About a year after we were married, Daniel and I decided to plan a summer of travel. He’d just graduated and was about to start a full-time job, and I had just quit my job and was getting ready to start business school. We figured we’d plan one last hurrah before having kids (little did we know how much we’d enjoy traveling WITH them).
Daniel was a missionary for our church in Brasilia, Brazil, and it was one of the places we were most excited to visit. Since missionaries have a strict schedule and must stay in a certain area, he didn’t get to travel to other parts of the country and never saw the majestic Iguazu Falls. I’d never even been to South America, so this was sure to be a highlight of our summer.
While we had many friends with whom to stay near Brasilia, we didn’t know anyone near Foz do Iguacu. We’d couchsurfed in a few different countries before, and decided to give it a try, even though we knew the town was very small. Surprisingly, a family reached out to us and offered a room in which to stay. Turns out, they were completely delightful. We loved hearing about their family, their experiences living near the falls, and their pets (they had several fun birds). They spoke maybe 2 words of English, so it was fun getting a truly local experience.
Our first night, we arrived well past dinnertime and had no expectations of a meal, but when we got there, they had the most beautiful traditional Brazilian spread. It was amazing! We were so grateful for a hot meal (much as I enjoyed subsisting on pao de queijo in a country full of meat). I was perfectly content with the rice and beans and plantains, but they noticed I wasn’t eating any of the specially-prepared meat. I explained that I’ve been a vegetarian since birth and they were extremely apologetic. I insisted I wasn’t offended in the least, and was just so grateful to join their family! They explained they had never met a vegetarian before, and knew basically no vegetarian Brazilian recipes (even the beans had some meat in them, but I picked around it). Still, what I did eat was delicious and I really enjoyed hearing about their food culture.
The next day, we explored the falls all day, both on the Brazilian and Argentine sides, and walked over to Paraguay for a short while. When we came back (again not expecting a meal, and having reiterated the night before that none such was necessary), they had again prepared a feast – this time entirely vegetarian!! We were completely blown away. They had spent the entire day researching how to vegetarian-ize traditional Brazilian recipes, and had prepared a giant spread of food. It was one of the more touching meals I’ve ever experienced, for the delicious food but even more for the kindness with which it was prepared.
|I can’t seem to locate even the poor-quality original, so here’s a poorer-quality photo of a photo from that trip photobook. This family was so lovely.|