher. Procure se divertir enquanto estiver organizando seu grande dia. Muitas noivas ficam tao estressadas com os preparativos e acabam se transformando nas temiveis "Bridezillas", um termo usado nos EUA para noivas neuroticas que viram verdadeiros monstros as vesperas do casamento. Nao vale a pena.

* divirta-se
: a festa e sua! Depois de meses, e muitas vezes ate anos, de preparativos e expectativas, chegou seu grande dia. E verdade o que toda noiva ouve e se recusa a acreditar: tudo passa rapido demais! Entao divirta-se ao maximo: dance, cante, e seja muito feliz... Documente tudo tambem, em foto e em video/DVD, pois e uma delicia assistir tudo depois com a familia. So entao a gente ve como saiu tudo perfeito e como a gente acaba perdendo detalhes importantissimos por causa da emocao.

Bom, acho que por enquanto e so... Sao tantos detalhes que e dificil manter o foco...


I thought I would start this blog with a picture that really captured my nature and came up with this one: on the phone! Talking is one of my favorite things to do: in person, on the phone, online...doesn't matter as long as I am talking! OK, I do a little listening to, actually, I've become a much better listener over these past fews years. Maybe I am finally growing up or becoming less self-centered, which is really good news, but the truth is that I really enjoy a good story.

I decided to start this blog to try and keep my thoughts organized -- a very hard task for someone like me! Blame it on my hectic lifestyle, lack of patience or interest...but it's so difficult to keep things in order.

But now that my life is undergoing some major changes, I figured I would give it a try. Now that I am a suburban housewife (for the time being at least) I ran out of excuses and here I am blogging away... Let's just see where it's going to take me.