Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Meet My Friend Flat Gabby!

Hi everyone! I have exciting news! I have a new Flat friend! Her name is Gabby and she is friends with Keith.

Flat Gabby is SO flat that she arrived by e-mail this morning (April 4).. How awesome is that?! Even though Flat Gabby is a girl, it is nice to be able to share my adventures with another flat person.

I first met Flat Gabby at a place called the Brazil Mercantile and Futures Exchange.

Kristin says the Brazil Mercantile and Futures Exchange is very similar to BOVESPA, the stock exchange I visited earlier this week. The only difference is that instead of trading stocks, people at the Brazil Mercantile and Futures Exchange trade "commodities." Kristin says corn, soybeans, sugar, and ethanol are some of the "commodities" traded here.

Kristin tried to explain that commodities are traded differently than stocks, but I forgot what she told me because I was too busy watching the trading floor. It is a CRAZY place. There were hundreds of men in several circles screaming, shouting, and watching electronic boards like this one.

Kristin says the prices for the commodities like corn and soybeans are displayed on the big boards. I couldn't really read them so I am going to have to trust her on this.

The men on the floor sounded angry, but Kristin told me they were just doing their job. Hmm...I think it is cool that the floor traders here get to scream and shout. Maybe I should become a commodities trader?!

That's all for now...bye!

Sugar is Sweet!

Hi everyone. I hope all is well.

Today (April 3) Kristin woke me up early and told me we were going on a long van ride. Yuck! It seems like it takes FOREVER to get anywhere in Brazil. Kristin must have seen the look on my face because she told me that the van ride would be worth it. I'm not sure how she can top Embraer, but I decided not to complain.

In the end, the day was pretty cool! I got to visit a sugar farm. I LOVE sugar!

At first I was very confused about the sugar farm. I didn't know sugar came from a farm. I told Kristin I thought sugar came from bags at the grocery store.

That's when Kristin told me to look closely at the tall, green leafy plants growing in the fields. It is a plant called "sugar cane" and it was everywhere!

Kristin told me that sugar comes from "sugar cane." Who knew? But I quickly learned it isn't easy to make the sugar that my Aunt Lynn buys at the store.

Kristin says when the sugar cane is ready to harvest, each stalk (like the one in the photo below) is taken from the field.

Here I am with Keith "tasting" a stalk that was cut down in the field. It does NOT taste like sugar. It tasted more like dirt than anything else!

Once the stalks are harvested at this farm, they are taken to a processing facility like this one.

The stalks then get put into big machines that squeeze the stalks so all of the liquid comes out. Kristin says this sugar liquid can then be turned into many different things including the sugar that my Aunt Lynn makes cakes with.

I really wanted to see this process but Kristin says it isn't the right time of year for harvesting the sugar cane. :( At least I got to see one of the sugar processing facilities.

I really liked visiting the sugar farm, but I wasn't really sure why we were there. That's when Keith told me that one of the things made from sugar cane is something people in Brazil call "alcool." He says "alcool" is called "ethanol" in the United States. He also told me that most "ethanol" in the United States is made from corn (not sugar cane). I had no idea!

I also didn't realize that "ethanol" can be used as a fuel in cars. Keith says many cars in Brazil run on ethanol made from sugar cane instead of gasoline. Very interesting. Kristin says the gasoline she puts in her car at home is a mix of gasoline and corn ethanol. I'll have to ask Aunt Lynn if she uses this ethanol stuff in her gasoline.

That's all for now. Bye!

Bandag in Brazil...Who Knew?

Hi everyone. I am SO excited. Today (April 3) I saw a sign along the road with a logo that I know from Muscatine: Bandag. How cool is that?

I never thought I would see a sign from a company based in Muscatine here in Brazil. Here is one of the signs just outside of the town of Piracicaba, about two hours outside of Sao Paulo.

It was raining when I saw the sign so it was hard for Kristin to take my picture.

A few minutes later I saw another Bandag shop near Piracicaba's shopping mall. Wow, two Bandag places in one day!

Kristin was also excited to see Bandag. Her husband, Eugene, works for Bandag. She told me Bandag has many shops and offices in Brazil. I had no idea!

Until next time...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Planes, Planes and More Planes!

Hi again. I hope all is well.

I always know I am going to see interesting places when I travel with Keith and Kristin. But on Wednesday (April 2), we visited the coolest place ever!

It is a business called Embraer.

Embraer is located a couple of hours from Sao Paulo. It seemed like it took forever to get there, and I was pretty bored in the van. But Kristin promised me that Embraer was worth the wait. Guess what, she was right! Embraer makes airplanes and we got special permission to watch the workers build planes. How cool is that??!!!

Do you see the Embraer sign on the building in the photo above? It is the same logo that I saw at BOVESPA yesterday! Now I know why Kristin wanted me to pay special attention to that sign.

Kristin says Embraer is the third largest airplane builder in the world. I had no idea! Kristin told me a lot of other things about Embraer, but I really can't remember what she told me. I was too busy watching people build airplanes. I LOVE watching airplanes when I am waiting at the airport but visiting the factory is even better.

Here I am just outside one of the HUGE buildings where the airplanes are under construction.

How cool is that photo above?!

I don't remember how long we spent in this building, but it was long enough for me to see how some of the plane pieces go together. It is hard to show you photos of how the pieces go together but here are some of the photos Kristin took in the hangar.

Below you can see what the inside of a plane looks like before the wires, walls, seats, and pilot controls are added.

If you look closely in the photo above, you can see me sitting on the nose of this plane. How cool is that!?
Here I am with Keith and the part of a plane where the pilots sit.

At some point, everyone in our group went to another part of the building where different parts of planes are built. It was REALLY loud so Keith and Kristin had to wear earplugs (they didn't have earplugs in my size so I just covered them with my hands). And, since it was a construction zone, Keith and Kristin also had to wear these really funny plastic glasses. Kristin says they are called "safety glasses."

Don't they look funny with those glasses!? They didn't have any of the funny glasses in my size, so Kristin made me stay in her bag most of the time so I wouldn't get hurt. She did let me look out through a small opening and sometimes she took me out for photos (but only after she knew we were in a safe area).

Here you can see me with Kristin. Can you tell Kristin was having a hard time holding me and the equipment too?

Here are some more photos that I think are really cool.

After our visit to the construction hangars, we had lunch with Embraer officials. Later my friend Simon interviewed a company executive for a television story. And just before we left Embraer, we went back to the first hangar we saw so Simon could do something he calls a "stand up." During a "stand up," a reporter reads a script on camera at the location he/she is reporting from. Very interesting. Kristin and Keith don't have to do this for radio (but they do talk to their recorder all the time, so I guess they are doing something similar).

Here you can see Simon and Steve recording Simon's "stand up." Kristin says I will likely see this on TV and the Web when the project is done. Cool!

It seemed to take Simon and Steve a really long time to record the "stand up" and tape all of the pictures they need for TV. I forgot from my trip to Djibouti that it takes MUCH longer make a television story. But I didn't mind. It gave me more time to watch the workers.

Well that's all for now. Until next time....