Category: Rio

The Story of Mama and Colin, by Colin

The Story of Mama and Colin, by Colin

Today at school, Colin dictated this story to me during ‘writer’s workshop.’ Enjoy ūüôā

We were walking to a picnic place. We sat down and we were just starting our picnic and then something bad happened there was a big flood of water.  They we went to another picnic place and then a bunch of family of mosquitos came and tried to bite us. Then we went to another picnic place and another bad thing happened. We just sat down and there was a bee family. One bee got honey from the flower and carried it away and then all the bees tried to sting us. And then we went to Rio and went to the park and they had a nice picnic place in the grass. There was no play structure but we could still play on the grass. We put out the picnic blanket and then we had yummy food that was chicken and broccoli soup with noodles. When the picnic ended they went back to the apartment and saw their Daddy and sister and brother. The end.


Soccer Day by Sean

Soccer Day by Sean

Yesterday we had to do school because we skipped a week of school when we were at Iguacu Falls. After school, me, my Dad and Colin went to the park. Me and Colin wore our cleats and our Neymar Jr. jerseys. When we left our plan was to go to the park with the soccer goals, so we started with soccer.  I juked my Dad and some other kids like a million times.

This is a picture of me and Colin dabbing.



After soccer, we¬†went around the lagoon on bikes. We had done it once before and this time it was less tiring because we raised the seat higher so my legs and arms didn’t hurt. It also had a different bell than the other bike. It was basically the same bike otherwise.

After we went around the lagoon I was climbing a tree and I tried to put my foot on a branch and I stepped on the side of my thigh with my cleats. It hurt and it made a purple spot. We played more soccer.

Then we went to a mini museum. I was like “yeah, that was fun.” My Dad took a few pictures of what we saw at the museum.


(My Dad says this one is Brasilia in 1960)


(This one is Rio in the 1880s)


Today is Sunday and it’s pouring so we’ll probably go to a movie or a museum. I hope we go to a movie.

Tchau Tchau


Cecelia’s day in Rio, aka “the ice cream tragedy”

Cecelia’s day in Rio, aka “the ice cream tragedy”

Yesterday was a normal Friday and just like every other weekday we started with another “exciting” day of home school. After home school, we walked to the subway station that was far from our house instead of the close one because “someone” (aka my Dad) didn’t know that the closer station was open. We got on the subway and took it to the Museum of Modern Art and we wrote our names in charcoal on a huge screen that was outside the museum. Even though the boys didn’t want to go to a museum, my Dad told us that if we acted with good behavior, we could get an ice cream cone afterwards.


One of the cool things in the museum (a lot of it was boring) was a room full of charcoal mobiles and the guy who worked at the museum said it was OK to bump them but not to touch them. So, my Dad kept bumping them on purpose. ūüôā


Another thing that was fun was that there was a statue of a huge toilet paper roll that we climbed on and ran up and down.  In this picture, Colin and I are sitting on the top.


Another thing that was kind of funny and kind of iffy was that there was a really cool looking spiral staircase but the railing was just a pole to hold on to, but the funny and iffy part was that the railings were at least three feet apart so I was worried the boys could fall through it.


After the museum, we took a cab to a staircase.We thought it was already time for ice cream because we were mostly good while we were at the museum. Part of the time in the museum, I even held on to Sean’s body so that he would not go insane.We couldn’t believe our parents actually made us go to a staircase. While we were on the staircase we slid down ‘slides’ that were actually the sides of the staircase, it was really fun. There were also a bunch of tiles from places all over the world and it was really cool to see that.





After the staircase, it was really time for ice cream, but our parents said we had to wait until after dinner. For dinner we went to a pizza restaurant in Botafogo. After pizza, we finally got on the subway to go back to Ipanema because my Dad thought he knew where to get the best ice cream in all of Rio.

When we got to where the ice cream store was supposed to be, it was gone, but the good news was that it had just moved across the street. Now the not ice cream tragedy, it was gelato noooooooo0!!!!!!!!!!! wait there’s more, there were no cones dun dun duuuuun!!!!!!!!! But it was still yummy and we also got three flavors!!!!!!! THE END:)


Sights in Rio & visit to Foz de Iguacu

Sights in Rio & visit to Foz de Iguacu

Like the famous Corcovado, the ascent of Morro da Urca and¬†Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain)¬†is a top tourist attraction in Rio (and Brazil in general) and we took advantage of a clear day last week to take the cable cars to the top for amazing views of Rio in every direction. Each¬†ascent only takes a few minutes and at the top, you’re 396M above the ocean atop a single granite stone.


