Friday, January 23, 2009

January 23, 2009

We're all feeling much better today. We slept away some of our residual fears from the Mozambique beach visit from last night, but we also visited a much calmer beach this morning and had a wonderful time. Lessons learned will remain, but we've replaced some of the acquired fears with some much more positive experiences. The Barra de Lagoa beach is meant for both swimming and surfing, while the wilder Mozambique beach nearby us is mostly for surfing... despite our best efforts to tame it.

Four of the five children have taken some surfing lessons now. We ended up splitting their classes up over two visits, as they quickly learned that surfing uses several less used muscles... ones that tire easily. They all did a great job of getting to their feet and riding out some of the beginner waves. We have some great photos and video we'll upload for everyone's viewing pleasure.

The three younger kids have signed up for craft classes at a nearby art store. The classes are quite a deal (16 hours of class for each child for R$40 or approx. $20 CDN) but the supplies you go through, which you are required to pay for, seem to add up quite quickly. Emily decorated a fired-clay vase using paints, ribbons and some plastic jewels, while Jillian and Matthew painted and decorated wooden boxes. Jillian probably used every decoration they had to offer, filling every square inch with some kind of paint, stamp, jewel, ribbon, glitter, or glue-on gizmo. We have eight classes in total to attend. Though they came out of it with some beautiful creations, hopefully their next classes won't be quite so costly...

With no car to use at our disposal, we use the bus as our main source of transportation. It has its benefits and drawbacks. The drawbacks consist mostly of waiting for late buses, trying to find where exactly a bus stop is (some are not marked by any signage that we can see), and filing seven people through the turnstall on a moving bus that you must pass through after paying your fare. The benefits vary depending on who you're travelling with. If you take Jillian as your companion, you are guaranteed some entertainment. She has no qualms sitting down beside a total stranger, looking up at them with her big round eyes, and after whispering to Mom or Dad asking for the words she's looking for in Portuguese, strike up a conversation. She has made more friends in her short five years than I have over my entire adult life. I envy her outgoing personality as I sit silently content to watch her work her charm. My comfort comes from watching the scenery pass by my window, enjoying NOT having to talk. This is not physically possible for Jillian. We're not sure where this trait comes from, but it's amazing to watch and does help us get to know many more people we otherwise would never have met.

We seem to finally be on top of the ant situation in our house. It felt like no matter what we did, we would get streams of little 'sugar' ants marching in the moment food hit the counter or floor. We would take out the garbage and ants would be dripping off the bag. We would put a dish in the sink and come back 10 minutes later to find ants swarming it. We would sweep regularly, wash dishes after each meal, put leftovers away right away, wipe counters, but we could never seem to get rid of the evil beasts. One day I had enough and took the kitchen garbage can outside to the garage. That was to be it's new permanent home. It's not as convenient, but it seems to have helped. Plus, we picked up a few ant traps and have set them up at high ant activity zones around the house. Combined, we seem to have reduced our ant population by a small portion, and my sanity seems to be intact.

We seem to have found several new critters around our neighbourhood to keep the kids on their toes. Emily has found a few geckos, Matthew has found a dead owl, the older boys found a cockroach, and there are, as always, the plethora of dogs that we meet regularly. Some seem more friendly to us, even escorting us up and down the road. Okay, perhaps they're just hoping for some scraps to eat, but at least they don't bark at us like they used to!

It's late and I should head to bed. Brasil continues to be a grand adventure. I'm so glad we're doing this.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 22, 2009

Sleep isn't coming easy tonight. I am humbled by the power of nature, and churning in anxiety over the various possibilities of how our beach visit could have ended this evening.

We postponed our beach excursion this morning, hoping to wait out a stomach bug I seem to have picked up. We planned, instead, to stick around home for the balance of the day, and then head out to the beach after the sun's rays begin to ebb... sometime around 4:00PM.

When we arrived at the beach there were some wild looking waves pounding against the shores, but there were other people there already, playing in the surf and bobbing in the waves, so we felt comfortable that the water was safe.

Coming off of a confident surfing experience at a different beach, the kids plowed into the ocean, unmoved by the forces of nature crashing all around them. Matthew, in particular, grabbed a body board and headed out to some large swells, looking for the perfect wave that would send him shooting back to shore. While we found a more shallow area and stayed together, Matthew seemed to creep further and further away from us. Oblivious to both where he was and where he was going, he clung to his body board, pointed it towards shore, and waited for the powerful push of a wave. Being the fly-weight that he is though, he ended up just sliding up and down the waves, slipping further away from the shore rather than closer to it. I yelled repeatedly at him to come closer to us and to get to more shallow water, but my words were swallowed up in the chorus of the breaking waves. I would lose sight of him in between the swells, but no sooner would I begin to panic when I would suddenly spot his bright little pink head bobbing around. Eventually he saw my frantic hand gestures to come towards us, and when he managed to get back to shore, he started to make his way over to where we were at the beach.

