12 December 2011


"Meeting of the Waters"
near Manaus, Brazil
With a population of approximately 1.8 million, Manaus is the capital of the state of Amazonas. There is an unusual natural phenomena that occurs when the dark, warm water of the Rio Negro, which comes from the northern jungle area, meets the light, cold water of the Rio Solimões from the Andes to the south. The difference in temperatures and current speeds causes the waters to remain separated for several miles until they eventually mix to form the Amazon River.

The Rio Negro, which is on the Manaus side of the parallel rivers, is also very acidic, and thus doesn't support mosquito life.  Despite temperatures that reached 108 F (about 43 C) while I was there, I had no problem with them. Dehydration, yes.  Mosquitos, no.

A popular tourist attraction is a 4-5 hour trip to see the "Meeting of the Waters" and travel through the rain forest. 

A Walk in the Rain Forest
Before stopping for lunch at a floating restaurant, we
took a short walk through the jungle on this boardwalk.
(Photo: Eric Lifrak, used with permission)
Carolina, Erika, and Brunie
After returning from our boat trip, Erika, the daughter of an
old friend (Nancides, now deceased) drove us to a lovely spot to
view the sun setting over the Rio Negro.
Then we had wonderful Brazilian ice cream that comes in 

hundreds of exotic flavors: mango, tapioca, passion fruit, açaí,
coconut, coffee-chocolate-rum, pineapple. I wish I would
have had the time to sample them all.
(Photo: Erik Lifrak, used with permission.)

Sunset On the Rio Negro

Addendum: In 2013, two years after I visited Manaus, my husband wanted to try out his new binoculars. We needed a place where we were high enough to see for miles, so we headed to Mount Washington, a section of Pittsburgh, for a view overlooking the city. While my husband was using his binoculars, I took photos of the city. It wasn't until I returned home and looked at the photos, did I notice that the very same phenomena as the meeting of the waters also occurs where the Allegheny and the Monongahela meet to form the Ohio River. I later learned that this only happens at certain times of the year, but still, I traveled thousands of miles to see something I could have seen 35 miles from home. But, hey, I wouldn't have been able to say I had walked in the Amazon rain forest if I had stayed in Pittsburgh.
Duquesne Incline which travels from the Ohio River to
Mt. Washington, overlooking the city of Pittsburgh, PA.
Note the contrasting colors of the waters from the
Monongahela (coming from the right) and the Allegheny
Rivers and how they stay separated for some distance after
forming the Ohio. (Click on image for larger view.)

04 November 2011


Being a Peace Corps Volunteer was one of the defining experiences of my life. I spent 2 years in Brazil, living and working in Glória, a small town in the interior of the state of Sergipe, without benefit of full-time electricity, running water, a sewage system, TV, phone service, paved roads, hospital, nor university. There was no industry and only a few small businesses. I left Brazil and the Peace Corps after 2 years of service in July of 1969.

Over the intervening years, I had always wanted to return to Sergipe. Brunie (the other Volunteer who served in Glória) and I kept in touch and discussed traveling to Brazil often, but there was always some reason we couldn’t. Besides work, family, and finances, we had lost touch with our Brazilian friends and former students.

Jorge Henrique (striped shirt) and his wife Veronica (top left photo between Brunie and me.)
Brunie's husband Eric is with Brunie and Jorge in the lower right.
(Photos: Jorge Henrique and Veronica, used with permission.)
I won’t go into the details (you can find them HERE) but finally in 2009, 40 years after leaving Brazil, I found the email address of one person in Glória. Even though Jorge Henrique, a poet and professor, hadn’t been born when I lived there, he helped me contact others and soon Brunie and I were invited to visit Sergipe. We were told all we needed to do was pay for airfare ---we would be provided with a place to stay.

How could we refuse?

It took nearly 2 years until we could both travel (Brunie from southern California, while I left from western Pennsylvania.)

On August 8th, 2011, she and I (and her husband Eric) met at the airport in Rio de Janeiro to catch a flight to Aracajú, the capital of Sergipe. We expected former students Idalécio and Célia and her sister Alcione to meet us. We were shocked to find more than 20 people at the airport, clapping, shouting, whistling ---and even a professional videographer to record our arrival.

