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Fly Brother Destinations

Outside the Colosseum
                                      Yeh, Bad Angle

There’s not very much one can do on a weekend in Rome if one doesn’t have one’s itinerary planned before one steps off the plane. I was one who hadn’t planned my itinerary in advance, so I missed out on a few of the Eternal City’s eternal attractions: the Papal capital of Vatican City, the shabbily romantic warrens of Trastevere, the noble and numerous Spanish Steps (though I may have walked down them). What I did get to experience, however, was the delightfully unsettling buzz of being in a space so dominated – physically – by a history so pervasive in Western culture that I felt at once connected with a place I’d only seen in books and on film. But despite the easy connection, I had much left to discover in the Italian capital.

I discovered that speaking Spanish with an improvised “Italian” accent gets one through most interactions on the street, and people are generally friendly, except for most older men working in service positions, who are all kinds of surly. I discovered that one’s obvious reluctance to dart across multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic pegs one squarely as a foreigner, if one’s looks and accent doesn’t give one away beforehand. I discovered that one can keep up with the renowned Roman sense of fashion with a dark gray blazer, jeans, button-down shirts, and black leather loafers – I got a few winks and smiles for the trouble. I discovered that the temperature need not be warm for Romans to gorge themselves (sexily) on gelato. I discovered the three-day Roma Pass, which was the absolute best 30 euros one could ever spend: free entry to two historical sites – including the gigantic Colosseum (Yowza! One really has no idea of its sheer size, name notwithstanding!), where one gets to skip all the other losers waiting in the hours-long line because they didn’t get the Roma Pass –, free and unlimited access to the public transportation system, and a rack of other deals and discounts one probably won’t end up using. I discovered that walking aimlessly through the streets of Rome, one feels suddenly urbane and energized, an exotic sophisticate surveying the latest great city to fall at one’s feet, until one’s feet begin to ache and one realizes that leather loafers were never meant for so much aimless walking.

Alas, my Roman holiday proved too short, though I managed to squeeze in a couple of brief, bright meet-ups with street art maven Jessica Stewart of RomePhotoBlog (at her book signing, no less!) and fly sister-slash-interior designer Arlene Gibbs, formerly of travel blog NYC/Caribbean Ragazza. Still, the City of Seven Hills holds many secrets, and once Rome has whispered in one’s ear, one is obliged to return and discover the others as well.

Take a look at some of the admittedly boring pictures of Roman architecture and other random stuff that I like. If you don’t like, then go to Rome and take your own pictures of the stuff you like!!!!! 😉

Ancient Tile Mural
Rosetta Stone
Coffee and a MapRoman Ruins
Vintage Airline Decals
Really Inside the Colosseum
Shadow and LightTeatro Metropolitano
Vespas Vespas Everywhere

Roman Architecture through the Ages Red Lights
Inside the Colosseum

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All the pieces of the puzzle.

Behold the itinerary* for my upcoming round-the-world jaunt (click image to enlarge), touching six continents and ending this November in Brazil. In the coming weeks, I’ll delve into the details of the planning, including ticket costs, accommodations, and activities. If you’re in any of the scheduled destinations during the schedule dates, let a Fly Brother know:

*subject to change.

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The last post of a 4-part series on my year-end jaunt through the Promised Land, aka Brazil.

After an early-morning flight back from Rio to São Paulo, then traipsing from one end of town to the other by bus and subway and car, with two suitcases, I finally said goodbye to my best buddy, Roberto, as he headed back to Colombia the night of January 3 for work the following Monday. Ro is my dog, my bro, my ace, and I’m glad and even blessed to have rocked the holidays with him in Brazil.
And then there was just me, for another week, settling into a city that has begun to claim me the way Washington did nine years ago, when I was just a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Senate intern first sampling the delectables and delights of Chocolate City. I won’t go into the details of who I stayed with or partied with or even interviewed with in São Paulo; but I want to impart, with probably as much futility as fitting the essence of New York into a snow globe of the Empire State Building, my love affair with Sampa.

