Unknown spots: Meeting Dona Romana.

CBS just announced the racers that will take part of the new cycle of the show, the 14th of this multiple Emmy winning reality show.  This will be the second cycle that the network will be showing this season. The 13th seasonpremiered back in October, the first leg of the race took the 11 teams (with previous relatioships) to Salvador, Brazil.

Unfortunately, it was just a so-so season, lacking the excitement of Seasons 11 (The All Star Season) & 12 that I really enjoyed. For some reason, people seems to get confused when talking about Latin America or South America, and Brazil in this context. As the largest and possibly the richest country in Latin America, it is a very uneven country. It can be at the same time the ultimate synonym of being cosmopolitan, but you don’t need to go that far to see homeless kids begging just to eat.

We speak Portuguese, not Spanish. Out capital city is Brasilia, not Rio de Janeiro (which used to be a very long time ago) or Buenos Aires (that’s the capital city for Argentina).  Rio’s slums (aka favelas) are very identifiable, but is very local look, that differs to big slums from other large cities.  Sao Paulo is like a small country by itself. And despite all of these, travelling to the small spots, are sometimes what makes you take things into perspective.

As I posted previously, about my trip to Tocantins back in August, the way to Dianopolis would’ve make a great spot for the race. It was the great example of how small cities differed from large cities, but that I already shared a few months ago, before taking the long hiatus that I’ve taken with this blog. So it’s been a long time since I promised to talk about the meeting with Dona Romana.

Dona Romana

Dona Romana

Sometimes the timing is just right. It takes and 3 hour and 1/2 drive to take us from Dianopolis a small city in the state of Tocantins to Palmas, it’s capital and closest city with airports with commercial flights that can take us back home.  We pretty much had to rush through the final activities for training program we were working with the local district teachers, as we had to leave before noon. As we had free seats, two local teachers took the ride with us.

On the way to Palmas, we have to cross by a city named Almas, which confuses a lot of people, as the city entrance features a huge display “ALMAS”, and unprepared people get confused because, they end up confusing it with Palmas, which is like another 200km away. It’s nearby there, that lives Dona Romana. Healer, Sculptor, a spiritual guide. She’s probably the best real example when you picture one of these people you’d stumble in some Stephen King fiction,  One of the teachers accompanying us, took us there, and gave us a brief introduction of her history.

She dreams, these dreams are what compels her to build some really amazing sculptures. She’s Christian (you’ll see altars and large paintings of Jesus Christ in the house), but she doens’t know where she get these visions.  The outside of the large property is populated by dozens of sculptures, that are hard to believe are all build by herself.  They’re almost set as a big maze. She claims that whenever she gets a dream, that compels her to build something, it comes with some unknown force that allows her to do so.  Ever since, her home became sort of a sanctuary.  She’s didn’t mind our non-scheduled visit, and took us in a tour through the property. There are areas that simply store things, store books, clothes, and even a circled area that collects from old wooden tools to Alien action figures . She has a storage room with piles and piles of old soda bottles filled with seeds.

Dona Romana says that those will be needed for someday. She doesn’t know when, she doesn’t know what. She just knows that it’s needed. It’s a little bit haunting.

Here are some pictures I took at that visit.

Entrance to Dona Romanas Home

Entrance to Dona Romana's Home

You enter and exit in different ways.

Crossroad: You enter and exit in different ways.

A person?

A person?

What type of bird could this be?

What type of bird could this be?

Some wider shots.

There are a few other shots and a small video over at flickr. Suffice to say, believing on her on not, it was a really enriching and unexpected experience to meet her.

On a side note, it’s probably just things crossing together, CBS has also been promoting the new cycle of the Survivor series (which for some reason, I was never able to endure). But guess what where the new season is set?

The new season is titled Survivor: Tocantins – The Brazilian Highlands. Here’s the promo video.

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Gorgeous Book: Taschen’s “Fantasy Worlds”.

I was about to finally post the complementary commentary about my trip to Tocantins, about the tale of Dona Romana, but I think I deserves another small prequel before the short tale itself.

