Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Ticking Clock

Last Wednesday when the new moon rose, I became immersed in the "anyday" feeling of waiting for our baby to be born. I'm due on the full moon - April 28th, so I get to watch her (the moon) grow along with my stomach and anticipate that anytime it could come!!! What sets in really quick is a slight panic - am I ready!???? Where will I set up to nurse? Where will the baby sleep? Where will I change the baby's clothes? Are the clothes ready and washed? Am I prepared to be a mother? These are my last days of freedom!!! I should go out and enjoy them!!! Do we have a birth plan in place? Are my birth partners ready for this? Is the house set up to have a baby in?

I think these feelings are probably pretty normal, so I just plug along and try to get things done off my "to do" list (so gringo, I know, old habits are hard to break). There have been some distractions along the way - I had to have glass removed from the bottom of my foot it was really deep in there after a month... so there I was, trying to take a shower on one foot, not getting the other one wet, huge belly in the way and limping around. Right around the same time we had a week of torrential rains that scared the pants off the people of Salvador, stopped traffic, paralyzed the city except for the mud which came rolling off steep over-developed hills stripped of trees' roots needed to hold the land still. Landslides were abundant in Eder's neighborhood and the wall that held up his backyard fell onto the neighbors' house below. It was a night I'd rather forget, but left all of us quite shaken. No one got hurt and we are so grateful, so very grateful. Eder's family is dealing with all the repercussions, I haven't been over there since, needed to create some distance. Now that sunny days are back, the rental house mom and pete have is cleaned and mold-free, and we have internet (after 2 frustrating weeks trying to install it), I have a car to drive around in, and there's even a cleaning lady who is coming once a week to get a handle on this big place and the piles of laundry we accumulate, I bless life and all we have every day... I am able to return to doing Fulbright research and preparing for the baby's journey out of the womb and into the world. Eder is still painting like CRAZY! I'll put some photos of his art here, as well as my big ol' belly. I'm so proud of him and his incredible contribution to Salvador - he spends tons of time an money on the materials to be able to paint. You can check out some of the videos he's been making about painting here:

(this one is about Eder's painting with several different artists in Salvador)
(this one is about the National Day of Graffiti and some of the other pieces he's been doing)
(more documentation of his work)

And finally, here are some highlights from the last month:

- an incredible trip to Chapada Diamantina - a national park reserve about six hours from here. Me, mom, Pete and Eder headed out of Salvador for a week. We spent time in Capao - a small alternative town, very organized guides and local residents. We ate delicious pizza with a spicy honey on top! We visited gorgeous falls (where i stubbed 3 toes really bad!) and mom, pete and eder hiked the fumaca falls. Lencois, the other town we stayed in, was a bit more developed as a tourist destination, lacked that organic feel of Capao, but had some terrific little cute places to stay tucked into the side of a forest, one of the best waterfalls and waterholes i've ever swum in, and we had this incredibly delicious meal in a cute little town park recommended in Lonely Planet. The drive there and back was a bit tough - getting lost, and stuck in traffic from an accident, but all-in-all worth it!

- setting up our Itapoa house - doesn't quite feel like a highlight since it was a ton of work, but the outcome is great, and I'm feeling so fortunate to have access to this space. The house is huge (it use to be a Condomble Terreiro, so there's a very sacred feeling here). There is an abundance of plants in the front, along the side, and back. There's a big living room with all kinds of art and objects (and mosquitoes so we don't hang there much), kitchen and dining room and little living room off of it where we spend most of our time, 2nd floor has 3 bedrooms and the 3rd floor is a cool area to do yoga, look at the dunes and the sky, and hang laundry of course. In the middle of it all is a pool area on the first floor so we've had some fun times with friends swimming and hanging there. If all goes well, our little bambino will be born here! My friend Alicia told me too that Itapoa use to be a Quilombo - an escaped slave community - back in the day. So it's really quite an incredible place to be born into.

- Construction of the apartment: it's actually moving along!! Since I moved out to live over here there has been a lot of progress on our apartment. The walls are all up, and done, just need to be painted. The floors are all done, ceramic tiled. The kitchen just needs a counter and to install water and electricity and the appliances. The bathroom is the last big project, since we're rennovating it to make it bigger. We're also opening up the front to make a separate entrance for ourselves, so that's the last step. I guess we're still a ways away, but we have a month til I move back over there so I think it will be ok... I can't wait to have our own place. It's been "interesting" for me and Eder to have to live with our parents (and separately) in the days leading up to us becoming parents ourselves. I guess it's not ideal, but you make the best of what you've been dealt.

- a visit with mom's cousin Sam and his wife Linda - they were so fun to travel with. I brought them out to Arembepe (beautiful small escape town half hour outside of Salvador) to stay at Oasis - an ocean-front house rental by a couple from Brooklyn ( great place to stay!!! I highly recommend it... They joined us back in Salvador where we did some shopping in the city center, visited with Eder's family, went out to an all-you-can-eat crepes place, braved the Sao Joaquin market (wow, what a place), and went to listen to reggae music and to eat Ghanaian food (!!) in Pelorinho (Salvador's historic city center).

- Watching and feeling the baby grow - maybe this isn't a "highlight" as every now and then this big old baby is pushing down so hard I pretty much scream out in pain... but honestly, it's quite the sensation to have a human in there, my own child, and to watch the way the baby moves, reaches a hand out for me to tap or tickle, the hick ups, the stretches, the kicks. Pure joy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tales from Below the Equator - an update from Mom and Pete's perspective

Below is an email my mom and pete sent out to family and friends the other day. I have been too busy to blog, so it's the best I can do right now...

photos: me and pete @ Chapada (national park) in a terrific swimming hole; MST protest in our Itapoa neighborhood - burning tires at a Rotunda to call attention to the government for agricultural reform; mom hanging in the pool!; mom chillin' on the floor of Aunt Luissa's house with cousins after a delicious Sunday meal; mom waiting in the hour-long line at the infamous Bompreco supermarket (owned by Walmart)(no, we're not going back there again!); eder and mom; me and pete stretching on the beach - ahhhh we're finally relaxing!; and pete reading the birth partner book to mom as she sews the baby's changing table blanket.

