Hi everyone,

Here is the account of my Brazil Trip (one week + long from 4/16/99 to 4/25/99) that I took to teach a day long workshop on using the software STELLA and computer models in general to teach Earth Science in the classroom. I typed this as I went this time (so it's longer than something written later- and possibly lacking continuity in places J ). Enjoy!

4/16/1999 10:23 BST, Location Sao Paolo

Here I am in Brazil. The smell in the air (just in the background since I'm in the airport still) is reminiscent of the south pacific islands. I'm getting Fiji sick. J

The flights here were pretty easy (coach class- none of that first class coolness). We were a half hour late leaving Dallas because someone checked in luggage but did not board. I was glad that they found the bags and removed them. They can even take my bags off if they are worried about them (given the political atmosphere in the world right now).

The OKC to Dallas jump was on the American Eagle- the buzzing, vibrating prop planes. Pretty crazy and LOUD! The next plane (to Sao Paulo) was a BIG two isle 767-300 series. From one extreme to the next. I had two empty seats by the window and by folding myself just right I was able to get a good nights sleep. The time change is only 2 hours east (Atlantic Savings Time if you want to look at it that way). Not a bad switch at all.

At the moment, I'm at Gate 21 waiting for glass doors to open and allow me to my Gate 25. I don't know why I can't just walk over to gate 25, but I can at least see it. There is a TAM airlines commercial playing on a 4 minute cycle that has 1000's of planes swarming over the sky and showing up in building reflections. I thought it was cleaver the first couple of times… then…

END 1033 4/16/99

4/17/1999 1830 BST

They did open the glass doors once they switched that end of the terminal from international flights to domestic flights! They closed the duty free shops and changed the airline signs then slid the big glass door over and blocked the other half of the hallway. Pretty clever. We took off on time and went from Sao Paulo to Porto Allegre.

At this point my pre-arranged instructions ended. The desire of the organizers was for me to hop another flight from Porto Allegre to my final destination- Rio Grande. But the travel agency did not set that part up.

I got my luggage and entered the small airport's main terminal. No one was holding up a John Ensworth sign. So I made my own sign with John Ensworth on it and held it up. It didn't say I was John Ensworth, but anyone looking for me should be curious as to why someone else was too. I waited 30 minutes and when no one seemed interested in me or my sign, I found the information desk to find out what options (bus?) I had to get to Rio Grande. Where I would go next was a problem I'd deal with once I was in the right city.

The info desk person when she read my sign, now hanging forlornly at my side, got all excited. She said that there was a man looking for me. GREAT! She paged him and he came and RAN me to the airport desk. The plane ticket he had for me was for a flight just 15 minutes from taking off. He took me around the lines and crowds apologizing or commanding in Portuguese right to a desk clerk. My bag was rushed through and I ran to gate 3.

The plane was going to take off a half hour late.

I made friends with some German fisherman traveling together and we waited together. Rio Grande's airport was closed due to weather so we landed at another airport (in our prop plane that seated 20).

On this flight, I met an attractive landscape environmentalist/oronthologist who was also going to this conference (our seats had been purchased at the same time- so we were sat together). We talked of masters work and her lost luggage (still in Atlanta at last report).

Then we filled airport vans and free taxies and began a 45 minute drive to the Rio Grande airport where a man from our conference picked us up and took us to the last hour of Friday's session. Now I was hooked up with the crowd- things were much better. We bussed together to the hotel and went to eat together later in the evening.

The weather in Rio Grande is very similar to what it was in Oklahoma when I left. It is far colder than normal and the winds were amazingly strong. I somehow missed all those wonderful tropics and that warm humid calm air. I only brought a light jacket (which was more than 1/2 the other participants brought!) and it was cold (around 45 F with winds between 30 and 40 mph with gusts quite higher!). Wind alone broke a window 4 stories up in the lobby. Sand was blowing in white clouds on the nearby beach and the ocean was brown with stirred up silt and massive chocolate tinted white caps further out at sea. It was a powerful northwest wind last night- now it's a powerful south wind (straight from the Antarctic!).

