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!
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.
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.
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.