Monday, March 28, 2016

Activities of Daily Living and Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro

Sunset over Ipanema
Activities of daily living transcend time and place.  Even in the glorious city of Rio de Janeiro, you still need to get up, get dressed (even if only in a pair of shorts!), eat something – preferably healthy – and set about the business of your day.  For most people and certainly for most of my adult life, that business was a paying (and sometimes non-paying) job.  Retired folks like me benefit from having one or more projects – often volunteer work or cultural pursuits.  But inevitably, whether your major activities are for pay or pleasure, there are always errands to run and chores to be done. 

My first day in Rio was like that.  My husband and I arrived in this wonderful city early last week.  By the time we got to our short-term rental apartment, it was almost 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  The sun was shining brightly.  We couldn’t resist leaving immediately to walk to the nearby beach, the world famous Ipanema to watch the sun set over the Dois Irmãos, the “Two Brothers”.  The Dois Irmãos are two large granite morros or promontories that mark the western end of the Ipanema and Leblon beaches.  Watching the sun set over these gigantic rocks is a popular, early evening pastime in Rio – we joined a crowd of folks to witness a spectacular display.

Laundry Drying
The next morning after my husband went to work, I set about my chores.  First I did the laundry, washing dirty clothes by hand in the big sink in the kitchen.  There is no washing machine in our small urban apartment but it was fun, even relaxing to splash around in the cold soapy water.  I hung the clothes on a rack on the small terrace and went in search of a salon to get a much-needed manicure and pedicure.  The tropical climate is hard on old feet. Retirement gratefully gives me time to do these things.  On my way back to our apartment I discovered a farmer’s market nearby.  I went home to get grocery bags and returned to buy fresh food.  First I went to the neighborhood supermarket.  We needed some basics, mortadella (despite its fat content, I consider this Italian-style bologna a basic in Brazil), milk, yogurt, shampoo and such.   The supermarket was ridiculously crowded for a weekday early afternoon.  I asked the woman serving me in the deli “What’s up?”  She laughed and told me it was a holiday week.  Of course I realized it was the week of Easter – a much bigger holiday here in Brazil than in my homeland of the United States.   Along with many other “idosos”, i.e., senior citizens, I waited in line for the cashier.  Our line was long, stretching back beyond the beginning of the grocery aisles but the other lines were even longer.  

Chocolate eggs for sale
The woman in front of me and I started chatting about everyday things, buying chocolate eggs for Easter, the warm weather, the difficult politics of Brazil and what not.  Although I haven’t gained fluency in Portuguese I find that I can converse at least enough for casual chitchat.  My new found friend insisted that I use her “preferred client” card so that I could get any discounts available.  She made me, a part time resident, feel very welcome.

Fresh garlic for sale
After finishing at the supermarket, I walked to the farmer’s market to buy fresh fish, fruits and vegetables.  I am always amazed at the variety of fruits available in Brazil – pineapple, mangoes, papayas, persimmons, melons, oranges, limes, and all sorts of lovely fruit that we don’t get in the northern hemisphere.  In addition to fruit I bought garlic, shrimp, arugula, tomatoes, onions, watercress and basil.  After I’d purchased everything I wanted, my big shopping bag was full and I had several plastic bags hanging from my arms.  I am stronger than when I arrived in Brazil after two months of consistent workouts at the excellent gym in Piracicaba and regular swimming, walking and yoga in the Amazon.  Nevertheless, by the time I got back to my apartment building I thought my arms would drop off. 

I felt contented as I put the groceries away.  There is a pleasure in the consistent, simple practices of daily living – washing dirty clothes, hanging them up to dry, procuring food, cooking, doing the dishes and cleaning the house.  While these practices are often shared across cultures, in many parts of the world, some activities of daily living are unfairly difficult due to lack of safety or freedom or financial capacity.  Too often there isn’t adequate food or potable water.

Sometimes it is necessary to get help with the activities of daily life – and, if at all possible, to pay a living wage for such help.  As a busy working mother I often needed to hire help.  So did my own mother both in the prime of her life and as she aged and lost the ability to care for herself.  My mother was a socialist at heart, her English parents were both active in the labor movements of the early twentieth century.  She imparted some of her philosophy to me – particularly the importance of equality and treating all people with respect.  In today’s world, some of these values are being forgotten, perhaps even lost.  From my perspective, such loss undervalues us all.  If we forget our basic shared humanity, how will we solve the difficult problems that face all of us?  For me, the simple activities of daily living are reminders that all of us have similar needs. When I am living abroad, this recognition helps me connect with other people even if my language skills and cultural background are quite different.

The Entrance to the Imperial Palace
Over the Easter weekend my husband and I visited the city of Petrópolis with some friends from Rio.  Petrópolis is about 80 kilometers north of Rio and was the summer home to Brazil’s last emperor, Dom Pedro II.  The region is mountainous, with granite outcrops that rise high above the winding valleys, creating imposing escarpments around the city.  On our first day in Petrópolis we drove to the center of the town and walked along the river, past many striking palaces and 19th century mansions with wide porches and formal gardens.  At one end of the boulevard the Imperial Palace, now a cultural museum, sits above the river, surrounded by lovely grounds full of giant cedar trees.

The last emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, authorized a German born, naturalized Brazilian engineer, Júlio Frederico Koeler to plan and build the city in 1843.  At Dom Pedro II’s request, Koeler designed the city carefully, with a pleasing layout of cobblestone streets, praças and churches including a beautiful cathedral, São Pedro de Alcãntara.  This impressive building, with a delicate spire that dominates the end of the central boulevard, is the burial place of Dom Pedro II. 

São Pedro de Alcãntara Cathedral
Dom Pedro II was an enlightened and benevolent emperor.  Given the royal circumstances and the time in history of his birth, I doubt that he spent much time doing the laundry.  However, he was a very intelligent man – someone who I suspect would have been successful and productive regardless of when and into what circumstances he was born.  He was a highly disciplined, educated and tolerant man whose positive contributions to Brazil’s economic and cultural development and support of education are considerable.  During his reign, and largely as a result of his and his daughter's influence, slavery was abolished.  Despite being born into the monarchy, he lived simply and worked collaboratively to strengthen the Brazilian representative government and the country.

Beer Brewing!

Modern day Petrópolis is both a cultural and historical monument to this great man and an important commercial center for clothing manufacture in the state of Rio de Janeiro.  It is also home to the Bohemia Brewing Company and an extremely interesting beer museum.  We ended our visit to the pretty town with a visit to the museum – discovering much to my delight that the development of beer pre-dated the development of writing!  How delightful is that?

No comments:

Post a Comment