July 27, 2015

The One With the Cathedral of Brasília.

In continuation of my journey to visit as many Oscar Niemeyer designs as possible, I was adamant about visiting the Cathedral of Brasília, one of the nation's postcard locations.

The Cathedral is the city's Roman Catholic Cathedral. It was planned and built alongside the capital, its foundation set in 1958 and the building completed in 1960 together with the city of Brasília itself. It was officially inaugurated a decade later on May 31, 1970. 


The church and bell tower can be seen above. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and its official name is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Aparecida (the patroness of Brazil). 


Source of information above and a 360º virtual tour can be found here.


I was enchanted with the architecture, the lighting, the glass—everything really. I love entering postcards and watching, as the buildings come closer, your preconceived notions of the place from all you've read, seen, heard, or watched, fade into the reality.

What was the last postcard you visited?

July 21, 2015

The One With the National Congress.

The first week when I arrived in Brazil, Vini and I, along with a couple of friends and family, made our way a couple of states to the north. We would meet up with my father, enjoy a weekend of lectures and activities hosted by our church for young adults, and then would spend some time sightseeing and getting to know the country's capital in the Federal District of Brasília. 

One of the places we visited was the National Congress. It, along with much of the District itself including Brasília itself, was designed by Oscar Niemeyer. The building is reminiscent of a judicial scale, with two domes—one concave, and another convex—on each side of two twin towers. 
It is said that each of the domes have a particular meaning—one is concave and the other convex from the perspective of the building below. The Senate is located within the concave dome, and represents the wisdom of experience, meditation, equilibrium, and reflection coming from within the senate and outward governing the states. The Parliament, or Chamber of Deputies, is located within the convex dome (pictured above), and represents the open-mindedness of the leaders to hear the voice of the people, open to each of the worries, passions, and ideologies of the Brazilian people—the country's soul.
It was pretty cool to see this wall (above) dedicated to all of the women deputies of the country...
One of Vini's uncles works within the Chamber, and he was to get us inside so we could see a few generally restricted areas...
In deep conversation with the Linguistics Representative about upcoming changes in the country's language.... (Taken from @vsgessner 's Instagram account)
Vini, Myself, Jane
 Right side....

... Left side 


Up next.... Brasília from above! 

I'm on an adventure. Wanna come with?

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July 13, 2015

The One With a Train Ride and Random Thoughts.

 ESTUDANTES, TRAIN STATION—MOGI DAS CRUZES, SP, BRAZIL

It’s the sunset—this magical Brazilian gold—that beckons me to fish out my notebook and pen from the pocket of my travel bag.

I’m in an empty car of an empty train headed south to catch a bus further south still. It’s me, a Bantam Classic, a window cracked open, and a few lingering passengers. Where they’re going, I know not nor care. We’re headed south, that’s all.

We jiggle and sway as we pull away from the Estudantes train station of Mogi das Cruzes, the city where I was born and one of my richest memory boxes.

My legs are propped up on the seat­ and both my carry on suitcase and I are leaning against the wall. The sun streams into the car through squeaky windowpanes, and this position is just right.

It smells of train rides in São Paulo. It’s a smell difficult to explain—not particularly pleasant, or unpleasant, distinct or subtle—except for the memories this smell perfumes. Memories of train rides so long ago and yet of yesterday.

Another train rumbles past, and we gain speed, the wheels frolicking over and over, on and on.

Bounce, bounce, sway.

The seats are teal, the floor rather dusty, the doors worn, the windows scratched, and the car hums along accentuated by numerous squeaks originating from unexpected corners. The train hisses and the clanking progresses.

We stop in Suzano, and the pungent smell of the paper factory creeps in. I don’t mind it. Not every sweet memory is fragrant.

The sunbeams form comets on the tracks, always ahead. I’ll never catch up to those golden drops, always so near and possible, yet strictly unreachable. Here, then there—an illusion.

Sway, sway, sway.

A screeching halt, an exchange of cargo, a hiss, a thrust—bounce, bounce, sway.

Here’s when the thoughts come, and I’m lulled into a stupor of questions and confused aphorisms.
Why do we hold on so strongly to stupid, stupid pride? Of all the emotions, it brings the most humiliating results. Its only correction is its greatest fear.

We stop for another passenger transfer and then move on again. The comets are still there—racing, racing, racing.

