Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thinking of you.

My last posts have illicited a number of thoughtful, sensitive, comments. I offer flowers from Bolivia to all of you who have been following this blog and, especially to those who have been willing to share their opinions. I wish you all the best today in your endeavor to find your way through this complicated life.
I am no botanist, but I am told that the flowers in the last picture are called carnivale.
They start blossoming in late January and usher in the holiday by that name, which is so important in this part of the world.
The top two photos were shot on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca on my second day here. Diverse ecosystems abound, varying from almost barren deserts to lush tropical rainforests, consequently the markets are filled with an abundant variety of fruits, vegetables and exotic plants.
Seeing this beauty and sharing it in words and picture with you is a key component of my pleasure on this adventure.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Here's Looking at You!

Yesterday I had a tour of Cochabamba, Bolivia's most famous landmark, the statue of Christ of Peace, Cristo de la Concordia, which is predominantly placed on San Pedro hill near the center of the city. It is the largest representation of Christ in the world, standing at 132.7 feet tall and exceeds the height of a similar famous statue on Corcavado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro by 2.7 feet. Allegedly, it's height of 33 meters was intentional to represent Christ's age at the cruxification.
If you look carefully, the body contains "stigmata" , which serve as windows for those that want to crawl up the windy internal staircase. The second photo shows a view of the city taken from one of the portals. It felt ironic and humorous to be a "living" Jew inside that massive structure.. The building just below the monument is the top of the tram which provides access to the statue. The starting point is not in view and almost a 1/4 mile straight down. It is my understanding that it was completed in 1988 too correspond with the visit of Pope John Paul II to this town. It was built with donations from prominent local people, corporations, and politicians and may have been intended to compete with the Mormon community here that built an extremely large temple. Regardless, its presence is helpful, as I wander the streets, as an orientation point to find the way to my temporary home.

Friday, January 29, 2010

On the Road Again

I am sitting this morning in my new quarters in Cochabamba, after yesterday's long tiring bus ride from LaPaz. I believe the distance may not be that much further than Portland to Bend about 200 miles, but the ride took over eight hours. There was the snarling traffic in the adjacent community of El Alto. Honking collectivos crammed with riders, overloaded trucks and other buses belching out diesel exhaust were gridlocked by intersections supervised by overtaxed, but relaxed, traffic police. The bus wedged its way down a narrow street and stopped at a makeshift second bus station, where more passengers loaded until the bus was completely full. I had expected the bus to be like those I had seen in India, crammed to the roof, but this was actually quite a surprise. It was a comfortable double-decker, with each person having an assigned seat that reclined, and enjoying ample leg room. My red roller carry-on was stowed in the belly of the bus, but I brought my backpack on board,which I stowed under my feet, because I didn't want to be separated from my laptop. The bus had left the main terminal by 8:40 and, by 9:30, it hadn't really made it out of the city limits. Finally heading East, it passed the airport, an industrial area, more housing developments and made it to the open road.
What I had noticed also in Brazil, but especially here in Bolivia, was the vast number of uncompleted projects. Living units stood cold and incomplete, some lacking walls, roofs, windows. rebar sticking up from foundations, like iron weeds. Some units were complete but empty, and covered already with grime. Others were inhabited, but clearly lacking power or any amenities. It was explained to me that the problem with every work project is sustainability. People start with a little money from government grants or donations or loans. It is used up and then there is nothing left to complete the project. It takes years sometimes just to build a little house.
Yet, most of all, along the narrow rutted, but paved highway, I saw dirt, poor people and garbage. I had a somewhat detached feeling about the poor people and dirt. It was the garbage that effected me. I wondered whether my discomfort was a result of my German-American sense of order. The roadway, drainage ditches, creek bottoms, alleys, and empty lots were scattered with large quantities of refuse, especially plastic bottles and bags, paper products,rusting metal and broken building materials. I am sure I will be seeing the same in Africa, probably even worse. I dreaded the thought. I had seen such environmental affrontery already in India but, for some reason on this ride, I was more bothered by it. I guess it disturbed the scenic aspect of the trip. Seeing poor people in colorful clothing in front of quaint mud structures relaxing, or tending animals, or weaving blankets can look anachronistically idyllic. Yet the garbage upset the picture and negatively effected sympathetic thoughts toward the otherwise sad human condition. Instead, I was annoyed by the refuse. It was disgusting, especially when watching people picking through it or dogs and other animals rumaging amidst it. I remembered that there was no Thursday trash service and this ever-present garbage mess was minimal, when compared to the fact most the people have neither indoor plumbing nor clean water. The outhouses in the back, if there are any, are shared by many and the constant issue of people looking for clean water to drink or to bathe is a chore beyond my understanding. I take interesting pictures, but there is really nothing romantic about poverty.

