Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brazil's National Day of Graffiti - March 27, 2010

On Brazil's "National Day of Graffiti" Eder and I hit the streets for two events in Salvador where over 50 graffiti artists at each got together to paint walls... it was quite a day. Rain showers in the morning threatened to postpone the events but the skies cleared - a token of good luck.

The first event was in Cajazeiras 7 - a neighborhood waaaaayyyyy outside the city center. There were about 25 graffiti artists - some of the most well-known in the city - painting a huge white wall that surrounds a middle school. Some of the students from the school did some painting too... the theme for the wall was "South Africa" so everyone did something related. I hung out with the many onlookers (of which there were many - perhaps 50-100 as the day went on). There were guys drinking under a tree and selling raffle tickets for some traditional Easter raffle. There was a group of young guys in a rap group hanging out who later performed when the sound system got set up. There were some families of the artists who would come by and hang out and watch as they painted. Some artists smoked some big spliffs, others were more pure and just focuses on the work.

After that wall we headed over to another neighborhood called Cabula, where there was a wall in front of the State University (UNEB) that Denis Sena (the artists who originally came to NYC with Eder) had organized. These guys were younger, less experienced, the wall a lot more destroyed with little prep (i.e scrapping off old paint, painting a good base of acrylic before starting to paint). So we got to work using diluted yellow paint to cover up all the old work. It was 2pm so i was really hot and went to sit in the car across the street. The security guards at the entrance to the University came over to me and invited me to have water and rest in their A/C office (this type of stuff happens alllll the time to me - the 8 month belly helps - see blog "being pregnant in Brazil). Unfortunately, the glasses of water were the only signs of support from the University. Even though they had announced the event on their website and had said they were supporting it, they did nothing to help - no donated paint, no food, no financial support, nothing. A few people who either worked or studied there came over to express their disdain for this - frustrated that there aren't more ways that the university is helping out youth doing something so good for their neighborhood.

At both events it was great to observe the passersby making comments. Little kids are particularly enthralled - once a baby - had to be less than 1 years old, in the arms of his mom, made all these excited gestures towards the wall as they passed. At another point a woman pulled up in her car with her son and enthusiastically congratulated the artists and asked for contact info for some of them, wanting to hire someone to do graffiti in her house. I gave her some of their websites and emails and she called Eder the next day! Pretty exciting. But the most impressive moment was when this camouflaged SUV pulls up all U.S. military painted and there's 4 armed "Military Police" inside. They stopped right in front of Eder's piece and just stared at it, nodding their heads and saying how much they liked the piece.

I'm still trying to figure out my role in all of this. Eder and I want to put together a book about Salvador's graffiti scene, so I think pretty soon I'll be doing some interviews and collecting more data. For now, I'm just making a presence, saying hi to artists I haven't seen since I was here in 2006, making some connections and getting my ideas together. If any of you have some thoughts about the book - questions you think I should ask, angles we should take, themes to explore, let me know.. I'm open to ideas!!!

I think the photos speak for themselves so here you are.... til the next blog,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Calangos de Rua hits the Street: Eder's Art in the last 2 weeks here in Salvador

Eder and I met in July, 2006, when I was researching the mayor's program, Salvador Graffita. We met at the Department of Sanitation, where I carried out interviews with several of the graffiti artists involved in the project. I had already seen some of his art and loved it, and so meeting the man behind the art was even more exciting as we dived into the the interview and his comments proved to the most critical and well-educated of anyone I had interviewed. Here we are, almost 4 years later, back in the city. Eder is painting up a storm all over the place, with tons of different artists. He's thrilled to be back in his community to contribute to the beautification of the city. This time, he isn't doing it as part of any government program, but completely on his own. Here's some images of his work so far: (some of these images include Eder's pieces with other artists - the 2nd and 4th images are with Tarcio V. and the 6th to last one is with PeaceTu, and the 2nd to last image is his friend Cicero Matos)

Gestante no Brasil (Pregnant in Brazil)

I realized that I only wrote about how hot I feel here in Brazil in
my 33rd week of pregnancy, but I forgot to tell you about all the other stuff!!! Here's my observations so far.

