Sunday, May 19, 2013

More Visitors--HOORAY!!!

Grandma and Grandpa Higbee spent some time with us in April, and we LOVED having them. Here are a few of the high-(and low)-lights from their visit, as shown in pictures:
Grandma always brings great stuff! Here are the pool "floaties" that she brought (and which we still enjoy using here at our condominium pool.)

Marisa relaxing with a good book--poolside.

Grandpa following Marissa's lead.

A day at our local zoo--a Higbee family favorite!

A pair of monkeys?

We took a road trip to Ubatuba, a city on the coast of Sao Paulo, near the state of Rio. One day, we drove up to Paraty, just over the border into the state of Rio. It was a cool old town with very large, bumpy cobblestone roads, and some fun shops. Here is Senor Bub, trying on the wares, and protecting himself from the hot sun--even if just for a minute. I think the look suits him.

Cool street in Paraty. The picture doesn't really give you a feel for the unevenness of the cobblestones, but let's just say--you don't see a lot of high heels here.

We took a boat tour of the area around Paraty. The kids had fun riding in style up on top.

Grandma and I enjoying the sea breeze.
Father and son:

 Captain of the ship

Jaden was the first to jump in

Daddy and Keira
Even Grandma joined in!

Getting out of the water, so as not to attract the sharks. At this point, I had a ripped up knee and bloody toe. They don't call it "razor-sharp" coral for nothing.
Me with my throbbing toe elevated. Thankfully, grandma came prepared with wet wipes that I applied to stop the bleeding.

Tessa going solo

Grandpa joined the fun on our second stop--turtle cove.

"Come in, the water's fine!"

We were in a cove that was full of sea turtles. We saw a few sticking their heads up, but unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture any on film. However, I did catch this guy floating along:

Third stop. I don't remember the real name of the beach, but I affectionately dubbed it "Chicken Beach", after the native fowl roaming around, pecking at the flotsam.

Digging in the sand is a favorite pastime--just watch out for chicken droppings!
Time to get back on the boat.

The next day, we took a ferry over to Ilha Bela, an island on which we had stopped on our cruise in December. This was not the luxury ferry described by Grandma and Grandpa which they enjoy on  their yearly trip to Canada. Rather, it was a long barge, cram-packed with as many trucks and cars as could possibly be slammed together, with benches along the side for walk-on guests (us), and the pleasant aroma of exhaust and diesel fumes. Thankfully, it was a short ride.

Our jeep tour guide was awaiting our arrival on the island. This excursion seemed like a good idea when we booked it on-line. Here is Keira holding onto her seatbelt for dear life. (It didn't actually function as a safety restraint, but that's ok, because she enjoyed catching air on our bumpy ride over the  steep jungle terrain.) 

Jaden and Tessa enjoying the ride. We were still in town in this picture. When we got onto the mountain pass, it was too bumpy (and possibly dangerous) to take pictures.

This was Grandma before she got scalped by a low hanging branch. The blood just added to the adventure. This was actually taken on our trip to the beach. On our return trip, the driver accepted another passenger (and his money) into the jeep; the jeep that WE reserved and paid for. (You've got to make a little extra cash when you can.) This newcomer had been trekking across the island for a week with a hiker's backpack (you know the kind; one of those enormous jobbies with the bed roll, and miscellaneous camp gear dangling from the bottom, banging into your legs when you sit crammed into a jeep with it), and sporting a giant machete on his waist. Grandma had to squish in with Grizzly Adams and his pack, and barely had room to breathe, let alone dodge errant branches. Poor Grandma. We wanted to give her a memorable experience; this may have been taking it too far.

Waterfall stop on the way to the beach
A beautiful beach on the open  ocean side of the island. The only way you can get here is by boat, or by the jeep trail that we took. Although the jeep ride was fun --for the first two hours-- I might recommend going by boat. Actually, I might recommend staying in Ubatuba. This island is beautiful, and full of natural springs and waterfalls. Unfortunately, those beautiful natural resources also make it the perfect breeding ground for the Borrachudo; a tiny, flying, biting insect that left us all covered in bleeding welts, and itching like mad for days--even after we slathered on repellent. It was Marissa's birthday, and she didn't think this was a particularly great way to spend it.

We tried to salvage what we could out of the day. Some did better than others.

Marissa and I finally found some pleasure in combing the beach and finding sand dollars--a favorite!

On our final full day in Ubatuba, Grandma and Grandpa stayed at the hotel to peruse the shops and relax before their long journey home the following day. We decided to hit the beach close to where we were staying, and had a great time! Tom bought body boards, and we all took turns catching the waves: 

At the end of the day, we finally got enough of a breeze for Jaden to use Grandma's other fun gift for a while--a kite!
Sometime the best-laid plans go a little south, but, overall, I think we all had a great time, and it was definitely wonderful to see Grandma and Grandpa, and spend some time with them! We miss them already!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

You Might be in Brazil if...

