Wednesday, February 25, 2009

February 25, 2009

Well, we made a valiant attempt to celebrate Carnaval with the rest of the citizens of Rio Vermelho, but somehow it just never worked out...

We were told Carnaval ran on Saturday night and again on Monday night. We had big plans to enjoy the Saturday night festivities, but the stomach flu overrode those plans. While I sat on the couch and listened to the heartbeat of the Samba drum from off in the distance, I hoped I didn't come down with the same bug that seemed to have beset so many of the family.

Sunday was quiet with no scheduled Carnaval activities that we knew of. Instead, we took the kids on the 5-hour mini-cruise that Rich and I had enjoyed for our anniversary the previous week. The kids seemed to enjoy the entire day, dipping in and out of the ocean, reluctantly dancing on the boat deck, and seeing new sites. Upon our return to dock, we remained at Canasveiras Beach to enjoy the calm warm water for the evening. Rich was able to get in a beach soccer game and was reminded of the level of difficulty that comes from playing on sand. We could hear some faint Samba drums in the background, but their whereabouts eluded us.

Monday arrived and we ensured we were ready for the Carnaval party, complete with masks, bug spray, etc. We had asked a few people what would be happening that night and we were assured there would be a parade starting sometime around 8:30PM. We made our way to the main road for about that time, but couldn't spot any sign of an impending parade. We asked about a half dozen different people about what was happening that night and where, and received about a half dozen different replies. “No, there's no parade tonight.” “Yes, the parade starts here.” “Yes, the parade starts way up there and doesn't make it down to here.” “There's no parade but a party at the church yard.” and so on... We were beginning to think no one knew anything for sure, despite their insistence. After walking several kilometers in search for the silent parade, we finally gave up. Emily was still a bit weak after suffering from the stomach flu, and Jillian was simply exhausted from the walking combined with the time of night. We caught a bus back to our road and wandered home, sad we couldn't find the Carnaval in our little town.

On Tuesday, we took a bus to the main downtown area on the Island to do some sight seeing and some shopping. All around us there were signs of the previous nights' party... litter, empty bottles, people sleeping on benches, quiet grand stands, deserted food booths, etc. This appeared to have been more party than we had been looking for, but it would have been fun to observe in any case. We also learned that today was an official holiday, so none of the shops were open, and the buses did not run very frequently. We decided since there were no places to shop at, and no regular buses to take us to the sights we wanted to see, that we may as well head back home. We were striking out all over the place...

That night we settled in at home with a movie and some ice cream... something to drown our sorrows in. After tucking the kids into bed, we could faintly make out the deep tones of a Samba drum in the distance. Not interested in yet another fruitless quest to find the Carnaval festivities, we enjoyed the sounds from inside the living room again. To think we were so close to a once in a life time (for us) event, but just not quite able to make it... Part of me wished we were in Rio de Janeiro so we could REALLY take in Carnaval. The parades on TV showed thousands of people in amazing costumes dancing around in the streets. But with a young family, it didn't seem like a good idea. I guess when you choose to live in a quiet town, you choose to live the quiet life. I'm okay with that, too.

- Heather

Monday, February 16, 2009

February 16, 2009

An exciting weekend around here.

On Friday, Rich and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary by taking a 5-hour mini cruise around the ocean to a few little Islands nearby. The ship was manned by a pirate and his female slave/fellow pirate (she switched in between these roles). As we embarked with several other mostly Argentine passengers, they cranked up the music and began the 5 hour party! There was music, dancing, acting, swimming, touring, visiting, etc. For reasons we can only conclude are from pity votes, Rich and I won a dance contest which we only entered under duress from the female pirate. I have inhibitions about dancing on a raised boat deck dressed only in a bikini... especially belly dancing (yes, I did shake what my momma' gave me... LOL).

The first of the three stops we made was to a quiet coved beach, for lunch. The water was warm and greeny-blue. There are often dolphins there, but the party must have scared them off... The next stop was at a historic island where there were forts and old buildings. It was beautiful, though Rich had to translate all the information the tour guide was sharing and that meant we both missed out on much of the information... Our final stop was not an actual 'stop', but we anchored down in a beautiful area nearby an island, and were told we had about 15 minutes to jump off the boat and swim around. Rich managed to get thrown off the boat by the head pirate, while I took a more cautious entry point from the rear of the boat, off a ladder. We swam around the bath-tub temperature waters, admiring the nearby island and hoping for a glimpse of a monkey. As we headed back to dock, they stepped up the party even more with louder music and bigger dances. By this time, everyone was 100% wrapped up in the mood and even those who had been reluctant to previously, were dancing around the deck. All in all, it was an unforgettable anniversary date and we loved our day together. The kids all survived at home with no major injuries, so that was nice to come home to.

