Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanks Giving for Every Wrong Move

Hindsight is supposedly 20/20. How convenient to be able to look back on the choices you have made and learn and grow (and hopefully not repeat the worst of them). I am also thankful for the mistakes I have made. Without them, I would not be where I am, nor the person I am without the combination of the good and bad that came of them. But what about the choices we are making on behalf of our children? I’m curious how Bas and Ginger will see things when they are older, when they look back on their time here in Brazil.

As adults, we are thrilled to be sharing this experience of living abroad with our young children. But as parents, it is hard to accept that you have shaken your kids’ world up so thoroughly, taken them away from the things and people they love and know, and set them down in a new and unknown world, friendless except for each other. Some days are better than others. Some days are definitely worse. It’s hard to say if the kids are truly glad we uprooted them for the year. We probably should have taken the plunge as soon as we got here and put them in a ‘regular’ pre-school where they would have learned the language quicker and made some friends their own age. But we didn’t. We took what we thought was the kinder, gentler route of acclimating them to Brazil, attending what turned out to be the equivalent of after-school care but in the mornings a few mornings a week.

On the plus side, Bas and Ginger are forming what we hope is a life-long bond that does not always develop just because you are siblings. We also hope that their friends back home remember them and welcome them back with open arms and invitations to their houses for lots of play dates upon our return! But we are also thankful to the Brazilian kids who have gone out of their way to include our kids in playground and poolside fun.

It will be interesting to see how this time abroad affects Bas and Ginger in their personal growth and development. Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Brazil, but that doesn’t mean that our little family won’t be taking a moment to say our special thanks for what has brought us to this point.

Friday, November 13, 2009

You Can Have Your Cake and Eat Your Words, Too

You’d think after two children that I’d learn never to say ‘never.’ I’ve lived in rural Japan and slept in a tent across eastern Africa, so I never thought I’d go to an all-inclusive resort before I was well into retirement. I was wrong. After an outbreak of bacterial meningitis left 10 people dead in the beach town where we were scheduled to have a family holiday late last week, we did a quick scramble and found a place just north of Salvador, Bahia.

The resort spreads grandly between 5 km of gorgeous sandy beach (nothing between it and the coast of Angola) and a huge pool with various depths for all ages. It is a very family-oriented place. It was nice not to have to carry a wallet around and have to keep track of expenses or have to decide where our next meal would be. The scale tipped from self-indulgence to over-indulgence pretty quickly. I had a hard time resisting the all-you-can-eat buffet they offered every meal, especially when I could have filet mignon or some yummy seafood option, oh, and then there was the dessert table. Alcohol was free as well. Brian and I occasionally imbibed but not nearly to the extent of everyone else around us! The pool’s wet bar opened at 9:30 a.m. and the other bars didn’t shut down until well after we were all in bed. No wonder the pool was no deeper than an adult’s chest.

The kids loved having their dad around non-stop. No meetings to attend, classes to teach, people to interview, conferences to present at, emails to send. Just play and eat and play and eat some more. Bas and Ginger were like fish. Bas practiced his newly honed swimming skills and Ginger (literally) just dove right in. We really had to keep an eye on her since her free-spiritedness might have ended in drowning. We eventually bought some floaties that you put around kids’ upper arms to put our minds at ease when our backs were turned about our attention-seeking daughter.

There were green parrots in the palm trees around the pool, tiny monkeys hanging out at the kids’ club where they knew bananas could be had, cashew trees full of ripening cashew fruit and accompanying nut hanging off its tip just outside our door, a walk along the beach resulting in a pocketful of cool shells. The one time we went ‘off site’ was well worth it. We ventured to Praia do Forte where there is a sea turtle institute (Projeto Tamar). It was pretty amazing to see how large some of these sea turtle species grew, especially when you got to see how small they started in those eggs. It’s great to know that places like this exist to help these endangered animals make a comeback.

We were blissfully cut off from the world for 5 days. We had no idea that 40% of the country was without power for 4 hours since Bahia was one of the few states that was on its own power grid. Too bad we didn’t realize that Bahia outlets were 220 volts before blowing out our white noise machine! The only other unfortunate thing is that both kids came home with ear infections. I guess that’s the price you pay for having such warm pool water and practically living in it for the entirety of our visit. Overall, it was well-worth it all for the happiness and relaxation we all felt on this vacation.