Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Today I Had a Gun Pointed at My Head

When we first began telling people we were moving to Brazil many friends and family came out of the woodwork to tell us how dangerous it was, especially in Sao Paulo. I did some research and was convinced that, despite the elevated crime rate, if you weren't involved in drugs, gangs, or alcoholism then you were relatively safe. If you are sure to not wave cash around, avoid shady places, and not be an obvious tourist (OK, that one's almost impossible for me with my red hair) then you were even more safe.

Despite the people having bars over their windows, tall cement fences, and bullet proof glass in their cars I have never felt that it has been dangerous here. Bridget and I often take walks in the late evening after dark. I jog a fair amount and am often alone running through areas where youth hang out. None of this has ever given me an uneasy feeling. Because everybody we have met here has been so friendly, I was beginning to think that the crime problems really weren't problems for most people. They were mostly just problems for people that put themselves in dangerous situations. Until today.

Caleb and I were driving home from a business meeting. We were about to enter our neighborhood and were only a couple of blocks from where Caleb's children go to school. As we made our way around the curve in the road we could see a car parked in the on-coming lane with its doors open and a few people around it. One person was standing in our lane so Caleb slowed down. As the person in our lane pulled a gun out my first thought was that there was an accident and this was a police officer. It didn't take long to realize this was not an accident. It was a mugging. The realization mostly came when the guy, probably between 16 and 18 years old, lifted the gun and pointed it at our windshield and started yelling at us.

My Portuguese isn't very good, but I knew he wasn't being very friendly. Caleb lifted his hands in the air and I followed suit. As the guy came over to the driver's side door I shoved my phone under my leg so he wouldn't steal it. Our door was opened and the gun was pointed directly at Caleb's head. Caleb grabbed his wallet out of his pocket and handed it over. Then the gun was on me. I guess I was supposed to be getting my wallet out at the same time so I got an extra yelling at. I pulled my wallet out and handed it over. I really wanted to ask if I could keep the wallet and just give him my cash (I think I had about R$200 (USD $50), but I decided just cooperating would probably be the better course of action.

This happened about 1:30 p.m. Broad daylight on a street that has security guards in little stations at both ends. I didn't see much of what was going on with the on-coming car, but Caleb believes it was being hijacked when we came upon the scene. As we were handing over our wallets traffic was actually driving between the car being hijacked and our car. One guy in a van even honked his horn for an extended time as he drove between the cars. I wondered if the gun man was going to shoot at him.

Once he had our wallets he backed up with the gun still aimed at us. Caleb's hands went back up until the guy yelled at us to get going. We drove off.

While we were being mugged I didn't feel nervous. I didn't have the adrenaline rush I would have expected to have. I mostly felt like it was surreal. Is this really happening? At no point during the event did I feel like my life was in danger, though I knew enough not to push my luck. Oddly enough, on the drive from the incident to our house about 1/2 mile away I had a very hard time remembering the name of the app I use to text Bridget (she is currently away on a business trip). I did finally find it, but found after the first text of, "Just got robbed at gun point" that I had a bit more to say than I felt like texting. I must have been nervous because I had trouble getting the texts out.

A couple hours after we got home and worked to get our credit cards cancelled and other wallety matters taken care of, we went back out to see if maybe they took the money from our wallets and just threw the wallets on the ground nearby. Because we were now a bit more on edge, we stopped by the guard shack to ask for an escort. They mentioned this kind of things happens all the time on this street. There's a favela (shanty town) on the other side of the street so they mug people in the nice neighborhoods and then run across a small bridge and hideout in their neighborhood. Caleb asked if by all the time he meant once a week or so. No, pretty much every day. This, by the way, is a road that Bridget and I have driven on twice a day almost every day for the past few weeks as we've gone off in search for a new home to live in. Things definitely could have been worse.

Throughout the day I have felt a range of emotions from anger to embarrassment to frustration to disappointment. I have actually felt like crying a couple of times which is actually a bit inexplicable to me as I can't associate an emotion with it. It's definitely not sadness.

