return to Narnia

Just like that, I'm back. 

The world is whiter now than when I left, although today is beautifully clear and sunny. Yesterday I flew in just before the storm really established itself on one of the last flights from Washington, DC for the day.

Tuesday morning began in what had become typical morning fashion. Oh those mornings where the sun was completely up by 6.30!  Washington DC's morning was still grey and dull at 8 o'clock. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Thanks to a domestic flight that didn't leave until after noon, there was time for coffee and tea and some therapy before leaving. Releasing some tension and getting rid of any pre-flight jitters is always a good idea, so I followed the path to an old building on the property and was handed loaded weapons and careful instructions on how to point and shoot. For an authentic experience, it started to drizzle as I stood there in a borrowed army green t-shirt and flowered rubber boots with a pistol aimed more or less at the bull's eye.

Definitely on the count for the happy days challenge! (17/100)

one last picture of Recife

I was sent off with hugs and lovely cards (oh I will miss them!), but my departure was trumped by an accident that warranted more attention (warning: don't leave sharp things on the floor!). The flights were mercifully uneventful. Sao Paulo's airport sees so much air activity that there aren't enough gates for all the planes, so they have a bus system set in place that brings you from the plane to the terminal (and vice versa). The scheduled 6 hour layover was shorted due to the first flight that came in late, but there was still plenty of time to get my bearings enough in order to check in again, find the proper gate, and to wander about aimlessly for a while, trying to decide what on earth I felt like eating. The duty frees were disappointing in their selection of overpriced souvenirs, even with the 3 that were within a 5 minute walk from each other.

United Airlines is a great airline to fly with, especially on an overnight flight. The food tastes real and is piping hot when you get it, even in the lowly economy class, they give you the whole can of juice or pop and not just a cupful, the blankets are cozy, the pillows are substantial, and I had plenty of leg room, especially with the extra seat that I shared with the lady who sat in the aisle seat. I think she thought I was under 20 as she expressed sympathy for me travelling so far and alone.

The passengers had to wait on the final plane from Washington DC to Toronto while the area where we were to disembark was cleared off and made passable. I'm pretty sure it took longer to walk from the gate to the customs booths than it did to go through them. Customs lineups were short to non-existent, my solitary suitcase made it through quickly and without issue, and the getaway car was ready and waiting as I stepped out into a world covered in wet white stuff. Travelling made easy!

The house is clean and quiet and empty. Welcome home cards were found about the house, but mainly on my bed that was recently vacated of little brothers and thousands of stuffed animals. But my darling mother always things of me: food and wine was waiting in the fridge to make dinner easy.

One sleep later, and everything feels back to normal. Or perhaps that's just the mountain of laundry I ought to be folding… 


these high green hills

Sunday morning in Campina Grande began with several alarms going off, as well as some imitation bird songs, followed by a very generous breakfast that included chocolate cake on the menu (not that I had any. promise). 

The drive to church was through beautiful countryside with rolling hills upon rolling hills, but breakfast took a little longer than expected and we were behind schedule when we left and made it just a few minutes before the service started, so there wasn't time to stop for pictures. We passed through small towns that consisted of a collection of homes, and then it was in the rearview mirror already. 

I dislike playing the tourist on Sundays, so, unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the church Esperan├ža. It seemed as though the entire congregation gathered together for a potluck lunch in our honour - a common occurrence (in my experience, anyway) of Reformed Brazilian congregations. All that socializing was exhausting, so it was rest time when we got back to the hotel. Except for me. The beautiful weather was calling, so I wandered about the pools before succumbing to the need to escape the bright sunshine.

15/100 #100happydays

I stayed home in the afternoon in case the slightly ill or the very young needed some assistance. However, my services weren't needed, so I listened to a sermon from the comfort of the balcony in the cool evening weather. Yes, cool. The temperature actually drops in Campina Grande to the low 20s and, combined with a strong breeze that sounds like the ocean, it's almost enough to drive one to wearing a sweater. Almost.

Staying in a hotel is so luxurious. Fancy breakfasts, room service, no cooking or cleaning, bathrooms where the faucet to change the water temperature is a handle by the sink - not actually in the shower - and cushioned toilet seats. This morning we didn't have chocolate cake for breakfast, but the disappointment was made up for by fruit animals.

march of the penguins at breakfast

view from the restaurant - what's not to love?

Since we had a long drive ahead of us today, we decided to pack up and begin the journey home after breakfast. Well, the adults gathered the scattered belongings while the children watched cartoons. What a life! The pool was probably still filled with beer cans from the party in there yesterday, so a swim wasn't an appealing option.

Holiday days seem to be marked by meals. Especially here. I have been spoiled by the delicious meals I have enjoyed in the past two months. I may be converted into taking food pictures. Today included a very fruity breakfast (there is nothing like fresh, fresh fruit for breakfast), and then the highlight of lunch was what came after: ice cream topped by sugary creations.

after lunch treats, complete with decorations - 16/100
Not too shabby, right?

And now I'm spending one last night in Brazil. My solitary suitcase is nearly packed, my jeans are laid out and ready for the long trip home (oh the horror), a pair of socks is in my carry on bag (shiver), books are stacked carefully for the journey… What has been my room for the past two months looks rather barren.

It seems like last week that I said goodbye to the Canadians who were leaving for home, and now it's my turn. Upon coming home, this trip will feel like it happened years ago, but at least the memories and personal growth will stay.


from the rising of the sun - 14/100

Sunrise was at 5.35 this morning, which meant getting up earlier than that in order to catch the first glimpses of the sun - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the most eastern city of the Americas: Joao Passoa. It's the hour of runners and photographers. The sunlight had already crept over the horizon as I made my way down to the beach at 5.15 and I was prepared to be disappointed in myself for not getting up earlier. However, that golden orb soon made his appearance through the thick clouds, ensuring that the effort was worthwhile.

