Saturday, August 6, 2011


Well, our vacation within a vacation has come to an end.  Dana and I have returned to Santa Maria, and are enjoying a few last days with my amazing roommates and friends.

Traveling doesn't get better than these last few weeks.  
First we went north to Foz do Iguacu, the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever seen.  They were one of the first things I read up on when I started to consider coming here, and they didn't disappoint even after waiting 7+ months.  It was the kind of beautiful that makes you stop and breathe and sponge into your memory an entire day of absolute thankfulness.

After the falls, we kept trying to figure out how to see the Pantanal without spending one million dollars, but weren't coming up with anything.  Tourism around the Pantanal is out-of-control expensive.  It's forbidden in a lot of places (and dangerous, I've been told...) to go out solo, without a guide.  You have to buy a tourist package to see a lot of the wildlife, which I think could be really cool, but just isn't an option on a student's budget.  
Ben, at our hostel, said, "Screw it.  Go to the coast."  

Oh Ben, ye wise sage.  Good advice.

yay! for cheap, pretty hostels!

I bought bus tickets and we took the 16-hour journey to a tiny coastal community called Maresias.  I don't know what to say, except maybe that we got lost in the vortex of abandoned beaches, cute dancing surfers, messy hair, acai tigelas, beach bonfires, bare feet, and sunburned flesh.  What was supposed to be a couple of nights turned into.... well, I'm still not sure.  
Vortex is the only explanation I can provide.  

Yes.  Those are islands in the background.

free champagne!

We also spend some time in Parati, which has a beautiful beach, as well. This was more of recuperation/hammock-purchasing/shell-collecting stop. 

 our place in Parati.

corn pops on the beach.

On the way home, we were still drunk with beachiness, but enjoyed a stop in Curitiba, which I still consider the coolest Brazilian city.  They have the largest recycling program in South America, complete with a garbage museum :)  We made time for the Oscar Niemeyer museum this time around, which was also lovely.  

Now, I'm packing.  And hugging.  And crying a little. 
This whole experience has been good for me in a formative kind of way.  

And then somewhere along the way, it just turned FUN. 

What can I say?  I am the world's luckiest girl.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Text to Dad

"Still doin awesome.  Met some surfers and are staying at their beach house and drinking their beer.  Life is good."

Friday, July 15, 2011

One very good year what I'm looking forward to.  It has certainly started out that way.
I had a fantastic birthday weekend with my friends at Diego's family farm.  When we arrived, there was a fresh lamb skin hanging over the driveway.  "Lunch," he said, smiling. We had barbecued lamb for the next five meals.

It was also lambing season and babies were dropping like apples out in the field.  So beautiful! We stayed in a tiny farm cabin, with a wood stove and large, welcoming front porch. It faced the small serra to the north, and had an outdoor bathtub. It was the first place in Brazil I thought I might be comfortable calling home.

Maybe the best weekend so far.

(Except the part where a horse rolled over on top of  Dana, down a mountainside, and her face landed in a cactus.  But don't worry Aunt Cindy, she came home laughing and unharmed. And it makes one awesome story.)

But, yeah, even still, amazing birthday.

In one hour, we are getting on a bus and heading north.   Classes are over(I passed everything!  in Portuguese!) and Dana and I are heading to Foz do Iguacu.  Then to Mato Grosso to see some parrots. And finally to an organic coffee plantation and nature reserve in Sao Paulo state.

Time is going too fast right now, but other than that, everything is swell.
Love you all. Tchau.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th!

It's my favorite day!  Happy 4th of July, loved ones! (especially sisters!)
I have long loved this day, for a slew of reasons not pertaining to patriotism, like sweaty heat, good food, family, and fireworks that both remind you how tiny you are and make it easy to fall in love.  After this year, I will still love it for all my usual reasons, but also because I love and appreciate my motherland in ways I didn't know about before.

Wednesday, Liz put her fourth visitor on plane back to the States. As she was opening her fourth letter of the week last night, I realized how well connected she has stayed.  Four letters in one week? Really?

I got a little jealous.

But I have a guest coming, too....  And not just any guest.

Let the Dana countdown begin!!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Final crunch in classes.  The last round of exams is coming in next week, with projects wrapping up this week.  Busy, busy, and procrastinating as always.  Maybe I should post today...  Yeah, that's it. Post.

Last week was Leonardo's birthday.  We got all dressed up and went to Kiss, a club that I had not yet been to.  It felt like a little slice of Vegas.

