Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the Old and in with the New

During the five years we have lived in the apartment in Ipanema, we have heard many stories about the two houses and one apartment building sitting vacant accross the street.

It is (or was) apparent that at one point they were quite handsome homes. They had the look of many of the houses that are still scattered throughout Copacabana, Ipenema and Leblon - houses preserved with loving care.
We heard that at one point they were private homes, beach houses or vacation homes for the rather rich that lived in the old central Rio or possibly even Sao Paulo. At the turn of the century (20th) this was the country - incredible thought isn't it? It was farm land, none of the tunnels that ease access to this part of town were there, driving over (hum, driving? maybe coming by wagon or horse, and surely byway of trail or small dirt roads) for the weekend or the summer at the beach just like all Brazilians love do today.

Back to the houses accross the street - we heard that these houses and the building were once a famous school. We heard that all this property was owned by one family. That at one point it was all for sale, and sold and then one of the family protested the sale.

We heard that the government (or the family member or other parties depending on which porteiro was telling the story) wanted the property protected as a historical sight. It (the property) was in limbo.

In limbo means - no maintenance was done. I imagine no taxes paid. One weekend about 3 years ago there was pounding in the dark of night and part of the roof and some of the windows disappeared before the police came. At that point a high white wall went up and was topped with barbwire (razor wire) - so someone cared. (the wall was soon dirty and 3rd world looking)

The three years passed. Even though great expense was expended to put up a fence, iron bars on the lower windows and to post a guard at night, no effort was made to patch the roof and the natural vegetation began to take back the land. Yes, trees began to grow out of the roof. Green slime and other growth began to cover the outer walls, run down the side of the houses generally creating a great eye sore. I am sorry but I didn't take photos of the trees - I was going to one day and never did.

On the 29th of December 2008, an engineering sign appeared, then workers. About 20 workers came and took the remaining roof tiles, all the doors and windows, piping and who knows what else that might be considered recyclable. In less than one day the houses were shells. (the old apartment building was always a shell)ON the 30th a gate in the wall appeared and then a bulldozer arrived and the houses began to come down. Today the 31st, more work with the bulldozer finished off one house, and two men began with sludgehammers on the apartment building.

Now it is clear that this is a very big piece of land. We now can see that there was a large 3 story building at the back, by the archetecture looks mid 70s. Maybe this was added when the school was there.

So now there will be a new apartment building or a fancy hotel inserted in this space. The battle between family members and the government was won through neglect. But no matter on what battlefield it was won - after 5 years of looking at inner city decay and blight in our own front yard, we can only benefit by the taking out of the old and bringing in of the new. HAPPY NEW YEAR! Ginger and Camillo

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Video of early 20th century Rio

video

Since comming to visit for the first time, to moving here I have always wondered where the term "cidade maravilhosa" came into play in reference to the city that I know now. This little clip helped to expain. the film is 7 minutes long, take the time to watch it through. Thank you Sisi for sending it to me.

Christmas Eve in Rio

After months of clouds and rain, December 22 dawned with crystal clear, bright blue skies.
Oh joy to the season.


And with the sun came heat and humidity, snarled traffic and bad tempers.
I have to ask WHERE"S the joy?



Yesterday on the December 23, the streets surrounding our Ipanema apartment were so clogged they were at a complete 'horn blowing' stop. The streets were clogged with busses, trucks, tourists (cars) and shoppers (cars). Yes, in the highth of this joyful season large delivery trucks double parked along the steets further testing the tempers, the goodwill (?) of all the holiday shoppers and beach goers competing for parking space. (The free one of course, the parking lots below ground and in the shopping centers are so expensive everyone drives around and around looking for 'just the right' free space on the street). I don't really know of other areas in Rio but in Ipanema the 'lojas' are not big on holiday decorations. The local association of business people line the sidewalks with what is meant to be a cheerful and welcoming carpet. In past years it was red, 'rolling out the red carpet'. This year is was a faded green and after so much rain and muddy footprints it looks a little worse for wear. There are a few stores with glass balls, some with poinsettias, and some with a Santa or an Angel in their front window, but compared with Gramado the frantic aura of noise, pushing and shoving of Ipanema I have to ask WHERES THE JOY?
Christmas Eve - today the number of cars has dropped to a managable number, fewer busses, only an occaisonal delivery truck and what seems to be more taxis. Today the taxis are blowing their horns, but everyone else seems to have lowered their 'rush, rush' mode to holiday mode. Camillo and I walked around the corner and had a Caiprinha to get into the mood. There are still a lot of shoppers, but maybe they are only tourists - the Cariocas have gone home to cook dinner and begin enjoying the time with their families and the remaining tourists are out to enjoy their hot and sunny Christmas in RIO.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas in Brasil

If you have browsed through my blog entries, you might have found the one I wrote last Christmas when Camillo and I visited Gramado in Southern Brasil.
For me that trip ranks very high on the list of places we have spent Christmas week.
This small town, south of Port Alegre, celebrates Christmas in a very big hearted way. Every street is strung with lights, every shop window is decorated to catch the eye. There is every version of handcrafted Santa that one can possibly imagine. The City Park outside of the city center hosts a Santa's workshop where you have opportunity to visit Santa's helpers' dormitory and Santa's house with his private stash of toys from Christmases past.

