#barkenport: our first time hosting friends overseas

In the days when Dave was getting paid to hike (it wasn’t all a walk in the park, ha), he made a friend. Chris and he shared military backgrounds, formative religious experiences, and a love of music and craft beer–not to mention all the ups and downs that came with the trails (#trailpunsfordays). It’s not often Dave connects with someone on this level, so naturally, I was curious to find out what his wife was like…and more importantly, would we connect?

We did. Allison is a teacher, so there, the end. Just kidding. I also discovered we share the love of God, the fear of anxiety, and many perspectives of the Midwest. None of these are light subjects: but that’s how I like my friends…deep and meaningful.

So…Dave and I were absolutely thrilled when they did the unthinkable: they made a trip to Brazil happen!

Here they are arriving, after three planes and a scary amount of hours.

Since they arrived on Christmas day, we made a special request of Santa to make a stop here with some Brazil gear and beach toys–and of course, champagne for the grownups.

That night, we made sure to fill their bellies with a traditional Brazilian churrasco: fire-grilled steak, chicken and sausage; garlic bread; veggies.

Chris might have had just a little bit to much fun with the skewers…

Not to worry though…we worked that off in our apartment’s indoor futsal court, of which the boys fell in love and for which they begged on a daily basis ūüôā

(That actually became one of my favorite parts. Eventually, we brought down games and adult beverages to the game room and we played while they played. It was great!)

After an exhausting night of settling in–after an exhausting bout of travel–we were off to Rio together. I mean, come on, you can’t come to Brazil and not see the beaches of Rio! While there, we spent lazy days at the beaches and one crazy, whirlwind day of sightseeing.

We came back to Sampa just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve on our beautiful balcony, where we danced, played with glow sticks, watched Brazilian coverage of events we didn’t understand and enjoyed multiple fireworks (noises or sounds). Don’t mind the blurriness of these photos…because let’s be real, when aren’t NYE pics blurry when you’re too busy being with friends!?

Once we hit the new year, we all realized the Barkers had only wet their appetite for Brazilian beaches. So, we booked a last minute getaway to Santos: the sea of sand dollars (win) and poop floating in the water (fail). We enjoyed shots on the beach, drip castles and reflections, and one helluva sunset that included a car fire and a rainbow (#nofilter).

All these trips and big moments don’t even include the small moments…which might even be my favorite. Cooking together. Games. Slow conversations on the porch. Naps. Field trips (packed in our car like sardines) to the malls for delicious coffee and snacks…and the hunt for the perfect Havanas. The boys’ addiction (justified!) to acai. Once again, seeing our new home with eyes of foreigners.

Naturally, as the time arrived for the Barker’s departure, my heart grew sad. I was crying at the drop of a hat. Allison said it’s because they brought a little piece of home with them.

But, no, it’s not that.

It’s because, without a doubt and with no better way to say it, we absolutely fell in love with the Barkers. Including their kids. Most definitely their kids. Cayden and Corbin are just delightful little boys, and to see them play together was a joy. So cheers to you Chris and Allison for being fantastic parents. You should be proud.

The Barkers leaving with a piece of our heart…

a year abroad: 2018 adventures

2018 marks the first full year Dave and I have lived abroad. And what a parade of adventures it has been!

Of course, my plan was to blog extensively about each and every one. But alas, time–and a stupid Iphone photo configuration issue {GRRRRR}–has prevented that. But as I look back on the year and get excited for the next, I can’t help but revisit the places we’ve…well…visited.

We spent January in Rio learning Portuguese. I wrote about that here and here.

For carnaval in February, we road tripped through Curitiba (cool little Brazilian city) to Florianopolis (Brazilian island) to Blumenau (mountain town known for Oktoberfest).

Mid-March, we zipped over to our favorite quick beach getaway town: Guaruj√°. The end of March brought us jam sessions at Lollapalooza.

Early April, we fell in love with the mountain town of Campos do Jord√£o. When can we go back?!

The last weekend of April, we found ourselves on chilling on Boiçucanga Beach with a friend. I did my first open water swim there in training for a triathlon.

