Friday, December 30, 2011

Book review: Midwives

Before moving to Brazil I went on a shopping spree picking out hundreds of books (in English) I thought I might enjoy reading once I was in the land of all things Portuguese. Some have been duds, but the book I just finished was wonderful.

Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian (1997, Vintage Books/Random House) is a powerful tale richly rendered. It is more than ten years old, and was an Oprah pick, so perhaps you have read it. If not, used copies are available for one cent on Amazon, so even with international shipping, the price is right. Or, you can have my copy. I will add it to my list at the online expat lending library.

From the back cover: On an icy winter night in an isolated house in rural Vermont, a seasoned midwife named Sibyl Danforth takes desperate measures to save a baby's life. She performes an emergency cesarean section on a mother she believes has died of stroke. But what if Sibyl's patient wasn't dead and Sibyl inadvertently killed her?

Here is a brief review from Amazon's page:

In Midwives, Chris Bohjalian chronicles the events leading up to the trial of Sibyl Danforth, a respected midwife in the small Vermont town of Reddington, on charges of manslaughter. It quickly becomes evident, however, that Sibyl is not the only one on trial--the prosecuting attorney and the state's medical community are all anxious to use this tragedy as ammunition against midwifery in general; this particular midwife, after all, an ex-hippie who still evokes the best of the flower-power generation, is something of an anachronism in 1981. Through it all, Sibyl, her husband, Rand, and their teenage daughter, Connie, attempt to keep their family intact, but the stress of the trial--and Sibyl's growing closeness to her lawyer--puts pressure on both marriage and family. Bohjalian takes readers through the intricacies of childbirth and the law, and by the end of Sibyl Danforth's trial, it's difficult to decide which was more harrowing--the tragic delivery or its legal aftermath.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas update from Niterói, Brazil

[Note - I am still getting used to my new -- BRAZILIAN/PORTUGUESE - computer. I can't yet get everything to work, including photos -- sorry -- In fact - I am using two keyboards to spell everything correctly...]  Anyway...


Once again Christmas was a joyous celebration among so-called blood family and chosen family.

Luiz and I live in a family with Zozó, his mother. She lives just a few doors down the road from us and Luiz is in contact with her at least twice a day. Naturally we love and adore her and would be spending Christmas in her company.

It has become a bit of a routine to join Zozó’s long-time neighbors in Itaipú and their extended family for a traditional Christmas Eve feast, celebration and gift exchange. The family is a delightful mix of seniors, moms and dads and children - about 20 people in all. Plus us.

Donna Conceição and Senhor Sergio throw one heck of a party.

This year there was cold Brahma beer on tap (very chic!) and the turkey was an unbelievable 12 kilograms (26.5 pounds) -- Note: our 7 kg (15 pound) turkey for thanksgiving was $R45 -- goddess bless donna Conceição - she must have spent at least $R130 on that turkey!. Plus there was the traditional salted cod/potato/creamy cheese bake (her bacalhão choice was SO flavorful, and surely top shelf!), flaked smoked chicken salad, creamy potato salad, sweet ham, roasted chestnuts, plus three fabulous desserts: a parfait (creamy layered wonderfulness), a multi-layered moist cake decorated like a Yule Log, and Rabanada (a super sweet think French Toast sort of deal sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon - then drizzled with a flavorful sugar sauce). We enjoyed a chic feast!

I had about one tablespoon of each... but it was fabulous.

The family is wonderful, gathering from up to 600 miles afar. The kids are great. And lucky for me, two of the daughters are English teachers, so when my Portuguese fell short, they could bridge the gap.

We played the “Secret Santa” game and each gave a gift to another randomly pulled from a hat one month before.

Quite fun.

I must add that Luiz’s gift to his 7 year old Secret Santa recipient was a radio controlled racing car. The boy went wild. Unfortunately Luiz neglected to provide the 6 AA batteries needed to make it all work. The boy was not deterred. He reminded his mother and grandmother that all the silly Christmas Santa toys bleeping and flashing all over the house were powered by such batteries. So he got them to harvest those batteries for his new race car toy.


The next morning he was in the street making magic happen - with most of the adults outside cheering him on. Luiz hit a home run with his gift!

Christmas day Luiz, Zozó and I enjoyed a quiet morning opening gifts and appreciating each other. Very nice.