As I was considering these thoughts, the bus window in front of me slid open and a portly man, who has been incessantly and loudly talking on his cellphone, pitched an empty plastic green Sprite bottle out the window. I heard it rap on the pavemment and, in spite of the millions of pieces of trash it joined, I found myself saying audibly, "You asshole." He neither heard me nor probably would have understood me. I discussed these thoughts with the site director, Jean Carla here in Cochabamba. She understood more personally and certainly even deeper than I the complex issues facing her country.
On Monday, I will be putting my first hours at the orphange and will post pictures of my experience next week. I'd love to share the rest of the bus ride before then. Just imagine a big bus on a truck-filled, narrow, windy boulder-strewn road taking 3 1/2hrs to go 60 miles crossing over a 13,ooo foot Andes pass. Must I say more!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

At Peace in La Paz

The day before yesterday, I sqeezed into a collectivo minivan with 18 other people, luggage on top, and made way to La Paz. I was dropped off on a side street somewhere on the hill seen in the last photo and flagged down a taxi. In my pitiful broken Spanish I asked the driver to take me to my hotel which I assumed was nearby. We were at a level even with this last picture's vantage point and it was only half way. Truthfully I had never been on such a ride. Like a car on an insane roller coaster, the cab rocketed down windy narrow cobblestone streets until we hit the bottom as seen in the third picture. The topography of 11,000 foot La Paz looks like a tiara, a valley, filled with buildings, surrounded by the steepest hillsides covered with houses and towered over and visible on a clear day by snow-covered 19,000 foot Mt. Illimani.
I found the streets noisy and crowded and to give you a sense of the divirgent growing population, I chose to share with you the not particulary interesting the second photo snapped in front of the Iglesia de San Francisco. The top picture of two older women was taken to the left of the second picture. You probably wonder about the hat worn by the lady on the left It is called a bombin and became popular in Bolivia in the 1920's. I have seen them worn predominently by middle aged and older women. It may be in vogue now and considered stylish, but have no idea how to ask or whether I should ask, and then again, I doubt that I would be able to understand the answer.
Tomorrow early, I leave for Cochabamba and begin my work at the orphanage. It is a seven hour bus ride and, let me assure you, its not Greyhound nor will I be the only person on the bus! I know I 'll be staying in a room in a house belonging to the director's mother. I doubt that I'll have the internet. This probably means that I'll be reaching you through an internet cafe that will hopefully allow me to upload photos. I still have so much I'd love to share.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Saying Good-bye to the Lake

I left Lake Titicaca this morning and traveled to LaPaz and felt that I had to post a good-bye to the incredible place I had called home for the past 5 days. Not one picture can capture the enormity and power of this body of water. It is 110 miles long, in some places 900 feet deep and at 13,500 feet, has been such a life source for people of ancient civilizations into the present.

