Monday, August 27, 2012

Vem pra Itamaraca

We took a day trip with Mary’s aunt, uncle, and cousin (Rosangela, Mario, and Camila) to the island of Itamaraca. Itamaraca comes from the indigenous language and means something like “singing rock” or "stone that sings." We noticed the word maraca in it, and made some connections, although we didn’t actually see any singing or shaking rocks. We did see some singing people, inside more colonial churches. Like Olinda, this was one of the first settlements of the Portuguese in the XVI century. There aren’t nearly as many people here now, but Itamaraca actually came first. The whole island started out as a sugarcane plantation.
This was one of the biggest churches on the island, even though it looks real small in this photo. We though the cross blocking out the sun made for a cool photo.

Here’s Camila by that same cross!

Rosangela in front of a big blue door – this building was another example of the colonial architecture that could be seen all over the island.Mary loves her some painted tile, and was delighted to see it everywhere. Patterns like these were typical and often covered entire homes. More recent buildings still use tile, but without the awesome hand-paintedness.


The whites! Nick sometimes likes to take random photos of laundry drying, and this particular clothesline seemed photogenic. It was hanging in front of a house with the name of a local political candidate painted on it.

Camila, Mary, Rosangela, and Mario standing in front of a cliffside view. Behind... you guessed it, a church. Another of the oldest in Brazil, though much more modest than the ones we saw in Olinda. Apparently the Portuguese didn’t have the resources to cover everything in gold just yet... But they still appreciated a good view!

 These houses were in the small village near the church. Here the tiles and the political endorsements were hand-painted...

 We came across this old cemetery in the jungle. It was charmingly decrepit, in classic old cemetery style. The burial chapel had been mostly lost to the elements, but some stone walls and crypts remained.

Here is the top of the tallest crypt peeking out from behind the palm trees. Someone must have done something pretty awesome (or horrible – it was a sugar plantation, after all) to get buried there.

 Itamaraca at its finest.

Just before going to this beach we stopped at a marine mammal conservation park, where we saw some baby manatees. According to the informational movie we watched, Portuguese sailors first thought they were mermaids because of their tails and the weeds that often got caught on their heads. These sailors must have been at sea for way too long at that point... We have chosen to protect the identities of these manatees by not picturing them here.
We had a beer at this beach and went swimming. It was a bit crowded with a bit too much litter, but the fine white sand and clear water made up for it. Camila and Mary walked out on one of the many sandbars that ran perpendicular to the beach shortly after this photo was taken.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

O Que Linda Olinda!

Olinda was one of the first Portuguese cities in Brazil, and still has lots of colonial architecture from the 16-17th century. It was built on hills by the ocean, which made for some excellent views of the ocean and the rest of the Recife area. Although we weren’t dancing after a carnaval parade up and down these hills (that happens in February), we still managed to work up a sweat taking photos and interrupting church services.
Olinda is full of colonial-era Catholic churches built by the Portuguese. This one had been closed for restoration for over 10 years, and just recently opened again before our arrival. Built on a hill by the ocean, it’s pretty much the first thing you see upon entering Olinda. It’s also one of the oldest churches in Brazil.

And here is the same church from a higher hill further into the city. We decided to take this picture ourselves rather than buy the postcard.

We didn’t actually interrupt this service – or any of them, all were open to the public as historical sites as well – but Mary did manage to get a picture of these nuns singing. The gorgeous painted tiles on the walls at the back of this church were also worth a photo. 

Inside a different church that was not holding a service at the time we found an epic altar, where all the intricate details were done in real gold. This was the church attended by the very wealthy back in colonial days. Mary calls it the Igreja do Ouro (Church of Gold), although it is actually called the Igreja de São Bento (Church of St. Benedict).

The churches weren’t the only historic buildings to be seen in Olinda. Streets were lined with colonial buildings like these. Brightly painted, in true Brazilian style.

Here are Camila and Mary posing in front of one.             And the Pernambuco state flag in front of another.

This is a view from the top of one of the higher hills in Olinda -- the city in the distance is Recife. August is the end of the rainy season in northeast Brazil, so we did have to deal with rainclouds like these ones on our trip.

Fortunately, umbrellas were easy to come by. In fact, these multicolored umbrellas are a symbol of the state of Pernambuco, because of a traditional dance called frevo (literally, 'boil') which features umbrellas.


This handy umbrella doubled as a phone.

Here is Mary making her “I wish it would stop raining” face in front of an interesting building. The word Olinda is written in iron on the door. We didn't notice this at first due to our mad scramble find some shelter.


We found this giant puppet in the middle of an artisanal market. Puppets like these overrun the streets of Olinda during carnaval. On a less festive note, we were also told that this market used to be a place where the Portuguese bought and sold slaves.

The omnipresent graffiti art on the street was an interesting contrast to the historic buildings and religious artwork. This painted wall happened to be in front of the highest church in the city.

We thought these walls were also particularly interesting – one shows the Virgin Mary alongside old-style dancing Olindenses and the other has Brazilian cartoons mixed in with Disney characters. 


We weren’t sure what this building was, but we thought it looked cool. 

We also liked these painted tiles, although we couldn’t shake the urge to buy canned tomatoes after seeing them. There was also a lion painted on some other nearby tiles selling goiabada (guava compote), which was less effective. We'd just had goiabada for breakfast, and a lion didn't make it seem any more delicious.

This building was right next to the oceanfront, on a street lined with the original coastal houses built in Olinda. It was one of the scruffier houses of the bunch, but we liked it anyway.

We saw this tailless guy sticking out of the wall of a rather run-down pousada, a kind of Brazilian bed-and-breakfast. This one overlooked the ocean. Hence the merman.

Oi from Recife!

Nearly 24 hours and three transfers after leaving Minneapolis, we arrived in Recife early in the morning. We were warmly greeted at the airport by Mary’s aunt Rosangela. We began a short tour of Recife in her car, stopping to get a coffee and an empada at a padaria (bakery) before heading to this park, where we relaxed a little on these swings. 

One of the first things Nick noticed was these retro-space-age looking phone pods with “Oi” written on them. Mary used them all the time on her last trip to Brazil, but they are fast becoming obsolete as everyone switches to cell phones. Thankfully, they can still be seen (and photographed) everywhere you go.

After the park, we stopped at the University of Recife where we met Mary’s cousin Camila and were bombarded with introductions to various people at the Ministry of Education. This was a good opportunity for Nick to learn the Portuguese word prazer (honored), although he understood absolutely nothing else that was being said. We then stopped at the school where Rosangela works as a director in a suburb called Abreu e Lima. Nick got to further fine-tune his ability to say prazer, smile, and nod, while Mary and Camila figured out how best to catch hamsters.  After two fine specimens had been caught, we headed home to Paulista and collapsed into bed, ending our first day in Brazil. 

The next day, Rosangela took us on a walk around her neighborhood, including this beach a few blocks from her house. Among the fishing boats and men repairing nets, we encountered a dog who appeared to be practicing yoga. We caught him here in the up-dog position. He must have been a fan of the camera because he rushed Nick shortly after this photo was taken. Luckily, he was just curious and not vicious – probably the yoga helped.