Saturday, October 31, 2009
I don't know about you, been when I picture Brazil I picture blue skies and gorgeous, white sand beaches. Our house is inland in the Boa Esperanza neighborhood of Santa Luzia, Brazil. We live in a small, humble home on a beat up street that has surely not seen maintenance-EVER. Behind us in the hills of Boa Esperanza are the flavelas or poor houses. The outlying hills are tropical looking, but we do not live in a luxurious, part of Brazil. Buzios is the first place we have traveled to since moving to Brazil four months ago. Of course we had a picture in our minds of what the week was going to be like and it included lots of sun and beach time! After all, you would think we would have that Brazilian tan going at this point. We do have some color, but it seems to be confined to our faces and arms, as we don't exactly get to do much sunbathing in Santa Luzia!
We arrived in Buzios to clouds and the threat of rain. By the afternoon it was indeed raining. It was light enough that we were able to walk around town and explore the shops and restaurants without much problem. By the next day, however, the rain was coming down in buckets. We were walking around town with shorts and t-shirts getting soaking wet. We were still having a good time, but the cold was starting to get annoying, and swimming in the ocean was not quite as alluring as we thought it was going to be.
By the third day, we decided that it might be a good idea to buy some umbrellas since our clothes were all soaking wet and we had no way to dry them. We also thought it would be smart to buy some sweatshirts in town to keep us warm. They would also come in handy for that cold ride home in the bus....finding sweatshirts was next to impossible.
We spent several hours looking for sweatshirts in the hundreds of boutiques on main street. You would be amazed at how hard it was to find cheap sweatshirts in Buzios, but then again, this is a touristy town and the boutiques are not catering to the average person! We ate dinner at an Italian Restaurant shivering under the eaves. Noah spent the entire meal curled up in a ball on a bench trying to keep warm. He was crying uncontrollably and when I asked him what was wrong he said he wanted it to be sunny so he could play in the ocean. The owner of the restaurant kindly offered to let Noah sit in front of the oven where he was cooking lasagna. Noah cheered up just enough to continue our quest for sweatshirts. It was nightfall before we found reasonably priced sweatshirts for the whole family (except for daddy who decided to tough it out)! We then walked back to the hotel and collapsed for the night.
We woke up the next day (yesterday) to blue skies and lifted moods. We spent part of the day at the beach and then our friends, Gislaine and Claydson arrived in town to spend the weekend with us. We are planning to take a water taxi to one of the local beaches today if the weather improves. It was raining this morning but looks like it might clear up. I guess it doesn't matter too much to me except that I would like get some good photos of Buzios in all of its tropical splender and that includes the sun! I do have a few photos to share with you. This truly is a paradise, rain or shine!
Currently, we are on a family vacation in Buzios, Brazil. We were going to leave the computer behind but Marko is trying to get to Nigeria, Africa next week. He has had to be on the computer a fair amount in an attempt to get his visa processed last minute. This has been a bit challenging. Please pray for the Lord to open the door if he is supposed to go, and if not that the door would be firmly shut.
Our family loaded up our backpacks and hopped on the local "onibus" in Santa Luzia on Tuesday night. We took the one hour bus ride into Belo Horizonte, hoping as always that we would survive without throwing up! We made it once again and were dropped off at the main bus station for a "Luxury Bus" that would take us to Buzios. The bus arrived around 7:30 P.M. and the kids were eager to explore. This was our first experience traveling the highways in luxury. The bus was complete with televisions, a bathroom, and a cooler full of water bottles. The seats reclined almost to a laying down position, so we were pretty excited about the prospect of actually getting some sleep on our ten hour bus ride into Buzios! Fortunately, the kids did get some sleep. As for Marko and I, well that's another story!