We stayed for the sunset (along with many other people!) and were rewarded with gorgeous views during and after. img_2454





I had a mom moment of total anxiety and worry right before we started the ascent (because that’s my job!), and again when I saw this at the top (because I am certain that Colin and Sean easily fit through that space separating the platform from a tremendous drop to the sea):



This is a classic example of things we’ve been talking to the kids about: edges are rougher around here and things are not quite as safe. ¬†I could barely watch Colin walk out on to the viewing platform with Jim once I saw that space below the ‘guardrail.’ Needless to say, we watched them all like hawks, no one fell through any cracks, and we all enjoyed the spectacular views.

On our last day in Rio before a mini-trip to Iguacu Falls, we went back to the Paralympics to see two more events: wheelchair tennis and blind soccer. It happened to be 95 degrees that day, so the air-conditioned subway ride was welcome, even though the travel to the Olympic Center takes about 1.5 hours each way. Both events were beyond amazing to see!

We noted this sign as a solid example for why it’s been so hard for us to pick up much Portuguese (lots of prepositions, for one thing…):


The tennis match was a women’s singles match between Japan and Norway, with Norway ultimately winning after many long rallies. ¬†The play allows¬†up to 2 bounces on each side and it’s unbelievable how quickly the players move around the court getting into position for each hit. (The stands are not empty! Everyone in attendance was squeezed into whatever shade they could find due to the high temps!)



The soccer game was equally as impressive. ¬†We saw the men’s teams from Turkey and Morocco play, and as with the Goalball we attended earlier in the games, there is a bell inside the ball that allows the athletes to play by hearing where the ball is. ¬†The goalies are sighted and must stay in the very small goal box, and each team has one coach directly behind the opposing goal to help guide shots on goal by voice. (Video here).

After the Paralympics, we were off for a planned 5-day mini-trip to¬†Foz de Iguacu (Iguazu Falls) on the border of Brazil and Argentina where Jim would be attending the Latin American Travel Mart conference. Iguazu Falls is one of the world’s biggest waterfalls and has three times the flow capacity as Niagara Falls. Depending which brochure, book, or website you believe, it has somewhere between 250-280 individual falls.




iPhone pictures make it¬†hard (for me) to do the falls justice, but the first few minutes of this video help a ton: (click here)¬†Jim also got some great pics and once I have a chance to ‘borrow’ them from him, I’ll make sure they’re up on FB and Instagram.

We were lucky enough to spend three nights at a resort called Recanto Cataratas near the falls during Jim’s conference. The enormous pool, game room complete with air hockey ping pong and pool, and onsite bowling alley, not to mention the enormous buffet meals, kept the kids quite busy (and happy!) Of course, everywhere else we ever go for the rest of the trip (and maybe our lives…) will be compared to this first “fancy” hotel that they have ever experienced.


Already, the next three (quite lovely) hotels did not measure up due to either 1) lack of air hockey, 2) no milkshakes included with breakfast, or 3) only outdoor pools instead of the choice of both indoor and outdoor. We also saw some signs with interesting translations:



Of course, as parents, we’re still learning what so many other parents have learned before us: kids will rarely appreciate what we think they “should” about travel and new experiences, and will make their own decisions about what they like and don’t like (and they may even be quite verbal about it too!) One of our favorite quotes from a (slightly cranky) Sean¬†when we first arrived at the falls: “So what, a bunch of waterfalls. Great.”

We’ve quickly learned that saying something like¬†“you should be grateful to be having this experience” will do absolutely nothing to stop the kids from being tired, hungry, cranky or from fighting, if that’s what they are doing/feeling at the moment. I know this probably doesn’t sound like a newsflash to most parents reading this, but yet, when you think about taking your kids to see something unique or have a cool experience, you don’t necessary imagine the realistic details like low blood sugar or fighting over the window seat.¬†(And to our own parents, yes, we remember maybe being bratty one or twice on family vacations when you were introducing us to new people and places¬†and we apologize). ¬†So much of the impact of travel cannot be understood or realized until long after the trip is over, so we’re best off leaving it to them to come up with what these experiences mean to them on their own time and in their own terms. (And in the meantime, we’ve found a local energy bar that fits in everyone’s pockets just in case).

