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:

alex_green

Happy Birthday Toronto!

Toronto

The city of Toronto is celebrating its 175th birthday today. Despite what our friends in Montreal might think, Toronto is a great city.

Check this great article on the city’s past anniversaries for some great pictures and a bit of history. Wondering what Toronto is like? Watch Torontonians of all walks of life describe their city in 6 words. For a schedule of all the events marking this date, check the City of Toronto website.

Happy birthday to me!

This weekend we celebrated my birthday at Wushu with a few of our very good friends here in Barcelona. Paul, Wushu’s talented dessert chef, even made me a special cake and we spent an amazing four hours at the restaurant, enjoying the company, the many bottles of cava, and, of course, Brad’s amazing food.

friends

I had my favourite dish – the red curry with roasted duck (on the left) and next time I’ll try the laksa (on the right):

curry laksa

cake

There are more pictures on my flickr site. It was a very busy weekend, which included dinner at Wushu on friday night with other friends, shopping in Gracia on saturday morning for a lunch on sunday that Jackie and I were organizing, then dinner at Wushu again on saturday night and finally a big lunch on sunday, when I cooked a not-so-traditional Brazilian feijoada for friends. Tomorrow we catch the high speed train to Segovia. It’s probable that I won’t be accessing internet there so stay tuned for a report on the trip to Segovia some time next weekend!

Blog’s Birthday

In the midst of preparing papers for conferences, sitting in various committees, doing Iter work, and attempting to write my thesis, I completely forgot to mark this blog’s second birthday. Its aim was rather simple, as the very first post indicates:

On 22 March 2006 hubby and I will be moving all our belongings into storage and making our way first to Montreal, then to Paris and finally to Barcelona where we will be living for a year. This blog is meant to document our trip(s) and allow us to keep in touch with friends and family in Canada, US, Brazil, and around the world. I’m looking forward to sharing all our photos, reviews of restaurants and bars, and remarks of the many places we’ll visit.

Slowly it grew as I started reading other blogs and became encouraged by them to talk about more than just the places I visited. The more politically-engaged blogs, such as Sindrome de Estocolmo or, to some extent, 42 and Bumblebee & Sweet Potato, led me to talk a bit more about issues that matter to me such as immigration, cross-cultural relations, health care and the environment. The numerous blogs written by people living in adopted countries, such as that of a Catalan in Austria or the US, Americans in Germany, Spain, or even Brazil, the numerous Brazilians in Canada, US, Spain, France, has made me fascinated by the experiences of people across cultures. It is hard to articulate exactly what it is about the process of moving to a new country that fascinates me. Perhaps the mix of wonder, surprise and recognition as people start building bridges between their culture and the culture they have chosen to inhabit. The recognition that the other is not so foreign after all.

Of course, the blogs I read are particularly open-minded and positive, not surprisingly reflecting the tone of my own ramblings here, and thus not necessarily representative of most immigrant or expat experience. But this blog may be many things but it doesn’t claim or wishes to be anything too structured, serious, academic, or scientific. It is basically the space where I can leave the depths of my academic life and be light, often airy, and simply engage in conversation with the many wonderful people I have met here. It is also a space where I can share my passion for people, photography and food. That people I have never met have found it worth reading and some have even found it worthy of awards, is a never-ending source of surprise and delight. Thank you all so much for reading, sharing your thoughts, and allowing me into your lives.

There are many other blogs I read that I haven’t cited, I hope you don’t mind. I’ll be updating the list of links on the side bar shortly to reflect more accurately what is on my bloglines rss-reader.