Wednesday, December 8, 2010

of taggers, zaya, politicians, Lula

I am procrastinating.

Today I want to write the bio for the most recent transcription/interview I did – a very interesting pichador – tagger – named "Ciborg". The 70-minute interview and the 13-page transcription make writing the biography a bit daunting, combined with the challenge of doing justice to such an interesting young man who risks his life almost every day to go and spray his name on walls... getting arrested too many times to remember, each arrest accompanied by a thorough beating by the police, meandering into the world of selling drugs – crack – and with the help of Jesus finding his way out. He thinks that regular, plain-painted walls are boring, feels them calling for some sort of artistic scribble to shake them up, and the wealthier the neighborhood, the more people around to watch, all the more exciting. He criticized the mayor’s graffiti program for increasing the amount of police brutality towards pichadores, asking how an Evangelical mayor could, in good conscience, allow the police to be so violent, regretting that he had voted for this mayor. We gave him a lift after the interview (he showed up almost 3 hours late because he ended up walking to get there because he didn’t have the money for the bus). When he got in the car Eder asked him to put on his seatbelt and he didn’t know how! He had either never been in a car’s front seat, or at least, never in his life put on a seat belt.

But I didn’t procrastinate writing his bio to write this blog about him! I thought I’d update you about Zaya, and respond to some questions from a dear, old friend, about Brazil’s elections, and share some random thoughts about life in Salvador and my trip to Rio during the WAR while I’m at it. Ok, that is wayyyyy too ambitious a list, I don’t think I’ll make it through all that before Zaya wakes, but I’ll give it a try!

Zaya. What a total delight. Maybe I should complain first though so that I don’t rob you of the parenthood realities! Here’s what’s hard: she has entered a very clingy-to-mommy phase. While it’s totally endearing to have her always wanting to hang with me, preferring me to almost everyone, it can be really wearing on me!!! She is also not sleeping well, a combination of being increasingly difficult to sooth to sleep – having to go to sleep while nursing and waking up several times to nurse before she finally settles into a longer (2-3 hour) chunk of sleep. One night, she had woken up 4 times before 2 a.m. Eder swears this is because I got her in the habit of sleeping next to me and on the boob, nursing whenever she woke. He might be right. Trying to figure out how to break that one. And, for 3 nights in a row, she wakes up around 2 or 3 a.m. and stays awake, wide wide awake, for a good 2 hours. !!!! Good times.

Besides the sleeping challenges, the rest is pretty fun. She is super playful – patty-cake, peek-a-boo, rolling around with us in the bed, walking a ton with our help, and loving her walker and the independence it gives her to walk around the apartment. She is eating lots of foods now – and it’s all done very different here. They make “little soups” (sopinha/papinha) which can include a combination of any of the following vegetables – potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, okra, xuxu (no idea what that is in English) beets, sweet potato. They insist, to no avail, that I put salt or a bullion cube in it. They insist, to some avail, that I make it fresh every day. We’ve compromised on making a batch that we use for 48 hours (not freezing it) and then make a new one. Fruits – she is eating a new one almost every day! Amazing! All raw too to the horror of my north-american co-moms!... Watermelon, banana, apple, orange, mango, caju, umbu, acerola, grapes, pears, jaca, graviola, etc… it’s a joy to watch her get down and dirty when she eats, I’ll post some photos as examples. It’s not such a joy to clean it up, or to see the cutest little outfits get permanently stained from the food. I’m trying to let it go.

She is thriving here in the neighborhood – quite popular among all the kids who live on the block, as there’s a chorus of “Zaya” as we walk down the street. When we get sick of hanging out in our little apartment – hanging on the hammock on our back balcony, playing on the bed, or her running around in the walker – then we pick her up and decide which house to go visit. Downstairs there’s her grandma who she loves so much (for those of you following along the drama, all of our beef/baggage/stress is over – see prior blogs). There’s the dog – pronounced Halfee (Ralphy) who she gets a big kick out of.There’s her grandfather who loves to play with her but she is sort of scared of, sadly, and her two uncles and their girlfriends who are in and out. There’s also a big flat-

screen tv she is into, lots of Eder’s art decorate the walls which she stares at like a good daughter. If we don’t go there, we’ll go next door to Aunt Luisa’s house where there’s Eder’s cousin Tais, who will play with Zaya to no end and has lots of patience for bending over to help Zaya walk (god bless her!). Usually there’s a slew of others hanging out there, his other cousins Monica and William, Tais’s boyfriend Danilo, and Luisa’s husband Cordoaldo. Zaya likes that house too, but not as much as visiting grandma downstairs. If neither house is available, there’s always a visit to great-grandma who lives next door to Aunt Luisa’s, or a walk to the market or to the fruit and vegetable stand where I just discovered .50 cent cold coconut water out of the coconut!!! How could I have not known about that all this time!? Zaya loves to drink coconut water. So, life is good. The weather is great – no rain, not too hot, nice breezes. Oh! And Zaya now has her two bottom teeth. Very cute, good at biting!

