Thank you everybody!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

This is it! It is really the last day. I feel bad, sad and happy at the same time and am up quite early. I have already packed so there is no rush. I open the window to take the last breath of Uberlandian air. Listening to the urban sounds, the ghetto-blasters that the young men here like to sound (even at this time in the morning), day and night, from their cars. The ever-flashing lights and sirens of the police cars and the people jogging along the boulevard.

I get my breakfast and pack the last things I need for my travel back home in the backpack. I hope it will all fit and not be too heavy as I was already on my limit coming down here. At 10, the taxi is there. It’s taking me to the César Bombonato Airport (IATA: UDI, ICAO: SBUL) of Uberlandia. I did not know that César Bombonato was a Brazilian airforce pilot that died in an air crash, but as I am having some time (my flight got delayed) I absorb whatever Brazilian text comes along.

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With Paul, before leaving.

We leave. A last picture at the tarmac with Paul and off we go. We board the only plane parked. Then, something funny happens, is it coincidence? When I look outside during take-off I notice that we fly over the Instituto Politriz Murumbi Unit. I can see the blue doors, the half-open playground, happily we are too high to distinguish the kids. My breath stops for a moment but after a second, we rush into the clouds over Uberlandia and Minas Gerais and we proceed to Sao Paulo.

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Over Brazil.

We fly to Sao Paulo, the immense city that has more inhabitants than my country. I land at São Paulo/Congonhas Airport which is the national airport. It takes ages of flying over this city and it’s outskirts before we hit the runway. This city is really huge. Once I have my luggage back, a taxi ferries me to the international airport of São Paulo/Guarulhos (GRU) where I will have to wait for 6 hours before the KLM 777 will bring me back to Amsterdam. So, no rush again. I will also meet Terumine, my Japanese team member, still working on our assignment.

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Terumine and me in Sao Paulo terminal, working the website.

He is fixing one or two things on the webpage that we delivered (www.instititutopolitriz.org). We have a chat but he’s flying through Paris before going to Tokyo.
Then, after a couple of hours, the blue bird docks at 17:00 and will leave 19:15, right on time. Contrary to the trip down here, the flight back up is a real smooth ride. No bumpy ride over the Atlantic and it is 11:50 when we arrive at Schiphol, Amsterdam.

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B777 at the gate in Amsterdam

My wife and kids are awaiting me there and it is good to have them near me after four weeks. We Facetimed, called, sent letters etc, but there’s no thing like the real thing. #ibmcsc brazil

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Home sweet home!!!

So, as the assignment is concluding I would like to thank some persons individually for the things they’ve have done to enrich my life. Some in a somewhat more visible or louder way than others, by no means would that be the indicator ot the importance of your contribution.

Anna, thank you for your company. You have such a positive attitude towards life. You visibly enjoyed every moment of the assignment and we had great fun. You are a great dancer and were always “on” for any invitation into the city. I don’t think you missed one night! I really, really enjoyed being in your company.

Mike: always coming along with us. You were always the first man in the lobby (!). Your knowledge of and quest for new types of beer is immense and it has been an absolute pleasure of being in your company. Your British humour combined with the New Zealand openness was so nice to be with.

Marc: thank you. Thank you for bringing your hair-trimmer. Hahaha. Otherwise I would have been flying back like a hippy. On a more serious level, you seem to find the good combination of having a great time and exploring the world around you on this assignment.

Christy: what would our assignment have been without you. You captured all the video’s (what happens in Caldas Novas…) and I will always be your surrogate brother-in-law John. Your “Oh my’s…..” and irresistible laugh will resonate long after we’ve gone home and I thank you for being my swimming buddy during our stay.

Paul: our sportsman. I admire you for how you interact with people. Not some of us, but everyone, really. You make people feel special, I have seen that. You are open, you ask; thank you for demonstrating your interest in all of us.

Sylvie: our hope at bus stations, in restaurants, our translator, pushing us to the extreme limits of the night but still climbing poles, but what a great sense of humour, your ever-flowing energy and a fine nose for what needs to be done, said, or needs to be called (taxi’s!). Merci!

