Sunday, December 30, 2012

Scenic Sunday.. a look around at the Fazenda

One morning while on the fazenda (FARM) near Mineiros - I took a walk and a minute to film some natural landscape.  It was simply a wonderful morning.  

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Friday, December 28, 2012


Well - it has been a while but I was stateside for a bit and a kind of crazy journey.  In May of 2012 I became an uncle to twins.  A little boy and a little girl.  When they were a week old, I rushed off to see them before I headed to Brazil and how wonderful it is to be around babies.  OK - I think I need to back up a bit and say that while I am stateside I have offered to be a support for my sister from my father's sister (OK she is really my cousin and I am not really the baby's  uncle but I choose to wear the title proudly) and her husband.  Trying to spend as much time with them as I can.  A two and a half hour flight is much better then the nine hours flight from Brazil and the other
benefit is that they are only four hours from mom and dad's so a great excuse to be all inclusive.
With a spare bedroom on the third floor and a couple of planned flights back to the Midwest in April / May (details to be forthcoming),  I found myself at their home for a couple of weeks helping them get ready for the arrival of the little bundles of joy.  I first helped transform their den into the babies room.   A fresh coat of paint changing the dim gray walls to a soft green.  Second task was moving all the adult educational books from the bookshelves and filling them with baby books which were purchased over several years in preparation.  Finally I helped her pick up things like the cribs, changing table and other necessities for their arrival.  Once the babies room was put together I moved on and painted a couple other rooms in their home.  They have lived here for a little over a year and the colors of the previous owners were dark and drab so we needed to add some fresh vibrant colors more to their tastes.
It always seems like painting walls is one of those things we humans put off because it is hard making color choices, it is not fun, or we just can. Needless to say  I was so happy to have the free time and it was a great project allowing me to be involved and I also made an unexpected trip to visit mom and dad in Iowa.  After all the painting was done I began planning a baby shower for them with the help of my sister, mom, and two sister in laws.  Since I was spending this week and a half here,  I had not plans to return for the shower but thanks to my brother's gift of frequent flier miles,  I was able to fit it
into my plans. Fortunately I was able to help as my family played host to family and friends celebrating in anticipation of the twins (more details to come - I am so behind on blog writing - LOL).   I had one more visit to the Midwest planned for my nephews graduation from high school and my hope was that the babies would arrive before or during this visit as I would soon travel back to Georgia for final preparations to travel south of the equator.  Of course the little buggers defied my plans and the twins blessed this world the day after I flew to Atlanta and of course with my pending three month stay in Brazil,  I had to make a quick trip to welcome them.   They are such a blessing and I am sure there will be more updates if my readers are interested in this journey of my life.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Whether it looks good or not .. eat it III

One of the evenings we spent on the farm we were treated to a traditional dish made with fresh caught "painted fish" from one of the local rivers in the Mineiros area.   Prepared in  a stew similar to how I have had cod and other fish in Brazil the flavor was wonderful with fresh tomatoes,  carrots, and potatoes,  it filled the house with a wonderful aroma.  The painted fish itself was a little unappetizing to the sight and I was not fond of the mushy blubber like texture.  But as the title of the post suggests, regardless of how it looks I am dedicated to give it a try and once I got past those two superficial observations the flavor was good.  Afresh water fish without being gamy or fishy. Another delightful local meal served with rice that you must try if you are offered in Goias.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Fazenda (the farm)

We spent the last few days on a farm in the middle of the cerrado.  No internet -no cell phones -just spending time with family and friends.  I have spent time in the past under these conditions and it always brings me back to appreciating the simple things in life but also missing the modern luxuries of communication we often take for granted.  Cards were played,  walks were taken,  swimming was done and all around a lot of relaxation took place.  Of course with 10 plus people at the farm, the kitchen was always full of people preparing the next meal whether it was fresh caught arapaima fish, homemade pasta, or the traditional
Brazlian feijoada. Several times over the stay I reflected back to growing up when we would go to my grandma’s house and there would always be people in the kitchen cooking.  Lunch and dinner with a coffee in between,  such a wonderful place for gathering and socializing.   Life seems so simple and people connecting so much easier when you are able to disconnect from technology.  There were only a couple of times when I worried about things back in the states... what if my family needed to reach me?  What if the people staying in my house needed something?  What if a new business opportunity came a calling?  But these
thoughts soon slipped out of my mind as I jumped into the refreshing water of the pool, slipped into a wonderful afternoon nap in the hammock or pulled up a chair to sit and enjoy the evening campfire.  Days filled with fresh mango fruit pulled from the trees, sun filled blue skies and cows grazing just beyond the fences.  Not a worry in the world as I sit here staring at the night sky with its half-moon and sparkling stars.  I ponder how I don’t miss the feeding tube to the world with the constant checking of the internet and endless possibility of interruption of life from the cell phone.  The more we have the more we want,  but in the end it is these simple times that fill our soul and replenish our spirit.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Everyday Life Brazil II - Gym

