Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

So as everyone or most everyone is aware, Hurricane Sandy is causing havoc on the East Coast of the United States.  As of this post there are 16 people reported dead in the Northeast already and the storm is still going.

The streets are flooded, snow is falling, the winds are extremely high and cities have been evacuated.  The news is reporting that the impact of Sandy is going to top 100 Billion USD in damages.

It is weird to be so far away from the US when something like this is happening.  It almost doesn't seem real. I remember when Katrina happened, I was in deployed and heard about it and read about it in the newspapers, but really had no idea how bad things were.

Mother nature is an amazing thing when you really think about what it is capable of.  The people on the East Coast will be cleaning up for the next year.

Something that I find absolutely amazing is that in the time that we have been here in Brazil, we haven't heard one clap of Thunder or seen one lightning strike.

We have had some bad storms, with lots of rain, flooding and wind, but nothing like the storms we have had in the US.  Storms without Thunder and Lightning?!  Sounds odd doesn't it.

I wonder if there is Thunder and Lightning in other parts of Brazil?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Apagao (The Blackout) 2012

Some of the photos from Facebook!  Notice Brazil is in all dark..."Blackout 2012 I was there"

"Blackout 2012 I went.  One more big event for Brazil, and here comes the World Cup in 2014

So on Thursday October 25th depending on the state you were in around 1130PM until 0340AM 9 states in the Northeast of Brazil lost power.  

Yes you read that right...9 states lost power, not because of bad weather, a hurricane, earthquake or natural disaster, but just because.

The official report so far is they don't know why they lost power, it was just lost in all 9 states randomly.

Now I love Brazil, but it is things like this, the confusion, lack of order that really leave you scratching your head.

Brazil is getting ready to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.  It is supposed to be ready to support some of the biggest sporting events in the world along with all the tourists, but it somehow lost power to 9 of its states without explanation.

Here is a comment from Facebook and along with the photos above kind of give you a feeling that people are a bit concerned here about the way things are going.

"O Brasil é engraçado, os impostos são altissimos e tudo é caro porém nda funciona, tem apagão, tem falta de água, tem estrada ruim, tem aeroporto ruim, telefonia é piada de mau gosto, a saúde pública é brincadeira, plano de saúde n é diferente a segurança então nem se fala. Até qdo vai continuar essa zona?"

Basically the above quote says:  "Brazil is funny.  They have extremely high taxes but nothing works.  It has a blackout, it lacks water (drinking), the roads are terrible, the airports are terrible, the phone systems are a bad joke, the public health system is a joke, and forget talking about security.  How long will this mess last?"

Were you part of the blackout?  Do you think things are that bad here in Brasil?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sarah is in Houston for the International Quilt Market

As I told you guys a while ago, Sarah went to the US at the end of September and is still there.  But she is getting closer to coming home!  Today she is setting up her booth in Houston for the big International Quilt Market.  The actual market starts tomorrow and goes through the weekend.

Why did she go so early?  Well getting things to Brazil is pretty simple, you can mail it.  But then once the items get here you have to pay a 40-60% import tax on the items. The fabrics that Sarah licensed out with Art Gallery Fabrics was going to be sent here, but the amount and cost of the fabric to be shipped here with the taxes was astronomical.  So we decided that Sarah should go back to the states and receive her fabrics there and start preparing for the quilt market.

I don't have any pictures, but she has shown me some of the stuff she and her mom have created on skype and it's pretty cool!  When she gets back we will post some photos of the items I am sure.

But so far, she has shown me a few quilts, lots of pillows, several different types of bags, pants, shirts, aprons and lots of other stuff that I can't think of right now.  She has been sewing for a month straight and this weekend she gets to show off all her hard work.

Make sure you check out her blog....below is a post she did a few days ago.

My second quilt block!

I guess I saw that in the respect that these are "real" blocks that have patterns and whatnot. I read two articles on this pattern, they differed a bit, but I don't think I have any authority to say which is better. I used this one:


Here's the start of the blocks, I've finished them, but don't know where they are to photograph them. Whoops!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beauty in Brazil

So I want to preface this post by first saying I am sorry for putting up such a ridiculous video, I had forgotten about Jessica Simpson all together until I found this.

