Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Fair and Saltimbancos

28 August 2011

This is from last weekend; better late than never. 

Details to be added later but it's a GORGEOUS day and right now I want to go out and play! :)

Back now and adding my notes on the photos.  This interesting looking flower is in one of the flowerbeds in the garden here. 
A closer view.
Some of my students posing with their creation, "Underpants Man".
Those spiky things are not devices to keep the birds off the power lines, they are some kind of moss or air plants that spontaneously grow there.
The event of the week was the Book Fair, which opened today in the Getulio Vargas plaza.  There were clowns and stiltwalkers to entertain the kids.
Booksellers were set up under canopies surrounding the fountain area.

There were also a few entertainments, such as this chess area for adults and kids.
And this children's play area, which had places for children to do crafts under the supervision of a pink witch with a puppet. 
A local school marching band opened the festivities with tunes from Lionel Richie, the Beatles, and other things which should never be adapted for tuba and snare.
At the end of the plaza a covered area was set up with a stage.  Here is a view of the very fine seating - boards on sawhorses.  Watching them spring up at one end when someone sat down on the other end and the ensuing surprise was hilarious.
The Saltimbancos performers preparing for their performance.  The performance reminded me of the Commedia Dell'Arte from the Renaissance Faires.
The cat was the first character to appear.
It was too dark for me to get good photos from where I was sitting, so I decided to try some video footage.  You will quickly see that the sawhorse-plank seating was very bouncy!  Everytime someone shifted their behind the plank would bounce like mad, so I apologize for the motion sickness potential of the videos.

The little play was adorable, about farm life.  Here the animals are singing their introduction.

In this one the farmer is introducing himself.

This one seems to be a bout the hard life of peasant farm workers.

The dog sings a solo with backup doggies.

The chicken arrives with some juicy gossip.

The chicken sings a touching song about her eggs.

Hopefully my Portuguese will improve to the point where I can understand more than just a couple of words in these songs as they seem quite darling. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday evening

Spring is coming.  It's midnight, and the air outside is warm and smells of citrus blossoms from the trees in the garden.  It has just begun raining, but this time it is warm with soft, fat drops instead of a cold drizzle or downpour.  I have the windows open because it still is nice out, and I can hear the constant thrumming of the subwoofers from the car stereos of the cruising kids out on the streets.

Today was a warm, dry day, and I went to lunch with a fellow teacher and a Brazilian friend, then to the Book Fair which was set up around the fountain pool in the park by the church.  There was a stage set up and they had some theatrical players called "saltimbancos"; the performances were funny and cute and folksy, reminding me of the Renaissance Italian commedia dell'arte from my years at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.

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In the evening, I joined the other three new teachers for dinner, which one of them cooked for all of us.  It was really so nice of her, and we had a fun evening eating, drinking wine, and playing "Who am I?" until almost midnight.


Update: It's now 12:30am and the car stereos are still blaring, and the fat raindrops still falling.  Add to this the occasional strong flash of lightning and impressive roll of thunder.  And at this point I'm ready to hit the pillow and sleep through it all.

Surreality im Morgen

Surreal is waking up to "Hallo, guten Morgen, Deutschland!"oom-pah-pahhing on the radio in southern Brazil. 

Monday, August 22, 2011


Hanging out with Brazilian friends drinking chimarrão and eating snacks while watching the passersby.  This is the Brazilian gaucho-style pastime in the evenings, and people start breaking out lawn chairs on the streets and parks all over town around 5pm, especially on weekends.  A great excuse to hang out with friends and do nothing, I love it.  Definitely need to get a lawn chair!

We started out sitting by the monument at the park.  This caused some confusion amongst the group, as some friends were looking for us at another monument at another park!  While waiting for them, our Brazilian host showed us the proper way to make chimarrão, which is a very strong herbal tea.

One should not use just any old mug, it should be a cuia, which is made from a gourd.  These range from dime-store cheap to so expensive they are sold in jewelry stores alongside fancy watches.  A generous amount of the erva mate or tea mixture, crushed to somewhere between leaf and powder state, is poured into the bottom of the mug.  Then hot water is added from a thermos bottle, and still more tea is poured carefully on top of that until the water can't be seen under the pile of dry herbs.
One person acts as the host and pours the hot water and tastes the chimarrão to make sure it tastes right.  It's drunk through a special straw with a strainer on the end of it; these usually look quite ornate around here.
The host then refulls the cuia and passes it to the next person, who drinks it all and then passes it back to the host to be refilled and passed on.  This continues until the thermos is empty, at which point there is an expedition to refill the thermos.

