Sunday, May 27, 2018

Joy in the Strikes

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Today marks the 7th day of the nationwide trucking strike in Brazil.

A country that depends entirely on the trucking business.

While the strike is entirely understandable and probably necessary, (truckers work ridiculously long hours, often with little to no benefits, astronomical highway toll fees and the ever increasing cost of gasoline/alcohol/diesel) when they stop, the country stops.  As of Friday there was no longer gasoline or alcohol available to be bought at any price.  Facebook is full of jokes by Brazilians themselves that people are willing to trade their beach homes for five liters of gasoline for their car.  Many people I know haven't been able to use their cars for several days now.

On my way home from school Wednesday evening, I began seeing this at every.single.gas.station.I.passed and with a sinking heart knew something was up.

Photo courtesy of Google Images
Thursday morning, with every fiber of my being rebelling at the situation, I got in line.  I was super blessed to not wait more than 10 minutes and was even more blessed there was still gas to fill up my tank.  We are among the few.  As of today, Sunday, I am praying over the huge gas tanks that are lined up outside each building in our condominium, supplying us with the needed gas to use our stoves.  We have no idea how many more days they will last.  If that gas gives out, we will use our George Foreman grill and our microwave.

I went Friday afternoon to do our regular monthly shopping, having no idea what I would find: empty shelves, crazy long lines to get into the parking lot, into the store and through the cashier?  I found none of the above and just thanked God I was able to get almost all our normal purchases for the month.  Our small, local grocery store continues to be well stocked as of this morning when Everson went to buy fresh bread but we hear stories of many locked up stores in other cities and regions that have nothing left to sell.  The chatting in the park yesterday was by tomorrow if no agreements are arrived at, there will no longer be buses or school vans and teachers won't be able to get to school.  It is said that while many ambulances in the city sit quietly much of the time, the few that do circulate are out of gas.  I nearly cried when I saw an interview with a young woman who had to cancel her wedding this weekend because her guests could not get here.  Or the dialysis patients who are wondering if they will get their treatments this coming week.  So, far my father-in-law has been reassured he will get his treatments with no issue.  That hits home for us.

This is our life in Brazil today.  I am trying to find joy in the journey because actually striking is super common here.  Imagine when it is the garbage truck drivers. 

Photo courtesy of Google Images

The stench and filth of our megacity, which on a normal day can be overwhelming, becomes unbearable.  Or when the metro system shuts down.  Or the bus drivers decide to fight for their rights.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

People can't get to work.  People can't get to the hospital.  Life is already hard in our megacity in so many ways.  It is always the population, the normal, everyday citizen who just wants to get to work so he can pay his bills and the dedicated parent who just wants to buy bread for her children on the way home from work tonight, who suffers.  It breaks my heart to watch. 

Worse even when it the police force.  Oh, yes.  They do that on occasion as well.  All hell breaks loose.

This is our world.  Overrun with corruption.  Unrest.  Economic recession.  Unemployment on the rise.  Cost of living continuing to skyrocket with unmatched salary raises.  The Brazilian Real dropping steadily.  Every single month it costs me more to feed my family.  And we know we are among the most blessed.  We are both working.  We are not in debt.  Our house is paid for.  Our car is paid for.  We are so well off.

There are days, like today, that I hate it here.  My heart breaks for this people I love so deeply.  Our people.  My people.  But most days I love it.  Most days I am so grateful for the opportunity to be an ex-pat in a Latin American city.  It is never dull.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.  Today we hope and pray for the Brazilian "jeitinho," the notorious way Brazilians always, always, always come through at the very last, possible moment and it all works out just fine.

However, if it doesn't, I am at peace.  God is in control.  He loves this beautiful country and her people more than I do.  He loves my family more than I do.  We will be just fine.  I don't know how or when but it will all be okay.

"If you have time, listen to this beautiful song that says in Portuguese, "It has already all worked out!"  We need to put our faith into action because it will all be okay!

Have a blessed weekend.  The upside to our national crisis, is we are saving our gas for our work/school week and spending the weekend hibernating at home.!

                                                                 Joy in this crazy Journey,

Saturday, May 5, 2018

My God is So Good and So Kind

Not because I deserve it.  Not because He owes it (whatever IT is) to me.  But because of His goodness and kindness, He is Who He is and honestly, I just believe He delights in delighting His children's hearts.

And so because He knew what my heart needed and knew better than I the inner workings and struggles of my soul, He sent me someone special from "home" last week.  I say "home" because as I told her during one of our hours and hours of talking, the United States really doesn't feel like home anymore.  Too many years living abroad.  Too much water under the bridge, so to speak.  But it is where my family is, so in many ways, I think it will always have a flavor of home.

