It's March 23rd! Happy Birthday to me!! ;o)
It's been an extended party, beginning a few nights ago with a celebration with our neighbour, Chris, and his mom, Margaret, who also shares a mid-March birthday. They came over so Rich and Chris could make delicious pizza's for everyone. Following dinner, Margaret and I both opened up gifts. Rich and the kids gave me a cloth wrap that doubles as a beach blanket and a cover up, as well as a bracelet and an IOU for a dress. Ryan had thoughtfully picked up three large chocolate bars... he knows me well... Chris gave me a little fishing boat souvenir that also holds photos, and in the photo holder he placed a postcard of an absolutely beautiful beach he wanted to take us to the following day. He also gave me a magnet that I've seen in many stores and have wanted to pick up, but hadn't yet. It's a rather round woman sunbathing on a beach towel... Something to remind me of the beaches in Brazil! Margaret gave me some beautiful dangly earrings made out of coconut, and a necklace made out of Brazilian seeds. It was very thoughtful of everyone and I enjoyed both the company and the kindness extended.
Early the next morning, we all piled into Chris's car to head out to the beach. Literally, we piled in, as he has a five seat compact car and there was eight of us. Because it was a hatch back, we put two kids into the 'trunk', three along the back bench, two in the front passenger bucket seat, and of course, one driver (safety first!). About an hour later, we arrived at the base of the trail where we were to begin our 45 minute hike over a mountain to the beach. After a few photo opportunities, we started up the jungle trail, but no sooner had we begun, when swarms and SWARMS of mosquitos descended on us. I've never seen so many hungry mosquitos in my life! To help reduce bites, we swatted our body constantly and moved quickly through the trail, but with a five-year old in tow, we couldn't make optimal 'out run the mosquito' speed. Chris being the helpful gentleman that he is, picked her up and tried to make time carrying her through the harder climbing spots. That helped us get up the mountain in a more timely fashion, and to the peak clearing where there was enough of a breeze to keep the mosquitos at bay for a time. That is when we met up with a stray dog who, evidently, had been longing for love. And not the 'pat on the head' kind of love... the reproductive kind. The dog mistook Michael's leg as a long lost lover and tried to mount it. Poor Michael did not appreciate the attention and tried to shoo him away. Instead, we had a companion for the majority of our hike, though thankfully, the humping ceased.
After a long hike, we made it over the mountain and ended up at a most breath taking beach. The kind of beach that you can only get to by boat or via a long hike, so it weeds a lot of the crowds out (though evidently not the surfers who were spending the weekend camping and surfing). It was a strong beach and we didn't wade out too far. But it was amazing to just be there amongst such natural beauty. A small group of us did some scouting around and found a quiet little lagoon not too far off. With no waves or tidal pulls, it was a no-brainer where we should do our swimming. Jillian appreciated being able to swim and do handstands, etc. with no fears of being knocked down or swept away. After about an hour of playing, it was time to head out as Chris had to work that afternoon. It was about the hottest time of the day by now, so we broke into a good sweat before we had even reached a ¼ of the hike up. And when we weren't in the scorching heat, we were in the shade of the jungle being swarmed by those jumbo mosquitos. A bit of a love/hate relationship with the elements... But all in all, a wonderful experience. Chris even took one for the team when he slipped hiking down the trail while holding Jillian in his arms. In order to not squish her as he fell, he did some fancy footwork and managed to land somewhat on his feet, after bouncing off a few other rocks first. A bit of a flesh wound for him, but overall, his ninja moves spared both of them much injury.
The following day we began our trek to Rio de Janeiro. It began with a bus ride to Curitiba, where we could get a cheaper flight to Rio than we could from Florianopolis. It was only a four hour bus ride, so after purposely booking seats at the front of the bus to help avoid motion sickness for a few of us (no names used to protect the innocent), we began the first leg of our trip. It was surprising when, at one of our pit stops, we were asked to give up our primo seats for some further back in the bus. Rich translated for me that someone was coming onto the bus who could really use the front seats. I was a bit ticked off, as we had sweet seats and were all together in a little pod. But most of my irritation melted away as two paraplegics were carried onto the bus and placed in the seats Ryan and Jillian gave up. I would take motion sickness over no use of my legs anytime. They only rode the bus for a short portion of the trip before getting off, so it really was no inconvenience. I was so busy concentrating on the tail gating bus driver we had that I barely even realize upon our arrival in Curitiba that no one had vomited the entire trip! Yeah for us for keeping our bodily fluids to ourselves!
We were picked up and then spent the evening at Luciano's house – the incredibly kind man who took care of us when we were in Sao Paulo when we first arrived in Brazil. He had BBQ'ed an amazing meal, made a mousse for dessert followed by a birthday cake, and imported some of his english speaking friends for us to get to know. It was a good night and the kids especially enjoyed his dog, “Mel”. Mel is a big bear of a dog, who also happens to be a pitbull. I tend to shy away from pitbulls, but by the time I left, I was giving Mel ear-noogy's and belly rubs. She was an enormous dog and you could see how powerful she was simply by looking at her, but especially when she jumped up on you. I will never own a pitbull, but if I did, I would hope for one like Mel.
After a good night sleep and a very tasty breakfast, we were on our way to the airport for our Rio flight. As we were checking in at the ticket booth, Rich realized he had brought along his Leatherman knife in his carry-on backpack by mistake. He didn't want to lose it so he made the quick decision to check Jillian's backpack and put his Leatherman in it, as you can take knives in checked luggage. Phew... crisis averted. Sadly, Ryan didn't realize he, too, had made the same mistake until we were going through security. After x-raying his backpack a few times, they asked him to remove the knife from his bag. They then asked him if was prepared to abandon it. With few other options, he reluctantly agreed. Sad lessons in life... What was odd though, was my bag made it through security carrying a razor blade... Hmmm....
And here we are now, hanging out it Rio. Let the games begin!