Saturday, May 14, 2016

Brazil 2016!!!

Brazil has changed me life in so many ways over the past 7 years! But nothing could have braced me for how transforming this trip would be for me! I have never felt such change. The only overwhelming feeling I can compare it to is when Chase came down those escalators after his mission, when we knelt across the altar on our wedding day, when they put my baby in my arms for the very first time..... this Brazil trip is up there with those life altering moments. I have never seen the gospel so clearly, fell in love with a country so instantly, and had a honeymoon like this with Chase before. I feel like I'm getting poetic here so let's dial it back. But seriously!

So.... we had 13 days of heaven together and this blog post will feel like it's 13 days long for you. Scroll fast if you need to :) 

Thank you, Mom, Mamma Julie, and Kina for watching our kids! Esp Sawyer at night ;) I have a feeling I won't be encouraged to take a vacation again unless my baby isn't sleeping through the night! Thank you, Taryn and Taylor for taking us the airport at 3 AM!

The first couple days in Brazil I was observing and telling Chase all my thoughts. He was loving seeing Brazil through a a first time visitor's eyes. He encouraged me to write down what I thought and I'm glad he did. Because with such a whirlwind trip, I might not have remembered. So here are the bullet points and then I'll go day by day! I'm telling you! I want every detail and feeling captured. So please abort now if you're already overwhelmed!


  • There are no beggars in Brazil. People are poor, sure! And people are on the street corners riding a unicycle while juggling fire or selling bracelets or selling water bottles- but there are not bums at the corners just begging for money. It was refreshing and a huge reflection on the work ethic of Brazilians!
  • Almost every street is made by hand...... what??!! We saw constructor workers laying down cobble stone and bricks and what not. It was crazy and there is some serious history in Brazil!
  • They are some of the friendliest people I've ever met (the first two days we didn't see any of Chase's friends and i still thought that. Once we met his converts and member friends, then my opinion became fact!)
  • When you say "no" and you don't wanna buy something, they just smile and give you a thumbs up and walk away...... that shocked me. Way different than Asia!
  • Also people don't stare at me like they do in Asia. Brazilians can look hispanic, black, asian, blonde, etc. So I wasn't a sore thumb there. Chase on the other hand.... he was an extra BFG there!
  • People do not speak English there. That's not surprising. I met a few that could speak to me in English. I was able to understand A LOT after a couple days, my background in french helped. But every Brazilian knows "The book is on the table." And it's a running joke in Brazil. 
  • The hills are killer in the state of Minas Gerais! Hike the "Y" ten times in a row and you'll see the life of a missionary in Belo Horizonte.
  • Interesting fact: the richer people live on the bottom of the hill and the poorer people live on the top (so they don't have to walk or vise versa) and that's the opposite in America, Chase pointed out- people kill for the beautiful view and like living on mountains and hills.
  • We rented a car the first week...... Chase knows how to drive a manual... but the WAY they drive there combined with the crazy steep hills with no street signs with no lines on the road with all the one-way streets. It was a riot!! Praise to our GPS!
  • They put corn in everything: on a hamburger, in a salad, with meat, in a soup, with bread, etc.
  • Tucanos has NOTHING on real, homemade Brazilian meats and side dishes. I asked everyone I could how they made what and plan to master the art myself!
  • Every child I saw made me so homesick for my babies. I was able to adjust pretty well after the first couple days. But to go from only being away from them for one overnight at a time to two weeks! That was huge for me! And so good for Chase and I as a couple!
  • Our Air BnB in Belo Horizonte had four gates before you got to our apartment. I don't know if that made me feel more safe or less....... But honestly- I felt Brazilians aren't as loony as Americans and with Chase's size and him speaking the language- I never felt in danger. 
  • The showers there have electric boxes with exposed wires and getting shocked in the bathroom is a common occurance.
  • The weather was perfect! In the 70's. It's fall for them in the southern hemisphere!
  • I've never eaten so much meat and bread in two weeks ever.
  • The mission office was way smaller than Temple Square's mission office- but a lot of things were different about Chase's mission compared to mine :)
  • Ok if you're still reading..... enjoy this pics.....


Wednesday: Fly to Belo Horizonte, 25 hours with layovers!