Last night, armed with a flashlight and a ladder, I watched in awe as a bagworm moth worked on building it's cocoon on the top of the wall surrounding my house. I did not know that this was a bagworm moth until I looked it up. (yay for Google!) For the last few nights, I had spotted this long, almost pinecone looking thing hanging from the wall. The strange thing was that it was hanging from a different place each night. Finally, last night, it was moving, as if blown by the wind. But, there was no wind. So, I went out for a closer inspection. It was this 5-6 inch long/ 2 inch in diameter clump of little sticks held together with what resembled cobweb. And it was wriggling. When I climbed the ladder to get a better look, I saw a huge caterpillar popping it's head in and out of an opening in the top of the clump.

Can you see the little black and yellow caterpillar head?

When I googled it, I discovered that these exist in North America also; I have just never seen or heard of them before. It turns out that a lot of the strange bugs we have here (and there are a multitude of them) are also native to North America. I guess I just don't pay attention to them there. Of course, I live in a desert with weather extremes, so we probably don't have as many creepy-crawlies in my town. (Thank goodness!) But, somehow, I have been fascinated by all of these strange new creatures. This got me thinking that there are a lot of things here that are unusual and/or new to me. But, this doesn't mean that these, or similar things, don't exist in my "home-sweet-home". I realized that here, because of the newness of the whole situation, I tend to focus on the odd or unusual things, sometimes even making them out to be absurd. And so, in Jeff Foxworthy style, I will attempt to list a few "You might be in Brazil if..." absurdities that I have noted.

1. If your 6 year old is allowed to go on a wild, jarring jeep ride  (where you could have lost an eye, if not for your sunglasses, and your mother-in-law was partially scalped by low hanging branches) over rough, jungly, mountain terrain, without signing a consent form (or wearing a seatbelt) might be in Brazil.
                 (Stay tuned for more on this wild adventure!)

2. If your bank issues you a debit card that is only accepted in a handful of might be in Brazil.

3.If Halls cough drops are sold on the candy aisle, and are the #1 treat of 4 out of 5 might be in Brazil.

4. If it is common to stay in a hotel with anywhere from 13-25 rooms, but only 4 parking might be in Brazil. (Most of the guests come by bike?)

5. If the only thing consistent about the quality of food products is their might be in Brazil.

6. If you eat EVERYTHING with a fork AND knife, you NEVER drink directly out of a soda can, and your napkins (which you do not place on your lap) are made out of a non-absorbent plastic coated might be in Brazil.

7.  If you mow your entire lawn with a weed might be in Brazil.

8. If your streets are "patrolled" by speed bumps and radars instead of traffic might be in Brazil.

9.If you eat ham and cheese for might be in Brazil.

10. If the onramp to the freeway is paved in might be in Brazil.

11. If the changeable message signs over the highway are used to warn you of the signs of dengue fever, instead of traffic might be in Brazil.

12. If your local zoo has almost as many exciting attractions outside of the cages, as inside the might be in Brazil.

13. If you hear loud gurgling sounds in the drain under your feet every time you flush the might be in Brazil.

14. If the doorbell to your house, while still technically on your property, is located at the very farthest spot away from your front door that it can possibly might be in Brazil.

And finally (I still can't get over this):
15. If there are signs in every bathroom reminding you to put toilet paper in the garbage can, instead of the toilet (!)...and then there is a sign on the toilet paper can that says, "Not recyclable" (in case you were considering it) might be in Brazil!

And by the way, I find myself trying my hardest to assimilate to the all of the customs that I mock. It has really irritated me when Tom has told me what I should and shouldn't do at certain functions or gatherings here; things that are customary for the natives. I have tried to argue that I am not native, and therefore it is acceptable for me to act differently in these situations. And yet, to my horror, I found myself telling my in-laws last week things like, "Don't push the grocery cart through the lane--nobody pushes the cart all the way through the lanes here!" (were the mall cops going to come and get us?) or, "You HAVE to get a straw or a cup to drink that soda--don't drink it out of the can." (somebody might see!)

Isn't it funny how we can pride ourselves in our differences, and yet we all just have the need to really fit in? And isn't it interesting how we don't recognize our own absurdities/uniqueness like we see them glaring in other people? I am going to try to remember that as I pop my head in and out of the cocoon I have created for myself. I am going to try to embrace my own uniqueness and appreciate the uniqueness of others. (But, of course, I still want to fit in, okay?)