My first trip to the East Coast this year with Dani and her family was so much fun that I decided to do it again! This time I'm in North Carolina. I started in Chicago with birthday parties for my 1 year old great-niece Sophie, my 50 year old brother in law Peter, and my 80 year old Aunt Kay. From there, I drove to Columbus, Ohio with my nieces Katie and Maddie. i drove south through Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee, before arriving at the home of my friends Jack and Mary Stephenson, in Tryon, North Carolina, at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I only had time to stay one night, but I want to go back to hear Jack play his autoharp with a jam band some Sunday afternoon. Maybe Joy will come with me to deliver Jack's Christmas card really early this year!
I arrived at Andy's apartment in Fayetteville yesterday. While Andy was working, I got acquainted with his friends Robyn and Tim's new four day old baby Lily, who also happens to be the first grandchild of my college friends Deb and Joe DiPietro. Deb is also here, and Joe is arriving tomorrow. It's so interesting that our kids are friends with each other, and they are now older than we were when we were all in college together just a short time ago!
I'm starting back to Duluth on Monday, where I still haven't stayed for one complete week yet since arriving back from Brazil in mid May. Hyesin is arriving on August 15 from Korea, and I'm hopeful that Ricky will be here from Venezuela to help me greet her.
i think I've decided I don't need a job - I just need someone who will pay me to travel!
That's all for now. I told Sergeant Andy and his roommate Nick and their cat Spike (is that a military name for a cat, or what?) that I'd make lasagna tonight. Tchau-tchau!
I've been back in the US for almost three weeks now, but I've only been home for a few days during that time. My three week old Subaru already has more than 2,000 miles on it! I´ve been taking appraisal classes in Minneapolis in preparation for my appraisal license in Minnesota. I still need to take two more classes, but I´m taking another month off to travel in the US. My heart is still back in Brasll, but I have six friends from Brasil coming to meet me and travel with me here this month.
I had a great weekend in São Paulo with Dante and Lenora before I returned home. We went to the theater, a good restaurant, and spent time with good friends. After we said goodbye to Lenora, we had returned to Dante´s apartment for a quiet night at home, when his cousins Luciana and Angelo and Uncle Tómas from Goiâinia called to say that they were in São Paulo for a few days. They came over for brownies and ice cream, and we had a great time visiting. I had planned to spend the whole next day alone in the apartment because Dante had school, but Tómas invited me to join them for some exploring in São Paulo. My last day turned out to be one of the best days of my stay in Brasil. I successfully took the metró alone to meet them near the downtown area, and we spent the morning exploring a street called 25 de Março. This street could be considered to be "shopping on steroids!" I´m sure I looked like a complete tourist as I gawked at all the buildings and took photographs with every step. As we left one of the buildings, I noticed the Mercado Central. This is the largest market in South America. I had heard a lot about it and there are pictures of it in one of my cookbooks. The building was amazing - there were stained glass windows around the entire building. It´s a "must-see" attraction in São Paulo.
After a morning of window shopping, we went to the Japanese area of Liberdade to meet Dante for lunch. From there, we walked to the center of historic São Paulo, where we saw one of the largest churches I have ever seen and the municipal theater. What was supposed to be a day of packing turned out to be one of my most fun days. After this, I will feel almost as comfortable in São Paulo as I do in Chicago, and I will want to come back to explore a lot more. What´s more, I´m really pleased that I got to spend more time with Tómas and his family. We have a very similar travel style, so we all had a great time together. I´m looking forward to traveling with them again soon, which brings me to the subject of this journal. Tómas and Fafinha´s daughter Daniele is getting her master´s degree in Architecture next week from Harvard University in Boston. I´m leaving tomorrow morning, and spending the next week traveling around the east coast of the US with Dani and her family. Tómas and Fafinha are arriving in Boston tomorrow, and I´ll meet them on Wednesday.
