Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Very Merry Christmas, Indeed!

We had a fantastic time on our Christmas cruise, even though it didn't feel like Christmas. I am glad that we weren't here for Christmas, because I would have tried to make it like our usual Christmases, and I would have failed. I would have blamed this failure on Brazil, and I would have cried for home. Instead, everyone had a wonderful time together! And, although I am looking forward to returning to our normal Christmas traditions next year, this was definitely a Christmas to remember!

Getting my "drunk" on (with Virgin Pina Coladas) before we even left the port!
All the drinks were free on this particular line. They were glad to see us coming. We tried to drink extra to make up for the lack of alcohol, so we could get our money's worth. haha

Ready to sail--cast off party in the rain.
We cast off from Santos (near Sao Paulo). I think it is perpetually rainy/misty here. But the rest of the cruise, there wasn't a cloud in the sky!

Checking out the boat--let's get this party started!

First stop--Buzios. Absolutely gorgeous!!

We took a tour boat out to 3 different beaches of Buzios for some snorkeling.

"Snorkeling" a.k.a. "swimming with gear"
(There was nothing to see--but it was still fun!)

The big kids got to go to the late shows every night, where Jaden perfected his ability to order drinks.
One night, Tessa decided that she wanted to stay up for the show, just like the big kids. Tom went back to the room with Keira. She had a hard time keeping her eyes open. But, she was NOT tired! This was the night that they had a stand-up comedian. I don't know what he was saying, but the drinks were sure good!

Santa came!
Hand sewn stockings.
Note to self: Next time you move to a foreign country for a year, don't forget to pack the stockings!

 Christmas Day on Ilha Bella.
We took a bus to a beautiful waterfall, and after slathering up with greasy mosquito repellent, we got to get in the waterfall and...

slide down the natural waterslide that the waterfall created! So fun!
We met some Mormons there. They spotted us right off--maybe it was the one piece swim suits. haha. They wanted to take pictures with us. I guess because we are from Utah. I don't know. Now, I wish we would have taken pictures with our camera. They were nice.

 Swimming at Ilha Bella

Angra dos Reis--our 3rd stop.
We took a boat out to see South America's largest population of Bottle-nosed dolphins.
It was really impressive. We were surrounded by them. (The pictures aren't that great in thumbnail form) Then we went swimming in the deep ocean again. This time, there was a jelly fish in the water with Keira and I. As I was trying to swim back to the boat, everyone was yelling, "Aqua Vida" and telling us to hurry. Tom didn't know what "aqua vida" meant, but the people sounded anxious, so he kept yelling for me to hurry. I thought they were going to leave me. I am not a strong swimmer and I was trying to hurry as fast as I could, but the waves were pushing me away from the boat, and I was dragging Keira. Everyone yelling at me did not help. It was not until I got back in the boat and the captain pointed out the jelly fish that I understood what all the commotion was about. It freaked Tessa out for some reason, and she wouldn't get back in the water after that. Later, at the beach, I kept assuring her that the jelly fish didn't come close to the shore, trying to entice her into the water. She pointed to the water, and said, "what is that?" It was a jelly fish. Doh! 

Zip line into the ocean at Angra dos Reis.
(Thankfully, Tessa temporarily forgot about the jelly fish)
When you hit the water (hard), you go skipping along the surface for a while like a jet ski. I had on a 2-piece bathing suit. I was skimming along backwards. My bottoms came off. Woo!

Our ship in the background. Notice Tessa is NOT in the water!
Tired, but fun, we returned home (to Sao Carlos) full of memories (and sand)...

5 (or 6) Senses

I have not written in a long time--for many reasons. Probably the biggest is that I am now friends with many Brazilians, and so I am worried that what I write might offend them if they read it. But, I have finally realized that the writing is very therapeutic for me, and that my thoughts and feelings are just that--MY thoughts and feelings--about an experience that is very foreign to me. I would hope that my new friends would be open and honest about their feelings if the tables were turned, and they moved to America. I know (even though I can hardly believe it; haha!) that America would be a very strange place to live for those not accustomed to it. And so, I continue my banter; for those of you who care, and, for my sanity...

