By Larry Ludwig
April 22, 2014
My connection down here starts with an uncle (American) and two aunts (Brazilian) over in Rio de Janeiro, and a cousin (son of the uncle) and his wife (both Brazilians, Carioca’s actually, Carioca the term for native-born Rio de Janeirians) and their two children & grandchildren and in-laws who live in São Paulo. São Paulo is where I live most of the six months I am down here (that is all the time allowed per annum with a Brazilian tourist visa). My first trip/visit was back in 2008..when I fell head-over-heels in love with the people and culture… with its special emphasis on FAMILY and FRIENDS… family & friends come before money, personal prestige, material status. When ever a good (well just about any plausible) reason can be found to have a get together, be it a bar-b-que (churrascaria), or a cafezinho, aka a cup of coffee” (can be just coffee for a few moments or a gathering lasting several hours with libations other than coffee–sometimes cerveza/beer or the all-powerful caipirinha–sugar-cane cachaa liqueur mixed with sugar, ice cubes and lime slices), or be it a birthday party, whatever, Brazilians do get together, and do so often. When that occasion is a family affair, it is everyone gathered together, from great grandma to the great grandkids. And when the nuclear family wants to dine out at a restaurant, the parents go with all the children, be they 3 months old on up. Many restaurants have supervised play rooms for the kids. It is totally common for the children of one family to commune with the children of another, going from table-to-table sharing toys, coloring books and the like… and of course, for the moms, grandmoms and aunts of one family to ooooh and ahhhh over the kids of the other families, and vice versa.
Brazil also offers a super plus for seniors, namely how seniors (along with pregnant women, parents with baby infants, & people with disabilities) are treated. Seniors get all types of respect here… ride buses and subways for free, are admitted to museums for free, as well as public restrooms without. Seniors also get 50 percent off tickets to any theatrical event from hard-rock to high-end opera (and sometimes admitted without charge to symphonic events) Best-of-all, best-of-the best in a land where waiting in line can be a curse, seniors go to the front of the line in any government facility, as well as at banks, post offices, most stores, and even better, at the airport. There we go to the front of the check-in line, to the front of the security line, to boarding the flight first before all other passengers. In many facilities there are separate lines for the five categories mentioned above as well, thus by passing long tedious waits for service. There is also reserved seating on buses and subway cars for those five groups, a privilege generally honored by non-senior passengers. Many times I have experienced younger women and men getting out of their seats in open-seating areas, offering me their seat when I am standing in the crowded buses and subway cars.
And as may have been implied above, older folk are included in social events together with people of all ages. Seniors are not shunted off to a rest home, nursing homes or some sort of senior ghetto. Families try their best to keep their parents and grandparents at home; going to a nursing home or assisted living facility is only the last, last, last resort. As a consequence, one feels younger, one belongs and stays active in the community… And men for sure (to a lessor extent for senior women), do have an active social life, and I mean active, until one basically drops from exhaustion. Last week a local newspaper featured an article noting that Brazilians stay sexually active, for instance, at least into their 70’s, if not 80’s. (Oh one is considered a senior at age of 60)
That’s it for tonight… well not quite. One of the other perks of living in the São Paulo area is the access to cultural events… of all sorts. All accessible either by foot, a few blocks walk, or 15 to 20 minute bus or subway rides, or short taxi rides. Myself, I lean to the classical arts, and basically have freaked out going to symphony and coral concerts, theatrical play productions, ballet/modern-dance performances and opera. Somehow of the other, have become a Patron of the Coral of the Cidade de S. Paulo (the Chorale of São Paulo City), a member of the A Sua Orchestra OSESP (Friends of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra), a season ticket subscriber to the Theatro Municipal of São Paulo Opera, and a rabid fan of the São Paulo Companhia de Dana (São Paulo Dance Company). The latter even included me in their annual DVD summarizing their progaming for the 2013 season (giving me my 15 seconds of fame, (8 seconds in English, the other 7 seconds in Portuguese). The video was shown on national TV three times… well that means 45 seconds of fame. (I am about 40 percent fluent in Portuguese these days). I do write occasional commentaries/reviews of some of the musical/dance performances seen here in São Paulo (and once in a while over in Rio de Janeiro, about a six hour drive distant), three of which have been published on the www.gringoes.com website, a site for English speaking foreigners living in Brazil. The site as a circulation of some 20,000.
Also most enjoyable, are visits to the principal art museums in São Paulo, MASP, the Museum of Art of São Paulo, and Pinacoteca. (The third, the Ipiranga Palace Museum is closed several years for structural renovations.) MASP is of the traditional national art gallery mode found around the globe, with limited samplings of the world’s greatest artists. Pinacoteca, on the other hand, features mostly Brazilian painters, and is my favorite galllery. Yes, I have fell in love with the works of Brazilian artists, Almeida Jnior & Pedro Amrico in particular. They hold their own against many of their European counterparts. I prefer Pinacoteca over the somewhat stuffy, formal more stodgy MASP. Pinacoteca is relaxed, welcoming. One never knows when a security guard might break out in beautiful song walking the hallways, or a Broadway inspired tap-dance routine to break the monotony of hushed gallery offerings. I go often to Pinacoteca. But one does remember, the museums are usually closed on Mondays. (I have yet to visit the Museum of Sacred Art however.) One also can catch magnificent international traveling on-loan exhibits, like 2012’s Impressionists’ paintings on loan from Paris, France’s Museu dOrse, and last year’s exhaustive works of the Italian Renaissance, all on display at the Bank of Brazil headquarters here in São Paulo. And remember, seniors get in free, and best of the best, go to the front of the line–with form 2 to 3 hour waits as a rule.
