Brazilian Interlude

Written by Carmen on April 16th, 2010

Again my friends, I am writing after the experiences instead of in the moment.  But the time I spent in Brazil was simply fantastic on so many levels that I cannot let the feelings and impressions this country left on me slip by another day.  And so I will bring you up to speed as I sit in my dear sister’s home in Dayton, Ohio.

Brazil–what an amazing country, people, culture, music, food, time on the water, in the water–now you know why I must share it with you.  Where to begin?  I guess I will try to start where I left off in Florianopolis or really the island of Santa Catarina in a little town called “Lagoa” for short.  Five days turned into ten days, ten days turned into two weeks.  I didn’t want to leave this sweet little surfer town that reminded me so much of my Hawaiian hometown, Haleiwa in so many ways.  A typical mellow “surfer vibe”, equally beautiful ocean to play in, and gorgeous beaches to lounge on.  Also a very safe town by Brazilian standards and I knew that Rio de Janerio awaited with it’s masses of population, something around 15 million, it’s crime and it’s allure. 

I finally got on the bus for the 20 hour ride north to Rio after my two weeks of beach nirvana….

Rio "The Marvelous City"

Rio "The Marvelous City"

 

Rio de Janerio is a city worthy of, every bit of it’s amazing reputation.  I stayed on Copacabana, which is supposedly worse for tourist-related crime, but it’s also the least expensive compared to Ipanema.  My first 24 hours were quite funny now in hindsight, but my entry into the city wasn’t a warm welcome by any means. 

 

 For the first time I hadn’t done my “homework” as to knowing what type of cabs to trust, but it worked out.  Unfortunately when I arrived at the hotel, the front desk was swamped and subsequently very rude as well. They basically told me to walk the streets for 3 or 4 hours till a room was ready, it was cloudy, overcast and I was not a happy camper by this point.  But when I got to the boardwalk of Copacabana, in the rain and mist, looked at the view and said to myself, “I’m standing on a beach people dream about seeing–amazing!” 

By the end of the day, checked into my room , coming back from the city tourism office for some information, I decide to walk back up Copacabana’s boardwalk.  It’s nearing sunset and you really shouldn’t be walking around Copacabana after dark, especially alone.  As I start strolling up the street I notice an outdoor-type of bar with lots of people and some live music, so I decide it’s a good time to stop for a beer.  As I sit down at the bar, take a look around at the crowd and the women are dressed–well, pretty hot.  I’m thinking to myself, “I know Brazilian women are pretty uninhibited but these women just don’t seem right.”

I decide to chat with the two guys sitting next to me at the bar, they are English and we get to talking a little bit.  Well after sharing my observations with them about the crowd at the bar and the women, they inform me the place is a well known spot where all the prostitutes meet up with their “dates” after a hard day of work!

I just start laughing to myself about my first day in Rio…. =) 

I spent an entire week in Rio and it flew by.  I toured favelas, sad but an enlightening experience really.  Favelas by the way are the slums of the city.  Unfortunately Brazil’s government does not provide much in the way of social services to their less fortunate people.  Brazilians are a very happy people regardless.  They are also very connected to family ties, as is the case in most South American cultures, so they stay living in the favelas due to a sense of community that has been created over time.  There are a variety of businesses in the favelas, retail shops, grocery shops, and there is also drug dealing, the “biggest business” of all.  Interesting enough in Rio the drug dealers only deal in marijuana and cocaine.  They don’t deal in the seriously addictive drugs like heroine and meth.  I was told the reason why is they want their customers to be able to continue using over a long period of time without the other problems that come with major addiction.

Rio’s scenery is the most breathtaking scenery I’ve come across next to Hawaii’s.  There is something special when you have dramatic mountains next to beautiful blue ocean waters, just like Hawaii does.  It creates a special kind of energy.  People from these places know what I am talking about when I describe the feeling it gives you.

Yet more beauty awaited at my next destination, Paraty.  So, onward I went again.

A colonial harbor town with some sixty islands off it’s coast.  And another 365 islands up the coast to Rio.  An island a day.  Yes, I played on the water in Paraty plenty.  First day was via sailboat, next day in waterfalls in the mountain streams running down to this beautiful little town, next day via schooners to other islands and finally in one of their traditional-type motor boats you can hire to take you to where you want.  I joined a couple to share the cost and we had fantastic final day hopping islands, watching all kinds of folks in various forms of water transport and water toys. The couple and I just spent time talking, jumping off our boat into the beautiful waters, sipping beers and soaking up sun.  They spoke to me in Brazilian Portuguese me to them in Spanish and we understood each other just fine. 