I´m driving to Chicago in time for my niece Marie´s graduation from middle school, and then I´ll take a bus to Boston. I don´t want to drive alone and flying is difficult because my plans are too uncertain. I´ve thrown away too many unused tickets already! I´m looking forward to comparing the bus travel around the US with that of Brasil. I´m expecting the roads to be better and the buses to be worse here. We´ll see.
After I arrive in Boston, we will spend a couple days there with the graduation ceremonies and some touring around Boston. From there, we´re going to New York City for a few days. We will see the Statue of Liberty, Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, and probably a lot more. After that, we´re going to Washington DC for a few days. I´ll return to Chicago in time to meet my friends from Goiânia who are coming to the Rotary Conference. I´m going to show them as much as I can in a long weekend in Chicago. I´ll return to Duluth for the weekend of June 25, but I´m going back to Chicago on the following Monday night as the chaperone on the bus with the AFS exchange students returning to their own countries. I´ll be back in Duluth to stay starting in July.
Maybe I'm down to my last week in Brazil, but after the last couple weekends, I'm seriously considering the possibility that I should just stay here! Angela, Edmo, and I stayed at Pousada Bambu inside a National Park called Chapada dos Veadeiros this weekend. NASA
reports that this plateau is the most luminous point seen from earth's orbit. Other people have reported sightings of aliens and various mystical properties of the area. We arrived at the park headquarters at the EXACT MOMENT as the Rotary GSE team from Holland. We had spent a lot of time with them a couple weeks ago when they were in Goiania, but neither we nor they had any idea that each other would be there. It was a serendipitous introduction to our experiences inside the park.
We found that Chapada dos Veadeiros has amazing hiking trails, rock formations, flowers, waterfalls, and canyons. The lodging and the people we met were awesome! We hiked Trilha dos Saltos for about 7 miles on Saturday to a 400 foot high waterfall, a 260 foot waterfall, and a set of massaging rapids. The next day, we went to Salto do Raizama, Morada do Sol, and Vale da Lua. I took almost 500 photographs, and I have posted only a few on two pages of my photo album. I would highly recommend this area to anyone interested in ecotourism and natural beauty. http://www.mdurward.com/chapada1.htm http://www.mdurward.com/chapada2.htm
I have only three more days in Goiania. I miss everyone at home (especially Maggie), but in many ways, I can't imagine leaving here. Everyone is asking why I need to leave and when I'm coming back.
I'm going shopping tomorrow morning, having lunch with Leo, spending the afternoon with my friends Sebastao and his family (they will be meeting me in Chicago in June), and making dinner for some of my extended family here tomorrow night. Thursday will be my last salon day, more shopping, and my last Rotary meeting that night. I'm taking a bus to Sao Paulo on Friday night and meeting Lenora at the rodoviaria on Saturday morning. We'll take a taxi together to Dante's apartment, and the three of us will spend my last weekend together.
I'll arrive in Chicago on Tuesday morning, and I'll turn on my Duluth cell phone as soon as I clear Customs. I'm driving to Minneapolis that day in time for a class starting on Wednesday. I'm taking five Prosource classes in the next few weeks because it's the cheapest and fastest way possible to get my Minnesota Appraiser license. I'm thinking that's probably my best option at the moment for employment. If anyone reading this has any good suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them. I'm looking for interesting, challenging work in Duluth with plenty of flexibility. And no, being a local assessor is not going to be one of the options!
I'll be back in Duluth the night of Thursday, May 19. The hot tub will be open and I'd love company. I'm going to Salsa Night Friday night at the Blue Note Cafe in Canal Park.
For those of you in Duluth, take a look at the new AFS web site that I have been working on from Brasil. It's http://www.afsnorth.org
. If you have enjoyed following my experiences, you could also have children from all over the world by opening your heart and your home to one of our new students.
I haven't posted any journals or photos for awhile, which is a good indication of how my life is going at the moment. I'm trying to do too many things at once, and I don't have enough time for everything!