The dinner I went to last night was everything I was told (warned) about concerning the Brazilian diet. It was meat. Not just meat- but 90% meat. It came in many courses. Course one was a large red sausage. Course two consisted of a tightly wound smaller brown sausage. Then came large disks of fried cheese with spices. There was no breading, no crust, nothing added. Just yellow cheese with grease below it and grease above it. Then came a token plate of a bunch of cold sliced vegetables (that few ate). Then came more meat. There were 5 different cuts of steak that kept coming and coming. They were heaped in the center of the table of four. Fried hash browns (with cheese) were then added to a continuous supply of french fries. Oh- yea- they served dessert after that. The woman I met on the plane was a vegetarian. She ate many fries and those veggie plates and suffered. I've been told that the other meals we'll have will all be like this. Oh boy. (It is all VERY delicious- it is just 100% opposite the diet I'm currently eating in the US- my system will probably go into shock).

Saturday was a big rest day. I slept almost 12 hours (probably due to the amount of steak in my stomach), went and swam in the warmed indoor pool and exercised. I'm getting my strength up for this evening's meal!



The house current is 120V and I can plug things straight into the wall (unless a ground is required- there is no third hole for the ground).

I can get the BBC on the short wave radio- there are no FM stations but many Portuguese AM stations. There are 5 television stations (on cable) and have seen some 70's and early 80's US crime/action shows with voice-overs.

I can see the Latin roots of many words and can get the sense of signs and things written fairly easily (better than Japan).

Toilets and light switches are familiar and like home.

END 5:18 PM

4/18/99 6:23 PM Location: Hotel in Rio Grande (Sunday)

We left in the driving cold wind to go to the restaurant at 9pm. Dinners in Brazil take a long time, usually have a LARGE amount of beef in them (Brazil and Argentina consume more beef than the U.S. by about 3 times per capita- the U.S. is a distant third to those two countries), and start at 10pm or later.

There were many kinds of alcoholic drinks to partake of. In addition to wine- there was a drink (spelled incorrectly - no doubt) called a Cai-pedia. It has a ton of limes in it (called lemons here (?!)) and a rum made of sugar cane, ice and two table spoons of sugar (the alcohol called Cashasen is very tart- as are the limes). I tried that and had a number of the Guarana (pronounced Gua-da-na). Guarana is a soft drink (no alcohol J ) that I was told I had to try down here. It is made from an Amazonian berry. It is best described as similar to Ginger Ale but with a flavor of cherry+orange/citrus. It is darker by a shade than typical Ginger Ale.

Bread slices came out next (lightly toasted) with a tuna mousse spread (like tuna flavored whipped cream/Jell-O. Strange but good. Then rice and potato chunks- then the beef started coming.

In anticipation of this happening at night, I've just decided to drink only water in the day. Everyday. I was rewarded. There were four courses of steak brought out. The cuts were all the same this time (or so I was told) but a man following the waitress had a different sauce each time. The first was stir fried peppers and onions. The second sauce was a roasted garlic in oil. The third sauce was mushrooms in a dark buttery gravy. And the final sauce was a four cheese sauce. All of these were dumped on the meat- with a continuos flow of rice and potatoes.

Some of the participants came back to learn the samba and drink some more in the hotel- I plopped in bed with a full stomach after midnight.


We were up and loading the BIG charter bus at 9am for a geologic/geographic/geomorphic/political and fun tour of the entire Rio Grande region. We traveled on amazingly primitive roads in a HUGE modern fancy tour bus (the kind that you would only put on the interstate in the US). We stopped at many places (see scanned figure of the region with numbers on it- and took many pictures. I don't have much to say about this since it was riding- picture taking all day. The pictures will say my 1000 words.

But in the evening (before we left at 9pm for dinner again), Martin Ruzek and I went to the beach (against the warnings of the serial killer on the loose who is killing male/female couples- I guess we felt we were safe…). The clouds had cleared, the wind had dropped to a breeze and the temperature was up 10 degrees. MUCH nicer. Again I got to use my 4 1/4 inch telescope and explore the double stars in the Southern Cross (Crux), see the Jewlbox star cluster, the Southern Pleadies and the Large and Small Magellenic clouds (which I again mistook for real clouds as there were low cumulus dissipating as we observed). The sky is INCREDIBLE even with nearby streetlights and all.