May, you really surprised me. What a funny lady you are! At first I didn’t know whether you were making jokes, but later I found out what a fine and nice sense of humour you have. You told me about your family and I hope they are well! You are a true warm person and I very much liked your company.

Hazira: you never cease to amaze me. You have so much to offer. I feel that I only scratched the / your surface, though we have had our talks. It was so nice being with you. I thank you for trusting me you life (in the swimming pool as you said you couldn’t swim). I don’t know any colleague has ever said that to me…

Jill: thank you Jill. You are filled with positive energy. You say what you want and take the lead. We listen because you say what we all think without imposing yourself. I like that a lot, it must be our common Ireland – Dutch directness that binds us.

Joel; we were the first to do the team assignment (presenting each other) and the firsts to rappel down the 300 foot (orso) waterfall together. That are the kind of things that make us bond. You have a fine sense for humour and detail. Your “American openness” is contagious. You developed into a great blogger. Great! It is good to have you around, you will be on the look-out for any hazard or danger that will be ahead. You appreciate nature and teach us where to look and what to look for. It has been a great pleasure and honor sharing these weeks with you.

Leslie, though our paths have not crossed very often, (apart for breakfast we seem to have the same schedule) I have gradually become your fan. I really appreciated your down-to-earth openness, your kindness towards others and your willingness to be a constructive member of the group. Not a day went by that I did not see you smile!

Michael, in my eyes, I think you were one of the people that immediately “fell” for Brazil. I could see you quickly being absorbed by the food, the caipirinha’s, the dancing lessons and our visit to the Vinyl Club (you went again). I was not part of your NGO team but felt a click as you were working for a same kind of organisation. You intergrated seemlessly and it was good fun working with you.

Nirav, thank you for leading us into the social life of Brazil and the Brazilians. With your Portuguese background, you opened doors and showed us / had us taste things / had us experience Brazil even more. You are also a great Samba / Forro [Fô-hô] dancer for which I admire you. You also seem to be very acrobatic, you showed us numerous times in Caldas Novas and at/in the bus (terminal) – “where is the noodle!”. You are a nice person to be with. Warm, sharing and never a dull moment with you. Keep the beard! Obrigado.

Radhesh, I have really appreciated your level of energy. You pull like three horses and enjoy life visibly. You were a great contributor to the team from the first day we were “assembled”. I admire you for picking up the language so quickly and you seemed like a real Uberlandian already.

Robert, (Hô-bèt-shi), being on my sub-team, I spent most of my assignment time with you. Apart from being a great team-member, I think we kind of got along quite well. You shared your life, including that of your family in Dubai and Thailand, including that of your father in Slowakia (or Romania?, Bulgaria? Hahaha). Your drive-to-action is contagious where your “Let’s just dó it!” has become our team slogan. We spent quite some time at Cajuba, not only to work, but also to relax. I had a great time with you, thank you for being around!

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Terumine, me, Larissa and Robert

Sumin: quite a lady, from DC, always busy, on the assignment or on hunt for more Havaianas. I think you tasted everything in the restaurants, danced every dance and drank every fruit juice available. Hahaha. Always with a big smile and a nice word for everyone. You rock!

Terumine. You must have taken some two thousand pictures. When I close my eyes, I see your silhouette with your camera fixed to your head. You are not the most outspoken of the team, but when you speak, you say things that matter. That is a great strength. Thank you for being my teammate at Instituto Politriz, we had a great time.

Cecilia: I thank you for your insight into your life and though we did not work together I found it extremely nice to have you on the team. Your energy is so high, you have an enormous drive. I can tell by the number of Havaianas and bikini’s you have bought for your family. You also shared some of your personal life with me and we discussed differences in China versus The Netherlands. Hope you are well.

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B14 with Noodle mascotte

Karin; you were our introduction to Brazil. By taking us along during the pre-work of the assignment we got to know each other, Brazil and our NGO’s. You invested the time to get us up-to-speed with the assignments but, when the moment was there, you had to let us fly. As if we were kids now on our own. I can imagine it must have been hard, but you did a great job. We were well prepared and took off like a rocket!

