Monday, December 13, 2010

Pearl 33: Keep Your Motion Going Straight Ahead

Dearest Ruby B.,

Hello, little one.  Hope you are ready to celebrate your first Christmas.  Of course, this year your takeaway might only be some brightly colored lights, a few new smells like holly and sweetly scented candles, some new music which, even at your tender age, might elicit an emotional response, and your parents giving you just a few extra hugs.  In the years to come, it will have much deeper meaning.

When I was 11 years old I got my first steady paying job as a paperboy for the Los Angeles Mirror, the afternoon edition of the LA Times.  Published since 1881, the Times Mirror is the second largest newspaper in the country.  But back in the day, it was second fiddle to its much bigger afternoon competitor, the Herald Examiner.  The routes for the Mirror were pretty spread out.  Fewer customers meant you might have a subscriber on one block and the next would be blocks away.  Such was my route and I peddled my bike nearly six miles a day delivering my 101 newspapers.

I would start my route at the pick-up station, where I would count out the papers, fold them in a special way (there were no plastic bags to put them in back then), stuff them in my carrier bag, which had two large pouches that held fifty papers or so in each pouch.  Then I would sling the carrier over my head and shoulders, half in front and half in back of me and head out to my route.

There was one large boulevard on my route.  It was a two lane road, divided by a huge curbed median with sixty or seventy-year old maple trees down the middle.  It was a gorgeous thoroughfare; about two miles long and fairly steeply sloped with grand old homes lining each side of the street.  I had a customer at the top of the run and one at the bottom both on the left side.  So even though I was going against any potential traffic, I would throw my first paper and head my bike down the wrong lane, get it up to speed and let the grade zip me down to the bottom of the run at probably 25 miles per hour.

It was a peaceful and lightly traveled street so I felt pretty confident I would not run into anyone and I loved the sensation of racing along without peddling and feeling the wind in my hair and on my face.  Sometimes I would take my hands off the handlebar grips and stretch my arms out like I was flying.  I was counting on Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of gravity, which, paraphrased, says “An object in motion stays in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force”.  Outside forces include gravity, wind resistance and other physical factors.  Well, one day, all the outside forces went awry. 

I was half way down the boulevard when I decided, for whatever hair brained reason, to see if I could cross my hands and steer the bike with my left hand on the right handle grip and my right hand on the left handle grip.  So I reached down with my right hand and grasped the left grip.  BIG MISTAKE.  Before I could get my left hand secured, my right hand jerked the wheel sharply to the left, setting in motion a series of hapless actions.  The wheel locked crossways and pitched me violently forward over the handlebars.  My private parts got momentarily but forcefully hung up on the riser causing a pain which I can only associate, I am told, with childbirth.  I flew through the air for about 20 feet, newspapers flying in every direction, before making a perfect three point landing in the street, the three points being my two knees and my nose.  I skidded and tumbled for another few yards until I came to rest in a doubled over, crumpled mess in the middle of the street.

My pain was excruciating on several levels as the thought raced through my head that I might never be able to father your mother….or any other child for that matter.  Within less than a minute, a dozen housewives (women worked at home back in those days) were gathered around me asking if I was alright, all evidence to the contrary.  I could not even answer them as I continued to lay in a fetal position grasping my crotch with both hands and bleeding profusely through the two holes in my blue jeans and from my face.

Finally catching my breath, as it were, the moms lifted me up to my feet.  One had a wet towel and started bathing my wounds, others picked up my newspapers and another brought me my bike.  Amazingly, the tubular crossbar between the riser and the seat had split in two and the front wheel was bent over almost at a 90 degree angle.  The object in motion, me, would have stayed in motion in a straight line had I not been acted upon by an outside force.  In this case, the outside force was stupidity.  And that kind of brings me to my next pearl:

Thirty-Third Pearl:  “Keep Your Motion Going Straight Ahead”

To put it in Biblical terms, it was just the previous Sunday that the Gospel lesson for the day was Matthew 7:13-14 which says; “Enter ye in at the straight gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction; and many there be which go in thereat.  But small is the gate and narrow the way that leadeth to life; and only a few find it”.  (King James Version)