Have you ever tried to use a bathroom on a moving bus? What a nightmare! The bathrooms in an airplane are so much easier. The turbulence is nothing compared to attempting to use a toilet on a bus that rocks back and forth as it goes over bumps and around curves. Gabriella and I were in the bathroom trying to "shee shee" and brush our teeth. We had to hold onto the wall with one hand and attempt to brush our teeth with the other. The water in the sink would not drain, so it was spilling out of the sink basin all over our feet and the floor of the bathroom. Forget actually trying to go shee shee. I decided that I would hold it for the ten hour bus ride rather than EVER attempt that again!!! Fortunately, we made three stops during the long night so we were able to get off the bus and use a real restroom!
We were totally unprepared for the trip to Buzios. In an attempt to pack light, we neglected to pack sweatshirts or long pants. The air conditioning on the bus was a full tilt and it was freezing. Fortunately, the kids each had a small blanket that they had brought from the United States. They fell asleep quickly to the rocking of the bus. Marko and were miserably cold and tried our best to get some rest. We kept hoping someone would come walking down the isles of the bus offering us a blanket and pillow like they do in the Airline Industry. The problem was that there was only one employee on that bus and he happened to be the driver who was locked behind a secure door in the front of the bus! We resigned to the fact that we were going to have to suffer through the night, which all things considered, is not really suffering!
We arrived in Buzios at about 6:00 A.M. and took a short taxi ride to our hotel. We were about six hours early for check in but we decided to see if they would have mercy on us. After all, we were traveling with three children! The hotel was even more beautiful than in looked online, so we were thrilled. As Marko and I worked out an early check in with the employee, the kids ran around exploring! They were so excited about the pool which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. It was all we could do to keep them from jumping in and waking all the guests at that wee hour of the morning! The employee happily informed us that we could check in early and proceeded to take us up to our room. We got upstairs and he let us in to our beautiful suite only to tell us that we also had the room next door. Wonderful! we thought until he told us that we would have to pay the same price for both rooms. We booked one room on line making it clear that we would have three children traveling with us. No one got back to us to let us know that we could only have a maximum of three people in one room so now they were telling us we had to pay for two rooms! We were pretty disappointed but the employee told us he thought we could work it out when the manager came in later in the morning.
We settled into our room and then decided to go for a walk along the boardwalk so as not to wake the other guests (attempting to keep our three children quiet is a joke and is a task that we have long given up on)!!! Before heading to the beach, we took turns using the bathroom which had a French "Budeaux"(spelling). Marko Gabriel, who is by nature very curious, had never seen a Budeax. He was quiet fascinated. Without asking for help he bent down and started to turn the knobs-water came spraying out of the toilet straight into his face and all over the walls! It was gross-but hilarious!! I wish I would have thought to take a picture at the time but I was too busy laughing hysterically. The photo here is a re-inactment.
The hotel would not bend on their rules, and we were not about to pay for two hotel rooms so we ended up canceling our reservation. They also told us that we would not find a hotel in town that would accommodate five people. We were all disappointed, but not discouraged. We took a deep breath and chose to be flexible. We prayed that we would find something that would suit our needs. It was a holiday weekend so we knew that it might be challenging, but we also knew that God was on our side and we believed that we would find somewhere to stay. Alas, the first hotel we stopped at had a room for five! It was not as nice as the first hotel, but the rates were much cheaper, and we had a swimming pool and a view of the ocean! What more could we ask for?!! We were thankful! We checked into the hotel and settled in for our first tropical vacation in Brazil. The need to be flexible continued, as the first three days rained like crazy! But, more on that later...
Posted are some pictures of the first hotel. I will post photos of our current hotel in my next blog.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I have been praying for rain ever since my experience last month with Culture Shock. I am happy to say that my prayers have been answered. We have had rain almost every day, and when it rains in Brazil, it really rains! It comes down in torrents and is always accompanied by thunder and lightening. The storms are so much more powerful than what we are accustomed to in Washington State. I love storms, so this has been very exciting for me. Apparently it is the rainy season so we will be getting plenty of it. A storm is in fact upon us at this moment. I was up videotaping a storm the other night from 2:00-3:00 in the morning! Marko was slightly irritated with me and all of my exclamations of awe! He woke up blurry eyed and told me I reminded him of a little kid in a candy store! The truth is, he loves it almost as much as I do, but not at 2:00 A.M.!
