What’s in a Name? For Brazilians, A Lot

Her name was Murjashihaway - HBO Girls Season 2

I love a good name. In high school, they were fairly easy to come by. There were Kastles and Jansons and of course the unlikely mashups like Kimberlynn and R-Pats. (OK, maybe that last one’s a lie, but it’s honestly not much of a stretch.) We did not, however, have a Petroswickonicovick Wandeckerkof da Silva Santos or a Creedence Clearwater Couto or a Colapso Cardíaco. But I didn’t grow up in Brazil, where, it turns out, names like these are surprisingly run-of-the-mill.

The recent trend in Brazil toward complex, America-pop-culture referencing and generally tongue-twistingly long names was highlighted in a highly entertaining story in Sunday’s New York Times.

Carrying an extraordinary name is remarkably widespread in Brazil. Glance at the Facebook timelines of Brazilian friends. Strike up a conversation at a Sunday afternoon barbecue. Or merely stand in line at a notary public and listen to a pencil-pusher call out the people waiting for documents to be stamped.

You will be awed by some of the names you hear.

Mike Tyson Schwarzenegger Pradella. Errolflynn Paixão. Charlingtonglaevionbeecheknavare dos Anjos Mendonça, a 31-year-old plumber who prefers to go by Chacha, melodically pronounced Sha-sha in Portuguese.

Wow! I’d go by Chacha, too. I can only imagine what the average roll call sounds like. It must take hours.

I think I’m pretty happy to stick with my six-letter-total name. But if we’re ever in Brazil together, you can call me Slothscuriosimol Amelie Gallinas Fionachai Arquotto.

P.S. The image above is from one of my favorite scenes from Season 2 of HBO’s Girls. Hannah writes this as the opening for her book to try to force herself out of writer’s block.  It’s now my go-to reference for creative blocks. Oh, and there’s a T-Shirt.

Summer Bucket List #2: Firsts

Summer Bucket List #2: Go to Catalina Island

Summer Bucket List #2: Go to Catalina Island

Summer Bucket List #2: Go to Catalina Island

Summer Bucket List #2: Go to Catalina Island


I was starting to think I might give in to this whole, “it’s technically fall now” idea, but it seems at least in Southern California, Mother Nature isn’t quite ready to accept that idea either. Summer is still here, my friends – and so is my Summer Bucket List.

My latest adventure (Summer Bucket List item No. 2) took me for the first time to the shores of Catalina Island. While I’ve spent many a lazy beach day staring at the island from afar and even taken several SCUBA diving trips to waters just off of its coastline, in my 10 years as a SoCal resident, I’d never actually set foot on shore.

Being that it was the boy’s and my anniversary, we opted for the quieter Two Harbors side of the island and spent the day kayaking (which I’m happy to report went swimmingly despite my tendency to be overbearing in kayaks), checking out the scenery and eating at the only restaurant in the town.

At dusk, we hiked up to a viewpoint above the back side of Two Harbors’ two harbors. The sun began setting over the mountains and I whipped out every camera in my possession while the boy tried to usher me up another hill to a second lookout area. After two dozen photos and many more urgings from the boy that we climb to the higher lookout, I relented. We climbed to the top – me singing “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” the whole way (this isn’t as weird as it sounds if you consider that the epic scenery pretty much forces you to go straight to “Sound of Music” references) — and then this happened :)

I said yes.

Summer Bucket List #2: Go to Catalina Island

Summer Bucket List #23: Disneyland Daze

Summer Bucket List #23: Disneyland


The last time I went to Disneyland, I was 16. I was on a trip with my high school orchestra and justifiably (I think) confused about why we weren’t visiting the beach during our short reprieve from the Arizona desert.

I’ve never really been Disneyland’s No. 1 fan. I think it’s an amazing place full of fun rides and inventive lands, but when the cost easily competes with what I’d pay to go on a trip to one of the real places depicted in “small world,” I have to draw the line.

But despite my ambivalence toward “The happiest place on Earth,” my interest was recently piqued when I remembered I still had this on my Summer Bucket List: “23. Indulge in a local tourist trap.” Even more enticing, my best friend and favorite theme-park companion was in town and my fabulous “cast member” roommate was able to get us in for free! Sold.

Arriving late (for Disneyland standards), we were thrilled to discover it was actually a pretty quiet day at the park and quickly bebopped around from the new Cars Land in California Adventure to Disneyland classics like Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean. We also discovered, after seeing several people dressed in swanky retro attire, that it was “Dapper Day” at the park and spent a good amount of time drooling over the various ensembles. (I was smarting a bit about that one since I love to take any excuse to dawn a retro outfit.) We ended the day with a bang, first watching the fireworks display and then the spectacular World of Color show.

While I don’t think I’ll ever become an annual-pass-holder, I was completely and utterly smitten with my day at the park. I didn’t realize what a treat it would be to experience Disneyland as an adult. Taking moments to consider all the amazing ingenuity and creativity that has gone into the place, I appreciated it that much more. In its own small way, Disneyland may have made a No. 1 fan out of me after all.

Hammock Dreams

Me napping in a hammock at the Red Sea in Egypt

All my life I’ve loved hammocks. My all-time dream is to travel to a beachy destination that stays nice and warm through the night, sleep in a hammock right on the beach and then wake up in the morning, grab my surfboard and hit the waves! I’ve had some experiences pretty close to this in Egypt and Colombia, but so far, I’m still waiting for my full dream scenario to come true. In the meantime, I’ve decided that I need to quell my hammock obsession by taking a nap in one at some point this summer (thus Summer Bucket List item No. 18). But even that poses a bit of a challenge as my apartment, while nestled in a nice little courtyard, isn’t quite set up for a permanent hammock. And my other option – sneaking into a hammock display at the local World Market store – doesn’t sound too appealing or relaxing.