In the top picture, I am sitting on a hand-woven bench of reeds on a floating island, which has been temporarily anchored while its owners are away. It is about 50x100 and has on it two small woven houses, a cooking area, and a raised outhouse. People for centuries have floated on the lake, crossing its vast distances according to the wind and water level. It is a practical way to be near the fishing grounds and it eliminates quarreling with neighbors!
In the second photo, these fishermen have taken down the sail and one guy rows as the other lets out a purse seine.
Lastly, I shot a tranquil view of the lake beyond the resort town of Copacabana. This town is a jumping off place for tourists to visit several islands that contain ruins from both the Inkas and the earlier Amari and Tiwanaku people. Incidentally the land visible on the other side is in Peru.
(btw., if you are accustomed to seeing Inka spelled with a "c", that is now in disfavor. The former spelling was coined by the Spanish, who brutalized and enslaved the people and carted off mountains of silver and gold.)
I loved the peaceful feeling of the lake and, during my short stay, neither saw nor heard any aggressive behavior. For lack of a better expression, there is a soothing, profound, indescribable feeling high on the edge of the Andes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bolivians at Work

I've put together a random collection of photos of people at work here on Lake Titicaca.
In the bottom picture, most fishermen use traditional sailboats to put out seines to catch fish, mainly trucha, trout, which was introduced in the 1930's, perjerry, kingfish, and a tiny fish, ispi, which is fried and battered and eaten as finger food.
In the second picture from the bottom, a lady is knitting, I think. I wish I could have gotten a better picture of the handiwork, but as I have said before, it is challenging enough to shoot close-ups of women.
In the second picture from the top is another picture of the renowned boat builder, I introduced in yesterday's blog. Here he poses in front of a small boat he has just completed built entirely of reeds which his grandson plans to use out in the lake for fun.
The top picture is a lady weaving a traditional shawl or light blanket. I don't know where she gets the yarn and I am totally ignorant about the process, except that there is a lady on the other side doing something as well.
Tomorrow I travel to La Paz where I will stay for three days before leaving for the orphanage in Cochabamba. The big city, I know already, will be an experience of coping with chaos. I'll send you some shots.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Faces of the Altiplano

Each picture plays a part in my Amizade Adventure here in the high country of Bolivia along Lake Titicaca near the border with Peru. I know regardless what I say, the true message of this post is in the faces of the people.
The top picture is dedicated to Dawn Emerson, my art teacher and friend, who last year saw the power of a toy, and especially to Tapirgal, of Astoria Oregon Daily Photo for her continuous support and understanding. It shows a mother and children holding animal-themed flashlights I brought as gifts from Tapir and Friends Animal Store for lovely children around the world. This family was the first to let me into their lives. The father, a fisherman, not pictured here, is behind the wall hand carving a new boat, which can be seen behind the mother's elbow.
The second picture is the children's aunt. She and three other ladies were sitting in front of the house and were doing beadwork. At first they waved me off when I gestured if I could take their pictures. Finally they allowed me to approach. After taking shots of the boat, the boat builder and the house, then the children arrived. In miserable Spanish, I conversed with them and finally I was able to take pictures of the lady above and then the rest of them at work. Perhaps, I'll share these photos at a later date.
The last picture is, of one of the most famous residents along the lake. His name is Paulino Estaban, and he and his sons constructed in 1970 the Ra II for Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer of Kon Tiki fame. An amazing working replica is tied up in the water to the left of this scene. It is a large sailing boat made entirely of reeds, exactly like the one Heyerdahl used to sail from Morroco to Barbados to prove once again that South Americans had the know-how to sail to Polynesia, and that the Egyptians could have built similar ones to voyage to the Americas. This fact is important to Mormons, who have heavily evangelized Bolivia, that the lost tribe had the ability to travel to and settle in North America. This man's son, also a master of the ancient art of boat building using only reeds, took me in his motorboat out onto the lake to some islands for an incredible day, which I hope to share shortly.
I am having trouble accessing blogger and making comments on city daily photos, so it has been difficult to follow your own posts. I may not be commenting often, but I certainly am there in spirit, and will try to read older posts when I can.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Taking my first steps