Saturday, to end off our anniversary, Rich had me booked in at a salon for hair highlights, a manicure and a pedicure. I was pampered and poked for a good long time. Sadly, I got really warm at one point, and while she was cutting some cuticles on my fingers, I began to feel unwell. I started to get pale and I knew if something didn't change soon, I was either going to pass out or puke, neither of which were attractive options. Rich had thankfully stuck around to help translate, so I told him in earnest that I needed some help. They got the fan on me and took a break from the pampering, and before long I was as good as new. I was a bit embarrassed as I felt they must have thought I was some Canadian wimp who can't even stomach a manicure. But thankfully, they were very understanding and the rest of the morning went without a hitch.

Saturday evening, we had the opportunity to go to a Capeiora show of sorts. A bunch of more advanced students arrived at the local studio we've been taking classes at, grab some musical instruments, formed a circle, and created a beat for the two Capeiora dancers/martial arts in the middle to do their 'thang'. It was amazing to watch their body control and movements as they smoothly pushed, kicked and swung themselves around the small circle. We will not even begin to get that good while we're here, but it was nice to see how it's supposed to look, after watching our own choppy moves for a few weeks. The event was later in the evening, and we eventually left when both Emily and Jillian fell asleep on the floor beside me. Luckily we only had to carry them one street over.

On Sunday, it was a hot, beautiful day, so we headed off to the Ingleses in the late afternoon for a swim and some night life. The kids loved the calmer waters and even Jillian learned how to tread water a bit, as well as jump up with the slower waves to avoid the waves rolling right over her head. There was a parade of party boats out in the deeper water, complete with fireworks, dancing and music. As the sun began to set, we packed up off the beach and headed a street over to grab some dinner. Carnival is coming up next weekend, so there is a party mood all over the Island. We caught up with a band practising for carnival and followed along with the beat that was pounding through the pavement. We grabbed some ice cream, watched people for a bit, and then headed home on the 7:30pm bus. It was an awesome night. We can't wait until Carnival!

We now know how to extract be bicho de pe from feet. Emily learned her big toe was a bit sore and came to me to have a look. It looked like a callous/blister with a dark centre... something I wasn't familiar with. We called our wonderful neighbour, Kevin, who was both familiar with how bicho de pe's look like, as well as how to get them out. He came over shortly and confirmed that Emily did, in fact, have this little flea burrowed into her big toe, near her toe nail. He graciously set about extracting it, complete with the several dozen eggs that had been laid inside the skin. Emily was as brave as she could be. There were a few tears, but all in all, she did a good job of allowing Kevin to get the problem looked after. I would go into the details of how to get a bicho de pe out, but I'm afraid I'll make the weaker readers feel ill. Let it be known, though, that it involves cutting, squeezing and digging... 'nough said. We know this is very common here, and we are prepared to have it happen again, but we're REALLY hoping it's something we can avoid if possible. Everyone will be wearing flip-flops routinely outside from now on.

Today is going to be a quieter day. We're needing some quiet time after a busy weekend, plus I'm getting over a head cold. Rich took four of the five kids to our Capeoira class this morning (I bowed out due to a sinus headache), and we're looking forward to bathing a stray dog today, in hopes of pretty-ing her up so she can find a good forever home.

- Heather

Sunday, February 08, 2009

February 8th, 2009

We've been 'social' lately. The neighbours to our right, Graziela and Rodrigo, have been incredibly helpful as we've set up our internet, learned about good grocery stores, helped figure out home alarm systems, etc. We invited them over, along with their three year-old daughter, Maryanna, for dinner. It was our first time using the BBQ, so we hoped it would go okay. The BBQ's here are different. They're brick oven-like things that you put charcoal into as the heat source. But man, do they work well. You just place your meat through a spear, set it to cook over the charcoal and let it roast away, turning it every so often. Mmmm.... beef.... LOL. It was great getting to know them a bit better. Rodrigo spoke some English so he and I could talk a bit. Graziela doesn't speak as much English, and I would have loved to talk with her more, but body language filled in some of the gaps, as did Rich's translations.

We have also met another family two doors to our left. While the boys were in the backyard playing soccer, Michael was wearing a Manchester soccer jersey. Someone from the deck of the neighbours house yelled out something about, “Where's that jersey from?!”. The first thing that caught the boys attention was that someone had just spoken to them in English. Secondly, someone recognized a soccer jersey that wasn't from Brazil. Since then, we've learned that the mother is from Uruguay, the Dad is from England, and the two adult sons living there right now have lived in both Brazil and England. Their English is WONDERFUL! We have friends that we can all speak to, now! The sons, Kevin and Chris, both came to dinner and helped out with the BBQ, played some soccer with the kid, and shared wild surfing stories. We have enjoyed getting to know them better as we've gone to the beach together, had Chris come over to help Ryan learn some Photoshop tricks, and just chatted away with them both. They are very kind people who have found a special place in our hearts.