“H2Oh, cold, two for two!” “Homemade, candied peanuts! One real!” Up and down the cars before sitting down while the next station passes.

The walking commerce is a prominent part of Brazilian train rides. Several individuals make extra cash, or even a living, by selling snacks or random items for inexpensive amounts on the train. This form of ‘business’ has been outlawed for years, and recent attempts to halt it have increased, meaning that the sellers have become masters of masking into the public with their student farces and backpacks, inconspicuous purses, or deep pockets. 

I buy the peanuts. My act of defiance is to support these transient vendors whole-heartedly.

The car has filled up comfortably by now. Most seats have been taken, but there are enough empty seats scattered throughout the car that I can acceptably keep my feet propped up.

Rock, rock, sway, sway.

“Chocolate bars, just one Real!” “Cereal bars, box of three for two!”

The sun sets lower into the surrounding hills, and I’ve almost caught up to the comets now. They’re lagging, scrambling, desperate to keep up.

Crackle, thrust, clack. Hiss.

What, after all, is my part in this huge mess? Is living my own life in a way that doesn’t contribute to the chaos enough? If that doesn’t satisfy, then what? Satisfy whom? If it’s not about satisfying my own expectations, it will be because I’ve never figured out what those are. Time spent blaming others for imposing what they believe to be the best is wasted. Instead, figure out your role and your expectations.

Outside, grey concrete buildings are covered in elaborate graffiti. Paintings are everywhere, on bridge supports, commerce fronts, street walls, the very top of apartment blocks. As the train passes by they blur together and the caricatures come alive.

Sway, sway, sway.

The breeze is cool through the window cracks.

We’ve reached the terminal.

July 1, 2015

The One With the Bus Ride.


I hear the bus’ announcing sigh and run down the apartment building stairs and through the gate to catch it. As I reach the sidewalk, it groans and begins ambling away. That’s alright; there’s another one in fifteen minutes. I’m not in a hurry.

I reach the stop, and the bus halts with a puff. They’re waiting. I hop up the steps, thank the driver, pay him my fare, and take a window seat about halfway in the bus. 

There are no more tellers on the bus. Most people use prepaid cards nowadays. If you're going to insist on paying cash, you have to hand over the fare to the driver who has a makeshift till next to him.

What if money weren't a tangible thing, rather numbers in a cloud? What would the pros and cons of that be? You couldn't be mugged as easily. Right?

The bus creaks and screeches, waddles and halts. It’s relatively empty at 10:30am, and I have gotten on on the first stop. My spot is secluded, behind the raised seats in the middle, but I can hear well. I can hear the little chatterbox sitting on the row to my right a few seats to the front.  

He’s about five and is going on about pet habitats and terrariums—“And then, mommy, the children can mist the chameleon, if they want….” He goes on and on, conversing better than many adults…better than me.

Outside, we reach a roundabout where a municipality truck is watering the city lawns. At a nearing bus stop two sisters in ankle length skirts hand out religious tracts. Next door parents are gathered outside a preschool.


Inside, the seats dip and rise along with the bumps in the road, and the bus smells like morning routines of  lotion, shampoo and perfumes mingled with wafts of a bonfire outside.

Every time the doors open someone gets in, handing over change or tapping cards in a series of beeps. Nobody is getting off. We're all waiting until we reach downtown. 

With every curve and bend around street corners the bus pops, and I'm relatively certain it's going to tip over. How would one get out of a tipped bus? Would it hurt? Why don't we have seatbelts?

I immediately survey the emergency exit windows closest to me and begin formulating a plan. Who would I help out of the bus? The one in the most need first, but who shows signs of life. 

My palms have begun sweating, and I focus on the graffiti outside instead, recognizing the city's regular artists—"o anjinho" (the little angel) and "Jô Love". We need more street art.

Someone presses the button letting the driver know they’d like to get off. The bus stops, and an influx of passengers ascend. The chatterbox leaves, talking the entire time and barely pausing to concentrate on the descending steps.

A phone rings, and one of the new passengers—a lady in her early sixties—sits next to me. “Licença.”

We’re crossing the train tracks; we're almost there. Firefighting recruits congregate outside a red building waiting for their course to begin, and we've stopped at a light.

Green. The bus rattles on and reaches the terminal—the end of the line.


Mogi das Cruzes, SP

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