quinta-feira, setembro 23

What a rush....

It's been ages since I have last posted which should be an indicator at how busy I have been with various things, including adjusting to the city life. Between school, homework, church and seeing my friends, I barely have time to read a book for pleasure! Oh how I cannot wait to graduate! May 2011 won't come soon enough.

The city is bigger than I imagined but due to its layout in "bairros" or districts/communities, it has a nice homey feel, at least where I have been frequenting. I live in a really ritzy area of town near one of the chic-est shopping centers, Oscar Freire, and am rubbing shoulders with football (soccer) stars, super rich people and the like. Interestingly, I am paying just a little bit more for rent than my colleagues who live in dorm-style housing with 5+ roomates and I have a great spacious flat with two incredible roomates. The downside is things here are more expensive (coffee, snacks, grocery stores, etc...) because of the type of people who frequent here. Also, I have a maid, who comes twice a month and does all of that awful cleaning stuff that I don't like to do, and I can already tell it is going to be hard going back to not having one in Nashville!!

Classes are going well and most importantly I am growing as a person. As an independent, confident, married woman. This is the part of this trip that I am most appreciative of. As I always say, nothing is coincidental. My roomates and I all seem to be in the same phase of life, facing the same insecurities, same worries and similar desires for ourselves. As a result, we spend hours talking about these issues and through their friendship (and an incredible book) I am now finding great solace not just within myself but also am improving my relationship with my husband, which is ultimately going to lead to a happier, easier, more joy-filled life. I miss my husband, more than anything, but I am turning those saudades into something productive that gives life, spark and joy to our relationship, rather than dragging it through the mud, as I did last semester. Looking back, his unwavering support proves how much he loves and cares for me because I would never have been able to endure what I put him through. Humberto knows when to call my bullshit, can tell when I am upset and doesn't feed into it and when I finally do break down, helps put the pieces back together, but only if I am committed to doing my part. Long distance relationships are difficult but they can also be used to the couple's advantage and in our case, my personal development is paramount to any issue that we will encounter in our life. Through this experience I am learning to deal with issues on my own instead of calling him for his opinion or support. Of course those are both important, but first and foremost I need to be able to depend on myself, stand on my own two feet, before I can help support a family.

As always, I send my love to my friends in PA, TN and FL as well as my family who are spread all over. I miss you all and I will be back in the states sooner than you can imagine!

segunda-feira, junho 14

One Month Today

Today is an important day, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it marks one month since our arrival in Ji-Paraná. In this past month I have cried, rejoiced, laughed and smiled more than I have I think in my 24 years of life. It's been a whirlwind of emotions and when I sit down to meditate I find it hard to not let one of those emotions take over.

Over the past month I have tried new foods, seen new animals (and learned new things about animals I was already acquainted with, damn chickens who sleep in treessss), traveled extensively throughout central Rondônia, met new people, seen new things, I've been stung by hornets (first time in my life, and I got stung two days in a rowwww), I've gotten bicho de pé, or the bug that buries itself in your feet and I've slept many hours in a hammock on the front porch, listening to the horses whinnying, cows lowing and roosters crowing. I've learned new card games, sang new songs and shared in difficult moments for the town (a girl in Humberto's mother's class, 10, was with her aunt, 21, on their way to school when their motorcycle was run over by a school bus. Both passed away last week.) I've shared in soccer games, barbecues, drank lots of Brazilian beer and tereré. I've probably drank more coffee and consumed more sugar as a result in the last month than I did during finals week this past semester. I've made mistakes in my Portuguese (saying that a car was fucked instead of smelled bad, said that the bridge that we went over was made of little pieces of bread instead of wood and said that a girl's hair was garbage instead of straight) but I have also gained the ability to explain more complex issues (talking about the beauty in the weeds, describing why throwing garbage out the window of a car is simply the biggest sin I think someone can commit and talking to school directors and social workers about difficult issues in Brazilian society). I've planted plants, I've touched a dead cow and I've ridden a horse to the water's edge. I've talked with students, played with my future nieces and talked with my future nephew about his dreams for the future. I sat still for three hours while my future niece, 14, gave me a very detailed manicure and pedicure (she painted flowers on each nail). And I have eaten more beef in the past month than I have eaten in 24 years (I have now declared that I am vegetarian to the family, therefore, that means to them that I just don't eat beef, but chicken fish and pork are still up for grabs, haha, works for me).

