Julie's parents are currently on their second mission in Brazil...I know, they are awesome. We had planned to go and visit during their first mission, but were not able to. This time around, we realized that Zara would 15 months old before she met two of her grandparents unless we went and visited, and we really wanted to go to Brazil - so we decided to make it happen. Holy cow, are we glad that we decided to go for it. We started planning and little by little a plan came together. First we would go to Registro, the town where Julie's parents are serving for a few days. Then we would go to Iguacu Falls for a couple of days, then on to Rio de Janeiro to finish off the trip. We talked Julie's parents in to coming with us to Iguacu and Rio so we could spend more time with them, and have some Portuguese speakers with us. Zara turned out to be the best traveler of all of us. She was so awesome as she trooped along across the globe - 7 airplanes, a couple of buses, a bunch of taxi rides, hanging out in the Ergo for most of the day (when she wasn't being held by Grama) and doing all of it with a smile. Maybe it is because she achieved celebrity status the second we landed. Brazilians love babies...they are so darn friendly. They just love coming up and talking to Zara in Portuguese and giving her little pats. We just had to smile and act like we knew what they were saying.
We embarked on the long journey to Sao Paulo - which included a 9.5 hour overnight flight from Atlanta. Zara dug into her books and was awesome. The flight was full, but she just nestled in between us on the seats and slept the night away (can't say the same for myself...I was sitting next to the Brazilian equivalent of Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, ok, well not really, but he was big and kind of leaned on me while he slept). Nonetheless, we made it and were greeted in Sao Paulo by Julie's dad and the kind, wonderful Branch President of the branch they are serving in. He insisted on giving Julie's dad a ride and coming to pick us up (roughly a 3 hour drive). He was about the nicest guy in the world. He gave us some great Brazil background knowledge to us via Julie's dad who was our translator.
Since we driving past it, President Joao (branch president) stopped by the Sao Paulo temple so we could see it. It was beautiful, and it was so cool to see the grounds packed with people young and old coming to visit the temple and do temple work.
Here we realized how much people liked Zara. These cute girls came up and made friends with Zara immediately. After seeing the temple for a few minutes - we jumped in the car and headed for Registro. We hit some nice Sao Paulo traffic, stopped at a restaurant on the side of the road and had some awesome 'welcome to brazil' rice and beans along with some guarana.
Finally, we made it to Registro where Zara met her Grama for the first time!! She was really excited to meet Grama Kath and be done with traveling for a bit. We changed clothes, and headed out with Mark and Kathy to meet some of their friends in Registro.
First, we went to visit a family that interestingly enough, were all Japanese. Registro was settled by Japanese immigrants. This family runs the main furniture store in town. They've all lived in Brazil for their whole lives. The grandma (on the right) speaks Japanese, so I had a chance to brush up on my skills. They were so incredibly kind, they even had a present for Zara.
On the streets of Registro^^ That night we went to a branch dinner that was being held for the adults. We had some more awesome food and had a chance to meet some of the really cool members of the branch. Not a soul spoke English, so we did our best to communicate through smiles and spanish (that they didn't really understand).
The next day we had the opportunity to go to church. It was so fun to be there in that branch of 60-70 or so. Full of great people. They were pretty excited about Zara. We spent about 90 minutes after church speaking to some of the youth in the ward. They knew a little bit of English, but for the most part we pointed and made gestures again. Julie's mom was there with us and translated. I just love that anywhere you go in the world, you can find a ward or branch to attend and feel the spirit. These people were 100% good.
President Joao and his family. It was really fun getting to know them a bit. They are an amazing example of faith and sacrifice to serve the Lord.
After church, we walked around and met a few more families that Mark and Kathy have been working with. We have been reading about these families in emails for the past 6 months, so it was so cool to actually meet them. You can see, that Registro is a fairly humble farming town for the most part - but so full of awesome people.
After visiting the families, we headed back to Mark and Kathy's apartment and had some dinner. Mark is a big fan of the bananas in Brazil. I think we tried 5 or 6 different kinds while we were there. Everything we ate was accompanied by some amazing fruit. That night, we had homemade passion fruit ice cream. yum. After a great day of meeting people and seeing Registro, we made some last minute preparations before catching a bus early the next morning to Curitiba where we got on a flight to Iguacu Falls. We stayed at a Pousada (bed and breakfast) just down the street from Mark and Kathy's apartment which worked out perfectly.
Here is the view outside of our room at the Pousada, we were right down on the river. Registro is a placed we won't soon forget. Here we are, these random Americans, yet they made us feel so at home and welcome. It was amazing to see Mark and Kathy in their element as missionaries and see what an impact they are making in the lives of so many, and how much these people love them.
Check back soon for the next stop of the blogocation...the ridiculously amazing Foz do Iguacu.