Meeting the Family

We arrived in South Africa to the welcoming hugs of Logan’s home stay family. Lindi and Phil live in Mamelodi, about thirty minutes from Pretoria, with their three kids, Collen, Canetia, and Tess.

We washed dished with Collen, a university student bursting with conversation and big ideas. We giggled with sassy Tess as she posed for the camera and ran around the backyard during a fierce game of rake baseball. We picked out nail polish colors with Canetia and watched her patience with Roman, the lovingly needy new puppy. 

Lindi made us tea with milk before we enjoyed a homemade chicken dinner, served with colorful vegetable dishes - carrot slaw, mashed squash, potatoes with green beans, sauteed onions and spinach, and grated cold beets. 

Logan surprised everyone when he pulled out a slightly-melted tub of caramel sea salt gelato that he brought for the family. He just shrugged off the absurdity of bringing a frozen dessert on an 18 hour flight, and the well-traveled gelato was served up.

By: Rebecca Guerriero

Photos by: Rebecca Guerriero and Logan Chadde

Sao Paulo - The Markets, the Buildings

After a tour of the market in Sao Paulo - full of gaping fish, hanging limbs of fresh meat, racks of spices, mountains of colorful fruit, and the whirl of blenders creating fruity concoctions for Saturday morning hangovers - we toured a new building of Mario Navarro's in Sao Paulo. He designed minimalist, low-middle income housing, which is a new concept here. Even newer is the limited number of parking spaces his complex provides. His aim is to inspire people to ride bikes, take the metro, ride the bus, or walk. He has three or four new buildings in the works.

Besides the clean lines and modern feel, you can see why his buildings are hot on the market - the views of the city are breathtaking.

-Rebecca Guerriero 

Photos: Logan Chadde

Welcome to Sao Paulo

We arrived in Sao Paulo after a fast, sleepy flight from Brasilia. Marcio, our host, greeted us with his super-sized white van and very big smile. We all piled in and arrived to one of the best meals we have had here in Brazil. 

He served us feijoada, a traditional beans and sausage dish. Accompanied by rice, broiled chicken, potatoes, and salad, the meal was full of flavor and comfort that only a home-cooked meal can offer. Most of our Brazilian culinary experiences had centered around cheese and bread and cheese and bread, and we were beginning to feel a bit fried. 

Marcio is a great cook and an even more generous host. He opened his entire home to us in Morumbi, a neighborhood in Sao Paulo. It is a rather upscale area, but the favelas are one block away. The first night, we couldn’t tell if there were gunshots, fireworks, or both, going off behind the house. Marcio reassured us that the noises were celebratory because of the soccer games, and in the morning, we stumbled upon kids playing pick-up soccer in the street - a common sight in this soccer-obsessed country.

We spent a good amount of time getting to know Vanda, the housekeeper, Gato the cat, and Marcio’s three kids Gigi, Zeze, and Giugiu. All were entertaining and captivating in their own way, and we are so happy to have had the chance to live a little bit of life in Sao Paulo. 

Catedral Metropolitana de Brasilia 

The first stop on our was tour was a very modern cathedral with sloping walls, murals of stained glass, and sculpted angels hanging above the gawkers. It was pretty impressive and cool, but seemed to have been dropped from the sky in the middle of nowhere (as is all of Brasilia). It was the first monument built in Brasilia and designed by Oscar Niemeyer. 

Still, a great testament to all the amazingly weird architecture that makes up Brasilia. After two days, it all seemed normal to us. 

Photos: Rebecca Guerriero

Our Only Option

We wanted to see Brasilia. Maybe not all of it, maybe not most of it. But we thought we’d explore, walk around, stumble upon new things. 

Not in this town. Our only option (and a fairly good one) was a tour bus that stopped at three sites - the Cathedral, the flag, and the President’s Palace - and drove through the major streets of the city. No metros. No sidewalks. Just roads. 

Logan’s tilt shift lense captures perfectly the bizarre architecture and the weird feeling that the city evokes. It’s as if someone developed half a city in post-apocalyptic design and forget to make it livable with sidewalks, green spaces, apartments, even grocery stores.

This is Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

Photos: Logan Chadde 

Mayors and protests by the lake 

We arrived in Brasilia to a modern hotel with a large pool, dock on the lake, and flowers overflowing everywhere. This little paradise was The Royal Tulip, a hotel right next to the presidential palace and host of the “Marcha a Brasilia em Defesa Dos Municipios” - basically a very large convening of 3,500 mayors from municipalities across Brazil to work on policy, speak with the National Congress, and pressure the government to work better and for the smaller cities. 

The translation means “A March on Brasil in Defense of the Municipalities,” signifying the power that the mayors have as a collective group. All types of issues were to be discussed - health, education, urban development, transportation, economic stimulus, you name it. Everything was in Portuguese, so we took in the parade of suits, high-heels, and very important looking people.

The President made a “surprise” show on the second day, which caused quite the chaos. Everyone was vying to get in, but the main assembly area could not hold the nearly 4,000 in number crowd. This lead to protests in the hotel entrance and very angry looking people muttering about. We found the Google lounge played on the slow wi-fi instead - there was no way two American kids were going anywhere important that day.

