A Brazilian Christmas...

Can you believe this rain we're having? I mean, it's the end of January, and I don't think the weather has made up it's mind about winter yet.

I'm not complaining! I will take rain any day over -25 degrees, thank you very much!

Speaking of weather, let's talk a little bit about our warm Brazilian Christmas.  It's been over a month, I know, but I'm looking through pictures today and working on our update letter, and decided it's time to regale you with the tales of South America at Christmas-time.

Christmas Eve
Gabi and her codfish appetizers! YUM
I know that we have mentioned the Lopes family a lot, because three of them were our students and we started to spend much time together, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and the like.  So why should Christmas be any different?  We were so grateful to them for their hospitality, friendship, and wonderful food!

There's my pumpkin pie! Also, the turkey decorated with tropical fruits, brazilian style stuffing, and rice
Salad, ham, rice, and a codfish casserole

From Left to Right: Friends of the Lopes family, Jake and I, the Lopes
On Christmas Eve, usually the family stays up until midnight and then ushers in Christmas Day with this feast.  We didn't make it quite to midnight, but dug in around 11:30pm.  Before that we enjoyed the codfish appetizers, and the Lopes family exchanged gifts (they gave Jake and I the shirts we're wearing in the picture above!).  We visited and listened to music and talked and told stories.  Jake and I didn't last much past 1am, and asked if they could take us home.  As much as we had gotten used to the late night culture of Brazil, eating a full meal that late made us both very sleepy.  Valeria sent us home with leftovers, which we were happy to share with the Evans' as well!

Christmas Day

Waiting for Polly and Igor to pick us up
The couple we met at the Presbyterian church, Polly and Igor, invited us to their big family get-together and BBQ on Christmas day.  They picked us up at the seminary and drove us to Polly's aunt's house, which is absolutely stunning and large.  Polly has 5 aunts, so there were quite a few more people there than the night before!
Laying out food in the spacious courtyard
The BBQ area
 Polly told me that all the women prepared the main meal and the desserts the day before, cooking altogether and enjoying each other's companies, while the men prepared the BBQ.  When we arrived there, all the women were gathered inside around a big table chatting and snacking on pieces of meat and drinking Coke, while the guys were outside around the BBQ, cooking and doing what guys do best-eating.

Meat-which they snack on even before the main meal begins.  Whenever new pieces are ready, they put it on  plates and pass it around for family members to whet their appetites.
Jake's favourite part...he ate so much meat before the meal!
A typical Brazilian BBQ consists of-deliciously salted steak,
a bean dish of some sort, rice, potatoes or manioc, and a fresh green salad
Just when I thought I'd die of hunger, it was time to eat, and man, it was a good meal! Everyone was loud, boisterous, and it reminded me of the big family get-togethers that our own extended families would have been having back home in Canada. 

The whole family! 
Jake and I with our friends Polly and Igor

We were happy they invited us to join them, and that we could see the contrast between a smaller, evening gathering and a much larger, midday big family celebration.  Even though it wasn't too similar to what our Christmas here in Canada would have been like, we were still grateful to experience Christmas in another culture, to see how others celebrate the birth of our Saviour and Lord.



Good For the Soul...

I've been looking through the over 700 pictures our lovely photographer took on our wedding day, and came across this interesting series of pictures among siblings:

Josh finally breaks, staring Miah down with the stink eye, while Jocie
gives an impish grin and Jake pretends he had no involvement in the matter

Parents aren't immune to the silliness....

We'll behave, if we have to...

Oh, the hilarity! I love this family, and I'm so happy to be a part of the love and laughter.



Uma Lembranca De Mim...

That little phrase, uma lembranca de mim, is one that I heard often while we were overseas.  It means, literally, "a remembrance from me".  Brazilians don't just say, "Don't forget me!".  They don't just say, "I will never forget you!" or "I will miss you!".  They give something tangible for you to remember them by, so that, as the years go by, and you get busy and distracted, you are reminded of them whenever you see that item.  

I will never forget when I was in Brazil back in 2006.  I was just hanging out with one of my friends, and happened to notice how pretty her earrings were.  I told her so, and she just took them right out of her ears and gave them to me.  I still have them, and I do remember her and that evening every time I wear them. 

One of our students, Raquel (Rachel), made an effort to connect with us right away, and we became friends on Facebook.  She was always very eager to learn, and showed up at every class, even when many started dwindling off towards the end.  Her bright smile and loving nature always left an impression on me.  

Jake and I with Raquel
One day after class, she came up to me and asked me which one of my wedding photos was my favourite.  She had mentioned previously that she loved all the photos I had put up on Facebook.  As it got closer to Christmas, and on the last day of class, she told me she wanted to come see us before we left.  We hadn't really made a plan, and, on the Tuesday before we left, as we were packing, she happened to come by our house.  She was carrying this big package, and said she had been working on it for a couple of days, and was happy it was finally finished.  As I was opening it, she was beaming, and, obviously proud of her work, said she knew I would like it.  I had no idea what to expect, but I didn't expect this:

A beautiful photo box that she had modpodged with pictures of Jake and I on our wedding day!  She got the pics from my Facebook, and said that it had taken her so long because she had to wait for everything to dry at different stages.  I was speechless, and so blown away by such a beautiful gift, indeed a most precious lembranca!