We were blessed on Sunday by some of my English students. They had heard that I was homesick a few weeks ago and decided to plan an American Church Service at our house. They showed up at 10:00 and we sang American worship songs and then they asked us to share our "testimony" about coming to Brazil. Marko shared for about 45 minutes and there were tears all around. We are continually amazed at how our testimony affects some people. We are not super brave or spiritual, we are just normal people who are trying to be obedient to God's call on our lives. We never expected our story to impact people the way that it has. We were humbled and thankful that our friends took the time to bring a little bit of America to our home and for the interest they have in our lives. We miss our church, Stanwood Foursquare, so much. It was emotional for us to sing worship songs in English and made us long for our church in America. After our church service we had Churrasco and I learned how to make Pao de queijo (cheese bread), which is very popular in Brazil. We had a very relaxing afternoon and went to bed feeling very loved and blessed.
I have to share a couple of Gabriella stories from that day. I was in the kitchen preparing breakfast when Gabriella called from the bathroom in a panic. I opened the door to find my daughter bent over with her legs dripping with blood. Apparently, she decided that six years old was a good time to start shaving! She had several cuts on her little legs-one being about an inch long! In all my life I have never had an inch long cut from a raiser, so I have no idea what she was doing! I told her that little girls don't shave their legs and asked her why she wanted to do that. She told me that she was sick of having harry legs! My little girl absolutely floors me!
That same day when our friends arrived for church, Gabriella came outside with pink makeup all over her eyes. She looked beautiful, but she knows that she is not supposed to get into mommy's makeup without asking. I pulled her aside and asked her about it. She said "But I didn't use your makeup mommy!" I asked her to show me what she did use. She pointed to a sparkly, pink, birthday candle from her recent birthday party. Apparently, she rubs her fingers on the candle and then applies the "makeup" to her face. It was so adorable. It caused me to reflect upon the creativity of children.
I am not a parent who has issues with boys playing with fake guns. Most boys will make a gun out of anything. If you deny them the use of play guns, they will use their hand, a piece of wood, or any number of other items. Playing with fake guns is not going to make a boy violent. People typically become violent because they have been mistreated by those people who are supposed to protect them and love them the most. Reflection: Boys will make guns out of anything, and little girls will make makeup out of anything-even a sparkly, pink, birthday candle!
By the way, the picture of Marko is of him eating a chicken heart!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Gabriella celebrated her sixth birthday last Friday. Marko and I let her skip school and we took her to the local bakery, Pao Mais, for breakfast and to pick out a cake. Shockingly, she chose the cake with the most frosting and a blue octopus on top. No pink for this girl!
After breakfast Gabriella and I walked to the neighborhood coffee shop to say hi to our friend, Antonio, who owns the cafe. We shared a cappucino (I have settled for an iced, instant cappuccino-you know those little packets of coffee with flavoring). I am actually starting to like it though I still dream of Starbucks or Walker's coffee back home.
We planned a quiet dinner with our family at Denilho's pizza, but we ended up having a few friends join us last minute, which turned out to be a lot of fun. After dinner we went to our neighbors house to watch an American Movie (Love Comes Softly). It is a mini series and SO good. It takes place in the 1800's and brought me back to those "Little House on the Prairie" days. Boy to do I miss innocent television shows like that one. T.V. has definitely gone down hill.
Birthday's are a big deal in Brazil-even more so than the United States- although parents spend a lot less money creating a special occasion for their children. Birthday's are a great excuse for to have Churrasco with your friends. We invited a few friends over on Saturday afternoon to celebrate Gabriella's birthday. Unfortunately, my camera battery died so I only had a few photos to chose from. The day was very enjoyable and Gabriella seemed to enjoy herself. She has made a very good friend here in Brazil, Anna Victoria. I have posted pictures in the past. Anna Victoria is a beautiful girl who's energy almost (but not quite) matches Gabriella's! They are in the same class at school and the language barrier does not detract from their friendship.
