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Friday, September 30, 2011

Proud to be an American....

DSC_0008Camillo and I travel back and forth to the USA, a lot, but have not really taken a trip cross-country since when we lived in Houston and then those trips were pretty much limited to Texas.  Since living in Brasil, some 9 years now, we fly into Houston, visit family and friends, fly to visit my mother and then fly home.  There has been no real sense of the US, its size, its people and the changes that are occurring.  We have traveled in Brasil, in France and in Italy more often and for longer periods.  This trip I wanted to show Camillo the real America. 
Looking back over my photos from the drive from Washington DC to Adrian, Michigan – by way of the Hudson Valley, I could feel, again, the lump in my throat that rose up  when we exited the subway station in Washington and saw the flags flying high along the roof tops, over the doors and window, and all along the sidewalks.  The lump attacking again, and again as we viewed the monuments that line the National Mall; as we admired the circle of flags at the base of the Washington Monument and while standing beside the beautiful Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and as I turned to watch the long line of mourners passing beside the Vietnam memorial, stopping to touch the name of a loved one as they moved slowly along.   Was it the cool, whet wind blowing that made my eyes overflow with tears or feeling, in that moment,  so proud to be an American?   DSC_0058
As we traveled Southwest to Northeast, passing through countryside filled with well maintained farms, small lakes, tall forests turning from muted greens to the bright colors of fall, and driving along grand highways, and even more, small curvy country roads, in my mind the pride I’d felt in my homeland persisted.  And by the time we arrived in Adrian the emotions had changed once more.  My thinking went from pride in the memorials we’d built to our heroes, to the wonder at the architecture that had stood the test of time and weather, to a renewal in my understanding that what makes The United States great is the heart of its people.  Their politeness, their willingness to go beyond duty to help, to guide, and their ability to show kindness to strangers.   This is what makes America strong
A Special thanks to the ‘volleyball goddess’ of Bethlehem, PA – who after finding us (completely) lost in an Allentown parking lot, our Google map having led us a merry chase, took one look at our exhausted faces said, “follow me” leading us to our destination instead of merely rattling off ‘go left, right, left...’ directions.   (There is that dratted lump again.)
And More:  The shuttle van driver in Rockville MD – the young man taking the long way around, off his route, to drop us at a drugstore, making sure we know how to get to the subway station from there, worrying that he needed to do more to make sure we were safe and on our way.   
And the night clerk in the Bethlehem hotel offering to order Pizza in for us, looking through her maps to find our next days route, asking other’s staying there to find us change for the laundry, offering a big smile to end our day. 
Many other bits and pieces of kindnesses that made our trip memorable.... thank you all.DSC_0541
DSC_0281    gettysburg (25)     gettysburg (84)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A partial Story : For Mom

We left Friburgo last Wednesday, Rio on Thursday, arrived In Houston on Friday morning and was there just long enough to run through passport control and to catch a very early flight to Washington DC.  Washington’s Dulles airport is small but pretty disorganized.  We got the impression that as it has grown, new wings and buildings have been added without really anticipating the flow of passengers.  For example, we were offloaded out on the tarmac, then walked and walked, and walked and dare I say walked some more to get to baggage pickup and the kiosk said conveyor 5 – about 10 minutes later the speaker said, “Houston...... CO.....  #^#@&^ two.  You know how you can’t hear anything they say, but I started walking from one end to the other to see if the bags were coming in on two or five..... finally arrived about 20 minutes later on two..... Needless to say, the ground crew at Dulles needs some training. 

The rental car and a drive of about 45 minutes, and one (the first) miss direction from Google Maps put us at our Hotel in Rockville by 2pm.  A full 24 hours from the time we left the apartment in Rio.  After a quick shower, we walked to Rockville’s city center had lunch, called the hotel shuttle for a ride, and crashed for an evening in front of the TV.  Just like home.

First day:  Washington DC, the National Mall. 

