Thursday, August 27, 2009
Sunday we walked a couple of miles on the train tracks to join our friend, Leo, on an outreach to a local flavela (poor village). Our visit was short but impacting. It was so good for our family to see how other people live. It has been several years since our trip to the Dominican Republic and Marko was the only one old enough to remember that experience.
The people in the village were very kind and were enjoying their day visiting with each other. We were there with a medical team, a dance team, and various other people with hearts to reach out to the poor.
Unfortunately, Noah ended up getting really sick before we could join in on the day's outreach. Marko had to carry Noah on his back all the way home and the poor guy threw up halfway there. We thought he was dehydrated, but he ended up sick for several days with a fever, throwing up, diarrhea, headache, and the chills. He is now on antibiotics and is doing much better.
I wish I had more to share with you but for now all I have are a few pictures. We will have many more opportunities to visit the flavela's in the future. Until then, here is a glimpse of a community of people struggling to make ends meet.
Saturday we were invited to some friends weekend home, a fazenda in the hills of Santa Luzia. They picked us up at noon and we spent the remainder of the day enjoying the spoils of the land. We ate fruit from their trees, eggs from their chickens, and we even drank fresh, straight sugar cane ( what a delight)!
The kids had a blast hunting for crystals in the forest, riding the play jeep, rowing across the family pond, and swimming in the pool.
Marko and I once again enjoyed Brazilian fellowship while eating Brazilian Cuisine. We stuffed ourselves full and rolled into bed wondering if we were ever going to exercise discipline in our lives again!
As is customary, the visit was an all day event. We were exhausted from attempting to speak and understand Portuguese, as well conversing in English with Brazilians eager to learn our language! Grandpa (Vou) was very anxious to practice his English and boy is it hard on the brain to try to meld two languages together for clear understanding! I think we all were worn out by the end of the day!
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Well, as usual, I have not been able to blog as much as I would like. We finally got internet at the house but there was a mistake with the installment and it is pretty slow. We hope to have the problem reconciled quickly (quickly is not really a reality in Brazil)! Marko's schedule has been busy dealing with computer gliches and various other issues that have arisen with the house. I have a full schedule including taking care of the kids and the household, as well as Teaching four English classes a week. I have never considered myself a teacher, but God has opened the doors for me to teach in Brazil, so I am stepping out in faith. This just sort of fell into my lap and I believe that it is what I am supposed to do. I left the United States with plans to pursue my Master's degree in Counseling. I still have that desire, but here I am in Brazil doing something I never would have planned on doing, and I am enjoying it! I am currently taking an on-line course called TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Who knows, maybe I will enjoy it so much that I will switch my Master's degree to TEFL! I am so open to what God has for me. A common phrase that Marko likes to use is: "I just work here"! In other words, as Christians, God is in control of our lives and we are just trying to be obedient and walk out the plan He has for us. His plan is frequently not our plan, so we try our best to listen and be obedient to the call-even if it is teaching English in Brazil!
I thought I would give you a little snapshot into our daily lives. Marko and I have a goal of waking up at 5:00 every morning to do an interactive bible study. We do not make it up at the same time every day, but we are committing to at least 3-4 days a week. It is a little difficult right now in that Gabriella's bedroom is the living room and she wakes up very easily! We wake the boys up at 6:00 to get ready for school which starts at 7:00 (and here I thought school was early in the U.S.)! Marko makes the kids breakfast while I go on a walk/run around our neighborhood. I get back in time to drop Marko and Noah off at school directly across the street.
On a typical day Gabriella and I will then walk into town to do our errands. It is about an half mile walk to the grocery store so we don our flip flops and head out. The walk into town is easy but the walk back can be a little challenging depending upon how many bags of groceries we bought! I have yet to master the art of purchasing just the right amount of food so that we can carry our grocery bags comfortably. Usually I get home with red marks on my wrists from supporting the majority of the bags (Gabriella always seems to come down with some excuse as to why she can't carry more than one or two bags)!!
We get home in time to do some American homework and hang out with daddy before picking the boys up at 11:30. The boys come home and we either make lunch in the house or walk next door to our neighbors restaurant. We can go to their all you can eat buffet for $4 Reais which is equivalent to about $2.00 American-depressing I know!!! Imagine if we could eat so cheaply at home!
