Sunday, September 28, 2008

Community wedding in Itaboaí

We went to a “community wedding” on Saturday featuring 17 couples from the surrounding area in Itaboaí. Two years ago Luiz’s goddaughter, Claudia, married her husband in a civil ceremony but then this opportunity for a full on wedding in their church came along. So now they planned to walk down the aisle in real style.

In fact, the opportunity to be the focus in all that pageantry was too good to pass up for Claudia’s sister as well. Maria Inês convinced her husband (civil ceremony 30 years ago!) to don some duds and re-commit.

By sharing the costs involved Claudia’s catholic church, Nossa Senhora de Fatima, offered an opportunity for the poor residents of their congregation to access a beautiful church wedding complete with lots of flower arrangements, a seven piece band with beautiful vocals, and accent lighting to enhance pictures and videos.

Normally the church charges R$300 for a wedding. In this case the couples were charged just R$60. The “parish family” then made arrangements for the ceremony, flowers, etc. It was a very popular idea and couples young and old took advantage of the opportunity.

Hours before going to the church we stopped by Luiz’s aunt Darcilia’s house (Claudia’s mother; their houses share a front gate and back yard) to enjoy her specialty: ox tail stew. Being on the inside at that point we were privy to all the mishaps that kept trying to derail the big day: the day before Oscar’s car had broken down and the mechanic was not yet able to get it up and running – so suddenly no car; when the rented dress and tux arrived Oscar discovered his shoes were of two different sizes and Claudia’s “permanent florals” bouquet (use included in the dress rental) was pretty mangled by the previous bride – phone calls and running around ensued; and then the guy from the reception hall called to say he had not paid the light bill so the power had been shut off!

Lots of drama. And lots of food. The stove and oven in both houses were running full tilt preparing final dishes and desserts for the guests. A friend arrived with a big van to help shuttle decorations, food and set ups to the (still dark) reception location. Repeated yet somehow calm calls to the reception hall guy ended when he assured everyone that if he could not get the power company to turn on the electricity in time he would just clip into the power lines above the street and reroute a little extra juice for our needs. (VERY Brazilian. This somewhat common practice in many poorer sections is referred to a having a “gato” [cat] where you pinch off the power grid and simply bypass the power company altogether.)

Finally the time arrived to walk to the church. Once the women’s hairdos were ready and the men and boy’s ties tied we put the brides in Tonico’s car (it had been raining all day and the muddy dirt roads would have been a disaster on shoes and dresses) and set off for the church, just a couple blocks away.

[Sorry, this is turning into a pretty long post – but it’s a great story.]

Once at the church the family members went inside and the couples and attendants went to the social hall to be coached and organized by the church staff. It was showtime.

As it turned out Luiz and I had the only camera in the bunch, so Luiz was declared official wedding photographer. He performed admirably as you can see from these shots.

It was all very moving. The music began and a procession of attendants entered and walked up the long red carpet to fill the first 7 rows of wooden pews. Then beaming brides and their grooms followed, pushing through a wall of camera flashes and past beautiful flower arrangements lining the aisle.

The priest got things underway by leading those assembled in a few prayers and then settled into a rather long homily presumably about the ups and downs of married life, etc.

Then one couple at a time walked to the front, exchanged vows and rings, received the priest's blessing and were pronounced husband and wife (to enthusiastic applause.) While the individual time was brief, yet not rushed, time did add up (remember there were 17 couples.) Just over three hours after we arrived we were cheering the newlyweds as they exited the church.

Now it was time to see if we had lights at the hall. Sure enough, when we pulled up we could hear the DJ and all was brightly lit. Somehow along the way someone forgot to pack the forks. No matter – the focus of the meal being served was Brazilian BBQ which most folks are used to eating with a tooth pick, or just your fingers. The gigantic savory torte was easily served in napkins. There were plenty of bowls and spoons for the soup. Nobody forgot to pack the beer and cups – so we were fine!

For the next several hours people danced, ate, drank and took photos.

It was a really sweet day. Claudia and Maria Inês thoroughly enjoyed walking down the aisle. The wonderful diversity of couples at the ceremony (young, old, first timers, repeat customers etc.) was heart warming. Being witness to such a touching community event was the real treat for me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Luiz health update

Luiz went to his monthly doctor appointment at INCA today. His mother accompanied him. Good news overall.

You will recall that with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia things progress slowly, if all is going well. We’re delighted to report that things are going well.

