Monday, September 21, 2009
Well, I think it has been about three weeks since my last blog update. I have been experiencing "Culture Shock". The definition of Culture Shock is: A state of disorientation that can come over anyone who has been thrust into unknown surroundings away from one's comfort zone.
Culture Shock typically hits a person after about three to four months of living in a foreign country. I guess that means I am right on schedule! We have been in Brazil just shy of three months. Our time here has been amazing and very smooth going. About two weeks ago I became overwhelmed with homesickness. I shed many tears. After talking to some very experienced missionaries, I realized that I was indeed experiencing culture shock.
The hardest things for me to adjust to have been the heat and the lack of alone time. I have always had a very difficult time with the heat, even in Washington State which is no comparison to our little corner of Brazil! The temperature has been near 90 consistently and I think it must be close to 100% humidity! It is normal to take three showers a day here and the minute you go outside you are sweating like crazy. For someone who loves cooler weather and rain, this has been rather challenging. Our whole family is having a hard time with the heat and it is barely Spring here! We are planning on buying an air conditioner for our house ASAP! For now we spend the heat of the day sitting inside by portable fans!
Those of you who know me well know that I thrive on time alone. Don't get me wrong, I love people, but if I don't get a large amount of time alone, I start to feel out of sorts. This has been the other hard aspect of Brazil for me. I have very little time by myself. I have shared in past posts that we live in the middle of town with neighbors on either side, including neighbors who have a restaurant in their home! Brazilians are very friendly and social, so we have frequent visitors as well. On top of that, I now have approximately seventy English Students signed up for my classes on a weekly basis! I will share more about that in an upcoming blog. I am sure you get the picture that there is not a lot downtime to "breathe"! I believe that these were the two triggers that led to my feelings of Culture Shock. A surprise rainstorm this afternoon helped to snap me out of my downcast mood.
Gabriella and I were walking home from the store around 3:00 when we saw the storm clouds threatening on the horizon. We walked home quickly because you don't want to be caught in a thunder and lightening storm in Brazil. It can be very dangerous. Marko and the boys arrived at home at the same time we did. We rushed around the yard putting away toys and taking clothes off the clothesline, as the wind started to blow.
The black clouds made it quickly to our house and the rain came down in torrents just as we got the last of the laundry put away. We pulled on our raincoats and stood out in the downpour for a few minutes before the thunder started to roll. It was the most magnificent storm I have ever experienced. We sat under our porch breathing in the fresh air and thanking God for the rain! It may sound funny, but I felt like the stress of culture shock was washed away in that storm. I cannot explain how refreshing it was to see and feel the rain on my face. I absolutely love the rain and this was a welcome change to the smoldering heat we experience on a daily basis. Unfortunately, heavy rains also frequently produce flooding in Brazil. Today was no exception. There was some serious flooding in Belo Horizonte, a large city near our town, which caused the deaths of several people (if we understood this evenings news correctly). It is a reminder again of the fragility of life and the need to be thankful for the every day blessings that the Lord gives us if we but pay attention and take our eyes off ourselves. The following verse has helped me as I have struggled through the past two weeks: Psalm 16:5-11.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Well, we just experienced our first camping trip in Brazil. We have been planning our mini vacation with some of our neighbors for about three weeks. We got online and picked out our location: A beautiful camp site with a river, nearby hotel with restaurant, a grocery store conveniently located, and a stunning waterfall. The kids eagerly anticipated our weekend adventure....
As seems to be the normal Brazilian way, things turned out a little different than we had planned. Our understanding was that we would have three vehicles for our party of twelve to make the one hour drive to the campsite. Our departure time was Friday at 2:00 P.M. Our neighbors pulled up around 3:00 with one tiny little Honda Civic like car. Our other neighbors drove their truck. The third vehicle? Well, were not sure what happened with that, but let's just say that Brazilians have no problem with claustrophobia! We crammed twelve people and a whole lot of luggage into those two cars (six people in each). Marko, Noah, Gabriella, and I crammed into the little car that happened to have no air conditioning. No problem we thought...after all, it is only a ONE HOUR drive! Two hours later we pulled into a quaint little town to ask for directions to the waterfall.
