In Brazil, my family always drinks chimarrao, about three times a day. It's just like yerba mate, but we call it by the name of the gourd that we drink it from. The loose green tea is settled to one side of the gourd, and a metal straw with the filter at the bottom, sits firmly next to it. We drink it communal style, filling the gourd with hot water each time we finish and passing it on to the next person. My great-grandparents lived into their 90's and I think having a strong, green tea before or after their meals has a lot to do with their longevity.
My grandparents took us to the neighbor's house. He is also a farmer with livestock and squash but he also makes his own cachaca. Cachaca is an alcohol made from sugarcane. While we were there, sometimes before dinner we would enjoy a glass of homemade cachaca, neat. In the U.S. when I buy cachaca (for a favorite Brazilian cocktail, the caipirinha) it's clear. However, the homemade cachaca that we had was caramel colored, like a bourbon, and it was delicious.
While my grandparents chatted in Portuguese with the farmer and his wife, we played with their two children outside. Even though the children couldn't speak English, we still managed to play as children do, with a little bowling ball set in the ground next to the piles of squash, as well as being silly and making the kids laugh.
As we played in the shade with the two boys, giggling and smiling, howler monkeys played in the trees above us. Of course, S and I were amazed, having wild and free monkeys just roaming the trees. In the states, they're always at zoos and even in Costa Rica, they were in the jungle during our hikes. But here, they were just hanging out, above someone's home and it the two boys were so nonchalant about it.
Another day, S and my grandfather were gone a long time. After finishing two novels in the hammock, I left my fictional daze and went to find them. They were roaming the 150 acres, cutting down bananas from the various pockets of banana trees.
The gringo that bought the farm showed S how to mount the horse by basically propelling yourself from the ground to the horse's back using only the horse as leverage. There was a simple mouth piece for the horse, and a worn sheepskin as gear.
Other creatures we saw were the huge lizard and it's baby that live under the edge of the pool, where it's cool and dark and damp. There's the fat toad that doesn't hop, he waddles out from under a chair on the patio, and now even he has a little female toad friend. And in the mornings, I would find the same albino frog in one of the hammocks, keeping cool in the folded fabric and jumping out when we got too close. There was also this beetle that we enjoyed photographing - he's so photogenic! We let him go by some lush trees, and later, found him making his way back to us. If only he could be our new pet and we could bring him home!
Unfortunately, the week we were at the farm was a full moon. It seems like this would be a wonderful thing, but the moon was so bright that all of the stars and the immensity of the darkness was lost. Every person that has been to the farm always says the view of the night sky is incredible. The stars go on for miles and they are brighter than any where in the U.S. because of the emptiness of rolling farms and crops and livestock.
The moon was so bright that with a slow shutter speed and a steady table, I could take a photo with just moonlight. S was really disappointed that he didn't get to see these stars, but I know we'll just have to see them elsewhere in the world.
One day we took a "walk" into the eucalyptus forest. When I say "walk" it was more like a hike. My grandfather and myself had fallen branches to poke the surrounding grass for snakes and creatures. We got so far into the forest, there were areas where the pastures grass was up to our shoulders, and the only thing making a path was my grandfather's foot steps leading the way.
We came out with a few scratches on our legs but at least no snake bites nor ticks. I am not one for critters or bugs on me (I love to admire them, not touch them) so the fact that there were flies around my arms and grasshoppers on my shoes, I think I did pretty well. I made jokes about flesh eating trees and what looked to be the remnants of giant anaconda skins, and the thought of adventure helped keep me from squirming.
We departed from Brazil late at night on a red-eye flight home. As we ascended above Sao Paolo, the warm glow of the street lights below in between the trees, looked like rivers of hot lava. And quickly, even among the rows of Brazilian children headed to the magic of Disney World on our flight, we slept for hours.