How we spent our Labor Day weekend…

…and yes, labor we did (well not in the pregnant “labor” sense – thankfully – but speaking of which, we need to stop a moment and announce the arrival of another McDaniel [our youngest nephew!] who joined the world just before Labor Day officially outranking Jules as the youngest of the McDaniel clan) … but now back to our story….in our trip, we literally labored up and down (and up and down again) steep hills schlepping two little ones wherever we went as we were definitely off stroller terrain – I mean, did you see these pictures?

But, I get ahead of myself… before I begin telling you about our excellent family adventure into the Brazilian mountains and mining region, I need to give a shout-out to Brenda at Overseas Insights who had very much insight into our destination and offered many words of wisdom before we left the concrete jungle (including the wise words “you will get a work-out!”). Brenda is posted in Brasilia and we met in real life (remember when we went to Brasilia?) before stalking each other on the blogosphere (I seriously stalk her blog as she is FUNNY….no, I really mean FUNNY. I *aspire* to be funny but she IS funny…there is a difference, trust me. Check out her blog and you will know…but don’t forget to check back in here for the “aspiring to be funny” writer…I know, I digress…back to the road trip).

We left the concrete megacity very early Saturday morning (as in the “sun isn’t even up yet” kind of early) and loaded up the kids to drive the 8 hours to Ouro Preto. Amazingly we managed to get there with only one quick stop for breakfast so that we were able to arrive for a late lunch (fine, so that last hour in the car was perhaps not the quietest…). We spent the afternoon getting settled and jumping at the opportunity to park our car and walk, something that is unheard of in Sao Paulo unless you count the walking you can do on treadmills at the gym (that always remind me of a hamster running in his little wheel) or walking in the many Shopping Malls… we took in the beautiful mountain scenery, old buildings (after all this region dates back to the 17th century), tons of churches, and yes…green space and nature. I did mention that when you are there with kids you can 1) leave any type of stroller behind and 2) be prepared to carry your child up and down hills, right?

On the actual Labor Day, we worked our hardest trying to find some gold as we visited the largest gold mine in the world [fine perhaps not the biggest in the world per se….but it’s the biggest that’s open to the public – hey, when in Rome or Ouro Preto for that matter!]. Our tour guide told us that the mine yielded a “reported” 35 tons of gold….and, we all know that “reported” here means that all the gold dug up was reliably and honestly accounted for and not, how shall we put it, misplaced, right?

So perhaps the actual visit to the mine was not the most exciting (unless you count the fact that you can scuba dive in the lake in the mine …yes, as in 100 meters or so underneath the earth….let’s just say that there a few things in life that I really don’t need to do including scuba diving in a gold mine but hey, it’s nice to know that there is that option). Rather the way into and out of the mine was something to be writing home about (and hence I write!) … let me just remind you how well Luca does on anything that moves that is not a car. This is Luca in April during our trip to the US where we spent a rainy day shopping at the mall and thought that this little boy who just LOVES trains might enjoy a super-easy, kid-friendly train ride at a ridiculous fast pace of perhaps 2 miles an hour. Yeah… enjoy it, he certainly did not…

So, imagine John and my reaction when we saw the actual “train” that was supposed to transport us into the mine (I am not quite clear why we hadn’t given this much thought before)…

Yes, it probably dates back a few hundred years and looked, rode, and felt like a wooden roller coaster that was going way too fast down a rather steep hill into the mine….yes, jackpot! Amazingly (and we are still not clear how this is possible), Luca thought it was the greatest thing in the world and giggled and laughed all the way down and up (while John and I were nervously holding onto the kids and planning possible drop and roll techniques in case this wooden rapid flew off its tracks).

So yes, it was a fun and excitement-driven trip all around. We spent the remaining days exploring a few other towns and schlepping up and down the hills of Ouro Preto to check out more parks and churches.

And, it would have been a boring few last days if it had not been for this….the greatest Ouro Preto toddler accident of all times…. You see, when you are busy schlepping kids up a steep hill (my calves seriously hurt for two days after we came home) and need to stop a moment to consult your map for directions (and by “you” I mean my husband who is by far the better navigator, fine, I admit it!) and you place your toddler on the uneven terrain and tell him something like “stand still and hang out here for a few minutes”…take a wild guess at what will happen. Your toddler will NOT, in fact, stand still (I know … shocking…). Instead Luca wandered (or shall we say stumbled) onto the road only to lose his balance and fall, feet first into a gap of a sewer drain (awesome!). No, he didn’t fall in all the way (“only” up to his hips) after all it wasn’t a child-eating sewer but he was stuck in there feet first and wiggled like a worm to figure out a way out. Fortunately, John was able to get him out (nope, not me, I just gave very helpful directions including such useful lines as “John, help him!” – yes, you try bending over with a baby strapped to you) and eventually Luca came out looking like this….

Yeah, with one shoe missing down in the drain about 5 feet…. awesome. The poor little guy sobbed hysterically for his shoe (he is very serious about his shoes, you know) which caused one passerby to rush over to see if Luca had been hurt (judging by his crying one could easily have mistaken the situation for a serious life or death matter…not a toddler vs sewer shoe showdown)… the next thing we knew, the man disappeared and came back with long sticks and proceeded to do this

until he recovered the shoe. He handed the shoe over, brushed Luca’s head and headed on his way before John and I could even figure out what to say to thank him! I did mention I love how child-friendly people here are, right?

Next up? More family adventures are planned as we head South to enjoy the good air in Buenos Aires in October. But, I am sure we’ll have a few more updates until the next big adventure so stay tuned! And, do yourself a favor and watch out for those child-eating drain holes in your neighborhood…


One thought on “How we spent our Labor Day weekend…

  1. You are so sweet and too kind!! I think that we are both pretty kick-butt blog writers — humorously (there's no aspiring about it!) navigating our way through Brazil and everything that Brazil throws our way 🙂 I'm so glad that you found some of the recommendations helpful. I only wish we had known about the gold mine! That looks like a very fun amusement park ride 🙂 I can't believe Luca fell in the sewer drain! Actually I can… I feel like I see new wide open drains and giant holes in the ground every day around here. I'm just glad he was okay — and that his shoe was retrieved :)Looks like you all had a great time and a great escape from SP!

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