Larissa; our baseline, our physical link to Brazil. You have been our lifeline to all the activities that we’ve undertaken here in Uberlandia and beyond. Never have we called upon you without answer, you were always there when we needed you. Prepared with addresses, names, places, things to do, things not to do, warnings, suggestions, excursions, dancing lessons, instructions to taxi drivers, bus drivers, bouncers and I could go on for many more lines. You also made us “taste” Brazil by letting us into your personal life, presenting us to your family and Gustavo at great risk, as you asked us to cook! There is no way I could pay you back (virtually) what you have given me and I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget the time I spent in Uberlandia and your role in that.

Vanessa; muito obrigado. It was such a shame you had to leave after our first days in Uberlandia. Your passion for life, especially the Brazilian one, is contagious. You quickly got us up to speed with Brazilian do’s and don’ts and you were a source of information and inspiration for me.

Bruno; you have been our weekly sparring partner. For our experiences with our clients, for things we needed to solve. To put your/a Brazilian blanket over our findings and seeing things from a neutral perspective. You were also our guide during our first steps into your country. You made us grow, you mad us learn and you made us high on Brazil!!! I thank you for that.

Rodrigo; you have boosted your CDS team into such a great group of people to work with. You lead by example and showed interest in all of us. I liked your introduction session during our first meeting and hope that many new teams may undergo the same Brazilian welcome shower

Leticia & Mathaeus; our two valuable teammembers from the University of Uberlandia (UFU). Apart from translating everything into Portuguese and back to English, you showed us your country, your city and introduced us to things that are normal for Brazilians but new to me. Given the fact that you were doing your final tests and were staying with us during the days, but also guided us during many nights, you did an excellent job in being a host and showing the way to other students. You are the future of your country!

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All the local people that made Brazil14 a huge success. Townhall meeting with the Major.

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LAST DAY!

Friday. 4th of October.
This is it, the last day #ibmcsc brazil . I can’t grasp the idea that tonight it’s all over. Saturday at 10, the taxi to the airport will be waiting to take me to Uberlandia airport for my flight home… Amazing.

But today is the presentation at the Mayors office. It’s a sad day and Mother Nature has decided it would rain. So it did. We all get dressed up in our suits and head off to the Municipality, just a few blocks away. In this big building, all participants, all NGO’s, all students that have been involved and others have gathered to listen to the words of the Mayor. Unfortunately he is having to leave early, but the deputy is staying. Every team gets 15 minutes to address the public with a short presentation. At 12:00 everybody is done. Some teams go for lunch, others back to the hotel. The whole afternoon will be used to debrief all the teams. First the students and then we take our turn. What went well, what could be added or improved to the program. I think this is really good and we want to make sure eventual new teams can get the utmost out of the programme. After this session, it is really time to close the books.

….

It is an emotional moment. We have been these intensive buddies for each other for 4 consecutive weeks. It’s not easy to let go. It is really nice to go back home, but sooo hard to leave. Luckily there is a light programme for tonight. We get back to the hotel and at eight we head to a very nice cachasseria for our final dinner. It is really very nice and emotional again. And, as I am at the airport right now, it is not easy to write down my feelings, I am mixed up. Happy to go, unhappy to leave. Brazil has made it so nice for us here. Especially our hosts have gone out of their ways to make taste Brazil, I will never, never forget you.

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At the Mayors office

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Debriefing, sad faces…

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We advise IBM, JPMorgan and CDS people on what could be improved.

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Giving feedback

Goodbyes…

Thursday 4th of October. Today will be our last working day at the Politriz Institute. In the morning we will visit the Murumbi facility and say goodbye to all the kids. We head off in the little Fiat and are soon at the Murumbi site. To ease up a little bit on emotions already surfacing, I propose to play a practical joke when we enter the unit. Leticia, our interpreter, will play the role of the Municipal Inspector paying an unannounced visit. The rings at the door and plays her role perfectly as she is yelling at Jacqueline, the unit leader, why she has had to ring 3 times before they answer the door.