June and July took us home to friends and family in Colorado. We camped, hiked, spent 6 nights at a silent retreat, reconnected with friends, and visited with Dave’s family in the mountains. Oh yeah, and I completed my first sprint triathlon!

In September, I traveled with our senior class to Pernambuco. I swam in Recife waters, where some of the most deadly shark attacks are prevalent!

In October, we rented an AirBnB with some of our friends in Guaruj√°. We also attended one helluva Halloween party.

One Saturday in November, we attended one of the best beer festivals ever! We can’t wait for next year.

For November, we also drank a lot of wine and enjoyed stunning scenery in the beautiful Mendoza valley of Argentina.

And in two days, Santa is bringing us friends with whom we’ll ring in the New Year and do some more exploring of Brazil.

And then we start 2019 off right with a dream trip to Patagonia!

As I finish this post, I cannot help but think of one of my favorite Scriptures, Psalm 16:6:

tri it on: my first open water swim

Last November, Dave and I were in Guaruja when there happened to be a triathlon. Fascinated, we spent much of the morning watching swimmers, bikers and runners compete and transition from one event to the next. A little seed was planted that day.
And now, I’m registered for my very first sprint¬†tri! Gulp.
One piece of advice I kept finding in my research was to practice an open water swim before the actual event. And so, last month on a beach trip to Boicucanga, I did just that.
Of course, it wasn’t quite¬†that¬†easy. It took quite a bit of courage-mustering, if you will. Despite being a naturally strong swimmer, there’s just something about all that open water. Riptides. Sharks. Sea monsters. Bacteria. Runaway boats. Did I mention sharks?! Oh my.
But with Dave following along with me from the beach, I did it. And I’m not gonna lie, I was suppressing a low-grade panic attack the entire time. One, the water was so green and murky; it felt ominous, something akin to swimming in a witch’s cauldron. Two, it’s hard to keep a straight line. Three, the waves lapping and the chilly water and the near-panic-attack-mode make breathing cumbersome. Four, I was just sure something was going to get me out there. Five, I had to quit earlier than I wanted because my mouth was burning from the salt water. Even typing this is eliciting some anxiety!
But, I did it. And I’d do it again. Though the burning mouth…there’s gotta be some technique I’m missing there!
Here’s a video if it suits your fancy.

photo journal of our trip to Rio

It’s a tough life to constantly be several posts behind on the trips we’ve taken.

But I’ll take it!

We spent the first weeks of 2018 in Rio to study at Caminhos Language School.

The mornings we spent several hours in classes. And then some afternoons, we had private lessons; most of those were about and about exploring Rio, and one was even at a bar. My kind of learning! Here are a few glimpses of that world.

Of course, our favorite thing was the beach. Our go-to beach was Leblon, and we stayed away from the “popular” beaches as much as possible. We couldn’t get enough of the sunsets, rainbows, sports, people (especially beautiful and/or “enhanced” people) watching, cold drinks, and squeaky cheese. We even saw a whale one day!

We did all the touristy things in a whirlwind day tour. The best, despite the crowds, was Christ the Redeemer.

On that same tour, we also hit the Chinese Vista, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain…

Parque Nacional da Tijuca, Santa Teresa

and Escadaria Selarón.

We spent New Year’s Eve on the beach celebrating¬†a Brazilian tradition. We wore white, sat under a captivating full moon, watched the fireworks reflect in the waves, and offered flowers to the sea.

But my favorite pictures from Rio come from the hike we took to Pedra do Telegrafo. It was this crazy urban walk straight up LOTS of stairs at first, then became an uphill hike through the rainforest. It’s a rock suspended in midair…or at least that’s how it appears. You can imagine all the selfies! But, the location was complete with an acai stand and professional photography. And the view…breathtaking. Speaking of breathtaking: pretty sure there was a collective sigh when I got down from the rock after finishing my “stunts.”

Thanksgiving trip to Buenos Aires

I know, I know. I am trips behind in blogging. Such is the way of the writing life when there is just too much living happening.

