Saturday, June 27, 2009

Visiting Sana

On one of our recent trips to Boa Esperança we spent a day on the road exploring another tiny town in the mountains: Sana. Talk about in the middle of nowhere…

Getting there was half the fun. The scenery along the way was spectacular, with the occasional pousada tucked into the hillside.

Sana was great. No stress. Nothing moving too fast.

The town is a central spot for eco-tourism in the area: rock climbing, rafting, horseback riding, etc. As with most tiny getaway mountain towns Sana seems to have been overridden by hippies. Hippies are one of those things I liked better when I was nearer their experience. Now I just find myself getting annoyed by their hand-crafted crap for sale and the curious vegetable gardens they cultivate on top of their heads. But Sana itself is a very peaceful town surviving nicely on their little bit of tourism.

Like a scene from a fantasy novel.

Xmas in June!

It’s Christmas in June. My dear friend Beth has come to visit with her lovely 10 year old daughter Cece. We exchanged emails for months planning the trip.

For us here in Brazil, having a friend visit is a huge opportunity to get consumer goods from America at a fraction of the local cost – and of better quality. Beth was game to carry a big suitcase on our behalf – with the intention to fill that same suitcase with souvenirs on her way home. Win win.

So I went online and shopped!

Books, for sure.

Then I went to Bed Bath and Beyond for a number of things – but in particular a spice rack. Who knew a spice rack would be so stupid expensive here in Brazil!? I also got a meat grinder attachment to our Kitchen Aid mixer. Local butchers look at you like you have three heads if you ask for ground turkey meat – or if you want your lamb ground twice.

Zip lock bags. Vacuum bags. Simple stuff.

Printer ink – this is a big one. I bought online and shipped to Beth printer ink cartridges for about US$4.00 each (including shipping). Here those same cartridges cost US$22.00. Crazy. Beth brought a good year’s supply for us.

On the lighter side – Beth brought a supersize bag of Nestle chocolate chips. 72 ounces! That’s like two kilograms! So very Costco. So very American. Lots of fun/chocolate in our future!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tiny beaches and tinier monkeys

Most Fridays are pretty open for me. I have only one student, at 8:45 a.m. for one hour. After that my weekend officially kicks in. Unless Luiz has a flower gig he is also free on Fridays. So we enjoy getting out of the house and exploring our city and surroundings.

This Friday we took a local bus to Jurujuba. This is a cute little fishing village on the far side of the bay just east of us – and almost to the mouth of the bay. Once in the village we walked up and over the little peninsula to check out two tiny beaches Luiz used to visit when he was younger.

On our way out of the village we stopped to watch a craftsman building a little boat in the parking space in front of his house. From the looks of it that sturdy little vessel would be of good service for many years to come.

Getting to the top of the hill came with wonderful views down to the beaches and across the mouth of the bay to Rio. Only a few other people were out enjoying the day so we had a quiet walk along the sand.

Right on cue, when we arrived at the larger of the two beaches there was a tiny bar on the side of the road. As is the custom, we sat and enjoyed a couple cold beers while marveling in our good fortune to live in such a spectacular place.

And then what to our wondering eyes should appear? Two little monkeys sneaking out of the bush looking for edible handouts from the bar owner. Super cute. Like long-tailed kittens. They stuck around for quite a while and were given bits of banana for their trouble.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Healthy confidence

“I am a witch – and I know.” That was the forceful and crystal clear statement made to me from about two inches in front of my face.

While we were enjoying a daylong party at Dora and Serjão’s new apartment last weekend the conversation at one point turned to Luiz’s battle with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. As is always the case people expressed heartfelt concern and wondered impatiently why he “just doesn’t get a bone marrow transplant?” (Long story – but this is not an appropriate/safe option at this point.)

Luiz is very good about fielding questions and being 110% upbeat. And he is very patient with those who insist he launch into treatments they know very little about.

Me, on the other hand – I just stand off to the side and tear up. I can never be involved in these conversations without crying (I can’t even write this account -- I’m crying right now). At some point folks notice Jim is melting and come give me a hug.

On this occasion Dora came up to me and insisted I look her straight in the eye. “Jim. Listen to me,” she said. “Nothing bad is going to happen to Luiz. Nothing.” I nodded my head and wiped my tears. With a penetrating gaze she assured: “I am a witch – and I know.”

I like having witches on our side.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Open house in Rio

Our friends Dora and Serjão have just finished remodeling their new apartment on the ground floor of Dora’s sister’s one hundred year old house. For the past several months they have been overseeing workers tearing out floors and installing new tile, switching out old plumbing for new, walling up old doorways, upgrading electrical wires and bringing in new lights and bathroom fixtures.

[Look at that fabulous huge clay pot!]

Dora is brilliant at combining colors and painting textured walls. She spent years living in Mexico (for work – she’s a nuclear physicist) which clearly shows through in her color choices.

So naturally – it was time for a party to celebrate their moving in!

Everyone was so excited we arrived at 10:30 in the morning. Let the party begin.
Even the Brazilian nuclear physicist has a little magic/luck icon tucked in her house to keep the evil spirits away (or to call in the good spirits).
It was after 11:00 p.m. by the time we packed up and left our friends to get some rest. Gotta love those 12 hour parties!