Sunday, June 13, 2010

our humble abode

And we're up and running as a single family unit here in

our home in Vila Canaria (Canarie Village). Just when I thought it was the end of a chapter of family visits (my mom left, Pete left, my dad left), We arrived to Eder's family!!! It's been nuts.

Let me give you some examples:

This morning's knock on the door is Eder’s cousin’s daughter- she’s around 13. She has taken a huge liking to Zaya, and “stops by” often. She usually comes in and stands there and stares at me when I’m holding Zaya or nursing her, until I pass Zaya to her to hold. I try to make conversation but her answers are too brief to sustain any kind of substance. So, there I sit, nursing, with her staring. Today she came bearing gifts, a cute little purple outfit. Her very loud and annoying mother came following her, all sugary sweet, inviting me to go to her salon to get my hair done (insting that she pick me up

probably so that I’m her captive audience). This is the cousin who didn't care much about eder until he married an American and now she wants to be his BFF. She and her daughter are still here when Eder’s aunt Rita comes in. I can usually hear Aunt Rita coming from half way down the block she is loud and talks all the time. When she talks to me she always puts my name in the sentence, like “Oh Carly, you shouldn’t put the dish clothes in to soak with the floor mats Carly” or “Carly Zaya spit up Carly, it’s all over my shirt Carly. Carly Zaya isn’t getting enough nutrients from your milk Carly.” So she comes in and starts washing dishes and helps teach me why even after a pre-wash and a day of soaking in soap and then the extra extra wash cycle the cloth diapers are still coming out with poop stains. She insists I use disposables like she did. But I try to explain about the impact on the environment and I’m sure it’s the diabolical opposites happening at that point, we just don’t get each other. I want to be able to throw the clothes in the wash. She insists it will have to be done by hand. All of it by hand. Not going to happen! (why did that text just turn blue? not sure, going to have to stay that way).

Yesterday was the first day Brazil played in the World Cup of '10 so it became like a holiday - every school, business, government function closes down. Only select restaurants are open so people can view the game. I had made plans to host 12 Cornell University students in the city planning “Brazilian Cities” summer program who are currently in Salvador, a small favor for my friend Razack who is leading the course and felt like the Salvador component lacked “exposure to the real life most people in Salvador.” So Eder and I agreed to take them on a graffiti tour right before the game and beforehand, offered to have them over to my house. So there I go, with this idea to make them some food and Eder’s mom suggests Lasagna, his cousin Tais suggests a baked pasta, and before long, they are both here with Tais’s mom Luissa (Eder’s favorite aunt) helping me cook up a storm of beans, baked pasta, fresh pineapple juice. All the while telling me which items I’m missing in my kitchen

(leiteiro, machucador, panela, jalo). Just as the food is almost ready I get a call from the group – they are stuck in a huge traffic jam (wayyyy too common in this city) and aren’t going to make it here in time to make it back to watch the game. In Portuguese it’s call – desistir – to give up. Happens wayyy too often cuz of these damn traffic jams (engarrafamento). A city planning lesson in itself. But the food didn't go to waste - Eder’s father, brother, his fiancĂ©, other brother, his girlfriend, cousin, her boyfriend, aunt, father, etc… who all came over to watch the game and eat some pasta. We had a great time watching it all of us – Zaya asleep the first half and nursing the second. The loud firecrackers and enthusiastic fans caused Zaya a bit of permanent hearing loss (!!) which I feel so bad about. I was reminded that exactly four years ago I was here in Salvador watching the World Cup as a student in that same Brazilian Cities course, on the eve of meeting Eder in the Department of Sanitation building one month later. How drastically life changes to all the sudden be sitting with your very own Brazilian family, with your Brazilian husband and Brazilian baby watching the Brazilian soccer team beat South Korea.