They played trance music for a while, which was a little painful, but later in the night they switched to a gaucho band.  This also makes me want to hide.  Everyone always couples off and has a great time dancing the steps they have been rehearsing since they were six.  Needless to say, it is nail-bitingly intimidating, standing there waiting for a guy to inevitably walk up and insist you join him for a dance.  It is nearly impossible for them to remember a time when they didn't know how to move to this style of music, and I think they assume that everyone is just born with a sertanejo beat pulsing.  And once a boy gets me on the dancefloor and realizes that "wow, this girl is a gringo,"  the music is usually so loud that there is no use in trying to win him over with my wit and armory of good jokes.  He can't hear anything I say.  And probably couldn't understand my thick accent, anyway.

I was cringing in the corner when a couple of guys from school found me.  They had a lot of fun explaining to me in very simple dialect which one of them was the more dangerous scoundrel.
"He has many, many women."
"No, no, he does.  And he is too old for you."
       How old, I ask.
       Yes, I agree.  Far too old.

Eventually, though, the 'old' guy, who doesn't speak squat in English, drags me to the dancefloor and I get the best lesson yet in gaucho dancing.   Just perfect.  He doesn't say anything, just makes me move around the way a good gaucho girl is supposed to move on the dancefloor, and doesn't accept any of my shy, white sloppiness. He doesn't hesitate to stop mid-step and say, "No. Your arm.  Like this." "No.  I go first.  I am teacher."  And I got it!  And I advanced to harder stuff!  I'm saved.  I can dance here and not feel like a fool anymore.

For some reason, pictures aren't loading right now.  Maybe I'll try to get them later.

In other news, this is my mango tree.

Tomorrow, we are heading out on a class field trip.  We are taking a bus to a town two hours away and (from what I understand) staying out all night dancing, crashing in a hotel for a couple of hours and then hitting the soil profiles around noon.  And this is required for my class.  I asked if it was optional, honestly thinking I would stay home and study, but the lab assistant looked at me like I was trying to sneak out of an assignment.  
He assured me that it is for a grade.    
I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sugar sugar.

Last week my class toured a sugarcane processor on the eastern side of the state.  I was unaware that the cooperative was over three and a half hours away, and just grabbed a book and twenty reais on a whim before jetting out the door at 6am.
After 45 minutes on the bus, I asked Felipe, "So how much further is this place?"
He laughed at me.

The ethanol plant itself is a little dated, but it's the only one here in Rio Grande do Sul, and it gives a good visual idea of how the whole process runs.  We toured the field operations and got to see the planting, harvesting, and burning of cane plots in various stages of development.  Afterward, we were guided through the processing plant that extracts the liquid and ferments it in huge vats.  Then, to the quality assurance lab.

 Yeah.  That would pass inspections at home...

Snack time.



This is Professor Marchesan.  He teaches the sections over rice and cane production, which have been my favorites this year.  He is such a great professor, and as Leonardo says, "He takes care of you like you are his kid."


The ride home was so fun.  I am living in a great part of this country, where the people are just plain nice. For some reason, I am always surprised by how inclusive my classmates are of me.  It would be so much easier to just ignore the foreign chick that talks like a four year old, and misses more jokes than she catches.  But they never do. I always have friends to eat with, walk with, talk with, sit with, laugh with, and hug me.  I absolutely love it.  

On the way home, the someone busted out the honey liquor, and the isle of the bus turned into a cocktail party on wheels.  Literally.  And what cocktail party is complete without a crew of  sweet boys shouting South American cowboy songs like a band of drunken pirates late into the night?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh yeah, I have a blog.

Hello loved ones!

Very low key week here in the south.  I toured an ethanol production facility yesterday with my Agricultura Especial class, but haven't uploaded pictures, yet.  Instead, you get a crock-pot-soup of pictures from the previous three or four weeks.  I'll post more about the ethanol later.

...Serious business.  It's for a grade.

A giant emu!  And I saw some in the wild yesterday, grazing* in the passing field. 
We were on the bus, and Felipe leaned over and said, "Look at that bird.  Have you seen one before?"
"Oh, yeah, my family has one for a pet."
"No, not the parrot. The big bird, in the field."
"Yeah, I know.  We have one.  His name is Lyle."
He gives me his oh-so-familiar stare of confusion.
"This is crazy..." 
*grazing? hmm, not sure....  

Well, I think this is crazy.
That's right, folks.
Right on the bark.

Professor Daudt's winery and vineyard.

Surveying during prĂ¡tica.

More later.