One of the mothers called my mom and she came to pick me up.  We delivered the rest of my papers and she drove me home, my broken and crumpled bicycle  hanging out of the trunk and my battered body and bruised ego aching in the passenger seat as I tried to explain to your great grandmother how in the world this could have happened.  It was difficult to hide the stupid behind it all.  Finally there was silence, but then the rest of the way home, the Bible text kept repeating in my mind.  If I had only stayed on the straight and narrow path, guiding my bike through the straight and narrow gate so to speak, I would not feel like someone had just run me through a wood chipper.  If only I had not tried to challenge the laws of nature my privates would not look like someone beat them blue with a hammer.  It was an important lesson learned the hard way.

So, my darling Ruby, if you ever have the notion to stray from the straight and narrow, no matter what the situation, don’t.  Save yourself from destruction, whether it be of a physical or spiritual nature.  Think of your old Grandpa Jud and remember straight is great, narrow is nice and wide has some wicked consequences.

I love you bunches and bunches,    

Grandpa Jud   xoxoxo

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pearl 32: Just Because You Have the Right to Do a Thing Doesn't Mean You Should

Dearest Gehrig and Eliana,

Hello, sweethearts!  It has been way too long since Granny and I have seen you, but from your photos it looks like you are still growing up so fast.  Christmas is almost upon us and even though we will not get to spend the holidays with you, please know we share the love of the season with you in our hearts.

I am sure you have visited with Santa (or will soon) and will be filling out your Christmas lists.  We hope you get everything you ask for, but, of course, if you did you would be all out of wishes and hopes.  Who can live like that?

Granny and I spent Thanksgiving down in Austin with all the family there, including your Aunt Brittany, Uncle Sae and your brand new cousin, Ruby.  Of course, Rudy is precious and we can’t wait for you to meet her.  On Thanksgiving Day a few of us went to the annual football game between the University of Texas Longhorns and the Aggies of Texas A&M.  I am sorry to say it was not the Longhorns year as we got hammered pretty badly.  But something occurred in that game I thought I would share with you.

It was bitter cold that night and with the strong gusts coming out of the north, the wind chill was 28 degrees at game time.  Most people were bundled up in their heaviest winter coats and ski caps with earmuffs.  They huddled against each other in their seats just trying to keep warm.  All except for this one young fellow a dozen seats to my left on Row 4 of the upper deck.  This maroon-clad Texas A&M fan, from the opening kickoff, stood through the entire game.  He and his friend, who was not standing, were the only Aggies in a sea of Longhorn fans covering the upper deck.  He was the only one standing.

At first the spectators behind him politely asked him to sit down.  Then, they got more vocal as the Aggie ignored their requests.  You could hear the shouts ring out every minute or so, “Hey, sit down”, or “Down in front!”  The Aggie continued to stand.  After about 10 minutes into the game an Event Staff person in a yellow vest came down and asked the Aggie to sit down as several fans had gone up and complained.  He refused to comply.  The ES person signaled for his supervisor and he came down, excused himself as he edged past a half dozen fans and spoke to the Aggie.  After a minute or two of discussion, the supervisor came back to the aisle and climbed up the stairs.  Five minutes later a uniformed police officer returned with the supervisor and he told the Aggie he would need to take a seat to avoid a potential unruly situation with other fans.  Again, he refused.  I found myself more than a little annoyed by this man’s total disregard for the other spectators around him and he wasn’t even blocking my view.

At this point the officer radioed for back up and two other officers came down and they physically removed the Aggie from his seat and escorted him away.  The Aggie did not resist but as he and his friend ascended the stairs, the crowd clapped and cheered the police action.  I briefly pondered the legality of the police action but I understood their desire to maintain the peace and prevent any possible altercations.

