Well of course I was! After all... how many chances do you get to go to Brazil in your lifetime? Hubby was okay, but he was going to be sore, my boys will simply get more snuggles and loves once I get home. And I was fairly positive we were going to be a strong team going to Brazil.
As we headed into Sao Paulo yesterday morning, the sun barely thinking about rising, I looked out my window realizing that I had somehow flown over so much and was heading over Brazil at that very moment. Still one more flight to go, but it felt complete. As I looked down at the almost completely dark landscape, pondering how that vast land below with hardly any lights was even remotely the size of the USA. It was, or rather is, shocking to see and just as we flew over there right below us was the irony of a smiley face. I am fairly sure the owners did not realize that the lights formed a smile and two closed eyes in the traditional smile. Right in the middle of no where! Almost like it was welcoming those flying over.
The sunrise at 32,000 feet over the Atlantic ocean was something to behold. Bright beautiful and layered, I would have loved to have a picture, but the 5 people between me and the view might not have appreciated that.
Brazil appears to have the friendliest people in the world, which contrasts greatly with the bars on all the windows and the high spiked fences that surround everything, keeping everyone out. It's a strange combination. Smiles, a language that sounds sweet, and pleasant (I truly wonder if they have angry words), sparkling happy eyes all wrapped around homes, businesses and lives surrounded in sharp barbed wire and fences. Even the ACM (YMCA) has the same precautions.
I spoke with the young volunteer that is helping guide us, I don't want to even begin to spell his name - as I can barely pronounce it, the reason for it all. As it seemed so excessive. His non-nonchalant response was almost hard to accept. It is for our safety. That simple, nothing else.
During the walks to and from the ACM, our guide took us several different ways, so we were able to see so much of the city. It seems the people of Porto Alegre are definitely animal lovers as in the short walk I encounter an equal number of pet supply shops as I did people supply shops. How can you be anything but wonderful when you love pets like that. And it seemed last night that white shih tzu's are the breed of choice, outnumbering every other breed I saw at least 6 to 1.
Having never been in South America, I was unsure what to expect. It makes me think a lot of the Mediterranean world. It is easy to see why the Portuguese people feel in love and felt at home here so very long ago. The feel is bright and beautiful, with sharp contrasts. We were told there are 1.7 million people here in Porto Alegre, from the high rises that surround everything I find that easy to believe.
Another thing that I have discovered is that graffiti is everywhere. But not all of it is destructive or ugly. In fact the majority seems to be a true appreciation of beauty and an outlet for creativity. We were walking back yesterday to the Hostel and one of the girls asked about the trash dumpsters - they are fun and beautiful. It seems that is "graffiti". Our host explained to us, that as long as it is not "tagging" as gangs are known to do, the officials tend to turn a blind eye, as often the work only beautifies the area. I would have to agree!
The reason for being here is to experience the YMCA movement at one of our sister Y's in one of the countries we support. To bring American teens/young adults to support and absorb the incredible magnitude of the YMCA mission around the globe. Here they do not call it YMCA, they call it ACM (http://www.acm-rs.com.br/portal/esporte-e-lazer/esportes-acm-centro) but in any language the Y is familiar.
What a fantastic and unique facility. Being in the city they are confined to whatever space they are able to acquire. The security is very high, in fact I had to giggle a bit that so many of our staff back home had an issue with our using their finger prints for them to be paid and here in Brazil, just to be a member of the ACM you will provide a finger print and to enter you swipe your finger. During the day there was no guard, but we did notice that at night there was.
All of the buildings are separate and as you walk out of the main building, where you've registered and possibly had a meal at the restaurant you quite literally walk outside. To a covered walkway that leads you around all the main program areas.
Last night we watched a very busy class, it appeared to be a Tae Bo style class. While sitting under the stars waiting for a few of the teens to finish their showers. From our seats we could see the "group exercise" studio in full swing. Soccer practice happening in the main gymnasium, it was huge with the most beautiful wood floor I have ever seen, the net from ceiling to floor allowed multiple ages to practice at the same time. The pool is beautiful and when we were visiting it was great to see a water aerobics class that was in full swing and looked so familiar. The pool area also has a therapy pool, with cycling bikes. I find this intriguing and terrifying at the same time. There is also an outdoor enclosed soccer practice field as well. It wasn't in use as they are doing some repairs to it.
Structurally, it has all the same things we take for granted in the US, what we expect to find in our communities. But it's stories are what set it apart. Today we will hear more of those stories, so I will take time tonight to write a few up. Their volunteers are there because of the difference the Y has made in their lives. I had it explained to me last night, that the government does not take care of the people like they do in the US, they do not have the social services we have, so the ACM and the churches fill those roles. They insure education, community, sports, etc. In return they foster a deep love and respect for the ACM that seems to carry forward through their entire lives. Both of our hosts yesterday had been educated in the school and supported through their formative years by the ACM, their love for the ACM was so evident in all they did.
The Hostel that we are staying in, is owned by a young man that had attended UIUC in Champaign/Urbana just like my boy. He and I spoke at length about it. His experience there had a strong influence from the Campus Y there. He also has a deep love of the YMCA/ACM. It's amazing how small the world becomes when you use certain filters.
Today, I am not so groggy and unrested. Today I will get to hear more of the stories, see so much more. I am excited, and ready to tackle the day. But for now I need to go insure I have 6 young ladies awake and ready to face the day. Our host will be here at 930 am to escort us back to the ACM.
|Breakfast at the Hostel|
|Morning view from Hostel window|
|Another window view|
|Outside at the ACM|
|Group Exercise class at night|
|Tile work in the floor at the Hostel|
|Group Exercise Studio -- Daylight|
|Soccer ... ACM style|
|Butterfly Project Room|
|Basketball - Did you know the Y invented it?|
|Savoring Brazilian coffee|
|Lunch at the ACM|
|Parks abound in Porto Alegre|
|A church near our Hostel|
|Mural outside the church|
|The gardens at the hostel|
|Waiting for our room after a long day of flights|
|Outside the Airport|
|Boarding the final flight at Sao Paulo|
|First glimpse of Brazil|
|Brazil... are you down there?|
|Delta plans ahead!|
|And so the journey begins|
|Good bye St. Louis|
|Good Morning Brazil... best coffee!!|