So, to my complete surprise and delight after an online conversation, she sent me an intinerary, asking if I would be home the last week in April to receive a visitor.  I chuckled and thought, "Where else would I be...really?!"  And YES, I will move heaven and earth to receive someone who wants to come see me.

So, here are a few highlights of our whirlwind seven days together.  I don't know if she will ever know what these hours meant to me or my little family.  I can only pray God's blessings over her as she poured blessing over us.

Afternoon Cafezinho with special friends

She even went to school with us two days.  On Thursday she was our guest speaker for American Literature and gave an amazing class on the Harlem Renaissance period and introduced my students and I to Countee Cullen's poems.

I asked a dear friend of mine to accompany the two of us to tour downtown SP, which quite frankly can be quite daunting to me...even after 10 years here!  We had a glorious time, walking for HOURS and seeing a small portion of our megacity.

A trip downtown is not really quite complete without a huge Mortadela sandwich, which even sharing with D I could hardly eat it all!

We finished up our downtown experience by meeting up with my husband for a quick tour of Avenida Paulista and Arab food for dinner.  If I look absolutely exhausted here, it is because I was but it was so worth it!

Saturday the children, M and I enjoyed a wonderful day in a little wine town in the interior of SP state.  Husband had to work which was so unfortunate, but with trusty little Waze and a fantastic navagator, we managed to find our way around.

This picture was actually later that night, but she really wanted corn ice cream so we did what we needed to do to find it for her!!!

The highlight of our day for the children was finding a wonderful little "Fazendadinha" to eat a delightful lunch at and enjoy the mini zoo and playground for a couple hours.

Seriously one of the most adorable little restaurants I have ever eaten in in Brazil.  Absolutely beautiful view out the windows and delightful red checkered tablecloths.  AND the food was fantastic.  Can't beat that!

Experiencing a Brazilian "feira"-farmers market is in our neighborhood on Sunday mornings.  Pastel and Caldo de Cano (sugarcane juice) about sums it up!
And Sunday night she flew back to her world and left our hearts feeling a bit sad and "wow, its over already?!"  My children had bouts of weeping for the next two days everytime we talked about M or remembered something we did together.  And yes, we did do more than just eat, even though the pictures might indicate otherwise!  It was short.  It was sweet.  We will never forget!

                                                                                       Until next time,

Sunday, April 15, 2018

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Make lemonade!

So, this week of the unexpected, that is exactly what we tried to do.

All four of us where banished to isolation with a horrific round of pink-eye.

When in the middle of a hectic, crazy, daily schedule one only wishes to rest.  Be at home.  Banished to isolation sounds W.O.N.D.E.R.F.U.L. are there and all you wish is for normal, busy, in-the-routine!

What this week at home taught me: be ever so grateful for the craziness and being able to go to work and school and church and the grocery and even the park.

So, we made lemonade.  We solved several issues online like documents for our Brazilian taxes all turned in to our accountant.  I finished my mid-term exam and wrote a study guide for my students.  Got the ball running on renewing kids passports and my permanent Brazilian visa.  Watched movies together.  Took a nap

Mommy also washed towels and pillowcases and washed lots of dishes after daddy made lunch.  Every few hours drops for everyone and antibiotics for both coughing kids.  Compresses and washings with iced water for everyone's inflamed and iching eyes. Several trips to the Emergency Room (to get "atestados," the forms you are required to have to justify absence from school and work).

And that was our routine.  For 8 days.  Today we come out of hibernation!  It will be good to worship with our church family in a few hours.

We have so much to be grateful for.  After a cool, damp summer we have had a wonderful dry, warm Fall, go figure!  But what a blessing that this week that I need to wash loads and loads of laundry that it was nice and warm to dry our clothes as I washed them.  Today, we are officially good to go and it is wet and rainy.  God is so good!

Noah was the longest to go without getting pink-eye.  After 5 days living with all of us infected ones he came down with it last Monday.  But even with red, ouchy eyes he wanted to wash dishes for mommy. 
I will spare you the pictures we have of our eyes!  Safe to say, we sincerely hope we never, ever get this stuff again.  But everything does pass, so tomorrow we start our normal.  Praise God!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Single Conversation

"A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books."  --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A few weeks ago the despair and discouragement seemed almost overwhelming.  You know what I mean?  When parenting is hard, work is hard, church is hard, EVERYTHING just feels HARD.  I was really struggling.  In about every area of life.  My eyes were on the circumstances.  My body was exhausted, the pain almost unbearable at times.  My soul and spirit were crying out for relief.  Any kind of relief.  

