just in time to go home…

…dreamt in Portuguese last night.

How do I know it was a dream?

Because I understood Every Word. (hahaha)

But what a tremendous experience this has been, I think for all of us.

And today a pedagogy student told me what a milestone this has been for him, how his eyes have been opened, how his whole world of teaching and playing has changed (I’mnotmakingthisup). They all stood in line and each thanked me, hugged me. They even made me a party, with homemade vegan treats and authentic Brazilian coffee! What a lovely bunch of people.

Pedagogia Piano.jpgAnd it’s interesting, funny, enlightening: In March, Only Daughter wanted to go home. On the way “home” (to what we call casa não casa) from the university today she was crying because of leaving her friends.

A good lesson. Things that seem so hopeless, sad, awful, difficult can end up being one of your favorite things ever. Hope she remembers that.

I have many more thoughts about what we’ve learned here. Most notable to me is the full realization of all the ways to live a life. At the risk of sounding like, well, “Duh,” there are tremendous people everywhere who have such different options and make many different (and often extremely adventurous, inspiring) choices; and then so many of us end up in the same place in terms of a desire for connection, to make fabulous music, to teach and learn from each other. We were hoping for a good experience, and it has surpassed it in every way.

Perhaps I can get my thoughts together and write something more inspiring and profound. I’ll work on it.

Thank you all for being here and sharing this journey with us.

We’ll be back!!!



Spent much of the day packing much of our stuff.

Husband just said OUT LOUD that it should be a pretty easy trip home (Saturday-Sunday).

There’s nothing to be done. It can’t be unsaid. Unless somebody knows the antidote….Some kind of chant? Make him drink a concoction of beetle wings and eye of newt? Quick. Somebody help us! 

Because otherwise we might as well just stay here cuz there’s no way we’re even going to make it home now.



We traveled last week to Florianopólis and Foz do Iguaçu, and then got back to a boatload of work plus a concert, so I have been negligent in posting.

To try to make up for it, here are some lovely pictures of the falls. Quite a wonder.

Yes. I walked way out on that platform, all the way to the end. I didn’t take any pictures out there because there was so much mist I was concerned about my phone getting really really wet.

We got into one of those crazy boats and took a “wet ride” where they drive you right up under the falls. Despite the ponchos we all looked like we’d gone swimming in our clothes; or at the very least laid down in a deep puddle.

I’ll try to find a picture of the boats from my other camera. The funniest part was I kept asking if we could please take the “dry” ride, and Only Daughter and Husband kept insisting we take the wet ride, where they warn you, repeatedly, that they are going to drive you right up into the falls and that you will end up very very wet. The people driving these boats are madmen (all men; wonder why that is. Discuss.). There’s a guy in the front holding on to a rope and taking everyone’s picture while they’re skimming rapids and maneuvering around giant boulders, and the guy at the wheel drives the boat right up under these falls that are dropping from hundreds of feet up, nosing right up between these rocks while the water is churning everywhere and the water from the falls hits you with such force you have to keep ducking.

When we get back, Husband says, “well I didn’t know they were going to drive you INTO the falls.”


We didn’t have time to buy any of the go-pro pictures, since our ride back to the hotel was waiting for us by the time we got back, and we still had a bus to wait for and a bit of a drive back to the entrance.

Here are some video links to the more up-close-and-personal views:

The creatures at the end of the last one are Quati. They look a bit like raccoons, but are very “cheeky,” and seem to be a bit of a problem in these parks. There are signs everywhere about not feeding them, but they clearly aren’t afraid of people, come right up onto tables to get food, even when there are people still sitting right there.

Está frio!

Yesterday after teaching my class, Husband, Only Daughter and I headed off for a week of adventures in other parts of Brazil.

Last night we landed in Florionópolis, a delightful city/island/town(s) in the south of Brazil on the Atlantic coast. Our Uber driver took the scenic route, hair-pinning up and down mountainsides to descend into the charming village of Barra da Lagoa, with twinkling lights and multiple coastlines (besides being on an island, the “Ilha de Santa Catarina,” there is a large inland lake and a river that snakes through from the lake, “Lagoa Conceicão” to the Atlantic on the eastern side of the island.


We did have a few moments of concern when he arrived at our destination — a dark building enclosed within a fence and locked gate (as are most of the houses here) on a quiet, dark street. We did have the Best Uber Driver Ever, not only because he chose a lovely route, and spoke excellent English, but because he also found the phone number for the Pousada and called to make sure someone was here to let us in.

