Wednesday, June 14, 2017


You guys probably know what a "furlough" is.  It's that time when missionaries or soldiers "go home" from their field of service for a time of rest and reports.  Many people that we meet don't understand what a furlough is, but they have heard of sabbaticals.  The two aren't quite the same, but having a synonym can help explain an unknown word.  "Sabbatical" has the idea of a time of rest from a job to refresh and prepare to go back.  

Aunt Michele is going to take a rest from writing stories for a bit as we get things in order for Greyson to go to the USA in two months.  He has a lot of things to do over the next weeks like finishing up his school work for this year.  Pray for him as he gets all set to travel.

Meanwhile I'll try to keep a list of some new ideas for new true stories from Brazil.  Look for me again later this year!


Friday, June 9, 2017

Real Live Hobby Horse

 When Greyson was still fairly small, we took care of a fellow's horse for a bit.  You see, we had been gone on a furlough and the guy that stayed at our house to keep a watch on the dogs and our stuff, had a horse.  He kept it in the back yard.  Sometimes he would ride it.  And sometimes he would take it to competitions.  A lot of people in town have horses and ride them for transportation.  Quite a few people have horses for rodeos and competitions.  This horse knew how to ride down a sort of lane at high speeds while his rider would spear rings that are suspended at various spots down the lane.  

After we got back from our furlough the horse didn't have a good place to go.  Our yard was pretty nice with fresh grass and a constant flow of clean water.  So the fellow left him for a while.  Greyson would go out back and stick on top of the Mr. White Horse and try to "ride" him.  For the most part of the horse would just stand there and keep on chewing on grass as if he wasn't even aware of his "rider!"

From time to time, William would put a harness on the horse and then he would trot around some under William's firm direction.  The boys got to enjoy Mr. Horse for about a month before he was relocated to a farm.

I can remember when your father and I were little and would want to pet and ride the horses on old Mr. Willy's farm.  Your Grandaddy Beckner would often remind us to be careful not to get bitten by a horse.  He would say that horses can't open their mouths after that take a nip until they have bitten all the way down.  Do you think that's really true?  I always wondered.

"Horses are uncomfortable in the middle and dangerous at both ends." {Anonymous quote}

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lost and Found

got my coat on because it was chilly

This week we're back to Big Trip stories...

On the first week of our big Brazil trip back in April, Uncle Byron, Greyson and I first went west all the way across the state of Bahia to the capital city of Brasilia.  From there we took a zig-zagged southern path to the city of Foz do Iguaçu where the biggest waterfall system in the world is found.  Our place to stay in the city was a campground called Camping International.  

Before we left on our big trip, I spent hours and hours pouring over maps and plotting our stops into our brand new GPS and checking everything on Google Maps.  I checked and re-checked, but when the little voice on the GPS said, You have arrived at your destination, she was wrong.  There was no campground to be seen and not even a sign for one.  Instead there was a narrow street with two tour buses stopped in front of a hotel.  We had encountered a similar problem in another city near Brasilia with the GPS, but it seems the address just wasn't quite right.  This time it seemed the GPS was just lost.

After a few questions to the tour bus guides, Uncle Byron found out that the street and address number were right but the GPS just had us stop too soon.  Off we went and were able to find the campground located in the middle of a residential part of the city.  We were only lost for a few minutes.  That was the first lost thing  in Foz.

After hot showers, free wifi (checking the route to the Falls), a good supper and a good night's sleep at the campground, we headed off for our day of adventure.  Our plans were to see the big falls and maybe stop at a tropical bird zoo.  I also secretly hoped to find another Burger King since we had a handful of coupons from the one we'd found in Brasilia.  

It was pretty much a straight shot to the national park where the falls are.  I had warned Uncle Byron about the expensive parking, but he still wasn't very happy to pay BR$20 just to park.  We were trying to hurry to get out of the car and into the lines to get into the park when Uncle Byron asked if anyone had seen the car alarm remote...  second lost thing!

