Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ain't no blizzards 'round here...

at the same time 17.5" of snow fall on Brooklyn...we get a little sun in the Valley

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Three cities and a baby

Being back in Brooklyn was at first a little bizarre--as if the past two weeks hadn't even happened. A fever dream in the middle of a freezing cold holiday flurry. My tan line and my deep sense of relaxation (and this blog) are my constant reminder that I really did just pick up and have a few adventures.

One of the ideas for the trip was to visit Frances in Capao as she prepared for her first child. I won't lie, pregnancy, labor, children, mothering, are all a bit frightening to me. Being with Frances and reading Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth while I was in Capao has at once exposed me to my own fears around childbirth, and the fears that many of us women in the US harbor--as well as help me overcome and address some of these fears. The way we pregnancy is represented in the mainstream media goes something like this: women is pregnant, fine, she is then overcome with labor at an inconvenient moment and often needs modern medicine to come to the rescue. The idea is that your body, your womb, your vagina, the whole kit-and-caboodle, can't really *do this*. You need help. Case in point (but this time men with guns to the rescue).

Frances and Diego were really beautiful to witness as they got ready for their new baby. A true inspiration. And guess what?? Luan arrived at 4:04am Monday morning. A home birth. A beautiful boy. Mama is recovering well in the sun of Capao. Congratulations family!

Now, I'm waiting for my cab to JFK to whisk me away to LA, the next leg of this here adventure. I'm deciding whether or not to take my laptop...the idea of traveling without it is almost too good to resist...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fumaça finalmente

Me and Fumaça, we went all the way. To the top that is. I headed out at 7:30am to beat the guided groups (chatty guides are *the worst*) and the heat. The straight up climb for about 40 minutes leads to an ethereal plateau that once feels like the moon and like you should see cows grazing. The sky was full of puffy, thick clouds and I was welcomed by pretty much every bird and bug that lives in Capao. And even in a swift little snake.

The view from midway up...
the edge
over the edge (ray ray don't look!)
and I thought I was all alone until I heard a flute--a man tooting away at the top of Cachoeira da Fumaça!

Yesterday, I ate.

Sexta-feira (Friday), Frances and I hung out at her sweet little maison and ate. I mean, we also did a little yoga and talked and talked and talked and cooked. Oh yes, and I, um, blogged. The sun was out and after the long day before with Campinas and magic Israeli rasta tahine, we were ready for relaxation. Diego e Kiara went to Ciabra, a neighboring town, to do some shopping and Frances and I were left to our own devices (and our stomaches).

cafe de chapada
I had my first cup of coffee in a week with these little cookies I bought at the mercado--they taste like they were made with butter from cows fed really hearty hay and grass, almost like sheep's milk. Foi delicioso.

cafe a manha chez Frances
F is a wiz in the kitchen. She made yogurt, fresh acerola juice (suco de acerola), tahini sauce, teriyaki soy protein stir fry, eggs with arugola and majoracao, toast and ghee and cucumber tomato salad...and I'm sure I am forgetting a few things.

We finished the day off with the weirdest and tastiest pizza I've ever had. For days I've heard about this pizza. It was the first and only restaurant in Capao for a very long time. The owner is a Swiss guy who very clearly loves his pizza, his restaurant and pretty much everyone who comes in. In short, he was extremely friendly and happy to see us. Kiara had been to this joint fifteen years earlier when she visited Capao. She said the pizza is almost exactly the same--still perfect.

psychedelic pizza
It's made on a light bread dough so the crust is light and crispy. There is a bit of tomato sauce, a layer of grated carrots, mozarella and then pesto made of majoracao (brazilian basil--a bit spicy), garlic and green olives. The condiments that accompany the one and only type of pizza served here are: soy sauce, spicy honey and olive oil. Weird, I know. Heavenly, who knew? Diego doubted we could eat the Famiglia size, but Kiara and I ate the man and the pregnant lady under the table. With a beer to boot. Never underestimate an 82 year old italian woman who is willing to pick up and live in rural Brasil for several months. And never underestimate a Swiss fella with a vision for pizza. Did I mention that he grows almost every ingredient? This pie alone is worth the 24 hour trip from New York.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Magic Israeli rasta tahini

Nir e Nati started making tahini out of necessity. They are an israeli couple who met in India (Frances says that Nati was living in some cave in India and Nir read about her and decided that she was the woman for him and went to India to find her) and decided to move to Brazil to raise a family. They settled in the Vale do Capao and built a spiral-shaped adobe house with an open air meditation deck on top that gives you a 360 degree view of the mountains. They built a compostable toilet (very popular here in Capao with the permaculture community--coolest one so far at Campinas), a small pool for their son, Ganesh, and worked the land to grow various vegetables and herbs.

Nir (left) e Nati (right) in their tahini studio

The one thing that was missing was tahini. Nati has stories about how she tried to find tahini in India (not easy) and they realized that it was just too expensive here in Brazil, and not very good either. They started making it to satisfy their tahini needs and have launched a business making tahini, peanut butter, tahini/peanut spread, and these little energy balls with cocoa, tahini, coconut, guyana, and other goodness. They were incredibly welcoming--as is everyone here in Brasil--and we stayed and chatted til the fireflies came out.

