Sonnet 28: http://nfs.sparknotes.com/sonnets/sonnet_28.html
Our first stop was Santuario Dom Bosco (Dom Bosco’s Shrine), which looks like a concrete box from the outside and a mystical planetarium from the inside. One feature of the church which I found really interesting is the confessional -- it is entirely transparent, meaning one would look his/her priest in the eye during confession, and also be visible to the entire congregation! (Auberto ascribed this design choice to the fact that no one in Brasilia sins.)
Then it was on to Catedral Metropolitana, a (literally) breathtaking cathedral which kind of looks like an onion from the outside. The area behind the cross is full of really neat birthing imagery -- there is a stain glass depiction of an embryo (yellow), uterus (blue), and pregnant belly (green). Wow.
When the men returned from their meetings, Papa and I headed to the hotel's peppy gym for what was a very invigorating workout. We then washed up and ran a few errands at Brasilia Shopping Mall before dinner. We ate at Universal Diner, a city-renowned restaurant whose chef has been voted "Best Chef in Brasilia" for the past 3 years. My curried shrimp dish certainly validated her title as such -- Mama would have loved it!
I now sit with Cyprian Uncle and Papa as they chat and I await a repeat of the delicious chocolate mousse I had for dessert yesterday. Boa noite!
We first headed back to Memorial JK, which I had seen only from the outside yesterday. Three things really stood out here. 1) The library. JK had a collection of over 3,000 books, including 8 really old Shakespeare manuscripts which I was dying to pore over. 2) Brasilia was founded on the same day as Rome! 21 April 1960. HOLLA. 3) JK’s tomb. It’s so futuristic and eerie. Modernism to the max.
Next, we checked out the Indigenous Museum, which was a nice appetizer to the experience I will be having over the next couple of days. I am currently at the airport about to embark on an Amazonian Odyssey of big planes, small planes, four-wheel drives, river rafts, and choppers -- with the goal of interacting with a remote indigenous population at the end of it all. (!!!) Naturally, this means no internet.
After the museum, Fabricio took me to the TV Tower, where one really starts to appreciate the planning that went into the design of Brasilia. This bird’s eye view is akin to opening a map -- it shows off the unbelievable symmetry of the city spectacularly.
We then went to the National Museum and National Library. Here, in the process of trying to translate the titles of photographs in an exhibit on 1930s France, I learned that Fabricio is fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish in addition to Portuguese and English. And I thought I was a language scholar! What an amazing person.
Once the refined part of our tour was over, we headed to a supermarket. Random? This was the suggestion of former Brasilia resident Laura Kambourian, whom I would be judging pretty harshly right now, if I didn’t have a bit of a supermarket fetish myself. :) Walking through Carrefour was a very real way of “observing the locals,” and I’m really glad I went.
In the afternoon, Fabricio dropped me at the World Bank office, where I ordered a delicious+nutritious lunch, which I actually managed to finish! (I usually don’t eat much.) Even more exciting than this achievement, however, was the subsequent orientation we received on the WB project we will be observing in Acre over the next few days. We heard from Adriana Moreira, who proudly and passionately oversees a remarkable sustainable development project in a remote part of Acre. If I could be any more excited for our journey, Adriana’s briefing certainly made me so.
Following this presentation, I showed my 2 favorite sights, TV Tower and the Metropolitan Cathedral, to Cyprian Uncle and Papa. After this, I went for a quick run at the gym and shoved all my stuff in my bag just in time to leave for the airport.
Flight 1: Reminiscing
I spent the chopper ride from the Yawanawa village to Tarauaca just missing them. It was difficult when our helicopter turned away from the village to depart. Papa could barely get me to say a word during the flight, and all I was really doing was holding my feather hair decoration in a way that it wouldn't get damaged by the wind!
When we arrived at Aeroporto do Tarauca, I slept on a bench for a while before going for a short stroll through town.
Flight 2: Realizing
During the next helicopter ride (to Rio Branco), it hit me in a more real way that we were flying over THE AMAZIN' AMAZON!! I took tons of photos (mainly to show to Mr. Chanania's AP Environmental class) and meditated in the pristine surroundings.
