May 26, 2007

Slideshows From Brazil…


5-20-2007

May 22, 2007

5-20-07

What’s wrong with these people!  Brad, Kelly, and Lynn were up and out of the house at 6am… and even had the audacity to ask me if I wanted to walk with them to the beach… can you believe it?  I finally got out of bed around 7:50am… still early for my taste.  Able and I left Peter snoring away in his room (he had promised he would be on the beach at 5:45am to watch the fishermen come in with their catch) and headed to the beach.  The morning was absolutely perfect.  The tide was at its highest point… the waves were rolling in… the beach was absolutely empty… the water was a brilliant green… and the sand perfect… shaped uniquely by water.  We just happened to immediately meet up with the rest of the crew (minus Peter… still sleeping)… and spent the next hour or so hanging out in the chest deep water.  Peter made his grand entrance by driving out to the beach as we finished swimming.  He proclaimed that we should head to the dunes!

The dunes were located about ½ mile away from the beach… and was literally a desert in the middle of vegetation and houses…. I have to get on the airplane now… more to come……………….

5-19-2007

May 22, 2007

5-19-07

The plan for today… head to the beach.  Unfortunately,
Teresina is the only city we will be visiting without a beach.  It’s actually 4 hours inland.  That would not, however, deter Peter, my host, from convincing us we should head to the beach for the weekend (it didn’t take much convincing… we had been trying to get back to the beach since the first day in Sao Luis).  Brad and I made the trip with Peter in his Toyota Highlander SUV.  Kelly and Lynn were unlucky enough to be in a Ford Focus rental car… with Abel behind the wheel (more on that to come).  Erika was not feeling well… and stayed behind with her host family in Teresina.  Peter drove fast enough that every hour we were able to stop for about 15 minutes to grab a bite to eat / drink and wait for the others to catch up.  One such stop just happened to be a Honda motorcycle dealership that he is building for a client… another stop we had lunch… and final stop was a walk through of a house he is building on the beach for another client.

Of course, Peter had to be dramatic about the beach ** (since I had been asking him, “Donde esta praia, Peter?” the entire trip… I’ll explain in a second).  As soon as we could see the water and the beach… he jumped the curb, mumbled something about watching out for the Policia… and took off down the coastline.  It was around 12:40pm on a beautiful Saturday… and the beach was empty.  So we navigated the SUV through makeshift soccer goal posts on the beach… through little streams leading down to the water… barely missing coconuts… and people’s clothes along the way. 

** During the Rotary presentation in Teresina… the picture of  lake
Conway didn’t show up on the power point.  Throughout the rest of the night and next few days… Peter would fill any prolonged silence by asking in his rough English… “William! Where’s the lake?”

This beach is at least 3 hours from the closest airport or port… and from what I understand is more or less for locals only.  Peter mentioned that it’s the Southbeach of Piaui… people who have money in Teresina buy / build houses there… although he said he preferred his vacation apartment in Fortaleza… “more beautiful womens in bikinis.”

When we arrived at the beach (I’m not real sure what city we were in) we went directly to Abel’s father’s house (where we would be staying).  The house was nice enough… 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, typical beach house… with no air conditioning, of course.  We were there just long enough to put on the bathing suits and head to the beach… where we spent the rest of the evening eating crabs and fish… drinking cervezas and waters… and basking in the sun and frolicking in the ocean.  As if I have to say it… the sunset was amazing… directly in front of us… over the anchored fishing boats and rolling waves… it’s a tough life… but someone has to do it.

The evening was capped off by a trip to Parnaiba (actually the second largest city in Piaui, according to Peter… however, it seemed about the size of Cabot).  It took us about 30 minutes to get to the restaurant and about 10 minutes to get back home.  I think Peter was pretty lit on the way over… and would stop every mile or so to change CD’s… tell a story… or make some grand statement about the evening… one of us… or the surrounding (by “stop”… I mean he would stop the vehicle in the middle of the road until he finished whatever he was saying / doing).  When we got back to the house (around 10pm) everyone crashed… Peter was snoring in about 10 minutes flat… Abel threw up the hammock in the living room… Lynn and Brad headed out to our room… and Kelly retired to hers.  It was only 10pm!  Anyone who knows me very well knows that I don’t typically go to bed before midnight.  I sat out on the porch listening to the IPOD (because there was a kicking party next door) and reading “Profiles in Courage” by JFK… strange combination for a beach house in
Northern Brazil… I know.