Four wanna-be Brazilian gauchos and one real one.  Can you tell which is which?
The park surrounds the city hall, a lovely old building that I've yet to go inside and which probably will have an entry of its own one of these days.
Not a very good photo, but spring is coming gradually here and the air-plants clinging to the trees are blooming.  The pink and purple blossoms are about the size of the end of my thumb.
After our wayward friends finally found the right monument (and us), we went for a drive, stopping to pick up an astonishing quantity of sugary cakes on the way.  Our destination was the tiny municipal airport, which is a popular place to drink chimarrão and watch the beautiful sunset.
We got there a bit late after the crowds had mostly dispersed, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway.
Next stop was a visit to the town "mascots", Fritz and Frida.  This town has a LOT of German immigrants; in fact, a good half of my students are of German descent and many of them speak German as well as Portuguese.

Our final stop for the evening was the shopping mall (Brazilians call it "the Shopping"), where the shops were closed but the food court stays open late into the night and is packed with people chatting with friends, much like a bar or pub would be.  Our Brazilian friends were constantly greeting people they knew, and a couple more joined our little group.

This photo of a shop mannequin has not been touched up in any way, she really looked like this.  Talk about exaggerated features - yikes!
In the center of the food court was a cute triangular standing mural made of recycled bottles and cans.

We made a somewhat early night of it because we needed to work on our lessons for the following day.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rio Pardo

On Saturday the school took the teachers and staff members on a school trip to a nearby town called Rio Pardo.  The school organizes trips about once a month of varying types and lengths - transportation is provided and we pay our own meal expenses.  This is a lovely thing for them to do as it showcases local points of interest which we might not otherwise find on our own, as well as gives us a chance to hang out with the Brazilian staff members in a relaxed environment.

Rio Pardo was the former county seat of the area.  The river travels from quite far inland all the way to Porto Alegre, and Rio Pardo is about in the middle, so it was no doubt strategically important both militarily and commercially.

Here is the school van sitting in the dirt (mud) parking lot; we had just arrived at the river where we were going to eat lunch in a restaurant. There was a family fishing with a barbecue set up on the water's edge.
The water level is pretty high as one can see from the submerged trees here.
The white specks on the opposite side of the river were herons (I could see them in a photo taken by a friend who has a more powerful camera).
The group gathered around the van - what a bunch of tourists!
The parking lot was pretty muddy, so there was a makeshift boardwalk to get to the door of the restaurant.
Boingy, boingy!
The restaurant here is on pontoons so that it can be dragged around as the water's edge rises and recedes.  Fortunately, either it was grounded or the movement of the river was very slight so as not to upset the dining.
The specialty here is fried freshwater fish.  I was extremely surprised to see the sliced French bread is eaten on the plate with knife and fork here, and was very grateful that I hadn't just grabbed a piece and started munching on it!
One of the town's famous old churches, Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Rosário, built in 1779.
The cherubs on the detail here look soooooo much like sumo wrestlers!  Which reminds me, I haven't been following the world of sumo the last couple of years... but I digress.
This stone street, Rua Julio de Castilhos (Rua da Ladeira), was the first stone street in the state of Rio Grande do Sul and was originally built by slaves in 1813.  If I understood correctly, it was built for a visiting emperor or king to go from the river to the town.
The ornate round window here is to a basement area which was originally the slave quarters.  This house was not open to the public when we were there, but it is historically preserved.
A distant view of the same house; the round window is down by the gate on the left.
The Rua de Ladeira's current name is Rua do Júlio de Castilhos.
Forte Jesus, Maria, José do Rio Pardo was a ruin of an old fort, on top of which now sits a water treatment plant.  The area is overgrown, but the cannon are overlooking the river.

Another of the foreign teachers seeking the perfect photo.
The water treatment maze.
That is not a stray dog, it's a pony.  Some people in this town still use a pony cart to transport goods, although I didn't get a photo of a cart in action.
Along the side of another old church was this mini shrine.  We were moving so the photo is a bit blurred.
Back view of another church, the Capela São Francisco, built in 1755 and one of the oldest in the colony.
And the front view.
The guy is standing in the doorway of a barbershop.
The bustling downtown of Rio Pardo.
We took a tour of a historic building, built in 1847, that began as a hospital, turned into a military academy, and is now a community center and monument called Casa de Cultura de Rio Pardo.  The famous Brazilian personage Getulio Vargas attended this academy.
The tour guide explaining the various relics.
Some magnificent gold thread embroidery.

There were windows like the one shown in the second photo down at the front and back of the building; the one in the front had the light hitting it just beautifully at this moment.
A marching band was practicing back and forth in the courtyard the entire time we were touring the building.
The carvings holding the light fixtures were gorgeous.
Another view of the colored light hitting the steps.
The front of the building.
And another ancient church next door, the Capela do Senhor dos Passos, built in 1812.
Another street view downtown.
We stopped for hot chocolate and coffee here.  There were some truly decadent offerings.  I got a "Napolitano", which was thick hot chocolate with a scoop of strawberry ice cream, topped with whipped cream.  Strangely, like baked Alaska, the ice cream stayed cold and the chocolate stayed hot!
On the way home we took a little detour through some country roads.  The people on the motorcycle were wearing ponchos that flapped around their legs.
These kids on horseback started smiling and waving and showing off when they saw the cameras!
The perfect end to a lovely trip.