Sunday, August 02, 2015

Up in the Alps: the 400 versus the 200 View

In the past two days we spent nearly the equivalent of what it would cost to go to two theme parks for a day (or a couple of days in one park) with our family, but it was worth every penny! (if I could I would always spend money to go to natural sights instead of man-made "wonders.")

First place (and more expensive): Zermatt, to see the Matterhonr (taking yhe train to Gonengrat). Initially there were some clouds, but then it got clear & cloudy again later. K did a fantastic time lapse video of the clouds (not shared here).
Second: Chamonix, to see the Mont Blanc from the "Aiguillle du Midi". It was a lovely day with some clouds later. I took fewer photos with the cell phone because most of the memory is used up, sorry!
I can't decide which one I like best. It was my second time (and K's third!) seeing the Mont Blanc and I still think/feel it's one of the most incredible places I've always been to (and ever will). Seeing the Matterhorn  was a cherished dre & bucket list item and it was breathtaking. Kelvin (our 23 year old) liked it better than the Mont Blanc.

Which one do you like best, the 400 or the 200 view? ;-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Goodbye Israel

The trip is over and it was amazing! I Hope to be able to post about it when I get home, but I don't know if it's going to happen.

Our last day and half was at the sea of Galilee, at a very pleasant hotel was a beautiful warm pool:
Yesterday, my sons and my nephew were baptized in the Jordan River, which was very meaningful ending to a marvelous trip. We have 12 minutes to eat now and to go to the bus, so I've got to go!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Epic Family Trip: Some Cell Phone Photos

No words needed for this & next ones, right?
Sinai sunrise

Hotel in Sinai (cold pool)
Desert - next to "Solomon's Columns"
Amazing Red Sea reefs
Aquarium 