Not quite on the level of performing arts is my membership in the Sociedade Philatelica Paulista, the São Paulo Philatelic (Stamp Collecting) Society. Brazil produces copious amounts of collectible postage stamps, and has an avid collector-base nationwide. The Society sponsors stamp shows (featuring selling and trading of stamps/envelopes/covers/postcards, as well as heavily research postal-history displays) very much like and up to the same level as those taking place up in the States. Being the live-long stamp-collector that I am, spent many blissful hours and hours perusing potential finds/treasures of Lithuanian philately… my speciality, at the São Paulo shows.
Have also spent some time in the interior of São Paulo State, visiting Haras Mineral, a horse-stud farm & equestrian riding school. The farm raises Lusitano, Andaluz, Criola and Brasilian Hipismo breeds for formal dressage/equitation riding (including partaking of jumping events such as those of the Olympic games).The Haras owners/instructors are champion equestrians themselves, competing in dressage/equestrian events both in Brazil and abroad. Hopefully, these visits to the São Paulo hilly countryside will facilitate tours of USA visitors to the Haras, as well as generate the exchange of equine semen between the USA, Brazil and Europe.
I indulge in other Brazilian cultural areas as well, including soccer matches in Rio (at the world famed Maracana Stadium, the “Holy Grail” or worldwide soccerdom, which originally held up to 250,000 spectators (now only 80,000), and here in São Paulo (only 60,000 at the Morumbi Stadium). The games can take place day or night (in summer months, evening, thanks to the heat and humidity, most games start around 8 to 9 pm). The noise levels, the exuberance of the fans is something else altogether, worth a descriptive separate email. Other sports that capture Brazilian interests, could say fanatically so, are volley ball and Formula 1 racing. Even discovered a new sport (for North Americans), futvolley…where volley ball is played like soccer. with the ball touching only feet, legs, head & chest, the ball being served by a kick of the foot. Super kool to watch. Also have enjoyed the typical Sunday-at-the-Park experience, where families and friends peramble, jog, or roller blade, bicycle, or skate-board past picnickers, volleyball courts, swan and carp filled ponds, vendors, museums, musicians (especially guitarists) serenading the throngs, with lots of “seeing and being seen” fueling the enjoyable ambiance.
And of course, what is a visit to Brazil without exposure to Samba, be it at formalized exhibitions, free classroom evenings, street concerts, or impromptu rapid-fire-foot-stepping, and I mean super-velocity feet movement, spur-of-the moment dancing. Can happen anywhere, be it on the cable car up to the Christ Statue in Rio, or in one’s condominium’s lobby. Is, one can say, exhilarating, spiritually uplifting !!
Oh yes, and what is a visit to Brazil without a day at the beach, especially the sipping of caipirnhas and batidas; watching or partaking impromptu matches of paddle ball, bad mitten, soccer and volley ball; strolling/strutting the sands showing-off one’s stuff in mini-thong bikinis. It would take a lengthy email to describe that wondrous aspect of Brazilian culture. Oh well…
And no matter where one might find himself in Brazil, always to be found are indoor/outdoor dining facilities featuring a mouth-watering churrascaria or feijoada. The former is the Brazilian version of a Bar-B-Que featuring grilled meats, the latter a pork and black-beans presentation, both accompanied by scores of side dishes, one could say, additional main-course dishes, and lots of tempting salads, fruits and deserts. Mostly served buffet style, others are served as a rodizio, where a never ending stream of waiters approach your table with various cuts and various types of meat, be it beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, rabbit, you name it. There are also restaurants specializing in Italian pasta rodizios. with at least seven different pasta dishes on offer; other establishments serve pizza of many varieties followed by an open ice-cream bar of unending flavor choices. There is even one Mexican food rodizio in São Paulo. Can be brutal on those on a strict diet.
Hope this somewhat fills you in on my goings on down here Brasil way. enough for tonight.
As they say down here, abraos (hugs), and if particularly exuberant, abraos e beijos (hugs and kisses)
PS. It is Holy Week here in São Paulo now… with street processions, special masses and the many Catholic Church rituals associated with Easter. Unlike the USA, however, there are no Easter Eggs of the North American/European variety. No boiled eggs decorated with designs and colors. No drained-hollow eggs painted with patterns and a rainbow of colors. No wooden eggs of the Ukrainian/Polish variety painted in intricate designs. Only chocolate eggs filled with small toys or candy-fillings, elegantly wrapped, costing from $5.00 upwards towards $100.00. The shops selling these chocolate treasures were jam-packed yesterday in a last minute buying spree. These eggs are de-rigeur, a must-must for all children, and similarly one’s parents/grandparents, but especially the kids. Easter itself is a four day national holiday, starting today, Friday, and lasting to Tuesday morning.
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