Saturday, October 29, 2005


Yesterday Russ and I hopped a bus after class to go to the mall. There's a great mall in our part of town but sometimes a change is nice. And Shopping Barra (shopping means mall) is near the hotel we stayed at for our first month here so we miss it occasionally. It's only a 20 minute ride via the nice bus, which costs twice as much at the regular bus (yet is still under US$ 2) and is air-conditioned, has comfortable seats and barely stops.

The bus drops us off on the other side of the street, so we had to walk over the road on the passarela (pedestrian overpass), which weaves its way over to the mall. As we started our decent toward the mall, we saw a large banner that brought tears to my eyes. On the side of Shopping Barra, in full color, was the huge announcement, "Coming Soon: Burger King". Actually, I'm paraphrasing. I don't really remember what the banner said but I got the message loud and clear! Sure enough, in the food court there was an area under construction with promises of Whoppers to come.

Yes, I'm admitting that made me cry. The closest fast food restaurant to my house growing up was Burger King, making it easy to swing through the drive thru on our way home from church. In junior high my friends and I would go almost every week after shops class. For a while my grandparents were in love with BK, and we had many a Sunday lunch of Whoppers. I like McDonalds, but Burger King holds a special place in my heart.

I guess we're going to be going to Shopping Barra a little more often once it opens; which is fine because it is a great mall with some stores that our mall, Shopping Iguatemi, doesn't have. But I am holding my breath. A couple blocks away from Iguatemi, a huge construction project is going on. Shopping Salvador promises to be bigger and better than all the other malls in town. If that's really true, they'll have a Burger King.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Retreat ! ! !

What I Did Last Week
by Valerie Q.

Last week I went with my friends to Guarajuba beach. We rented a beach house. It was a lot of fun. We swam in the pool, went to the beach and ate a lot. I'm glad I got to go to Guarajuba beach.


Sorry, just felt like writing that up like I was a little kid. So yes, the team retreat was awesome. Unlike other retreats we take (which are for getting work done) this one was for relaxing and spending time with each other. Here's a rundown for those of you who had to spend last week working or going to school:

Russ and I met Travis and Alicia at the bus stop to head out there. The bus ride was a little over an hour. Not bad, considering. The seats were comfy and the bus wasn't too full. (We think we saw some gypsies on the bus; either that or women with very unusual taste in fashion.) Matt and Mary rode out with Nestor, the owner of the house. We arrived almost an hour before them, but the weather was great so we just hung out in a little plaza, eating ice cream and visiting with some boys who were selling cocada, a yummy coconut patty.

When the Maberys arrived, we headed to the house only to see Nestor's car pulling away. I was disappointed because I had wanted to meet him. However, Mary explained that he was missing a key and had gone to try to track it down. We started exploring the house only to discover that most of the doors were locked. If he had to go back to the city to get the key, things could get interesting. But thankfully Nestor returned in just a few minutes. The key had been there the whole time. He used that key to get to a small white box. He dumped the contents of the box on the kitchen table. It was about 25 keys of every size and description. All were tagged and labelled. There was a key for every bedroom and one for every bathroom. Every outside door had its own key and most windows did too. I've never seen that many keys for a single house. Mary jokingly asked if he had that many keys for his apartment in the city and we got an earful about security and how if someone breaks in through a window they wouldn't be able to get to the rest of the house. Which is true, but you could lock all those doors with a single key! (For the record, security in that area is great, but it's in a beach community that is largely abandoned during the week providing excellent opportunities for "curious" people.)

The house was perfect. There was room enough for the whole team to sleep and hang out without getting on each others' nerves (no more than usual anyway!). I never thought we would find a place like this for such a great price. There was a beautiful yard with grass for the kids and a big pool. The landscaping was incredible--we had bananas, coconuts and pineapples growing in the yard--and the smell of the flowers was stunning.

That night we all headed into town to a restaurant that Nestor had recommended. It was set on a lagoon and we watched the full moon rise over the water. The food was incredible and the restaurant was completely empty. (Again, beach town during the week.) After dinner we went back home for a swim, followed by a game of Rook.

We all slept in Wednesday morning. I padded downstairs at around ten, expecting to see everyone else up and ready to go (this happens to me quite often) but was the only one up. Everyone else emerged soon after and we decided to go to the beach. The beach was a couple hundred yards away. Our stretch of beach was perfect- no barracas, no vendors, no trash, no people. Russ and I walked along the beach and found four whole sand dollars (and one five-centavo piece!). The boys headed off to explore and the girls kicked around the beach for a little bit longer before heading back to greet the rest of our team who were due to arrive soon. We waited in the pool.

