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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Plans -

I don’t know when I will be online again.   Camillo and I will travel to Buenos Aires on the 27th and return the 31st.  (free tickets from his son – whoopee!)    I will try though to do the Friday Shoot out before leaving.
DSC06347This is not my first visit to BA but the 3rd.  My first trip (ever) outside of the USA was to Argentina.  I have very clear memories of that week in 1992;  lost suitcases, tango in the square, wonderful food.  That trip I traveled alone, Camillo already there on business, and I was astounded that in the airport in Miami, at the Aerolineas Argentinas ticket counter, they had to go in the back for a supervisor that spoke English to answer my questions.  Then going down into the gate area – 100s of people all speaking another language, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese – loudly. (Babylon)  My anxiety at trying to understand the seat numbers being called in Spanish.  
And now we will go back again so that Camillo can eat in his favorite restaurants, have coffee in his favorite bars, and I to watch Tango to my hearts content. 
This time we have scheduled a few museums and by the look of the extended weather forecasts, will spend more time indoors in museums than outside walking the streets that are so reminiscent of the Paris streets. 
We will still love every minute of it.   Again!



Friday, May 21, 2010

Visiting the Rio Zoo

I apologize to everyone for posting late.  We were in Rio for a couple of days with intention of coming back up here early this morning, then got delayed leaving the apartment and again at the bus station.  It doesn’t happen often but the next bus was full and we had to wait an hour.  Anyway, here I am and here is my trip to the zoo.
I have been wanting to do this forever, the Friday Shoot out topic this week gave me a reason to do it NOW.  Camillo and I had a business appointment downtown early Thursday morning and because the Zoo is close we stopped by.  I can’t say I was surprised by this zoo, I did not have high expectations and it didn’t prove me wrong.  I would say on a scale of 1 – 10 of zoos I have been to, this one was 3.  Camillo said a 1. 
The entrance is quite nice.  Built on the grounds of the former king’s summer home there are remnants of grander times gone by.  The admittance fee was only R$6.00 – mid week discount – student price.  I would be willing to pay R$ 10.00 if that meant the zoo had been a little better maintained (maintenance is never a Brasilian strong suite)
  SAM_0294 SAM_0298 SAM_0308 SAM_0299 SAM_0302 SAM_0305 SAM_0309 SAM_0313 There were not maps given out or even sold …. there was this hard-to-figure-out grounds plan just inside the entrance, so without a something to guide us, we just walked slowly around and it took us about an hour.  I don’t particularly like to make comparisons but just on size – I have spent 3 hours in the Houston Zoo and only seen half of the animals, so this one is quite small.SAM_0314 SAM_0332 SAM_0333 SAM_0337
Maybe my attitude about zoos is just evolving but I hated seeing the few animals that were there behind chicken wire fences.  I was depressed and they seemed depressed.  Many of the animals that I know live in groups or families, were alone.  Too many times to count, when they noted my interest they turned their backs on me …. See the little guy up on the little house, doesn’t he look like he is up there to look out at the trees on the other side of the brick fence…..?
SAM_0342 SAM_0348 There was one elephant, and two giraffes but in separate areas.  Am I projecting?  But are they depressed living alone without their families?  About half the available pens were empty.  A few areas were closed for repairs.  We saw 3 large snakes, a branch of turtles, one alligator, one brown and one black bear.    And one really fine tree.
SAM_0401 SAM_0398SAM_0356 SAM_0407
 SAM_0384  and lots and lots of exotic birds.

Friday, May 14, 2010

MY Town Friday Shoot-Out

in search of The Dark sideDSC_3462

                                                                                                             On April 15, 2010 I’d lived in Brasil for 7 years.   At first, in those very hard, first 3 years I saw only the dark side of Brasil.  And in order to accept, I had to focus my (mind’s) eye away from the close up - in my face views of what was around me.  I had to learn to focus into the mid-distance.  This is where - how I found the beauty that is Brasil.  The plants and flowers, the mountains, the reflections of sun and clouds in the water, the smiles of its people and the subtleties of its culture that are so different from mine but, finally, I am able to smile about.   And now for this week’s shoot-out the topic was to see – to show the dark side of either Rio or Nova Friburgo.  I took photos in both cities, and then just now, in the last few minutes decided on Nova Friburgo.