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DSC_0136   We walked from the Metro Center – over 3 blocks and down one – popping out  beside the treasury building.

DSC_9952  Camillo’s first comment, “At least its not flying the Chinese flag...yet!”

Walked past the white house, Camillo sat a few times while I went to take photos of the old federal building, .... etc..  In the end we only made it from the Washington Monument, past the WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam memorials to the Lincoln memorial, and back but it was a good day and gave me a desire to go back for just Museums, maybe a capital tour. 

For Mom, the Lincoln Memorial in more detail.

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It rained, I got a sunburn on my chin, our feet hurt pretty badly, lunch was too heavy – the monuments spectacular - a 30 minute trip back to the hotel via the metro train and we were in the hotel in front of the TV for the night.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Time to Travel....

This year Camillo and I are enjoying our 19th year together.  How did that happen?  Over the years there have been many things to argue about.  Oh yah, between two strong willed and stubborn people, there can be arguments about nearly everything.  But we found out right away that we can do two things in total accord: remodel homes and buy furniture, and travel together.  I guess that is really 3 things, remodeling homes being different that buying furniture and the accord coming from him often, capitulating to my opinions on how a house should feel when finished.... feelings being such a woman’s thing don’t you know. 

DSC_4893And travel; together we have made close to two trips a year for 19 years.  Often there has been repeats of destination having family and friends spread all over Europe, the USA and in South America, plus trips we have made together to just see something new.  Last year I started complaining that I knew Italy and France better than I know areas of the USA, and I wanted to start making some driving trips outside of the states where we have family..... so Camillo said pick a place..... You know that this is hard - there are DSC_4980so many places in the USA that are spectacular but I had to choose just one.

I chose to start in the Northeast, driving up the Hudson Valley.  It has taken nearly two years of discussion, delays, readjustments to timing and a change in a city to land - to get around to this trip, but today we leave for a 10 day drive through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York State – finally landing in Adrian, Michigan to visit with my Mother.  All of this is new territory for both of us.   A few years back I drove from Houston to Virginia to Michigan and back with Marissa, crossing some of this area on the toll roads in Pennsylvania, and I enjoyed it - but we will try driving this new area using only state roads and back country roads, no reservations, no predetermined itinerary.

We will be looking for scenery, hopefully, we are not too early for fall color because that was our first objective.  We will land in Washington DC, take one day in the city to see at least the National Mall with its many memorials,  then drive north-by-northeast until we run into the Hudson valley.  Three to 4 days in the Hudson valley, visiting a winery and Hyde Park the only planned stops.  We have an idea of the route but not specifics.  The only specifics is that we need to be in Adrian by the 25th for a family barbeque.  Follow the trip with us, you will enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A coffee break........

Its that time of year, the time when it is dry and hot, and the hills are spotted with fires that burn for days; the time when the Condominium Stucky runs low on water, and what we do have is rationed; and the time of year when the parrots come for their semi annual visit, living in our attic, in the very small space between root tiles and the wooden ceilings of the house. 

All week the our house guests have been chewing and scraping, and screeching at one another, then finding their way back out of the house and raiding our bird feeders, running off the smaller birds, gobbling up the the sunflower seed and cleaning the papaya scraps of the final bits of sweet meat.  Screeching and flapping, they fly to a nearby tree and looking back over their shoulders at us  with looks of disdain, beginning grooming each other and discussing the coming days over their morning coffee.

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NOTE:  On the 15th Camillo and I leave for our fall vacation.  This time in the USA – driving from DC to New York State, up the Hudson valley and then over to Michigan for a week with my mother.  Then I will go on to Houston for a month with the kids and grandkids..... click those photos of the parrots, I swear the are looking back at me taking their photos.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Carol’s Brasil: part 111

Finally the promised final segment.

