Tag Archives: Culture

A Life Well Lived: Bernard Silver

Two weeks ago today my uncle, whom I called Dad and viewed as a grandfather, passed away. With the flurry of events that have taken place since then, I have not yet had the chance to express myself in a way that I felt was right and honorable.

This post is my attempt to recognize the man who meant so much to me and my family.

Bernard Silver (August 10, 1923-January 11, 2017)

Son of Louis and Jeannie Silver, Bernard came to the world on the same day as the funeral for former President Warren G. Harding. Louis had to travel far and wide across Brooklyn, New York to find the necessary supplies for Bernard’s home delivery as the majority of businesses were closed for the national day of mourning declared by newly appointed President Calvin Coolidge.

Later, the family grew again when Bernard’s sister Vera was born. A few years later, the Silvers moved to Washington, DCjust in time for the Great Depression.

Bernard great up knowing want and learned very early to be frugal, yet still found ways to enjoy life. The week was often spent doing chores to earn enough money to splurge on the weekends on penny candy and a nickel for a movie. Times were not easy, but Bernard always spoke how he and his family had it pretty well-off in comparison to other families.

On September 1, 1939 the Second World War began. Bernard was just 16 years old.

Like most young men, Bernard had a great desire to serve his country. Directly after graduating high school in 1943, he enlisted and was placed in the United States Army Air Corps. After completing his training, Bernard became a Staff Sergeant of the 328th Squadron in the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) A.A.F. Serving as a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator, Bernard and his nine other crew members completed 35 bombing missions over  Belgium and Germany. Several of Bernard’s favorite plane, the P-51 Mustang, accompanied them on every mission and as he would often say, “They kept us alive.”

Bernard was honorably discharged  on September 29, 1945 and returned to the life of a civilian. Several years later, Bernard began to work for a food company based in Washington, DC named Sol Salins.

In the mid 1970s, Bernard met and fell in love with Bonnie da Silva, a Brazilian immigrant to the United States. They were married in 1978 and Bernard treated Bonnie’s sons, Joseph, Edward, and Robert as his own. Bernard and Bonnie never had children together.

The newly formed family moved to and lived in Olney, Maryland. In 1986, they welcomed Bonnie’s younger sister, Vania, into their home.

Sadly, Bernard and Bonnie divorced in the 90’s and Bonnie would return to Brazil permanently. Bernard would eventually move in Vania, her husband Luis, and two daughters, Juliana and Vanessa. They affectionately called him “Dad,” and for the girls, Bernard was like a grandfather figure.

In 2013, Bernard moved to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC, only a couple of blocks from where he had grown up. There, he received all the care he deserved as a veteran of the United States, and even had the opportunity to meet President Barak Obama and his family.

On January 9th, Bernard fell and was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he succumbed to an infection that affected his heart, lungs, and kidneys. He died peacefully in the morning of Wednesday the 11th, with his caring sister-in-law Vania by his side.

Bernard is survived by his three nephews, Bonnie’s sons, his sister-in-law Vania and her family.

Bernard’s was a full life, one that has seen many changes in society, technology, and government. Those who knew Dad loved him and will miss his kind spirit and wonderful stories.

His was a life well-lived. Rest now in deserved peace.

Please remember to always tell those you care for how much you love them. And whenever you see a service member, especially a veteran from WWII, be sure to thank them for their service.

This post will be later updated with photos of Bernard throughout the years of his life. Thank you for reading.

-Wandering Minstrelette




A Day for Arts and Culture

For those of you have been following my blog, you know that over the last couple of summers I have traveled for internships to fulfill the requirements of my Masters in Arts Management from George Mason University in Virginia. 

My focus during my time at Mason was on international arts management, as I hope to one day move out of the United States and work in the arts or cultural realm abroad. England is a good place to start, I think, for someone who is interested in arts policy and fundraising because, despite still being quite different from the US, the UK has the closest related system that wouldn’t be such a stretch to learn and adapt to. 

That being said, I had hoped to visit several performing arts organizations during this trip and have a chat with some of the administration just to get a feel for what it might be like to work in the UK, and in London specifically. As you know from my previous posts, it didn’t really happen. 

But today I was able to visits several different arts and cultural organizations that have solidified even more my desire to someday move to and work in Europe. 

The first stop today was at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts. It’s been a dream of mine to visit this amazing school that had produced some of the finest actors Britain had ever known, as well as top-level theatre technicians and set/costume designers.

Sadly, my friend Jeniffer and I were not allowed to visit any classrooms, but we did get a chance to speak to a woman who works at the cafe which is open to the public. She was able to tell us a lot about how the school functions and what it takes to be a student at RADA. We would have loved to see a performance, but the school had just opened again from winter break, so there was no chance of that happening. Guess I’ll just have to come back sometime. 

We then returned to the British Museum. The forty-five minutes there the other day was simply not enough to fully grasp the amazing amount of knowledge and artifacts available in these halls. 

Jeniffer and I walked through ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and the empire of the Mayans. There were some famous pieces like the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chess Pieces, and the double-headed turquoise serpent. Tons of lesser known, but no less important, pieces grabbed our attention and filled us with wonder and interest. 

We could have easily spent another couples of hours than we did in the British Museum because we didn’t see anything from the Middle East, Asia, or Africa. Such an amazing museum!

