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…


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.


I haven’t been as vigilant about taking pictures of our food, but here is our vegan sandwich from a couple of days ago:

Only Daughter and I went to an authentic Brazilian fashion show last night, featuring a clothing line of the daughter of two of our new Brazilian friends. There were drinks, lots of trendy clothes and trendy accessories and extremely trendy young people (and their very supportive but perhaps slightly-less-trendy parents), booming music, strobe lights. It was loud, and fun.

Only Daughter (left) wearing one of the designer’s (right) creations.

Today we tried to go to the botanical gardens for breakfast, but so did half of Brasilia, so we went to the Cultural Center instead. 

There were several, shall I say, interesting spiders. We were careful when walking under the webs — given their size, it seems they might be responsible for taking care of any children left unattended.

Only Daughter didn’t like the spiders.

After we ate (tapioca com caju, cuzcuz, some kind of roasted banana with cinnamon and jam, fresh-squeezed suco a l’aranja, café)(sorry, forgot to take a picture; I kind of suck as a blogger, don’t I?!?) we walked around a bit. I managed to snap a picture of the Ponte JK (The bridge named after Juscelino Kubitschek, who was president of Brazil when Brasilia was built) 

You can just see the arches through the trees. I will continue to try to get a better picture. It’s a very cool bridge, and Lago Paranoá is lovely.

and a few pictures of a Erwin Wurm exhibit, “O corpo é a casa” (The body is the house)

I can’t remember what this was called; I called it the passionate frankfurters. I don’t think that’s right, though.

Husband looks thinner than usual today. Must be that vegan lifestyle.

this and that

Been working pretty hard on my book and the online course I’m teaching, plus practicing for a recital with a saxophonist here (from Tennessee, in a temporary position), getting ready to coach some chamber music tomorrow and my class meets again on Friday.

But a little bit of out and about.

Some grocery store flowers

some out in the world flowers (these would have been way more stunning in the morning with the sun on them, but we have learned not to go to the grocery stores in the morning, so we just don’t walk past them at the right time)

Some frevo in honor of Brasilia’s birthday (on Friday). Can’t put the video up ‘cuz I don’t pay for the premium site. If we’re friends on Facebook you can find it there.

I must find, buy, and wear a vest like this one. You can’t really tell from the picture, since we were a ways back, but it is very, very sparkly.

And one of these things is not what you think it is, if what you think it is is popcorn.

I’m assuming this could happen to anyone, but maybe not.

So all this time Jimmy knew what cracked corn was, but I did not.

Go figure.

raining in rio

So many people were issuing rather dire warnings about our safety before our trip to Rio early this week that I was actually considering “eating” the price of the airline tickets and staying safely in the sleepy town of Brasilia where we have settled so nicely.

While we did see a couple groups of people who looked like they may have had somewhat nefarious intentions, it didn’t really feel all that different from any other large cities we have visited.

We did go into stores or other public buildings to summon an Uber or to use our phones. We also dressed down a bit, and wore no jewelry, carried our bags across our shoulders, and moved to one side of the sidewalk a couple of times — once because an apparently homeless/mentally ill man was accosting people he met on the sidewalk, yelling, waving his arms, etc., and once because there was a group of 3 or 4 young men aggressively “begging” for handouts. 

As expected there was a large number of homeless people, including a woman with a toddler begging outside the Metropolitan Theater and a young boy who seemed to be 10 or 11 outside our hotel on our last night there, alone, trying to sleep (in pouring rain) on and under a piece of cardboard. Only Daughter had brought home two hamburger sliders and a handful of leftover fries, which she willingly handed to him. Then we went up and got the rest of her spaghetti from the night before and a bottle of water and took them down to him as well. He seemed quite grateful, and had the foresight to tuck the spaghetti away for the night. We have been haunted since about what kinds of prospects, or even chances of survival, these children ahve. Every opening in the sidewalk that contained any plants, grass, or trees reeked of urine. 

The last night there a heavy rain certainly helped freshen the air. We left the Museum of Tomorrow in the downpour with two umbrellas and a poncho. I wore the poncho. Only Daughter was amused. There are no pictures, so there is no proof that any of that actually ever happened. 

We had many delicious meals (loving the Brazilian buffets), enjoyed the aquarium (AquaRio, pronounced Ah-kwa-HEE-ew), a brief visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, an unofficial tour of the Metropolitan Theater given by our friend–a former bassist for the theater, and a spontaneous trip to the Museum of Tomorrow when we got to Corcovado in the Tijuca Forest and discovered that the Christ the Redeemer statue was swathed in clouds.

Our pictures from the aquarium were included in the former post.

From the museum:

Trust me, if he’s working in the hot Brazilian sun, he’s as warm as he looks.

I don’t know what the purpose of this enormous faceted glass “plate” is, but it’s stunning. The reflections are me (in blue), Only Daughter (orange), and Husband (white).

A closeup.

The Metropolitan Theater (opera house):

Some of the mosaics in the floors:

Tiling on the wall of one of the restaurants.

A set of mosaics depicting famous opera scenes lined the walls outside the restaurant. The one above depicts the scene in Siegried when Brunnhilde awakes.

Below from Moliere’s “Bourgeoise Gentilhomme.”

These three windows are above the main entrance doors, shown altogether last.

The Museum of Tomorrow:

In the downpour. Would have loved to have walked out there and gotten a better view, and picture, of the star and the harbour, but it was a bit torrential for that. Am noticing in the picture that there seems to be a person standing out there to the right. Craziness.