Friends, colleagues and former students meet us at the airport in Aracajú.
Brunie is in black holding a sign. I am beside her in an aqua shirt.
Célia (front row left) and her family hosted us in Aracajú.
Teresa and José Augusto (back row behind Irene in the striped shirt) hosted us in Glória.
About five people who greeted us are missing from the photo.
(Photo: Eric Lifrak, used with permission)
Aracajú is now immense. Because most of the city has been built in the last 40 years, it is relatively new and therefore clean and modern with lovely parks and beaches. It is one of the best-kept secrets in Brazil ---a beautiful unspoiled and safe resort city.

One evening, we were told we were meeting "a few people" for dinner. Another 20 or so showed up. We were honored with several speeches and one former student Gil, now a professional singer, sang for us.
Gil sings "Amigos Para Sempre" about everlasting friendship.
(Photo: Eric Lifrak, used with permission)

At the dinner reception for us at a churrascaria (bar-b-que restaurant) in Aracajú.
Again, a few people are missing from the photo.
(Photo: Eric Lifrak, used with permission)
In addition, many people stopped by Célia's beautiful home to visit us and others invited us to visit them. We also met others at the apartment of Idalécio and his wife.

In Brazil, one can never eat enough to please one’s hosts, so after eating wonderful meals at Célia’s home, we were offered more food everywhere we went. Sisters Neuzice and Euridice took us to the beach for fresh crabs, then wanted us to have another meal at their home. (Already full of delicious crabs, we politely declined.) Idalécio and his wife Graça took us to a great restaurant for feijoada, the Brazilian national dish. Irene and Dona Guiomar both had us to their apartments for scrumptious lunches.

One former student, Valmiro, now a doctor, invited us to a restaurant to celebrate his birthday and informed us that his first child was named Bruna Carolina in our honor.

Célia's brother Wilson, who owns a fabulous studio where he is a videographer creating commercials and promotional videos, had his driver take us to many places including his farm in the country.

On our fifth day in Sergipe, we moved from Aracajú to Glória to stay with Teresa and José Augusto (both former students) in their lovely home. Again, we were fed wonderful Brazilian foods and visited by many old friends.

On Saturday night, more than 50 people showed up for another dinner reception where the former school director of the ginásio where we taught, now in his eighties, made an eloquent speech about us. It was all a bit embarrassing while also extremely thrilling.
Dinner reception in Glória.

We received tons of gifts ---luckily I hadn’t filled my suitcases. One entire piece of my luggage was overstuffed with presents ---several CDs of Brazilian music, including one from Gil, a DVD of Idalécio’s singing group and DVDs about Sergipe, tote bags, key chains and other small souvenirs of the region, a hand-knit sweater, a blouse with hand-made lace, several linens embroidered by local crafts people, T-shirts, a hat, fancy soaps, cologne, hand-decorated dish and bath towels, a cute turtle paperweight, a beautiful book of photos of Sergipe, two books of Jorge Henrique's poems, a wood-cut print, sculptures created by local folk artists ---one made by Veio, who had been a pre-teen neighbor when we had lived there.

Gifts were totally unnecessary. My best gift was just being there and seeing everyone again.

Another photo from the reception in Glória.
Seu Manoel, the former school director is on the right.
Jorge Henrique and his wife Veronica are in the foreground.
Glória has progressed. All the things I stated above that didn’t exist when I lived there are there now. There is even a cell tower in the middle of the city. The town has many businesses and several industries. It always had a market on Saturdays, but now has a huge outdoor market from Friday through Saturday that attracts vendors and buyers from three states. Whereas few vehicles existed there in 1969, the place is teaming with cars, trucks, and zillions of motorcycles, fewer horses, mules, and donkeys than there used to be, but none of the familiar ox carts that traveled the streets and roads when I lived there more than 40 years ago.

