Monday, April 18, 2011

Similarities and Differences.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Townsend

Similarities and Differences, sounds like the name of a show. Unfortunately its reality tv where one frustrated human becomes so twisted inside their brain I question just how human they really are.

I remember April 2007 like I do 9-11. However during 9-11, I didn't know people in those towers, or near by on the ground so it was an emotion filled spectacle minus that extra attachment. On April 16th, when Seung-Hui Cho began his graphic killing spree through the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech I was getting ready for class in Denver. Not only did I attend this University for undergrad but I also grew up there. That small delicate town where front doors stayed unlocked and we rode bicycles in the calm streets was what I knew as home until I turned  22 and left for the mountains of Colorado. While I was at Tech, we made headlines with a guy named Michael Vick who ran touchdowns like lightening sending us to the top of our game, making us football champions the country admired. Then a few short years later even Michael Vick´s slaughtered name couldn't compete with a guy named Cho. 

So yes, I remember precisely sitting on my black futon frantically making calls home as I stayed in from studio that Monday. My dad taught in the building next door to where Cho made a name for himself. My mom usually taught in that exact building, Norris Hall most semesters but this particular one she was instead on the other side of campus holding a guest lecture. Her class started at 9am, hours after Cho's first victims and fifteen minutes prior to his next quest. Neither parent could be reached. I was finally able to get a hold of my dad, there was a lot of static and commotion and he was holed up in the basement of the building with lots of other people locked inside and waiting. He had heard the shots in Norris, lots of them but no one at the time really knew much. Who would have thought they were bullet rounds, that someone would actually be killing people inside of a university classroom? My mom finished class and headed for her quick walk home without a clue as to what had gone down hundreds of feet away. 

When I go back to visit I often meet my dad for lunch at his office which is still right next door to where it all went down.  I walk by and witness the silent strolls of students. Every other quad is full of laughter and ringing cellphones, couples giggling on their way to physics but when they pass Norris it becomes a whisper. I feel as though several ghostly eyes are watching from the windows still hoping to escape, stuck inside wondering why this happened in such an idyllic place where they dreamed of starting their young lives, not ending them. 

I am still angry. People used to ask me, "Where is Blacksburg? I've never heard of it?" I miss that. Google Virginia Tech? Google begins to fill in with 'Virginia Tech shooting' as the first option! So when poor Rio just endured a Virginia Tech copycat, a similar soulless shadow of terror, it broke my heart and brought me back. I saw this article pop up on my news feed and thought, "its following me here?!" I don't exactly know what to say. I watched the video of the children fleeing attached to that article and it was like some sick joke from a slasher film. Children panicked, running for their lives and slipping on the stone surface of the hallways, some already injured.

All I know is that I can sympathize with those poor parents to some degree, scared and helpless without the ability to protect their loved ones. The shock might be calming as the vigils and memorials begin, but the toll on the families will be a lifetime of pain. Everyone is affected. My dad handed out a post mortem degree to a one of the victim's families and he couldn't help but think his daughter was in that same building taking classes 2 years prior.  He handed me the same degree at my graduation in 2005 that he gave her family, from the same major. 

Parents can no longer joyfully wave goodbye in the morning without the haunting thought their children could be in danger. Not because they walk, drive or bike to school, but because they sit in school and learn and that privilege has been threatened and poisoned. 

The similarities are atrocious and the geographic differences shocking. Brazil is a peaceful country, their motoboy's may ride like features in the Fast and Furious but at the end of the day they make love not war. So its even more nefarious in this soil, spreading like a disease throughout the globe. Rio, I feel your affliction, your confusion and trauma. 

Nikki Giovanni said, "We Will Prevail." And we will. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Jardim Botanico in Rio

Besides the new spare tire I'm carrying around in front of me ....this was one of the greatest girlfriend trips. We did too much of everything. In a good way; lots of drinking, too too much eating and plenty of seeing.

Those beautiful smiling faces I kissed goodbye to throughout the day in Buenos Aires will never know how much it meant to me that they spent the effort & time & money & ....came. It helped that our itinerary featured two of the most beautiful cities in the world as well as my lovely companionship ....but still. So here we go....