And then in the span of four days awhile back, God sent me three women to speak TRUTH into my life.  Not one of the three really knew how deeply depressed I was, but in a 10 minute conversation with one, a testimony during a devotional time with another and an hour conversation with yet another God spoke deeply to me.  

"Just in case you think you are alone, Jama, I sent you P."
"To remind you to get your eyes off yourself and your circumstances and ON ME with a grateful spirit, I sent you V."
"To remind you how important it is to never give up on your children, your marriage or your family and never stop investing in others, I sent you K."

I was sorely tempted to all the above and then God got my attention.  Good.  How grateful I am for these three women, who without even knowing a fraction of what was going on in my world or heart, reached out to me and spoke the Truth as they were experiencing it in their own lives.  The quote above is so true.  These short, but dynamic conversations, were more than 10 years of learning.  How grateful I am for God's reminder that He loves me dearly.  Deeply. Completely.  I am never alone.

The circumstances have not much changed over the last couple weeks (though i have experienced some much needed breakthroughs in some areas, praise God!) but my attitude and spirit have changed.  My soul is soaring once again.  It's going to be okay.

A few pictures to show what we have been up to:

The Wellington Barros Family: Headed to Mozambique!
 The winds of changing are blowing in my husband's family.  Last year my precious brother and sister in law felt the call to move their mission field from their home country of Brazil to Mozambique Island, only about a world away.  While we are absolutely thrilled to see how God is opening up the doors for this change, it "pulls at our heartstrings" so to speak.  Wellington, Tati and the little boys left the first week of March to visit their supporters in the USA for 3 1/2 months and it just felt like it was the first breeze of change about to blow through our family. 

Can you imagine how much my children miss these two precious little boys?  Or any of us adults, too, for that matter! And hard it is to explain to them the coming changes.  And goodbyes.  And misses.  I keep encouraging them to remember to enjoy each day we have with someone.  We never know when we will say goodbye. 

March 10th-celebrating our Chloe Maria's 8th birthday

Yesterday was a highlight in two ways for our Noah Miguel: yesterday he wrote his name all by himself for the very first time and spent the afternoon with his Tata (big sister) Amanda at the Mall, being thoroughly spoiled in every imaginable way.

This was the picture Amanda sent while I was working.  Look at the joy on that little face!
And so the days fly by in rapid succession.  My man's days are full of work, hours on public transportation every day, 2 nights a week at school working on his second semester of graduate school and many Saturdays studying with college buddies.  My children keep growing and developing and learning at a speed I find quite dizzying most of the time.  I find myself sending off rapid SOS prayers often to know how to answer the questions and respond to comments that often feel they come out of nowhere.  

My days are full of Longfellow, Emerson, Thoreau, Twain and Beecher Stowe...oh and keeping my children fed, clothed and bathed, my house in order, and the laundry washed, of course!  I think my greatest challenge is balance.  Keeping my priorities in the right place.  After studying for my Thoreau class next week, I am convinced I need more simplicity, less "plugged in" and spend more time in Nature!

Now how, living in one of the largest megacities in the WORLD, does one go about that?  That is what I will be asking my students next week.  If I get any great revelations, i will share, to be sure!

Have a blessed rest of your week and remember, you are never alone.  He loves you.  Deeply.  Completely.  Wholly.  May you just feel wrapped up in that care and love today.  I sure do!

                                                                    Blessings & Joy,

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Month That Flew...

By so very fast...

It is almost like January did not exist...but oh it did.  It flew by much to my chagrin, but it was a wonderful month long vacation.  Every January since my childrens' births, we have spent several days at the beach house.  However, for various reasons I decided this year we would spend January in the city and just enjoy being with friends and family and doing things around the city.  In hindsight, I am so very glad with that decision and know it was the right one.  While I don't truly rest while at home, with to do lists yelling for attention, we managed to do a lot in one month.  We worked some and had many wonderful outings and even squeezed in a three day trip to the interior to visit relatives.

Here is our vacation in pictures...

Noah playing with his little buddies who live next door.  His first time playing video games!

Our Chloe loves to takes selfies...this day we went to the park as a family, then lunch at the Mall.

Introducing little nephew, C., to our friend, Juliana.  We had a sweet afternoon tea with my sister-in-law. 

