Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Slight Slip Up--Successful Recovery

We had our first bit of a disaster today. But honestly, I wouldn't call it a disaster. If anything it was a panic more for Gui and Carla than the three Americans. Luckily, nothing disastrous happened.

Gui was back to work today but hooked us up with a great tour opportunity. His friend, Thiago, has a tour company that gives cultural walking tours of the city. It was ten times more interesting and educational than the large city tour in Rio. Typically his group averages about five people, we were "large" because we had seven. Melody, Micah and I were joined by a famliy who once lived in Sao Paulo but primarily was from Switzerland. They now live all over--but the mother father and two sons were together for the older son's 30th birthday. They were extremely friendly and wanted to learn as much about us as they did about the city.

Thiago, it turns out, is one of Gui's life long friends and did the same exchange program that brought Gui to Casey County. In fact, by
complete chance, Thiago was also placed in Kentucky--Taylor County High School to be exact. His tour was excellent and nothing you would normally get our of your standard tour. I definitely preferred the walking and he simply took us to places that you would normally walk right past in the city without thinking twice, but Thiago was able to give us facts and history on all sorts of places, eateries, works of graffiti (which COVER the city), theaters, cathedrals, shopping centers, and simple little things that gave further explanation to the way of life in Sao Paulo.

From the tour, the three of us were to catch a bus to Santos, the city where Carla lives. She would meet us at the station (which would take about an hour and 15 minutes to get to) and Gui would drive to Santos once done with work. Thiago was kind enough to take us all the way to boarding the bus so he could assure Gui we had gotten on the right bus. I slept a little bit on the drive but also enjoyed the amazing scenery. We went way up in the mountains and were looking down upon gorgeous green valleys, thick with forest and jungle. It was quite a down-down-down spiral coming into Santos, but the city was much smaller than Sao Paulo. It made it feel homey after being in such a huge city.

So we got to the station and I stood to get off, but most people were still sitting. Melody asked if we were supposed to get off. I had no idea. We looked out the bus windows to see if we could spot Carla waiting for us but there was no sign of her. I guess it was obvious we were slightly confused so some people offered some help. I must have missed the first man who talked to Micah and Melody (they were seated a little further up than me) who spoke English and told them this was not the last stop in Santos. Gui hadn't said at which stop to get off. Then the man next to me began his attempts to help, bless him, but he knew no English. In the end multiple people told us that this was not the last stop and there was another station in Santos close to the beach. There was little time to make a decision so stayed put. As soon as we were pulling away I began to guess we'd made a mistake. The station had a large sign on the other side and its name was Santos. Then I saw a clock and it had been exactly and hour and 15 minutes since we'd left Sao Paulo. When we had to sit through the first stop on our way to Sao Paulo from Rio Gui had been very clear that we were not to get off on the first stop. He had not done that this time. The bus continued through the city letting people off at random places. Soon enough we were the only ones on the bus, looking at each other saying, "ummm...oops?"

It turns out the second station that everyone had mentioned to us was not a real station. It was simply the bus company's station that was rather small. However, it did stop (END) here so at least we didn't find our selves heading back to Sao Paulo. We were on the beach when we got off the empty bus (knowing the driver was looking at us and thinking, "stupid gringos!") but none of us were panicking. We could tell the city wasn't that huge. I even said to them that I mainly felt bad because it had been nearly an hour since we were supposed to arrive so Carla and Gui were probably freaking out wondering where we had ended up. We found a phone booth and began dialing all of the toll free numbers the two of them had given us since we
arrived. It took several attempts but finally I heard on the other end, "Rita? Are you there?" It was Carla. I'm not sure who was more relieved.

Carla knew where the other "station" was and said she'd be there shortly to get us. Gui lectured us later for getting lost and said to me, "Think... Just lat night I was talking to Mr. and Mrs. Dixon telling them how safe there daughter was and that I would take care of her. What was I going to tell them when I lost you?"

