After the winery, and before we went to the farm, we stopped in Porto Alegre to spend time with my extended family. I have so many cousins there and we all went out to dinner. It was a long table of about 25 of us if I remember correctly. We sat next to those who could speak English, that way I didn't have to bother my mom and grandmother all night about translating our conversations. We all talked about the differences in Brazil compared to the United States like the cities, the crime, and even the language. It was really fun, and this is the only photo I grabbed from the night with most of my cousins. After dinner, we went to my cousins house, toasted with local champagne and S and I tried our hardest to understand the Portuguese conversations. Being that we don't speak the language, instead we had to rely on context, body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, the look in their eyes, and you get to know someone so much more that way with no prejudice on what they said. To get to know someone by their emotions, a language all humans speak, it's incredible. This bond is not just family, it's good people. This, visiting the "homeland" where family still lives, it's so important. We're only disconnected by miles and country lines and language, but the bond is still there.
After sadly saying goodbye to family the next morning, knowing it would be years before I see them again, we headed to the farm a few hours drive away. We stopped in Santa Cruz on the way, a little city with cute shops, tree lined streets, and some delicious mocha ice cream! After that little treat, we drove the one lane highway to the dirt road that leads us to my grandparents farm.
Where there used to be pastures for the cows to graze, there's now soybeans and rice planted. I previously explained that my grandparents have sold the farm (but get to still live there until they completely relocate to Florida to be with us) to an Italian farmer that my grandfather calls, "The Gringo". The Gringo doesn't have an interest in livestock like my grandfather had, instead he's planted squash and grapes and numerous seeds for harvesting and selling. The farms rows of seeds and harvest are outlined by acres of eucalyptus trees. Those trees take years to grow tall, strong, lightweight, and white as a ghost. Then they are cut and sold for paper and furniture.
Although my grandfather has sold all of his livestock, the Gringo has one horse on the property for his daughter. She's a beautiful horse and it was S's first time riding one. This is us meeting her for the first time, feeding her grass and petting her.
You can see, behind her area is rows of seeds and behind that, rows of eucalyptus trees.
The immensity of the rollings hills and vast expanse just seem to go on forever. In the mornings we would walk to feed the fish, explore the remains of last seasons harvest, and admire the greenery for miles around us.
We arrived just after the first storm after a drought that had lasted since Christmas. My mom was on the farm for a week before we arrived and her account of the weather was much different than our experience. Keep in mind, it was summer time there, below the equator. With the direction of the house on the farm, the surrounding trees, and all of the windows that let in a breeze, my grandparents have never had to install any air conditioning before. However, the drought had gotten so bad that my mom said it was 98 degrees in the house at night. And then, we arrived at just the right time to enjoy bright sun every day and a cold wind that became warmer by every day. The last few days, we spent time in the pool that my grandparents had built since the last time I visited in 2002.
We would walk the grounds for hours, with no real purpose. We'd explore with my grandfather telling me what's changed and telling S what's what. We'd stumble upon fruit trees that my grandfather would cut for us, just out there under the branches, and my grandmother would slip the seeds into my pockets to plant later. We ate fruits that we've never had before.
One fruit that I enjoyed the most is related to the passion fruit, however we don't have them in the US so the name doesn't translate. They were little pink and yellow marbles with a crown like a pomegranate that we had to cut off. But once we popped them into our mouths, the tart flesh would pinch my cheeks but it was full of juicy flavor. Even have to spit out the tiny seeds, it's a delicious little treat. On our last day, my grandfather brought me back a hat-ful of those little gems, and we swung on the hammocks while snacking on them, wishing time to move slower.
The wi-fi on the farm was intermittent, but it was something I was thankful for. It was nice to not worry about having my phone on me, I could focus on using my DSLR camera instead of phone snapshots, and I didn't have to check texts/emails/voicemail. It was a nice and much needed break, a reset.
From the previous harvest, there were handfuls of leftover potatoes in the ground on the perimeter of the budding soybeans. It was kind of amazing how they come out of the ground the same way they look piled up at the grocery stores or farmer's market. And yet, they travel so far to get there.