Gabriella has always been very rough with her toys. I am happy to report that she made it through her party with limited damage to her new presents. She attempted to super glue a cloth strawberry back onto her new cell phone carrier. The problem was that her Barbie cell phone was in the carrier. The two got glued together and of course when I tried to separate them, both items were damaged in the process. Gabriella also decided that her new Hannah Montana Barbie (her first Hannah Montana gift) needed a haircut. So far, her other gifts have remained unharmed five days after her birthday! Perhaps by age seven Gabriella will become a gentle, docile, child who's well preserved toys will end up handed down to her own children! Ha Ha Ha!!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Our baby turned six on Friday. Marko and I took her to breakfast at the local bakery, Pao Mais, so she could pick out her own cake. We had a relaxing day as a family and then went to dinner at our friend's pizza restaurant with a small group of people. Birthday's are a big celebration in Brazil so we planned a little party at the house for Saturday. We had a few friends join us for a Brazilian BBQ. It was a very relaxing day and Gabriella only managed to damage about three of her new toys! She tried to super glue her pink cel phone cover to the cel phone, and I ended up having to rip the two items apart! She then decided to give her new Hannah Montana Barbie (her first Hannah Montana item) a haircut! There were a couple of other little mishaps, but overall, her toys have lasted longer than usual. This is the reason why I don't buy my children a lot of toys-what's the point?! They are really rough with their things. The battery died on my camera early on during the party so I only have a few photos to share with you. I will blog again soon, but for now I am going to say goodbye and spend some quiet time with Marko-listening to the rain. We have been blessed with several rain showers these past two weeks and we are thankful! Boa Noite!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Noah and I are headed to the store to pick up some groceries for our first effort at making Churrasco for some friends. Churrasco is the name for a Brazilian BBQ. You BBQ a lot of different kinds of meat and prepare rice and beans as the side dishes. After three months, we are finally abandoning our American habit of eating sandwiches every day for lunch and are embracing the Brazilian Cuisine. It has been fun to learn how to cook new foods, but I still have a big learning curve!
I don't have a lot share with you today, but I wanted to post some pictures from our relaxing day yesterday. Our friends, Maisel and Marcia took us to a Baptist Retreat Center for a day of rest. The retreat center was located in a little valley nestled between some lush green hills. There were several pools, a restaurant, and of course football fields. There was even a very old, small water slide. I did not go on the slide but apparently, it was pretty "rough" from aging and sun exposure. Several people got scrapes on their backs on the way down. In the United States, this would be unacceptable, but here in Brazil it is totally "Legal" Cool. No one seemed to mind-especially the kids! Before I go I want to say Happy Birthday to Anne Clark! Have an amazing day my friend. We love you and miss you guys like crazy! Enjoy the photos!
Friday, October 2, 2009
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I would share the details leading up to my current job- teaching English in Brazil. Here is my story:
Our friend, Josh, approached me the first week we were in Brazil and told me there was an opportunity for me to teach English for the staff at CTMDT (The local Missionary College). He told me to consider it and to be praying about it. The next day, one of the students, Fernanda, asked me if I would spend a couple of hours a week teaching her English. Fernanda was my first student. Little did I know what lay ahead for me!
I spent the next month taking an intense training course on Islam led by Josh and three other Professors(which I still intend to write about one of these days!). I helped Fernanda with her English when I could fit it in; between school, studying, and spending time with my family. The course finished up in August and this is when the opportunities to teach English began to surface.
Students started to approach me on a daily basis, asking me to teach them English. At the time, I was still unsure as to whether or not I wanted to teach English. Afterall, I did not come to Brazil prepared to teach English, and I had never thought of myself as a teacher. My background is in Tourism which is just slightly different than being an English Teacher! I have spent the past ten years as a stay at home mom, and have just recently been considering what I would like to do with my time now that my children will all be in school full time when we get back to the United States.
