Fly Like an Eagle

“Just keep running until you can’t any more. Whatever you do, don’t look down – keep your eyes straight ahead. And don’t be afraid, all right?”

My helmet moved slightly as I nodded, my eyes fixed on the horizon. This was it, the moment I had been waiting for.

I had gone to Rio early in the morning, but was later brought back to Niteroi with my new friend Gilbert, who’s from Malta,  and several Gilbert Ciniothers to the Parque da Cidade. There is a beautiful view there of Rio and the Lagoa de Piratininga that is simply spectacular. We arrived at this peak, high above the city, well past 10am. There was a large crowd of people taking photos of the view and I even ran into a whole group of Pathfinders from a local church in Niteroi and got a picture with them (not on my camera, which apparently didn’t like Gilbert very much, so you’ll have to wait to see that one later).

The heat was starting to get stronger and I started to worry about my face, since it tends to burn easily and I had forgotten to put on sun screen. The fact that the wind was weak didn’t help either and the wind, in fact, was the problem. Our group had driven from Rio to Niteroi because the wind was supposed to be perfect, but it was as if a wall had been raised in the middle of the Guanabara Bay. We could see the motion on the water below us, but nothing was making it up to the Parque da Cidade.

Getting tired of waiting, and a little hungry, I wandered over to the buffet restaurant that was near the peak. Gilbert followed and we were about to get something to eat when we got the news – the wind had improved! Swapping my plate for a bag of Doritos and a Guaravita, I hurried back to the peak. Gilbert was suited up and coached first, then off he went. Now it was my turn.

The suit was weighty and oddly situated, but at least I didn’t look like a turtle like a lot of other people that were on the peak. I was matched with Guilherme, who had me do some practice runs before we stepped out on the runway. We had to wait for the wind some more, during which an assistant stood behind me giving words of encouragement. “Just keep running until you can’t any more. Whatever you do, don’t look down – keep your eyes straight ahead. And don’t be afraid, all right?”

Guilherme looked at me, asking if I was ready to run. My heart was pounding, not from fear but excitement. We made an attempt, but stopped short and had to wait for the wind again. After what seemed like ages, Guilherme glanced my way again, “Let’s run?” Not taking my eyes off the horizon, I nodded firmly. We ran, hard and quick, my heart racing. We ran until we couldn’t anymore, right over the edge. The wind blew strongly across my sun-kissed face, the trees swept past, the water shone, and underneath me… birds!

I was flying!

There aren’t words adequate enough to describe the feeling of complete freedom, peace, and awe I felt while in the air – soaring, flying like an eagle. Hang gliding had been on my bucket list for a while now and when I discovered that I would be coming to the Rio area, I knew that this was something I had to do. Guilherme, an instructor with Rio Hang Gliding, is one of several experienced flight instructors on staff and he was absolutely amazing, explaining how everything would be and how to accomplish what needed to be accomplished. It may seem unreasonable, but knowing that he had 37 years of experience, I felt completely secure and calm while being several hundred meters in the air.

All around were the beautiful morros. The Christ statue was watching from a distance and Pão de Açúcar wasn’t much further off. Below the trees, houses, cars, and people were rushing past. For a brief moment, we were sailing over the Bay. Cameras attached to the wings were filming and photographing every moment.

We landed on the soft sand of Praia Charitas where Gilbert and the others who had gone were waiting at a beach kiosk. The time I spent in the air couldn’t have been more than four or five minutes, but it sure felt much more spectacular than any other five minutes of my life! I could easily see how something like this could become addicting; you may have landed on the ground but your spirit continues to soar for hours later. I still am feeling the thrill!

Sadly, I was not able to get the pictures right away, but you can be sure that once I receive them that I’ll post a few on here. In the meantime, I part with this: if there is something that you’ve always wanted to do, take a chance and go.

Let your heart pound with excitement. Let your mind be free with abandon. Let your spirit fly like an eagle.

Hang Gliding - Parque da Cidade
Thanks to you Rio Hang Gliding who made this incredibly memorable experience possible.

