Thursday, June 30, 2011

Certified Nail Color Selector

Today I took Sam with me to get my nails done after I picked him up from preschool. Which would (with most any other three year old and even this one on a bad day) seem like an incredibly bad idea.

When we arrived there were three tiny puppies playing about the shop and Sam took immediately to the floor, petting and playing with them until the owner scooped them up and took them home. At which point he offered to select my nail color. Lucky for me he knows just what I like and choose navy blue with sparkles. Apropos for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday and for his funky mom. He then began to color code the rack of nail polishes much to the delight of the shop keeper, "Look mom, all the pinks are here, and the blues are here!" The nail 'techs' and other customers were quite charmed that my tiny boy had done this, instead of say, throwing them all on the floor or out the open second story window.

When he had completed his task, he snuggled up in my lap and asked me to read him a story. I am considering taking him with me on nail dates more often.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt

I am right smack in the middle of where I need to be.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Father-Son Bonding

Unfortunately, I haven’t taken the time to go on many solo outings with my second-born son, Pete. He’s still very young and may not have yet benefited from the experience. (aside: you know you have been in-country a long time when you want to use a Portuguese word instead of an English word. I wanted to write ‘aproveitou’ instead of ‘benefitted’ in the previous sentence. More so, the Portuguese word better fits what I wanted to say.)

Last week, Pete and I had one of our first solo outings. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to get ice cream, throw a football in the park or see a baseball game. We went to the dentist.

In a follow-up to the visit the day after the bathroom massacre, Pete and I delivered the x-ray of his remaining tooth to the dentist. “How do you take an x-ray of a 1 year-old’s tooth?” you may be wondering. Well, let me tell you, it ain’t fun.

Both Elise and I went. Elise sat in the chair with him, a lead-lined apron as heavy as a small elephant compressing her chest. As Pete started screaming and crying, the x-ray tech, a pimpled Brazilian youth with a full set of braces who looked not a day over fourteen, told us that it would be better if Pete was “bem tranquilo” and then proceeded to wait expectantly as though there were something we could do to keep Pete from crying as Pete is staring down the metal barrel of the x-ray machine. Elise and I looked at each other in disbelief. I tried communicating over Pete’s screams, that my son wasn’t going to stop crying to which he seemed to reply that we weren’t going to be able to take the x-ray today because he was crying.

Elise speaks her best Portuguese when she’s pissed off. She looked at me and said, “Tell him we’re doing it today.” Then looked at the x-ray tech and said “Agora! (Now!)” So while Elise held Petey’s arms down, I braced his head between my palms and held it there, vainly looking away, hoping I wasn’t being bombarded with too much radiation, as I was the only one in the room not draped in anything lead-lined. At any rate, we got the pic. Now, we just had to hope that it was a good enough image to satisfy the dentist so we wouldn’t have to go through that misery again.

Pete cried a few more times upon his second visit to the dentist, including right as we walked into the waiting room. He knew something wasn’t right. Fortunately, she didn’t have to re-examine the tooth, the x-ray was sufficient and we learned that the root of the tooth that didn’t fall out was not cracked and didn’t appear to have impacted the permanent tooth behind it, all this to the tinkling of a Mickey Mouse snow globe in the background, the only thing that kept Pete from spontaneously bursting into tears. He earned a balloon for his bravery.

I wasn’t quiet done with him, or hadn’t gotten enough, so the next night, a rare TGIW (Thank God It’s Wednesday) because of a mid-week Brazilian one-day holiday, Pete and I, just Pete and I, went to the store to pick up groceries for dinner.

Pete is at the stage where he won’t let you get away with anything. There is no definitive moment when you cross from being able to go about your normal routine into a realm where the little person who totters around you day in and day out is ready to glom off of you and adapt for his own everything you do or say. It happens without you knowing it. One day you can curse without fear of being repeated and the next Pete is in the bathroom tearing a small square of toilet paper from the roll and pretending to wipe his butt with it (only he can’t quite reach his butt so it looks like he is wiping the middle of his back, but it is unmistakable what he is trying to do).