 Off we go on our second daily life adventure.   Today our journey starts at the academia or gym.  With beaches being such a huge past time for Brazilians, you can imagine there are gyms on almost every corner.  Some of the gyms are smaller and some of them larger. Your work out experience can pretty much be what you want it to be.  My gym is only blocks from our apartment and so an easy three minute walk and you are there.  Olympicia Acadamia.  With a small number of parking spots along the street and like many businesses in the city,  it is located in a residential area.  When I enter the gym I am greeted by the front
desk staff and welcomed (in Portuguese of course).  I have paid my fee and through the turn gate I go, down the hall and turn left.  The gym is two levels with weights and machines on the bottom and cardio on the upper level.  My trainer (who's price is included in the membership) has a small area in the corner with files where they have written up a routine for the day.   I guess you can say the experience includes all the same thoughts, feelings and smells found in gyms in the states.  OK, maybe not as much smell as the gym is open air with walls that don't quite connect to the ceiling leaving a four foot opening around the
 top allowing the daily breezes to flow through.  The interesting difference with
 this gym is there is an Olympic size pool where swimmers practice their strokes for hours each day.  I am truly amazed as they drift from one end of the pool to the other for literally hours,  perfecting the particular stroke they are working on. Olypicia Acadamia's claim to fame is that they have trained swimmers who have metaled in the Para-Olympics and Pan American Para Games representing Brazil.  I held off on writing this post hoping to write a little about one of the swimmers great medals in London but he had a poor showing so no medals this time around.  I have gained admiration for these athletes as they train day in and day out swimming for hours at a time.  As for me,  it is back to the gym and hoping to stay in some sort of shape as I age gracefully.  They gym is the gym no matter where you are it sure is nice to have time for it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Scenic Sunday - Iowa Summer

Visiting my parents is always a pleasure and I always love spending time in Iowa.  It is such a beautiful part of the United States although many people find it to be treeless and flat.  I find the big blue sky simply breathtaking and at night it fills with stars from east to west.   One of the best things about my current situation is the extra time I get to spend there with my mom and dad experiencing Iowa. I hope you enjoy the video I took at my parents house during the beginning of fall this year.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Movie Review -- FLIGHT --

The other night a friend asked if I would be interested in attending a showing of the new Denzel  Washington movie "Flight",  I had not heard of the movie as I live under a rock in regards to what is showing at the theater but figured it was a good opportunity to socialize a bit and I like Denzel.
The movie is the story about Denzel's character "Whip" who is a commercial pilot.  It begins a little shockingly with full frontal nudity (not Denzel) and Denzel snorting a line of coke and  downing some vodka as he and his flight attendant girlfriend get ready for their morning flight.  One of the friends who went with us to the showing was an actual pilot and it was interesting to hear his reaction to the behavior.  I had not heard anything about the movie so it seemed a little harsh to me.  It then continues on with Whip carrying on, drinking and eventually the plane he is captain of has to make a crash landing in the middle of a field.  He is seen as a hero because of the miraculously job he did which saved many lives.  Only loosing four passengers and two crew members (his girlfriend included).
Soon though,  information about the alcohol and drugs come forward and it the story follows Whip as he works with his attorney,  the union, and the airline to cover up the drug and alcohol use.  The story seemed to drag a little and lacked continuity.  There was another character: Nicole who is an addict trying to be free of her addictions.   Nicole's life is shown parallel to his at the beginning and soon the two meet coincidentally,   They paired up for a while and then she just kind of disappeared.  I felt like her story could be a large part of the movie but it went undeveloped and her exit from the story was anticlimactic and unsatisfying.  
The camera follows as Whip struggles within as to whether he should tell the truth or not and grappling with his own addictions.  I don't want to give it all away in case you want to head and see it.  It was surely entertaining and an OK movie to see.
Overall I would give it 3 out of 5 stars (***00)  

Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker
Kelly Reilly as Nicole
Brian Geraghty as Ken Evans
Bruce Greenwood as Charlie Anderson
Don Cheadle as Hugh Lang
John Goodman as Harling Mays
Nadine Velazquez as Katerina Marquez
Melissa Leo as Ellen Block
Tamara Tunie as Margaret Thomason
Garcelle Beauvais as Deana
Dylan Kussman as Two Beer Barry
Kwesi Boakye as Knuckles
James Badge Dale as Gaunt Young Man

