Glimpses of places and people, trees and textiles found while traveling from May to December 2013. Coming your way in small wavelets from time to time.

Month: December, 2013

¡Que Viva Havana!

image Havana is alive and change is in the air. Here is a street scene in the old city. Buildings are being renovated everywhere you go, tourists stroll, vendors hawk wares, old cars vie for tourist trade as taxis, and sections of the city are ready for you to come visit. Do it soon!
image. Semester at Sea made a big splash with its visit to Cuba. It was on their national news, the convoy of busses had police escort everywhere, and people lined the malacon to look at the ship. It was news for sure. So, here are a few glimpses of our three days in town. It had been nine years since the program last visited Cuba. So, as an official welcome, the SAS students climbed the 88 stairs to enter the University of Havana–a symbolic event to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”image We were lucky to meet up with Lily who is finishing her Phd. in history at the University of Havana. We met her in St. Paul a few years ago when she was a visiting scholar. She invited us to her home for dinner and was a wonderful host for a lovely evening. Here she is with her husband, Arturo, and daughter Rachel. image We took a ‘Hemingway tour’ and visited his favorite fishing village and also his home in the hills outside of the city–airy rooms, tile floors, and apart from all the trophy animal heads on nearly every wall, a delightful place from the 1930’s full of his belongings as well as his aura.
Here are a few of those old cars: image And here we are with a statue of a beloved character from the streets of Havana in the 1960’s and 70’s, misunderstood in his time but now cast in bronze.image
All in all, Havana ended this voyage well. Students met students and they talked and danced together. Spending time with Lily gave us a taste of how hard day to day life is on the current double currency. On our own we enjoyed the old buildings which are beautiful and elegant even as they are also dilapidated. A few restored hotels with Art Deco reception areas, marble columns and stairways, and tall ceilings invite you to come visit before it all changes. Havana is alive with the music and spirit that it is known for, but change is in the air. May it thrive in its own way. ¡Que viva Havana y Cuba! image This blog ends Waves2You for now as we set sail for Florida tomorrow and then in just a few more days it is back to St. Paul and home. Thanks for reading along. When the grass is too long under our feet again, I’ll let you know.
Bye for now.


image A wonderful find in Salvador which will end my posts on this intriguing city was MAFRO, the Museu Afro-Brasileiro. It houses artifacts from both Africa and Brazil and when we visited it had a special exhibit of costumes from the Congo. But the most memorable section of the museum houses twenty-six panels of carved cedar that depict orixas–the gods and goddesses still alive and well in Bahia. They live on in the lives of many of the descendants of slaves. Each image has powers over aspects of nature and also human strengths or traits. They symbolize a day, a color, a quality to be wished for or avoided. The intricacies of these orixas will take a long time to unravel, so in the moment there I focused on the amazing craftsmanship of the artist who had carved the panels. Hector Julio Paride Bernabo lived with, studied and was taken in as a member of a candomble. His name became Carybe, and above is his depiction of Oxalufan–old and wise, the orixa of procreation; a strong god in his youth, this image shows him in his old age. Below him was this image of a snail.
Other images of the goddess of the sea, of hunters, of the rainbow which represents wealth, and so many more works covered the four walls. image
I went back to this room in the MAFRO twice to admire the craftsmanship and to soak up the images, the myths and the magic: Baba-Abaola, Exu, Ogun, Oxossi, Omulu, Nan, Ibualama, Logun Ede; such other worldly names. If you get to Salvador de Bahia, the work of Carybe is a must see.


image Balangandas catch your eye right away amid the tourist stuff that you have seen before. Something very new and intriguing. A beautiful shop in Salvador, owned by a Frenchman who has lived in Brazil for 30 years, has copies of balangandas in both fake silver and real silver. Originally, a slave woman would begin to create one by receiving a silver chain as a necklace. Then she would get an arc with two globes at each end, one representing Africa and the other Brazil. Then various charms would be added representing fruits in Brazil, a traditional musical instrument, a wooden arm and hand with the thumb between index and middle finger to represent luck, a gourd attached to a long handle used by men on horseback to scoop up water to drink from a stream, and more fruits. As it got heavier and the silver added up she usually wore the ornament pinned to her waistband.

