Tag Archives: Storytelling

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

 

 

Wedding Day Perfection

I really need to be better about punctual writing…

 

The March 13th could not have been more perfect.

I woke up rested and was able to take a nice, warm shower. A gift after the previous day’s dab-and-dash. There was little for me to do, so I took my good sweet time doing my hair and makeup and even after that I found myself twiddling my thumbs. Paulo, too, had nothing to occupy his time until his friends came to pick him up, so I was able to ask him to give me an impromptu violin lesson. I proudly showed my ability to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” but was quite lost after that. String instruments are pretty confusing to me, a flute player. Especially vibrato – how does one even make one’s hand move that way?

Anyways, Paulo’s friends soon came and picked him up to go to the wedding venue in the Mexico City suburb of Naucalpan, leaving me to once again twiddle my thumbs. Christina, her mother, and the bridesmaids had all spent the night in hotels closer to the venue to allow for early morning preparation. Paulo, who was one of the musicians, was to arrive later. I was to come with Christina’s father and grandparents, just before the ceremony started. When the time came, I quickly threw on my dress and shoes and together we were off to the event for which I and many others had come.

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The gate of Quinta Corregidor opened to welcome us into a beautifully manicured garden scene, complete with lawn umbrellas, comfy chairs, and Mexican style furniture. The “first look” had already happened, and we passed as Christina and Fernando were posing in an older, attractive looking car. A valet took the vehicle and I quickly found all the bridesmaids, whose dresses I nearly matched (honorary bridesmaid status – woo!). They were all GORGEOUS. Christina was GORGEOUS. The whole venue was, you guessed it, GORGEOUS.

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The ceremony would take place in a grove-like area – enclosed by trees and brush, covered by a white textured canopy, and lined in faux grass that looked and felt real.

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There was plenty of time to schmooze and take pictures before the actual ceremony began, when the guests had been requested to not attempt to photograph there ceremony with their phones in order to enable the professional photographers to do their job properly. I took what I could before the ceremony, admiring how simple and beautiful (and Pinteresty) everything looked. I’ll post some pictures here, but you can find some of my other favorites on my Instagram account: @wanderingminstrelette.

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Soon, the ceremony began – Christina has always been a punctual person – and as the bridal party filed in, the emotions started to well up inside me. I was so happy and blessed to be here for Christina, who had gone through so much with me and encouraged me throughout our college years. From seeing Fernando’s face as he awaited her turn down the aisle, I knew that she had found herself a man that truly loved and appreciated her, that together they would be so much more wonderful than apart and that theirs was a commitment that would last their whole lives.

The music began, not the traditional bridal march – we musicians are too picky to have overdone wedding music, and there she was, arm-in-arm with her father. Christina was glowing, radiant with joy. For that one moment, I disobeyed the photographers’ request and stealthily brought out my phone to snap a picture of this triumphant entry. I’m so glad I did.

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The whole ceremony, like the weather, was perfect. I snuck my phone out one more time and managed, without really trying, to get the much sought-after kiss shot.

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The beauty of the ceremony was challenged only by that of the reception hall. A covered area with a similar canopy, the open air “room” was daintily embellished with Mexican-style, yet sleek and modern, furniture and decorations.

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Then there was the food – oh my goodness, the food was amazing. The couple really outdid themselves in selecting the menu.

I have to admit that this was one of the first weddings, Adventist or otherwise, where I never felt bored. Perhaps it was because of the people I was seated with or the fact that the karaoke (instead of dancing) kept us all entertained or that the reception didn’t last until all hours of the night, allowing guests to leave wanting more rather than wishing for less.

Too soon, it seemed that this treasure of a day was over, months of planning gone in an instant, like the sparklers with which we sent off the couple into the warm, welcoming night. The present would now become cherished memories that all who attended will hold dear in their hearts.

Truly, it was a perfect day for this beautiful couple. I can only hope and pray for as perfect of a life for them ahead, where their relationship grows with each day and their commitment to each other delves deeper and stronger.