-Wandering Minstrelette

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Music as Service

For many years, I have viewed music as something more than just something enjoyable. It can be used to minister, to serve, and to teach. My time in undergraduate at Washington Adventist University reinforced this believe, where I was part of an orchestra who’s motto was a quotation from J. S. Bach that says, “The aim and final end of all of music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”

Our conductor later summarized it this way, “Music is least of all entertainment, and greatest of all service.”

While the organizations I am working with here in Brazil are not religiously affiliated, these are sentiments that I feel still shine through in their work. Students are not simply being taught music, they are being given a chance to “expand and improve their personal and professional goals… and consequently their society” (my translation from Programa Aprendiz’s website: http://aprendizmusica.com.br/). Music is being used to service not only those who participate in these groups, but all with whom they come into contact.

Programa Aprendiz specializes in teaching elementary music education and appreciation to kids in Niteroi’s municipal elementary schools. Besides this,  Aprendiz also has chamber ensembles and larger performing groups: Orquestra Guerra-Peixe, a training orchestra; Orquestra de Sopros, a wind ensemble; and Orquestra Sinfônica Aprendiz, the advanced orchestra. In a country where appreciation for music education was not a cultural norm, Aprendiz has been extremely successful in its work, currently being present in 23 schools of the city and serving 3000 students.

Aprendiz has monthly performances for their city government donors in which selected individuals are featured in chamber ensembles or as soloists. I attended this month’s performance Aprendiz - June Performersyesterday and let me tell you, I was blown away by the level of musicality and musicianship of these students. (Watch one of the pieces here on my YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/DyOT0RYGi7E)There was a young man who played a movement of the famous J. S. Bach Cello Suite in G Major BWV 1007 who was spellbinding. Another young man, the concert master of the OSA, performed a movement from a Vivaldi concerto accompanied by a small group of strings and the audience loved it so much they asked him to play it again as an encore!

Aprendiz - Vivaldi concerto

 

 

 

 

 

Aprendiz - Septet

Aprendiz - Bach Cello Suite

Later that same day, I had the opportunity to attend a rehearsal of another orchestra called Orquestra de Cordas da Grota (String Orchestra of Grota). This orchestra is the result of a vision of its Grota - Conductorfounders, Marcio Selles and Leonora Mendes, who decided to bring music to the favelas (slums) in Niteroi. What started as a ragtag team of individuals has, in ten years, grown into a full blown string orchestra (they have six violas!!) that regularly performs in the area, records CDs, and travels nationally and internationally. They don’t have trashy instruments either – all the instruments used by the members were donated towards the cause and are of excellent quality. (See them in rehearsal here: http://youtu.be/mr2Nn3Ms_0Q)

Grota - violas

Grota - Cellos

To come from a Brazilian slum and end up owning your own instrument, traveling the world performing and playing beautiful music, is that amazing? Look at the power of music in service!

Orquestra de Cordas da Grota has literally changed the lives of its players. During a short break from rehearsal to have some snacks, I had the chance to speak to the first viola player, Nick. “Music is my lifestyle,” he told me. “It’s what I love.” He’s not sure where he would have been without this group, without music, but now he knows he has a future.

Today I attended a rehearsal of Aprendiz’s Orquestra Guerra-Peixe, who’s members are younger and less advanced in their instruments and yet manage to produce great music. Most of these kids are at Guerre-Peixe - Violasthat awkward stage of life when a lot of things are changing for them and it can result in shyness and uncertainty. Put an instrument in their hands, however, and they seem to become new people – confident and adventurous. Yes, they still have a long ways to go but at least they are on their way.

Guerre-Peixe - mentor

Learning an instrument develops more than musical ability and know-how. Its creates confidence, teaches discipline, challenges problem solving skills, encourages interaction, and develops a community where members have a sense of belonging.

Viewing music as service towards individuals and their local communities is what drives these organizations. To change the life of one person is to change the life of a community. What better tool is there than music? Its a gift that keeps on giving. By its nature, its meant to be shared and therefore has an enormous amount of influence. Music is naturally inclined to be used as service.

After reading about the groups, wouldn’t you agree?

