31 December 2008

In Country: Meet Fernando

Our Portuguese-English translator when we leave Campinas will be Fernando Rocha da Silva. The following is a brief overview of his biography:

Fernando was born in Sao Paulo, a city of more than 24 million people, and at a very early age began surviving the streets on his own. At six years old, he left Sao Paulo for the city of Belo Horizonte. Fernando spent the next six years on the streets before entering a restoration house where he lived until joining Master’s Commission in 2007. He has not seen or known the whereabouts of anyone in his family since leaving Sao Paulo at six years old.

Now at 22, Fernando has a great love for people and tremendous gratitude for the opportunities he’s been given. He is working to become the director of a restoration house similar to the one that helped him get off the streets. Fernando is entering his final 18-month training which includes principles of leadership, working with children at risk, and organizational management. One of his life time dreams has been to travel around Brasil, but he never had the means to do so. Now, by serving as our language interpreter, he is getting the opportunity to live his dream!

In this photo, Fernando is the young man in the black t-shirt. The other little boys are also street kids who have come to the restoration house.

30 December 2008

In Country: Context is Nothing

The following is a decontextualized list of things that I have witnessed in the past 5 days.

1) When driving, stop signs are just a suggestion.

2) Brasilians are very social. Even asking for directions on the street becomes a community based activity. Whether walking or driving, the typical approach to finding one's way is to just head in the general direction of one's final destination. Then, apparently with great random, stop and ask for directions. Sometimes this may require a second opinion, so another person will also be solicited for advice. After the directions have been agreed upon by all parties, resume traveling toward the destination. After a while, it is appropriate to again stop and ask for directions. Usually this second stop is accompanied by an explanation of the first set of directions earlier in the journey. This second inquiry may also require more than one person's advice. And, of course, it is always necessary to acquire agreement about the directions from all parties before resuming the journey. On occasion, the names of one's children or the place of one's birth may also be inserted into the conversation. Travel in Brasil is like attending a very large party.

3) In the States, handicapped parking spaces are provided for individuals with physical challenges. In Brasil, this courtesy is extended to senior citizens. In some grocery store parking lots the word idoso, which means senior citizen, is placed between choice spots near the doorway. In addition, once inside the store one can find separate cash register lines (known as preferencial) especially for pregnant women, women with babies, people in wheelchairs and senior citizens. This afternoon, because I am still functionally illiterate in Portuguese, I managed to stand in the caixa preferencial line for . . . oh, about 10 minutes . . . before it was pointed out to me that I was neither pregnant, carrying a newborn, navigating a wheechair nor old enough to qualify as a senior. It's not clear to me what was more embarrassing: standing in the incorrect line or having to be told that I was standing in the incorrect line.

4) All Brasilians, regardless of body type and size, wear skimpy bathing suits at the pool and beach. While it's quite appealing in the thin and youthful, there are some exceptions. Men, often with the bulging beer gut acquired with age, wear speedos. Women, without concern for the impact child bearing may have wrought upon their bellies, wear two piece bikinis. Not to be forgotten is the posterior view of the famous Brasilian thong, which manages to disappear into the crack of one's rear. Anyone who does not wear the speedo or the thong is known to be a foreigner.

5) Brasilians call all Americans "gringos" regardless of the color of one's skin.

6) Most buffet style restaurants provide customers a wash bowl before entering the food line.

7) Household garbage is placed in a raised cage on the sidewalk to await pickup. Supposedly this is to keep dogs from getting into it before the truck arrives. When the garbage truck does come along each day, young men run behind it for the entire route, stopping at each house to throw the cage's contents in the back of the truck. They are very thin young men. Although unconfirmed, locals claim that the garbage men are prisoners working off some of their jail time.

29 December 2008

In Country: Missed the Museum But Caught the Train

On Monday, 29 December 2008, Jocelyn and I went on the hunt for two museums. Over the weekend we had poured over locations and descriptions for some of the cultural sites listed on the Campinas city website. Although many of them sounded interesting, we had identified two of them to visit first: the City Museum and the Museum of Sound and Image. Unfortunately they were both closed on Monday. Even though our search for museums was thwarted, we did discover another important historical monument.

