Thursday, May 8, 2008


Well folks, I know it's been awhile, and we appreciate that you come back again and again even though we are slow with the posts. It's hard to believe that as I write this I only have 8 more days left in Brazil! Lane has twenty or so since he will be travelling back up to Joao Pessoa when I take off for New York. But, needless to say, we are feeling the end of our epic journey closing in, and with that, comes a whole new level of appreciation and awareness for a place...not to mention the frantic need to ingest as much tropical fruit and coconuts as possible.
That top picture is from an amazing hike we went on in Capou, but we are far from that landscape now....very far, indeed. We have been living in the gritty, culturally rich city of Salvador for almost a month now.

This picture is taken from the "lower city" looking up at the "upper city." There is an elevator which connects the two. This is the only safe way to get from one to the other. We found this out the hard way as we tried to walk up the street that connects them, and a man started screaming, "Peligroso!" at us. This means dangerous. Don't worry mom, we took the elevator.
And, it's really no joke around here. We hear stories of robbery and violence almost daily, and it is common knowledge NOT to walk alone at night...anywhere. Considering the immense gap between the very rich and very poor, along with a thin web of infrastructure, it's not surprising there are some serious social problems in this city (and country). And, although looking poverty directly in the eyes eveytime I walk out my door is wearing me down a bit (or maybe it's the jackhammer outside my apartment or the throngs of begging children I encounter when I go to take my dance class??), I have to say, it's humbling and eye opening in a powerful way. It's hard not to feel incredibly grateful for the endless opportunities I have and the heeps of love I receive in my life. Although, simultaneously, it's all very sad, confusing and overwhelming.
And, on that happy note, here's some more pictures...

This image is from an exhibit we saw at the Modern Art Museum here in Salvador. The artist used fish parts (see the tails) to create all kinds of cool installations, and the museum itself was located in these amazing buildings (old forts turned tabacco factory turned art museum...)

This is a famous view in the Pelourhino (the oldest part of the city). Apparently, a Michael Jackson video was filmed here, and it was also the where most of the slave auctions where held (two interesting, but entirely different facts).

More cool street art...this has actually inspired a whole set of new paintings. Birds, go figure.

The woman to Lane's left is Cheryl, a Portlander now living in Salvador. She has been an amazing "local" contact for us and is becoming a good friend too. The other folks are her friends who visited from Chicago. We all went to an island (forgetting the name..yikes!) which is a short ferry ride from Salvador. That's Salvador in the backround.

This is a sunset view of taken from the upper city...see the elevator? I actually witnessed an episode of the T.V. show, The Amazing Race, being filmed right here. They had secured a huge net from the top of the elevator to the bottom, and the contestants had to crawl down it. I don't think the Brazilians watching had any idea what was going on.

I'll leave you with this cool chick and some of my latest creations....

Hope everyone is enjoying Springtime in the northern hemisphere. We'll be thinking of you as we spend our last five days on a remote tropical island!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bahia - an overdue catching up

How time does fly! We are in the ever-buzzing city of Salvador, but I want to catch up in chronological order. We left Joao Pessoa on a night bus with an assortment of provisions (some beers, the local version of cheez-its, water bottles, chocolate, and a big bag of cashews - actually 'castanhas de caju' - the caju refers to the juicy fruit you saw Flora biting in previous pics- the castanha is the actual seed/nut), and we woke up in Bahia, which is considerably more lush than Paraiba. By brunch time we were in Salvador, where we were guided to Barra/Ondina (thanks Cheryl, fellow Portlander!) and stayed just long enough to stash our bulky stuff (thanks again, Cheryl and Wilma!) and buy some bus tickets to Chapada Diamantinha national park, located in inland Bahia. On recommendation (Ashi, Solila, and of course, Cheryl and Wilma!) we picked the most remote town Capao, which meant another hour of 4-wheel-drive jolting about after the end of the (overnight, again) bus route. Here's a picture of the 'town' of Capao, which is by far the most tranquil spot we've experienced on this journey. The higher altitude meant cooler weather, which was a nice relief. It's definitely a destination spot for nature/trekking enthusiasts, which as you might imagine, makes for a different 'vibe' than the beach scene. We met some fabulous folks from other parts of Bahia, Israel, Chile, Spain, Australia... Maybe some of you are reading this now! Here's a little set of videos from the grounds of our pousada Sempre Viva. Note the surreal purple trees:
video video

As you might expect (not), the small village of Capao is home to a full-blown circus troupe, complete with a big top tent and trapeze equipment. Naturally, they offer classes for anyone interested in having a circus experience. Flora and I signed up (actually, we didn't sign anything, which is kind of a humorous relief compared to the layers of liability waivers one would have to sign to participate in such a thing in the US). We did lots of stretching and tumbling gymnastics-style, then we got to pick a circus art to focus on. I chose the trapeze, and Flora chose the silk ropes (they call them 'tissues,' which is a hoot). So here we are working on our respective circus schtiks: ((Ahhh - internet troubles again... having trouble uploading more. Well, here is Flora climbing up the tissues))

Perhaps the most famous waterfall in these parts is called Cachoeira da Fumaca (Waterfall of Smoke), so named because the stream is so small and the distance is so high that the fall appears to vaporize before it hits the pool below. Here`s a video. We`ll load more pics and elaborate more when we can.