When we first arrived into Sao Paolo for the layover, and had to go through customs and immigration, I got in line as normal. I was standing no more than 10 seconds there when all of the sudden, a woman comes over from immigration and says "o! vem, vem!" "come come!" "a fila de prioridad esta aqui!!" " the priority line is here!" she then starts apologizing to me because she hadn't seen me and I had had to wait for 10 seconds. I was pretty psyched though as they scooped me out of line and whizzed me through a line for "gestantes."

And so, "gestante" has become the key word. I've benefited most on the buses, where I get to get on the front instead of the back where everyone else gets on, and that means that the "cobrador" (the guy who you pay the fare to) has to come and meet me at the front to collect it. When the bus is full, he almost never comes, so I'm practically riding for free... and, I almost always get a chair. If I end up standing it's just for a couple minutes til someone notices and then they get up and give me a seat. It's extremely different from NYC subways where people will act oblivious to your pregnant state. It may seem like a small detail, but actually, since Eder's
family lives wayyyyy outside the main part of the city (during rush hour it can take up to 90 minutes to get home), the difference between standing and sitting on a bus with 40-50 people alone standing up crowded in the aisle, is huge. And, it costs about $1.40 to ride the bus each way, that's no small amount in Brazil, where people earn about $25 a day on average for a hard day's work.

Other ways I've benefited - standing in line anywhere (bank, supermarket, etc) I get to go to a line for gestantes, elders, mothers, or disabled. There are special chairs available (even in supermarket) for you to sit and wait. At the pool where I'm doing laps, the lifeguard gives me a lane to myself, he doesn't want me to have to share with anyone - "She's Uma Gestante."

I think overall there's a fascination, appreciation, and adoration for gestantes here in Brazil. I think the men find it very attractive, and most people get really excited for me and are eager to talk about the pregnancy. They also get surprised and excited that I'm having a Brazilian baby!!! This whole concept of nationality and whether a baby is Brazilian or whatever depending on where they are born is so strange. I always thought it made more sense to consider who they are born to, how they are raised, and how they chose to identify. But, I guess the mainstream thinking is, if you're born in a place, that is what you are. Period. This philosophy has come in handy for road to Brazilian permanent residency. It was taking months to complete in the U.S. and several hundred dollars (nothing compared to Eder's permanent residency in the U.S. which is taking years and costing thousands of dollars). We weren't able to finish my application process with the Brazilian Consulate there, so I inquired about it here, and, noting that I was pregnant, the immigration official asked - "Will the baby be born here?" After I answered yes, he said, well, just come in a couple weeks after the baby is born with the birth certificate and you and the father's official Ids notarized, about U.S. $50 and you'll automatically get your residency. If it were that easy for immigrants in the U.S. Wow.

The downside here about pregnancy is that good quality health care with lots of respect for a woman's right to natural childbirth is a big challenge. The country's national health care policy is not ideal, so many people who can afford it, buy private care. The private plans don't cover home births, and so when women end up in hospitals, the chance that they will have to get a cesarean is really high. I'm part of a network of women here in Salvador connected by our desires to have natural childbirth. One woman just had her child at a really good quality private hospital and the night she did, there were 12 women in labor, she was the ONLY one who had a natural birth, all 11 others had cesareans. There are no midwives currently in Salvador. There are only four doulas that I know of, and most people have never heard of a doula (I guess that's not very different from the U.S.)

