Olá e Bem-vinda Galera! (Hello and Welcome Everyone!)

27 May, 2011 § Leave a comment

Me stirring moqueca de camarão (coconut milk and shrimp-based stew). Photo courtesy of Kinga Rutynowski.

So here’s my story. I am a Gringa (foreign woman) who adores Brazil. I love the music, the weather, the food, the history, the overall culture, and the smiles of the people of our continental American neighbor far to the South. I was mesmerized the first time I stepped foot on Brazilian soil and eventually lived there for over a year and a half as a result. I plan to return there over the course of my life. Two more tidbits of information about myself are that 1) culture in all its forms is fascinating to me (which is why I am an undergraduate, double major in Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Popular Culture at the University of California, Berkeley), and 2) food is more than just sustenance for our bodies; it also feeds the soul and is the basis for so many of our human connections.

I am a talkative gal and an amateur photographer, so as a way showcase my snapshots and to appease my inner restlessness to discuss my passions for food, culture, and Brazil I started a blog (Life: With Rice and Beans) while I was living in that country in 2008 about the delights and debacles of Brazilian food from a foreigner’s point of view. When I returned to the United States and began my studies at UC Berkeley in 2009 I wanted to adjust my writing perspective to fit my new lifestyle. This led to my second blog The Eatable Life, which I still update today. As time passed and I was inspired by many of my classes at the university, I realized that I had a flair not only for the still image, but also for video production as well. I love telling stories and I discovered how the motion picture could bring a story to life in a uniquely vibrant and almost tangible way. Eventually in the Spring of 2011, I made my own short film called Saudade (“Longing/Nostalgia”) with two fellow students about food as a semiotic metaphor for community among a group of Brazilians living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and how they use it to hold on to their cultural heritage. We interviewed some Brazilian friends of mine, went grocery shopping at a Brazilian general store, and hosted a dinner that brought Brazilians together to reminisce about their shared food experiences and talk about how food equals culture to them as a group, even if they were strangers before the meal. I had my own impressions of Brazil and its cultural heritage, but I was intrigued to hear how people born in that country retain their memories of and relationships to their home despite living in a different nation and culture.

From left to right: Jamil Hellu, Darrin Martin, Júlia Clara Lourenço Roma, Patrick Vilhena, Katherine Manning, Kinga Rutynowski (holding video camera), and Nina Diatchenko (holding boom pole microphone).

I am now entering my last year at the university and like many overachiever students (especially ones that are a little older like myself and ready to get the show on the road), I will be completing an Honors Senior Thesis by May 2012 when I graduate. With the guidance and know-how of Dr. Ruth Tringham, Kwame Braun, and Dr. Michael Ashley I have decided to re-boot the original Saudade film as a solo project that will expand into more US cities and dig a little deeper into Brazilian cultural heritage. In less than a week I will set out from Berkeley, California (just across the Bay from San Francisco) and begin my cinematic journey in Austin, the lovely, perplexedly liberal capital city in the heart of Texas. From there it’s on to Cincinnati, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; parts of the Southwest (including Santa Fe and the Grand Canyon National Park); and back to San Francisco and Berkeley. Also, at least for the summer, I will be exclusively shooting all footage on my Verizon iPhone 4, so I will be treading new technological waters and reporting on all of the inevitable false steps along the way.

A creative way to wash off all the sand after a day at the beach (especially in those hard-to-reach places) in Salvador, Bahía, Brazil.

Well that’s all great and everything but why bother reading this blog? What does it have to do with my project, the global society at large, or your life? My intention is that you, dear reader, will be gratified if you are Brazilian and have nostalgia for your birthplace; educated on Brazilian culture if you know little-to-nothing about the country besides its Bossa Nova music, “dental floss” string bikinis, overcrowded cities, or rowdy football (soccer) players; and/or amused if you are a family member/personal friend of mine who is curious about what I spend all of my time doing at that fancy university! I hope to do the not-so-small feat of breaking down stereotypes along the way too. I want this blog to be an interactive forum between myself and the reader as a place to share ideas/suggestions for the blog, recipes, cultural idiosyncrasies, tech hints, whatever! As I travel I would ideally love to have people give me insider information on Brazilian places of interest that I should visit when I am in an unfamiliar town. I could use some advice people!

So stick around over the next year and a half, follow my (mis)adventures through Yankee-Doodle-Dandy Land as I search out how Brazilians stay connected to their roots here, and let your own voices be heard in the much-appreciated comments section of this blog. For more info on me, my work, my neuroses, and my fantastic dog Miles, check out my links on the right side of this site and my blog pages on the left side where you can find my photographs, a map  and archives of my travel route, a bulletin board, and a link to the original Saudade movie. Enjoy!


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