My Skype account continues to block me - so I was not able to touch base with my family in the US (and apparently they did not use their Skype accounts to call me) -- plus they are not on Facebook - so I hope they know I love them and wish I could have spoken with them.

Christmas is very different here for this Detroit/San Francisco boy. Here in Brazil the vibe is totally different (as I still do not visit shopping malls - I take my experience from the streets). The holiday could quite literally come and go without notice, except for the family connection.

But I am grateful for those in my life who support me and keep me moving forward, in spite of my demons.

For me, New Years has a stronger pull.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Summer in Niterói

Summer is here. Normally summer is a terrifically hot season that really takes its toll. Nothing but beach and sleeping under a fan gets you through it. Plus three cold showers a day.

We’ll see this year. Global “weirding” has everything standing on its head.

But today we definitely have some seriously hot weather.

The good news is that our laundry dries quite quickly. The bad news is that we feel like we have to stay inside from 1:00 - 4:00 to avoid the stupid-hot temperature outside. But the beach is great from 9:00 am 'til noon.

The silver lining of global weirding is the extra rain -- it really cools things down. But it can often flood the streets and cause problems for people living in low areas or on unstable soil. Luckily we are three floors up in a cement neighborhood.

Summer - I prefer it to winter. Unfortunately sunscreen is expensive.

Meet us at the beach.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Luiz health update

I’m always nervous when we go to Luiz’ appointments at the National Cancer Institute. How will the blood tests come out? Will we get good results? Is he maintaining his slow-and-steady situation --- or will he move into the more aggressive stage of his disease?

In this case I can attest to his “slow and steady” progression.

At his last appointment we can report that he is at about (statistically) the same place he was one year ago. That is GOOD news. Luiz has to worry about progression when it starts to be very aggressive. That is NOT the case. His blood count numbers are very stable.

I could not be happier, nor him.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shout out to Brazilian health care

I’m going to say it again: I admire the Brazilian health care system. OK - what I’m really referring to is the system when you have supplemental private insurance.

Regular readers know that I had gastric bypass surgery back in July.

Since then I have had to do a great number of follow up tests to be sure all is going well.

Significantly, Luiz and I live in the epicenter of doctor’s offices and diagnostic labs. We can literally get any test done within a four block radius. All our doctors: cardiologist, endocrinologist, dental surgeon, dermatologist, physical therapist, allergist, and of course the fat-to-skinny surgeon have offices within a ten minute walk.

Everything is covered by the insurance we have. No co-pays, no limits - the doctor takes the hit (low reimbursements) not us.

Recently I had to have a CT scan, multiple blood tests, and a 24 hour blood pressure mapping. Done. Done. Done. Everything was done within two days. No waiting. No delay. And I paid nothing (aside from my affordable monthly insurance payment).

The worst of it is waiting in the waiting room for a long-delayed appointment (my fat-to-skinny surgeon guy is ALWAYS one or two hours late for appointments -- thank the goddess for iPods!). Waiting in Brazil is most certainly NOT the exception to the rule.

But the best of it is the kind and personal conversations you have with doctors who seem to care about you and who want to know more about your life than just your situational illness.

I could not be happier. Easy, quick (to set appointments - not to see the physician), efficient, great quality, and by USA standards - ridiculously cheap.

It must be said that the free public system has its problems. - especially in rural areas. But we have a dear friend, with no extra insurance,  that was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and he was in for surgery within a week. It seems if your case is dire, you get immediate attention. There are of course horror stories of those with non-emergency situations that had to wait...

For me, the lesson is that if a community - a country - commits itself to providing universal health care -- it is possible. Even if they have scarce resources. There are ways to make it work. Take note US America.

[Did I mention that 100% of Luiz’s cancer treatment/medication (totally separate from our insurance) is free?] ‘nuf said.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

You know you are in Brazil when

You know you are in Brazil when the worker refurbishing the four story building across the street is barefoot. He´s hanging by a rope on a makeshift wooden seat from which he has a bucket of plaster attached which he is using to patch the walls - and has a pried-open 10L can of paint tied by rope to his wooden seat through the lid of the can from which he alternates some painting activity.

I watched him attach his "secure suspension system" by taking out several roof tiles and locating a roof beam onto which he tied his humble rope.

He did not seem confident, at first, about his mechanics. I cold barely watch!

But apparently he is an experienced, fearless, acrobat construction worker. He´s been up there all day and doing fine.

I hope he is getting paid a decent wage... (fat chance)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Amazing and historic speach by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on LGBT rights - wow!

Amazing - increduible - historic - and unbelieveable comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in front of the United Nations. We are making progress!

Listen to these remarks!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Brazil seems to be thriving

I´m not an economist - nor do I claim to be one on TV or the internet. But I have to say that Brazilians seem to be spending $$ in record numbers.

Luiz and I recently went to the mall to buy a computer. The place was PACKED! Not just the electronics\home appliances stores we visited - but the entire mall.

Wallets seemed to be open. People seemed to be buying. Sales people were definitely busy.

It did not look like a poor country to me. Brazil has changed.

Make no mistake - there are a gazillion poor people in Brazil - and consumer goods are rediculously expensive. But a trip to the mall had me thinking about everything upsidedown.

Who are these people with all this money? Why is this place so packed?

We don´t live in the richest of cities (although Niterói is consistently voted "Best Quality of Life" in Rio de Janeiro state...) Is it the credit bubble? Are people really able to buy refrigerators? I´m looking over my shoulder waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But there is home\apartment construction everywhere. There are municipal improvements happening at the library, the old city hall, the ferry terminal, road expansions. Looks like improvement to me...

Unless and until I hear a pop in a bubble, I´m going to hold on to the belief that things are getting better for many Brazilians.

Am I dillusional? What have you noticed?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Down but not out

I´m back --- sorry for the delay. But we had an unwanted intruder enter our apartment at 4:30 in the morning who stoled my computer, two cell phones, our digital camera, and my wallet. Plus he took Luiz´s backpack and my canvas bag to carry out the loot.

All this while Luiz and I were sleeping in the next room.

This post is a bit off key for my blog. I have a rule not to go negative when it comes to living and thriving in Brazil. But in this case it feels a bit hollow NOT to report on what just happenend.

Not to make too fine a point, this was a crime of opportunity, for sure. For whatever reason, our neighboring building left their gate open, which led to the rear area of the building. (They later said they had gotten a delivery of natural gas tanks for the building and failed to secure the gate. Very unusual.) It is an easy jump from their back area to ours. This thief saw the opportunity.

Luiz and I live on the third floor, and as such have thought little about barring our windows for security. Who would climb so high to steal? Well, now we know it is possible. Bars will be installed this week. The now-famous thief is being referred to as "Spider Man" in the press. He is a repeat offender.

It is shaking to be intruded upon (especially while you are asleep) and it is a drag to have several thousand Reais of goods stolen - that will need to be replaced.

Thank the gods there was no violence.

So now we have contracted a man to construct simple but effective bars over our rear windows, I have bought a new computer (with a painfully small screen), cell phones will be replaced with "credits" from previous expenditures, and we will wait for a friend to visit from the USA to have them bring a new digital camera (which can be more than three times the price here).

I am a big Brazil booster. I do not like to report the negative. But forgive me -- this time it cut close to the bone.

We are on the mend. All is fine. Things are getting back to normal.

And a final advantage is that I spent a lot more time in the past few days reading a terrific novel than I did watching an old TV show on the computer...

Monday, November 28, 2011

I found peanut butter!

A hah! I found it! Peanut butter. Actual real peanut butter. Not the sickening sweet whipped purée sugar/peanut/soy oil mixture readily available and made for kids. Actual peanut butter. (OK, maybe a bit too whipped and light, but nearly the real deal.)

“Tia Mona Pasta de Amendoim” – crocante to boot!
Just R$6 for a whopping 160 grams (that’s about a cup). Ah Brazil…
Glad to have found it – but I think I’ll keep making my own in the food processor.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Observations on Thanksgiving in Brazil

I have survived another faux Thanksgiving in Brazil. Barely.
Here corn bread is a sweet cake you prepare wrapped in the husks of the corn and is served for dessert. (Wonderful!) Back in the US we just spread some butter on the savory, but a bit sweet, bread and enjoy it during the meal.
Here turkey is BBQed (like everything else) bit by bit – OK, maybe occasionally oven roasted, but when I brined the turkey for 8 hours and then slowly baked it to a delicious and juicy result I took a lot of flack along the way from non-understanding back seat cooks.
Here green beans are chopped and sliced into tiny bits, and served with an egg cooked on top of the lot. (Which is delicious, btw.) My long cut beans with a simple butter sauce cooked al dente did not go over well (“they are raw!”).
Here squash is to be paired with dried meat. (Also delicious, btw.) But my roasted squash stuffed with an apple, walnut, cheese dressing was seen, cautiously, as curious – although enjoyed. Everything needs an explanation/justification.
Pies, overall, are not really a dessert item in Brazil. It’s more of a cake culture here. But anything sweet and delicious goes over well.
Who am I kidding? I am a foreigner – remember? Don’t forget. People here are not like people from where I come from. Duh. I must stop thinking that all things translate – even when those things are cherished traditions/foods/delicious.
Someday I will adapt. And I always appreciate my husband for his bridge building abilities.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Clay pots in Brazil

Luiz and his tourism class went to Guarapari in Espirito Santo last weekend. That’s several hours north of Rio along the coast, just short of Victoria, the capital of Espirito Santo.

This region is famous for a lot of things, but for us old-school guys, it’s the clay pots that catch our attention. The pots are made from black clay and mangrove tree sap washed and molded. After dried in the open air and put through a bonfire, sap is applied a few additional times to blacken the clay and to make it water resistant.

I love this kind of cooking. Thirteen years ago Luiz won my heart when he cooked a seafood moqueca for me, in a clay pot, on one of our first dates. SOLD!
On this trip he brought back two pots: one highly decorated and large enough for a good moqueca, and the other just the right size for rice or a delicious pirão. Complete with their wire serving bases.
To me – food is best when cooked in clay or stone. Plus it goes from the stove/oven to the table in the same pot, keeping it hot.
One more reason to love Brazil.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Brazil's tribes compete in Indigenous Games

A Pataxo Indian attends the Indigenous Games

This article and all the photos originally appeared here.

A Rikbaktsa Indian couple attend the Indigenous Games

PORTO NACIONAL, Brazil (AP) - More than 1,000 Indians are celebrating Brazil's indigenous cultures with a weeklong sports competition in the northern city of Porto Nacional.

Tembe Indians attend the Indigenous Games

A Tapirape Indian aims a spear as he competes in the Indigenous Games

Brazil's federal Indian agency that cosponsors the games says they are one of the biggest indigenous sporting events in the Americas.

A young Rikbaktsa Indian woman attends the Indigenous Games

Thirty-eight ethnic groups from across the vast country are competing in 10 events that include archery, football, swimming, spear throwing and canoeing.

Bariri, left, and Xerente Indians compete in a canoe race on the Tocantins River during the Indigenous Games

Xerente and Gaviao Indians race carrying tree trunks during the Indigenous Games

Many of the competitors are using their traditional dress and markings.

A Paresin Indian youth holds a soccer ball during the Indigenous Games

A Nhambikwara Indian competes in the archery event at the Indigenous Games

For MANY more photos, visit the original posting at

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cultural extravaganza

November, this year, brings with it a huge cultural festival in Niterói. Food, music, dance, theater, expositions in museums – LOTS of stuff.  And it is all free.

It is the “Niterói encountering South America” festival.

This morning we went to see the Bolivian folklore dance presentation in the park – Campo São Bento.
Great fun.

From here – throughout the month, there are a myriad of events (all free) that will bring South American cultures to life in our back yard.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Eating shark for lunch

photo credit noted in the image - thank you
I’m gearing up for a lunch of young shark and vegetables. Locals would add black beans and rice to the plate, but I don’t generally eat beans and rice EVERY day. And now that I have a surgically-created tiny stomach I have a good excuse to beg off the typical belly-filling (and nutritious) ever present feijão e arroz.
Learning the various local fish varieties and how to cook them has been an adventure. Growing up in Michigan I had little exposure to fresh fish, outside of perch and trout – with the occasional farmed salmon. In most cases the dishes we ate were breaded and frozen, and they filled the house with a putrid fishy smell as they cooked in a hot oven. My dad was not a fan. (Mom tried to make it work, especially on Fridays.)
Then I moved to the west coast: San Francisco. The fish was abundant and fresh. It was there that I learned some of the secrets to incredible seafood cooking. Yum! My favorite restaurants were always seafood restaurants.
Now I find myself not on the Pacific coast, but on the Atlantic coast, and not in cold waters, but in more temperate waters. It’s a whole new world: different fish, different approaches to preparation, and different tastes among people as to what is delicious.
It’s been an adventure. I love to visit the municipal fish market and try something new. The guys animating their stands are always happy to share tips on how best to prepare the fish (they mostly say just fry it up) – I think they should bring their wives or mothers to work once a month so folks like me could get REAL cooking advice.
Today I am cooking cação (so-called “smooth hound” – or just, young shark). This is a delicious white meat fish, not too firm and not too bland, no bones.  I’m cooking a steak, as opposed to a fillet.
After checking in with a few of my mother/grandmother English students about how they would prepare it, I’m going to make a simple onion, garlic, peppers mix, then add coconut milk. I’ll put the cação steak in a small baking dish, cover it with my veg/milk sauce, and bake it, covered, in a hot oven for 30 minutes.
I think I’m going to add ¼ teaspoon of dendê oil, just for fun and flavor.
The hill I really want to climb is octopus. Some say the secret to a tender octopus is a good bit of time in the pressure cooker.  Others say if you freeze the octopus, then cook it, it will come out tender. Stay tuned.

I posted the recipe over on the Cooking in Brazil Blog - check it out here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spin Rocinha fundraising, final report

Thank you to everyone who participated in our efforts to support the new Spin Rocinha DJ school serving at-risk youth in the Rocinha favela community in Rio. Our efforts really paid off. We raised US$535.00! That’s R$910,00! Whoo hoo!
The funds we raised for the Rocinha Media School’s Spin Rocinha program will go a long way toward strengthening their ability to take their program out into the community to expose more youth to the empowering nature of music and music production. Thanks again!
Special thanks to fellow bloggers who cross posted about the fundraising campaign and those who posted about it on their Facebook page. It really made a difference. You can be really proud of yourselves for lending a hand.
If you had the intention of making a donation but needed to wait for your next paycheck, or it just slipped your mind, you can still follow through.  The Rocinha Media School has a donations page where you can make your contribution. Just follow this link to make it happen.
It means a lot to me when my friends step up and participate in my community activities (they are used to my asking for money – believe me!  haha) – thank you!
I’ll be on the prowl for next year’s campaign recipient. If you have any specific suggestions (in Rio or Niterói), send me an email.
If you have any questions about the Spin Rocinha fundraising campaign, let me know.
Abraços e mil beijos.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gay marriage in Brazil, an update

On Tuesday, October 25th, the Supreme Court of Brazil upheld the same-sex marriage of two women. This was after two lower courts rejected their petition to convert their civil union to a legal marriage. The court has previously, unanimously, held that same-sex civil unions are to be afforded a great number of important rights such as community property, inheritance, health insurance, property rights, alimony, tax benefits and adoption.

So you would think this would settle the matter. Not quite. In Brazil State courts are not bound to follow the rulings from the Supreme Court.

What this means is that if a same-sex couple is in a registered civil union (so-called “stable relationship”) they can petition the State court to have it converted into a legal marriage (which affords additional privileges, protections and responsibilities). If the State court then rejects this petition the couple can appeal their way to the Supreme court where it will be granted.

So we still can’t get married “the easy way” like our straight counterparts, but this was an important step in the right direction.

Ultimately, what is needed is for the legislature to pass a law that provides for the legal marriages of same-sex couples. That’s not such an easy feat given the powerful influence of religious institutions among legislators. But we’ll get there.

In the meantime, there is a path available to legal marriage.

NOTE: be sure to read the clarification from Denis in the comments section. He corrects me that it was not the Brazilian Supreme Court that ruled, but rather a superior appeals body one level below the Supreme Court.  Thanks Denis.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pianist Fabio Martino

And now for something completely different.

Here's Brazilian pianist Fabio Martino playing with the São Paulo State Symphonic Orchestra. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Viva Brazil!

I love Brazil. I love Brazilians and their zest for life. And I love Brazilian parties.

Yesterday Luiz and I went to the 75th birthday party of the husband of a classmate of his. (I said 80 years on Facebook, but that was in error.) Luiz, with his instantly-endearing personality, and his voluptuous colleague Elvira were asked to be Masters of Ceremonies for the party. They sure knew how to work a microphone.
The party was at a salon de festa in Rio and it was a non-stop pleasure extravaganza.
We arrived at 12:30, the stated time the party was to start. So, of course, we were about an hour early… Even the hostess and her husband, the person of honor, were not even there yet. The musicians were doing their sound check and the waiters had not yet moved into working mode. But good for us, we could choose the perfect table (directly in front of a big oscillating fan).
The birthday boy (retired military brass) had asked people not to bring presents, but rather a kilogram of dried foods which he would then donate to a local charity. Nice touch, I thought. (By the end of the evening, the table with the food donations nearly collapsed from the weight of the items brought by his friends.)
So, as is typical for a Brazilian party of this type, the waiters began to serve beer and sodas, plus passed appetizers. I nursed a beer, but I was really holding out for the fine scotch (here referred to as whisky) that was surely to flow once the man himself arrived.
As the room filled with more than 200 people, the guest of honor and his wife arrived. The photographer and videographer got to work. Absolutely every person was greeted, kissed or hugged, and appreciated for being present by the star couple. Live music filled the background.
Before long we enjoyed the first of three performances by a professional dancer and her very cute partner. Beautiful.
Luiz and Elvira, along with the musicians, kept the party on track for a couple hours until it came time to open the buffet.
The food was plentiful and delicious, although I had just a bite or two. The children at our table (we had pulled three tables together) loved the raviolis and cheese sauce.
The prideful couple shared a featured dance and invited everyone to join them on the dance floor. We’re talking real dancing here – none of this hugging with a swaying back and forth from one foot to the other. Dancing.
The scotch was flowing by now…
After another dance performance two totally decked out pastistas came in to the sounds of a pounding samba refrain. We’re talking big, beautiful women wearing only a few strings of clothing and a lot of feathers – shaking their booties!  Luiz commented: “There’s nothing like some feathers, some glitter and a naked butt to shake up a party.” The birthday boy paraded around with his two new best friends, taking pictures with all his military buddies.
Much later, after the third dance performance we sang happy birthday, the cake was cut, and finally, take-away party favors were distributed (sweets in beautiful boxes), the signal that it was polite to leave now, if you so desired.
We stayed a bit longer. Luiz and Elvira had their responsibilities with the microphone.
I enjoyed meeting Elvira’s young daughter Adriana, an obstetrician and gynecologist. She had great stories to tell and her iPhone was filled with photos of the many babies she has delivered (she said she delivers one or two every day). Wonderful energy.
Finally we said our goodbyes and thank yous to the hostess and the man of the hour. Great party.
Oh – one more thing - in attendance, sitting at the table next to us, was a 106 year old man. Very sharp. People kept coming to his table and paying respect and offering their admiration. Also, there was a (unrelated) 103 year old woman at the party – who looked 80 (as if I know what that “looks” like). A moment was taken to honor both of these individuals. Very touching.
All in all – what a great party and celebration of life! Viva Brazil!

The making of a cachaça commercial

This is a fun 2 1/2 minutes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Supporting at-risk youth in Rocinha -- an update

Reporting back on our effort to raise funds for SpinRocinha at the Rocinha Media School, the professional DJ school for at-risk youth in Rocinha – I have a few bits of news.

We have raised half of our goal of US$900 to support the school in buying an iPad to advance their efforts in so many ways. So we still need your help.

I can also tell you about a mother/son pair that has enrolled. Marcia and her 13 year old son Arthur have enrolled to realize a shared dream to be music makers.  Marcia has long valued her experience  living in Rocinha and focuses on giving every opportunity she can to Arthur. She believes they both have music in their veins – and so the DJ school is a natural fit for their aspirations for the future. Marcia says she does not need money to be rich, but to make music with her son is a dream come true.
Please consider making a contribution to this valuable social program in Rocinha. You can do that here.
Also – if you are a blogger – please consider posting about this effort on your blog with links back here, or placing the dynamic button located in the right column of this blog on your blog.  I have provided the code you need.
And you can always share this or the original post on Facebook and Orkut.
The kids need your help. And we completely appreciate your support.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gay Pride Parade 2011 in Rio de Janeiro

Luiz and I had originally planned to host a brunch on Sunday morning to gather our gay and lesbian friends and then all go over to Copacabana for the big parade (well, more like a street party). But to our frustration many of our queer friends (now all in our 50s) are not into these sorts of public events and big crowds (SO old school!)

Our friend Carlos in Fort Lauderdale, FL helped to forward some very cool rainbow chains (thank you Carlos!) which we were going to deck out our friends with – but alas, it was just Luiz and I – so we decided to take the beads with us to the event and sell them on the street. They were a hit! In less than two hours we had sold 34 of the 36 chains we had (keeping two for ourselves). We got R$10 a piece for them.

Anyway, the Parade was a gas, the weather was perfect AND we were able to meet up with Rachel and her band of merrymakers.

There were easily 11 trio-electricos, many outrageous drag queens, LOTS of straight people – and my favorite: yummy eye candy.

As is often our plan, Luiz and I stopped by the Chinese restaurant along Avenida Atlântica, east of the Copacabana Palace Hotel for dinner. (Friends in San Francisco, close your eyes, the price for a simple Hunan Chicken dish with fried rice, and two sodas: R$50.00 – OUCH – and they charged us R$1.00 for the Styrofoam box for taking home the leftovers!) 

On a more serious note – the theme of the many LGBT pride events across Brazil is to abolish homophobia, both through cultural campaigns and via the legislative process. Much progress has been made, and of course there is more to do.  But the level of political discourse at these events is impressive.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Supporting at-risk youth in Rio's Rocinha favela community

There was a time when opportunities were scarce in Rio’s Rocinha favela community. Actually, those times persist. Rocinha is the largest favela in Rio, with more than 300,000 poor residents clinging to the steep hillsides between Zona Sul and Barra de Tijuca. While living conditions have improved for some of its residents over the past 30 years, opportunities for its youth have barely budged.

But people like Zezinho and Lea are making a dent in those troubles. They are creating real opportunities for at-risk youth in the community. They are planting seeds that will surely grow into life-changing opportunities for young residents.

Let me tell you about a new, grass roots, social program and its benefits – and how you can be a part of the change that is happening. I am asking for your help.

Rocinha Media School is a new non-profit organization in Rocinha that focuses its efforts on at-risk youth and includes a program: Spin Rocinha, which teaches professional DJ skills so young people can acquire the pride and ability to take on a profession – without having to resort to street economics to survive. You can learn much more about the Rocinha Media School here.

The training is top notch. The equipment is top notch. The mentoring is all you could ask for. And the students are thrilled. There has been immediate interest among residents to participate.

Using state of the art equipment plus local and international DJs, Spin Rocinha attracted 10 students (full capacity) to its first class who are committed to learning the art of DJing and to lifting their eyes to the possibilities of the future. Music – listening to music, playing music, spinning music – it is a powerful personal and cultural force in this community. It is a lifeline.

And of course we need your help as we toss that lifeline to at-risk youth in the community. While much of the equipment has been donated, there is more needed. The school is looking to buy an iPad. They need US$900. Without getting too far into the weeds, the iPad is a big step forward in technology because:

1. It means they can be mobile - it does what a big clunky unit (2 x cdjs and a mixer) does so they can take the classes out to the youth in the community.

2. It is where the technology is evolving to.

3. It acts as an MPC (which is another tool that DJs use) - and also replaces a big clunky piece of equipment that way.

4. It allows them to upload and store all the media (music) on it so it also helps that they don't have to lug thousands of cds around.

5. It plugs straight into self-powered speakers or an amp eliminating the need for a big mixer.

6. They won't have to worry about secure space to store large equipment.

7. It runs off batteries so they won't need to worry about accessing power, which can be a problem when needing to find a place with reliable power and the several outlets needed with all the other equipment that needs to be plugged in.

8. Mobility allows them to play gigs out in the public without any worries about transportation or set up.

So if we REALLY want to make a tremendous impact/contribution to their efforts, this is the opportunity. This is the piece of equipment that will move them out of the studio (where they have the clunky – ‘though state of the art – DJ equipment), into the community, where the youth can practice and show off their newly learned skills. (Receiving the praise from others to spur them on.)

It’s often difficult to know how one can help address the endemic problems of inequality, lack of opportunity and youth hopelessness in Rio’s favela communities. If you want to help make a real difference in the lives of some of these youth, this is an opportunity.

Rocinha Media School is a local and internationally supported organization that could use your help.
You can make a financial contribution by visiting the donate page on Rocinha Media School’s website.

Please, join me in supporting at-risk youth looking for opportunities to change their lives. Click on the link, make a donation, and make a difference. If not us, then who? We can do this.

Thank you!

[Note to fellow bloggers and folks on Facebook – please consider doing us the great favor of linking to this post or reposting this appeal AND (very important) offering your personal endorsement of me as an honest guy, and Rocinha as a place that needs our support. There is power in numbers. The young people in Rocinha need our help. This is a chance to do an act of kindness that may change a life – and likely save a life.]

Here is a brief video (in Portuguese) of Spin Rocinha's premiere class.