Lois writing today
We had a restful night, and woke to a semi-cloudy day, with temps in the 70s, and a good breeze most of the time. Eugenio picked us up at 9 AM, and asked if we would mind adding an extra item onto our schedule for the day. Sure! He knew that we had requested to visit a school, but with the holidays, that couldn't be arranged. But he realized that we like talking to locals wherever we travel, so he took us to his own home to meet his family! Everyone was home since it was Sunday morning. We asked about church attendance in this Roman Catholic country, and he said that a very small percentage of people are practicing the religion. The home is a 3 bedroom middle class apartment – really a condo since they own it.
Eugenio's wife Claudia teaches first graders in a public school, and his three daughters: Nicola (17), Flavia (14) and Amanda (8) were all there too. They were all happy to meet us, as was the dog Katerina, who was obviously thrilled to have new people to pay attention to her. We spent about an hour sitting on the porch, chatting with the girls. I wished I had brought some sort of gift for the family (like a bag of TC dried cherries) or photos to show them, but this visit was a total surprise for us.
Nicola spoke perfect English, and when we began to tell her a bit about our lives at home, she brought out a computer, and we showed her the paddle club website. www.traverseareapaddleclub.org. Some of you may not know that John is the webmaster and I am the Outings Chair. We went to the trip reports so they could see some of our activities from home, including river cleanup trips, stories of rescues, reports written by children, and even some photos of us hauling our kayaks across the snow for last spring's first paddle of the season on Boardman Lake.
Meanwhile, John entertained Amanda, who brought out her English workbook, which showed lots of pictures so the little kids could learn both vocabulary and grammar – like the difference between the words on, in and under, or a lesson about when to use "a" versus "an" before a noun. John said she knew all the stuff in the book, so he asked her and Flavia to teach him some Portuguese! That worked out well, though I'm not sure how much he has remembered. We were flattered that Eugenio thought so highly of us to take us home.
Afterwards we went on a bit of an architectural tour of Niteroi, visiting both a theater and the contemporary art museum designed by Oscar Niemeyer (who planned the buildings for their capital in Brasilia). All the buildings have extensive curves, with ramps to change levels. Quite unique. Actually, being in the flying saucer shaped museum made me a bit dizzy.
Eventually we went out for a light lunch – I got Jocelyn's favorite Caprese salad with chicken, and the guys had burgers. On the way back to the car, we stopped at a gelato shop, which had 65 flavors, all made on site. (Note from John:I thought the stuff was ice cream.) They had a very practical way of dispensing the gelato: you serve yourself. All the flavors were labeled in Portuguese as well as English, and you simply take a cup or cone, take whatever you want, and then bring it to be weighed. It was a lot cheaper than other places we have been, and you don't have to wait for someone to do the scooping for you. There are also restaurants where you take your own food and pay by the weight. Clever!
When we returned to the hotel, we had a few little glitches. We need our room key to make the elevator work, and neither of our cards did the trick. So we had the front desk receptionist re-key the cards, and all was fine. Then we wanted to get into the room safe, and it was locked too. At least we knew that our extra wallets and passports were safe! A security guard came up quickly and opened it for us – we think that for some reason, we were marked as checking out too soon. Then I noticed that our clock had been changed for daylight savings time, but the staff changed it in the wrong direction. Did you know that no two digital clocks in the world are adjusted the same way? One quick visit from housekeeping and that got fixed. In each case, we got apologies from the staff. I suppose that some guests might not be quite so understanding, but we were pretty mellow. Stuff happens.
About twenty minutes later, we heard a dripping noise, and I went to check the bathtub, but the water was not in the bathroom. It was coming down from the ceiling panel just inside the entryway door, on to the gorgeous wood floor. I grabbed a bathmat to mop things up a bit, and called housekeeping. Two men showed up within five minutes, with a ladder, hose and bucket. They dismantled the panels, drained the water out, and cleaned up quickly. These guys had obviously done this before. The air conditioner condenser was storing the water it generated, and it finally came running out. The repairman had me talk to the general manager, who explained what had probably caused the problem with the air conditioner. He asked if we wanted to change rooms – no need to do so since the problem was solved. But he really wanted to do something to atone for all of this –he suggested chocolates, wine, or a bowl of fruit. We were appreciative, but said that none of it was necessary. A short while later, we got a call and said they would be giving us each a free half-hour massage at the hotel spa. We'll do that tomorrow!