Sunday, July 29, 2012

Scenic Sunday Winter Contrasts

Since I have been living in Brazil - it has been a little bit of an adjustment to remember that the seasons are reversed.  When we traveled to Porto Alegre last year in July,  I was surprised that it actually gets cold in Brazil.  I never thought of Brazil in the winter or it being cold here.  All my friends are all from the northern part of the country so they never shared stories of the cold or snow for that matter.  It was a little odd to me that a couple of the cities even were celebrating with snowmen and winter themes.  Traditionally reserved for December in my neck of the woods, it felt like they had left their decorations up for the year. By the end of our trip,  my thoughts and expectations of Brazil had changed.  I realized they do have areas where snow falls and it gets cold.

Well -- since it is still warm in the United States and my friends there won't be too upset with my reminder of how cold it can be there and many of my Brazilian friends would love to see a winter snow.  I found some old videos and thought I would share them at this time during Brazil's Winter.

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Taste of Brazil - Teasers (little bites) IV

Every winter (which is June in Brazil) in the small town of Goias they have a film festival. Well this year we headed there for a concert on Sunday night (the last evening of the festival).  After we spent some time fighting the crowds and enjoying the music we headed to the little court yard in the center of town where vendors were set up selling a variety of foods,  hand crafted goods, and tie dyed clothing.  Of course one of the food booths caught my eye as I had not seen the likes of it before.  They were serving a dish called Acaraja da Dinda.  A typical street food originating from African slaves and popularized in Salvador, Bahia and northeastern Brazil.  I had to give it a try...

Acaraje is made from black-eyed peas which are formed into balls and then deep fried in palm oil.  How can you go wrong with frying in palm oil - right?   In the state of Bahia the vendor who are found making this regionally known cuisine are called "Baianas".  Mostly women  who are garbed in all white cotton dresses, a headscarf and cap.   The chef this evening is not your traditional Baianas.  She is dressed like everyone one else at the festival and would not stick out in a crowd.  I watch as she drops the ball of dough into the hot grease and wait. (she advises me that I must try a fresh one and thus a small wait is in order) A few minute later the dough is now brown and ready to be removed from the hot oil.  The Baianas wraps it in paper,  splits it open and stuffs it with caruru which is a mixture of shrimp, ground cashew, green tomatoes, red tomatoes, ocra, onion, palm oil and spices.  I am warned that this caruru  is known to be a little on the spicy side and anyone who know me,  knows that I grew up in Iowa and there was not a lot of  foods seasoned with hot peppers at our family table.  I am learning to enjoy the spicy side of food so I ventured a bite after being reassured by our chef that hers are not as fiery.  Of course anything deep fat fried has to have some flavor value and although the spice was good and not too hot,  I could not personally get past the little shrimps with their shells still on.   Besides this texture issues,  the flavors were good and I look forward to trying it again in Bahia  where they are infamous! 

Recipe for Acaraje at "Flavors of Brazil"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Scenic Sunday -Tucano

toucan - Mineiros Brazil! 
 This weeks scene is dedicated to that fruit loop of a bird.  You know the one I comb the tree tops and skies of Brazil in search of:  Yes...the toucan or in Portuguese the Tucano.  I am not sure if I fell in love with the bird prior to coming to Brazil but I find myself infatuated with the quirky black and white bird with its over sized orange bill.  On previous trips to Brazil I learned about this bird through friends and a little research on line and even saw one or two from a distance.  A true wild bird,  Toucans tend to keep their distance from human settlements and most of my personal experiences have been from quite a distance or as we drive along the countryside making it difficult to capture a photo with my little instant shot camera.  I was told by a friend that they tend to stay in groups so if you see one there are probably more.  They love a good 
mango tree when the fruit is ripe but unfortunately I have not been around when they have discovered these trees. However, on this most recent visit to Minerios, the palm seeds must be what is on their diet plan as on several occasions a small flock of toucans have been spotted flying through the blue skies around Minieros.  
More Toucans - Mineiros Brazil 

My first close encounter happened a good week ago as we were sitting on the patio and heard a grunting noise of sorts.   Luiz informed me that this was the call of the tucano and so I grabbed my camera and we left the gated yard to follow our ears in hopes of capturing a photo or two.  To my joy,  a flew blocks away a grunting toucan sat in wait in the lower fronds of a palm tree.  As I got closer he was surely posing for his close up,  or maybe just interested in the seeds of the tree.  This would be the first sighting of many in the days to follow.  These great flying oddities stayed around a few days to grace the vast blue above town.  I call them oddities because their little black and white bodies are trumped by the large orange beak.  This vast difference in their proportions make them easy to distinguish when in flight.  By no definition are toucans graceful,  but I could sit and watch them for hours.  In my observations I came to appreciate the creator of the movie "Rio" even more.  The character Rafael (a toucan)  truly is a work of art as he captures the quirky characteristics of this wonderful bird.  Dodging from branch to branch,  looking and observing what is going on around,  and not pausing for a minute as he searches for a morsel to eat.   I am entertained by the character Rafael even though I am not watching the movie and watching the real thing.  Toucans are such beautiful birds as they flutter from tree to tree and dodge from branch to branch.  Always looking down that long orange beak at what may be peeking back at them.   I hope you enjoy as much as I have! 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Taste of Brazil - The country is quite Fruity III (SAO PAULO Municipal Market)

Recently on our visit to Sao Paulo, we stopped at the municipal market and enjoyed the sights and sounds of a fully functioning market.  Filled with all kinds of products to tempt your taste buds. Before leaving the market we approached one of the vendors who had a magnificent display of fruits. After explaining I was from the United States, he began giving me  samples of some of the fruits from his booth.  Many of them I had never seen before and surely had not tasted.  It was truly a treat for my taste buds.  