About a month ago, I made my bi-annual visit to the INTERNATIONAL BOOK BIENNIAL OF SÃO PAULO (hence the time frame specifics), which is just strange placing for book lovers, it’s great for seeing so many books gathered at the same place, but at the same time it’s disturbing to see so many people in there just for the buzz, people who you would hardly see enter a bookstore or library at all, and not really book readers at all.  For the sake of the world we can at least hope that the amount of books and culture there will at least rub on them, and make them read a book (even a trashy one – even I read those) once in a while.

I love visiting the Book Biennial for some great sales that end up appearing, from that I got myself a copy of “Fantasy Worlds” published by Benedikt Taschen Verlag, which has a great line of art books (I also got myself two great Salvador Dali books from them). The book in question is a gorgeous 340-page hardback book, with Photos from amazing places around the world, that seems displaced from what you’ll know from your day-to-day environment.  Separated through the continents, the most interesting part is that it doesn’t go to the most obvious places, you’d imagine with book titled like this, such as the Pascoa Islands, for example.

If you like the subject or these pretty pictures, I definitely recommend this book, which I payed a very friendly price for a new book. The clerks were so nice, that they even gave me a copy that was still all packed in the protective plastic package, since the one I was flipping around, was exactly there for that purpose.  To avoid any copyright issues, I won’t share any pictures here, but the Amazon link I shared above, will take you to some page pictures.

Anyway, why this serves as an prequel for my upcoming post about Dona Romana, simply because if the authors ever update the book, the place Dona Romana created, should definetely be featured in it. It is such a magical place.

Unknown spots: Tocantins, Brazil

Map of Tocantins in Brazil

Map of Tocantins in Brazil

I’m an awful blogger, that things just gets overdue, since end up postponing posting things.

I was about to share a certain side of my work that allows me to experience things I hardly imagine doing by myself.  As part of my work to estimulate teachers to work with scientific projects with their students, I started to participate as support lecturer that began as an idea originated in the Educator Academy – Education Innovation Program which was organized back in 2005, during that year’s Intel ISEF. From that some of the major Science Fairs in Brazil, joined forces with Intel which began a program of courses targeted to teachers, initially through lectured during the Science Fairs themselves, later becoming and intinerant program that allow us to travel to other cities in the country so we can reach a wider audience.

I did travel for work before, but ever sInce I started to have a role in this program, I only went to places that were quite closer, with the program I’ve travelled for more remote places.

About two weeks ago, around this time I was at Galeào airpot in Rio de Janeiro, awaiting for my connection flight that would take me to Palmas, in the state of Tocantins, from where a driver would meet me and another teacher, for a 3 and a half hour long drive to the city of Dianópolis, where the course would take place, the following day and another morning.

Dianópolis-TO-Brazil

Dianópolis Mayors Office

Dianópolis Mayors Office

Just for meeting the teachers and the people from these places, it’s already a very rewarding part of the experience, but a lot of other things always make it richer. I’ve been posting some of these pictures in my flickr (check for link on the right), but have yet to properly organize them properly.

These trips to unsettle you a bit. I’m a man of big cities, lights and noise, of speed.

When you arrive there you get the small city feel, with everyone knowing each other. A sense of community, that’s a lot harder to get in big cities. The streets are wider, and for some reason the notion of distance is also different.

School Auditorium for over 200 people

School Auditorium for over 200 people

As our return flight was booked to the afternoon, we had to leave early, which allowed me to really appreciate the view.

The 350Km that we had to travel, made me think, about how cool it would be to set a spot of Amazing Race, there. I know through reliable sources that one of the stops in the new season, is once again Brazil, mosly Sao Paulo again, a change of scenery would be so cool. Logistics, would be complicated though.

We went thorugh basically 3 roads, but at night it would be impossible to someone who doens’t know his way around to traverse through it.

The view is quite impressive, but the the beautiful view is sometimes cut by farmers burning fields, which is somewhat disturbing. You can find more pictures in flicker but let me share a few more in here.

I’ll return next time with another story from this trip, with the mysterious and quite impressive story of Dona Romana.

On the way out of the city.

On the way out of the city.

Burning Fields

Burning Fields

Next: The story of Dona Romana. It’s interesting enough to deserve its own post.