In and around the falls area, we saw a ton of the local wildlife, including many coaties, which are related to raccoons and walk with tourists on the boardwalk surrounding the falls, and monkeys, some of which are so accustomed to tourists they know how to open sliding glass doors to find their snacks:


Much to the kids’ delight, a group of monkeys did show up to this balcony in the morning and try to open the door. Unlike some of the other guests, we did not feed them!

A highlight was seeing wild toucans (always in 2s!) in the trees, and we also visited the Parque de Aves (Bird Park) which had healthy representation from the reptile family as well:







After doing our planned visits to the falls on both the Brazilian and Argentine sides of the border, we packed up our bags and headed for the airport excited to return to our ‘home for now’ in Ipanema. ¬†Unfortunately, we ran into a fun bureaucratic snafu at customs that meant 2 extra days in Argentina.¬†Brazil had suspended it’s typical tourist visa requirements during the olympics, so since we had arrived during that time, we didn’t have (or need) visas to enter Brazil. ¬†Where things went wonky were that we left Brazil for less than 24 hours to see and stay on the Argentine side, and that happened to be the same night as the closing ceremony for the Paralympics. ¬†So…when we came back to customs, the visa requirement was back in effect and we couldn’t legally re-enter the country.


Long story short, it is challenging to fill out a visa application online in Portuguese and even harder to come up with all the documentation that is required for a visa when you are on a 5-day vacation jaunt away from even your temporary home.  Needless to say, we scraped and scrambled, and got our visa applications submitted the next day for a return to Rio 2 days later than planned. We even made the most of the extra 2-day stay:


In addition to seeing a sight as amazing as Iguacu Falls, what was great to realize about our trip and the delayed return was how much we were all looking forward to getting back to our home in Rio. ¬†We have only been gone from the U.S. for a little over three weeks so far, but we’ve already made a home together here and after 6 nights in hotels and eating with strangers in buffets, we were ready to get back to our own little cozy abode in Ipanema.

And while we had prepared for a 5-day trip, and no one is really the worse for the wear, the extra two days did mean at least one casualty…in the form of very brown bananas in the fruit bowl, and when you return home to brown bananas, what else do you do but incorporate them into your homeschool curriculum and make banana bread in cooking class? Today, Jim and all three kids looked up a recipe, when to the market for the missing ingredients, and went to work:


I couldn’t even get a pic before they dug in…and seconds and thirds were served after dinner!

We’re in Rio through the end of the month, then traveling through other parts of Brazil for 2 additional weeks before taking up residence in Buenos Aires for a month-long stay in Argentina.

Boa noite for now!

Adventure…and perspective

Adventure…and perspective

We’ve continued to fill our days with new adventures, exploring local parks, getting into pick-up soccer games with local kids, and trying customary treats-¬†acai,¬†empada, and anything marcuja¬†(which everyone but Sean highly recommends).


At Colin’s suggestion a few days ago, our ‘cooking class’ consisted of the entire family working together to make vegetable soup and garlic bread. ¬†It was pretty entertaining, especially considering that our kitchen here is way smaller than our kitchen at home and for those who have seen our kitchen, you know that means pretty darn small. Nonetheless, it was delicious. ¬†So much so that we promptly made garlic bread again the next night to go with the (less popular) frittata entree that I (unfairly?) chose to make without class input.

Yesterday the entire family road bikes 4.5 miles around Lagoa Rodrigo De Freitas in town (Colin got a ride in a jump seat with Jim), which was our longest family bike ride yet anywhere and gave us excited visions of future 2-wheeled journeys.


Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 2.13.11 PM.png

Late last week, we ventured far afield of Ipanema to see a great match between two of Rio’s rival soccer clubs, Botofogo and Flumanense, and made friends with some of the local fans in the process.IMG_2377.JPG


Wearing the home team colors (or close) went a long way toward being welcomed in the goal-line bleachers, with more than one stadium usher making sure we sat in a section appropriate for gringo tourists (i.e. not with the loucos, see above)

Rio has a relatively new subway system (built in the 1970’s), taxis a-plenty, and even Uber, so we’ve been able to cover a lot of ground in our explorations. ¬†Getting around town invariably means getting outside of the more ‘touristy’ areas and seeing more of the typical neighborhoods, people, lifestyles, and situations.