What bothers me the most about the event is that now I have to be all cautious about stuff. I know now to avoid that street, but are there other streets nearby I have to worry about? Should I go jogging anymore despite not bringing anything but my phone and garage door opener? Do we need to find a place to live with super tight security getting in and out of the neighborhood/apartment building? I liked thinking that I was able to go places without problem or not give a second thought in having Bridget run to the store for something. That has changed now which may have been the lesson I needed to receive today. My guard was down. Now it's up and I have to adjust to my new life of being wary of where I go and where my family goes. There are still plenty of great things about this country, but that was a bit of reality that has dampened my spirit. At least today.

If you're interested, this is about where it happened.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Observations About Sao Paulo, Brazil

Now that I've been here a few months I thought I'd list out the things I've observed that are different from what I'm used to in the states, in no particular order:

- Everybody is very friendly and excited to talk to a real American (I tell them I'm Canadian once the excitement wears down).
- If there's a pot hole in the road it's often stuffed with something lying around that someone sees, like a cone, a tree branch, or a refrigerator.

- Public schools are bad.
- Private schools are good, but expensive (especially if you're paying for five children to attend).
- Uniforms are worn to school.

- Dogs are everywhere and should be avoided if seen outside a home's fence because they can be vicious.
- Public transit is widely used and is relatively simple to navigate as all the train lines and metro lines are interconnected.
- Liter is common, but littering is frowned upon.

- People look for any excuse they can to wear winter clothes.
- The government shuts off water on occasion to conserve water.
- Toilet paper is thrown in the garbage, not in the toilet.
- Power lines are everywhere.

- Cutting people off in traffic is common and perfectly acceptable to the people being cut off.
- Graffiti is on almost every flat surface visible, but some of it looks very good and seems to be generally respected by the other graffiti "artists" in that they don't paint over each others "art."

- Tips aren't common and aren't expected unless you're in a nice restaurant, then they're included in the bill.
- The garbage man comes three times a week.
- The garbage is put in a little bin above the ground (probably to keep dogs from getting it).

- Helicopters are used by the uber rich to avoid traffic. They are quite common to see.
- You'd better like rice and beans. They're served with almost every meal.
- Entertainment generally consists of going to the mall. If it's a three day weekend it's a trip to the beach, despite being stuck in traffic for eight hours.
- Some pretty cool, unique birds can be seen and heard regularly.

- Ovens and washing machines are too small (especially when you have five children).
- The value of the currency is very volatile. It was 2.65 Reals to 1 USD last year. Now it is 3.89 BRL to 1 USD.
- The Brazilian President's approval rating is 8% which is the worst approval rating since numbers started being tracked in 1990.
- Rain storms are common in the summer and are often accompanied by lighting and thunder and power outages.
- Unprocessed foods are very inexpensive. The haul below cost about $12.50 USD.

- Mangoes are the best tasting fruit ever if they come from Brazil.
- Apples are better if they're from Washington.
- Fresh fruit can be found on public trees.

- Large cement walls are the norm for house fencings. Generally there is barbed wire, or cut glass at the top to stop people from climbing over.
- Roundabouts are very common, but the driver coming into it generally gets the right of way, rather than the person already in.
- There is no end to the variety of outlets used. Most of the below are found around the house we're living in.

- Most windows have bars over them to stop people from breaking in I suppose.
- Paying for parking is the standard everywhere including malls, grocery stores, and most main streets.
- The city never ends...it goes on forever.

And probably a bunch more things that I can't think of right now...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fair Enough

Fairs are kind of a big deal in Brazil. So much so that instead of having names of the week similar to other Latin based languages, their days of the week are called Second Fair (Segunda-feira) for Monday, Third Fair (Terça-feira) for Tuesday, etc. until Sixth Fair (Sexta-feira) for Friday. Saturday, is sábado (same as Spanish) and Sunday is domingo. Sunday is the first day, or "God's day" from the Latin "domini" which explains why Monday starts with the 2nd fair.

So when Caleb came into the room about a week ago and asked who wanted to go to the fair, his kids began screaming with excitement. My kids, likely remembering the Evergreen State Fair, which is less than two miles from our home in Snohomish, got excited as well.