-Wandering Minstrelette

An Interval

I apologize for having lagged a bit behind on posts, but its only because I’m finally starting to work! Up until now I have been mainly observing and getting to know the organization and the people of Aprendiz. Now, I have tasks to accomplish and I’m ready to take them head on.

I’ll write more in detail tomorrow, but in the mean time enjoy some pictures from the past few days and please remember to keep me always in your prayers.

Aprendiz Winds Ensemble

Aprendiz Monthly Presentation

A different group - Orquestra da Grota. More on them later.
A different group – Orquestra da Grota. More on them later.

 

-Wandering Minstrelette

Water and Fire

Hoje, eu andei de caiaque.

Any guesses? Take that “c” word and try to say it out loud.

 

I’ll give you a moment…

 

That’s right, kayak! I went kayaking today in the Guanabara Bay!!

Vinicius, a friend of my host, belongs to a water sports club in Rio and was able to reserve a beautiful, long green kayak for us to use for the morning. After lathering on the sun tan lotion (Vinicius is Vinicius and the kayaksthe first person I’ve met here as white as me!! Happy day, a friend!), and gearing up we walked to the edge of the water – which was pretty cold – and embarked.

We paddled out to the middle of the bay. The 360 degree view was breathtaking. Its a totally different perspective of Niteroi and Rio that most people never get to see.

A butterfly joined us, looking like it needed a place to rest. Brilliant orange and yellow with some dull white, it flitted by us for several minutes but never landed. It actually looked like it was leading us for a while and then left us for other interests.

We managed to circle most of the bay in about an hour and would have like to continue, but it will have to wait for another day.

NOM NOM NOM
Munching on goodies.

Not wanting to leave Rio just yet, I asked Vinicius to drop me off at Pão de Açúcar, which was nearby the Praia da Urca, where we had embarked from. The last time I have been to Pão de Açúcar was eleven years ago – wow. When we arrived, the line was ridiculously long so Vinicius suggested that I walk the Pista Claudio Coutinho. A well-used, but not as touristy, and easy path, it encircles the base of Pão de Açúcar and allows for the chance to see some wildlife. Since Vinicius was not able to come along, I bravely set out on my own (seriously though, everything was tranquil and calm). Meandering along I saw more marmosets, lizards, and beautiful birds, besides some interesting people including rock climbers – new thing to add on to the bucket list!

I eventually made my way to the ticket office for the cable car to go up Pão de Açúcar and was surprised to find no line whatsoever. I encountered a group of people earlier who said they had to wait 40 minutes and I literally walked in. Guess taking the trail first was a good idea after all.

Panorama of Rio from Pão de Açúcar
The view from Pão de Açúcar.

The two morros (hills) of the location actually have two different names: Morro da Urca, which is the shorter one, and Pão de Açúcar, Me and Riothe taller one. From the top of either of the morros are spectacular views of the city and Guanabara Bay. Luckily, I made a few friends along the way who took some pictures of me with the view.

In fact, the coolest part of going on Pão de Açúcar was meeting all the people. Of course, there are always tourists in a place like this but with the World Cup everything has grown exponentially. I made friends with Mo, a Canadian, Daniel and Philip, Belgians, had my hair tousled and was given a bear hug by a grizzly German, asked a Norwegian to take a photo for me, saw an Australian man being filmed for some sort of show, walked by several of the ever-present Asian tourists, and of course, flocks of Americans.

From left: Mo, myself, Daniel and Philip.
From left: Mo, myself, Daniel and Philip.

Australian Dude

 

 

 

 

 

Together, we all enjoyed a fantastic sunset over the hills of Rio that seemed to light the bay on fire. Across the way one can see Cristo Redentor, arms spread wide as if embracing this magnificent city, being silhouetted by the fading light.

Sunset Over Rio

It was definitely worth the 11 year wait. I’ll just have to make sure it won’t be such a long gap until the next time.

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

Check Out My Channel

I promised to post links to videos from the past few days, so here they are! These are all from my YouTube channel.

The Coral Jovem de Niteroi during the Sabbath morning service this past Saturday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Shn2EsRyXM.

Street Dancing to the Brazilian National Anthem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iIcBcZdE5k.

Tudo Por Um Pop Star: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JR94OMcChg.