Christina and Fernando – ¡Felicidades! and many blessings. May God use you both for His glory, and may you always honor Him.

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-Wandering Minstrelette

 

 

 

Greet the Morning

“And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.”

-Genesis 1:5b

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It has become a tradition of mine to wake up early on the morning of January 1st to watch the first sunrise of the year. The idea was taken from a manga comic I used to read in my teens. Something about waking up early in the frigid morning and watching the pale colors creep across the sky until the golden-orange sphere peeks above the horizon fascinates me. The brisk wind rushing through my hair gives me a sense of renewal. The canvas of the sky seems fresh with new beginnings and hopes. I’m excited for this year and everything that it will present me.

Adventure and challenges. Trials and victories. Lessons and growth. Most of all – starting over, getting a clean slate.

Many people love the start of the new year because they feel they get another chance to perhaps do better or be better than they did or were the previous year. The only way to properly do so, however, is to take the time to reflect on and study the past. Before I stepped outside into the twilight, I spent the night reviewing the year gone by. I had kept a jar filled with my successes, happy moments, and blessings from God. One by one, I read the notes I had written to myself over the past year, remembering each of those happy and delightful moments. Those moments, however, also caused me to recall some of my less joyful memories. Things I had struggled with, cried about, and struggled with God. By processing each moment, good and bad, I came to the conclusion the notes were meant to lead me towards – God had been with me all the way.

My faith was increased by reviewing my past and remembering how God had lead me in times of joy and times of sorrow. My greatest resolution is to dedicate each coming day to His service. It was only because of this that I was able to lift my face to greet the morning with a peace and assurance that this year God would again be with me at all times, in all places, and during all situations. Without fear or worry, I can look to the future, for God is with me.

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In the Jewish tradition, a day starts first at the sunset and then continues into the sunrise. This was understood from the words above, repeated six times in Genesis 1.  Each day, then, could be seen as a representation of God bringing us out of darkness into light just as He did when He created the earth.  Each day we can have a new slate. Each day we can start anew. When we dedicate ourselves to God, He will use us for His purposes. He will lead us to where we need to go, tell us what we need to know, and show us what we need to see.

Perhaps the last year wasn’t the greatest of years for you. Perhaps, even now, you are still struggling with things you feel are out of your control. If you desire a clean slate, a fresh start, look to God. Not just on this, the first day of the new year, but every day. Dedicate yourself, no matter how messy you feel your life is, to Him and watch Him work wonders. He has promised to take you from darkness to light. Trust in Him, for He is ever with you.

Lift your face, its time to greet the morning.

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-Wandering Minstrelette

“How Many Loaves Do You Have?”

For the past several years, prayer has become more and more important in my life. Not to say that it wasn’t important before, but somehow I’ve come to better realize my great need of communion with my Heavenly Father and at the same time know the great power that comes from asking of God things in the name of Jesus. Sure, I’ve had plenty of times when I felt my faith was challenged or wondered if my faith was too small because my prayers weren’t answered as I expected or wanted them to be. But God used those moments to teach me what it really meant to have faith and trust in Him for all things. I’m slowly learning what it really means to pray and to be a prayer warrior.

This past week is a perfect example. My church does an annual Thanksgiving basket (box) distribution the Sunday before Thanksgiving, with church members donating food or money from almost a month prior. We even have our Pathfinder group (sort of like a co-ed version of Boy Scouts) go out into the neighborhood and drop off paper bags on doorsteps asking for people to leave non-perishable items the following week for pick up. The families that are selected for receiving a Thanksgiving box are vetted through a thorough process of investigation to ensure that we are helping the truly needy families of our community. Every year, the amount of families seems to grow, with the past couple of years rounding out at about 90 boxes that needed to be filled for families of various sizes.

Well this year, we approved 134 families from the community, ranging in size from 2 individuals to 10 plus pets. It was the most we had ever had to provide for. You want to know what else? This year we received the least amount of food ever donated. How were going to fill the need of the families to whom we promised a box full of supplies when we weren’t sure if we had enough supplies to fill the boxes? That’s when we knew we had to really start praying hard.