After lunch we hang out as a family while Gabriella gets ready for school. We drop her off at 1:00 then come back home and tackle the boys' American Homework. We want to make sure they keep up on their American studies because their school in Brazil is 100% Portuguese speaking so they are not getting much out of it academically (yet).
I am not sure what happens to the afternoon, but it always seem to fly by. We usually we end up at CTMDT where Marko G. works in the school store. He helps cook and clean and is paid with free food. He is so adorable in his apron. I will have to take a picture of him to post on the blog. While Marko is working hard, Noah is usually playing hard, and mommy and daddy are studying. Noah as you can guess can typically be found running, jumping, or climbing something! On hot days we are down by the pool for part of the afternoon. The water is freezing though so it is usually just the kids who are swimming! At this moment it is 4:00 P.M. and we are hanging out at CTMDT waiting for Gabriella to get out of school at 5:30.
We will pick her up on our way home for dinner. Evenings are spent as a family or with friends eating Brazilian Cuisine! One night our neighbors came over and taught us how to make homemade bread. We started the process at 7:00 and the bread was not finished until 10:00 so that is when we ate dinner!! Imagine these loaves of bread sitting in your stomach all night! I woke up with a seriously bloated belly! No wonder I am gaining weight!
The picture of us standing by the cement wall is of us talking to our neighbors. If we want to borrow something we just stand on a stool and pop our heads over the wall. It is pretty "Legal" (cool)! Our neighbors are amazing. We have a brother and sister who live on one side (Geslaine and Claidson). They are 24 and 26 years old and such great neighbors! Geslaine is a our local dentist and she saw Marko for free a couple of weeks ago! Our other neighbors (the ones with the restaurant) have two teenage daughters who love to play volley ball and watch movies with the kids. Last night they brought spaghetti over for Noah because he has been sick and pretty much home bound. I did not think I would like having neighbors so close, but truly it has been a blessing! I could do without the barking dogs, however!
Some nights we eat dinner at our friends pizza restaurant. Danhilo and Claudia have been a huge gift to us. Danhilo managed Domino's pizza in America for about seven years so his English is good. He has helped us tremendously to settle into life here in Brazil. Claudia is one of my English Students. They serve the best pizza I have ever had. It is a secret family recipe and I SO want to steal it and bring it back home!!! I am kidding of course, but I am now ruined for any other pizza.
Well, that about covers our typical day. It is not so different from home except that we walk everywhere and we are never alone!!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Sunday we we were invited to the zoo with our neighbors, Claudia and John. They picked us up in their VERY tiny car and we braced for the hour long trip to "The Zoological" with kids on our laps. I know I have mentioned that driving in Brazil is scary at best. Most locals laugh when you put on your seat belt (if there is even a working one in the car). They rarely wear seat belts here and they drive like maniacs so it can be a very frightening experience! I pray every time we get into a car with a Brazilian. Not only do they tend to be crazy drivers, the roads here are horrible. There are potholes everywhere. Even the so called highways are full of bumps and small craters!
We arrived at the zoo around 11:00 and it was already packed. We had no problem finding parking as the zoo was huge and there was plenty of street parking. We began our tour at the home of the Leao (lion). They were magnificent as you can see. I have never seen such a large lion! The way they have the animals staged, it is almost as if you are on a safari in Africa! It brought to surface my dreams of an African Safari which we plan to do in the next couple of years.
The birds were exotic-just what you would picture for Brazil. Unfortunately, I did not get optimal pictures of them due to the cage wires!
We took a break for lunch and I almost gagged because of a homeless man that was collecting cans near our table. He was very nice but had really bad B.O.! I felt very sorry for him but I also felt sorry for myself as my lunch threatened to errupt on the table! I had to excuse myself and finish my food outside of the restaurant.
We finished our zoo trip with a quick tour of the Amazonian snakes-yikes! On the way to the car we ran into my favorite animal-the monkey's (macaco's). The monkey's were not caged. They were just hanging out entertaining their audience! The monkey that I will picture here was a ham! He would just stare at you until you gave him some food then he would do a little dance until you fed him some more.