But fortunately, I am part of this group on email and have been able to access a really great doctor (I have healthcare through Fulbright that partially reimburses me for the expensive costs of care with her) and she does home births. She even brings a small birthing pool with her, so I may be able to do a water birth or at least labor in water. In the case that I have to transfer to a hospital, she's affiliated with a really terrific one, and will continue to be my doctor once I transfer. And, (sorry for the details, maybe not all of you are as obsessed with this stuff as I am right now in my life), since she is my doctor, she gets to make the rules about many things that will happen at the hospital. She has assured me that she'll let me eat and drink, walk around (not connected to the fetal heart monitor the whole time), and will do whatever she can to avoid a cesarean. In the case that it has to be a cesarean, she will be the one to carry it out.

So, to conclude, many of you have asked for photos of me pregnant. I will have better ones when my photographer/step-father comes down, but for now, here are a few. I can't believe i'm posting so much of me in a suit... hilarious. enjoy!!!

If you are going to come visit Brazil


Below is the information I'm collecting and working on to send out to folks who are thinking of coming to Brazil, or have definitely planned to come! I hope you find it helpful. Please send me new and different questions and I'll add info to the email as I send to different people. Hopefully it's all clear, but if you have questions, def. let me know! I can't wait for folks to visit us and I want to do all I can to make it the easiest process possible!

You're welcome to stay here with me and Eder for free in our apartment (we'll have a spare room as soon as the place is finished - we're hoping by late April. Keep in mind, the little baby might be quite loud. Other factors to consider - we live about 30-60 minutes away from most tourist spots snuggled nicely in a densely-populated working class neighborhood called Vila Canaria (near Castelo Branco - you can googlemap it to see where it is in the city). During peak hours, the bus ride to our house from the city center or beach can take an hour or two, so you may want to consider that... possibly staying with us for a time and splitting your time between us and a more convenient location. I'll work on getting some good hotel, hostel recommendations.


We have found that any online site is just as cheap as travel agencies. I go for because it compares other travel agency sites and finds the lowest. You could also call a good travel agent in Miami - Renata - her number is (305) 468-9989 to see if she can get a better price for you.

You'll most likely fly into Sao Paolo (GRU is the airport initials) or Rio (GIG) and then connect to the local TAM airline to fly up to Salvador (SSA). Its best to buy one ticket all the way through, even though when you arrive to Brazil via Sao Paolo or Rio, you'll have to pick up your bags and go through customs and then check them in at TAM airlines. There is a direct flight on American airlines from Miami to Salvador once or twice a week which I think would make the trip quicker.

In terms of luggage - the Brazilian government mandates all airlines to allow customers two free 70-pound suitcases as check-in in addition to carry-ons. I recommend you try and bring all you think you’ll need because almost everything here is quite expensive and not worth buying once you’re here. Also, good to have extra room in your suitcases for when you return because the markets are great to purchase things.

While Brazil is a great place to visit, this part makes you work for it...
You must get your visa from your local Brazilian consulate in the jurisdiction where you live.

1) one official passport photo
2) a US Postal office (ONLY) money order - if you are going to get the visa yourself - it should be IN in the amount of $130. If you have a friend going to the consulate for you, it needs to be $150

3) application filled out online - here's how to do the application

  • Find your local Brazilian consulate page - for NY it's: You may have to bi-pass your internet browser's warnings about the page...
  • Info you'll need when you fill it out is a local address in Brazil where you're staying (you can use Eder's: Rua Sao Pedro; Travessa 11 de Maio #14; Vila Canaria; Salvador, Bahia. Phone number is: 71 3215-4137). You'll also need the dates you plan to go for the application.
  • Once you submit the application online, you'll receive a confirmation number and a final page. note the confirmation number if you can't print it, and you can print it when you get to the consulate (only an option for those who go themselves in person since it requires an original signature). Once you print it, you can paste your photo to the top, and DON'T FORGET TO SIGN IT if someone will be bringing it for you.

4) proof of residency (just photocopy your drivers' license or a utility bill) to prove to the consulate you're using the right place
5) your passport (make sure they are not nearing date of expiration)
6) your plane tickets itinerary (purchased) - can be a print out of the email confirmation

Since it could take up to a week for you to get the visa issued, you should plan on dropping it off at least 5 days before you will need to pick it up. You can get the visa up to 90 days prior to arrival to Brazil. Best NOT to wait til the last minute.

