Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It's Like Coming Home

Swedish Surprise:

When I first saw the green forests and sunlit canals of Sweden from the plane's window, I didn't expect to feel like I was coming home. The well-kept farms and the lush greenery look like Minnesota from the air.
After we landed I showed my passport to a customs clerk who greeted me with a friendly "Ahhay." A few minutes later I watched a mommy at the baggage claim gave her boy a ride after a stranger lifted him onto the luggage cart.  I'm surprised to find that Sweden fells like home!

Tell about a time you were surprised by something you saw from the window of a plane.

Two Math Problems:  

1.  We flew on British Airways from Denver to London and then from London to Gothenburg.  The flight to London was 9 hours, We spent 5 hours at the Heathrow Airport in London and then took a 2 hour flight to Gothenburg.  How many hours did we spend in an airplane?

2.  Our flight took off at 7:30 pm Tuesday, June 13 Mountain Daylight  time and landed in London at 11:30 British Summer time.  The next flight departed London at 16:15 British Summer Time and landed in Gothenburg at 7:20 Central European Summer Time. What was our total travel time from Denver to Gothenburg?  How many time zones did we pass?

Airplane Food and Swedish Meatballs

When we took our seats a flight attendant asked if we would like sparkling water, still water, or white wine.  Have you ever drunk still water?  What about sparkling water?

After we patted our faces with warm lavender scented cloths, we looked at the menu.  When we had been flying for an hour we were served our meal.  Which one would you choose?

About two hours before we landed our flight attendant bought a breakfast of yogurt, a granola bar, and coffee.

What kind of food would you serve passengers on a long flight?

 I ordered Swedish Meatballs at an outdoor cafe in Gothenburg.  The meal cost 125 kr or SKE (Swedish Krona).
They were served with lingonberries, thinly sliced cucumber, and a swirl of whipped potatoes.  Delicious!!

How much did the meal cost in dollars (USD)?

Tell us what you are doing today in the comments section!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What is Brazil Reading?

What Brazilian authors do you think I should read?

This question seemed to excite more interest than almost any other.  My bag is full of scraps of paper with authors and titles, the notepad on my phone is scattered with random titles, and my iphoto is cluttered with photos of books.

So what is recommended?

1.  Jorge Amado -  Author of many romances and intimate regional tales from Bahia in northern Brazil.  Wrote from the 50s through the 70's.  Captains in the Sand and Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon.
2.  Paulo Coelho - Widely read author of New Age spiritual fables from Rio de Janeiro.  The Alchemist.  
3.  Paulo Leminski - Favorite poet of hip, young students who devoted many hours translating for two Americans.   Leminski is a contemporary poet.
4.  Clarice Lispector - Considered one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century but not widely known outside Brazil. The Passion According to G.H. Complicated and literary writer.
5.  Lygia Bojunga - Children's writer.  My Friend the Painter.
6.  Graciliano Ramos - Modernist  communist writer who depicts the lives of the disenfranchised.  Sao Bernardo:  A Novel.
7.  Erico verissimo - Incidente em Antares.  Highly regarded work.  I cannot find an English translation.
8.  Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis.  Fascinated with the theme of jealousy, this realist writer was first published in 1899.  Dom Casmurro is a story of adultery told through the eyes of a betrayed husband.
9.  Gilberto Freyre - The Masters and the Slaves: A Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilization.  Academic writer concerned with issues of race.
10.  Aluisio de Azevedo - In 1881, he wrote a scathing expose of his native city called Mulatto. It is the story of a young man kept ignorant of his mother's identity and his mixed birth.  He is also the author of O Cortico pictured above but unavailable in English (as far as I can tell).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dining vs. Grabbing a Bite

While most Americans probably feel pretty comfortable with Brazilian music, film, and style, I found the table manners far more European than American and had to stop myself from grabbing a bite to eat on the run more than once.

The hospitality students at IFG provided one of the first clues to more formal attitudes toward food consumption.  Their lesson focused on setting the table with the the heavy cloth first and the finer one angled on top.  The careful placement of dessert spoon, first-course fork, second-course fork, and fish knife (fish knife??) was followed by the recitation of various dinner-ware in English.  Students practiced serving wine properly, and removing plates unobtrusively.  Hmmm  . . . not your ordinary diner experience.