Unfortunately, he didn't come all the way towards us, stopping instead about halfway between where he was and where we were. He got back into the water and made his way through the waves to the large swells again, ever eager for a perfect wave.

Though Matthew was having the time of his life, his mother was a nervous wreck watching him rise and sink in rough waters. Even his older brothers began to fear for him, and decided that Matthew, again oblivious to where he was or where he was going, was in danger. In what hindsight would call bad judgement, Ryan and Michael decided to go the the place where Matthew was to tell him he was in a dangerous place. It's easy to see the error of their thinking, now, but at the time, they were concerned for their brother and wanted to bring him to safety.

Matthew had a body board and was thus quite buoyant even in the large waves (so long as he stayed on the board), however, Ryan and Michael, as strong a swimmers as they are, were just two little specks in some powerful and large swells, being pulled and pushed with the yawn of the ocean. If it were just waves crashing, they would likely have had no problem, but with each push that the waves tried to send them towards the shore, there is an equally forceful sucking pull-back current that followed. The boys suddenly found themselves unable to move in any direction but out towards open ocean. Combine being pulled away from shore, with being banged around by large breaking waves, and they both began to panic.

Of course, Matthew had made it to shore by now and was wondering what was going on.

Meanwhile, I was still standing on the shallower sand bar, yelling to the boys to swim towards me, where it was easy to touch ground. Again, my words were insulated by the angry evening waves that rolled all around me. I screamed at them to make their way to me. Ryan was slowly making progress, and would alternate between swimming to me and floating on his back when he got tired. But Michael wasn't making progress and was screaming out for help. Ryan, in turn, began to panic for his brother and was screaming at me, in between waves, to let me know Michael was in deep trouble. Ryan was close enough to me now that I could be more easily heard, so I told him to swim sideways to me, rather than go for the shore. He again screamed for me to help Michael, so I swam into some of the deeper water but was quickly reminded that the waves were in charge and Michael needed to ride the waves to me. I screamed at the top of my lungs for him to swim towards me, sideways, rather than to try for shore. He cried back that he couldn't. In a voice I didn't recognize, I screamed back at him that he WAS to swim towards me RIGHT NOW! I could touch ground and he was GOING to come to me. Ryan eventually got there and we both watched with grave anxiety as Michael tried to make his way towards us. We shouted directions and encouragement, trying to get him to turn his panic energy into something more useful, like swimming to the shallower water.

We watched him roll around at the base of waves, get covered up in their breaks, all the while hoping beyond hope that his head would get closer to us rather than further away from us with the pull. His cries were filled with fear and I didn't know what else to do.

I don't know how long we were there like that. Likely not too long, but it felt like a tremendously lengthy period of time. And then, just like that, it was all over. Michael got just close enough to us that he touched down on the shallower sand bar, felt the sand at his feet and we were able to walk towards the shore. It was with great appreciation that we left the water, weak from fear but also from fighting the current.

So, I am deeply relieved we are all home together tonight. This could have ended in several other ways, most of which would have been devastating. But thankfully, it did not. And now I have the chore of trying to put my anxieties to rest, reminding myself that all is well.

The ocean is alive. Not just as a vessel for other sea creatures, but in a very poignant way. It gives and takes. It pushes and pulls. There is rhythm and timing, but also unpredictable power that can remind you of just how little and insignificant you really are in her vastness.

Much more has happened lately, mundane things that I will share in another entry on another day. But for tonight, I'm just grateful we're all in our beds, all accounted for, all a little bit smarter, and much more humble of our own limitations.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

January 15th, 2009

We've been having some quiet days out here in our little neck of the woods, feeling the heat and cooling off in the pool in the backyard. School work is getting done (most days!), home is being cleaned and maintained, groceries are getting delivered, etc. The glorious mundaneness of existing!

