Thursday, January 3, 2008

Regular Size Keys.

We still have the faintest outlines of sunburns, and scabs where our mosquito bites were. Most of our stuff is still in bags. And when someone brings me food at a restaurant, I still want to say "gracias," or "obrigada." But one very concrete thing makes our current location unmistakable:

It's a winter wonderland!

That's right, we are home. We arrived just in time for beautiful holidays with our families and the Iowa caucuses. It snowed a whole bunch on New Year's Eve, as if to remind us once again that we are not, in fact, on the beach in Brazil any longer. But we had an amazing, eye-opening, learning, hilarious, relaxing experience, and we are happy to be home. I told myself that I would make sure not to forget to reflect in some way (cheesy perhaps, but it's the educator in me), but I realized that we've been doing that every day, just by going through our things, giving gifts, telling people stories, organizing pictures, and trying not to forget our tango steps or espanol. We'll see how it is when we actually go back to work in a couple of days.

As for the blog, I suppose it'll be done for a while, or at least on extended rest (although always here, of course, for fun photo review!). We hope that everyone had wonderful holidays and that we can reconnect sometime soon. Until then, feliz ano nuevo!!

Monday, December 31, 2007

Parati or Paraty pronounced (Par-a-cheeeeee!)

(Disclaimer: We know this is really late, and we are actually home when writing this, and we may no longer have any readership anyway. But we humbly ask your forgiveness; there was NO place to successfully upload pictures in Rio, and then when we got home it was all a flurry of not finding cameras, not finding cords, and Christmas. Go figure. So just pretend it's a week ago! Shhhh...)

was the site of the one day of sun we got in Brazil. Although one out of six could be a tragedy, we were able to successfully capitalize. Even if we had known that the sun was only going to poke through the clouds one day, I still would have chosen to spend it in Paraty. Set on the coast five hours south of Rio de Janeiro (January River), this former Portuguese trading post is now a white-washed port town and launching point for day-long touring boat trips. The five hour trip we went on was easily was one of the best events in Brazil and an ideal way to bring our trip to a close. See for yourself:

The Streets of Paraty

A View from the Docks

Margaret on the Schooner in Paraty

Glare Warning!
Brian, Niamh, and Colm Swimming With the Fishies

In Paraty, we got to meet and hang out with a couple from Ireland (pictured poorly above), who had just moved back from seven years in Australia and were honeymooning for six months in South America. We effectively had a two-day-long double date with these people. The first day it was cloudy so we took a four hour bike ride to a couple waterfalls and a restaurant. Cold and tasty, respectively. The second day (the day of sun) we all went on the schooner ride. They were maybe the nicest people we met the whole trip.

All-in-all, Brazil was the right place to put at the end of the trip. It helped us re-acclimate ourselves to paying more than 5 dollars for things (what seems like the average price for everything in Argentina). Brazil was also just more easygoing (nearly everyone wears board shorts and sandles around town). You don't want to know what Brazilians wear on the beach. I'd show you, but this is a PG blog after all.

Stay tuned for the final blog post!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Don't even get me started on the cheesy bread.

Unbelievably, we somehow made it out of Buenos Aires, albeit a bit exhausted and loaded down with more bags than we had originally was hard to leave, but we were psyched about our last week of the trip, to be spent in Brazil!

But I can't tell you all about it yet, like I want to, until I can find an internet cafe that will let me upload a few photos. And no, I can't ask the guy in charge because my Portuguese is limited to "Bathroom? (eyebrows raised)" and "two mango juices please." So pictures of the first few days will maybe have to wait until tomorrow or so. Right now, however, we are in Rio. And I can tell you a little about that.