Slideshow… maybe

May 20, 2007

Brazil – Short Slideshow (because I cleared out my camera onto my computer… and i only had the pictures from today).

Click Here

May 20, 2007

5-16-2007

May 20, 2007

5-16-07

This morning started out like many others on this trip… a trip to a medical facility and my stomach hurting. This visit was to a dental clinic that provided the “free” dental healthcare services guaranteed to all Brazilian citizens under the constitution (medical is also covered). It’s interesting to note that while the dentists were all in favor of this socialist idea… they spent the entire presentation explaining that they did not have enough money to provide the care that they needed to provide… sounds like that could lead to second rate healthcare for everyone… Hillary, are you listening?

The next stop was a local private dental facility (they only accepted patients willing to pay for their services)… it was interesting to note the difference in facilities, equipment, and demeanor of these dentists versus the previous.

Next came the Biodiesel facility… the first of it’s kind in the world, supposedly. They use sugar cane to produce biodiesel fuel. This visit was, in my opinion, not worth making… but not for the reasons you may suspect (Sarah). You see, this place takes safety extremely seriously… which is great. But you may want to consider that before inviting a group of tourists to visit your plant without setting forth any clothing regulations. Come to find out, you had to be wearing: long pants, closed toe shoes, long sleeves, and hard hats to tour the place. We ended up standing at the front gate for about 30 minutes waiting for the general manager to get the thumbs up to let us tour with only hard hats. We then had to listen to 30 minutes of safety info and technical information before being allowed to take the 15 minute tour… which by the way, we could see basically the same thing in Arkansas.

Safety, safety, safety… our next stop was my host’s business. Apparently Ted has his hand in the pharmaceutical industry. After putting on lab coats, hair nets, face masks, and shoe coverings, we were allowed to tour his drug making… and bottling facility. I have to admit, it was interesting… but I’m not sure it was worth the trouble of getting dressed up… although we did have a good time with it. Remind me to show you the pictures and video.

Lunch was to be provided at the local floating restaurant… apparently a staple of the city. We jumped on the, very rickety, pontoon restaurant… sat down and ordered… then made our way to the river boat tour… which turned out to be more like a floating lawn mower river tour.

Wait… I don’t think I’ve mentioned the Yellow Man here in Floriano. Even before we stepped off the bus in this city I heard a whistle being blown. This guy… a very strange guy… dresses in nothing but yellow clothes… drives a yellow vespa… and carries a digital camera, digital recorder (cell phone with a very large antenea) and various other reporting devices. He followed us everywhere we went… and anytime he wanted a picture… he would blow his whistle. It didn’t matter where we were at… inside a business, on the bus, listening to someone speak… if he wanted a picture he was going to get it. Also, if someone was speaking to a group, he would hold this large cellphone in front of them… and inconspicuously (yeah right) record what they were saying. I think it might have his version of “live” recording for the local radio station.

Anyway, this river boat had what I swear was a lawnmower engine turning the propeller. It was spitting gas and making a terrible racket. We made a brief trip down the river to a point where they asked us if we wanted to swim. However, the numerous people bathing in the river, washing clothes in the river, sewage pipes emptying into the river kept us safely in the boat. As a matter of fact… the restaurant restrooms emptied directly into the water.

Following lunch we showered and loaded the bus again for a brief (3 hour) rough ride to Sao Raumundo. So now we are a total of about 8 hours south of Teresina… a trip we have to make on Friday. Once we arrive in Sao Raumundo, Lynn and I are dropped off at our host families’ home. We eat dinner, taken to the internet shack on the next block… and then go to bed.

5-15-2007

May 20, 2007

5-15-07

Teresina has been a stark difference from Sao Luis. My expectations from this trip have totally changed in one day of being in this city. The hectic, demanding, frustrating schedule of Sao Luis has been replaced with a relaxed, informative, educational, and flat out fun schedule in Teresina. We had a free morning today… of which Brad and I spent sleeping in… downloading pictures from our cameras… and sitting outside by the pool. We had an 12pm lunch date with the team, the hosts, and Ricardo (one of the members of the Brazilian GSE team that was in Arkansas during April). From what I understand the lunch was similar to Gouchos in West Little Rock. It was a serve yourself buffet until you sit down… at which point the wait staff began bringing various slabs of meat by the table constantly to refill your plate… the same thing with the desserts. Did I mention that we haven’t paid for a thing since we’ve been here… not a drinks, not meals, not cover charges… nothing. This is really going to spoil me for the next time I travel.