The young man who helped us told our friends the price and gave them directions. The price turned out to be more than some of our friends could afford so they decided at that point to pursue option number two: Another campsite that was a little more "tranquilidage" (peaceful). O.K. so disappointment number one was the fact that we were now two hours into our trip. Disappointment number two was the fact that we were no longer going to our original campsite with the pristine waterfall. They assured us that there were lots of waterfalls in Brazil so we were sure to find another one. We hopped back into the car thinking we must be within fifteen minutes of the campground. We headed up into the hills of Brazil and literally chugged up the hill. The six of us plus our luggage made that little car have to fight for every mile. I was reminded of the Children's book called "The Little Engine That Could." Do you remember it? The little red train, from Thomas and friends, chugged up that mountain with determination repeating "I think I can, I think I can." Well, that little red engine made it up the mountain and so did we-with lots of encouragement for our driver, Juan, and peels of laughter from the kids.
At the top of the mountain we took a left onto a dirt road that was obviously maintained very little. The car took a beating as it weaved between rocks and pot holes (Clark's it reminded me of the lava roads in Hawaii if that gives you any idea-although it wasn't quite that bad)! For four miles we drove out into the middle of Tim-Buck-Nowhere wondering what we were in for.
I have to take a quick break here to insert that it just started raining. Rain in Brazil is awesome. It doesn't rain, it pours. We have only experienced it one other time and it was a welcome change to the unbearable heat in Brazil. We were the only crazy neighbors who ran outside screaming with joy and while jumping in the mud puddles. It was a blast! When it rains, the road in front of our house becomes a small river in no time. Right now there is thunder and lightening and my whole family is outside having a blast. I would like to join them but it looks like this rain will be around for a while so I will get back to my story....
We arrived at our very remote campsite at about 5:30 P.M. It wasn't looking too promising, but we were tired and hungry so we decided to stay. Upon further investigation, we did find a little waterfall and even a river. It was not what we were expecting, but it was quiet and would suffice. We set up our tents and settled into an evening of food, worship, and laughter. I was sick with a pretty bad cold so I turned in at 8:00 with the kids for a rough night of sleep. The ground was very rocky and our borrowed tent too small.
We woke up groggy the next morning to our friends telling us they found a new, better campsite just a stones throw away. So, we lugged our bags to the new campsite, picked up the tents as they were and carried them to our new location. This was a better location and it looked like we would have a better nights sleep....that is if we would have stayed another night-but more on that later.
The day was wonderful (despite a couple of issues). We swam in the river and under the waterfall, we ate wonderful Churasco (Brazilian word for meat cooked on the bbq), we hiked and explored, etc... One issue was the fact that I took a tylenol P.M. in the afternoon! I knew that it could make me tired, but I had no idea that I would feel like I was wearing a whole shield of armor! I could barely lift my legs to hike up the hill from the waterfall and my eyes threatened to involuntarily close at any given minute. Lesson number one: Use Tylenol P.M. as directed!
The second challege was a little more serious. Marko, the boys, and our two friends, Juan and Dahnilo decided to swim across the river (it was more like a pond). They stayed close to shore and the gals and I went back to sit on the riverbank with Gabriella. Apparently, halfway across the river, Juan got a leg cramp and could not swim anymore. Marko was already on shore so when Juan yelled for help he dove in and swam to him. In his haste to help Juan, Marko forgot to take off his hiking sandals which are very heavy. He got to Juan and grabbed a hold of him. They struggled, but made it halfway back to shore before Marko realized they might not make it together. Marko's sandals were holding him down and his attempts to tell Juan to roll over onto his back were fruitless (as Juan does not know any English). Marko realized the seriousness of the situation and yelled for Dahnilo to help. Dahnilo jumped in and the two of them were able to get Juan saftely to shore, but not without a fight. Marko said it was very frightening and he thanked God that he has kept up on his swimming. Without that training, one or more lives could have been lost. Lesson number two: Remove sandals before saving someone from drowning!
We got back to camp that afternoon and our friend's parents decided that we would drive home that night. We were not exactly sure why we drove three hours to camp for one night, but we think that our friends wanted to get back to their grandfather who was recently diagnosed with cancer and was staying with them. We were disappointed again but got over it quickly. We decided to just look forward to spending the rest of the three day weekend at home.
It was hard not to wonder if it was worth all of the work that it took to pack everything up, drive for three hours in a smoldering hot car, and camp for only 24 hours, only to know you had to go home and unpack everything. One look at these pictures and one can't deny that it was worth it. These photos, great fellowship, along with the saving of one precious life, made our thirty hour camping trip a worthwhile adventure.