Many things came together in the late 1960s. I know I was part of it, but without all the other happenings, the town may not have progressed. The National Department of Works Against Droughts built a dam to hold enough water to last through rainless years in the sertão ---a semi-arid region. A high school was established a few years before we arrived. A branch of the Bank of Brazil opened, providing loans for farmers and small businesses. A silo was built to store farmers’ crops such as beans and corn so the market would not be glutted when they were harvested. An agricultural assistance agency provided an agronomist and a home economist (Irene and later Maria José.) A progressive woman, Dona Guiomar (Célia’s mother) became the elementary school director. The Brazilian Legion of Assistance started chicken cooperatives. A health center was opened and a doctor hired to visit one morning/week accompanied by Helen, a Peace Corps nurse. Nancides, an extremely intelligent, hard-working, eloquent, and humorous bank worker who also taught night classes at the high school, became the president of a Municipal Commission set up to make positive changes in the town. Brunie arrived in 1966 and started literacy classes. I arrived one year later and took over Brunie’s high school teaching duties so that she could concentrate on health and sanitation projects.

Best of all, despite there being no colégio nor universidade in the town, nearly all of our students managed to continue their educations. They are doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, agronomists, social workers, nurses, teachers. Some work for the state’s health service. One is a meteorologist. One became a minister of agriculture. One was the first woman to work for the Bank of Brazil in Sergipe and when she retired, became a lawyer.

If there was any doubt that we had made an impact, the doubts are gone.

Yet, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I gained so much more than I left in Glória. I have thought about Brazil and especially about Glória nearly every day since 1969. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and work there, to learn Portuguese, to know and appreciate the wonderful Brazilians and their culture, and also the opportunity to return 42 years later.

And while I was in Brazil in August, I decided I was going to do two things I had always regretted missing. First we visited the Amazon region. We were able to visit Nancides' daughter Erika in Manaus. Nancides had died when she was only 11, so she was happy to meet us and hear stories about her father, even before her mother knew him. Then, after Brunie and Eric headed home, I went on to Iguaçu Falls and then visited a blogger friend and her husband at their Ipanema apartment in Rio.

And although, the rainforest and waterfalls are spectacular natural wonders, nothing compares to the reception we received from our friends and former students in Sergipe.

(I wish I could have mentioned everyone who we met or visited and every individual gift we received while in Sergipe, but I will be writing more and posting more photos about my trip in the coming days.)

14 October 2011

Iguaçu/Iguazú Falls - Brazil/Argentina

Iguaçu (Portuguese) or Iguazú (Spanish) Falls are on the border of Brazil and Argentina and close to Paraguay.

Below find two slide shows, one from the Brazilian side of the falls and another from Argentina.

The first presentation is longer, because I had more time to spend on the Brazilian side. I caught a bus across the street from my hotel, which took me to Brazil's lovely welcome center with colorful buses to take one to the actual falls. One descends and climbs lots of steps and takes wooden or metal walkways to see the falls. Afterwards, I walked across the road to the Bird Park where one can enter cages with exotic birds. (See the Bird Park slideshow HERE.)

The following day, I caught a bus from Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, went through customs at the border, exchanged dollars for pesos, took a bus to the city of Puerto Iguazú, then another to the falls.  It was a rainy day, and not as nice for taking photos as it was the previous day.

By the way, even when it was not raining, the overspray from the falls, even when not close to them, is enough to get one quite wet. The first morning had been cool, so I threw a nylon parka into my knapsack, not even thinking I would need it to stay dry, but it came in handy, although plastic raincoats were on sale on both sides of the falls.

The Argentinean falls were fun because of the coati, an animal of the racoon family, which roamed everywhere.  (I have seen videos of coati on the Brazilian side, too, but I didn't see any myself.) In Argentina, they wandered among the tourists and were quite tame.  Despite many signs about not feeding the animals, I saw many tourists doing so.

Some of the Argentinean falls were wide and spectacular like the Brazilian ones, but some were narrow and surrounded by vegetation. I felt more as if I were in a rain forest than when viewing the Brazilian falls.  But they were both spectacular to see.  (Be sure to check out the very short video at the bottom of this post.)