After a leisurely breakfast in our hotel rooms, soundtracked by Portuguese cartoons, we packed everything up into the cars in search of an appropriate lookout point. Clever businessmen set up stands to sell hats both at the bottom and the top of the hill we climbed for a high vantage point and more interesting view than standing on a mere sandy beach… The sun was extra hot today (were we all extra sensitive to the heat or was it actually warmer than what I have been used to?) and so we became some of those tourists who forgot to pack their hats, thought they could do without them, and then realized how foolish that was. Straight across that water (pictured below. and above) is Africa. If you listen carefully, you can hear the beat of their drums (or so I'm told with a twinkle).

graffiti'd tree
From Joao Passoa we headed westwards and inland. We stopped for lunch at a mall (the thing to do here); apparently today is International Women's Day, so my lunch was served with a smile and a red rose - I'm not about to complain about that!

The landscape is much different here, with all these rolling hills and open fields… Granted, I am more accustomed to seeing the busy streets and sights of Recife than these pastures. It reminds me, just a little bit, of Scotland with the rougher and craggier scenes; Scotland doesn't have palm trees, though. It's all so green. And big. And beautiful.

Town here is much less chaotic than the streets of Recife. And cooler. The temperature actually drops to the low 20s in the evenings! I haven't actually seen too much of this city yet besides the little we drove through to get to the hotel with its fantastic views and breezes. There's no sound of the ocean crashing nearby, but it is peaceful, with the scent of someone's cigar wafting through the open door…

view from our balcony
I am so blessed and so thankful to have opportunities like this.


the beginning of the end

A weekend of travel and sightseeing before heading back to Canada. (I did a quick calculation and I'll be on the road for the next week, touring about and flying home included.) People keep asking if I'm ready to go home, but I'm afraid I have so sit on the fence with this answer. Yes, I'm ready to see my family again, but I do really enjoy being here: it's going to be hard to leave.

So here I am in a hotel room after a departure that began shortly after the Plan A ETA, listening to a Portuguese kids' show and anticipating a very early morning for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (this is called rising tension so that people remain at least somewhat interested in my blog and return tomorrow).

13/100 - seeing this incredible and stunning world.


staying until the wind changes

I had yesterday's "100happydays" all ready to go, and then I forgot to post it. So, here goes.

a heavy downpour in the morning. Rain here means that it is winter, somewhat regardless of what the weather was like the day before. The rain was incredible. Within seconds, the area was soaked and the drops were bouncing off the large puddles that quickly formed. Lights started flickering, so everything was quickly unplugged for safety reasons.

I love watching the rain pelt down. It's so nice to watch from the safety of a sheltered area instead of being caught in the middle of it without having chosen to be so.

Even after - or, perhaps, especially after - such an intense rain, the afternoon was beautifully clear and sunny. The beauty of this country never ceases to amaze me.

today's showers bring tomorrow's flowers

a swim in the early evening light

After spending some time in the kitchen this afternoon baking banana bread (is it a sign that I'm accepted here when I'm asked to take over the kitchen?), a quick swim in the pool was an enticing offer. As the departure date looms ever nearer, I thought it best to make the most of opportunities like this: swimming in an outdoor pool in the evening in March. I certainly can't do that at home!


10/100 - picking my own perch

Today is Carnival day, where people celebrate this life with over-exhuberance before observing Ash Wednesday tomorrow.

In order to escape the riotous city, people gather here at the centre for an afternoon of games and various activities. This year was an Amazing Race, incorporating all my favourite elements of "Fun Day" in elementary school. The sack race, having to carry a pingpong ball on a spoon after spinning in a circle, some sort of combination of soccer and hockey… But I carry my cynicism with me from those days. Safely positioned behind my camera, I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon from my vantage point. It's all about perspective, right?

why couldn't they have had puzzles like this in my day?
I make it out to sound as though this was an afternoon only for the children here, but all ages participated in this friendly competition with a willing and eager attitude, encouraging each other with a good spirit.

diving for golf balls
The weather was so lovely this afternoon, filled with sunshine, laughter, and cheers from across the centre. As it was so warm, the majority of the participants ended up in the pool to cool off after some action-packed hours. The water sloshed merrily over the sides of the pool as cheerful chaos mixed in the water.

These sort of days aren't limited by language barriers and they remind me what a wonderful world we live in.



Emily and Jennifer

The founders of Esther's Children came for breakfast today. Actually meeting them solidifies the reality of the project - I've seen it in action, and now I've met the mother-daughter duo who is responsible for its conception and execution. 

The Lord continues to work in wonderful ways. 



Yet again, another long call home via Skype, but this time I participated by witnessing dinner.

Although I didn't have any of the delicious looking roast, mashed potatoes with gravy, or veggies, it's really wonderful to pray together as a family from different parts of the world.



Today's adventure presents acai.

This fruit is known in Canada for its antioxidant properties, is often found as a juice, and originates in Brazil. Here, the fruit is offered as a frozen treat, mixed with ice, honey, strawberries, and granola (if so desired). So delicious! I'm not one for taking pictures of food, but this warranted a photograph. 

It was a family trip out for this event. What luxury to sit outside in the sunny warmth on the first day of March. I'm definitely not in Ontario anymore. (Good thing I've realized this after six weeks.)