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

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