We ate out at a great Japanese Rodizio restaurant and enjoyed lots of sushi, Tumaki, caipirinhas and more more more (including coffee for me--I can't get enough of it here!). Carla's house was wonderful and her Mom had a room all set up for us. She even had chocolate gifts for us all. We have been so blessed with the wonderful people who have been hosting us on our trip and blessed that, so far, missing our bus stop has been the biggest disaster we have faced.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

All The World's A Classroom

Sorry, Shakespeare but you had it wrong. Maybe the world is a stage but it is most definitely primarily a classroom.

Lucky for us, Gui was off work today and after letting us sleep in (and waking us up by singing the American National Anthem to us) he gave us a day out and about in Sao Paulo. Honestly, we were mainly driving but I don't think any of us minded. There was a lot to take in and endless questions to be asked.

We first went to the Soccer Museum which is housed at the home stadium of the Corinthians (pronounced "corin-chins" soccer club). The majority of the museum was in Portuguese but lucky for us we had our personal translator. For a girl who has never known much about soccer, it's quite amazing how much I have been surrounded by it in these past few days--terms, players, teams, historical moments.

Interesting, though, that Gui himself is not the typical hardcore soccer addict in Brazil. Basketball is more his passion (not that any Brazilian doesn't know his soccer), but melody and I picked up on a level of resentment towards soccer from Gui. Not because he does not enjoy it but because the weight that is put on a game in this culture. Everywhere we went today (and the entire time we have been here) we saw flags, signs, people in yellow, green and blue jerseys and shirts, food deals, paraphernalia in store windows. Melody commented on the national pride here and how cool it is but Gui corrected her quickly, saying you see none of this when it is not World Cup season. People live and breathe soccer but sometimes put it before the real necessities or what should be the priorities in life, he said. He told us he felt American's national pride is much stronger because it exists outside of the sports world and something I had never thought of, but he pointed out that he said part of that is probably because of the wars we have fought in. When noting the "pride" we were seeing everywhere we also asked of any major wars that had taken place in Brazil. We noted it is a good thing but Gui said he slightly disagreed. With having no history of fighting for what is theirs or to gain better rights or freedom, there is no appreciation for what they have; at least not like in America. It's something I never thought of--war as a strength in our history simply for what it does for the unity of the people and the appreciation of what is ours.

The day was full of these thought-provoking conversations as talk revolved around differences in languages and foods and traditions and cultures. The questions and observations back and forth never stopped. We got a close look at the favelas for the first time--the very poor areas of town where people nearly live on top of each other. We also got to see downtown Sao Paulo and many of the older buildings and museums.

Carla got to Gui's house in time for dinner and his parents cooked an awesome homemade traditional Brazilian meal and wow was it delicious. Amazing what all we have eaten here and this one--perhaps the best one yet--was free to us!

Five days in this country and there is no doubt in my mind I have learned more than I ever could have in a whole semester of class on Brazilian culture. It's amazing the amount of knowledge this world holds for us that we can so easily tap into if we simply use the resources we have at our fingertips--and for the most part, those "resources" I am referring to are our friends.

A City of Extraordinary Size

Arriving in Sau Paulo was a complete change of scenery. I've never seen a city skyline quite like it. I really shouldn't even call it a skyline. It was more like a city horizon. It stretched on in either direction with endless skyscrapers. No center. No taller or more clustered looking area; just an endless horizon of buildings. Once into the city it only got more congested. Streets curve, go up, down; cars zoom in and out of lanes and finding anything green seemed nearly impossible. I admit, it was a bit saddening for this country girl. How can you have such a beautiful country--all that I had seen only hours before--and then surround yourself in such a concrete jungle? (as someone in Rio had referred to it.) I suppose, as said plenty of times before, it's just the country girl coming out in me.

