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Monthly Archives: November 2009

DSC_0282Yes, It´s true. I love Quissamã.

Okay, yes, it´s also true that I am bored sometimes too, but this often gives way to brilliant ideas. Like the “I love Quissamã” series. I made a t-shirt, and set out to find everyone who would hold still long enough for me to be photographed with them.

This is the first of many photos to be posted.

This town has no idea what to think of me.


I´ve melted. My body is trying to deal with the calor, yes, but the day my heart melted it had nothing to do with the heat. It is still a mushy soup to this moment.

It may have started the melting process as I entered my favorite pre-K classroom last rainy Thursday morning, and I was suddenly pushed back out the door as a yellow swarm of little warm bodies closed around me in a group-bear hug, their tiny arms reaching only as far as the next colega´s shoulders. My heart became more buttery still as they got so excited to show me their new accomplishment, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,  twinkling thier bright white children´s teeth in proud mouths as they sang.

The one responsible for my corazon´s current gooey state, though, is Iasmin, a bright, happy child who smiles all the way up to her eyes. I love it. She is also deaf. We´d been working through Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?, by Bill Martin and Eric Carle, a book I remember well from my childhood. Unfortunately, the sounds of English words and songs we teach in class are not able to reach into her ears, but what I learned this day was that the classroom teacher had taught Iasmin the animal-color pairs in Brazilian Sign, so as I was reading the book to the class again, she signed the animals and their colors. I was taken away. When she drew two fingers of both hands above her upper lip out toward her ears, to simbolize “cat” and grinned proudly, we reached critical melting point. Green frog, blue horse, brown bear–it didn´t even matter anymore what it was–she was participating, she was proud of herself, and I was impressed.

Heart status: derretido. Melted.


Celimar, Fernanda and me, Festa Retrô.

It is true. If you hadn´t heard yet, Rio de Janeiro, the cidade maravilhosa,  has won the bid to host the 2016 Olympic games. We could hear the whooping and cheering all the way over here in Quissamã. This is a big moment for Rio, but especially for Brasil. This is the first time a Latin American country will host the Olympics in over 4 decades (the first being Mexico City in 1968), and the first time ever in South America. It´s a sign of international trust, it´s a sign of significant progress, and it´s a signal of how Brazil wishes to be seen in the world. Parabéns.

Let´s also take a second to look at the other side of the coin. Brazil is, indeed, developing their reputation in the world in the areas of natural resources, agriculture, soccer, etc. It´s been very obvious to me, whenever in Rio, that the country wants to be taken seriously in terms of its output, and the bid to host the Olympics is an example of that. Now, with the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games on her plate, the marvelous city has started getting busy making improvements and developments to key historical parts of the city, especially near the port, in preparation for thousands of visitors. Great. This will all bring a lot of good revenue to the city, to the country, and provide some much needed labor stimulation. But what of that other, less pretty question hanging in the air….What about the violence?  Rio is starting to do some house-cleaning.

It is no secret that Brazil–and Rio especially–has a lot of poverty, and, consequently, a lot of violence and drug-trafficking, especially in the favelas surrounding Rio de Janeiro´s city center. So what about this? Certainly bringing a high-profile event (and a lot of foreigners) to the city will attract a lot of good publicity and revenue, but making Rio de Janeiro a safe and peaceful place for an event of this scale is going to be no small task. Just in the past few months there have been several occasions of violence that started between police and traffickers and spilled out into the community. There has been an effort to “clean up” the favelas for a long time, usually meaning a police blitz, taking out the drug lords and traficantes by force, not without civilian casualties (think: Tropa de Elite)  There have been programs implemented, to place officers within the favelas, integrating them into the communities, instilling a “community policing” effort that is working in the few communities in which is present. To be fair, many of the favelas have cleaned up and are quite safe, but, for every few “clean”, community-run favelas, there are still over 700 that are not. I don´t propose to have any answers, but I´m keeping an eye on the people who propose their solutions, watching to see if human rights and not just tourist wallets are being considered in the plans. There is no one, easy way to achieve the safety of a turbulent city, but I´m hopeful.

So, while there is physically a lot of work to be done in preparation for both the World Cup and the Olympic Games, there is much more progress that needs to be done (and humanely too) to make Rio´s vision of being a peaceful city a reality.

Not surprisingly, the US and Brazil are the world’s largest consumers of coffee. Perfect, I picked the right place for a bean addiction. Actually, now I feeling like an interestingly different person, and I’ve finally attributed it to my coffee intake.