Unbelievably, after about five minutes, the Aggie and his friend came back to their seats, unattended by police but accompanied by the Event Staff supervisor.  He released the men to their seats and the friend sat down but the Aggie continued to defiantly stand, which kind of brings me to my next pearl:

Thirty-Second Pearl:  “Just Because You Have the Right to Do a Thing Doesn’t Mean You Should”

The crowd around and behind the Aggie was furious.  They could not understand how these two had not been thrown out of the stadium.  They did not say anything to the Aggie that I could hear but the buzz around the two was audible to our entire section and beyond.  The Event Staffer, as he walked back up the stairs, was telling people the Aggie had argued that he had a right as a ticket holder to stand or sit as he saw fit and had pleaded his case effectively.  The police finally agreed he was committing no crime and allowed them to return.

Just before halftime I just could resist no longer so I made my way over to where the Aggie and his friend were and stood in front of them on the row below which was vacant. I said, “Excuse me, but do you know where you are?”  The young man looked down at me and said, “Yeah, I’m in Austin”.  “That is right”, I said, “and do you know what stadium you are in?”  The A&M marching band was about to take the field for the halftime show and the Aggie was already becoming irritated with my questions.  “Yes, I am in Texas Memorial Stadium”, he responded with a hint of sarcasm.  “So you are aware”, I said, “that you are not in College Station and this is not Kyle Field where the practice of standing through every home game is a time honored tradition, but, instead, here in the middle of the Longhorn's house where standing in front of your fellow spectators for no reason is considered both rude and annoying?”

At this point, the fans around and behind the Aggie began to clap and cheer.  I was not aware my words were being heard by that many people but as I looked around I saw several fans, male and female, urging me on.  “I have a right to stand if I want to and I am just supporting my team”, the Aggie declared quietly but defiantly.  “I agree you have the right to stand and the right to support your team”, I retorted, “but if in doing so you inconvenience all of these people around you perhaps you might consider sitting until there is a reason for you to stand”.

Suddenly, the friend who had been silent up until then said, “Hey, he is just supporting his team, why don’t you leave him alone.  We are trying to watch the A&M band and you are in the way”.  I wanted to shout, “Bingo, pinhead!” but instead I replied calmly  “My point exactly”.  “By standing here in front of you I am blocking the view of something you want to see and that is exactly how all these folks around you feel”.  The Aggie just stared at me blankly.

“By standing the entire game you are being rude and inconsiderate and even though Texas A&M teaches honor and to uphold tradition, there is no honor, no badge of courage for what you are doing here today”, I continued, “If you missed that lesson in school at least didn’t your daddy teach you better than that?”  “My father has nothing to do with this”, the Aggie blurted out.  “I was pretty sure he hadn’t”, I responded in disgust, “Because if he had, he would have had you out behind the woodshed teaching you some manners”.

The Aggie just sneered so I turned and walked back to me seat but even the people clapping me on the back as I went didn’t still the anxiety I had in my heart over the confrontation and the entire situation. It was like I was talking to a tree stump. The Aggie stood the entire second half, people started to calm down or just moved out from behind him as the Longhorns stumbled to their fifth home loss in a row and the partisan crowd thinned, giving in to the frigid wind and increasingly sound defeat.

The Aggie was still standing as the game ended and we made our way up the stadium steps, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his mind.  Did he think that in addition to his team’s victory, he had won a victory that cold and windy night?  Did he think he had accomplished some brave deed, that some moral imperative had been valiantly defended? Did he miss that his behavior was considered totally inappropriate for his surroundings and that the image of all Aggies, in the minds of dozens, if not hundreds, of people was tarnished by his rudeness and lack of manners.  It is my hope, dear ones, that if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have the right to do a thing that you think about the Aggie and exercise prudent judgment in exercising that right.

I love you, bunches and bunches,

Grandpa Jud

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pearl 31: Anticipation is Joyful ... Having You Here ... The Greatest Joy

Dearest Ruby Brenlyn,

This is my first letter to my newest little granddaughter and I cannot tell you how thrilled we are to have you with us, sweet child.  Your name is quite a hit with the entire family.  All of us who dearly loved and cherished your great grandmother, Ruby Mae Petrasek Matthews, were so pleased your Mom and Dad honored her memory by giving you her name.  We think it is perfect and suits you extremely well.  I am sure someday you will ask your Mom about how your middle name came to be Brenlyn, but I wanted you to hear it first from me. 