Our flight back yesterday was early, but quick and relatively painless. We had accidentally been allowed to book our seats in the emergency row, and since we don’t speak Portuguese, and some executive-types had paid extra for the legroom, were told to sit in a different row. Then two people appeared with seats in our “new” row, so we were asked to move to the row behind our original seats. Which we did. No one was punched, yelled at, threatened, or harmed in any way*, so we’re grateful for that. Good for Latam. The seats were also the most comfortable airplane seats ever. Partly because they didn’t have those stupid headrest pillows designed for people at least 6″ taller. We have decided to flay Latam from now on. 😉




The river of january

We are spending a few days in Rio de Janeiro, named as such because the people who discovered it mistook the bay for a river (rio), and it was in the month of January.

Yesterday I conquered my dislike of riding in small metal capsules that dangle from cables strung up to impossible heights, and took the cable car up to the Pão de Açucar. The name literally means  “sugar bread.” I see that it kind of looks like the end of a loaf of bread sticking up out of the bay, but not sure what’s sweet about it.

Here’s a view from the ground:

You actually take two cable cars. My original plan was to take the first one (to the top of the “hill” on the right) and see how I felt. Since I was able to look closely at the faces of the people I was with, or at the floor of the car, and the ride was pretty smooth, I decided I would be okay up to the 2nd hill — which looks quite precarious in every respect. 

This is the view from the first hill:

We didn’t take any from the 2nd hill because my phone was in the hotel room, my husband’s phone battery died, and the friend we were with had a full memory card. Alas. There was a full moon, and it was shining on the water in the bay so brilliantly that the water looked like tar sands, or tin foil. I am terribly disappointed we didn’t get any photographs from the top. I guess then that there’s no physical evidence that I did, in fact, go to the top of Pão de Açucar. You’ll just have to believe me.

Today we ventured off to the auqarium — AquaRio. Fish are so cool.


​So graceful.​​​​
How I feel, most of the time.

The devil fish.

I swear this guy was posing for his picture. 

​​And then this guy went for a walk.

I forgot until I saw these how much I used to love seashorses. I remember a seahorse charm I had as a child that was almost magical for me. Watching them move is hypnotic, and a bit bizarre. That one tiny fin? Half of the time they seem to be diving, or are dramatically changing direction and you can barely even see anything move.

 Nemo!!! (I know everybody says this.)

 These fish look like they are puckering up for a smooch.

Buhh-Dumm. Buhh-Dumm. Buh Dum Buh Dum BuDumBuDumBuDumBuDum.

And our favorite part was all of the fish we called “glommers” who followed the sharks around right behind their fins. Wannabes? Groupies? Not-getting-eaten-today-ies?
There was a Mana Ray with a pattern on its top that looked like an ornate Persian rug. Couldn’t grab a photo of it.

And what is this?

​It wasn’t labeled. It was like the alien spaceship of aquatic life.Speaking of bizarre…

On the way back to the hotel:

It seems graffiti is a protected art form here. Many lovely murals everywhere.
Tonight on foursquare I found what looked to be a fabulous vegan-friendly restaurant a bit off the main drag. The Uber driver had to cut off 7 buses and 11 taxies to make one right turn, and tried to let us off in front of a gated but otherwise abandoned-looking building a few buildings short of the restaurant. I was trying to figure out what would happen if we just refused to get out of the car when I noticed that we weren’t quite at the little black box on Uber maps and he drove another 25 feet. Grégora Antes Cafe. It may have been the most delicious pesto I have ever eaten.

Adventures are scary

-58 days

So here’s the thing.

About a year ago I found out that I had won a Fulbright.

This is kind of a big deal.

I was very excited to win. It will allow me to go to the University of Brasilia and teach piano pedagogy and collaborative piano for a semester. Basically my dream job, albeit only for one semester.

But it meant that Husband would either need to get permission to teach a truncated semester, or I would have to go without him.

And that Only Daughter would have to agree to go with me, although she imagined at the time that it was going to look something like this:


Rather than something like this:


Plus Stepson is living with us — would he be able to manage on his own? Who would teach my students? Take care of our dogs?

It was a lot to think about.

In any case, and to make a long, long story really, really short, we have decided to go.

We have a 2-bedroom apartment, booked through Airbnb, plane tickets have been purchased, visas obtained. These took a comforting 10 days, rather than the 60-90 implied by the Brazilian consular website.

I spent much of today planning a class for which I have no idea how many people will be enrolled, how many days a week it will meet, or for how many hours.

I also called the health department today to schedule our vaccinations. Hepatits A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and Malaria are a definite yes. Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue, a maybe.

Needless to say, I’m terrified.

I am what I like to call a “pathologial optimist.” This whole situation is challenging that. But could also be seen as a test.

You can all help me decide how it, as a long-term, life-sustaining philosophy, is holding up.

Interestingly, and completely coincidentally, Husband and I have recently decided to try to be vegan. I’m assuming they sell vegetables in Brazil, along with rice, pasta, grains, etc. Hopefully something other than plantains. I’m not a fan of plantains.


Anybody with information regarding the South American diet, please feel free to comment/make suggestions.

I have many friends and colleagues interested in how this all plays out, so I am starting this blog to track our travels, post pictures of what I hope will be lovely jungle, beach, and city scenes, and to write about what I learn about myself, life, my work as a pianist and teacher, progress on my book (on music cognition and piano practicing — I’ll keep the title secret for now so no one else can steal it), and the food.

Or maybe just about the food.