Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving in Both Hemispheres!

This post was going to be called "The Lamest of Ducks," but I found out yesterday that someone had used this title on in an article about President Bush. Except that I was going to talk about a couple of ducks: ours, of course, and Rio's outgoing Mayor César Maia. If our Commander in Chief has at least been spotted in Peru and other places closer to home, no one down here has seen Mr. Maia for as long as I can remember (as the city almost literally crumbles around us). I sometimes wonder if the man is no longer alive or if it's just that he doesn't have the courage to show his face anymore. In any case, the expression used to describe Mr. Bush, "of stupefying ineptitude," fits the carioca chief executive official like a glove. I couldn't have said it better. Absolutely no one will be sorry to see him go, except perhaps the people his incompetence and arrogance have benefitted. My only concern is that his successor doesn't seem like someone endowed with the kind of moral fortitude and political boldness needed to tackle this disaster area. We shall see!

Anyway, besides the fact that we'll be seeing the back of these two men before too long, I today gave thanks for my health and my Brazilian friends. Two of them were kind enough to join me for a good, hearty meal and a glass of Argentinian Malbec, this being an appropriately cold and rainy day. I remember wearing my snow boots almost every year in Boston when we lived there, so I suppose I should also rejoice that I now have lived in the tropics for a good many years.

A non-sequitur: I've been spending a lot of time researching the nineteenth-century; it all started with a DVD of "Jane Eyre" and the book about Brazilian and American history I mentioned a few days ago. I've been weaving my way through stories about fashion in the Victorian Age, the history of indoor plumbing, underground trains, social movements, scientific discoveries, industrialization in general, and immigration to the U.S. Somehow, I've ended in Sicily and the Italian Risorgimento and Garibaldi and a DVD of Visconti's "Il Gattopardo." So, I guess, I should also give thanks for the Internet and all this wonderful technology!

Well, this is what the Corcovado looks like right after a storm.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Get It Off Your Chest or a Samba for Obama

Carnaval is a few months off, but a bloco in Ipanema has already released their samba...and it's in honor of President-elect Obama. Of course, who else could it be? I suspect that 2009 is going to be a very interesting year for street carnaval in Rio; I'm anticipating many more songs, costumes, and Obama masks (those should sell like hotcakes!)...and Bush jokes, naturally! The samba starts with these words: Desem...Bush! É coqueluche, essa febre de Obama se alastrou no mundo inteiro, which translate more or less as "get it off your chest, it's all the rage, this Obama fever has caught around the world." I have to explain that the final syllable of the verb desembuche is pronounced, more or less, like bush. Get the pun?

I might have helped spread the infection; I've been wearing my Obama t-shirt since the primaries and now sport an Obama '08 button on my straw basket. My photos have been on MSNBC (this one taken on election night by an AP photographer) and UOL, the Brazilian news site from São Paulo.

Now all I have to think about is my costume for next February's celebrations, which will be post inauguration! I'll have a lot to sing about...we all will!!

Photo credit: Maria Ester Rabello. Thank you so much for this!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Best Perfumes

Have you ever heard the expression "the best perfumes come in the smallest bottles?" I've come to the conclusion that it can be justly applied to mangoes, after eating a few mangas carlotinhas this week. They're the smallest mangoes I've ever seen and coming into season now. They're a yellow-green color (deep orange inside) and not much bigger than a large egg; very fibrous, strong-flavored and the sweetest of the bunch (I mean, of all varieties I've ever tasted). I took a picture of a couple on my kitchen table; if anyone has ever tried these anywhere else in the world, please let me know! I've just consumed these two and need to rush back to the market for more.

Spring downpours are here and my daily walks have suffered, so I've been catching up on my reading. I bought a small book called "Brasil e Estados Unidos: o que fez a diferença," written by a journalist called Ricardo Lessa. Mr. Lessa digs up the economic, social, and political roots of Brazil's chronic ills and compares that with U.S. history. I don't need to tell you which country comes out as the winner, but the message is that the South American slumbering giant can (or rather should) learn from past mistakes and awake to fulfill its spectacular potential.