I bought a kilo of tahini to bring back to the states--so don't worry my tahini loving friends, there will be magic rasta tahini for all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

And back in Brooklyn...

Pablo e Lemon. Eles moram no Brooklyn. Photo credit, Ray Ray S.


The days of the week don't really have names here, they are more to keep time, which seems very biblical. Thursday is Quinta-Feira or "fifth day." Well, feira means day, holiday, market, all sorts of things--which is very bahiana. Like belleza, which translates into beauty, but people say when they greet you "Ola! Belleza!" 

So on the quinta-feria, the goddess of all things belleza made this:

Frances and I walked from her place in Los Campos/Entrada Fumaça to Campinas (about an hour), an intentional community that has been around for about thirty years. We ran into a few friends of hers who give beijos on the cheeks and on her belly, exclaiming belleza! of course. Arriving at Campinas, we find some very dreadlocked, rasta kids stoking the wood fire preparing a lunch of squash stew, pasta salad, and rice. At this point in time Campinas is a bit smaller than it has been in years past--about thirty families could live on the land, cultivating various projects. Today it is a bit more of a communters commune, with folks coming in and out, but as with any community there is always an ebb and flow.

One of the founders, Nede, had just returned and she was petite, strong and all business. She had taken a sixth month siesta from Campinas to make some money working in her ex-partners pizza shop in town. Downtown Capao is a whole other story. Maybe  a bit like Woodstock, I imagine. A new girl had just arrived the day before from Germany and her one year old, Louie, was crawling around on the floor pretty much just licking the ground and eating dirt. At one point he picks up a lead pencil and Frances says, 
Um is that a pencil in his mouth?
and the girl responds, Oh yes, he eats everything! He eats ze bugs, ze trees, za dirt, it's all sooo natural.
Hmmm, but that's lead, says Frances.
He is so healthy, no problems with ze digestion, notheeeng...

Right. A few minutes later I look over and li'l Louie is splashing in his own pee on the ground. I say to his mama, 
Uh, that, er, water is "new."  
Oh! Is it xi-xi?
Right. She goes over and mops up the floor, but not really, then wipes her baby down with dirty xi-xi rag. This is all sooo natural! We are in nature, right? Pencils for everyone! Mama then goes to climb a tree and Louie crawls outside and starts cramming fist fulls of mud in his mouth. Nede, is tossing over very disapproving looks.  Frances is just pretending like she isn't really seeing any of it. I play a bit with Louie who makes low grunting gutteral noises as he plays.

Frances preparing the alavante, which she will use as
an antiseptic soak after her baby boy is born
We go on a tour of the herbario, one of the few successful projects of Campinas that brings in money for the community. Nede runs it of course. Apparently the other cofounder is returning soon, after an absence of about fifteen years, to open a Waldorf school on the land. It all sounds very mythic--the return of the founders. At the herbario, there are vibrant greens and flowers with every medicinal purpose one can imagine. The Chapada Diamantina, the forested area of Bahia, is semi-arid land. The soil needs to be worked vigorously to grow things beyond various fruit trees and flowers. The land at Campinas is very rich and has been worked very hard by thousands of people over the years. 

A girl blows a conch shell to signal that lunch is ready. Nede has chopped up a beautiful salad of bitter greens and herbs from the garden. And if you have the ovaries, you can sprinkle some of the hot pepper oil on your dish. The peppers are the size of small beetles--you know what they say about small packages...I get up to get Frances some more pasta salad and the german girl says, 
Excuse me, but we try to make sure that everyone gets one serving before going for seconds. 
Of course, but, this is for Frances, ela esta muito gravida.
Yes, well there are many who have not eaten their lunch.
Right. Two men went up just before me and filled their plates. And people have been chatting and eating for about an hour. And lunch is served at pretty much the same time everyday. And three people blew the conch to alert everyone that food was ready. But no matter, I sit back down. I only took a little bit at the beginning to make sure there was enough to go around--I should've realized the loophole when everyone else sat down with heaping, piled-high plates. Frances goes up herself after to get her damn pasta and the girl says nothing. Later, she tells Frances about the same rule (though Frances e Diego lived in Campinas last year) and then asked who her man was. Oy. Nede, sits across from me and says some things in portuguese that I don't understand, but you can tell that she has a bone to pick already. 

I sit outside and let the perfect day rest on my skin. My legs are definitely browner than they were a week ago. As we get ready to leave--Frances with her borrowed birthing pool and alavante bouqet in hand, Kiara with a bundle of fresh herbs for her soups and frittatas, and I with very warm skin--Diego is called back to the kitchen by Nede. Very frantic. Turns out that li'l Louie did the inevitable. He took a big ol' baby poop on the floor and his mama, Madame au naturel, wiped it up with her hands and went to wash it in the food sink. Nede hit the shingled roof and the new girl was done for. Diego translated the scolding into german so there was no mistake. Some lessons are hard won. I couldn't help but smile just a little at the thought of the scolder being the scolded. I think it all really just struck because it was the first time since I've been in Brasil that someone wasn't really all that welcoming. Another gringa in the mix, né?

I just heard that some people consider this area a vortex, which makes total sense. Karma is very instantaneous in these here parts.