Gui was already gone to his night event when we arrived at the Santo Andre bus station, so his kind, kind mother was picking us up who knows very little English. That did not matter, though, as she greeted us with open arms and a smile that no one could mistake for the smile she passed on to her son. She had the house all ready for us--each with a bed and a towel waiting and some food snacks--bread, bread bread! One thing they love here in Brazil. (not to mention the cheese...)

Tonight, as tired as we were, we attended the awards ceremony Gui was hosting/working. It was the "NBB" (Brazil's NBA) championship awards ceremony. The final games were the reason Gui was not able to spend more time with us in Rio--as the Media Relations manager for the NBB he had a lot going on. It was interesting to watch the awards being given out--keep in mind that soccer rules all in Brazil, so basketball isn't quite the hot commodity that it is in the U.S. so you don't have to blow this party out of proportion in your mind. It was also cool to see Gui the "working man". It's pretty incredible to be here visiting him in his regular real life seven years after he came to Casey County as a simple high school student. I see this life that he lives in a go-go-go, cram-packed city and I can't help but ask myself, "What in the world did he think when he arrived in Casey County and how did he come to love a lifestyle and a people so different from the one of his own?" I suppose it goes to show that there is something priceless about the love of a small town and the bonded community that makes it up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Fresh Box Of Crayons

Today I truly remembered why I wanted to take the bus from Rio to Sao Paulo and not just fly. Seeing the landscapes of another country is priceless.

I admit that I was pretty tired after last night's adventures so keeping my eyes open through the entire 7 1/2 hour bus ride did not happen. We rolled out of Rio at 10 a.m. and did not arrive in Sao Paulo until 4 p.m., but then we were on the bus for another hour before arriving at the station in Santo Andre, Gui's portion of town.

I dozed off as we departed Rio but would open my eyes hit and miss--noticing the buildings and houses getting smaller and more spread out every time that I did. Finally, I opened them to see nothing but gorgeous mountains, completely free of any trees reaching up to the sky. As tired as I continued to be I knew that I had to soak all of this in. The natural beauty of a world so far from the one in which I live.

Looking out the bus windows all I could think about was how narrow minded my scope the potential beauty of the land on this Earth has been until now. As a kid when you are first using crayons and making pictures, you draw simple hills and color them with the standard Crayola green. The sky is blue with some clouds and maybe you´ll place some trees: a brown thick trunk with a fluffy green top. As the knobs passed in front of my eyes on the bus from Rio I felt like I was seeing beyond the coloring pages of a child for the first time ever; realizing the numerous shades of green that exist beyond that standard grass green; realizing the many shapes of a hill, knob or mountain and the many types of trees far beyond just the leafy tops. I cannot even describe the array of green I saw in a simple glance. Many knobs were completely bare with only tall yellow-green grass blowing in the wind; others were lined--in seemingly perfect rows--with skinny,dark green tops.

Further along the sides of those knobs that were treeless had come tumbling down, my guess due to the lack of tree roots to hold the soil down. Still, though, the beauty continued as the dirt ranged from pinkish to nearly dark red colors. It was as if the mountains about been chopped into with a knife and were left to bleed. Again, red dirt--something I never would have colored in my own drawings. My mind was being blown with sites my mind had never even been capable of imagining. In one instance I seriously stared at the side of a mountain and thought to myself, "That looks like a giant grig in the middle of my coloring page." (sorry to those who don't know "grig".) Like I'd finished a picture and someone spilled something in the middle or dropped the wrong crayons and left marks in the middle of the page. This random dark spot on the mountains was so random that that I cannot imagine someone creating it, but God's art is one of a kind. His imagination is far beyond ours and I suppose what keeps ours expanding. He proves over and over that his wonders are endless.

On a Boat... in RIO

You may remember me saying in my last post on Monday that it was 8 p.m. and we were exhausted and going to bed. Well, that changed a little. Exhaustion was still there but bed time didn't arrive until after 5 a.m.

