Tag Archives: History

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

 

 

Petrópolis

This weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting family members in Petrópolis, about a two hour bus ride from  Niterói. The landscape is so beautiful there, with mountains and greenery… But, it is also much, much colder.

Landscape

Yes, ladies and gentleman, Brazil does indeed get cold.

I ended up getting sick due to the climate change (warm and balmy  to cold at a high altitude) and was a bit distraught that there wasn’t any tea in my uncle’s house. In my home back in the States, we have a cabinet in the kitchen that is basically dedicated to tea (an idea we got from friends), so the thought of not having tea was a bit astonishing. I guess it shouldn’t have been… Brazil is not very big on tea, it’s always been more of a coffee country. But a solution was not far off! We ended up pulling leaves off their lemon tree, washing them and boiling them and had some of the most amazing tea ever. From leaves of a tree in the backyard! Know anywhere else you can do that? I don’t.

DSC02748

Sabbath morning was spent at the church at Instituto Petropolitano Adventisa de Ensino (IPAE), the school that my mother and most of the rest of Igreja do IPAE 2my aunts and uncles went to school once upon a time. I was honored to have the chance to play a couple of special numbers for the service. The pianist was remarkable – we didn’t have any rehearsal ahead of time but we stuck together basically the entire time. Its always great to play with people with such a level of musicianship.Playing at IPAE

Family

Saturday evening was spent in Teresópolis, home of the Brazilian Seleção (national soccer team). No, we didn’t get to see any of the team, as cool as that would have been. By the way, for those who have been following – keep Neymar Jr. in your thoughts and prayers. Its hard being the star with such a high profile at such a young age and then be injured, almost considered paralyzed, and then be forced to back down from one’s biggest dream. He’s young and thankfully his injury isn’t as serious as first thought, but he will be out the rest of the Cup. Whether you’re routing for Brazil or not, we can all agree that no one deserves to be hurt in something like this.

Anyways, we went to Teresópolis for a “prayer vigil,” or at least that what I think it was called. A large Adventist event that had famous Adventist Brazilian artists performing and well-known pastors preaching held in an old Olympic indoor sports stadium. Sadly, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy it because I was starting to feel rather ill…

SDA Stadium Vigil

In the Crowd

Instead of going home, though, you know where we went? A pizza rodízio. There really isn’t a proper translation for this word… But essentially, its when you sit at you table and waiters come around offering various food items you can choose from. Its like an all-you-can-eat buffet where the food comes to you. It’s very common for Brazilian churrascarias (steakhouses/barbecues), but I had never heard of one for pizza. There more kinds of pizza than you could imagine, including chocolate! It was definitely an interesting experience.

This morning was supposed to be spent seeing some of the tourist sites of Petrópolis, as this was where the last emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, lived before the country became independent as well as the home of Alberto Santos-Dumont, who is credited in Brazil as the father of aviation (read about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Santos-Dumont). However, traffic was completely backed up due to the annual Bauernfest, where Brazilians celebrate all things German. Suddenly, my fascination with the German language makes sense – it seems to be a natural part of being Brazilian! After a quick look around the festival, filled of course with beer, sausage, and traditional clothing, we went to eat one last lunch together before I had to return to Niterói.

Bauernfest

Marching Band at Bauernfest

Crystal Palace

German "Houses"

I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend with my family. Its not often that I get to see them; its kind of hard when you live thousands of miles away. The last time I saw my uncle was in 2003. Hopefully it won’t be such a long period of time before we see each other again.

Now I’m back in Niterói and am ready to take on this last week of my internship! Wow… Has it really gone by that fast?

-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

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