Oh, Aunt Michele's heart sank.  You see the remote for the car was very old and it had broken off the key chain.  I had rigged it up with an old ponytail holder to stay on the key chain and it had worked that way just fine until about a week before our trip.  Trying to get a new one would have cost about BR$1000, so Uncle Byron just carried the little remote in his pants' pocket.  I had used it early that morning when I got up before everyone else to get breakfast ready at the campground.  On our trip, at night, Uncle Byron always put the little black clicker in one of his shoes.  The rule was to always put it back.  

Now there we were... and what to do?  Uncle Byron turned the alarm off, locked the doors and hoped for the best.  We had the keys and just hoped we could drive off after seeing the falls without the alarm going off.  Uncle Byron said not to worry, but I was all shook up.  I took a few deep breaths and decided to put on a happy smile.

When you are on the electric tour buses that take visitors down the park roads to the falls, the guides tell you to be very careful with food items because of the little animals called coatimundi.  At the first overlook stop on the trail, we saw about 15 of the little beasties jump on a woman's backpack while she was still holding it!  Apparently she had a package of crackers in an outside mesh pocket of the bag.  

Just after that the big confusion of the lady's backpack, I got lost!  I looked all around and couldn't find Uncle Byron and Greyson anywhere.  They had been right behind me and then they were gone.  All the people in our group started going down the trail to the falls, so I thought maybe Uncle Byron and Greyson had, too.  I decided to go down the trail a little ways and see if I could find them.  Meanwhile, they were looking for me.  They were sitting on the steps in this photo above.  They just sat there and waited for me to show up... third lost thing - me!

see the coat
 When we got close the walkways that go right over the river and out near the falls, there are people selling plastic rain coats.  The mist is like rain.  I decided to get my jacket out.  As I was putting it on, guess what I found?  The car alarm remote!  It was in one of the pockets of my jacket.  Oh, what happiness!  I quickly gave it to Uncle Byron!  

But there was one more thing to lose and find yet on this incredible day...

Just outside the big entrance of the national park of the falls, there are several other tourist attractions including a place called Parque das Aves or Bird Park.  I had heard a lot of good reviews from friends who had visited.  Uncle Byron decided we would stop.  As we got out of the car, I got us some snacks and drinks and Uncle Byron decided he better get some cash out of his secret hiding place.  {By the way, I can't tell you where it was or it wouldn't be a secret anymore.}  He reached his hand in, and came out empty.  His secret spot had nothing in it!  We looked all around, up and down.  We couldn't find the little bag of several thousand Brazilian reais.  The fourth lost thing!  Now what?  It couldn't have been stolen.  So Uncle Byron decided it was just misplaced.  The only thing to do was to go on into the park and put the entrance fee on a credit card.  In we went.  And we had a good time, too.

And yes, we did find the money.  It was a crazy thing.  In the dark, the night before, Uncle Byron had put the little bag of money into Greyson's open backpack instead of the little nook of his hiding place.  We searched for quite a while after we got back to the campground that night and had almost given up when I suggested that Greyson look in his backpack.  We all laughed in relief.  

Ah, we found a Burger King, that evening!  It was sort of by chance.  I had used the GPS to look for one to no avail.  We saw a big mall and thought at least we could eat something and Bingo!  there was a BK!  We got to use our coupons and enjoy another flame broiled burger.  

We learned some big lessons on our big trip.  One was not to get flustered when the GPS sent us on crazy routes.  Another was to stay cool when things seemed to be lost! 

p.s.  There won't be any Friday stories for the next two weeks.  Aunt Michele has a big speaking engagement on June 3rd.  Check back on June 9th for another exciting IRL {in real life} tale from Brazil.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Brothers and Sisters

captured from google maps

When your Daddy and I were young but not too little, we moved from the big city of Baltimore, Maryland to the countryside of Bedford County, Virginia.  We lived in a total of five houses before we moved into the house where Grandma and Granddaddy Beckner now live.  I can remember lots of different things about each one of the places where we lived.  Today's story is about the house on the hill.  It's a house on the same road where Grandma lives today.  We only lived there for about a year, I guess, but I have a lot of good memories of our time there.

It's the house where I remember your Daddy calling out to me in the middle of the night the most when he was scared of the dark.  "Sissy, Sissy," he would call.  If I didn't answer, he'd repeat it a little louder.  "SiSSy, SiSSy," until I would finally ask what he wanted.  I knew what he wanted.  He would say, "I'm scared." And I would always say, "Okay, go back to sleep." "I can't," would come the reply.  I would either have to get up and go see what was what or tell him to come to my bed and get in with me.

