You know how sometimes you meet the best people right as you’re leaving someplace? When you move every two years, this unfortunately is a rather common occurrence, and of course it happened to me again when leaving DC. Elise Hanna, who I first heard about when I found her recap of the FIND workshop (for the non-photographers, that’s the whole return to film movement going on) and then was lucky enough to meet her in person. She’s warm, funny, and has just the right appetite for adventure that makes for a kindred spirit in the State Department life. And do I need to add that she’s an amazing photographer? On film, digital, iphone (what is it btw that makes film photographers the best iphone photographers?) and I imagine on any medium of capturing the moment she picks up.
Diplo-Spouse (or other): Diplo-spouse, photographer, mama
describe your current post: Sun, sky, caipirinhas
Brasilia: The weather, hands down.
There is a saying in Brazil, “O sol nasceu pra todos,” “The sun rises each day
for everyone,” young and old, rich and poor, flora and fauna. It colors the
impossibly large Brasilia sky and the fruits of its faithful days are abundant
in the trees and in the hearts of Brazilians. There are very few, if any, dreary
days here. Even the “rainy season” which occurs from November to February is
mostly sunny, unbelievably green and only sees passing tropical (albeit
plentiful) rains. The dry season is just that, dry, but the sun still shines,
every day and the temperatures are warm and mild.
town for the weekend. What does the weekend look like?
on the lake, Lago Paranoá, to watch the sun set, then a late dinner at Porcão, a
traditional “all-you-can-eat” Brazilian churrascaria. Served rodizio-style by rounding gauchos,
slices of meat, chicken, sausage and chicken hearts are shaved from sizzling
slabs onto your plate with huge knives until you beg for mercy. Brazilians are gracious
with time, and you’ll be given enough to miraculously recover for bananas
flambé and café to finish out the night.
outside (or to our three small children!) followed (quickly) by cafezinho, a
small, strong and incredibly sweet Brazilian coffee, fresh mango from one of
the four trees in our backyard, and hot pão de queijo. After café de manha, we’d make our way to the
second-largest waterfall in Brazil, Salto do Itiquira.
through the town of Formosa and beneath the flight paths of toucans, the hike
to the falls is easy, on well-paved paths and bridges. The afternoon would be
spent hiking, picnicking and swimming at the base of the falls.
on the drive home is Dom Fernando. A traditional, rural, farm-to-table restaurant,
served in true Brazilian, buffet style in ceramic pots over a fire-warmed
hearth, including feijoada, rice, fried plantains, salad, fruit, dolce de
leite, ice cold beer (no really, its practically frozen), house made cachaça for
sipping, and a sweet caramel and cinnamon-infused milk: Leite Queimado. The kids
are invited to take complimentary horseback rides and play on the adjacent playground.
Babies are brought baskets, softened with blankets, tableside for napping during
a long lunch. Dinner upon our return home would be light after a large almoço,
(“lunch”) accompanied of course by sunset and caipirinhas.
Brasilia’s huge city park often likened to New York City’s Central Park.
Activities in the park range from jogging, fute volle, rollerblading, go karts,
playgrounds and open air massage tents with massages for R$40, the equivalent
of about $20US. After a good workout (or massage), we’d hit up one of the many
vendors selling agua de coco fresh from the coconut, açai or a freshly-cut quarter of a
watermelon served simply with a plastic knife and fork and watch the capoeira
roda. The nearby market, Torre de TV, sells local crafts, art, furniture and
leather goods. Sunday afternoons are typically spent firing up our own
Brasilia, you must try? If you are
in Brasilia, you must try to tour some of Brasilia’s unique architecture, designed
by Brazil’s prized Oscar Niemeyer.
sources for learning about the culture or things to do/experience while you’re
at your post city? Our go-to sources are always the locals and a good sense
of adventure. We’ve found some of best
places here in Brasilia and anywhere we travel by observing the places that are
most flourishing with locals.
about living in Brasilia? The lack
of access to shopping…or rather shopping as we know it in America. While there
are a handful of beautiful and well stocked malls, and even a few European
clothing boutiques and beauty chains, most of these items, including anything
for children, are so highly priced that they are nearly untouchable (read: 8 to
9 times the price we pay in the US) and local chains are often provide poor
quality for the price. I have discovered wonderful feiras, that happen on the
weekends here, that and are filled with booths of independent designers and
boutiques. These feiras have been my go-to in a pinch or for local wares.
post? Our biggest adventure at post was the pregnancy and birth of our
third child. I learned things about the
Brazilian culture, so wonderful and different from the experiences that I had
Stateside, that I may not have taken away otherwise. To see how a culture dotes
upon a woman with child and the birth of a new life is truly an expat
experience you don’t get at every post. To work with a midwife in a country
that is attempting to reclaim natural births and to be part of the movement to out-of
hospital births, which yield C-section rates in the 90th percentile
was truly an empowering experience.
advice someone ever gave you about the diplomatic life? “There isn’t
anywhere that you can’t survive for two years.” We have been very lucky to have
not only survived, but to have thrived in Brasilia.
uniform? Day: Short shorts, a blouse
or tank, pretty sandals or Havianas. Night: skinny jeans or brightly-patterned
silk pants, heels and a dainty top. When in Brazil…
over to dinner on a Saturday night, what’s on the menu? Fish Tacos. Mexican food is hard, if not
impossible to come by in Brasilia so we like to treat our guests to something
we love and miss, but something that could only be enhanced by the abundant fruits
and local fish of the area. We stumbled upon a favorite white, flaky fish,
Robalo that works beautifully. We’d top them with fresh mango salsa, avocado
cream sauce, and serve them with fresh-lime margaritas with limes harvested
from our backyard.
you were far from home? The first time I set foot in our backyard. The
things that I typically took for granted, the sounds of birds, bugs, squirrels
and dirt, were so curiously different. Squirrels were replaced by tiny monkeys,
lady-bugs by amazing beetles and brown earth, by bright red.
important thing about recreating your home at post? Surrounding ourselves
with the things that we love and no matter where that is, the space becomes
home. This includes our favorite photos and artwork collected throughout our
travels, our bed, mattress and bedding and most loved kitchen appliances and
utensils. A good nights sleep and a good meal should never be underestimated!
can’t live without at a post?
- Cameras and plenty of film
- Good high-speed Internet
- Red wine
Three things always
in your refrigerator?
- Açai (ok this is better in the freezer)
- Agua de coco, the Brazilian prescription
for most all that ails you
in your handbag?
- A change purse of Reis for parking attendants
- Keihls lip balm, good for a variety of needs,
especially during the dry season
- Mentos (more popular in Brazil than even in the
you couldn’t live without, but had to? Starbucks. Not even one store in the
city of Brasilia. Although, for a couple hundred Reis and an hour and a half, I
may or may not have flown to Rio once or twice for a Frappuccino.
assignment? Why? We’ve already been posted to Chennai, India, a place I’ve
always dreamed of visiting, but if I’m being honest Paris.
someone had told you before arriving? 1. You simply must come with at least
a base of Portuguese. Although it is changing now and there are more people
learning to speak English because of the upcoming Olympic Games and World Cup,
when we arrived two years ago, virtually no one spoke English.
want to leave.