Thursday, May 02, 2013

Return to Brasilia


We left Goiana back for Brasilia, driving across the beautiful expanse of Brazilian countryside and endless horizons.  We arrived back to Brasilia in the mid-afternoon, checked into the hotel.  It took a while because the system was having issues, so the front desk clerk rewarded us with free drink coupons to ease our pain and suffering.  We dropped our stuff and headed over to the Casa Thomas Jefferson for a rehearsal with collaboration partner Jaime.

We had only snacked on the road, so while the musicians were practicing, I headed over to the supermarket and picked up the trappings of an afternoon picnic.  I bought loaves of French bread, a plate of chunks of yellow and white Dutch cheeses, a plate of thinly sliced salami, big green seeded grapes and crisp red apples.  Not to mention a bottle of red wine.  I set up the spread on the stage, but our friends at the CTJ brought over a proper table and baskets for grapes and apples, and we had a lil picnic on stage after the rehearsal.

After the picnic, we headed back to the hotel to rest.  Later in the evening, we were met in the Churchill Bar by Leslie Scheuler, an evaluator that American Voices works with.  Leslie is a dear friend, and does fascinating work in the field of evaluation for cultural diplomacy programming.  She is a character, and I knew would make for a nice addition to the group.

The group consensus was to try Rodizio, the Brazilian steak house restaurant.  I asked the front desk for a recommendation not to a place she would send the tourists, but where she would go.  We hopped cabs and sped through the city to Pontia do Sul.  The rodizio did not disappoint.  Rodizio entails an endless supply of grilled meats, brought to your table on big metal skewers.  The waiters slice thin strips of the meat right onto your plate.  You receive a card that has is green on one side to bring more meat, and red on the other when you have thrown in the towel. 

We started with a giant hunk of beef ribs, followed by skewers of grilled filet mignon.  The waiters brought by hunks of small grilled chickens and sausages.  Of course, the wonderful picanha- cut into thin slices and oozing deliciousness.  I think I ate a piece of grilled cow hump (the cows in Brazil have that bovine hump on their backs, and that gets cooked).  I ate some grilled chicken hearts, which were pretty tasty.  There was also a huge buffet of fresh salads, rice, veggies and casseroles.  We ate, and we ate, and we ate some more.  We washed down the meat with glasses of red wine, which unfortunately the Brazilians like to chill.  Not my fav, but I will get over it.  Basically, we ate until meat coma kicked in and we waved the white flag.  I can’t remember the last time my stomach hurt from eating too much. 

The following day, we went on a brief tour of Brasilia.  We stopped at the Juliano Kubitchek Memorial, who was the president of Brazil who planned and built Brasilia.  JK was a doctor-turned-politician.  He had ambitions ideas for Brazil (“50 years of progress in 5”), including building a new capital in the middle of nowhere.  Brasilia was meant to represent the city of the future.  However, it was also quite controversial to build a new capital in the middle of the countryside, and there was considerable opposition to the plan (and there still is).  But Brasilia was built, in approximately 4 years, and the capital was moved.  

We wandered through photos of JK with various leaders, and a recreation of his study.  On the top floor were large pictures of JK, including with Louis Armstrong and other Jazz Ambassadors.  Passing the torch indeed; I got goosebumps.  There were also pics of Brasilia’s construction, and how it was laid out—the city’s design is like that of an airplane.

We left the museum and headed over to the beautiful Novo Catedral, one of Brasilia’s iconic structures.  We walked into the church past modernist sculptures of Christian saints, and into the swirling stained glass.  The inside of the church was gorgeous, with a rounded dome of green and blue stained glass, and modernist angel statues descending from the heavens.   It was one of the most interesting churches I have ever seen.  The rounded marble walls played sound games and picked up echoes from other doorways.  While we were leaving, an unseen choir began to sing from a hidden section, and the music wrapped to fill the marble and glass bulb.  It was quite magnificent, and moving.

We continued our drive-bye through the city, passing the bicameral parliament- with one dish structure up as representing the lower house being open to the public, and the other upper house facing down representing…  We also passed the Itamaraty- the respected Brazilian Foreign Ministry, which is renowned for its diplomatic prowess.  We drove out around the city past the lakes and over a new modern bridge to grab some lunch.  I was still so full from dinner that I ate sparingly and that was still too much.

After lunch we headed to a Hawaiian music and hula workshop at a language school in Brasilia. The  workshop was terrific, the kids loved the music- especially the nose flute. Meanwhile, they were really, really were engaged in learning the hula.  The class was a sea of smiles and shaking hips.

After an afternoon break, Keola and company had their bigconcert at the Casa Thomas Jefferson.  The concert was a real hit.  Jeff wowed them with his guitar prowess.  Keola played masterfully while Moana danced her hula beautifully.  Keola and Jeff’s collaboration with the local guitarist Jaime Ernest Dias went off extremely well.  The whole time, there was a video playing behind of scenes of Hawaii.  The whole event was a big hit. 

I already wrote about our Saturday feijoada, so I won’t return to that.  Saturday night we had an unbelievable treat.  The collab guitarist Jaime and his wife invited us over Saturday night to his mother-in-law’s house for a night of Brazilian music.  As the giant fecund moon rose above the nightscape, we drove outside the city center to his mother-in-law’s estate.  We arrived to find a bunch of musicians already jamming.  There were guitarists, a tamborinista and a fellow playing a cavaquino, which is like a Brazilian ukulele.  There was a wonderful spread of cheeses and dips, and plenty of red wine.  There was also caiprhinas, including a passionfruit caiprinha.  More and more musicians came to join the festivities.  We know had a clarinet, a flute and a violin. A singer sang a subtle and supple melodious Portuguese song.  The gorgeous music played late into the night, as I failed in my attempts to overcome a language barrier with a beautiful Brasilera.  But the night left with a huge, huge smile at the beauty of the music and the way it can connect us.

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