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Leticia playing the role of Inspector

We do not know that inside the Unit, some severe rearranging of materials and cleaning of kitchen is now being done as Jacqueline immediately alerted all personnel. So, without going into too much detail, I can hear her swear in Brazilian when she finally opens the door and see us laughing. We are having great fun all together and we sit down for the obligatory cup of coffee (or should I say, cup of sugar with some coffee!)
The kids really want to be on a final group picture, so we agree and sit alltogether in the court and have our group picture taken. We also teach the children, in our final speech, how important it is to keep on educating themselves, if they ever want to travel to Japan, Slovakia or The Netherlands. They seem to have a specific interest in Japan. I do not know why that is, maybe because we Europeans are not that different (from our looks) than the Japanse people. In any case, Terumine’s popularity (we call him Mr. “T” these days) is rising by the minute.

But we have to move on. In the afternoon, the whole IBM, CDC and JPMorgan team is coming to the Campo Allegre Unit to listen to our presentations and look at what we delivered. But, before we go, we are having lunch with our NGO leader. At a special place in the city. In a place where they keep all sorts of memorablia of Minas Gerais, from pictures to tools, there was even an original IBM tabulating machine! Little did they know that we were actually from IBM.

We had a great lunch with specialities from the region, being cooked on a stove with a wood fire.

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wooden fire with great local food!

Great food, great people and some great cachassa tasting. After the lunch, Doris took us for a little ride across parts of the city that we hadn’t seen before. From good to bad, along the river, cross the city, showing us the biggest Country Club of Southern America (Praiha Club).

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Just a little too much cachassa and high tempareature are funest!

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Authentic cooking

Finally we arrived at the Campo Allegre facility. We did some last-minute adjustments and we welcomed the IBM-CDC-JPMorgan team. They also had a tour of the facility and yes, they also had to introduce themselves to all the kids. Doris is very strickt about that!

Our presentation went really good. I do not remember ever having presented something and having moved someone to tears… Well. Let’s just say that the team is extremely happy with the things we’ve done and how we’ve done it. For me, this moment was really the proof that we did right. That we were not too technical, but on the spot! I felt really proud. #ibmcsc brazil The team left. There were thank you’s and it felt really good. The presentation was over, it was a relief in the good sense. It was time to leave. Not only for today, but the Institute to take over. We’ve been creating these “virtual windows” for outsiders to see what is going on between these 3 meter high walls that surround the institutes. And I think we’ve cracked it. #ibmcsc brazil

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Time to leave!

 

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But Doris does not want us to leave!!!

 

 

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We have great drinks and celebrations afterwards @TULIPAS!







 

 

 

 

 

Estação Vida day!

Tuesday, first of October.
Part of our assignment is also to do volunteer work ourselves. Not that the work we are doing is not volunteering, but this is more related to physical work. Our assignment consisted of painting an NGO building. So, filled with good intents we embarked early in the morning on our two vans to ferry us to an NGO called Estação Vida.

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Guided tour over the NGO terrain

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I like the green look of this Instituto. Bringing some nature inside.

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This NGO has a vegetable garden, for themselves and for selling. Irrigation system provided by a Dutchman!

The concept of this NGO is actually similar to that of the one we are working. Exept that this NGO was once initiated by parents that needed a shelter for their kids during working hours. But I guess the challenges are the same and so are the solutions. Volunteering. We also meet people that we met at our NGO and that provide sponsored projects to the NGO’s. This time it’s the man that is wanting to create music instruments out of reclaimed materials. Nice guy, apparently very active in selling his project to multiple NGO’s. We are starting to recognize patterns here.

Anyway. We arrive and are put to work.

Another day at the office! Foto courtesy of Robert blog: http://robertinuberlandia.wordpress.com/

Another day at the office! Foto courtesy of Robert blog: http://robertinuberlandia.wordpress.com/

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Brazil14 team set to work!

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Silent witnesses

We need to tape the borders and a small army of IBMmers and JPM people quickly set to work to paint the upper part of the building. During the work, some people are being interviewed, which leads me to think that we are somewhat “on display”. Well, as long as it serves the good cause, I am ok. It will take us 3 hours to complete and when we leave, we leave an outdoor wall with new grafitti and a half-painted building. The lower part of the building will be painted with oil-based paint and we lack the proper materials to do this. So other volunteers will finish the job.