Luiz is going monthly because from among the half dozen or so markers that indicate a more negative prognosis he has one such marker. It is a more obscure marker – not among the real zingers, for sure; but a marker all the same. So his team wants to keep a close eye on progression. Thus the frequent blood tests and reviews. We appreciate the careful scrutiny. Although spending time at a public cancer facility takes its toll.

A recent CT scan taken here compared to the scan taken in December in San Francisco revealed no progression in terms of lymph node or spleen swelling. VERY good news.

Blood counts continue to show very slow progression. So we settle back into “watch and worry.” But it is definitely good news overall.

As a lighthearted aside, Luiz has been coached by his social worker to say the words "I am diabetic" (which is true) when he goes in for his monthly blood draw. Those magic words result in a parting of the crowd, taking him to the front of the 40-person line waiting for their lab paperwork. Then again to the front of the 15-person line of those waiting to be poked. We can get in and out in less than 15 minutes (otherwise a two hour ordeal.) We are grateful for mundane conveniences.

Thank you for all your support, prayers and well wishes. It makes a real difference for Luiz and I.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Luiz the networking charmer

Flor de Luiz is bustin’out! Remember the party/event Luiz did the flowers for at the Contemporary Art Museum in Niteroí? Well the photographer at that event showed pictures of Luiz’s flowers to his wife (and business partner) and she immediately got on the phone to Luiz to ask him if he would like to do the flowers for their booth at an upcoming vendor fair in Piratininga.

They offered to pay for the materials in exchange for Luiz designing several arrangements to dress up their booth – plus Luiz would be present throughout the four day event to schmooze with other vendors and the public, and distributing print materials.

Once again my photos don’t really capture the arrangements at their best, but suffice it to say that Luiz was a real hit. Many, many people (vendors and public) confirmed what we already know – that Luiz’s designs are unlike anything seen down here. He is truly a “new look” that is very pleasing.

He was approached by several vendors to see if he would be willing to work with them on future projects, and he discussed wedding flowers with several brides to be.

The event itself was really well organized with vendors, demonstrations, performances, a bridal gown fashion show, wine and Champaign tasting, etc. A full program across four nights.

One performance in particular blew me away. Here are some photos of “at-risk youth” (students from the favelas) who have learned the violin, flute, cello, guitar and other instruments and now perform at events. Sheer beauty from the toughest of situations. Really inspiring.
So now post-fair, Luiz has his work cut out for him following up on all the contacts he made.

A day at the beach in winter

I definitely spoke too soon in my post just a few days ago when I suggested that the heat of summer was a ways off and going to the beach was something seen in the future. The following Sunday we went with friends to the beach and roasted for several hours.

One thing I love about the beach here is the full-service experience when it comes to all comforts and desires met by passing vendors. Just wish for something and an independent vendor is sure to walk by ready to please you (for a very small fee.)

Here are just a few examples of entrepreneurs working the beach.

Fresh fish cooked to order?

How about some kibbe? - still hot from the fryer.

Looking for a temporary tatoo?

How about some fresh shrimp? Or even a lobster?

Groovy necklace or bracelet?

Forget your sunglasses? No problem.

Fresh oysters for you and your friend?

How about the latest in pirated CDs?

And one of my favorites - BBQd cheese on a stick.

Viva Brasil!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Is it McCain-Palin or Palin-McCain?

It's going to be a long 60 days...

Here's a little relief. Check it out.

This one's great too.

And another winner!

It just keeps getting better:

Pass the sunscreen

The sun is heating up. Winter is coming to an end and spring is just a couple of weeks away. Already the mild days in the low seventies are morphing into sweaty days reaching the mid eighties. We still have some time, for sure, but it has begun.

Now standing in the sun includes that familiar burning feeling on your skin.

Time to break out the tank tops. Summer here we come.

Soon it will be back to the beach!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Rare sighting on the ferry

My mind flashed on downtown San Francisco today and then snapped back while getting off the ferry after work. I spotted a woman dragging a rolling laptop computer case/briefcase. This ubiquitous accessory in San Francisco – on the subway, on the streets, in the elevator – is all but absent in Rio.

Maybe it’s the frequent uneven stone sidewalks; maybe it’s the lack of accessible curb cutouts; maybe it’s the sheer volume of sidewalk vendors making walking in a straight line an impossibility; or maybe it’s the lack of resources to tote a laptop around with you wherever you go. Whatever it is I just noticed today that these bits of otherwise common urban luggage are a rarity in Rio.

It is perhaps more likely to see a school girl from the favelas taking her laptop to school on her head.

JUST KIDDING!! Would that it be true! And she would use her Hello Kitty backpack anyway. LOL!