DSC_9578I don’t have a clear memory of when I first began to talk to Carolina, but it must have been in early 2009.  She stopped by ‘flowers’ and left a comment, adding her memories of Brasil as it tied into my post. Then I went by her blog (click link above) and began to enjoy her posts about experiencing Brasil as a peace corps volunteer in the late 60s.  It didn’t take long and we had exchanged personal information and began to email about her hopes of returning here for a visit.   She made plans, they were canceled.  She made more plans and once again they were canceled.  Until she contacted me back in May of this year with her final plan, I didn’t really believe she would ever come.  And, unlike her first couple of plans, this time she would include a stop in Rio.   I offered her a sofa to sleep on and she accepted – finally my first blog related friend was coming to visit. 

Back and forth, back and forth the emails flew.  She was listing all the things she wanted to do.  I was trying to give her input without encouraging or discouraging activities on her list.  I did think from the beginning that the list was way too long but it was her trip and her energy; her four days here would be packed.  She mentioned right from the beginning that she wanted to hang-glide.  And I considered joining her, but visions of actually running across a mountain top and jumping into clear blue skies put that notion right out of my mind.  She wanted to do it, had wanted to for years, and I thought she should give it a try.   

DSC_9519Starting early on Saturday morning Carol began making contact with different ‘hang-glide captains”.  What do you call these guys that take you up and down anyway?   She narrowed the list to 2 possible, asking questions like how much, when, how long, do they provide a video, and do they pick up and deliver?   Then once the priority plans were made we decided on our weekend activities and that she would call them on Sunday night for a Monday  fly time.  On Sunday it was, ‘call tomorrow at 9:00’.  On Monday at 9:00 it was, ‘the wind is blowing the wrong direction, call at 3’.  At 3 it was ‘call at 9’ on Tuesday, and on Tuesday it was a repeat of Monday.  And then she was out of time. 

Learned a couple of things;  there is a wrong direction for the wind to be blowing, and that if the wind was right on Saturday or Sunday we should have made the hang-gliding a priority – course we only knew about number one after Saturday and Sunday were over...... So I guess we only learned one thing – that is to ask about wind direction.  


DSC_9701I think, no I hope that Carol enjoyed her days in Rio – If going by my photos of the weekend are any gage, even leaving out the lost hang-gliding, and the museum workers’ strike, and that the Parque da Catacumba is closed on Mondays, we still managed Niteroi, a walk through the Hippy Square on Sunday, bought vegies at the fruit/vegetable street market on Monday, walked partially around the Lagoa at sunset, she walked the beach once while I napped, she shopped in and out of the Ipanema gallerias while I napped (yes I nap routinely), we went to one nice restaurant for dinner, and last but not least, we had a great stroll through the botanical gardens.  And with all of this said I just have to add, “I can’t wait until she returns so we can finish off her list.”


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Friday, September 02, 2011

Carol’s Brasil: part 11

The Christ the train and the view (24)I know that everyone of you has experienced some disruption of plans during a vacation.  We travel often, and over the years have sat on the tarmac during an air traffic controllers’ strike, a massive snow storm in Paris kept us in Paris 13 hours with the requisite lost luggage, a thunderstorm in Dallas that got us rerouted to Oklahoma city and who wants to go to Oklahoma city, a church in Tuscany that was closed for maintenance and the exterior was shrouded in orange mesh, and these are just a few examples spread out of a twenty year history.   But when on vacation what can you do?  You adjust and enjoy. 

I often wake, here in Rio, and immediately look out the window, glimpsing a very small patch of mountain right behind the Christ.  How this mountain looks tells me what to expect of the weather that day; clear crisp line between mountain and blue sky says good weather all day, cloud sitting on the ridge between sky and mountain say, “oops rain today and soon.”   My mind goes to the poor tourist that held back on the drive up to the Christ and today is their last day in Rio.  Even if they go up, they wont see anything, neither the Christ nor the spectacular 360* view of the city.   Unexpected things just happen.

