Our journey home started out a little rocky. About an hour before our ride to the airport in Natal (2 1/2 hours away) arrived, Max got a migraine. He went down fast and hard, barely able to get up from the bed, and pretty nauseous. His migraines (which, thankfully, are infrequent) follow a predictable pattern: intense suffering, followed by getting sick, then he sleeps and starts to feel better. So I was finishing packing and getting ready, and hoping the poor child would puke before the car arrived.  And the migraine complied. He fortunately had time for a shower and we had time to stop at a pharmacy to pick up some medicine and then he slept most of the way to Natal.

At the airport, there was some sort of glitch and Max could only be checked in to Rio, while the rest of us got our boarding passes through to San Francisco. It didn’t seem like too big of a deal, but I did alert my sister-in-law, Martina, in case we got stuck in Rio and had to go bunk with my nephew Leo for the night. Which almost happened. When we arrived in Rio, someone from Delta was waiting at the gate for us and took us to a desk to try to resolve Max’s check-in issues. Unfortunately, the people ahead of us were dealing with some serious travel complications (one passport name change that was precluding travel, one inexplicably canceled US visa), so we had to wait longer than was comfortable with our tight connection.

Once we all got checked in, we hurried over to Immigration and handed over our passports for one final stamp. Should be easy, Americans going back to America. However, since the boys and I are dual citizens, they needed our Brazilian passports, too. Not a problem, I had them, and they were fully up to date. (Sidebar – when I was 18, I let my Brazilian passport expire while living in Brazil and had to basically bribe my way out of the country. A mistake I will never make again.)

The Immigration agent, a very friendly man, but totally unmoved by our panic that our flight was in the final stages of boarding, explained to me that he simply needed a supervisor to sign off in order to, “liberar os meninos”. I raised an eyebrow, as that means “free the children” in English and I had not previously been under the impression that the Brazilian government might have the ability to keep the boys in the country. But I wasn’t going to argue with the guy, so we waited another excruciating five minutes while he went into a back room with our passports to get the necessary approvals.

Back in possession of our passports (and apparently, of our children), we raced through the serpentine path of the Duty Free store that has somehow become the ubiquitous “Exit Through the Gift Shop” of international airports. Henry’s pack rat backpack had somehow opened up, and he was starting to leave a trail, so another few precious minutes were taken up picking up bits and getting the thing to close again. Max sprinted ahead to the gate in the hopes that the doors hadn’t closed yet.

Luckily, they were waiting for us. But poor Max got flagged for a random security screen, so he and I had to follow an agent to another separate area for them to check us and everything we were carrying. I was starting to wonder if Max was going to make it out of Brazil after all. In the end, we passed the security screening and were the very last people to board the plane, sweaty and very thirsty, just the way one wants to begin a nine hour international flight.

The rest of the trip was less eventful, and we arrived in San Francisco at the tail end of a heat wave, which seemed fitting, as we had flown into a heat wave in Portugal to kick off this grand adventure.


*I added an asterisk because although we are back in the US, we aren’t quite settled yet. We’re traveling to Montana, Washington state, and Michigan this summer, before we finally stop (at least for now).



It was very late when we landed in Recife, and after a long day of travel everyone was ready for bed. So when we got to the weird hotel room with no windows, we were too tired to care. But then, just as we were all getting ready to crash, Kyle discovered he had walked out of the airport with the wrong backpack.


So he had to deal with that.

We were up early the next morning, and happily the weird hotel has a pretty passable free breakfast. Kyle had arranged for a taxi ride to João Pessoa so we packed up and headed out. It’s just about two hours between Recife and João Pessoa, and for most of the ride I got an earful from the driver about the corruption that is rife in Brazil, and that led to the rise of Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro is the current president, a Trump-like figure who was elected promising to clean up the corruption and fix the economy. He has, to date, failed to make much progress on either front. But he has managed to unleash a lot of latent homophobia and racism and tried to make guns easier to carry. It was a conversation I would have regularly in Brazil, people so frustrated with corruption that they were willing to overlook, or even embrace, the far right views of Bolsonaro. It was disconcerting.