So I was very excited to see this DIY hammock idea from Design Sponge, which not only gives me an excuse to buy some of those fancy towel/blanket/things I’ve been seeing around lately but also a fun way to check No. 18 off my Summer Bucket List.

Summer Bucket List #9: U.S. Open of Surfing Safari

U.S. Open of Surfing 2012

I may have had a wheezy cough and I may have only stayed for a little more than an hour, but I finally made it to the U.S. Open of Surfing! I’ve been several times in years past and while it can be a bit hectic, it’s always a good time. This year, the sponsors – which included Hurley, Converse and Nike — and the always hilarious commentators really upped the ante. The waves even put on a decent show (which isn’t always the case) and the boy and I saw a couple surfers do some amazing aerials and 360 turns. And of course, I couldn’t leave without getting a little swag on the way out – free Hurley hat included!

That does it for Summer Bucket List item No. 9, but I still have a long way to go before the summer is officially over. Perhaps, I’ll just have to make summer last just a little bit longer …

Two Weeks in Guatemala


Finally sharing some photos with you guys today from my trip to Guatemala!

I was lucky enough to spend two weeks filming two documentary shorts for Good Neighbors USA, a humanitarian non-profit based in Los Angeles, CA, where I work as their managing editor/brand specialist. The trip was a whirlwind of back-to-back filming and photography assignments, and one of the very best parts of the experience was that I got to work with two amazing girls: videographer Kylie Turley and photographer Mimi Yip. Together, the three of us spent every day traveling to film the stories of three children and their families, spending sunrise to sunset together. Each day, we saw firsthand the extreme poverty that is so prevalent in Guatemala but that you’re so used to seeing only through pictures or videos. It was surreal to actually be there in person, meeting the families and kids, seeing their living conditions and hearing their stories. We also met the wonderful staff of Good Neighbors Guatemala (our affiliate field office) and saw how many dedicated people it takes to start helping affect change; they work so hard to bring education, health care, and safe living standards to these communities. The Los Angeles office I work in focuses on fundraising and marketing, so this was my first venture out to the community projects where I could truly see donors’ money being put to action. The kids, the schools, the families, and their everyday living conditions…it was eye-opening in every way.

But it wasn’t all about work! We did get a weekend off in between shooting and headed out to Lake Atitlan to ride horses and sail around the volcanoes, and then to Antigua to shop all of the handmade goods at the marketplace. It was an amazing, amazing trip overall and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to go and for all of the incredible people I got to spend so much time with.

Here are some highlights from the trip…

Kylie & Mimi filming and taking photos of 8-year-old Maria as she made fresh tortillas in her home with her mother.


Kylie filming some adorable kids at an elementary school in Patzicia, Guatemala.

Students attending class at a Good Neighbors school in Patzicia, Guatemala.

At the Antigua marketplace

Volcanoes at Lake Atitlan…I could’ve just stood there and stared at them forever!

Horseback riding in San Pedro around Lake Atitlan

Some of the very sweet kids we met in Acatenango, a village about 1 hour away from Guatemala City

Kylie and Mimi back in action at a school in Patzicia

Filming an interview with the Capul Sian family in Loma Blanca

Bringing cookies and bread to a family in La Fragua

Beautiful Antigua

Two little boys play on a hill in Acatenango

Couldn’t have spent 24 hours/day with two cooler girls

Cutting cake for our last day of work…so many thanks to the staff at Good Neighbors Guatemala!

To see all of the photos from the trip (and learn more about the non-profit I work for, go here.

Have you guys been to Guatemala? Or done any traveling elsewhere lately? Being able to do this was easily one of the most wonderful, educational, and memorable experiences of my life!

Summer Bucket List #8: Back in the Newport Groove

Back Bay bike ride: Northside

I’d never really understood the appeal of Newport’s Back Bay. I’d always driven by the swampy grasslands staring  at the multimillion dollar houses up on the cliffs and wondered, “Why would anyone buy an outrageous house overlooking a swamp when the beach is right there?!”

So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and cross off Summer Bucket List item No. 8 (ride my bike someplace new) while also finally give the Back Bay the chance it deserves.

I must admit, I’m still a little stumped about why people buy multimillion dollar homes overlooking the bay, but I do think – for the first time – I finally started to understand why people visit it at all. There’s actually quite a bit of beauty to be had there. Lots of birds and grasslands. It almost feels as if you’re taking a jaunt through the bayou rather than opulent Newport Beach – that is until you reach a clearing with a perfect view of Fletcher Jones Motorcars (said with an affected British accent) and its fleet of Mercedes. Still the Southern end of the bay is a quiet refuge with only the occasional reminders of civilization. During my 15-mile bike ride (making the loop from my house in Corona del Mar), I came across joggers, couples and their newborns out for a stroll, bikers both accomplished and amateur and a cute little group of ducks. I finished my ride at an RV park beach that seemed straight out of a movie – complete with giant water slides, a plastic whale, all kinds of rentals and a swing set.

All in all, it was the perfect afternoon adventure – and I think I’ll look at the Back Bay with just a little more admiration from now on.