Hello friends and family! I hope you all are enjoying the festivites of this season.
The girls keep reminding me that it simply does not feel like Christmas here to them. (Even though we do have a couple of plastic snowmen downtown). They miss our get togethers with close friends and family, caroling, delivering x-mas cookies, special plays, concerts, Silk Soy Egg Nog, fluffy x-mas trees, snow...I've been trying to make it as Christmassy as possible in this gorgeous tropical climate, but it wasn't until last night that I won them over onto my side through a beautiful song by Steven Curtis Chapman called "Christmas is All in the Heart." The chorus is: "Christmas is all in the heart, that's where the feeling starts. And like a fire inside it touches every part..and even if no white snow falls, well that's all right because, the joy can still be found wherever you are...x-mas is all in the heart" After this song they were feeling amazingly better, so we played our favorite Amy Grant x-mas song, "Sleigh Ride" and grabbed our mops and brooms and did our annual silly galloping around the house on our "horses"...while singing along. I wonder if they will still do this with me when they are 16--I hope so. :)
We have been invited to spend 10 days in Florianapolis over x-mas with some Brazilian friends, Loda and Marcos. We have chosen to stay here for x-mas eve and day and then join them in Florianopolis the 26th, so that way we can keep some of our x-mas traditions alive for the girls. The girls love to sleep in front of the x-mas tree every Christmas eve, and open their stockings the second their eyes open. The city we are visiting, Florianopolis, is along the southern coast of Brazil. We haven't been there yet, but are told it's gorgeous--hundreds of little islands with beautiful beaches. I guess we'll still have a white x-mas--it'll just be a sandy one.
Andrew is doing well. He's been crazy busy the past few weeks as there are several Americans here that he's helping. There is a project that requires considerable help from Moline over the next few months, so we'll be having many visitors which is nice. We enjoy having them over for dinner and talking in English!!! :) It's so exciting for us. The girls think it's the best thing to listen to people who can pronounce their names "right." And, they are gracious enough to bring things from home for us that we can't buy here--like peanut butter and fruit roll ups!
The girls have been very concerned that I didn't have my nativity this year, and have been asking Andrew about it. Andrew unbenownced to us asked our neighbors, Bernie and Tony, to find it in our storage room back home. (Thank you Bernie and Tony, we miss you guys!!!) Then our friend, Balaji, picked it up at their house, and gave it to one of the American's who was traveling down here. When it was delivered to Andrew, he took it in to a local store and had it gift wrapped with Portuguese writing and gave it to me this week. I obviously assumed it was a present from here. It was a special suprise find out it was my nativity from home. So, now I have my nativity and the girls are thrilled. I swear I married the sweetest guy ever.
I hope this finds all of you well. God bless and hugs from all of us to you.
Autumn, Andrew, Samantha, Makaela, Sir William, Theodore, and Tuletta the Turtle (our newest and tiniest family member)
Thank you for the e-mails, snail mail, and phone calls. We so enjoy hearing from you guys and the goings on in your lives. It's been busy here--great, but busy. I've been taking pictures, but haven't had time to upload them yet. Since, my last post, we've had several tropical storms. The first violent storm we encountered was the last week in October. Andrew and I woke up at 2 a.m., to the sound of screaming wind attempting to whip our windows open. It was at this moment that I realized why all of the windows around here have a metal or wood covering over the outside that you use at night. It sounded like the windows were going to burst from the pressure, so we grabbed the girls and put them in a sheltered area away from any windows. And, that's where we spent a large part of the night. Samantha described the wind as wild cats fighting. In the morning we suryved the damage--tons of debri, our poolside table and one chair was broken, and everything that we had outside was gone or scattered to the end of the yard--thankgoodness for our high walls around the property, or else we would have lost everything. Many houses had their roofs blown right off, inluding our church and a part of our language school. The school had extensive flooding. The town next to us reported 1,000 houses with roofs torn off. Crazy.
Another interesting aspect to life in Brazil is the sensitivity of our power and water. It seems at least one day a week we are without power, or water, and more often than not our phone and internet. We've been without power for 4 days at one time, and water for 36 hours. We are fully stocked with drinking water, so it's not a huge deal...but, on several occasions I've had to use the pool water to wash my dishes!!! I never thought of myself as a camper, but I think that maybe by the time we get back home I'll be able to "ruff it" with the best of them. Thankfully we have a gas stove, so I am able to boil the water prior to use. I actually have to boil the water when washing the dishes because our house is not plumbed with hot water. Two weeks ago (3 months since I had had a relaxing bath) Andrew and I attempted to fill our whirl pool tub with hot water. We had four pots of water heating at one time, and a hose attached to our shower pumping water into the tub. It took us 2 hours to fill it, but it was so WORTH it. :) Don't ask me why we have a whirl pool tub with no plumbed hot water.
Andrew's work is going fine. He's able to understand everything in his meetings now--not every fine detail, but he can follow the topics well which is a nice break through. The girls are also enjoying their activities immensely and speak Portuguese beautifully. I will upload some pictures of the storm soon. Take care and God bless!