In an effort to improve my prayer life, I’ve recently been reading a book entitled, “The Kneeling Christian” by An Unknown Christian. It was recommended to me by a friend and I feel, going through it, that I still have so much to learn in regards to prayer. God wants us to pray, to pray for anything. When we align our will with the Father’s and seek for an outpouring of His power and Spirit in our lives, amazing things happen. Jesus promised us that anything we ask for in His name will be granted to us. Jesus also said that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to accomplish even greater things than He Himself! I can’t even imagine what that could mean! Of course, this is not so that we can boast in ourselves, but so that we may glorify our Father, Creator, and Redeemer. What this meant for me, this past weekend as volunteers joined together to do last minute preparations of the boxes, was that if we asked, God would multiply the food. He had done it to loaves and fishes – twice (Matthew 14; 15:29-39)! We knew and believed that He could multiply again.

Friday night came and our Adventurers (elementary aged children’s group similar to Pathfinders) came with their parents to “shop” for the supplies listed on a piece of paper in each box. Supplies were gathered from shelves that had been erected in one of the church’s hallways and carefully placed in the proper box. This was to ensure that each box was filled with the main necessities. Once each box was filled, the child would pray for the family it would go to and move on to the next box. Saturday night, some teens and adults came together to flesh out the boxes. Already we could see how God was working, because each of the boxes were slowly filling up. Then, just as we thought we were finished – we ran out. There were still 16 boxes that needed some supplies to be considered complete.

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Thankfully, donations from members of the church allowed one of our deacons to make an emergency grocery run to Wegmans on Sunday morning in order to have just enough to provide for those last few boxes. Four individuals ran the calculations, figured out just how much would need to be purchased to make sure everything was just right.

Sunday morning, a couple of hours before distribution, I was helping the deacon in filling in the last 16 boxes with the newly bought supplies. When we were done – there were still leftovers! Lots of leftovers! “How is this possible?” someone asked, “we had four people doing the calculations? How do we have extra?” We all smiled, because we knew the answer already. God.

The leftovers allowed us to add a little extra to some of the boxes meant for larger families – like that one family with 2 parents and 8 children. Or the other family with 4 adults and 4 cats. Or one adult and 5 children. I’m sure that what was added, although extra according to our calculations, ended up being exactly what they needed.

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At noon, we opened our doors to invite the members of the community who were expecting a box to come inside and wait for their turn to pick up their delightful array of non-perishables and produce. All the volunteers had a job. We had ladies checking names with addresses, our pastor welcomed them as they entered the room where all the boxes were lined up in numerical order, and we had young men and their fathers helping cart out the boxes (they became very heavy!) to each person’s car.

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My job? I had been asked to mingle with the community members while they waited for their turn and offer to pray with them. Mingling is not a problem for me, I’m not a shy person and yet… I became extremely shy about asking these people if they wanted prayer. I didn’t want to force it on them. What if they didn’t like it? I wondered. I don’t want to anger anyone… What if someone got mad at me…

I had suddenly become very inward focused – self preservation took over in a weird way. For the first half hour or so I stuck to speaking with the children and mentioning to the group that I was available for prayer, but not doing much more. Then this couple showed up from a neighboring church – a middle aged woman and her father – and said that they were here to pray with those who were waiting. You know what I felt? Threatened. This is my job! I thought. I quickly realized this was ridiculous and that even though it was my job, I wasn’t doing a very good job at it. So instead I relaxed and watched.

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These two made it look so natural – approach the person, ask their name, tell them yours, ask if there is anything they would like to have prayed about. I was astonished. I realized that my fear and timidness was ungrounded and silly. Slowly, I started imitating them, every once in a while joining hands with them and we prayed together for an individual or a group. I started to truly feel the blessings being poured out by our petitions.