Like me, your Mom has always been a vivid dreamer.  Our dreams are always in Technicolor® with surround sound and occasionally quite bizarre.  Well, it seems when you were only four months along your Mommy had one of those intense dreams.  In it you came to her and introduced yourself as her daughter and told her your name was Brenlyn....a name none of us had ever seen or heard before....and you even spelled it for her, B-R-E-N-L-Y-N.  Pretty bold for someone that had not yet been born, but obviously your Mom took you seriously.  

The closest to Brenlyn I could find was an Irish name of Brennalyn, which means "maiden with dark hair".  Well, that sure fits with your shock of lovely dark brown hair.  You just got the spelling right.  And, so, Ruby Brenlyn Cho it is.  Marvelous!

O.K., so why am I writing you this letter.  Well, by now it is family tradition.  Your cousins started getting letters from me when they were less than a month old and I have written them 31 times in the past three and a half years.  They came to be known as "Pearls", little pieces of wisdom and observations taken from my nearly 65 years of experience on this planet.  Don't get me wrong.  I am no guru. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life.  But from mistakes you learn a few things.  So if you don't mind, I would like to write to you from time to time, sharing things I think you should know or might find useful on your life's journey.

Your arrival here was one of the most anticipated events in our lives since Gehrig and Eliana showed up back in 2007.  Granny and I just could hardly wait for your Mom and Dad to get with the program and give us our third grandchild.  In fact, we might have badgered them a bit too much.....NAW!  Someone once said, "Anticipation is the greater joy", meaning that sometimes the actual event or thing being anticipated, when it finally comes, is anti-climatic.  Well, that person never had grandchildren.

Thirty-First Pearl:   "Anticipation Is Joyful...Having You Here...The Greatest Joy"

It will be years before you will get to experience it yourself.  Oh, you will have very similar feelings when you have your own children.  I mean your Granny and I anticipated with great joy your Aunt Brandi and your Mom, Brittany, when they were born, but are the best!  Granny and I tingled with excitement when your Mom and Dad FINALLY announced you were on your way.  That led to 37 straight weeks of giddy, if not irresponsible behavior on our part.  We planned, we schemed, we spent more money than your Mom wanted us to on clothes and baby furniture and toys and...well, you name it.  Nothing was going to be too good for you.  We marveled as you grew and your Mom's belly got bigger and bigger.  Fortunately your Dad is a gifted professional photographer so we have a digital record of nearly all 37 weeks.  We were filled with anticipation and joy.

But then, you actually came.  A tad early but, in our minds, just in time.  We only thought we were joyful.  We knew you would be gorgeous.  But, my God, you took our breath away!  We knew you would steal our hearts. But, for crying out loud, girl, ours melted at the sight of you!  We knew when we looked into your blue eyes for the first time that we would love and cherish this little, 5 pound 12 ounce cuddly bundle for the rest of our lives.  When we first met, there was the soft light of the setting sun filtering through the windows of your hospital room, your Mom was resting peacefully in her bed, your Dad standing beside her, his hand clasped in hers, and you, wrapped in your pink and white swaddling cloth, knit cap on your head, the tiny features of your angelic face peeking out as you gently slumbered into the twilight, it is a pastoral moment forever burned into my mind, my memory and my heart.  No one has ever experienced greater joy....unless they are a grandparent too.

Welcome to the family and the human race, dear Ruby B., and remember always, Granny and I love you bunches and bunches,

Grandpa Jud

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pearl 30: Hope Wins the Battle With Fear Every Time ... If You Have a Plan.

Dearest Gehrig and Eliana,

My darlings I miss you so much.  You got to visit with your Granny a few weeks ago but I had to stay home to do taxes.  You will learn about those someday and that will be soon me.  But you are coming down for "Camp PK" at the end of June and I can't wait to see you.

Your Aunt Bits and Uncle Sae came up for a long weekend visit over Memorial Day and we had so much fun.  Aunt Bits is 25 weeks pregnant with your new cousin.  She will be arriving in early September and I know you three will get along famously.  She will be the third camper in the family and you will have so much fun when you come down to Texas in summers future.