When the Parkers and the Porters arrived, the tone changed. It wasn't a bad change, it was just different. We had been six adults hanging out. Now there were four more adults and four kids. It wasn't long before the kids were in the pool with us; Brock and Brandon in their new sungas (speedos). Lauren started the week able to tread water in spurts but by Saturday she was doing cannonballs and diving to retrieve things off the bottom of the pool. She seems to be a natural swimmer.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out: we visited, swam and played games. I should probably use this opportunity to tell you that I spent every waking hour of the past few days in my bathing suit. That's the life for me. I swam morning, noon and night. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday morning, Russ, Alicia and I headed down to the beach. We played in the waves, letting ourselves be thrown around by the surf. We went back to the house for a swim in the pool and lunch and then later Russ and I returned to the beach. This time, though, we stayed in the sand, taunting the crabs and seeing if we really could dig holes to China. (We couldn't, though mine was the length of my arm to my shoulder.) Thursday night we all headed to the beach once more to praise God in the awesomeness of His creation. The stars were bright and we could barely hear each other over the pounding of the waves but I know we were heard.

Friday morning we started with some prayer time. Matt led us in prayers of thanksgiving. Afterwards, we played some team building games, which evolved into a game of Red Rover, one of my favorite games. (Okay, so maybe it was my suggestion, but still, everyone played.) I thought I might play Red Rover differently now that I'm a grownup, maybe a little more gingerly, but I seemed to be less concerned about getting hurt than ever before. (It might have something to do with having played rugby...just maybe.) We then all sat out on the patio and played the ever-popular yet nameless game where you make a web with yarn. You know the game, you played it at church camp and in youth group. For some reason, I always end up crying. I did my best to conceal it this time; I don't know if it worked. Even though all of us had done it before, we had never done it with two-year-olds around. Brandon and Kelton quickly discovered how fun it was to crawl under, over and through the web. They were hysterical.

Friday afternoon was a flurry of activity. Our team (the adults) is made up of seven Americans, two Canadians and one half-breed (me). Canadian Thanksgiving was earlier in October. American Thanksgiving is coming up. Stacey and Mary had the brilliant idea of creating a new holiday, celebrated between the two. (It doesn't have a special name, we just called it Thanksgiving, though I suggested Food Day might be appropriate.) So Friday we cooked. And cooked. Jenn had done a great job of planning out all the meals for the week and we had everything at our Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, rolls, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, and the mandatory desserts: pumpkin, apple and lemon meringue pie (and some yellow cake for the non-pie eaters). The house had two tables pushed together on the patio that held the 14 of us perfectly. We ate together, sharing stories of Thanksgivings past, and joked about watching football later and getting up the next morning to hit the sales. After we finished eating, we shared a time of worship, expressing our real thanksgiving. Travis and Alicia did an excellent job of planning that time.

After dinner, the cooks jumped in the pool while everyone else cleaned up the kitchen. That was fun- going swimming after Thanksgiving dinnner. (And no, no one got a cramp and drowned!)

Unfortunately, shortly after dinner a stomach bug hit several of us. I seem to have been the worst hit, my symptoms carried on until after we got home yesterday, but there were several mad dashes to the bathroom. We still had fun though, playing more Rook and cribbage and getting more swims.

Russ and I got up Saturday morning to make breakfast. Everyone was kind of slow getting moving, so we left breakfast on the table and got back in bed. Because I was feeling so sick, that's pretty much where I stayed until it was time to pack up. I'm not really sure what everyone else did on Saturday morning. Russ and I went back to the beach quickly to take a few pictures and then it was time to head out. The van company that came to get us had misunderstood our request and sent a much smaller van than needed but we somehow got the 14 of us and all our stuff loaded up.

I can't even begin to explain how badly I needed last week. I feel a level of relaxation that I haven't felt for months (probably since before arriving in Brazil). I'm ready now to really get things going. I'm ready to hit the ground running and do all that I have to get done. It was also a great blessing to get to spend that time with my teammates. So often our relationships get confined to working relationships because of the amount of stuff to get done. It's wonderful when we get to let our hair down and just hang out together, laughing about stupid things. It makes everything go more smoothly when we can take time out to see each other as people, and not just as people but as people we like. Times like this retreat are absolutely necessary to our sanity, health and relationships as a team. I'm thankful we were all able to make the trip.

(As usual, pics are up on Flickr.)

