St. Paddy’s Day at the Belgravia (with some photos from Brazil)

Before he left for Brazil, we had asked Evan if he wanted to curl in a bonspiel taking place in the Annapolis Valley this weekend. I was a bit surprised when his response was, ‘But that’s St. Patrick’s Day. Aren’t we doing something?” Our last name, McDonah, is Irish, and D’Arcy’s father’s family came from Killarney, in County Clare, Ireland. Each year, we usually get together with family and friends (and some years, guests!) and host a Guinness inspired meal. I didn’t realize this had become an event the family looks forward to so much.

When I asked for menu suggestions, they came up with burgers. “Patties” for St. Paddy’s! We invited my parents and I made lamb burgers and sweet potato buns. They were really good – the recipe came from Canadian Living and can be found by clicking here: Sweet Potato Rolls. We also barbequed potatoes, carrots & onions, and my mom had brought a salad. I cooked mushrooms & red onions in Guinness to top the burgers. For dessert, we had shamrock shaped cookies and mint-chocolate-chip ice cream while watching a slide show of Evan’s photos from Brazil. There was coffee & Bailey’s for the adults. We ended the evening playing a short version of Pictionary.

I leave you with a few of our favorite photos from Evan’s trip:

First glimpses of Brazil

Evan's Brazilian families - we love them!

The beach in Santos

View from Monte Serrat

View of Santos from Monte Serrat

Evan and Scott at City Hall

They made the paper!

Learning to surf


A view of the rain forest, taken from the home of Jean Piaget's Principal's mother.

Endless beach


Ruins in the rainforest


We’re so happy to have Evan back home from his adventure of a lifetime. He had an absolutely fabulous time and was willing to tell us stories and show us photos until close to midnight last night, despite his 36 hour travel day. (Delayed flights…)

The flight from Sao Paulo had been delayed, causing them to miss their connecting flight from Toronto to Halifax. We had been tracking the flight online and realized that 15 minutes between when their flight landed and their next flight departed would not be enough time to clear customs and get to the next gate. We sat around for a few minutes, figuring someone would contact us, and sure enough, it wasn’t very long before Evan called. Smart kid used our toll-free number… Another benefit of growing up in a B&B! They were booked on another flight, but their new scheduled arrival time was 4:01 p.m.

I went to school, Alex went to space camp, and we made plans to leave for the airport shortly after two. The weather was terrible, so in some ways we were happy to have the delay, so that our trip to Halifax Stanfield Airport wouldn’t be as stressful.

We watched the airlines all day and although many flights were delayed because of the snow, his wasn’t. The flight from Toronto to Halifax is only 1h45m, so as soon as we saw that the flight had departed from the gate in Toronto, we began our 45 minute drive to the airport.

When we arrived, we met up with my parents, who needed to come and see their grandson for themselves as well! We all went upstairs to the runway observatory and actually watched Evan’s plane land. We all waved frantically, and he admitted on the way home that he saw us! (It helped that his flight’s gate was right under the observatory window!) As they were setting up the jetway, we rushed back downstairs to the arrivals area to greet him.

Evan's flight, arriving from Toronto. He's in the window, two ahead of the middle exit door!

Hi Evan!!

Olivia couldn't help herself, she ran right through the "no entry" signs to greet her biggest brother!

The much anticipated hug for mom! (Don't know if it was much anticipate for him, but it sure was for me!!!)

And a much anticipate hug for "Ginna" (see above!)

A much awaited hug for Dad...

Our family is together again!

We came home and the girls showed off the sign they had made him.

Welcome Home Evan!

We had a great supper, he gave us thoughtful gifts, and then we downloaded his photos and heard stories. Olivia couldn’t help herself – she arrived back downstairs after bedtime just to make sure that Evan was really home and to have one last snuggle.


Last Updates from Brazil

Today is the Canadians’ final morning in Santos. They are grocery shopping, taking a cooking class and having lunch before leaving for the airport at 1:00. The bus ride will take three hours to the Sao Paulo airport and their flight from Sao Paulo to Toronto leaves at 8:20 this evening. We will be tracking it, of course, via flight tracker, and will all be at the airport tomorrow (in the snow!) to greet him!

