Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Brazil ~ Society

One of the most amazing parts of the trip to Brazil is how Kwame Alexander arranged for us to tour historical sites of different Bahian cities through the Ministry of Culture.

I am particularly grateful for Paula Riberio (pronounced Pawl-lah), the student intern who accompanies us around on our travels. She is easy-going, helps us navigate the ordering of food, and participates in good-natured haggling in the market.

Whenever I travel, I like to visit with students and get their take on their country’s issues. Paula brought her friend Matheus along one day and I was glad to sit near him and have lunch. He is a business major at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, which is a highly ranking business university in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. I asked him what he thought the top five problems were facing Brazil.

“Education,” he replied quickly. He indicated it is the number one issue in his mind and talked about the disparity between those with wealth and children living in poverty. We also discussed the economy, hydropower, healthcare, taking care of the elderly, and homelessness. He was knowledgeable about his country and sincere about the concerns we discussed.
The poverty here is saddening and pervasive. In Cachoeira we went into the favela with João (he is a teacher) and walked through the section of the city where Afro-Brazilians who are poor live. Although they are living in substandard housing, their sense of community is strong. On the way home, driving through the countryside, I saw families gathered around outdoor fires, cooking dinner and listening to music under awnings.
Favela of Cachoeira

Favela of Cachoeira

One evening we went to Itapuã and walked around through the barrio, a neighborhood marketplace. (Think: a food court, outdoors, with samba music!) It has the feel of a festival or fair each evening. People sitting at outdoor tables having a coffee (which is incredible here), greeting friends with a double kiss, and laughing into the evening hours. We befriended the family that owns an açai stand. The açai berry is from a type of palm tree and is very rich in vitamins. They make a sort of slushy sorbet from the berries and top it with chopped bananas and granola. It is amazing – eating açai is like tasting frozen sunshine. I could eat it every day.

Learning about the culture, history, and daily lives of the people of Brazil has been such a blessing…I feel so fortunate to be here!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Five Top Experiences in Brasil/Brazil (so far)

With thanks to Kwame Alexander and his Fellowship, I am in Brasil/Brazil working my book and meeting Brazilian writers. We also take time periodically to devour the sights, sounds, and FOOD of Brazil!

Here are some favorite experiences so far:

ONE: Exploring
The Secretary of Culture has been so gracious to us and arranged for us to tour various historical sites.
We were so fortunate to have the lovely Paula (pronounced: pah-ooh-lah) help us navigate the streets and the language.

She spent more hours with us than you can imagine. And her smile never dimmed.

TWO: Exchanging

Words, ideas, and our hopes for the future. Poets came to the villa with dinner and read their work to us. It was an evening filled with heartfelt poems and beautiful songs.

Another evening we went to a gathering of poets at a club, where an open mike beckoned participants to find community through words.

THREE: Eating
The food in Brazil is so delicious. My favorite? The mangoes, dripping with sunshine. No, wait, the Brazilian beef, cooked over a wood fire. No...the beans and rice. Ooh! I also like the fresh seafood. And the coffee.
Did I mention the plantains?

FOUR: Learning
We are so grateful to have people like João De Moraes Filho and others escort us during our visits to various cities. 
We have visited many locations of the UNESCO World Heritage sites and heard about heroes from
 the past, as well as the impact of history on the present.
Our walking tours have taken us six to nine miles some days and have ranged from the streets where a revolution began to museums filled with art and photography.

FIVE: Appreciating 

From bits of sea glass and pastel shells, to thundering surf and distant lighthouses, Brazil has wonders to find in many places.

UP NEXT: People, Architecture,
                                                      and Daily Life of Brazil