Emily needed a new swim suit so her and I, along with Michael, set out on the bus to 'downtown' Ingleses to see what trouble we could find. It would appear that you cannot find a one-piece swimsuit anywhere in the town (it doesn't help that I don't know the word for one, either...), so when in Rome! Emily is now the excited owner of a new bikini. It didn't take her long to get used to it and establish some serious bikini tan lines. Jillian was more than jealous at this new acquirement, and spoke often of how suddenly her swim suit was not fitting as it should. Much to her delight, while we were in downtown Floripa today running errands, we found a great deal on little girl bikini's. In an impulse moment, I tried a few on her and she selected her favourite. Before we knew it, she was walking out of the store with a bikini in a bag, and an enormous smile across her face.

Yesterday, we had a wonderful time playing at the beach nearby our home. This time it wasn't a deserted beach all to ourselves, but almost. After asking a local family if that part of the water was safe to swim in at that particular time (sometimes there are dangerous currents that can suck you out to sea... not the adventure we're looking for!), we jumped in and started fighting the waves. What great exercise! Flexing every muscle as you brace for the impact of the wave, jumping up to avoid getting washed away, or conversely, just letting go and allowing the wave to pound you down and then move you along as you resurface. As we enjoyed the ocean, we began to notice the waves getting bigger and stronger. Ryan and I had been trying to master the art of timing to learn when best to get into the swells so we could avoid both a wave pummelling or missing it altogether. With the larger waves, we began to draw closer to the edge of our comfort zone, straddling the line between 'stay and play' thrilling and 'time to get to calmer water' dangerous. We saw a beautiful wave approaching and opted for the 'stay and play'... I'd like to blame that decision on excessive sun exposure. The wave approached and we tried to get into position to ride out this breathtaking creation of Mother Nature. Sadly, and much too late, we discovered that we were neither in the right position, nor able to get into a better position in time. Natural consequences... The wave came crashing right down on us. I was swallowed up first, followed quickly by Ryan. We were churned and swirled and submerged for what felt like several minutes of black panic, though in reality, it was only a few moments. We both re-emerged, gasped for waterless air, looked behind to see if we were in the way for a second helping of what Mother Nature had just dished out, re-arranged our swim suits to fit in a publicly appropriate manner, and moved on to a calmer area of water. We may be slow, but we're not idiots. A memorable beach day to say the least. But we can't wait to go back!

I seem to be having an adverse reaction to the mosquito bites I get on my legs and ankles. At first they don't itch, they just look like a small red fleck on my leg/ankle. But give it a day, two at the most, and the area that is bitten begins to look like a swollen, blistered, weeping mess. I am the proud owner of 'cankles' that burn and pulse. I picked up some antihistamine with high hopes that it would help reduce the reaction, however it doesn't appear to have improved anything, nor has the calamine lotion. What eases the throbbing is just putting my feet up and taking it easy. So... that is what I will do for the remainder of the day.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

January 11th, 2009

It's a quiet day for me today, as I am home with Matthew who is suffering from a sore tummy. It's nothing serious (though he's clearly uncomfortable), but he didn't feel up to the venture downtown that was planned. Rich has taken the other four kids with him as he tries to find both a store and the appropriate Portuguese words to ask for access to a specific disk he needs (which he left at home by mistake) to fix his laptop. I hope he can get what he needs, as a dead computer will put him behind in the work he needs to get done. Worst case scenario, we can get someone from back home to locate and mail off the disk he needs, but that wouldn't be a quick fix.

Yesterday was nice. We set out to see what little shops and stores lined the main street in our little town. It wasn't too sunny, but we soon learned it was still very warm! Many shops were closed, as it was Saturday, but there were a few open. We enjoyed an interesting lunch at a convenience store/restaurant along the way. Six of us ordered a hamburger (for old times sake....) while Jillian ordered a hot dog. What we got was tasty, but different. The hamburger bun filled the entire face of the large dinner plate it came on, and had also been fried on the outside a bit. Inside was some tasty sauce and a very flat but large in diameter hamburger patty wrapped up in a ton of cheese. Very naughty but also tasty! Jillian's hot dog was sliced down the middle length-wise, sleeping in a lot of tomato sauce, and nestled in with some carrots and corn. An odd choice to accompany a hot dog, but not unusual here.

After lunch, we stocked up at the local grocery store, as we have learned EVERYTHING closes up on Sunday (minus that American style grocery store we found last week “Angelino's”).

