Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Is a PB&J as odd to eat as chicken hearts?
Hope y’all had a good Labor Day Weekend back home.
Our weekend ended up being quite cultural on many levels. On Saturday, we headed about an hour out of town to Instituto Inhotim, a place that promotes the meeting between art and nature. The location is fantastic – forest, garden and sculpted space with several large-scale exhibits for modern art exhibits. (http://www.inhotim.org.br/) We spent the whole day here, popping in and out of cool buildings with interesting and absurd art and wandering through natural spaces with large art installations.
On Sunday, we went back to Mangabeiras Park, which overlooks the city. Bas and an eight-year old girl named Camila hit it off. They played chase around and on the play structure as Camila kept yelling “Nao pode me pegar!” (you can’t catch me!) She ended up joining us for a picnic and tried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the first time. She thought it was really odd (having never eaten peanut butter before) but did manage to finish off the sandwich! (I'm assuming the kids would not have been as adventurous if asked to eat a Brazilian specialty of chicken hearts). On the way home, Bas insisted that Camila spoke some English. We explained that she didn’t (having both talked to her while we ate). It was actually that Bas understood some Portuguese. Woo-hoo!
It was a long weekend here, too. Monday (Sept. 7) was Brazilian Independence Day (when, back in 1821, Brazil attained independence from Portugal without bloodshed). We headed down to the big avenue in Belo Horizonte to watch the parade in the morning, with thoughts of silly Shriners wheeling around and marching bands (Brazilian style with a lot of drums) making their way down the street, like we might see in the US on the 4th of July. Nope. It was a military parade.
It struck me as ironic considering how incredibly militarized the US is and how we never get North Korean-style displays of power for the benefit of the public (and other nations?). But here was Brazil, which has only been involved in wars tangentially in its almost 200-year history (Brian informed me that Brazil currently has troops participating in some UN missions) strutting its stuff down the main boulevard of Belo Horizonte.
As the parade proceeded, the military units from around the city and the state transitioned over to local fire and rescue crews and lots and lots of police units (from civil and military police, to special SWAT-style teams). This is where I started to feel chills down my spine, and not the excited kind. It seemed to me that this was now a show of might over the people, harkening back to the military dictatorship from the mid-60’s to the mid-80’s. Here, marching proudly along the boulevard were special units with big guns and attack dogs (or as we told the kids, rescue dogs), shields and batons. Perhaps they were trying to convey a sense of security to the people, but if you were from the lower classes, I bet you felt that this was more of a ‘friendly’ reminder of who’s really in charge. The parade ended with several helicopters hovering over the end of the procession. The intensity and noise of their whirring blades made me (all the more) thankful I’ve never lived through an occupation. When we asked the kids what they liked best about the parade, Bas said the tanks and Ginger the dogs.
We ended the long weekend by attending a Jazz Festival being held in a neighboring district. The entrance price was a donation of a non-perishable good (at least 1 kilo’s worth) and some enterprising young men were selling bags of rice and such right before the entrance to those folks who forgot to bring a donation along. It was fun to wander around the closed-off streets and hear different types of jazz and do some serious people watching. The best thing was watching Ginger do her interpretive dance to it all.
On a final note, the kids have started playing their version of Mary Poppins (we have an abridged book of the movie). The odd thing is that Bas and Ginger are not choosing to play Jane and Michael, the kids, but rather Mr. and Mrs. Banks, the parents. I, unsurprisingly, get to play ‘Cook’ while they get to order me around. I now see their reason for being the parents instead of the kids… The most amusing part is their British accents, based on Brian’s and mine, which, needless to say, are awful.