Our gem of the day was the Railway Station of the Paulista Company of Railroads at the corner of Andrade Neves Avenue and Rodovia Lidgerwood on the southernmost edge of the center of town. As Sao Paulo state was moving into industrialization in the mid 19th century, many plantations that had been growing sugarcane switched to coffee. Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais states were at the center of this agricultural transition and soon came to dominate the rest of the country in coffee cultivation. Because coffee is a perishable crop, it needs access to ports for speedy shipment to markets. The port at Santos (outside Sao Paulo) came to be the main port for coffee exports. At its peak, about 80% of Brasil's coffee exports were shipped to the United States, with most of it transported through Campinas and the port at Santos.

Thus was born the Campinas Train Station. The first station was built in the 1860s but was later replaced in 1884 with a more modern one. Over time, the train station went through seven important phases of development, until it was finally abandoned in 1961. Because of its importance in the economic development of Brasil in the 19th century, one of the trains that traveled the tracks of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais states earned the nickname Maria Fumaça, or Smokey Mary.

Today the train station is part of a federal reserve, and is considered a valuable heritage site for the city of Campinas. When Jocelyn and I arrived we inquired about the history of the station and were fortunate enough to get an interview with Luiz Antonio Aquino, the chief architect working on its preservation.

Educated at the University in Sao Paulo, he has been working with a consortium of architects on heritage sites in Campinas since 1989.

The woodwork depicted here is restored original, and shows colonial influence in the high, narrow doors and hand carved detail. Note the geometric zigzag pattern of the ceiling. That ceiling is in the main hall of the train station. With a little imagination one can almost hear the train wheezing to a stop on the platform and the station master yelling: All aboard! Okay, you're right. The call would have been tudo a bordo! But you get the idea.

In Country: Context is Everything, or a Brief History Lesson

Over the past 200 years, Brasil has experienced significant shocks to its political system. As the country turned the century into the year 1800 it was still a colony of Portugal, which held power across the Atlantic in Lisbon. But before the decade was over, the King of Portugal --João VI--was forced to move his family and throne to Brasil to escape the advances of Napoleon's forces across Europe. It's worth noting that this transmigration by a king from Europe to a colony in the New World was historic. Never before and never again would a king move the seat of power away from European shores. The year was 1808 and Portugal was permanently weakened.

By 1822, Brasil had declared its independence from the Portuguese crown. The newly designated emperor was Dom Pedro I, son of João VI. The father did not support the son however and João VI refused to recognize Dom Pedro's (and Brasil's) independence until 1825. Regardless of the family squabble, most historians refer to this time in Brasilian history as the Era of Empire: 1822-1888.

Eighteen eighty nine represents a turning point for Brasil. First, slavery was abolished. Second, it marks the end of Empire and the beginning of Republic. In many ways the new government fashioned itself after the United States, beginning with the its formal name as "The United States of Brazil." Although there was a dark side to its beginnings -- mainly in the power and influence of the military -- as a republic it sought to live up to the ideas embedded in the term res publica, which is Latin for "community." Eventually people received the right to vote and there was a separation of church and state. Historians refer to this era as The First Republic: 1889-1930.

Yet 1930 represents another important transition in Brasilian politics. Like many other countries, Brasil was impacted by the global economic collapse brought on by the 1929 crash on Wall Street. In Brasil this was known as the "Crisis." Perhaps even more importantly however was the military coup d'état which installed Getúlio Vargas as dictator for the next 15 years, an era known as Estado Novo (New State): 1930-1945.

The next segment of the Brasilian political roller coaster spans the complicated years from 1946-1964, when elections were reinstated and many freedoms, including freedom of the press, returned to the populace. Ironically, Vargas was elected president during these years but was hounded by that same free press and ended up committing suicide in 1954.

Freedom was short-lived however and another right wing coup d'état, accompanied by a new dictator -- Marshal Humberto Castelo Branco -- came to power in 1964. This dictatorship lasted from 1964-1985.

Since 1986 Brasil has once again enjoyed democracy. Currently Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (usually referred to as Lula) is president, after having been elected for a second term in 2006. Lula is fairly popular, hence his re-election, and comes from a modest family. His background is comprised of union organizing, and he was a founding member of the party who eventually overturned the last military dictatorship.