I found this video when I was doing a google search to find out why so many women here have leg hair, it is pretty obvious here in Recife that many women do not shave their legs above the knee. I have not been brave enough to ask anyone, and this is the only place I have seen it, so I figured it was time to figure it out.

If you skip ahead to about 8:20 in the video, they say that a lot of women don't shave their legs but bleach them.  So that their golden blond hair looks nice on their tan skin. It is an interesting concept especially since in the US we are so used to women shaving their legs completely.

This video in the early stages addresses another stereotype that I hear often which is that Brazilians have lots of plastic surgery. I have always believed that to be true since almost every Brazilian I know MEN INCLUDED have had something done.

Almost all of the women I know here in Brazil have had some sort of work done, the most common that I know of are the tummy tuck and the face lift. Sitting here right now I can name 10 women that have had some sort of work done and will talk about it. In the US I don't anyone that has had Plastic surgery, but I am sure I know some.

Almost all of the men I know here, especially the older ones and the obese children have had the stomach surgery which is designed to make your stomach smaller, thus allowing you to eat less. I find it pretty impressive. I can name right now off the top of my head 7 men who have had it done. I don't think I know one man in the US that has had it done.

The video also talks about how Brazilians are proud of their bodies, we will hit that one up in a different blog post.

Just curious if you are a woman out there do you shave your legs completely?  Do you ever bleach your body hair?  Have you had Plastic Surgery or would like to have it.

Monday, October 22, 2012


 This isn't the best photo, but if you look up ahead you will see that little car making a right hand turn in front of other cars from the left lane!
This picture is a little bit better...same thing the truck tried to make a right hand turn from the left lane and clipped the bus.

Driving in Brazil is nothing less than an adventure.  On the decent roads (which there are more bad roads than good roads) their are lane markings and traffic signals, but they seem to mean little or nothing to the drivers.  

Sarah and I joke that the white hash marks that divide the lanes are seen as a Pac-man game by most drivers.  People drive in the middle of the road, turn from the wrong lanes, pop in and out of traffic.  It is really quite the adventure.

So when you come to visit be prepared for an exciting car ride...think Indy 500 with no rules!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nordeste Video

This is kind of a fun video of The Northeast of Brazil. Enjoy your Friday.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hauling Sugar Cane...

 Notice how small this road is...look at that long vehicle...wait is that sugar cane in there?
 A closer look shows that yes that is actually sugar cane...and that is a very long vehicle...three trailers stacked as full as you can possibly get them.  Tiny roads and cars passing it too!
 We decided to pass it too...When in Rome...right!  But look at how full these trailers are!

I don't think this loading technique would work in the states!

Brazilians have a way of making the most of space.  This is one example of an overloaded truck, but you see it all the time.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


So as I was walking in a local park the other day I saw this character and a lot of people around it taking pictures.  At first I had no idea why there was this big blow-up cartoon, but then I realized it is the mascot of the 2014 World Cup (It says it on the plaques) and this little guy is making his way around to all of the host cities.  We, Recife, are lucky enough to be one of those cities.

They are building a brand new stadium, creating new roads and housing just for the World Cup.  It is pretty amazing all of the work that is going on to support a one month event!  We already have friends and family planning on making the trip down.  It will certainly be exciting to be here in 2014!

The FIFA World Cup begins Thursday12 June 2014, and ends Sunday,13 July 2014.  There is a count down timer on one of the major roads that lets us know exactly how many days are left until the World Cup Starts.  I will try to snap a photo of it next time I am on that side of town.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sugar and Sugar Cane...

All that Green is Sugar Cane

So a lot of you have been asking what I do for a living down here.  Everyone knows Sarah is a designer...make sure you check out her website and blog here!  She is currently in the states getting ready for a big show in Texas...that is why you are stuck with me blogging this month.

My job is a little more ambiguous. I have fallen into the Sugar (and as of late other commodities) business.  Now before we came down here I had no idea that there were different types of sugar or really where or how sugar was produced.

Here is a previous post Sarah did a while back on some of our trips into the sugar cane fields.