Overall, the trip to the zoo was a pretty good experience. Once was enough for me, however. As most of you know, I am not one who likes to hang out in large crowds. I rarely visit the zoo in Seattle and then only if it is a school fieldtrip and I am needed to chaperone! My idea of fun is a little more simple: I prefer visiting one on one, or with small groups of people in the comfort of my own home (or someone else's). I enjoy the tranquility of a beach above anything else. Public places make me a nervous wreck with my kids. I have a hard time relaxing and find myself counting heads every five minutes or so! Now we can chalk the zoo off our list of Brazilian Adventures! Enjoy the photos!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Yesterday we were invited to the home of a family from the kids' school. We do not have a car so Tina picked us up in at noon to bring us to her "casa." We had no idea what a treat we were in for.
Tina is a Portuguese woman who spent several years in England where she met her husband. Her English is very good and she has been a great help to us as the kids' have settled into school. About a dozen years ago Tina and her husband bought seven and a half acres in the foothills of Santa Luzia, Brazil for about 7,000 dollars. Their plan was to build a vacation home. Crime in England began to escolate, and the cost of living became increasingly outrageous, so the family decided that Tina and the kids would move to Brazil. They are part owners of a large corporation in England, so the husband had to stay there. He travels to Brazil every month to spend time with his family and Tina and the children travel to England about three times a year to see him. The life they could not afford in England, they can easily afford here. We were blessed to enjoy the day with them at their country retreat.
After a twenty minute car ride on the back roads of Santa Luzia (where we live), we arrived at a gated driveway with exotic, tropical trees flanking both sides. We entered the gate and drove up to Tina's beautiful home nestled in the trees, with a small mountain as the backdrop. We breathed in the country air and felt like we were back home in Stanwood! Though our homes are completely different in architecture, and the vegetation different as night and day, the tranquility was the same and we were in love!
The kids played for hours with Tina's kids in their family pool. By the time they got out of the pool they had puffy eyes and pruney toes! There was a pool house with a bathroom, a spa, and a sauna. I got a kick out of the fact that their was a HUGE bullfrog in the toilet! Apparantely that is quite normal and someone has to pluck the frogs out of the toilet on a regular basis. I did get a photo of half of the frog sticking out of the toilet but I will spare you that picture and will instead post some more tasteful pictures of the house and yard.
Marko and I spent the afternoon hanging out in the outdoor kitchen which we loved; eating and then eating some more. Tina had a few other friends stop by and we sat at the long outdoor table visiting and practicing our Portuguese. We wandered the grounds and were introduced to Tina's 12 dogs, including three puppies, and hundreds of chickens.
The day was perfect and was a nice retreat away from the city life we are now getting used to. Our house in Santa Luzia is very humble and small, but the simplicity of it is refreshing to us. We walk everywhere which is something entirely new to us. The kid's school is directly across the street, CTMDT is two blocks away, the grocery store, hair salon, and restaurants are within walking distance. It is a nice change for us to be living in the city, and since we have no car it is a blessing. Spending the day with Tina at her country estate was like a breath of fresh air and a reminder of what we left behind. We have no regrets though-only joy for what tomorrow will hold. Each day is a new adventure filled with little treasures from our Heavenly Father.
Friday, August 14, 2009
A couple of weeks ago one of the locals, Yuri, took Marko, Sassan, and I to our first Brazilian football game. This was quite the adventure! First of all, the game started at 11:00 P.M.! Those of you who know us well, know that we are usually in bed by about 9:30 so this was an unusual event for us!
The game was like nothing I have ever experienced! I mean, we have been to Mariners games, etc... but football games in Brazil are WILD! The sport is so popular. Apparently you don't dare wear the wrong color to a game. If you accidently end up on the wrong side of the stadium wearing the wrong colors...well, let's just say that you could be in serious trouble from the opposing fans! Fortunately, there are a lot of Military Policia at the games so we felt relatively safe. This game was not one of the more important ones, but was crazy just the same. They even have a mote around the entire field so that crazed fans cannot storm the field!
We learned within the first five minutes that you don't sit down (except for halftime). The fans stand the entire game, yelling at the top of their lungs. It was very exciting and I will post some pictures so you can get an idea of what it looked like in the stadium.
Marko has been playing football a couple of times a month. For being an "old" guy, he is doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the young locals. Last night he played indoor football on a turf field. He told me that it was much easier on his knees and he plans to play there on Tuesday nights with the guys.
I am off to pick the boys up from school so I will say goodbye. We should have internet at the house by next week so it will be easier to keep up on the blog. I know I have promised more stories, and I have them to share as soon as I am able! Until then, bom dia (good day)!