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Taste of Brazil - Teasers (little bites) II - Tapioca

Growing up my parents would often treat us to  delicious tapioca pudding.  I know several of my friends do not like the creamy desert with pearls of tapioca, but for my family it was always devoured quickly.  Mom would boil the right amount of water on the stove top. Add tapioca pearls and the rest of the ingredients,  cook, cool, and serve.  I guess you could say I was never concerned about what it was made from,  it just tasted good.  After seeing several booths at different street fairs in Brazil advertising tapioca I began to crave this creamy delight.  But as we passed by the first booth I realized it was quite different and so wikipedia here I come for some investigation into what tapioca really is.  Tapioca is a product made from the cassava root and originates from Central and South America.  The word
tapioca comes from the native Tupi people of Northern Brazil which called the process of detoxification: tipi'oka.  Yes the root of the cassava plant is toxic if consumed directly from the ground.  It has to go through a process called tipi'oka where the root is ground into a pulp, water is added and the mixture sets allowing the water to evaporate leaving behind a tapioca powder.  This powder is further processed into many different forms for cooking.  The pearls my family loved in good old  pudding form are created from this powder.  This process makes the starch edible and as the plant left its region of origin (Central and South America)  the word took on more applications and explained more uses in different dishes.

Now, to take a look at my tapioca experience in Brazil I have to head back to the city square and the fair.  These tapioca vendors take the moistened tapioca and strain it to make a coarse flour.  They sprinkle this flour onto a hot griddle where it fuses together into a tortilla of sorts.  Either doces (sweet) or salgados (salty) ingredients are added to the tortilla and it is folded over like a taco.  My first taste of this form of tapioca was filled with chicken.  The tapioca tortilla is quite white and looks kind of bland. I bite into the fluffy white food and I have to say it would not have a lot of flavor without the spices and chicken that fill it.  Since I love sweets,  I had to follow it with a  second tortilla filled with cinnamon and banana.   I was more impressed with this "tapioca" but I think the tortilla was made with a little butter and the banana and cinnamon made it so good.  I now have a new meaning for tapioca and know not to expect that wonderful tapioca pudding when I order it in Brazil.  All this talk about tapioca makes me hungry for that delicious pearl filled pudding.. YUM! I cannot wait!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday's Travel Tip - walk - don't walk

 One of the largest brain adjustments when I change my surroundings is actually while I am out for a walk or hitting the town for a little shopping.  I know sometimes the adjustment is the difference between hello and oi, but that is not major because if I mess up it won't hurt me.   Today's travel tip is talking about being a pedestrian on the streets of Brazil compared to the United States.  Almost everywhere you go in the US the little old pedestrian has the right of way (not that it guarantees the driver will see you).  When I head back south I always have to make sure and change the brain switch to "don't walk" when I arrive in Brazil.  Drivers in Brazil won't be stopping or even pausing for the average pedestrian crossing the street let alone taking their first step into the cross walks.  When the little red man at the stop light turns green, the color green for is for go
 instead of white as in the USA,  that really should be yellow as you have to proceed with caution.  Always keeping your eyes open for any cars or motorcycles in the near vicinity.  Realizing that they often ignore the red light or decide the light is too long and since no one is coming proceed anyway.  Vehicles who are turning also pose a threat as they will not slow down allowing you to cross the street even if there are those white lines guiding you to safety.  As a kid in the US I was taught to look both ways.  When I am in Brazil I have had to retrain myself to look both ways but then keep on looking.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Scenic Sunday - Rio

I did not spend much time in Rio before it became my second favorite city in the world.  With so many wonderful things to see and beeches to enjoy.  How could one not love this city.  One of the great things to do is take the trolley up to the Christ Statue and enjoy the city view.  This weeks Scenic Sunday is dedicated to Rio as the videos are shot from the Christ Statue overlooking the city.  Enjoy 

 I would love to know what your favorite city in the world is and can you guess what city out ranks Rio de Janiero for me?  Leave a comment...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parque Zoologico de Goiania