A traditional Brazilian vessel

A traditional Brazilian vessel

 

 

Paraty will always hold a special place in my heart.  And something tells me I will return there one day to see how many of those 365 islands I can set foot on.  There definitely are plenty of vessel forms to choose from…

 

 

Unfortunately time was starting to run down on my time left in S. America and I had booked a flight out of Salvador de Bahia, which was either a 28 hour bus ride north or a 2 hour flight.  The cost of the flight and the bus were close to the same price so I decided to fly up north.  Talk about a difference between the two Brazilian states.  But a wonderful difference in every way as well.

Salvador, the first major port of the slave routes from Africa.  Approximately 5 million slaves came through this port during that era.  It’s hard to imagine that many slaves, but what it resulted in was a fantastic culture that is still very alive in it’s African heritage and traditions, as well as it’s religous beliefs, music and some fantastic food.  I only had 4 days here to try and glimpse a taste of it and again Brazil did not disappoint me at all.

Brazilian Eyes

Brazilian Eyes

 

I arrived very late on a Monday night and awoke the next day to beautiful blue skies and the “big” day of the week when they have their weekly free concert on Tuesday night.  My timing was great!  I had a room that overlooked the concert spot (travel karma)!  Did the crowd know how to dance to the music or what?! =)  Salvador is much closer to the equator therefore it’s a lot hotter there than where I was down south.  But these folks just moved and moved.  It was so much fun.  Amazingly the next day  everything was completely cleaned up, no rubbish lying around at all and believe me those streets were littered with beer cans everywhere.  Sadly again, I think the situation is that the folks that have so little find it worthwhile to pick up the cans & garbage as a way of getting money.  I guess the government is giving them enough in recycling money to deem it worthwhile.

I stayed in the old historical part of Salvador called “The Pelorino” which means “The Whipping Post”.  This area is again and old colonial part of the city where the slaves were brought to be traded from the ships arriving from Africa.  Another fact I found fascinating is the lighthouse here in Salvador was the first lighthouse in South America.  It’s been in existance since the 1500′s.  Really fascinating nautical museum there as well.

I also witnessed a candomble ceremony, which is a religious ceremony steeped in African tradition and prayer to their gods or “orishas” as they are known.  Pretty interesting stuff, and then on my last day I went to a local market where there was everything from voodoo dolls, fresh produce, and live lambs and chickens in wheelbarrows for the upcoming Easter weekend.  Yes, live for the time being.

I guess what I want to end this very long post/blog with is the feeling I left Brazil with.  A sense of appreciation for the fact the people there are not racist, nor have they lost their essence.  Their culture is a beautiful mix of the African slaves brought there, the settlers that came via Portugal, Italy, Spain, or the native indians that were there to begin with and have made these beautiful people.  Yes, they have their share of problems like every country on the planet, some worse some not.  But the people there are so happy.  They also see so much physical beauty in scenery and in their people–that what they look at when they meet you, is the person. 

And I left Brazil in love.

With me. 

Isso, Brazil…(that’s right).

 

Lagoa es Legao (Awesome!)

Written by Carmen on March 15th, 2010
I write again,  from my sweet little pousada I’ve enjoyed for the past two weeks, in the beach town commonly called “Lagoa” but in reality it is Lagoa de Concenciao on the Island of Santa Catarina off the Brazilian coast.  It reminds me so much of Haleiwa in many ways, but it is definitely Brazilian in ways that just put a smile on this face of mine. 
Life in Lagoa

Life in Lagoa

Let me see where to begin…

I saw my fifth rainbow this week, went to the beach or was on or next to the water 7 out of 7 days.  And this picture I am inserting here kind of sums it up… In Hawaii you can’t just have someone bring you a  chilled coconut to drink the coconut milk from.  Why is that?  I know the answer as do my American friends, things like–sanitary??? environmental preservation??! on and on…but they do, do it here in Lagoa in a very clean, esthetically pleasing and environmentally correct manner.  Leaving it all the more to be enjoyed.

It’s amazing here spending a day at the beach.  They have beautiful pristine beaches just like Hawaii, but then to add to the setting having someone serve you a chilled coconuts like this, cervesas, capirinas, or if you are hungry they bring around shrimp on a stick, or a pastel/empanada, or just about whatever you want from the restaurant above without it intruding  on the vibe and energy of just being on the beach.  Yes, you can bring your own cooler and do it “local style” too.  But it just makes for great entertainment, watching it all transpire around you while you are working on that ultimate Brazilian tan.  Which brings up the next subject…Brazilian bikinis.