I was involved with Rotary activities all last week. A group study exchange arrived on Wednesday from Holland, and I helped as one of their translators. They speak Dutch and English, but not Portuguese, so I helped them communicate from English to Portuguese, and helped them understand what other people were saying to them. We met some great people and toured the state courts, an economic development agency, and some tourist activities. They all had a great time, and at least a couple of them were already talking about coming back here again!
The Rotary District Conference started on Thursday and continued until Saturday night. I learned in Duluth that once you've been to one District Conference, you will never miss another one. The same is true here! Now my challenge will be trying to figure out how I can go to the conferences in both my North American district and the Brazilian district. I think I know as many people here as I do in my own District. My favorite part of this conference was the exchange student talent show. They did a mock Rotary meeting, and it was hilarious. The closing banquet was extremely formal, with interesting people, good food, and lots of dancing. I spent the equivalent of $30 for more than 2 hours in the salon, where I had a manicure, pedicure, hair styling, and even had my makeup done professionally. We went out to the chacara a couple times during the weekend, but didn't stay all night because all of the District exchange students were staying there.
I have a number of choices for this weekend, but not enough time for everything. I think I'm starting with Leo's master's presentation at the Federal University on Friday afternoon. His thesis is on Modelo Não-Linear por Fluxo em Redes Aplicado ao Planejamento da Operação Energética de Sistemas Hidrotérmicos de Potência. Don't worry, it's just as difficult to understand in English as it is in Portuguese, but if anyone from Minnesota Power is reading this, you would be well-advised to hire Leo now. I've been telling him for several years that I will be honored to tell people that I knew him before he was famous!
After that, I'm either going to São Paulo to stay with Dante for the weekend or to Edmo's class reunion for medical school. It's at a nice resort and Angela thinks it will be a really nice weekend for us. We'll see! Either way, I'm going to Belo Horizonte on Sunday night on an overnight bus to stay for two days with Livia.
I've already sent one box of things home through the mail. I bought wind chimes for Eileen today. If anyone else has any requests, send them now. I'm leaving Goiania on May 13, and I'll spend one last weekend with Dante and Lenora in São Paulo before I return to Chicago on May 17. I can't believe my time here is almost over!
I've been in Palmas for most of the past week, but I just returned this morning on the luxury bus. A luxury bus has more room to stretch out and air conditioning. I went to Palmas with Dante's Aunt Marcia last Tuesday. It's about a 12 hour ride on the bus into the State of Tocantins. It's about as far north as you can go in Brazil without running into the ocean or the Amazon, but it's also almost exactly in the geographic center of Brazil. I thought it was hot in Goiania, but it got to 104 one afternoon in Palmas. That's hot!
Marcia and her husband Euclides own a TV station and production company in Palmas. They have a nice apartment here, and they each come here for about a week every month. Marcia invited me to join her for the week this time. One of the reporters picked us up from the bus station, and we used his car after dropping him off back at the station.
I was interested in Palmas because it's the newest of the planned cities in Brazil. The State of Tocantins was formed from the northern part of Goias (the state Goiania is the capital of) in 1988, and the capitol was established in the new City of Palmas in 1990. The developer wanted to create a city from scratch with totally new infrastructure. Palmas is the cleanest and safest city I have seen in Brazil. There are excellent quality government buildings and streets with curbs and gutters. However, it lacks the diversity that I have come to appreciate in other cities. There are no street names - everything is based on numbered sectors and streets. There are very few traffic lights because the developer used rotary intersections so that people wouldn't need to stop their cars. There are design standards and height limitations. Residential neighborhoods are separated from commercial areas. In my opinion, the result felt like I was riding around in circles all the time without having any idea where I was going. I couldn't go anywhere without a car because there's not enough infill development yet, and everything is far away from each other. Marcia offered to let me use the car, but I don't have a valid driver's license in Brazil and I wasn't willing to risk driving without one.
