As the early Nordestino darkness falls, I roll out of the hammock, put away my book and glasses, and walk downstairs to turn on more evening lights. The maid came today, so the house feels lighter; that insidious maresia that wafts in from the ocean has been swept and wiped.
I have been taking it easy. I am tired, but my wherewithal – subject to too much going and not enough staying for the last few months – is gaining on my lethargy day by day. In this dispatch and the subsequent three, you will see the extent of the going. Now it's time to write; the longer I postpone catching up on dispatches, the more onerous the prospect becomes. I will also feel lighter! And I want the record.
I’ll be brief, for me, with plenty of photos.
1) My most recent dispatch in November already skipped a trip from last August to the South of Brazil, so I’ll begin there:
The overriding detail from this weekend is that I discovered after seven years that I could understand the Portuguese flying among these couples and respond in reasonable Portuguese. It just finally kicked in, flawed as it remains.
▪ São Paulo, where Newton had a trade show, and I had the rare chance to explore the city alone. I caught the subway to the lovely Pinacoteca museum and took all the time I wanted in the various exhibits, then had a lovely patio lunch in the warming ‘winter’ sunlight. I discovered that photos were allowed, except in special exhibits. I returned to the galleries to capture my favorites, and, in the spirit of the Brazilian culture, sneaked a snap of my favorite painting in the under-guarded special exhibit, as well!
▪ Curitiba, where Newton had another trade show. This city, known for it’s exceptional organization, was settled mid-19th century by Germans, Italians, Poles and Ukrainians. This may or may not account for the absolutely unintelligible Portuguese emerging from all speakers at breakneck speed. My newfound confidence with the language took a nosedive as I tried to navigate the wonderful bus routes through the city with only gibberish for information! I found my way to the Oscar Niemeyer Museum by transferring at the stop which – after four garbled inquiries – I recognized as the common name I heard four times. I fawned upon both the architecture and the fabulous exhibits at this museum, including a German installation in the “eye” space, and a wonderful Polish artist, Jacek Sroka.
Newton and I took the hop-on/hop-off bus tour of Curitiba together. We had not been able to set our watches by way of train schedules since Japan in ‘88, but the bus arrived likewise at these stops at the minute designated on the chart. The famous mayor of Curitiba, Jaime Lerner, an architect and visionary elected three times since the early ‘70´s, stood up to the old power structure and brought significant reforms in city planning that inspire around the world today. He had a penchant for tubular design (and improved education!):
Bus stops Botanical Gardens Opera House
▪ Coastal town, Morretes, to which we rode a train from Curitiba through a lovely tropical forest, then had lunch on the river:
2) November – December; USA and Mexico:
▪ Lawrenceville, New Jersey; an incomparable Thanksgiving at my sister Donna’s with our kids, loads of nieces and nephews and honored guests. My nephew Todd wrote, directed and shot another of his zany annual family video scripts, which Elise, the professional editor, whipped into form.
Donna and Larry are the experts: 26 guests. Larissa’s Mother and Grandfather added to the fun!
▪ Manhattan, where Elise and I saw our dear friend Desirée, and where I got into the Christmas spirit by shopping at the sparkling holiday stalls at Bryant Park (right next to the skaters!). I stayed with my dear friend Carolyn and Kayli the Cat, as well as with Todd and family.
▪ Nyack, NY, our former haunt, where I stayed with my dear friend, Lucia, shopped at exquisite stores (owned by local friends!), and visited my favorite school, Blue Rock. My last pre-schoolers and kindergartners to admit as Admissions Director before moving to Brazil in 2006 are now in 6th and 7th grade. I got to teach Lucia’s kindergarten class “My Hat, It Has Three Corners.” What a privilege to see Claudia, Caty, Lorraine, Debbie, Gretchen – my former co-workers who are still conjuring miracles along with the newer staff members.
Here’s the Blue Rock mosaic of ‘The Tree of Learning’ that Elise and Jake worked on as students in the ‘90’s; it is still intact in the stairwell!
▪ Sleepy Hollow, NY, where our son, Jake, and his fiancée, Larissa, will wed next July. I joined the couple and Larissa’s parents to see the beautiful venue, a former Vanderbilt mansion on the Hudson River that now serves as the Sleepy Hollow Country Club. We all participated in the tasting with the chef to determine wedding choices. Wow!
▪ Los Angeles, where Newton returned from a week in Asia and we spent a little time with Elise before we all headed south for Christmas with Jake and Larissa.
▪Rosarito, Baja, Mexico; Jake and Larissa were renting an elaborate oceanside penthouse this year, so Christmas had a gorgeous backdrop! Danya, Larissa’s mother, joined us again for loads of game-playing, gift-opening, toasting, and fabulous dining. It is well worth a trip to Rosarito to dine at Cava, a wine store and Mediterranean restaurant whose chef is a well-kept secret, so far. It’s about 45 minutes from San Diego, and don’t believe that nonsense that it’s not safe anywhere in Mexico.
One highlight of this trip was a day of horseback riding together at Pretty Horses Rescue. This project offers a day of scenic riding and good food. I requested the horse that couldn’t possibly break into a gallop spontaneously - a prerequisite after my last dramatic ride in Brazilian dunes in 2005. Of course, no matter how I prompted, she only went the one slow speed.
Elise got the horse rescued from inhumane circus performance training who - because of the presence of mares, it was explained - was showing off. His high-stepping prance and fancy side-stepping had us all giggling, even while Elise remained totally powerless to influence him! These horses are rescued (bought) mostly from poor farmers who cannot afford to feed them much, so beat them to get them to work.The rescue operations include some dogs, as well.
Newton and I returned to Natal in time for New Year’s Eve and, after an eleven-day visit to our home, I took off for Lima, Peru.