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Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Town Friday Shoot-out / Incongruous

incongruous definition in·con·gru·ous (in käŋ′groo əs, -kän′-) adjective not congruous; specif., lacking harmony or agreement; incompatible having inconsistent or inharmonious parts, elements, etc. not corresponding to what is right, proper, or reasonable; unsuitable; inappropriate.

This complete past week I have been in Salvador in the State of Bahia, Brasil. Today I travel home, returning to Rio and to Nova Friburgo on Saturday morning. I did not bring my computer but am using Camillo's. I find myself handicapped by this, I count on my external drive and my photo archives to bring you some photos that represent our topics when not at home or the world is not right.

Yes I cheat, all the photos I use in the shoot-out are mine but often not taken the week of the topic. After all we can't always count on sunny skies when we shoot 'outdoor food' or a family gathering when it is time to 'relax' at the local park.

To tell the real truth, I have been uncomfortable with this topic. My purpose, as I have explained at other times; my purpose in taking photos and showing them on this blog has been to convince myself of what beauty exists in Brasil. To show this topic would be to show the discordance, the inharmonious parts of Brasil that I find so uncomfortable. To walk on the street in one of the riches barrios in Rio, Ipanema, to step around the beggar sleeping wrapped in an old cardboard box, to stop and take a photo of this unpleasant site is just not within my comfort zone.

This week I have talked of the blight in the cities and the garbage on the street - these incongruous sites - so at odds with the beauty of the oceans, the clear blue of the sky and the beauty of the shoreline and the mountains - but I've not taken any photos of garbage on the beach, I just don't want to save this on disc.

Yesterday I walked north from the hotel with my little camera and the idea of taking photos of a couple of things I had seen from the bus the day before. I'd seen a house facing the sea - let me show you -



I only took this one photo. While taking the photo a woman stopped on the other side of the street and started to jester and yell at me. What was she saying? I think she was frightened and concerned that I was using my camera out on the street. I was less than a block from a walled army base. My back was to the ocean and it was empty of people, the sidewalk two hundred yards each direction was empty. I had felt safe, now I was filled with fear - what signs of danger was I missing?

I walked back to the hotel, looking over my shoulder every time I heard footsteps behind me. I got back to the hotel and ate a complete bag of chips....Damn, regression. I hate this feeling of fear of my surroundings. I had felt this way back 6 years ago when I first arrived and thought myself past it. I hate this feeling of the world being out of balance, of not being as I thought it, the feeling that I am incongruous - out of place in this country. I was proud that I had been out walking each day, not hiding in the hotel and now I will need to talk myself out of these feeling of fear again.

DSC08593 Brasil a country of contrasts; of religion and of deities; of the super rich and of grinding poverty; of the top private education and of those unable to read or to count; the mountains of granite and the mounds of garbage - incongruous in the sum of its parts -

("Jesus Christ is the Lord" - unknown art work intent)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Just for those who live inland or in the far north...

OHHHH! I don't know how Camillo does it. Every morning he bounds out of bed, checks his email, does business ... eats a large breakfast, catches a taxi and goes until 1pm or so, has lunch with overly enthusiastic young people.... comes back to the hotel around 5 ..... takes a deep snoring nap, then bounds out of bed to get ready for dinner.... at 1:30 AM we were back here to sleep.... at 7:30 he bounds out of bed.... I drag myself upright and now at 10:00 am ready to go for a walk with my cameras.... how does he do it?

I am sorry I cannot capture on film the smell of the air or the softness of the breeze, but here is a short video for those of you that live in the interior, whether it be Brazil, or the USA or Europe.... or live in the desert or the side of a glacier, enjoy this moment standing on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean as the tide rolls in.

Getting your feet wet!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Visiting the true tropics


Yesterday I walked for two hours along the beach here in Salvador, I managed to get a good burn all across my forehead and around the edge of my shirt at the neck and the shoulders - it was my own fault, and yes I still love this city.

It seems more moderate in temperature than both Houston and Rio de Janeiro. The city is on the tip of a promontory so it is surrounded (on three sides) by the sea and a breeze blows constantly.  Because of the prevailing winds and because it sets very close to the equator - the temperatures do not vary during the year.  The sky is a bright clear blue, and combined with the slow friendly smiles of the Bahians, Salvador definitely feels tropical.


DSC08600In a way that is surprising to me - because I have fought the process - I have come to love Brasil. And because of this feeling of affection, I really despair at the look of rot that permeates the cities here. Camillo and I argue constantly about this.  He thinks I am just criticizing the country, but I really don't understand. If I say anything to anyone here their response is that there just isn't money..... ho hum..... the government is corrupt.... ho hum.... it is a poor country.... ho hum...
It does not take money to be clean. (now Camillo reading this will say.... "yes, we know but its not the same") My upbringing in the 50s and 60s was poor. Seven children, one parent working as a policeman in a small town, one pair of shoes a year in September, hand-me-down dresses andDSC_6688 donation boxes for Christmas from our church, yes we were poor.             
But never would we have dumped our garbage on the street, on
the side of the road, on the beach for the non existent government trash-pick-up to  clean up for us. Our mother would have taken a broom stick to our backside if she caught us dropping trash anywhere inside or outside of our home.
I just really don't understand the expensive hotel with the high fence, that doesn't keep the street in front clean, and its sidewalk in good repair.... this is not about being poor this is some other self image that is just wrong ......... A national low self esteem?
Anyone here will say 'it is our government' but is it the government that lets the outside of private property begin to crumble and die..... I just can't understand. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hello from Salvador, Bahia!