They weren't all pristine though, as we passed many patches which had fallen victim to slash and burn deforestation. From above, it was also more stark than ever how much destruction is caused by roads! Deforested areas corresponded perfectly with places touched by the highway, a much more telling lesson than one read from a science book.
Flight 3: Reading
From Rio Branco to Brasilia, I read some more of my bud Ovid's Ars Amatoria.
Flight 4: Recording
From Brasilia to Salvador Bahia, I wrote about our adventures of the past few days. (See my post about Dia 31.)
Flight 5: Relaxing
From Salvador to Recife, I . . . slept! I actually had quite an embarrassing encounter: since we were to stay on the same plane for the next leg of our journey, I decided to sprawl over three seats while awaiting our new co-passengers to board. Being awoken by those whose seats I had "borrowed" was awkward at best. :)
(Lesson of the day: Why go for R and R when you can have R and R and R and R and R with R?)
After the meeting, we visited one of the cooling tanks, before heading onward to a Churrascaria for lunch. From there, we were off to Vicencia (3 hours from Pesqueira). Just outside of town is the Quilombola Community of Trigueiros. (Quilombolas are descendants of escaped slaves, among the poorest and most remotely located rural communities in Brazil.) We approached the community via a dirt road through fields of sugarcane (which, of course, reminded me of Punjab).
When we arrived, we were greeted by a group of jubilant village officials in matching "Quilombola Pride" t-shirts. The leader of the group was a strong and friendly middle-aged woman, who gave each of us a big hug and an even bigger smile as we exited our car. A kindly older woman also gave each of us a tight hug. It was like coming home to family! They told us they had been waiting for us all day, and proceeded to give us a tour of their charming town. We saw the playground, school, lovely church, convenience store, and association office. In addition, they showed us a government-donated building which they hope to make into a multipurpose space using funds from the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF). After some delicious snacks in the office, we moved to the village square and had an impromptu open-air meeting. Cyprian Uncle thanked them for their welcome, and my dad mentioned the fact that 2011 is the United Nations Year of Afrodescendants. The two went on to emphasize that positive social development starts from small (yet crucial) communities such as that of the Quilombolas.
When Papa closed by thanking and mentioning how much at home I felt among them, they all turned to me and asked me to say something! Speaking ex tempore is harder than I thought!! But what I ended up saying was that I've taken a year to travel the world, and I'm going to India soon, to be able to feel the warmth and comfort I always feel there. Little did I know that I could find places that feel so welcoming and home-like in such a completely different part of the world. I'm sure Ed made this sound much more eloquent when he translated it into Portuguese for them, because they broke into applause. It was so cute. And then a young man asked my father for permission (imagine!) to have his photograph taken with me. Everyone stood around beaming as his wish was granted and then we said our goodbyes.
We were home in a few hours and I had to drag my exhausted self to dinner at Camarada, which turned out to be a lovely local seafood place.
It was really cool to have my first “lesson” in resettlement today, especially because that is my dad’s specialization! The first site we saw housed a vertical resettlement (multi-story buildings) project for 352 families who had earlier been living in stilt-propped houses in Recife’s huge urban mangrove forest. The development is on centrally located land not far from the residents’ old residences, which allows them to maintain their previous livelihoods.
Next, we saw two projects, now completed, which Papa had seen as they were just starting to be built when he last visited Brazil 3 years ago.
The last site we saw had double-story houses for each family. This allowed the living space to be separated from the sleeping space (unlike in the other 3 developments) and made the layout very pleasant.
After these 4 field visits, we stopped back at the hotel (where I showered off the day’s humidity and changed into plain plane clothes) before heading out to lunch. We ate at La Cuisine Do Mar, a charming seafood restaurant with impeccable flavors. My dish of rice with shrimp was to die for, Papa's salad was great, and the subsequent cinnamon ice cream I tried at Cyprian Uncle’ suggestion was delicious as well. Mama would have loved the meal, and Nani the dessert!
