from Sandy Needham

Friday, June 29, 2007

Brazil Dispatch 11

June 29, 2007

Elise and Jake and Jake's girl friend, Larissa, made it to Natal! Elise arrived first from NY via São Paulo on one of those (common) middle of the night flights to Natal which are (commonly) late. It was just about 24 hours door to door. Jake put us in a temporary panic when he and Larissa missed their flight from Milan to Lisbon (from where they were flying to Natal). The reservation had been for the previous day - whoops. Newton and I tried to race against the clock on both of our computers to find out what other flights might be available last minute or if trains would work. Oddly enough, the internet hit an excruciatingly slow phase right then and info was almost beyond our reach. In the meantime, Jake and Larissa found a flight at the airport going out the next morning that would arrive in Lisbon in time for their flight to Natal.

Elise schlepped a TV with a DVD player all the way here as a gift from both kids. Unfortunately, TV's from the US have a different system for color, so you only get a black and white picture here. We had just bought a TV for downstairs so we had the two sets sitting side by side, one for DVD's, which do show in color, and the Brazilian set for satellite fare in color. The TV will stay in Newt's office now for black & white soccer matches and Formula 1 races. Elise also schlepped a large extra suitcase full of our requests that she was valiant to shop for and pack! I'm thrilled with my Splenda and spray olive oil!

Our caretaker, Marcos, climbed up a ladder their first morning here to cut down 20 coconuts from our trees. Elise drank the coconut water through a straw every morning!

The kids' visit included beach time when the sun was out, and elaborate beer-drinking games, big rounds of Hearts and DVD's when the rains came, with hammock time in between. Newton took Elise and Larissa, the water-babies, to a snorkeling place around an ocean reef via boat, and I got to have lunch with Jake at the restaurant at the end of our beach. Newton also took the three of them on the dune buggy excursion we had already taken with Jake last December. He is the dune-baby. I was able to forgo a second chance for thrills in the dunes to allow space for everyone in one buggy. The driver asks if you want the “emotional” version, which includes heading straight down tall dunes and roaring up the sides in ellipses. “Emotional” doesn't describe my reaction...more like "years off my lifespan." The excursion also includes sandboarding down a dune, 'bunda-ski:’ sitting on a small sled down a dune, and 'aero-bunda:’ riding down a cable into a lake. The excursion allowed time for running and jumping or rolling down the dunes – my favorite.

Elise, Jake and Larissa joined the mob of revelers in the nightlife neighborhood, Alta de Ponta Negra (‘Ponta Negra Heights’). They caught near-dawn cabs home, once in sluicing rain with the walk to the house through a mid-calf 'street' river. They actually met two American girls - the only American siting I know of in Natal besides the missionaries.

We had a day at Ponta Negra beach, which means more people, more venders, and umbrellas that don't blow away. This is a very slow season for Europeans with the unpredictable rain, so the beach was the emptiest we had seen it, while still more active than our Cotovelo. Vendors swarmed around us like flies around a caipirinha. The locals are celebrating June festivities, 'Festa Junina' for St. John and St. Peter. People dress up in country attire and straw hats, burn small fires in front of their houses and hold dances under many small fluttering flags. A charming traditional version of farró music, typified by the rhythmic triangle and the accordian, pops up live all over the place, including the supermarket! July is the vacation month in Brazil, where children have the month off in the middle of their school year. We expect the vacation houses around us to come to life and Brazilians from the south to populate the beaches soon.

Jake and Larissa returned to Lisbon, with a week in Amsterdam and three days in London to go before heading back to the states. Jake actually ran into classmates from Nyack High School two times on this trip to Europe, plus a guy who recognized his online poker name! He will have a new address in Boston the first of August when he will share a house with a friend and pursue his poker passion.

On Elise's last day we hiked to the colorful falesias (cliffs of sand) at the far end of our beach, had a fancy shrimp dinner out and movie before her 2:00am flight to São Paulo. She has returned to her waitressing job at Havana Central near Harlem, but has a break till fall semester from the many demanding design projects at FIT. She brought her exquisite design assignment for an entire season at a non-profit theater to Brazil to show us - so many hours of work, and brilliant design. We take pride in the intelligence, ingenuity and independence both of our children embody.

It is very quiet around here now. We return to our lovely, tranquil routines with a pang of sadness that the kids have gone. We will see them in the US this fall. We are sleeping through the night again!

More soon -


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