I just love the way the women here are so comfortable in their own skin.  Yes, there are those drop dead gorgeous model-type bodies everywhere, but there are also those bodies not as perfect, and they are equally comfortable and confident in wearing equally revealing bathing suits and you know what? It makes for a sense of no inhibitions about one’s body, be it the perfect “10″ or the perfect whatever…it leaves you confident in your own figure, even if it isn’t a “10″.  What that leads to then is a kind of seduction of the senses, between the beautiful and the pretty and the real.  And that in itself is more sensual than you can imagine.  Connect that with this mellow, easy lifestyle on Lagoa and you have the makings for lots of happy smiles.  Or as they say here too, “Tudo bom!”

Then you end the day at the restaurant that is set back from the beach (done quite tastefully without compromising the natural beauty of the beach and much differently than what they did initially on other parts of the island and have ruined it) sit back and watch all the gorgeous beauty around you, be it the ocean or the people sitting next to you and feel seduced all over again.

Here is a little video clip of the setting, which I’ve put on Facebook already but for those of you who I don’t do that with I hope you will enjoy it.  The music is just their “house” music.

Lagoa Beachlife

Rio de Janeiro you have a tall order to fill!! =)

 

Playas & Praias

Written by Carmen on March 6th, 2010

I am writing to you from  Ilha de Santa Catarina,  in a little town called Lagoa da Conceicao.  Most folks know the name of Florianopolis best, which is the main city you arrive in via bus or plane (bus was my mode of transport) to get to this sweet island off the coast of southern Brazil.  It’s pouring rain out right now, so much that I’ve decided to have a pizza delivered instead of attempting to go out in search of something to eat tonight. I decided what a better way to spend a rainy night than bringing you all up to speed on my latest travels.

I spent two and a half weeks in Uruguay searching for Carnaval festivities, connecting with relatives (a cousin by marriage, Moises, and his sweet wife, Rebecca which I’ll write more about in this post) and searching for beach towns and the ocean that this “island girl” so loves to be near.  I thought I might find a sweet secluded beach that had not been discovered or developed yet.  Well I did find some sweet beaches along the Uruguay coast, but the water was definitely a lot colder than it was inviting.  Not to offend the dear, kind folks of Uruguay, they truly have a beautiful country with equally kind, beautiful people, but there is a reason their beaches aren’t overrun with tourists and travelers.  That Atlantic ocean is COLD!! =)  There is the exception of Punta del Este, which is like a mini-Miami beach of the jet set from Buenos Aires and surrounds.  But again, when I got in the water it was like those cold plunge pools at a spa you dip in and get right back out.  I guess I will state the obvious–I’ve been spoiled with the waters from Hawaii but it was a great adventure nontheless. 

Playa at La Pedrea, Uruguay

Playa at La Pedrea, Uruguay

The picture I’ve inserted here I really love, because it captures what the feeling was like that day, the southern Antartic winds were blowing strong and cold and the weather was overcast.  The winds can be so strong at times, I’m talking gusts to 30 knots or more, you wonder “this is their summer/fall?”  But again the effects of an El Nino year we’ve been having as well.  It was beautiful in it’s own way, but again no replacement for the beaches I’ve known for over half my life.

I explored the coastline on another day with my cousin, Moises and his wife Rebecca.  We went to Piriopolis, Punta del Este and Punta Ballena.  These two people certainly know the meaning of hospitality!  They took me on tours of their city, Montevideo on the first day we met, had me over for lunch on another day and if that wasn’t enough had me over for dinner the night I left for Florianopolis.  I hope I can repay their kind hospitality one day…  

I’ve added a new Picassa photo album of some of my favorite images from my time in Uruguay.  So if you want to see more of that country than the few pictures I’ve shared on this blog, they are there for you to enjoy.

So as I wrote earlier, I am now on the Island of Santa Catarina off the southern Brazilian coast.  From here I’ll be heading onto Rio de Janeiro and some of the most famous beaches in the world like Ipanema and Copacabana, but for now I am quite content with the beaches near me.  Praia Mole and Praia de Joaquina are awesome! I finally have been playng in the ocean again.  I also managed to find a sweet little pousada with a kitchenette for $35 a day.  Quite a deal for these beach destinaions and also a rental car for the same.  So I’ve been doing some serious exploring and it feels great to have some freedom of mobility too! 

Ilha Santa Catarina is a really beautiful island that has 3 “lakes or lagoas” through the middle of it.  Driving along the coast there are some sweet fishing villages that are still quite connected to their Azorean Portuguese heritage along with some fantastic fresh seafood like oysters and shrimp…and I had pizza tonight???? =)  But I did have a shrimp pastel (like an empanada or meat pie for my southern friends) for lunch today with a nice cold beer.  So yes, I’m really enjoying my time on this island and seeing island life from a Brazilian perspective.