One day I belch in the kitchen without an echo, the next I hear a gurglish squeezing noise, like Donald Duck choking. It’s Pete. Trying to burp, looking up at me before bursting into giggle.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Magic of Garden Gnomes

Just as my Grandmother and mother did when we were little, I have made gardening a rewarding and fun activity for the boys and for our family. Sam has his own garden now, which grows his own seeds. Started by him at school, planted by him. Add a few spinning pinwheels we picked up at the zoo recently and it is a regular Secret Garden in our side yard.

Peter helps me tend to my garden, watering, weeding (and not always the weeds! I'd like to tell you my green onions were thriving, but someone mistook them for grass) and harvesting our crops. Peter grasps handfuls of carrot and beets that I pick and 'oohs' and 'oohs' at them, then rushes over to our outdoor sink, pulls up a chair and demands that I turn on the 'wa wa' so that he may rinse the dirt from them before we snap off the greens and take them inside.

We take to the garden almost everyday after naps, donning our gardening Crocs and plastic sand shovels, the boys help me weed the garden, inspect and pick the carrots, the herbs for the evenings meal and lettuce for salads. They then work as a team, Peter to turn off and on and off and on and off and on (you get the idea) the water while Sam expertly holds his thumb in the stream of water creating a spray that delights our crops like a summer's rain.

Both boys have been tasting, if not eating all of the vegetables we pick and sometimes right out of the garden as I so fondly remember doing as a kid. Peter is a little more adventurous and can be spotted with a piece of lettuce dangling from his lips nearly every afternoon. The pride in their eyes (and my own!) having grown these edible items from just tiny seeds is certainly the reward of a lifetime that is positively heartbreaking to let a child miss out on.

Rio in Photos

As you previously read here, our dazzling weekend getaway to Rio was just that. Here are just a few photos that I took on our adventure, the rest are tucked neatly in my memory.

Zaza Tropical Bistro, the view from our window seat, shutters thrown open to the cool Rio night air...

Lovers on said getaway.

The first light. Mountains, atlantic ocean, perfection.

Cheesy tourist photo. Cheeeeeeseee!

JC himself, arms wide with welcome.

Like a moth to a flame, I catch helicopters as they buzz the Corcovada.

crazy people dangling off an ultralight

Paulo grooves to a little Samba rhythm on the ride back down.

Another kind of perfection, the rest of the photos of this latte and whoopie pie lovers reunion are too personal to share.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


We landed shortly after six. The sun had already set and so we were sent to scurry through Santos Dumont airport in search of a cab. One of the few pieces of advice I had been given by colleagues currently living in Rio de Janeiro was bypass the press of cabbies trying to hustle you before you get to the taxi stand and go straight to the street which is what we did.

I had seen pictures of the Rio cityscape before so had an idea of what it would look like, but anytime you arrive somewhere new by night, its true form remains a mystery until the next morning. As we drove the streets of Rio by night, from the airport to our hotel in Ipanema, the city looked like any other city, roads, building and bright orange street lights like those in Brasilia, much more orange than street lights in the U.S. and much less expansive, their glow localized to a small orb that barely lit a few square feet of sidewalk. As we drove the streets of Rio by night it looked like any other city until we saw him, a burst of light between two skyscrapers as bright as a camera flash and silver like moonlight, Christ the Redeemer. I had no idea he would be that bright and the first time I saw him reminded me of the first time Elise and I saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle like a thousand paparazzi flashbulbs popping. It was that magical.

We checked into our hotel, threw our bags on the bed and immediately headed downstairs. Our hotel conveniently and not-so-coincidentally was directly upstairs from Devassa, a chopperia. We quickly downed a few India IPAs and off into the cool winter night (by Rio’s standards) for Zazá Tropical Bistrô.

In Rio, it truly feels as though the jungle grew around the city or the opposite. Giant trees line the streets, palms poke through and crack the sidewalks everywhere and vines hang in front of shop fronts and bars. We disappeared into the darkness, remerging a few blocks away, in front of an old colonial house, bright robin’s egg-blue under the streetlights, decorative wrought iron bars on the windows, screened door on the porch and multi-colored Christmas lights draped over the railing. We were taken upstairs, asked in Portuguese to remove our shoes and padded across a lush shag carpet to a table that was no more than a few inches off the floor. We slid into a low booth next to each other and a window and were soon sipping red wine, romantically tucked into one another like two pieces from a jigsaw puzzle. Woodwork fairies with plastic wings hung from the stucco ceiling and carried small, airplane bottles of Absolut through the air.