It has been a bit of a job acclimating to the rarefied air here on Lake Titicaca. I feel better now and have able to go out and have already had a flurry of interesting adventures which I will gladly share over the next several posts. As I ventured into the near deserted village yesterday morning, I spied this young man tending several llamas. He avoided me and with a small whip began herding his animals further into a field. I walked on and I saw several people glance at me and then basically look away. They seemed guarded or uninterested in another camera-toting tourist. I took some landscape shots and pictures of the lake, but I realized that to show you the people would take a special effort.
These highland people have established themselves in a totally hostile environment. Imagine what it takes to flourish at 14,000 feet. It is cold, wet, and the terrain is really steep on which to grow crops or raise animals. I finally figured out what I needed to do to talk with the people and had some great success later in the day. On my return to the hotel, I came across the same fellow. This time he was packing a baby llama and was quite proud. I am sure I will see many more, even thousands of llamas, because they are as stable food source in the region. Ironically, the hotel served llama for dinner last night, feeling inundated in shame, I sampled. I'm sure hoping it wasn't this little fella.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First hours in Bolivia

This post is to let you know that I made it to Bolivia. I snapped this while leaving the airport in a taxi for Lake Titicaca. You might wonder where all the other photos are. Well, I was so tired, after having spent two hot nights in airports and as predicted, the minute I got off the plane, the altitude really hit me. like it does most people with rapid heart beat, nausea, and dizziness. La Paz is at around 13,000 feet and doesn't remotely resemble Bend, Oregon, but at the moment is 45 degrees. In fact it is so exotic and yes, I've seen llamas, that I didn't have the energy to take any pictures. I kept wanting to see everything and, at the same time, struggled to stay awake. Once I didn't know if I micro-napped or passed out. Now I am at my hotel and still haven't slept much and feel pretty crappy An adventure has some hard parts. People who know me have heard me say before, "It hurts so good!" Well, this is one of those times.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Last Samba in Brazil

This is my last post in Brazil. Hopefully someone will be picking me up at 4:30 AM and taking me to the airport, where I will be traveling to Bolivia for my next stop on my Amizade Adventure. The internet at the site is down, so I am writing today from a cafe down the street. The computer is old, the keyboard is strangely configured, the place has people waiting and, if I took off my shirt, it would feel like I were taking a sauna.
This probably is more indicative of the conditions, by which I will be doing subsequent posts. It may be a while until I check in again. I don´t arrive at my hotel on Lake Titicaca until late tomorrow and I don´t report to the orphanage until January 27th. In the interim I hope to explore my new surroundings and may even cross into Peru.
For my last picture of Santarem, I had intended to enlarge the above shot. It is of a fisherman waving good bye. I enjoyed the hospitality of the Brazilian people, the diverse and never dull culture, and especially the natural beauty of Santarem, its vicinity and, of course, the rivers. The power and sheer size of the Amazon and the Tapajos leave me at a loss for words. We took a small boat out the other day and I kept on catching myself from thinking I was on the coastline of some ocean. In any case, my next stop will be high in the Andes. The first time I see a llama or an alpaca I´ll think of you.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Work in Progress