These falls just go on and on.  They were one of the highlights of my trip.

I had always regretted missing Iguaçu when I lived in Brazil 40+ years ago, so I knew I had to visit there on this trip ---my first time back since 1969.

Iguaçu Falls - Brazil Slideshow: Carol’s trip from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States to Foz do Iguaçu (near Foz de Iguacu), State of Parana, Brazil was created by TripAdvisor. See another Foz de Iguacu slideshow. Create your own stunning slideshow with our free photo slideshow maker.

Iguazu Falls - Argentina Slideshow: Carol’s trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States was created by TripAdvisor. See another Pittsburgh slideshow. Create a free slideshow with music from your travel photos.

The sound of the roaring water is almost deafening. I included a very short (27-second) You Tube video to demonstrate the sound and the enormous amount of water rushing over the falls. This is just one small section of the falls. Imagine this amount of water multiplied by perhaps 100 rushing over the falls.

09 October 2011

Jardim Botânico - Rio de Janeiro

One of the highlights of my trip to Brazil in August (2011) was the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens) in Rio de Janeiro.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Click on the full-screen icon for the best view.

Parque das Aves - Foz do Iguaçu

I just returned from a great trip to Brazil (August 7-31, 2011.) One of the highlights of my trip was the Parque das Aves (Bird Park) which is just a few minutes walking distance from the entrance to the Iguaçu National Park where I had just viewed the magnificent Iguaçu Falls. I will be posting photos from my trip as time permits, so please come back to see photos from other locations in Brazil.

Click on the arrow below to view the slide show.

Bird Park, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil Slideshow: Carol’s trip from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States to Foz do Iguaçu (near Foz de Iguacu), State of Parana, Brazil was created by TripAdvisor. See another Foz de Iguacu slideshow. Create your own stunning slideshow with our free photo slideshow maker.
Click on the full-screen icon for the best view.

21 July 2011


In response to the writing prompt, “The Simple Things” on Mama’s Losin it blog:

Glória, 1967 (top) and 1969 (bottom)
There are times when I would chuck most of what I own, burn down the house, and start over, because sometimes the simple things are the best.


In the late 1960’s I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Glória, a small town in the interior of Brazil.  Brunie (another Volunteer) and I lived in a house that had 4 rooms: a sitting room, 2 bedrooms and a kitchen.  We placed a table for eating in the wide hall that stretched from the front to the back of the house.

In the front room, we used our footlockers for seating. They rested on bricks (to keep them from touching the damp mud-brick floor.) We had a small table and chair there for a desk and used unfinished wooden chairs from our dining area when we needed more seating.  We could hang a hammock diagonally from two adjacent walls for an overnight guest.

Each bedroom held a bed with a straw mattress and a mosquito net hanging from the lattice ceiling which supported our ceramic tile roof.  We each had a small hand-made wardrobe and a tiny table next to each bed for a lamp.

The lamps were kerosene-powered.  The town had electricity only four hours each evening, but our house, which we rented for a total of $5.00 ($2.50 each) per month, wasn’t wired for energia.

Once the town’s street lights were extinguished  at 10:00 each night, one could see billions of stars in the southern-hemisphere skies.

The town had no sewage system, nor running water.  Many larger homes held cisternas in back yards to catch and store rain water, but we needed to have water delivered to our home. A teenaged neighbor had a contraption for the back of his donkey which carried four large cans of water from the dam outside of town.  Once he arrived at the house, we strained the water through a clean dishtowel  into a waist-high ceramic jug to filter out leaves, small stones, and insects.  

Water meant for cooking or drinking was boiled for 20 minutes, then put through a water filter.  We boiled our water on a small stove with a propane tank attached to it.  Most of our neighbors used wood-burning stoves.

We had a shower room, about 3-feet square, but we chose not to use it after my house-mate found a snake there one day.  Instead, we heated water on our stove and poured it over our heads in the kitchen.  The mud-brick floor slanted slightly toward the back entrance, so the water seeped under the door into our back yard, past the outhouse entrance and into the mato.