It was after 9, though, and we had not had dinner. Being a Pousada, (which seems to mean a bed-and-breakfast but without the breakfast,) there was no restaurant. Given that the owner speaks NO English, and couldn’t seem to understand any of my Portuguese, or should I say, “Portuguese,” we decided not to try to figure out how to order a vegan pizza and have it delivered (would he let them in? would we need to wait in the lobby in the dark and answer a door buzzer? is there even any such thing as vegan pizza on the Ilha da Santa Catarina? whose brilliant idea was this whole thing in the first place?) …So, we went to bed with only the lime-and-black-pepper peanuts we had eaten on the plane, and a Heineken each (no restaurant, but there was beer, in a case, for $2 USD apiece) for dinner.

Despite this somewhat sketchy beginning, we got up this morning, to this view and the sounds of the ocean waves crashing a short distance away:

walked 10 minutes to a lovely bakery where we had some delicious whole-grain coffee cake, mango juice, and espresso for breakfast. We don’t know if it was the Best Coffee Cake ever, or if we were just really hungry.

Maybe you can tell from the picture?


Then we walked a bit further to find the river, and right there was the beach! It was a bit overcast this morning (clears up later, as you’ll see in the next batch of photos), but still a lovely day. I was a bit amused by the Brazilians arriving at the beach in parkas and what Canadian’s call “toques” and we American’s would call “stocking caps.” After a while out in the wind, though, I would agree that it was a bit chilly! I must be Brazilian now — I make feijoada, tapioca (not the pudding), and mandioca pudding; LOVE a good caiparinhia (haven’t actually ever had a bad one), and think it’s cold when it’s 20˚C.

There were a couple of ground owls keeping a close eye on our progress as we went past. Luckily I had put on my 70mm lens, so I could snap a couple of pictures of them without scaring them off or stressing them out.


We stopped at 2 Irmãos for lunch, which ended up also being our dinner, since this is how much food they brought us.

We can honestly say we have never been served shrimp* stew and pasta in pie plates before.

*We are supposedly vegan, but I thought, given that these shrimp were probably caught this morning while we were still sleeping, that an exception should be made. They were tender and delicious. I have no regrets. I’ve only ever been an imperfect vegan, anyway, striving for avap status — as vegan as possible.

After carrying our leftovers (“para levar”) back to our “pousada” (it’s so easy when you speak the language) and taking a short nap, we walked a couple short blocks back to the Projeto Tamar — a 30-year, country-wide initiative to save the large sea turtles, which has resulted in the estimated numbers of turtles in the Atlantic going from 83 thousand to 8.3 million. A pretty impressive endeavor.

Luckily, we arrived just as they were releasing two juveniles (3 years old) into the ocean, so we got to film their progress from the beach to the water. Here’s the clip of the last leg of the trip:

The turtles were fun to watch in the preserve itself, as well. I know that they were just coming up for air, but they looked like they were posing for me to take their pictures.

And then there are some pictures of some birds in a flooded field (they’ve gotten lots of rain, as this is their rainy season) and a cow.



Why we’re so bloody tired tonight.

We hope to see some of the city of Florianópolis itself tomorrow, but they’re predicting rain for sure, as they are for our trip to Igauçu, so we’ll see what we can see and what pictures I can get.

Feeling pretty lucky to have stumbled into an opportunity such as this. So many people living such different and perfectly lovely lives. Such beautiful landscapes, delicious food. Such welcome and friendliness everywhere we go, and not just because random store clerks praise my Portuguese when I manage to string 7 words together into something resembling a coherent sentence.

We go back home three weeks from today.




catching up

I’ve started several posts this week, but run out of time to complete them, so I’ll just combine a few things into a week-in-review sort of thing.

Firstly, I finally figured out what these are:


They look like a cross between a sea creature and a mouse. But they’re “maxixi,” which is kind of like a short, fat, very seedy, slightly bitter Brazilian cucumber.

First you scrape off all the bumps and cut off the tails


Then I chopped them up and mixed them with red onion, tomato, and added a little rice vinegar, and served them on salad with hummus and pita bread.


Oh, and hearts of palm, of course. I’m eating them in/on everything here.

I performed a recital last Wednesday with a saxophonist. She’s working on editing the video into individual clips to put on youtube, so I’ll post a link as soon as they’re up.

Yesterday a friend took us on an extended tour of Brasilia and some of its surroundings.

We started with a 100km drive to the Iquitira park to see the waterfall.

We hiked through the woods and stood in the waterfall rain, and then walked back and bathed in a lovely river pool. It was sublime. On the way back we stopped at the park’s lanchenette, which consisted of an elaborate buffet with LOTS of wonderful vegan options, live music, and some quati ruffling through the garbage bins.

Sorry about the exposure on the above pictures; the camera was set for a completely different kind of light, and I had to act fast before they ran off…

Next we drove through a very interesting town, founded by people of an unusual religion, who were parading through the town in elaborately sequins-ed gowns with tulle veils, and the men in vests as part of a regularly-recurring ritual. I didn’t take pictures, so as not to be disrespectful.

