Friday, March 28, 2014

The Good, The Bad and the Beautiful

Reluctantly leaving Rio after eight marvelous days. What lies ahead is wonderful— my quarterly visit with my ever-evolving granddaughter—and equally evolving (though at a slower pace) daughter and son-in-law. But still, to have an apartment on Copacabana, walk three blocks to the beach, sip fresh juice drinks with Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance— well, you can see why I’m reluctant.

So a quick farewell to this most marvelous magical city and appreciation as follows:

The Good

1.  An airport named Tom Jobim Airport. Imagine that! Honoring a musician! In the U.S., we have Ronald Reagan Airport, George Bush Airport, John Wayne Airport, but will we ever have airports named for John Coltrane, Pete Seeger, Art Tatum? America, surprise me!

2.   Music, music and yet more music.  The repertoire is varied, the bar is high, the community participation joyful. Alegria!!

3.  Beaches. Lots of them! Miles and miles and part of the city. Clean, intense crashing surf, perfect temperature water. And attractive bathing suits! J

4.  Fresh fruit drinks and coconut juice straight from the coconut. My favorite the Aceí berry drink. Topped with granola.

5.   No bugs!  This struck me today when I heard a fly for the first time. The apartment
I stayed in had a large picture window with no window, no screens anywhere, but
in my eight days, not a single mosquito. Rare for this kind of climate!

The Bad

1.  The guy who mugged one of my workshop students outside the door of the Conservatory on the lunch break. Threatened him with a knife. Took all his money and identification. Of course, could happen anywhere, but alarming in the midst of an Orff workshop.

      2.  Favelas. The Brazilian black ghettos that breed crime like the above and drugs and
           poverty and violence, same story everywhere in places that have the very poor and
           the very rich. Still the aftershocks of slavery that just take so, so long to heal and
           turn around— which starts with the government caring enough to turn it around.

        3. Bad education.  This is hearsay from the teachers I worked with, but they’re a
    pretty good source, describing bad working conditions, bad attitudes from
    dispirited teachers and students alike, very little music education, only 2% of the
    GNP funneled into schools.

4.   World Cup.  What? The bad? Well, again stories of excessive money spent for
lavish stadiums and taxing Brazilian citizens to pay for it, favelas bulldozed to avoid embarrassment, but no re-location plans for the people living there.

     The Beautiful

1.    Everyone I met. Without exception. Warm, spirited, intelligent, sensitive, musical, funny. Great conversations, no one talking about their latest aps or other nonsense. Special thanks to my hosts Beth and Patricia and their lovely and generous families.

2. Sugarloaf and Corcovado and the beaches and beyond. Simply one of the most
    stunningly and strikingly beautiful cities on the planet. San Francisco on steroids
    (higher hills) with warmer weather and a more swimmable ocean.

3.  The music, the music, the music. Brazil, like Bali and Bulgaria and Ireland and India
     and Cuba, is a remarkable musical culture with a wealth of musical styles loved   
     (and played) the world over. Samba is big in Finland, Bossa Nova in Japan,
     Maracatú getting popular in California. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg —  
     though  iceberg is definitely the wrong image for these warm to hot, sensual and   
    sexy, musical styles. And, in good old Orff style, “music” almost always means     
    dance as well.

So rare that I teach and tourist on the same trip and so grateful I did. Eight glorious days have captured my heart and I leave with that bittersweet feeling of “saudade”— a bit sad to be going, so sweet that I came. Muito obrigado, Rio de Janeiro!

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