We soon arrived at our first stop for the afternoon, a state school participating in IDEPE. This project is a collaboration between the World Bank and the state of Pernambuco, and provides additional resources for schools that achieve excellence based on certain pre-identified criteria. The excellence was certainly visible as soon as we walked through the door and stood facing the school’s own radio broadcasting station, where students stream both music and school current events to the community. Next, we heard about a club which teaches dance as an alternative to crime and/or drugs. The AMAZING breakdance group performed for us, and even had one interpretive-ish routine which served as a commentary on violence in the community.
A municipal school which knows the true meaning of “student governance,” Escolha Municipal de Bosco opened my eyes. Students here take part in a Participative Budgeting (OP) program sponsored by the state. Members come together to agree on 3 issues per year which are most critical to their schools, and the government then allocates school funding based on this feedback. Each class in the school elects one representative to attend these meetings, and the school as a whole chooses two students to lead the meetings within their school. In addition, the school can send a candidate to run to be the national delegate who represents his/her state. We had the pleasure of meeting Recife’s national OP delegate today!! Keila, a 14-year-old student of Escolha Municipal de Bosco, represents the needs of Recife’s schoolchildren. Watching her walk around and direct her fellow classmates on how to fill out surveys on the services provided by the school was deeply inspiring. I met a celebrity today!
Truly heartened to see this kind of initiative and involvement at such an early age, Papa gave an inspiring address on how our future seems a lot brighter knowing there are kids like this out there. The students were super excited to hear this, just as they had been when I had mentioned to them that I am in Brazil because it is my dad’s favorite country in the world. They burst into raucous applause and exclaimed “ayyyyyyyy!” before jumping up and hugging Papa and me. A ginormous photoshoot ensued, which somehow came to involve me signing upwards of 20 autographs (I’m ok with this treatment!) and acquiring a bushel of email addresses and promises of Facebook invites. Keila’s co-president of the school’s OP chapter, Jarde, presented me with a heap of OP paraphernalia, which I will be sporting with pride! I wish I’d had more time to stay and chat with these amazing kids, and I look forward to writing to them as soon as I have a reliable internet connection and competent Portuguese translator -- Lauraaa?
From the school we drove to Recife’s airport, known for being the prettiest one in Brazil (I know better -- Tarauaca’s where it’s at). We discussed in the car how genuine Brazilians are. I had always heard that Brazilians were very friendly (and good-looking) -- but I never realized how true this (set of) fact(s) really is! As I commented in the car, Brazilian people seem to like you for no other reason than that you’re a person. No wonder they are always in the top 5 happiest countries of the world.
Once at our gate, I browsed a few souvenir shops, ending up at a store with beautiful hand-embroidered clothing. The clothes themselves were very expensive, but I did make a friend and purchase a really nice hand-embroidered bookmark.
I now sit in the plane having finished Sonnet 34 and feeling ridiculously pumped for these next few days in rockin' RIO DE JANEIRO!
Over breakfast, I finally got to meet Flavia! Flavia is fantastic (and gorgeous), and has had a huge hand in helping to plan my time here in Rio (though she is from Sao Paulo -- competitionnn) herself. :)
Around 1, we met up with Jim (a World Bank consultant) and his fiancee Anna Carolina. Jim and Anna are moving to Boston (YAY!) in a few weeks, where they will be married in January. It was great to get a chance to meet Jim before he went to a meeting and we three ladies headed off to lunch. Our lunchtime Portu-glish conversation was very entertaining!
After our meal, Patricia had to take our leave (she had dance and work this afternoon), and Anna Carolina and I set off for Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain). Jim had mentioned that Anna has 3 weeks to work on her English before moving to the States, and this became one of my missions for the afternoon. I soon learned, though, that it wouldn't be a difficult one, because Anna's English is actually very good! We had great conversations throughout the afternoon about all sorts of things, including linguistics (i.e. English is a farcical language), culture (both Brazilian and American), and how much of a CDF (nerd!) I am. The vistas from atop the hill were glorious, and we sat there in admiration for a good long time. Anna Carolina is a gem.
After a meeting this morning, we visited a favela (slum) called Babilonia, which connects with another one, Chapeu Mangueira. The latter is home to Bar do David (David's Bar), a boteco (cafe) which was voted the 3rd best boteco in all Rio (it was the first one located in a favela to enter the competition). The food was incredible, and I even got to meet David himself!