But one night, I was the one who was scared!  We always slept with our windows open in the summer time.  One night I had almost drifted off to sleep when I thought I heard a crunching sound outside.  "Crunch, crunch, crunch." It was far away like but seemed to be getting closer.   "Crunch, crunch, crunch."  The closer it seemed to get the louder it seemed to be.  It seemed like the sound had stopped just outside my bedroom window.  Then I heard something else, "Boom, boom, boom," and realized it was my own heart beating hard.  I felt really scared all of a sudden.  I called out for Daddy.  "Daddy, Daddy!"  No answer.  I had just gotten up to run and find my Daddy, when there was a loud knock on the front door!

Granddaddy come out of his bedroom and almost ran into me.  He said something like "What's going on?"  I told him about the crunching and then hearing the knocking on the door.  About then there was another knock.  I don't know what time it was, but it was after our bedtime and very dark outside.  Daddy tried to look out a window and see if he could tell who was out there before opening it.  He opened the wood door and quickly latched the outer screen door locked.  There was a man standing there asking for help.  He told us that his car had broken down nearby and he'd seen our porch light on.  

The man didn't look so well.  He had some sort of bloody bump on his head.  Daddy asked about it and he just said that he'd hit his head.  He wanted to know about using the phone.  Daddy asked him to see down and said he would look at his head and see what could be done.  

Meanwhile Grandma got up, too.  I'm not sure of the order of the rest of the events of that night, because I was really scared.  Somewhere in there, Grandma called the police.  Come to find out, they were very happy to get her call because the man was a crook on the run.  He'd had some sort of fight after a "job" of sorts and his escape car wasn't a very good choice apparently.  Daddy told me to go back to bed, but I could hear him talking the man and saw the flashing lights of the police car when it finally came.  

After that I tried to be a little more kind to my little brother when he called for his Sissy in the middle of the night!

Sunday, May 7, 2017


"Opa" is Portuguese for Oops in English.  Just a little bit ago on this Sunday morning, Aunt Michele had a big "Opa" moment when I realized that Friday had come and gone and I never posted a story!  Oh my, oh dear!  

I'm tying a red string on my finger, putting a note on the frigerator, and writing notes in my little notebook!  Look for me on Friday!  And maybe I'll write something for your Daddy's birthday.  When is that, anyway?  Hmmm?  Sometime in May?

A post shared by Michele Beckner Atha (@michelebeckneratha) on

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Short Cuts and Sugar Cane Fields

Yes, another story about our big trip.  When something take three weeks to do, you get a lot of story material out of it!

After we had driven down in the state of Paraná for about a week, Uncle Byron had his full of toll roads.  In one day's travel of about 8 hours we paid over BR$60 at various toll gates.  And the roads weren't even that good!  None of the toll roads we drove on in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Minas Gerais or São Paulo were no-access or even totally four-laned.  One section of toll road in Paraná on our way down to Foz do Iguaçu was just a two-laned paved road.  Whenever the road went up and over big hills, there was an extra third lane to allow for passing slow tractor trailer trucks.  Some did have rest stops and emergency assistance crews.  Some did not.  Most all of them had lots of stopping for road construction crews with no way to detour around.

So Uncle Byron started looking for short cuts.  His first short cut that took us from Guarapuava to Curitiba turned a three-hour drive into a six-hour adventure, but it was scenic.  His next big short cut lead us to this red dirt tractor path in the middle of acres and acres of sugar cane fields.

I asked a few basic questions when the GPS said "Take the next left."  Questions like, "What?"  "Where?" and a few exclamations like "No way!" and "This can't be right!"  Greyson just laughed...

Off we went into the sugar cane... miles and miles of nothing but sugar cane.  We saw a tractor, a man with a small pickup stealing some cane for himself, and a couple of other vehicles coming and going.  So it wasn't an entirely unused path.