Next we drove to the “new” TV tower to see the whole Federal District, which was unfortunately closed for maintenance (the TV tower, that is, not the DF, although given the current political climate, that might not be a completely terrible idea). We did get some lovely pictures from the ridge.


Note the tower poking up to the clouds, as the next pictures are from us standing halfway up or so this “old” TV tower. The water is Lago Paranoá.


The two white arches are Ponte JK, the bridge named after Juscelino Kubitschek, who was the president of Brasil when Brasilia was conceived of, planned, and built.


The “new” TV tower

Next we drove back into Brasilia, and went up in the old TV tower.


I do heart Brasilia.


The fountain (turned off as we ascended in the elevator, due to the water shortages) and the esplanade in the distance (the cross road is the Eixo Rodoviaria). The dome buildings and the “H” are the congressional buildings.


The JK bridge from a little bit closer


Almost in the middle you can see a gray line/smudge ascending into the clouds; this is the new TV tower.


The convention center (straight ahead) and the National Stadium (on the right).

Next we visited the Church of Dom Bosco, which we call the Blue Church. You’ll see why.


Every wall looked like this; there was purple in the corners.


Not sure why this is so blurry except maybe my phone was overwhelmed by the 7,000+ glass balls involved in making this chandelier.

Lastly we drove to “Pontão”, a beautiful recreational area along the south side of Lago Paranoá. I believe I’ve posted some pictures from here before, but here are a couple more, in case you’re not tired of beautiful sunset-over-water scenes.

Today I’m going to make traditional north-eastern-Brazil tapioca (not the pudding), and to try to turn this:


into mandioca pudding.

I’ll post pictures if it turns out…

like something in a movie

We have had the joy and privilege of making friends with a lovely couple–R, a colleague in the music department at UnB (and with whom I will be performing in June), S, who teaches in the education department at the university–and their gracious and generous son, J. [An example of J’s graciousness is that, after Only Daughter had splashed a bit of water on her laptop, he met us at the Mac store (since I speak just a little Portuguese, and she speaks none beyond “Ola,” “Obrigada,” and “Tchau”) to ask them to look at it for any damage, and then came again to help us pick it up, just in case there was any difficulty. In both cases he drove us home again, even though it was in NO way in the direction in which he was heading. Although this generosity and graciousness seem to be common traits among so many of the people we have met here; appreciated, nonetheless.]

R & S also happens to be friends with someone I actually went to Michigan State University with in the 1980s (D), who, coincidentally, is here in Brazil this week. We haven’t seen each other since 1986, and have a vague but quite questionable recollection of each other’s existence, but did find it amusing that we would encounter each other here. He very generously attended my practicing workshop Thursday night, and was part of the dinner party today before he headed off to another city to do more of his “work.” He works now with musicians on body mapping, helping musicians become very aware of how we use our bodies to play our instruments and to help recover/heal from injuries and/or play more efficiently. We will meet again this Saturday to “work on” my funky pinky finger. Maybe I can ditch the swan-neck brace some day!!!

Today we spent a lovely day in the company of R, S, and J, along with D, in the warm and welcoming home of R’s gracious* parents. (*See what I mean?) A lovely house, in what I imagine to be hacienda style, with all of the doors open, patios and plants and flowers everywhere, including a banana tree, a lime tree, and several mango trees. We ate pasta with delicious sauces, delicate abobrinha and drank South American red wine, dining at a long table outside under a sloping clay-tiled roof, and then went up to sit on the 2nd floor balcony to watch the sunset. I felt like I was in one of those European movies where everything is lovely and nothing really happens, but when it’s over you just want to figure out a way to live every day exactly like that. The man and woman of the house are avid gardeners, with evidence everywhere of a love for nature, flowers, art, food, and family. It was such a privilege to share the day with them and to be welcomed into their home. 

Meanwhile, the day of our return fast approaches. Funny to think how long four months sounded before we left!

I would like to make these, and then give them as gifts, since I can’t keep a succulent alive for more than a week

I believe this is called a (Chinese?) lantern plant

actual bananas, in a tree, no kidding

a bunch of random pictures

a different brazilian sky.JPG

a different Brazilian sky

And even though we are supposed to be in the dry season, we have seen more clouds this week than maybe in our whole visit so far. And yesterday, oh, what a downpour!

just another lunch at the cafeteria

just another lunch at the cafeteria

The oval light-green things are “Maxixi” — I have seen them in the grocery store but had no idea what to do with them. They seemed to have been boiled. Tasted like a stewed green tomato.


an orchid “in the wild” (right outside our apartment)


My practicing workshop at the University

still time to enjoy the sights

So things have gotten a bit busier here, especially with the added facilitation of the online teacher certification course for the Royal Conservatory of Toronto I took on several weeks ago; and look to get even more so when my Portuguese language for foreigners class begins next week. My book proposal is under consideration at Routledge, and my days are not really long enough to allow for a lot of research right now, but this will have to kick in more consistently pretty darn soon. My pedagogy class met last week for the 2nd time, and I’m really hoping we can continue to meet every week until I need to come home. They are so eager, and ask so many tough questions!