Wish y`all were here.
video video

Coming soon...

-the conclusion of Chapada Diamantinha
-Portuguese immersion school in Salvador
-our great apartment
-Forro, buying plywood and cheap delicious ice cream in Rio Vemelho...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


My dear and insightful friend, Cristina, gave me the feedback yesterday that she loved our blog but didn't think we updated it enough. Fair enough. So, although I'm not feeling especially wordy at the moment, I would love to share some photos with you all. Enjoy!

My arty sky photo near the land we are looking at buying!! Yes, you read that right....stay tuned and start thinking about your next vacation to Brazil...with US!

Oh, there we are again looking happy and tan and it's TRUE...we are! This was our favorite beach day so far. It was, um, pretty much perfect.

A mouth watering sight indeed! The coco vendors stock up each Friday for the weekend throngs of coco thirsty beach goers. It always makes me a bit nervous as they casually hack them open with huge machetes. But apparently, they are pros.

My best Joao Pessoa friend, Kim, and her brand new baby, Isabel (she's like one week old!). Kim is Dutch and lives here with her Brazilian husband, Francisco. I painted this painting for Isabel because I'm a firm believer in babies owning art:)

Isn't she just soooo Brazilian and wonderful!?! I'm a huge fan of the glorious street art I'm finding here. By the end of this trip, I will probably be able to publish a book with all my "graffiti" photos.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Senses

Hello world of people who care about us!

Thanks for reading by the way, and thanks for your comments. It's extremely (overly?) exciting for us to find there is a new comment on our makes us feel loved.

So, one of my dear friends wrote me an email asking about what we are eating, what it smells like, what it sounds like, etc, here it is...THE SENSES Blog...

I am writing this from our apartment. It's 8 am and there is a sweet ocean breeze flowing through the room. Lane just returned home from his morning run dripping with sweat. I "slept in" till 7.
We can almost constantly hear cars zooming by in the distance on their way to the beach, and just in case we EVER forget we are Brazil, there is the occasional "stereo truck" to remind us where we are. Picture it... a truck covered in huge speakers which creeps slowly through neighborhoods sporting a guy on a microphone making live, um, "announcements" of sorts, yelling at us, really. It's ridiculously loud, and we often comment about how long that would fly in Portland (ha!), where even the silent IKEA display trucks seem slightly offensive to our advertising sensitive selves!'s just part of life. And on Sundays, if we are lucky, we can catch a glimpse of the old man who, wearing a full suit, hat and sunglasses (it's like, 95 degrees mind you), walks slowly down the streets pushing a "stereo cart"....seems he is spreading the word of god REALLY loud through REALLY bad speakers. Never a dull moment.

On to food...we are consuming a year's worth of tropical fruit in our four months here, getting it while it's cheap, ripe and local. If we only had a compost pile! We are also getting our fill of "agua de cocos," hands down, the most perfect thirst quenching beverage around. And on our tiny burners in our tiny kitchen, Lane is quite good at cooking beans, eggs, and newly on the scene...grilled cheese. Unfortunately, I still burn most things... When we venture OUT to eat, it usually involves carefully choosing items off a "self service" buffet. At the end of the line, we weigh our plates of food and pay by the kilo. Before we knew any better, we had some shocking moments at the scale, wide eyed, with bowls full of REALLY expensive ice cream and sushi! Of course now we are savvy buffet diners...choosing "lightly." All in all, the most plentiful and easily available food items involve meat, bread and sugar. Yikes! The exact items I usually try and avoid.

Which leads me to tell you about my latest love of....AEROBICS! Yes, it's true, I came all the way to beautiful exotic Brazil, and what did I do? I joined the gym!! To be honest, it has been my saving grace on multiple levels. My nightly trips to the land of spandex and techno music are not only keeping me healthy, but they are giving me something to DO when Lane disappears to his teacher's house most evenings. Can you picture me? Yes, I'm the tall gringa in the back trying to keep up with the Brazilian ladies as the teacher shouts out commands in Portuguese, competing of course with the SUPER loud (it's a theme here) American music. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" set to techno beats?? What! I love it and the whole scene makes me laugh. I usually do about three classes every night, some combination of step aerobics, yoga, "super shape," "super mix" "aero fight," and possibly the most hilarious...the mini trampoline class. Happily, I've made a couple of "friends" there who graciously listen to me as I attempt to communicate in Portuguese. It's sweet.

Was that a detour from "the senses?" Maybe not.

On to the weather!!! I'm SENSING that the weather here in Brazil in shifting. Just like it is starting to feel like Spring in Portland (I hear), it is starting to feel like a Brazilian version of Fall. It can no longer be assumed that every day will be endlessly sunny and overly hot. In fact, it's quite cloudy at the moment, and feels like it just might rain. Yay! (I'm such a Portlander). But seriously, the shift to slightly cooler temperatures and the occasional tropical downpour is just fine with me and my perpetually sunburned skin.