Evergreen State Fair
Before letting things get too carried away, I had to break the news that a fair here, is closer to a farmer's market than an actual fair with rides and animals. Fortunately the boys were just happy to get out of the house so didn't seem to mind too much that they weren't going to see any races or shows.

Besides fruits and vegetables though, they did have some pretty good food to eat, and some tasty beverages. The gentleman below, for example, is squeezing sugar cane into a grinder to make juice. We ordered one of our servings with a pineapple (not the skin) pressed in along with it. Another serving was with lime. It was delicious.

There's some pretty good food made as well. Jett is eating a Brazilian pastel with (I believe) a catupiry filling. Other filling options include pizza, chicken, heart of palm (or palmito). There are a lot of different varieties. From what I can tell, they're all good.

And, of course, there are lots and lots of fruits and vegetables.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Why I'm In Brazil, Part I

OK,  it's been awhile since I've written. I tried previously to write the post about why I came to Brazil, but I just wasn't able to get my thoughts out onto the computer. So, I'll do what I tell my children to do when they are faced with a large task; break up the job into smaller pieces and tackle those one by one. There are many reasons why I came here, but in this post I'll just cover part of the reason.

I like business. Even more than business, I like the idea of running my own business. Even more than that I like the idea of running a profitable business. This is hard to explain, but the profitable part isn't so much about the money that comes from it (though that's a nice perk), as it is about the feeling gained from doing something that others validate through purchases. It's easy for people to say, "Oh that's a cool idea" or "I would totally buy that," but when a transaction of currency actually happens then you know it really is a cool idea that people would buy. Maybe other people who know what I'm talking about can explain it better in the comments.

I majored in business in my undergrad studies and then four years later went back to school and got an MBA. I have started a couple of other businesses (one of which is still operational, just not being actively worked on), but for different reasons neither one of them worked out, at least not to the point of me being satisfied with them. So I've been left with the desire to start something else, something new.

The "face" of my currently operating business What's In This Stuff

I also like traveling and seeing different parts of the world. I like learning about different cultures and meeting new people. According to the interwebs, I still have a lot of that to do. I have almost 90% of the world's countries to visit still.

So, putting those things together into one happy international business experience has always been very appealing to me. Up until now though, the opportunities weren't as visibly available. Bridget wrote about this topic on her blog a few months ago.

During spring break of last year I took Elliott to Singapore to visit my brother Shad. 

Shad owns and operates Amped Trampoline Park there. It was very fun to be in Asia for the first time, but I found that a large part of my interest was in the parks he was running. He offered to share his business inside information with me if I wanted to start my own park. I finally had a business I could do overseas!

Amped Trampoline Park

I talked with Bridget about the idea of starting a trampoline park and she was quickly on board. The next decision was where we would go. We considered several possibilities, but when I asked my now business partner Caleb if he would be interested in doing the business with me and he said yes, Brazil quickly became the destination. Caleb's wife is Brazilian and her family lives here so we had immediate connections.

The Beard family getting stuff done.

It turns out Brazil is a very difficult place to do business, so even though we wanted to get started right away we had to wait to get business licenses, a Brazilian bank account, visas, etc. Despite it being over a year since my visit to Singapore, now I'm here working to fulfill a dream of many years to start a business in a foreign country. I'll write more about the challenges of doing business here more in another post. 

Let me know if there's anything specific you'd like to know about the process of getting here or doing business here in the comments.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Weather You Like It or Not

Seattle, this year, has had one of the nicest months of June, weather wise, that I remember ever having. The average temperature so far has been 77°F (25°C) which I consider to be about perfect. The lake/pond near our house was just warm enough for swimming and BBQ began to be a staple at meal time. Though I looked forward to coming to Sao Paulo, I really didn't want to leave the perfect weather behind, mostly because it is just so rare in Seattle.

Our first full day here the temperature was 74°F (23°C). Almost perfect. It was as if the plane we flew out on just circled around a few times and then landed back in the same place we left from. The humidity level didn't perceptibly change and the temperature was very similar.

