ReWind – Rio’s Escaderia Selaron

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 | Posted under Brazil, ReWind

Here’s an “oldie but goodie” post from the beginnings of my blog.

I know that people around here in New York City say “Only in New York…” to something that is pretty odd or out there that only a New Yorker would not bat an eyelash, but I thought I would tell you about my experience that is psuedo-touristy but maybe an “Only in Rio…” kind of experience.
I had the wonderul opportunity of going to the Escaderia Selaron in Rio with my guide, Madson. Where and what is this? For those of you familiar with hip hop music videos, you’ve actually already seen this site in Snoop Dogg and Pharell of the Neptunes’ video for the song “Beautiful.” Don’t remember that particular MTV/BET moment in time? Click on the link for a reminder.
Here are the Escaderia Selaron in all of their glory.
The Escaderia Selaron is a work of genius or perhaps madness depending on who you ask. Located in the hot (although not always safe) nightlife district of Lapa, Jorge Selaron began to transform these stairs leading from Rua Joaquim Silva and Rua Pinto Martins in 1990. Selaron is an artist who also draws and paints, but his biggest claim to fame has been these stairs made of colorful carefully broken tiles that he continues to craft and reshape continuously. Here’s a close-up of what the tiles actually look like.

He claims that he will never stop changing the stairs until the day he dies. After his project became famous, people from around the world started to visit him. He began asking them to bring tiles from their country of origin. Recognize any of these places?

So every artist has their signature style or image; and for Senhor Selaron, it happens to be the the image of a pregnant Black woman. Hmmm…some people have their theories (I think this is the one I favor) that this is the image of a woman who was his pregnant lover who died in childbirth/or was pregnant with his child and they had a major disagreement, which destroyed their relationship. Selaron says it’s a personal matter. A’ight, bruh. I understand. What do YOU all think? He’s even created a version of the image with HIS head on the pregnant body. Here’s the image on one of his tiles.

A mural with Selaron’s head on the pregnant body. Kinda freaky, ain’t it? This was in anticipation of last year’s World Cup.
My guide, Madson, seemed to be pretty cool with Senhor Selaron, so he brought me to meet him. Oh my…what a guy!! I want to say that Senhor Selaron took a little liking to me. After starting to speak to him in my 5 year-old girl souding Portuguese, I just started speaking Spanish, which weirded him out but made me more comfortable that I wouldn’t sound totally crazy and that we could actually talk and understand each other.
After learning that I was born on a small island in the Caribbean, I think that totally set him off. You see, his goal to collect a tile from as many countries in the world as possible, and here he saw me as a golden opportunity to get a tile from a teeny little island that (no offense to my people) probably doesn’t have a population that may make the trip to Brazil. He started letting me pick out one of his drawings to take FOR FREE. He even posed for a picture with me!

Madson told me that it’s the first time he’d ever seen Senhor Selaron react this way. While I’d like to think it was perhaps my magnetic personality (Ha!), I think it was more that I was from someplace a little exotic. Either way, it was nice to get the royal treatment regardless of Senhor S’s motivations.

I have not forgotten him and his request for a tile from my little island homeland. Sadly, I have not been back to Antigua as much as I would like in the past few years, but I intend to keep my promise to him. Senhor Selaron, you will get a tile from me someday soon!!

Have you been to any local curiosities or met any local “celebrities” during your travels?
[PS: I still need to get him the tile.]


Back Trackin’ – Old Salvador

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 | Posted under Back Trackin', Brazil

I’m not particularly verbose this week. Perhaps my mind is on vacation already. πŸ™‚

I realized that I may have given Salvador, Brazil short shrift thus far on the blog. One of the many things I loved about it was the sense of history and antiquey-ness of it all. The central Pelurinho district, where I stayed, is really good for taking in all of the old buildings. Since Salvador was actually the first capital of Brazil, they made sure the buildings were rather stately, and the churches extra majestic.

Igreja (Church) do Sao Francisco

Close-up of Igreja do Sao Francisco

Rua das Portas de Carmo, right outside my hotel, Casa do Amarelindo (loved that place!)

Ummm..I forgot πŸ™ It was being renovated when I was there. It’s right off of Terreiro de Jesus.

The spires of Igreja da Nossa Senhora dos Pretos

Palacio Rio Branco

So, are you a fan of older architecture, or do you like sleek, modern design?


Back Trackin’, Brazil Edition – Experiencing Capoeira in Salvador, Brazil

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 | Posted under Back Trackin', Brazil

Capoeira is one of Brazil’s gifts to the world. It is a martial art that vaguely resembles dance and is a product of the mixing of the cultures that is so much a part of what makes Brazil special. Capoeira can be traced back to movements brought by early African slaves. Salvador is considered the hometown for the development of capoeira, and you can find people “playing” capoeira in rodas (or circles) all over the city.

