Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 11

Today started early for some, for others it was basically a continuation of yesterday. Our flight left Sao Luis at 5am, so we left our houses around 3:30 this morning.
After last nights rotary club presentation we went to a bar on the beach to celebrate Marcelos Birthday and say goodbye to the great friends we made in Sao Luis. The hospitality that was extended to us from the Sao Luis Rotary clubs was phenomenal and it was sad to say goodbye as we moved onto our next stop.
Our flight left on time, however after a few attempts to land in Teresina our pilot told us that we would be going to Fortaleza as the fog was too thick. After dropping some passengers off in Fortaleza we headed back to Teresina where our new host families were waiting to greet us three or four hours later than we all expected. We had the day free to sleep, study and visit with our new hosts.
This evening we presented to all the clubs in Teresina at a dinner, there were about 100 people in attendance representing the ten clubs they have here in the City.
Tomorrow we are hitting the road for 5 days to head to the coast and see some of the state of Piaui.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day Ten

An interesting start to the day. We were scheduled to visit the ABCMi centre but when we arrived, they were having mass. So we decided to pass the time by the beach, testing our billards' skills. Turns out, some have better mastery of the pool cue than others!

We then headed to the ABCMi centre to celebrate their 15th anniversary. The facility is a senior's drop in centre for exercise, church, painting, singing and computer access. As we witnessed, seniors in Brazil really, really like cake! They must have worked up quite the appetite doing Tai Chi!

We then headed to the Praia Grande Rotary Club lunch meeting. We presented our slide show about life in Canada. Our gracious hosts had several gifts for us visitors, which was an unexpected surprise. The members of this club included most of our host families. And in usual Brazilian fashion... we ate some more!

Most of our exchange group headed to the beach for a beer. I have not been handling the heat as well as others and headed to my host family's house for a rest and to post a blog. We are heading to the next city on our tour very early tomorrow. But first, we have our last Rotary Club visit this evening and then a 5 am flight in the morning!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 9

Its hard to believe that we are at day 9 already - only one more day with our new friends in Sao Luis!!

Today we had a bit of a later start, which was nice for some personal time in the morning (running, studying, sleeping). We spent today with the club from Joao Paulo here in Sao Luis (there are five clubs, which share a meeting hall where we do most of our presentations). the president picked up Jenny and I and we met Brenda, Laurie, Marcelo and Cristiane.

This club has a couple of projects which were were able to visit. The first was a vocational school in partnership with other non-profits and a couple of corporations. They have a building on farm land on the edge of poor neighbourhood in Sao Luis. This building is split into approx 10 rooms, with one for mechanics (teenagers, about half male and female), one for machining (the only room not yet remodeled or being used due to lack of funds), one computer classroom, and various other classroom and administration. The first room we visited had some very cute youngsters (aged 5 to 10 - 22 kids). As soon as we entered the room they stood up and while clapping sang us a song - it was adorable. After everyone got a Canada pin, we had a picutre (see above). Next, we visited the mechanics section where again we were able to give everyone a Canada pin and pose for more pictures.

At the back of the property is an old chruch and house. The priest who started the project and is an honorary rotary member still lives there (and is a practicing priest with over 50 years of services). the building and out-buildings were available for rent to help supplement the operating costs. it even included a small zoo. Most of the funding has been coming from France, but as the benefactors get older and pass away, the funding has been harder to attain. The church on the property has the original owner buried underneath and a tombstone puts the date over three centuries ago.

After that visit, we made our way through the neighbourhood and into the 'bush' along the river to find a historical site protected as a state park. Here we met Netty, a Rotary member of the club (current secretary) who gave us the history of the park and other information. Next we dined on some traditional food including a huge plate of shrimp. We thought that it was kind of interesting but didn't really see the historical significance (explained to us about an old factory on the property - since we couldn't see anything, we assumed it was gone) until we went for the 'walk' after lunch - see pictures above - the old factory dates to over 250 years ago and was used to manufacture leather products. the plumbing system was very complex considering the age of the structure - also, considering the age, the remaining walls are all in pretty good shape (over two and half feet thick). At the front of the old building was a fountain/well with roman style pillars, which is curious to all as the age and timing just don't fit and its surprising to see.