Now our plan with Carol looked good on Friday when setting it in motion but by Sunday morning we knew we would have to ‘adjust and enjoy’.   Just to remind you her plan was –

Our short list: she wanted to jump off the mountain in Sao Conrado (Open-mouthed smile) – attached to a hang glider of course, see the Niemeyer Contemporary Art Museum in Niteroi, see Santa Teresa, and if possible visit the botanical gardens. We decided to start with Niteroi on Saturday and Santa Teresa on Sunday so Camillo could join us, these would include trips on the subway, a Barco. lunch in a fish place and any side-shows we might run across. She would hang glide on Monday and Tuesday we would stay closer to Ipanema so she wouldn’t be totally worn out to travel back to the USA. The plan was good.”

DSC04603The plan for seeing Santa Teresa included going to Lapa and taking the tram (bondinho) to this charming little bit of Rio history, visiting the Museu da Chácara do Céu, which is one of our favorite places to take visitors and we would lunch in one of the many small family owned restaurants overlooking Centro Rio.  On Sunday, we woke to bright, clear skies and the news of the tram accident on Saturday.  The tram had turned over on its trip back down to Lapa – not yet knowing how bad the accident was we decided to adjust the plan bypassing Lapa and go to Santa Teresa by taxi.  The motorista was full of information – the main street into Santa Teresa was still closed for the investigation, six locals and tourist had died, 54 were injured.  A sobering moment, how close we had come to being in the middle of this accident, the difference between choosing Niteroi or Santa Teresa on Saturday. 

And also per the taxi driver....  all the Museum workers were on strike – museums were closed for the day all over the city but he was willing to try and get us up to the museum, the grounds should be open if not the museum itself.    They weren’t.  Now what?  Camillo and the taxi driver decided on the Naval yards..... okay if you have young boys this is option is great – there is an old helicopter, a submarine, an old frigate and the boat of the king from the 1700s.  For us, we were all hungry. Lets go back to Ipanema for lunch.

DSC_9943Later the final story.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Carolina’s Brasil, Past and Present

This past weekend Camillo and I had the honor of hosting Carolina during the last leg of her ‘return to Brasil’ trip.  Carol spent two years in the Peace Corp in a small village in Northeast Brasil forty some odd years ago, and after a long time in the planning, retuned this last month to visit that town, and to reacquaint herself with her fellow Peace Corp volunteers and her former students.   I wont go into the details of her visit, that is her story to tell, but will say that she was delightful.  She told us stories of the people of the town, both from 40 years ago and of their successes through today.  There were stories of her experiences with the Peace Corp of the 60s, of Brasil during those years and of how Brasil seemed to her now.   The changes are beyond belief – including the prices.

She arrived in Brasil / Rio with a list of thing she would like to see and do, and we narrowed it down to fit into the four days that she would be here.  Our short list: she wanted to jump off the mountain in Sao Conrado (Open-mouthed smile) – attached to a hang glider of course, see the Niemeyer Contemporary Art Museum in Niteroi, see Santa Teresa, and if possible visit the botanical gardens.   We decided to start with Niteroi on Saturday and Santa Teresa on Sunday so Camillo could join us, these would include trips on the subway, a Barco. lunch in a fish place and any side-shows we might run across.   She would hang glide on Monday and Tuesday we would stay closer to Ipanema so she wouldn’t be totally worn out to travel back to the USA.  The plan was good.

Niteroi: Saturday dawned cloudy with a light mist – we decided to stick with the plan.  This was a good choice, by the time we arrived at the Museum the weather had cleared with a pleasantly warm wind blowing.  Photos are best at this point.

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DSCN0393 DSCN0394  DSCN0396 this was my second visit to this museum and once again the beauty is about Niemeyer’s design, its blending with the surroundings – this is not about a wonderful exhibition inside..... that took about 5 minutes.   On display was the work of an Italian artist, very interesting but seemed to be digital works..... yes interesting is the right word. 

Lunch..... we walked down to the base of the hill where the museum sits, and caught a bus to Jurujuba for fresh seafood.  We ended up eating shrimp stroganoff – good but pretty standard. 

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to be continued.......