A day at SESC, an activity center that has branches all over Brazil.  As a registerd teacher at a private school, I have rights to "carteirinha" the card you need to access all the activities for free or very much reduced costs.  It is a wonderful facility and also has exhibitions open to the public all summer.  Because our January was marked by almost daily rain showers, I took the children several times and they never tired of the indoor exhibition of endless activities.

This day I felt very brave and decided to take my little 3 year old nephew too.  I was exhausted at the end of the day keeping track of three busy children in the huge activity room but it was worth it to watch them having fun and running off endless amounts of energy!

This days outing was to yet another beautiful park with my friend Vani, and her son.  We spent a wonderful few hours talking while the children once again played out bundles of energy.

Ice cream for all at the end of a hot afteroon.

 Yet ANOTHER rainy day (it literally rained almost our entire vacation) found us back at SESC on the weekend with daddy.

Chloe learning to skateboard!

Soaking her feet and learning to play the guitar.  Think she might take after her daddy?

Noah informed us at the age of two that he wants to be a fireman (bombeiro) and this summer had the fun opportunity to get in two different fire trucks when we literally ran into firemen at two different parks on two different days.  he was in little boy heaven!  I was amazed by the firemens patience in answering his countless questions and showing him almost everything they carry on the trucks.


A wonderful day with my precious friend, Livia.  We spent the day at the park so the children could play and we spent talking and talking and talking.  My teacher friends and I literally see each other in January (summer vacation) and July (winter vacation), so our times are special and rare!  This day we had a little friend with us and Chloe spent the day with her "big sister."

Chloe's very special outing with her "big sister," Amanda.  She was treated to lunch, a movie or two and playing at the Mall playground.

Back at the SESC, this time with four other mommies and between us 11 kids!  It was wild but a wonderful afternoon where we once again had to find creative ways to burn overwhelming amounts of energy on a very rainy day!

A fun Saturday afternoon outing with Tio Wellington, Tia Tati and the two little boys.  A one hour presentation full of clowns, singing and laughter!

On our last week of vacation, I finally got up the courage to take a little road trip alone, with my children, for the first time ever in Brazil!  I started out with my GPS (which very soon became useless!) and Waze, praying my phone credit would last at least until I made it to the interior.  Destination was the home of a cousin of my husband's.  We made it safe and sound and had a wonderful, wonderful three days with Adriana and her family.   They received us so well and just blessed us and loved on us the entire time we were there.  I finally rested.  Emotionally and spiritually and physically.  It was a much needed few days away.

Noah and Chloe with their newest favorite bombeiro!!!

My children spent three days in the pool and I spent three days in the shade...and still burnt to a crisp.  Sigh.  Story of my life.

After three days in the sun, my children were just.very.brown!

Big bummer for the VW bug bus that caught fire in the middle of the intersection one day as we headed home from the pool, but a grand show for my children as they were able to see their firemen heros we had just met at the park in action.  Noah was beside himself with excitement!!!

On our last day in Indaiatuba, we had a picnic.  In the rain.  Tried to fly kites.  Tried to fish.  It was simply marvelous. 

And then we headed home.  Back to School on January 29th.  2nd semester graduate school for daddy.  3rd grade for Miss Chloe.  Pre-school for Mr. Noah.  Third year teaching American High School in Brazil for mommy.  This semester is American Literature and may prove to be my biggest personal challenge yet!  However, as I have survived Debate, Speech, British Literature, College Preparation, American History, Fine Arts and Health, I think I will survive American Literature!!!

We continue to be blessed.  So blessed.  God is so good.  All the time.  It is overwhelming to see His continued provision and protection over our lives.  Sometimes He doesn't allow us even a clue to how He is caring for us.  Sometimes He shows us enough to humble us.  I had a truly bizarre experience the other day that could have very well ended in myself and my dear friend being very seriously injured.  However, by God's gracious hand, we were spared from danger by a manner of 20 seconds.  I parked my car in front of the pharmacy, the entire front consisting of class windows and doors reaching from ceiling to floor.  I hugged my friend goodbye and she left to visit a friend in the hospital next door and I entered the pharmacy to purchase a medication.  about 20 seconds after we hugged goodbye and parted ways, the glass door we had been standing in front of literally shattered in a billion pieces, causing a horrific bomb like sound and sending glass everywhere, including all over my parked car.  There is no explanation for the explosion, but I believe it was a little sign from my heavenly Father of how He is taking care of me...every single second of every single day.  Wow!  And to boot, my car was completely unscratched.  Not.a.single.scratch.anywhere.  Go God!!!

Have a blessed February and know that His angels have been given the command to surround you with His love and protection.

Because of Him, Jama