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My Very Delayed First Blog Entry by Ben Hogan – 12 de July de 2013

July 13, 2013

I arrived in Brazil a little more than four weeks ago and I’m just now getting around to writing my first blog entry. I’m writing  this from my balcony on a beautiful afternoon, as so many afternoons here seem to be, just having completed my first week of my intensive Portuguese course. Since getting here, I have filled my days with acclimating myself to Brazilian weather and culture, trying some of the local food, meeting musicians, attempting to navigate Brazilian bureaucracy and with learning Portuguese. The following will detail some of those experiences.

Shortly before leaving, i.e. the day before I left, I was made aware that my fellow exchange students, Shawn and Isaac, wouldn’t be making it to Brazil for an indeterminate amount of time due to trouble with their visas. This was one of the first set backs. The second was that when I arrived in Louisville from Wisconsin I found out that my cymbal case didn’t make it onto my connecting flight and the airline had no information on where they were. I managed to keep from freaking out too much, but knowing that I was leaving the country the following day for the next six months and I didn’t have my prized possessions, naturally, I was a little stressed. The next day, I was able to be reconnected with my cymbals only to have to check them again about two minutes later. The rest of my journey to Brazil went rather smoothly despite, it being my first international trip and not sleeping for about 36 straight hours.

When I finally made it to the airport in Brasilia, I was picked up by UnB professor Bruno Mangueira. Bruno spent a few days helping me to get situated in Brasilia, registering with the university, getting my CPF (sort of the Brazilian equivalent to the social security number), going to the rodoviaria, the mall, and many other things. He also organized a Churrasco the first Sunday I was here to help meet some fellow students and musicians. It was there that I got my first taste of the sheer amount of talented musicians that live in Brasilia.

In addition to Bruno, I have also been lucky to have the help of recent University of Louisville graduate and former exchange student Jon Gardner. It has been really nice to have someone who not only knows the city and the language, but also the experience of being an exchange student here. Jon has introduced me to many people and places here, and with him I’ve gone to see a lot of live music. Among the places I’ve regularly been to are the jam session that takes place every Monday night on campus at the Memorial Darcy Ribeiro, affectionately called the Beijódromo, and the Tuesday night group at a restaurant near my apartment called Pinella.

The house band for jam session at the Beijódromo typically features some great area jazz musicians including guitarist Ricardo Bezerra, keyboardist Serge Frasunkiewicz, and the drummer and Danish transplant Anders Hentze. The group that plays at Pinella is usually made up of saxophonist, former exchange student to UofL, future UofL masters student Thiago Wojtowicz, pianist Felipe Viegas, a wonderful drummer named Renato Galvão, and a rotating group of bassists including former exchange student Hamilton Pinheiro.

The musicians that I’ve encountered in Brasilia have impressed me not only in their talent and musical ability, but also in how genuinely nice and open they are, each one making an effort to meet you and get you to sit in and introduce you to whoever else might be there. It’s a really welcoming community that is sometimes lacking in the United States.

This past Sunday, which also happened to be my birthday, I played my first gig here in Brazil. The event was a large wedding here at a nice club right on Paranoá Lake. I played with yet another one of the former exchange students who studied at UofL, Eudes Carvalho and two other students from UnB. All in all it went well, though the suit coat I borrowed was a size or two too big and I became aware of some of the subtleties of Bossa Nova and Samba that I will need to work on while I’m down here.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I started intensive Portuguese classes this week, which has been really nice. The class has a really interesting mixture of people, with students of many ages coming from Japan, Sweden, South Africa, Libya, Italy, Russia, and only one other student from the United States. The class has been great for filling in some of the many gaps of my knowledge of the Portuguese language and I’m looking forward to completing this one and beginning my next Portuguese course.

All in all, I’m really enjoying the time I have spent in Brazil this far, and I’m looking forward to Isaac and Shawn joining me here.

FlightApartment view 2Apartment view

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