Hello friends – it has been a long time!
One of my last posts that I wrote last year, was What to Expect when Expecting in Brasilia. Well, a year has gone by and I am very happy to announce that I am now a happy mum to a gorgeous little boy called Charles.
As you can imagine, The Travelling Chopsticks has not been high on my list of priorities of things to do over the last year. However, I feel that inspiration is slowly creeping back into me, and I thought I would try and breathe some life back into this much neglected but loved blog.
I also thought that a fitting first post to kick start the blog, would be a follow up on What to Expect when Expecting (in Brazil), and describe my observations as to what life is like with a baby, and now toddler in Brazil’s capital.
The long and short of it is – Brasilia has been an excellent city for me. I have loved being a first time mum here, and have been so well taken care of and cared for by the community around me (both local and expat) that if we were staying longer I would without hesitation have another child here. That is not to say that Brasilia does not have its quirks and foibles – as I’m sure all cities do – but overall it has been a fantastic family friendly place.
Observation 1: Babies
Brazilians love babies! I don’t think I have ever come across a society that is as infatuated and in love with babies and children as the Brazilians. This genuine interest and concern really took me by surprise. There has not been one day since Little C was born, that a perfect stranger (man, woman or child) has not come up to us and had a full on ‘baby conversation’ with him while pinching his little legs. I love it. After 2 years of generally feeling quite lonely and isolated here, this amazing and heartfelt affection has really been very uplifting. I guess it is true what they say, babies and dogs are great icebreakers!
Observation 2: Unsolicited Advice
Like the old adage goes – with the good, comes the bad. So along with stranger’s affection towards my child, they often feel compelled to tell me everything I ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be doing : ‘Shouldn’t he be wearing shoes?’, ‘Shouldn’t he be wearing long trousers’, ‘should he be eating that?’, ‘is he not cold?’, ‘Are you still breastfeeding?’….you get the picture. This honestly doesn’t bother me at all – I am confident in my choices – but understand it can be off putting for others. So just smile and shrug.
Observation 3: Breast feeding
Talking of breastfeeding – you will have no problems here! You can breastfeed (or not) wherever you want whenever you want and no one will blink an eye. Most Brazilians have a discreet cloth over their shoulder, but you can do whatever you feel is comfortable. Bottle feeding on the other hand – I feel is looked down upon. Little C had issues putting on weight in his first 3 weeks of life, so we put him on formula which was THE BEST decision we could have made, but I always felt that Brazilians and acquaintances were slightly disappointed to find out he was formula fed.
Observation 4: Restaurants
Following on from the theme of Brazilians loving babies, so do restaurants! No matter what kind of restaurant you go to, whether it’s your local creperie joint (Brasilians also seem obsessed with creps!) or high-end fine dining, your baby will not only be tolerated but welcomed enthusiastically. The waiters will do whatever they can to accommodate you and make you comfortable – they may even take your baby away from you and entertain him for a while so you can finish your meal!
Observation 5: Strollers / Prams
Unlike babies, Brasilia does not love strollers – or any form of wheel chair for that matter. Despite being a supposedly ‘modern city’ and the ‘city of the future’, Brasilia was only designed for the motor vehicle – anything else and you are on your own! In general pavements are poorly paved – or suddenly end, no ramps are provided for stairs or steep curbs, doorways are not wide enough, lifts are not big enough, and cars always seem obnoxiously parked to hinder a wheelchair or stroller entrance. The image I had of myself going out for a ‘gentle stroll’ with my baby was brutally crushed the first few weeks of motherhood, when I realised that a simple walk to my local shop was like a tryout for the Spartan race!
Having said all that – I do have a stroller which I use frequently and that I love. I have my stroller friendly routes and I suggest getting a sturdy all terrain type stroller as you will need it here! Also invest in a good baby carrier – my baby bjorn has been a godsend for not only walking around Brasilia, but travelling around Brazil as well.
Observation 6: Paediatricians
For those who read my previous post about being pregnant here – remember when I said that I have the Whatsapp numbers to all my doctors? Well this continues to be true with our Paediatrician. When Little C was sick, I have been in constant communication with her (upon her request!). Sending her updates of his situation, photos of his poo (lovely!), photos of odd rashes – and any general questions that I may have. This is a privilege I don’t expect to have in any other countries we live in – and one that I will miss immensely.
Observation 7: Playgrounds and Parks
Or in other words, heatstroke inducing death traps!! Of course I am exaggerating here (….slightly), but in general they are neither pleasant places nor in good condition. In the Asas (the wings of the city) there are numerous little and large playgrounds around the residences – you can choose between old and rotten wood ones OR rusty metal ones. There also seems to be two extreme cases of environment – either no shade what so ever (which works wonderfully with the metal playgrounds), or beautiful luscious shade due to the enormous fruit trees which pelts down massive mangoes or avocados with head cracking force.
An insider’s tip: The U.S. Embassy has an amazing playground for both toddlers and children. If you are not part of the U.S Embassy, try cozying up to one of the mums and hope you will be invited for a play date there!
So there you have it – a few observations as a first time mum in Brasilia. I hope that if you are planning on moving to Brasilia with children or might be thinking of having a baby here that you will find this helpful and encouraging. Brasilia is an incredible family friendly city, and my only slight regret was not starting a family here sooner!