19 March 2015


I keep searching for an orderly, linear, articulate way to tell this story. The longer I'm here, the less likely it appears that will ever be possible. For one thing, I rarely feel like writing -- and the urge usually arises about 20 minutes after I go to bed and turn off the light.

And I haven't found a writing space here. It's rained nearly every day, preventing the smoking-with-a-cup-of-coffee arrangement I favor. I am staying in a beautiful house that is not well-lit and every surface that might serve as desk is already claimed by books and stuffed animals and laptops and CDs and framed photos and etc.

My schedule has been erratic:  few, lengthy uninterrupted stretches and I have apparently lost the knack for taking notes and compiling them later.

Celia is a friend of the family. If she calls in the next hour, I will travel with her to a nearby town. Perhaps it's Curitiba? Celia talks fast and talks a lot. I catch about 60% of her intention and much less of what she actually says. But she is generous and energetic and funny and affectionate and seems to know everyone in town. She was the first to arrive for the party Sunday and took me under her wing. Actually most of the women at the party took me under their wings; but Celia has transported me around town every day but one and introduced me to pretty much every person she's made eye contact with.

Speaking Portuguese....  So I keep reminding myself that I have only about half a semester of self-guided lessons under my belt. And less than five hours of actual conversation practice. I keep reminding myself that without this preparation, the current struggle would be even more daunting. New friends here continually encourage and compliment me. Many marvel that I've had no classes, no guidance. 

Still, very few people I've met so far speak English. Even those who admit to speaking English seem shy to attempt it with me. In the main, people speak Brazilian, rapidly. Some are better than others at adjusting their speed when I request. More tend, as in the popular joke, to just speak louder; or they emphasize or explain the simplest words of their statement -- the words I already understand clearly.

It is a beautiful language. Musical and energetic. I will speak it and speak it well. Eventually. My dream now is to return within the next 12 months for a study trip -- Portuguese AND bossa nova piano.

At the party Sunday, I was given my first samba lesson. I think I will also eventually become a good samba dancer. I was also introduced to caipirinha. Love this drink!! Later in the week I was gifted a tumbler and masher by Terazinha and Valéria from their shop here in Rio Claro. Terazinha promises to send me cachaca periodically so I'll be drinking caipirinha once I return to the States.

 Earlier this week, Celia took me in search of a piano. We ended up at Jogo Instrumentos, a music store owned by the most charming Senhor Guillerme. He spends most of the day perched with his classical guitar playing, practicing the music of Brazil while his son runs the place.

He played for us and graciously consented for me to spend some time with a digital piano that sits right in front of the front door. My playing made quite the splash:  customers drifted over, one of the clerks, Mirella, proceeded to videotape the "performance" and Sr. Guillerme pulled up a chair just a foot away. The videotape was eventually published on the store's FB page with a caption describing me as a visiting professional musician who is touring Brasil...  Such dear people. Afterwards, Mirella gave us a guided tour of the store, complete with invitation to play the instruments as we made our way; and then she treated us to a 15 minute concert of some of the music she plays in church each week.

My desire was (and is) for practice time and space but I don't think I'll find it while I'm here. There won't be a room of my own to work in...and I will survive it.

Later the same day I spent some time with a neglected baby grand at the Casarão da Cultura. In a grand hall where I could easily imagine fancy Latin ladies and gentlemen dancing in their finest attire 50 years or more ago, I played the music of Clara and Robert Schumann, Beethoven, Debussy and Bach. There was slightly more privacy tan at the music store but with the doors and windows wide open, the music drifted out onto the street and drew passersby to peek in and linger a moment or two. The difference between practice and performance is keen. Difficult for friends here to appreciate and, not wanting to seem ungrateful for the efforts to fulfill my request, I won't push the distinction.

Tomorrow or Saturday I'll go up to Campinas for a few days and then fly up to Rio for a few more before returning to Rio Claro for a final day in Brasil.

Two weeks is wonderful AND also not nearly enough time to have much of this place. But I the first step -- getting out of the U.S. -- was the hardest. It's samba from here.