On the other hand, there is a river and a large new lake with nice beaches and restaurants. There are many natural areas with trails and waterfalls. It appears to be an area with great potential for ecotourism. My favorite restaurant was a churrascaria called Portal do Sol. A churrascaria is a restaurant with a huge buffet of salads and vegetables in the center. After you have loaded your plate, you return to your table where waiters in southern Brazilian gaucho costumes circulate with different types of meat roasted over charcoal on long metal skewers. They carve slices of meat onto your plate until you tell them to stop. Each waiter has one skewer with a different variety or cut of meat. Brazilian meats are extremely tender, tasty, and virtually fat-free. When you have had enough, you place a red card face up on the table to signal that you've had enough. We ate at another beach-side restaurant with freshly caught and grilled fish.
Now I'm back in Goiania for at least a week. Angela and I went shopping this afternoon, and I was compelled to buy another pair of shoes. For some reason, I have acquired about 10 pairs of shoes here, even a couple with spiky heels. Almost all are sandals. I'm starting to think that Lana put something in the frosting on my retirement cake! I'm also tired of wearing jeans that are too big, so I decided to try on some new ones. I purchased two new pairs of jeans with a 34 waist just before I left Duluth. Today I tried on a size 32, but it was too big. I'm down to a 30! I think I need to stay here a few months longer!
The Rotary District Conference is next weekend, and we have a GSE team (Group Study Exchange) from Holland arriving on Wednesday. I'm going to help them by translating from Portuguese to English. All the exchange students from the district are staying at the chacara, and I'm going there one day to help make some desserts for them. At the same time, I will watch and maybe help Geraldo make cheese. He raises cows there, and he makes the best cheese I've ever tasted.
I have less than one month left before I go home. I want to go to Belo Horizonte once more to visit Livia and to Sao Paulo and Campinas to spend more time with Dante and Lenora. I'd like to get to Rio de Janeiro to spend some time with Luciana, who has returned to Brazil from Miami. I can't imagine where all the time has gone. There are so many more things I want to do here, and so little time. I guess I'll just have to come back for 6 more months!
I'm not traveling and I haven't gone to any World Cup games or any other exciting activities this week. I've just settled into a routine, but not a rut. Goiânia is an interesting city to live in.
Typically, I wake up about 9:30 in the morning (because I stay up until about 1:30 every night), and do about a half hour of yoga. Sometimes I shower first and other times I eat breakfast first, depending on how persuasive Aikey (our English spaniel) is being with me. He always wants me to eat breakfast first. I'm afraid I have trained him well to follow me to the table! Breakfast is usually french bread, requejão, and cafezinho. There are two maids here - Ana works about 10 hours every day and does all the cooking and cleaning, including cleaning my room every day. I've told Angela that my room is cleaned here more in a week than my house in Duluth is cleaned in a year! I make my own bed and pick up my own clothes because I can't bring myself to make someone do that for me. Maybe it's a cultural difference or maybe it's an age or gender difference, because the kids have no problem letting Ana do every bit of cleaning. Dona Hooch comes two days a week to do the laundry.
I study Portuguese for at least an hour every morning. I have only 1 1/2 tapes left of my 12 volume set, and I've already started on another program I bought written in Brazil to teach foreigners how to speak Portuguese. It's their equivalent of ESL English. In addition, Dante's Aunt Deixe just gave me a phonics program for children with pictures. I'm getting pretty good with understanding and speaking, but I still have a horrible accent. Learning Portuguese fluently has been a lot more difficult than I expected. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.
Everyone comes home for lunch every day, except that Edmo has hospital duty every Wednesday, and Angela is in another city all day on Thursdays. Ana serves lunch every day about 1 PM, with some combination of salad, beans, rice, meat, and a vegetable. Lunch is the main meal of the day. In other families, they eat only a snack for dinner, but my family here eats a dinner almost like ours in the US.