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Well, I promised several updates on my blog this week but I have not had many opportunities to write. We moved into our new home and do not yet have internet. I have to walk to CTMDT (just two blocks away) to use the internet. We have been spending the week getting settled into the house and preparing it for when Marko comes home (tomorrow). We are missing him and have had hardly an contact with him since he left a week ago. The kids and I are doing pretty good but they have been testing my patience this week. I need daddy to come home and take over!
Here is a NOT so funny kid story: Let me start out by saying that Noah absolutely loves weapons. The other day we were at our new house with the current renters and some of their friends, including a couple of pastors. We were having a small church service to send Anna Paul and Leonardo off on their mission trip to Portugal. We we were all sitting around talking when all of a sudden Noah brought out his two pocket knives. Everyone in the room stared in horror and started to talk amongst themselves, shaking their heads. All I could make out was that this was a bad thing. I felt really embarrassed and had no way of explaining the situation. One Brazilian could speak decent English and explained to me that it is very much illegal to carry weapons of any sort in Brazil. They said that you would get thrown into jail immediately. Obviously Noah is too young to be thrown into jail, but the fact that he was a child (my child) and the fact that I let him play with knives probably did not impress the locals! I know that he has been taught the right way to use a knife, but they of course have no idea about that! This was one of those moments where I wanted a hole in the floor to just swallow me up! Oh well, lesson learned. After everyone left Noah and I had a serious discussion about when it would be appropriate to show off his knives-I told him that Brazil was not that place! Now I will share another embarrassing story:
There was a bbq at CTMDT a few days ago. There were about thirty people there including the kids and I. A man named Jeone was the primary chef. He made us some delicious carne, including chicken, pork, and steak. After lunch, I went up to him and said "Muito Bonita" intending to say the lunch was very good which happens to be "Muito Bom". Now, I know the difference so I am not quite sure how the wrong words came out of my mouth, but what I unintentionally told him was that he was very beautiful! He gave me a really funny look, smiled, and then started to walk away. I immediately caught my mistake and shouted after him "Nao, Nao, Muito Bom"! What a situation...here was this married man who knew that my husband was out of town and probably thought I was picking up on him! I am certain it will not be my last linguistical mistake, so I just had to laugh it off!
Well, I still have more stories to share including how the kids got into a local school and how the professors for i2 ministries blessed us with their expertise on Islam, but those will have to wait for another day. I will say goodbye by sharing a few randoms photos.
By the way, I lost some of my email addresses when I switched email accounts. If you have not heard from me (Jody Wlasuik and Jenny Sepulveda for example), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have not forgotten about you!
Monday, August 3, 2009
Funny title I know, but it will make sense when I share the following story: Saturday night Marko and I had an amazing opportunity to go to a Christian Concert with our friend, Josh, whom we came to Brazil with. The main artist, Anna Paula, and her husband, Gustavo, are a very famous Brazilian couple. Gustavo also runs CTMDT where we have spent the last five weeks. Anna Paula and Gustavo are two of Josh and Jussara's best friends. Unfortunately, Jussara was not able to join us in Brazil due to work. Because of Josh's relationship with the family, we were able to get backstage passes to the concert.
Now, you have to understand that I have never gotten backstage passes anywhere, so I admit that I was embarrassingly like a "groupy"! I just figured I might never have an opportunity like this again so I was going to make the most of it! Let's just say that I took a LOT of photo's (I can only post a few so I will post some of Anna Paula, Gustavo, and the other band members.) Josh got a kick out of my childlike behavior and took pictures of me taking pictures! Josh, you see, is considered pretty famous himself, so this was all old hat to him!
So, I was hanging out, taking pictures, eating snacks and drinking juice when I had to use the banheiro. The banheiro's backstage were glorified outhouses. They were not your typical outhouse that we all have used many times before. They actually had a toilet bowl in them and a contraption to flush the toilet! Well, the "contraption" looked like a stick shift so I just pushed it back like you would in a car. To my complete shock, a large amount of blue, sanitizing liquid sprayed all over me! It mostly landed on my jeans and my sandaled foot. I freaked because even though the liquid itself was clean, it came OUT OF THE TOILET BOWL! I mean how clean can it be?! So, here I am walking around meeting famous people smelling like an outhouse! How much more humiliating could one feel? I am exaggerating a little bit in that I don't think I really smelled that bad, but geez-how gross! I had to just get over it and get on with my picture taking because there is no way I was going to let it ruin my night.