There have beeen those of you wondering when I would finally show the project that the Amizade organization has been working on this year in Santarem, Brazil. The above picture is the almost completed first two classrooms of the first stage of a community after-school facility for a small neighborhood on the outskirts of this middle-sized town in Para province along the Amazon.
Briefly, Brazilian public school provides only four hours of school a day regardless of grade. To supplement the childrens' education and to provide day care during the time when students are not in school, parents and other volunteers help in local centers to provide a safe, educational, stimulating environment. Amizade has helped build, together with community workers, 4 0r 5 such
facilities throughout the area. Funds are obtained through donations from philanthropic groups in America such as Rotary International and by a portion of the fee paid by college students to take part in the work program.
The second photo shows some of the group of 10 volunteers from Wake Forest. They spent many hours spreading dirt to level the area outside the building and they plastered the walls inside. I arrived two days before their departure, but I saw them return twice from the site covered with red dirt after working in the heat. They had made friends with some of the locals, were full of stories, abounded in laughter, and beamed with a sense of accomplishment.
The first photo shows the site director Geli with some of the local children. The little boy is already of school age and the girl on the extreme right is a seventh grader. They are all brothers and sisters. Three children are not in this photo. I spent time in the tiny shack on the edge of this picture where, including mother and father, nine people live, but more on that later.
I have a few pictures of me shoveling sand to make concrete for the floor to prove that I got my hands dirty too, but my main purpose, here in Santarem, was to chronicle the total experience.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Day in Nature

The other day I experienced what might have been the highlight of my Amizade Adventure so far. My host arranged a private tour through the only remaining old growth rainforest about 70 miles South of Santarem along the Tapajos River on the Amazon Plateau. It is a huge protected area accesible only through locked gates and has a few jeep trails, which lead to research and ranger outposts. I had a veteran guide who drove us in and then, armed with a machete,hacked us back for hours on game trails. Since the rainy season is only just starting, walking was easy but would have required special boots to tromp through wet ground later on in the season. Also mosquitos were at a minimum but can be savage at dusk, and certainly all day long later on in the year. I had memories of old movies of expeditions through the jungle, in which I was now a character. The forest was exceptionally tranquil, with its quiet only disturbed by strange bird calls, warning others nearby that the natives were coming. There were also small, croaking frogs, purple, yellow and black-spotted, sitting on hundred year, moss-covered ironwood logs or on giant palmate leaves. Also we were accopanied by large flourescent blue butterflies zigzagging through the undergrowth. Of course I was hoping, however vainly, to see a tapir or at least some tracks, but not a jaguar or leopard for obvious reasons. The guide assured me that stumbling on a boa wrapped on a tree was a remote possibility but I never felt afraid. Fortunately we came upon a troop of howler monkeys high in the canopy in search of pods or looking for a better place to sleep.
I took many pictures but have displayed only these three for your review. It would be easier to capture a dream than to do this experience justice through only a few pictures. The thickness of the foliage, the quality of the air, the sheer size of the trees and the number of little things, too many to mention are each a subject of its own that compose this indescribable whole.
The top picture shows one of hundreds of bird-of -paradise flowers which adorned open spaces. It was serving a banquet of nectar to worker ants who filed past a queen located near its center.
The second photo, when enlarged may do a better job indicating how large this spider was. The body was at least as long as my index finger, which I chose, understandably, not to put up next to this beauty. The strand of its web behind her was not paricularly sticky but was thick and of the texture of rope.
Last, I chose to show you the canopy. Looking upwards is like seeing leaves inside a kaleidescope and gave the sensation of a patchwork green -doily covering the sky.
It was a day to remember. Yet, as I write this account now, the images are already slipping away. I recall them to you now like scenes of a movie, I once saw many years ago.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Santarem, Part 3