I try to do something different every afternoon. I'm trying to go to all the major centers of activity in Goiânia, which is a challenge because it's a city of 1 and 1/2 million people. I've been to most of the malls, some of the parks, some of the museums, and have visited a number of different families in different neighborhoods. I know how to take taxis and buses, sometimes both in the same trip. I'm still afraid to drive - I'm not nearly agressive enough to drive here! At the same time, no one seems to smash their car very often or hit many pedestrians. They all seem to know what the informal rules are. Actually, the warmth, kindness, and gracefulness of the people is my favorite part of this city.
We live on the 3rd floor of a 14 story apartment building in Setor Oeste, a nice neighborhood with a combination of high rise apartment buildings, some single family houses, and a lot of stores and commercial businesses. I can walk to everything I could possibly need. All private homes and apartment buildings have gates and locks. Our building has a guard at the door 24 hours a day, and he doesn't unlock it unless he knows you or you have identified yourself to the satisfaction of one of the residents. I walk almost everywhere, and I feel safe doing so, but I have learned not to carry a purse or more than the equivalent of about 20 US dollars. I have a small cheap shoulder camera bag that I use for my notebook, one credit card, a little money, and my cell phone. When I'm walking, the camera stays at home.
I go to a salon at least once a week to have my nails done, hair fixed. body waxed, or other cosmetic luxuries that are part of Brasilian daily life. It's a bit of pampering that I love, but it's also a way of finding my own community in a large city. Su, the owner of one salon, is just starting to learn English, and he always greets me with something new that he has just learned. I also go to a small snack shop several times a week for fresh orange juice and small pastries filled with cheese. I know all of the people who work there, and they always greet me by name and remember what I want to eat and drink. My favorite is Neginho, whose nickname means "little black guy." I met him 6 years ago, and he has remembered me every time I come back to Goiânia.
Goiânia is a relatively new city with high rise buildings that use a lot of color. Because of the tropical climate, there is a wealth of flowers, tropical trees, and green plants. Almost every sidewalk is constructed of different styles of paving stones or decorated concrete. It's always hot - at least in the mid 80's every day.
I try to walk for exercise at the end of every day. The zoo is just a few blocks from here, and it has a walking trail that circles the outside of the zoo grounds. There are lots of people who walk there at the end of their work day, and I join them quite often. There's an environmental park about a half mile away that has walking trails inside the park and around the perimeter, where I walk on other days.
I try to make dinner at least twice a week. We don't eat dinner until after 9 PM because Angela goes to the gym for exercise classes after work. I walk to the grocery store to buy the things I need for each meal that I cook. I have learned to make a lot of American food with less butter, sugar, and chocolate than I use at home! I do most of my shopping at Extra, a huge store that sells everything from groceries to computers and car parts. It takes up a full city block, with parking at street level and a moving pedestrian ramp to the store level. Even though I go there a couple times a week, it's always a cultural experience every time I walk in the door. This week, there was a special on dog food, and they made a huge dog house from the packages of dog food. Another time, there were arches formed from Easter candy.
In the evenings, we watch TV together or I use the computer. I try to read a lot, and I'm starting to read some history and planning related books about Brasil and Goiânia. I use my computer for playing around on the internet, for writing, and for travel planning. This week, I'm designing a new web site for the AFS Head of the Lakes area. That brings me to 2 AM!
For my friends in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, it's that time again - we have lots of interesting exchange students from other countries who are looking for homes in interesting families starting in August - could this be your year?
Happy Easter to everyone! I suppose you're curious about what a traditional Easter is like in Brasil. This Easter is going to be a combination of Brasilian traditions - we're going to the futebol stadium in Goiania to watch the Brasilian National Soccer Team play against Peru! This is one of those one chance in a lifetime events. I'm hoping to see a formation of the "Fantastic Four" with Robinho, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Kaka. We're all going to have a cultural experience tomorrow because it will be Angela's first soccer game too. The last time I watched this team play was during the 2002 World Cup finals when I got up at 3 AM to watch the match between Brazil and Germany on TV. It will be amazing to see these players in person, and we have some of the best seats in the stadium!