Tomorrow I go to get my bus ticket to head onto Rio de Janeiro.  I know that city will be an amazing adventure too, I’ve been kind of saving it to finish up my travels in S. America.  I have a couple of other destinations in Brazil to see before swinging back through the USA to visit some family and friends. I will then be going on my way around the rest of the planet.  I know I’ll need the “downtime” to regroup and hopefully get my visas in order.  So mi amigos, I will say “Ciao” for now and “todo biem!!”

Praia Mole

Praia Mole

 

Carnival in Montevideo, Uruguay

Written by Carmen on February 21st, 2010

Carnaval dia 2 (2)I am writing this from the little beach town of La Paloma which lies along the Atlantic coast of Uruguay.  Today is pretty overcast and cool, so I’m catching up again on bringing you all up to speed, since later I’m hoping the day will improve and I’ll be off again to explore.

I spent the past week in Montevideo in search of Carnival celebrations and candombe (drumming groups) in the various venues and events I could find after arriving into town last Friday.  It’s kind of funny but the Uruguayans are either ambivalent about Carnival or just are not very good at self-promoting themselves when it comes to Carnival.  I think it’s more of the latter.

When I arrived and checked into my room, asking the front desk about what was going on it was like uncovering a mystery.  This was Carnival weekend in my mind–huh??!!  Turns out their big event is called the “Llamadas” (The Calling) which had happened the weekend before–sigh.  It’s a two day non-stop street drumming parade throughout the city.  Well, in spite of my poor timing there still were barrio candombes to be found and luckily on Saturday night it was happening in Ciudad Vieja (Old City) barrio. 

I went off that evening with  huge warnings of being careful, how dangerous it was in that part of town, to not carry even a purse or id of any kind, put my cash in my pocket not my bag, etc.  I needed my little  sling bag I use to carry my camera along with whatever essentials I might need while out and about, so I emptied it of everything except my camera and a map of the area, money in my pocket and off I went.  From what I was able to find out the parade began at 8 p.m. and was just for a short while, were they ever wrong!  It went on till midnight… =)  What fun and what energy.  These guys in the drumming/candombe troupes get going and then the crowd starts clapping a rhythm to it as well that takes on another beat,  you just get going to the synergy of it all and before you know it you’re dancing in the streets with them.

Carnaval 4Carnaval 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second night which was a Sunday, I chose to go to one of their performances instead, which was in an outdoor theater setting, since there weren’t any barrio candombes to be found.  Turns out this is a major holiday weekend for the local Montevideanos so they all leave town and everything is closed for business till Wednesday.  I’m thinking to myself, “What???”  So again, trying to make the most of the situation I go off to the performance at the Teatro Verano, which was not a disappointment at all.  The first group was called Senegal and had candombe, dancing, great costumes, and the crowd loved them.  After the show you can get right up with them, since they dance through the audience keeping the show going on even longer.

Carnaval dia 2Carnaval dia 2-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My experience was different than anticipated, but it was unique.  I gained some understanding of their history behind it all which was pretty interesting.  Montevideo and Colonia were major slave trade ports during that era and there remains a significant black culture here.  Interesting enough, I never once came across a person of African descent, in Argentina which lies only 50km across the water from here.  During the late 1800′s when the Africans were still enslaved, their owners would let them leave freely for a week when the drums of the Llamada would begin.  The slaves would return to their masters after their celebrations were done.  Today there are murgas, which are performances based on political satire, that allow people the opportunity express themselves without any repercussions.  These performers are fantastic singers and are pretty amazing to watch…if only I could have understood the messages better.  The audiences sure did because there was lots of laughter during each performance.

So yes, it wasn’t Rio but it it was real.  Hasta la proxima!!

 

Chilean Chapter

Written by Carmen on January 27th, 2010
Pucon & Mt. Villarica

Pucon & Mt. Villarica

It seems writing of my travels is taking me back to the experiences and not written in the moment of having them.  But at times of reflection, you gain different perspectives of the adventure you just had and that is where I am today….back in Buenos Aires, regrouping for the next leg of my journey.

Chile was as beautiful as I thought it would be. I had some surprises mainly in terms of the weather (really, really cold for their “summer” this year). This was due to the fact of it being an El Nino year season-wise, but I bought some wool socks and a wool hat and went for it!  I was not disappointed by the beauty of the places I saw nor of the kindness of the people I met along the way.

The adventures really began for me in the town of Pucon in the Lake District, which has every imaginable activity you could ask for.  In the summer there is white-water rafting, horseback riding, canopy rides, sailing, bike rentals, you name it–you can do it.  I even saw a lone skydiver with the entire mountain scenery to themselves.  In winter, I can only imagine all the ski related fun there is to do.