04/23/99 (Friday) 3:28 PM Location: In the conference room at the University in Rio Grande

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I got too wrapped up in doing stuff on this trip (and preparing for my presentation). So here is what the REST of the week went like…

On Sunday evening- I went again out to the beach - this time with the two students from the University of Michigan- Luis Fernandez (Pronounced Loo-weese) and his friend Dianna (the woman I met on the airplane earlier). We ploughed through some more interesting deep sky objects- until three men appeared approaching us across the dunes. It might have been other participants, it might have been the serial killer. It was the police (federalie). I couldn't understand what they were saying overall, but one WAS saying serial killer (pronounced "sseereel keeler") the second was making a gun with his finger and shooting it and the third was repeatedly drawing his finger across his neck. We got the picture that they didn't feel it was safe out there.

As time went on, we came to realize that the storm on Friday/Saturday was an amazing storm! Peak wind gusts in Rio Grande were 192 km/hr. Many trees were down or damaged, buildings just fell down, the shipping industry was hurt by the storm and mud (silt) was washing up on shore for hundreds of miles north and south. It was classified as the worse in 20 years. Yea- and we were there for it. I used my oven for a heat source - until I discovered that the gas was in a tank on my balcony- NOT a pipe system in the hotel.



The conference began in earnest for me (though it was half way through its two week run). Most of the meetings were in Spanish (and sometimes Portuguese) so I worked away at practicing my STELLA model creating, solving bugs- looking for work-arounds and getting familiar with the computer system. For lunch we went to a restaurant called "Maxi Beef" (I had to take a picture of that!). In all I ate at Maxi Beef 4 or 5 times. It wasn't always Maxi Beef, it was sometimes Maxi Vegetables (well- kind of- but there was meat mixed in), it was Maxi Pasta one night and one day at lunch it was Maxi Fish. On Wednesday they cooked whole large fish on sticks out back all morning for us. They were served on our plates with scales, tail, fins, eyeballs (sometimes bulging out- sometimes popped). It was a challenge to eat them, but they were good!

In the afternoon- we were bussed to the Oceanographic Museum and looked at formaldehyded fish. The feature fish is a preserved fish with a giant skull tumor. It kind of looks like a human face - and they have added sunglasses to it. Very strange.

Dinner was at the Yacht Club and consisted of tons of cheese covered fish (no scales or bones (or formaldehyde) this time).


My all day presentation was approaching quickly so I worked again in the background cleaning up my web site so I could install it on one of the computers here for everyone to play with since the internet connected computers were in a different building and VERY slow.

Here- the coffee break is supreme (as it was in Fiji, The Samoas, and Cote d' Ivory). They brought out so much food at the breaks - they equaled what I often eat for dinner at home (the quantity of food that is expected to be consumed that is). The meals were all Thanksgiving in size-and even though I limited my returns- I ended up with a belly ache too many times. What an amazing food based society. I was told (when observed cutting the fat from the steaks and meat pieces on my plate) that the fat is the best part- it is energy that can make me run long and hard. I thanked him but pointed out that the rest of the day was going to consist of me sitting in a classroom and watching talks. I might not burn it up now.

That evening- after another huge dinner- we had another meeting in the hotel that started at 9:30 and ran to after 11pm!!! These people are meeting as well as food addicts.


This was my presentation day! Everything went well. I taught from 8:30am until 6:30pm (around the massive food breaks). I was there to teach the use of a modeling (numerical simulating software package) called STELLA made by High Performance Systems, Inc ( www.hps-inc.com ), teach HOW to make models on a computer, and teach how to use models for teaching. I started off carefully walking the other participants through an introductory lab I wrote to get them used to STELLA ( see Lab 1 from my work web site: www.esse.ou.edu - go to the laboratory exercises and you'll eventually find it- or just look under the Rio Grande, Brazil Talk link). Then I gave a half hour talk using Power Point- and a talk my boss, Dr. Snow wrote (with a few modifications). We had our first break- then I threw them into making the Hydrologic Cycle model which took all of the rest of the morning, the first session after lunch (today was whole fish day) and half of my final session (these steps can all be found on the STELLA downloads under the Rio Grande, Brazil link).

