Monday, August 20, 2012


I was in Brazil recently and what was originally to be 5 days off turned into  4 1/2 days of work.
It happens sometimes.
After an early morning flight to Brasilia from Rio and a day of meetings, I caught another flight at 9 (ish) and ended up getting to Recife in the small hours of the morning. I didn't see much of the city, but woke up to signs that my vague sense it was a beach paradise was somewhat misplaced.
The old part of the city though small retains signs of its Portuguese colonial past and was a pleasant enough place to have lunch.
The northeast of Brazil is poorer than the south and owes much of its economic activity to agriculture. There is ample evidence of poverty though  favellas don't sit cheek by jowl with million $ real estate the way they do in Rio.
That can't be safe......
Though most people think of Rio de Janiero as the centre of all things Carnival, its the northeast ( so I'm told) that takes it to another level.
This little girl is practising a dance called Frevo. 
Evolved from Capoeira, the dancers take pride of place at the head of brass bands called passistas during Carnival.
The word Frevo comes from "frever" a slang pronunciation of  ferver, the Portuguese word for "boil". Frevo evolved from several musical influences, including military marching bands which paraded around Recife during Carnival in the second half of the nineteenth century. Competition between the city's band associations was fierce and revelers who followed their favorite bands often got into violent fights with their perceived opponents.
Bands resorted to capoeiristas, or capoera fighters for protection. Since capoeira was illegal at the time, capoeiristas would mask their moves by changing them into dance steps lest they be caught by police. They carried umbrellas under the pretext of being ready for summer showers, while intending them as weapons.
This little girl is more representative of its less violent present.
The essential instruments in a frevo band are saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and percussion.
From Recife we drove 3 1/2 hrs to Natal and the landscape was dominated by rolling fields of sugar cane.
Along the way we stopped at a roadside pineapple stand.
Yes  I stopped at a roadside pineapple stand.
That's not something you say everyday.
For $1 you get one straight out of the roadside fridge (ice bucket) peeled, sliced and diced.
Very sweet
It almost tasted "too much" like pineapple to be true.
Like the taste of fresh squeezed orange juice vs juice from a box.
Fresh is good.
The woman on the stand asked us to  promote her stand on face book.
Trouble is there's no way to differentiate it from the dozens we saw along the highway.
Roadside pineapple stand on the highway from Recife to Natal= Ummmm- Ummm  GOOD.
Consider that a collective plug.
Just outside of Natal we stopped at a plantation known to my colleague for some quick pictures.
The crop has always been sugarcane.
To farm sugar cane in the 16-19th centuries you needed slaves.
More than 3 million Africans were brought to Brazil over 3 centuries.
Far more than were sent to North America.
Brazil was the last western nation to abolish slavery keeping it as it did until 1888.
 My memory of Natal is of sand.
Lots of sand.
Apparently they don't have the same shark issues as in Recife. 
From Natal it was back to Rio where after seeing my wife graduate, I  had a final day of work and managed to fit in a helicopter ride hours before flying back to the US ( and onward to Finland).
More on the helicopter in the next post.
Love to all

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