Well, I'm in Miami, having met my cohorts who will be joining us on this little adventure! Last night, we stayed at the cutest little boutique hotel in Coral Gables, Florida--which is the oldest area in Miami. It's called the Hotel St. Michel and it's very old and elegant. I especially loved the little Cuban guy who was very nice but very difficult to understand. He was the bellhop who ran the elevator (yes, ran it--you had to ring a bell for service and he would "drive" the elevator to get you. It was one of those old fashioned ones that has the accordian door and is hand-operated. So cool--I've never actually been in one before and it was an experience, especially when he couldn't quite get it level and we went up and down a couple of times to get it right!). Then we went to Bonefish Grill and they stuffed us with lovely food. A wonderful, interesting group. I met this girl from Houston (where I used to live) who's traveled all over the world doing trips like this, including two trips to Saudi Arabia!
Today, we have orientation (hopefully, to disseminate the information in the large packet that was left in our hotel rooms last night) as well as some rudimentary Portuguese lessons. I'm excited about those, especially for my solo week. Then, we're on the plane. We stop in Bogota, Columbia for a short layover (guess I can mark that country visited on my Facebook page!) then on to Sao Paulo, Brazil. It's about a 7-8 hour flight all together & I've got to sleep on the plane because our schedule is full-full-full once we step on Brazillian soil.
I don't know when I'll be able to post next but I can say that it'll be the first posting from BRAZIL!!! Yahoo!!
Friday, July 18, 2008
Tomorrow, I leave for Miami & I think I'm finally ready. There is so much that has to be packed, I can't even believe it. Of course, this is will be my longest trip yet--two weeks & one of them solo. So, I'm understandably anxious that I have everything I need. Yet, I don't want to overpack. Hauling 90 pounds of luggage through Brazil is not my idea of a good time. Actually, I kind of felt like Monk in my obsessive packing lists. Lists, lists, and more lists. Maybe it was my way of procrastinating (especially since I just finished packing today and I leave tomorrow!). So, tomorrow, I fly to Miami & meet up with the group. Hopefully, the nine other teachers are cool & will be fun to hang out with, especially since we're spending so much time together. Then, before we leave on Sunday, we have orientation to get an overview of the operation, the general gist of coffee production, and what Fair Trade Certified is. Finally, we get on a plane for Sao Paulo (with a little stop-over in Bogota, Columbia). Cool!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Okay, just came back from a trip to Wally-world and I think I have everything I need. Today's my pre-packing day. I have to pull out the "heavy" clothes--some long-sleeved shirts, jeans, mid-weight jackets. It is, after all, winter down there. Of course, it's more like our spring/fall, with the temps in the 70s and 60s, mostly. I can totally handle that, though it'll be a bit of an adjustment after the 90s we've been experiencing in South Carolina.
There's so much to remember when you're packing for a long trip, especially to one in a really exotic locale like South America (it just brings to mind one of my favorite movies "Romancing the Stone" with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas). I have a monster list of things to do before I leave including getting my mail picked up by my neighbor (thanks, Gloria!), calling the bank to make sure they don't put a hold on my card once I start spending in Brazil--it would really stink to get down there and have the good security folks at Chase block my access, charge batteries (because where would I be without my iPod and camera?), water plants, and make sure all my bills are paid through the beginning of August. Plus, some of my shows are coming back at the end of July so I have to make sure to copy Burn Notice, The Closer, Eureka, Saving Grace, Monk, and Psych. Darn you, cable, for not waiting until I come back to put out new shows!
Okay, so I'm off to pre-pack. Hopefully, I don't have too much more to do & it'll all be cake (knock on wood--gotta ward off bad karma!).