Towards the end of our 3 hour distribution time, a woman approached me asking if she could speak to me. Noticing that she looked distraught, I walked her to the opposite end of the hallway where we had a little more privacy. “Jesus told me to come and ask you to pray for me,” she said. “Please, please pray for me.” This woman began to tell me deep rooted troubles and fears that haunted her daily, how she rarely felt safe, and that she had often thought about taking her own life. As she spoke, I kept praying silently that the Holy Spirit be present at that moment. When we finally started praying, both of us were shedding tears, asking for God’s protection and peace. I was later told by someone else that we had prayed for at least 15 minutes together. By the end, the woman seemed calmer. Things weren’t yet perfect, they may never be, but I believe the Holy Spirit was granting her peace within her heart. She thanked me for praying with her and went on her way.

I returned to the front of the hall where the father/daughter team were sitting, waiting for new attendants. My face must have shown how worn out I was, nearly in shock over what had just taken place, because they came and prayed for me to strengthen and encourage me. It was the first time in a long time that I felt I had actually done battle during prayer.

Being a prayer warrior takes practice. Patience. Willingness. Determination. Faith. You have to believe in the power of prayer, the power of the One the prayer connects you to. I caught a glimpse this past weekend of what it takes to be a prayer warrior and all I can say is, there is still much training to be done.

If you are a person of prayer, please whisper a prayer for my troubled friend, that she might find rest in the Lord. And for all the families who received Thanksgiving boxes, that when they left our church they were not only physically-filled, but spiritually filled as well.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Bis Später

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Normally, I love airports. The excitement, the adventure, the possibilities! Airports have almost become a second home to me and its always exciting to see the differences between them. Addis Ababa is very different from Heathrow and Dubuque’s airport in Iowa is tiny compared to Galeão in Rio. The food, the music, the people, the clothing – airports are the first portal into an unknown and fascinating world. Even when I’ve been to the same airport several times, such as LAX (which I’m going to again this weekend), I’m always looking forward to seeing what new and memorable experiences I’ll have.

Until this past Sunday, this is all that airports have ever meant to me. When you are at an airport not to go on an adventure, but to drop someone off, not knowing if or when you’ll ever see them again… The airport changed. Dulles, my favorite of the three local airports in the DC area, which has become so familiar and welcoming a place for me in my years of travel suddenly felt distant and strange. Being there did not bring excitement or anticipation, but sadness, pain, and an overwhelming sense of loss.

It has been evident from my experience that it is always easier to be the one leaving than the one being left behind, no matter how hard it may be to be separated from those you care about. Most of the time, I’m the one doing the leaving. I’m so not used to being the one left behind…

Sometimes we can ask God why separation like this has to happen. We can question and wonder, get angry and frustrated. “It shouldn’t be like this”, we think, or “This isn’t fair.” I’m not going to lie, I’ve had these thoughts and others like them. But I’ve come to the conclusion that despite the pain of the moment, I can trust in the promise that God is working in our lives for our betterment, and not for our sorrow.

I wear a purity ring that has Jeremiah 29:11 engraved on it. It may seem like a cliche Bible verse, but after studying it in its context and understanding what is actually being said, I truly believe in the promise that God has for me.  I may not always understand why things happen, but I can trust God to take care of my, and my family and friends’, needs. Besides, experiences like this will only help increase my desire for the heavenly home that the Lord is preparing for us. A home where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more night… and no more separation. I cannot wait until that day.

In the Dreamworks cartoon film, “Joseph: King of Dreams” there is a song with words that came to me while I was dealing with pain of separation and I’d like to share them here for anyone that might be dealing with a similar sort of trial.

You know better than I
You know the way
I’ve let go, the need to know why
I’ll take what answer You supply
Cause You know better than I.

Lord, you know better. I choose to trust you and to move forward in Your will. But I also strongly feel that despite not knowing, this is not the end. I refuse to say goodbye. Instead I say,  bis später! See you later.

Until we meet again.