And I’m ok with that.

But before I lose the pictures, and more accurately the memories, I want to share about our trip to Buenos Aires for Thanksgiving of 2017. It was our first intercontinental, international South America adventure. Such easy and quick access to another country was surreal and awed us again with this blessed life we are living.

For the most part, we ate and drank our way through town–as is our usual mojo; good thing we did a ton of walking! We arrived late on Thursday night to our hotel by way of taxi. Uber is illegal in Buenos Aires, so most of our transportation was the flagging-down-type. By the end, we felt like such New Yorkers. Thursday night we hit some dive bar next to our hotel in Palermo where we bellied up next to college kids and other late-night hipsters. The food was terrible, but we had our first experience with how weighty the dollar is to the peso…wow, the best bottle of wine on the menu was under $10. It was crazy!

One of our days we spent strolling through La Recoleta Cemetery, which was hauntingly beautiful at first, then abundant in spiders (everywhere, ewww) and redundancy. It was odd to see how much money people spend on something that eventually becomes someone else’s tourist attraction. Naturally, afterward, we quenched our thirst at a nearby brewery. The sunshine was warm and the beer was cold.

On the¬†other day, we toured open-air markets. We bought these really cool gemstone wire baskets to hold crystals. They also serve as a meditation mandala-like tool. It honestly was one of the most unique items we’ve ever seen at a market and we were glad to snatch up a few of these handiworks. Down the street from the market was the world’s most del.i.cious¬†French bakery that I would go back to in a heartbeat.

In general, we loved Buenos Aires–though it ate up our cash (few places accept credit cards). It was a beautiful town with cobblestone streets and colonial buildings¬†juxtaposed with street art (that Dave was constantly stopping to photograph) and urban vibes. We ate well, and late. Craft beer (!) was everywhere. And…the streets were on a grid! No spaghetti-esc¬†scattering of streets like in Sampa. The best part was… SPANISH! It felt so good to be in a foreign country that didn’t feel so foreign. Dave and I felt right at home butchering our Spanish, and it was a small victory after so many difficulties learning Portuguese.

It is still hard to believe that our flight from “home” to Buenos Aires was the same duration as a flight from Colorado to Illinois.

This life of adventure rocks.

Here are some pics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

when the tables are turned: what I learned about my instruction while being a student

This January, we’ve spent three weeks in Rio doing a Portuguese course at a local language school. Now, as I head home to the kiddos that I miss and the job that I love, I cannot help but reflect on what I learned while being an emerging bi(tri)lingual student.

  • The Teacher. When I think back on my educational experience, it is people I remember…not lessons or curriculum. The teacher matters. Humanity matters. The same goes for this experience: I felt much more engaged when I connected with the teacher; I felt much more motivated when I respected the teacher. What created this dynamic? Patient, present, and authentic listening. A remembering of details. Facilitation rather than sage-on-the-stage-look-at-me-showmanship. A sense of humor. Well-timed feedback that corrects but doesn’t interrupt. Intentional lessons that are relevant to my zone of proximal development. Attention to all modes of learning: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. An encouragement of beneficial resources and a caution against resources that in the end undermine learning.
  • The peers. Since learning is never in isolation, peers have a critical influence on achievement as well. As I was learning a second language, I was slow at times to formulate what I wanted to say. Nothing irritated me more than when a peer would jump in to save me, or steal my struggle, or finish my thoughts. I also was highly annoyed by those who dominated air time. Of course, this goes back to the teacher’s role as well. How do I build community? How do I honor struggle? How do I regulate participation? How do I ensure¬†all¬†voices have air time? How do I equally challenge the “know-it-alls” while supporting other levels?
  • The space. It is hard to learn in uncomfortable chairs in a room that doesn’t feel cozy. It is hard to learn when sitting for hours on end. It is hard to learn when I have limited space. Of course, it is not impossible. But as I think about my role as a teacher, I wonder how I can create¬†the space for optimal learning…especially when I don’t have my own classroom.
  • The learner. Ultimately, my experience in Rio learning Portuguese was up to me–the student. I had to practice. I had to do homework. I had to take risks. I had to struggle. I had to make mistakes. I had to ask questions. I had to engage. In my last week when things shifted to a different classroom, a different level, a different teacher, I didn’t engage fully. And though I may criticize the root of this, in the end… it’s on me.