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Upper side is ours!

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Fine German handcrafting! Great work Michael.

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The wall! Grey and ugly when we came. Now being decorated by local artists

B14 volunteering team

B14 volunteering team

We return to the hotel at around 13:00 and we will work for the rest of the day on our deliverables for presentation later this week. Tomorrow will be an important day. The first sharing of our deliverables with our NGO contact Doris. Fingers crossed!

When time has come, I am witness of some squash being played by Paul and Robert. Nice game. Think the beer is on Paul!

#ibmcsc brazil

Relax time

Relax time

First goodbye!

Monday, 1st of October – #ibmcsc brazil

Today, a similar NGO as ours visited the Instituto Politriz Campo Allegre’s site. It’s name is ONG CASA and the IBM team that is helping them is also there. The kids seem to be quite accustomed to seeing these strangers from New Zealand, China, Vietnam and Germany. We can tell by their level of interest, the fact that they listened to all the stories and ask good questions.

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Our guests were invited to witness Jivago’s dancing lessons which went really well. We caught it all on video and we will be putting it all on our Youtube channel that we have created for the Instituto Politriz.

Our website will automatically take it from Facebook and already we see some of the teachers already publishing themselves. Our level of “Likes” is really going up quite rapidly. Especially when we are using the poularity of our volunteers we see the number of views rising very quickly. 

Unfortunately, Monday is already the day of the first goodbye. It is one of Instituto Politriz angels Eliane that is having surgery who is coming to say goodbye. We are not prepared and it comes as a surprise. She is such a lovely lady and, if ever you would read this, it has been a great honour to work with you! I wish you all the best for your future in the Institute and beyond!

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And we set to work again. It will be a day full of emotions. Reasons why are beyond this blog but things can get quite complicated in this country filled with these emotional people! 

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Later on Monday evening, the weather turns really bad. Streets in our area turn into small rivers and it’s getting really dark and windy. Luckily it’s not getting to bad and when we’re at the hotel, the rain has ceased. 

ImageTime for a small meal and we have our weekly status meeting with our coordinators Bruno and Larissa. All othe projects are being discussed, questions are asked and answered. It’s been a long day!

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Potluck…

Monday, 30th of September. #ibmcsc brazil
So, yesterday we had our potluck at Larissa’s parents place. An international event where everyone was cooking something coming from his or her country. It made me think of what I should cook, as natinal dishes are more winter-like cabage things. So I decided to make something from a country that Dutch people lve to go. Italian anti pasti, made some snacks for everyone to eat during dinner making. As we were eating quite late, the
snacks were received quite well. The dinner went really well, there was an abundance of food, lovely cashassa and nice music. Larissa’s parents made us feel at home really
quickly, it was if we already knew them for ages. Also Gustavo’s parents were there. They live next door. Larissa and Gustavo are engaged and will be married soon I guess. Well, they have it all going for them. It was really a very nice experience and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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International dish; German, Indian, Chines, Vietnamese, Polish, French all on one plate!

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Anna keeping Robert under close scrutiny…

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Cheese plate made by Mike… Lovely.

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Party time! It was not difficult to see where Larissa’s got her moves!

Saturday in Uberlandia

Saturday 29th of September. This weekend, I am staying in Uberlandia. I have been out for the last weekends and we were advised to keep this weekend “at hand” in order to work at the assignments, as this is the last weekend that we’ll be here…. 😦  So I did. And evenso, there’s a lot of nice things we are doing this weekend.

So, this Saturday morning we agreed in visiting the “old” city center. We have been here, but only at night for our dancing lessons or for dinner. Our hotel is located in a fairly new area, a 10 minutes ride out of this center, which has not much of the old Portuguese flavour, but is ideally located for logistics (and is a great hotel by itself). We gathered at a very nice square called Praca Tubal Viela. A square where we will meet Larissa who will give us some shopping directions.

