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Entry One – Colina and other early experiences by Isaac Poole – 14 de Agosto de 2013

August 16, 2013

Entry One – Colina and other early experiences

I probably shouldn’t have waited so long to write this. It’s been about two weeks since we got to Brazil and by now the amount of incredible experiences that has happened to us has stacked up into a huge pile that would be impossible to contain in a few paragraphs.

I could start from the beginning, but the plane ride was enough to write about for pages. Saying goodbye to our friends and family was hard. Neither Shawn nor I have lived away from Louisville and our families for this long, so suddenly leaving is a shock. Luckily, it was a shock that we had time to prepare for and we had had a few extra months, but leaving people you spend everyday with is not easy.

Our first flight to Charlotte took off at 8 PM, the Louisville airport was filled with the red light from the sun as we waited in the terminal. I have been there many times before, leaving for trips to Disney World or to Colorado as a kid with my parents, but with the knowledge that in less than 24 hours we would be 5000 miles away it had a surreality that I never noticed before. The first flight was quick and easy. It was a small plane but it wasn’t totally full and I was able to keep my guitar in the over head compartment. For this trip, I decided to get my guitar to Brazil by taking it as a carry-on. This way I could keep a hold of it and be sure it is not damaged in the underbelly of the plane. The problem with this is that you have to take it in a gig bag and if it doesn’t fit somewhere in the cabin, it goes underneath where a gig bag is not going to offer any protection.

This flight was short and getting around the Charlotte airport was easy. In retrospect, this was probably the easiest part of our trip so far. The wait for the flight to Rio was not long, but wait in the terminal was the first time we were surrounded by people from Brazil and for the first time we could be easily picked out as Americans. This is something that we are all used to by now but the first time was still strange. We sat towards the back of the plane surrounded by a group of Spanish preteens going to Rio for the World Youth Day. It was pretty cramped in the seats, but, again, my guitar fit in the overhead so I had nothing to worry about. We didn’t talk much, by then it was around midnight our time, so we read mostly. I managed to sleep enough, but Shawn only got about an hour.

Until this point we had it easy, but once we got off this plane and were officially in Brazil everything got a lot more confusing. First, they had to check our VISAs, so we stood in a line with the rest of the international flyers. We had had a lot of trouble with getting our VISAs, they had been rejected twice for pointless reasons and now was the moment of truth. But we got through. Next we had to get our luggage and go through Customs. Since we both had guitars and computers, about $1500 worth each, we thought that we had to declare these goods and go through so they knew we had them. So we looked around for the line for declared goods and couldn’t find it, but the line for no goods to declare was there and very long. So we stood there, in a line that was really just a mass of confused travelers, until we got into the Customs department where they just wave us by. Obviously, carrying two guitars and whatever else we had, we just walked past them.

Then we were in the main terminal where we had to get the ticket our next ticket to Brasília with the carrier TAM. Airports are confusing enough in your own language but in Portuguese we were totally lost. We stood in one line for a while then thought that it was wrong, so we asked somebody who told us to get back into the same line. Then once we almost got to the front of that line, everybody that was going to Brasília had to get into another line, then we waited through there. Eventually got our tickets and past Security, but only about five minutes until our flight left.

The final flight was short and we managed to get our bags without much trouble but we were about an hour later than we thought we would arrive. There we met our padrinhos, two UnB students who are assigned to help us get around the city and adjust to life here named Lucas and Wanderson, who drove us to our home in Colina.

One of the first observations that anybody could see about this place is that it is bursting from the seams with music. We have been able to go to to at least one live performance every night, sometimes at bars with some of the guys that we have knew in Louisville, like Thiago’s group who played at a restaurant called Pinella in the closest Quadra to us or sometimes in concert halls or festivals. Last Saturday, Ricardo Freire took us to a hall called “Clube de Choro” to see a authentic Choro group from a nearby city, Goiânia. Choro is a traditional Brazilian music that typically consists of a bandolim (mandolin), clarinet or saxophone playing the melody, a cavaquinho, a 6-string guitar playing a chordal accompaniment with a specific rhythms pattern, a 7 string guitar playing a bass line in tight counterpoint with the melody and a pandeiro doing what a pandeiro does. It is a music filled with complex harmony, brilliant improvised counterpoint and a strong sense of traditional rhythm.

Then, only a few miles away, Ben and I met Jon, a friend we know from Louisville who lives next door to us now, at an Os Mutantes concert in the center of the city on the Esplanada. Check them out, they’re a psychedelic rock group from the 60s that played a huge roll in defining modern Brazilian rock. They must around the same level here as Led Zeppelin or the Who is in America because the crowd was full of young people, from high schoolers to late twenty-somethings, that could sing all the words to all of their old songs.

Another big part about all of this, that is both separate and connected to the entire Brazilian experience, is the fact that we have to readjust to dorm life. Uncomfortable, university-provided beds, no internet in the apartment, no dishwasher and worst of all, no washing machine. That’s right, for the first time in our lives we have to put our clothes in a bucket, with water and soap, scrub them, rinse them and hang them up to dry. With all of our clothes. All of them. It’s a three day process mostly because socks take forever to dry.

But with all of this, Colina is still a gorgeous place. Like the rest of Brasilia, Colina has lush, tropical trees and flora that have grown to enormous sizes due to the water of the lake. The thick canopy provides a layer of shade on the red, clay-rich soil. And here, shade actually works. The sun is bright and even now, in their winter-time. Walking for too long in the sun will make you break a sweat, but once you get into the shade you realize that you actually are in a paradise. Unlike Louisville, where shade does nothing and somehow gets hotter at night.

The worst, or at least a close second to have to wash our clothes by hand, is the lack of peanut butter here. Ben warned us, but neither Shawn nor I fully understood what an integral part of our dietary lives peanut butter played. Luckily, I brought one jar that we have been rationing out over the course of our time here. As of now, we have about two spoonfuls left. The locals say that there is a Walmart nearby that might have some, but we have no way to get there other than the bus, which is an adventure in and of itself.

But we are getting the hang of living here and I think we will be quasi-indenpendant soon. We are now able to go grocery shopping without getting totally lost and confused. We might even be able to take the bus by ourselves. So that’s good. We have a video blog up now and we should have another up soon. And furthermore, we had a crazy weekend that deserves it’s own entry, so that should come soon as well. So until then, até já.

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