I have to tell you, your Aunt Bits looks absolutely fabulous.  They say all women with child have this special look about them, but Brittany is positively glowing.  She is radiant, fresh and full of hope.  In fact, we had a discussion about hope and what it means to expectant parents.  Your mom had that exuberant hope before you two were born.  And every couple who are about to become mom's and dad's for the first time have it....along with a little fear as well.

Above almost all else, expectant parents are hopeful their children will be born healthy, but a little fearful, despite all positive signs, that something might go wrong.  They are hopeful the new little person they are about to bring into the world will be beautiful, even though they are fearful that, at first, they might be a little beat up from their passage into this world.  

Parents are hopeful their children will be intelligent and bright and able to master advanced algebra, even though they are fearful the child might inherit their woeful lack of math skills (not talking about your Aunt and Uncle, of course).  But most of all, parents are hopeful they will be good parents and not totally botch the job of rearing this new citizen of humanity, even though they are fearful that life has provided so little training on how to accomplish this most important of all assignments.  Which kind of brings me to my next pearl.

Thirtieth Pearl:  Hope Wins the Battle With Fear Every Time...If You Have a Plan.

Brittany and Sae are very hopeful.  They have done their homework.  They have a game plan for their new offspring which is well researched, solid and quite doable.  They know, by today's standards and enlightened thinking, what will serve their baby best.  It starts with a healthy diet. 

Their plan will restrict the child's intake of processed foods, refined sugars and fast foods.  Controlling the intake of those items, which has made 60 % of the children in the U.S. obese, is critically important.  They are fearful, however, that it will be difficult to control the older their baby gets.  How do you deny a child that sugary birthday cake at a toddler friend's party?  How do you not give in to the Chicken McNuggets® from the golden arches at the end of a hectic day of shopping?  Indeed, how do you control the poor choices that are available to them even within the seemingly safe confines of the school cafeteria?  And we have not even addressed the sugary fear associated with Halloween, the chocolate Easter bunnies and the almighty power of the Coca-Cola Company.

All it takes is hope and a little preparation.  Fear can be overcome by offering the child healthy alternatives.  Making certain they develop a taste for wholesome foods before they are introduced to the hoard of unwholesome alternatives.  Fresh fruits instead of sugary snacks.  Fresh cooked vegetables instead of processed foods.  Make sure they have their good fats and lots of protein (vitamin B12 and calcium are the biggest concerns for infants and toddlers). It is a good plan and the hope of it overcomes the fear of the alternative.

I know all you two care about at the moment is when will your next play date with your friends in the sandbox at the park be and if Curious George will be a re-run or new adventure tonight after dinner, but all of those are just hopeful things with no fear in opposition.  Aunt Bits and Uncle Sae have much more to be fearful of, but they have a plan and are most hopeful and HOPE will prevail.

I love you both, bunches and bunches.  God bless you,

Grandpa Jud

Monday, March 15, 2010

Circle South America: Barbados, Antigua, USVI

Dear Family and Friends,

These last five days have been lovely as we visited Bridgetown, Barbados, St. John’s on Antigua and St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands before spending the past two days at sea. We disembark Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow, Tuesday, March 16th at 7:00 AM.

I will spare you the usual history lesson and commentary on these three ports of call. Many of you have no doubt been in the Caribbean at some point in time or you have heard and seen enough about them. Vicki and I went on catamaran snorkeling tours in Barbados and St. John’s as the water is some of the most spectacular for that activity in the world. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

In St. Thomas, Vicki and I shopped in the morning and visited Bobby’s Jewelers and got to meet Mike and Karishma for the first time. The last time we were actually at Bobby’s (he passed away eight years ago) was 14 years ago. We have been doing business with this company and these people for over 20 years; however, and they are the best.

