Sunday, June 3, 2007

By Gary Duncan, Assistant Director of Marketing

When I wrote last night from Belo Horizonte, I ended by telling you of my stupid luggage trick and departure from the jungles of Manaus. Normally, the trip from Manaus to the beautiful coastal city of Fortaleza only takes three hours by jet, but that did not happen. First, we had to fly south to the Brazilian capital called Brasilia, then lay-over for a few hours, then fly back north to Fortaleza. We left Manaus at 3:30 p.m. and landed in Fortaleza at 1 a.m. the next day. It would be like going from New York to Kansas City, but first having to fly to Seattle to change planes. I am not complaining loudly since TAM Airlines is wonderful with cabin service, courtesy, politeness, and lots of food on all flights. Where else but Brazil does the pilot and head flight attendant stand outside the door of the plane and greet each passenger as you enter, followed by the passing candy throughout the cabin, then a light or heavy meal on EVERY flight. The CCF sponsors have loved flying TAM and the attention they received from the airline crews.

Yes, it was very early in the morning when we arrive in Fortaleza, one of the most beautiful coastal cities in all of Brazil and the headquarters of the Regional CCF office. Our regional staff was waiting for us in the airport terminal and we transported on a comfortable bus to our beachfront hotel. Despite sleep deprivation and hours of flying that day, our CCF sponsors were real road warriors and did not complain, in fact, they were charmed by the welcoming words and commentary from Glaezah, our guide (not exactly how you spell her name, but close enough to the pronunciation!) Glaezah from Fortaleza, had lots of information for our sponsors and had them laughing all the way to our hotel, not an easy thing to do at such an early hour when most of us should have been in bed.

The next morning, we woke up to the beauty of the beach and the warmness and hospitality of the Fortalezans! They are some of the most joyful people in the world and make you feel right at home. We had a light breakfast---well, there is no such thing in Brazil---since each breakfast so far has consisted of gargantuan portions of food including tropical fruits, fresh breads, omelets cooked-to-order, sizzling meats, an array of steamed vegetables, and best of all, lots of cakes, puddings, pies and candies! These Brazilians really know how to start the day, and I start each day with desserts! I am seriously thinking of becoming a Brazilian!

We left the hotel with anticipation of seeing an urban CCF project in the city of Fortaleza. Of course, Gleazah was on the bus already and explained every historic, cultural, and trivial factoid known to man about the city of Fortaleza. Did you know that the Dutch once occupied Fortaleza, that the best cashew nuts in the world come from Fortaleza, that every ice cream shop in the city has at least 30 tropical flavors of ice cream, that the Portuguese threw out the Dutch but were then thrown out by the indigenous peoples, that the US Navy had a small base in Fortaleza during WWII and were visited by the Coca Cola girls, and the traditional dance and music of this region was actually started by the US Navy who held dances each weekend which the locals interpreted to mean forro, a type of music that sounds more Cajun than Brazilian, ah, Glaezah from Fortaleza knows everything!

We arrived in a very poor neighborhood just on the edge of the city where CCF has worked for many years. At the local school, sponsors were welcomed by staff and children who entertained us with traditional dancing and singing. We toured the school which provides not only education for children from poor families, and also medical/dental care, child care, computer training, and other community-based services. Our CCF sponsors were very impressed by how their sponsorship dollars and gifts were providing life-enhancing, if not life-saving services for these youngsters. The teachers, parents committee, and local staff felt so honored to have us visit them, it was very touching to all of us, we saw first-hand how sponsorship has such a dramatic affect on a poor community. The visit ended with sponsors being invited to dance forro with the children, everyone was taken by this beautiful moment and the joy on the faces of our CCF sponsors and the children at this school.

That night, we went to a Brazilian churrascaria for a dinner which can only be described as a meal for royalty. After a buffet full of salads and other specialties, the waiters arrived at our tables with long skewers of beef, lamb and pork, which they insisted everyone try. This gourmet extravaganza was fueled with the caffeine-loaded Brazilian cola called Guarana and the sugar-cane drink called caipirinhas. By the end of this delicious meal, sponsors were in a restful mood and we returned to the hotel, not for rest, but to walk to the Night Market. The Night Market in Fortaleza is right on the beachfront and offers handicrafts and other useful items for sale from around the region. Some of the relatives and friends of CCF sponsors are going to receive some very nice Christmas gifts.

We were back at the hotel by midnight since Glaezah had warned us that we must leave early tomorrow morning to meet some of the sponsored children. There was notable excitement, anxiety, joy, and panic in the eyes of our sponsors, what will tomorrow bring!? Only Glaezah really knows!!!

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