I feel like lately I've been feeling less and less motivation to write this blog. But, sort of like going to the gym, every time I write, I feel better, like I have spilled out the contents of my heart and mind to make space for new adventures. Plus, when I come home, if people ask me how my trip was, I can refer them directly to my blog =).
I spent the last week in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Brasilia has actually only been the capital since 1960 when the president, Juscelino Kubitschek, decided to move the capital from Rio on the coast to the center of the country. He contracted Lucio Costa to design the city and his close friend Oscar Niemeyer as the chief architect. The city itself is in the shape of an airplane with a north wing and a south wing, and the government buildings are situated in the nose of the plane. All of the streets are numbered on a grid and most of the streets look very much the same, which makes it easy to get lost if you don't know your numbers. The architecture of the buildings downtown is fascinating and it was neat just to drive around and check out the structures. My favorite was the cathedral- I've been in tons of cathedrals and churches on this trip, but this one was by far the most modern and interesting.
In the 60s, the city was turned into a peninsula via a dammed up man-made lake, which was also quite beautiful. Throughout the city are lots of green spaces, parks and playgrounds. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the aesthetics of Brasilia- very different than the beautiful colonial towns like Quito and Cuzco, but still quite pretty in its own modernity.
Of course, like everywhere I've been so far, what actually makes a place special for me is its people. I spent the week in the home of some close friends of my family, Ricardo, Elaine and their beautiful 22-month-old daughter Mari. We had a lovely time visiting, cooking meals together, and playing with Mari who loved greeting me in the morning with a smile and a cry of “Col-eeee!” We explored Brasilia in Ricardo and Elaine's free time, visiting parks and restaurants and spending some time with their extended families. When they were busy, I was surrounded by plenty of other friends in Brasilia, mostly contacts of my fathers, and I felt very welcome in the city.
One evening I went with Bruno and his friend to another forró night down on the lake. The atmosphere was equally as beautiful as the beach forró in Vitoria, complete with Christmas lights, a gazebo, and a fantastic band. Another night I met up with some couchsurfers in town, had some drinks, and went to a salsa dancing party. Other times I met up with friends for drinks and snacks at local botecos and restaurants. I am so grateful for the kind people of Brasilia who welcomed me amidst their busy lives.
On Saturday, Ricardo was off of work and was gracious enough to take me on a drive 2 1/2 hours out of town through the Brazilian countryside to the picturesque town of Pirenópolis. We spent the day having a delicious lunch of “picanha” (the best cut of meat in Brazil), exploring the shops and quaint streets of the town, and even checking out a beautiful waterfall just outside of town where the cool waters were very refreshing. The waterfall reminded me of the greenbelt in Austin, but with much more water than has been in recent years- I could have spent the whole day there easily!
My last night in Brazil I attended a Christmas concert at a local church where several of the musicians I had met throughout the week were performing in the orchestra. The service was really nice, and reminded me just how close Christmas is- it feels so surreal being so far from home and in such tropical weather. After the concert, a large group of us went out for pizza and had a great time.
Monday morning before leaving Brasilia I went with Mari and Elaine to the National Park of Brasilia to swim in the mineral water pool. The water was pretty cold, but it was still a nice swim. Lunch with Ricardo, then it was off to the airport to come back to São Paulo with Anna and Marcel for a few days.
These past few days I've explored São Paulo on foot, and am really appreciating a city so easily accessible by pubic transportation. I went to the MASP art museum today. The paintings and exhibits inside were nice but my favorite exhibit was actually for free outside the museum. It was a series of photographs of places all over the world taken from an aerial view. Each photograph had a description and an interesting statistic about world populations, food distributions, environmental impacts, etc. At the end there was a large floor map where visitors were encouraged to remove their shoes and explore. I happily complied.
Tonight we're going to see the Lion King, yes, in Portuguese, and I'm super excited. Either tonight later or tomorrow morning I am going to take a bus to Rio where I will spend the next few days. Just one more week in Brazil, and I intend to make the most of it!