Following lunch we loaded into the bus and headed towards Floriano… our mid-week travel destination. The trip was brutal… even though we were traveling in style (a 26 passenger travel bus donated by the state government of Piaui!). The roads were full of holes… and the driver had to swerve violently all over the place trying to avoid them. We were greeted in Floriano around 7:30pm by about 30 people holding a banner welcoming us to their city. They were literally standing at the entrance to the city waiting on our bus to come down the road… talk about making a brother feel welcome! From this point, Lynn and I jumped in the car with our host for the night… Ted. I discovered that Ted was the wealthiest man in the city… by way of being an Economist… which just means he is a business man. According to the other Rotarians… his entire lineage has been “great men” and his son is now an Ambassador… I never did find out for what or whom. This man’s house was phenomenal… not to mention the 57 Chevy sitting in the garage… and the 20 other classic cars he has in storage.

There was a dual Rotary meeting scheduled for 8:00pm (it had to be moved to 9pm because we were running behind on the trip). It was held outside under a large pavilion… white table linens, decorations, chair covers, and don’t forget the local marching band playing the Brazilian national anthem (which, by the way, is very long). The people here in Floriano are far and away the friendliest people I have ever met. I would absolutely want to come back and visit this city again someday. Oh yeah, we ate again and then went to sleep.

Various Pictures

May 17, 2007

I decided, for the sake of time and effort to just make a couple of posts with pictures instead of inserting pics into each post….

Oriana (my host mom in Sao Luis) and the flower I gave her for mother~s day.  I picked it from her garden while she had her back turned.

This was the very, very, very large man that Lynn had to sit by on the plane… the pic does not do justice.

This is the group of Rotary youth exchange students from around the world (and us).  From left to right in the back: Alaska, germany, mexico, michigan, philadelphia

Teresina, Piaui from the balcony of Peter~s (my host) ex wife.  We stopped by around 11:50pm for his daughters b-day. 

Peter~s son Pedro (the enduro motorcycle champion) and his daughter Nicole… it was her birthday.

The mother~s day feast at my host family~s home… with Brad and Kelly as guests.

My host Peter (Teresina) and his girlfriend Polly.  He owns a construction company and also races motorcycles… perfect match.

The Sao Luis equivalent of SWAT… the had just performed a hostage situation demonstration for us.

The guys are a tough crew… they typically patrol the city in this fashion… they cover the entire state of maranhao… and parts of the amazon.

Fred and I had just finished our game of soccer in the back yard… I had to remind him that I could still smoke him in basketball.

We toured a blue jean factory in Teresina… I had no idea the work that went into each pair to make them look worn… this is just a pic of the stonewash.

A view of Sao Luis from the return ferry from Alacantra.

The statue in the historic city that I know nothing about… refer to the blog.

We found a pizza joint in Fortaleza during our 6 hour layover on our way to Teresina.  Apparently you are expected to wear gloves while eating.

Following pizza we found an ice cream shop.. where ironically you did not have to wear gloves… and I ended getting it all over me.

Our welcoming party as we arrived in Floriano… they were great… except the tv/radio/newspaper reporter with the whistle.

Fred and Patricia at the beach the day after we arrived.

Swimming in the river near the farm

5-14-2007

May 17, 2007

5-14-07

As scheduled… we landed in landed in Teresina around 2am or so. After picking up our luggage and getting some terrible stares from the midget lady who checks luggage before you can leave baggage claim, (apparently this airline employs many midgets… this was not the first we had seen!) we met up with our new host families. Brad and I would be staying together for some of this week… with Peter… a divorced guy in his 40’s. He seemed nice enough on the way to his house (after we dropped off his daughter and his girlfriend). He also spoke good English… a huge plus.

The 7am muster was thankfully moved back to 9am… but that still came very early. Our first stop was the Houston Bike manufacturing company… they made bikes. That’s about all I can say about this place. It was interesting enough watching them make the various parts… but it’s just like every other manufacturing facility in Little Rock and the rest of the world… some raw materials, some manual labor, some automation, some sales and marketing and presto… you have a successful business.