Programa Aprendiz at work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfa-6Ni7GSw.

Oh yeah, and there there’s this: http://youtu.be/QiZ6gP7kvTA.

VALEU BRASIL!!!

 

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

Adventurous

One thing that many people who don’t get to travel a lot don’t tend to understand is the great amount of hospitality and generosity those you encounter have. Whether it be just a friendly smile that brightens your day or you are offered a chance to spend a day with a family, traveling opens you up to a whole new world of possibilities.

Of course, one must always use intelligence and what apparently is not-so-common sense. But what can occur as a result can be some of the best memories of your travels!

I have to say that one of the things that I love about my church is that no matter where I am in the world, I can find people who share my beliefs and with whom I can feel at home. My hosts were kind enough to take me to church yesterday morning, as there happened to one near by. Granted, I was expecting a bit more of a welcome than what was received – I have often experienced that larger Igreja Adventisa do Setimo Dia Central de Niteroichurches tend to have problems in making visitors feel welcome. I didn’t let it get to me, however, and eventually introduced myself to a young woman who also happened to be named Juliana! Long story short, I was brought along to her home with her husband, Alexandre, his parents,  and her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew for lunch and a wonderful afternoon just getting to know each other. I even attended their choir rehearsal for the fun of it. We’re already looking forward to seeing each other again next Sabbath and exploring parts of Niteroi I haven’t seen yet!The Joy of Children Singing

Later that evening, my hosts and I went to blues/rock concert that Daniel, the Aprendiz program coordinator, was playing in and had Daniel Oliveira  -Tuninginvited me to. The music was great and I got to meet some interesting people during the program.

Painted Turle

 

Today was, once again, a free day. My host, Valeria, and I took the opportunity to sleep in but then took advantage of the nice weather (it has been raining here for the past couple of days) to go explore Rio de Janeiro. We visited the botanical gardens and saw lots of beautiful plants, turtles, monkeys, tamarins, birds, a squirrel, and at least 20 pregnant women. Seriously. It was like – pregnancy fest. They must have been taking advantage of the good weather as well, because each of them was being followed by a photographer.

Monkey - Capuchin?
Brown Capuchin
Mico-leao
Tufted-eared Marmoset

Later on we met up with Valeria’s friend, Patricia, and her sister-in-law, Raquel for a late lunch and then a stroll of the famous Copacabana beach. Let me just say – it wasn’t HALF has bad as I was told it would be. Honestly, it was quite tranquil. Sure, there were still a lot of people, but nothing like what I was expecting. Apparently all the Argentinians who had been literally camping out on the beach (which isn’t allowed, by the way), have moved with the games and are migrating north. That’s what I’m told at least. Copacabana - Represent

The beach was filled with individuals proudly wearing the colors of their country. The FIFA Fan Fest, especially, was filled with soccer lovers and proud citizens. The Fest had several booths and activities as well as an enormous screen where the South Korea-Algeria game was being broadcasted (Congrats to Algeria, by the way!).

FIFA Fan Fest

In the evening, Valeria left me at the Teatro Ipanema with Alline, the photographer of the Programa Aprendiz that I met the other day. She was taking pictures of the final performance of a musical geared towards preteens and teens called, “Tudo Por Um Pop Star” (Everything for a Pop Star – http://aventuraentretenimento.com.br/tudoporumpopstar/). I don’t think I had ever experienced anything like this… The imaginary Tudo Por Um Pop Starwall that normally is placed between the actors and the audience was completely obliterated. The audience was filled with adolescents who seemed to have seen the show ten times already, because they knew all the lines. There was one time a guy behind me shouted out a line before the actress, and she just turned and stared at him before saying, “You want to keep telling me what to say?” Everyone laughed, and the show went on. By the end there were people literally crying and cheering and holding up signs – apparently it was the last show of the run. Quite the experience.

