Another eventful week filled with family, friends and food. We started the week by taking a walk through a typical flea/crafts market and I drove Gerson crazy with oohing and ahhing at the varying items displayed. You know those things, all that stuff you never knew you needed until you see it! Gabriel, our angelic driver, took us to a fantastic Italian restaurant in a part of Curitiba that is famous for its Italian influence. The restaurant boasts that it is the largest kitchen in the world and can easily serve over 5,000 lunches a day.
After enjoying yet another generous meal, Gabriel dropped us off at Gerson's Uncle Carlos' home, which is nestled in between his son's home (Vinicio and Evelize) and Uncle Sebastian and Aunt Marilda. As with all of Gerson's family, there are strong memories that he cherishes and with his Uncle Carlos, these memories revolve around a father-like influence and much time spent around race horses.
When Gerson was young, Uncle Carlos owned thoroughbred horses and often let Vinicio and Gerson tag along to the hippodrome. Gerson has told me many stories of his love for horses and how it was imprinted by Uncle Carlos.
While enjoying a raucous conversation with Uncle Carlos, his daughters Vanessa and Viviane, and with Vinicio's son, Carlos, a horse race came on the television. Uncle Carlos immediately recognized the starting gate as it was he who built the gate. How cool is that to be watching a horse race and be sitting with the man that built the gate.
Speaking of Vinicio and his wife, Evelize - they treated us to some of their delicious confections. Their business is making fabulous cakes, brigadeiros, etc. and selling them to a multitude of customers. My taste buds will never be the same.
We left this part of the family and walked all the way across the yard to Gerson's Uncle Sebastiao and Aunt Marilda wherein we enjoyed yet another laugh-filled hour and even more stories I will revisit.
Leaving Curitiba behind, we left via train to head to the coast to meet up with Gerson's sister, Marjorie, at her beach condo. The train departs Curitiba amidst the tall buildings and travels through lush, mountainous landscape dotted with small farms and ranches. The train is just a single-car train that wobbles along and it makes you feel as though you have taken a step back in time.
We arrived at the train station to be met by Marjorie, her son
Felipe (18) and her daughter, Flavia (13). Keep in mind that Gerson had
not seen his nephew and niece in eight years and this was Flavia's first look at
her loving uncle.
We had a wonderful lunch near the train station and took a short walk along the river. Then, it was off to the beach.
Marjorie's place is located in a small hamlet referred to as Florida and with the palm trees swaying in the breezes, you could see the similarity. Actually, while we were there, a freak windstorm kicked up and if you added some rain, we would have been reliving Hurricane Frances (which we were in Florida, US, for) all over again.
Unfortunately, we only had one true sunshine day and the other days were spent in and out of rain showers. Alas, January is the rainy season and it lived up to its almanac prediction. Even with the rain, the temperature was very comfortable and we were afforded time to visit the nearby communities, a nearby island (a many storied hang-out for Gerson), and to meet even more family and friends. Marjorie treated us so wonderfully that we started to get real comfortable with never leaving. Not to mention that Felipe and Flavia were a great audience for Gerson's morning dancing and other antics throughout the day.
We did receive very sad news while we were staying at the beach. Gerson's friend's (Marcio) wife, Simone, passed away in the night on January 25. We knew the cancer was terminal but we were still shocked by her sudden death. She was so vibrant and laughing and we were fortunate to have met her and remember her in this way. She leaves behind a loving and devoted husband and a beautiful 6-year old son, Gabriel. She will be greatly missed.
Gerson had some time to try to teach Flavia to surf; however, between the rain and the unpredictable waves, we did not get to see Flavia hang ten. I have no doubt that with the right conditions, she will be a surf force to be reckoned with. To take a little space to be the proud aunt, Flavia is a Champion Paddle Tennis player. Champion, you say? Yes, in 2002, Flavia was the World Champion for her age group (remember, despite how maturely beautiful she looks, she is only 13 years old), and continues to be a top world player. She has played in Europe and around South America where paddle tennis is popular.
Of course, we made time for a few bar-b-ques and Felipe gave even Gerson a few tips. Ok, proud aunt again...Felipe is also an awarded paddle tennis player and has taken part in the exchange student program wherein he schooled in New Zealand for six months. He speaks Portuguese (of course), English and is learning Spanish and German. All within his short 18 years - I'm impressed!
We took a fun 45 minute boat ride to the Ilha do Mel (or Honey Island) that Gerson spent, ahem, quite a lot of time surfing, sleeping in friend's beach huts, and, ahem, spending time with girls. You know I am getting THOSE stories, one-by-one.
It is a beautiful and historic little island (not only because of Gerson's past experiences). A fort was built on the island in the 1800's and during the World Wars I and II, the United States armored the island further to protect its southern flank. We made time to take a short boat ride to the fort, walk the width of the island, take another try at surfing and indulged in the local fare.
Going to Honey Island with Gerson was like walking the red carpet with a celebrity. Everywhere we went, there were loud cheers, great hugs and warm welcome-backs for Gerson. He definitely was popular on that island *raising my eyebrows*.
We spent our day roaming the island and we spent most of that evening knocking on doors of friend's parent's summer homes. Unfortunately, both Marjorie and I drained our camera batteries and I have no pictures. What I can tell you though, is that Gerson has many "parents" and once he was recognized and the people got over the shock of seeing him appear out of thin air, they were loathe to let go of him. What a terrific group of people and what a pleasure it was to meet all of them
Outside of being saddened about Simone's passing, we had a fantastic time this week with Marjorie, Felipe and Flavia. Just in case you are wondering, this is the summer vacation for South Americans and like us North Americans, many here spend their summers at the beach. The only thing missing was the patriarch, Carlos, for he could not get time away from his restaurant.