As we were coming home from the grocery store, we were wandering up our little dirt road. Emily, Matthew and Jillian wanted to run ahead, so we let them lead by about the length of three power poles. At that point, they were to stop and wait for us. Matthew and Emily took off like a shot with Jillian right at their heels. They passed the first pole... no problem. The older two widened the gap and were passing the second pole while Jillian was still a few yards behind. When out of a side yard, two dogs ran out and started growling and barking at little Jillian. With both her siblings ahead of her, and her parents and remaining siblings behind her, she was all alone with two angry dogs staring her down. We are grateful she didn't react by running away. Instead, she stood there screaming which may have been a part of why the dogs didn't actually harm her. The moment we saw the two dogs barking at Jillian, we all ran towards her which was enough to scare away the dogs. Apparently the dogs only feel brave when their prey is shorter than they are. Rich scooped up an extremely shaken up Jillian, and carried her the balance of the way home. We loved her up well, lauding her for not running away (there is a high probability the dogs would have given chase and attacked...), and talked about how it's likely best to stay right close to us on the streets from now on. There was no need to convince her of value this new rule... We're grateful no harm came to her.

Speaking of loving people up... I should go be with Matthew. He's still uncomfortable and could use some momma' cuddling.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Jan. 9th, 2009

We're all moved into our more permanent home now. It's beautiful, complete with a family sized swimming pool surrounded by a rock tiled decking and flowering greenery, a large green yard for running around in, a kitchen table we can all sit at after making a real meal in a real kitchen, and bedrooms that keep us very comfortable all night long. There's a grocery store about 1 km away who will deliver your groceries for you later in the day. That will be perfect for us, as we do not have a car, but will require many heavy items from the store.

We found some enormous snails last night. They would fill the palm of your hand. We have since learned they are not to be touched, however, Jillian seems no worse for wear after holding one up by the shell for a photo op last night. Butterflies come to kiss the flowers regularly, and jumbo-jet bumble bee's lumber by looking for whatever the butterflies have left behind. Bird chirps fill the air and the large blue sky wraps us all up in a paradise.

It was strange last night. It was our first night falling asleep out in the more rural part of Floripa. The downtown people and car noises were suddenly replaced by crickets chirping (turns out it was one cricket who could really carry his own... Rich first thought the sounds was a transformer about to blow outside...), dogs barking (and there were several canine choirs chiming in simultaneously!), and owls screeching. In between trying to swat an ever elusive mosquito away from my ear, I listened to the new noises. They brought a great deal of comfort to me, but surprisingly, they also brought a small hint of panic, all at the same time. The comfort came from knowing we were out closer to nature, away from crime and smog and concrete roads. The panic came from realizing we were further away from people, so many of whom have been so helpful and kind to us. What if someone tried to break in? We're not on the seventh floor of an apartment building now. Who would hear us if we needed help? Strange... I am confident the transition will bring with it more comfort and less panic as I feel more and more at home.

Today, the kids enjoyed a morning swim in the pool before breakfast. The neighbour came over to help us add chemicals to the pool to clean it (she has been incredibly good to us), and then we prepared to walk to the beach near by us. It was a great walk, taking about 20 minutes one way, Jilly-speed. To get there, we walk down a sandy trail lined with greenery and cactuses, pass over a wooden bridge, wade through a 'red river', walk through a small forest, over some extremely hot sand dunes, and suddenly you find yourself at the most amazing beach! It stretches for miles in both directions. The sand is, again, like the brown sugar I mentioned earlier. The waves are quite a good size, some of them perfect for surfing, and all of them big enough to knock you over. The older four kids pleaded to have a chance to swim and play in the surf, so once we could see it was safe enough, we gave them the green light. They fought waves, bounced around in the surf, and bobbed up and down with the yawn of the ocean for quite a while. Jillian was content to stay in the more shallow areas after being knocked down a few times.

I looked up and down the beautiful beach, noticing only a few souls a ways down. We pretty much had the area to ourselves. The water was warm and greeny-blue and foamy at the edges. It was the kind of scene you would see on a postcard. We're so lucky to be here.

This afternoon, we will break out the school work for a while, work on some Portuguese, and perhaps get some groceries. When it's a little less hot, we'll likely head back to our beach for some more fun before a late dinner, and hopefully a bit of Skype with friends and family.

All is well.


Monday, January 05, 2009

January 4th, 2009

Things are warming up a bit, again. The past few days the weather got a bit cool, plus there has been a killer wind that was kicking up sand into our eyes and against our bare legs. Between those combined forces, we were not feeling the heat. It's been unusual weather here, even to the locals. Hopefully the strong winds will have pushed the storm clouds far away and we'll go back to the warm weather we arrived to.