Much of this information, except the most recent material, can be found in Robert M. Levine's The History of Brazil. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 1999.

28 December 2008

In Country: Late and Languid

Bom Dia! We have arrived in beautiful Brasil.

After what turned out to be two days of travel -- by plane, bus and VW bug -- we are now situated in a modest apartment in Campinas. As I suggested in an earlier pre-trip posting, Campinas is a city of about 1 million population. The weather is humid and warm at 84 degrees, with gray cumulous clouds floating across a vivid blue sky. Really it's just a typical Sunday south of the equator.

Our apartment belongs to an American woman, Kendra, who teaches at the American school with my sister-in-law Jocelyn. Kendra is on holiday with her boyfriend and she was gracious enough to allow us to use it. In terms of size, the apartment is quite modest. At about 850 square feet, it contains a living/dining room with a small patio overlooking the pool 14 floors below us. There are two small bedrooms and two bathrooms. The laundry room is in the kitchen which has very high ceilings to allow just-washed clothes to dry while hanging suspended from a clothes hanger system consisting of levers and pulleys. In a word, all is efficient.

The time is 6 hours later, so when it's 9:30am in California, it's 3:30pm in Campinas. There are several times zones in Brasil, however, and I will try to keep you posted when we move to a region with a different hour.

Yesterday we woke early -- around 9:15am -- and walked to the faire (pronounced 'feta') hippie. Otherwise known as a hippie street fair. Because Campinas is a fairly middle class city, there are not a lot of tourists here. Thus the street fair was not comprised of trinkets for rich Europeans and Americans as one might expect, but rather there were lots of antiques, soaps, shoes and other household items on display. In my groggy jet lagged state, I forgot to grab the camera before we left so I don't have pictures.

After strolling through the hippie fair we stopped for coffee at an upscale cafe. Brasil is known for the coffee, which is strong, and for the cup size, which is small. As a point of comparison, a large cup in Brasil is still smaller than a small cup in California. Consumption is not the same here.

Then we headed on to the fruit market, where we picked up some fresh mangoes, papayas and oranges. When we stopped at one of the stalls, the vendor and his wife cut open a mango and served slippery sweet slices to us on his knife blade. Afterwards, their son produced a basin of clean water to rinse our sticky hands. Their good marketing paid off; I filled my grocery bag with fruit for just over $7 reis, or about $3.00 U.S.

Eventually we made our way back to Richard and Jocelyn's modest house in the Salles Apolis neighborhood, where we spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the family. In deed we did not make it back to our apartment until 1:00am this morning, which is why I named this entry "Late and Languid", for that is all we have done today: slept late and laid around languid.

22 December 2008

Pre-Trip: Bibliography

Several people have asked what sources I am using for research. In an attempt at responsiveness, here is a running bibliography of the books and articles I have read so far:

De Jesus, Carolina Maria. Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus. Translated by David St. Clair. New York: Signet, 2003.

Johnson, Randal. "Brazilian Modernism: An Idea Out of Place?" Modernism and Its Margins: Reinscribing Cultural Modernity from Spain and Latin America. New York: Garland, 1999. pp. 186-214.

Levine, Robert M. The History of Brazil. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003.

Martinez-Diaz, Leonardo. "Latin America: Coming of Age." World Policy Institute 2008. pp. 221-227.

Peebles, Frances de Pontes. The Seamstress: A Novel. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 1999.

Shaw, Lisa and Maite Conde. "Brazil Through Hollywood's Gaze: From the Silent Screen to the Good Neighbor Policy Era." Latin American Cinema: Essays on Modernity, Gender and National Identity. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005. pp. 180-208.

Skidmore, Thomas E. Brazil: Five Centuries of Change. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

St. Louis, Regis et al. Brazil. 7th ed. London: Lonely Planet Publications, 2008.

Tiller, Ann Quiggins. "The Igniting Spark-Brazil, 1930." The Hispanic American Historical Review. Vol 45, No 3 (Aug 1965), pp. 384-392.

Tyson-Ward, Sue. Brazilian Portuguese: A Complete Guide for Beginners. London: Hodder, 1997.

Whitaker, Robert. The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon. New York: Delta, 2004.

Williamson, Edwin. The Penguin History of Latin America. London: Penguin, 1992.