What I found most interesting about Babilonia was the green development plan which will be implemented there. Solar panels, individual meters, water reuse, and integrated solid waste management will all take effect through this program. Even as we walked through the community, we noticed that it was very clean, there were many "green" posters, and the recycling facilities were great. Rock on!
When we returned, I set out for the beach, armed with sunblock, Ovid, and remnants of Cancun-caused tan lines. Though it was not as hot as I would have liked this late in the afternoon, I still enjoyed a relaxing read. (Had Ovid been from Rio, I'm sure his Ars Amatoria would have mentioned the beach as a prime place to meet girls.)
Back at the hotel, I set up a blog page for my music (check it out -- http://365gapdays.blogspot.com/p/my-music.html) before hitting the sack for a bit. Then, Papa and I went for a run on Copacobana! The energy is incredible.
After a quick shower, I had the pleasure of meeting two of the kindest young ladies I have ever encountered. Mila Lobianco and Ana Claudia Fiod are undergraduate students doing research on favelas with Mariana Cavalcanti of the University of Chicago. After connecting at the hotel, we walked across the avenue to the beach and enjoyed a drink of coconut water as we talked about our respective experiences in working with different people here and elsewhere in the world. These girls are so smart, so driven, and so, so, so sweet. I had an amazing time with them and we plan to meet up again on Saturday. I really cannot wait.
In the evening, we went out to a great place in Ipanema. It was nice to catch up with Flavia, Juan Carlos, Sameh Uncle, and Cyprian Uncle at the end of the day.
Have I mentioned that I love Brazil beyond words?
It was a sad morning meal, because we had to bid the lovely Flavia goodbye! She is going home to her family in Sao Paulo, but I hope to meet up with her soon in DC.
Manguinhos is where my friend Mila works, and has not been pacified. It is one of the most violent and dangerous favelas in Brazil -- but we stayed in the safe part. The library, school, and community center we visited are extraordinary facilities. I was stunned to see the vibrant decorations, modern technology, and excellent resources of this government-funded library.
At each station of the teleferico are mosaics made by the women of the favela. Sameh Uncle especially was really interested in this artwork, so we subsequently checked out a colorful exhibition of other pieces of their art.
|Bye! Bye! Bye! The word that makes me cry.|
We went out to a great place in Lapa called Rio Scenarium, but I unfortunately felt ill at dinner. When three jackets and a thick pair of socks did not help, I decided to retire to the hotel for the night. Please pray for me!
My day was made the minute I woke up (feeling better), and read Sonnet 38, followed by a long string of heartwarming (and much more poetic) messages from my best friend Laura.
I spent the next 7 hours with the lovely ladies Ana and Mila. Ana met me at my hotel, from where we walked to Ipanema for an early afternoon of absolute zen. Discussing everything under the sun (literally), from linguistics to corruption, was unbelievable. I always knew that sand and sun were an unbeatable mix, but paired with beautiful people and a beautiful setting, they really made for a beautiful time.
At 4, we headed to lunch. (Yes, lunch at 4 -- I love Brasil.) We went to Santa Teresa, an artsy historical neighborhood, and ate a leisurely meal at a yummyyy seafood place called Sobrenatural. We were all really drowsy after lunch, but mustered the energy to walk up the street and peer into souvenir shops.
It is very heartening to me to know that people like the ones I have met in Brasil exist. Throughout my visit, there has been constant conversation of the myriad gilded social issues in this country. But I know that with the work of genuine people like Ana and Mila and the other incredible people I have met here, there is much hope for this remarkable place. There has to be.
Saying goodbye was really sad, but Mila's studies may bring her to the United States soon (I hope!) and I will be visiting Rio again soon to stay at Ana's apartment with her. Thank you so much, guys. <3
For dinner, we went to the lovely home of Teresa and Vitor Serra, old colleagues of Cyprian Uncle and Papa. They are amazing hosts, and I had a great time meeting their children Joao and Isabel. Though I have been feeling much better today, I don't want to push my luck -- so good night, World!