The next morning, Rio revealed itself. We were two blocks from the sea, but the mountains appeared and we could spy a sliver of ocean between the balconies of two buildings. We hurried, saving showering for later when we knew we would have to rinse salt from our skin. We hailed a cab and were driven by Lagoa, and sunlight streamed through the palms and twinkled off the surface of the lake. Joggers made circuits of the perimeter, as did bicycles and baby strollers, in front of apartment buildings in front of mountains in front of a cloudless deep blue sky.

At Cosme Velho train station we breakfasted on pão de queijo as we waited for the cog train to take us up to Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer. Fortunately or unfortunately, pão de queijo is ubiquitous in Brazil. A colleague of mine recently commented that there are some days that he feels as though he couldn’t stand to eat another pão de queijo, warm fluffy balls of dough around a gooey cheese core, and that there are other days he feels as though he can’t get enough. This trip, Elise and I definitely couldn’t get enough and were eating them wherever we could get them, the airport, the train station, off the street.

That morning, on Corcovado, something kept happening to trump the amazing thing that had just preceded it. We took the train forty-five degrees straight up into the jungle. Soon a samba band started playing. Then, the train stopped and the conductor got out to look at a coatimundi curled up in the trees. At the top of Corcovado, an ultra-light buzzed our heads, threatening to fall from the sky, and helicopters swooped in so close, I thought Christ was going to reach out and pluck one straight from the air. Monkeys bounded about in search of cookies. They were very well-fed monkeys and certainly soon to be diabetic.

We took the train down from Corcovado and hopped into a cab headed for Leblon Shopping…and Starbucks! As I have written before, Starbucks holds a special place in our hearts for many reasons, and the opportunity to go to Starbucks after 6 months without was too good to resist. We added a Rio mug to our ever-growing collection of Starbucks mugs from all the places we have lived or visited. I ordered a java chip frappacino. Elise ordered a vanilla latte. Ordering Starbucks in Portuguese is even trickier than ordering in English. Whereas ordering Starbucks in English is already a multi-lingual exercise combining English with Italian (“Venti”) and French (“Café au Lait”), ordering Starbucks in Portuguese throws a fourth language in the mix. I soon discovered that cake-pops in Portuguese are, “cak-ee pop-ee-s” (they were for Sam, but were poor substitutes for his beloved sprinks donuts). Also, it was easier just to leave off the many qualifiers that Elise and I usually use since I don’t know how to say “skim milk” in Portuguese (“leite light-ee”?) or “frappacino with an extra shot of espresso”. I even forgot to ask for the frappacino without whipped cream, but since it is probably the only frappacino I would have all year, I let it go and tried not to feel too much like Britney Spears.

We ran back to the hotel to change into our bathing suits and skipped to Ipanema beach. We immediately stood out. Not because Elise or I don’t look Brazilian, but we definitely weren’t dressed for the beach like your typical Cariocas (slang for Rio-dwellers). I didn’t have a sunga (“speedo” or “banana-hammock” in American English) and Elise didn’t have a bikini. We lounged among the natives, quickly learning why the beach is the social nexus of Rio. I plunged into the Atlantic. Elise curled her toes in the too-perfect sand, sand the texture of talcum powder.

As the sun started to duck behind condos, a happy hour snack was in order and we shared a plate of fried fish and two ice-cold cans of Bohemia beachside from one of the many quiosques lining the sand, ready to rehydrate the masses. The proprietor of the quiosque proudly displayed his English proficiency as he convinced us that his fish was the best fried fish…not in Rio…not in Brazil…in the WORLD. He was very nearly correct.