Micah and I got a wild hair and decided to kick sensibility to the curb and spend our last night in Rio out, but not out on the town; out on the water!

Just like the soccer game we went to on Saturday and the City Tour earlier on Monday, there were night events you could attend through the hostel and this one was a "Boat Party". It didn't leave until midnight and wasn't returning until 5 a.m. We had to be up at 8 a.m. to catch our cab to the bus station by 8:30 a.m. You only live once, though, right?

As predicted, the boat party was mainly travelers like ourselves. We rode in a cab with a girl from Argentina and two military guys: one from Missouri and one from California. We also met a guy from Colombia from our hostel, Eduardo, and a guy from Germany, Mario. Through the night we met plenty more--two girls from London doing a world tour, a girl from Brazil, a guy who'd been our tour earlier from Vancouver.

The boat was no Belle of Louisville but that was probably for the better. My guess (and I'm not very good at this sort of thing) was probably 25-30 ft wide and about 70 ft long--not too huge. That made it easy for Micah and I to never get lost from each other but feel safe to leave one another (for the bathroom or the bar) without the other feeling abandoned. Only two levels but it wasn't completely packed so there were only a few people up top at a time. There was a bar aboard and a raised platform that became a dance floor.

We took off around 1 (my guess). It was great to see the city at night. The long, long bridge we'd seen in the far distance from both Sugar Loaf and the Cristos was our destination. We got just to the other side of it and just rocked in the waves for quite awhile. This bridge, we were told, takes 15 minutes to cross. Someone gave me the distance of it but I've forgotten now--1500 meters? Seeing the Christ on a clear night from the ocean was pretty awesome as well. He's just lit up in the night sky above everything and you cannot see the cliffs and mountains around him, so he appears to be floating above. Beautiful.

I definitely could have afforded to come in long before we did, but at least it was before 5--probably a little after 4 when we docked and we grabbed a cab back with a few of our new hostel friends. A few short hours of sleep and we were on a bus waving goodbye to Rio.

Monday, June 7, 2010

True Tourists For The Day

These days really seem to wear me out. It's definitely reminiscent of the days in Europe with Dani. There were times when we wandered through cities without talking at all simply because we were taking it all in and exhausted while struggling through the language and being hit up by streets salesmen right and left. That was today.

Starting the day out in the sunshine of the beach probably didn't help our exhaustion--laying under the sun, letting it zap all energy. But there was no resisting: it was an absolutely magnificent morning for the beach--the best kind of weather you could ask for: completely clear blue skies, 70-degree weather, just a slight breeze (nothing like yesterday's gusting wind) and sun-sun-sun! Before even getting there, though, we noticed on the street parallel to ours what we would consider in the US the farmer's market. It hadn't been there any other day so far, so we figured we'd stroll through. Aaah! no doubt fruit here is something a world away from any fruit I've ever experienced in the US. I first took note of this from the bananas in our hostel. They tasted more citrusy/fruity and less mushy banana like. Then, through the market people kept offering us samples freshly sliced off the fruit. The strawberries are something I cannot get out of my mind even though it is no 8pm at night. The man handed Micah and I each one and I thanked him and kept going. But once I'd bitten in I had to stop and look down at what I was eating. Was it dipped in sugar--the way you often times will eat them in America? No. I took another bite. Unbelievable. It was nothing but a fresh, ripe strawberry and I swear it tasted like it had been grown in soil made of nothing but sugar. Amazing.

We laid by the ocean for about an hour then walked down Ipanema towards Copacabana. We got right to the point where the two meet but had to turn back in order to make sure we were at the hostel for when the city tour we'd signed up for arrived.