In the week we've been here, my phone has been telling me the highs and lows here and in Seattle and they have been pretty similar. It's been a bit cooler here, but the lows are a bit higher here too.

Yesterday was one of the colder days. In fact, we met with an owner of a warehouse that we were looking at and he told us that it was about as cold as it ever gets around here. Good thing I had worn my jacket. I would have felt I wasted the luggage space if I hadn't worn it on one of the coldest days of the year. It even rained lightly early in the day, so I truly felt at home.

Though the weather is similar here (at least now while it's winter here and summer there), the people act as if we're in a Canadian blizzard. A couple days ago we went to the Federal Police Office to register ourselves as residents and there were people who had dressed their kids with winter coats, mittens, and beanies. The high that day was 77°F (25°C).

The thing that took me most off guard going from summer to winter turned out to be the shortened days, rather than the weather. We arrived here on one of the shortest days of the year. Tonight, after reading scriptures and praying with my kids at about 8 p.m. they all went off to bed without me saying a word to them. If we were back home, they would have been up at least another couple hours without question.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Our Daily Routine

I haven't been active with this blog for a couple years, but since I've moved down to Brazil with my three boys (wife and daughters to come down in a couple months), it is probably time I picked things back up.

We just arrived on June 20th, three days ago, so we haven’t quite found a routine yet, but we’re working on it. We are staying with the Beard family, who have three children, two of whom go to school from about 7 a.m. to noon.

Rebecca and Isaac in their school uniforms shortly after getting home from school.

Yesterday was our first school day here, and since my kids aren’t enrolled yet, I put them to work at different stations around the house.

We have writing, math, and Portuguese. Each station lasts ½ hour and the boys are separated into different rooms so they don’t distract each other. At the writing station their primary focus is a daily journal. If they run out of things to write they can work on their penmanship or work on creative writing.

Jett at the writing station.

The math station is just a ½ hour using Khan Academy, which allows them to move at their own pace with very little supervision since each lesson has tutorials they can watch to learn about the math concept, and each problem has hints to help them get through it when they are stuck.

 Graeden at the Math station.

The Portuguese station is a set of lessons from Duolingo. The boys have to get 50 points which should take around ½ hour, but sometimes it can take a bit longer. Or, if the child isn’t very motivated, it can take hours as was the case with Jett yesterday. The consequence of being on longer than the assigned time is having brothers nagging you to hurry up because they want to play on the Xbox, which is used at that station.

 Elliott practicing his Portuguese with Benjamin looking on.

Today the internet was out most of the day so the only station they were able to complete was writing. I guess I'll have to find a way to get them educated even when the internet is down. Midwinter break starts next week so it will be at another three weeks before they begin school for real.

Going forward, I will probably write by topic rather than day to day stuff so let me know in the comments what kinds of things you're interested in hearing about.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lost Passport

It is nearly midnight and I have lost my passport. The day before I fly out on a two week, four country trip to work through next year’s business plan financials with the regional managers who have invited management from around their regions to join in. Hotels have been reserved, flights booked, and venues established. A lot of expense has gone into these meetings so that I can get everybody on the same page with their plans and then present the final outcomes next month, and I can’t find my passport. Not to mention all the effort that has gone into preparing to leave for this trip. Since Bridget is joining me she has made arrangements with several different families to watch our children while we are away. Everything is set…except for the passport. I try to figure out a solution, but nothing comes to me. I can’t spend my way out of it, because buying another ticket isn’t the issue, I just can’t get into another country. The only thing I can do is look for it. I tear the house apart looking but it is nowhere. Bridget is looking too, but we’re having no luck. Exhausted, nervous, and depressed I lie down and pray for help. I have a few ideas, but they bear no fruit.

Bridget has an idea that maybe I could get a new passport. The flight leaves at 11:40 a.m. A new passport is out of the question, but since we have no other options I figure I can apply for it and hopefully only miss the meetings scheduled in the Middle East. Of course that means I would probably have to pay for my own flight to London, but I would rather do that than face the consequences of just not making it at all.

