Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'm baaaaaaack!!!!!

Hi everyone. I have not fallen off the face of the earth, I have just been sooooo super busy. A quick update. Saturday we went to Liberdade (Li-ber-da'-je), which is a large Asian community in Sao Paulo, largely Japanese. On the weekends they have a street fair with great food and wares to sell. We had bolinhas (bo'lin'-yas), which is basically shrimp and meat on a stick, and acaraje (a-ca-da-je'), which is a dish from Bahia, a community in Brazil with a large African influence. It was a fried ball of shrimp, tomato, pepper and onions. The funny thing is that the Brazilians eat the whole shrimp, peel and all. I haven't gotten there yet, but it was very good. We also went to the Brazilian version of Sephora, which is a Japanese company. It was amazing. I was in heaven, to say the least.
Tais' big birthday bash was Saturday and it was so much fun! I got to try feijoada (fay-zhu'-wa-da), which is the traditional black beans and rice with pork ears, knees (I'm not kidding) and other pig parts. It was created by the slaves who were brought to Brazil, and needed to utilize every part of the pig. They were usually given the leftovers and this great dish, which is traditionally served on Wednesdays and Sundays, was created. That sounds familiar. Some of the dishes in African-American culture were created the same way.
Saturday evening we went to the samba club, which gets its own separate post.
Sunday we went to EMBU, which is a great artists colony near Sao Paulo. Again, great food, great art, great music and great people. Brazilians love American music, by the way, so instead of hearing bossa nova all the time as I had anticipated, I hear the same music that I hear at home. It's really weird! You will see people who do not speak English singing along to U2 or Beyonce. Interesting.
On Monday, we visited the largest privately owned stadium in the world, which is the Sao Paulo Futbol Club. This place is huge, holds 120,000 people and attached is a social and physical fitness club that anyone can pay to join. Brazilians love their futbol (soccer) and you have to be careful about who you say you support. Our driver was noticeably uncomfortable, because he is a big fan of Corinthians (co-hinch'-i-ans), another big team in Brazil, and he was not a happy camper to be in enemy territory!
Tuesday we went to PEFI, which is a great social program supported by Rotary. I am noticing that Rotary is a huge part of social services in Brazil. Their programs are holistic and effective. They seem to take the place of government in terms of rendering social services, except here, there is not the bureauracy that seems to burden state, local and federal government in the States. It is really something to see. We got to thoroughly tour the beautiful Botanical Gardens of Sao Paulo. We were also warmly welcomed by the Rotary Club of Santo Amoro. They loved our presentation and complemented us on our Portuguese.
Today we went to another Rotary Project-Colegio Rio Branco. This is a comprehensive school, from cradle through college, with many campuses. We visited three. Then we were able to meet with Mr. Gunter Wolfgang Pollack the Director of International Relations for the Rotary Foundation of Brasil. He also heads up a conference for Rotary on eradicating hunger, illiteracy, disease and unfit water for all Portuguese speaking countries. He speaks six languages. He is 82 and amazing and he really inspired me to keep trying to rule the world;-) He was really cute because he had done his research on all of us! By the way, Bruce, he sends his regards.
I am just getting in from a fun night with Tais, Renato and friends. Please let me take this opportunity to say how wonderful they have been and that I feel as though I have a Brazilian brother and sister. They have promised to come and visit. I will hold them to that. They have made me feel so welcome in their home and in this country, and I will never forget them.
Enjoy the pix, I will post soon about samba, but I need to get some shut-eye. We are leaving for the Rotary Conference in Lindoia tomorrow. Keep the comments coming; I love reading them. Tchau!

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