While it’s easy to keep my attention on my work, the people and the wonderful weather (no need to kid yourselves, it’s nearly perfect) there is another aspect of my life here that I truly appreciate. There’s no use being mysterious and poetic because chances are you already read the title. This here is an Ode to Brasilia. So let me start with a brief summary of the stuff you may already know.
Brasilia is the capital of Brazil. It was built 50 years ago. It took 4 (or 5, let’s not quote me) years to build and was commissioned and inaugurated by the same president (JK-just don’t remember what his whole name was). It’s closer to the center of the country for safety and to keep Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo from arguing over the rights. It’s basic layout is the shape of a plane. Since it was a planned city, everything is laid out in a very orderly manner. The streets don’t have “names” but rather the city is made up of sectors. This is frustrating when you’re first here, but eventually becomes very useful, because even if you’ve never been somewhere, if you know it’s in 701, you can find it with no problem (unlike Maple Street which could be just about anywhere). The general designer of the city was Lucio Costa and the main architect was Oscar Niemeyer (I’ve put up an example of his creative work). Now, the city was planned for a certain number of people, the current population is approximately 4X the anticipated amount. Yup, that means traffic. Oh, and there’s a lake.
Now here are a few interesting things that aren’t necessarily on Wikipedia. Because of all the extra people, Brasilia has a lot of “satellite cities”, one of which is Aguas Claras. Now Aguas Claras is interesting to me because it consists solely of apartment buildings, and more interestingly there is a MINIMUM height difference. No buildings there are allowed to be under 8 stories high. It makse this city stand out (literally, haha) on the horizon. Unfortunately for the residents there are no main roads going into it though, only local, which makes it crazy long to get to during rush hour.
There are also radars ALL OVER the main roads here tracking speed (and they take pictures and mail tickets because it’s not like police give out tickets). A wonderful idea in theory but here’s the reality: so you’re speeding on down the road until there’s a harsh breaking for about 3 seconds, then speeding up again. And yes, I’ve seen police cars preforming the same ritual. But what can I say, drivers here are… um… let’s call them “brave”
Last but not least, here’s what I find most fascinating. The airplane thing has a major road in the middle of each “axis.” On Sundays from 6am to 6pm, the “axis” (axie? I don’t know, multiple ones!) in the heart of the city are closed completely. While this seems strange at first, I eventually got someone to explain for me. It’s closed so that those who would like to go running or bike riding can use the street for their exercise. Imagine! “Let’s close down a 10 mile strip of 94 in downtown Chicago for 12 hours so that people can go play!” At some point during my year here, I plan to go exercise on the road, just to say I did. Even if it means waking up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning! Now, the trick will be to find someone who will go with me…
So that’s a quick glimpse of this city I know call “home away from mom.” It really is a sizeable city but it never feels too terribly big. What a lovely place. So I’m not overwhelmed like in New York or always frustrated like in Chicago.
Oh, in other news… I had a wonderful “International Women’s Day” This is pretty much the greatest holiday ever (after Fat Tuesday that is). It’s all the great things of Valentines Day PLUS Mothers Day but you don’t need to have a boyfriend OR kids! I got flowers from men I don’t know (don’t worry, they were given to all women, not just me) and chocolates and strawberry cheesecakes from my bosses! I got a lovely card which read “Women are a gift from God to humanity,” and all over town there are signs about how blessed men are to have women. So true! So if you don’t celebrate it yet, get yourself ready for March 8, 2011, because you all have women that you’re lucky to have in your life.