We drove by our soon-to-be home yesterday while we were out visiting Ebano's family, again. It was hard to see much, as there is a large wall around the perimeter of the property, but what we could see through a small hole in the wall looked wonderful. I'm anxious for more room. Our 300 sq. ft. home is fine, but it's also starting to grate on my nerves. There's no room to escape or to put our items away, so it's like living in perpetual clutter. Uncontrolled clutter tends to make me louca.

I've been going through a homesick phase. I've learned I am a creature of habit, living a carefully constructed life that I fill with the people and purposes I consciously choose to fill my days. That is how my life in Victoria is built. Here, I'm forced to extend myself and what was my comfort zone. I miss knowing what people around me are talking about. I miss walking into a restaurant and knowing what and how to order. I miss my familiar neighbourhood and familiar routines. I miss friendly smells. I miss knowing that if I'm in trouble, I know how to get help. I feel very unempowered right now, which is something I have fought long and hard to avoid in my life.

I'm certain this is just a part of the process of getting used to another way of life. And when I think about it, life here isn't so dissimilar to my life in Victoria. There are many other cultures out there with much starker differences. I will not wish away this experience, refusing to let go of my 'old ways'. I will, instead, embrace my homesick days, allow myself to grieve what I cannot do/understand/see right this instant, putting it all into a bigger perspective. Four months is too short to spend much time on 'missing' what was and what will be again. So today, I will allow myself to grieve, and tonight, I will sleep it all away, preparing to let in tomorrow however it comes.


PS: We found an American style grocery store this afternoon after getting caught in a rain burst. Feeling a bit better...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

January 1st, 2009

It's been a busy few days. We arrived in Florianopolis after a lengthy bus ride combined with a few moments of excitement. Despite being juiced up with Gravol, Emily got motion sick and puked in a disposable plastic “travel bag” I was able to locate moments before the explosion. I had been feeling fine up to that point, but after the encounter, I spent the next several hours trying to keep it together myself and not follow Emily's lead.

After arriving, we toted our luggage the four blocks to our apartment building. Sadly, the map which told us it was four blocks away, was not a topographical one... it was up hill the whole way. Being overtired, shaky from the nausea, and pulling three suitcases and a backpack, I started to have some negative thoughts. Thankfully, those passed with some horizontal, motionless sleep. One good sign is that as we made our way to our apartment, three different people stopped and asked if we needed directions or help. It was reassuring to have people around who wanted to help, but this may also have been a sign of how rag-tag we looked after 3 days of travelling.

Our apartment, which we call home for the next 9 days, is about 300 square feet in total. We have a bathroom, a living area with kitchen, and a bedroom. They were good enough to give us mattresses to put on the ground for the kids, so we all have a soft place to sleep. We have joined some insect families who have been occupying the apartment previous to us. At first we were a bit squeamish about sharing our living space with critters, but since they seem to mean us no harm, we have found a peaceful way to co-exist. They party during the night and we take the day. I have also discovered that I now share my suitcase with a few of them, requiring me to shake out any item of clothing I select, before wearing.

We spent New Year's Eve day and evening with some of Ebano's family, who are renting a vacation home in Floripa for the holidays. They are staying in a beautiful area of Floripa called “Ingleses”, where there are some amazing beaches nearby. Literally, our kids swam in the pool of their home all morning and early afternoon. I had doused them all with 30 SPF sunscreen, and had even reapplied, but the sun's rays are very strong here and most of us have sunburns to at least a part of our bodies. Emily, Ryan and Michael have some small blisters sprouting on their noses and cheeks, as the double affect of the rays coming both from the sky and being reflected from the water were just too much. We now know that we don't go outside long in the afternoon, and that we need to get at least 60 SPF.

Ebano's family was so good to us. Though there was a language barrier for me and the kids, we were all able to communicate well enough, plus Rich was there to translate when needed. For lunch, they barbecued some deliciously herbed sausage and then brought it around to the kids in the pool. The kids looked a bit skeptical at first, as it looked raw, but one bite had them hooked. Each time a new tray of sausage was brought out, the kids jumped out of the pool to scarf down as many sausage bites as possible. We were all starting to feel quite full, when we learned that that was just an appetizer. It wasn't long after that we were beckoned into the house for the main event. We were F-U-L-L by then end of the meal.

We hung out at their home until around 4:00PM, when we headed to the beach. Wow... the sand was like brown sugar, the water was warm like the pool, and the waves were big but not overwhelming. There was a large sand dune bordering a part of the beach. At one point, someone rented a sand sled (much like a crazy carpet used for snow sledding), and you would go to the top of the sand dune, sit on the sled and then slide down the dune right into the water! All the kids tried it except Jillian, and all reported it was a blast. I thought it was ironic to have left a winter wonderland of snow sledding, and replaced it with sand sledding at a beach... all less than a week apart.

