Saturday, 2 March 2013

Brazilian jams and The Art of Asking

Last night turned out to be surprisingly amazing.  I was originally supposed to go out with a couch surfing friend but do to some communication mishaps, I ended up going to another orchestral concert instead.  I was a little skeptical at first- it was hosted in an elementary school and I didn't realize it would feature Brazilian tunes, highlighting the work of Pixinguinha.  I highly recommend you listen to the link youtube video as you read this to hear an example.  This composer hails out of Rio and is famous for revitalizing the choro by integrating contemporary jazz-like harmonies, Afro-Brazilian rhythms, and sophisticated arrangements, helping to popularize it as a uniquely Brazilian genre in the process. So there were string instruments, brass, a drum kit, what looked like a ukelele (there's probably a Brazilian term for this), a glockenspiel for one song, some other afro-Brazilian percussion and all the musicians looked like they were having a great time playing.  The elementary school itself was gorgeous- another school run by Americans "Casa Thomas Jefferson"- there were man-made waterfalls, sculptures, ponds and all sorts of fragrant-smelling vegetation growing inside.  The whole occasion was a relatively classy affair- people dressed up, they served wine and cheese and there was a rotating art gallery of some contemporary art, colorful portraits that I really enjoyed.  Whether seven year olds need (and/or appreciate) all this art, culture and landscaping is another question...  But overall, the evening was excellent and I'm really glad I got to enjoy some live Brazilian music.

When I came back, Fernando still wanted to go out but I decided to call it a night.  I came across a TED talk on the "Art of Asking" posted by Eri, my gypsy friend that resonated with my experiences as a guest staying in this country.  The speaker speaks about starting out as a musician, having to be creative about how to support their music- she was a living statue, they had to surf couches, use Twitter to ask fans for favors of various kinds.   Eventually, they increased in popularity but their record label still wasn't happy so they decided to part ways.  They make their music free and publicly available whenever possible and rely on the donations of others.  This approach exceeded their wildest expectations- they were hoping for $100,000 in annual income but earned $1.2 million the first year.  The speaker talks about how asking for things isn't easy since you make yourself vulnerable and you can always be refused.  The humility of asking and exposing this vulnerability connects two people, often in a mutually beneficial way.

I'm typically a very independent, self-sufficient person and it's hard for me to ask people for help.  But when you are all alone in a foreign land surrounded by people talking in a language you don't speak, you have no choice but to rely on others.  And people's generosity and patience have blown me away so far- certainly with Reva and her husband letting me stay here, providing all my meals and transportation, translating, taking me places and exposing me to new things.  The posts I've made on couchsurfing (CS) have been replied to quickly with dozens of people so excited and willing to take time out of their lives to show me their cities.  It's an unfortunate reality that you still need to be careful about whose hospitality you accept because you are basically trusting these people with your life. So you have to be smart and make sure these people are verified and vouched for, I introduce them to my hosts so they know I have people who will notice if I disappear and I always leave names and contact information with Reva.  But certainly the people I've met so far have been phenomenal- all of them want me to leave the country with good memories of the time spent here.  Hopefully my luck will continue.  And just like the Mark Twain quote I just added above implies, you need to take risks in order to experience life and see amazing things.  Anyway, I think I got off-track but I've definitely enjoyed becoming a part of this community of give-and-take.  And I look forward to helping out visitors who come to Raleigh- I've already given a couple people some travel advice but I look forward to further paying it forward once I return and opportunities arise.
Farmer's market- this is just a third of it... so huge!
Spices- spanish speakers, play the game I always play and try to figure out what the spices are
Not much else to report here- we drove by the military district which had some more interesting (always concrete!) buildings then went to the farmer's market this morning.  Huge building of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, cheeses, spices... it smelled so good!  A couple booths even carried Japanese food and sushi.  The professor we traveled to Anapolis with was an informal expert of human migration patterns so I knew Brazil had a significant portion of Germans and Japanese.  What I didn't know is that Sao Paulo, where I'll be going next, has the largest population of Japanese people outside Japan!  Supposedly Brazilians have a very welcoming culture of all ethnicities- I've certainly felt welcomed!