The tour wasn't too costly, but that was somewhat reflected in what we got. I am glad we visited Sugar Loaf yesterday on our own time. Things were slightly more rushed in the tour (not to mention we didn't have our own personal guide and translator, Carla) but I'm sure our tiredness played a factor in how much we enjoyed the tour. It began with The Cristos, The Christ. We were in a bus/van and the road to the top was bumpy BUMPY and the driver sure didn't mind the bumps. He sped right up there taking every turn without hitting the breaks I'm pretty sure. We had to go through Santa Teresa, which was the rich neighborhood and through the national forest, which was quite beautiful. It was fun to see monkeys scurrying about the trees.

It was a bit disappointing that the lower half of The Christ statue was covered in scaffolding where they are doing some work on him, but it could've been the face, right? Quite magnificent. It's really awesome thing to be in this city and at any point you can look to the sky and see the figure--from a distance looking just like the Cross, overlooking you. Such a great reminder of the truth that we do always have someone overlooking us and keeping us safe. Or as Lawman Chibundi once said, "God's got your back."

The ride down was just as exciting as that up, except this time I was in the very back. You can remember what riding in the back of the school bus was like: ten times bumpier. This was so ridiculous it brought back memories of Cedar Point with Holly and Boo in 2000 and whatever the name of the park's oldest roller coaster is that was made of wood. So rickety and loud and jerky. The middle eastern guy sitting next to me kept laughing along with me and even made the comment, "It's like being on a roller coaster." Amen to that! We then stopped at the stadium but didn't go inside--lucky for us we got to experience that on Sunday at the game. Then it was to the Cathedral. I had no idea what it looked like so I was quite surprised when the van stopped and I realized that's where it had stopped. It's circular, but as if someone flipped a funnel over and cut off the small end that you stick into a bottle so you've only got the portion with the slanted edges. Strips of stained glass ran up the edges in about six or eight different lines. Natural light poured in from three main entrances and the alter had a huge wooden crucifix hanging above it. I have a weird thing about taking pictures in churches for some reason. I suppose I know that so many people come to just take pictures when to me a church is not a place for tourist attraction--it's God's house, right? I guarantee half the people who visit with their camera's are not people who truly practice any kind of faith. So I knelt before the alter and had my time to pray before continuing on with my pictures (which I'll mention I did without using the flash; it seems less disrespectful for whatever reason.) Oh, and for the record, the kneelers at this cathedral knocked St. Bernard's out of the ballpark for discomfort! These were straight wood with no cushion. Definitely not long adorations happening here!

We stopped by the strip/location of Carnaval and then the group was going to Sugar Loaf and we were dropped off at our hostel, which was a fortunate thing since Micah was starving. (So much for his insisting on "something light" before the tour and nothing more.) Our hostel hosts gave us advise for an all-you-can-eat pizza place just up the street--sounded perfect to us. Well, this was an all new experience for the three of us. Not only were we trying to figure out costs and what we could or couldn't eat without knowing the language, but this was an all-you-can-eat in a new fashion. Rather than having a buffet to select from over and over, the waitresses would bring out one pizza after another to the table and you'd simply let them know if you wanted a slice or not. Was kind of tricky when you couldn't ask what was on each one or what else they had or request certain things. You simply had to look and guess. I'm pretty sure we all left satisfied though because this deal also included the best dessert pizza I've ever had in my life!

I hate to admit it but it was only about 8pm when we got back to our hostel but we were all completely wiped and since we are heading out of Rio semi-early tomorrow to get on to Sao Paulo to FINALLY get to spend some time with the reason for this trip: GUI BUSO!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Just A Nice Sunny Winter Day

I have to keep reminding myself that it is winter time in Brazil. I knew it felt weird heading to the futbol game last night and it was so dark--it was 5pm and felt like 9pm because the sun was already missing from the sky. Then I remembered the season and realized it was much the same my for Kentucky winters.