Our home for the next six weeks was at the Paraiso do Atlantico – a resort-like condominium complex right on the beach in Cabedelo, a little bit north of the city. It was just right for what we needed, lots to do in the complex (gym, pools, beach), and a comfortable apartment with three bedrooms so the kids could have their own spaces. There was even a small food truck courtyard on the corner where we ate at least once a week. I was about to start a small work contract and Kyle was starting to actively look for his next job, so we were planning to spend a little more time on our computers and a little less time exploring.

But before all the sitting and looking at screens, we had some family to see. The day after we arrived, we headed out again to a town in the interior of Paraiba called Bananeiras with my brother Hercilio, sister-in-law Martina, their kids, and their friends. Martina and Hercilio have a weekend home there, and it was magical. The kids swam, hiked, had water balloon fights, got in some serious hammock time, and Henry kayaked and rode a horse. Most importantly, they got to spend some time connecting with their cousins Beatrice, Rafael, and Maria Amelia. We went to Bananeiras a few times during our stay in Brazil, and each time it was full of laughter and activity, not to mention plenty of wine and always a good churrasco!


Maria Amelia and Rafael


Hercilio and Maria Amelia
Martina and Beatrice
We visited the university in Areia, PB, where my dad studied.

We were fortunate to spend Mother’s Day with my cousin Ana Paula and her family. Ana Paula is in many ways the center of the family in João Pessoa, she is an incredible hostess who always opens her home and heart to us. Even though it had been five years since we had visited Brazil, the boys vividly remembered playing in their rooftop pool, which Max happily did again.


João Pessoa is in the northeast of Brazil, less than 500 miles from the equator, so it stays hot all year, and the sun pretty consistently rises somewhere between 5:00am and 5:30am all year long. The early sunrise meant early rising (for the adults, anyway), so Kyle and I got a few good morning walks on the beach together before it got too hot.


With the end of the trip looming and lots of mixed feelings about that, the walks were a good opportunity for us to talk about what comes next, and how we want the next few years to look. Having moved the boys around quite a bit over the last few years (Seattle -> Paris -> San Carlos -> 19 countries -> ?), we’re going to do our best to make sure they can stay in one place through high school, so figuring out where that will be feels important.

At the end of May, Lara, Shannon, Caroline, and Morgan arrived. We drove to Olinda to meet them and we all stayed at the Hotel 7 Colinas for a few days. It’s a great hotel right in the middle of the historic town, and with a good restaurant and fun pool, the kids would have been content to just hang out at the hotel. But we dragged them out to walk around Olinda. A little bit jet-lagged, Caroline and Morgan managed to fall asleep riding piggyback, so Shannon and Lara got a bit of a workout since the town is one big hill. Saturday evening, Shannon and Kyle walked across the street to the Boteco Bonfim and had a beer, then suggested we all come to watch Liverpool defeat Tottenham and have dinner, as the restaurant was serving feijoada. We all agreed that it was very good, but not as good as Mavis’s.


At the Casa dos Bonecos Gigantes – an Olinda Carnaval tradition


Sunday we drove back to João Pessoa, and Lara and Shannon flew to Salvador for a few days while Caroline and Morgan stayed with us. Beach time, pool time, a visit to the mall for toys and kiddie arcade playtime, then ice cream at Gelato & Grano.

We had dinner one night at Villa Gourmet with Ana Paula and family, and my Tia Ana Maria – who I had lived with when I was 17. Her no-nonsense guidance and independent spirit helped me through the challenges of growing up, even after I had gone back to the US. Caroline and Morgan played in the kids area (something like a McDonald’s Playplace) with the Brazilian kids, screaming and laughing. Language barriers are unimportant when you are six.


Our last hurrah in Brazil was another visit to Bananeiras, for an early celebration of São João. Also called Festa Junina, São João is almost as popular as Carnaval in the the Northeast, and Martina was so disappointed that we were going to miss the real thing, that she organized a pre-party for us, with all the trappings of the real thing – forró, costumes, fireworks, games, candy, and good food.



As familias Scoz, Rodrigues de Ca Sancos (inside joke), Ploessl, e Wheatley

I’m so grateful for the time we got to spend in Brazil, and I’m hoping it won’t be another five years before we go back. Even though it was more than six weeks, it didn’t feel long enough.