February 28, 2010
A Matter of Perspective
Brazil is very different from the US. How different, you ask?
Let me tell you...
Because we are closer to the equator, the moon is closer. A LOT closer. So close we can reach out and grab it. It is also quite a bit smaller than I had imagined.
Also due to our location, normal-sized water bottles don't cut it. The bigger the better.
Brazilians work hard and play hard. Hence, toys must be supersized.
Talk back to the missionary: Share your perspective in the comments section.
Thanks to my friends Teófilo and Séfora for allowing me to share with you their creativity.
February 27, 2010
The Best Kind of Snake...
...is one that, like this one found on our seminary campus, has assumed room temperature.
My son does not agree with me.
Talk back to the missionary: Which do you prefer:"snakes alive" or "shuffling off this mortal coil"? Remove the scales from our eyes in the comments section.
February 26, 2010
I Stand Corrected
Contrary to the opinion I expressed on a recent post, fusion of Brazilian styles and traditional Scottish bagpipes is not only possible, but a quick search on YouTube turned up several groups who do just that.
Perhaps the most interesting to me was this performance in Scotland between a Brazilian Pipe and Drum group and a Scottish Samba Troup.
Did you catch that? The ones playing the traditional bagpipes are the Brazilians, and the ones with the "Latin groove" are the Scots. Talk about role reversal!
I don't know all the melodies played here, but one of them is Scotland the Brave.
I was fascinated by this performance (which, from what I read, appears to have been somewhat spontaneous). The Brazilian music gives life to the much-maligned bagpipes, while the bagpipes lend dignity and emotional depth to the Brazilian music that it did not otherwise possess.
Update: I was just informed by my friends that the first song is the Luiz Gonzaga classic Asa Branca. Seriously, I should have known that.
Talk back to the missionary: What do you think? Would William Wallace roll over in his grave or dig the sabor brasileiro? Opine in the comments section.
February 25, 2010
Lizards R Us or Mikey's Idea of Paradise
Here are some pictures of a teju (pronounced TEH-zhoo) found on campus yesterday.
It had apparently fallen into this hole behind the married-student housing.
One of our students, Washington by name, jumped in the pit and pulled it out.
This gives a good idea as to the size of the lizard.
According to our seminary director, these make good eating. I'm going to take his word for it.
Talk back to the missionary: Would you have jumped into a hole with that beast? Be honest in the comments section.
February 24, 2010
Brazilan/Scottish Musical Interlude: The Muppets Murder Aquarela do Brasil
Searching for some good Brazilian music to post today I ran across this, which succeeds mocking the heritage of my forefathers and that of my adopted country at the same time. And they do it with puppets.
In case you are wondering where Brazil comes in, the song the Scotsman plays at the end is Aquarela do Brasil by Ary Barroso. Here is a version that will hopefully get the sound of bagpipes out of your head.
Talk back to the missionary: Bagpipes and Brazilian music probably don't mix that well. Can you think of any other styles of music and instruments that don't under no circumstances should be combined? Be creative in the comments section.
February 23, 2010
One Last Orientation
For us this semester will be one of "lasts": the last classes taught, the last chapel service, etc. before God moves us to our next place of ministry.
Last week was our last orientation. Because I am the Dean of Campus Students, Itá and I got to give special direction to new students.
The following pictures were lifted off the seminary website.
Orientation week is one of our favorite times. After three months of being practically vacant, the campus fills up with new people, old friends return, and life takes on a much more vibrant pace.
Of course, after three months we are quite ready for vacation again...
Talk back to the missionary: What ministries have you had in the past that you look back on with fondness? Let the memories flow in the comments section.
February 15, 2010
Andrew 1, Piranha 30
A few weeks ago I got together with some of our missionary colleagues to discuss some exciting possibilities for our group here in Brazil. Afterward we went out and did some fishing for Piranha.
Between the three of us we caught thirty-nine fish. So far so good.
Of those thirty-nine, I caught exactly one.
The following Animal Crackers cartoon, sent to me by my mother who is apparently aware of my extraordinary fishing prowess, illustrates what I am convinced was happening just below the surface of the water.
Oh well. The fellowship was GREAT!
Talk back to the missionary: Have a great hunting or fishing story to tell? Keep it honest in the comments section.
February 13, 2010
It's That Time of Year Again
Carnaval time. When Brazil goes crazy for about a week, and then settles down for a big hangover.
Every year there seems to be some story during Carnaval that makes the international news. This year is no different. I turned on Bill O'Reilly yesterday to see a segment about the samba school in Rio that is featuring a seven-year-old girl instead of the 21 year-old women they usually feature as "Samba Queen". The fact that this role is traditionally a very sensual part of the program has many outraged, as well it should.
For those who have heard about this, I would like to make a few observations:
1. Most Brazilians are as upset about this as are Americans. It is a myth to assume that because we have such a thing as Carnaval, Brazilians are more permissive then Americans. This idea is disseminated by Hollywood films which depict Brazilian women as exhibitionist nymphomaniacs. It must be remembered that these same films show Brazilians speaking Spanish and traveling from Rio to the Amazon by car in the span of a few minutes. What they say about Brazil is hardly trustworthy.