Once we left the British Museum, we headed across town by Tube for the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a world-famous museum, yet none of the exhibits really caught my fancy. That is to say, except one in the history of underwear. It was a special exhibit, however, requiring a tickets and I was already spending so much money today that I thought it would be best not to go. 

There were some pretty things-mostly clothing and instruments from the 19th century. But soon we decided to move on to something a little more interesting. 

That something happened to be right nearby. 

Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic performance venue that presents all sorts of acts. The big show they are currently advertising is an act from Cirque du Solei called Ama Luna. 

We didn’t get to go inside and explore, but it was cool to be able to see the venue again and be reminded of good memories from the NEYE 2009 tour. 

One thing I don’t remember doing the last time I was here was walking around the back of the Hall and seeing the monument to Queen Elizabeth as well as the Royal College of Music. 

While we still were not able to explore classrooms and the like, Jeniffer and I were able to see a lot more of the building than we did at RADA. There was gorgeous marble everywhere and mosaic-tiled floors. No performances were taking place, but it sounded like a rehearsal of an opera or something was taking place in the hall. 

As if all that wasn’t enough, the final touch was to see a performance of Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. 

Wow. Just wow. 

I was completely blown away by the sets, the costumes, the lights, the orchestra, the actors, and of course, the music. No spoiler warnings, but I will say that it definitely helps to be familiar with the Wizard of Oz story, either from the original book or the 1939 film, in order to catch or understand all the references in this phenomenal musical. 

It was a treat for me (so much cheaper to see it here than on Broadway), but it was an extra special treat for Jeniffer because she had never been to a musical before. What a show to give a first impression of the wonderful world of musical theatre!

It truly has been a wonderful day, my second to last in London. I have yet to see what my final day will be filled with, but I’ll be sure to share tomorrow. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

PS – I hope you’ve been enjoying the pictures I’ve been sharing. They were all taken from my iPhone 7. 

I’ll Never Be Home Again

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That’s the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

Você nunca vai estar completamente em casa de novo, porque parte de seu coração será sempre em outro lugar. Esse é o preço que você paga para a riqueza de amar e conhecer pessoas em mais de um lugar.”

Miriam Adeney

Niteroi Friends 4

Niteroi Friends 12

Niteroi Friends 9

Niteroi Friends 18

Niteroi Friends 15

Niteroi Friends 5

Niteroi Friends 6

Niteroi Friends 10

Niteroi Friends 13

Niteroi Friends 16

Niteroi Friends 8

Niteroi Friends 19

Niteroi Friends 11


Orquestra Sinfônica Aprendiz

Until we meet again.

Até nos encontrarmos de novo.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Making Waves – Globo Niterói

I was surprised to find out yesterday that my coming to Niterói has caused a much larger stir than I expected. Since the arrangements for this trip were somewhat last minute due to complications, especially pertaining to the World Cup, the people who were contacted to make my coming here possible come from rather high positions in local society. Apparently, the Secretary of Culture in Niterói on down are aware of my time here and are excited.

Excited about what? The fact that I, as an arts management student, have come to Brazil from the States to learn how the arts function here has taken several aback in surprise but has also made several extremely happy. Arts management is still fairly new as a field of study; George Mason’s program is 10 or so years old. In Brazil there is a similar type of program that involves administration over cultural affairs and events, but it is not large or extremely popular. I have been told that when I announced my vision of learning about Brazilian culture through its music and working on the behind-the-scenes of running a youth orchestra during my time here, it got people talking.

Programa Aprendiz, where I am doing the majority of my internship work, has already started talking about creating a system or exchange program with international educational bodies to encourage more people like me to come and work with them on the constant improving upon reality that is management. Performing Arts Abroad also is hard at work at creating a more solidified program offer for future applicants to their program (I was the very first from their program to come to Brazil, so I’m kind of the guinea pig).

Luiza Carino, the head manager of Instituto Memória Musical Brasileira, the company that manages the affairs of Programa Aprendiz.
Luiza Carino, the head manager of Instituto Memória Musical Brasileira, the company that manages the affairs of Programa Aprendiz.

All this has created enough of a stir that it was requested that I be photographed and interviewed for Globo Niterói, a small chapter of the larger Globo multi-media organizations, the largest of its kind in Latin America. Needless to say, I was taken completely by surprise!

I was photographed today at the Municipal Theater in the center of Niterói, a tiny, beautiful, and historic space. I’d love to go back and see a performance there sometime before I leave, because it looks absolutely lovely. There was a journalist who came by as well and conversed with me, but didn’t jot anything down. I’m guessing a more proper interview will be arranged at some other time. Whenever the article is published, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Globo foto - palco
Teatro Municipal João Caetano. It was built in the 1830s and named after the “father of Brazilian theater.”

Isn’t it amazing how sometimes we make bigger waves than we expect? I had no idea that my decision to come here would have this sort of reaction. Now, ideas are flowing, conversations are happening, and changes seem to be on the horizon for several groups and people. All I can say is that I hope that my being here would be a blessing that lasts for longer than the moment. Not that I need people to remember that something happened because of me, but that something happened and it continues to work in the lives of those who are touched by the organization.

-Wandering Minstrelette

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

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.

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.



-Wandering Minstrelette



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
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:

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.


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