We’ve had wonderful notes from Francisco, both last night and this morning, telling us how much they enjoyed having him and how much they will miss him. “Congratulations for your firstborn, He´s polite, kind and We´re already missing him…My English isn´t enough to express our affection and admiration for him… this morning was terrible to everybody..Lucia cried with a feeling of loss, JVC & BRUNO didn´t want to say goodbye, Bruno was restless since yesterday…We absolutely loved this amazing boy, our Canadian son….Thanks, thanks, thanks…our home is your home…”  We felt the same way about their son, JV, and are so blessed to have made this connection between our two families. I have no doubt that this connection is one that will continue forever!

Monday’s recap came from Scott:

“yesterday we made a visit to a daycare along with a few jean piaget students. the children were great and we brought some gifts to give to them all. afterwards we took a cable car that took us up a mountain 170 meters tall. we ate lunch at a resteraunt on the top of the mountain and then took the same cable car back down the mountain. when we got back to the school we participated in a english class and then were dismissed.
from; Scott

I chatted briefly with Evan yesterday afternoon while he was packing. He wanted to be sure he was packing things in the right places. (Is sunscreen a liquid, etc.) They had a closing celebration at the school and he was able to do some last-minute shopping. He still has some money left and is hoping to be able to purchase a Brazilian flag at the airport. This morning’s email – the final one – was written by Evan. I keep asking him if he’s seen any monkeys and he has replied “only the ones on Skype” (his sisters).

Yesterday we planted a tree in the rainforest in the village of Itutinga. And no, there were no monkeys. It took a while to do because of the drive, the hike, planting trees, etc. Although it was the first day that we were early.
Today we do a cooking class and start our journey home at 1.
See you soon,

What an experience this has been for all of us! We are so grateful to Francisco, Lucia, Joao Victor and Bruno for being so kind and loving to our son. On a school exchange such as this, having a host family who is a great fit makes all the difference! They have been warm and engaged and have treated Evan just like their own son.

I’m sure that there are many mixed emotions for all of the Canadians as they prepare their final meal together with their Brazilian families: sadness to leave their new friends, the sun, the beaches… but excitement and anticipation for the 22 hour long journey home. I can’t wait to see him!

Surfing and Soccer

Friday’s update arrived in this morning’s email, courtesy of Erin:

“In the morning we went to a fruit market that was really long there was tons of different fruits you could try and there was also fish, clothes, and other stuff you could buy it was really cool to see all the different fruits they had. Then we went to a water treatment place it was really gross… Then we went surfing, that was like the best thing ever for that whole day!!! all 4 of us managed to stand up for atleast 25 seconds, after that we had a bbq at alexanders place that was really good also!!!

We were able to chat with Evan a couple of times this weekend and he proclaimed that surfing was AWESOME! He even intends to take it up back here in Nova Scotia. We do actually, have beaches in Nova Scotia that are known for their surfing conditions, however the water here is much chillier, I’m sure, than the water in Brazil!

Evan continues having a wonderful time! On Saturday, they had gone shopping at a mall, but he thought they were going to the beach, so left his money at home! On Sunday, he traveled into Sao Paulo with his host family to see Sao Paulo play Football (Soccer) against the Portuguesa Team. Sao Paulo is the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere, one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of 20,000,000. It’s hard for us to wrap our heads around the size of a city that houses two-thirds of the population of Canada! The football stadium itself holds 80,000 people, but there were “only” 18,000 there for yesterday’s game. Evan said it was hot when they first got there, but then there was a rain shower, so they got soaked! Sao Paulo won the game 2-1.

I was thrilled today when Francisco shared some photos:

Gabriel, JV & Evan outside the Sao Paulo Football Stadium

They arrived early and toured the stadium before the game was to begin.

The stadium seats 80,000 people!

Fans arriving - only 18,000!

The Sao Paulo team enters the stadium.

