Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter: D.I.Ys and Ovos Demais

Unfortunately, being so far from home makes it near impossible to spend holidays with family but that didn’t stop me from spending Easter with loved ones this year. I had quite a lovely traditional Easter celebration in southern Brazil with the warm and welcoming family of a friend. Participating in holiday festivities with my friend’s family made me realize that regardless of location, language or family size, there is a familiar warmth that can be found in the nucleus of every family holiday celebration.

There are so many great craft possibilities during Easter time, so when I wasn’t borrowing someone else’s family, I was thinking up Easter projects that involved a little creativity, a few cultural traditions, and a lot of fun. That’s when I settled on my first project- “The Fruit Bearing Egg”…

During Easter in Brazil, it is quite common to walk into any ordinary supermarket and suddenly find yourself in a forest of low-hanging bright and shiny plastic-wrapped chocolate eggs of all sizes. The chocolate egg shells can be filled with anything from little candies to toys and even jewelry. I love the buzz that surrounds these eggs but I found most of them to be quite pricey, especially considering that what was inside most of the eggs did not quite appeal to me. Therefore, I decided to make my own chocolate egg and fill it with chocolate dipped fruit! My vote says it was the best decision of the week. Not to mention, quite the money saver!

(supermarket during Easter time)

 Although I made a bit of a mess, making the chocolate egg was quite simple really and my friends LOVED it. Just some cut fruit, sprinkles, and a few bars of melted chocolate (I’m a lover of dark chocolate but the white chocolate and milk chocolate added a little pupil appeal). It turned out to be an absolutely delectable bouquet full of fresh strawberries, bananas, mangos, a pineapple, orange slices, and kiwi. Yum!

My second project for the day was “Petaled Eggs” which were also pretty simple and so fun to make!

Even though the rain has hardly ceased since Saturday night, I woke up on Sunday morning determined to go flower picking as a little reminder of Easter back home. It is autumn down here but I have grown up recognizing Easter as the official arrival of spring and the return of all the beautiful hues that make up my father’s garden back home. After my brief nature walk in search of “wild” growing flowers, I returned home with a good sized bundle and put them in a basket. Seeing as it is Easter, I thought that it would make more sense to put decorated eggs in the basket, but the flowers were so presentable, so I decided to take the best of both worlds and cover the eggs in my recently collected flowers. 

All I needed for this project was:
  1. A variety of multi-colored flowers (I had to leave mine out to dry for a few hours)
  2. Hardboiled eggs
  3. Adhesive (I used simple white, clear-dry school glue)

  1. Boil eggs and let cool and dry.
  2. Use your fingers or a small paintbrush to rub a good layer of glue on the egg in the spot you want to stick the flower.
  3. Very lightly spread glue onto the edges of the flower to ensure that it sticks completely and set the completed egg aside to let dry.
*It might be best to seal the flowers if you just happen to have clear nail polish around. I didn't and everything turned out fine.

Boom! It’s that easy.

This project kinda made me wish that egg decorating was a year-round activity. Oh, the ideas for next year are already swirling in my head!

Anyway, I hope you lovelies have a wonderful, love-filled, chocolate-filled holiday. Until next time!

With infinite love,
The Frohemian

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Carnaval in Southern Brasil: Novo de novo

As a lovely friend described of her years of growing up in Brazil and actively participating in Carnaval festivities: Brazilian Carnaval celebration is a reminder to enjoy everyday and bring your light to an increasingly dim world. Briefly set aside the burdens of life and heavy judgments. It is a time to take down walls of social normalcy, mingle with people from all walks of life, form friendships, and share love (if only fleeting).

Yes, I prefer endless nature to endless crowds, salty waves of ocean water to sound waves of loud music, a nice cup of green tea to beer, but there is something about cultural celebrations that ignites my more festive side which is exactly what Carnaval did.

New year. New cities. New adventures. I have this feeling that I could celebrate Carnaval every year for the rest of my life and still feel as if it were an entirely new experience. That is because there isn’t just one type of Brazilian Carnaval celebration.