All of this is to say – without trying new things, meeting new people, and taking some chances, life isn’t all that fun. I went to the home of complete strangers that I can now call friends. I went to someone in concert that I only just met once before, the same with the musical. Exploring Copacabana, with a camera, is supposedly extremely dangerous but I had a fantastic time with no problem whatsoever. Yes, be smart but sometimes its worth stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

I’ll be adding links in the next couple of posts to videos from my trip so far (since I have the basic WordPress, I can’t properly embed them here). I hope you’re enjoying reading along and be sure to leave any comments or questions you might have.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Where Experiments Meet Reality

In Brazil there is a special word that is apparently often used. “Imprensado” means to be pressed (in between) and is given to those awkward days that fall between holidays and weekends. Today was one of those days.

Remember how I mentioned that Brazilians know how to have a good time? Well, since it was Corpus Christi yesterday and tomorrow is Saturday then many figure, “What’s the point?!” and took today off too.

I love Brazil.

Having yet another day off allowed for a makeup lesson with my Paulo - my harmony teacherharmony teacher, Paulo, who had to cancel earlier this week due to illness. It seems like its been so long since I’ve taken classes in theory and harmony… Paulo reviewed things for me and then started a discussion of Brazilian harmony that will extend to the following lesson. Combining this with the flute and voice lessons, I’ll be a mini-expert on Brazilian music by the time I leave here!

The free day also allowed me to see my Tio (uncle) Gilberto. The last time I saw him was in 2003, when I came to visit Rio for a few days before moving on to visit other family. I took the ferry from Niteroi to Rio and met Tio by a restaurant along the water. How nice it was to catch up (despite my still fairly-broken Portuguese)! We ate lunch together and went to visit Pavilhão Mourisco in Fiocruz.

The view while taking the ferry across Guanabara Bay from Niteroi to Rio.
The view while taking the ferry across Guanabara Bay from Niteroi to Rio.

 

My uncle and his wife
My uncle and his wife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Moorish-style building was built in 1905 by Portuguese architect Luis Moraes Junior. According to my uncle, all the parts were shipped from Europe basically already made and then were put together once they arrived into this majestic building. We have found the predecessors of IKEA!

Pavilhão Mourisco - the top floor was being renovated.
Pavilhão Mourisco – the top floor was being renovated.

The building was used as the headquarters of Oswald Cruz, a forward thinking scientist and doctor of the early 1900s. It was his vision and desire to bring better medicine and health awareness among the people in Rio de Janeiro and encouraged research and education in these areas. Sadly, he was seen as a madman by many of the people of his time, but his works are greatly recognized today as some of the most important advancements made in Brazilian public health.

Bust of Oswald Cruz in front of Pavilhão Mourisco.
Bust of Oswald Cruz in front of Pavilhão Mourisco.

The building has become a museum in memory of the great strides of Oswald Cruz and a foundation, known as the Fiocruz Foundation, was created in his honor. Today, the Foundation employs over 7,000 people who continue to research and experiment on better ways to treat public diseases, particularly those that affect the poor.

Follow the links below to learn more about the museum and Oswald Cruz:
http://www.museudavida.fiocruz.br/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm?infoid=60&sid=214https://www.flickr.com/photos/cmarino/541484816/

My Tio Gilberto is a part of this exciting and adventurous work. The project he is currently working on involves discovering how certain enzymes in plants produce substances that we use as medication for specific illnesses and then encourage the enzymes to create more of these substances in order to produce more medication, all with the help of mathematics and computers! Seems to me like computational biology and bio-technology at its best.

Another project that the Fiocruz Foundation is working on involves  decreasing the population of dengue carrying mosquitoes in a unique way. Male mosquitoes will be captured and injected with a certain natural element (an enzyme or something) that changes its capability to produce. When it mates with a female mosquito, the female will only produce male offspring. (With mosquitoes laying 100,000 or so eggs at a time – that’s a lot of dudes…) Since only female mosquitoes bite, as they need nutrients from blood during gestation, a increase in male mosquitoes means an overall decrease in the specific mosquito population and therefore less dengue fever. Quite a bit different from the “Take this pill and see me in a week” approach, huh? I wondered if there was discussion as to what this could do to this species of mosquitoes’ population decades into the future. What do you say, those bio-ethicists of you out there?