Saturday evening, I had grand plans of taking Elise up to Santa Teresa, a bohemia neighborhood in the hills above Botafogo, for dinner in a restaurant with views of Pão de Açucar from tables nestled in tree houses, but the last thing either of us wanted to do at this point was climb into another cab. I go into so much detail here so as to whet Elise’s appetite for the next time we are in Rio. Trust me. There will be a next time. Elise just about signed me up to process visas at the consulate on the spot. If nothing else, we now know I can use our Portuguese to bid Rio in the future.

Instead, we did what Elise and I do best, wander until we find someplace sufficiently cool. That place was ¡Venga!, a Spanish tapas bar. I tried my first Estrella, a Spanish beer, which was more than adequate. Now I know if we ever go to Madrid or Barcelona, I won’t go thirsty.

Sadly, our adventure had to come to end, our batteries recharged, our bellies full, our romance rekindled (as if the flame had ever suffered), and I will not soon forget my lips on her curls or my beard on her shoulder, smelling her and the ocean at the same time and remembering how lucky we are.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Show Me Your Morning Face........

Casa Hanna, 6:30 am. Spooky.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Places, Things, Sounds and Smells

I love it here, I love our decision to change our lives and I love it's effect on our family, on our marriage for certain. We are closer, we are more understanding and we are more compassionate. But how and just exactly when did we get to this place?

We've only been here six months. We chose neither this country, this city, nor this home, yet this house feels like home, these fruit trees feel like they've been ours since they were seedlings, our garden under the watchful eye of a tropical sun and Sam's careful afternoon waterings, seem to have been here much longer.

And I wonder as I often have in my life, where along the road, and I wish I could pinpoint when though I suspect it happens gradually and that you only realize it in one instant, when and how it all began to feel familiar.

With the commonplace sound of yet another jet landing over our barrel tile roof at Brasilia International Airport, I am unexpectedly taken back to when the faces glued to the tiny oval windows of that plane, were ours. How different everything looked. Nothing familiar, everything new. Our senses turned to ninjas the second the rubber hit the tarmak as they always do when we are put in an unfamiliar place.

Roads we drove home on from the airport just a half a year ago seemed so foreign we could have been driving on the moon our sense of direction was turned into a spinning compass. We were overwhelmed by humidity. Our eyes were desperate to adjust to the light of our first Brazilian morning after a night spent in a dimly lit fuselage. The sound of Paul's most familiar and comforting voice speaking for the first time, a language I had never heard spoken outside of a classroom. The musty smells of embassy vans headed God.Knows.Where.

Our new home. You know the smell, the one that greets you after a long vacation, it often isn't the sight of the place that brings you that first sigh of relief "ah home" it is the very first essence of the place that puts your heart at rest. Now try to remember that smell from the very first day you walked in your home. We tried to make it familiar fast, but it didn't come easily. Day after day we arrived and when the smell greeted me, it was almost sickeningly wrong to call this smell home....until it wasn't, and now I can't remember how it used to smell. Just a custom blend of my babies, my laundry, my cooking and my stuff.

As simple as the change in a midwinter's flight pattern, I am reminded that we are never far from where we came. That life will always begin to feel familiar again and no matter how hard you squint your eyes and try to see that place as home, you will never make it happen. It will just grasp you gently by the heart one day and you'll wonder when those streets became your town, when those trees became your yard, when those smells became your family.

We'll do it all again, perhaps sooner than we'd like. Who would we be if we didn't have a love for things familiar? Inhuman, I am sure. But someone else, who you'll want to dub the "Gods of the Foreign Service" but I believe are the Gods of something else, will choose our next country, city and home and it will all begin a new again. Until one day I'm driving in my car down some road, in a country I am not from and a city that is not my own....and I will be home again. \


Thursday, June 9, 2011

30 Days of June

If you have not recently done so, I encourage you to head on over to my photography blog, where I am showcasing the 30 days of June (so I'm a few days late, I want to make June last into July, forgive me). A challenge to take and share a photo a day. Which also may or may not (MAY!) be inspired by the wonderfulness of Brazil, my family and all the beauty that the world has to offer that we don't always take time to document as it occurs in front of our very eyes each day.