Airport pick up - Post picking up the cheery ladies, I took the wrong street on the gps and wound up in the middle of scary centro and fully admitted I was really nervous and they needed to lock the doors and keep the windows up. Yes, welcome to brazil girls! Not exactly the smooth entrance I had planned.  

When we breathed a deep one that we had not only gotten ourselves out of centro but also successfully made it to my house in our 1.0 liter car that does a hill full of suitcases with the ease and power of an overaged was time for feijoada, sao bento style!  

All the lovely paulistas were spending their day samba dancing and eating and we attempted to fit right into the groove. A few honorary caipirinhas later, we continued on to 'pe manga,' a fun bar with a huge tree lit up in the middle, and then into a lounge on lorena in jardins for live music belted from an incredible bonnie rait sounding canadian voice and we created our own dance routine with lots and lots of fresh tangerine caipiroskas till 3am...

Day2 we woke up and headed to Shopping Cidade Jardim for a quick tour and breakfast of pao de quejo and fresh fruit smoothies at santo grau for a little pick-me-up, walked down the sunny side of the street at oscar freire to shoe shop (lots of shoes purchased), havaiana store and pictures, moqueca for late lunch (a taste of bahian food) and the finale at hotel unique where we sat next to pamela anderson and her new surfer boyfriend and watched them make out. She definately had a breast reduction. Champagne and many giggles shared, we were home by 10pm to pack for our very early flight to rio.
damage at the Havaiana Store

I hope I did ok as tour guide in sp. They said they enjoyed centro despite the condition of the people and the area in which I was lost and they wernt scared outside of my driving... Which ultimately cost us an extra 2 hours of getting lost in morumbi and a little passenger car sickness (slash too much vodka the night before) all the while enjoying the spectacle of my 2-year old tantrum with the gps. Anyways. It was a good weekend in the city!  


Landed many pao de queijos later and headed straight to the hotel for fresh juice in the pouring rain in Leblon. We paused for an ounce of relaxation, the rain stopped and were off to the botanic gardens. Best way to spend 2 hours in the late afternoon ever, together. Dinner at Leblon sushi. More like, AMAZING dinner at Leblon sushi! Met lots of obama security guys at the hotel bar post dinner. Learned he has teams in place working on telephones and communications, k9s and perimeter survaillance on the ground 4 weeks prior to any trip outside the country usually. These guys worked hard and then got to play hard for another bonus week and had some very interesting stories. They were kinda rednecky so we left as sleep felt more important. 

Foggy Cristo Redentor from Jardim Botanico

Got up early to catch the Cristo before the clouds rolled in. Took the trem to the top, clear Christ but not clear city views due to fog. Fresh mango juice and a big ole bug bite on my foot made the view more eventful though. Headed to Ipanema beach, arrived and literally 2 seconds later it started to POUR. Lunch at an amazing bakery down from mile post 9. Wow, yum sandwhich with my favorite burratta cheese! Decided to walk in the pouring rain to find mil frutas ice cream on Rua Garcia D'Ávila with no umbrellas and two kangas. Soaked success! Awesome ice cream with local amazonian fruit flavors and after 2 hours there it was still raining, boooo. 

still foggy but worth it

Dinner at copacabana palace on the terrace by the pool. Nice and quiet post the obama frenzy (we were there the day he left the city, he didn't stay there but it was still a madhouse). Headed to the Rio Scenarium in Lapa for the night and ran into a guy staying on our hall at the hotel, he taught us latin moves and we called him Jimmy of the stars (last name la Estrella). Samba danced till 3am with Jimmy of the stars, made lots of friends. My girlfriend K got a marriage proposal from a banker in town from rotterdam, she said no... it one of the best nights of the trip. Later we made friends with our early morning cabbie and he took us to the beach for aqua de coco. Hung with the locals, sipped our recovery drink and we were back in hotel by 330am, checked that off the list. Called for a wake up call for 430am. The front desk said, as in an hour? Yes as in an hour, are you sure? Yes we are sure. Flight to Buenos Aires 8am. 


