Monday, June 28, 2010

Our trip to the countryside for Sao Joao

I've been rolling this blog around in my head for days now, excited about many things to report. First, let's start with the "gorgeous charmer" who just turned 2 months old!!!! She is now giving us smiles on demand, as soon as me or eder reach that high pitched (rather annoying) goo-goo ga-ga sound, or if we softly bring our faces to nuzzle her neck, kiss her forehead, take a delicious wiff of her head, or blow air at her stomach, she will respond with a beautiful smile and coo and caa...

Zaya also took her first trip! We headed to the "interior" of the state of Bahia to a small town called Dom Maceo Costa for the Sao Joao June festivals (St. John). She handled the trip really well - 7 hour trip on the way there (traffic. usually it takes 2 1/2 hours), 5 hours back. she seemed to really like being out in the country - crying less than we've ever seen her and eating more than ever. I was definitely nursing her more than I was not during her waking hours for 3 days in a row. She must have grown so much! All these cute clothes that she doesn't fit into anymore. urgh!

At some points I thought I was crazy to be bringing a 2 month old to rural Latin America. Anyone who has traveled to the far corners down here know what I mean. But ultimately, I think she felt really peaceful and relaxed there. We slept in such simple quarters - the first two nights at grandma's house they threw down mattresses on the floor in the dining room and me and Zaya shared one and Eder took another. Sleeping next to her was like the old days (when she was first born). I'd feel her starting to stir and would just whip out the breast and have her nurse right there laying next to me! We'd both just fall asleep like that (don't know what the experts say about this but it felt quite natural and seemed to do no harm except for some minor spitting up as a result).

The second two nights we slept at a cousin's house way out in the countryside. The house must have been over 100 years old - with clay floors, bare minimum on the walls, electricity wired through the wooden beams on the ceiling . At least there was electricity and plumbing! None of the relatives we stayed with were put out about a family coming to stay with them (this was Eder's cousin's fiance - Danilo's cousin and grandma we were staying with). The contrary, they were always there to hold her when I ate, and so accommodating to our needs (to boil water for her bath, quiet down as we put her to sleep, wipe up endless amounts of spit up on their sofas, etc). There was no planning, preparation or organizing of anything - meals, sleeping, etc... it all just sort of unfolded in the moment, which works really well when you have a baby! If she was asleep or had to nurse, we just hung out longer. She flowed too with us getting in and out of the car to visit this aunt or that cousin and to bounce around on dirt roads with curves and hills, content to watch the beautiful scenery unfold outside the car. The countryside was stunning. We ate so much delicious food - fresh-killed chickens from the backyard, delicious beans, rice, salads, manioc cakes, beef. It's served so simply, but tastes so good when it comes from so close to the source (the downside of this of course was seeing so many cattle grazing near the water - Pete always use to get so upset when he saw that, pointing out how the manure seeps into the water and pollutes the ecosystem).

I was most enthralled by Danilo's grandma - what utter joy this woman was. She always had a smile on her face, always so happy and enthusiastic. We pulled up to her house at 11:30 p.m. the first night, not sure she even knew that Danilo was bringing a family with a newborn, but greeted us with such happy enthusiasm "I love babies!" She wanted to hold Zaya immediately. She was quite the talker and spoke at length about her life and history. She is 80 years old on paper, but explained that she's really only lived 78 years. Her godparents adopted her when she was little since they couldn't have any children. She spent her youth going between her real parents and god-parents' house. When she turned 16, her godfather changed her papers so that she would be 18 in order for her to vote for the political party he was a part of. Ah, corrupt politics at its best. She went on to marry her cousin (she was very nonchalant about that when I asked how they had met, seems like it was normal in the small town. Turns out he was a "bastard" child - the son of a "maid" and the man she worked for). Even though he was a bastard, she loved him dearly and teared up a bit every time she mentioned him (he passed 15 years ago - heart attack in his late '50s). It was quite endearing to hear her speak about how he he'd bring her bouquets of flowers from the countryside when he'd return from working on the farm, or how they never once fought. She went on to have many children - never really did get an exact number - anywhere from 10 to 15 (often the case when there are deaths along the way). Every birth happened at home, many times the midwife didn't get there in time. The first birth were twins, but one was stillborn - apparently because in the 9th month she fell down. Her last birth was her daughter Laney who still lives with her. Apparently Laney fell on the floor when she was born, hitting her head, and now struggles with epilepsy and what I think are some minor psychological problems. She seems to have that last-daughter-stuck-with-mother-and-resentful-of-it syndrome.

She was very religious, spent time watching some dorky looking priest talk at her in a condescending way on the TV. We had our most awkward moment when she asked me if I am Christian or Catholic and I replied that I was Agnostic. Her confused look made me remember the time I was with my mom in Sicily, the small town of our great grandparents, and great great aunt Rosa asked about if I go to church and I tried explaining that I wasn't religious - the whole time my mom making desperate gestures to me from behind her not to go down that road. So, back to Bahia, there I was, in broken portuguese, trying to explain what Agnostic means. Didn't go over so well.

They live in a little house on a block with identical houses throughout the neighborhood. I guess 4 years back the government built the houses and gave them away for free to people who didn't have a house, at least that's how it works on paper. The neighbors told me that many folks received houses because they were friends of a friend of a relative who was in government. Many sold the house they were given and made a profit, others rent and make even more of a profit still.

We spent most of the days on vacation watching futbol games in the World Cup. Zaya has also become quite the fanatic, she is definitely a Brazil fan, but wouldn't mind seeing Ghana win the whole thing. Like her parents, she's not that much of a U.S.A. patriot - since the U.S. dominates so many other things in the world. She slept through the entire Brazil vs. Ivory Coast game - pretty impressive feat in Brazil where with each goal (and there were 3 of them) there is a loud burst of screaming, clapping, dogs barking and tons of fireworks going off. With about 15 of us in the room across from where she was sleeping we were all so impressed that she didn't wake at all. That's how I like it!!! Today Brazil plays Chile and the loser "goes home" as the announcers like to remind viewers. All the family are slowly coming home from work early to watch the game - the whole country shuts down for a game, even the malls! It's been really fun to watch the games with so many of us squeezed into a room - eating popcorn loaded with salt and butter and sprinkled with fresh coconut) or peanuts (warm, salty and wet still in their shell).

I think I'll post this blog now, it's been long enough! ate mais!

Photos below:
Some recent work of Eder's and a random shot of our trip to the country

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