Sunday, May 12, 2013

Last day!

One last full day!  :(  We started the morning by exploring Chapeco's culture and history.  At the Museu de Historia e Arte de Chapeco (the Archaeological & History Museum), which was originally the City Hall.  In the first room, we saw artifacts discovered at the base of the Uruguay River, found by farmers.  These artifacts included funeral pots, tools, and other assorted items.  The next room held pieces by two ethnic tribes: the Kaingang and Guarani.  The Guarani specialize in wood carvings, and the Kaingang do weavings.  From there, we learned more about Chapeco as a modern city; it was built on a grid system after WW2 as a planned city, and the museum showed the city's development from colonization and founding to modern day.  Upstairs exposed us to one of Brazil's current passions, the city's football club - Chapecoense - which is celebrating their 40th anniversary; in that time, the Catariense team has won 4 state championships.  The museum also showcases the work of local artists, including Agostinho Duart, Cyro Soswoski, Paulo De Siqueira, and Vanderlei Zaminan.

Funeral pots

Ancient tools

Woven baskets

The evolution of the soccer jerseys

2013 champions!

Next, we headed to the Museu da Colonizacao de Chapeco, which is a historical house built in 1921.  It was originally the city home of an Italian family who came from the state of Rio Grande del Sul.  The exhibits here paid homage to the three main industries of the area: erva mate tea, wood, and agriculture. 

From there, we went to Cidade do Idoso (Senior City).  Cidade do Idoso is a free community for Chapeco's senior citizens over 60 years old, and it has the capacity to serve 1,500 seniors from Chapeco's municipal area.  It offers many different outlets, including culture, sports, health, education, and social services.  For some, the food they eat at Cidade do Idoso might be the only complete meal they eat that day, and the exercise they receive (gym, pool, dance, pilates, hydrotherapy) is prescribed by one of the doctors on site.  In addition to physical health, the program also serves to combat many seniors' worst problem - being alone.

After a morning learning about Chapeco, it was time for the city to learn about us.  We were invited to a local TV station where we were shocked to discover we would be interviewed, live, on the television show Ver Mais!  The show's host is a Rotarian, and he started the program by interviewing Nora and Darci; then he turned his attention to us.  EEEK!  Luckily, he tossed us some easy questions, and we made it through relatively unscathed and unembarassed. 

Somebody's going to let these two on TV?

And these two jokers?  You must be kidding!

Nora and Darci being interviewed
That evening was our final Rotary meeting, presentation, and banner exchange.  Tomorrow, we will pack our bags for the last time (somehow!) and head to the airport for our four flights back to Charlotte.  It's amazing the wonderful friends and memories that we've made through this program, and I can't believe that a month has gone by so quickly!  Our lives are forever changed, and we are incredibly lucky to have been a part of this experience together.  Thank you to everyone we've met over the last month, who's showed us the wonderful offerings of Santa Catarina, who has hosted us, translated for us, EVERYTHING.  We are forever grateful.  And friends and family - we're coming home!

Our final presentation
The team with Fabio and Cintia

Emilee and her host dad

Here come the tears - Erin & Claudia

Paolo and Ana

Lu, Nora, and Ana

The trouble twins

Tchau, Brazil!  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Foz do Iguazu - picture alert!

After a 10 hour drive, we finally arrived in Foz do Iguazu.  The Brazilians immediately headed to Paraguay to shop the day away, and us Americans headed to bed for a few hours of sleep.  We all reconvened in the evening to board the bus again for the lighting of Itaipu.  Itaipu is a hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. The dam is the largest operating hydroelectric facility in terms of annual energy generation, supplying 90% of the electricity consumed by Paraguay and 19% of that consumed by Brazil.  Although we had been expecting something different than the light show that happened (lasers a la Stone Mountain in Atlanta, fireworks, etc.), we enjoyed spending time with the Rotarians at Itaipu and at dinner afterwards.

Lounging on the bus, en route to Foz do Iguazu 
Cheers, it's a long ride!
Nora, Luiz, Thilly, Emilee, Christopher, and Erin
Itaipu Dam

Christopher, Emilee, Darci, Erin, Lu, Karen
Christopher got us girls flowers
With Friday complete, we slept soundly and were refreshed by the morning for a full day of exploring what the area had to offer.  First was the fall - Cataratas do Iguazu - one of the Seven Wonders of Nature.  The name "Iguazu" comes from the Guarani or Tupi words "y" meaning "water", and "ûasú " meaning "big".  Numerous islands along the 2.7-kilometre-long (1.7 mi) edge divide the falls into numerous separate waterfalls and cataracts, varying between 60 to 82 metres (197 to 269 ft) high. The number of these smaller waterfalls fluctuates from 150 to 300, depending on the water level.  I think all of us were absolutely spellbound by its size and beauty. 

The quati were bold little critters!
Somewhere over the rainbow

But what does it mean?

After a quick lunch, we then set out for Parque do Aves, the bird park.  Despite only having one hour at the park, we maximized our time, seeing all that we could of the many varieties of birds and butterflies, and even getting pooped on (he or she shall remain nameless). 

What are you looking at?

From the bird park, we managed a few hours of down time in hotel before it was time to go to a churrasco dinner and cultural dance show.  The performers sang and danced traditional specialties from all over South America, and we whopped, hollered, and cheered throughout.

Traditional dancing, with 5 bottles balanced on their heads

Thoroughly exhausted from the day, we collapsed into our beds, and also slept again on the bus ride back to Chapeco.  Sunday evening was spent at a fundraiser for Verde Vida, and it was an honor to attend, knowing how the organization is run and what great things it does.  Some of the children who we'd seen on Thursday performed, and then we were mesmerized by both the Chapeco Chorale (singing songs from the 60s, including the Portuguese version of "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini") and the singing group "Misiones de Argentina."