Let me begin by taking you readers on a sensory tour of Brazil:


My first memory of Brazil (from the time that Tom and I visited over a year ago) is the assault on the olfactory senses I experienced as I stepped off the plane in Sao Paulo. There is a sort of cheese bread made here that is very popular. It is made with Parmesan cheese. I remember as a child calling Parmesan cheese, "stinky cheese". I thought that I had just become accustomed to the smell as I got older, because I now love Parmesan cheese, and I no longer think that it smells bad. However, I am now  beginning to think that we Americans have genetically engineered Parmesan cheese so that it has lost it's unappealing smell, and has a milder flavor for our delicate palettes. I have come to this conclusion, because, (and, I am here to tell you), that Parmesan cheese is STILL stinky cheese. The smell of this foul cheese baking in the airport at six o'clock in the morning, is not a pleasant smell (at least, not to me--but then, NOTHING is pleasant at six o'clock in the morning!)

There are many unusual smells here, as there are in any large city, I am sure. But, one of the most putrid is in the grocery store. I will never again complain about the smell of the meat counter at Macey's. At least I can identify the particular odors there. Here, they now have refrigeration for the meat counter, thank goodness (I am told this was not always the case), but there are still smells emanating from it which are not enticing. The worst, by far, has to be the dried, salted fish. These are some type of huge sea creatures that they fillet in such a way that they look like cat pelts. I don't know how they do it. I truly thought it was some kind of small, crawling animal that was filleted and dried, until I was told it was a type of fish. These things have such a fetid odor, that I get queasy every time I walk by. Now, granted, I have an overactive sense of smell, but I cannot imagine how anyone could possibly want to buy that for dinner. It smells like feet. Sour, sweaty feet.

And then there is the "river". Every city has one. We call them the "brown rivers", and I will not speculate here what flows within their banks. But, let me just say this: I miss our (America's)sanitation system--out of sight/out of mind. For some reason, the river in our city has a particularly bad smell at a certain intersection close to our house. I always pray that the light will be green at this intersection, because I am not very good at holding my breath. Tom has dubbed this odor, "The Trifecta"; a perfect blend of sewage, silage, and exhaust. I think he has pinpointed the smell pretty accurately, but I try not to breathe too deeply.

There are wonderful smells too, like the mouth-watering smell of meat roasting on spits over a fire; the pleasant aroma of sweet jasmine, laced with the perfume of orchids, wafting through the neighborhood; the sweet-tart smell of fresh oranges permeating the air around the orange juice factory near Tom's work. And, I must admit, even the fresh baked Pao de Queijo (the cheese bread) has begun to smell good.


There are many sounds unique to this part of the world (or at least unique to me). I have mentioned before about the many varied birds' songs and calls. I can't really describe it, but it really sounds like we are living in the rain forest. (Perhaps I imagine a rain forest right now, as, I am at present, listening to the sheets of rain pouring down outside.) The birds are a constant reminder that we aren't "home" anymore. It is a reminder that I enjoy.

Another sound, not quite as pleasant as the chirping of the birds is the "raining of the insects". A couple of months ago, we began what Tom referred to as, "The Seven Plagues of Brazil". Each week there was a new swarm of insects infesting the city. Seriously, they covered the ground, the house, the air. Walking around outside, you would be hit by flying bugs. (I made sure to keep my mouth closed at all times.) There was the week of the (relatively) little flying beetles, the week of the giant flying ants, the week of the mosquitoes (okay--those ones are always here), and the week of the GIANT flying beetles. These beetles aren't as big as the cockroaches, but they came in such an overwhelming number, that they were a force to be reckoned with. What does this have to do with sound, you ask? Well, the first night that the giant beetles came, Tom and I were sitting in the living room, listening to them fly into the house with such force and frequency, that it sounded like a hail storm. It was creepy. Bam! Bam! Bam! It sounded like tiny soldiers were ramming the house, trying to break down the fortress. We didn't leave our windows open during the plague weeks.


As you can imagine, the morning after the giant beetle hail storm, we awoke to quite a sight outside. The ground was littered with beetles--some alive, slowly crawling for cover; others alive, but stuck on their backs, trying desperately to flip over (in vain). The majority of the beetles, however, were dead; squished in the street. Literally, the road was paved in the carcasses of dead beetles. My morning run was interesting (and disgusting) that day. (And here we have another sound to delight the olfactory center--the crunching of beetles underfoot--I turned my ipod up loud and tried not to look down.)

I already talked about the "skinned cats" in the grocery store. There are other sights there as well, many pleasant, but some just downright weird. And, being the positive person that I am (haha), I choose to focus on the strange. I was shopping right before Christmas at a local grocery store, when something caught my eye in the freezer section--it looked like a hoof sticking up out of the bin. Naturally, I walked over to get a closer look, only to discover a whole pig, wrapped in cellophane, staring back at me through frozen eyes, whiskered snout/mouth agape in a final, futile plea for deliverance. Now, I have eaten whole, roasted pig before, (and found it delicious), but I've never come across one staring at me in the freezer section of the grocery store.