I’ve also had the privilege of coaching a chamber class (Haydn Gypsy Trio, the 1st movement of the Franck sonata for piano and violin) and taught a master class of the piano students last Thursday. Talented, accomplished, receptive, respectful, and appreciative. It really doesn’t get any better than that! Plus I got to work on the 1st 2 movements of Schumann’s Kreisleriana with a young woman heading off to grad school in South Dakota for the North American fall semester. I imagine she might have a bit of weather shock, since it was 68˚ Friday morning and everyone was in jackets and shivering. Está frio, está frio!!! they all say, and I just laugh.

I was looking at some pictures on my phone the other day and discovered these from the airport when we went to Rio.

For those of you who don’t speak Portuguese, this one tells you not to stand on the toilet. 

One wouldn’t think that this wouldn’t be a problem, although a facebook friend thinks it refers to the tendency of people who do not want to sit on the toilet to want to squat instead, and to stand on the toilet to do so. Apparently the illustrator thought drawing a picture of someone squatting would be indelicate. 

Fair enough.

And I really appreciate the joyful flair with which this young woman throws her used toilet paper into the garbage can instead of into the toilet. (#MustBeABrazilianThing) I will confess that I have never been, nor do I imagine I will ever be, this happy about having to do this, but may adopt just this pose at home, when I can again resume flushing my used toilet paper.


O Palmito, how I adore thee. Especially that you come in so many wonderful shapes and sizes. Alas.

Yesterday we took an outing to a fejioada buffet with a new friend and colleague here, Paula (a saxophonist; we will perform together on May 24, including some Brazilian and Brazilian-inspired music, so this was research). We ate salad (with hearts of palm, big surprise) and pasta with abobrinha (kind of like a zucchini) and tomato, since all of the fejioada had meat in it, although Only Daughter enjoyed her slab of roasted animal flesh. The restaurant was having live choro music, which was fun.

Afterwards we went to the “Festa do Japão” hoping to sample authentic ramen and buy kitschy hello kitty decorations and origami. An elderly Japanese woman tried very hard to sell me a kimono that was at least 2 feet too long for me; the fact that an elderly Japanese woman was speaking to me in Portuguese caused more than a little cognitive dissonance. In addition, we quickly became quite overstimulated, victimized by the idea that bad Japanese pop music sung by an adolescent girl with a Sanyo keyboard and a poorly developed sense of pitch would be improved by blasting it at 500 decibels, while at the other end of the pavilion little dragsters raced around a tiny track screeching their tires and acid rock blasted from a different set of speakers to give the children playing in the bouncy house PTSD. I was able to stifle my urge to spontaneously combust long enough to buy a lovely pottery dish for $9 

and snap a few pictures of some pretty cool sculptural items:

and a succulent “wall” to try to make when I get home (Pinterest fail)

but then we fled.

On the way home the sky looked like this

(the sun is actually behind us, but reflecting off of these two glass buildings)


while it kind of rained.

The light was golden and lovely.

But the combination of the music and sun caused us to return home a bit overstimulated. A caiparinha helped, but then an outdoor concert started at 11 p.m. (not kidding) and went until around 2 a.m. The venue is around 2 miles away, and our apartment building was buzzing and vibrating to the music. Or should I say, “music.” Can’t even imagine how loud it was for the people who were there, although I guess if they went they knew what they were getting into. 

We just wanted to sleep, especially after the battle of the night before. One which I clearly lost:

I was awoken two nights ago by someone laughing outside, at around 11:40 p.m. (We were in bed, and sleeping, early, because we’re old.)

Then a mosquite dive-bombed me for two hours, which my husband could not hear, so now he thinks I’m louco. (Don’t say it, Monte, even if you want to.) We did find a tiny little something flying around near the ceiling eventually, which we smushed and felt quite proud of ourselves for, and then, finally, went back to sleep. But I had these on my leg yesterday. 

I don’t know if these are mosquito bites, and I just react differently because they’re Brazilian (chikungunya, dengue-carrying) mosquitos, or if it’s something else getting me.
Today I booked our trip to Florianopolis and Iguaçu Foz  for a week in June. Maybe there wont’ be mosquitos there. (Ha!)

This time is going too fast. I miss my students, my feather pillow, my Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid, a kitchen two people can work in at the same time without playing bumper butts, my clothes dryer, my dogs, and the rest of my wardrobe. But I feel sometimes this might be the experience of a lifetime, and it’s already well past half over.