12 December 2008

Pre-Trip: Changing Plans

After some consideration, I have decided to change the itinerary somewhat. The following is the revised plan:

The structure will include 1) arrival and departure dates for each location, 2) the location itself, 3) lodging contact info, and 4) travel away from that location.

1) 26 December 2008 – 13 January 2009
2) Campinas
3) a friend of Richard?
4) on 13 January travel by bus from Campinas to Curitiba

1) 13 January – 18 January
2) Curitiba
3) a friend of Richard?
4) on 18 January travel by train from Curitiba to Paranagua

1) 18 January – 21 January
2) Paranagua
3) Lodging: Paranagua – Hotel Ponderosa at Rua Prescilinio Correa 68Phone: 3423 2464 get room with view
4) on 21 January travel by ferry from Paranagua to Ilha do Mel

1) 21 January – 23 January
2) Ilha Do Mel (island) Nova Brasilia (village)
3) Lodging: Enseada das ConchasPhone: 3426 8040 or http://www.pousadaenseada.com.br/
4) on 23 January travel by ferry (via Dalton contact below?) from Ilha Do Mel to Parque Nacional do Superagui

1) 23 January – 25 January
2) Parque Nacional Do Superagui Transport: ferry, call Dalton (41) 8406 0579 at Pousada Superagui to arrange
3) Lodging: Pousada SuperaguiPhone: 3482 7149 or http://www.pousadasuperagui.com.br/
4) on 25 January travel by ferry (via Dalton?) from Parque Nacional do Superagui to Paranagua; travel by train from Paranagua to Curitiba

1) 25 January – 26 January
2) Curitiba
3) Lodging: San Juan Charm at Rua Barao do Rio Branco 354 Phone 3219 9900 or http://www.sanjuanhoteis.com.br/
4) on 26 January fly from Curitiba to Foz do Iguassu

1) 26 January – 29 January
2) Foz do Iquacu
3) Lodging: Pousada El ShaddaiPhone: 3025 4493 or http://www.pousadaelshaddai.com.br/
4) on 29 January fly from Foz do Iguassu to Sao Paulo

1) 29 January – 2 February
2) Sao Paulo
3) Lodging: Pousada Dona Zilah at Alameda Franca 1621 (Jardins district)Phone: 3062 1444 or http://www.zilah.com/
4) on 2 February travel by bus from Sao Paulo to Campinas

1) 2 February - 3 February
2) Campinas; drop off Hope
3) friend of Richard?
4) on 3 February travel by bus to Sao Paulo; fly from Sao Paulo to Manuas (David and Maureen only)

1) 3 February – 5 February
2) Manaus
3) Lodging: Hotel Tropical at Av Coronel Teixeira 1320Phone: 658 5000 or http://www.tropicalhotel.com.br/
4) on 5 February travel with tour group

1) 5 February – 9 February
2) Jungle Tour in the AmazonTransport: Amazonas Indian Turismo Phone: 3633 5578

1) 9 February – 11 February
2) Manaus
3) Lodging: Hotel Tropical at Av Coronel Teixeira 1320Phone: 658 5000 or http://www.tropicalhotel.com.br/
4) on 11 February travel by river boat from Manuas to Belem

1) 11 February – 14 February
2) River Trip to Belem
3) Transport: River boat with Agencia Rio Amazonas Phone: 3621 4319
4) on 11 February travel by boat from Manuas to Belem

1) 14 February – 18 February
2) Belem
4) on 18 February fly from Belem to Sao Paulo (David and Maureen only); bus from Sao Paulo to Campinas

1) 18 February – 4 March
2) Campinas
3) friend of Richard?
4) on 4 March travel by bus from Campinas to Sao Paulo; fly from Sao Paulo to Recife

1) 4 March – 21 March
2) Recife
3) Lodging: Pousada Casuarinas at Rua Antonio Pedro Figueiredo 151Phone: 3325 4708 or http://www.pousadacasuarinas.com.br/
4) on 21 March fly from Recife to Sao Paulo; bus from Sao Paulo to Campinas

1) 21 March – 1 April
2) Campinas
3) friend of Richard?
4) on 1 April travel by bus from Campinas to Sao Paulo; fly Sao Paulo to Estados Unidos :(