Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day Eighteen: Sunday, January 24 – Samba School!

Special Note (repeated from yesterday’s entry):  We publicized the wrong date for our public presentation night in February.  It is really on THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, at 7:00 p.m. in the Soda Center at Saint Mary’s College.   Sorry for the mix-up.

Other Special Note (also repeated from yesterday’s entry): Our internet connection has been somewhat unreliable due to off-and-on heavy rains.  We hope to catch up on our web postings today.  We have also had some late evenings filled with events and those shifts in our schedule have thrown us off a bit as well. 

Sunday morning brought us scrambling to get to the beach at 9:30 (we arranged with Georgete to start a bit late today due to last night’s birthday festivities).  Today was a special day on the beach because a local capoeira group came to work with the kids (and us) to help teach this traditional Brazilian dance/martial art.  It is hard to describe capoeira, so hopefully the video and/or photos will help to make clear what it is. 

We all got a big kick (no pun intended) out of trying capoiera and so did the kids.  Each of us tried to learn a little bit; some were better than others.  A few of us even discussed forming a capoeira club at Saint Mary’s when we return.  We’ll see. 

After our beach work and lunch were over, we all headed back to the storefront to get as much work done as we could.  We continued to do cement repair (a few of us are getting REALLY good!) and we continued to prep the walls for painting, this time using a massive drum of spackle to smooth the beaten up space (at least somewhat). 

We helped Jaime’s uncle, Daniel, finish the frame for the front roof and we helped him begin to install the terra cotta tiles.  It was raining during most of the afternoon (not torrentially, just annoyingly) so every job was a little more miserable than it might otherwise have been.  We weathered it all pretty well and got quite a bit accomplished. 

We hurried home for dinner so that we could finally achieve something that we’ve tried every week: we made it to mass at the big church in the city square.  Last year’s group faced similar struggles trying to get to church.  One week we overslept, one week they changed the time for the service, and another week they changed the location of the service.  This year we missed our first Sunday because we didn’t get up in time, the second one we missed was due to the long bus lines at Alter do Chão, and this was our big chance to make it.  We did!

We went to a 7:00 p.m. service and were surprised to find the church absolutely full.  More than 80% of Brazilians self-identify as Catholics (not that they are all observant), so going to a Catholic mass is a primary cultural event here.   We could pretty well follow along despite the language barrier; they even sang one song that a lot of us already knew so we got to join in on that part of the service too. 

After mass, we hustled to a nearby part of town to experience another major cultural event: the rehearsal of a samba school.  As Carnaval time nears, groups of musicians (mostly drummers and other percussionists) practice their approaches to the parades that will happen all over the country over the course of several days.  The groups are called blocos, and the bloco we found was called Bloco da Pulga.  They gather outside of their rehearsal space, get going with vocals and instruments, then bust out all of their drums and march through the streets while the locals (and we) follow and dance along. 

We had a complete and total blast, especially because the leader of the bloco, Chicão,  recognized a couple of us from last year’s group.  He immediately spotted us, identified us as the Californians on bikes from last year, and located tables for us right in the center of all of the action. 

When the truck and the drum line got ready to move, Chicão let Shawny ride inside so that she didn’t have to crutch along while we were all dancing.  (We gave up on the wheelchair long ago; this place was not designed for navigation by wheelchair.)  The singers were right in Shawny’s face, so she got to have a blast even though she wasn’t out there with us.  The rest of us had an even bigger blast, especially because a local samba dance teacher took us under his wing and taught us some moves.  We were leading the entire parade at one point, following at other times.  Always, we were ecstatic. 

As it turns out, the Bloco da Pulga has chosen to honor one of our other local friends in their Carnaval celebration this year: Laurimar Leal, a local artist, musician, and historian that we have met on our previous trips.  The bloco made cool shirts with their name and a picture of Laurimar on them.  Even though the shirts are not yet for sale, they offered some to us because they were so glad to see us return.  The shirts are flashy and loud and oh-so-Brazilian, so we will wear them proudly when we get back to California. 

We were tired but jazzed when we returned home.  We seldom have nights out (we usually work on our projects and this blog in the evenings) so to have two nights out in a row was almost too much for us.   We managed, though, and we even have plans for tomorrow night as well: we are attending a local fashion show that will feature Louro’s niece.  That should be a fun event to add to our list of Brazilian cultural experiences.  We’ll let you know.

Josi learns a move or two from Bryan.

Gianna spent most of the morning with the cutest kid ever.  Can’t really blame her.

Jesse does work. Spraypainting the iron grates.

We didn’t know Sky knew Capoeira already.  Reach for the sky.

Seús is one of Georgete’s former students who is now a 5th Level Capoeira pro.

It stormed last night and this is what the beach looked like when we pulled up this morning.

A local capoeira group came and busted out some moves.

After their performance the capoeira group tried to teach us some steps. Dani and Noelle are trying a flip.

Sky and Jared capoeira battling.

A bike shop on the way home from the beach.

Capoeira pose.

Learning the basics to Capoeira.

Matt S with one of our lovely locals, Lucas.

The  instruments played to keep the rhythm of the Capoeira performance.


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