Balangandas come from the time before slaves were freed by law. When a woman had gathered enough charms she could buy her freedom. And, how does she acquire these charms, you may ask? Well, they are given to her by her master for ‘favors given’. The story even goes so far as to say that slave women competed with each other for more beautiful balangandas with more charms of better quality silver.

Once free, these same women became the cooks of the street who celebrate their annual holiday on 25 November. While the story these pins tell is of a double slavery of sorts, you cannot help but admire the workmanship and beauty of the balangandas. It took years for a slave woman to gather enough charms, but they were a path to freedom. image

November 25 in Salvador, Bahia

image Salvador, Brazil is a huge city of several million people. Its reputation for violence persists. Yet, arriving early it floated on the sea, and beckoned. Not like Rio with its green hills, but it looked intriguing. Our short stay took us into the old “Upper City” of colonial buildings, restored and painted and full of pleasant shops, restaurants and small government run museums. Police presence and warnings kept us in a fairly small area that is safe. It is surrounded by favelas, those amazing housing complexes that are embedded in Brazilian cities rather than only on the outskirts. Here is a glimpse of the Upper City.
image We arrived on November 25 when there is an annual festival to celebrate the women of Bahia–the women who when freed from slavery knew how to cook, so in order to survive put their kitchens in the street and sold food. They are still there, and the food is uniquely theirs. As we approached the ‘slave church’ at noon, the festival procession was just entering. The church was crowded, and there was singing in call and response, the sounds of cymbals and drums, swaying bodies, incense, the tray of food being offered for a blessing; a mix of Catholic and ‘Candomble’, the religion the Yoruba brought with them from West Africa. Here is how it felt up close. I found the necklaces, bracelets, and rings wonderful.image
More beads and rings.
And the food…
Outside the church is the gate, people kept arriving and tied ribbons to make wishes. The ribbons’ colors have meaning, and you tie three knots for three wishes, and also for the Trinity. The Catholic and Candomble messages, the ceremonies, the traditions and the people are all tied together.
What luck to be there on the one day of the year this happens.

Who Was That Masked…

In transit between Rio and Salvador, Brazil we enjoyed two days at sea with beautiful weather and these wonderful visitors who followed the ship.  They dove for the flying fish stirred up by the prow and then circled, banked, flew up the side of the ship to eye level and almost arms reach; and, then they did it again and again, and again.  What a show!  I could have watched for hours, and almost did. So, here you have: the Masked Booby [sula dactylatra]. Black head=juvenile. White head=adult.

imageHere comes another one…image and another…image A few of us known to be outside on deck whenever possible spent happy, happy minutes at the rail watching these beauties soar and dive. How lucky!

Rio! Otro Abrazo

image Waves2You was so happy to see all these waves in the mosaic sidewalks that cover almost all of Rio’s main streets. Like a hug for your feet. But, the best was spending day two in Rio with Marcio, a Gustavus grad we have known for 30 years! He talked us through the city–story after story mixed with history and sights, sounds and the sun. He clearly loves his home town and being with him, we did too.image From Sugar Loaf to the dramatic Municipal Theatre and the gold-gilded church of San Francisco we navigated the busy streets and the heat. The theatre was recently renovated and the lobby outshone the rest with onyx, marble, stained glass, flair, grandeur and a mix of Old and New World tastes.image
With Marcio with visited Copacabana beach, imagethe national library, the lovely Confeitaria Colombo with its Belgian mirrors from ceiling to floor and its old style waiters. We ate several small bites of chicken in pastry, spinach in pastry, fish croquette; stylish and delicious treats.imageAnother treat on the streets of Rio is the Brazilian “churrao”. This vendor knew us when we lined up for the second time in one day!image Sitting in traffic is a reality in Rio but with Marcio it hardly mattered. We enjoyed a long, leisurely day with an old friend. What better? It was another hug from Rio.image