Everybody got to make a working model- they were very excited. I gave a demonstration of our web site (off the computer) at the start of the fourth session. The day ended when I outlined and demonstrated the Carbon Cycle and allowed the participants to play with that and other example models.

I did not do any astronomy that night. There was ANOTHER 9:30/10pm talk at the hotel, and I was pretty tired.


By this point- it was getting very very nice in the weather department. The daytime highs were hitting deep into the 70's and night time lows continued to increase. I ran to the hot shower slower and slower each day.

Today was going to be my big day to write this letter and work on my PhD research (programming and all) but the U. of M. team hit big computer problems (their presentation was coming up on Friday morning). I donated my computer to them to run their web site, edit stuff and translate things in and out of Spanish.

Most of the presentations continued to be in languages that were not understandable to me (darn myself for taking FORTRAN as a foreign language in High School!!!). I read a book and struggled with email now and then.

In the afternoon, we went down to the Old Harbor and visited a city museum. It was neat, but I could not read the signs. I walked with a Canadian scientist in search for interesting old buildings. We were stopped in our tracks by a police man who slowly explained to us that the empty street ahead of us was dangerous. I don't know if Rio Grande is so dangerous- or the people here freak out if one crime happens. I wonder what they would do in downtown Dallas, LA, or Chicago at night.

We went to a real Brazilian BBQ in the evening. A huge fire burned with many cuts of meat and sausage cooking on long skewers. The worst cuts came first (many of them) and the meat got finer in quality and taste as the meal went on. Most people were full by the time the most expensive meat was served (they didn't have to buy much of that).

I brought my telescope and had my first Southern Sky Astronomy Night after the meat blast. I pointed out southern constellations to a crowd and showed off things I've only learned in the last few days. Except for some heavy dew- the sky was very close to perfect!


This was the end of the conference. We lunched at Maxi Beef again (it was Maxi Leftovers this time J ). At the final break time- we had a full chocolate cake (which - as impossible as it may seem- was eaten by the group like they had not had anything to eat for weeks- pretty scary - but tasty).

I did work out on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, sometimes with a guy named Ali from Ohio. I ran most mornings on the beach but could only go so far before having my way blocked by street drainage/sewage flowing across the beach into the sea. I would go inland to cross it, then find another one shortly up the beach. Pretty yucky. I took to jogging on the surface streets.

Tonight (as I write this) is the final banquet- we'll have a real Brazilian band playing for us and everything.

NEWSFLASH! They caught the serial killer this morning. I'm free to observe from the beach to my hearts content. OH BABY!

04/26/99 1:06 PM

Location: Norman, OK

I'm back now- and need to clean up the end of the trip on this account.

That night we had a multi-course meal (what's new) that had some fish, but mostly vegetables!!! Our vegetarians were very excited. There were whole broccoli stalks steamed and such. Don't spread this around though- it might give Brazil a bad name.

I went out after the meal (skipping hotel room celebrations and dance lessons) and curled up in the former Serial Killer pit (my hiding place from police or killers) with telescope and laptop and towels (to keep sand out of everything). I stayed up to around 1:30am romping around in the night sky. My account of what the southern sky is like is below in it's own section. I was almost moved to poetry.

The trip home was long and uneventful. A five hour bus trip from Rio Grande to Puerto Allegre showed us much of the countryside (more pictures!).

In the airport I went to a fancy (and the most expensive restaurant so far) and ordered the buffet so I could get some of the beans and rice that I also fell in love with. Then came the meat on the spears again!!! The waiter came out with 3 spears with meat lined up on it 14 times. This meal turned out to be the MOST meat base one yet. There was pork, 5 cuts or more of beef, ribs, chicken, chicken hearts. The waiter was the pushiest waiter in the world! He hardly took no for an answer from the table for a while. Meat chunks were flying.

Then there was a jump of a couple of hours up to Sao Paulo, then the 10 hour flight to Dallas (thankfully I had 2 seats together on a window- so I could of sort of lie down and sleep), then a 45 minute hop through thunderstorms (great turbulence!) to OKC. I made it back just in time for Sunday morning church.