  I took my camera where ever I went.  I snapped photos of a DSC_3651trash heap along side the street.  Then found myself asking is this the dark side? Is DSC_3649construction debris left there on the sidewalk the dark side or is it a cultural difference?

I saw a large house that had a new second floor going on – it was evident that the first floor was being lived in and that the lower exterior had never been finished.  Is this the dark side? 

It is habit here to build your home as you have need and funds – a family may build the home over 15 or twenty years, it is theirs, not the bank’s is this a bad thing or is it good or is is just different?


DSC_8008I saw a tiny house along side the canal, tucked away, built with bits and pieces of cast off construction material.  Open to the elements on the sides, the roof seemed  to cover adequately if not with the aesthetics of the common red tile roofs.  Is this the dark side?  The poverty represented by this simple one room shack.   Or is this little house (home?) a symbol of the spirit of survival of the Brasilian people.


Whether walking on the main street, standing in line at the supermarket or looking up at the crowded homes and wires, there are people.  Dodging and darting, standing patiently in lines too long and too slow (for an American?), walking up and down the streets, without complaint or comment.  Stoically accepting what, to me, doesn’t work quite right.   But is this the dark side?  

Brasil, and Brasilians are so proud of their economic growth, and rightly so.  One symbol of this growth is the possibility for more people to own their own cars.  They love their cars, have worked hard for them, keep them in top condition and when able to move upward, go in a better car and someone else on the move up from below, buys the old car…. no waste.  But there has not been equal movement by the government to make and maintain roads, highways, parking…. in the past 5 years driving has become a snarling mess, now the Brasilians also dodge and dart, like they once did on the sidewalks, they now do in their cars.  eeEEKK!

But is this a dark side?

This week I decided that all of these aspects of Brasil (yes Brasil, not just Nova Friburgo) are more cultural than dark.   I am sure that this town of a quarter of a million people has prostitution, drug, muggings, theft, and abuse – but I've had no exposure to them.  I can not see these things while walking on the streets during the day.  These are what make the dark side of any town in any country, any place made up of people.  What we think are the unpleasant – the dark things – as strangers to Brasil are often signs of their cultural habits, with reasons less obvious than what seems to be right before our eyes.   When you see the incomplete homes built in improbable places think about an equivalent 5 gallon of exterior paint that costs close to a days wages – not an hourly rate but a full day is needed to buy the paint for the outside of your home. 

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Friday Shoot-out / things I like to touch.

I have been thinking about this topic all week.  What to do?  What do I like to touch?  I used to like to make bread – touching bread dough as you knead out the loaves of bread is right up there at the top of my list…. working in the flower beds touching the soil is a close second, but what would these have to do with Nova Friburgo.   Nothing.
Here, up here on the top of a hill; up here on top of the hill without a neighbor that speaks English; up here on top of the hill without a neighbor that speaks English what I like to touch is other peoples lives.  Almost daily I go to the gym.  I do the hug and the kiss cheeks twice in both greeting and when leaving.  I speak as much Portuguese as possible to touch their lives, if only briefly, superficially.  I try to touch the lives of those in this small group of people, this group that has become my only social outlet in Nova Friburgo. 
  One of these people is the young mother who keeps the gym clean.  When I first met her she was pregnant and now her daughter is 4 years old.  Every Christmas, every birthday and a few times in between, I have taken a small gift to her to take home to the little girl.  Last week I was invited and found myself free to go to little Mirella’s fourth birthday party.  Touching her life in a real way. 
It is so unusual to be invited to a Brazilian's home.  This home was simple and very clean.  The party was as fancy as any I have ever been to  – this single mother and probably most of the extended family, I am sure, contributed to give
this little girl her very best party ever.  And they allowed me in – to touch their life, if only for a few hours, in a very meaningful way, the sharing of a childhood memory. 

Mirella with her Mother
Happy mother’s day to you all and your Families