I turned the corner, and Behold!

 

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Ethnicities          Eduardo Kobra

Tomorrow. Americans go to the polls.

I have seriously examined my part in this: what is my opinion worth?, does it matter?, what’s the use?  Do we really need one more opinion on this already beaten-to-death circus?

Damn straight we do!

6 years of living, and working, and growing a business in a foreign country has convinced me that my opinion matters.

I am continually asked: “WHAT is a gringo like YOU doing in a country like THIS?”

Damn good question!

My latest response: “I needed to learn humility.”

In July, when I saw this awe-inspiring mural for the first time, now in the Guiness Book of Records as the largest in the world, I was on my way to Olympic volunteer duty.  I was literally stopped in my tracks as I watched the solitary Kobra on an early Saturday morning putting the final touches on his masterpiece of the five indigenous faces. I mangaged to quietly get his attention for a second for this photo. Not another soul around.

korba

I was truly humbled. My self-importance evaporated on the spot, once again.

Red, White and Blue….or Green and Yellow…..our planet is full of a diversity that staggers the mind….politics is the least of our problems.

Do like Kobra. Go out and create anything that affirms ” We Are One!”

Politicians come and go. We, the People, remain.

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Eulogy for My Sister

Mary Susan Fahey 1961 - 2015

Mary Susan Fahey
1961 – 2015

We have come from far and wide to honor David and Mary Susan today:

Syracuse, Albany, New York City, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and yours truly, from Rio de Janeiro.  

These two people we honor have obviously meant so much to so many.

My family is grateful for your attendance.

My task here is to distill into a few brief, memorable moments the woman I knew….

My only sister.

She was known by many names during her 54 years amongst us:

Boots,    Sue,    Mary Susan,    my personal favorite,  M.S.,  and several others that I cannot possibly mention here.

Now that I have had over a year since her unexpected death in July 2015 to reflect on how she should best be remembered, I have come up with one word.

This one word reverberates throughout all of my memories of Mary Susan.

TENACIOUS.

So – just what does it mean?

Tenacious:

Persistent,  Stubborn,  Strong-willed,  Determined,  Adamant

Growing up with three older brothers, and then a baby brother several years later, certainly had to have been a trial.  Diagnosed with Epilepsy before she entered kindergarten, and the lifelong health issues attached to that, Mary Susan learned to fight like a trooper,

and overcome whatever life so unkindly hurled at her.

So,  what did she do with all this injustice?  She developed the quality I most treasure: her wicked sense of humor. Allow me to illustrate….

After one of her many horrific, highly-invasive brain surgeries at the world-renowned NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, where she so freely offered herself up for so many years of research,

there she was in hospital pajamas and a thin robe, her entire head wrapped in three inches of bandages…

With a quick stop at the Deli on 3rd Avenue, I brought her favorite rare roast-beef sandwich with creamy Russian dressing, a big bag of sour cream and onion chips, along with two buckets of steaming coffee, with half-and half, if you please…

Sitting on the edge of her bed with red lipstick perfectly applied, she took one look at the real food, one look at me, and barked:

“C’mon!”

“But, honey, where do you think you’re going in that get-up, it’s definitely not one of your better looks…”

“We’re going down for a smoke.  Follow me!” as she stormed towards the elevator, breezing down the unit like a force of nature as the head nurse protested,

“That’s why we put a nicotine patch on!”

With an eye-roll and a smirk, I trailed in the wake….

And there we were, in the courtyard, in the freezing cold…sucking on her stash of Newport Hundreds, with her running, catty commentary on all the other patients and hospital staff.

“This isn’t such a good idea in your condition, honey, c’mon, let’s go upstairs and eat…..”

And with those piercing blue eyes, she deadpanned:

“What’re they gonna do, kick me out!”

She did have a point there.

Tenacious.

A woman of great taste, an Iona College graduate, sober for over twenty years, running her own house-painting business, a voracious, existential appetite, and a lifelong guinea pig for medical science, Mary Susan always looked forward:

to a better life, an inclusive society for the fragile, and she committed:

heart, mind, body, and soul to anything that would improve her life…. our lives.

And she never once complained about her raw deal.

As the Rio2016 Paralympics Games are currently going on in my adopted hometown, I think about Mary Susan…a lifelong athlete and sports fan, how she would be watching, and cheering the athletes’ accomplishments.  I’d fire up my skype…and we would compare notes.

I miss our chats, our raucous laughter, our in-your-face conversations.

And, as I would always say in our sign-off:

“Love ya, honey!”

And then would come that sweet, gentle response from my baby sister that I always looked forward to:

“Love you, too, Kev”.

  • Delivered at the Memorial Service on Saturday, September 17, 2016 at All Saints Church in Syracuse, NY, our childhood parish, for Mary Susan and David, my youngest brother, who unexpectedly passed away at the age of 45 in June 2016. 

 

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Between a rock and a hard place.