As I begin my second semester teaching abroad, these are the things I’ll keep in mind.

 

 

wonder

Tonight was a miracle.

Dave and I sat on the world famous Ipanema beach, eating acai with granola and bananas. In every echo of our ears, there were the accented voices of vendors:

Aguuuuuuuua, cervejjjjjjjja.

Queijo, queijo, queijjjjjjo coalho.

Limonada, mate, Globoooooos.

O cammmmmmmarão.

Hola Heineken. Longe neckeeeees.

Later, we met up with colleagues from Caminhoes Language School to play volleyball.

There we were, covered in sol and sand,

while the setting sun painted streaks of magenta stripes across the sky,

a sly hide-and-go-seek with Pedra da G√°vea,

ocean rippling lava and light.

In the north sky,

lightning danced the illuminated story

of jagged exclamation points and question marks.

In our hands were Caipis,

beneath our toes brown sugar sand,

in our hearts joy.

And then, there, in the distance,

a whale meandered through the waves,

along the coast.

Arching and dipping,

a liquid serpentine volcano.

A whale.

What is this life we are living?!

A life of wonder.

Wonder.

road trip to Guaruj√°

 

The middle of November brought a three-day weekend due to the Brazilian holiday of Dia da Consciência Negra. So, naturally, this little adventure-seeking-couple headed to the beach!

After less than three hours in the car, we arrived at the coastal town of Guaruj√°.

 

IMG_1899

 the scenic drive

 

It is a long stretch of beach dotted with colorful umbrellas, open-air restaurants, and hotels. We stayed in one of those where we could literally walk out the front door, across the street, and onto the beach. Perfect location!

 

 

IMG_1899

 the scenic driveIt is a long stretch of beach dotted with colorful umbrellas, open-air restaurants, and hotels. We stayed in one of those where we could literally walk out the front door, across the street, and onto the beach. Perfect location!

 

Friday night, we headed to a delicious Thai restaurant. So much so we returned there Sunday night for dinner. We ate on a quiet patio, overlooking the ocean, bathed in the subtle shifting light of sunset.

Saturday was an absolutely perfect day for the beach. Clear sky, warm sun, gentle breeze. Families played, dogs frolicked, birds squawked, and salty air renewed. We spent most of the day lounging, optimizing the chair service of food, drinks and views. We also enjoyed the tableside service of grilled cheese. No, not with bread. I’m talking Brazilian style, crispy on the outside chewy on the inside, delicious, addictive grilled queijo coalho.¬† Beach-walking servers come to your real estate on the sand, take your order, place the cheese sticks on their portable grill, and then whip it around in the air. It tastes like magic.

Sunday was rainy, but we still took advantage of the beach. To our surprise, there was a triathlon happening that morning right outside our hotel. We watched that for quite awhile, inspiration rising within us both.

Since we’ve come back, Dave and I look at our trip to Guaruj√° as a turning point. Though Ilhabela was an adventure, it wasn’t quite the beach life of Brazil we were expecting. And the brutal commute didn’t help. But this road trip was relaxing and rejuvenating. We felt more comfortable in our skin in this foreign land.

We might just be getting the hang of this expat life.

first Brazilian road trip: Ilhabela

October 12 in Brazil was a holiday, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, resulting in a four day weekend.

Seeing as we live in South America (that still feels cool to type), a trip to the coast was in order!

So Dave and I planned our first Brazilian road trip! Our destination was Ilhabela, a small island reachable by ferry from the coastal city of¬†S√£o Sebasti√£o. We left¬†S√£o Paulo bright and early on Thursday in an attempt to beat the massive migration from the city to the beaches that occurs every holiday weekend (think I-70 in ski traffic). Armed with breakfast from our local padaria, translations for emergency cellphone-less situations (“help, our car broke down”), and gallons of bug spray (we were warned countless times about the atrocious borrachudo bites), off we went!