After our tour ended, we returned to my host family's house where we either read, studied, watched tv or caught up on our facebooking... :)

tonight, we then attended the Joao Paulo club meeting and made our presentation to an attentive audience - I found it interesting that this club had approx 5 accountants in attendance - most of the other clubs have mostly teachers, social workers, or lawyers.

tomorrow we have a project visit in the morning followed by a presentation to the club of most of our host families - it is our understanding that we then have beach time followed by the last of the club presentations - we also found out today that our trip to teresina is at 5 am on Friday - therefore, we may not get our post of tomorrow's trip up tomorrow - it is Marcelo's birthday on Friday and we would like to have a short celebration before having to leave early the next morning...

that is all for tonight - enjoy the pictures and send an email or submit a comment if you have any questions.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 8

Today started with a tour of vale botanical gardens. We walked through a trail there with a guide who described the trees and vegetation. We saw a sloth in a tree and many butterflies and caterpillars.

After a few hours at the park we went to our first rotary meeting at the Sao Luis Ponta D'Arcia Rotary Club. As the club members arrived we were introduced and then enjoyed lunch with them. The club brought in a translator who helped us with our presentation on the 4 Canadian seasons.

After the meeting we visited 3 museums in the old part of Sao Louis for the afternoon.

This evening we attended another Rotary meeting at the Sao Luis Anil Rotary club. This meeting was held in the presidents house and dinner was brought in by all the members. We presented again and exchanged banners with the club, our friend Marcelo was with us to translate for us.

It was 35 degrees today, and rained on and off all day so the humidity was very high.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day Seven

To borrow a quote from The Wizard of Oz:

"I'm melting! Melting!"
-- The Wicked Witch

Simple put, today was hot. We started the day at a Rotary Sponsored house for improvised children. From what we gathered, the kids can spend time at the school learning, using computers and can eat there as well. In the evening, adults and the elderly also can access the resources. There were about 12 children there when we arrived. They were playing a game with dried black beans and a rock. However their attention was easily redirected with same mementos that we brought including Canada flag pins, pencils and stickers. The centre just recieved a grant to purchase machines to start a bakery under the school. Students will learn these skills and provide food for the neighborhood.

We then headed to the town of Ribamar, which is about 40 kms from Sao Luis. It is known for religious pilgrimages, the beautiful church and numerous statutes. Located right on the coast line the beach looked fantastic from the view at the church. We also saw where local fisherman bring their haul into port to sell.

On our way back to Sao Luis, we stopped for lunch with our hosts Carlos, Divanna and Marcelo. The lunch was fantastic and consisted of various fish and seafood dishes, rice and sauces. Polished off with some Brahma and Coke, we headed for some downtime at the mall.

Lastly, we returned to the old city centre for a tour of the city and history lesson. There was a little shopping in the market and we finished the evening with the most unusual hotdog. The toppings included ground meat, cabbage, green peas, mayo and ketchup. Sounds awful but surprisingly delicious.

Time for bed.


(pictures - hot dogs, statue, Vera (school director))

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 6

Today started with a helicopter ride - too cool - the military police were nice enough to take everyone for a short ride over Sao Luis - see video of Laurie, Jenny, and Marcello taking off...

After the ride, we split up and went for the Easter meal with our host families - I attended Divanna's Mother's house where there were many family members and an aunt who was celebrating a birthday. It was very special to be invited to be part of their family celebration and even with the language barrier, we had a good visit and a great time.

Jenny and Laurie went to Jenny's host mother's mother's house for a meal and Brenda went to Conscita's house where she was hosting her family for the meal.

After all the celebrating, we checked into our hotel for our day off, and Jenny and Laurie lounged around the pool while Brenda and I ended up for a few beverages at a beach side bar after a walk/run on the beach.

Tonight, we are taking it easy, catching up on some computing and sleep, and getting ready for the next four days of touring and presentations.

I will attach some pictures from the last few days for your viewing pleasure (at Leo's bar with Marcelo and Cristiane; at the sand dunes; me in my Bumba Meu Boi costume; Brazilian bbq (yes its a wheel barrow - very ingenuitive)