Saturday, July 12, 2008
It's a fantastic day here in Columbia, South Carolina! A perfect lake day--and that's just what I plan to do. A bunch of friends, some snacks and a day floating on the lake (don't forget the sunscreen)! Don't you just love this kind of day? Endless sunshine, no rain in the forecast (amazingly enough, considering there's been a 40-50% chance every day this summer. Not that I'm complaining--I need the rain so I don't have to water my tomatoes!), 90 degree temperatures so you don't get cold when you get out of the water. It's my ideal lazy summer day and I just can't get enough of them during break.
This sun and weather is one of the many reasons why I love the South. It's so different than a Northern summer. Up in Chicago, it would be beautiful for a while--80s, sunny...and then it would change. I remember wearing sweatshirts and long pants several 4th of Julys. I also remember sweltering heat that one August the band went to Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships. We were never so glad to leave for the colder climates of Scotland than when it was 109 degrees in Chicago. While it may be hot (and sometimes super-hot) down here, at least it's consistent. Also, you can just think of those super-hot days as "winter"-type days and just stay inside in the lovely air conditioning. How did people live down here before air conditioning?
Off to sunscreen up (at least 2 shot-glasses worth!) so I don't get melanomas and head off to the lake. All we'll have to do is stop at the Dam Peanut Man for some boiled peanuts (he has the absolute best boiled peanuts in Columbia) and we're good to go!
Posted by Mary at 11:11 AM
Friday, July 11, 2008
So you might be asking yourself, why in the world is she going to Brazil, to South America? It seems so odd! Well, there's a perfectly good explanation--I won a free trip through study grant provided by a Brazilian coffee producer, Cafe Bom Dia, and Sam's Club. There are ten teachers from across the country who will spend a week in Brazil with me this summer:
"...studying how Fair Trade Certified standards improve environmental, economic and social conditions for coffee farmers and their families. ...
Fair Trade Certified coffee is grown by family farmers who are paid a minimum, guaranteed harvest price in exchange for meeting strict standards on land, water and chemical use, as well as investing in community projects and prohibiting child labor. [The essay competition invited teachers to explain how we would] expand awareness of how consumers [like our students] can make a positive difference by choosing Fair Trade Certified coffee [and other products]."
For the complete press release from Walmart, go to: http://walmartstores.com/FactsNews/NewsRoom/8193.aspx
This blog is actually a part the way I plan to share what I learn with both my students and the public. Within my classroom, we're going to do some research on coffee production, child labor, and the environment and we'll read a lot of nonfiction articles on these subjects. I'm really looking forward to sharing this trip with my students--and anyone else who reads this blog.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Yesterday was a busy day. I had to get my yellow fever inoculation (boy, that one sure stung going in) so I won't get sick if one of those pesky mosquitoes bites me! Last week, I updated my tetanus shot (once every ten years, boys & girls, unless you want lockjaw!) and my arm ached for a couple of days. It's a good thing I don't pass out when I get shots or I'd be in big trouble.
Anyway, there are a couple of diseases down in South America that haven't made their way up to the States, thank goodness. One of them is yellow fever, which is a bit of an epidemic at the moment (thus, the shot), especially in the areas I'm traveling to--Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro. I was reading the Thorn Tree of Lonely Planet.com and some people were questioning the need for the yellow fever shot. I have to ask, is it really worth it to risk your health just because you don't want to be stuck (or pay the fee)? Personally, I'm not willing to risk it. Sure it was a pain (ha-get it?) but now that's one less think I have to worry about when I'm down there.
However, the mosquitoes of the southern part of Brazil also carry dengue fever, a potentially deadly disease with no inoculation. So, I'm taking a pile of insect repellant with DEET--the only thing that keeps these 'skeeters away. No problem. No bugs on me!
Posted by Mary at 12:45 PM
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Well, it seems that I've finally joined the legions of writers-turned-bloggers! Cool beans.
It's about 10 days until I leave for Brazil & I'm really excited (and super-nervous). The first week is all planned out--a tight itinerary, everything paid, guides and even translators. The second week is a play-it-by-ear week in which I plan to go to Rio and then maybe to another beach community. Yes, it is winter down there but it's in the 70s during the day--not bad for winter!