Exibit A: Brazilian coffee, I think, is much much stronger than my normal cup of Joe back in the States. Could it be because the grounds are like fine powder, that it brews stronger? Could it be that I/we/they just brew it stronger? I use less and less grounds, but it’s still so very dark (but not as much as Yoji’s hot mud-like coffee that you can chew on for a while). So that cup or two I have in the morning or afternoon (we take afternoon coffee time seriously. There is café da manha and café da tarde for two beautiful reasons…the morning and, well, the afternoon), is probably twice (or 5x) as strong as something I’d make back home, so without knowing it, I have been recharging my Energizers so much so that I decided this week to step back and step off that crazy train, cold turkey, just to make a break, just to see if there is life without coffee.

Decidedly, there isn´t. Now, four days later, after having proved to myself that I could do it, I look forward to my cafe da tarde, facing the hard fact that I, well, I just love coffee. Pure and simple.  Maybe I have ancient Azteca in my blood, maybe I am very Ameri-brasilian. Maybe I just like a good excuse to go to the padaría and check out what just came out of the oven. I give up and give in. 😉

Capoeira galera in front of the Grotto

Part of the galera after a Monday-afternoon roda near the church in Centro, Quissamã.

Guitar Lesson

I took a guitar to my class in Machadinha the other week–as much a special surprise as an incentive for good behavior. We´ve had more than a lot of trouble with the kindergarten class. We won´t get into the “hows” and “whys” here, but we´ll just say there are a lot of contributing factors to an agitated  classroom. So, we thought we´d try an experiment–after all, I´ve been learning a lot on the guitar lately, and find myself always looking to play. Borrowed guitar in tow, I went to school hoping for the best.

Miraculous. With just the prospect of a new surprise, the kids behaved at a slightly less-crazed level, but when we ended the last half hour with my improvised renditions of “Mr. Sun,” “Happy Birthday,” and “Old MacDonald,” the change was inspiring. For the moment, they all wanted to participate, and all sang along. Perhaps the first time I´ve ever seen full-group participation. When my children´s songs ran out, I fell back on the MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) stuff I´d picked up…like Jota Quest, Vanessa da Mata, and the like. My heart could have burst at the moment they all belted out the chorus to “Boa Sorte”: Tudo que quer me dar…é demais…é pessado, não há paz… If I hadn´t been playing I would have hugged them all right there.

For being so good they all got a turn at holding and “playing” the guitar–what a treat! I´m convinced, that at the end of the day, they are just children. Maybe we are all crianças. That, to me, is the power of music.

Valeria´s Birthday

Until 6am, we were making music, being goofy, and celebrating Valéria´s birthday. Instruments just appeared out of nowhere, kind of like the never-ending Antarctica.

I loved it.

The next day was almost even better, as those who stayed over in the house woke up to many of the friends coming back over to cook and clean, and pass nearly the entire Sunday on the same porch, just chatting and enjoying the company, watching the rain in front of the mountainous backdrop. It reminded me so much of 1539, and my darling friends. I was home that weekend. And it felt good.

…and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light I see… No, I won´t be afraid. No, I won´t be afraid, just as long, as you stand, stand by me… (*Actually, I´d just settle for you tossing me that candle over there…Thanks.)

There goes the electricity. Again. It seemed that as I walked down the street the lights were turning off in succession, like a horror film or maybe just a magical, energy-conscious avenue…until –oh!–they all went out. I kept walking, because I can usually assume it´s just affecting my side of town. Welcome to escuridão.

I remember the first time the power went out–it was so dark in the street. I thought it was amusing, as my friends had tried to keep walking without steping into a hole or onto a dog…But, looking up, it was like being back in Monument Valley, AZ, where you could see the entire galaxy, it seemed. The generator at the old police station kicked in and killed the dream, but since then it´s become kind of funny to me, when blackouts happen. Again.

It thunderstormed quite a bit these last few days, which meant last night, as I was visiting my friend Eliza, the lights flickered, dimmed…..and apagaram. Get out the flashlights and let´s see if we can find our way around the house without knocking anyone over. Its really a bummer when it´s still early yet. I can´t read, can´t write, and it´s no good to go take a walk. So I muse in my hammock, then go to bed early. We just “deal”.

 Besides, what would I do anyway? Complain? (To whom, I might ask!) It could be worse, actually. I could have soap operas I´d be missing.

Borracheiro, SanaTire repair shop, Sana, RJ Brasil