SLC to LAX to Panama to Belo Horizonte (one of our 7 hour flights we were in the exit row with the whole row to ourselves! Holla!)

Thursday: Belo Horizonte, mission office!


Chase entered Brazil (bc of visa waiting) and left Brazil on a non-transfer day (bc of Christmas). And his first and last meal in Brazil was at this restaurant with his beloved mission president, President Parella. 


On our 10 mile walk home...... the universe was messing with me and it was only day one!
P.S. Brazilians CANNOT pronounce Capri nor Sawyer. 

 Friday: Ouro Preto and Congonhas

Ouro Preto is a tourist town. Missionaries do not serve there but Chase always wanted to visit. Remind me to tell you more about why missionaries aren't there later. But the name means "Black Gold" and it was a huge mining town for the Portuguese. The slaves lived atop the hills and the rich Portuguese live in the city. There are even different churches for them. I thought slavery in the US was bad but Brazil was even more inhumane! They were mining slaves and would sometimes spend 5 straight years in the mines. They would have to keep a bird in there with them in the beginning bc slaves kept dying. They realized the oil they were burning for light was toxic. So when the bird died, they knew they had to go to the top for some air before they could continue to work. Children were bred specifically to be small and mine. They started mining as young as age 5. They would mine pretty much naked so they couldn't steal some of the gold and buy their freedom. I learned so much about the history of Brazil and really enjoyed asking all my questions!
We found a guy named Rodrigo that wanted US$12 to take us around all day and tell us about the town. He was with us for 6 hours and shared with us so much!! He even helped Chase navigate and drive when Chase parallel parked on the steepest hill and hit the car behind him. Chase was horrified but I was laughing..... spouse support.
I haven't been able to wear my wedding ring- thank you wedding weight. And I got a very nice Topaz ring for my chubby ring finger!! I love it!!!

A rainy day!
Of course I was worried about my hair!


Pulled over to view this gorgeous favella (ghetto in portuguese) and I was obsessed. Too bad my phone camera didn't do it justice!

Shot of our rental car! 

My panorama as I laughed when Chase paid the guy US$25 after he hit his car. No visual damage! 

 



The governor's house and office in the middle of the city square!


Our tour guide Rodrigo. We saw his gf walking the steep hill to work at one point and gave her a ride, too. The culture of Brazil!

The church with the second most gold in the world. 
No pictures allowed inside. 
The poor slave church on the top of ginormous hill!

The mines!

Then to finish the day we stopped at one of Chase's areas: Congonhas
It was amazing to see all of Chase's letters over the two years come to life. He showed me his apartment, where he shopped, and where his convert that smoked two CARTONS (not packs. cartons!) of cigarettes a day when he first met him lived. 
Our only pic in Congonhas:

 Saturday: Sabara

The next day we visited Sabara- Chase always said this was his prettiest area in Brazil and it did not disappoint. Maria de Souza and her family live here. They were our main visitors. We also went to Chase's mission apartment and climbed even higher on top of a ginormous hill to see a member he is close with (he moved- so that was a great work out!) then asked directions about 12 times (no street signs) and found Maria de Souza's new house. They made the most delicious meal for us. Maria, Gustavo, Eliana, and the whole fam were amazing to us all day. We shared photos, shared American candy, talked, played spoons, charades, and headbands. We saw Maria's new books (she an author.) She wrote an autobiography after Chase left and he and the other missionaries were a big part in it. She wrote a poem about Chase: how he was her angel and he didn't have wings but someday would and was her savior on mt. zion. I even teared up when Chase translated it for me. It was so amazing to see Chase and for Chase to see himself again as that awesome full-time missionary he was. The spirit and love of Christ is so strong!


The gated picture is showing the steps down to his mission apartment. Trying to show how insane and steep the hills were but failing.

These guys know what's up- riding a horse and motorcycle instead of destroying their calf muscles..... actually I notice more definition now that I'm home and am loving it. Keeping up that momentum.

Chickens everywhere. And I never did get a good picture of how the wild dogs travel in packs in Brazil. So awesome! And Chase kept telling me if they come towards you like they're going to attack, you just pick up the biggest rock you can find and they'll back right down. Hahaha. Hilarious if you already know my love for dogs.

Helping and learning in the kitchen.