In the afternoon Vicki kept shopping and I went snorkeling again out to Boon Island and had a great time diving on a ship wreck and playing with the reef fish of every color and hue. Like I have done so many times on Lake Travis and Possum Kingdom, I once again managed to go swimming with my wallet and dutifully made my deposit somewhere in the Boon Lagoon. It was just a few dollars but you know what a hassle it is to cancel your credit card (fortunately just one) and apply for a new driver’s license. You would think by now I might have learned my lesson but NO!
We have had a marvelous voyage and seen so many things, new and exciting places and had many adventures with memories to last us a lifetime. We met some really fantastic people onboard and count them now among our many friends.

We thank God for the opportunity to experience all this and for protecting us as we visited 13 different countries, two new continents (including Antarctica), traveled over 20,000 nautical miles, escaped three natural disasters (earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and floods in Peru) and survived a military evacuation by helicopter. Thousands of people lost their lives in each of these tragic circumstances and, of course, we were never in any real danger, so our prayers are still for those who suffered real loss and we encourage all of you to help in any way you can.

Now back to reality. Breakfast will not be served unless I make it, the towel we left on the bathroom floor the night before will still be there the next morning and there will be no chocolates on our pillow unless we put them there…..and why would you do that? Oh, and in the real world, the tax man cometh. Uggh!

Thank you for your attention and I hope you have enjoyed following along as we Circle South America. God bless you all.

Jud and Vicki

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Circle South America: Devil's Island French Guyana

Dear Family and Friends,

Devil’s Island. Just the name struck fear in the hearts of convicted felons in France in the 1800’s. Home of the infamous French penal colony and leper colony from 1852 to 1946, this island, along with the main island, Ile Royale, and the smaller Ile Saint-Joseph, lie 9 miles off the coast of French Guyana and have a very interesting history.

The French desperately wanted a presence in South America and were in negotiations with the indigenous populations of both the New Amsterdam (NY) area of New England and northern coast of South America. So it was down to an island at the mouth of the Hudson River or a huge chunk of land (which comprises modern day Suriname and French Guyana) to the south. Representatives visited both locations in January. The northern site was frozen, the southern site was a tropical paradise. So, let’s see….Manhattan or Paradise. The king of France, Louis XV, chose Paradise…or so he thought.

King Louis wanted to establish a colony quickly in his newly purchased land so he offered free transportation, religious freedom, no taxes, political autonomy, free food for three years and free land. Applicants had to agree to stay for at least one year. There were over 17,000 applicants. 13,000 were accepted and an armada of ships left for the new world in 1762. Arriving in this jungle “Paradise” the settlers went about establishing a colony. Within one year, 9000 of them died from malaria and Yellow Fever. Totally discouraged but having satisfied their one year obligation, ships were sent to bring them back to France. Unfortunately, only enough ships were sent to pick up 2,000 of the remaining 3,000 settlers.
Fearing the “evil vapors” on the mainland which killed their fellow countrymen, the 1,000 left behind moved to the offshore islands. With a separation from the mainland and an almost constant breeze, they survived; hence the island group being named the Salvation Islands.

Back then people thought that malaria (Mal Aria or “bad air) was caused by rotting vegetation in the jungle. They had no idea the dreaded diseases of the tropics were caused by infected mosquitoes, which could not travel over the ocean and were kept away by the winds. Still the constant heat and high humidity was enough to dampen their spirits and most all of them left eventually. So Nepoleon III decided to turn it into a penal colony, both to have a convenient place to store unwanted criminals and to maintain a stock of workers to develop the mainland colony into something more hospitable.

They are beautiful islands, as you can see, with an abundance of coconut palms, rubber trees, sandbox trees, breadfruit trees and Indian almond trees. The chirps and calls of the prolific jungle animals rang out everywhere we went, giving testament to the unseen wildlife in the bush.

We are headed out for a day at sea before arriving in Barbados on Thursday. We will be snorkeling in Barbados and St. Johns the next two days and snorkeling and shopping in St. Thomas, USVI, before spending two days at sea and arriving back at Ft. Lauderdale next Tuesday. I will make one final post to the blog after a few days of rest from PK. Until then, God Bless you all.