After the beach, we went back to their rental home, and relaxed, de-sanded, and the kids swam some more. About 10:00PM, dinner was served (Luc, you would fit right in!), and around 11:30PM, everyone jumped back into a car to head back to the beach for some New Year's Eve firework displays. I ended up staying home with Jilly, who was already asleep, and Emily who was exhausted and who fell asleep soon after everyone left. I enjoyed the quiet for about an hour, studying some Portuguese while watching an English movie with Portuguese subtitles.

When everyone got back home around 12:30AM, there was more food to be had! Some delicious chocolate mousse, some sweet cakes, and other treats. But we were so exhausted that we enjoyed a bit of it and then were ready for a ride back home to our apartment. Because of intense NYE traffic, combined with many road closures for a concert, we didn't get home until about 3:00AM, so it was nice to sleep in today. I just felt sorry for the friends who drove us, as they had to turn around and head right back into the traffic.

We were so grateful for the hospitality that was showed to our family. Ebano's family treated us like good friends, sharing all they had willingly. I wish I was more like them.

Today, we are having a quieter day, staying out of the sun as much as possible. Most all of the shops around here are closed for the holiday, so we wandered a few downtown streets w/o the mash of tons of people around. We found some free open wifi a few blocks from our apartment building, so I was able to check email, etc. while sitting on the steps of a building. I'll have to go back this afternoon to upload this blog entry. In keeping with our quiet day, Ryan is reading an Archie comic, Michael is watching a show on his iPod touch, the younger three are snacking while watching some cartoons on TV that are voiced over in Portuguese, and Rich and I are both typing away on our computers. Nothing crazy to report today.


Dec. 29th, 2009

Dec. 29Th, 2008

We're in Sao Paulo today. We arrived late last night when our final flight touched down. As far as flights go, it was wonderful! The plane was hardly full at all which gave us plenty of space to stretch out and move around. When you're going to be in a confined space for 10 hours, the more room you have, the better. We each took a row and could actually sleep horizontal when the feeling struck us.

We were fortunate enough to be picked up at the airport by friends of our friend, Ebano. There are a lot of us to pick up, and we come bearing a lot of luggage, but we managed to squeeze into two vehicles and then headed to our hotel for the night.

I wouldn't want to live permanently in the neighbourhood this hotel is located (it's downtown and in a busy and loud area), but it was clean and comfortable. The girls slept in one room, while the boys in another. I figured out how to work the toilet and shower, and for the most part, we all slept soundly.

Currently, it's almost 10:00AM and we're waiting for all of our crew to be up and dressed so we can get some breakfast. Then we'll head out to see some Sao Paulo sights with the same kind souls who picked us up last night. Until then, the kids are furiously studying Portuguese (aka: watching Portuguese cartoons on TV... they didn't realize Sponge Bob spoke Portuguese!), Rich is in the shower, and I'm wrapping up my blog for this morning.


I have some time on my hands before I pass out for the night. We're embarking on an all night, 10 hour bus ride from Sao Paulo to Floripa. We're all pretty exhausted, given that we're still trying to catch up to the six hour time difference. But it's been a wonderful day! Luciano has been an angel to us. He has taken us all around Sao Paulo, acting as our personal tour guide. He gave up his entire day for us, and put up with all our craziness. We have a new best friend. Thank you, Luciano.

Sao Paulo is an enormous city with almost the population of all of Canada... but in one mega city. We saw malls, subways, parks, grocery stores, restaurants, a water show, and a whole lot of people. It's so good to be totally immersed in the Portuguese culture and language. I think it will go a long way in helping the kids and I learn enough of the language to get us by. “Where is the bathroom?” and “Do you speak english?” only take you so far....

The other angel who has helped us out is Luciano's friend, though I cannot remember his name. In any event, he has helped with transportation and has been a kind friend, always speaking more english than initially admitting to. He took Ryan and Michael under his wing, teaching them some valuable slang, which at first alarmed me, but I was informed it was useful, non-vulgar slang, so tudo bien.

I hope the bus ride proves uneventful. I've armed the gaggers w/ Gravol, myself included. I have a couple in front of me who could benefit from a private bedroom, but there is no TV to watch, so that will have to suffice, I suppose. Floripa, here we come.

- Heather