I have spent the past year contemplating what type of career I would like to pursue during this second half of my life. I know that I do not want to go back into Tourism. My heart has always been to help women in the following areas: Spiritually, mentally, physically. I know that many women suffer from low self esteem, as well as struggle with body image problems. Women have so many responsibilities that I think we often neglect our own health. Seventeen years ago I had a vision of being a counselor. At the time I was newly married and working in the Tourism Industry and struggling with my own "self esteem issues". A few years later I had children and started my career as a stay at home mom. I say "career" because being a stay at home mom is a LOT of work and should get more respect from the world than it does. A LOT more. O.K., I will get off my soap box now...
My dream from seventeen years ago resurfaced this year as I was researching jobs that would fit my lifestyle and personality. I began to research Master's Programs in Counseling and my plan has been to enroll in a Master's Program when I get back to the United States. Now enters a new opportunity-Teaching English in Brazil!
I started to teach English to the staff at CTMDT twice a week. This felt manageable and I was enjoying myself. Word got out quickly, however, and pretty soon not only were the staff and students asking me to teach them English, but other members of the community as well! I was sitting at home one night and I had a vision: I pictured five round tables with bright umbrellas in my yard and students learning Conversational English at my house. I believed this vision was from God, so after a couple of weeks of brainstorming and praying, I made an announcement at a CTMDT church service. I had no idea the response that I was going to have for my English Classes! After the service I was surrounded by students wanting to sign up for class at my house. By the time I went home I had fifty students signed up. I went home that night in a daze, wondering what on earth I was getting myself into! I felt totally overwhelmed. I promptly emailed my Teacher friends and asked for their advice (thanks guys) which has helped me tremendously.
The next couple of weeks were eye opening to me. I could not go anywhere without someone asking to sign up for my classes. Before I knew it I had over seventy students and I was starting to feel panicky! Every day I had students, neighbors, community members stopping by my house or approaching me in town to ask me about English. It was at this time that I realized the enormous desire and necessity to learn English. I had no idea how important the learning or our language is to other cultures. This knowledge has led me to an education that I never would have foreseen for myself.
I felt so nervous and unprepared to teach these students English, and yet here I was thrust into an opportunity that was not of my own making. I struggled for many days with wondering how I was going to handle all of the pressure. I knew that this opportunity was placed in my path for a reason and that God had ordained it. I knew that the vision I had come from Him. I knew that Philippians 4:13 says "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." I knew suddenly that this is what he had planned for me in Brazil all along. This was my ministry. Marko has been very supportive and has helped me so much as I have prepared for this new mission in my life. I could not do this without his support.
I decided that if I was going to teach English I wanted to do a good job. I got online and enrolled in a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. I am currently working through 120 hours of classwork in order to get a certificate of completion from TEFL. This certification will allow me to get a job teaching English anywhere in the world. I am working through the course while teaching my English classes by the seat of my pants! I am learning so much every day. For example, did you know that 50% of the worlds business is in English and 80% of the internet is in English? I am in awe of what the Lord is doing in my life. I love my students! They are amazing. They are so appreciative and they pray for me after every class. I am settling into a routine and am feeling less overwhelmed. I started out with nine English classes which was too much. I am down to seven classes and I have about fifty students which feels more manageable.
I am not sure where this journey will take me, but I do know that in Psalm 138:8 it says that "The Lord will fulfill His Purpose for me." I am trusting this verse and if it means I am going to spend the second half of my life as an English Teacher, then so be it. My dream would be to continue with my plans to become a counselor and combine counseling with teaching somehow, but as the bible says in Proverbs 16:9 "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." I believe that teaching English in Brazil is a small "step" towards what the Lord has for my future.
