Friday, February 1, 2008

Brazil Brazil

Bom dia from Brazil!

So far it´s lovely here. The people are incredibly warm, dressed in bright colors always (oh wait, that looks good when you have a perma-tan!!) Even the fruits and food and juices are colorful--pinks and oranges and all shades in between!

I got a great initial dose of the Carnival activities. Not long after arriving, I met up with my hosts, friends Ricardo and Nick from DC, and Nick´s family, with whom we´re staying smack in the middle of COPACABANA. We made it toward a parade with bands playing, streamers waving, people dancing in ways I´ve never seen (it´s called samba!) and the caparinhas FLOWING!! This is decidedly one of my favorite drinks of all time. So much so, that we bought the ingredients to make them at home today, and might just whip up a few upon returning from the current internet cafe! I came to Brazil with a slew of coffees and Haitian liquors and rums for my hosts, weighing down my bag. Looks like that space might not be empty on the return trip home, as planned! Just substitute one country´s sugarcane liquor for anothers! (In Brazil it´s called CICHAÇA!)

We´ve had some great food so far--combinations of pumkin, cheeses and meats, and lots of little tidbits off the side of the road--local Brazilian pastries stuffed with cheeses and... more meats. Vegetarianism did get left behind in the ``developed`` world. There´s a fruit here called acai that is amazing--bright purple, that makes a thick juice I drink in large doses. Also today at an outdoor market, stopped at a stand where workers put the sugar cane through a machine, and the sweet juice is squeezed out on the spot, garnished with a splash of lime, and handed to you. (My mom does always say that in Louisiana, people don´t ask you what you saw on vacation, but what you ate! End of food report!)

In terms of sights, I´m headed to a favela tomorrow. Those are the NOTORIOUS slums of Rio, and we´ve had tips on local guides that offer well-reputed tours. It can be a sensitive subject--who is benefitting from tourists´ looking at local folks´poverty? But the tour operator apparently reinvests the money into a local school. (Check out the movie City of God-- a really well-done movie that depicts life in the favelas.) I´m very curious to see the questions of infrastructure and community services available, and how that compares to the city of Rio as a whole. Brazil has one of the greatest income disparities in the world and the favelas, ruled by the drug lords, are never far from the frothy posh upperclass neighborhoods. The struggles of these neighborhoods won´t go away by ignoring them. I´ve seen them in the slums of Haiti and I´m curious to see how the history, problems, and proposed solutions differ in Brazil.

In the TO DO category--there´s been plenty exploring of neighborhoods, bike riding around a local lake, and I hope to go for a hike in a forest that is WITHIN the city of Rio--how cool is that? The guys and I are taking a capoeira class tomorrow. Capeoira is a totally one-of-a-kind martial art. It was developed by the slaves of Brazil to fight against their masters, and was disguised to look like dancing. It´s obviously endured long after slavery was abolished in 1888. Its very fluid motions, done to music, almost looks like a performance--but don´t relax--or you will get KNOCKED out!

A last note before I get kicked on out--Brazil is AMAZING in terms of racial diversity and integration. I wish everyone could see here the zillion different shades of people that walk and work side by side. Every one kind of ends up... beige! True--the Afro-Brazilians fight some of the same issues of poverty, acess to education and opportunities as in the states, and the favelas are more often composed of the Afro-Brazilian population. But racism seems markedly less. To see a couple that is actually the same color seems more rare than seeing ``mixed`` couples.

Still more music, neighborhoods and beaches to discover!
Plenty love to all,
K :)

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