Archive for the 'South America' Category


February 21, 2018

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. It’s been a short but productive few days in Brasilia with not too much to report. I’m nearly finished with the survey and will work with the concierge to make some phone calls today for complicated auto services. Then I’ll go to Rio de Janeiro!


There’s a great craft beer scene here in Brasilia and I went on a successful mission yesterday afternoon to a different area of town find some bottles of this local beer I’ve been enjoying. I’m very excited to share them with some friends back home.

I’ve been speaking lots of Portuguese. It’s easy (and necessary) to practice here because most people don’t speak any English, so it’s Portuguese or nothing at all. In other places, people will start speaking English if they can once they hear my slow phrases, but here it’s not possible. Everyone has been so patient, encouraging, and helpful in conversation. Also, mobile data has been working well, so if I need to look up a word, google translate is available. Portuguese is my favorite language to hear. I love the particular sounds and melody of it. My ears and brain are feeling very pleased.


I had an acai bowl at lunch to save room to have the rodizio with all different meats at dinner. I tried many different types of meat including a chicken heart, which I didn’t like, but the rest were good. It was an interesting experiment to have a bite of many different cuts at once as they are all so different. And I learned “medium rare,” “mal passado.”





Olá novamente! Working in Brasília

February 18, 2018

Dear Family and Friends,

Hello again! Hope you are well. I’m writing from Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. This trip is a short, unexpected survey and I’ll be here and in Rio de Janeiro this week.


If you’ve been following this blog you may remember that I went to Brazil before, three and a half years ago in the summer of 2014. I am excited head back to one of my favorite cities, Rio, where I will be especially careful due to new security concerns (the military is policing the streets after an increase in violence) and explore this new one, Brasilia.


The flights went smoothly, maybe even better than average. The flight attendant gave me two vodkas for the price of one on the flight to Miami, I watched Men’s Olympic figure skating at a restaurant during my layover, and then I was switched to the exit row 18 on the flight to Brasilia. 18 is a lucky number, and exit row seats have a lot of room.


Arrival was also smooth and the hotel is nice. It was about noon after I showered and got ready for the day so I went exploring the monuments. It’s the middle of the winter in Boston, and it was fantastic to walk around in the warmth. I wore a hat and sunscreen on my face, but some other parts got burned.


I saw a really cool exhibit at the national museum, including some enchanting surrealistic photo realism paintings by Fábio Magalhães (warning: click this to see his site only if you don’t mind a lot of gore) and visited the metropolitan cathedral, the national congress, etc. all along one center strip of this planned city. Many of the monuments and buildings in the city are designed by Oscar Niemeyer. After wandering for a few hours I was getting really tired and ready for a late lunch.


I ubered (so easy!) to one of the survey malls to eat lunch, drink a delicious lunch beer, and then work in the afternoon. After working, I got a pedicure. I usually try to get nails done or hair wash and dry in different places. This one was great! It’s fascinating how different cultures approach these treatments. This was also a good way to stay up, to kick jet lag in the rear.


Then I went home, explored the hotel, had a small dinner, and slept so well, for so long. One thing I really like about survey. Without normal pressures of life, I sleep a ton. I woke up a bit confused about the time. All of a sudden, the clocks said two different things. I learned later today was “fall back” a change in daylight savings time. Fortunately, time didn’t really matter today.


After slowly getting up, I had breakfast at Casa do Pão de Queijo (house of cheese bread – see above) and then went to work in a supermarket and then in the upscale Iguatemi mall. Dinner was at Fogo de Chão, which is convenient because it’s near my hotel) but I wasn’t hungry enough for rodizio so enjoyed the extensive salad bar. I’ll try all the different meats another day. Boa noite!


Adios Venezuela!

December 3, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well. Today was another productive day in Caracas. Not too much to report, it was a normal survey day. A better than normal survey day! Things went smoothly. WP_20151203_10_16_37_ProMiguel and I started early this morning (in a different car, of course) and went to a bunch of markets, restaurants, malls, and, auto service centers. I saw this very busty mannequin! Miguel and I had an awesome lunch together, and then I had a meeting during which I gained another perspective on living in Venezuela. Then worked more at the hotel, went to the gym, and ate dinner.