Throughout the country there is a myriad of ways to commemorate the literal “farewell to meat" and although samba culture may be somewhere in the heart of each celebration, I have experienced that there is far more to Carnaval than Rio de Janeiro or scantily clad women in heels that strike like lightening. 

I find the origins of Brazilian Carnaval to be absolutely stunning- a beautiful and lively cultural mash-up that can be quite reflective of the population. Cities heavily influenced by Portuguese, West African, German, Indigenous, or Italian heritage for example may have their own take on the country’s biggest celebration.

This year, I celebrated Carnaval in a couple of different cities in the south of Brazil- each with their own flair. In one city, I spent the day getting lost in a crowd of unfamiliar faces at an open street concert. The afternoon started off with little trace of the forthcoming Carnaval activities but as the afternoon carried on, the street was met with all types of characters- mermen, superheroes, and I swear I gave a horse head a peck on his/her muzzle.

Samba played loudly from musicians performing atop a high charged truck known as a trio elétrico. I danced danced danced alongside friends both new and old. My hands reaching towards the sky as confetti and bubbles unremittingly fell onto my feather clad, war-paint ridden body. My clumsy, uncoordinated feet stumbled in attempts to keep up with the rhythmic patterns of the tamborims and surdos accompanied by the agogôs, cuíca, and all that is the vivacious sound of samba.

On the final day of Carnaval, I traveled to another city where I was absolutely blown away by the magnitude of the celebration. I had been to this little Portuguese settled town before and I was quite charmed by its quaintness and tranquility but during Carnaval, the city transformed. I arrived in the beginning of the night and the streets were absolutely buzzing with people of all ages. Children flocking together, causing minor havoc and enjoying different sweets, families sitting along the busy streets perched in beach chairs and enjoying the sights before them, people of all ages happily engaged before the commencement of what could best be described as a “people’s parade”.

At around midnight, a loud banging of drums indicated that the procession was about to begin. The temporary street dwellers cleared to the surrounding sidewalks and all that could be seen at the end of the street was a file of brilliantly dressed dancers of all ages accompanied by dazzling floats and musicians. The overarching theme of this “escola de samba” parade was magic in every form and oh what a spectacular theme it was. Each group of performers told a different story about magic, from lighthearted fairytales to ominous fables- even Harry Potter made a brief appearance amidst the sea of samba dancing witches and wizards.

After about 45 minutes, the choreographed dancers made their exit but it was hardly the end of the procession. Immediately following behind the final performers, the crowd began to join in the parade as if they were summoned to take over the streets with their own style of dance. Suddenly, I found myself completely submersed in a sea of people. Open space could not be seen for miles. People talking, dancing, singing, drinking, laughing, flirting- the night had officially begun. I was definitely out of my element and enjoying every minute of it. Again, I found my feet trying to keep up with the rhythm of the music but they simply could not. However, the rhythm of my heart was finally beginning to catch on and that was all I needed.

With all of the colors, endless high energy, kind hearts, and cultural harmony, I found Carnaval to be nothing short of a four day celebration overflowing with inspiration.

 With infinite love,

The Frohemian

(The photos in this post were taken by me and my amazingly talented friend Cez)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Taste of Green Corn

I returned from Easter holiday vacation with a couple of surprises. 
  • Solid internet connection
  •  Access to my blog
Since my move, the internet has been pretty tricky and I have had difficulty accessing my blog page. There has been so much that I’ve wanted to share about my travels so hopefully I can pull up some fond memories from my journal and share a relived experience with you lovelies. But now, I want to share with you my most recent adventure.

During Easter holiday, I spent time in a “tourist” town relatively untraveled by natives and quite unknown to foreigners. The town is called Milho Verde and it lies in center of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Following the reaction of several of my friends, I didn’t really know what to expect from this “country, antiquated, nature-town”, as it was more or less described to me. Surprisingly, from the moment I turned onto the rugged dirt roads, said goodbye to my phone service and internet access, it turned out to be nothing I’d expected and everything I’d hoped.

My days were spent hiking, wandering the natural terrain full of rivers, cliffs, and an abundance of beautiful rushing waterfalls. After hours of hiking I would recuperate in the natural pools and munch on the most delicious vegetarian pastels made by some of the local children. It was so liberating to trek shirtless, shorts less, and often barefoot in search of my own private waterhole that I could bask in without noise pollution, interruptions, or the natural discomforts of sharing a desirably personal space with unfamiliar people.