As a City Daily Photo blogger and as an Amizade volunteer, today I have included a few pictures intended to give a glimpse into commercial aspect of Santarem, Brazil. The top photo which lacks a focal point, actually is typical of shopping along busier outlying streets. There are vendors and small stores selling just about every food and household good and service imagineable. Here a man offers fresh fruit juices, and behind him, a butcher has meat for sale. For obvious reasons, I avoid sampling any foods, however delectable they may appear, which most likely will bring about unpleasant intestinal consequences.
The second photo was taken inside a modern downtown department store. My intent is not show architecture but to help understand what items cost. Today, the exchange is 162 Brazilian Reals, pronounced( he-eyes) to the dollar. This means that "Made in China" remote control "must-have for Christmas" toy costs Mama and Papa $163.00 or 1/4 of an average monthly salary. I saw cartoon- covered, better quality school backpacks for over $100.00, although cheaper ones for 30 R's can be found in smaller shops. I don't understand why such imported items are so expensive, but inflation has been terrible here and certainly has outdistanced wages.
The third picture is a hoot. Behind the wall is the Eros Motel, where rooms are rented by the hour. Where homes lack privacy, young lovers are without cars, and husbands wish to "lunch" with their secretary, places with names such as "Intimus" and "Hippopatumus" abound. Drive in, lock the gate, pay and no questions are asked. Many an unsuspecting tourist, unfamiliar with Brazialian custom, and exhausted after a long bumpy bus ride, ask where they might get a good night sleep at the nearby motel!
Last is a narrow business street in the old downtown. Although most commercial streets are wider, this photo is a typical scene. Parking is terrible, trucks, buses, taxis and motorcycles whiz by pell-mell making driving a continual peril. By the way, do any of you believe anyone here stops for pedestrians? I'd like a show of hands.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Yesterday, I posted four pictures of Santarem, Brazil, similar to those found in a guidebook.
They showed the attractive waterfront, the town square with church, and a smiling tourist. Today, as a seasoned city blogger, I feel compelled to develop a more complete image.
All three street scenes may convey poverty as we know it, but, relatively speaking, these images are fairly typical and do not represent, by any means, even remotely the lowest level of existence around here. I feel that sometimes it is better in a post to encourage the viewer to look at the details. I think some of you may say that these photos may remind you of places you've been, like Mexico for instance. What may be worth considering is that these people and neighborhoods have electricity, running water and are relatively clean. A majority of people in the world have none of the above and would gladly trade their situation to be as rich as we see before us. Tomorrow I hope to share several pictures describing the commercial district and then on to the Amizade project.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

City daily Photos of Santarem, Brazil

Last Thursday morning at the airport, I snapped the first picture, feeling somewhat ragged, after traveling for 12 hours to Santarem . This is a middle sized town of about 300,000, where Amizade provides volunteers and funds to local service programs. When I arrived, a group from Wake Forest University (North Carolina) were hard at work, plastering and laying a foundation for a community, supplementary school facility. Later in the week, I will share photos of the project and explain in more detail.
In the meantime, it is my goal to describe the area through as series of photos over the next several days.To begin with, the blue river behind me is not the Amazon, but the Tapajos River (tapa joes) which flows from the South for 1800kms to Santarem where it flows into Amazon. Here at the mouth, I am told, it is 22kms wide or about 13.5 miles Here it meets the 4000 mile long Amazon, which is heavy chocolate-brown in color. The two rivers don't mix easily. They actually run parallel to each other for several miles before the Amazon engulfs the "little" Tapajos. Depending on the season and rainfall amount, the edge of the Amazon approaches town and recedes with its annual 25 feet rise and fall throughout the year. I have pictures which show the edge of the swift main channel from a distance, but before landing, I saw the mighty behemouth which may be on average only 3.5 miles wide in the ship channel, but when one includes huge side channels and islands and then smaller channels, the size becomes really staggering. I am told that even here, almost 500 miles from the mouth, the river is often over 20 miles wide.
The second photo shows a number of river boats. There are few passable roads in the area and none that cross the Tapajos River here and, of course, bridge the Amazon. Therefore many people use river boats to come to town. In the background there is the loading facility of Cargill International, which produces soyabeans and then ships them to Europe.
The third photo is of an old blue church which stands in front of the traditional market place. It is the Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Cathedral, but it was locked so I couldn't get inside and I don't know when it was built.
I intend to show you tomorrow some of the interior streets of Santarem, those that don't make the normal travel guides. I'm sure you understand why.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Right Bite