sculpture United Nations Plaza

So the bug bite from the trem grew giant and black thanks to too much samba dancing. It became infected and my ankle dissappeared into something of a cankle. I couldn't walk so I hobbled to the plane, hobbled to the hotel, hobbled to the hospital. Luckily a german hospital in BA was near by. Sent the girls to an afternoon lunch of empanadas and erva-mate while I waited under 30 minutes for my english speaking doctor who drained the bug bite, administered two tetnus shots in a place i wasn't so keen on, gave me antibiotics, explained something about an ¨´itis´´ and sent me home. 90us dollars total for all (yes cheap healthcare and good healthcare!!) including hospital visit, drugs, two shots on the upper butt at the vacunatorim not to be confused with the labotorium or the 4 other ´atoriums´´ that i wandered\hopped on one foot into. Felt sick though so a late afternoon nap was added to the list while girls wondered the city in the rain. Dinner at las lilas in puerto modero lasted 4 hours. it was Ahhhmazing. Cured the bite with the yummiest of steak and wine! 

Recoleta Cemetery

Foot kinda sorta fit into a tennis shoe for the am walk to Recoleta cemetery. Saw Eva Peroni's grave, toured the touristy recoleta crafts market, strolled through the park past the beautiful palaces to the Obelisk. Holiday = parades and demonstrations. Walked to the Colon Theater for local beers and lunch, wandered down Santa Fe for afternoon coffee and shopping. Dinner and tango show for the evening = incredible! 

very sexy tango show

The last day in BA the biblioteca was sadly closed (another trip) so off to Florida street for cheap leather and shoes. The gorgeous afternoon was spent in heavenly Palermo Soho at Meridian 58. Otimo. Decided I wouldn't mind moving to the Palermo Soho neighborhood but I think I would deeply miss Brazil too much. It was a long, lovely afternoon with more markets and more ice cream at freddo! Dinner at La Cabrera was nice and quaint for steak but we liked Las Lilas better (try both though if you can!). Still, we shared wonderful bottles of malbec for our last night togther toasting to a perfect vacation of 4 fabulous girls, 3 amazing cities, 2 incredible countries and 1 unbelievable week. 

By Saturday morning I could walk again! Goodbye BA, goodbye amazing best friends and hopefully goodbye spare tire in a few weeks! 

*travel note to self, check holiday schedule in cities to be traveled in so things looking forward to seeing arent closed. 

**written stream of consciousness style on the plane home, please excuse typos!

tchau meninas

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Carnival Rio Style

What an adventure the last month has been. Prior to the furniture surprise, I left off with carnival in Tiradentes and it is now the end of march and I've finally make it back to the computer. In reading through the 557 blog posts on google reader I've missed these past few weeks, early march feels like last year.

Before March, I hadn't been to Rio yet and now I've been twice. I'll try to recap carnival part dois.

Rio is an easy plane flight from Sao Paulo, about fifty minutes and one of the most beautiful landings into a city you can find. Its much easier to truly take in the city upon reflection, while there it is usually too busy. This first trip the weather was mediocre at best but we still attempted the gondola to the top of Sugarloaf (Pao de Acucar).

The view should have looked like this

(photo Wallace Ugulino)

But instead on my camera, I got this. 

but I did get one lucky shot of the beach below when it cleared for a split second...

No worries, I will be back again another time. My father in law's friends picked us up and they live close to Barra and wanted to take us to their new favorite pizza place. Well lo and behold, we pulled up to our very own, Casa Braz! Cariocas can't complain about their pizza anymore, only the prices and the distance it may take to get to this location.

Saturday was spent resting up for the big night at the Sambodromo. We got last minute tickets through friends to the brahma beer camarote (box) for the finals celebration. Arriving home around 730am Alex called it the 8th wonder of the world. We were up close and personal with some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen in my life, both in the tent and dancing down the stadium path. It was simply a magical experience. I ate one too many Rochina popsicles but the sugar and pure beauty of the night kept us going till sunrise. Driving around the bending beach roads as the sun began to rise into a brilliant blue, through Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon with the windows down my hands weaving through the salty air I thought "this is really living in the world."

and the sunrise....

I love rio, I love carnival and I just love living here.