Chase with his beloved


Walking and touring Sabara with our entourage



Beautiful churches and a festival there that Saturday! 

The church! There was a baptism going on so that was perfect! The font is in the background on the right pic. I had never seen such a font overseas before!

More games and goodbyes!
It was interesting for me with the language barrier. I could understand a lot of Portuguese, but couldn't speak a lick. And for someone as talkative and expressive as me, I felt weird and sad when I appeared so shy and quiet..... so the games really helped me show my personality and a big thank you to Chase for translating my every question and quirky remark! He was so patient with me. 
And that's another thing. Brazil Chase is quite different than America Chase. He reverted to his mission ways: he only ate like once a day and never mentioned being hungry, he could care less about his phone, he was so patient (you'll see in my future story what I mean), he went to bed at like 8 pm, he ate so slowly (I learned that was wise too- I was never allowed to say I was full unless all the food in the house was gone.... not good for my ulcerative colitis.... so I started eating slowly too. Harder than you think when you can't talk throughout the meal.)
Anyways. Back to the trip!

Sunday: Veneza, Day 1
We went to church at 8:30 AM in Veneza and it was one of the grandest reunions I had ever seen. Chase served 6 months in this ward and to be there on fast and testimony Sunday was such a blessing. I felt the spirit so strongly!

After church, we walked to Rua de Felizidade (literal translation: the Road of Happiness). Chase found this humble road and was able to baptize almost every house! And there were about 30 houses! We had lunch at one house and dinner at another. I will NEVER forget this day!
We were staying the night at the bishop's house so we left our car and bags at his house and then walked to lunch. It was a long walk but I was able to think and observe so much! 
Walking down to Rua de Felizidade!
I had heard story after story about this road! And Chase (now I) loves it so much!
We had a great feast  (that I wish I had taken a pic of) with the family (he was able to baptize three brothers and the mom was baptized the following transfer once she was legally married! The brother are now grown and to hear them bear their testimony was powerful!), ward members, and local sister missionaries. Then we played games!!! 

First; the skittle game! Their minds were blown and it was hilarious!


The happiest picture I've ever seen!

Then things got weird with some trust games




The game Ninja was a BIG hit

They taught us this cat game. Goal: not to laugh when they meow at you.

Singing and good times!
 


We then had dinner at this rockstar family's house! Two doors down on the same road! 
Chase was able to baptize the mom, daughter, and two sons. They are all so strong and I'm obsessed with their two wives!! If I lived there, they'd be my best friends! Who am I kidding- after one night they already are. 
Tiago went on a mission to southern Brazil, then married Vanessa, and now is a member of the bishopric. Junior married fellow ward member Fernanda and they have two perfect babies (exact gender and ages as my kids so I was in heaven). 

So what do we do? Play spoons. And dance to American pop songs!


I miss them so much it is shocking!

Monday: Veneza, Day 2
This is the bishop's family's house we stayed at! A fun tour of their neighborhood, shopping, lunch, even more spoons (acrobatic this time), and other fun games!

I was a kid magnet. They don't care about language barriers whatsoever!




Then we met up at the church and played some soccer!!! I was in heaven!

The church there is insane! Four stories and I swear it's going to be a temple one day! It is on the hill in the middle of the favella city like the beacon it is!
Veneza is an amazing city with even more amazing people!


Tuesday: Happy Anniversary flying to Rio!
Landing in Rio and getting my first glimpse of the Cristo and reflecting on what an awesome anniversary this is for Chase and I! just love him to pieces. see facebook for a more mushy post!


Our Air BnB was like an oasis and I LOVED it.

the city getting ready for the Olympics! Our first night we went to the night markets on the Copa Cabanna (I kick myself for not doing more shopping their bc my souvenirs for myself and family and friends is lacking! BH wasn't the same for tourist shopping!)