Saudade (prounounced saoo-dah-jee) is a concept famous for lacking a literal translation in English, or even Spanish (soledad is it’s cousin, but not the same). Longing, desire, yearning, waiting, nostalgia, melancholy, wishful thinking, remembering, missing, solitude—all of these verbs and nouns approximate saudade, but in Portuguese, it’s all delivered in one word. It’s appropriate, given Brazil’s history. The founding populations of Brazil included Africans, torn from their homeland with the permanent desire of having that homeland and all its freedoms returned; Amerindians, who yearned for the time before the white man’s invasion; and the Portuguese, already themselves a complex ethnic mixture, longing for European ways and values in this vast, untamed Southern land. Add to the mix migration from the far corners of the country, and immigrants from Japan, the Mediterranean and Middle East, and Lusophone Africa, all searching for opportunities and better lives, and you have a society built on saudade. Brazilian music is the single most profound example of this sentiment: the driving urgency of samba, the wistful reflection of bossa nova, the raw romanticism of forro.

There is a song I love about Sampa’s sister/nemesis, Rio, called “Samba do Avião” (see me sing part of it, here):

Minha alma canta
Vejo o Rio de Janeiro
Estou morrendo de saudade
Rio, seu mar, praias sem fim
Rio, você que foi feito pra mim

My soul sings
I see Rio de Janeiro
I’m dying of saudade
Rio, your sea, beaches without end
Rio, you who were made for me

Rio was made for many people, Tom Jobim included, but not for me. São Paulo is my city: walking hurriedly with the crushing masses changing trains at the Estação da Luz, sure enough of my destination and bearings to maintain pace with the everyday commuters. Cruising in the shadow of the glass and concrete boxes that hem in Avenida Paulista like fat dominos, each crowned by a television or telephone antenna, helicopters buzzing around them in decreasingly concentric circles. Squeezed up against thousands of Paulistanos bouncing to near-religious rhythms under skyscrapers, stars, and freeway at the outdoor Vai-Vai samba school practices. Attending an art gallery opening, the cast party of Miss Saigon, and a tribal house music session all in the same evening, ringing in the dawn with hot chocolate and tomato-orange soup at Bela Paulista bakery before hitting the sack for some mid-morning shut-eye. I long to live there, yearn to add my own rhythm to the constant motion, noise, sway of South America’s largest city. Wishing to be another one in twenty million. And as I wrapped up my last week among the hum buzz din of unbridled urbanism, I was morrendo de saudade. I think it’s wired within me, this saudade. It’s what keeps me traveling—”the untold want” as Whitman put it.

But it’s also what makes me think that Sampa’s “The One.” Because my friends tell me I constantly talk about her. Because I always smile when I think about her. Because she understands my needs and wants and fulfills both. And we’ll be together when it’s time.


Fly to São Paulo via Fly Brother’s Picasa Slideshow

Cape Verde is an archipelago of ten teeny-tiny volcanic islands off the coast of Senegal in the North Atlantic. Yes, most hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and the southeast USA start off over Cape Verde as typical summer rainstorms. The uninhabited islands were discovered and populated by the Portuguese in 1460, who brought over Africans as slaves. As was typical of Luso-Hispanic colonialism, blood boiled, races mixed, and Cape Verde was left with a variation of skin tones and hair textures reminiscent of its big brother Brazil. After a brief, shining turn as a major refueling stop for ocean-going vessels and a source of skilled mariners for 19th century American whaling ships, Cape Verde fell into long-term drought-induced economic despair, launching a diaspora now numbering over a million Cape Verdeans in North America and Europe, with less than 500,000 on the islands themselves. Cape Verde’s best-known export: soulful morna singer Cesária Évora.

I was invited to accompany my good friend José, Cape Verdean historian and intellectual playboy, to visit his homeland in August of 2004. For two weeks we swatted flies, battled dust and heat, watched Brazilian soap operas, met (literally) boatloads of folks from the States and Europe visiting family for the summer, and relaxing on beaches in the absolute middle of the ocean. Yes, everybody thought I was Cape Verdean (“Hey, why dudn’t that kid speak Kriolu?”). No, I’m not Cape Verdean. Would be very proud if I was, though. And yes, I know going there’s like going to Hawaii and saying you’ve been to the USA – technically it’s true, so technically, I’ve been to Africa.

Cape Verde on Wikipedia – basic overview
Cape Verde Unabridged – news, politics, and culture
caboverde.com – tourist and cultural information
Cape Verde Home Page – portal to other sites
Governo de Cabo Verde – official government site (in Portuguese)

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