DSC08525Camillo with his first (this visit) caiprinha in Salvador
I promise - if I can make it through this week following my old (er than me) husband around as he 'works' the Brazilian Geophysical Society Convention in Salvador, Bahia - then I PROMISE I will take it easy for a month, take eating easy for a month, and stay home in Friburgo for a month - unless we have to go to Rio, of course.
I hope to have a few photos for you as I walk the city while Camillo works. I will have to take my small Sony because taking the Nikon out while alone is like wearing a sign that says 'take me I am a stupid tourist'.  Today we drove with friends to Cachoeira e São Félix about 120 km from Salvador. These little towns are supposed to be in the process of being preserved, but I could only imagine the millions that would be needed to put them into 'bring tourists flocking' condition.
A few photos to show the work that needs to be done and the potential these towns have.
DSC08543DSC08541DSC08530   DSC08547  


Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Town Friday Shoot-out / Signs

With this post I am finally caught up with the Friday Shoot-out gang. I hope you went back and saw about ‘power’ in Brasil.

DSC06881 In Brasil I have two issues with SIGNS – The streets are shadowed with signs, there are billboards along the roads, and large, often garish signs atop every store. I try ignore them. And to beat it all they are in PORTUGUESE! Can you imagine?  If I don’t focus on the ugly things then I can’t read them, or understand their purpose.  As you can see they are often not only above the store (loja) but the same sign will be painted on the store front and a third may even hang down near the sidewalk – Why is all I can ask? DSC_2994

When Camillo is driving I sometimes catch a sign with a word I don’t know and I ask…. most the time I just ignore them. As you can imagine this attitude of mine has somewhat DSC_3010stymied my ability to meet the true purpose of this shoot-out.

Of course there are other signs that can be photographed;  signs of love, signs of holidays, or signs of Spring.

Yes, remember here in Brasil we are looking at spring just around the corner. I didn’t have my camera (isn’t that always the way it is?) but across the street from our favorite lunch-time restaurant is a prenatal clinic – the waiting room was full and there were 3 very pregnant women out in front….. a sure sign of spring in the air.


 DSC_7597 DSC_7599

The parrots landing two by two in the trees out front – a little necking in the tree tops, a sure sign that spring is here and summer, with them sleeping in our attic with their new families, is only a short time away.


The Ipe tree is beginning to bloom. The last days of dry season are here, each day starts with an overcast sky and clouds in the valley – a sure sign of spring on its way.  All our signs of spring are subtle and easy to miss – but rainy season is obviously a sign that spring and summer are here.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Town Friday Shoot-out – Power

In 1950,  Brazil's capacity to produce electrical power was only 1.9 Kilowatts, in 2002 Brasil generated 339.1 BILLION Kilowatt-hours.

Brasil is the 3rd largest producer and consumer of electricity in the western hemisphere. (Behind the USA and Canada) In 2002, 83% of its power production was hydropower, 10% thermal (Oil, natural gas, and coal), 4% renewable and 3% nuclear. It is being forecast that Brasil will produce 36% South America’s electricity needs by 2013.


Brazilian side Iguacu falls

In 2008, Brasil had 706 hydroelectric power plants in operation. The largest is the Itapúa dam which produces over 94+ billon kilowatts of power annually and is considered the largest dam of it kind in the world. This dam on the Parana river and just up stream from the world famous Iguacu falls is jointly owned and operated with Paraguay. The dam was begun in 1975 and became fully operational in 1982


Argentina side Iguacu falls

DSC_1351 DSC_1358

  Itapúa dam

DSC_1362 DSC_1366  

The transmission wires carry the electricity 1000s of miles loosing nearly 15% of the power before reaching Sao Paulo and Rio.

This power generation is just one of the dichotomies in Brasil.  This country, rich in natural recourses and knowledge of power generation technology, technology now being exported throughout the world (As we speak Brasil is providing China with the technology for a super, super dam) is still unable to bring a stable power supply to its smaller cities.  There are areas in the Amazon region that just received electrical power in the past 5 years. (Amid much controversy a damn is being built in the eco-sensitive region)



In Friburgo, the fronts and sides of buildings are still wired with old and messy electrical wires. Some are still pirated to provide the older buildings with electricity. This doesn’t happen as often as even 10 years ago when if you wanted electricity or telephone you just ran a wire from your nearest neighbor’s connection – but it does still happen.  Sometimes when I am paying the bill for the house, and it is over R$300.00 with no heat or air-conditioning, no hot water tank, and only two people living in our house, sometimes I wonder if someone hasn’t hooked their house up to ours…. 