I opted to go white water rafting as my first thrill, for the first time in my life, on Category III rapids.  By the end of the day I knew the Chilean way of saying awesome–”La Raja!!” =)  My fun didn’t end there though, I went horseback riding on another day.  And on another day I hit these amazing hot thermal springs that are abundant around Pucon.  The mountains in the Lake District are volcanic and are still active to some degree, which leads to the formation of thermal springs.   It was heaven on earth at the springs I spent the day at…Thermas Geometricas.  An architect had created these beautiful slate pool foundations and walkways among the natural environment.  It was gorgeous and at the same time had retained all of it’s natural elements.  The architect had won a national award for his work there.

I spent an entire week in Pucon.  I found a yoga studio which did this soul much good.  After spending long hours on buses getting from destination to destination, you need to give the body some therapy.  I enjoyed bike rides, sunsets down by the lakeshore, watching all the various boating activity.  It really was a great visit. 

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t warming up.  I also knew as I continued south the temperatures would go down as well.  And further south the prices were only going to go up.  Chile lived up to it’s reputation as an expensive destination.  But south I had to go to continue forward, weather and costs not working in my favor.  So on down the road I went to Puerto Varas, which is known for it’s beauty as well.  It’s a port town with amazing seafood and the jumping off point to do the Andean lake crossing from Chile to Argentina’s Lake District, which was my plan.

On Cruze de Lagos Todos Los Santos

On Cruze de Lagos Todos Los Santos

 After arriving in Puerto Varas and realizing the huge cost to do the entire crossing, I chose to just boat on the Chilean side and take a bus over to Argentina instead.  The logic behind the decision was not just cost but weather conditions too.  In hindsight I wish I had done the entire crossing, since I most likely won’t venture there again.  But it was a beautiful day, even if the weather wasn’t the greatest.  I met some really fun Brazilian folks again and a sweet girl named Dana from Wyoming.  I’ll tell you the ride back to Puerto Varas was really subdued after all the Brazilians left the ship!  Those folks know the meaning of enjoying life.  I’m looking forward to visitiing that country in the near future.

Then I set off in search of PENGUINS!  Down to the Chilean island of Chiloe.  It was a fantastic day playing with penguins.  I couldn’t get the Lyle Lovett song, “Penguins” out of my head that day.  I met up with some nice folks again that were part of a tour with Gap Adventures, who chose to do this penguin experience as a side trip.  You know it’s often the people you meet each day that make this adventure so great.  Sure the experiences are amazing as well–but it’s the people you meet along the way, those sunny spots in the road that make this journey wonderful… Dana, Lucia, Miguel, Carlos and familia, and more that I can’t remember right now. 

And with that I will let you browse the pics I’ve added to the Photo Album link or not =) and leave you with this song (I hope the link works) and final shot…oh and Happy Birthday, Lucia!!

01 Penguins (Live)

 

224

 

A New Year & A New Country!

Written by Carmen on January 1st, 2010

I write this latest post from the town of Valparaiso, Chile.  On a hillside overlooking it’s harbor and coastline.  What a memorable New Year’s Eve celebration I had last night, but first I feel I owe this post/blog a little bit of catching up.

To say my time in Buenos Aires flew by would be an understatement. Even though that was the case it truly is a city worthy of it’s reputation. I had the opportunity to finally get to the countryside one weekend to a town called Tigre, which is along a river that reminded me somewhat of the bayou country of Louisiana. There are these beautiful teak “shuttle boats” that take locals and us turistas to islands or their homes along the waterway. Pollyroger finally came out to play some! =)  Take a look at the latest album I’ve created to get a glimpse of it from the favorite’s link.

Punta Pals

Then the following weekend was my “Graduation Trip” weekend with a sweet new friend made in TEFL classes, Katharina. We headed off to Uruguay for the weekend to Punta Del Este, via the ferry from Buenos Aires. And yes, again–Pollyroger came out to play! So the line might be becoming a bit blurred between Polly and my Soljourneys, but Kathi is definitely a “sunny spot in the road”. I am sure we will meet again and travel to some other water-type destination, since she surfs and sails too. Truly a beautiful person inside and out…and definitely a Polly Pal as well.

We returned from our trip a couple of days before Christmas.  I spent Christmas Eve day indulging myself at a spa and was it ever wonderful!  That evening I spent at my apartment, making myself a nice dinner and getting my bags packed for my flight to Mendoza on Christmas day.  I arrived in Mendoza to a somewhat sleeping city, since Argentinians take their Christmas holiday seriously beginning on midnight the 24th.  They celebrate with fireworks and opening Christmas gifts and continue on to dawn depending on some variables… =)

My Christmas festivities continued as well on the 26th, with my first wine tasting tour that totally put anything similar I’ve done in various locals from Napa to New Zealand to SHAME!  My goodness…the bodegas were incredible.  I did another tour a couple of days later via bicycle in Maipu Valley and teamed up with a really sweet Brazilian couple who turned out to be on their honeymoon, Walter and Luci.  We had the most amazing time riding through the vineyards, down sycamore and poplar lined roads withthe Andes as our backdrop.  We shared emails at day’s end with an invitation to visit them in Brazil when I make my way there.