After lots of walking back and forth between my hotel in the very central Pelourinho district in Salvador, I noticed a lot of rodas in the streets. These were guys who didn’t study capoeira, but learned it from their friends. There are groups like this in Salvador performing for tourists and showing off lots of acrobatic talent. I stopped to watch a little until they started to flirt with me (I blended in very well, maybe a little too well, in Salvador), and then I needed to go.
In the same square was this man:

We struck up a conversation, and I learned that he was in fact a capoeira mestre (master and instructor). By day, he sold capoeira-related souvenirs and trinkets in the square. One morning he called out to me, and we began one of our many stilted but surprisingly understandable Portuguese-English conversations. I have to admit that this was one of the fun and unexpected byproducts of traveling alone. I’m not sure that I would have met him if I was traveling with someone else.
After lots of back and forth, the Mestre (as I’ll call him) decided to teach me how to play the berimbau, an important instrument in capoeira. When two people are in the circle “playing” capoeria, there are others outside keeping rhythm for their movements through instruments and song. The berimbau is probably the most unusual looking of the instruments because it resembles a bow and arrow.
A great pic of a berimbau with names of its parts

It looks easy and simple enough to play right? WRONG! There’s a lot going on at the same time (make sure to reference the pic for the parts of the instrument I describe):

-Holding the berimbau upright with just your pinky and ring fingers.
-Depending on the tone you are trying to achieve, putting cabaca close to body or away from your body.
-Making sure that you are striking the arame with the vareta at the right rhythm while moving a pedra (a little ‘ol rock) back and forth
-Plus, if you really want to get down :), shaking the caixixi while you’re doing all of this.
Here I am taking a try! You don’t see me grimacing through the pain of holding up the berimbau with my pink and ring fingers.

On one of my last days in Salvador, the Mestre invited me to see some of his students perform at the Mercado Modelo, an open air market for tourists (read: tourist trap but still worth the trip) in Salvador’s Lower City.

I like seeing female capoeiristas since they are hard to come by. When women perform capoeria movements well, I actually think they look better than men. πŸ™‚

Showing off for the tourists. Like me! πŸ™‚

If you are interested in seeing capoeira full out, here are a few short videos.

Has anyone tried capoeira or any other martial arts? Have you ever met someone during a trip that helped you learn more about the local culture (thanks, Mestre!)?


Back Trackin’, Brazil Edition – A Game at Rio De Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 | Posted under Back Trackin', Brazil

Brazil loves it futbol. They call it o jogo bonito (the beautiful game). It’s not just a sport but rather an art form, a means of self-expression. When I was still in Rio, I got the opportunity to see a soccer game between Rio’s extremely popular Flamengo and Atletico Miniero of the state of Minas Gerais. A game at the famous Maracana Stadium? Being the sports fan that I am, I couldn’t pass it up.

You would have thought that this was the World Cup or a championship game. Nope! It was the end of the regular season right before the playoffs! The crowds were GINORMOUS, already loud, and we hadn’t made it in to see the game yet. I doubt that even half of these people had tickets. They were just hanging out, singing and drinking in the street.

It was getting a little chaotic outside the stadium, and no one had even taken the field yet!

The Brazilian Portuguese name for the upper deck seats.

Mind you, I STILL haven’t gotten to my seat yet, but I already realized that Flamengo’s fans are pretty passionate.


I snuck a quick picture with Flamengo’s mascot.

What was most striking for me as a non-Brazilian was how much energy everyone had BEFORE the game even started. There was so much singing, jumping and flag waving. I don’t think we even get this excited here in the U.S. for just a regular season game (at least not for the ones I’ve been to). That being said, all of the excitement made the atmosphere pretty electric. It also made me forget that the seats we were sitting in were pretty gross. πŸ™‚


This guy was a few rows above me and was providing much of the cheering for our tourist-filled section.

Finally the game was about to start! The usual photography session with kids occurred. Can someone explain why there are always kids who accompany the team at the beginning of soccer games?

Many of the spectators kept getting up and wiggling their arms and fingers while the game was going on. Sadly, I had no one to explain to me what it all meant.

After all of the screaming, singing and flag waving, Flamengo, the hometown team lost to what was considered a much less talented team. I think the score was 4-2, if I remember correctly. People started to leave in droves well before the end of the game.

Regardless of the outcome, I had a great time. Flamengo’s fans are hard core, and it definitely made me think about how we consume sports in our country. Are Americans less passionate and reserved sports fans? Since we are inundated with sports every day, do we just take it for granted? I wonder about these questions and still do. Part of me thinks that since we actually live in a country where we can consume sports on a regular basis that perhaps we forget how much fun and special going to a sporting event can be.

When the 2016 Olympics in Rio roll around in a few years, I’m going to see if I can spot my seat. Just kidding (Maracana fits about 90,000 people!)!

Have you been to a sporting event in another country besides your own? What was it like?

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Thinking Back in Pictures

Friday, September 24th, 2010 | Posted under Back Trackin', Bali, Brazil, California, Ireland

I’ve been in a contemplative mood this week. I pretty much cut out the internet yesterday. For me, that’s a pretty big deal! πŸ™‚ I’ve got a lot of my mind. A lot of it makes me want to just get up and go somewhere. I’ve got traveler’s itch (That didn’t sound so good, did it?), and I feel ready to head off somewhere really, really, really far away (Don’t tell Husband J!). Anyway, here are some pictures of places that I’ve been to during some of my past trips that tend to calm me down.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Muir Woods National Park in Northern California

The ceiling of the Catedral Metropolitana in Rio de Janeiro Brazil

A rice paddy field in Bali

Home #2 (well not this particular spot) – Cocos Resort, Valley Church, Antigua

What kinds of places make you feel calm and serene? Mountains, beaches, being in the middle of a city? Actually I am the weirdo who feels calm in the middle of Manhattan. You can take the girl out of the city….. πŸ™‚ I’l definitely be talking about some of these trips some time in the future.
Happy Weekend to all!


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