Eilat from hotel
Petra sunrise
Walking to Petra
First Glimpse

Monday, July 20, 2015

Epic Family Trip Notes

There is no way I can articulate everything that we've been experiencing in this trip in a well-written, coherent manner (particularly at 3 am, the only time I found a minute to write the first draft of this post two days ago), so I'll go with slightly disconnected notes in bullet points. I'd love to share photos too, but I only downloaded them into the computer last night. Maybe I'll share some from my phone as well, just because it's easier...
  • We're six eight days into the trip and we've visited: Frankfurt (a group of us, very briefly, during our 7h layover); Cairo (2 days) & Mount Sinai (1 day) in Egypt; Eilat, at the Red See in Israel (2 days); and Petra and Amman, in Jordan (one night each, one morning in Petra - today). Still to come: more sightseeing in Israel, after two restful nights in a Dead Sea Resort, including Jerusalem, Galilee, etc. (then my family & parents will spend 14 rushed days in Europe).
  •  Cairo is pretty chaotic and fascinating. Priceless ancient monuments, ruins and statues on one hand, and trash piles and drab looking apartment buildings on the other, not to mention the chaotic traffic. In spite of that, one can't help but love the country and its people. I hope we come back to visit my brother-in-law & family soon! 
  • Visiting the Middle East during and at the holiday at the end of Ramadan had a good and a bad side. Good side: way less (next to none in places) souvenir vendors, emptier streets, and emptier tourist attractions too -- particularly in the early morning (8 am). Bad side: museum closing earlier (2:30-3pm) and Nile river cruise dinner starting either too early (5:30 or too late 9 pm -- we took the later one and went to bed really late that night). Another good side was lighter traffic around sunset (7 pm) and a bad side was that the Eilat resort in Israel was crowded because of the holiday weekend.
  • It was lovely to visit my brother-in-law's apartment and place of work, even if only for a short half-hour (before the late Nile cruise). Now we can picture where they live how how their lives are in Cairo.
  • Eating all those tempting "exotic" dishes is great, until it's not anymore for several people who get diarrhea or constipation (I didn't get really sick, but felt some cramps, and was kind of constipated for a while). My husband and several other people still had an OK appetite, but were or still are very "loose" for may days, some other people were full-on sick.
  •  Israel (Eilat and surrounding area is all I know so far) is very Western, but very much like Brazil in a way that is hard to explain. How the town is laid out, how the stores are, how people behave, etc. Of course ALL beaches in Brazil are sandy, not rocky like their nice (if small) Red Sea beach.
  • If you stay at five-star hotels you get very spoiled and then it's harder to stay at the simpler hotels (Saint Catherine - bare bones) & Petra (old building). All these fancy hotel stays also lead to youngest nephew in the trip (9) asking grandpa "How many starts is this next hotel?" and making funny disappointed faces at the suggestions that it's one, two or three stars. ;-) (it was four, BTW, and he thought that was OK).
  •  
  • One gets used to living off a suitcase after a while, especially because of the previous item. It's annoying, but feasible. 37 days is too long of a period and I'm sure I'll be sick and tired of my clothes and shoes by the end, but so far I think I planned well.
  • We desperately need to plan a trip to come back and snorkel/dive in the Red Sea. My dream used to be to go to the Caribbean and I still want to go, particularly to the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico, but now I know where I should come snorkel. The undersea observatory at the Eilat aquarium was one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen. It was INCREDIBLE! Too bad the pictures don't show the true colors of the fish. I will try to edit them, but I don't know how.
  • I knew from the start that we wouldn't have enough time in Petra. It was a bit frustrating, but with the really hot weather and having to manage 46 people in the group, I suppose I shouldn't complain having been there only from 8 to 11:30 am. The hardest thing is being so close to seeing so many wonderful things and being able to see only part of it. Sigh... Oh, and not visiting the Citadel in Jordan, only stopping outside its gates to take some photos wasn't cool either. But... whatever. 
  • It was very sad that one of my mother-in-law's four cousins who came on the trip had to leave last night. The cousins' dad is very sick and hospitalized and the mom is freaking out while all their four children were in this trip, so she left to go help them and had to cancel her husband's trip to meet her in Israel tomorrow and they are both going to Brazil. We're hoping their dad will get better and recover or else the trip will be ruined for the other three siblings. :-( So please keep uncle Williams in your thoughts and prayers (as well as my uncle Arlindo who is sick in Brazil).
  •  I'm getting several items of my Bucket List crossed out in this trip. The main one was visiting Petra. But I guess that one will be only half crossed-out (sigh). The second one would be the Pyramids, but I still need/want to go to the Valley of the Kings (Luxor), so I'll leave it a half too. ;-)
I'll try to post some photos next!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Room with a View

I was stunned when I woke up and opened the hotel room curtain in Giza (close to Cairo, Egypt):
I never, ever expected to see the pyramids from our hotel room!

Some more views: 
Zooming in during our last afternoon there. 

Swimming with a view:

Trying night photos:

It was amazing to be "neighboring " the pyramids for a few days!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Airport Blogging/ Out of It

Quickly blogging at the airport before our flight to Frankfurt and from there to Cairo. 

We're excited, but exhausted because we just had some very intense days and late nights. (I went to bed at 4 AM last night and got up at 6:30)

In addition I am very out of it, because it I was using my "real name" Twitter account last week to check important issues from the church meeting. 

Apparently people are shocked by how Atticus Finch is portrayed in the newly published draft version of h
Harper Lee's book. Sigh... The book was never meant to be published and is mostly a publicity stunt by the publisher, so... What's the big deal? 

Last, but not least, my phone has gone beserk. First I think it reached our data usage cap and it just hasn't been online since yesterday. I was only able to get connected to the internet here at the airport. However, the phone won't let me use iTunes or the App Store. :-(

We will begin boarding in the next few minutes so I hope to be able to blog again soon from another country!

Friday, July 10, 2015

3rd Day of 37

Good morning all the way from San Antonio, TX!

Third day of the trip, second night in a hotel. I'm thinking that nearly 30 nights in different hotels will be tiresome! Thankfully we'll spend some nights at people's houses in Europe, phew!

It will probably be our longest adventure in a long time, that's for sure!

