Original Post: July 31st, 2011
We started of the week visiting a public school where Prof. Fred teaches geography. He emphasized that the school was poor, and compared to the private high schools, I agree it was underfunded. However, just returning from a place where many children didn't have a proper classroom, resources, or trained professional teachers, the children of Bahia were doing pretty well. In the case of any urban school where kids are underprivileged and the school is underfunded, it will be difficult to teach. But in my opinion, it is not the funding that is the problem, its keeping the kids motivated to stay in school. Afterward, we visited a "favella" which turned out to be a lower middle class neighborhood. Some of the houses, while still being stacked close together, had swimming pools and satellite TV. There were nice cars in neatly built garages and even a very clean, modern public park. This made me realize that I have to change my understanding of poverty when I hear about it in class and see it for myself.
The highlight of my week had to be attending the Ballet Folklorio in the historic district, Pelerinho. The performance was an ode to the mix of African, indigenous, and latin culture in the form of dance. There was chanting, singing, and amazing dancing! I apologize for the lack of photos, none were allowed during the performance. Most of the performance was centered on the "orixas" (oh-re-sha). Dancers were dressed in each god or goddesses' traditional wear and took on the personality of their orixa. It was fascinating. There was also a section focused on the mixed martial art and dance capoeira. This fight/dance scene was worthy of comparison with action movies, only it was live! I really enjoyed this performance and hope to see it again, hopefully in the states. The company has taken the Ballet Folklorio to the US in the past, as well as Germany and France.
On Friday, the group traveled to a town city called Cachoeira. It is a historical town located on a river. From what little I gathered from the tour, it was important to the founding of Brasil by the Portuguese. We had lunch at a really nice farm and went to a hand-made cigar factory. I'm not much of a smoker, but from the tour, they were pretty high quality cigars and the aroma in the warehouse from the dried cigar leaves was rich.