Jud and Vicki

Monday, March 8, 2010

Circle South America: More Photos of Santarem Brazil

Here are the photos of Santarem. All the photos in the last blog were from Parintins. We are at 1 degree 9 minutes north latitude, heading NE out of the mouth of the Amazon as we speak. Will clear the muddy waters of the Amazon pushing out of the mouth of the river in about another 100 nautical miles.

Jud and Vicki

Circle South America: Parintins & Santarem Brazil

Dear Family and Friends,
We just left Santarem, Brazil at latitude 2° 49’15” S and longitude 54° 16’ 20” W for our final leg back down the Amazon River and back to the Atlantic Ocean. Our final two stops on this easterly course, Parintins and Santarem gave us an up close and personal look at the rainforest and jungle that comprise 98 % of the Amazon Basin.

Parintins, Brazil is a small town of 80,000 on the island of Tupinambarana, which we were told was roughly the size of Belgium, in the middle of the Amazon River. The town survives on fishing, logging and cattle most of the year, but between June 28th and 30th each year, half of the town’s annual income is derived from the annual Boi Bumba (Ox Music) Festival competition. The Boi Bumba presentation is an experience similar to Brazil’s Carnival and virtually the entire town is involved, men, women and children, putting together the elaborate, multi-feathered costumes, floats and participating in the show itself.

Regent put together a special presentation of Boi Bumba which was moved indoors to the only air conditioned building in town large enough to hold 500 of our fellow passengers and the elegant regalia of the show and its 200 or so participants. It was quite spectacular with all the colorful dancers and sensual Brazilian drums and flute music. We estimated Regent probably spent $ 10,000.00 having the town put on this special 45 minute presentation for us. It was hard to get pictures but you will get the gist of it I think. Because it was 92° and 90 % humidity, a cold local beer and the show was about all we could handle of the town of Parintins, but it was worth soaking through our clothes to see it.

A quick overnight sail and we arrived at Santarem, Brazil this morning. This city, with a population of 300,000, lies at the confluence of the clear Rio Tapajos and the muddy Amazon in the driest region of the river’s length. With half the annual rainfall of the Amazon delta, the weather is fair most of the time. It was only 88° today but the humidity was high, so we soaked through our clothes once again as we took a river tour out into the jungle to observe the river dwellers, both human and animal alike.

Santarem was founded in 1661 and has seen several bursts of economic growth. First, there was wood. Then came rubber (Henry Ford once tried, and failed, to create a series of rubber plantations in the region) and, finally, minerals. Today, Santarem has a new boom on the horizon…..soybeans. The creation of BR 163, the main highway that connects the soybean fields with the river, brings the produce to where they are stored in a recently constructed (2002), enormous grain terminal before they are loaded onto barges. Things are picking up.

Our river tour took us out to the “meeting of the waters” which I described and showed you in my Manaus blog….looks quite similar…and on to Maica Lake which is the home to some of the 2000 species of fish which populate the Amazon and hundreds of birds and other flora and fauna. We spied dolphin, Macaws, egrets, vultures, and “White Naked Heros”….well, that’s what our heavily accented guide said….but I think he was identifying the elegant “white necked herons”. Although, I did notice the ladies craning their necks for a peek. Dirty old women!

We stopped at the mouth of the lake and anchored for about 30 minutes. The crew distributed baited fishing gear to each passenger and we all fished for the voracious and fearsome Piranha. My bait got nibbled to death but one guy caught two and a lady caught one and everyone had a lot of fun. The crew cooked them up in the galley on our way back to the ship and we each got to sample a bite of this surprisingly tasty fish which the locals eat with crunchy, fried flour crumbles.

By the time we hit the mouth of the Amazon we will have crossed back over to the north side of the Equator and will arrive, after a day at sea, at Devil’s Island in French Guyana. That final stop will complete our tour of South American countries where we visited Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and French Guyana. The only countries we missed were the two interior countries (with no coastlines) Bolivia and Paraguay, Columbia and Venezuela (which we will visit when their politics change) and Guyana and Suriname (which 95 % of you could not have identified as being South American countries anyway until today). Not bad for a 65 day jaunt which included four days getting to and from Antarctica.

Until then, God Bless you all,

Jud and Vicki