Saturday, June 12, 2010

Brasilia, Brazil

Brasilia is weird. The people from Brasilia even say so. But that makes it a really interesting place to visit.

My host Jacqui picked me up with a few friends from the bus terminal at 9pm after my lovely 27 hour bus ride. We dropped my stuff off at her and her mom’s apartment, then headed out to meet some more of her friends for drinks close by.

Jacqui got a degree in history and works for the newspaper in Brasilia (she is the person that gives the writers facts when they need them), so she knows a ton about the history of Brasilia. Actually, there really isn’t much history, but what there is is pretty fascinating. Basically the president of Brazil created Brasilia from nothing in the late 1950s in a span of 41 months, and promptly moved the capital there. It was designed as a vision of the future. The main part of Brasilia is shaped like an airplane. There is a long shuttle , or body, that is 5 miles long or so, and two wings. Everything is compartmentalized. There is a ‘sector’ for hotels. A ‘sector’ for restaurants, a ‘sector’ for banks. Within sectors, there are ‘quadrants’ and ‘letters’ to designate locations. There are also ‘north’ and ‘south’ designations, at least for the wings of the plane. Within the plane, there are many apartment buildings. You might live in quadrant ‘102 B’. The architect of the city was Oscar Niemeyer, who was a communist. All of the apartment buildings are remarkably similar, with a 50s communist feel to them. Rectangular buildings on stilts with few windows and bleak colors. Depressing. Niemeyer also design many of the churches and government buildings which make Brasilia so famous for its modern architecture. One of the most famous is its main cathedral. It was really designed so that on the outside it does not look like a typical religious institution.

50s style communist architecture:

The antenna tower building:

Can't remember what building this is:

The cathedral:

This is another Niemeyer Cathedral. The weirdest church I have ever seen. The seats are not really inside. There are murals in bright colors inside. The outside is a mosaic of tiles with airplanes on each tile:

Inside this cathedral:

It was interesting hearing about Brasilia from Jacqui and her friends. They are really proud to be from here. They are all between 20 and 30, and consider themselves to be the second generation of Brasilia. However, the first generation that was pretty much all born in Brasilia. They consider themselves to be the ones shaping the future of Brasilia. The oldest person that was born in Brasila is only 51! When the city was created, the government offered land to get people to move here. So the parents of all of Jaquis friends are all from many different places in Brazil. That lead to a smorgasborg of accents and foods. I found it really funny that Jacqui said she travelled to other cities in Brazil when she was younger and thought they were all weird, then at some point she realized that it really was Brasilia that was just plain weird.

So with the way the city was planned, you pretty much need a car to get everywhere. They have busses as well that go the length of the wings and the body of the plane. I hear there is even a subway, but I haven’t seen it. You really can’t just walk from place to place. Suprisingly, though, the traffic is not horrible. One funny observation is that the drivers here are the most sane in all South American cities that I have seen (and there are A LOT of crazy drivers). If you step into a sidewalk, you can put your hand up and the drivers have to stop! I had Jacqui test this theory for me, and it worked!

Having Jacqui test the fact tha tyou can put your hand out and cars will stop:

Anyways, it is an UNESCO heritage site, the youngest city in the world to have the designation. That means they can’t change anything within the plane. There are tons of suburbs outside the airplane, so I think the total population in the area is 3.5 million.

Friday, the first day of world cup, for some reason about half of Brasilia had the day off. I’m pretty sure half of the country of Brazil probably did as well, they are crazy about world cup to the millionth power (when Brazil plays, the country WILL shut down). Jacqui invited a friend over, who had a girl who just arrived from South Africa with her. So, everyone thinks she is absolutely nuts for leaving South Africa the day the world cup started. The four of us watched the South Africa vs. Mexico game.

Me, Jacqui, and Natasha (from South Africa)

After that, we headed out to lunch for north Brazilian food. Basically: white rice, pinto beans, mandioca, ground falafel, and slightly dried sliced meat. Delicious. I thought mandioca was cursed and the worst food after my experience in Paraguay, but this mandioca was delicious. They cook it in a pressure cooker for over 2 hours so it is nice and soft. Then they have this special butter they put over it. We also had this slab of some specific type of Brazilian cheese Yum.



That’s it for now from Brasilia.

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