Although I am loving life here on the farm, I am getting excited for São Paulo. I've started looking at apartments (www.easyquarto.com.br is about the coolest website everrr) and as a result I am realizing how much fun it is going to be taking the bus, hanging out in the city and really getting involved in my studies as well. I'm happy that I can say that, because a month ago I was dreading leaving. I'm more comfortable everyday here in Rondônia and only today I had my first unfriendly encounter with a Brazilian, and it was in a bar/restuarant and two drunk guys were amazed by my presence and one ran up, touched my hair, and ran away (like what happend in Mexico frequently). My friend, Grasy, who works for Bolsa Família who was with me, just burst out laughing, she'd never seen someone act like that before. We quickly left, of course, but it was my first real experience feeling like I didn't belong here. Her boyfriend also worked for a few years in the United States so we have alot to talk about as far as that stuff goes. Also, she's very socially active and loves her job--working with poor kids and their families, working in their schools developing nutrition programs, weighing and measuring the students,  and talking to their parents about how to better help their kids be healthy. Aside from being a great contact for research, she is a great person and I have a feeling that we have the potential for becoming good friends.

Tomorrow is the first Brazil game in the World Cup... I am sure that it is going to be crazy here. Given that the entire town is covered in green and yellow streamers, every store has put in a television, and the ice cream shop even gave out green and yellow horns to every client last week to get prepared for today.  We are going to be watching it on the farm with some members of Humberto's family and friends from surrounding farms and then we are going into the city later in the evening. Let's hope for a win! North Korea is a tough team!

My body is starting to adjust to Brazil. The humidity is the most difficult thing to deal with, as I quickly acquired a UTI after my first 3 weeks here, and now have athlete's foot, but day by day I am adjusting to learning new ways to do things (like drying my feet off in front of a fan after a shower, and applying powder and changing my clothes 2 or 3 times a day and even showering more than once a day, which I at first thought was a silly Brazilian thing but now I realize you NEED to do it to stay healthy.) I pine for the cold days, like this morning, so I can wear sweatshirts and jeans, but usually by 11 all hopes of it staying cool are gone!

I am hoping tomorrow to be able to upload my pictures and such that I have taken over the past few weeks, so we will see if I have some time while we are in town to run to an internet cafe. I apologise for the lack of updates but on the farm it's pretty shotty internet and when I get a good signal I use it as well as I can for email, looking for apartments, etc.

I miss all of you in the states, specifically my parents and my grandmother but also my Vandy friends who are all over the place right now! I also send hugs and kisses to Kristina and the one and only Flavio, as well as the rest of the Brazil crew in Sarasota. I'll be seeing you guys in January!

Until next time! Boa noite de Ji-Paraná, Rondônia, Brasil. Tchauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

domingo, maio 30

Things I Have Learned on the Farm

Leave it to an American to assume they know everything about the world, right? I got to Brazil and even though I am a very open-minded person who frequently prides herself on her ability to accept the fact that she is not the most informed person about all things, I still found myself completely flabergasted about a variety of things in the past week.

1) CHICKENS SLEEP IN TREES. Seriously, who knew? I spent my whole life thinking they slept on the ground. But NO!! They climb up trees to sleep for the night---even the babies jump from one chicken's back to the other to get up to the top. They even fight over the best spots---occasionally you will see them fall out of the trees, as if it were raining chickens.

2) In Portuguese, the word nervoso means both nervous and angry. What I had been using for angry, estar com uma raiva, actually means so angry I am ready to fight you, not just angry or pissed off. I guess that I have been communicating that Humberto and I have been ready to punch each other, then just angry from time to time hahahah

3) Brazilians are scared of communisits. Especially Brazilans in Rondonia. This spells bad news for me. Someone with pretty strong communist tendancies.

4) Back to Chickens... Chicken fights are not Chicken Fights. Remember that game we all played in the pool where you got on one another's shoulders and tried to knock the other off. This must have originated from Chcken Sex. I proclaimed one night "WOW! All the chickens are fighting tonight!!!" Actually, they were having sex. Needless to say, we must either elimate Chicken Fighting from our childhood games repitoire!

5) I am rooting for Botafogo, Humberto's father's soccer team. The two times I have been to Brazil, they have played the day I was arrived against Humberto's family's team and won... I have a feeling this means I have to root for Botafogo. However, when they are not playing each other I'll just root for São Paulo, Humberto's team, or Botafogo, his father's team, whichever is on TV.  I hate choosing sides.

6) I LOVE NOVELAS. TEMPOS MODERNOS is about the most addicting thing I have ever watched. Every night Humberto's dad and I rush to take showers so that we can watch it---and if we miss a part we make sure to tell the other what has been happening while the other was in the shower. I am sorry for making fun of all those Latin Americans who love novelas....