Mendoza Wine Country

Mendoza Wine Country

 But that wasn’t all that Mendoza had to offer.  I also rented a bike another day and explored another of Carlos Thayes city parks.  What an amazing landscape architect that man was…  But even better was the final adventure I gave myself in Mendoza and that was going to Aconcagua National Park my final day there.  The mountain peak the park is named after is the highest elevation in the Americas, next to the Himalayas.  It was slightly covered with a little cloud cover the day I went, but the following day when I took the bus from Mendoza to Chile, we went over the same pass just not into the park and–yes, Aconcagua was clear as a bell! =)  It was a fantastic bus trip till we got to the border.  What should have been a two hour border crossing was a FIVE hour one.  Note to Lonely Planet and anyone else that plans on traveling to Chile during the holiday season…do it at night and not before a holiday.

So that brings me to Valparaiso where I now am after arriving on the 30th.  Last night was spent with a lovely Chilean family that have one of the first approved B&B’s in Valparaiso known as “Coasta Azul”, with father Carlos, wife Laura, sons Carlito, Rodrigo and daughter Valentina.  They made me feel quite at home immediately.  Their view is unbelievable from the hillside that takes in all of the coastline down to Vina del Mar.  And with that I will close with this video clip of the amazing fireworks display I had in their sweet home last night with other guests from Santiago and towns nearby. 

We celebrated together and rang in the New Year as new found friends with hugs and toasts of felicidades y prospero ano nuevo…  Many of you were with me in spirit as well.  Even though we may be miles away, my thoughts and wishes of wonderful blessings go out to each and every one of you.  May 2010 bring all our dreams to fruition.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(click video link below)

 

Buenos Aires-TEFL, Thanksgiving and Two Weeks flown by!

Written by Carmen on December 6th, 2009

It is amazing how quickly my time in Buenos Aires is going.  Little did I know when I signed up for the English teaching course or TEFL, that it would be as intense as it has been.  It’s a full five days a week, with only an hour off for lunch.  A bit too much like work! =)  But the good news is we’ve completed the classroom portion of it and the next two weeks will be the actual teaching training/practice. 

The other good news is I’ve met some great people and am forging some new friendships.  I spent a memorable Thanksgiving with some of those new-found friends. Afterwards we shared a mate, a type of tea they drink here.  Mate is meant to be shared with friends and not alone.  That was somewhat of a full circle for me since last year at Thanksgiving I shared my first mate when I was visiting with a dear person I met on my travels, Hermina. 

Herminia and Luciano

Herminia and Luciano

Thanksgiving Argentine-style

Thanksgiving Argentine-style

I met up with Herminia again about a week ago. She invited me to her home last weekend for a mate and this past Friday we went out for a nice dinner with her son, Luciano who is a sweetheart.  I feel really fortunate to have met such a nice person on my journeys.  In reality my classes have been consuming so much of my time that I’ve not had much time to do anything else! =)  Although there has been the occasion to go out with my classmates for a beer here and there, but I am ready to play tourist and not study so much nor be in a classroom all day.  There is some light ahead of the tunnel though, as I said since we’ll be on a totally different schedule next week. 

There are plans of going to the outer areas of the city countryside, such as Tigre.  And also hopefully next weekend or the following one I will go to Colonia & Montevideo, Uruguay.  I have also booked a stay on an estancia for Christmas.  An estancia is a working ranch and was the weekend retreat of the Portenos (the nickname of Buenos Aires locals) of times past and still is of present day.  It will be a welcome retreat and a nice way to spend the holidays.

Yesterday, I went to the “grand slam” of polo but unfortunately the weather wasn’t that good and the second game was rescheduled.  My North Shore amigos…this ain’t nothing like the polo out at Dillingham! =)  It was great fun just to see what it’s all about.  The weather has been beautiful during the week when we are in classes and of course, come the weekend it’s cold and raining.  I’m ready for this summer weather they are supposed to be having by now….