Lucky for us, the rains from yesterday were gone when we woke up this morning. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. There was
one problem though: the wind. Wowzers are we talking some wind! And it definitely had its effects on the ocean. I have never seen waves like that when there wasn't a storm rolling in. Unfortunately the wind made the beach not so warm except when the sun was shining (then it was quite warm), but the wind kept the clouds rolling quickly and we'd go back and forth from goosebumps in the shadows to feeling the tingling of the sun on our skin.
However, we saw a rather large cloud roll in that told us the majority of our sun rays were gone for the next little bit so we headed back to the hostel and changed into some non-sandy clothes and walked to the nearby mall. The idea was to visit the food court so that we could each get whatever we felt like for lunch. Wouldn't you know we all went with the same choice: the pasta bar! Bellarmine had a mini-version of this for one semester (what a terrible thing that they did not continue it!) This just had five times the options. You picked out your pasta type, your sauce and up to eight different ingredients to put into the sauce. We had a little learning session with Carla where she went through the order slip to tell us what every ingredient was so we could more wisely choose what we wanted. We followed that up with a stop at a cafe where I could have some glorious glorious REAL coffee--the super super strong type in a tiny mug. (The kind you don't find in the U.S.--Dani knows what I'm talking about!)

That bit of cafe was just what I needed to kick me off for our next run of fun: Sugar Loaf! These two giant cliffs--especially the taller one-- stick out of the ocean and the land like someone just stuck half a banana in the ocean. I've gotten used to seeing the taller one, but as I stared at it today I took note of how odd it is and really wondered what formed this unusual protrusion. It was so easy to get caught up taking picture after picture since none of them really felt like they captured the magnificence. It was good that we finally just bought some drinks and took a seat on a bench near the edge and chatted as the sun began to set over the ocean and behind the cliffs that bordered thedistant the city.

Carla left us later this evening as she headed back to her town so she can head to work tomorrow. Micah, Melody and I are on our own for the first time since setting foot in the country. We've learned the important phrases (we thinking... yes, no, thank you, help, excuse me, etc) and already have our bus tickets to Gui's town in Sao Paulo for Tuesday. Tomorrow we will hit all of the other high points of Rio with a tour group through the hostel (yay, they'll know English!) Two days and so much has much in so short of a time, yet I know it'll go all to quickly! Either way...bring on a new day!


I suppose it was sort of silly of me not to even consider that one of the "musts" for visiting Brazil would be to attend a soccer game. It wouldn't be complete without it, right?

Gui and Carla didn't waste any time in getting that on our agenda.
It was actually extremely convenient. There was a deal through our hostel to pay in advance and get the transportation and tickets to a Flamengo game. It was actually the very last game to be played in the HUGE 100,000 seating stadium (forgive me, I've forgotten the name at the moment) before its closing until the use for the 2014 World Cup. A little crazy when you consider that the 2010 World Cup has not even begun yet. (You wouldn't know that being here, though. Everything is decked in Brazil pride because of the big event. Even the McDonald's menu is special for the World Cup.)

I've never been to a professional soccer game before and this was definitely the way to start. We may have been up near the top of the stadium (but that whole portion was covered from the rain that was falling through parts of the game) but it was where all of the action was. You may see in my pictures that the stadium looks empty. This had much to do with, well, it's massive seating capacity but also that the opponents had no fans. But we were in the heart of the Flamengo pride. Drums beating, chanting and singing, flags waving. We may have lost but getting to experience the first goal of the game (not until the second half) was enough to satisfy me. I'm pretty sure Melody and I found ourselves singing along without completely knowing what were saying. You couldn't help but be swept away with the atmosphere.

One cultural thing to note about the sporting event experience: the crowd vendors. Like any arena, vendors walked around carrying food, drinks and snacks yelling out to the crowd and making their money. But never in the US have I ever noted them to be such avid recyclers! Mid there semi-annoying "pssssst" noises they'd make (it was their way of announcing their presence or something as they moved through the crowd) I noticed that the plastic tubs they carried sodas and waters in (no selling of alcohol in the stadium) that there were empty crushed cans as well. It actually looked dirty and that's why I asked Carla about it. She explained that cans are NEVER left anywhere because someone will so easily snatch them up to later trade in to make money. Funny, though, isn't it, that in the US we can also make money off of cans, but you sure don't seem people walking around picking up other people's trash that faithfully. Besides, I'm sure people would look at those plastic tubs with the melted ice water holding both full cans and empty crushed cans and not even want to purchase anything. It's just interesting to me the things that are the same, but treated differently.