Enjoy week one!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Devil Wears Baby Gap

We love this little bug, quite unlike anything we've ever loved before, but he is often a whole lot of attitude in one tiny baby body. See the photo above for a typical display of dissatisfaction. Here captured on our side-walkway atop a sewage grate, but anywhere will do. Malls, tennis courts, kitchen floors, gravel. This is really the extent of his tantrum display (as if this isn't mortifying enough for a parent) he just lies gently down, face up or down, he isn't picky, and sticks out his little lips (or bico [bee-koo] meaning "beak" in Portuguese as Zilda, our maid, calls it) to pout all the way up to his little nose often stifling his breath for a second for effect. He lays there for a moment then usually starts laughing at himself or us trying not to laugh at him and moves on. We exchange glances that say "Oh my gosh, I swore a child of mine would NEVER do that!" Then we laugh out loud at our naivety.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Money Earned, Sanity Lost.

11am, our master bathroom: impromptu nap

It is on days like today that I call my mom to detox about my day and she remarks "You earned your money today!" Sadly, no real money was earned, but perhaps I will eventually be able to cash in my bank of love and at least be able put a down payment on that seat in heaven I've been saving for.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Tooth Fairy Arrives Early

The last splice of normalcy I remember was I turned to start running the boys’ bath. The next thing I know Peter is on the bathroom tile, crying, face up like a turtle put on his back. Sam looks up at me guiltily and immediately launches into a litany of apologies. Elise and I had read recently that a toddler apologizes to deflect anger or punishment, more of a defense mechanism than anything else, though these were sincere. After I looked at Pete, I told Sam to go get his mother. Elise heard me from the other room and knew it couldn’t have been good. Rarely, if ever, do I call for back-up.

He hit his mouth on the toilet. Later, I would find one of his two front teeth on the bathroom floor, completely intact, root and all, as though it had been just slipped out. I put the tooth in a Ziploc baggie. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it or if it could even be saved. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I always hear people say when you lose something put it on ice, because they might be able to sew it back on. Doctors can transplant faces, so surely they could just stick the tooth back in, right?

I asked Elise to take Pete so I could look in his mouth. When that didn’t work, I took him back and put him on the counter. He sat there and let me tip his head up so I could see his top teeth.

“Did he have front teeth?”

Elise started crying.

I asked Elise to make a bottle. I changed Pete’s diaper and put a onesie on him and got him ready to go to the hospital. Elise called a good friend to come watch Sam. It was 6:30. We got stuck in rush hour traffic on the way to Santa Lucia at the tip of Asa Sul or the “South Wing” of the Plano Piloto that is Brasilia. I stayed calm. There was blood, which, as a habit, I usually don’t do well. But as I was stuck in traffic, wishing the taillights in front of me away, I could feel an anxiousness well up inside of me. There had been, perhaps, just a bit too much stress this week, even a week shortened by the Memorial Day holiday. Maybe I need to rewind to Tuesday night by way of explanation.

Tuesday evening after work I assumed duty as the on-call officer. Fortunately, in Brasilia, the duty phone goes weeks without ringing. I had the phone less than an hour before it rang. A women flying to Miami the next day at 3:00 in the afternoon did not have her visa. Okay. No big deal. I told her to call the Embassy in the morning. Since she interviewed last week, it should be ready or could be made ready and if she called early enough, she would have plenty of time to come pick it up and still make her flight with plenty of time to spare.

A half hour later it rings again. 7:11 p.m. A plane has gone down 32 miles outside of Belem into the Amazon with 3 Americans aboard.


I was on the phone for the next two hours, relaying information, reconciling conflicting information...there were 7 on board...3 American and 3, there were 4 3 Indians...there was one, two planes, one landed successfully the other landed in a clearing in the jungle on the Ilha de Marajo, taking coordinates. I thought it was a test of my ability as the on-call. I thought it was a prank. At one point I was counseled, “Having to spend the night in the jungle is an acceptable inconvenience for flying a charter plane over the Amazon.” By 11:30, the phone had stopped ringing. (All were uninjured and in no immediate danger. The fire department picked up the downed passengers in a helicopter shortly after dawn.)