I am learning more about it everyday and more about the impacts it has on Brazil and the world.  The Sugar industry is really quite impressive and is filled with interesting stories.

I had no idea how hard and dangerous it is to get to the final stage of sugar on your table.

This is cut Sugar Cane...it can grow up to 5 meters tall

So just in case you didn't know Sugar comes from Sugar Cane and Sugar beets, but we are going to focus on Cane...it is a plant that takes 12-16 months to mature.

A video with one of the Mills I work with.

Did you know that 100% of the Sugar Cane in the Northeast of Brazil is cut by hand.  Most of the workers here in the Northeast have to cut 2 Tons of Cane each day in order to make the minimum wage. Two tons of cane?  Two tons of anything sounds like a lot...and minimum wage is about 311 USD/month.

A lot of the cane in the south of Brasil is now being cut with machines, which is saving a lot of money, time and lives.  It is also helping create a better/cleaner sugar.

The cane that is cut by hand has to be burned first in order to make it safer for the workers to cut it.

After all the leaves are and animals are burned out, then the workers go to cutting and hauling the cane. It is really quite impressive when you watch a whole hillside of green cane, get turned into just black dirt.

I will put some more information on the sugar industry up in later posts.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Time to Explore!

Sarah loves these little guys and thinks this is hilarious!

So as most of you know Sarah is in the States and I have been left to my own devices.  So I have decided that I want to surprise Sarah and help her see one of these crazy Sloths in the wild.

So we are going on an adventure into the Amazon in November.  I have been looking and looking for something that would be both exciting and a completely new experience.  So I started looking into trips here in South America.

Well we have been to Rio already and loved it, and so the next most obvious things are the Amazon or Patanal.

I did some research and both look amazing and we haven't been to either, so I decided it's time to check out the Amazon.

Here are the details of our upcoming trip!  I am hoping that Sarah will get to see and hold a sloth during the trip!

Survival Mamori 06days/05nights at Turtle Lodge and Camping

This package is for those who really like adventure. They will be taking part of all activities. Begin tour from the Amazon Turtle Lodge by motorized canoe, with a tour guide and native tour guide from the Mamorí region. To offer the best security possible, during the days of survival we will take some food along (fish, chicken, beef, vegetables and fruits). You will also have to build together with the guide your own shelter, using (wood, twigs and straw of the babaçu tree). Our activities are done in the Tracajá Lake, Juma Lake and Piranha Lake. This is a region that has an ecosystem of low lands (Varzea) and high lands (Terra Firme), the flooded forest (Igapós), small channels (Igarapés) and this channels that are perfect for paddling canoes, this way you will have more chances to see animals and photograph as we approach. A motorized canoe (15HP) will be available for further locomotion as need.

1st day - Leave the hotel at 08:00 a.m. by car to the river port Ceasa (20 minutes). Take a speedboat to the village “Careiro da Varzea” (30 minutes). At this point we will be passing by the meeting of the waters, where Negro and Solimões River meet (Encontro das Águas). This is where the Amazon River is formed, flowing from this point all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It is truly a magnificent sight to see.  The two rivers run side by side without mixing for many kilometers and you will most probably be visited by a few curious river dolphins (Botos) as well. 

After a stop at the fruit market, take a bus or van to the Araça River via the Manaus-Porto Velho highway (50 minutes BR319). By boat we will pass through many lakes and small wildlife abundant creeks, where you will have the opportunity to see the incredible giant Amazon water lilies (Vitoria Regia) with their enormous floating leaves. You will also pass by native villages and the floating houses of Caboclo’s communities. An ideal spot for wildlife watching due to the abundance of many varied species: such as birds, alligators, fish, snakes and monkeys. During this trip to the lodge you can be surprised by a creature at anytime. After 50 minutes boat ride, arrival at Amazon Turtle Lodge is scheduled for around 12:00 p.m. Lunch will be served; fresh water fish, beef (meat), chicken, salads and exotic fruits from the Amazon (buffet style). After lunch, there is a motorized canoe trip that will allow you to get to know the area better. Throughout the duration of this trip you will experience the pristine and varying landscapes of the region, with the opportunity to observe and enjoy the great diversity of animals found in the area. It is common to see squirrel monkeys, sloth, iguanas, spiders and a wide variety of birds, including the beautiful white egrets that delicately wade amongst the floating grass islands.
Dinner will be served in the restaurant of Amazon Turtle Lodge at 07:30pm, a delicious buffet including fresh water fish, beef (meat), chicken, salads and exotic fruits from the Amazon.