I am also realizing, that a city this size has a lot to offer but I really am an “outdoors-type” of gal.  Yesterday my classmates were inviting me out for beers again but I had to get down to the waterfront and feel the sun on my face.  And so with that I will close this post for now, with my Aloha Friday sunset view…as I wrote on Facebook a week or so ago, “You can take the boat away from the girl but you can’t take the girl away from the water.”  Chau chau y suerte! =)

My Aloha Friday Sunset

My Aloha Friday Sunset

 

Panama Update

Written by Carmen on November 21st, 2009

I sit in my newly rented apartment in Buenos Aires as I write this post.  It’s perfect in almost every way and it has touches that are so like my home I had back in the islands with glass block accents, color schemes and attention to detail.  I like this living simply “Argentinian Style”! =)

But this post isn’t about Buenos Aires yet, but about my time spent in Panama with family and friends made along the way…

Aerial view-Panama City from Casco Viejo to the Bridge of the Americas

Aerial view-Panama City from Casco Viejo to the Bridge of the Americas

My time spent in Panama was the perfect way to introduce myself back into Latin cultures by sharing it with such wonderful family.  I spent time in the city of Panama the first few days, seeing relatives and taking in the city some and it’s changing dynamics.  It is a city that is being reinvented in many ways and it will be interesting to see how it evolves as it develops.  There are massive construction projects being done all in and around the city.  Many people from Canada and the US are finding it as a destination for early retirement or for health reasons.  I’m not sure that it can quite live up to it’s goals yet, with a severe crime factor, along with that a big part of it’s people still struggle to make a living.  But as in every place on the planet there are people that are thriving in many ways.  If people have made an education a priority and are willing to do the hours and the work it demands to be successful–many people are doing that quite well in Panama. 
      I am proud to say that my family is doing so in many ways and in many different types of enterprises.  From being graphic artists, to owners of various types of businesses, to technology industry sales.  The opportunities are there for the asking….
      After several days in the city I took a bus north to the city of David where a part of my family still lives.  I reconnected with them over a few days there and was able to spend a day in the town of Volcan, visiting my cousin Flor’s daughter, Cynthia.  They are farmers living a very wonderful existence off their family farm, growing a variety of products for market.  The next day was a birthday celebration with my cousin, Emilia’s family for her daughter in-law.  Another memorable evening spent.
     The following day I headed out in my cousin Flor’s old Buick, to Boquete.  I loved it–I was totally incognito until I would get out of the car and start talking! =)  My time in Boquete flew by,  I was there 4 nights and 3 days and managed to visit an animal resuce center, also a natural hot springs near the town of Caldera with my guide Ana Gonzalez….truly a “sunny spot in the road”. Finally my last excursion was a morning horseback ride along the Rio Caldera and around one mountainside that looks out on Boquete.
Boquete, Chiriqui-Panama

Boquete, Chiriqui-Panama

      Boquete is suffering from growing pains as well with many “estranjeros” (foreigners) moving to this lovely mountain town.  But the town still holds it’s charm and beauty.  Driving around the mountainside in El Buick I was able to take in some gorgeous scenery.  It reminded me a bit of the Big Island with it’s coffee farming industry and landscape, but it definitely was not Hawaii.  So many species of birds everywhere you turn…and flowers–the town truly lives up to it’s name “bouquet”. 
      Three days flew by and I needed to get back to David to catch my bus back to Panama City.  This time around though I was lucky enough to get the last seat on the bus, but next to the toilet and a Dominican woman who wouldn’t quit talking loudly on her cell phone or to me even when I had my earphones on for my iPod! =)  That was a longer six hour ride than the one up for sure…    But all part of the journey–right?!
       My last night I spent with my wonderful hanai family The Echevers.  We had a wonderful lunch the next day and I left almost in tears, not knowing if I would return to Panama again for certain and if this may be the last time I saw them for many years…  And with that said, my time in Panama was about family more than anything.
      I think the one thing to know and understand is the beauty of family and what raising one another closely nearby does for the bond it makes over a lifetime.  Just like my family in Hawaii, same as my family in Panama, children that grow up together become a part of each other’s lives in a way that cannot be replaced in any shape or form.  It’s beautiful to witness in my cousin’s children and their children’s children.  Same as it is with my beautiful ohana back in the islands.  Children raised together as a family form a bond over a lifetime that is unique, special, and immeasurable.  I am privileged to have been a part of that in Hawaii and to have seen it again through Panamanian eyes.  
     More to follow…
Coriat-Mendez Familia in Volcan

Coriat-Mendez Familia in Volcan

Mi Familia en Hawaii

Mi Familia en Hawaii

Familia Echevers
Familia Echevers
 

Panama City is Pura Vida!

Written by Carmen on November 7th, 2009
Hola amigos!  I’ve just spent the past few days getting into the feeling of life among my other family here in Latin America.  It’s such a wonderful feeling knowing I have a real connection here to ground me as I explore this wonderful part of the planet.  I must add though the family I’ve spent the most time with while here is not one of blood but of relationship my mother began several decades back.  In Hawaii there is a term for it known as your “hanai” family.  It means a family that has basically adopted you by no other means than of mutual love and respect for one another.  My mother did very well in finding the wonderful family she did in the Familia Echevers.  They were gracious then as they are gracious now.  I am so glad we have managed to stay in touch all these years since mother has left our lives.

