Thursday, September 14, 2017

Which Way Do We Go?

"Interior Tourism 101"

Let's face it!  There are lots of neat things to see all around our part of North East Brazil, but there are few signs, few pin points already marked on Google Maps or GPS maps.  There just doesn't exist any kind of organized tourism association.  If you want to find a certain cave or waterfall or museum, most of the time you have to know someone who has been there and ask for directions.   

A few years ago Uncle Byron, William and Greyson went with a fellow, who had already been, to see several caves in an area that has quite a few.  They also visited an unique oasis waterfall in the middle of our semi-arid region that was on the way.  Uncle Byron asked Dalton and Destinie while they were here if they would like to go see one of the caves and visit the waterfall one day for a little "interior tourism." They both said yes and off we went, after a little preparation!

To prepare for "interior tourism," you have to go prepared.  First you have to take all the water and food you might need for the day and a little extra just in case you get stuck somewhere.  Next you better check your facts about where the place is by asking people who have been there or know someone who has.  Then you better make sure that you know more or less where the place is on your GPS.  Also don't forget a well charged cell phone even though you might have to climb a coconut tree to get a good signal.  Fill up your fuel tank and check your tires and engine oil and radiator water.  Better take a few tools just in case and maybe a couple of extras like a spare water pump, fuel pump and a good air pump for tires.  When you are all prepared and haven't forgotten sunscreen and bug spray and snake bite kit, you can leave.

That's what we did on the day of our trip to see a cave and a waterfall.  

The trip to our first stop, the cave, was supposed to take about two hours.  Somewhere after we turned off the main highway (two lanes with holes but some pavement), Uncle Byron started saying things like:  I don't remember that.  Hmm, that doesn't look familiar.  I wonder where the little town we went through could be.  And I began to wonder if he really knew where he was going.  Once or twice he turned down a little dirt path, checked his GPS, and decided to turn around and take another path instead.  I think Dalton and Destinie may have wondered the same things as I was.

But we just kept going forward... finally when I was about ready to ask the fateful question - Do you really know where this cave is?  Uncle Byron saw some landmark that looked vaguely familiar and said we were getting close!

We spent about two hours at this cave.  Both Dalton and Destinie said it was worth the trip!  Afterwards we went hunting for the waterfall oasis.  It was a chore.  It was marked on the GPS and we even saw one sign, but dusty dirt roads change with the wind!  Several times we went down one little road, only to have to turn around and try another.  Once again, just when I thought we were doomed to turn around and just go home, but Uncle Byron forged ahead and made the day!

I was reminded over and over of Abraham when God called him to leave Ur and go to a land that would be shown to him.  No maps, no GPS, no cell phone!  He just had to trust God.  Traveling around the interior can be a lesson in trust for the passengers in a car and a lesson in faith for the driver!  

Maybe someday Bahia can map out all these great spots and become a real tourist trap!  But, in the mean time, adventurous individuals can pack their cars full of water and food, and just head out and hope for the best!  Just like Abraham was well rewarded for his trust in God, we were all well rewarded for our faith in Uncle Byron even though we doubted a few times along the way!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Are We Lost Yet?

Have you ever gone somewhere where there were no signs to say turn here or enter there?  No mile markers?  No pavement or gravel?  And not even very many people to ask?  If your answer is NO, you probably have never traveled in a third world country.  If you said, YES - Congratulations!  You are an adventurous traveler!

This past month, Dalton came down to Brazil to visit us with his family.  Destinie got to go to several adventurous places where "no man has gone before."  On one of our trips we wanted to visit the old island camp.  Currently the water in the big lake is so low that it's easier to go to the island by car then to try to get there by boat.

To do this we had to go to a fishing village first where you can see the island out in the lake...

There are no signs on the "highway" indicating where to turn in to the fishing village called "New Cotton" or "Algodões Novo," but Uncle Byron remembered that the road was after the second bridge and just after a big curve.  From there we only have to remember to keep on the left hand of any forks in the road.

In Algodões Tio Naldo who used to live on the island and was visiting with us stopped in to see an old friend.  Before we left the village the old man gave us verbal directions for how to continue our trek to the back side of the island where we could drive over the now dried up inlet.

Every once and a while we would come upon an innocent bystander and ask for more directions...

Finally we came to the locked gate we had been told about and had hoped we would find open since Tio Naldo had talked to the owner of the connecting island over which we needed to pass.  It was all very odd since there was no water - just a very long fence and a very locked gate.  

Dalton thought about knocking it down.  Uncle Byron thought about picking the lock.  Tio Naldo wished we could call someone but alas there was no phone signal.  Destinie probably wondered what in the world!

It was decided that Dalton was the toughest and the strongest so he ran the 2 kilometers to the caretaker's house which was located in the middle of the former island.  I prayed there wouldn't be any ferocious guard dogs!  After what seemed like a good while, he came back with a key!

We made it to the island after stopping at one more caretaker's house who was very surprised to see two vehicles pull up full of people he used to know.  Graciously he allowed us to drive all the way through to the old campground area.  We had our lunch in the old cafeteria hall and the girls all went swimming on the beach.  Dalton and Destinie climbed up one of the mountains where he officially proposed in marriage and presented a ring.  

All in all it was a great day.  No maps, no signs, no GPS - but we found our way. God has certainly lead the way in Dalton and Destinie's lives.  And we were all glad to be a part of the excitement!

Before we left, Uncle Byron wanted to try to drive to the Crystal Beach which was located on the back side of the old island now peninsula.  We had to hike through some big weeds with lots of thorns.  The girls were considering giving up, but we found it (or Uncle Byron did) and were well rewarded with the find of quite a few nicely formed crystals.

We didn't get lost and we didn't give up.  Abraham listened to God's call to take a big trip with no maps and little information.  He decided to accept the challenge and listen to God's call.  God knows the way and there are rewards for those who heed His Word.

Next week I'll tell you about another trip with the Dalton Gang and how we almost turned back before we found the "gold"... Stay tuned!
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.  Job 23:10


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?

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