Friday, August 12, 2011

Sanskrit and Slurpees

"Ring the bell!" Munees whispered as I reached out to grasp the tantalizingly hefty rope hanging from it at the Hindu temple entrance.

"No!" I whispered back "I don't want to interrupt that guy chanting over there!" nodding towards the man in the long white robes. "What language is he speaking?"

"That's the Brahman, or priest, and he's chanting in Sanskrit. You're SUPPOSED to ring the's the way you say 'Hey! Gods! Wake up! Pay attention! I'm here to get my blessings!'"

At that, I laughed. Right out loud. The young couple kneeling at the Brahman's feet turned and smiled at me, and since I'd interrupted them already, I figured I'd ring the bell.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Princess behind the Salad Bar

"Hey Sister Jameson!" I said to the young woman behind the lunch counter. "How are you today?"

Sister Jameson has down syndrome. Twenty-something, sweet, and spunky, she wanted to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That's what brought her to be a volunteer service missionary in the employee cafeteria, giving me the pleasure of chatting with her each day.

We normally talk about upcoming fun events or our weekend plans, but today was different.

"This morning when I was in the bathroom I realized something" Sister Jameson responded thoughtfully to my question.

"What's that?" I asked as I placed a tong-ful of spinach from her carefully maintained salad bar onto my plate.

"I realized that I am a child of God." she responded earnestly. "And that means...I'm a princess. Because of that, I have something really important I need to do."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Miss America in Rio

"Hey Miss America!" the young Australian man called out to me as we waited for the train that would take us down Corcovado mountain.

"Will you tell the guide that we went down early, and will find our way back to the hotel ourselves?"

We'd gone to the top of Corcovado mountain to get an up-close-and-personal view of the Christ the Redeemer statue majestically standing there, hands outstretched, overlooking gorgeous Rio de Janeiro. Here are a few images I captured of it from Sugarloaf, another mountain in Rio:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Life goes on

A novel about a girl who ran away from home and lived in a museum fascinated me as a child. Salvador's colonial center is a lot like a museum--full of beauty, history, art and culture--definitely worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.

But it was the daily lives of those who make their home in the beautiful Salvador da Bahia "museum" which most captured my attention and imagination.

Some things are true about life, even when you live in a museum.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A drive in the countryside

"Posso?" I asked as I showed my camera to the boy leading his cow across the highway. He nodded, and so I captured this photo of him:

I turned to climb back into the car with Roberto, but another boy stopped me with his protests. He wanted HIS photo taken too! Happy to oblige, I captured this image of him, his friends, and their pet cows:

Capoeira Fight Dance

Once upon a time, practicing capoeira could get you arrested and tortured. Capoeira, a martial arts form developed by unarmed slaves attempting to defend themselves against their armed masters, was banned several times during Brazil's history.

One of the ways slaves "hid" their practice of capoeira was by turning it into a dance...a beautiful, athletic, amazing form of dance.

Today, capoeira is celebrated as a symbol of Brazil's culture and heritage, and watching people practice it in the streets of Salvador is one of the treats of visiting there.

Here's a video of some children playing the traditional instruments that accompany the dancers within the capoeira circle:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Religion in Salvador

As I traveled around Brazil, I noticed that many of the Brazilians I met wore bracelets like this:

These bracelets are wish ribbons originating from Salvador's famous Church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim. People make a wish as they tie them on, making three knots, and then leave them on until the ribbon disintegrates on its own. According to the tradition, cutting them off is bad luck and will prevent the fulfillment of your wish. When you visit the Church, you can see many of the wish ribbons tied to the fences out front, like this:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tour guides of Salvador

"Where are you from?" the black man wearing little round spectacles asked. He and his friend had walked past and then returned to the place where I sat on a narrow ledge, leaning against one of the historic buildings overlooking the Plaza da Se. I'd chosen the spot because it offered a great view of the anti-discrimination festival going on that day. Here's a little video to give you a sense of the place:

"The United States", I responded.

"I knew it!" he said excitedly. "I could tell you were an American from 100 meters away!"

Apparently, dying my hair dark so I wouldn't stand out in Brazil hadn't worked. Earlier, as I boarded the flight from Miami to Salvador da Bahia and saw no blonde people on the plane, I was glad I had dark hair. But, once I arrived in Salvador, Brazil's former colonial capital and the entry point for millions of African slaves, I realized there was no hiding the fact that I'm white.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sailing the Day Away

Parati sits on the Bay of Ilha Grande, which has 365 little islands to explore.

Here are some images of the lazy day I spent sailing around there.

Brazil's Little Venice

Once a month, at the time of the full moon, the colonial town of Parati floods. The town's builders designed it that way, with a high-tide powered automatic street washing system.

I wasn't there for the full moon, so I didn't capture my own picture of the phenomenon, but here's someone else's image of the reason Parati is sometimes called "Brazil's Little Venice":