Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Making memories...

It just doesn't feel like "the holidays" around here. Not the holiday time that I am used to, anyway. I sit here, in my air conditioned house (worth every penny for that little gem!), listening to Christmas music to try to get in the mood. But, there is something strange about craving a popsicle instead of cocoa, wearing shorts instead of a sweater, and looking out the window to see lush, tropical flowers instead of a dormant yard- with or without snow. And while it has taken a little adjusting, we are looking forward to experiencing a whole new holiday season.

We began by spending Thanksgiving week on a trip up north. Where I come from, "up north" would likely mean colder temperatures, but this particular "northern" clime is situated near the equator, in Recife, Brazil. I have never felt such intense heat in my life! We bathed in sun screen, but each ended up with sunburns in various locations on our bodies. The little girls both had burns on the soft skin surrounding their eyes, and Tessa even burned the whites of her eyeballs! (She also came home with pneumonia, but that's another story...)

Can you see Tessa's sunburned eyes?!
A little too late for shades
Despite the discomfort, we had a good time (some more than others). Recife is a beautiful coastal city; rich in tradition and history. I could have explored the streets and markets for days--such sights, sounds, and smells I had never before seen! There were crowds of people--many with the most strikingly beautiful green eyes (apparently due to their Dutch heritage)--many hawking their wares; various caged animals (presumably for consumption), fruits and vegetables I can't even name, food vendors selling all sorts of snacks cooked to order on little hibachi style grills. Well maintained old buildings with stunning architectural detail meshed seamlessly with impressive modern edifices. Most of the streets were paved, but a few remained with the original cobblestone. It was a fascinating city!

Mercado São Jose
Sampling of the cool architecture
We spent Thanksgiving Day on the beach in Porto de Galinhas (Port of the Chickens) located about an hour outside of Recife. The town got it's name (or so I'm told) from it's history of slave trading. Back in the 1800s, after slave trading was abolished, plantation owners were still importing slaves, but they used the codeword, "chickens", to pass the word that a new shipment had arrived. Now, the town is FILLED with chickens--chicken statues, chicken art, even chicken shaped telephone booths. I wish I would have taken more pictures, and perhaps bought a few chicken souvenirs, but sadly, Tessa was quite ill by the time we headed to the shops. I think the second day in a row of oppressive heat and  point blank sun exposure was the thing that did her in. She was having a great time on the beach all morning; building sand castles and boogie boarding in the waves, but after a delicious lunch of fresh fish and french fries, the fever struck and she was down for the count.

On our way to Porto de Galinhas
Boogie board!!
While in Porto de Galinhas, we were able to take a short boat ride out to some natural "pools", created by reefs not far off the shore. We got in the clear water, and immediately, beautiful tropical fish swarmed our legs. It was a little disconcerting at first, but very cool! We got a bottle full of fish food and we were each able to feed the fish. It was fascinating to watch them. I can still hear the sucking/slapping sound that their little bodies made as they all tried to jump over each other and out of the water, vying for tiny pellets. One even latched onto my finger--what a strong suction cup of a mouth!

Dad and Keira swimming with the fishes
We were very pleased to spend some time during the week with some new friends, Silvio and Andrea, and their son, Vicinius. Silvio served in the same mission as Tom, although they were never companions. They treated us like family, taking us around the city, to Porto de Galinhas, to church on Sunday, and feeding us a lovely meal on Sunday afternoon at their home. More than once, we (all 9 of us) crowded into their two door hatch back for a ride through the city. (I had to suspend my strict seat-belt rule on these trips--I've had to suspend it several times since arriving here in Brazil. Maybe the relaxed, layed-back Brazilian attitude is rubbing off on me? I could think of worse things to happen...)
New friends

Over-stuffed car. All that was missing were the clown costumes!
Chicken twin!
On the third day, we decided our pale bodies couldn't handle the sun anymore, and we opted instead, to spend the day in the huge new mall, Rio Mar. It was a gorgeous, modern building, all decorated for Christmas. We walked through Latin America's largest indoor Christmas tree, interacting with elves in a magical cave within the tree, coming out the other side to meet none other than Papai Noel. Tessa was the only one game to sit on his lap. I was a little worried when he began speaking to her and she looked back at me, confused. I went up and told Santa (in Portuguese, thank you very much) that Tessa did not speak Portuguese. He asked what language she did speak, and when I told him English, he began to speak to her in English! But, of course! Santa knows the languages of all the little children of the world!

 Papai Noel!
In this mall, there was a fun-park type place with arcade games, bumper cars, and even a bowling alley. We bowled a round. This is when it became evident how sick Tessa really was. She bowled one frame, and then just wanted to sit and snuggle with me the rest of the time. Poor girl. At this point, I still thought she was only suffering from heat stroke. We continued to drag her around the rest of the week, returning to the mall for bumper cars and arcade games. (She actually perked up a little for these.) We never made it back to the beach...and everyone was okay with that. Overall, I think it was a fun trip--and what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?

Tom was the big winner of the night--winning a whopping 1,000 tickets with one spin of the wheel! We are so proud!!

Recife is a three hour plane ride from Sao Paulo, and Sao Paulo is about a three hour drive from Sao Carlos, so it was a long trip there and back. We had to leave our hotel at 5:30am to catch our flight. We were not able to recharge any of the kids game systems, as the entire city of Recife is wired for 220 Volt outlets (we required 110 V, which our house in Sao Carlos has). Despite the lack of anything to do, and the lack of sleep, everyone did amazingly well on our return flight. But, no FAMILY VACATION can go smoothly (just watch the movie), and when we finally made it to our car, after waiting for a bus at the airport for half an eternity! we found the van battery to be dead. Now this is a brand new battery, purchased the week before we left for the trip. There were no lights left on or doors left open. We think it had something to do with the van's crazy alarm system  (again--another story). We had to wait until the bus driver returned to give us a jump. Then, we weren't able to get the car in neutral to push it out, and the van cables couldn't reach from the bus to the front of our van. Finally, the bus driver drove around to a restricted area on the other side of the fence that we were parked against, and carefully threaded the cables up and over the chain link fence (and under the barbed wire) to jump start our van and get our poor, weary family on our way for the long drive back to Sao Carlos. As my nephew, Aaron would say, "Making memories..."

Making memories

More memories
 Neat art gallery/shop filled with pieces by local artisans.
 This was one of Jaden's favorites.

We were grateful to be back home (even if it is only a temporary home), and within the next few days, decorated for Christmas and received a letter from Santa with our special Christmas gift this year--tickets for a four night Christmas cruise! Santa wisely realized that we would not be able to bring a lot of presents home with us when we return in August, and so he is giving us a much better gift--the gift of family together time...the gift of new experiences...the gift of memories. Stay tuned....

1 comment:

  1. How fun!! Your trips are like ours.....never without one of the kids getting sick:(. You all look so TAN!!!! Miss you!