Hi everybody, we finally can communicate on email. So here is the update,

As you know we are in Brazil for two months to be a part of the birth of Carly and Eder's child, due April 28th on the full moon. We have felt somewhat isolated from our world of friends and family while here in Brazil. Without internet access for almost 3 weeks we couldn't stay in touch with e-mail or phone calls using skype. During the first few weeks after our arrival we traveled around the state of Bahia and enjoyed being away from technology for awhile as we took a real break in very beautiful settings. First we traveled with Carly and Eder about 6 hours from Salvador into a national park called -Chapada. While there we hiked the mountains and swam in beautiful mountain streams filled with waterfalls. Peter had arranged to do a training for local guides on Botany for two days and Eder did some murals on walls in the small t
owns. Carly and Kathy mostly hung out reading books on childbirth. One frustrating and amusing episode on this trip involved navigating with a GPS purchased in the USA and using maps of Brazil downloaded. It guided us onto a small obviously incorrect dirt road, and by then, we realized it had taken us significantly off course. So we asked directions in small villages and rode for a good two hours over rough dirt roads until we reached the good paved highway we should have been on. The GPS showed us traveling off-road parallel to a river and another highway which was not there.
The next week we traveled to some of the State of Bahia's beautiful beaches north of Salvador with weather deliciously warm for Peter and hot for Kathy. Kathy's cousin Sam and his wife, Linda joined us for this adventure. We stayed in 3 different coastal towns - the highlight was a 20 minute walk to a beach over mountainous sand dunes. It was mostly deserted so at times it felt like we were trudging through the Sahara. At the beach we met three women from Oakland, CA doing volunteer work in a small village. It turns out that they know a good friend of ours from Oakland. It felt eerily like a small world - meeting 3 people on a almost deserted beach in Brazil who know a friend of ours in the states.
When our vacationing was done, we returned to Salvador to stay in the house we had rented. Sam and Linda were still with us and Carly moved in because it is too difficult to stay at Eder's house while the construction of their 2nd floor apartment is going on. We were soon dismayed to find that, while the house is very artistic and unique as well as close to a beach, and near a park with a lagoon and hugh white dunes (covered in vegetation), it had a musty smell. On closer inspection there was old accumulated dirt and debris under furniture and appliances. Nothing seemed to be very clean,
or if it was, was suspect so that we did not feel like sitting on furniture, or on pillows, or using anything unless we washed it first. So we spent a lot of time after Sam and Linda left just cleaning. There was some urgency to our work since Carly decided to have the baby here. So we have been working to prepare a suitable space for the birth and baby friendly spaces. With the help of an experienced cleaning lady familiar with the techniques of cleaning tropical houses, the house is starting to feel fresher and cleaner. The owner has apologized and agreed to pay to have all the rugs cleaned and the pillows replaced.
On top of this there were events that happen in developing countries that frustrate everyday normal planning. There were two occasions that week when we took a break from cleaning and journeyed out - one day accompanying Carly for an appointment with her doula, or birthing coach, and on another day going to a shower planned by her fellow fulbright friends. Both times there were such horrendous traffic snarls that we never made it. Installing internet service in the house also turned into a major nightmare. After purchasing all the right equipment, Carly spending over 6 hours on the phone with technical support people and Eder's brothers coming over to assist, we still had no internet service. Since it was very hot in the room with the phone jack where Carly needed to be to make the calls and being 9 months pregnant, you can imagine the level of frustration. Finally, Eder's brother, Edson, found a friend who knew a lot about computers and they took the equipment to set it up and get it working, then brought it back here and it worked.
So we were feeling disconcerted and not real happy about our time here by that point. The final straw was a monstrous storm system that moved in, with beautiful lightning and thunder and then, incredible rainfall. With everything being so damp, what happened to me when I worked in the Amazon happened here- you pull out a backpack, or leather sandals, and they are all whitish with mold. One remedy is to place them in blazing sun for a couple of hours. Over 24 hours, about 12 inches of rain fell, and then, almost another whole week of rain with constant frequent showers every day, often a good inch of rain each time, and then a day of solid heavy rain that ended up causing some landslides in the "favelas", flooding roads, and shutting down the city. One scary night we saw a landslide behind Eder's house and read later that in that same neighborhood 2 children had died in another house. It put all of our woes in perspective after seeing the destroyed house and the homeless family. We realized that despite our adjustment problems we are so very lucky and privileged to even be here and have a safe and beautiful place to stay in. So we tolerate the mold growing on our backpacks and clothes - turning to the locals for advice. And we adjust to the cacophony of sounds around the neighborhood - crowing roosters at 4:00 am, endless Samba music on weekends, a yippy annoying little dog that barks for 45 min to an hour at a time (we have taken to barking back), helicopters circling overhead 3 - 4 times a day (they say it is because of a UN Security Council conference being held here this week), and a parrot next door who communicates with Peter at 7:30 am. Life in a new country has its challenges, and at some point you realize that unlike the familiarity of home you take nothing for granted. Everyday is new and different and you know you are alive.

We miss you all very much and will keep you posted on how our trip and Carly's pregnancy are developing. We'll have more to tell soon about the culture, Eder's family, and how the pregnancy is going.

Kathy and Peter