The sound of the continued rain outside reminds me of another interesting sight. We have some pretty heavy rain/thunder storms here, and we are just going into the rainy season, so I am looking forward to many more. I have always loved thunder storms, but I have never lived in a place with storms quite like this. Last week, Tom and I were driving home from doing some errands, and got caught in a torrential downpour. I mean, the water was coming down in sheets, not drops. It was like driving through a wall of continuous water. The windshield wipers could not keep up, and the streets were like raging rivers. Tom was driving, so I found it fascinating from my comfortable position in the passenger seat. The coolest storm, however, would have to be the time, not long after we arrived here, that we were taking the kids to school, and the rain was coming down so fast, that it had no place to go. It was a busy weekday morning, so there was significantly more traffic than the aforementioned storm day. The streets that day were also like rivers. The cars parked along the side of the road acted like reefs in the ocean, causing the water to spray up like giant waves. One motorcycle, parked at a curb, looked like it was going to wash away--I wish I would have had my camera. There are always a lot of people on foot and/or driving on motorcycles here, so that was a fun day to drive in the city center. Tom tried to be really careful, but it was impossible to not spray the other motorists (including motorcyclists) and pedestrians with great walls of water. The kids cheered loudly with every hit, like it was the best video game they had ever played. Tom just kept saying, "sorry" to all the people he drenched, but, I heard him laughing as much as the kids. (Truth be told, I was laughing the loudest.)


I have tried so many new foods here that it is hard to narrow the experience down to a few paragraphs. I love to try new foods. I find it fascinating that fruits grow on this earth that I have never even heard of before--and I get to taste them! I can't describe the fruits adequately in writing. Many of them have unique flavors that don't compare to anything I have ever tasted. So, you will just have to come and visit us here in Brazil if you want to know what they are like!

When I think of the sense of taste in Brazil, I think of rice. We have eaten so much rice here. It is delicious, but I am missing my russet potatoes! (We have potatoes here, but they aren't russets, and they just aren't the same.) You would think that our son, Jaden, who adores rice, would think this a Paradise. But, sadly, he hates the rice here. That is because it has flavor. It is always cooked with onions and garlic. I can still make plain rice, but then everyone else complains, so the majority rules, and poor Jaden gets plain rice only on special occasions (when I don't feel like listening to him complain). He will be glad to get back to Grandma, who always has a big pot of plain rice for him with every meal.

One thing I will miss about Brazil, is the fresh juice. You can get fresh squeezed juices everywhere and it is fantastic! The pineapple juice tastes like you are eating a pineapple, the mango juice like a fresh mango (fresh mangoes are SO much better than anything you can buy in Logan!), fresh lime juice (with sugar), fresh orange juice (of different varieties), etc., etc. They also make popcicles out of fresh juice, and they are awesome! I will miss "Beijo Sorvettes" (locally made ice cream and popcicles)  when we go home.


We are in the middle of summer here, so I don't know what all you Cache Valley people are complaining about! Below freezing temps and snow storms sound pretty good on a hot, hot, hot day. (I'm sure I'll be complaining about the cold next year around this time.) The weather is strange here. We go from Amazon hot to downright chilly overnight, and then back to sweltering temps again a day or two later. (Really, it only feels chilly because of the heat stroke that your body is reeling from the day before.) The temperature changes can be pretty dramatic.

There is nothing more refreshing than a cold shower on a cold day. (With our solar powered water heater, we don't get hot water on overcast days.) But, I'm not complaining; most people here don't even have hot water...EVER! And, I get nervous showering in the hot water anyway, because sometimes it smells rotten, like an animal crawled up in the tank and died; which is probably the case, but I try not to think about that, as I let the water stream down on my body. When I think of touch, I think of how I miss feeling clean.

We've had some pretty wonderful experiences with touch while living here, also. Like the feel of the sand between the toes on some of the world's most beautiful beaches. The refreshing sensation of swimming in cool ocean water on a blistering hot day. The relief of a sudden storm after weeks of intense heat. And, the tender, personal touch of a woman, who's name you don't even know, wiping tears from your eyes on a particularly hard day. You see, with all the strange smells, sounds, and sights of this country, the sense that has been touched most for me is my 6th sense--my emotional sense. The people never cease to amaze me with their openness, their kindness, their generosity. And even though my heart aches for home at times, longing for sensory stimuli that I am familiar with, my heart has adapted, finding comfort in the warmth and beauty that is Brazil.