Although Milho Verde was the perfect destination for self reflection, it did not completely suppress my lingering social side. My nights were spent making friends from all over Brazil, singing loudly in broken Portuguese, and dancing until my legs gave out. I moved to the sounds of the most soulful samba singer. Her head full of dark curls bounced and swayed to the rhythm of her guitar strings as she sang with a voice smoother than pudim de leite condensado. The town seemed to come alive at night with joyous people spilling out of the bar and moving the dance floor to the dirt ridden streets. There were no rules and no dress code. People arrived in everything from swimwear to dashikis eager to build bonds without care and without judgment.

When I grew tired of the bar scene I escaped into the silent night where I sat atop the nearby mountain and got lost beneath the galaxy. There wasn’t heavy lighting for miles and miles and that was apparent in the night sky. I have never witnessed so many planets, shooting stars and constellations. I thought I knew the sky from various nights of camping in my backyard as a child but this southern sea of stars told a completely different story. Lightening struck off in the distance all around me but there didn’t appear to be a single cloud in the sky and no sign of rain. It was truly wondrous.

On Sunday morning, I opened my window and was greeted by more than the fresh morning air. There was a startled donkey that quickly fled the scene followed by a herd of cattle being directed by a young man in a buggy. Meanwhile, in the backyard, there was a tree full of monkeys, stealthy swiping bananas, and roosters from the neighbor’s yard that had become somewhat of a natural alarm clock since I arrived.

I began my Sunday with warm, homemade sweetbread from the local baker and went to the Sunday market to buy and sell some goods. The market, like the town, was full of amazing artisans. I discovered beautiful crochet and macramé pieces and my taste buds were reawakened by the different flavors of jams and marmalades. I befriended some of the vendors around me as we ate, sold art, and listened to live bossa nova.

My time in Milho Verde was nothing short of lovely and it demonstrated that exploration in the face of uncertainty can lead to beautiful results. The sites were memorable, the cuisines were delectable, and the people were amicable. Milho Verde is a rustic town built on peace and tranquility and the town dwellers openly accept all those who wish to respect and participate in the harmony that they have maintained. I encourage all those daring enough to escape the beaten path of Brazil’s hot spots to get a taste of the delicious Milho Verde.

With infinite love,
The Frohemian

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Art Crush: Hassan Hajjaj

There are times when I develop what I like to call “visual obsessions” with work from various artists. I don’t know what it is about certain artwork that just makes my eyes water from excitement, followed by temporary light-headedness and a brief shortage of breath. I get this urge to want to cover every inch of my room in the work that I just spent hours upon days looking at through a computer screen wishing there was a way to capture the images in their original essence and stash them where I can always view their true beauty. Is that just extraordinarily over-the-top and abnormal? Probably; welcome to my life. Anyway, my most recent visual obsession has been with artist Hassan Hajjaj. Hajjaj’s art is yet another beautiful product of a perfect cultural mash-up.  

Hassan Hajjaj is an African artist who moved from Morocco to London during his adolescent years. He first began to display his artistic talents through the world of interior design and fashion. This eventually led him to purchase his first camera and experiment on a new type of canvas without any formal education in the arts or photography.  Using his bi-cultural background, Hajjaj often creates art that depicts both African and European cultures. He produces images that display symbols of cultural traditions as well as stereotypical depictions of Islamic culture, the orient, and other non-western cultures. He then juxtaposes these images with symbols from pop-culture and Western trademarks such as Coca-Cola cans. Hajjaj uses the power of popular brands such as Coca-Cola as a way of bridging two cultures together with a highly recognizable product. A wide variety of viewers can relate to his artwork through these familiar images though the artwork speaks to the viewers in different ways. Through a mix of contrasting hues, clashing patterns, and slightly humorous cultural juxtapositions, Hajjaj has found a way to incorporate his experiences, background, and cultural-influences in an art form that questions the true meaning of “cultural identity” and “the other”.

 With infinite love,
The Frohemian