Sunday, 3 March 2013

Loving my last weekend in Brasilia

What a lovely final weekend in Brasilia!  I’m going to miss this place.  After the farmer’s market yesterday, I met up with Henrique, another couchsurfing connection.  He’s a 36-year-old police officer and avid cyclist (a sport that seems to be popular in the city as a whole).  He picked me up with his girlfriend and son and we headed to his parent’s house for an amazing family meal.  He’s one of three and his older brother brought along a wife, son and daughter and I enjoyed talking to Henrique’s youngest brother (a sophomore at UnB studying economics).  So it was a rather large gathering but I felt right at home.  I was playing Pretty Pretty Horses with the youngest girl (~3 years old) and while drinking Chilean wine they brought back from a trip to Santiago the prior week.  The meal was standard Brazilian food- fried chicken, lasagna, potatoes, rice, beans and salad with flan and ice cream for dessert.  Henrique was a huge help preparing me for my arrival in Sao Paulo, providing advice for public transportation and he put me in contact with his friend there. Henrique travels to Sao Paulo regularly to do two things: watch soccer and go to Starbucks.  There are no Starbucks in Brasilia and his whole family is obsessed with Starbucks, despite that I find Brazilian coffee better than anything you can get at Starbucks.  Henrique actually collects Starbucks mugs from around the world- both mugs that he’s purchased and that couchsurfers have brought him. 
The whole family put their heads together trying to figure out a place for him to take me that I haven't been but the Gargs were such good tourguides, they could not think of much.  Since he’s a police officer, he joked he could take me to see the “real Brasilia” but his family decided I was too blond for that.  I tried to get the dirty details of some things he had to deal with but he was pretty vague- just said his job kept him busy, Brasilia wasn’t a safe place and he dealt with all types of crimes.
We ended up going to Dona Sarah Kubitschek park (Brasilia’s version of Central Park).  It had a lake, small amusement park, go cart track, a castle where teens were having swordfights and a variety of playgrounds.  We skipped rocks on the lake, drank cocowater, walked around and enjoyed the sunshine.  
Drinking cocowater with Henrique and Jessica at the park

At the lake, skipping rocks- Henrique's son was fun to talk to

Henrique's original plan was to drop me off for a couple hours of rest and allowing lunch to digest then pick me up again for banana pizza, a favorite local delicacy of one of his American friends.  When I got home, Reva was planning a pizza dinner for their friend and us so I had to postpone with Henrique and was bummed about missing out on this unique treat.  However, after our regular pizza, Reva, the mysterious magician pulled a banana pizza that she planned to make without me even saying anything.  Vijayendra made homemade pineapple juice and the combination was heavenly! 
Sunday morning, we joined Raquel and Flavia (the wife and daughter of the man who joined us for pizza last night) for a journey to the Digital TV tower. I really enjoyed talking to Flavia- she speaks Japanese, English and “the language of love” in addition to Portuguese (obviously).  She’s been to Japan several times and gave me some travel advice since hopefully I’ll make it there this summer (she said she wanted to come too!).  She’s been to the US several times for silent meditation retreats and she has another one coming up in Lake Tahoe shortly.   Why you would travel to another country to spend five days in silence beats me but I guess she really likes the American guy who runs these retreats.
It was everyone’s first time to the Digital TV tower and the view was very impressive.  They had some shops at the bottom that featured local crafts and natural foods from the Amazon.  Flavia insisted I try this natural ice cream from the Amazon which is supposed to have a host of healing properties- I tasted the pumpkin/coconut and tapocia flavors. 
At the 7th floor outlook of the Digital TV tower

Digital TV tower from below

Reva, Vijayendra and I went out to a vegetarian “by the kilo” restaurant for lunch, superyummy and I insisted on treating them.  I’m meeting up with Fernando shortly for a walk and a visit.  Hopefully I’ll fit in some more translating of the survey results.  The ones I’ve read so far have been fascinating- one teacher said her parents moved here two years before the city was built.  Her father was part of the archectiture faculty at UnB and actually worked with Darcy Riberio and Oscar Niemeyer to design and build the city.