Good Friday was a national holiday in Brasil. I watched and helped Angela make a one pot meal called bacalhãoda, based on codfish with potatoes, tomatoes, green pepper, kale, onions, olives, and bay leaves. This is traditionally a religious holiday, but for many families it's now more of an opportunity for the family to be together. Fish-based meals are the most traditional foods for Easter, but it's the family togetherness rather than the food that's most important here.
Brasil has an Easter Bunny, and he delivers candy with the help of all large grocery stores. For weeks, they have displayed awnings formed of chocolate produced by all of the major candy companies. In most cases there's a shell of chocolate or plastic wrapped in colored foil with smaller candy eggs inside. I decided not to go with the commercial products, but to make my own. I made brigadeiros, a traditional Brasilian chocolate candy made with sweetened condensed milk and cocoa. It's cooked, cooled, and rolled into balls and decorated with chocolate sprinkles. Most of the brigadeiros didn't even make it to Good Friday! We ate them at different times during Thursday night! There was only one candy left for each of us after dinner on Good Friday, so I guess they were good.
Happy Easter, and if you watch the game on TV, I'll be one of the people in the area with chairs wearing a yellow shirt with green trim designed especially for this game!
I found a great area to retire! Lenora and I went to Ilhabela this weekend. It´s the largest island in Brasil, about a 15 minute ferry ride from the Atlantic coast. Much of the island has been preserved as a state park, and it´s one of the largest areas of untouched Atlantic rainforest in Brasil. We only scratched the surface of what´s available in our weekend here. I want to go back as soon as possible, but Lenora´s father says that I should get to know a real beach now, so I guess there´s a lot more to discover in Brasil!
We took a bus to São Paulo on Friday afternoon and arrived with five minutes to spare before our next bus left for a three and one half hour ride to the coastal city of São Sebastão. From there we took a 15 minute ferry ride, and then a taxi about five miles north to our hotel. We stayed at Hotel Mercedes, a beautiful 40 year old hotel with about 50 rooms. We paid the equivalent of $90 a night for a room with two comfortable double beds overlooking a garden with walkways among the flowers, pools, and waterfalls. It had a frigibar, TV, phone, air conditioning, and a great shower. This was more expensive and elegant than we really needed, but it was in a great area and was a nice introduction to what was available on the island.
We walked to Viana, a neighboring restaurant, for dinner, where we shared cold beer, a shrimp appetizer served in an edible boat shaped crust, and a shrimp entree in a curry sauce over rice. Viana has the reputation of being one of the three best restaurants on the island, but Lenora and I both agreed that it IS the best! The shrimp was so large, tasty, and tender that it could have been lobster!
Breakfast was included in the price, and was served until about 10:30 every morning. There was a beautiful selection of breads, cheeses, meats, fruits, cakes and pies, juices, and coffee, in addition to eggs cooked to order. We could sit in an open atrium inside the hotel or on the deck overlooking the ocean.
After breakfast, we headed out to the beach. The first beach we sampled was Viana, across the street from the restaurant of the same name. We sat on white plastic lounge chairs with a table and an umbrella that could be moved in or out of the water depending on your interests and the condition of the tides. We alternated between swimming, sunning, drinking, and eating. We ordered the shrimp appetizer again, but this time we didn´t share - we each wanted our own! The Viana beach is noted for clear water and fine brown sand, with moderate wave action and a variety of rocks in and out of the water.
We moved next to the Mercedes beach across from our hotel. This is a small private beach protected by a concrete wall from the rest of the beach. It´s adjacent to a small store, the hotel bar, and the hotel swimming pool. From the pool, we could sit and look at both the pool and the ocean. We stayed there only long enough to drink a caipirinha, a drink with limes, sugar, ice, and cachaca, which is like a Brasilian rum.
