Sunday, 24 February 2013

Wait.... Am I in India or Brazil?

Not like I'm complaining... it's pretty fun to have the best of both worlds.  In Brasilia, every Sunday the city ropes off 16 km of one of the main roads for people to bike, walk, skateboard and run.  Such a good idea to promote getting people outside and exercising.  My hosts invited me to join them for a 6 AM walk (4 AM my time...).  Unfortunately, there was no way my body could wake up that early today.  And it would be great to run around especially because I'm signed up for a half marathon the week I reurn.  However, the arch in my foot has been bothering me and I haven't been able to run at all in the past couple weeks.  Reva noticed it swelling and me limping yesterday so I'm trying to take it easy so I can at least do as much hiking, walking and exploring as possible!  Reva invited me to do yoga with her during the week and go to the gym with her husband so hopefully I won't get totally out of shape.  Brazilians are infinitely more active than Indians- I've definitely noticed many of them playing sports, running and biking around.

I did elect to join them for their 8 AM prayer service at the Temple of Knowledge- we're going back later for a community lunch so I'll have to take pictures of the grounds.  Outside, they have mango trees, lemon trees, papaya trees, permissions, curry, turmeric.... They had a little pond with blossoming lotus flowers that someone brought back from India!
Beautiful lotus flower

Pretty amazing that they survived the trip.  I guess in general, many of the plants commonly found in Brazil were brought from India- mango trees, being one of my favorite examples!  This temple was formed after Guru Tamil came to Brazil in the mid-1970s.  Supposedly, he had an amazing gift with languages and was able to learn Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, etc. within a couple days.  He apparently made quite an impression- there were about 5-7 Portuguese people at the service all of whom have since made efforts to learn Hindi from Reva and visited India.

The service involved a simple offering then people taking turns chanting/singing in front of a simple shrine (with images of Ram, Jesus, Swami Talik and his teacher), followed by a silent meditation.  Much less chaotic than most of the Hindi temples I have visited elsewhere which had multiple stations, lots of kids running around, priests making offerings and all kinds of chaos.  Since today is the death anniversary of Talik's teacher, there was a special breakfast after the service.  I tried my first persimmon (delicious) and had papaya, cheese, crackers, oat cookies, this ground-wheat-fruit-nut-dish that I remember eating in India and a honey bread with a plum filling that was covered in chocolate.  Accompanied by a delicious cup of chai that instantly sent me back to tea time at Miranda House.  So good!  The woman who made the bread owns a biscuit factory, makes her own honey and generally seems amazing.  The people at the temple aren't vegan (they eat tons of cheese, milk and butter) but they don't eat eggs or anything associated with taking an animal's life which made me even more impressed with the quality of food.  I already requested the recipe and I think I'm going to buy some of her honey to bring back to the US.  We'll be back there later for a community lunch and I hope they have more chai :)
Lunch- so delicious- just a sampling shown here but I ended up having seconds of almost everything!

Let's backtrack a bit to yesterday afternoon.... After being fed at midnight on my plane, fed breakfast at 7 AM on the plane, first breakfast with Belle around 9:30 AM, I barely had room in my belly but everything was made with local ingredients and was delicious.  She cooked okra, beans, cucumber, batata boroa,  (Brazilian root vegetable- a cross between a potato and a carrot- I loved it!), tikka masala, roti and rice.  She promised me cooking lessons and I can't wait to take her up on her offer- she already gave me two links for Indian recipes, one that's all  vegan/vegetarian.  I'll definitely be trying out some of those recipes when I return to the US.

After the feast, we went exploring.  We started at the smaller TV tower where we took an elevator up to get a view of the city.  On the weekends, there's a flea market at the bottom with local merchants with an amazing variety of goods- some tourist T-shirts, leather goods, hammocks, musical instruments,  lots of lace and lots of crafts/jewelry that utilize dried local seeds and flowers.
View from the TV tower overlooking the "cockpit" of the airplane with most government buildings and ministries

Reva and husband at the flea market- lots of creative crafts with recycled goods
 After that, we stopped by a series of the local landmarks.  The cathedral depicted below absolutely took my breath away and is probably my favorite sight so far.  We also went to the Juscelino Kubitscheck (JK) memorial, Povos Indigenas Memorial, saw Alvorada Palace ("palace of the dawn") for the president, drove by the Vice President's place with ostriches wandering around the yard, National museum, Esplanada dos Ministerios, National library (which contains no books) and the national theater.  In some respects, the city is very logically laid out- all the sections are numbered, the roads make sense, there are sections of three-story-cheaper-apartments, six-sotry-condos with elevators, houses on the North side.  However, supposedly they have one section with all the city's hotels and one section with all the hospitals, one section with all the banks.  I guess it's a good way to scout out your options but besides that, it doesn't make much sense to me!
Nossa Senhora Aparecida Metropolitan Cathedral- Breathtaking!

Reva and I at the Juscelino Kubitschek memorial (told you she was tiny!)
Ok I think we'll be returning to the temple shortly followed by some more sightseeing.  I'm excited!