To end, another slight detour from the senses theme, but a good story none the less. Yesterday we were invited to volunteer at a publicly funded (they are rare) language school. We were enthusiastically greeted by Fatima, the teacher, and led into a stark windowless classroom. There, we found about ten ladies, ages ranging from 20ish to 60ish, sitting nervously in their desks. We sat up front with the teacher and were prompted to...."speak English". OK, I can do this! Eventually, the slight awkwardness of it all wore off, and we got into a flow asking and answering questions about where we were from, our professions (they guessed Lane was a guitar player), our religions (!), and our musical tastes. It was really fun and also extremely rewarding to give something of ourselves back to people here. We are planning to return today and hopefully a few more times before we pack up and move to Salvador (11 days from now...very exciting).

That's all for now folks. Here are some of my latest creations...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sinking In

Since I last wrote, I have found my groove. The culture shock is wearing off, we are settled in our own sweet space, and my back is almost completely healed. Yay!! My Portuguese is even improving with the help of a three hour group class and a couple of private sessions every week, in addition to my flash cards and constant inquiry of, "Come se diz....(How do you say...). Indeed, I am surrendering to the simplicity of my life here. I typically, wake up shockingly early (5am!) before it's blisteringly hot outside, go running/walking on the beach followed by a swim in the ocean. All this, in the presence of a beautiful sunrise. After our typical breakfast of coffee and papaya, I either go back to sleep (rough life, I know), or practice Portuguese, paint, write, do yoga, lounge around by our rooftop pool, or walk to the fruit market. It is truly a relaxing life we've got going on here. Interestingly, I realize it's my tendency to want to DO MORE, to make some huge difference in the world, to have some amazing journey filled with incredible life changing moments at every turn, so believe it or not, I struggle a little with "just livin' on the beach." However, Lane lovingly reminded me that during these times of worrying or wanting something more/different, I am quite simply, NOT being in the moment. SO true.

So, I'm getting it...slowly. I'm pausing to feel the temperature of the sun on my skin (thank you Cvita), to listen to the waves, and to be thankful for this luxurious chapter in my life. I'm getting over my fears of speaking this language even though I'm terrible (the Brazilians love you for trying, and, hey, I'm good entertainment for them). And again (see by last blog entry), I am finding joy in the details, like the plethora of tiny, perfectly groomed, white fluffy dogs who stroll along with their Brazilian owners on the "boardwalk," as I call it. Who knew?

Here's a bit about the boardwalk...The boardwalk is where I do much of my people watching and strolling. It is basically a wide sidewalk which runs parallel to the ocean, in between the lovely large white beach and the relatively busy road. It's a block from our home. There are restaurants and bars scattered along it serving fish, hamburgers (very popular here), beer and coconut water (personal favorite) to the throngs of bikini wearing Brazilians lounging in plastic chairs stuck in the sand. There are also the required hippies selling their handmade wears and the frequent rolly cart full of fried bread items or ice cream. It's touristy in a "Brazilians on weekend holiday" kind of way, but not very international. We definitely stand out a bit (not too many gringos with dreadlocks here:)) The boardwalk goes on for miles, is lined with palm trees and hotels, and is hands down the local "strip," the gathering place for droves of teenagers, families, beer drinking buddies, scantily clad joggers and the occasional samba band or soccer game. And, for now, it's our strip too.

A few days ago, we were invited to go on a day long drive with our new English friends who I met in my Portuguese class. They live here now and have invested in property up and down the coast. They were great tour guides as they really knew all the great secret spots, AND they were hilarious, AND they insistented upon giving us beer all day long. We had a blast seeing the A-MAAAZE-ING beaches (see pic below) which surround Joao Pessoa. We also discovered that land here is super cheap, like SUPER cheap...hmmm?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Flora and I rented a flat with a veranda that has a view of the Atlantic; there is a saying in Portuguese about house guests being like fish - after a few days, things are not so fresh. We are so thankful for my teacher's family's hospitality, yet we felt the need to give his teenage son his
bedroom back; we are having fun in our own place, shopping for local produce, cooking in our tiny kitchen, wearing fewer clothes :)... Flora set up an art studio which can migrate back and forth from the veranda to the breezy living room.

A block from our place, we saw and heard a Samba group playing on the ocean boardwalk, and we went down to check it out. It felt like we were among our people (freaks, that is). Many onlookers simply stood and watched. Flora and I danced uncontrolably, and the women dancers from the group pulled Flora into their circle where she held her own with confidence and ease. A few minutes later, they pulled me into the circle. This place, and its people, seem quite tolerant of 'estrangeiros' who want to stand and observe the culture. Those who want to dive in and participate are welcomed with enthusiasm.

I am still far from being fluent in Portuguese, but every day brings us both an increment closer. A free English class in my teacher's neighborhood starts this week, and we're looking for more ways to plug in and give something of ourselves.

Meanwhile, though this blog is not really the place to go on and on about my favorite pastime, here is a little clip of a "game" at a local gathering.