Last week, Chris was kind enough to drive Rich and the older boys around to look for bikes at second hand stores. They found two that would do the job, plus Chris and Kevin lent us one, so we now have three bikes to use. It has been very helpful when we have needed to get last minute things from the grocery store, pick up a garden hose from a hardware store up the street, etc.

Part of our purpose for coming to Brazil, other than to have fun, try to learn a new language, and have the kids see and appreciate another culture other than their own, was to find some kind of service project we could be a part of. It hasn't been easy finding one that would work with both our family dynamics, as well as our location. However, one may have fallen into our laps. There a many, MANY stray dogs in Brazil. Some have been pushed out of their homes when the owners have rented out their home, while some are products of unspayed or unneutred strays coupling up. In any event, there are many strays. We are dog lovers and it's been sad seeing so many dogs hungry, injured, or just plain lonely. We've combined both the need and the love, and turned it into a service project idea. On a small scale, we've taken three dogs under our wing and have been feeding and providing fresh water to them. Because of the potential for fleas and a few other undesirable conditions, we can't have the dogs come into the yard or home, but we feed them out on our road, love them up, and enjoy the trust they seem to be able put in us. There's Spotty (a black and white dog), Lucy/Blondie (a yellow dog whose name creates division in our family... some prefer 'Lucy' because she looks a bit like my sister, Jen's dog Lucy, while some prefer a more descriptive name to make distinction easier), and Limpy (who has since lost his limp, but the name remains). On a larger scale, we are going to try to get involved with a local established dog rescue organization. Chris is getting us more information on that in the near future. The kids are excited to be helping and making life better for some of the thrown away dogs in the community.

The beach has claimed yet another victim in our family. Thankfully, not in a sucking out current, but in a powerful wave that slammed Rich off his body-board. As the wave sent him twirling head over feet, it turned him on his side, pushed a wave right into his ear, and the other side of his head into the sand floor. He popped out of the water with a very sore ear and stumbled up to shore, walking like he'd had several too many. His balance was gone for a bit, and he feared he'd ruptured his ear drum, but a follow up visit to a doctor the next day seemed to indicate not a rupture, but a highly inflamed ear drum. He has since been taking it easy and staying dry. It seems to be feeling better with no signs on infection.

Speaking of infection... I had an exciting bus ride with Jillian the other day. I took all the kids to the Ingleses beach, as we needed something to do and we hadn't been to that beach in a long time. While we were there, dark clouds started to close in. It wasn't a big deal, as we were already wet, but after a while the rain pelting down on us began to hurt. Plus, there seemed to be some dark, smelly fall-out coming from a drain pipe into the beach water. That was our cue to head home. While we were en route, Jillian began to cry and tell me she felt like she was going to barf. With nothing around to help contain the anticipated explosion, I grabbed one of our beach towels. Sure enough, Jillian followed through on her threat and I quickly learned that towel positioning is critical when trying to contain vomit, but not until it was too late. Foul, lumpy 'stuff' was slipping through the folds of the towel and landing on my lap, the floor, my bag..... Ugh... And the bus ride had only just begun. Oddly, the young man sitting beside me stayed put, which meant I had limited space to try to organize chaos. It was futile, so I sat there with vomit all over both Jillian and myself until either he got off the bus, or we landed at our bus stop. Eventually he did get off, but not for an agonizingly long long time. Jillian stood up and we began mopping her off. Then I started on me, and then the seat. Ryan was good enough to collect all the towels we had brought, which I ended up needing all of. By the time we got to our bus stop, the very last stop on the line, we had cleaned up enough to be a little less offensive, and with a quick apology to the bus staff, we left to walk the last bit of road to home. An exciting day for all of us... And thankfully it didn't appear to be flu bug or any other kind of contagious thing. Perhaps some bad cheese we bought at the beach?

Today, it's a lazy Sunday. The sun is shining, the air is damp from a massive downpour during the night, and we're taking it easy in the cool of the house. Emily, Matthew and Jillian have gone on a mission to the local grocery store to get some cereal and some ice cream... interesting combination. Ryan and Michael tried to purchase a hachet at our local hardware store, but the store was not open quite yet. And I'll try to get out of my pajamas in time for some adventure to begin.