The truth is that most Brazilians are still quite traditional. Public nudity (outside of Carnaval) is frowned upon, and it is considered an honor for a young girl to be a virgin when she is married.
Judging all Brazilian women by what you see in Carnaval would be like judging all American women by the debauchery of Spring Break.
2. The Brazilian media conglomerates are unscrupulous in their treatment of women and children. When it comes to the sensualization of children I have seen things on Brazilian daytime TV that make this Carnaval fiasco--bad as it is--seem like child's play (pun only partially unintended). These companies--like their American counterparts--are making a concerted effort to undermine the moral underpinnings of this country.
3. Americans have no room to judge Brazilians when it comes to their treatment of children. Keep in mind that the US is the country of Jon Benet Ramsey. Not only that, but Americans permit the wholesale slaughter of thousands of children every year through abortion, something that is illegal here in Brazil and an anathema to most Brazilians.
Not only that, Brazil has to deal every year with thousands of predators who come here from abroad for the sole purpose of abusing Brazilian children sexually. Many of these monsters are Americans.
So while the inclusion of this young girl in the Carnaval parade is disgusting (truth be told, the participation of anybody at any age in Carnaval is disgusting), Americans should pull the beam out of their own eye before sitting in judgment on Brazilians as a whole.
There, that is hopefully the last I will have to write about Carnaval for another year.
Update: Ok...just one more thing. The French do Carnaval too, and this year their shindig featured...well...just look at the picture:
Sigh. The picture is from here, where you can read more about it, if you have any desire to do so.
Talk back to the missionary: What ideas do you have about Brazilian culture? Let us know in the comments section and we will confirm it, or "set the record straight".
February 10, 2010
Seen In and Around Fortaleza
Our trip to Fortaleza to take care of paperwork was not about bureaucracy. Here in Brazil trips are seldom without some form of adventure, and this was certainly the case yesterday.
My friend Teófilo took me to this amazing used book store yesterday morning. Rows and rows of books, including a large English-language section where I found American Caesar. This is going to be a regular stop for me on future trips to Fortaleza!
Close by is this building, the José Alencar theatre. This fantastic building is a far cry from the house where it's namesake's mother was born.
Next door was this reminder that our work in Brazil is far from over. This is the headquarters of prosperity cult called the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
On our return trip we took a slightly different route and passed this crumbling mansion. Itá and I had a long talk about how neat it would be to re-furbish one of the old "Big Houses" that dot the Brazilian landscape.
And then, to the delight of our firstborn, we passed an ostrich farm. For Mikey, this was the highlight of the entire trip.
Talk back to the missionary: What interesting, unexpected things have you seen on recent trips? Recount your adventures in the comments section.
February 8, 2010
Fortaleza from Ten Floors Up
Staying with friends in their new apartment in Fortaleza, couldn't resist taking these shots from their tenth-story window.
Talk back to the missionary: What is the view like from your window right now? Wax descriptive in the comments section.
February 4, 2010
Brazilian Musical Interlude: Prisma singing Asas da Alva
The following video is of the evangelical group Prisma singing the song Asas da Alva--literally "Wings of the Dawn". While the style is not particularly Brazilian, the words are in Portuguese, and they are a beautiful adaptation of Psalm 139.
I could do without all the posturing and posing, but the audio version of this song has calmed my jangled nerves on many occasions.
Talk back to the missionary: What Christian song has been particularly helpful in your walk with God?
Brazil and the Social Web
Here are some of the more salient statistics he mentions:
* Brazilians spend more time per month (20 minutes more, to be specific) on social sites than in clubs.
* The social web brings together 55 million users.
* If Orkut were a Brazilian state, it would be the largest state in the country. It would also have a population larger than that of Argentina.
* Brazilians represent the second largest audience for YouTube.
* 2.6 Million Brazilians update their blogs daily.
* The use of Twitter in Brazil grew 1,382% in 2008 alone.
* São Paulo has the fourth largest population of Twitter users in the world.
Meanwhile, elswhere in Latin America, tin-pan dictator Hugo Chavez is, shall we say, annoyed with Twitter. Apparently too much free speech going on for good 'ol Hugito.
Talk back to the missonary: What are some creative ways Christians can glorify Christ on the social web? Wax innovative in the comments section.
February 2, 2010
Brazilian Stamp of the Week: Dutch Influence in Brazil
Between 1630 and 1654 much of the Northeast part of Brazil--including the city of Recife, was under Dutch control. While the later Portuguese conquest of this region was total, several vestiges of the conquest remain, particularly in architecture seen in and around Recife.
Last year Brazil issued a set of stamps commemorating the Dutch influence on the country.
On the top left we see Mauricio de Nassau, influential Dutch governor of the region. Next to him is a Dutch ship from that time. The following stamps show archaelogical remnants of the Dutch occupation still present today.
In addition to smoking pipes and architecture, the Dutch had left a theological legacy on Brazil as well. The first translation of the Bible into Portuguese was done by a Portuguese man named João Ferreira de Almeida, who was converted by Dutch Reformed believers while in the Dutch colonies in what is now Indonesia.
Talk back to the missionary: The US also has a great Dutch heritage. Can you think of anything in American culture that comes to us via the Dutch colonization?