There were no telephones in town and no TVs. Many homes had refrigerators waiting for the full-time electricity that was scheduled to be powered up within a year. We had a temperamental kerosene-powered refrigerator. 

We walked everywhere in town.  If we needed to travel a short distance from town, we borrowed a horse or mule, unless we could catch a ride on one of the half-dozen cars in town. There was a bus three times a week into the capital city ---a drive which might have taken 90 minutes here, but on the dirt roads with frequent stops to pick up or dispatch passengers, stretched to four hours.  

Yet, despite all of those “inconveniences” the town overcame its shortcomings with the warmth of its citizens.  The Brazilians corrected our Portuguese, forgave our mistakes, shared their joys and sorrows, and treated us like daughters.  I don't know that I have felt any more  "at home" anyplace else.

I haven't been back to Glória since I left 4 decades ago. The town’s website shows a much larger city with a cell tower looming in the mato outside of town. The city's praças are filled with stunning tropical plants. Power lines are everywhere.

With TVs in most homes, probably fewer people spend evenings visiting with their neighbors. I’m sure the small circus that used to arrive annually, no longer visits. The nightly social event, gathering in the praça to watch the movemento, has doubtless disappeared. 

Most likely street lights are left on all night. And with all that light, I am guessing one can no longer see the Southern Cross constellation quite as clearly in those big, beautiful, Brazilian skies.   

There are times when I long for the simple life I lived in Glória.  We had a roof over our heads, food to sustain us, boiled and filtered water, meaningful work, and friends.  Really, what more do most of us need?

Despite the conveniences of modern technology, sometimes the simple things are still the best.

Glória, 2009
photo by Alcione (see her on the photo to the right)


Alcione, c. 1967
youngest child of
Dona Guiomar, 
with brother & sisters
I will be visiting Glória in just a few weeks ---my first visit since I left in July of 1969.   Check back for photos and new stories.

01 July 2011


          For anyone new to this blog, Brunie and I served in the Peace Corps together (Brunie 1966-68, me 1967-69). We worked in the same interior town in the state of Sergipe, Nossa Senhora da Glória ---everyone just calls it Glória.  Luckily Brunie was there a full year before I arrived because her excellent Portuguese and outgoing personality allowed her to fit in extremely well. She was able to teach me everything I needed to know to get along, even the year I remained on my own after she returned home.
          For over 40 years, we have talked about returning to Brazil but we had lost track of our friends and former students.  Read HERE how we were able to reconnect, which led to our upcoming trip.
          We planned to travel in 2010, but that trip had to be postponed because of Brunie's family issues. But, now our tickets have been purchased and we will be making the trip in a few weeks.
          Brunie and I have finally scheduled our trips to Brazil.  Brunie and her husband are traveling from California, so their best travel deal was to fly to Manaus.  From there they will make their way to Aracajú.  They could choose from flights that had layovers in Brasilia, São Paulo or Rio. (They chose Rio.)
          From Pennsylvania, my best deal was to Rio. And it just so happens, that on Brunie's itinerary from Manaus that passes through Rio, she will transfer to the very flight I will take to Aracajú.
          Note: if we purchased flights from our homes directly to Aracajú and then back home, not allowing us to travel elsewhere. Each flight required 24- 30 hours each way, including numerous layovers and we would pay about the same as we are paying for Brunie's flight to Manaus or my flight to Rio, plus Brazilian airpasses which allow us up to 4 flights within Brazil. So the airpasses were the best way to go for us.
          We will arrive in Aracajú on a GOL flight at 2:25 pm on August 8th.
          We will stay for a few days in Aracajú (the captial of Sergipe) where many of our friends and former students live now. One family will host us there. The weekend of August 12, there is a big festa in Glória.  We specifically planned our trip to be there for it, because many former residents of Glória return for the festa. Two of our former students, who married after we both left Brazil, will find places for us to stay there.