The Sao Paulo mascot

A Bumpy Road to the Rainforest

Not a long report today, as we didn’t really get a chance to connect with Evan yesterday. The daily email this morning comes from Irene:

“Hello everyone, Yesterday, we went to a rainforest and then we went to the soccer museum. The village in the rainforest we went to is called Paranapiacaba.  Bumbiest road ever before you get there. Irene”

Evan sounds happy – he posted a status update on Facebook this morning which said, “Churros are so good! Now I get to go surfing today!”

One of the chaperones, Jennifer, posted some photos, which were great to see!

Irene, Erin, Evan & Scott


Evan, wearing his Jean Piaget uniform

The Canadians at the Santos Football (Soccer) Stadium!

The group somewhere in Brazil (no caption with this one!)



402 Steps Down a Mountain and Other Adventures

I am a happy mother this morning after connecting with Evan in Brazil last night! Oh, the wonders of computer – it’s great to be able to instant message one another!  He has reported that he is having a lot of fun, getting used to the heat, and got sunburned despite the 100SPF sunscreen. Last night, they went to Scott’s host family’s home for a pizza party. I asked him what Brazilians use as pizza toppings and he reported that there is “usually lots of olives and cheese”. He was finally able to see the stars (it’s been overcast at night) but has yet to see the Southern Cross. He is enjoying trying new foods and having new experiences. He’s even bought a few souveniers – including some Brazilian coffee for his parents!

Today’s group note home was written by Evan:


 Yesterday we toured downtown Santos.  The first thing we did was go to a coffee museum.  It was very informative.  The next thing that we did was go to Monte Serrat.  We all went up on the trolley but on the way down Jennifer, Luciana, Scott, Sue and I walked all 402 steps down.  We even beat Erin, Irene, Tom and Coen going down on the trolley!  While we were up on the hill, it was crazy how high up we were.  After we finished at Monte Serrat, we had Pastels and fries for lunch at Carioca´s.  We went to the oldest house in Santos and saw some cool rooms.  Then we went to City Hall and after we went on a Cable Car tour through Santos.

 Have fun in the snow!

 Tchau!  Evan”

 For those who are interested, the following is a You Tube video I found of Monte Serrat. (Not produced by Evan!)

Penguins and a Boat Ride Around Snake Island

I chatted with Evan briefly via Instant Messaging yesterday afternoon, but we did not get to Skype in the evening. He sounds like he is minding the heat, which we expected could be a problem. (He’s like his father that way!) He had been swimming in the afternoon which he said helped – that, and the fact that the temperature was down to *only* 28*F! He’s also finding the 7:30 school start time early… Otherwise, he was in good spirits and reports that he’s having fun!

Yesterday’s update from Brazil comes via Erin and, unfortunately, does not include a photo.

“Hi everyone,
yesterday we went to a aquarium with like different fish and sea lions and PENGUINS!!!!!, also sea museum with really weird dead fish and sharks and a boat ride around snake island. it was all really fun, we met up with the brazilians and then got on the boat, after a couple minutes when we were behind snakes island we got to jump off the boat and into the water that was like the best part out of everything yesterday for me anyway. i had a lot of fun!!!
having fun in Brazil!!!

Meeting Brazilian 10 Time National Surf Champion

Yesterday’s update is not very long. We spoke with Evan last night only long enough for him to say goodnight. He was tired, thirsty & cranky. The morning email of yesterday’s events comes via Scott, the other boy on the trip: Someone sends an email home each morning with news…


The group with 10 time Brazilian National Surf Champion Picuruta Salazar

“hi everyone, yesterday we went to a surf museum where we met a famous 10 times champion surfer who was very nice to stop and take pictures with us. we learned a bit about the history of surfing in santos and got some amazing pictures of the ocean and landscape. afterwards we left back to the school and participated in a english class. i got a cool picture with pele´s statue during a walk around santos. we also tried coconut water from a fresh coconut and got to watch how they prepared it with a large machette.
having fun, scott”


Butterflies, Peanuts, a Ferry, a Barbeque & Surfing

By all accounts, Evan is having a wonderful time in Brazil! I asked him to jot down a few notes each day so that I could share his activities with those who are interested.  The following is what I received: (the boy does not share his mother’s gift of gab – everything is to the point!)

