Exploring Brasilia’s Markets!

One of the things I love the most in any country is going to markets. I feel that markets represent the heart and soul of a country or city, and it offers you a glimpse into the everyday lives of the people living there.

photo 5 (3)
The CEASA – a lovely open air farmers market.

As much as I enjoy visiting markets, I also enjoy shopping at them. Not only do I feel that I get a better understanding of where my food comes from, but I feel as though my money is going directly to the local community and not to big corporations like Walmart. This may be a far cry from the actual truth and a naive thought at that, but ultimately it makes me feel good! Keep Reading

Working In Mexico and What to Expect!

maquiladora
Cartoon from http://ljkrakauer.com/LJK/80s90s/spanish.htm

When I was living in Mexico City, I was lucky enough to get a pretty good job working as a locally employed staff in the U.S. Embassy’s HR office. Although my actual duties were rather administrative and dull, I immensely enjoyed my time there. Not only did I get to learn about the inner workings of an embassy, but I also got a direct exposure to the working culture of Mexico. Some of which really took me by surprise and were completely different to the work environment I had experienced before. Keep Reading

Cafe Ernesto Especiais – My Coffee Heaven in Brasilia

IMG_0583

You know that feeling when you walk into a place and you are automatically in love? Everything from the decor, to the ambiance to the smell all seems to come together so harmoniously that you know you have found something special?

Well that happened to me today! I went to a coffee morning that the American Embassy organised (look at me being all lady of leisurely and going to coffee mornings!). We met at a cafe in Asa Sul (the south of the city) called Ernesto’s Cafe Especias. Keep Reading

The Emirates Run-Around.

For those of you living in Brazil and South America I thought I would let you know about my experience with booking a flight with Emirates, so that you if you decide to do so, you will not be as surprised as I was with their rather inconvenient policies!

The Background:

C and I are planning a trip to Singapore for Christmas. As you can imagine that is not exactly an easy or cheap destination from Brasilia! However, my brother lives in Abu Dhabi and I know that Emirates flies directly to Dubai from both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. So we thought we would fly with Emirates to Dubai, visit him for a few days and continue on with our journey from there. We will then fly back home to Brasilia separately, as I will stay on in Singapore longer and C has to come back and work (well someone has to right?). Rather straight forward I thought….oh how I was mistaken!

Issue Number One (more of an annoyance really)

Booking my ticket directly with Emirates was a nightmare. I had done my research online in regards to what the best routes would be from Brasilia. However as C and I were flying back at different times, I wanted to talk to someone in Emirates to help me book the tickets to ensure C and I were on the same flight outbound, as well as help me find a good price. The prices I saw online where reasonable if we were to go directly to Singapore, but when I wanted to include a stop-over for a few days in Dubai, it doubled!

So I called the Emirates Rio office, but was immediately directed to a call centre (judging by the ladies accent) in the Philippines. The call did not start well, when she told me that there was no such place as Brasilia!! After struggling through a 40 minute call, where she kept giving me the wrong information, giving me wrong quotes and neither of us understanding each other, I decided that I would call again. This time I was directed to a call centre in the US. After explaining what I wanted – the woman essentially told me to do it myself and there was no point in her helping me! I have to admit I was lost for words, and after having spent 40 minutes with other lady in the Philippines I just gave up!

In the end, I asked my brother if he could talk to someone in Emirates in Dubai to see if they could help us. What do you know? The next day after my big brother made a few phone calls he had managed to find the perfect flight for us, half the price as quoted to me online and we were all happy! Time to pay for the tickets!

Issue Number Two (a massive issue)

Now armed with my reservation codes for my flights, I phoned up Emirates in Rio again, again I was transferred to a call centre, this time in India. When I wanted to pay for my tickets, I was told I was unable to do so over the phone or online. Apparently it is Emirates policy that if you are buying a ticket to or from South America, you have to do so in person at an Emirates office!! This is a bit of an issue for me, considering Emirates does not have an office in Brasilia! I was then transferred from various call centres around the world (or at least that is what it felt like) and the best advice I got, was from another guy in India who asked me if I had a friend that could go to an Emirates office to pay for my tickets for me!

When I said that wasn’t an option I was transferred to a very helpful Emirates employee in the US, who was trying to figure out how she could help me, and in the end she put me in touch with the Rio office (the same office I had been trying to call for 48 hours). I was given a glimmer of hope here. The Rio office, said that I could fill out a ‘credit card form’, email them the information and they would be able to process the payment! HOWEVER, when she found out, that I do not have a Brazilian credit card, this option was no longer available. It is Brazil’s policy that they cannot accept international credit cards unless in person!

In the end, my only option was to fly to São Paulo and go personally to the Emirates office there and buy my tickets. As luck would have it, C and I had already planned to visit São Paulo for a long weekend. So yesterday first thing in the morning, we took a taxi to the Emirates office and FINALLY we were able to buy our tickets and put this lengthy saga behind us. C and I are now definitely flying to Singapore via Dubai for Christmas :)

I really make a point of not complaining on The Travelling Chopsticks, as I want this forum to be positive and for inspiration, but I felt that this was rather important information to share. Be prepared that if you would like to fly Emirates in South America, that you will have to go to the office in person to buy your tickets, even if it means you have to fly to get there!

calvin_and_hobbes_001
I think Calvin pretty much sums up my feelings over this whole situation!

My Mexican Observations

Well, I have now been living in Mexico City for exactly one year and thirteen days, and I thought I would share with you some of my observations on various aspect of Mexican life that I have encountered:

The People:

  • The Mexicans are some of the most polite and courteous people I have come across (except when they are driving)
  • They dress according to the official season and not to the actual weather. If it’s supposed to be Autumn, they will dress for Autumn wearing jeans, jumpers, boots, scarves and jackets, despite it being sunny and 28°C outside!
  • Chivalry is still alive – as a woman you will never have to open a door, or pull out your own chair as long as you are here. Note: this does not apply while driving.
  • Plastic surgery is perfectly acceptable – the older you are, the tighter your face
  • Spending 3-4 hours in the salon every morning is the daily routine for the women of Polanco.
  • Tipping is a way of life. Be prepared to tip everyone you encounter – which means carry lots and lots of loose change.

Keep Reading

How To Be An Expat Brat

A very good friend of mine in Hong Kong sent me this article from Thought Catalog on “How To Be An Expat Brat” and my goodness does it hit the nail on the head (in a satirical and self deprevating manner), that I just had to share it with you guys.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/how-to-be-an-expat-brat/

When I was in my late teens and early twenties I really shared a lot of these feelings, and at times felt a bit lost. However I am  still an expat today, and will probably always be one as this is the life I know – but I feel far more settled now (mentally) than I have ever been before, and would never have changed my childhood for a moment!

For all you expat brats out there…enjoy :)

Puebla: City-Break

It was Memorial day last Monday – which meant that ‘C’ got the day off. I love the fact that he gets both Mexican and American holidays off – as it means we can get the chance to organise lots of little weekend trips to explore this amazing country we are living in.

 So, last weekend, we, together with a few friends of ours decided to spend a night in Puebla an absolutely beautiful city about a two hours drive East of Mexico City. For anyone living in Mexico City, or visiting for a few days I would highly recommend taking the opportunity to go and explore this old city. The drive is incredibly easy (although it may not be the most interesting of drives) and relatively fast, in fact ‘C’ and I have said that we would actually consider doing it as a day trip. Keep Reading