7) On a clear night, the moon and stars are actually brighter than lights from the city.

8) Brazilians eat all day. Non stop. I can't even sit down for a real meal becuase all I do is eat all day. All this weight I have worked so hard to loose over the past year.... I fear it is making a return.

9) Going for a run on the farm is a dangerous endeavor. I ran into a cow. That just had a baby. Let's just say I will not go running on the farm again.

10) CHICKENS SLEEP IN TREES! This ceases to make me die of laughter... every night around 5 or 6, when they start heading up to sleep, I just sit. Staring. In disbelief. It's the most absurd thing I have ever seen. Chickens, in a tree. Sleeping.

sexta-feira, maio 21

Meet Piloto

Hello! My name is Piloto. I am one of the newer members of the farm and I love it here. In this photo I am busy making sure that the Coconut Tree Humberto planted this morning is secure. He planted three this morning and they are going in front of the new fence he is helping his father build in front of the new porch that was just recently constructed. There is alot of work being done on the farm these days and it is so exciting!

Two days ago, the family invited me and my mother along on a fishing trip! It was one of my first trips back into the mato, or the forest. There was so much to see, smell and explore I occassionally got lost. The family is nice enough to call me when they hear me whimpering so that I find my way back to the group. Here you can see me following Humberto with the fishing poles down the trail to the fishing spot.

While the family fished, I ran ALL over the place. I followed my mom into the forest, I climbed up big rocks and looked down over the beautiful pond. At one point I got so excited, Humberto's dad tossed me into the lake! I had so much fun swimming back to land! I also was so happy when he petted me and said I was a good boy!

We weren't having much luck so we decided to go for a hike deeper into the forest to show Becky what it was like. There were monkeys and all sorts of birds that she had never seen before all around. I think she liked it alot! Humberto's parents' land stretches from the road all the way back to a river that we didn't make it to during our trip. The land has plenty of space for cows, horses, as well as sugar, rice, corn and various other things to grow. The land used to be an old Papaya hacienda, or fazenda in Portuguese, so out in the back there are tons of trees that the family keeps trying to destroy, but they keep growing like weeds. Further back there is coffee, cocao and all sorts of plants.

I had fun on this part of the hike! I felt like a big dog! By this time my mother had completely wandered off so I was left with the group to make sure they didn't get into too much trouble. At one point they walked through an ants nest.... those crazy kind of Amazon ants that could carry an entire tree, or cow, back to their home. Luckily noone got hurt. While they got all the ants off of Humberto's dad's shirt I currled up in a ball under some leaves near a tree trunk to take a nap. These little legs of mine can't handle a loooong walk. Humberto decided to give me a lift back to the fishing spot, however. He's a nice guy.

When we headed back to the fishing spot to pick up our stuff, of COURSE Humberto and his father decided it would be a good idea to keep fishing, see if we could catch anything else since Becky seemed to be only good at catching her hook on the trees, various plants, and Humberto's shirt. However, she did catch some type of little blue fish! I was getting kind of tired by this point. I decided to hang out and listen to them go on and on about the big fish they used to catch, the big fish they knew were there somewhere in the water and be photographic for Becky. She likes to take photos of me.

We ended up getting back to the farm VERY late, the sunset was beautiful. (Becky says she will put pictures up on Facebook later this week of the sunset as well as the rest of the trip). I got a little nervous becuse we had to walk past all of these huge cows that looked like they wanted to eat me!

Becky said she wanted to put a few pictures of my parents on here for you as well, so here is my father Negão, or big black guy and my mother, whose name sounds like Perra, or female dog. They are both very young, less than a year old!

Everything is going well for Becky and Humberto! She is having a great time getting to know what life is like on the farm! She made borinkel (totally spelled wrong), a dish her grandmother used to make for both she and Humberto that is a traditional meal in the Netherlands. Everyone loved it! She used the family's secret recipe sausage for it! mmmmmm! Humberto is busy busy busy working either on the farm or with his brother. They are super busy making contracts and such for the agricultural import/export business.

She also has a Brazil phone number finally! To get it, check facebook or call her mother! She misses everyone so much and hopes that this blog post was fun for you to read :) Beijos pra todos!!!

domingo, maio 16


I will eventually stick in the photos where it says "insert photo" but we are only here for a minute at the internet cafe, so here is the text! Photos are on facebook! Descriptions soon to come, as well.