Quite an eventful first day--felt like much more. We finished up the night by grabbing a small bite to eat across the street from our hostel and a drink. Exhaustion set in full force, though and bed time came somewhat early.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Not the Normal Meat Eater but...

I so easily had forgotten the many wonders of traveling. It's not just that you are setting foot in a place that is not part of your own country. It's truly a new world. The first thing I noticed were the hills/mountains. Nothing like the rolling hills of Kentucky. It's like a kid went to town on them with a pair of scissors; very jagged and irregular. We drove through what seemed to be part of the industrial area along with the older parts of town. Gui explained how Rio had once been Brazil's capital and was just recently being restored somewhat.

From the moment we were in the cab we could see The Christ, Cristos, upon one of the knobs, which we got closer and closer to until passing through a tunnel that went through the knob it was upon and then we entered the other side of the city where our hostel, Che Legarto, is located. Aah, only about a block and a hafl from the beach! Sad to say, but it's overcast and rainy today--not terrible. We walked outside without any trouble, but we're definitely hoping for blue skies and sunshine for the rest of the week.

We strolled down to the beach and around the area while waiting to eat lunch. Gui already had it all planned for us. We'd eat at Porcao (said "Poor Cow") as soon as it opened for the day. Gui said it would be costly, but if we were to have one "good" meal while here, this was the place to do it, because it was not just about the great food, but the experience in itself.

We started with Caipirinha before getting a table. I'd compare it to a margarita. Tequila along with lots of sliced/chopped up limes. Delicious. Then we moved to our actual table. The food was buffet style--but not at all. I know in America, you hear buffet and you think under par, dried out food that has been sitting out and picked at for far too long. We had to take a tour around to even see what our options were before beginning. Lots of sushi and raw fish, fresh mozzarella, other cheeses, hummus, quail eggs, olives, salads, steamed veggies....a million things I tried without even knowing what they were. Then there was a buffet line of black beans and rice along with your choice of meat to add to the black beans, including....are you ready for it... PIG TONGUE! Yep, tongues floating around in black bean sauce. Don't you worry... I "manned up" and tried it. Verdict? Surprisingly good! In fact, I really liked the flavor, but what made it weird was the texture. It was soooo soft that it was like eating applesauce almost. You didn't even need to chew.

So I filled up my plate with what I thought would be my first round. What I didn't realize was what was till to come: MEAT. Meat, meat. and moooore meat. The servers would bring out HUGE chunks of cooked meat on poles and you'd simply tell them "sim" (yes) or "Nao" (no) you wanted some. I thought this would be about five different options...Pork, Beef, Chicken, probably some other kind of bird... and something else random. Indeed I was wrong. We know I'm not a huge meat-eater, but I was saying yes to most of it at first, thinking, why not try it? Bad idea. If I'd said yes to everything...well just ask Micah. He nearly did and he had a very full plate (and a very full stomach.) Gui and Carla insisted we all try the chicken heart--one of their favorites. Melody choked down her sliver. Micah said, "Yeah I don't mind that,"and immediately spat it out in his rice and buried the partially chewed food. I definitely liked the pig tongue flavor better. The heart was okay, but not something I would choose to order. I had lamb soaked in wine and also tried ostrich for the first time. The salmon was unbelievable. I learned that the reason they brought out so many options was because it was the opportunity to try different parts of the same animal. My favorite, surprisingly, surprisingly, was the back of the cow/neck area. Very easy to chew and flavorful.
No doubt were were all stuffed and probably won't eat but a snack for the rest of the day. And with full tummies and little sleep on a long plane ride, we are all pretty exhausted. We're taking some downtime for now. Sadly, Gui had to leave Rio to head to Brasilia for work purposes and we won't see him until we get to Sao Paul on Tuesday. Carla is hanging with us as our faithful guide and translator, though and tonight the four four of us will head to a soccer game. Can you really skip out on watching some soccer while your in Brazil? Of course not.