And the best, the very best is the Cathedral with its high steeple, brightly lit, and the hand carved Nativity. This is Christmas the way it should be celebrated. With the intent by their family to give pleasure, to be shared with your family.
Merry Christmas
Ginger and Camillo

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Back in Friburgo

From travel to Arizona, shopping, doctors appointments, more shopping, lunching with friends, seeing my grandaughter play volleyball and her dance team dance at the girls basketball games, to cooking, cooking, cooking the Thanksgiving dinner and the final running non-stop through the last weekend in Houston, this two month trip to the USA went by much too quickly.
Marissa's dance team

Making Bread for Thanksgiving



Homemade breakfast cinnamon rolls





Our trip to the Museum of Natural Science that I wrote about in my last entry did not go as expected. Luisa did not join us - she was feeling peaked. The grandsons had seen the first show and immediately tried talking me out of this one. Marissa and I were not totally convinced that we wanted to see real bodies preserved or otherwise. So we did a re-run through the museum, including the display of gems and minerals (I love this part) then we went to two different Planetarium shows and then to lunch. We enjoyed ourselves totally.

While in Houston I also managed to take a photography class and am now all excited about taking 'narative' photos. let me know if you notice any difference in the photos posted.



Now home again in Friburgo, it looks like the end of year months will go by even faster. The first weekend back (is it less than a week ago I returned?) we had our annual December "thank goodness its spring" churrasco. We have gained two new friends this year, both Italians, so Camillo has compatriots to enjoy the wine cellar with. At this year's churrasco there were about 10 more eaters than on our list, I never understand how this happens. Nobody seemed to mind (but me of course) that we ran out of potato salad and coleslaw early on and had only meat and chocolate cake to help them through the afternoon. The food was very good by the way.
On Sunday we went to Creamery Geneve to buy goats cheese and have lunch. the drive on the Teresopolis/Friburgo road was exceptional after our weeks and weeks of rain.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last Sunday in Houston!

Gunther von HagensBODY WORLDS 2 & The Brain – Our Three Pound Gem: The Original Exhibition of Real Human Bodies: It seemed as though two months in the States was going to be a long and satisfying visit but it has gone too fast. It has been satisfying. Marissa and I have spent a lot of long hours together. We cooked Thanksgiving dinner together, she made the pies and I, the bread and the turkey with stuffing. Okay to give credit were credit is due, Patty also helped by making the sweet potatoes and the green bean casserole. Luisa brought sweet corn 'something' and her son Brandt brought a pecan pie. WAS all delicious - congratulations all. The turkey was completely gone!
Today my last Sunday in Houston, I will take Marissa, Luisa and Camillo's grandsons Giorgio and Alex to the Museum of Science to see Body Worlds 2. I kept putting it off because this is a display of REAL bodies - granted they are preserved but still.... I have decided that the knowledge gained by seeing it is worth the slight discomfort I feel about the medium used. Luisa and the two boys are very excited - that also adds to my satisfaction - so will do this.
One thing that Houston has (although lacking the beautiful landscapes of Brazil) is fantastic museums. They are world class often showing the same special exhibits as the New York and Chicago museums. And I can read and understand all of the information given about the displays. I can talk to the guides, I can discuss with other museum goers. This option for my days is one of the greatest missed when in Brazil. I will try to leave a review of the show on the blog later in the week - just in case it comes to a museum near you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Rose Garden

Yesterday was one of those beautiful days that no matter where we are, or where we live, we glory in it. The temperature was in the mid 60s, the sky a bright clear blue, the sun bright and warm on the skin. In celebration I drove into the med center area to visit the Rose Garden. The Rose garden is part of the Museum of Natural Science complex. Most of the year it has a pleasant, peaceful air, yesterday it was especially beautiful. The roses were in full bloom and loving the cool weather. The rose beds were surrounded by beds of marigolds and ferns (I would call them Horsetail ferns but they probably have another name.) No matter - the marigolds were as pleasing in their simplicity as the roses were elegant - an excellent garden combination.
I have heard several times over the years that Houston is not a beautiful city. If compared to the green mountains and the blue ocean separated only by a long stretch of buff colored beaches in Rio, it is not the most visual city, but taken by itself, measured on its own merit, it has moments of real beauty.
The neighborhoods, streets lined with old live oaks, their branches meeting in the middle, and in the spring the front yards overgrown with azaleas, street after street of neatly kept homes and boulevards with beds of seasonal
flowers, and many small neighborhood parks complete with bronze and marble statues, all these scenes combine to make Houston a city of clean and comforting beauty.









Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Katy Prairie

To the west and the northwest of Houston is a far stretch of land (Texas sized)called the Katy Prairie. Miles and miles of flat, dry, mostly cultivated grasslands. Yesterday, Luisa and I left the city driving that direction in hopes of finding that the migrating ducks and geese had arrived in the area. Last week we had a 'cold snap' and to the north of Texas there was a full week of snow and freezing weather, this usually heralds in the duck season in south Texas. Flocks of ducks and geese stopping over to rest and feed in the area's many lakes, and natural whet lands of the greater Houston area. They come through on their way even further south - sometimes making it all the way into South America.
Luisa and I went at least 20 miles west and another 20 miles north of the Houston city line and still found mostly new homes, paved streets and fast food joints - in other words more city. About 5 miles out of Katy, after a few missed turns and u-turns in farmhouse driveways and a sighting of two large birds hunting the fields from the telephone posts, we found a man-made lake with naturally growing high grass (an effort to create whet lands) and observation blinds for bird watchers. We didn't find many ducks but we did hear some overhead and with some searching of the high skies were able to make out a flock flying quite high above us headed, YEP, south.