Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July 30-Heaven and hell in Heaven

Big day on campus. At 9:30 Prof. Anna Beatrice Simon, picked us up to go to UFBA (Universidade Federal da Bahia). Anna was a contact Michele made through a colleague who had given a workshop here some years ago. Michele was scheduled to present a lecture on some of her own graphic art and her research on the history of American Black Graphic Designers. Anna spoke decent English, so we tried to trade languages in our conversation in the car. She is quite ebullient and perpetually animated. I assumed my position and shoot pictures from the backseat as we listen to Anna describe her view of Bahia, her doctoral work researching the history jewelry design by Brazilian slaves and her collective of designers creating jewelry from recycled PET plastics. We also discussed the nature of her department and her hopes for Michele's lecture. We arrived at the school to see what looked like a sorority hazing. Two bright young students greeted us, and escorted us to the lecture hall. Unfortunately, it took almost an hour to get the computers to work together so that the Powerpoint, etc could be connected. The room was filled with students from all levels of graphic design, their professors and the department chair. One of Michele's colleagues, Paulo Souza acted as translator for her. Once it began Michele scored a big hit. She introduced her beauty products line indicating that the concept, execution and packaging were all created by her. The meat of the presentation dealt with her design history project. For most of the students and the professors it became not just a discussion of the realities and contributions of Black Graphic Designers, but issues of the color line, miscegenation, segregation and politics of the last 100 years. This initiated a volatile discussion of their own attitudes on domestic race relations and perceptions of color based on skin tonality. At this moment the professors were more engaged than their young students, since they were clearly sensitized to issues of race and color in ways that the students appeared to be naive or more idealistic. With too much chutzpah, I interjected my thoughts into the dialogue as discussion escalated. In the end, I felt that we had just begun to discuss the heart of the matter and draw references to between the issues of design and race. This was a moment where I quickly saw the difficulty of working with a translator when the translator is not well versed in the subject matter. This is not a negative reflection on Paulo, just a comment on the essential nature of effective communication across culture and life experience.
The presentation and discussion ran over the allotted time so we did not have a moment to stop and eat lunch with the design staff. We came back home, and I prepared a simple meal of lentil soup, cucumber & tomato soup,
Queijo Minas and Pao de milho. I decided to take this time to address my immediate concerns going forward.
So by now you're getting the gist, something is wrong in computer land. I have spent a few days now, using my rudimentary knowledge to troubleshoot the situation. At Michele's behest, I even mad a Skype call to Tracy Collins in Bklyn and we brainstormed it out. His fixes though good did not solve the dilemma. So, I resorted to calling Microsoft, Lenovo and Trend Micro Virus Protection Software. 7 hours later, boy do I love Skype now. If you don't have it, get it. Once, I made the initial call overseas at $0.21/minute as opposed to $1.99, I was dialed into 800 numbers, so everything that way was cool. In the end, I learned that my hardware was ok, my MS office suite was a trial version, shit!; and allegedly the firewall that my Virus Software was throwing up wouldn't be a factor once the connection was up; "Why don't I try my ISP?" Arggh.
So here I am, needing a computer, needing internet and not needing a lost day in a beautiful place, especially one with no resolution. Finally, I dialed back to Alain, who gave me his tech's number. Alain, is the stuff of spy novels and Graham Greene exPat stories. He has a number and a name for everything. When I asked about changing money he gave me the lowdown. fine. Then 10 minutes later, he called and told me that he had a friend who could change large amounts for a good rate, in my home (rented condo); better rates than the banks. But,....I needed to change a minimum of $500 and preferably 1G. Ok, how many slices in that pie? But, I had already seen how this is a place of anything is possible, sorta, for a price. Or, if you don't want to it, it can get done by someone else down the food chain.
Back to my tech story. I had wrung my hands, beat my chest, cooled out and then given up. let's go to the beach. We had a nice swim got a simple lunch of grilled corvina, fejaio frandinha, (black eyed peas), rice farofa, Siri and Salad and mineral water of course. I finished with a cafezinho, and we were off to change some money. We needed to find the Citibank, since at this point we had few American dollars left. Previously, we had been going to Money Exchange Centers. At Citibank and HSBC we could be able to use the ATM to access our U.S. accounts. We found it, got our money, did some more food shopping and took it all back in the apartment.
I guess I should give some backstory on Glenn and Joe's place. Smartly, they decided after 9-11 to create an out for themselves. They had been here before and were able find a place under construction and picked one of the spaces on the top, 18th floor. It is a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom flat with a living/ding rm, terrace, washing machine indoor clothes line, WIFI/Cable and microwave. Wall to wall stone tile, predominately white leather furnishings, artificial flowers which seemed out of context in the tropics.The building has 2 small pools, a sauna, exercise room, community room, garage and small chapel. Much more bang for my buck than I had expected, with spectacular views of the Bay, (Bahia do Todos Santos).
Back to the story. Eneida, Danny's friend had suggested that we come to an opening at ACBEU ( ). We had also received a call from Giovanna, a friend of Ana's, a local teacher and installation artist who had been a past receipent of Sacatar Grant, who was planning to come to the opening. As it turned out, August is the month dedicated to citywide photo exhibitions. This particular show was focusing on masking traditions that visually recalled blackface imagery albeit with white greasepaint and not black. Collectively the portraits reflected a sense of passion, grace and joy. We met a few folks from the local community of artists and creative types. I had forgotten to describe myself to Giovanna, but she found us anyway. It seems that Ana had taken care of that piece. Giovanna turned out to be our local angel. She has a classic beauty, recalling Botticelli's women to me. She had good spunk and was a lovely ambassador, guide and running buddy. We made plans to meet again later that week to go to MAM (Museo de Arte Moderno) for their weekly winter outdoor music series. We said goodnight and walked down the street to a hotel (Hotel Do Bahia [?]) for a simple dinner. We had a poopoo platter of stiksnacks, which seemed to be the same dough as the beiju wrapped around a variety of fillings and cut into isoceles triangles, fried and served with sweet diping sauces, (hoisin, tropical fruits and reduced balsamic), Hearts of Palm, Cashew and Crab salad with (crabstick-the first I had seen of this ingredient) with green leaf lettuce and a citrus soy vinaigrette that drowned out the hearts of palm. We shared an entree of grilled vermelho with rice, farofa and beans (?). I had two glasses of a Chilean Cab that were quite good, though served intentionally from the refrigerator. We took the bus home and chilled. That night, I began to feel a little achy.

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