The breakfast buffets at even the most average hotel should have been another clue.  Hot coffee and milk served at the table, fruits, breads, cereals, cheeses, hot foods--all to be consumed most politely without touching food with the hands.  Yes, even pizza is eaten with a knife and fork and although most will pick up a bun or pastry with a napkin, I had a noon meal with a fellow teacher who used her knife and fork.

Even I, who can consume a Thanksgiving dinner in less than five minutes, wouldn't dream of rushing through an afternoon snack of cakes displayed with such fanfare.  But streetfood, I might eat on the run.  Not in Brazil.  The attention to detail by the open fair purveyor who prepared the manioc dish of banana and cocoa, insists that one sit and relish the delicious fare.

It should have come as no surprise that until recently THE CUPHOLDER in automobiles was an oddity.  I saw no one rush into a meeting with paper cup in hand.  Instead, small sweetened espressos were served in China cups to be sipped civilly.  Food on the go is a no-no I discovered by the strange looks I received while chugging a soda on the elevator.

Had I only read the Lonely Planet guide to Rio beforehand, I would have known:
"Brazilians are casual about many things.  Table manners are not one of them.  where possible, avoid eating with your hands--middle-class Brazilians often eat sandwiches with a knife and fork,  and no one eats pizza with their hands."

Global Connection:  Study the eating patterns of your classmates.  How much food is consumed how often?  Where is food consumed and with whom?  Can you detect effects of eating patterns attitudes toward food?

Cook in Rio:

Rio IS cookin' in a variety of ways, but cooking class with Braseilero restauranteur Simone de Almeida at Lampadosa on the Rua do Rosario, is rich in culture and flavor.

Simone's class begins with an explanation of Brazilian food-- a fusion of indigenous, Portuguese, and African flavors--and the now familiar history of Brazil's settlement makes culinary sense.  The indigenous manioc (yucca root) of the indigenous people, the morning pastry of pao de queijo (bread cheese) suggestive of French bread, the black bean feijoada, an early slave dish, all speak to the passionate improvisation of the culture.

As our moqueca (fish stew) simmers, Simone immerses us in her cosmopolitan views: analysis of German and American childrearing, interpretations of mealtime traditions, and a vast knowledge of the world's foods.   "We like to mix the blood," she says of Brazilians.  "Why would I want to marry someone who looks like me (a beauty of indigenous, African, and European ancestry)?  It would be like marrying my brother."

"We like the surprise," she adds,  "the surprise of mixing foods, of mixing heritage.  What will it look like?" She asks of the next child.  "What will it taste like?"  we ask of the bananas, manioc, and onion side dish.

The answer:  beautiful, rich, and delicious.

Global connection:  Trace the origins of a dish's ingredients and manner of preparation.  How does food convey history, resources, and practices?  How are demographic changes reflected in a region's food?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pope at the Beach: World Youth Day 2013 in Rio

After posting "Where Are All the People," my impressions of Catholicism in Rio altered somewhat. A Jesuit educated tour guide in Salvador spoke knowledgeably about current movements within the Church.  A visit to the modern Christ the Redeemer Statute above Rio revealed a secularized celebration of humanity at the feet of Christ with visitors lying on the platform to get a shot of a friend with arms raised and Cristo in the background.  (You're right.  We couldn't resist.)

And chancing upon a packed, vibrant noon-time mass in Rio suggested that while many Brazilians are not outwardly devoted, Catholic doctrine and practices are pillars of the society.

Whether Argentinian Pope Francis' visit to Brazil for World Youth Day in a few weeks will spark renewed interest in Catholicism is a question of interest.  When I recounted to a Rio cab driver the 500,000 faithful who celebrated mass with Pope John Paul II at Cherry Creek Reservoir in 1993, he nodded sagely and raised his chin toward Copacabana Beach.  "We'll have many more.  Many more."  From the number of scaffolds being constructed down the 4 kilometers of the beach, he's got to be right.

A short time later we wound up at Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, an ultramodern design by Edgar Fonceca completed in 1979, in the company of groups of young people who seemed to be gathering in preparation for a mass and World Youth Day activities.  

Again I had to rethink my assumptions about the secular nature of Brazilian Catholicism.  I witnessed irrefutable evidence that the Church played a strong role in people's spirituality even though many are uncomfortable with the Church's history of oppression of slaves and native peoples and the current proclamations about lifestyle choices.

