We are counting down the days until we have to hop back on an airplane and come back to our respective homes and places of work. Today is Monday and we leave on Saturday so we have five more days to make the most out of our time in Rio.
I hope you have all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are preparing for Christmas and more time with family and loved ones. I am looking forward to not only family and friends but also SNOW and rediscovering winter clothes. My tank tops are looking a bit stretched out and ragged from four months of hand washing and active wear. It has been strange observing some of the things I miss most about life in the States. I think I'm really going to relish the freedom to be alone when I want and the ability to go places when and where I want with much fewer restrictions.
It has been since early November that I gave a lengthy newsletter and for that I'm very sorry. November has been a very involved month and December is even more busy. About a month ago we climbed Corcovado to the Christ statue. The climb was steep and jungley, lasted about 2 hours and most of the time we were climbing through a cloud. Once we committed, we couldn't see much of the statue because of the density of cloud cover, rain, and strong winds that threatened to blow us over the cliff edges. That was the first time I have been really cold in Brazil. But still it was such a memorable experience and I'm so glad we went.
A couple weeks ago we took all the Projecta Vidinha (orphanage) kids to a really big park to play futbol with the older kids and other games with the young kids. That was such a huge success. I played soccer non-stop that whole day. The kids beat up on me terribly but still my team was determined to get me to score. I preferred to play defense. A couple days before that was my birthday and then also I got a chance to play, this time under an over pass with the street kids with commuting business people occasionally walking through our make-shift playing field. On this particular day I scored three goals. Unfortunately those years of smoking and perhaps also being a bit high make the street kids slow enough that I could keep pace.
Ben, our servant team coordinator who has been in the U.S. since Mid October was finally granted student VISA so he was able to come home to Brazil on Wednesday. This was a huge relief to us all. We missed having him around terribly and he returned just in time to take us on our debriefing retreat to Angra, a beautiful beach town with hundreds of nearly abandoned islands. We left for that retreat on Thursday night after we helped run a Christmas party at Timonis (the favela kids program). The Christmas party was lots of fun. We decorated the place with lots of lights and streamers, had candy to give away, made mini pizzas, and had a huge supply of sodas. Each of us operated a carnival type game that the kids would rotate around to and receive points to redeem for a Christmas gift at the end. My game was a huge tub of sand with 10 marbles buried in it. The kids had a minute to dig through it and pull out all the marbles. They had a lot of fun with it but I was covered in mud by the end of the day. Mud because when sand settles on a really sweaty person it becomes mud. Oh, the power had gone out again so not only were the Christmas lights not lit but also none of our ceiling lights or fans were operational. On really hot days the electricity tends to go out. The wiring in illegal residency doesn't tend to be that great but many people are starting to own window air conditioning units that drain entire blocks of electricity. We're getting used to always being covered with a sticky film of sweat. Unfortunately the party ended on a sour note because of a police raid that was warring with the Drug Traffickers on the streets outside. We kept the kids inside with us until the area immediately surrounding us had quieted down a bit. Happy Birthday Jesus, right?
Then we hurried home to clean up for the debriefing retreat to Mangaratiba and Angra dos Reis. We have a Brazilian friend who has a house not 100 yards from the ocean at Mangaratiba and he allowed us to invade his house again for this weekend. It is such a beautiful place unfortunately half the time it was raining. We still had a good time and spend a day and a half on the beach. Yesterday, for the last day of the retreat, we went to the bigger city of Angra to go on a boat trip to Ilha Grande (the big island) and to a couple small islands along the way with beautiful beaches. We also went snorkling at one point on the Ilha Grande. Yesterday was the perfect day to step back from our life in the favelas and from this time in Brazil to consider what God has done in our lives and what we have learned during these past four months.
We have just a few days left now. Next week I'll be back in Texas to the things that have always been familiar to me speaking a language I know. I can't wait to come back and reconnect with all of you. I can't wait to share in more detail some of the experiences I had and also to hear about what has been happening in your life since the last time we were together. If this letter wasn't too long for you check out this blog posting for more details from my days: http://jen-unconventionalwisdom.blogspot.com/2007/11/almost-over.html
Miss you all. I'll see you soon. May God bless your life this holiday season.