Tomorrow I’m going home! Thanks for reading 🙂

Love, Annie

Working day in Venezuela

December 3, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was an interesting and very productive day in Caracas. It’s a difficult situation here for everyone, especially local people. WP_20151202_10_57_21_ProPrices are rising and a lot of things, especially imported goods, are now more than ever too expensive for many people to buy. I knew but did not really understand, that many goods that we use everyday are just not available here! WP_20151202_12_39_30_ProThe whole day I was not able to find things like shaving cream, shampoo, toilet paper, soap, tampons, or pads. I have no idea what then women do. Ironically, at one of the stores in the mall there was an entire aisle of hangers for the shower. I hear the phrase “no hay” quite often…there aren’t any.

At the first market, there was a large line. I got in it, but soon realized it was the line to buy milk. WP_20151202_12_20_57_ProAt the same market, I saw a little fight over rice, which is generally unavailable. There was however, a lot of of honey and soy milk. at the next market, there was a line around the corner for diapers.

Miguel and I went to a few more markets which sold very expensive imported goods. WP_20151202_13_03_28_ProChicken and beef are difficult to find. At the tire store, there aren’t any tires! During the middle of the day I worked at Sambil, an enormous mall. There were a lot of empty shelves. And no soap in the bathrooms! This is an issue because hand washing is an important thing to do.

WP_20151202_16_04_46_ProAfter Sambil mall, the car broke down on an exit ramp. Miguel’s friend Carlo came with a battery. They jump started the car and I surveyed the rest of the day with Carlo while Miguel went to see about his car. I hope the issue is not serious and that he doesn’t need a new battery. To get a new car battery, there’s a two day long line.

After work I worked out at the hotel and had dinner. I’m exhausted and there’s another long day tomorrow!

Love, Annie

Back to South America!

December 1, 2015

Hi Family and Friends,

Hope all is well and that you had a nice Thanksgiving. Hola from Caracas, Venezuela! I left my apartment this morning at 3:10am and can’t believe it’s still the same day. The flights here were easy. I started an awesome book, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and nodded off a little on the planes. WP_20151201_15_22_01_ProOn the way to Miami, the woman behind me kept touching my hair and side trying to get me to … chat? Not in English. Not in Spanish. It was a little weird. The woman next to her kept telling her to stop bothering me, but she didn’t.

I met our contact Miguel here in Caracas at the airport and he took me to the hotel. After lunch I did some work and then went to the gym. WP_20151121_15_52_18_ProThen I ate dinner. So far, things have been really smooth and hopefully tomorrow I’ll  have the same luck. However, the food so far has been pretty terrible. I’m definitely still a little spoiled from the food in Argentina.

Speaking of Argentina, my last day in Buenos Aires was great. WP_20151121_18_15_51_ProI worked and then went to La Boca area for a late lunch (chorizo and salad), and then walked around Puerto Madero and the downtown area. I ate some gelato half maracuja and half marzipan with red fruits. mmmmm. I went to my favorite wine bar to drink wine and taste cheese one more time before heading to the airport. In the taxi to the way to the airport, I had a discussion with the driver about Pink Floyd. All in Spanish! Cool!!

Love, Annie

Más Argentina!

November 20, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

This was certainly a short and sweet trip. I fly home tomorrow night and arrive in Boston Sunday afternoon. Back to the office on Monday. The following week I have an even shorter trip to Caracas so stay tuned :). Yesterday I worked all day and it rained SO HARD. WP_20151120_19_29_05_ProI spent the morning in a breakfast coffee shop. The hotel provides breakfast vouchers that work at different cafes all within three blocks of the hotel. This one is across the street from my hotel and they have a great yogurt, fruit, and granola plate. After two days of bready breakfasts at a different, yet highly recommended coffee shop that didn’t offer fruits with the voucher breakfast, I needed something fresh.

WP_20151120_18_40_17_ProTurns out, the guy who works at the yogurt and fruit coffee shop went to Colby College-seems pretty far to go for an Argentino! He is a little bit older and did not know my brother. I guess that explains the hip hop brunch-time playlist?

After working in the shop for a while, I went back to my room and made some phone calls, which was super frustrating. WP_20151119_14_08_03_ProI went to lunch at a little empanada restaurant and ate an empanada, salad, and a glass of wine. Wine because I was that frustrated with the phone calls, and because drinking helps my Spanish, and in turn, with the phone calls. It worked. At lunch I started a new book — I finished a book called The Point of Vanishing by Howard Axelrod and now I’m reading Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. The two books are extremely different but I feel a connection with both.