Overall, I have to say I was hugely impressed by the work that is being done by this foundation. Its things like this I wish Brazil would show more pride and support for. People like my uncle are working on projects that could potentially change the world – for the better. Someday, I hope that all of Brazil, and other countries like it, will recognize its potential for greatest and strive to achieve it. That would be a wonderful world to live in.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Stories No Longer Told

Brazilians are always looking for a chance to have a good time. It seems that whatever chance they get, there’s a holiday or a celebration or what have you, and then there’s a party!

My internship schedule has been incredibly altered from its original inception, due mainly to the World Cup. If Brazil is playing, everything shuts down. Along with the Cup, my time here also happened to land on a couple of important holidays. Today was the national holiday of Corpus Christi, tomorrow few things are open because of the holiday today, and next week is a holiday just in Niteroi celebrating São João. I’m telling you – we know how to relax.

It has been a trial to make sure that I will be able to get all the necessary hours for my internship credit during my time here but my host, Valeria, has been tirelessly working on scheduling besides showing me around town, footing the bill for some meals, and so much more. She is the essential link, without her hard work I would not be here.

With the holiday of Corpus Christi, I had no work to do. Valeria decided that it would be time well-spent to visit local hostels that could house future students traveling with Performing Arts Abroad.  Everything was good and well until it decided to rain cats and dogs. I had not been in rain that strong for quite a while and even Valeria felt uncomfortable driving on the water logged roads. We still managed to visit two hostels and then took a side trip to Fortaleza de Santa Cruz da Barra, an old military fort founded in 1612 that once was very important in protecting Rio and is still used in military training today.

Hostel

Fortaleza de Santa Cruz da Barra

 

This fort is directly across from another fort, Fortaleza de São João, and together they marked the closest points of land before entering Map of entrance in Guanabara Bayinto the Guanabara Bay. A complex system of forts was established all around the entrance of the bay to protect it invaders.

 

Our guide, a young military man, led us around the campus telling story after story. How a priest performing mass saw from the corner of his eye a ship and stopped an invasion; how the military prepared the cannons during battle; how prisoners were kept in cells and if they misbehaved were put into smaller and smaller cells – so many stories, so much history.

Santa Cruz Cells

Valeria told me, as an aside, about another story that the guides no longer tell. Apparently Santa Cruz was used at one point to torture political prisoners (I don’t know when this was or how). These prisoners were kept in small, secluded caves in complete darkness and their screams could be heard in the nearby towns. When the military was asked about what the noise was, they told the people that it was a jaguar that they had captured. The torture chambers came to be known as Cova da Onça, or jaguar pit. They don’t tell this story during tours anymore. Hmm.

Isn’t it interesting how sometimes we choose to ignore or leave out certain facts of the past? I wonder why we do it… Is it because we’re scared of how others will view us in the present? Or because we’re trying to make changes and don’t want to judged? Or maybe we have made changes but others always want to bring up the past to mess up your future.

The way I see it, if we don’t make peace with the past (regardless of being an individual or a country), it is hard to move on through the present to the future.

What do you think? Why does it seem so natural to pick and choose stories from our past?

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

Cultural Backdrop

Culture is an interesting thing. I spent the majority of the day today with Daniel, the program coordinator, and Alline, a photographer, wandering to several of the schools where Programa Aprendiz, the municipal music education organization I’m interning with,  functions. The program is present in 23 schools throughout the city and we managed to visit 3 of them today. Along the way, we had some interesting conversations about various topics but the most interesting to me involved the idea of culture. There have been many questions raised about the priorities of Brazil’s government because of the World Cup. One  was which did Brazil value more – soccer or the education of its children?

So often Brazil is criticized for this or that, but one has to remember that relative to many other countries, its fairly new. Well, its modern state is fairly new. Brazil was founded merely for exploration and exploitation, unlike the United States which was founded in search of freedom and rights. The Portuguese often sent its most dishonest and corrupt individuals to Brazil to manage its resources, something that apparently would continue for centuries. When Brazil finally gained independence, there was no a set way to run the government, resulting in lots of political unrest. Brazil was also the last country in the Americas to declare slavery completely illegal (1888, see Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolition_of_slavery_timeline). During the decades my parents were growing up, Brazil was run by the military. As a democracy, Brazil is only 25 or so years old. None of this is meant to justify any of the wrongdoings of the government, but it certainly helps paint a more appropriate backdrop for those on the outside looking in.