 

Ipanema from Arpoador

Ipanema from Arpoador

Nothing better than Arpoador on a cloudy summer Sunday morning, no need for sunblock. Climbing to the top…Ipanema and Vidigal all in one glance!  When you recover from the view, the natural reaction is to look down and watch where you walk…..and lo and behold!  Life goes on.  It comes out of the cracks in the rocks. The cactus, the flowers, the bees, the honey!  Nothing lies down and surrenders.  “Yes, I am here.  And I am blossoming. Glad you noticed!”  Magical when you’re with someone you can share it with..and back in Copacabana…bloco de rua!  10!

No honey without the sting

 

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Taking the Plunge!

Caminho dos Pescadores – Sunday, December 2, 9:30a.m.

I spent many a contemplative hour on Fisherman’s Walk when I took the plunge into Rio twenty-three months ago.  It looks out from Leme over Copacabana up to Corcovado.   It is never the same.  The waves crash on the rocks, daring swimmers dive, the surfers circle, and the people fish.  Now, it is the midpoint of my evening and weekend walks.  Just like that…I live here.

And I haven’t stopped taking plunges since.

You can’t soar if you don’t jump……

Diver on Fisherman's Walk

I believe I can soar…

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Two (Bald) Heads Are Better Than One…

Looking Into My Dreams (Awilda), by Spanish artist Jaume Plansa

The Floating Head in Botofogo is one of the Art Occupies the City: Other Ideas for Rio international installations.  In Scandanavian legend, Awilda refers to the daughter of a 5th century king who runs off to become a female pirate.  With Pão de Açucar in the background, it really creates quite an impact as you ride from downtown to South Zone and see the head from all angles.

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Not REALLY ever lost…

The Glass Labyrinth in Cinelandia: Other Ideas for Rio

This is the glass labyrinth by the American artist, Robert Morris, which is part of the 2nd annual ArtRio (and the RiO anagram: Other ideas for Rio) project opening this week.  I work in the yellow building to the left and can look down on all the people walking through.  You actually do get lost in the glass.  But like life, you are never really lost – even when it feels like there is no way out.

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Winter Fruit

Winter Fruit at My Sunday Farmer’s Market

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The View From Above…

A Terra Vista do Céu/Earth From the Air

The 12 Rio Photos Among the 118 Others from Around the Globe

What an incredible experience to arrive to this beautiful photography exhibition every day right outside the entrance to my office in Cinelandia.  The square is packed with people from all over the world day and night…strolling and marveling…truly a sight to behold.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand started this project 20 years ago during the ECO ’92 summit in Brazil and has brought the exhibition to Rio for the first time. It has been to 110 cities and I had forgotten that I saw an earlier version 10 years ago in London.  On the base of each photograph is an eye-opening, sourced factoid, such as:

– More than 6,000 languages spoken in the world risk extinction; 96% are spoken by only 4% of the world’s population

– If each and every person on the planet lived as a North American, more than 4 planets would be necessary to provide us with our needs. On the other hand, if we all lived as an African, only 2/3 of the Earth would be used

– The number of air passengers doubled from 1992-2009

– On January 1, 1992 there were 160 United Nations member states. Today there are 193

– The production of meat is responsible for an estimated 18-25% of greenhouse gas emissions

– The number of international tourists increased 90% between 1995-2010

– The energy consumption per inhabitant in developed countries is about 12 times higher than the consumption of inhabitants in developing countries. This difference has not eveloved in 20 years

These are only 7 of the 130 amazing and startling facts which have provided my students, colleagues and me with endless discussion topics relating to cultural, local, international and language points.

I highly recommend you visit Yann’s site where you can also get thousands of free downloadable photographs of his work from around the globe. It is worth the visit.

In life imitating art, I get to “look down” at all of this from our classrooms.  I am no longer missing my dishwasher…the appliance, that is!

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Fat Cat, Skinny Dog

As Steve Jobs so eloquently said, “Sometimes life’s gonna hit you in the head with a brick!”

Down with you on that one, Steve.

Some days Rio treats me like this fat cat buddy I met in Sao Conrado, where you can feel the hang gliders land right over your head on that beautiful beach, if you dare.  Sometimes I’m just another skinny favela dog, on my re-con for food….

“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”

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Back from Staycation…

The year has whizzed by….

I have returned to work, with a promotion, after my first Brazilian vacation.  I stayed in Rio to continue my discovery.  I don’t remember the last time I had this much time off… I believe it was when I was a student. Brazilians work…really hard. But, then they get these long, lazy, lovely vacations.

I took my own advice that I so easily offer to my students and jumped into my second language, headfirst and “in context”. I even went on a walking tour of Downtown (Centro) Colonial Rio, where I walk daily from class to class, with a professor/historian conducted in Portuguese. Not bad…I understood 80%! I continue my fascination with Brazil’s history…rich and complex.  My reading skills have improved tremendously. Am now reading 1822 by Laurentino Gomes on my Kindle! (Portuguese edition, if you please) Fire up the translator…

Autumn has arrived. Back to work! Back to school!

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