However, the next stop (owned by the same corporation… who also owns 12 other manufacturing facilities and numerous other retails stores) was much more interesting. This was a place that manufactured designer jeans. I never imagined that so much manual labor went into each pair of jeans. Imagine that every little scuff, tear, bleached line, and nuance of your designer jeans was done by hand… that’s exactly what they were doing. They had a grinder where they would scuff the jeans… a file where the would do the fine scuffing… and stapler where they would fold the jeans for the wash (to make the dark / light lines)… etc. It was mind boggling. We also were able to observe the stone wash process… where they use real stones… the fragrancing process where they spray each pair of jeans after they come from the dryer… and the inspection process where they make sure every pair of jeans has the proper scuffs and scrapes. I’ve got to get a pair of these jeans… I’m not sure if this is a common practice… or just done here because of cheap labor.

The jean factory was the last scheduled program of the day… what a relief from the tiring schedule in Sao Luis! The bus driver dropped Kelly, Brad, and I off at the mall to wait for Peter to pick us up. We accompanied Peter to his office so we could use his internet. As I mentioned before, Peter owns a construction company… and is doing very well for himself. There, we met his son, Pedro… the champion enduro motorcycle racer. Pedro was unbelievably friendly… and later took us to his grandfather’s Honda dealership to show us his bike. He offered to let us take it for a test drive… which I couldn’t refuse. Enduro bikes are typical dirt bikes… a little souped up, of course… with digital read outs on the handlebars… and a place for scrolling directions. This, I found out later, was why enduro racing is a bit challenging. You receive a scroll of direction that show you what kind of turn to make and at what meter mark to make it. The driver (pilot in portugese) must keep track of his meters and kilometers while trying to figure out where he should turn… it’s not going fast… or endurance that allowing people to win… it’s figuring out where exactly you are supposed to be going.

The Teresina Rotary Meeting was a joint meeting of all the clubs in Teresina (3 clubs, I think). It was held in the nicest hotel in Teresina and attended by about 60 or so people. There were actually several people from the United States in attendance including a retire couple from Nebraska who chose Teresina as a retirement city… they work with adult exchange programs (interesting!)… also the Rotary Youth Exchange members were in attendance… there were 5 of them… each in Teresina for one year. There were three individuals from the US (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Alaska), one from Germany, and one from Mexico. They all arrived in Teresina speaking only there native language… 9 months later they all speak Portugese and English… that amazes me. I guess it just happens when you are immersed in the culture for an extended period of time.

The meeting went really well… our presentation (in portugese) was understood by everyone… I sang happy birthday to on of the guests… and we had good conversation with the youth exchange members (they seemed like the needed it).

Following the meeting, Brad, Peter, Polly, and I stopped by Peter’s ex-wife’s house for his daughter Nicole’s b-day party. We arrive around 11:45… gathered some flowers from the front garden… and went up to the 14th floor condo where we would sing happy birthday… in a couple of different languages. It was very entertaining and somewhat heartwarming to see the interaction between all the family members and friends in attendance (there were about 14 or so in all). They seem to have a very loving family (and agreeable considering Polly, the girlfriend, was chatting with the ex-wife… and there’s probably a 20 year difference in age). Following the birthday party Peter wanted to take us to the local Disco club. Apparently he knows the owners (and everyone else in town). We drove up to the front door… Peter yelled something at the bouncers… who then scampered inside… and within seconds the owner comes running out greeting us with open arms. We literally park right in front of the door and make our way inside. This place is your typical “live entertainment” club (I’m not sure why I said typical… we have nothing in Little Rock that compares) and packed (it’s Monday!). There was a full band… with 2 singers… trumpet… drums… bongos… etc… playing non-stop Brazilian hip-hop, pop, techno… and the occasional Britney Spears. Apparently, Peter and Polly know the performers as well… because Brad and I got a “shout out” from the lead performer… aren’t we special!

At this point it was about 2am… and from what I understood we would be back on Friday… so we dropped off the girlfriend and headed to the house.

5-13-2007

May 17, 2007

5-13-07

 

Take a Break…

What a wonderful feeling to wake up in the morning and be able to fall back asleep knowing that you have nothing to do.  I think I got out of bed around 9:30 this morning… a full 3 hours more sleep than has been typical this week.  I don’t know how I managed to skip the force feeding known as breakfast… but I successfully did (my stomach thanked me!).  Oriana finally understood that I enjoyed having a few minutes on the internet every once in a while… so she hooked up her laptop for me to use while I waited for Fred and Bia to take me shopping (or something along those lines!?!?).  I was able to check a couple of emails from Sarah and mom… post my thoughts from Tuesday… and try to upload some pictures.  About that time I got the now infamous “vamos!”… which means it’s time to go. 