I photographed this patriotic yellow, blue, and green bike at the Botanical Garden in Rio about a week ago.

PS - I'm planning a trip to the south of Brazil in early December to visit the ruins of the Jesuit Mission of Saint Michael the Archangel (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), where I used to play as a kid. I'm also going to stop by my old school; I owe it the debt of an extraordinary education and wish to see it again (but judging by their website there's little I'll recognize!). More later...I need to go floss my teeth now!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Mutt Like Me

My President-elect will have to forgive me, but the copyright to this phrase belongs to this grey-haired lady here. To tell you the truth, my exact words were "a mutt like us." I was giving my own family as an example of people with roots in several continents, bloods so mixed at this point that the only box to fill out on official U.S. forms under ethnicity is "Prefers Not to Disclose." One of us, a product of a racial and multi-cultural hodgepodge, a true representative of the people of these United States of America, is now headed for the White House and Godspeed!

In a similar way (but with marked differences), Brazil is also a land of mutts or vira-latas, the funny, descriptive, self-explanatory Portuguese word (it literally means "overturner of trash cans"); down here miscegenation started almost on day one, with Portuguese officials taking Indian women (sometimes several at a time) as wives to guarantee powerful alliances with tribal chiefs. Not to mention, of course, what went on unrecorded by historians...Brazil has a President, now on his second term, who certainly qualifies as a bona fide specimen of this Southern hemisphere melting pot (in his case, a mixture of indigenous and white), and one who grew up in extreme poverty and came to power on a tremendous wave of hope and goodwill. I keep being reminded by my friends down here that his Workers Party cohorts, seduced by the irresistible combination of power and money, have been involved in numerous corruption and influence-peddling scandals. Whether Lula himself had any knowledge of what went on remains a mystery, but educated, middle-class voters are, shall we say, totally disenchanted. I keep telling myself that Obama is not Lula, even though I realize that, in order to run the country, he's going to have to make compromises. But it's not going to be politics as usual, for sure!

This is not the best photo I have of the most adorable mutt in the world, but I hope the mass of natural bouncy curls covering her face will help protect her identity.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's a Rainy Night in Rio...

It's two o'clock in the morning and it's raining in Rio and I'm crying in here by myself!! We've made history!!! CONGRATULATIONS BARACK OBAMA!! You did it!!! And we did it!! I'm so happy and proud to be part of this historic moment for the United States and the entire world!!!

CELEBRATE! And then, let's get to work!!!

I'm looking at the sea of faces in Chicago on CNN: blacks, whites, young people, white-haired women, a blonde little girl!!!


Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Eve and Chicken Soup for the Soul

Well, here we are: it's November 3rd, a rainy night in Rio. Tomorrow evening (or rather, late at night, since we're three hours ahead down here), I should either be jumping for joy or stunned, heartbroken, and scared as hell. A few months ago, I registered as a Democrat and joined an organization called Democrats Abroad to be able to vote for Obama in the primaries. I bought my t-shirt and sent in my small contribution to his campaign. I mailed in my absentee ballot three weeks ago and e-mailed all my friends more than once, reminding them to vote early (they did!). I wish (and then maybe I don't, when I think of November 2000 and 2004...) I could be in Florida to scream out the window: At last! It's over! And believe again that everything is possible, that not everything is lost, after eight years of this disastrous administration.

I don't think I've ever been this anxious before an election: there's too much at stake, I guess. If only I could go to sleep tonight...To help me relax, I've enlisted the help of two Janes: Austen and Eyre, who are the equivalent of Brazilian canja de galinha for my heart and soul. I'm going to dream of love and immerse myself in romance and mischief and gallantry; cry a little, laugh a little, and maybe snooze through the night.

Photo taken a few minutes ago in my living-room: One of my freshly-painted red nails (for what I hope will be an Obama victory party tomorrow night!), my wonderful BBC DVDs, and my Obama paper doll (purchased at The Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach).

Fingers crossed now!!