I know that I have yet to show pictures of Santarem nor share thoughts and pictures about the Amizade project itself, and today I had such intentions, except I got hungry.
I have now been here for a week and have developed some early opinions about Brazilian food.
Although in the first picture, it may be hard to recognize what is lying under the garnish on the plate. It is a special freshly-caught fish called a tucanare. This was served at a table directly on the beach during a weekend outing. The second picture of what appears to be a rolled-up pancake is a popular breakfast treat called tapioquinha. It was served by a chef, like those who make omelettes at our buffets, hot out of a frying pan onto your plate as if it were manna. Actually the filling is made of tapioca and the "covering" of rolled farinha, both products of the manioc root. The last photo of prawns and rice taken at an ocean front restaurant along the Copacabana was tasty primarily because I treated myself in honor of my arrival on my first night in Brazil.
Even though I have neither found Brazialian food particularly innovative nor interestingly seasoned, I must admit, I see families experiencing a greater joy in eating than I might see at a typical Outback Steakhouse in America. Mealtime is later, longer, and with more laughter. The food, for the most part, is sweeter or saltier or more fried than my cardiologist would certainly endorse, but mysteriously enough, I see very few obese people. Last night at the pizza parlour, my host and her sister squeezed ketchup and mayonaisse all over their pizza. This was the craze from what I could see. Although I have been offered more Coke and Orange Fanta than in a lifetime, there is a passion for fruit juices here, a resource for quick energy, which I find totally delectable. On every block in business districts,and along the beach, it seems there are booths peddling a variety of freshed squeezed juices including orange, mango, coconut and especially acerola.
I have not gotten homesick for good ol' American cooking and find eating out when I am home often problematic. I'll take Brazilian food over cheeseburgers and chicken fried steak, but all this talk of food hasn't abated my hunger. Gosh, I could stand a Washington Delicious apple to tide me over!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Keeping in Step?

While walking downtown with Geli, the intelligent, feisty, just under 30, site director, I mentioned how many shoe stores I had seen both in Rio and here in Santarem. The number of pairs in every store was astronomical. She told me that Brazilian women are crazy about shoes and purses. She confessed that a few months ago when contemplating a move to Rio de Janeiro, she gave away 38 pairs to make packing more manageable. I dreaded asking her how many she kept or how many purses she owned for that matter. It becomes abuntantly clear that this a far more style-conscious society than anything I have experienced in the States. This urge to dress "right" applies to men and children as well. The number of shops selling atheletic shoes and clothing honoring soccer players and teams is staggering. Behind coffee and sugar production, the shoe industry is a bulwark of Brazilian economy. Tariffs keep out cheap Chinese imitations and, according to an article I read on Google, an ugly scene took place recently when it was learned that Argentinians had tried to infiltrate and steal the newest fashion secrets.
It is easy to fall into a critical position about how other people spend money. I have friends in the U.S. who buy fishing tackle every chance they get, much of which they rarely use and certainly the equipment is more expensive than a dead fish at the market. There is a certain cost for buying joy in life and when it comes to shoes, these people walk tall. The middle photo is a box of throw-aways in front of a store, and the last picture is certainly not of glass slippers, nor Judy Garland clicking her heels in Oz. Yet there feels like a magic in the air in the way the women walk, a confidence in their step. The mantra is clear." If the shoe fits, .........!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Faces of Brazil

These are a few of the people I met while in Rio this week. I have no problem taking posed pictures and often get better shots than when I have snapped unsuspecting subjects. There is a story that goes with each picture, but it is my purpose is to remember these faces and share stories later and today to just appreciate the diversity in this culture. Also the lady in the background of the third picture, I found incredibly striking. She shows many of the characteristics of indigenous people, but seemed reluctant to have her picture taken.

I am looking forward to sharing pictures from my new location, Santarem, a small river town on the Amazon, but am still working out kinks. Getting on line has been a little problematic and internet cafes are less than excited about using them to upload a ton of pictures. Also bear with me, blogger spellcheck is geared for Portuguese!