We parked at the hospital and checked into the pediatric ER. I sat down and gave the attendant Peter’s name. I spelled it for him. “É tudo?” (“That’s all?”) “Sim.” (“Yes.”)

The screen on his computer looked like this:

Joana Madalena Abreu Santos Almeida
Maria do Carmo Mão de Ferro e Cunha
Leonor Soares Henriques Pais de Graças
Bruna Fabiola de Cunha Oliveira e Costas
Peter Hanna

Eventually the attendant looked up at me, then looked at my shirt and asked, “Sangue?” (“Blood?”)


“Dele?” (“His?”) pointing to Petey.


His eyes widened like saucers.

Word to the wise, to fast-track your way through a Brazilian ER, show up bloody. Pete appeared to be the only person in the crowded ER in a state of genuine emergency. I don’t know how the Brazilian healthcare system works (admittedly, I don’t know how the American health care system works either), but it appeared as though everyone else in the emergency room was there for a routine check-up.

We waited outside Sala 7, a Brazilian soap opera on all of the ten or so flat screen TVs.

We didn’t wait long, and once the doctor—in high heels, like all the other female doctors—no orthopedic loafers or Crocs in Brazil, folks!—cleaned up Petey’s mouth, she discovered that the other tooth was still there, pushed up into his gum. The orderly had to bind Petey up like a burrito while she cleaned his mouth. He even used tape. But the doctor convinced us that he wasn’t in pain, and that the only pain he felt was just at the moment the accident at occurred. Both Elise and I had a hard time believing that. How did the doctor know? Pete fell asleep in Elise’s arms as she wrote down the name and number of a pediatric dentist.

We went to the dentist the next morning. Before putting Peter in the examination chair, she went through everything she was going to do to Peter with a stuffed lion, going so far as to put sunglasses on the stuffed lion and turning on the examination light. She lowered the lion’s chair, tilted him back and even put the tiny, extendable mirror in his mouth. Peter looked on tentatively, huddled in Elise’s arms. I had never experienced anyone treating Peter has such a...person...more than just a baby or toddler, but someone with real emotions, trepidations and anxieties before, even more so than I do myself, sometimes. It worked. Of course, Peter wasn’t not going to cry or be nervous, but I believe it went much better than it might have gone otherwise if she just threw him in the chair and had her way with him, jabbing long metal mirrors in his mouth. She said he was going to be fine. Something I think we had already concluded, but it was nice to hear it from an authority.

The one tooth couldn’t be put back in despite the marvels of modern medicine and the lengths to which I had gone to preserve the tooth (I still have it. It’s in the same Ziploc baggie in my breast pocket as I write this.), and the other would descend on its own. We aren’t completely out of the woods yet. We still have an x-ray to take which will undoubtedly entail more crying, more wrestling, but I think the worst is behind us. The space won’t fill in until he gets his adult tooth which may come earlier than normal since it won’t meet any resistance. And if he is ever feeling self-conscious he can get a prosthetic when he is a little older, but throughout he was quintessential Peter, easy to smile and tough as nails.

The tooth fairy came last night and left him one Brazilian real. Moreover, he gets to keep the tooth.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chapada dos Veadeiros

For Memorial Day weekend, the Hanna Family packed up the Soob and drove 4 hours north of Brasilia to a tiny town called Sao Jorge. Just past Alto Paraiso, the highway ends and the road becomes red dirt and for the next 10 miles or so we bounced along, deftly defying monstrous potholes and flightless birds about Sam’s height that we spontaneously dubbed ovoraptors, because they looked more like something out of one of Sam’s dinosaur books than any bird either Elise or I were familiar with, looking out over a landscape that truly looked as though it were a backdrop from "Land of the Lost". Palm trees dotted a savanna that curved into high, jagged plateaus pulled from the valley floor.

We pulled into Sao Jorge, leading a contrail of red dust. Sao Jorge is a one road—dirt road—town at the foot of Chapada dos Veadeiros, a national park. Stray dogs with dread-locked fur darted in front of our car. Old men drank cans of beer on plastic patio furniture in front of the one small supermarket, watching futbol. Satellite dishes dotted the tile rooftops and chicken pecked in the dirt. Everyone seemed dyed red like the earth and covered in a fine layer of dust like us. All were weathered and worn. All smiled. Two elderly women crossed the ‘street’ under a parasol for the sun.