I started a post from my phone a couple of days ago and lost all I'd written, so I won't even try to capture it. Well... maybe I will. But I started it by saying that we came to TX to meet my husband's whole family (his parents, his 3 brothers, wives and kids) and attend some meetings of our church's "general conference" that happens every 5 years and draws thousands upon thousands of people (they're thinking around 70,000 tomorrow).

It's been a great experience and we're spending most of the time with family and not at the meetings, but yesterday we had a chance to meet some dear friends, which was lovely.

A big part of my husband's extended family (all his maternal uncles and aunts) is also here and we haven't seen them all. Some of them will travel with us to the Middle East, but others won't, so we have to try to spend some time with them too! I was SUPER surprised to also find my mom's oldest brother (88 years old!) and his wife here. He traveled with one of my mother-in-law's tour groups -- she had FIVE groups of Brazilian folks going on at the same time, tours to: Alaska (Cruise) [with my MIL & FIL], West Coast, Hawaii, Canada, and U.S. East Coast -- each one led by two or three members of the extended family!

So, I should be going now. I want to bring my laptop down with me to the breakfast area so I can write a bit, but still be able to see family members.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Great Adventure

We're about to literally embark on our greatest adventure since the South Africa trip back in 2012, thanks to my mother-in-law's travel agency. I'd link to her, but then I'd blow my cover (hahaha... such a thin cover, I suppose).

That amazing trip was, however, only 10 days long, and this trip will be 37 days long and will include two continents, Africa & Europe. We won't fly 17 hours straight, but our total hours flying, starting this morning when we're flying to Texas, will much exceed two 17 hour flights. We won't see amazing animals, but we'll see incredible man-made places such as the pyramids and Petra.

I feel thrilled and humbled that my family, especially my 11 & 13 year olds, will have such an amazing opportunity so early in life. I know it will be probably even more life-changing than the South Africa trip.

So having slept only 2 hours is nothing in the grand scheme of things. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

44

I had a fantastic birthday, probably the best in a long, long time! I hope next year will be even better because I think I'll be with my family in Brazil (but not with my husband :-(  -- nothing is perfect in life, I guess).

The most incredible fact is that today was one of the most dreaded days for me: the day before a really long vacation. I dread this day because it always involves endless packing and checking of packed luggage to make sure that nothing is forgotten, in addition of countless little and big things that have always been left for the least possible moment and need to be taken care of.

Thankfully the suitcases had mostly been packed on Monday night, but I still needed to do some last minute shopping, which I did, in addition to some delightful pampering in the company of one of my best friends: my first mani-pedi in America (I'd only previously had them in Brazil). When my friend J shared with me back in April that a pedicure is done while on a massage chairl I was completely sold and couldn't wait to do it sometime. Good thing it was today!

Our family wanted to go out to eat, but we didn't have time, given the countless things that had to be done around the house. Oh well... K had difficulty submitting a paper to publication, so we left late to go to his aunt's house (which is close to the airport) to get our 7 am flight.

It's actually 2 am, but I'm still up, delighted with the really fast internet. Our internet is SO SLOW that when we go to a place with real internet we are thrilled. :-)

I hope to write a couple more posts, but maybe I should go to bed, we are supposed to get up in 3.5 hours. Sigh...

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Made by Me! Pretty "Naked Cake" & Fruit Arrangements

Note: only photos from my phone for now (unedited, unfiltered!). I'll edit the post & write more later. I couldn't stop taking photos of that cake! :-) 
Everyone loved it all! If academia doesn't work out I can always do catering! ;-$

Getting Anxious (Pre-Travel Stress is the Worst!)

started packing for our epic six-weeks long trip last week, but I've been planning what to take and shopping for shoes (light walking shoes, open & closed) for months and months now.

Until last night, I was just really excited and just planning and making lists to try not to forget anything, but suddenly I got anxious last night and didn't even have a good night of sleep...