My first day in the city my Tio Tato, Tia Mercedes and my niece, Didi picked me up at my hotel for a wonderful lunch of real authentic Panamenian food at a little restaurant known as “Trapiche”.  Talk about some wonderful Panamenian soul food!  I was in food nirvana.  So much so, I had to take some back to my hotel room to go, which went down really well the next day for lunch. =)

Familia Echevers in "Trapiche"

Familia Echevers in "Trapiche"

 The following day I spent with Didi helping her move into her new office in the area of the city known as Casco Viejo, which I believe translates into the old quarter or old fort.  It’s a really great part of the city with some wonderful heritage.  It is the site of the first French settlements and fort. The area is so reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans.  It’s being rebuilt and will most likely be many years in the process, but it’s a part of the city that has many fond memories for locals here for a variety of reasons.  Didi hopes to launch art openings to help her fellow artist friends in the future, while focusing on her graphic design business.  She has a wonderful direction she wants to take her business in, which is towards more socially responsible advertising.  The commercial work is out there for her but I think with her wonderful disposition and imagination, she will be very successful in her pursuits.

I also had the great privilidge of meeting up with my fantastic cousin, Jake.  He lives in Orlando, FL but had a business trip that brought him to the city while I was here too.  We spent a fun afternoon together with him showing me where else–Casco Viejo! He showed me where he attended school at La Salle, as did my uncle before him.  We also hit a couple of art shops and got a bite to eat before saying goodbye.  His sister, my cousin Marcella also met me yesterday for a really nice afternoon visit.   What great family they are!

Panameno en Panama

Panameno en Panama

 Today I adventure into the interior as they call it here or the “country” as we would call it in Hawaii.  I’m taking a bus ride along the InterAmerican Highway, about 6 hours due north, to the town of David, where I have some other wonderful cousins waiting for me.  I’ll be there for a few days and then up to Boquete, which translates into bouquet in English.  A town known for all it’s beautiful flora and mountain streams on the hillside of the volcano known as “Volcan Baru”.  It will be my first time visiting this little town and my wonderful cousin, Flor, which means flowers…=) is being very generous in letting me stay in her cabin there for a week or so. 

 

And so my adventure begins to unfold.  My introduction to the country could not have been better.  My family of blood and my family of love and respect, each here to share with me a part of their lives, their homes, their aloha.  More to follow–hasta luego mis amigos!!

 

Saying Aloha…

Written by Carmen on October 30th, 2009

I’m finally about to “set sail” on a very long awaited journey.  One that I’ve spoken of for several years to friends, family, and like-minded individuals I’ve known that understand this desire to explore beyond the familiar surroundings of everyday life.  Getting to this point or place in my life has been no easy task.  It has come with a great deal of hard work, sacrifice, but also an inner-knowing that it would be the real turning point in my life for a greater understanding of myself and how I choose to define who I will be going forward.

Living life in a place so known for it’s wonderful beauty as “paradise” has been very hard to let go of.  But paradise does have it’s price.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the islands in so many ways…

-Family ties either of blood, marriage, or just of respect and joy in each others lives…

-The beauty that surrounds us daily, be it rainbows, the gorgeous ocean, gentle trade wind breezes, or the mountains that enfold us.

-And just the easy going way of life island living brings.

But one day you look around to what you’ve worked so hard to create & you stop and ask yourself, “Is this the American dream?  Or am I waking up to reality?”  The economic fallout our country and the world has recently experienced was a wake up call.  And now that I’ve finally managed to disentangle my life from it all I can look at it with eyes wide open.  It’s sad to see how folks are struggling so much to hang onto their jobs, their homes, their savings, their everything for what?  For longer work days, for less and less time off to recharge what is left of them after giving and giving to companies that just want to continue asking for more and more from the fewer and fewer of the employed.  Is this the American dream?  I think not.  I hope not.

But wait–I am so fortunate to be in the position I am in at this point in my life.  But again, I am not your “typical” American either.  Which leads to what some folks may say or believe….midlife crisis?  Not really,  more a realization if I were  to wait any longer I never would be setting out from my “safe harbors”. 

 

So I am about to embark on a vast unknown future. 

 

Soljourneying–Seeking the Sunny Side of the Road.  Living simply while trying to help others simply live.  Giving what I can along the way.  And so my adventures begin.  Did I forget to mention this going to be one hell of an experience?! =)  Stay tuned…

 

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