The offices open up at 8 a.m. EST so I get up, after sleeping horribly for about three hours, and give them a call. Reporting my passport missing means it is invalid, even if I do find it now. The first appointment I can schedule is for September 11th. That’s enough time for me to make it to Europe…not all is lost. Still sucks, but better than not going at all. I ask if I can just show up at the offices this morning and hope somebody else doesn’t arrive so I can take their spot. I’m told that I can try if I want, but it’s not really advisable. Instead the lady on the other end of the line puts me on a waiting list and tells me they will call if something opens up. Not much hope, but at least it’s something.

I decide I will go to the Passport office and wait, even though my chances of getting in are slim. What else am I going to do this morning? So I pack as though I’m going and a couple hours later I head out. Traffic is about the worst I’ve ever seen it. Stop. And. Go. I need to fill out a couple forms for the passport people and since our printer doesn’t work I stop in the office (after waiting for construction crews to let my car pass). As I’m printing out the forms I get a call from the passport people saying to come in as soon as possible.

That was exciting. And would have been more so if “as soon as possible” wasn’t more sitting in traffic waiting to move. I use the time to fill out the forms. I call Bridget and have her look up some information for me, which she was fortunate enough to find and get back to me with.

When I finally get in to Seattle it is about 8:30 a.m. Only a half an hour or so later than their opening time. After driving the wrong way down a one way street looking for parking, I get to the office and they take my information right away. Then I wait for them to call me up. I know there is nothing I can do to speed things up so I just practice being happy and patient so the person that does call me up wants to help me as much as possible.

When it is finally my turn, I get a lady that I would love to have as an employee. She is very detail oriented, and pleasant. Her detail orientedness isn’t very good for me in this situation however. She notices that on my license my name is spelled Tymon and my passport was spelled Timon. Fortunately she just maks a few notes and is on to the fact that my passport picture is the same as the one on my lost passport. She says that would probably be a problem. Then she realizes my lost passport is only about 6 months old so she goes and checks with her Supervisor if that is OK. It is. Another blessing. Good thing I recently shaved the beard or I would probably have to go get a new picture. I’m now onto another period of waiting for the passport to be processed. I am told it will take about an hour and a half.

Now I am down to just missing my flight to Chicago where I have my layover to Abu Dhabi. Not the worst outcome. By 10:30 a.m. I have gotten my new passport and I am on my way to the airport. The self checker thing doesn’t let me get my boarding pass so I have to see an airline representative. I think it must be too late to check my luggage, but she doesn’t even seem to notice the boarding time and gets me right through. The security line is huge, but moves extremely fast. I get through a few minutes after the boarding time of the flight. I run through the terminal to get to my gate, as much to make it look like a movie as to arrive just in the nick of time for my flight…which is exactly what happens.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

While You Were Celebrating...

On New Year's Eve, while you were sleeping or partying, President Obama signed a bill that does away with due process allowing him to detain any person, including American citizens, without trial and for an indefinite amount of time using the guise of security for the country. If you are an Obama supporter keep in mind that the power to do this is given to the President so anybody who is elected from now on will be able to usurp their authority in this manner.

This bill has passed with relatively little fan fare. Perhaps it is because most people aren't terrorists so they don't think this applies to them. You may be surprised at what puts you on the "suspicion of terrorist" list. Shortly after 9/11 I was contacted by the FBI on suspicion of terrorism. An off duty police officer spotted the driver of a car taking pictures of the Oregon Coast Guard. He was able to get a few numbers off the license plate which happened to match those of my car. Under this new law I could have been detained indefinitely for this. Here are some other things that might get you on the list:

The following article puts into perspective the danger of this bill: http://my.firedoglake.com/davidswanson/2011/12/31/obama-crowned-himself-on-new-years-eve/

Join the FB page "Recall Every Congressman Who Voted for the NDAA" to stay updated on information related to this bill.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011


I hadn't planned on taking any pictures during my stay in Bahrain because I've been here before and took plenty of pictures last time. However, my hotel is beautiful and so I thought I'd share a few pics of the views I have here. This is the view outside my room's window:
This is the view on the other side of my room:
 And this is my bidet: