Thursday, April 26, 2012

Colonial Conservatoria and it´s slave history

We recently visited the tiny mountain village of Conservatoria in southwest Rio state. Previously coffee  country - now catlle ranches. Huge fazendas and a growing tourist economy.

Our travel plans were set by an excursion put together by colleagues of Luiz - beginning tour guides. Three dynamic and very sweet women have put together a tourism company. This was their first effort at an excursion.

We were happy to be a part of it. Most passengers were family and friends. It was completely comfortable. Lots of loud chatter.

Our pousada was a very modest place, but they made up for the simple accomodations with their attention to personal joy.  At breakfast (which was an over-the-top spread of baked goods and fruit - plus cooked meats) there was a man singing Braziian classics on a guitar - taking requests. Very nice.

The tiny village of Conservatoria was as cute as could be. Perfectly preserved colonial archetecture and a totally quiet pace were just what the doctor ordered. Father and child on horseback. Barefoot soccer games. Taxi drivers playing cards in the square, more interested in their card game results than scoring another fare.

But not so far below the surface was evidence of the history of the village - which depended on slave labor. Most obvious is the small stonework amazingness that is the streets. The stones are no larger than your fist. Yet they are placed and secured knuckle to knuckle for block after block. Each stone placed by a slave - and each still supporting heavy traffic  to this day.

The main church in the village is (relatively) spectacular. And it was built with slave labor. The stone foundations are incredibly huge -- how did they do that!? The stone details are impressive.

The most moving experience I had in Conservatoria was walking through the tunnel carved out with slave labor. This is a tunnel through solid rock that stretches for about 100 meters. It was origionally made to accomodate a train. Now it is used by cars - although only one lane wide.

My first impression was being able to see the pick ax marks on the walls of the tunnel that document the strength and toil needed to cut through the stone. Unfathonable.

The other impression came from the water that constantly - year around - drips from the stone at both entrances to the tunnel. Local lore has it that this is the earth weeping for those lost in the building of the tunnel. It was incredible and moving.

One of our African-Brazilian guides chose not to walk thorugh the tunnel because she found it too profound and sad. Emotions ran high.

We also visited a coffee fazenda. This place had also been built by slave labor and maintained a captive slave community for more than 100 years. We ate lunch in the part of the house where the slaves were confined. Ghosts were everywhere. You cannot escape history.

I enjoyed my visit to Conservatoria - but it was not always a joy.

Most of our tour group were African-Brazilian friends. They clearly felt the power of the location. I was blessed to be a part of that pilgramidge.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Grateful for the assistance

Have I said this before? Our house cleaner (faxineira), who comes twice a month, goes through some serious cleaning products.

She´s a sweetheart. And she does a terrific job. AND she uses a serious amount of cleaning products.

Wood polishing fluid, window cleaner, floor cleaner, bathroom disinfectant, general hard-to-clean liquid -- she is determined to make our place sparkle.

Lucky us.

And I have to keep on top of what we have on hand, because she gets pretty frustrated when we don´t have what she needs. But she always makes do with landry detergent and bleach.

I do my fair share of cleaning and washing - but I am SO GRATEFUL for the added bonus of our faxineira.

Friday, April 20, 2012

On the road

These are traveling days for us.

We recently spent four days in Belo Horizontes with our friends Carlos and Dü for Carlinhos´ birthday and Easter. They are terrific guys and their puppies have since grown into dogs. They are inseparable siblings (the dogs) - SO CUTE!

Luiz just got back from Poços de Caldas with his mother after a long weekend there.

This Saturday we travel to Conservatoria, a cute little historical village.

Then in May Luiz and I make our big travel adventure to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Luiz will be 60 years old this May 16 (and I will be 52 years old on May 17) so we have planned to be at Machu Picchu on May 16th. We will be in Peru for two weeks.

Good travel days ahead. We are never so free as during the times when we are traveling...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why we don´t own a car

When we lived in San Francisco we first had one car each, then later sold off one and just had our little wagon. Even that was a hassle, with no off-street parking. We got occasional tickets for parking during street cleaning times. But it was actually more car than we needed.

Luiz and I are city folk. We walk. We take the bus. We ask our friends for a lift. We occasionally take a taxi. We do not envy car owners.

When we travel we take busses or planes. No problem. Busses in Brazil are NOTHING like Greyhound in the US. Nothing. Very comfortable and safe.

Our apartment location is PERFECT for all our daily needs - AND we have about 15 bus lines that pass within three blocks that can take us to either our nearby friends´ or to numerous spots in Rio, or elsewhere.

Even better [sic] is Luiz´s free bus pass for him and a companion (that would be me) because of his chronic health situation. So we pay nothing to use the bus.

Buying a car in Brazil is not only fraught with peril - it is rediculously expensive (not to mention the price of parking, taxes, insurance -- and gas!) We prefer to put the $$ in our travel pig and make an adventure.

More details about the perils of buying a car in Brazil here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Glad to be back

After a long time away, more than a month (rediculous technical complications brought on by - I think- the war between Microsoft and Google), I´m back in action. Let´s hope it stays that way. Thank you to everyone who offered help getting me back on my keyboard.

So I thought I would celebrate by calling out some of my favorite things about living here.

Let´s go --

- Coalhada (WAY better than yogurt)
- A bus goes anywhere you need to go
- Fresh seafood cooked in a clay pot
- 110% family support
- Free concerts on the beach
- 9 hour family/friend parties (with live music)
- Hiking in a rain forest in the middle of the city
- A Brazilian husband who loves me unconditionally
- Recharged printer ink cartridges for 30% of the price of a new one
- Fresh, hot empadinhas on the street

That´s just a few things... can you think of others?

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Just got the assistance I needed to be back blogging -- THANK YOU to those who offered help! You will hear from me soon!