9/24/05 Wow–what a day. And it’s not even over yet. Today has been one of those days that I wish I could prolong, so that it would not slip into memory too soon. I’ve just been savoring every bit of it as much as I can.
C. and R. have practically adopted L. and I. Early this morning we piled into their car with them and headed to Porto de Galinhas, a beach about an hour’s drive south of Recife. When we arrived, all L. and I could do was stare in awe. It was gorgeous. The water was a deep turquoise, the sand white, and there weren’t many people there to mar the pristine beauty of the place. The section of beach we parked at was the area where the surfers congregated. This was intentional, as R., and a buddy of his that came along, wanted to surf. While he, his friend, L., and C. enjoyed surfing, I set out on my own to explore more of the beach. About a mile away from the surfer’s area was the main Porto de Galinhas beach. Aside from the crowds of people I encountered there, I thought it was even more stunning. It was the sort of beach I’d only seen in pictures before. The water was very calm and crystal clear. And just a little farther out from the shore it became an incredible deep, deep turquoise. There were reefs and rocks everywhere too, just adding to the natural beauty of the place.
While sunning myself near this part of the beach, I had the privilege of seeing something else immensely beautiful. I heard the sound of thundering hoofs, and there, galloping down the beach at full speed, was a pretty, little chestnut horse, a man astride bareback. The man sitting on that horse’s back made bareback galloping look effortless. My eyes followed him as he galloped down the beach, and they opened even wider when I saw him take the little horse right into the surf. I suddenly had scenes from The Black Stallion movie running through my mind. I whipped out my camera, and I took as many photos as I could.
My other memorable time yesterday at the beach was the relaxing swim I took in the ocean. I have never experienced anything quite like it. Later in the afternoon, as the sun was beginning to lower in the sky, I wandered down the beach again and found the perfect spot. The water was crystal clear for many, many feet, and there were no breaking waves. So I waded in…and then I didn’t want to leave. Even as the water came up nearly to my shoulders, I could still see the sandy bottom. There were very few people around me, so there I was, relaxing in a warm, calm, crystal-clear ocean, beneath a blue sky and a westering sun, the only noise around me being the gentle lapping of the waves. It was exquisite.
After leaving the beach–very, very reluctantly!–I headed with the others to the home of R.’s father. I will never forget the drive there. It will stick in my head for a long time. And yet, as I try to write about it, I struggle to find the words to describe it, and just how it made me feel. It was, first of all, one of those experiences one looks back on later with much wistfulness. The sun was setting, casting a golden glow on a beautiful Brazilian countryside, and I was in a car with some friendly Brazilians, listening to Spanish music. I felt like pinching myself–I felt privileged to be immersed in such a lovely experience. This trip to Brazil cost me a fair amount of money, but I know every penny was worth it. For life is not about possessions and things–it’s about experiences–it’s about people. And two of the main reasons I love traveling are the unforgettable experiences it gives me and the people it brings my way.
And Brazilians, it seems, seem to recognize the importance of people and relationships and experiences far more than most of us spoiled Americans, who are, unfortunately, focused more on our possessions and getting ahead in our careers. How much we miss out on! R. and C., and their extended family, have been amazing examples to me. Family, and the times they share with them, are a big deal to them, and are far more important than how big their house is, how pretty it is on the outside, what kind of car they drive, etc.
So far I’ve had a lovely, lovely time with R.’s relatives, who’ve all congregated at his father’s house. His father lives in the country, in a big house–at least by Brazilian standards–with a yard and a swimming pool. As I write this, I am sitting by the pool, and various brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews, etc., are gathered round, conversing, drinking, eating. Last night, L. and I got to eat dinner with them as well, and this morning we had a delicious, huge breakfast with the whole family. It was such a neat experience. Being with R. and his family makes me miss my own family quite a bit. There is definitely something to be said for having a large family. In a large family there is so much more love to go around, more support, and more friendship. One of the most beautiful things in life is spending time with family, not because one has to, but because one wants to. The older I get the more I realize how blessed I am to be part of a big family like R.’s. I can just see my own family, 10 years from now, having get-togethers like R.’s family.