Friday, August 15, 2008

Lazy Days of...Winter?

Winter in Rio has been anything but. Blue skies and comfortable temperatures for weeks on end. Makes you wish for a couple of drizzly days, at least I think plants around here would welcome the change. But this unusual weather makes my daily walks in the Botanical Garden much more pleasant: no mud on my shoes and very little sweat on my face. This morning I wanted to photograph another old jaqueira I had come across a few days ago and a very strange-looking "paper tree" from Australia. I think I've said something in the past about the arboretum being home to a variety of animals as well as plants? I've seen monkeys eating jackfruit almost every single day and birdwatchers galore tiptoeing around with binoculars around their necks (I hear different songs and calls, but have never actually seen the little creatures they're looking at). Anyway, along the way from one tree to the next, I saw this little fellow coming very slowly across the grass, as it should be for a sloth. So I had plenty of time to stand there snapping away (or clicking or whatever you do with a digital camera) while thinking that this is an amazing place, indeed! A large metropolitan area where people can still be in such close proximity with the natural world.

I think this is the most gorgeous jaqueira I've seen in all these years of visiting down here. It stands next to the administration building near the Bromeliarium, in case you want to pay it a visit someday.

By the way, about ten minutes later a guard came and took the sloth back to the forest. For as long as I walk the trails up there now, I'll be looking for him (or her)!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Let Me Out!

Or perhaps I should call it Surreal Rio Part 2? I was hoping I wouldn't find anything else that bothered me in this beautiful place (besides rampant crime, widespread corruption, bad manners, etc.) and here's to this being the last post on the subject! But I went out with the camera (well hidden in my purse) and took these two photographs the other day to illustrate a sad situation that boggles the mind of visitors. I'm from the days when none of this existed, so there must have been a time when this city was relatively peaceful (or crime was contained).

You'll notice that the metal grille in front of this building is not part of the original design nor are all those bars in the bus. They are there to make life more difficult for assorted robbers, usually very young and heavily armed. So, one wonders about what happened here in the last thirty-somewhat years that it became necessary for people to put themselves behind bars, in order to feel relatively safe. And, in the case of the buses, to make it increasingly more difficult for passengers to board and pay (try going through one of these with a child or holding shopping bags!). I've been reading the papers and magazines and I've asked this question of many of my friends. Everyone comes back with the same answer: the collapse of government, law, and order. This shouldn't surprise anyone, they tell me, considering that crime and the authorities have a long tradition of promiscuity in this state and city. At present, a large percentage of elected officials are in trouble with the law, including two former governors, and indictments and scandals are daily newspaper and TV fare.

I'm also posting a picture of delectable jabuticabas that I found at the market the other day. Maybe this will serve as a reminder that there are good reasons for me to be here at the moment, along with the splendid music and the heartwarming interactions with my Brazilian buddies!