Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Birthday in Brazil

28 February 2012

I had two birthday parties today, one at school and one at a pub. I am so lucky to be here in Brazil and surrounded by such wonderful people. Thanks to all who sent me birthday greetings, it was so lovely to hear from everyone. I am filled with gratitude for all of you - you are the wind beneath my wings.

This pic is at school.  I couldn't ask for a nicer group of coworkers.  

And later on, at the pub... the second pub, that is.  Turns out that the one I had chosen is closed on Tuesday evenings, so there was a mad flurry of phone calls to change the location and then all was well.

Everyone wanted a turn at photos, so I did my best to run around the table and get pics with everyone.  I think some of the pictures ended up on other people's cameras, so maybe I can add them later.
Almost a smile!

Cool, radioactive beer!  I wonder if it explains all the glowing eyes in my photos... nah, I had better figure out where the red-eye setting is on my camera.
We had so many tables pushed together that these two guys (in the above and below photos) were phoning each other from opposite ends of the table.

Ah, to be serenaded with the birthday song by friends.  Getting old isn't so bad at moments like this.

Group picture at the end of the evening.  A couple of people had left already; hopefully I can get some photos from their camera to add here.
 Another spontaneous rendition of the birthday song at the end of the evening (the third or fourth time, I think).
Looky, pretty stuffs!  The gifts I received were all very generous and thoughtful.

Bonus photos!!!

 Me being a goober...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 4: Around Foz do Iguaçu

25 February 2012

We had a couple of hours to kill between checking out of the hotel and going to the airport, so we walked around the area of the hotel.

One thing I found amusing about this town is that at most of the major intersections, the signs included the country the road was headed to, because three countries meet here.
 These are from two different intersections.
 A gorgeous flowering tree, species unknown.
 Açai sorbet with granola and bananas at a street stall.  Yum!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 3: Duty Free Argentina

24 February 2012

In the evening we went to the duty free shops in Argentina.  Those of you who know me are probably wondering why, it's because this outing was included in our trip package.  My iPod (second hand and quite old) finally gave up the ghost, and electronics are taxed so heavily in Brazil that I hadn't replaced it.  As an example, new iPod Nano in the States is USD$129, and in Brazil USD$389.  So I used the duty free trip to pick up a cheapie Colby mp3 player for USD$64.  It is good to have portable music again.

I only took a couple of pictures - inside the duty free shops they take your belongings and zip them into a big ugly bag and lock it so you can't shoplift, which is unlocked when you pay upon leaving.  Inside it looked more or less like duty free shops in the airport, except that up by the ceiling were some very adorable miniatures of castles and other fantasy stuff which was slightly reminiscent of Disneyland.

This is the control center at the border.  We waited in the van while the driver took our ID's to be registered both going in and coming out.
As usual, the cloud formations were amazing, and gave me something to do while waiting.
 This is the outside of the duty free shops - all I saw of Argentina.  It looked much prettier across the waterfalls! ;)
 Back at the hotel, we had possibly the best dessert ever, maracuja (passionfruit) mousse.  The seeds are very tart when you bite them, offsetting the sweetness of the mousse, and this dessert was the first I have had that actually had some of the fruit pulp along with the seeds, making it extremely tart for a sweet-and-sour contrast that took me an hour to savor.

Day 3: Itaipu Binacional Hydroelectric Plant

24 February 2012

Today we took the panoramic tour (meaning outside only, by bus) of the hydroelectric plant, Itaipu Binacional.  It was preceded by a very interesting film about its construction, operations, and environmental impact.

In the lobby area were some models of the dam and the inside of the hydroelectric plant.
 Look at the size of the tiny people!
 There was a collage of images from the construction period.  Most interesting to me is the photo at the lower left corner of an orchestra giving a performance inside a turbine.
 When a worker reaches a certain number of years of service or retires, s/he plants a tree on the property, and a small sign is placed in front of the tree indicating who it honors.  There are also trees planted by a number of world leaders.

 We took the tour in a double decker bus.  There were two very short stops to take photos.
The first stop was at the overflow part of the dam.  We were told that there is enough water to open the overflow only 10% of the year.  When it is open it is quite spectacular.  It is a lot bigger than it looks from this distance.

 The next stop was closer to the dam, where I made this panorama photo.

And a video of the same view.

These tubes look small, don't they... wait until we get closer. 
 Like this... notice the size of the tiny car directly ahead in comparison with the tubes.
View of the tubes from the upper deck of the bus.
 Out the window!
 Here we have driven across and are on the other side of the dam.
 The tour took us up between the overflow and the dam, where we then went back across the top of the dam. Above the overflow is a mass of electrical structures.

Starting across.  The lake at the top is really big, but the terrain is completely flat so it didn't make a very scenic picture.
The clouds made up for the land's flatness.
Video from the top.
 Looking out the opposite window at the dam.
 I don't know what this is, but it was BIG.
 These tubes stick up from the generators below.
 The rock fill section of the dam, off to the side.
Forest of electricity.
A guest speaker on the tour, this engineer told a story about the construction of the dam.
 I don't know whether this is art, or some kind of equipment, but like everything else here it was big!
 The flags of the two countries operating the plant.