I know this blog was really long. Thank you for keeping up on our adventures here in Brazil and for your prayers. We miss you all terribly. Enjoy these pictures of some of my students!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: you have to go for your morning walk by 6:00, or you will have several neighbors joining you in hopes of practicing their English!
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: you go the gym and you are the only one NOT wearing spandex with racing stripes!
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: your son's are the only boys in the school swim class who are NOT wearing speedo swim suits!
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: the local bakery makes you Ovos Machitos (scrambled eggs) even though the rest of the town eats bread and coffee for breakfast!
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: the seamstress that is hemming your pants, drops them off at your house, since she cannot get a hold of you by phone! You are busy, so she tells your husband you can just pay for them another day.
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: you go grocery shopping and their are five young men from the meat department following you around in an attempt to speak English with you, when they should be working!
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: you walk into a restaurant and an employee you have never met before tells you that your husband and daughter were in the other day!
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: the local missionary school gives up its only air conditioner to make make sure your family is comfortable in the Brazilian heat.
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: the local furniture store owner hunts you down to let you know he has a furniture delivery for you. He went by the house and when we weren't there he started to ask around...He found us in the library on the second floor of the missionary school.
You know you are the only American's in a small town when: you are enjoying dinner at a friends house and the following conversation takes place: I say to the hostess: "This dinner is so amazing-did you make it?" The hostess replies: "No, my friend made it. She works at the store downtown where you bought a belt, some sandals and a bike pump last week." O.K. so you have to understand that "I" did not tell this person what I bought last week at the store! Her friend, who works at the store, told her everything that the "Americans" bought at the store! It was hilarious and at the moment Marko and I realized just how "visible" we are in this small town! Apparently we need to do a better job of blending in!
This is a quick blog about our calm daughter. Gabriella is anything but calm. She is a very high energy girl who wants constant attention. She frequently wears her family out-especially her mother! On the flip side, she is very responsible and hard working and she amazes us with her maturity.
We are trying to have extra compassion for our children, as we know that they are experiencing Culture Shock in the same way that we are experiencing it. Overall, our kids have adjusted amazingly well to life in Brazil. They have, however, each been acting out in different ways. Gabriella seems to be reacting by being even more "hyper" which is just hard to believe. She is also sassy and demanding. The other day was particularly hard. She was "in my face" all day and was being mean to her brothers. After a little bit too much coca cola at the neighbors that evening, she was out of control. Mommy had to pull her aside and spank her, which only had a short term affect on her behavior.
By the time we got home, daddy had had enough, and mommy was coming down with a headache. I was in my bedroom listening as Marko had a "talk" with his darling daughter. Next thing I knew, she was screaming at the top of her lungs: "No, daddy, don't spank me! Your spankings hurt!" I peaked around the corner and saw Gabriella sitting cross legged on the floor with her hands on her hips and a very angry expression on her face. Daddy told her that he needed to give her a spanking for being disrespectful and her response was: "Oh, for crying out loud daddy, mommy already spanked me for that!" Marko and I looked at each other and we just couldn't help it-we started laughing hysterically to which she said: "Don't you dare laugh at me!" WOW! Can you say "Spitfire"!!
What's that saying: "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Guess which parents has the bad habit of saying: "Oh, for crying out loud!"? Parenting is humbling isn't it?
I have to share one more Gabriella story. Yesterday afternoon before school, Gabriella brought me her Portuguese dictionary and asked me to show her which words she would use "just in case" she got sick at school. Specifically, she wanted to know how to tell her teacher she had a stomach ache and needed to go home. I wrote down the words "Eu doente" which just means "I'm sick". Gabriella had me write it on a sticky note for her to take to school "just in case".
That evening when I picked Gabriella up from school the school Director wanted to speak with me. She told me that Gabriella had complained about feeling sick in the middle of the day and wanted to go home. I started to laugh and explained to her (with an interpreter) what had happened that morning. We all had a good laugh. Gabriella knew exactly what she was doing when she asked me for that sticky note!
Enjoy some "Gabriella" photo's-one which she quite obviously took herself!