My itinerary:
 Fly PA to Rio 8/7-8/8. Fly (red line) to Aracajú 8/8. By car (aqua line) to Glória and back 8/12-8/14. Bus (green line) to Salvador 8/15. Fly (blue line) to Manaus 8/19. Fly (orange line) to Foz de Iguaçu 8/23. Fly (pink line) to Rio 8/26 before heading back to PA 8/30-8/31. I just noticed that my basic flight patterns look like an upside-down and tilted outline of the stars that make up the southern cross.
          After returning to Aracajú, we will take a bus (3-4 hours) to my favorite Brazilian city, Salvador where we will stay at a modest hotel near Barra Beach ---a lovely spot. I will also visit Bob and his family.  Bob was in my Peace Corps group, but has been living and working in Salvador during most of the past 40 years.
          After a few days there, we will fly from Salvador to the Amazon region. In Manaus, we are staying near the famed old opera house, built during the city's prosperous rubber-plantation days. Among other things we plan to take an afternoon trip on the River. Also we will visit with Erika, Nancides' daughter.  Nancides was our friend in Glória. Sadly he died when his daughter was only 11. She is anxious to hear our stories about her father from even before her mother knew him.
          From Manaus, Brunie and Eric will fly home while I catch a flight to Foz de Iguaçu, where I will fill up my camera's memory cards, I'm sure. From Iguaçu, I will fly to Rio where I will stay for a few days with a friend, Ginger.  
          Ginger lives in the mountains outside of Rio in the town of Novo Friburgo which was in the news in January 2011 because of terrible floods in the region. There were many deaths and the loss of roads, homes, and businesses. Ginger and her husband had no damage, but the woman who works for them lost everything and now has to live an hour's bus ride from her work. Because of odd government regulations, even though the woman and her family had lived there for decades, the property had never been registered, thus she cannot receive government assistance nor be able to rebuild there unless they pay what would be equivalent to several years' salary to register the property. Ginger and some of her friends have helped the woman's family survive during these rough times. I also sent Ginger some money for her and plan on contributing more in the future.
          Ginger has an apartment in Rio near Ipanema Beach, so I am staying with her there. I am interested in seeing the contemporary art museum designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer (who designed most of Brasilia) in Niteroi, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. Ginger knows the city well so she has told me about great street markets and beautiful botanical gardens I won't want to miss.
          I always regretted not visiting the Amazon area or Iguaçu when I lived in Brazil, so I will be able to cross those 2 off my bucket list ---and one more: I plan to hang glide down to the beach in Rio.  I figure if it took me 40+ years to return to Brazil, it's probably my last shot ---and even if I return, I'll never be in the physical shape I am now  ----so I better do it while I can still get around without a walker.  I also plan to do an obstacle course through a forested park in Rio, including a few zip lines. (I've been putting in extra hours on the elliptical and strength-training machines at the Y, so I won't seem like too much of a wimp.)
          I will, of course, post my photos here. I might be able to post some while I am still traveling, but more likely it will be September or maybe even October because I will be attending the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary events in Washington in late September where I will meet up with many of my fellow PC Volunteers with whom I trained. 

09 March 2011


I originally posted this in January of 2009, but I was editing it to publish elsewhere and thought I'd move it to the front of my blog for anyone who missed it the first time around.

        While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil in the late 1960’s, I used my month-long vacation time to travel by bus from the Northeast of Brazil through Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo, then southward to Pôrto Alegre in Brazil’s southernmost state and onward to Montevideo, Uruguay. From there I took a bus to a hydrofoil that took me to Buenos Aires where a kind taxi driver deposited me at a small hotel owned by a Brazilian couple. I had learned Portuguese in order to survive in Brazil, but my Spanish was minimal.
        For vacation days, Peace Corps personnel in Brazil were each allotted $9 per day. Although I spent less than my per diem allowance some days, I made up for it by purchasing local crafts or clothing ---three cashmere sweaters in Buenos Aires ---on other days.
        To save money, I would catch a late bus, saving the cost of a hotel room by sleeping on the bus overnight when traveling between cities. I was in my early twenties and didn’t mind a noisy bus, even though I woke with swollen feet and a stiff neck on scheduled stops every two or three hours. I might mention that buses between major cities were modern, clean, and often more reliable than air travel in much of South America at that time.
        On my way back north, I returned to Montevideo. I arrived in the capital of Uruguay around 10 a.m. on a Saturday and planned to catch a bus twelve hours later. On my first stop there, I had seen most of the sites, so I spent the rainy afternoon in Montevideo dozing in a movie theater while a very bad Matt Helm movie repeated every two hours. It was still raining when I left the theater.