We found our pousada, Casa das Flores, and checked in. Elise and I tabled our two welcome drinks and instead stripped the boys down after a quick lunch of peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches and headed straight for the pool…only to find the pool was freezing (it is winter in Brazil). So we swam in the hot tub instead. The later part of the afternoon found Elise lounging in the hammock sipping a glass of wine. The stars were out in abundance and there was music ao vivo poolside. The owner of the pousada had recorded his own cd and played songs from it until well past everyone went to bed.

The next morning we woke bright and early…maybe a little too early by pousada standards, as Petey was ready to go at 5:15. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, so was the rest of the nearly full pousada. We waited for what seemed like hours until the sun rose, but it was every minute worth the wait as café de manha (breakfast) was served right in front of our room, pao de quiejo, fluffy balls of sweet dough baked around a soft cheese core, eggs, açai (Sam’s favorite. he thought it was chocolate. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was a fruit and, therefore, actually good for him), granola, strawberries and cream, ham, coffee and fresh-squeezed juice, orange on Sunday morning, pineapple on Monday morning.

After breakfast we piled everyone into the car and headed for the Vale da Lua, the Valley of the Moon, an area of water-shaped rocks that looks like you are on the surface of the moon. Water pools in many of the craters, and, in one spot that we hiked down to, there is a wading pool, waterfalls and the rocks hang over the cool, clear water, a perfect place to jump. The road to the trailhead was only a road in the loosest definition, and we truly tested the mettle of the Outback. Macaws flew overhead as we made our way to the end of the trail through the jungle. Elise even got out of the car at one point to record a video to be used in a future Subaru commercial as we splashed through a ravine.

Everyone changed and was soon swimming. I plunged off the rocks, Sam and I explored crevasses and Elise stroked out into the middle of the pool. Afterwards, we had a car picnic out of the back of the Subaru, then we drove back into the main town of Alto Paraiso for gas and to give the guys naps and Elise and I a small opportunity to connect which is sometimes challenging when you are each respectively chasing a toddler around keeping them from going head first over a waterfall.

We had dinner at Pizzeria Lua in Sao Jorge. We walked down the dirt road under a cover of a thousand stars and arrived at an outdoor pizzeria comprised of pockets of light. It was as if the entire place were made up not of tables or chairs or physical objects, but built from modes of lights connected to one another. The bar was one point of lavender light, the pizza oven another warm flicker, the fire pit a third, candles on the rustic wood picnic tables and bare light bulbs over the perfectly green, perfectly manicured pool table, the only thing perfectly manicured in Sao Jorge, but most certainly not the only thing perfectly green.

On Monday we before heading home we stopped at a waterfall called Almecegas. The trail split and we had our choice of Almecegas I or Almecegas II and we choose Almecegas I. We will have to go back and find out someday if Almecegas II may have been the less difficult hike. I remember seeing on the guide back at the pousada that the difficulty level of the trail was ‘easy’ so the map must have been referring to a completely different trail than the one we hiked, because it was by far one of the most technical trails I ever hiked. I am certain it is the most technical trail I have ever hiked with Pete on my back and am certain is the most technical trail Sam has ever hiked. Somehow he convinced us that he needed to bring his sand digging tools and his plastic dump truck, so I had to lug those over the pass, too, like a sherpa. Sam was awesome, though. He skipped and darted over rocks like an old hiking pro and I see bright paths in his hiking/rock climbing future.

Almecegas was a beautiful, many-tiered waterfall. We stopped at the top of the waterfall and Pete and I looked over while Sam played in the shallow river. There were tiny fish swimming in the stream and for some reason we got the idea that we were going to catch one, but all we had at our disposal was Sam’s plastic dump truck, so we spent the better part of the next hour submerging the truck in the stream, trying to bait the fish into the bed of the truck with Cheerio dust then yanking the truck out of the river, hoping one of the fish was captured in the bed, but to no avail. We were lucky our plan that evening didn’t involve having to catch our dinner.