Her speech was apparently very exciting - she gave a large sum of money to the municipalities to carry out different civil services, but the real spark of the conference came from talking to the staff and attendees.

Everyone was fired up about the protests and the potential change for Brazil. Pride and happiness lit up smiles on faces as they talked about the patriotism and excitement about the protests. Here in Brazil, it can be a very dangerous thing to speak out. Now, it’s happening, and the population is seeing the change that they demanded.

Photos: R. Guerriero 

Rio com Banana

Rio: Part One, Day Two….started with a slight epiphany of taste - acai juice with banana. Juice stands and shops mark the corners of nearly every street in Rio, and on the recommendation of a friend, Logan and I split the slurpy purple juice. It was incredible and tasted like nothing I have ever had before. The fruit is so vibrant in taste and color, it’s hard to imagine going back to Hiller’s when I get home. Guava, papaya, mango, acai, pineapple, and a plethora of other fruits that don’t quite translate into English.

We wandered the beach a bit, dipping our toes in. The water is freezing, but it is fall going on winter here. Sandcastles mark every block or so along the beach, intensely guarded by their artist. A lot of World Cup and Olympic themed castles, accompanied by busty mermaids or grinning dolphins. 

We interviewed all over the city - from the beach, to the university area, to federal buildings. This lent plenty of views of city infrastructure and the possibilites and problems of transit. Every conversations was sprinkled with talk of the World Cup, the Olympics, and most important of all for some in Rio, the Pope’s visit.

Photos: R. Guerriero

Welcome to Rio

Sunshine, beaches, mountains, coconuts, deep-fried bread, cheese, beer, caipirinhas, palm trees, and lots of “obrigadas”…our first day in Rio swept us into a quick and easy captivation with our surroundings. 

We toured bits of the city sipping on coconut water with Augusto, our host, and met Julianna, an entrepreneur who is working on connectivity projects throughout the city. The beaches were packed with people, playing volleyball, ping-pong, flying kites, tanning, or eating ears of roasted corn. Flip flops smacked around everywhere. 

Augusto introduced us to every bit of fried Brazilian goodness he could think of, from pao de queijo (cheese buns) to pastels (fried pastries filled with shrimp, meat, or cheese), washed down with cold beer and caipirinhas on the beach. 

It’s fall here, so after the sun set behind the giant statue of Jesus - our bedroom view - the evening cooled off to the most comfortable weather we’ve experienced yet. We managed to find some pizza for dinner in this meat-heavy town. Every time we asked about vegetables, they look at us and reply, “There is none here.” 

Beijing, 80 Stories High

After a week of interviewing, biking, and exploring, we ended our trip to Beijing 80 stories above the city. We toasted our trip with views of the city every which way, as far as the eye could see. 

Beijing is massive, a “city-province,” and our view truly showed the sprawl of skyscrapers. We were in the heart of the CBD (central business district), where each building tried to surpass the next in height and glamour. 

Pretty impressive, and we left feeling pretty good about the city - until we got in our cab. The ride back to our hotel was barely 3km, and the ride took over 45 minutes, thanks to rush hour traffic and road closings to make way for the governor and his brigade of cars. 

We left in the evening for the Beijing airport, a very modern and very large building. Twenty four hours later, we arrived safely in Rio after layovers in Addis Ababa and Lome.

Biking around Beijing

After an evening full of rain and thunder, we woke up to a beautiful sunny Beijing. We could see blue. We could see clouds. We could see buildings across the street that we did not know existed.

It was a whole new city.

We decided to explore one of the famous hutong areas, surrounded by lakes and a drum and a bell tower. We took the metro, per usual, and then stumbled upon a small convenience store stall surrounded by bikes. Turns out this was a bike rental shop. The bikes cost 5RMB per hour (that’s less than one dollar), so off we went - and discovered the best way to get around Beijing.

Traffic in Beijing is crazy. There’s a “me first” attitude, and pedestrians stack up last. Walking around can be more dangerous/exciting/startling than riding a bike or a motorcycle - you have to be on your guard all the time. Thankfully, and sometimes annoyingly, drivers are quick to horn or bell at you incessantly until you move. If you’re not used to this, it takes quite a few honks for you to realize that you are impeding traffic.

Bikes in Beijing are great. The bike lanes are as big as a car lane, and you can zoom quickly and fairly easily in, around, and with traffic. The rental bikes had us riding along the edge the lake, exploring the drum and bell tower areas, and zipping back along the road back to the metro - all under two hours.

The bikes fit easily in the hutongs (little alley neighborhoods) and are much faster than cars and being on foot. The only problems? If your bike doesn’t have a bell, then you better be quick to react (mine didn’t, resulting in a lot of dodging of obstacles), and the air quality can make breathing on bikes difficulty. Thankfully, the air that day was a happy “moderate” on the air quality scale, compared to the “very unhealthy” we had seen the whole week previously. 

Biking in Beijing can seem intimidating. Traffic does what it wants, moves fast, and tailgates hard.

But riding a bike is faster, more convenient, and actually feels much safer than it appears, thanks to the devoted bike space and the population of bikers that act as sort of a safety net around you.