Oi! Tudo Bem para todos amigos Brasilados! Hoje, nos tivemos uma festa para a Samantha. Ela tem nove anos agora! Ela é muito feliz. Nós convidamos oito amigazinhas de Samantha para a festa. Todos as criancas nadaram em piscina. Que lindo! Eles nao quiseram sair. Eu acho as meninas quiseram ficar aqui para a toda da noite. :)
Hello to all of my dear American friends! We miss you. Samantha and I celebrated our birthdays this past weekend. We had a tremendously wonderful time. All of my gifts were flowers--bem bonita. I recived a cactus--gorgeous (I've always wanted one), a gorgeous orchid plant with about 20 blooms on it, a beautiful chrysathemum, and two other flowers I don't recall the names of, but I need to find out and write it down!!! :) Samantha made out like a bandit as usual! We had our family party on Saturday, and today (Sunday) we had a pool party with Samantha's closest girlfriends and one boy. Samantha's nanny came with her husband, and Samantha's riding teacher and her mom and brother. We didn't invite any other adults as we wanted to keep it small. We once again were the only English speakers, and we had a great time! I understand so much more than I can speak. At the end of the party we had some moms drop in and visit also. All of us women are planning a trip to Argentina to do some shopping together. Apparently, it's a lot cheaper to purchase things there. I love these times when I am completley immeresed in the language. The women I have had the priveledge of knowing are so fun and so sweet. They have been some of the best teachers for Portugese.
Above are pictures of the girls playing with our neighbor girl, Laura. The picture with the group of girls singing is of one of the 5 Portuguese classes they are taking. The top picture is of Theodore sporting his latest hair style.
I am posting a letter Samantha wrote for her Social Studies class. Her assignment was to imagine she was an explorer in a new land and to write home a persuasive letter to her friends and family in the hope that they would make the journey also. Instead of imagining this, I had her write a letter about the new land she is living in and encourage all of you to make the journey to visit us! :)
I invite you all to come to Brazil, Rio Grande Du Sul, Horizontina. The trip might be hard, but that doesn't matter. We have seven fruit trees in our yard. Little yellow plums, oranges, berries, mangoes--you name it. The flowers here are beautiful. The butterflies here are beautiful and huge. The landscape is beautiful. And, there's a place that you could (if you were here) pick sugar cane and eat it for free...mmm. There are some interesting things though like lizards living on our walls--bedroom, kitchen, and all. They don't bite. We have a pool, a big back yard, and a nice girl next door to play with. So please come, will you?
Hello! :) Today is a national holiday in Brazil called the Day of the Children. It's a very important holiday here--all of the businesses shut down and families do special activities to celebrate their children. The girls had a fabulous day and are enjoying the extra holidays we have here! :)
I am posting some pictures of the girl's horseback riding lessons. They are having a great time. It's another fun way for us to pratice our Portuguese. As of this week, I am also taking lessons. I didn't realize it would be as tricky as it is...trying to learn something new in a language that is new! :) I am learning to ride in such a way that you don't use the riegns for much direction--all of the cues are given through my feet and some voice if necessary. She's an awesome horse with an amazing amount of grace and intelligence. I have to say though my legs are crazy sore from my last lesson in which we did a lot of trotting. The three of us much prefer galloping!!! Ouch!
The girls are learning how to do figure 8's, circles, spins, and they can back her up. The girls use the riegns and voice commands for the horse as their legs are too short for them to give her any foot instruction. :) Not only do the girls ride her, but they also bathe and brush her after every ride. I think they like this part of the afternoon almost as much as riding "India."
We all send our love to you from Brazil! Ate nesta semana!
We also had the opportunity to vist Itaipu--the world's largest dam. It's huge! We drove around it, beside the bottom side of it, and on top of it...it's intimidating. Paraguay recieves 95% of all its power from this dam, and Brazil 20%.
Near the end of the weekend we visited a bird park where they have over 800 birds. Things tend to be a lot more hands on here then in the states, so we walked among gigantic birds who were not in cages. There is a Maca (parrot) cage that has approximatley 50 Maca's that you can walk in "at your own risk." Andrew chose not to go in, but filmed the experience for us safely outside of the cage. We girls couldn't resist being so close to the parrots. The Maca's love to dive bomb right over your head while squealing loudly--it's hilarious!!! :) We all held a parrot at the very end of the day. What a treat it was!
This past weekend we traveled to Iguacu Falls. It's the largest waterfall in the world as far as actual width and number of falls go, but second to Victoria Falls in Africa by sheer volume of water. The falls lies between Brazil and Argentina. We traveled through Argentina as it was the shortest route to the falls. We had to cross over on a ferry to reach Argentina. The ferry was a fun adventure for us. Making our way through customs was an adventure in itself as we speak little Portuguese and in Argentina they speak Spanish which is similar, but at the same time, very much its own language. We traveled to the falls with 5 other Americans who were familar with what needed to be done, and they were a huge help.
I'm posting a picture of the girls in front of a banana tree that was by the customs stop in Argentina--there are banana trees everywhere--well fruits of all kinds really. I love the way banana trees look with their big leaves. Below the pic of the girls and the banana tree is a picture of some birds nests that are shaped like long skinny saks. It was fun to watch the birds fly in and out of them as they brought their food into the nest and hunkered down in the bottom and appeared to be eating.
The racoon like animal with the girls (in front of the garbage cans) are Iguacu's "maskot" as they can be found all over the falls and don't have the least bit of timidity. They are professional beggars.