Some things that seem so logical for some, simply isn’t for others. Things such as taking care of the precious rainforest will always take a back seat the thousands of poor, starving, and uneducated citizens in Brazil’s political discussions. Then there’s corruption, which opens a whole other kettle of fish. But what works for one country won’t necessarily work in another, meaning that changing Brazil’s government or leadership to be like another country’s  won’t solve the problem. It will only lower the fever, not cure the illness.

Culture is something that is developed over a matter of time by the constant encouragement of a habit. Habits done by many people over a long period of time become a culture. Good study habits, an appreciation for music, and overall increased self-confidence in young students are currently not a normal part of Brazilian culture.

A culture of public financial support of arts institutions is also not present in Brazil, where soccer is king. Overall, it seems that Brazil would not be good soil to sow seed. However, the work of Aprendiz and others like them are proving that not to be true, that instead there are individuals thirsty for a change.

“I’ll never live to see the change in culture,” said Daniel, “But I can work to encourage the good habits that will, years later, better the culture and its people.” Reminds me of a story I once heard of an old man planting a tree… (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/358642/jewish/The-Old-Man-and-the-Fig-Tree.htm).

There is a phrase known by musicians that goes, “Practice makes perfect.” This is incorrect. Practice does not make perfect, it makes it permanent. Practice a bad habit, and it’ll be almost impossible to get rid of. Practice a good habit, and it just might change everything, including a country’s culture.

Leading out strings class.
Leading out strings class.

 

Hold the Bow

-Wandering Minstrelette

Sotaque

For the first time in my life, I was told I barely have an accent when speaking Portuguese.

I don’t want to say that I’ve improved exponentially in the one day that I’ve spent so far in Brazil, but I have already noticed that simple thoughts are starting to appear in Portuguese and that phrases are forming more easily. But let me tell you that forcing myself to be actively aware of everything that was being said in order to understand resulted in my being absolutely exhausted mentally and physically by the end of the day.

The “official” orientation at Programa Aprendiz, the organization I’ll be spending the majority of my time with,  took place yesterday all in Portuguese. Luiza, the program director, welcomed me and introduced me to the structure of the organization, their accomplishments, plans and goals, and what she was hoping I would help out with while here. (Translating a website seems to be in my near future…) Later I was introduced to the orchestra director, who asked me to sit in on a rehearsal so I could be introduced to the students and hear a bit of what they had been working on the past couple of months. I was also introduced to Daniel, the program coordinator, who discussed with me various aspects about the organization and wanted to make sure that we were on the same page in terms of expectations.

“One thing you must know,” Daniel said, “is that Aprendiz is not just about teaching kids how to play instruments but its about giving them confidence in themselves and respect for others. They are the same as us, only smaller.” His eyes brightened, “They as deserving of respect as we are.”

I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to actually interact with the students of Aprendiz, as I will more likely be spending most of my time studying and experiencing the administrative and and managerial aspects of running the program, but I hope that if I do get to know them that they see me not simply as a foreigner, but someone who can become a new friend to them.

Lessons in the language will help immensely. Portuguese was actually my first language. Until about four or five years old, it was the only thing I spoke. Once I hit school, however, Portuguese took a back seat to English and since we didn’t continue to keep it up much in the house I am not currently as fluent as I would like to be. Its music has been in my ears forever, so I’m familiar with the tune – I just am not sure how to play it.

Part of the advantage of doing this internship through Performing Arts Abroad is that the package includes a couple weeks worth of lessons of the language where you are attending. My first lesson was last night with my private tutor, Silvia, and I am completely ecstatic to finally be getting formal training in my mother tongue. For the first time I’m studying vocabulary, grammar, and all the other idiosyncrasies of Brazilian Portuguese.

After the lesson, I went to a aquatic aerobics class with my host, Valeria, and encountered two different people who both told me that I barely had an accent (sotaque). By the time I return, maybe it’ll be completely gone. Guess we’ll have to just wait and see.

-Wandering Minstrelette