Ciao, Belo Horizonte, Tudo Bem, Vitoria

An eventful few days means I haven’t had a chance to post for a few days, sorry about that, chaps, coupled with some stomach-clenching bottom issues, caused no doubt by the humungous amounts of food, so mea culpa and all that.  We left BH last night after the weekend of Gilbertos festival in Park Lagao, where Brummies Mike ‘the Fletch’ Fletcher and Mendhi Mohinder Singh played alongside Brazilian friends old and new.  It started to rain early on, but thankfully, as we had promised Gilberto, (don’t worry, I’ve had a word, I’d said) Saturday evening turned out beautifully.  If only we had the weather for such outdoor gigs in the UK, and a wonderfully relaxed attitude to health and safety (health and what?), life would be so much the richer.  We’re learning a lot about how things go down here, day by day, like:

  • Self-service caffs – which work on a pay-by-weight system, confusing for us at first, but ultimately fair and simple
  • Decision-making – make a decision, have a heated debate for half an hour and then do it anyway
  • Brazilian time – flexible to say the least
  • A relaxed attitude to lane discipline whilst driving, but zero road rage on show
  • Buying stuff can be complicated – order and pay at one place, get your stuff at another, kind of like Argos for everything
  • Great food,crap beer and watch out for the cachaca
  • None of the above necessarily applies all the time

So, we’re learning, day by day and of course, that’s just the tip of the old iceberg.  Most of the people we’ve met have been more than welcoming and more than generous, with a ‘my house is your house’ approach to getting to know you.  We really wish we could speak more Portuguese and, Inshallah we will when we return.  Here’s some piccies:

Our last night was spent with our new friends Hamilton and Isabella in their self-built house in the woods.  We’re spending most of our time in urban areas, but this was Brazil as you imagine it, we were woken with birdsong and monkeys frolicking in the trees, huge neon butterflies after sleeping to the music of the crickets (but no Buddy Holly).  Hamilton teaches music composition to vulnerable kids, and Isabella works for a kind of Creative Partnerships agency, placing artists in schools and the like, and we’re keeping in contact to see what we can make happen next time.  Hamilton also makes some beautiful music,with a kind of Brazilian folky, almost medieval sound, which we enjoyed whilst he was trying to commit homicide by barbecue.  A special evening with some special people, including ‘The Fletch’, Saolo, his wife Sylvia and four year old Simon-groupie, Nina – complete with eco sauna and plunge pool – heavenly.  The next day we had to finally say goodbye to Gladys and Gilberto.  Five of us have been staying in their small apartment for over a week and they have been incredibly generous – it’s almost like we were no trouble, which I’m sure we were, though you would never know from their wonderful, generous attitude.  It’s a love thing, and at least we get to see Gilberto for a couple of days next week, when he comes to Vitoria for Espirito Mundo.

I’ve also got  to mention here the incredibly professional work by the Incredible Professionals, Tessa Burwood and Soesen Edan.  The Espirito Brum project is down to their hard work and dedication, getting the resources to bring a dozen and a half Brummie artists and musicians over here, organising, cat-herding and connecting Brazilian and Brummie culture together.  And massive big-ups to Tessa (Tey-sa in Brazil-speak) for constantly and generously translating both ways.  It;’s another love thing, too.

Finally, for now, we arrived in Vitoria last night (Gilberto escorting us right up to airport security, bless him) to – nobody.  We were a bit concerned at first, but waited, and of course it was that Brazil time issue again.  Soon we were met by young, enthusiastic and lovely fellows, Gabriel and Rafael who have been our minders for the last 24 hours and took us on a whistle-stop tour of the city.  Vitoria feels very different to BH – it’s a huge port for a start, which is rapidly expanding and a big issue in itself.  It also feels better off, a bit less grubby, a bit less graffitti-covered, a bit more chilled.  We were taken to the offices of Instituto Quorum, where they’ve turned a back office into a mini-apartment for the three of us, which is a little weird, but great as it means we’re right in the middle of the old town area, where we’ll be working.  This morning we were taken on a short boat trip with one of the catraeiros – boatmen who row across the bay as a sort of ferry service.  These are being supplanted by the ubiquitous, crowded buses and are an old tradition here.  We instantly planned and started to organise our first intervention – an outdoor barbecue party to bring together many of the catraeiros with artists, architects and engineers, to capture stories, photographs and archive material related to this vanishing breed.  We want to make some huge photoprints, posters, etc to display around the city alongside some story text, to bring focus onto the issue – then to respond the next week to this.  That was within the first couple of hours of being here – so who knows what will come up next?  Tonight we are hosting a dinner with a group of artists and activists in a really fantastic space nearby.  From what we can gather, the lady who runs the place opens her house up to artists, where they can show and sell work, crafted objects and just hang out – it’s a beautiful space, currently showing a full-on exhibit of photographic portraits of women at the moment they give birth.  Outside, as it’s a holiday, members of the local samba school (the mother of all samba schools, we were told) were hanging out, drinking and playing music and word soon got out that the English were in town – cue a procession of people trying out their english on us.

We heart Brazil, or something.  Ciao for now.

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