It was very much like a typical road trip on any highway back in the states. That is, until we got off in some raw, podunk town only to get right back on to the highway a few miles later. (Cool side trip bonus: we did pass a small religious parade that had half of the road closed down.) Just when we were prompted to do that again, we realized we had the no-toll option on Google maps: whoops!

Once we got out of the city, the drive was beautiful. Rolling hills eventually gave way to a rather aggressive winding road dropping down the mountainside to the sea. (I guess we have a little bit of Colorado here!) Just as we started that descent, we hit the traffic we had been expecting the whole way: not too bad in the scheme of things.

After about an hour-long cue for the ferry, we were on the water! We could see Ilhabela in the distance, vertical and verdant. Even though I’ve never been there, it reminded me so much of Hawaii.

On the island, we drove the one main road that runs along the Western side of the island (the developed side) to Hotel Maison Joly, where we were staying. To our left were the Atlantic-fed waters of Canal de São Sebastião. To our right were small neighborhood streets jutting up to the wild Parque Estadual de Ilhabela. All along the streets walked couples, families and other groups of people, mostly in wet swimsuits. Sunbathers lined the beaches. Runners dripped in the humidity. Dogs frolicked in the sea.

After dropping off our luggage, we visited a beach recommended by our hotel staff: Praia Portinho. Parking, as to be expected, was crazy; we barely managed to squeeze into a spot in front of the bar on the beach. Score! Plastic chairs with umbrellas shaded picnickers, and soon us. Sadly, as it’s still spring here (oh right), the water was super cold. However, we did enjoy people watching (and by people, I mean swimwear watching–what little there is of it). We explored the rocks and watched the sky. We felt small.

After a long commute capping a long week, we stopped for some pizza on the way back from the beach (the Brazilian go-to dinner…who woulda thunk it?!). Day 1 in Ilhabela in the books.

The next day, we sat on the patio of the hotel to enjoy a delicious breakfast with a sea view: fresh squeezed juices, an overeasy egg cooked in a heart-shaped hole in toast (how cute is that!), fruits, assorted breads and pastries. While finishing up, the owner of the hotel came over to chat with us. He was delightful. He suggested activities for us to do on the island, and checked in to make sure our stay was up to his standards.

Friday consisted of spending the morning at the beach: Praia Pereque. Then we explored the one road to the Southern end of the island. Because we were planning on hitting up dinner late (it doesn’t open until 8pm, oh Brazil), we napped. Good thing. The highly rated Thai restaurant on the island didn’t seat us until almost 11. (What is that?!) But the view was beautiful (the outdoor garden area and the people watching), and that curry was del.ic.ious.

The highlight of our trip came Saturday: a speed boat trip to the east side of the island. We visited three beaches: Praia Fome,¬†Eust√°quio and¬†Castelhanos. It was amazing to ride the waves alongside birds diving into the ocean for fish. And on the open sea, we couldn’t help thinking about our friends who lived and traveled on a boat; clearly their courageous and adventurous spirits inspired us more than we realized at the time.

Here is a video of our boat-trip-slash-roller-coaster.

 

Sunday. Oh Sunday. It was a 12 hour commute to get home. It was brutal. It agitated the underlying sense of culture shock I’ve (we’ve) been feeling lately. So I’ll save that for another post.

Here are some pictures from our first Brazilian road trip!

Next up on the Team-Possum-Always-Have-A-Ticket-In-Your-Pocket-Adventure-Agenda:

1745301_1

November 2017: Guarujá and Buenos Aires

December 2017: Illinois

January 2018: Rio

February 2018: Southern Brazil road trip

March 2018: Lollapalooza and Campos do Jordão

 

 

 

 

photo journal of field trip to Belem

Day 1: Travel and arrival to Belém

Day 2: Travel and exploration of Marajó

Day 3: Travel from Marajó back to Belém

Day 4: Boa Vista, Para

Day 5: Belém to Sampa

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