 

Shopping in Sao Luis…

I finally made it shopping today… sort of.  Fred, Bia, and I went to the local mall a little before noon.  Apparently the mall didn’t open until 12pm.  There were people piled up behind the rails… and the mad rush that ensued reminded me of Christmas in the states.  My limited Portugese prohibited me from finding out what was going on… I just assume it was a sale on the latest and greatest swimwear or something.  I really only wanted a unique t-shirt from Sao Luis.  However, that proved to be a tough task.  It seems that everything being sold there was printed in English… so much for being unique!  I can’t escape the American culture!

 

Mother’s Day Lunch…

I thought Kelly and Brad were going to meet us shopping.  However, when I never saw them… and never heard anymore about it… I just let it go.  I’ve become accustomed to not knowing what’s going on and not really caring to know.  I just walk in the direction that I’m pointed in whenever they say “vamos.”  When we arrived at the house Brad and Kelly were sitting at the table in the yard.  Oriana’s daughter, her husband and child, and all the maids and kids were there.  There were about 12 of us in all.  A feast of food was laid out across tables on the carport… including shrimp, 3 types of meat, fried bananas, mashed potatoes, rice, and various other things that I could neither pronounce nor recognize.  I think this was a mother’s day celebration.  I had asked Fred several times to stop by and let me pick up a small thing of flowers… but as we were turning into the house… he said in his broken English… “flower stores closed.”  I’m pretty sure he forgot.  So, like a good improviser, I picked one of Oriana’s flowers (that she’s so proud of) and gave it her.  I figured out the phrase for Happy Mother’s Day… “Feliz Dias das Mias.” 

 

Another Rush…

For future reference to anyone who may be reading this… I have discovered one of my major dislikes… rushing me.  Once we finished lunch I understood the plan to be… Fred was taking Brad and Kelly back to the house to get their luggage… and I would have an hour to pack my bags.  Rose and I began packing… and in about 10 minutes I began noticing a lot of activity around the house.  Apparently we were all of sudden in a huge rush to get to the airport!  I ended up having Paulina pack my computer, Rose packed my bathroom supplies and folded all my shirts… and I threw everything else on top.  Oh yeah… the entire time I was sweating like crazy because it was about 100 degrees in the house.  I think it’s just frustrating because if someone could have told me 20 minutes earlier that I needed to start packing… I would have been able to make sure everything was properly packed and felt good about everything (I’m a bit obsessive with things being in order).

 

Departing Sao Luis…

We all made it to the airport without hassles… however that would soon end.  Lynn checked in first… no problem, then Kelly, then me… no problem (other than having to repack into two bags again because my suitcase weighed 22.9 kilos… the max was 23… I didn’t want to take a chance).  However, when Erika checked in, all of a sudden you could no longer check two pieces of luggage… which was very interesting because I had just checked two pieces of luggage.  Of course, I said nothing about that.  Brad and Erika had to pay additional money to have a second checked bag (36 and 76 hias respectively).  They were hot!! Understandably.  Rotary travel agency gave us no indication that the amount of luggage we were allowed for our international flight would not be allowed on a domestic flight in Brazil… all I know is that I slipped under the radar somehow.  It must have been the karma from the flowers and card I sent mom before I left.  Speaking of mom, I was able to speak to her briefly while waiting to board the flight.  That was a relief… as I was a little worried I would be unable to tell her Happy Mother’s Day today.

 

Fortaleza…

Our layover in Fortaleza was supposed to be around 6 hours.  We landed around 6:00pm and our flight to Teresina departs at 12:35am (it has been delayed until 1am).  Luckily, the district governor, Julio, met us at the airport to entertain us during the wait.  We decided to go ahead check our luggage and check in before leaving the airport.  However, we still had the luggage situation.  Julio suggested that we leave everything we didn’t need with him until we came back to Fortaleza for our last week.  Success, that was music to my ears.  We repacked in the middle of the airport lobby… and sent the majority of our luggage with Julio to be reclaimed next week.  I won’t go into a lot of detail about Fortaleza right now since we will be back in one week.  However, it was nice to experience a few hours of the city before leaving for Teresina (the Gateway to Hell as Brazilians call it.. it’s hot!).  Fortaleza is considered one of the nicest cities in the country… setting the fashion trends for Brazil… beautiful beaches, etc.  Julio, who also controls the Rotary checkbook took us to a cultural arts center… and out to eat pizza.  He returned us to the airport around 11pm… that’s were I’m at now.  Our flight lands in Teresina a little after 2am… our first event tomorrow morning is at 7am… fun stuff.  Chow!