We arrived in pouring rain two nights ago, and the weather has been better, but cloudy and drizzly, ever since. Not exactly ideal for the ever-popular lazy day on Ipanema beach. Sooo, maybe we haven't had the opportunity to put on our way-too-modest-for-Brazil swimwear and blind the locals with our whiteness here in Rio. So maybe we don't "speak" Portuguese. So what? There is still plenty to do here my friends! And so far, beyond a little neighborhood exploring, running, and streetcar rides to historic Santa Teresa, the vast majority of our tour here has involved--what else?--searching out the fine culinary delights that Rio has to offer. Oh yes, the language of food is universal! And fortunately here, you usually don't have to even say anything to get it. First, the free breakfast at our hotel is amaaaazing. Tropical fruits, pastries, strong coffee...anyone who knows me knows that that is pretty much all I need to be in a great mood. And it's free and buffet style, so I didn't even have to talk to anyone to get it! Then there was sushi. In a land close to so much ocean and with a sizeable Japanese population, it's pretty great. Last night Brian managed to order, receive, and subsequently demolish an all-you-can-eat deal, just by checking off some random items on a piece of paper! Not bad. In addition, many of the restaurants here are known as "kilos," as in kilograms, as in you go around and put a bunch of food on a plate, and then they weigh it and charge you. Bam! Can you say easy? And this is no Old Country Buffet, folks. We are talking amazing food of all kinds for very little money. And finally, the one type of food I have learned the vocabulary for: juice. On every--and I mean every--corner, there is a juice bar selling fresh "suco" of every kind, made to your liking. Seriously, ask me any fruit name in Portuguese, I know it. I could even order you a blend if you want.

The weather forecast is a bit better for tomorrow, our last day in South America. But even if I don't sit under an umbrella continuously slathering myself with sunscreen, I still have plenty to keep me happy.

More pictures and Brazil details coming very soon!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Los Dougherty

My family came to Buenos Aires and has since left. Bridget, Justin, Mom and Dad were here for ten days (finishing up two successful weeks of visitors), and I can honestly say it was on of the smoothest trips we've ever had. It would have been the perfect family vacation had Brittnye and Theo been here. Then, however, we would have had eight people in the smallest apartment ever, which would have required the construction of some kind of bunk bed to fit everyone.

We accomplished everything Margaret and I thought they needed to do and see to get a good feel for the city: the Recoleta Cemetery, La Boca, a bunch of other neighborhoods, Plaza de Mayo, way too many good restaurants, San Telmo, a tango show, and we even went to Colonia, a city on the Rio De La Plata in Uruguay, for Thanksgiving. I had a really good time. I'm glad they came and am already looking forward to the next random family vacation. Where to next guys?

Here are a few pictures of the trip:

La Boca, a neighborhood in Buenos Aires.

A Parilla (Steakhouse) in San Telmo.

My mom chillin' with some fruit. Don't ask.

Our Thanksgiving Dinner Table.

Bridget and I sitting by the Rio De La Plata in Uruguay.

We met a dog in Uruguay outside a random restaurant in Colonia. All in all, she did the best job of summing up my general feeling about the trip, which, as you can see, was relaxing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Can't we stay?

It is true, our lives have been very easy and simple here, with very little obligation. However, for many reasons, things have become a lot more busy here in the last few weeks (in a good way).

Brian's family visited, which was a blast, and which he will write about soon enough. Because we want to include pictures, you know, we needed a few days to sort through the thousands of fabulous ones that were taken...

And, because this always happens the closer you get to leaving, we've just become more involved. We've met people and spent time with them, and we're into various activities. I, for one, have decided that this is a good time to focus on things that I've always wanted to do, and so I've been taking silkscreening classes (!) and continuing capoeira. And I've begun to work with a great youth arts organization, Proyectarte. Brian's Spanish is amazing (really, he's modest, but it is), because he goes to class five days a week. And now, of course, it seems like the time is going by too quickly!

More to come soon, we promise.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mom and Buenos Aires: A perfect balance.

My mom came to visit! And although it seems that she brought a little Chicago weather with here (where did those 80 degree days go?), we still had a blast. It was the perfect opportunity to do a lot of sightseeing and restaurant touring-- I think we pretty much hit all of the "must see" spots. For some reason several times we either forgot to bring the camera or discovered that it wasn't charged, so I'll do my best with the pictures we do have.

I have to say, I think it was a particularly successful five days because of our ability to balance everything perfectly. We stuffed ourselves silly with steak and discovered the best Malbec ever, but we also walked and ran through the parks and botanical gardens. We did the touristy but charming La Boca and saw an intimate little tango show, and also got off the beaten track by meeting up with some local friends-of-friends.

Mom and the lovely purple "jacaranDAH" trees.

We saw old Buenos Aires through the antique fair in San Telmo and the astounding Recoleta cemetery, and we saw "new" Latin America at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA).

Final resting place for anyone with power or influence in BA.
Also a fascinating architectural tour!

And of course, we balanced plenty of excellent coffee breaks (something my family has an uncanny ability for while traveling) with mom's first taste of yerba mate, Argentine-style. She didn't like it, but at least it was a new experience.

Mom: "I don't want to taste it-- it's ugly!"

Great balance-- we both wish you were still here mama!