02-Day Leave from Amazon Turtle Lodge in motorized canoe to the Tracajá Lake, first camp (tapirí) this is a house made of wood and straw from the Babaçu tree, this camp is situated in the margins of the river making easier for the activities, as the rivers are the only way of transport in this territory. Lunch will be open area on the margin of the river, fresh fish roasted on fire. Explore the region, canoe and fishing trip. Dinner, after go out to listen to the sounds in the jungle. You will sleep in hammock with mosquito net.

03-Day (05:30am) leave for the sunrise and bird watch, (breakfast). Jungle trek with specialized guide were you will learn how to survival in the jungle, also learning more about our fauna and biodiversity. Lunch, during the afternoon catch fish for dinner, return back to camp, dinner and leave the camp for night tour to  watch for animals.

04-Day Breakfast and leave for jungle trek on trails, only observing animals and flora take photos in the jungle, return back to the camp, swim in the rivers, have dinner and sleep in hammocks with mosquito net.

05-Day Breakfast followed by canoe trip, where the clients will be able to paddle in the small channels (Igarapés). As paddling have the opportunity to see fresh water Dolphins (Botos), monkeys, iguanas, snakes, caimans and with luck a sloth. By the afternoon will return to Amazon Turtle Lodge for overnight at lodge and have nice clean room with nice good shower. 

06 -Day - Breakfast (free morning) to relax and enjoy the last day Amazon Turtle Lodge, you can paddle or go on lodge`s Eco Trekking. Lunch at Lodge and at 02:00 p.m. Transfer Back to Manaus, will be back at Manaus around 05:00 p.m. Drop off can be City Center or Airport. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Children's Day

In Brazil, Children's Day(dia das criancas) is celebrated on October 12, coinciding with Our Lady of Aparecida's day, the country's Patron Saint, which is a national holiday. Children throughout Brazil look forward to this day all year, as it is the (another) day they get to unwrap gifts from their parents.  In several places in Brazil Children's Day is a bigger event than Christmas.
I am telling you, you already read my post on kids birthday parties, but kids also get Children's Day!

What a deal!  This is a national holiday so it's a long three day weekend.  The beaches will be packed and the kids will be getting gifts!
From what I understand there will be some parades and parties celebrating Children's Day and we are all supposed to give a gift to the kids.  It's kind of like Mother's and Father's Day except it's the kids special day.  Interesting huh?

What did you do for Children's Day?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Beach, Done Right!

Check out those umbrellas, even out in the middle of the water!

 Our friend Wendy and my lovely wife enjoying fried cheese!
 Sarah and my cousin Duda enjoying the ice cold beer (well not Duda, but Sarah)
Cashew salesman walking by as we enjoy the beach!

So, I love beach!  Who doesn't?  Well actually a lot of people don't, but that is beside the point.

I have been to beaches all over the world, and at face value they are all great.  They all have the basics of a beach.  Salt water, sand, beautiful scenery and sometimes sea life.

Brazil is different.  Brazil has a beach experience that in all my travels I have not found or replicated again.  Brazil does the beach right!

So unlike when you go to most beaches in the US or Europe, once you are arrive on the beach you are not left alone to fend for yourself.  You don't have to bring your own chair, table, food, umbrella, sunscreen, or anything else for that matter.

Most beaches in Brazil are lined with chairs and umbrellas that you can sit at for free as long as you purchase just one thing...So you can go to the beach, buy one coconut water and sit in the beach chairs all day long, with someone watching your stuff and with the protection of an umbrella.

But the good part about most of these beaches with chairs and umbrellas (at least here in the Northeast) is that you can have a full day of food and drink at a reasonable price (I am going to talk about costs going up in a a future post).

