Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Brazil Adventure!

As far as adventures go for us, this has to be near the top of the list!  I am not going to lie....going to Brazil was very intimidating for me and I was nervous!  I kept reminding myself that it would all be worth it once we had Tom with us and I was right!  The adventure began in just trying to get Tom (see previous post), and once we had him, we could really start truly enjoying both being with him and seeing the beautiful country of Brazil.  

Our first experience with Tom, other than shopping for shoes in a mall in Belem, was hopping on a flight to Santarem, one of Tom's favorite cities that he served in.  From there it was one escapade after another!  From discovering the hotel we had a reservation at was closed, to crazy cab rides, lots of walking the boardwalk, crazy bus rides, beautiful beaches, meeting members, visiting a museum, boating through the Amazon jungle to visiting the largest outdoor market in Brazil, we did a lot in 10 days!  

Tom and Dave waiting for lunch at our hotel in Santarem.

Fish market along the boardwalk in Santarem.

Tilted cafe along the boardwalk.

The Santarem boardwalk.

Drinking coconut water out of the coconut!

Altar Do Chao.

Leaving to go to the secluded beach.

Boats going out to the secluded beach.

Tom enjoying the boat ride!

Getting the scoop on stingrays!

Dave in his natural habitat!

Eating lunch on the beach.

Tire Christmas tree in Altar Do Chao!

Enjoying some music on the street!

Tom and his hammock.....ahhhhh!

The whale skeleton in the museum in Santarem. 

In Santarem, we walked up and down the boardwalk where people sell fish, fruits and veggies, hammocks, and just about everything else you can imagine.  There were boats where people hung their hammock on the top deck for overnight boat rides to nearby cities.  We visited a museum that had a full skeleton of a whale that got stranded up the river and died.  We shopped for shoes in crowded, noisy markets where every other store was a shoe store!  We got on a packed bus that took us to Altar Do Chao for the day, but ended up spending the night there because it was so beautiful and peaceful, none of us wanted to leave.  We went to a completely secluded white sand beach with stingrays in the water and then ate lunch on a sandbar that is covered by water part of the year.  We caught up with the Hoch's and had dinner with them and then shopped before catching the bus back to Santarem the next day.  We went to an area where Tom had lived with a family in the upper floor of their house.  We got to visit with them and then went to a devotional on missionary work at their ward.  We met numerous people who knew Tom from his time serving there, plus one of his previous and favorite companions, Elder Tobias!  The people were friendly, kind and excited to meet Tom's family.  The next morning, Tom and Dave attended sacrament meeting in a second ward that Tom had served in and had the same experience of meeting people who truly loved Tom.  Then, it was time to go back to Belem, so we hopped on a plane, again!
Shopping in Santarem.

Boats getting ready to travel overnight.

Boats headed to other cities from Santarem.

Two rivers come together but their waters don't mix.

Boat ride up the Amazon!

Dave in the jungle!

Tom in the jungle!

Heading back to the docks.

Tom visits a member that he baptized.

Tom and the daughter of a family he lived with in Santarem.

One of the houses in Santarem where Tom lived. 

Tom and the two current missionaries of the area we visited.

Tom and a wonderful family that he lived with in Santarem.

Tom and Elder Tobias, together again!

Tom visits with members from his old ward.

Tom and his friend Carla!

The church.

Tom and a parrot outside of our hotel, back in Belem.

Tom at the market in Belem.

Stuff for sale!

Happy shoppers!

Headed to an area in downtown Belem.

Back in Belem, on the day we were to fly home, we got up early and headed downtown to the huge, open-air market along the river.  They were selling everything imaginable.  We bought some souvenirs and then headed into the shopping district of the city where Tom was looking for a member he knew.  It was crazy!  So many stores, street vendors along the super narrow streets, tons of people everywhere!  We finally grabbed a cab and he took us to an area where we could get Acai, which was one of Tom's favorite things.  On the street, we ate our Acai smoothies and talked to a couple missionaries that happened to be walking by.  They seemed a little envious of Tom going home, but it all goes by so fast that it will be them before they know it.  Then it was time to head back to the hotel and to the airport.  Met up with the Hoch's at the airport and I think we were all tired and ready to go home.  On the plane, I wondered a lot about what was going through Tom's mind.  It's hard to imagine what it must feel like to leave someplace that has been your home for two years and not know if you will ever return.  We are very grateful that we had the experience of being with Tom at the end of his mission.  We are grateful to the wonderful people of Brazil who took care of him and became his friends.  There will always be a special place in our hearts for all of them and we will never forget our experience in Brazil!  

Boats near the market in Belem.

Tom and Dave in front of an old fort.

Beautiful architecture in Belem!

Tom in the town square.

Crazy, busy, narrow, crowded streets in Belem!

Waiting for Acai smoothies!

Dave waiting, too!

Tom and two missionaries we ran into on the street in Belem. 

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