-Wandering Minstrelette

(Adapted from my recent Instagram post: @wanderingminstrelette)

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

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Until we meet again.

Até nos encontrarmos de novo.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Object Lessons

My time here in Brazil is quickly wrapping up, so I figured that I needed to squeeze in one last adventure.

As I had no responsibilities scheduled for the afternoon, I decided today would be the day I would go to Corcovado and see for myself the statue that represents Brazil to the rest of the world, Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), along with what is considered on of the most glorious views of Rio.

There was, however, one complication…

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Yeah… It was foggy. And raining. And really windy…

At the ticket office, the teller told me that the view was going to be very poor and that I should consider coming back later. “The weather is supposed to be bad all weekend, but Monday will be beautiful!” Whelp…

I figured since I had already made the trek from Rio by bus and taxi to get there that I would at least see what I could. I took the adorable red train up the side of the morro, through the forest of Tijuca, and was able to get a quick view of the city from above. There were a couple of Egyptians who were sitting behind me on the way up who were lamenting the fact that the weather was so poor but they had no other day to reschedule since, like me, they would soon be leaving the country.

It became colder at the higher altitude and just as we got off the train the wind decided to pick up, blasting cold rain in every which direction. Determined to at least get some semblance of a picture, I bravely hiked the steps to the Cristo with my poor, little umbrella that only managed to keep me less wet than if I had not had it. The one perk about the weather though was that there was barely anyone around.

The view that was supposed to be so glorious was engulfed in white; it was like being in a cloud.

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It was quite a feat trying to get a picture of Cristo without getting myself and my camera soaked, even harder to get one with me in it. I ended up settling with this as an acceptable portrait, fitting for the weather:

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During my rather pathetic attempts of taking a selfie, I encountered a fellow American named Josh who volunteered to assist me in my efforts. We ended up chatting in the rain for a bit, talking about California (he’s from LA), and about Brazil’s lack of individuals with English skills (if you’d like to read more about my opinion on that subject, please read the other blog I write for: http://insoucianceabroad.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/lost-in-lack-of-communication/).

A few men walked past by us and Josh ran after them when he recognized one as being a sports newscaster on ESPN. HeCorcovado - ESPN newcaster asked the gentleman, who had an Australian sounding accent, if he minded saying a little blurb for a friend as encouragement for her country in the next World Cup. The guy happily obliged and later was walking around the statue filming himself and his buddies, who were all part of the ESPN crew.

Soon after, Josh and I decided that we had enough of being soaked by the wind and rain and walked back down to the vans, where he met his friends, and I went on to the train station. While waiting for the train down, I met two other Americans – Brian from Texas and Brandon from Arkansas – who also had come to see the statue. Surprisingly, they were not here for the Cup, but just decided to have an impromptu vacation. We chatted on the train heading back about things to do in Rio and Niteroi as they had only been here a week and were leaving in a few days, but wanted to find something cool to do. Hopefully the weather of the weekend won’t dampen all their plans.

So, my first encounter with the Cristo statue was not perfect but I have to admit that even in just being able to see the shadow of the statue, I felt an awe for what it represented. The statue was placed overlooking Rio de Janeiro in 1931 as a representation of Brazilian Christianity and has since become an icon for the city and Brazil ever since. I also love the symbolism of Christ watching over the people, reinforced by the fact that the statue can be seen from most any part of the city,  and with the weather I encountered I was reminded of the verse that says, “He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:45b, NLT).  Definitely a powerful object lesson.

My adventure, although soggy, proved not to have been in vain. I met some cool people, got to ride the cute red train, and catch of glimpse of the statue. I even managed to get an obligatory open-armed photo, thanks to Josh.

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All this means is that I’ll have to come back some day to catch a day with better weather, a day when I can see his face. But you know what’s really cool? Regardless of whether or not I could see the face of the statue, I knew it was there. Just like the real Christ – in times of sunshine and times of the storm, He’s there with His arms open wide, watching over me. Praise God, what a glorious lesson to experience.

-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.

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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

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

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