To give you an idea:  a soft drink, 500ml costs about R$2.50, almost a liter of beer R$4.00, a coconut water straight out of the coconut R$2,50, a whole fish with french fries and salad, R$18,00.

And if you aren't interested in what your vendor is selling just wait a few minutes and someone will be walking buy selling something else.  Anything from quail eggs, hot dogs, crabs, shrimp, ice cream, to tanning oil and sunglasses.  It really is quite the treat.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Black and White TV

So you would think that living here we would start to watch their local TV programs.  We have watched some of their Novelas...but the truth is when our TV got here it was slightly broken.  The color is gone and the TV only seems to work in black and white. That coupled with a bad antenna, we have probably turned the TV on 4 times since we got here in January.

That is not to say we don't watch TV.  We have been watching TV on a few sites we have found.  It's a bit frustrating at times because the buffering is slow, or it will pause or won't play.  But getting to keep up with some of the shows and sporting events from the US has been nice.

So because we are cheap we try to use the free sites.  We just signed up for a free month of Netflix.  But we are finding the TV and Movie selections here in Brazil to be pretty lame.  So we aren't that impressed.

The Free site we use for sporting events is this one here! It has been nice keeping up with American Football.  The links don't always work well, but I can usually get the gist of what is going on.  So that is nice, especially when you see everyone in the states posting about the games.

The free site we use for TV is this one here.  It is a pretty good site.  We get to keep up with a lot of the TV shows in the states.  They are not all on here, but a lot of them are.

But things are going to change. I have taken our TV to get fixed and with our internet package we will be getting cable.  So in a week or so we should be watching good old Brazilian TV shows and maybe picking up a little portuguese along the way.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

767 Candidates for City Council!

So if you have been following our blog at all you probably read this post about some of the campaigning!

Well election day was this past Sunday. There were 767 candidates for 27 councilmember spots.  That is a lot of candidates isn't it?  I sure thought so!  Well just so you know the winner on had 1,7% of the popular vote!  1.7% that's it!  To me that is amazing...

This guy Ze Radiola is our Jiu Jitsu instructor and a really great guy.  He really seems to be someone who really cares more about the people than the money and benefits. I believe in him and he has my vote and I have done some work to help his campaign. He didn't win this year, but it was his first year running...I hope that he will try again.

But for the past month with all the campaigning there has been a new technique that I have never seen, as for most of the technics thus far.

This is a giant organized parade of cars.  The different candidates do it all day Sunday.  So what is it?  Well they get all their friends who have cars, trucks noise makers, fill the vehicles as full as they can and drive slowly through town, honking their horns, dancing, playing music and disrupting traffic.  They are only allowed to do it on Sunday's because of the traffic, but it is still quite the site and quite disruptive.

When I run for a political position here or in the states (never going to happen), I know how some new tools that I intend to put to use!  Check out the pics below!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Birthdays in Foreign Countries

Brazilian Style Birthday Candle!

So today is my birthday.  That's right, according to my good friend Burt, I am now 29-3 (32).  I was laying in bed last night thinking about the last several years and where I have spent my birthdays.  So let's take a quick look.

2003 - Richmond, Va
2004 - Richmond, VA
2005 - Baumholder, Germany
2006 - Ramadi, Iraq
2007 - Mosul, Iraq
2008 - Mosul, Iraq
2009 - Atlanta, Ga
2010 - Alberta, Canada
2011 - Atlanta, Ga
2012 - Recife, Brazil

Impressive I think.  Six of my last 10 birthdays have been spent in a foreign country.  Odd places too!

Birthdays are a bit different here in Brasil. They are much more of an event than they are in the US, or anywhere else that I have been for that matter.

I threw Sarah a surprise party for her FIRST birthday in a Foreign country back in March.  It was great, but it was a Brazilian party for sure.  We had little munchies, dinner and a bar set up.  Everyone who came was dressed up...much more than we were, and they all brought presents!

Then in July, we went to my cousin Artur's, a Brazilian child, second birthday.  Let me tell you what a blow out it was.  First of all it was at a party house.  Yes there is a huge business here in Brazil for party houses.  They are almost as common as Drug Stores.  