Starting with our ride from the airport when Sean asked “why are so many buildings here broken?” we have had the opportunity for lots of conversations about how there are many places in the world that do not look like where we live, and how lucky we are to have the safety, cleanliness, and resources¬†that we have in the U.S. and specifically, in the Bay Area. It’s been an interesting balance as a parent to help them stay safe in a place with unfamiliar hazards, while trying to not create fear or dislike for things that are different than what we’re used to.

While thousands of people are relaxing on the beach each weekend, vendors, primarily men, women and children from the favelas¬†(slums), walk up and down the beach selling snacks, beach games, and souvenirs for tiny¬†profits. We’ve always tried to have open conversations with¬†our kids about differences between families in terms of homes, backgrounds, beliefs, and money, but as they say, ‘an picture is worth a thousand words.’ Seeing these people¬†working while we played definitely¬†incited many¬†questions, and hopefully this is a picture¬†that will stick with them for more than one afternoon on the beach and influence them in positive ways.

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-2-17-18-pmScreen Shot 2016-09-12 at 2.20.36 PM.png


Traveling is a privilege; and it can be amazing, romantic, exciting, and life changing. Travel can also be hard, because change always is. While some edges are rougher here to be sure, we are surrounded by so much natural beauty, and we’ve already encountered so many friendly and welcoming people, it’s a great opportunity (though tough at times!) to open ourselves up to the change and try to be in the moment. I keep telling myself and the kids that instead of focusing on what we miss about home, we should focus on all the new things we can appreciate about here. ¬†I’ll be the first to say that (especially traveling with all of us) this is sometimes easier said than done (but maybe we’ll get better at it with time?)¬†Anyway,¬†we’re all working on this in our own ways (whether we know it or not!)

The highlight of the past few days has by far been the opportunity to attend Paralympic events and we plan to see more on Tuesday.


The first event we saw is unique to the Paralympics and is called Goalball. ¬†Goalball players have visual impairments or are totally blind and rely on touch and hearing only to track a soccer-sized ball with a small bell inside of it as they try to score on opponents or defend their own goal. ¬†Because they track the ball with sound, the official calls for quiet before the ball can be in play. ¬†It’s hard to describe, but amazing and beautiful to see the coordination between teammates and how fluidly and naturally they move in response to sounds from the ball and from the other team.


You can see live action here. We also had the good fortune of running into a few athletes from TeamUSA and they were kind enough to pose for a photo op:


We also got to see a portion of the men’s Paralympic triathlon which was held off of Copacabana Beach. ¬†As with many other events at the Paralympic games, there are different divisions for athletes with different types of impairments. ¬†I’ve always been somewhat in awe of all the athletes in my life that regularly compete in Ironman competitions, run marathons, and run ultras (100Ks!), but I’ve honestly never been so in awe of athletes as I am of these competitors.

Paralympic triathletes start with a 750M open water swim (a challenge for most people in it’s own right- imagine jumping into an unfamiliar ocean to do this swim with a major visual impairment or without the use of all of your limbs). ¬†Next, they complete a 20KM bike ride, on bikes modified to allow the athletes to power them, usually with only their arms. ¬†Finally, the athletes run with a guide (in the case of visual impairment) or with one or more prosthetic devices to run the 5K.

Thinking about the challenges that each of these athletes most likely faces in their daily lives, that they have faced since they were born, and what they’re accomplishing in their training and competition¬†is so humbling and inspiring. ¬†Most of us will probably never face anything¬†so difficult in our own lives. Of course we all face challenges; it’s not that the relative magnitude of what they’re doing diminishes what each of us faces and overcomes. For me, it’s that these athletes are an amazing example of what humans can accomplish when we’re determined and committed. It’s undoubtedly cliche, but the strength of the human spirit on display is a privilege to behold and we are grateful that we’ve had the opportunity.


Next up this week we are going to have the opportunity to see 5 v. 5 soccer with visually impaired athletes, and sitting volleyball, before we take a 5-day trip to Iguazu Falls.

We’re having fun in our daily adventures, looking forward to what’s ahead, and trying to enjoy each moment (and sometimes just driving each other slightly batty, because that’s what families do, right?)