In the evening, I went first to a nearby wine bar and then to Las Pizzaras restaurant to meet a friend, Kyra, who I had not seen in 12 years (!!) WP_20151120_00_49_28_ProKyra and I were roommates at a semester-school called CITYterm as juniors in high school. During this semester, New York City was our classroom. I’ve been “reading buildings” and considering the spaces in the 100+ cities I’ve visited on this job as we learned to do there. WP_20151120_00_51_58_Pro (1)It’s a great program, please let me know if you want to know more about it. Kyra is from Texas but lives here! It was SO nice to catch up. We had a decadent meal–Pizzaras is a trendy bistro in an industrialish room with high ceilings and dishes that change all the time depending on what’s fresh. They have chalkboards rather than menus as you can see. WP_20151120_17_12_02_ProWe also had two bottles of wine and an awesome time.

So this whole day I felt totally hung over until the late afternoon. But between bouts of nausea I was able to do a lot of work and then go on an awesome, exhausting walk down to Recoleta Cemetery, where a lot of people are buried, including Eva Perón. WP_20151120_17_34_05_ProAfter the cemetery I walked around Recoleta neighborhood, which is really beautiful, fancy, and fast paced, kind of reminds me of uptown Manhattan. Palermo, where i’m staying, reminds me of Boston’s South End. Buenos Aires is enormous and really interesting and I am just realizing this because I had not had time to explore yet on a long walk. I walked back to Palermo and ate at a little tapas place and sat outside. WP_20151120_18_21_53_ProA woman sitting inside told me to hook my bag over my arm, not just smush it to the side. I didn’t think it was going to be snatched since it was between me and the window, but I followed her directions. She might have thought I was an idiot, and I might have thought she was old and crabby.

I was going to go out tonight but I’m so beat. Tomorrow I’ll finish work and then I have no idea yet what I’m going to do! Maybe see the colorful buildings in Boca neighborhood. Hope you are having a nice weekend!

Love, Annie


Working in Buenos Aires

November 18, 2015

Hi Family and Friends,

The past few days have been solid and productive working days in Buenos Aires. The city feels very vibrant. WP_20151118_21_57_40_ProI had some meetings during which I learned a lot about the economy here and the housing markets, and spent a lot of time in the supermarkets and malls. Normal survey days, nothing too crazy to report. Pictured is some chorizo from tonight’s extremely indulgent dinner at La Choza restaurant in Palermo. Hope all is well!

Love, Annie

Buenas Noches, Buenos Aires

November 16, 2015

Hola Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. WP_20151116_15_02_39_ProThis is the first night of a week-long trip in Buenos Aires! It’s been a while since I slept properly so please excuse the brevity.

The flight was great. I had an excellent Cobb salad for dinner in New York-JFK before the 10 hour flight to Buenos Aires. On the plane I didn’t sleep well. The guy in front of me had the full three seats to himself. I’ve had that before. This time I did not get so lucky but that was okay. I didn’t watch any movies, I just read and zoned out. I had forgotten how dry airplanes are.

The line at immigration was long. WP_20151116_15_58_15_ProThe taxi to the hotel was also long. And it’s nice and warm here! The woman at the taxi stand seemed to like something that smelled near me and asked me what was the name of the perfume I was wearing. I made my first Spanish joke of the trip–told her it was cafe cortado. Hahahaha. I wasn’t wearing any, but was drinking a coffee.

I settled at the hotel and took a much needed shower. The hotel is great. Then took a walk around Palermo neighborhood. WP_20151116_15_49_03_ProI ate milanesa for lunch. Milanesa is meat, pounded and then fried. I remembered the alfajores, steak, and wine, but I forgot about milanesa sandwiches. Oh man. They are great. I have to watch it because last time I was in Argentina I gained 20 lbs. WP_20151116_15_59_48_ProThat was over three months AND it was 9 years ago, but still. I don’t remember the city of Buenos Aires at all.

I continued my walk and got an espresso and kept walking. I went into some stores but had to be buzzed in. I asked about this situation and apparently there are a lot of robberies. I went back to the hotel to work a bit, and then went on another walk. WP_20151116_19_08_57_ProI had a wine and cheese tasting which was fine for dinner. Then walked more and more to observe nighttime in Palermo. I had another drink outside at a different bar in a crowded spot. Lots of people out for a Monday night, more than expected broken sidewalks, lots of people buying fruit at small fruit stores, some election signs but almost all in support of Macri, fancy apartment buildings with bare lobbies, metal bars over most stores, and tons of restaurants with outdoor seating.

Tomorrow will be a full day of work!