After a shower and a short nap, we headed for a small town a couple miles south of our hotel (but still on the north half of the island). There were interesting stores, a variety of restaurants, and nice people. I found a variety of clothes and souvenirs, and we had coffee and a chocolate nut cake at an extremely elegant coffee shop. After a couple hours of exploring, we went to Aeroi Restaurant, which was a restaurant extended on a deck over the ocean. We shared a bottle of wine and more shrimp there, and it was good, but the main draw of this restaurant appeared to be the atmosphere.
We had to check out by noon on Sunday, so we ate breakfast and sat on the beach until the last possible moment. I´m starting to look a little Brasilian - I´m getting a tan and I´m not overly burned! We bought our return bus tickets and had one last meal at the Deck, which was the third of the restaurants we had been advised to try. Again the food was really good, but I still liked Viana best.
We didn´t have time for many of the features of the island. There are boat trips, scuba diving, trails to fascinating waterfalls, and horseback riding on the beach. I´m sure we could easily spend a couple weeks there, but all we had were two days. We didn´t make time for anything in the rainforest. I could see some from the road, but it´s not the same as walking through it. I want to go back!
Lenora has convinced me to stay here in Campinas for one more day, so I´m leaving for Goiânia on Tuesday morning. We´re going to São Pedro tonight, the largest mall in South America. After that, ?
Some of my friends are tired of hearing about all my traveling. I feel like it's been a long time since I've gone anywhere other than Goiânia! In any case, I´m going to the São Paulo area for the weekend.
I´m flying to the domestic airport in São Paulo tomorrow afternoon. As you may remember from previous journals, I´m going to miss the other part of the trip - the part going to Chicago! Dante´s meeting me at the airport because I´m taking more of his stuff to him, but then I´ll take a bus to Campinas to stay with Lenora for a few days. She has classes and work at the hospital every day, but I´ll find something to do while she´s gone and we can do things together when she gets home.
I don´t think my cell phone will work in Campinas, but if there´s an emergency, Lenora´s cell phone (calling from the US) is 011-55-19-9648-3188 and her home phone is 011-55-19-3289-9391. If you call from inside Brasil, you need to dial 015 before the area code. Lenora speaks fluent English, but she turns off the cell phone when she´s working at the hospital.
If Lenora doesn´t have to work on Saturday, we´re going to the beach. I´m thinking about Ilhabela, an island in the Atlantic. It´s about 2 hours from São Paulo to São Sebastão, and then a 15 minute ferry ride from São Sebastão to the island. But I´ve also heard a lot of other suggestions too, so we´ll play it by ear. I like what I´ve heard about Ilhabela because it has a huge nature preserve with a lot of Atlantic rainforest, but there are other beaches with more action, restaurants, better sand, and other beach-like features. These are much nicer decisions than I was making at the same time last year! I seldom even think of local assessors and politics any more.
Dante is going to school, teaching English in two places, and entertaining friends this week, but he´s going to join us at the beach if he can manage to get away on Saturday and Sunday.
I have continued to explore Goiânia this week. One day I went with Edmo to the Brasilian equivalent of the County Recorder´s office. After that, we stopped at a little restaurant called Sonho Meu. The name means "My Dream," and they specialize in handmade chocolate. Another day, I went to a neighborhood in Goiânia with stores called Camelódromos. We´ve had a lot of discussion about what the name means, but we don´t have a consensus yet. These are markets with individual booths for hawkers of cheap merchandise similar to the old version of Maxwell Street in Chicago. The city developed these areas and charges extremely cheap rent as a way of keeping the hawkers off the streets and confined into a specific area.
I went with Angela one night to see Million Dollar Baby in English with Portuguese subtitles. We went with Edmo later to the Obelisk bar, a buteco that specializes in balcalhão, a codfish rolled with spices into small round cakes and fried. They also have some of the coldest beer in Goiânia.