In NY, the Brazilian consulate is very strict about drop off and pick up times. You may ONLY drop off the visa between 10am and 12pm (best to get there at 10am). You may ONLY pick it up when it's ready between 2:30 and 4:00 pm. Each consulate has their own rules so you should consult their website to get the correct info.

Like I said, everything is more expensive here, so plan on bringing down what you may need. some essentials include:
- sunscreen (twice as expensive here as it is there) and aloe gel for burns
- bug repellent and something to ooze the itch if you get burned
- good gifts for folks if you wanted to include: chocolates, kitchen stuff, (still trying to think of other things), things for kids

- if you bring a camera, try and bring a SMALL one, you’ll want to use electronics as inconspicuously as possible. Best to leave most expensive stuff behind if possible, so that you don’t have to worry about it. Of course, when you get here you could leave stuff with us at our house if you go travel or stay elsewhere.


- you can retrieve money in the local currency (Real) from any bank ATM. I think there is an HSBC ATM, there are a couple Citibank ATMs, or you can just pay the fee to withdrawal from a Brazilian bank different from your own. (you’ll want to make withdrawals during the day, in a bank not at an ATM on the street, and best if you’re with someone).
- you can use your credit card to purchase things in most places
- you can exchange money when you get here if you bring cash, don't need to come with the local currency

- any transaction (ATM, Credit card) gets charged 3% fee for the amount of money spent or withdrawn, so in that case, it’s best to bring down as much cash as you are comfortable with.
- The Real is really strong against the dollar (1.83 reais for 1 dollar) so plan on spending more than any other Latin American country - here’s the website where you can see the daily conversion -

Car Rental

We have some cheap options if you want to rent a car. It comes out to about $30/day. Let us know if you’re interested and we can reserve for you from here. You can pay with credit card. There’s plenty of public transportation so you don’t need a car, but it can be a nice convenience. Gas is about U.S. $5/gallon.


I don’t have a good set of book recommendations for when you come down. But, my limited list says that any Jorge Amado book would be great – he’s one of the most famous authors from Brazil. If you want non-fiction, the Concise History of Brazil – Boris Fausto, has it all and is really good. Of course, for traveling, the Lonely Planet is great.

Day-trips and short Trips close to Salvador:

Arembepe –


Ilhia de Itaparica

Morro de Sao Paolo

Praia do Forte


Lencios/Chapada Diamantina/Capao

Sunday, March 7, 2010

One Month in Brazil

Welcome to my BLOG!!!! I have never done this, but it seemed like the best way to get information out to you all about how things are going and simultaneously get me writing about how things are going here.

Where to start? We've been her one month as
of today, and so much has happened!

They started construction of our apartment 5 days after arriving, straight in the middle of carnival. The whole family had their opinion about the layout and after many compromises, a rough sketch in pen was made on a scrap paper that is now our official blueprint. At first there was only construction happening on weekends, so I figured that by the time we left Brazil next year it would be done. But now there's some guys coming 6 days a week. it still feels incredibly slow, as the structure is getting put in place, and it's a total disaster zone outside of our bedroom (which is the only room here on the 2nd floor that is finished - Eder's family put it in last year). The photo here is of our baby's room - lovely!!! 8 weeks to go and it's a total construction work zone. The cutie pie in the photo (right side) is Camile, Eder's cousin and god-daughter. The other image is of our future apartment in its current state.

I am sooooo anxious to have an apartment of our own. But, in the meantime, we share facilities downsta
irs with his two brothers, mother, father, brother's girlfriend on weekends, and of course, king of the house - Ralphie Muniz, their adoring dog-son. Sometimes it gets rough sharing the kitchen with the mom, and there have been many a comments about my inability to cook, my lack of cooking, that I should be cooking more for Eder. I'm trying to let that go in one ear and out the other.