Monday, October 17, 2005


We're headed out of town tomorrow. The team will be having a retreat at a beach house later this week and we're headed out there a couple days early to just relax. Russ and I are the only ones on the team who haven't taken any vacation time. The plan for today: go to Portuguese class, go to the mall and/or grocery store to buy last minute things for the trip, go to team meeting, come home and frantically pack, go to bed. But as has happened so many times since we've been here, our schedule changed.

I noticed the bus was much emptier this morning as we headed to class; I figured it was because we were a little later than normal. I noticed a grocery store was closed; I guessed it might have gone out of business. It wasn't until our teacher, Jaci, arrived that we found out what was going on: it's a holiday! Again.

Last Wednesday was a holiday. It was Dia das Crianças (Children's Day) and Dia da Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Day of Our Lady of Apparition). Technically the holiday is for Nossa Senhora but everyone uses it to celebrate Dia das Crianças. The stores and banks were closed. The movie theater was open but used this opportunity to charge us an arm and a leg. It was nice to have a day to relax when we knew we didn't have to be running around town because running around town would get us nowhere since everything was closed.

But we needed to get stuff done. Apparently it's Dia dos Comerciantes- if you look at the beginning of the word, you can kind of guess what it means. Today is the day that people who work in stores take off. No commerce today! This is the kind of holiday it would have been nice to know about beforehand. The mall? Closed. Grocery stores? Closed. Our plan for today? Out the window.

So now we're at home. It's good--there were plenty of things we needed to do at home--but we really needed to get some shopping done as well. We'll have to try to go tomorrow before we leave town. Unless there's some other holiday we don't know about.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Worst of Times

This weekend we, along with Travis and Alicia, have been watching the Parkers' boys while they took a weekend away. (Lauren stayed with the Maberys). It's been a great weekend, full of trips down to the pool, to the park and, this afternoon, to McDonalds.

This morning I slept in. (We were up pretty late last night). I looked at my watch: 10:30. I walked out to the living room and started talking to Russ and Alicia. Russ mentioned something about the computers changing times. I figured that North America must have ended daylight savings time and the computers must have not been set for our part of Brazil. I say "our part of Brazil" because not all of Brazil observes DST. Eleven states do. Our state, Bahia, is not one of them. This is what I knew before I started trying to figure out what time it is.

We had two computers with two different times- 10:30 and 11:30. The TV satelite said 11:30. Watches and clocks all said 10:30. Still not sure.

I looked up what time it is in my "home" time zone, central. If we hadn't changed but they had, it would mean that there would be a difference of three hours. It was 8:30 so, I reasoned, it must be 11:30 here. One computer and the satelite were right. But as I kept looking, I discovered that DST had not yet ended in North America--there's still two weeks left (which I'm sure most of you already knew). So that meant it should be two hours difference still, making it 10:30. But then why did some things have other times?

With my new hypothesis about the current time, I started looking online. Every site I went to did not show the time. said the statistics were for 11:00. Great. That helps. The average of the two.

I did a little more research about Brazil and DST. Yes, some states observe it but the list, and the dates that determine the beginning and end of it, changes every year. So maybe some years Bahia observes DST, I don't really know. But for this year, we don't. And this really is the day the clocks change, just not for us. I guess the satelite is just on some general time, so we'll just have to mentally convert it for the next few months. I think I've figured out the right time. Of course now, since I've taken the time to write this and stop the boys from crying, it's an hour later.

(If you're confused, we're still two hours ahead of central time. For the next two weeks, anyway. Then you guys "fall back" and it'll be three hours difference, like it was when we first got here.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

More things we can count on

Last night, after helping the Maberys unpack their shipment from the US (yay! it only took seven months), we visited our local art feira (market). Now that we are heading into summer, the park across the street from us hosts them ever two weeks. It's become common enough to us now that we know the regular vendors. We also know who was not there. My favorite new display was a group of indiginous men dressed in traditional paint and beautiful feather headdresses. We knew is was for show, but hey, you still don' t get to see people dressed like that every day. We didn't find things that we couldn't live without, except of course for some yummy churros (think tube-shaped dounts).

This weekend is our turn to plan the evening worship with the team. I have been thinking about getting comfortable enough start moving the service into a language we are much less comfortable with. We sing a few songs in Portuguese, pray, and sometimes read scripture. We are preparing to make something that was very different into our normal way to worship. Please pray that we will soon find a feeling of familiarity with the words we are using to praise God. I wish that everyone would take the chance to rediscover the language of praising Him all over again.