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Well, things are going great here – we’ve done our job, and made something we think is at least as good as our South African adventure. Having achieved this in only a week and a half has surprised even us! We’re dying to tell you, but it will have to wait until after the weekend, when it’s all tied up, done and dusted – for now.
Instead, I thought I’d try and fill in some of the blanks with some stories of Vitoria and some of it’s great people. Vitoria is a relatively small Brazilian city,about half a million strong, putting that into context, greater Sao Paolo has a population of up to 27 million (depending on who you talk to). The old town (our ‘hood) sits on an island, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel, leading into the bay, surrounded by sprawling suburbs. It’s one of the busiest ports in Brazil, with huge containers ships coming in and out, and always dozens floating around the sea nearby. They’ve found a massive oilfield in the sea nearby, someone told us yesterday that it is thought to contain as much oil as all the middle-eastern oilfields put together. Good news for Vitoria and Brazil – bad news for the planet!
So, as you can imagine, the streets being paved with (black) gold, development here is rapacious. The port is expanding massively, refineries are being built nearby, and the city is growing rapidly. What was a sleepy seaside port town is turning into an important centre for commerce. One of the people we worked with talked about ‘development without heart’ – which is an apt phrase as the rush by the Government to capitalise on it’s new found wealth is leaving many people and local traditions behind. Money is on many people’s minds almost obsessively – Tessa, who is a fluent Portuguese speaker, noted that almost every conversation she has had with locals has been flavoured with the subject. But not everyone, thankfully.
There are a lot of local artists and activists who are concerned with how things are going, and are trying in many ways to stem the financial-obsession tide, and to hold on to the many good things about the city. Trouble is, they seem to feel a bit swamped by it all, ignored by the powers that be – rabbits in the headlights. This is what our intervention is all about, and, hopefully will help some of these great people take charge of their own destinies, with a little help from their friends. But more about that in a couple of days.
After 10 days or so in town, we’ve become part of the furniture already. Brazilians are nothing if not open, friendly and incredibly generous (if a little ‘relaxed’ about things) – and we’ve been welcomed with open arms. The ‘Old Town’, dear old Centro is a little Digbeth-y, with many artists, musicians and the like inhabiting it’s dimly lit streets – and, like all artistic communities, it’s a village in itself. There’s a lot of colonial architecture, uneven pavements, churches and balustraded (probably not a word) stairways around, in amongst newer, less attractive buildings. It’s a bit grubby, dark, and we’re told, a bit dodgy – though I have to say I haven’t felt it, but that may be due to my ‘crack-addict chic’ approach to my appearance. Walking through the streets at night we run the gauntlet of kissing, hugging and backslapping new Brazilian buddies. When you leave anywhere, you have to plan for at least ten minutes or so to end the conversation and walk away, ‘cos they don’t want you to go and (sometimes physically) will use every strategy in the book to keep the conversation going. Sometimes we pray that we can hit one of the bars without seeing anyone we know, just to have a quick drink and do one – which I can’t remember happening since the first day we got here.
There’s some great people, and characters inhabiting the area. Papo Furado is a case in point. We met him on the first day, an 80-something icon of the local samba school – who seem to spend all day, every day, sitting outside one bar or another, drinking, shooting the breeze and, above all, making fantastic music in an effortless way. Papo and Sandra immediately connected – she sang ‘I am stretched on your grave’ into his ear (he is pretty much blind) and it was love at first song. He’s an amazing musician, putting soul into every song he sings, and plays on his ‘too wee’ guitar. He carries a ‘bag of wonders’ from which he seems to pull an endless amount of odd, and usually amusing, objects. Taking the piss out of mobile phone-obsessed youngsters, he would pull out a crab’s claw and start having a conversation on it. Yesterday. someone asked him for a light and, as he flicked the switch on his lighter, out popped a perfectly formed miniature erect penis. He is our kind of guy. We were honoured last night to be invited over for a fantastic fish-stew dinner with him and his cronies at Casa Oberta,who were all still playing, drinking beer and cachaca (firewater) when we had to make our excuses and leave in the wee small hours.
We’re going to be very sad to leave next Wednesday
We’ll be back after the weekend- in the meantime, more pictures!
Tweets"@jezc what a shame - and what a coincidence.... Yes see you on our return to discuss BITPO ( our blues party HLF work; part of BASS fest x"2 days ago"@jezc how long u there for? We're in Sofia on Monday? Will u still be there? Xx sand, lee, si x"2 days ago"@jezc we are going to Bulgaria right now!! Tho we're landing and heading straight up the mountain to Goatmilk fest.. Got a coupla hrs.."2 days ago