Unknown to me, a few weeks ago I was sitting across from a Brazilian hydroelectric engineer on an airplane flying across Brazil. His name was Roberto and he did not speak English. I myself was learning the basic Portuguese phrases but that was the extent of my language skills. I was traveling with my son (an engineering student himself) who was spending the southern winter (i.e., northern summer) working in São Paulo, Brazil. My son had learned to speak Portuguese amazingly well and struck up a conversation with Roberto. That was when he found out Roberto was a civil engineer who used to work in hydroelectric power.
I have to confess that until that day a few weeks ago I had never heard of the Itaipu Dam - the largest hydroelectric facility in the Americas and, until a few years ago, the largest in the world. Roberto and his family were planning to tour the dam as part of their trip to the area where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet. When we landed my son and I hatched the idea to rent a car and see if we could get in on a dam tour ourselves.
In February I reached a new low. Up until that point, my lowest point happened as a child in my home state of California. That was when my father took me through Death Valley - elevation 282 ft (86 m) below sea level.
But this was different. I was not going to the lowest spot in North or South America (Death Valley). I was going to the lowest spot in the entire world. I was on my way to the Dead Sea. Located on the border between Israel and Jordan (see my personal photos below), the Dead Sea is at an elevation of 1412 ft (431 m) below sea level - and getting lower all the time as it further evaporates.