5 Flights, 4 seventy-pound suitcases, 3 countries, 2 people, 1 destination: Brazil.

(include photo of us leaving)

After days and days and hours and hours of flying, we arrived. On the last flight Humberto could not even sit still. After three days of hotels, international flights, speaking Spanish in Panama, English in Miami and Portuguese in Manaus, a gente não podia aguentar maissss. We just could not handle anymore traveling. Humberto and I said that if for some reason we would have to take another plane somewhere, or if we were delayed in Cuiabá, we were just going to stay there, build a house, and tell the family to come see us. Never in my life have I endured a trip that was so stressful, so difficult. In all of my travels I had actually had someone try and swindle me to my face, so bluntly. I will never, ever, travel to Panamá again.

Here is one story:
Preface-- I had spent weeks checking, making sure, and double checking the limits on carry-on bags and checked bags, to the point that I had it memorized. The airline we chose allows for 2 bags, each person, up to 70 lbs each, and one carry on and a personal bag. We had no problems checking in in Miami, they said everything was fine.

However, in Panamá, we arrived to the airport and the first official for the airline said nope. Too many bags. I said to him, in Spanish, that I was positive we were fine becuase of what the website had said. He said ohh, okay, go ahead. So we proceeded to the counter. This is where the "fun" began. First, the guy at the counter said that we had to pay $40 each for an exit tax. I understood this becuase there are many countries that have this, however, I don't remember learning about that on the website. After I questioned about it, in Spanish, the guy said, no everyone has to pay it. I said alright, here is my card. He said he would only accept cash. I said that I refused to pay in cash, without receiving an offical reciept. He then asked me to hold on, went and talked with the other employees, returned asked how long I had been in the country, which was less than 24 hours. He then replied that we did not need to pay anything because only those who stay in the country for more than 24 hours are required to pay the exit tax. This was his first attempt at taking advantage of us.

THEN, he looked at our bags and said there was no way for us to take two bags on the plane each. I quickly responded that the rules I saw on their website AND receieved confirmation from their headquarters in Miami confirmed that we could each take two bags that were 70lbs each. He replied, "ooooh nooo.... that has changed. In Panamá, becuase of the new fight against terrorism, each person is only able to take one. We would have to pay for the others. Of course, in cash. I said he was crazy, that I didn't believe that the law had changed that quickly and that I wanted to speak to his superior. He left, came back and asked me if I understood, well, Spanish. He continued to tell me about how he was doing us a huge favor becuase what we were trying to do is no longer allowed, and that he could get in trouble for it. (Hint for those who aren't accostomed to Latin America, this is a direct request for a bribe indicating that our things would not arrive in Manaus as we had hoped without it.) Humberto slipped him a $20 and we continued checking in as if we had never had a problem. Oooh Latin America.

We liked the food in Panamá, however.

(insert photo of my snapper, humberto eating salad, me and my beer)

And we liked the fact we were on our first sort-of "vacation" together.

(insert photo of us hugging, insert photo of panama at night)

The flight to Manaus was gorgeous. I didn't get to see it last time on my way in becuase I arrived around 5am or something awful, so it was the first time I was seeing it! (I was so tired when I was heading back to the states last time I don't remember even looking out the windows hahaha!)

(Insert 4 pictures from manaus airplane)

In the immigration line, I met a man who was in my situation! His wife is Brazilian, he is American, and even more interestingly, he lived the majority of his life in Humberto's state, only a few hours from his city, and at one point he lived in Ji-Paraná, too! He invited us to share his taxi to the hotel he stays at all the time when we he travels through Manaus, and since he was in the process of moving his family to the states, he travels ALOT through Manaus. I was reaaaaaaaaally nervous becuase I just saw this as another scam, but Humberto had a really good vibe from the guy, and we decided to trust him.

(insert humberto and his first beer in brazil after 5 years, humberto and ben)

I am glad we did becuase he was staying in a GREAT hotel, we shared a GREAT meal and a few beers (humberto's first beer in Brazil for 5 years!), and hours and hours and hours of great conversation. He knew everything about Humberto's state, all of the history, and loved sharing it with us.

He showed us around a plaza that has typical food from the area, a Churrasco de Gato (a small barbecue operation) and a stand that sells typical food from the Amazon. We got to talk with the owner and try all sorts of stuff!

(insert photo of churrasco de gato and photo of the stand, me and the owner)

And our hotel's driveway was paved with paving stones. Humberto just laughed and yelled "FLAVIOOOOOOOO!"

(Insert 3 photos of our hotel)

We were taking the same flight together in the morning as well, so we had breakfast together, grabbed a taxi together and he helped us with everything at the airport (including letting us know that Manaus had two airports, by the same name. One bigger, one smaller, and that OUR flight was leaving from the smaller one. OOOOOH BRAZIL. How do you function when you do crazy things like that.)