Of course, it's naive to think that the complexity of the Catholic Church's role in Brazil can be understood in a short month.  Perhaps the attitudes are as individual as the people expressing them.

Global Classroom:  What is the role of organized religion in democratic societies?  How does the financial status of a particular religion impact its role?  To what extent does religion reflect a people's hopes and beliefs about themselves?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Open the Doors, Where Are All the People?

It's reported that in Salvador, Brazil there are 365 churches, one for every day of the year, not too surprising in a country that is reportedly 70% Catholic.  What is surprising is that attendance seems to be equal to that found in many not-so-Catholic cities
In Goiania,  I attended mass twice on Sunday, in the morning near the hotel and later in the day at the Cathedral.   Both priests were soft-spoken and received favorably by the congregation.  Neither church was even half full--very familiar.

Since then we've visited churches throughout rural and urban areas.  VISITED is the key word, because that seems to be what Brasileiros are doing as well:  photographs near the altar, smiling poses in the confessionals, and a secular interest in the history and architecture of the church.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Babilonia: The Past is the Present

How do historic societal structures impact present social issues?
How can traditional foods give rise to anthropological study?

On our way to the funky, hip town of Pirenopolis, we stopped at a restored farm for a tour and brunch.  We were privileged to be treated to an historic journey by a vibrant, knowledgable woman, a descendant of owners of the former sugar cane plantation.

Her explanation of  colonial rule of Brazil by the Portuguese and the use of slave labor illuminates the social injustices facing today's Brasileiros.

When the Portuguese explored Brazil, they sent only men, not families.  They intention was not to settle but to gain riches for Portugal.  The slave trade was established to ensure a labor supply for economic ventures:  sugar cane plantations in the 1500s, gold mining, and later coffee.  Around 5,000,000  slaves were brought from Africa to Brazil.

The Portuguese ruled Brazil until 1822 and it was the last country in the New World to abolish slavery,  1880.    Because there were no Portuguese women, the Europeans produced offspring with Indians and Africans. According to a saying, white woman was for marrying, a black woman for housework, and a mulatto woman for intimacy.   Therefore, in Brazil, slavery did not mean legal segregation as it did in the US.  Half of all Brazilians today report begin descendant of slaves.

The farm produced cane sugar for local consumption and cotton for trade.  It took six months for burros to reach Rio where the cotton was traded for slaves.  Because the distance was so great, slaves were highly prized and not physically mistreated on this farm with private quarters housing men and women separately and families were kept together while the children were young.

The stone wall around the farm was unnecessary, but built for the purpose of keeping the slaves busy because the Portuguese did not want them to "idle."  The native peoples in the area had subsisted by gathering food and because the weather is consistently warm, never had to work to store provisions over a cold winter as those in North America did.   Hence "idling" was part of the local culture and according to our hostess, the impetus for the rich heritage of music and artistic expression in the area.

The entrance at the end of the veranda leads to a chapel,  Adorned primarily in a Catholic Portuguese style the artwork carries evidence of the lives of the slaves who painted it.  Note the chains in the wall pattern below and the mirrors which are a part of Candomble, a religion brought from Africa by slaves.

Because the ceiling painting of the saint below is unsigned it is assumed that it was painted by a slave.  At one point, educated slaves were mistakenly traded but were returned because the owners knew the dangers posed by knowledge.

Women and blacks could not enter the chapel to pray.  The slaves had their own place of worship, but the women could watch  men pray through a screen.

Our hostess's sorrow at the injustices of the past system were evident in her historical analysis.   Because the Portuguese kings exploited Brazil for it's wealth which was carried back to Portugal while forbidding institutions of higher education in Brazil (The first university wasn't established until the 1770's) and claiming racial superiority, the people of Brazil have felt inferior.  Even the "eiros" suffix on the Portuguese word for the people of Brazil, Brasileiros, menas "worker" rather than citizen which would be the suffix ianos).

She believes today's protests are needed to throw off the endurance of unjust treatment.

The visit was the first for our fellow teachers and hosts pictured below.  They were intrigued by the connections she made with colonial practices and Portuguese words today, which of course I could not appreciate:(

The tour ended with a repast of foods originating from Brazil's "Three Races":  pastries from Portugal, corn husk wrapped mantioc (yucca root) from the Indians, and leaf filled delectables from Africa.  Kibi, a meal based fried snack with Arab origins was on the table, along with a choice of Brazil's famous fruit juices.

We ate the past.