Moving on to the elections… So, I think you all heard that a “WOMAN” won (Dilma) and will be president for the next 4 years. It seems from the U.S.-media that I read that being a woman was the big deal of it all, and especially that she was a former guerrilla leader to overthrow the dictatorship, even ending up doing time in prison for her “revolutionary” activities. I remember too, when I was state-side, that it’s thrilling that such a left-leaning “worker’s party” is in power, and so it should be celebrated that she won since she will continue the trajectory of that party. And in many ways, I think that is a good thing: there have been some really impressive reforms made under Lula (ex: expanding the government’s welfare system, providing support for small and medium businesses that have lifted many out of poverty into the lower-middle class, and some (limited) support for other leftist governments in Latin America). I think that many of the Brazilians I’m around, were not very excited about Dilma’s win. Why? Well, they don’t trust her. She emerged as a candidate only recently, and has no experience in elected office. They are worried (I think, legitimately) that she’ll be just a puppet for Lula… she ran on his ticket, as Lula’s candidate. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t say much for her winning because she is a woman, but rather, because she was his choice. There was some findings of her involvement in some corruption that led folks to distrust her too.

[I was interrupted by a lunch invite in a nearby neighborhood – actually, it’s 3 kilometers away – I watched the kilometers and counted exactly 25 speedbumps we had to slowly go over during those 3 kilometers, making the trip at least 15 minutes long, as I stayed in 2nd gear the whole drive. And on the way to our car, I heard Jingle Bells being played over the community radio station loudspeaker. I was struck by the juxtaposition of this familiar song being played while I’m under the blazing sun, scratching mosquito bites, and sweating!]

Back to the elections, so, to summarize – I think Dilma means more of the same for the Brazilians I know. My family friend wrote the following question: “from what little I know the new leftist, former resistance fighter, is now part of the establishment. But I hear that the establishment is a very earnest effort to remake Brazil for those traditionally at the historically bottom of society's goods and privileges. Do I have the right read? I know some think she will be a mere puppet of the outgoing president. but I think, what would be so wrong with a collaboration between the immediate past and the present provided that the immediate past was doing good things for the whole of Brazil's people. Do you read my naive sense of brazil's political world?”

So, I think the short answer is – yes, the collaboration between Dilma and Lula will certainly continue. Whether that is a good thing for most Brazilians, I’m not entirely sure. I see the Workers Party as a lesser bad. While they have made some headway in the reforms I mentioned above, personally, I don’t think it’s enough. The quality of education in this country is a horrendous, and barely made improvements under Lula’s eight year administration. Of all four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China – big emerging economies) Brazil’s education ranks fourth. And Lula spent a lot of the government’s budget on paying back the country’s debt. While that appears to be a good thing, I think these debts owed to wealthy nations and the IMFs and World Banks should be renegotiated or even pardoned, since they serve as ways to keep wealthy global north countries rich, and the “developing south” countries poor. Brazil could do a world of good to stand up for smaller countries that are drowning in debt, and force global banks and lenders to re-assess the loans. Ok, I’m spinning into an abyss that I’m having a hard time figuring out how to get out of but since it’s just a blog, not some college paper, I’m going to move ON! ; )

Question of Salvador/Brazil:

News Headline from yesterday: Speaking of the Lula administration’s failed investment in domestic expenditures

on much needed education reform, let’s talk about health care and the latest headline – a public hospital in Sao Paulo went to treat a 12-year-old with a cold or maybe pneumonia with an IV and the attendant mistakenly put Vaseline in the IV and the girl died. When I hear stories like that I’m glad I pay U$100/month for private health care for Zaya, even though U$100 is quite a chunk of money down here.

Indeed – I was in Rio during the crazy favela invasion by the police. I’m actually too worn out from this long blog to go into any details, so I think I’ll leave it for the next posting. I started this blog at 9am, it’s now 9pm. So much for the artist bio!!!

Til next time!


random assortment of things:

cool video about mandinga

cool website about art and culture in Rio

Eder's latest video about his art...

nice article about one of my former students' and the DREAM Act

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