Here is a picture of Rondonia from the plane:

(insert photo of rondonia)

Anyhow, we arrived, his brothers

(insert photo of humberto and adriano, photo of humberto and ariel, humberto and nicole)

helped carry all our bags to the truck, we went to his each of their houses, which have been constructed since Humberto left 5 years ago and then headed to his parent's farm. We arrived completely unexpectedly--as they thought we were arriving tomorrow. It was such a beautiful reunion. His mother crying, his father fell to his knees and thanked God for delivering his son back into his arms. Humberto was so happy, as well were his parents, the rest of his family, and myself. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of this moment because I too was emotional, Humberto's one brother took a video with the video camera to save it.

Less than an hour after arriving we went to finish cleaning the cow they had just killed for the party the following day. Here are pictures from that:

And here are some pictures from the party the following day. We stayed up until 3:30am partying, singing, talking, mingling with the about 50-60 people who showed up to welcome Humberto home and to meet his bride-to-be. I met a girl who works with Bolsa Familia, the program I have been studying this past semester and she promised to take me to her next evaluation session next week. I am excited!!!!! Also, one of the guests asked how long I spent in the United States---she thought I was BRAZILIAN! :) For those who are learning a language, this is about the best compliment you can ever receive!

(insert photos of party)

Here is a cute photo that I took Sunday morning. One of my friends on the farm. He and his family hang out here with us.

(insert photo of monkey)

I hope that this was interesting for you to read, I can't believe how long it took to type. I will try and write a little every day now instead of waiting a few days to write so that it is not so long and drawn out.

Beijos to my family, I miss you all so much. Até a próxima entrada :)

quinta-feira, maio 6

Sooo...after some reconsideration

After Humberto got home from work, I proudly showed him my website that I had put together and he brought up a good point. This trip is about US, not just me. He had a good point. This next step is a huge step for the both of us, paso a paso, towards our future together. So, I have decided to change some things around, yet the URL will remain the same.

So, Becky in Brasil has become Becky and Humberto in Brasil.

I think it has a much better ring to it, too. :)

6 Days 'Til Take-Off!

So, I am finally back in the Sunshine State with my friends, family, and most importantly, my fiance :) After two long months away I could not wait to finish up the Spring semester and get back to one of my favorite places in the United States. Humberto is busy working while I am busy getting all of our reservations ready for hotels, figuring out how we are getting around and all of those fun details.

The goodbyes in Nashville, however, were hard. I am going to miss my CLAS family and my sobrinha mais lindinha, Anne Claire. If you have been living inside of a box, you might not know that Nashville also just experienced some incredibly destructive flooding (visit The Tennessean's Website for more information, photos, etc...). I am lucky that I wasn't personally affected as my apartment was in the middle of town, but up just enough that the flooding was not severe. Also, my mother arrived to help me pack just before the storm started, so I had some company though out the tornado warnings and thunderstorms. We managed to get by with a case of beer and classic mother-daughter bonding.

I am, however, partially packed for the trip to Brazil. We leave on May 12 in the evening for Panama and then are going to stay there for a night, head to Manaus, stay another night, and then make our way to Humberto's town of Ji-Paraná, which is located in the interior of Brazil, in the officially named "Reigão Norte" or Northern Region.

We spoke with his parents last night and they can barely contain themselves. His father says he is clearing more land for the party that they will be holding in our honor (as well as his wife's birthday which happen to be the same day!!) and also because, "nossa familia tá aumentando, né!" or our family is getting bigger! I giggled and replied, and hopefully soon, it will grow even more! (After I finish school and pay off some loans, of course.)

Anyhow, I am busy getting eye appointments made, running to the bank, getting copies of all of my important documents and organizing. I LOVE ORGANIZING FOR THINGS if you don't know me well, already. I enjoy getting papers in folders, making itineraries, finding maps, getting touristy information, contact numbers, and attempting to make contacts with people in foreign countries. Speaking three languages really facilitates the process.

The only big events coming up are Flavio's Birthday Bash which hopefully will be on Siesta Key this Sunday. Last year we went on a Booze Cruise which as absolutely a-m-a-zing. (see photo to the right... that picture is only one year old but I look so different now. I am so glad I got rid of those bangs and lost some WEIGHT!) I am excited to hang out with all the Brazilians and their friends and families before we head off next week. It's going to be an exciting 9 months, but also a long 9 months away from many people that I have grown to love and care for like family both in Sarasota and in Nashville.

On that note, I am going to find some hotel suggestions for Humberto and I as well as get some contact/emergency information made up for distribution. <3