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Praça Tubal Viela, 1940

Praça Tubal Viela, 2013

Praça Tubal Viela, 2013

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Praça Tubal Viela, 2013

There is a nice ambience to the square. The fountains, the elderly people, young couples (lots of cuddling) and us! As there are hardly any tourists in town, we immediately get spotted but we are welcomed ever so kindly.

Larissa, prepared as always, gives us some quick directions and the promise she’s having her phone on standby for anyone needing additional directions (which will prove to be necessary). We all quickly wonder off, everyone on the quest for stuff to bring home. There’s a lot of shops, but as shopping is not really my “thing”, especially when there is a little bit of pressure to find light-weight stuff to bring back home. There’s a lot of people doing their everyday / weekend shopping. Clothing, shoes, refrigirators, drugstores…

I included some old pictures, things are quite similar, even some of the cars (Volkswagen beetles, Volkswagen minivans and Chevrolets pick-up).

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Downtown Uberlandia, back in the days

Uberlandia, 2013

Downtown Uberlandia, 2013

So, the men flock together and we set our hopes to the Mercado Municipal. A really nice area with small artisan shops, hairdressers and some traditional bars. We kind of find some stuff, but for me, it is really hard, as the 23 kilo’s I brought from Amsterdam did not substantially get lower. I will leave some stuff (stroopwafels, some reading material, the football and the wine gums and licorice that were kindly given to me before departure) but that is hardly weighing up to bottles of cachassa or any other presents. But, I have another week left, and, under pressure, things will materialise, I keep telling myself 🙂

The further we head into the afternoon, the more (lots of young) people come together to socialize onto the Mercado Municipal, have a drink and talk.

Mercado Municipal, 2013

Mercado Municipal, 2013

Marcado Municipal, 2013

Marcado Municipal, 2013

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Marcado Municipal, 2013

Especially when the live music starts, the Mercado is really turning into a really nice open, friendly meeting point for young and old.

After having lunch we have to move on. As the weather is quickly deteriorating, and as we promised ourselves a quick dip into the pool, we quickly head back to the hotel, pick up our gear and go to Cajuba.

Cajuba pool, 2013

Cajuba pool, 2013

Though it is weekend, there’s not a lot of people around as you can see. Maybe it’s the weather, it must be cold to Brazilian standard (18-20C). Friday evening, this place was filled with people, live music and a BBQ, there wasn’t a table left. We dive in the pool  as soon as we are in, thunderstorms start to unleash. At five it is already getting darker and we see the lightning in the background of the city outskirts. Luckily we stay dry and the temperature is not dropping much yet. So, on the terrace, we discuss. Assignments, progress, general feelings and what we miss most after three weeks of being away. It is a tough question, on one hand, I am really enjoying my stay here in Uberlandia. The new experiences, the bonding with the group, our group dynamics, our assignments, learning about different cultures, our team meetings with surprises from countries every week, our contacts with the NGO’s, our dancing lessons, the children at the Institute on one side and on the other hand I really miss my family, the social life at home and yes, even do I miss the colleagues, the interactions at work (really!). This is especially the case when there is some time for “ourselves”. During weekdays, the program is really packed from 800 till 2400 (and beyond), there is little time to evaluate what the assignment is doing to you personally. The spare time that we have is being consumed by the so many – but ever so nice – group activities.

After some time, we leave. I have to get to a supermercado to prepare for our next team assignment on Sunday evening. Larissa’s father has invited us all for a “Pot-Luck”. I did not know this word but the concept is very friendly. We all gather and everyone brings something to prepare. I have been thinking about what to prepare. A Dutch dish? Nothing comes to mind, especially with no Albert Heyn at hand. So I think I will do some appetizers, Italian style. I head off to the supermarket with Christy and we shop. We’re good and head back to the hotel. When I arrive there’s a group waiting to go for dinner. As I really want to join, I rush upstairs, put my stuff in the fridge and head back down.

The group has decided to go to a Japanese restaurant downtown which has the reputation to be very good. It will prove to be a very nice experience, lots of laughter (LOL), sharing stories and getting to know each other better and better. We go home (hotel), another day filled with experiences and emotions. Lot of them will be the last of their kind here in Uberlandia as we head for the last week. Like this Sunday morning in my hotel room. #ibmcsc brazil