Sunday, December 30, 2012

On the importance of proper footwear

Yesterday was our first full day in Rio and altogether we did about five or six hours of walking. Some of this was at a super slow pace, like when we visited Instituto Moreira Salles and the Botanical Gardens, at other times we walked rather briskly, like the one time we had to run for the bus, or when we rushed to get to the Gardens an hour before they closed. Later, we walked from the Botanical Gardens neighborhood to Leblon, then crossed into Ipanema, then took the metro back to the Center and partied in Lapa. For no explicable reason, yesterday was also the day when I decided to skip socks and to try wearing my flats barefoot. Within a couple of hours, I got blisters all around the rim of the shoe, and by the time we were leaving the Botanical Garden, I could hardly walk. Fortunately, every convenience store in Rio seems to sell flip-flops (especially Havaianas, the popular local brand), and so I ended up buying my second pair of flip-flops on this trip.

I lack the proper savvy when it comes to wearing flip-flops. The trick seems no less difficult to pull off than wearing high heels. The native Californians seem to have it down and could probably upstage Brazilians in a flip flop wearing contest--I've seen people in San Francisco wear flip flops through near-freezing rain and on hikes in the mountains. That's just not me. Until Rio, one pair lasted me for about eight years--the only place I usually wear flip flops is in hotel bathrooms. Within an hour, somewhere between Leblon and Ipanema, I slipped and stabbed my big toe with what seemed to be a piece of my own toe nail. With some surprise, Dave and I watched as blood pooled all over my brand new snowy white (!!) flip flop. Luckily, Rio seems to be as well supplied with drugstores as it is with flip flop shops (and actually sometimes these are one and the same store--which makes sense, seeing just how precarious of a proposition this footwear is). All we had to do was to cross the street and walk into the nearest drugstore, where we were immediately provided with antiseptic and band aids, and even a sink to wash off the blood. The whole transaction cost us four reals, or about two dollars--the cheapest thing we've bought in Rio yet.

Instituto Moreira Salles, by the way, was a very cool museum. It was founded by Walter Moreira Salles, a wealthy Brazilian banker who died in 2001, and is presently managed by one of his sons and other members of the family. Apparently, branches of this institution are located in several Brazilian cities. The one we visited yesterday housed an exhibit of drawings, sculpture, and films by a prominent South African artist, William Kentridge. The exhibit was very well translated to English, and as I started reading descriptions of some of his artworks, I quickly realized that a lot of them are owned by the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. In fact, Kentridge had a show there as recently as 2009--but of course we had to come to Rio to see it. Much of his art comments on Apartheid and the work of the Truth Commission; he also seems to reflect more generally on the issues of the environment, loss, change, and the task of art itself. In his animation videos, he quite deftly manages to combine drama with humor, and so his art seemed very accessible and thought-provoking. My guess is that Salvador Dali was one of his major inspirations, and also possibly Soviet animation techniques--at least, there are definitely interesting overlaps between his animations and some older, hand-drawn Soviet cartoons.

For more details on what we're doing in Rio, check out Dave's blog.

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