Even though there were times when I asked myself “What the heck are you doing here?”, I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Brazil. One trip in particular stands out in my memory and I think in the memories of a number of my clients. It was in the year 1990… (ominous music playing in the background).

I had the bright idea of offering to take about 20 of my best clients on a gem and sightseeing trip to Brazil. It would be fun I thought, we’d see the sights I thought, visit a few mines, look at a bunch of stones, spend a day at the beach. What could possibly go wrong I thought. In hindsight, there might be a reason or two that it was the one and only escorted gem trip I took to Brazil.

Seriously though, it was an amazing time and filled with great adventures and great people. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But, to today’s story, it takes place midway through the trip. We were in the City of Belo Horizonte, the capitol city of the state  (province) of Minas Gerais. The name, Minas Gerais actually means ‘General Mines’, so you can imagine it’s in the heart of gem country in Brazil. We were staying in a downtown hotel overnight and were set to take the bus to Ouro Preto in the morning. (You can learn more about Ouro Preto in my November’s Topaz blog; it’s an amazing place.)

I always tried to be up first and in the lobby of whatever hotel we were staying in so I could make sure that everyone was present and accounted for as they came down. It actually became one of the favorite jokes of the trip… “have you taken a head count Ralph?” “has anybody seen …….?” etc. etc. Well, this particular morning, I was waiting in the lobby when much to my surprise, one of my travelers came wandering in!! it was 7:00 in the morning and he had already been out on his own! And, what was more, he had purchased a new wallet from a street vendor!… at 7:00 in the morning, on the street in Belo, not able to speak the language…sheesh. I took a big breath and said a little prayer of thanks that nothing had happened.

Eventually everyone came down and we went outside to wait for the bus. It was a beautiful day, and the sights and sounds were so typically Brazil, it was fun to watch peoples reaction to it. As we were waiting, a street lady came by and was asking for money from everyone. In my broken Portuguese, I told her we were just tourists and were waiting for a bus. (first mistake) She muttered something under her breath and brushed past me. I didn’t think anything of it at the time but a bit later, one of the travelers noticed that my leg was bleeding. It seems that the lady wasn’t happy with me and cut my leg with a razor blade as she brushed by me. I hadn’t felt a thing. It did kind of demonstrate to every one the need to be careful.

On the trip out to Ouro Preto, Dorothy (her name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent) generously offered to sew the new tear in my pants. Great!, I didn’t have to do it myself…I thought. (second mistake)

We arrived in Ouro Preto without incident. It’s a gorgeous place, very hilly with colonial era buildings lining winding streets and a classic town square that was the place where ‘Moon over Parador’ starring Richard Dreyfus was filmed. Ouro Preto was one of the richest towns in the world in it’s day, and there are many fabulous churches in the town. In the Colonial days, each family built it’s own church with each one trying to outdo the others. The town is a World Heritage Site and it’s easy to see why.

We settled into our hotel, converted from the Colonial Governor’s Manor house called the Pousada do Mondego, right across from a stone market. We had a great meal, said our good nights, I gave Dorothy my pants and it was off to bed. In the morning my pants were there by the door, cleaned and ready to wear.. great!! I hurried to put them on and get to breakfast.

Now, I’m not always the sharpest tack in the box first thing in the morning, but I do know how to put my pants on. Something was terribly wrong as I hopped around the room with one leg in my pants and the other not making it through. As I sat on the hardwood floor after bouncing off the bed, I tried to figure it out. Then it came to me, she had sewn the hem of one leg shut…

The moral of the story? “Beware of Dorothy’s bearing sewing kits”….