Boa Noite

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Days 4 and 5

On Friday morning we got up very early to head out of Sao Luis for a few days on a road trip.  We all met near the airport and then hit the road....the bumpy road, for the three hour drive.  We arrived and had lunch, since we cant read the menus we usually sit back and let our hosts order for us, we have not been disapointed yet.  We were greeted by the owners of the restaurant and stayed for several hours enjoying the food and the cervejas as well as the river.  From the restaurant our guide picked us up and we went on a ferry across the river.  There we boarded our truck (seated in the box of the truck on chairs).  After a 25 minute exciting ride through sand roads, mud puddles and lagoons we arrived at  Lencois Maranhenses National Park. It was Beatiful! We spent a few hours walking though the sand dunes and swimming in the fresh water.  We left as the sun was setting and raced the other trucks through the mud and sand to return back to the ferry.  Our rides were waiting for us when we returned and we drove about half way back to Sao Luis to a farm.  We were greeted at the farm by the owner Jose with tables with cervejas and bottles of his favorite whisky behind him.  It was apparent what the agenda was for the night!  The four of us were joined all day by Keiths host family, Jennys host family as well as Marcelo (a gse member for the brazil team who will be in Canada in may/June) and our new friend Cristiane, brenda's hosts niece.  We were again wined and dined and enjoyed good company and a lot of laughter into the wee hours of the morning. Both Marcelo and Cristiane speak English so they were able to translate all of Jose's jokes for us. 
We all stayed the night at the Farm, there were about 15 of us all in Jose's was quite a big place.  The kids and women had beds  inside and the men slept in hammocks outside.....we figured after the whisky that the men would be okay with the sleeping arrangements, and they were.
Today we awoke to more food, more cervejas and more whisky awaiting us.  We spent the entire day at the farm relaxing, touring the coconut plantation, visiting,and resting in the hammocks.  It rained and thunder stormed  all day so it was a perfect day to relax at the farm.  We are now back in Sao Luis and Are spending the evening with our host families.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day Three

We started today very early with breakfast at a restaurant consisting of meat soup with eggs and what appeared to be cut up hot dogs (yes, you read that correctly). Nothing like the oatmeal I have at home! All the same, we then headed to Reposa, a tiny area in Sao Luis.

We took a boat ride through the water and stopped at these sand dunes. After graciously dismounting from the boat and hiking the sand, we spent some time in the ocean. Some took the waves better than others (right Keith) but the water was beautiful. After finding the boat again, we headed for lunch with Antonella's House (at least, that is what I gathered from the Portuguese conversation). We tried various dishes of fish, crab, meat, rice, more rice and fried bananas. Of course, there was Brahma!

Time for a shower to rinse away the sea salt and a nap!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 1

Today we checked out of the hotel and were taken to our host family's homes. There we had about an hour to get settled and visit. At 11:30 we met at the State Military Police Headquarteres where we met with the Colonel in charge of the State police. We had lunch in the officer's mess hall (?canadian term..?) with the Colonel and some of his fellow officers and a couple of our host families. Here, Brenda stole the show by giving the Colonel a Saskatchewan flag pin and when he let her pin it on his uniform (which had many military decorations on it already) she was allowed to give him the traditional Brazilian check kiss - I am pretty sure not too many people are allowed to do that with the Colonel.

After the police headquarters, we travelled to the 'old town' section, where we toured the Palace (which included many 1800 artifacts including furniture and paintings) and the Cathedral (which had beautiful hand carved and painted decorations throughout the church). The picture attached is of the Cathedral, which was built in 1629. The one wall has a floor to ceiling carving covered in gold (although only the upper half is still gold...the rest went missing...).

In the afternoon, Brenda returned to her host family home, while the three of us ended up at the mall to do some minor shopping. After a siesta time at our host family's homes, we met for supper (dinner for you in Manitoba and Ontario and Brazil) at a restuarant on the beach that served traditional Brazilian food, specifically bbq. With a few Brahama cerveja (beer) and perfect weather, we had a wonderful night visiting.

Now we are at home preparing for our early morning wake-up call for a boat tour.

Boa noite.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We made it!!!

After a relatively uneventful trip from Canada to Brazil, we spent the evening dining with our hosts. The trip was long, but RI did a great job of getting us flights with minimal lay-overs. Everything went smoothly and we arrived in Sao Luis all intact and with all our luggage. After being picked up at the 'temporary' airport at Sao Luis (the main one had the roof collapse), we were dropped of at a hotel. Here, Keith spent the time sleeping, and the ladies did a little exploring, a little net surfing, and a little sleeping. At 9, our hosts picked us up and took us to a nice restuarant by the sea where we met most of our host family's and other members of the club, as well as Marcelo who is on the Brazilian GSE team going to Canada (Brian, I was able to say hi for you on my first day in Brazil!). Our Brazilian hosts were terrific and provided us with great hospitality and tried to assist us with Portugese. We arrived back at the hotel for some much needed sleep, and tomorrow we are beign picked up early to go to our host familys, tour a military police station, and a few other local sites.