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Hello from Paradise

Hello hello!

Izzy arrived two weeks ago and the time has left me in the dust! Absolutely flown by.

She arrived on Saturday morning. Our first week was spent cooking, cleaning, and going for walks. That Friday, we were back on a bus heading to Londrina (the closest large city) for my registration with the Federal Police.

I had the following Monday off for Labor Day so we hopped on an overnight bus and headed towards Foz do Iguacu, home to one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

The ride was about 11 hours, when it should have been closer to 8 hours. But we endured, and headed straight to the Brazilian national park after arriving. The park was very efficient, with a bus that takes visitors right to the waterfall onlook.

We hung out for a couple hours, marveled at the immense power of nature, got sprayed with lots of river water, and then meandered across the street to Parque das Aves. This park is a bird sanctuary for endangered species from the dwindling Atlantic forest.

The coolest part was definitely the feeding time for the rescued macaws, as they all flew down to grab a snack nearby while we watched the colors fly.

We ate Brazilian barbecue with some ETA friends who happened to be visiting the waterfall on the same long weekend, slept at a nice little hostel near downtown, and awoke comfortably late the following morning.

Our bus to leave wasn’t until 8:30 p.m., so we figured we shouldn’t rush to the Argentinian park and then have too much time to kill later. Bad idea. Always go to national parks early, especially when you have to cross a border to get there.

We caught a bus across the Brazil-Argentina border, then waited for another bus to take us to the park. This park turned out to be much larger than the Brazilian park, with many more trails and a railway system to take you to different trailheads. We had to wait quite a bit to get on a train. By that time, we had an hour and a half before the park closed. Oopsie.

We hustled to the main attraction “Garganta del diablo” or the devil’s throat. In order to get to the viewpoint, you walk along a metal boardwalk for a mile or so. You hear the water rushing long before you see the view, which builds much excitement. I cannot help but feel pure joy standing at the edge of the world, watching water race down the side of a cliff and vanish into mist at the bottom. Our weather was perfect on both days, and there was a beautiful rainbow everywhere we looked.

After walk-running to and from this viewpoint, we only had time for one of the two additional trails. We chose the lower circuit, and it did not disappoint. You walk along the cliff edge, and breathtaking cascades peek between ancient trees. It feels like Pandora, another world we should not have the key to. And yet, we do. We get to walk through this land that is not our own, feel the water on our face and smile in gratitude.

We took the more expensive route back to Brazil and hired a taxi to the border and then another one on the other side to take us to the hostel to pick up our bags. Thankfully, they let us shower before our overnight bus. We made it to the station in time, having treated ourselves to delicious and nutritious Subway dinner.

The ride back was long, as the bus made many stops. When we finally got back, our bed awaited us for a day of beautiful relaxation.

This week has been slightly less exciting, but very fulfilling. I had the opportunity to visit two high school English classes and tell them about high school in the U.S. They had many entertaining questions, but the most interesting thing for them is the process of obtaining a driver’s license in the U.S. Here in Brazil, it is very expensive and requires 6 months of paid classes. I had to explain to them that it is pretty much a learner’s permit and a slap on the back when you’re 15 in Florida.

Izzy and I finished Game of Thrones, made tomato soup and grilled cheese, and have been enjoying the process of settling in. She got to meet all my school friends this Friday at the local queer bar, which was super fun. Everyone is so excited to meet her. Many of them said they did not expect her to be so… dark and mysterious. I don’t wear much black, and Izzy showed up in all black to her first event. She’ll fit right in, since this type of dress is super common here.

I finally found a women’s futsal team, and they practice right after my volleyball practice so I don’t have to find a ride there. Getting home will be interesting, but I’m sure it will work out. The girls were super nice and welcoming. Everyone is here. My heart is full!

With lots of love,

Lauren Kinsey Kuhlman


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