The experience was amazing. Anna Paula's band is so talented. Many of them are friends that we have met at CTMDT. There are some really gifted musicians in Brazil. The worship was incredible, and even though I could not understand much of what they were singing, the spirit of God was there. This was a very special concert in that they were doing a live video tape, and Anna Paula and Gustavo are moving to the United States next week for a couple of years to learn English and for Gustavo to go to Seminary. They have a HUGE following in Brazil and will be missed horribly. They made their announcement at the concert to the thousands of fans who were there. It was an emotional night for many. Perhaps all of you back home will have an opportunity to hear her in concert as my understanding is she plans to go on tour in the U.S. with a popular Christian band.
From my limited observation, it does not seem that there is a huge social gap with Brazilians: It is quite common for famous people to hang out with regular folks. I just don't see the same interactions amongst the famous people of the United States, (not that I have first hand experience). I see such humble hearts here in Brazil. People really "get" that all we have, and all we are is because of the Lord, The Maker of heaven and earth. The Christian church here is so dynamic. Sometimes I feel so spiritually frail in comparison. Being here definitely makes me want to grow deeper in my relationship with Jesus. Being away from all of the "stuff" we had in America is a huge blessing. I know I want to go back to my life in America, but I don't want to go back the same. For now, I embrace the life that I have here in Brazil. It is so very different than the one I have at home. Both are a blessing.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I have so much to share that it will take me all week just to get caught up! I will try to share one story at a time. The story of the day is that "WE GOT THE HOUSE"! I was just in town with the kids shopping for groceries at the local store when our friends, Anna Paula and Leonardo (who live in the red house), came up to me and hugged me enthusiastically! Anna Paula told me in her broken English that they had been trying to find us all day yesterday and today to tell us the good news! They are moving to Portugal on Wednesday morning so we can move into the house this week!
Marko just left for Foz Do Igueza early this morning on a mission trip. I am trying to reach him via Josh's email so that he can hear the great news! The kids and I were suppose to go on the mission trip, but things did not work out. I think it is important to share the reasons behind the change of plans as I believe it pertains to this current news!
A couple of weeks ago Josh sat down with the American team to debrief and talk about Foz. He shared honestly with us the challenges that we were going to face on the mission trip, including: a thirty hour bus ride(one way), a break out of the swine flu in a nearby vicinity, and the fact that Foz is a well known hideout for terrorists! No big deal!
Now, I am not the bravest person in the world, and being the protective mom that I am, I felt a little anxious about taking the kids on a mission trip under these circumstances! I was also concerned that they would have a hard time walking around the city of Foz every day for 5-6 days as we witnessed to Muslims. I was still planning on going at this point, but my senses were heightened to the challenges facing us.
A few days later Josh approached Marko and I and told us that there was a chance that the bus was going to be canceled to Foz due to lack of people/money. He told us that we needed to finalize our decision within a few minutes. It was apparent that the bus would definitely be canceled if our family of five did not go. Well, we had committed to this trip and there was no way I was going to just back out. Besides, I did not want to miss what the Lord might have for us in Foz. I will be honest and say that it was tempting to cancel because of all of the above concerns, however, I did not feel right about that. Marko and I talked and prayed and decided that we would send a fleece up to God (sort of a prayer of faith). We told the Lord that we would plan to go on the mission trip as a family and if the kids and I were not supposed to go then we prayed He would close that door- A couple of days later the bus was canceled.
I wish that I could say that I accepted that decision as an answer to prayer, but my mind still questioned our decision. The other Americans and about sixty Brazilians were still going to Foz. The Americans planned to fly but the ticket cost was too high so they decided to rent a smaller bus which made the cost go up per person. I am not sure of all the details of why they canceled one bus for another one that was higher in cost but my understanding is that about a dozen Brazilians had to cancel due to finances. All this to say that the kids and I could still have gone. I wrestled with our decision and Marko had to keep reminding me that we prayed and God answered. We stuck to our decision. He is gone. We are here. Now I know part of the reason why: I have to spend the next three days meeting with Anna Paula, Leonardo, and the owner of the house finalizing details and going over all of the expenses etc...We will move in early this week and Lord willing the kids will start school this week as well: That is a story in itself and I will share that in an upcoming blog! Until next time...Thank you for your prayers and may our Lord show himself to you in tangible ways!