May 31, 1975

Bridge over Paraíba river, inaugurated in 1905
Bridge over Paraíba river, inaugurated in 1905

In 1975 my parents lived in the city of Itajubá, in the mountainous region where Minas Gerais meets the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. My mother’s family lived on the other side of the mountain range, in the city of Resende, a pretty town in the valley of the Paraíba river that now has about 120,000 inhabitants. Living so close, when my parents got an invitation for a wedding in Resende on May 31 at 8 pm, they saw it as a good opportunity to visit the family, perhaps the last one before I was born since my mom was in her final month of pregnancy. I was born on May 31st at 6:40 pm. I guess they missed the wedding.

Although I never lived in Resende, I came to know the town well over the years as we would always spend vacations there at my grandparents’ house. The city began its history, in the 19th century, as a coffee-producing town reaching a population of about 18,000 in 1840s (9,000 of whom were slaves). Coffee-production in the region was a labour-intensive activity, which demanded constant clearing of new land, and with the end of slavery towards the end of the 19th century, it was no longer economically viable and coffee producers moved to the state of São Paulo where land offered better prospects. The local economy then switched to cattle as ranchers occupied the unproductive lands abandoned by the coffee producers. By the beginning of the 20th century Resende produced 1/3 of all the milk in the state of Rio and was the second largest producer of cheese and butter. Located by the main highway connecting São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and half way between the two, the city attracted other industries and in 1940 the only officer-training military academy moved to the city. My grandmother’s family was originally from Petrópolis, where she was born, a city high up in the mountains near Rio, and her father was attracted to Resende for its cattle potential. I’ve written about my grandmother and her family before.

I never liked Resende much when I was young but now, living as I do in Canada and having taken Alan and Canadian friends there on numerous occasions, I see the city with different eyes. Alan and I love the mountains and when we took our friend Geneviève to Brazil, we had to go to Itatiaia National Park, next door to Resende and where the second highest mountain in Brazil is located. The picture below was taken at over 2,500m high!

Moi, Alan and Gegê on top of the world
Moi, Alan and Gegê on top of the world

Since my grandmother passed away, my parents have been talking about moving so perhaps next trip might be the last we see Resende for a while.

As for today, we went to Kensington Market to enjoy Pedestrian Sunday.

and some pictures from the bottom of the chest:



Adam Lambert

I very seldom watch TV but at some point a friend sent me a video of Adam Lambert, who was competing on American Idol. He looked and acted much different from any other Idol competitor I had seen so I sort of supported him from a distance. I read a bit about the controversy around him – whether he could actually get far in that competition despite rumours he was gay, and the fact he wore nail polish or makeup. The controversy didn’t surprise me one bit but what got my attention is the way Adam responded to it. He refused to take the bait and simply kept them wondering by answering with statements such “I know who I am”. Everybody admits he is the most original talent to ever go through American Idol and even the ever cynic Simon Cowell couldn’t say anything negative about him all season. So he made it to the top two, but in the end the award went to Kris Allen and this is how Adam responded:

Quite the smart cookie.

Meeting another blogger


Carla lives in Rochester, NY, and is married to Ken, an American who loves Toronto and they often come for a visit. She reads my blog, I read her blog, but this is the first time we met face to face. We had brunch at Baldwin Village and as is the case with every single person I met through this blog, there was no end of conversation and before we realized four hours had gone by! Alan and I had a wonderful time.


I have heard many admit that they don’t have the energy (or the confidence) to cook themselves a meal they could find in a fine (often fancy) restaurant. They may do it for guests but not for themselves unless it is a special occasion. My problem is that I’m too impatient. I can’t wait until a special occasion presents itself to make something a little bit more elaborate for dinner. Sometimes it isn’t even that elaborate but it’s just something that you may eat at a French restaurant but not something you’d consider attempting. The truth is that I like nice food but as a graduate student, can’t really afford to eat at really nice places. So I’m left to trying to make it myself.

Tonight’s meal was inspired by some wild leeks I found at the market. At the fishmonger’s I came across some wild scallops and bought them without really knowing how I’d make them. Once I got home, a quick search at The Google got me some tasty suggestions: Wild Leek and Parsley Risotto and Pan-seared Scallops with Butter Herb sauce. The ingredients were simple enough and I had most of them at hand: scallops, parsley, a good white wine, vegetable stock, unsalted butter… The result?


The picture was terribly over-exposed but you get the idea. It was simply divine. Alan moaned throughout the meal and we speculated that something like this would probably cost about a hundred dollars for the two of us (with wine) at a nice restaurant. Oh, the wine was a nice Wolf Blass Sauvignon Blanc. Now we’re off for an ice cream…

Summer is in the air

I love the feeling of ebullient happiness that the arrival of a Canadian summer brings. When I first moved to Canada, people often asked me how could I trade my tropical homeland for the frozen north. I never had a good answer to that other than mumbling something about not liking the heat much, which always seemed to surprise them. And it’s true. I never felt comfortable in high heat with 90% humidity, the kind of muggy weather that characterized most of the places I lived in Brazil. So I expected I’d appreciate the winter, which I did and still do. Alan can vouch for the fact that I never complain about the winter – the only thing I don’t like about Toronto winters is that it isn’t cold enough to keep the snow from melting and the sky blue. But whatever I may feel about winter, the fact is that it is very long and the bare trees make it somewhat gloomy at times. I didn’t expect that the arrival of spring, with its light-green foliage and longer days, and finally summer, with its thick canopies, flowers, and sounds, would make me feel so excited and alive. To me, there’s nothing quite like a Canadian summer. No matter where you are in Canada, the level of energy and positive attitude is palpable, making it such a fun season. By the time the feeling wears off and I remember that I don’t actually like too much heat, the cooler air of fall arrives and the cycle begins anew…

Elevator dialogue

Alex enters the elevator eating a scoop of ice cream on a cone with a spoon. Older lady looks at her confused and before she can catch herelf, she blurts out: You are supposed to lick ice cream on a cone.

Alex: I know, I’m weird that way.

Lady, still confused: If you wanted to eat with a spoon, why didn’t you ask for a cup?

Alex, as she walks out: Because I like to eat the cone.


My year in Spain was definitely the best year of my life. Yet, towards the end, I really looked forward to coming  back to Canada. One of the things that made me uncomfortable in Europe was the negative rhetoric around the issues of immigration and multiculturalism. As a historian specialized in European history and a special interest on cross-cultural contact I understand well the history behind European attitudes towards the other but that doesn’t mean I accept or support them. My feelings about the issues were shaped by my own experiences as an immigrant to Canada and my life here. I’ve been meaning to write a more detailed post about it for quite a while but it looks like Haroon Siddiqui, a columnist from the Toronto Star, beat me to it and said most of what I’d have said so why not replicate it here?

Continue reading “Multiculturalism”