Back to the visit, the family. It’s been impressive. We have received all these cute little outfits, shoes, thinga-ma-gigs. I’ve received more advice and opinions than I can handle. Today alone 10 people came over to visit. Yesterday was even more. On Sunday, i had no idea that we'd have so many visitors. I counted 35 people who were all together (this includes the 3 families that live in this neighborhood and relatives who came to visit from far). But most of all, all this family means a ton of help for us. An uncle who came over and hung the clothes line, Zaya’s cute Ikea hanging holder, and fixed a leaking faucet, a brother who is always around to hold Zaya or help us get something, Eder’s mother with her ideas for the kitchen shelving, Eder’s brother’s fiancĂ© with her constant attention to Zaya and feeding us Sunday meals, multiple cousins who come to help bath or dress her, his aunt’s insane amount of support – buying the crib, feeding us, getting us stuff we need, his dad paying for almost half of the apartment to be built (he had drastically under-estimated the cost of building here so he helped subsidize the difference). It goes on and on.

Frankly, I know it’s going to be hard to live here with family o

n to

p of us (or in this case, under us – we’re on the 2nd floor). But I think that it will be so worth it, and what a rich experience to be completely integrated into a Brazilian family. And for Zaya, it means that willing arms are in abundance, to rock her to sleep, fold clean laundry, play with her.

In the meantime, since we have settled into the house and since my mom, dad and pete have left, I’ve been able to actually get some good work done on the book Eder and I are hoping to write about street art in Salvador. Our first interview was with Pinel, one of the most prolific taggers in the city. He is part of the Mayor’s project for the salary (and thus, had to convert to doing more graffiti art) but he is a tagger at heart, and continues to tag all over (so much for the Project’s goal of getting rid of tags (known as Pichacao – soft c). The interview was at our house, with Zaya up and down from a rough nap 2-3 times, Maria coming in and the dog Ralphie

(pronounced – Halfie in Portuguese) a bunch of times, and our refrigerator arriving (7 days late – that’s another story) all during the interview. Hmmm… the idea of tagging still perplexes me but it was made clearer after talking to Pinel But there were some very interesting realizations and revelations that I still had from interviewing him… now it’s a matter of summing it up for his one page of the book. He spoke about how hard it was to get through school, that he dropped out of high school… and started tagging ferociously. His name going up everywhere suddenly brought him recognition he never would have had otherwise. It broke the silence, the anonymity, joining the ranks of countless others who don’t make it through school, don’t find a career, end up in a miserable minimum wage job. For Pinel, he wanted to be someone and if society was going to close doors on him, he would find a way to force them open – whether it was illicit of not. He was actually destined for worse vices – selling or doing drugs, robbing like so many of his friends, so many of whom ended up dead already – he was able to rattle off at least 12 names of dead friends. From that perspective, Pinel going out and spraying some buildings pales in comparison. He had a really informed perspective on it, you’d think he had read Naomi Klein’s book Disaster Capitalism. He knew that because he tagged, there’s be work created for people in the government to paint over his tags, work created for the police to arrest the taggers, work for the judges and lawyers and prison guards for their judicial process (Pinel was arrested 14 times for tagging). He even knew he generates jobs for graffiti artists like Eder who are hired by all kinds of folks to put up graffiti in order to stop the taggers from tagging all over their walls. I understood better the connection between taggers and graffiti artists – why they are able to maintain mutual respect – that graffiti artists are out in the street thanks to the taggers, there are so much more appreciated by the public in comparison to the tags. And the pichadores respect the graffiti artists because they have the guts to go out there and tag, because they too are expressing themselves, they are creating a network of communication among themselves.

Ok, I’m going to sign off this blog for now and work on getting it up. I’ve been interrupted something like 5 times writing this short little thing. How will I ever get a book done?

Much love to you all, missing you in these lovely spring months…

I'll leave you with Eder's most recent work....

1 comment:

  1. love reading this, minha carlita. and love that - even though it must be exhausting and sometimes frustrating - you are so surrounded by love and family and support. i'm missing you so bad here in brooklyn and spending my morning looking at plane tickets to brazil.