So we showed up and the first thing you see are the THOUSANDS of balloons in all sorts of shapes and lining the entrance.  When we entered there were more balloons.  It was quite impressive

Once inside there was every imaginable game you can imagine.  They had slides, video games, basketball, a Ferris wheel and a tilt-o-whirl.

There were waiters serving  juices, water, 12 year old scotch, and various wines.  The other waiters were serving finger foods and then the main entree!

I would guess there were 300+ people at this party for my cute cousin.  Every kid got a gift when they left.  It was truly a production.

It is not unheard of for parents to spend R$3000 for their kids birthday parties.  They are truly events.

But adults have good parties too...usually not as extravagant, but sometimes.

So for my birthday, I took my Grandma and her friend out for lunch.

What have you done for your birthday when in a foreign country?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sunrise over the Atlantic and Happy Birthday MG Thomas!

A photo I snapped from our Porch this morning at 5:01 AM

So I know it's Satruday and everything, but I had to get up at 4 AM to be on a conference call with some folks in Germany and Iraq.  

While I was on the call  I got to see the sun come up...and I decided I should snap a quick picture. a

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we forget to take time out to appreciate the smaller things in life.  So even though I had to get up early today, it was worth it because look at what I got  see. 

I also wanted to say Happy Birthday to a very good friend and mentor of mine Major General Tony Thomas.  I was lucky enough to serve with this Great American in Mosul Iraq and would gladly do it again.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Front Yard

Lately a ton of sand has washed away. It revealed these super great rocks. If I were a guessing gal, I'd love to guess it was sandstone (haha, because it's in the sand?). But I imagine it's just some form of super compressed sand. I have no idea. But...the whole thing is covered in this beautiful green moss. Or seaweed more likely. I'm not sure if it was uncovered like that, or if it grew on the rocks as soon as it was uncovered. Not sure. Either way, pretty amazing formations here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

He has Crabs!!!!

So I wanted to follow-up on Sarah's post about roadside salesman.  You can really buy anything on the streets.  I will take some more pictures later and show you, but if you want a steering wheel cover, or cell phone charger there is likely someone who is standing at the stop light ready to sell it to you.  We will cover those later.

But this is one of my favorite salesman.  Those are crabs hanging from those Teepees.  Yeah real live crabs and they are all for sale. 

That daper looking guy sitting against the wall caught them the night before and is now selling them on the side of the road.

So what do you get?  You get 10 live crabs for R$10 or $5USD.  

For those of you concerned about eating truly organic food, with no hormones and at an affordable price, this just might be your guy!

 Crab Salesman on the Avenida!
They are still alive, a bunch of 10 is R$10 or $5USD.

They are all alive and pinching!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Roadside Salesmen

Here some of the best stuff around is for sale on the side of the road. Lots of great fruit, most of it is really cheap. Music. Coconuts. Crabs. There's even a guy that makes 'grills' out of tire rims and sells them on the side of the road. We normally buy pineapples from the first picture. The second one we've never stopped at, but it's on our way home. The third one is a good example of the cart vendors that run around. There are guys that pretty much cart around a large speaker and blast music. I guess they're selling cds. But I'm not sure because I've never actually talked to one. Oh, and the guy who has 'God is Loyal' on his CD truck is probably selling some very un-Godly cds. But I guess God forgives, and that's what's good right?

Fruit while you wait at the light!
More fruit and veggies!
Mobile CD Store!

Monday, October 1, 2012


I loooove that we can look out the window at any point during the day and see boats. There's almost always either a fishing boat or a large shipping container (we're sandwiched between two large ports, and I think the shipping channel, or dropoff, isn't too far out into the ocean). 

Gaaah, I feel like every time I look for a picture for a post I can't find them. Here I can only find two pictures. Haha. Oh well. Here's a fishing boat and a sailboat. AND! There's a boat with orange sails (or two boats with orange sails) that I've seen twice (or two boats once). I saw it headed one direction, very far off the coast (for a sailboat at least), and then later, headed in the opposite direction. I thought I new some stuff about sailing, but I didn't know orange sails were so popular (or if it's the same boat, not as popular). Wish I had a picture of it, but, like I said, it was too far away. Maybe next time.