It's just that we'll be going up some mountains in the Alps and driving far North in Germany (to Hamburg), so we need to actually be prepared to face cooler weather. I had forgotten that we'd need some pants and light jackets and now I'm freaking out that they won't fit in the carry-on suitcases that K and the boys decided to buy & pack (one for each, two of them cute ones from IKEA Family). I'm taking a medium sized suitcase, though, I can't think of only having the little one! And besides, we need to check at least one bag with liquids & gels.

My stress & anxiety before a trip is always the same, though: I'm afraid to forget some important item (hardly ever do) and to take the wrong clothes or not enough. I always tended to pack lots of clothes in the past, but I've been making a concerted effort to pack light for the past few years -- thus it's happened that I didn't have enough clothes on a few occasions (all short trips not too far from home). I think I'll be fine, but I know already that I'll be taking more clothes than I'll actually need and I'm fine with that. I just hope my husband won't complain too much!

In the end, it all boils down to the fact that I have a really, really hard time making decisions, especially small everyday decisions. It's excruciating! Sigh... 

I hope that I can pull off something that will be nothing short of miraculous: to be 100% packed on Monday, the day before we leave and the day before my birthday. Did I mention that I'm actually throwing myself a birthday party on Sunday? A "Pinterest" cute party? Yeah, I'm insane, but I really wanted to to it. I've wanted to have a birthday party for years, but my friends are never in town around my b-day, but this year they'll be! Yay!!

I hope to blog the party! But before I need to show you this wedding shower I "catered" for! Lovely photos to come, I hope! I guess my anxiety is better now that I'm talking about these fun things! I hope it will all turn out ok in the end!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Too Much to Say (or Not)

These past two weeks were intense. The main reason I haven't blogged about the horrible terrorist attack and hate crime that took place a week an a half ago in North Carolina is that it's very hard for me to know what to say and how to say it. I want to be an outspoken ally of the African American community and to condemn racism, but I need to be keenly aware of my white privilege at all times.

I am grateful for all the writing that my online friend LaToya (Dr. Mama Esquire) has been doing on Twitter and in her blog. Hearing her voice and her perspective is very important to me and one of the reasons why I stayed silent even though another online friend whose opinion I value, Susan, was upset at those of us who didn't speak up.

So many things are so complicated -- I know this is a cliche, but it's so true of my life. Things are even more complicated when you are an immigrant, living in several conflicting worlds and cultures. In addition to that "condition" I also am part of a faith community about which I have extremely complex and mixed feelings. Ditto for academia. Sometimes my brain and my heart hurt at the same time because there are so many forces pulling me in so many directions. I can't even articulate my thoughts and feelings.

I just happened to come across something critical about NPR's coverage of Israel and I was reminded once more that in a few weeks I'm going to visit a country I have very mixed feelings about as well, because of the Palestinians.

Then there's the daily reality of our lives. My husband is scrambling to finish writing a grant proposal and academic articles, so he spends 15-17 hours away from home working in his office at the university every single day except Friday night & Saturday (and, Sat. night lately). He leaves between 9-11 am and comes back between 2-4 am.

Most nights I've been awake until he gets home, but it's mostly been coincidental. Sometimes it's because I took some short catnaps and have just been able to stay up, sometimes I'm just naturally awake. I'm going to bed now, but maybe he won't even come back home -- because he needs/wants to finish writing the grant tonight.

Obviously, I still have TONS of things I want to blog about and end up not doing it. I will try. Today I prepared food for a bridal shower at church and I want to share photos of that! And some other things.

Gotta go to bed now, though!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Goldilocks

I just made an interesting mistake! ;-)

Sigh...

I didn't give the best instructions to the hairdresser, so, instead of two tones of highlights, I ended up with my very first full head hair coloring experience! Two tones of blonde. Darker and lighter. The plan is to add more light brown highlights in three weeks, so family will be less shocked by it when we meet in July. ;-)

In the meantime, I will hopefully enjoy looking quite different for these next three weeks. My sons thought it was okay, but different. I already called my husband, but I have to wait for the verdict when he gets home. I think he'll be ok too. 

I guess at 40+ one has to shake things up once in a while!
I'll let you know what K thinks!