More to come soon…

Chau for now!






Getting the hang of (some) things

Getting the hang of (some) things

On Friday night, the entire family slept for 12 solid hours. ¬†Thanks goodness. Feeling much more human, we exited our apartment in the Ipanema neighborhood around 1:30PM to the bright sun and bustle of the local Cariocas out for their Saturday errands and shopping. Around the corner, we discovered a ‘farmer’s market’ type of situation, with fruit, vegetables, flowers, plants, and to the kids’ delight (not), every part of a chicken you could imagine. Not quite ready for truly local shopping, we headed to our current favorite corner spot “Polis Sucos,” which is a juice bar (including “boosts”) that also happens to serve chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, and of course, filet mignon.

On our path to becoming more comfortable in the local ‘hood, some of the terrain we’ve covered in the past few days includes:

  • Buying groceries at the local grocery store (and trying to figure out how to keep the family (mostly Jim) nourished since peanut butter costs more per ounce than the aforementioned filet mignon)
  • Finding a good ‘local’ that has food we all like, shows the world cup qualifying matches, and serves all 4 local cerjevas (which, truth be told, as far as we can tell are the exact same beer in 4 different cans)
  • Purchased 2 soccer balls so that we can work on our moves before we start challenging the locals ūüėČ
  • Walked the strip between Ipanema and Copacabana, soaking in the local customs and styles



  • Got a sarong, because we were the ONLY people at the praia Ipanema with towels


Today was our first day of homeschooling too! The first ever lessons of the Lutz-a Learning Academy, Inc. (a Delaware corporation) began this morning at 10AM local time. (Cecelia and Jim named our school). We planned to start earlier, but one of the instructors, (his name starts with a “J”;0), overslept. ¬†In addition to reading, writing, science, and math, our daily instruction will include circle time, “phrase/word of the day,” yoga, cooking, music (we started shopping for percussion instruments¬†for our samba band at the flea market yesterday), and of course, MANY field trips.


Today’s ever-important phrase of the day was: Eu tenho que ir ao banheiro. ¬†A good one for all of us to know. ¬†For homework, we’re all going to practice using it at home and while we’re out and about this week.

Today’s field trip will be a bus ride (first one!) to the Rio botanical garden, giving us a good short tour of the surrounding area and introduction to ~6500 flora and fauna species ūüôā

Of course, no one ever said it’d be all caipirinhas and rainbows…we’ve had a few stumbles this week and are sure to have some more. ¬†Some of the coisas this¬†week that have dampened our rainbows temporarily:

  • Basic things take more time when you don’t speak the language
  • Drinking water doesn’t come out of the taps-we’re getting used to planning ahead with water
  • You don’t put toilet paper in the toilet-it goes in the trash (we’re learning)
  • New food can be intimidating (and yucky when your parents make you try it)
  • We are not the best futebol players on the beach (but we’re going to work on it!)

Tchau for now!

Happy Labor Day ūüôā



Jet-lag schmet-lag (or, ‘what we learned in 24 dazed hours in Rio’)

Jet-lag schmet-lag (or, ‘what we learned in 24 dazed hours in Rio’)

  • Tex-Mex in Rio is not a good idea
  • Portuguese is pretty different than Spanish
  • Oi means Hi (or hey) and Obrigado/a is “thank you” (boys use the ‘o’, girls the ‘a’)
  • Hot on the right, cold on the left
  • Those are not separate toilets for #1 and #2
  • It‚Äôs nice to have SKOL (one of the national beers)
  • Pao de queijada (cheese bread) is practically it‚Äôs own food group and we may choose to treat it as such for the next 30 days
  • You can get fresh-squeezed ANY juice, wherever & whenever (a leading favorite is pineapple with ginger and mint)
  • Don‚Äôt use your hand to check if racing spikes in the sporting goods store are sharp
  • Even exhausted kids love the beach:













  • 12 hours sleep works wonders for tired kids and their parents
  • ‘Winter’ is a relative term, with the day bottoming out at 73 degrees fahrenheit
  • There are SO many styles of Havaianas, it will be very hard to choose
  • New adventures are fun:
















And probably most important of all, a bakery…











…and a park make everything better:


And that’s just our first full day!

Boa Noite (goodnight) for now…more to come soon