Dispatches from the road from our wayfaring travelers.
got lost yesterday. streets go in all directions here and
as far as i can tell, up is down, unless it´s not, as far as
i can tell.
did our last classes in the morning, went up the road to the
mountains overlooking town just in time for sunset, dazzling,
drenching the whole city of 3 million that i could see all of
almost in one eyefull. the mountains are red from all the iron.
roads are coated wih the red run-off, and every building and
vehicle has a dusty red patina.
we drove down the other side to the tiny town of casa branca,
and when i say down, i mean there were hairpin turns where
we went around and down at a 45 degree angle. and busses
and trucks use this road. i always wonder if there are people
careening off the sides of mountains all over the world every day
but it never makes our news, but, then what does? does
anyone know anything about the minas gerais state of brazil?
everyone here knows about obama.
at the bottom of the hill, as we rolled into the dusty red town square,
we turned a corner and had to slow as a horse and a calf on a rope
were trundling across the stone street. the calf was being pulled by
a young man. other than the simple rural pagentry of this task,
i thought nothing of it until we went around the square, which took all
of 20 seconds, and we spun arounf and the scene had changed.
in the near dark, at the yellow streetlight lit corner, the calf was
lying in the road, unmoving. we went by so fast, and i felt like we
should have stopped and found out what was going on, whether
it was fatigue or tragedy, but it was a day in the life that wasn´t mine.
i have to keep reminding myself that i am so far from home.
on the way back, myself and andrea got ourselves dropped off
on the south end of the city center so we could take our evening
exersize, strolling the hills and stone streets randomly. within one
block, we had found a scoop-your-own, 70 flavor ice cream shop.
so much for fitness, as i scooped random flavors into my cup,
vowing to walk an extra kilometer before we got the bus.
little did i know that it would happen that way, maybe a few more
kilometers even. i thought i had conquered the cities´ confusing grid,
where streets run every direction, and what seems like a
square is suddenly a triangle, and a couple of turns later,
you are wandering aimlessly in what could be any direction.
so eventually, we hit a street that looked familiar to me.
avenue brazil. this would take us to the big square and we´d be
all straight. but it was rue amazonias i was thinking of, and
it became clear after a lot of walking that we were, in fact,
heading the near opposite direction.
it was saturday night, and the bars and cafes were abuzz.
most places are outside, many on the sidewalk, music blaring,
laughter, people really enjoying the sweet night air.
i felt like i needed a cervega, but wasn´t ready to stop
my sweaty parade up and down the hills, and the bars were busy
we kept walking. the road started to curve and i realized
how bad a wrong turn i took. then we heard music.
it was an accordian, at least it sounded like it. at the end of
the long block of noisy bars, was a dingy bar with dilapidated
and scuffed plastic tables, just a few people sitting.
it was the neighborhood dive, and i mean that in the best way
in the doorway were two cowboys; hats, boots, cigarettes
aflame and big bottles of beer on the bar that they were standing near.
they were singing close male harmony in portugese,
guitar and accordian, with soaring and heartwrenching
they stood in the doorway, facing each other. we sat at a table
on the sidewalk and got some really cold beer and listened for a
long time. from the dark, they were almost a painting of smoky
shadows, framed by the harsh light on the inside of the bar.
we waltzed to one tune on the rough sidewalk.
they never really took a break. a slender, dark young man
with rasta hair, with had beads woven into it, had a small
shoulder bag with some bamboo flutes. he started
playing with the duo, sometimes on his airy, mournful sounding flute,
sometimes tapping the flute against the beads that were hanging
on his chest. i wanted so bad to have my fiddle and join the band,
but was so content listening and watching, late in the evening
at a bar on the street in the center of town of belo horizonte, brazil.
life kept feeling pretty sweet.
the 2004 bus back to our flats didn´t run too much past midnight, so we had to
start walking again. i twisted the map this way and that, took out
the 3x reading glasses and finally figured out where we were on the map,
and we started on what was maybe the right direction.
we saw a street vendor, selling popcorn, hot powdered chocolate covered
peanuts, and sugar crusted fried coconut chunks. andrea got som popcorn.
the vendor, an older man, kept talking to us in portugese, even though
andrea kept saying “ne parle portugese, ne parle portugese!“. she kept
pointing at the popcorn, trying desperately to communicate what she wanted,
but he kept babbling on, in a very strident way, about something.
finally he scooped a bag of popcorn. she handed him a 50 reija bill.
he handed her back 40 and started talking about who knows what again.
there should have been change, at least 7 reijas, but he kept talking.
then he reached into his cart and got some bags of peanuts and coconut
and shoved them into her hands.
he may have been out of change, or maybe he just liked the feel
of the dough in his hands. whatever was the case, andrea said “okay,
okay“, accepted the goods and we walked away.
we were looking for our bus stop when we saw people walking through
a gate, and we heard music. hell with the bus. we went in, and there
was a small festival going on.
the was an older black man on stage with a guitar, and behind him were
two lines of beaufiful woung people, dressed in white with red trim,
playing big, thumpy, deep drums. he had the crowd worked up.
they were singing and dancing. sang along to everything. at one point
he was singng what sounded like might have been a patriotic anthem,
with the name of the state, minas gerais, repeated over and over, and
the crowd sang and clapped. andrea danced blissfully. i watched
the band and the crowd and felt the deep and powerful bang of
the mallets on the drums.
i guess we´re here on a cultural exchange mission. i hope anyone
we taught learned as much about us as we joyfully learned about them.
the people of this area are lovely and sweet, in every meeting, event and
transaction. having been to two other countries and ours in the last month,
i hesitate to compare, but this has been a wonderful experience, and
everyone we met here was part of it.