  • March 1st, 2012.
  •  Flight to Toronto and Sao Paulo delayed
  •  Butterflies
  •  March 2nd, 2012.
  •  Land in Sao Paulo at 11 – 11:30 local time
  •  3 hr bus ride in 33C heat
  •  Caught up with everyone
  •  Relaxed
  •  Went to the club
  •  March 3rd, 2012.
  •  Went to the beach
  •  Boogey Boarded
  •  Paddleball
  •  Peanuts
  •  Swam
  •  Relaxed
  •  Cresting
  •  Ferry ride
  •  Playstation with JV, Caio and Gabriel
  •  March 4th, 2012.
  •  Canoeing
  •  Stand Surfing
  •  The Beach
  •  JV, Caio, Gabriel, Caroline, Scott and Bruno
  •  BBQ at Caios house
  •  Playstation with Caio, JV, Gabriel, Caroline, two other people
  •  Gift giving
  •  hubairos (a drink – was added after)

We’ve Skyped with him each day. On Saturday, his first full day, he spent the day at the beach. The temperature was 36*C so that was probably the perfect place to be! He had been boogy boarding and playing with friends and JV’s dad. His only complaint was a headache which was probably a combination of heat & dehydration. I mentioned that his cheeks were looking a bit pink from the sun and he replied that JV’s dad had put 100SPF sunscreen on his face. I didn’t even know that sunscreen came in numbers that high! We are so grateful that JV’s dad shared the following photos with us:

Evan, JV & Gabriel catch a wave

Evan "boogey boarding"


Caio, Gabriel, Evan & JV on the ferry from Santos to Guaruja, Brazil

The boys play "beach tennis" in the water at Guaruja Beach.

Based on these photos, I can’t help but wonder what 13-year-old boy wouldn’t be having fun?!

On Sunday, he was up early and went canoeing which he reported was “awesome”! (His father is now dreaming of father-son canoe trips in D’Arcy’s homemade canoe this summer…)

We had a message at suppertime that the families of Caio, Gabriel & JV (as well as one other boy who Evan hadn’t known before) were all at Caio’s home for a barbeque and would we be able to skype with them? We all ran upstairs to the computer and it was obvious that Evan is being well looked after! It did this worrying mom’s heart good, and I have to admit, I shed a few (okay – more than a few!) tears of relief & happiness!

Caio’s sister posted the following photo, taken at the barbeque:

Evan's Brazilian family(s). No wonder he's so happy - they look like a fun group!!

We thanked Caio’s & JV’s families for taking such good care of Evan and for welcoming him so openly with love & friendship. JV’s father has good English and the others do their best. Evan has been communicating with a lot of sign language, I think!

Being away from his sister, he has been eating peanuts and other tree-nuts and has been enjoying them! He’s tried a new fruit, grown in Brazil, which he really liked, and raved about the pastries that he’s had. It sounds like he may come home with a few extra pounds at the rate he’s trying new things!

Last night Evan gave Caio & JV’s families the gifts we had sent from Canada: a photo book of Nova Scotia, 1L jug of maple syrup, blueberry jam, peanut butter, Nova Scotia fridge magnets, and – at the boys’ request – Kraft Dinner, gum & Cadbury mini eggs! He had been waiting to get the family all together at the same time.

Last night was to be an early night as they all had to be at school for 7:30 this morning. I woke up this morning to find a message from Evan, asking where his travel alarm clock had been packed – whoops! Hope he woke up in time and didn’t make the boys late… The school day there runs from 7:30a.m. – 12:50p.m., which I would assume is because of the heat. I’m looking forward to skyping with Evan tonight to hear about his morning bike ride, and time at school. They were scheduled to have some Portuegese lessons and attend one of the High School English classes. I’ll be interested to hear what the Jean Piaget school is like from his perspective!