Goiania is a city with a population of over three million people.  There are plenty of things to do and over the past year or two we have driven by the Parque Zoologico de Goiania (a large park in the wealthy Setor Oeste neighborhood) in anticipation of it reopening.  In 2008 the major attraction to the park - its zoo - was closed for renovations and in May of this year those renovation were complete.  Visitors were once again welcome to explore and enjoy the over one thousand animals which call the park home.
A little history before we purchase our tickets and begin to explore.  The park was created in 1946 and like I stated above contains over one thousand animals representing approximately one hundred and ninety three species.   Within the boundaries of the park lie four lakes - Lake of Roses - Monkey Lake - Lake of the Birds and Swan Lake.  These lakes are supported by five streams which find their sources within the park's boundaries.  It has been a place to gather and enjoy nature right in the heart of the city since it was built.  Enough with the history lesson let's see what the park has to offer. (thanks wikipedia)
It is once again a wonderful blue sky filled day and since we have been waiting for the park to open, we decide it is time to go take a look.  Parking is a little bit of an issue with the area designated for the parks visitors is really too small to support the crowds and as you can imagine the overflow streams into the surrounding neighborhood.  We drive around a while and find a spot on the side which is opposite the zoo.  It is nice out so an enjoyable walk in through the tree filled outer park is a great way to begin our journey.  As we near the front entrance,  the sidewalk is lined with vendors
 selling waters, sodas and little toys for boys and girls.  The closer we get to the front gate the more people there are gathered together waiting to enter.  However, there is no line and we immediately purchase our R$2,00 ticket (wow quite cheap for Brazil), hand it to the gatekeeper and enter the park .
Right away animal life grabs our attention as three hippos are eating their mid afternoon snack.   The pen seems a little small for the three XXL animals and it is probably a rarity that they are out of the pond which lies in the middle, but then again it is snack time.  We linger to watch a while and  soon it is time to move on to the wild pigs and iguana next door.
OK,  I am not going to go pen by pen and share with you what animals we see but I will share some photos and say that the zoo was filled with visitors on this particular day.  The animals were all your typical suspects found in zoos across the world.  Like the other zoos their living quarters seem to be a little small, but only the tiger seemed stressed by it as he/she paced the edge of the cage.  Some of the different habitats are breathtaking among the tall buildings of the neighborhood around. Besides the bear who seemed to be injured and the missing giraffe who recently died,  the animals seeme happy and healthy.
Of course the zoo has a large collection of unique birds including several species of macaws.  They have taken this bird watching one step further with the recently completed addition of a large netted bird cage filled with vegetation and several birds.   Guests are guided through this area by zoo employees and educated on the habits and characteristics of the birds found within.  Of course the toucano is one of the birds found here along with peacocks, and macaws.  They only give these guided tours at certain times of the day and we are fortunate to be here at the right time so we
proceed to stand in line.  Through the hanging chains we sneak as not to disturb the birds on the other side.  We walk around the small loop inside enjoying the colorful beauty of these magnificent birds.   Our guide shares some of the birds habits and what my brain is not translating,  Luiz attempts to translate for me.  As we exit the large bird cage  arriving just outside the netting we are treated to a full display by one of the peacocks.  Almost as to thank us for visiting.
Next we stroll through the museum which is filled with information about the wildlife of Brazil along with the stuffed remains of a large crocodile which called the zoo home for years along with other local animals.  After this the only thing left is to walk around Monkey Lake and watch the monkeys play on their island habitats in the middle of the lake.  These little critters are surely entertaining and we find a nice shaded place to sit and watch for a while.  It has been a enjoyable afternoon and little did I know,  my favorite part of it was still left to come.   After a few minutes or resting it is time to continue our journey around the lake towards the car.  As we walked along,  there is a large squawking noise coming from the middle of the lake.  We notice a pair of ducks eating monkey food on one of the islands.  Soon one of the black monkeys runs towards the fowl as he waives his arms up in the air.   The birds respond with a loud squawk, hiss, and jab of their beaks in his direction.  We stop to watch and soon it seems as if they are playing a game of tag.  The monkey flies around the island, waiving his arms, and dashing towards the pair.  They
respond with a quick little chase and some loud noise.  Most of the time the monkey runs away, grabs a tree and swings around the island before his inevitable return.  Once and  a while the monkey seems to win and the ducks retreat to the water where they are safe only to return to the island once again.  Seemingly egged on by the monkey who appears at the waterfront near the ducks.  I begin to wonder what is so specific about this island for the birds.  There are others and they have food on them as well.  Maybe they have built a nest here or are thinking it would be a good place to call home.  We stand and watch this back and forth for over a half an hour.  Several times I find it hilarious enough to let out a chuckle and actually just have a great time watching the battle of Monkey Island.  The birds finally swim away so we move towards the gates.  As we get to
the entrance the hippos are now submerged in the pond and behind us we hear the squawking of the ducks again and turn around.  We can see the pair have returned to stake their claim on the island but it is time for us to leave and enjoy the rest of our day outside the zoo walls.

You knew there would be a photo of a Toucan!