Traveling in Minas Gerais 2 – eating out

087 Camillo is Italian by birth and Brazilian by choice, so the food and the wine of anyplace we travel is of primary importance. ‘Comida Mineira’ 084can be found in  and around Rio but it tends to be in the most basic of restaurants, for example truck stops and small places attached to bars, and is often served buffet style. It is also what we call in the southern USA comfort food, high calorie, high carbs, and it has long lasting affects. In Tiradentes this same food is served as culinary art and you are charged accordingly. Yes Tiradentes is a tourist place, a tourist place for the more affluent Cariocas and Paulistas but their pricing is over the top for this very basic food; rice, beans, rice & beans combined, pork, couvie (collard greens), beef cooked in gravies (a sure sign of the cheapest cuts of meat) and roasted potatoes. Don’t get me wrong comfort food is 096well comforting and I ate every bite put in front of me, but it was way overpriced. Can’t complain about ambiance though – two of the restaurants we enjoyed were in excellent locations. Virada’s do Largo Restaurant de Beth is off the main street; is quiet and the food is good example of what comes from the local kitchens. The desert was a sampler of local sweets and cheeses.

423Our second experience was at Leitão do Luiz in the villa PAOLUCCI. If you have read my blogs about food before, you know that Camillo and I have a secret formula  for saying a restaurant is priced well or is expensive. Villa Paolucci is a stunning location. It has large grounds, a house that you can browse through that is now set for large parties, even weddings, but enough remains of the original decorations to show you the elegance in which the Paolucci family lived in the past. The food was served (self service) buffet style with great pomp and circumstance, but then it was difficult to catch the eye of the waiter and the time between dinner and desert was a bit long and the coffee even longer.  The problem for us was that we were the smallest group and spent time waiting for the larger groups to be ready for desert and coffee.


450Here is the problem with pricing, the meal (required to pay in advance with reservation) was R$100.00 per person plus the drinks were extra. A bottle of wine normally around R$60.00 was 100.00 and so on. If the meal had been served by the waiters, and if the service had been excellent, and if the side dishes more than rice and beans I could have dealt with about 130.00 per person that we ended up paying, but I would say that a total of 80.00 each would have been closer to reality of ambiance/food/service quotient.  If you want Leitão there are places in Rio just as good, including ambiance, for about R$60.00 per person.

more photos of the Villa Paolucci – click ‘view full album’ below

Tomorrow come again to see the art of Tiradentes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Traveling in Minas Gerais



Well we are back in Friburgo safe and sound. I decided that I would do 3 blogs about our trip to Tiradentes. There was just too much to talk about.  If I did it as one you 'all would be snoring before the 4th paragraph. So I will do one on the town itself, one about the food, ‘comida mineira,’ and one about the local art.

Hope you come back to see all the photos, Tiradentes is a wonderful place.

(Ingreja in Ouro Preto)

[if you double click the map on the side bar and move it from to the right you can see the route we drove highlighted in blue.]


To the north west of Friburgo (RJ) just south of Belo Horizonte is a UNESCO town of Ouro Preto (MG) (black gold) that in the 1500s was the center of mining and is a beautifully preserved Portuguese colonial town. I have been there 3 times.  The drive is over 7 hours each way; well worth the trip but a very long drive.


Now we have discovered (been shown by friends) the town of Tiradentes. From Rio it is a little more than a 4 hour drive on relatively good Federal roads. It is smaller than Ouro Preto, also well preserved, and is filled with pousadas (B&Bs), descent restaurants and makes for a great short weekend trip from Rio. The town was full of visitors from both Rio and Sao Paulo. They had come for shopping.  Tiradentes is known for its local crafts and for its handcrafted furniture. I was so sorry that both the apartment in Rio and the house in Friburgo are complete – I really had no shopping to do. I did manage to buy my daughter a Christmas present. (sorry, side tracked)



The street of our pousada was at the top of the town and was lined with flowering trees. To walk down  to the town center took about 8 minutes, stepping from stone to stone and 028023walking on a pretty steep incline.  In other words wear good walking shoes, my ankles are still sore today.







On Saturday morning I walked down from our pousada before breakfast, walking the side streets; in my element taking photos without the crowds of people and the streets lined with cars. (happy, relaxed)

043Next weekend they have a gastronomic festival and I can’t imagine where all the cars will be put. Like all the towns I have visited here in Brasil, large and small, there are major traffic problems. No one  wants to say, sorry you have to walk 4 blocks. They have a brigade of horse and buggies sitting amongst the cars, waiting for customers.  What if… what if these buggies picked you up at parking lots outside the city and brought you to the center….how fun would that be…?  What if…?   No one listens to me when I start in about traffic…. (sorry, side  tracked again)



























As I walked around on Saturday I noticed 4 churches, three small chapels, doors even on the smallest of home were painted and decorated with a cross.







The people were warm and friendly…. they stopped to talk to me in Portuguese… and smiled for a photo…. the gentleman in green made sure I knew what time the church service was and encouraged me to study more Portuguese….. he said that to learn English was easier than Portuguese - he knew because he took one course in English…













please take a moment to go to the photo album and see more of Tiradentes.