      The northbound bus ride to Pôrto Alegre was supposed to last ten hours, arriving around 8 a.m. On the bus, a Brazilian boy in his late teens struck up a conversation. The boy was curious about the United States and eager to try out his English, but we spoke mostly in Portuguese throughout the long night. Because I would have to wait for about ten more hours in Pôrto Alegre to catch a bus to São Paulo, he urged me to go home with him to meet his family. I politely refused.

        As the dawn broke the rain ended. It looked like it would be a beautiful day. At the bus station I said my good-byes, wondering what to do for ten hours on a Sunday when most of the city would be closed.
        After retrieving my overstuffed luggage, I was confronted by a dozen Brazilians ---the boy’s parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents ---all insisting I visit their modest home for the day. After several polite refusals and their enthusiastic insistance, I agreed to spend the day with them. They fed me breakfast, took me on a driving tour of the sun-drenched city, gave me a huge lunch which is the major meal of the day in Brazil. The family was of Italian descent; the meal consisted of ravioli soup and pasta along with the traditional feijoada, the Brazilian national dish made with black beans and a variety of meats served over rice.

        Afterwards, the family insisted I take the customary siesta, which I needed after spending most of the night conversing in Portuguese with their son. An hour before I had to be at the bus station, they woke me, thrust a huge bag lunch on me, and drove me to the rodaviaria to catch my ônibus.
        Although I wrote to the entire family, thanking them for their hospitality, and later sent a few friendly letters to the boy, they never answered. In my experience, Brazilians weren’t zealous letter writers.
        From Pôrto Alegre, the bus took me north through the states of Santa Catarina and Paraná, back to São Paulo where I visited my friend Henry, a Peace Corps lawyer from New Jersey. He had befriended a Brazilian Jewish family at synagogue. Henry told me the family had virtually adopted him. They invited us for dinner and to view the Miss Universe contest on television. There was no television at my Peace Corps site and electricity only four hours each night, so this was a luxury for me. Miss Brazil and Miss Israel were among the favorites to win the contest so Henry and his Jewish friends were doubly passionate about the outcome. When Miss Brazil won the title, an unofficial national holiday resulted. The family members insisted that I stay with them for a few days, but I had to be on my way.
        Again, I passed through Rio de Janeiro on my way to Salvador where I planned to end my trip by attending a regional conference, bringing Peace Corps Volunteers together to share experiences, disappointments, successes, problems, and triumphs.
        I hadn’t seen most of the other Volunteers for a year, yet I was not surprised to hear how many of us had experienced similar acts of hospitality from relative strangers who were eager to know North Americans and show off their own country.
        Brazilian hospitality was a perfect example of how wonderful travel can be in foreign countries and what warm, friendly people one can meet. The most generous people were often those who had relatively little themselves. Such hospitable folks could rarely be encountered in a fancy tourist hotel or in the first-class section of an airplane. More likely they would be met in a local restaurant, on a bus, or in a inexpensive pensão.
        After leaving Brazil, I have never encountered any of the people who showed me such warmth, but every time I have had the chance to “pass it on” I have embraced the opportunity to do the same for foreigners in the United States, especially those who may have felt a bit lonely away from home and family.
        I only hope each person passed it on and the next person passed it on, so that eventually those folks in Brazil were rewarded with the type of kindness they had extended to me.
(Text and bus illustrations ©2009, C.J.Peiffer)

17 January 2011


It seems that my previous post hoping Brunie and I could travel in the Spring  of 2011 (Fall south of the equator) must be revised again.

Brunie's family issues are not yet resolved, so we are hoping to travel this August (2011) to be in Glória for the festa in August, just as we had originally planned for last year.

I will post updates on the trip when I receive any new information.

Ainda tenho saudades.