Love, Annie

Day off in Polanco

February 8, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hey there from Houston. I’m hanging out at an airport restaurant and in about an hour I’ll board the plane to Northwest Arkansas! IMG_3177This morning, I got to the airport in Mexico City very early. I anticipated traffic on the way to the airport, but there was none and it took only twenty minutes to get there. The ride from the airport to the hotel on Friday was about an hour.

IMG_3142Yesterday was a great day off in Mexico City. I slept late and then took a walk around Polanco, the area around my hotel. Polanco is fancy, clean, and relatively safe. I had a cappuccino at a coffee shop and started a new book. Then I went to an electronics store to purchase a much needed battery charger for my phone. IMG_3141For a kind of brunch, I ate a quesadilla from a stand at an awesome outdoor weekend market in Parque Lincoln and drank fresh orange juice.

Satisfied from breakfast and full of energy, I rented a bike and explored Chapultepec park. I had planned to bike to the Chapultepec castle but missed it, and that’s okay. It’s pretty big but somehow I missed it. I’ll just have to come back. IMG_3147 (2)I returned the bike and explored more of Polanco on foot. I stopped to do some shopping because I passed one of my favorite stores that they don’t have in Boston, and because the dollar is pretty strong right now.

After the shopping, I had a michelada and ceviche at an outdoors bar. I met a father and son who were from Puerto Rico and living here in Mexico City for four years. IMG_3153The dad seemed less than thrilled about the length of his assignment.

In the evening, I went out to a mezcaleria to learn about and drink some mezcal. Most mezcal is made in the Mexican state of Oaxaca (pronounced “wahaka”). I learned that it’s made the same way as tequila but with a different agave. There are many different types of agave. IMG_3164Tequila is made from blue agave. Mezcal is made from the other agaves. Mezcal generally has a smoky flavor, but there are of course a ton of different varieties of Mezcal. It seems as though tequila is just one of the kinds of Mezcal. Generally, the alcohol content in tequila is slightly less than the alcohol content in Mezcal but just by a few percentage points, and of course this varies between brands. IMG_3172I’m not sure why tequila became a super popular type of alcohol while mescal remains more exotic and less widely available, at least in the US. Apparently exports are increasing. Mezcal is usually consumed straight and NOT put in cocktails. The bars I’ve been to have clearly been doing it wrong.

IMG_3143At the mezcaleria, I tried three different kinds of Mezcal all with a distinct flavor and ate a traditional Oaxacan dish that used the same ingredients that you would probably expect in Mexican food but in a slightly different format. It was delicious… you can’t really go wrong with melted cheese, beans, peppers, and avocado. After a short walk, I had an espresso back at the hotel and played computer for the rest of the night. All in all it was a great, relaxing day.

Arkansas should be interesting… ! I hope you had a nice weekend and for those in Boston, good luck with the snow.

Love, Annie

adios carmen, hello mexico city!

February 7, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice weekend. After a morning at Wal Mart, my colleague and I had a nice lunch at Mosto Beer House. Such an expat bar. At this place, there was no beer list but only beer pairings with the different pizzas on the menu. We were pretty surprised that a place that calls itself a beer house would not have its own beer list, but then remembered that Ciudad del Carmen may just be full of weird menus. IMG_3124The pizzas were good and the beers were excellent. Lunch was awesome overall.

After lunch, we worked a bit more and finished the training, and then I headed to the airport for my flight to Mexico City. The flight was delayed because the airport in Mexico City was too busy, but it wasn’t so bad. The hotel here is absolutely gorgeous. I went out around 11 pm for a michelada and a snack at a bar nearby. I sat and drank my beer, people watched, and just enjoyed the atmosphere … I haven’t felt so relaxed, comfortable, and just content for a while. For a snack I ordered some tortilla soup that was SO delicious. I felt so happy. I’ve really missed the survey routine. IMG_3128A gorgeous hotel in walking distance to great bars… I feel like I’m back in action. I don’t even need to survey Mexico City! I almost wish I did.

The training was wonderful, and I loved my time with my colleague, but wow, I had forgotten how much I love exploring new places on my own. I finished my small meal with a tequila that was served with tomato juice on the side (apparently it’s called sangrita) and was invited to join the men at the table next to me. They work together at what seemed like a startup printing company, and here I am at 3 in the morning after a few more tequilas and some great conversation. The evening was awesome.

I’m looking forward to a relaxing and fun day tomorrow!

Love, Annie