It is definitely a relief to know that he is having such a wonderful trip so far and hasn’t felt lonely at all. I struggle with finding a balance between wanting to Skype with him to hear about what he is doing, but also wanting to give him space and independence. Actually “seeing” him interact with his new family put many of my fears at ease, and the photos they’ve sent have brought a huge smile to my face. I can’t wait to hear about today’s adventures!!

* By the way, Evan has somehow “pocket-locked” his iPod touch and doesn’t know the code to unlock it! Any helpful suggestions on how to unlock it without access to his iTunes are welcomed!

Evan is in Brazil!

Anybody who has been following our Facebook or Twitter Feed knows that our son, Evan, 13, is in Brazil on a school exchange for the next two weeks. Since our children do not normally get a huge amount of press on our social media sites, you may find it strange that I would post about his Brazil trip. However, many of our guests and friends have been avid supporters of Evan’s trip, and we want to keep you all updated!

Evan has always loved travel. A byproduct of growing up in a Bed & Breakfast, perhaps? Before we started the B&B, we hosted exchange students in our home from Mexico, Germany & Brazil. Our children have grown up, not just meeting people and learning about other cultures, but appreciating all of the benefits and excitement of global travel.

When Evan was starting Junior High, he circled all the clubs that he was interested in on the sheet they’d sent home. The first one he circled was Travel Club. Travel Club takes the students to Santos, Brazil, on a two-week exchange with the Jean Piaget School. We learned that the cost, depending on the number of students, was between $2000 – $2500. We told Evan that we would support him, but he would have to raise money to go..

He started raising money last year, and was proud to raise the money to go himself! He mowed lawns, looked after houses for people who were away, sold tickets for a lobster draw, sold “Jungle Jim’s” money, babysat, and collected recycling. He designed four Christmas cards, printed them, and sold them at the elementary school craft fair.  He worked really hard and we are proud of him. Many of our guests were aware of his efforts over the past year, and supported him.

We hosted two sweet boys from Brazil during the last week of January/first week of February – Caio & Joao Victor (JV). They had a wonderful time together and became friends. A major highlight for them were the “snow” days that we had. During their stay, they went on a sleigh ride, watched (many) curling matches, went to Halifax, celebrated Family Literacy Day, had a Superbowl party, explored the maple sugar woods at Sugar Moon Farm, went to two hockey games, went downhill skiing at Ski Wentworth, had lunch with the mayor, went to museums, and had a Superbowl party. (Those are the things I remember off the top of my head!)

The Brazil & Nova Scotia kids together.

Our group in Brazil is much smaller – just four students and three chaperones. We took Evan to Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Thursday afternoon to meet the group. They flew first from Halifax to Toronto, and then from Toronto to Sao Paulo. We watched the plane’s progress through the wonders of Flight Tracker. Both flights were delayed because there were storms between Nova Scotia and Ontario.

We were able to Skype with Evan yesterday afternoon, twenty-four hours after we had left him at the airport. He reported that the five bouts of turbulence they encountered between Halifax & Toronto was “fun”. He had slept “a little” on the ten hour flight between Toronto and Sao Paulo. It was 33*C (91.4*F) when they landed in Brazil, quite a bit warmer than what he is used to! They had a three hour bus ride to the school in Santos, where they were fed before being taken to the homes of their host family.

I can only imagine that the reunion with JV was a happy one. While we were Skyping (oh the wonders of technology!), JV, his brother, his mom, and his dog came by to say hello. They brought Evan a piece of cake and a glass of delicious looking fruit juice that I can only imagine was REAL. Evan looked happy and insisted he wasn’t tired… adrenaline?

The plans for the evening were to go swimming and go to a teen club to meet friends and dance after JV’s soccer practice. There were thunderstorms last night which Evan thought were pretty cool. We don’t often get thunderstorms here in Truro. Today, their plan is to go to the beach.

I will continue to update for those family, friends & guests who are interested in Evan’s trip. Hopefully he’ll send us some photos too! It’s sure to be a great adventure!

A group shot before departure!

Showing off the backs of the shirts they designed!