Inside the box, she had written a message and stuck another photo, along with a cute little bundle of flowers to decorate it.  I have been proudly showing it off to everyone we've had over, and tell them about our wonderful, hospitable, generous friends in Brazil, for there were many.

Thank you for such a wonderful gift, Raquel.  Eu nunca vou esquecer de voce!



The Coffee Jitters...

Last night I experienced those jittery and anxious feelings that accompany coffee drinkers far and wide.  Coffee doesn't normally affect me at all, so I was surprised when, after two cups of the brewed goodness, I started to feel shaky before bed.  

I woke up at 1:30am and couldn't get back to sleep- went online for a bit, and all of a sudden it felt like I couldn't breathe, as my heart rate started to beat faster and faster.  It was a bit scary at first, but Jake was able to calm me down.  I looked up coffee effects online, and some people were saying that it's common to have those symptoms if you haven't been drinking coffee regularly.  

That about sums it up for me!  I haven't been having my daily java for about a week or so, and have resorted to brewing copious amounts of tea to take the chill off these winter days.  I think I'll be sticking with my tea for a good long while after this!



Christmas Post-Christmas...

Since getting married, Jake and I make sure that we celebrate Christmas at some point in the season, just the two of us.  We've made a weekend of it in early December (2010), late January (2011), and this year decided to try a little earlier.  Last weekend was a little rushed, but we managed to keep our tradition of Christmas Eve with appetizers, Bible reading, and a Christmas movie.  

BIS comes in white chocolate, milk chocolate, and
now this new one, lemon.  
Sunday morning rolled around, and rather than make cinnamon rolls, I rushed around trying to get ready for church.  Jake stuck his head in the bedroom and said, "Come and open your Christmas present!"  I was unprepared, because we hadn't decided on what to get each other, and I hadn't got anything for him-not to mention the guilt of not making delicious gooey cinnamon buns was looming over me.  I really had NO idea what was in the little bag, and opened it tentatively, to reveal a Brazilian wafer/chocolate that I had been wanting to try the whole time we were there.  Each time I wanted to buy it, either Jake or myself talked me out of it, since it wasn't exactly a healthy choice (and we both know I have the tendency to eat these kinds of things in their entirety).  As soon as I saw it, I burst into tears and left it in the package while I threw my arms around Jake's neck.  The fact that he hid it from me our entire journey home and for the past few weeks just to surprise me on 'Christmas morning' was so overwhelming.  Isn't it funny how the little things can show so much love? Needless to say, it was a tasty treat and well worth all the wait! (Don't worry, I stuck it in the freezer so I'm not tempted to finish it all!)

That afternoon we had planned to have our Christmas feast with some good friends, Hence and Lois.  We enjoyed turkey, sweet potato, roasted brussels sprouts, and brown rice stuffing after a hunger-inducing hike, finishing off with PC Candycane ice cream. It was so nice to spend it with friends, and they even brought our little Christmas tree we had lent to them, making it seem even more like Christmas.  What a wonderful weekend filling our hearts with the hope Christ's birth brings!      
     Love, Ashleigh


Goodbyes Are Not For Forever...

I haven't been staying away intentionally, and, let me tell you, it's good to be back here again.  This morning I stayed away from the laptop, internet, and music, and spent some time nose deep in books and journalling, with a pot of green tea and a blanket to keep me company.  It was good to slow down, to finally finish a book in only five days as opposed to two months, and to dig into God's Word again.

Jake and I have had many opportunities to share about Brazil in the past couple of weeks, and I've been thinking and reflecting on some of the things God taught me while there.  TEAM gave us each a 'Returning Home' devotional workbook, and I've felt encouraged by some of the in-depth questions as it urges me to look to God during this transition.

I'm feeling a bit emotional as I look over these pictures and remember being with the beautiful, smiling people as we said 'goodbyes'.

These are some of the students from Jake's Sunday School class, including Pastor Marluzio on the right.  Our good friends Polly and Igor are on the left, beside Polly's mom (the very end), and they have taken over the teaching of his class.  We got to take this picture right after a blessed time of goodbyes the night before we left.  Afterwards, Pastor Marluzio, his two boys, Polly & Igor, and the Lopes family took us out for a little lanche, and we enjoyed getting a last taste of Brazilian burgers with some wonderful new and lifelong friends!

Tim and Tammy, the missionaries we were living with.  It was hard to say goodbye, as it feels like we just met and were just starting to get to know each other.  It was such a blessing to meet this wonderful, godly couple, and we were touched by the passion God has placed in their lives to see Brazilians spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  

Saying goodbye to two of the three doggies we fell in love with, Nicky and Nina.  

Saying goodbye from the airplane, our last daylight glimpse of Brazil...for now.
Goodbyes are not forever, and although we don't know what God has planned for our future, we're grateful to have met these wonderful people and visit this beautiful country once more!