Wednesday: Botanical Gardens and Cristo Redentor
I was going to delete this pic but then I thought this story needs to be heard. I was so excited to see the Cristo and get better pics of it later. 
This is the story that shows "patient" Chase. We got an Uber ride and I had looked up that it would take us 25 minutes to get to Sugarloaf Mountain....... 3.5 hours later and Chase is still enjoying his ride and chatting and relaxed. I am not worried about the money I am worried about the time. We're in RIO for goodness sakes. Chase was getting on my case (in English so our driver couldn't understand) that I need to be patient and we'll get there. I had seen the same statue (every 45 minutes) three times now.... I told him I was patient for the first hour. He asked how long we'd been in the car and I told him we got in at 9 AM and it is now 12:30. Even he was shocked but laughed. Who is this husband of mine?? It's funny now but at the time I was peeved. 
Sugarloaf Mountain was closed until Friday so we hit up the Botanical Gardens and then the actual Cristo.






I loved the tropical landscape and humid feel- some small reminders of Singapore!
Then up the train to the Cristo!

 















we stayed for the sunset and to see them light up the Cristo.



Such a great day! I can even look back and enjoy my morning tour of Rio!


Thursday: Ipanema Beach Day

We walked down from our Air BnB to Impanema beach! "The girl from Ipanema was dancing" was in our heads all day! We definitely got our exercise in this day and had a blast jumping the waves!
Chase did not expect this wave though apparently! 

Our second loves!



People walking up to us selling drinks and icecream and ray bands (ha!) and drugs and alcohol all day. What service!

Then we walked clear to the other side and went to sunset point! without the sunset. We were hungry and went home to get ready for dinner! 



 
This particular taxi driver terrified me (they all did but I hadn't seen any accidents yet). She was a woman, with a manual car, watching a show, texting, and driving at night in Rio! Recipe for disaster but it was all gravy and no harm done!

Friday: Sugarloaf Mountain and Sao Joao Batista Cemetery
The famous cable cars up Sugarloaf mountain to the great look out of Rio. It was under construction so half the views were closed but we still loved it!


 
We thought this was the top and then realized there are two mountains. A medium one that leads to the grand one! Luckily we realized this before going down! Another cable car ride up!





Then we walked a couple miles to the Sao Jaoa Batista Cemetery (St. John the Baptist Cemetery, I believe). And it competes with Pere Lachaise in Paris! I was in love with all the sculptures and the fact that the Cristo overlooked it. It was kinda strange that all the caskets were above ground but I kinda thought it was cool; even when you husband tries to scare you with every step! 






 
now Chase and I have big expectations for our burial plots. We've discussed all our wants! 

Saturday: Escadaria Selaron and back to BH
this was the scariest place our whole trip.
Our uber driver kept saying in Portuguese, "the effects of drugs" hahaha.
We saw a woman wearing a bra and nothing else. That was terrifying. And to top it off we had all our luggage to go back to BH so I swear people were vulturing around us and down the streets! But nevertheless. These gorgeous mosaic tiled stairs were breathtaking!


  we walked to this famous church and bridge structure, caught a taxi to the wrong airport (an hour in the wrong direction)- but luckily we planned (aka me- always plan too much time at the airport) and we had a lot of time bc we wanted to Mother's Day skype grant in Madagascar at the airport! So it was just a fun adventure now that we look back at it! 

Sunday: Progresso

This last Sunday we were nervous for. Chase really wanted to see one of his strong families but he couldn't find them on facebook and he had no way of getting a hold of them. There are a lot of bairros in Brazil called Progresso. But with mormon.org we think we found the right church and went to there. We're sitting in the back of sacrament and I am looking at an old picture of the family and know it's them four rows ahead of us! The two kids get up and leave during sacrament meeting and I tell Chase to go find them in the hall. They don't recognize Chase at first (see following pic and duh!) but when they figure out who it is they freak out! Guilherme kept saying how he cried for days when Chase was transferred out of that area. They were the sweetest family. Poor Eluiza rushed home to clean and cook for us! It was delicious though.
We played more games, had great food, and I couldn't have asked for a better last day!


Chase with a new companion but same stellar members!

Some fellow neighbors came over and it was even more of a party. 


Another 27 hours of travel and now I'm back home and truly changed!

Reunited!
Sharing some of the many photos I received by their awesome babysitters!


on the phone with me and happy about it. i was touched by how much she missed us. 
She screamed when she saw Chase and jumped on him. Then reached for me, buried her head, and cried into my shoulder. I asked her what's wrong and she said, "I just missed you so much!" My mommy heart bursts!



Life at work with two crazy kids is even sweeter now!