We´ve spent a lot of time at the hospital with Angela´s father, but he´s coming home to his apartment tomorrow, and they have arranged for home health care for him. After we left the hospital tonight, we went with her mother to Pamonha Pura for a corn-based entree similar to tamales, but unique to this area of Brazil, and then to the Arab Cafe next door for some of the best and strongest coffee in Goiânia. We finished the evening watching Big Brother Brasil, a reality show that may or may not be a good representation of Brasilian culture, depending on what age group you talk to!
Great news, today! My visa was extended. All American tourists to Brazil have to apply for a visa. It's good for 5 years, but you can only stay for 90 days at a time without applying for an extension. With an extension, you can stay for a total of 180 days per year. This was my third visit to the Federal Police. The first two times I went with Renzo. On the first try, there were too many people ahead of me, and they told us to come back in the afternoon. When we returned, we learned that I would have to fill out a form and pay 22.80 reais online, and then return with the passport, my entry paper, a bar-coded proof of payment, and proof of a return ticket to home. The woman in charge of extensions also recommended that I come back closer to the date that the visa would expire. This was a bit of a problem for me because the Federal Police is several miles from home, and I don't know how to get there on the bus. Renzo is back in school, so it's not convenient for him to take me any more. It was also really comforting to have him with me because the office is always packed with people who have lost their passports, need a new passport, or other problems with these types of documents. Visa extensions are a minor part of what they do in this office, and Renzo was really helpful in navigating where we needed to go and who to talk to.
This afternoon, I decided to strike out on my own. I reviewed my maps of Goiânia and decided that it would be a good day for a walk. I had talked to Renzo about this the last time, and he told me that it would be a safe place to walk if I decided to do that. I walked up Rua 9 from home until I arrived at the Bougainville Shopping Center. I turned left as I had planned and walked another block to where I was supposed to turn right. It was a different street than what I had picked on the map, but it was one that I recognized, so I turned there anyway. It seemed like I walked forever, but I was passing some streets that I had written that I should watch for, and I recognized some landmarks. Finally, I saw the Goiás stadium located across from the Federal Police. After about an hour of walking, I arrived at 3:30 at the office which closes at 4 PM. I decided to be open minded about what would happen - I hadn't intended to cut my time so close.
I passed the long line of people waiting to talk to a passport officer, and continued to the back of the office. I would NEVER have known to do this if Renzo hadn't gone with me the first time! I interrupted one of the employees and asked him to call the woman who takes care of visa extensions. He returned and told me he had asked for her, and it sounded as if I should wait. By 3:50, I still hadn't seen her, so I asked someone else. That woman told me that the person I needed to talk to was gone until tomorrow, but she agreed to help me! I had another form to fill out, and she told me that she could help me in English if I had any problems. I filled out the form, signed it, and she completed the paperwork for my extension. I was ecstatic as I left! It's such a morale boost to be able to do these kinds of things on my own.
My other errand for the day was Breno's birthday present. I had intended to go to Flamboyant, the large mall, but I had seen a sign for Goiânia Shopping, one of the nicest malls here, on my way to the Federal Police, so I decided that I would try walking there. I turned left on a likely looking main thoroughfare, and hoped for the best. I passed one landmark that I recognized, but I was very unsure of myself because I've only been to this shopping center once since I've been here this time, and that was before Christmas. I continued walking and thought about the possibility of grabbing a taxi if I didn't arrive at the mall really soon. Just then, I saw the Golden Arches! I don't like McDonalds, especially in other countries, but it was a comforting sight to know that I was headed in the right direction.
I bought the gift, tried on some clothes, learned that I have dropped two sizes in pants (yes!), and treated myself to a chocolate sundae. I took a taxi home, not because I was lost, but because I was tired after probably at least 5 miles of walking. Tomorrow I'm making a special dinner for Breno - chicken cacciatore over rice, spinach souffle, garlic cheese bread, asti spumante, german chocolate cake, and ice cream. It's his 21st birthday!