The Philosophy of my Writings:

Reading over my the accounts of these trips, I am moved to write for a moment about what I write about. Much of what I put here is the unusual. The observations I save and describe are sometimes funny- sometimes educational (if you were to travel)- but almost always concerning the stuff 'not like home'. The reason for this is simple, there are A LOT of actions, activities, and features of life that are the same all around the world. (I'm told there is more similar globally now than even a few decades ago due to the rapidity of information transfer and human transport. See the world now- it may soon sink further into an average/Americanized state!)

I don't meant to characterize an entire country and people group with every strange experience that I fall into - nonetheless- other countries have basic differences that local folks do say are found regionally. I try to make this distinction as I go.

The cliché that Dog Bites Man doesn't make news, but Man Bites Dog does applies to my writings. I don't want to fill 50 pages with stuff that is fairly mundane, but I want to entertain you and give you a flavor of what I've experienced (and maybe talk you into going there and having your own adventures!).

One constant though--- taxi drivers everywhere are CRAZY!


The Southern Sky- an Exploration. (based on a Midnight April evening)


In an attempt to describe the stars of the southern sky, I think one has to start with the Southern Cross. Before spending time under the southern sky, I berated the Southern Cross (or Crux) since it was smaller than the Northern Cross (Cygnus), has no center star and has a star on it's lower right that is out of line with the four points. The four stars are also not all equal in brightness.

From this, and a jealousy based on not being able to see it, lead me to my low opinion of it. But the reality is it is Fantastic! It is tight and bright (3 stars, top, bottom and on the left are the brightest). The anomalous star on the lower right seems to balance the right (and dimmer) star well. The pattern is very eye catching and tracing your eyes down the cross (specifically when the cross is as high in the sky as it can get and also orientated upright) you get a sense of which direction is south.

When you mention the sky- everyone refers to the Southern Cross immediately. When I brought out the telescope- that is what people want to see (even though I can only show one star at a time in the telescope J ). But the draw doesn't end there. To the lower left of Crux sit Alpha (Rigil Kentaurus) and Beta (Hadar) Centarus. Alpha Centauri is the bright multiple star that is famous for containing in it's stellar system the closest star to Earth. They are far brighter than the surrounding surplus of quite bright stars making up Centarus and Lupus. Further west from here runs the massive constellation of Carina and it's many bright stars including Canopus. Canopus with with nearby Sirius make for a stunning bright double balancing out the entire sky against Alpha and Beta Centauri.

The patterns that all these bright stars make are very memorable but the beauty goes deeper. All these bright stars are concentrated in this belt across the sky because this is the axis in the Milky Way Galaxy. If you wait until later in the evening then Scorpius and Sagittarius rise bringing with them the core of the galaxy. At this time (sadly with Sirius gone and Canopus going) the sky is impossibly filled with bright stars weaving across the sky from east to west and backed up with multi hues and tones of intricately patterned clouds of stars and dark dust lanes.

Above this beauty are Leo and Virgo oddly upside down and hard to recognize. Both below and above the Milky Way the sky gets VERY dark and clear of any bright stars. Below Carina and Centarus are two puffs that look like a combination of cloud and displaced Milky Way. Northern Hemisphere observes (like me) will probably subconsciously feel an urgency that they need to observe faster since their peripheral vision is telling them that clouds are coming. These are the Large (on the right) and Small (left) Magallenic Clouds. Once you recognize that they are satellite galaxies that you are seeing so close to the horizon- you realize how clear and deep (and dark) that area of the sky is.

My overall impression of the Southern Sky is that is an exotic, rich, intricate, deep, complex, majestic and glorious view of the Universe that has no parallel in the northern hemisphere. Because of this- it has more impact on the population (via Crux mainly) of that hemisphere like nothing in the northern sky- even in the face of huge cities and tons of light pollution. It still can reach through the glow into the cities and touch hearts.

Thanks for reading!

I don't know of any future foreign travels- but I've been bitten by the bug. I'll almost certainly go overseas to tell people about Jesus for periods of my life- so I'll have more adventures someday (God Willing!).

John Ensworth