You can always trust a man with a horse.

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Ok, so the guy that helped me out in this instance was not actually one of the guys on a horse, but I feel the statement still holds true.  This is Pirenópolis on Easter Sunday, a   Logically, half the town is on horseback and the other half is crowded around a paper maché likeness of Judas with M80’s in hand.  That’s right folks.  Here in Wild Wild Western Brazil, we blow up people that betray our Lord.

My friend was supposed to meet me at the bus station at one o’clock.  He was running late, but I didn’t have his number, or any way to contact him so I made my way over to the taxi stand visible in the photo to see if I could charge my phone and call somebody else who could get in contact with him.  The people I met there were so nice, that within fifteen minutes, I had a Brazilian sausage, a drink, and a bed to sleep in case my friend didn’t make it.  The hospitality you find in small towns in this country is truly remarkable.  In the end, one of the guys actually knew my friend and was able to take me to his house, which also brought about my first ride on a motorcycle.  An extremely unpleasant experience given the narrow cobblestone street and potholes.

In the end it was totally worth it, because I got to spend some time with some really cool people in a great house with an unbelievable view.

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The crew

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The view

I also got to see my good friend Misael play two awesome gigs with local musicians and play a little myself.  When I wasn’t seeing music, I got to see some of the city, which was built in the shape of a big airplane, which is ironic only if you know the size of Brasilia’s airport.

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The restaurant we played at… Very swanky

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Me and Misael in front of Dilma’s house.

Thanks Zé, Misael, and Carol for an awesome stay in Brasilia and an eventful day in Pirenópolis!

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More great arte da rua!

First off, I’d like to thank my mom and dad for making the very long trip down to Brazil to see me.  Sinto saudades de vocês!  I’d also like to thank two of my favorite Brazilians, Mauro and Carolina, for helping us with the language and showing us around.  The trip would have been very different without you.

Rio is perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever been.  The view from the train on the way up Corcovado mountain rivals any that I have seen, including the Grand Canyon.  Although I usually find tourist attractions tiring and a bit overhyped, these views were definitely worth it.  It helped to have a guide to drive us around, because the city is extremely spread out.  My dad pointed something out about the city that I thought was very interesting.  The favelas, or slums, of Rio, are mostly built on the hillsides, which makes them always visible to the people walking the beach or the more Urban areas.  In most of the cities I’ve been to, the poorer neighborhoods are tucked away, in parts of town that you don’t normally need to drive through to get somewhere, which makes it easier to forget about the extreme poverty that still exists in every major city.  In Rio, juxtaposition of these two worlds is always visible, which is perhaps more beneficial, so that nobody ever forgets about there fellow man living in the labyrinth of alleyways and sardine-can-style housing that are the favelas.

The cluster of building that almost looks like a landfill is in fact a fevela.

The cluster of building that almost looks like a landfill is in fact a fevela.

On another note, if anyone is wondering which beach is better, Copacabana or Ipanema, I would have to say Ipanema.  There is a large rock out crop on a small peninsula that you can sit on and feel the spray from the waves, which is pretty incredible.  Unfortunately, my phone died that day and I have no pictures to post.

Again, the music here is incredible.  I have seen a lot of shows by now, and I was glad my parents got to come with me to a bossa nova club in Rio.  The musicians are very amiable and approachable, which I feel is quite rare is the larger cities in the US.  I’m lucky enough to have a weekly gig now with João and Samara at a small coffee shop in Barão Geraldo.  We play a good mix of jazz, samba, and bossa nova, which gives me a great opportunity to continue learning new tunes.

In São Paulo, we spent a fair amount of time in Ibirapuera park, which is very much like central park.  It has several lakes with fish and swans and one with a very intricate fountain.  We had a great guide, Carolina, who is relatively new to the city, but her language skills more than make up for that.  São Paulo remains, my favorite city in the world as of yet.

The lake in Ibirapuera.

The lake in Ibirapuera.

Carolina with my parents in Ibirapuera Park.

Carolina with my parents in Ibirapuera Park.

I guess since I’m getting a sizable amount of money from the government to be here, I should talk a little about the University.  My favorite class at the moment is percussion, which is less of a class, and more of lesson in all the noises you can make with your hands.  We basically just get into a circle with myself, the other three Americans, and our instructor and clap and belly smack our way towards a better understanding of samba (we actually did start using instruments last time, but if I’m to be truthful, I prefer body percussion).  Every day is different.  I’m taking twelve credit hours, but most of the time I’m at school, I’m either talking to other musicians, meeting people for impromptu samba/jazz jams, or wondering amongst the vast sea of food tents that spring up around the Bandejão around lunch time.

Anyway, I’m pretty tired and this Caipirinha has my name on it.  Until next time…

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starting a blog…hmmm

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This was the first of many strange pieces of Graffiti that I felt was worthy of a picture.  I’m starting to feel more comfortable here, in the sense that not everything I see makes me feel like I need a picture so I won’t forget it.  I’ve never really been one for taking pictures or trying to be in them.  I’ve never kept a blog either, or a journal for that matter…so I don’t really know what to write.  Suggestions are welcome.

There have been lots of drums and dancing in the last few days.  Carnaval has a very unique energy that is exuded by everyone you see out on the street at night.  Most people that I meet speak little or no english, so my Portuguese is coming along.  The few people that I meet that do speak English have little interest in speaking Portuguese with me, which after two days in São Paulo for Carnaval, is quite a relief.  There is something very comforting about being able to speak your native language.  I’m excited when I speak in Portuguese and can get my ideas across, but I am truly relieved and at home when someone talks to me in English, no matter how bad the grammar is.

I’ve been here for two weeks and I still haven’t had a class.  They should be starting next week, but I bet some of them won’t even start until the week after.  My Brazilian phone is pretty much only good for sending texts.  There might be a way to make phone calls, but if there is it’s eluding me.  Until I figure it out, I can continue to enjoy the liberating lack of a constant vibration in my pocket.

Lots of things have happened, lots of parties, lots of dancing and new friends, so it’s a little overwhelming to try to write about it all, so I’ll just pick one night that I particularly enjoyed:  The Canja.

Here in Barão Geraldo, Canjas, or jam sessions, occur three times a week.  We’ve only been to one so far, but I’d like to say to all my jazz friends that the dark and brooding vibe of the east coast has not found a home here in Brazil.  The fun-loving, communal spirit of jazz is alive and well here.  This jam session had some of the baddest players I’ve ever heard in my life, particularly bassists and drummers.  To my surprise I was actually asked to lead off the Canja, because they couldn’t find a bass player at first, meaning that all these great players came up to play my bass.  Now that I know what it can sound like, I’m never selling it.  Unlike the jam sessions in Cincinnati that are populated almost exclusively by musicians, this canja drew a crowd of about a hundred people, most of whom were there just to watch.  It was supposed to start at nine I think, but it was closer to ten-thirty.  The first hour or so was all jazz, played mostly by myself, Mauki, Max, and Joe.  To my great surprise, the players here have a pretty good understanding of swing, including common chord substitutions, tags, and intros.  After about an hour of playing and feeling pretty good about it, a guy came up to ask to sit in…And that was it.  For the next three hours, all I could do was watch.  I was in awe of the talent.  They played everything from samba to swing, even Donna Lee at 280 with everyone playing the head including the bassist (who also happened to shred on guitar that night as well).  I did eventually play again at the very end, during the longest samba/partido alto groove jam I’ve ever seen.  It was easily forty minutes, with players switching out the whole time.  The best thing about the whole experience was that even when younger inexperienced players went up, everyone was very encouraging and positive.  All in all a great experience.