Lost and Found

So I already did something stupid. Imagine that.

I lost a wad of cash.

We all exchanged some currency before leaving Houston, just to have when entering Brazil. I broke mine up, sticking it in different parts of my wallet, but just for safe measure I stuck some in my undies as well--just in case I were to lose all of my bags, I'd have some money on me still. Unfortunately, that wad was not too cozy poking into my side while trying to sleep on the ten hour flight where I was stuck in the VERY middle of the plane where I didn't stand up once. I remember mid my attempts to sleep I moved that wad around so it'd stop jabbing me. Problem was, I forgot all about it when we got off the plane; until we were in line to go through
customs. money in the undies. Just my luck. They let me go back on the plane and look for it, but no doubt someone had already snatched it.

We all know I'm pretty tight with money, but I immediately chalked the loss up to just being another travel expense. No need to get bent out of shape. Losing a bag or losing my passport could have been much worse. (In fact, when I went back on the plane to look for the money there was an Italian girl looking for some paper she needed in order to get back in the U.S. later. I decided if one of the two of us was going to find what we were looking for, I hoped it was her.)

Besides, once we had our bags and were "okayed" to enter the country, who was waiting right outside in his blue Kentucky t-shirt? Mr. Gui Buso and his lovely lady Carla found us right away before we had even a moment to be confused. Melody and I also spotted a rainbow upon exiting the plane. That has to be a good sign, right?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Bags Are Packed, I'm Ready To Go...

Okay, that's not completely true. My bags are partially packed. I'm rather proud of myself, actually for how well I'm doing with the "packing light" deal for a 10 day trip.

Anyway, YES, tomorrow I step on a plane with Micah and Melody, fly to Houston and then ship off on a long, long flight down South to fulfill a promise I made years and years ago to my very, very dear friend, Mr. Gui Buso, and will visit his home in Brazil.

It feels like a lifetime ago, yet also like just yesterday that Gui set foot into Casey County highschool my junior year. He was the automatic "hottie" the day he agreed to step out on the football field to try his hand at being their kicker... Brazil=soccer=kicking=duh ...of course he was a great kicker! That was something new for Casey County! I cannot really tell you how I came to know Gui (except that our school is quite small so of course "everyone know everyone".) I'd say it helped quite a bit that many of my closest friends were on the football team, which I traveled with keeping stats. Then, being involved with the girls' basketball team kept me in close with the boys' team, of which he was also a part of. Then when spring rolled around, being the all-around-athlete that Gui is, he decided to join my track team as well. (Yes, I consider it MY track team.)

I remember upon Gui's arrival, hoping that when he left eventually that I would have at least become a close friend--someone he'd remember when he left the Bluegrass. No doubt that happened. After his departure, the two of us did a great job of staying in touch via email. (Ah, the days before Facebook when email was so much more important!) Although he went back to his big city of Sao Paulo where "cold" meant 60-degree weather; he had come to love the people of the tiny community of Casey County despite our cold winters.

Since leaving Gui has been back to visit Kentucky about four times. He also spent about six months in Florida about five years ago working at Disney World. Myself and four friends made a Christmas Break road trip to Orlando to visit him which resulted in possibly the best vacation to date. He was most recently here last September when I finally got to meet his girlfriend, Carla.

Carla and Gui have been amazing in this planning process. With two great hosts, no doubt a trip with my long, long time goofy friend Micah will nothing but fabulously full of adventure!