Pregnancy/Gravidez: Well, I'm getting huge!!! The baby does the craziest gymnastics, making me stop whatever I'm doing just to look and feel in disbelief. Latest symptoms - continued reflux (urgh!!! 2 months and going strong), lack of breath (could be the 100 degree heat and humidity too), feeling week and getting tons of stomach bugs. I'm on round #3. In Sao Paolo at the Fulbright orientation I went to a hospital to get an IV for re-hydration after my insides had emptied out and to check the baby to see if all was ok. The best news is that our doctor is great, she will come to the house and do a home birth if we want (we do!!) and will bring a tub so that I can chose to be in water either in labor or during birth. There's what seems to be an excellent hospital she's affiliated with and will deliver my baby in in the case of a transfer. And I've identified someone I'd like to be my doula, who is fluent in both Portuguese and English, has 2 kids, and is quite an incredible woman. Crossing my fingers that works out. For now, I'm swimming 2 evenings a week - about 1500 meters each night. It is incredible. The pool feels like a sauna, and I have to brave the buses to get there and back (not so fun) but it's all worth it. I am hoping to resume prenatal yoga once we buy a car (when, oh when!!?? that is being held up because we did a wire transfer of money and I spelled Eder's brother's name "Edison" which makes sense to me but it's really "Edson" pronounced like Edison, so just for all that we have no car for 2 more weeks urgh).

Graffiti & Fulbright: So, this has been the slowest for now. Eder has done some incredible pieces and got right to work importing hundreds of spray paint cans to sell here in the city to make some money on the side. His work is stunning (will attach some photos here if I can figure out how!) and I think he's in his element going out and doing these pieces all over. He painted two in his neighborhood, one along an expressway (the Parallela) where new zoning laws have meant that dozens of high rise luxury apartments are being built and simultaneously destroying natural oceanfront wildlife. He wrote a political tag next to the piece calling out the government and residents "For Sale: Parallela - Plant a Building, destroy the Atlantic Wildlife, Hurry not to Lose out!" The photos here are some of his pieces, but he's been so prolific, you have to check out his flickr, where all of the images are posted:

What are my initial observations of graffiti, tags and murals here in Salvador? I'm struck by how run down and old most of the graffiti pieces are. You can tell they were done long ago, and have suffered from the elements - car and bus exhaust, people leaning on the walls, walls crumbling, sun bleaching out the color, sea salt wearing away at the pieces... There are a few new pieces, but it seems most of those were done by the Projeto Salvador Graffiti - so they tend to be more conventional, more prescribed, less artistic and creative, and certainly, seem to lack adequate colors and quality spray to be anything really impressive. There's a big new piece up at the military school that is images of tanks, guns, you know, the whole war machine. At first I thought maybe it was a critical commentary on war, but to my dismay, it was proudly the theme of the wall surrounding the academy.

The highlight of the Fulbright so far has been the orientation, meeting the 40 other grantees in Sao Paolo last weekend was a blast. Everyone has incredibly interesting, enticing and creative projects, ranging from studying "Forro and Reggae music" in northeast Brazil, to studying informal and formal housing in Salvador, participatory planning in Sao Paolo, affirmative action in rio, to popular theatre here in Salvador... It was great to meet everyone, and learn about their projects thus-far. It turns out half of them will be coming to Salvador for 5 days in May 10-15th. I will have just given birth, so I'm trying to figure out how to balance that with participating in the trip. There are many conflicts like that coming up - a U.N. World Urban Forum in Rio at the end of the month that I probably won't be able to join, as well as travel options around the country that I will have to wait and see how possible they will be.

I think that's it for now folks, I look forward to hearing from you and your visits! I'll keep posting as often as I can. I'm still trying to figure out multiple photos. maybe i'll do another post that just has photos so far.

aight! peace and love,