Then we saw this single lane wooden plank bridge with a fairly good sized little river running nicely underneath.  I was pretty doubtful about this route now and figured we were bound to die for sure.  Then this little pick up truck came breezing by us from the other side.  I was sure our vehicle was much heavier but if they made it and the bridge didn't fall down, I guessed we would, too.

view from on the bridge

On the other side there was more sugar cane and other paths that turned off here and there.  Mr. GPS just kept telling us where to go like it knew where it was going.  I was still rather doubtful about the outcome of this no toll route.

irrigation equipment

rest stop?

Finally, lo and behold the red dirt road ended right into a traffic circle with access to a real paved highway.  We probably saved a little on the tolls but the funniest thing is that just an hour or so down the paved road we hit a toll booth on a new section of highway that wasn't marked on our maps or the GPS!  At that point it was getting dark and we did have a certain hour to be at our stop for the night, so Uncle Byron paid the toll and we arrived on time that evening in Jacutinga, Minas Gerais.

But wait, this story isn't over yet.  Later that evening after supper at the New Tribes Mission's Peniel Bible Institute, we go to meet and talk with the school's director in his home.  During the course of the conversation, Uncle Byron commented about his dislike for all the toll roads in the south.  Mr. Samuel, the director, shook his head in agreement and told us about his favorite short cut to the São Paulo area where we had just come from.  He said,  "It goes through a few sugar cane fields...."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sleeping in Your Car

Well boys, we survived our crazy big Brazil road trip, including the sleeping in the car part.  I don't know if you've been looking at the posts I made about all the places we visited or not.  One of the things that we did to save some money along the way was sleep in the back of our Mitsubishi Pajero.  

It's a good old vehicle and has a big area in the "trunk" part where usually two bench seats go so we can take lots of kids to church on Sundays.  Uncle Byron took those seats out before our trip and made a platform for us to sleep on.  The passenger seats fold down and also go forward.  So Uncle Byron made the wooden frame to fit the space with the seats all the way towards the front and to the right height to be on the same level as the seats when folded.

We only stopped at truck stops with lots of trucks and that had signs about being open all night long.  Uncle Byron also talked to some of the truckers wherever we stopped to see if they thought it was a good place to park for the whole night.  One time a man told him that it wasn't a great place, but the next one down the highway was better.  He told us that he was hungry and had only stopped there to make himself some supper, but he never slept there.  So we went on to the next one.

At a different truck stop in another state, the trucker that Uncle Byron talked with told us the best place to park.  At a different one we got blocked in by the big trucks and had a hard time getting out in the morning!  One other night we ended up near a refrigerated truck with its refrigerators coming on and off all during the night!  I was glad for my snore proof ear plugs on that night!  Ah, and yes, Greyson and Uncle Byron snore!

We put bed rolls and blankets on top of the wood pallet platform that Uncle Byron made and had just enough space for each one to sleep and move around a little bit.  One morning I did wake up to find Greyson elbow almost in my mouth!  But usually I had enough room.  

You might wonder about getting hot and opening the windows.  Uncle Byron thought of that, too.  He made metal frames and put mosquito proof net or screen on the frames to go in the back sliding windows and the back seat windows.  Thankfully where we went down South we were mostly chilly and didn't have too much problem with the night time temperatures.  On our last night sleeping in the truck we were back in Bahia and we did get just a little bit warm in the first part of the night even though we were pretty high in some mountains.  Later that same night it started raining and cooled things off.

If you're wondering about going to the bathroom and taking baths, most truck stops in Brazil have nice bathrooms with shower stalls so the truckers can get cleaned up.  We were glad to find truck stops with good, clean ones.  I didn't try to take a bath at any, but I was always happy to have a nice place to brush my teeth each night.
Our trip was really great and by sleeping those four nights in the car and two nights at a campground we saved enough money to do some things that we had to pay for like going to parks and museums and eating at a few Burger Kings!  Yes, Uncle Byron is so happy that Brazil has Burger King now.  We also saved a lot of money by mostly eating the stuff that I took from home - Brazilian peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches and lots of tuna fish and salami sandwiches.  We had to stop sometimes to buy more bread and drinks but it was a lot cheaper that eating out all the time.

Next Friday I'll tell you about a crazy short cut that Uncle Byron programmed into our GPS to avoid paying tolls!

Take care! Much love from Aunt Michele