Last weekend, Pachin invited me to join him on a weekend trip, to visit his nephew for his birthday festa. His nephew, Artur, was turning four years old, and his family was celebrating with a festa grande.
The trip began by walking up the rua to the bus stop, catching the city bus, and heading to the downtown bus station. As I have mentioned earlier, riding the BH bus is essentially a rollercoaster ride. (We usually sit in the back, too, which doesn’t help.) The route meanders and zig-zags through various bairros on side ruas that are steep, pothole-laden, and brick-surface. Hitting potholes or speedbumps at great velocity, one becomes airborne rather frequently.
The ride also involves the bus rolling backwards down the hill to allow another bus or car to pass on tight corners; these moments cause my heart to climb into my throat, as my mind congers up various aftermath scenarios of our potential crash. If you are trying to picture this in your mind, be sure to sprinkle in various scooter drivers, pedestrians with babies, stray dogs, and children running after tennis balls to the scene, up close to the bus. It takes at least three times as long to get to the same location by bus as it does car, due the route and these colorful factors, but I often feel a sense of accomplishment (a euphoria combined with exhaustion) once I reach our destination. But then again, no one else seems to bat an eyelash, so likely it’s just me who’s unaccustomed to the trip.
In contrast, the bus to Conselheiro-Lafaiete was one of those cush cruisers complete with velour reclining seats and even a banheiro. We purchased snacks at the station, styling enough to enjoy some tasty treats on the journey out of the enormous city and into the semi-wilderness of rolling green hills, bright-red waters, tropical scenery, small towns, and the like. Sadly, we did not escape the rain on this trip. As we climbed elevation slightly, it got cooler and mistier, reminding me a bit of Seattleland.
Once we arrived at the casa de familia de Artur, we were surrounded by great company and of course, delicious homemade foods. Those I visited in Conselheiro-Lafaiete live in very beautiful old homes. The one I stayed in is a ‘shotgun’ design, in that it is long and narrow with a main path straight through the casa. Yet this shotgun layout was different than any I’d seen, and decorated with Catholic-themed antiques. One cool element was a most exquisite most antique sink of green-black glaze with floral decor, and porcelain white handles with rose painted flowers.
The family was warm and friendly towards me, so I felt right at home. One man, named Yolando, asked me if I could understand what he and the others were saying in Portuguese, and at that particular moment, I could, so I added to the conversation. Well, he was so impressed that from that moment on, he defended and even boasted about my comprehension abilities, although in actuality it had been more of a lucky moment (which the others seemed to gather). Yolando also enjoyed bursting out some basic English phrases to the amusement of his family. “How are you? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!” He was quite entertaining.
Another man, Geraldo, tended to the family jardim, both edible and ornamental, and had an amazing collection of birds. His work in the jardim yielded many incredible salads prepared and presented in giant concentric rings of goodness. He also kept some adorable rabbits, so he operated a mini-ecosystem of sorts.
Artur’s mother, Carolina, lived in another lovely casa a few blocks away. This casa had such lovely multi-colored janelas, which cast unusual light into the room. Carolina works as a veterinarian, as Conselheiro-Lafaiete boasts a huge agricultural industry. She tends to the pigs, and loves her job, although she feels she works too much.
Whenever there was a break in the rain, Pachin and I would head out for walks to sightsee and get some exercise. Walking around in Conselheiro-Lafaiete, like BH, or Seattle, is a pretty good workout, due to all the steep hillsides. Conselheiro-Lafaiete even has a mini-Cristo statue, similar to the famous on in Rio.
Artur’s birthday party was perhaps the largest child’s party I have ever seen. The family had people come to set up an incredible display of balloons, racetracks, and a mural of a racecar. We hand-wrapped tiny candies with tissue paper, which reminded me of making the Festa Juninha trouser-flags with Professor Fenix and my capoeira grupo at the former Candeias Acadamia. The party was a hit: the food was outstanding, the sweets (also handmade) were delectable, and we drank so much cerveja that we had to have even more delivered.