Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brasiiiiiil, Brasiiiiiil: Campinas, São Paulo

WHOA! Ok, I know. It's been forever. I left everyone hanging in Lima, my bad. It's been busy, what can I say. And adjusting to the normal non-touring life has been tricky....but I'll address that in my post-tour post (no pun). Plus....I had to keep you guys intrigued!!! Talk about a cliffhanger.

Here goes....

Everyone who really REALLY knows me is familiar with my obsession with Brazil. It all started when I was a little girl listening to Milton Nascimento, watching Brazilian films, taking Capoeira lessons and voluntarily enrolling in Portuguese lessons at the age of 14, in Chile. The obsession was exacerbated when I visited my "adopted motherland" in May of 2008 with my parents. I remember it was a very difficult time in my life, I had just broken up with who I thought was the love of my life, and I felt like the world was ending. And then I went to Brazil. And I was cured. It was such a strangely amazing feeling, like I was returning home after years of absence. That's exactly how I felt when I left Lima--like I was finally going home. Sounds dramatic but it's true.

Leaving Lima was tough, for logistical reasons. There were 2 flights leaving, airline policies (particularly TAM) were making our lives miserable with regards to large instruments , particularly the double basses. And to make matters worse, one of our musicians lost his English horn, which was borrowed from the Oberlin Conservatory. Major screw up. But David, my favorite boss, and I were able to sort through these issues and we were on our way.

There was an incident that really pissed me off involving employee hierarchy...all staff members got to fly business class except for me. I guess they didn't have enough for all of us, but why me, because I'm an intern? Though I was the first one up in the morning prepping for the trip....really? Looking back it's not a big deal, but in the moment it really felt like it was a slap in the face. Having worked at a major institution like the Kennedy Center, I was accustomed to enjoying employee rights and being treated as an equal, always. If all of us couldn't be in business class then we would have ALL flown economy. Or one of the managers would have "taken one for the team". In that moment I really didn't feel like I was part of a team at all. So this episode was a REAL eye opening experience...taught me a lot about how small organizations operate. But as soon as I was in my seat I didn't care. I was on my way to BRASIL.

We arrived in São Paulo in the evening...more incidents. Two of our musicians got sick and had to been seen by an airport nurse. We waited for a while and were on our way to Campinas, a small city about an hour from SP.

We were staying at the Mercure in Campinas, a nice hotel. It was weird because Emma and I realized it really was a"hotel city". Hotels were everywhere...and not much else!!! Almost like a city built especially for people to stop, sleep and leave...or so it seemed when we arrived.

Emma and I went to dinner at the hotel and drank a caipirinha to celebrate her "almost birthday". It was delicious! Then I went back to my room and my tour roomie and friend, Ana, and was KNOCKED OUT.

The next day we were going to rehearsal, but Maria (our librarian) needed us to Fedex some sheet music to California...this made it necessary for Emma and I to stay at the hotel...PERFECT!!!! What a great way to celebrate her birthday! We sent the package and did some work in the AM. Then we treated ourselves to an AMAZING lunch at the hotel....scrumptious desserts and all....and then we went for a "walk" that turned into a shopping spree.

*Sidenote: I'm really happy I waited to write this. Writing all of this in retrospect is so much more's like I'm living it all over again :)

I couldn't believe how vibrant this little town was! Music on the streets, vendors, people, lots and lots and lots of beauty supply stores (hello, DAD!!!). Lots of ice cream parlors (I would learn about those later). Just so much fun!!!! I needed a pair of jeans, and found some "levanta bum bum" jeans that really did the job. It literally said "levanta bum bum (butt lift)" on the tag. And Emma found an AMAZING bridesmaid's dress at a random little store....we each ended up buying so much!!! We were in heaven! Every other country we had been in had either really expensive clothes (especially Colombia) or really cheap and "chent" looking clothes (esp. Quito). And we were warned that Brasil was expensive but it wasn't that bad! Then we had some coffee and got ready for the crazy night that awaited...

Ana, Emma and I, the three musketeers, had a really nice dinner. David joined us which was fun. Then we decided to go to the supermarket with our Colombian conductor, Juan Felipe Molano....we laughed because his shopping bags looked like a woman's: placemats, spices, chocolates (they were gifts for his wife). Meanwhile, ours was just bottles of vodka, cachaça and mixers....LOL.

We had a CRAZY party in one of the rooms, and it was a blast. Birthday girl was put to bed early was all I will say. I can't believe we had rehearsal and concert the next day!!! That's how it is on tour. Lot's of partying and lots of work the next day but it doesn't matter.

The next couple of days we stayed in Campinas and had to concerts in Paulinia (a small nearby city), one outdoor and one indoor. Nothing very outstanding or bad about these concerts, except it was the first time the orchestra played the Beethoven Violin Concerto with our new invited soloist (Ilya Gringolts-Russian violinist). It was BEAUTIFUL. At this point the orchestra is capable of learning these pieces really quickly and mastering them with no problem. Amazing.

During these days the beef and alcohol consumption has SKYROCKETED. We are going to churrascarias (Brazilian steakhouses) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And at these restaurants there is always a complimentary multi-gallon apparatus filled with cachaça. Please note how on of them sports the label "Viagra". People were obviously elated about the free alcohol. About the steak and endless sides we were happy, but started getting kind of tired of the heavy food. CAN I HAVE A SALAD PLEASE????!!!

Then we went to São Paulo. Huge city, mega venue, incredible concert, gigantic disappointment. Let me explain. We stayed at this nice hotel in a very urban area. Ana and I were so happy!!! We really are city girls....the small town charm is nice and all, but being in the middle of the hustle and bustle is priceless. Unfortunately, we couldn't even enjoy! We arrived, had lunch, went to the concert, which went until REALLY late, and left early the next morning. I think management didn't want us in SP for too long because it's so big, full of traffic and dangerous. Whatever. I kind of wish we could have been there for one more day.

The concert was great but the audience was small and snobbish. The orchestra was really is a bummer to prep and play for an unenthusiastic audience...and to see so many empty seats from the stage. But it's ok....the concerts that would follow would make up for it.

What was really cool about this concert was the venue....which was INSIDE of a MAJOR shopping mall. It was the equivalent of playing in a mall movie theater. Only it was a real concert hall, velvet seats and all. Of course, this gave me the chance to walk around the mall :) I shopped for gifts, had great iced coffee and bought some fierce shoes. And a very special bonding moment with Emma. She had a rough day...won't get into the details, but it was very tough. She was a breaking point. And we talked about life for hours, went to the "hipermercado" (which is a mega supermarket), bought gifts, carbs, cookies....walked around the mall drinking beer...cried, laughed...had a moment. It was so needed. Then we had really bad pizza at a mall restaurant and were on our way to the hotel.

What will follow is our tour through three small cities in Brasil: Poços de Caldas, Riberão Preto and Araraquara. I can't wait to tell you about that. And Rio.

I promise to continue THIS WEEK. My mom can vouch for me because she's right here, encouraging me and reading every bit.


*Once again, props to Emma for photographing some of these moments*

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