The first fruit we picked from the baskets was Longan.  My original hope was to taste more of Brazil but this fruit is actually imported from Southeast Asia. It really did not look very appetizing from the outside and I wondered to myself if I really wanted to give it a try.  Longan is grayish brown in color and has a stem protruding from one end which obviously is where it had been attached to the tree.  To get beyond the thin shell you just have to give it a little squeeze and the fruit pops right out.  I understand if this process is easy,  that is how you tell the fruit is ripe.  The Longan fruit has the nickname of "dragon eye" and when we expose the edible part it is obvious why.  Once the grayish brown peal is removed the remaining fruit looks like an eyeball and has a slimy texture.  There is a black seed on the inside which is hard but can be eaten however I did not eat the seed. My explanation of the Longan would be that it is slimy, sweet, juicy, and succulent.  I would definitely purchase these for an afternoon snack if I lived in Sao Paulo. .

The next fruit to taste is primarily from Northeastern Brazil although it can be found in other Central and South American countries.  This cherry tomato like fruit is called Siriguela.  Although it looks like a cherry tomato that is where the similarities end.  Harvested from trees, the little fruit is full of vitamin A, B, and C. So it looks and feels like a tomato but the texture of the meat is more like a grape. The flavor is not like anything I have tasted before as it blends a sweet with an element of sour.   I understand the fruit sweetens as it ripens.  The note I jotted down about the taste was: honey and grapefruit but not really like that at all.

The yellow with a hint of orange color of the Nesperas fruit catches my eye next.  I had not previously seen this fruit in the markets of Brazil and since I am trying new things of course I motion to my fruit expert that this is the next one  I want to try.  Originally from China,  the fruit can be found in many other places around the world including Hawaii. The fruits exterior resembles a pear without the historic shape of a pear although I found out later there is a variety that has the pear shape.  Upon taking a bite a sweet but slightly acidic flavor fills my mouth.  For me it would best be explained as a mix of peach and citrus with a slight hint of mango.  Definitely a flavor I have never encountered before and I continuing eating the whole piece that was cut off for me.

As I look over the selection of fruit I am intrigued by a dark purple fruit on the end of the table and motion the fruit guide to try this next. The purple mangosteen  is imported from Indonesia and that area of the world. Our guide scores the outer layer of the fruit with a knife and gently twists it open to reveal a cluster of white wedges tightly arranged inside.  These white wedges are the edible part of the fruit and he extracts one for me to sample.  My explanation of the Mangosteen fruit would be that it is quite juicy and smells good.  Not sure I have ever tasted a flavor like it,  maybe some combination of melon, banana, and green apple in a grape like texture without the skin.  To be quite honest it is a great blend of sour and sweet and my attempts to explain the flavors probably fall short.  In researching a little on Wikipedia, I find out that this fruit is called "The Queen of Fruits", probably because of a legend that Queen Victoria offered great rewards to anyone who could bring this fruit to her. (there is no historical proof of this legend however)  

Of course when you look at the photo of the next fruit,  it is no wonder it caught my eyes and they screamed at my tastes buds for a taste.  Rabutan is a beautiful red fruit with a spiny shell.  The fruit guide grabs a couple and again scores one side of the outer casing.  He proceeds to squeeze it open and soon the slightly white but translucent fruit is exposed.  He hands it to me and I bring it to my mouth,  a mildly acidic yet sweet flavor.  I did not jot down good notes on this fruit so will have leave it at that. However, I do remember that I ate both of the sample he opened up for me.  

Without direction our fruit guide grabs the next fruit off the display and with a swift movement of his knife cuts the Grenadia or Sweet Grenadilla in half.  A variety of the passion fruit which on previous tastes was quite sour,  I am hesitant to take a taste.  But then again,  I am about trying new things and who knows,  this may have a different flavor as it is a different passion fruit.  The Grenadia grows in regions of South America and other tropical parts of the world.  I fill the spoon with the clear gel like meat of the fruit and bring it to my mouth.  Expecting the bitter taste,  my little taste buds are pleasantly surprised as the flavor of this fruit is quite a bit more sweet.  No sour here. The slimy fruit is not my favorite flavor but this type of passion fruit is definitely more pleasing then the ones I have had before.

Of course our visit to the fruit stand would not be complete without a sample of grapes, bananas, strawberries and cherries.  I am impressed with the large variety of grapes and bananas.  I did not realize there were different varieties and each one had a little different flavor or texture. All the fruits sure pack a punch when it comes to flavor as many are grown locally and picked ripe.  I snap a photo with our taste guide, tip him,  and we are on our way.  Definitively one of my favorite experiences in Sao Paulo.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hammer Nails and Cocktails

Please forgive me as I had this post written at the beginning of 2012 but forgot to hit publish -- I am sure you are still able to enjoy it and I am always happy to bring more people into awareness about the Atlanta Community ToolBank organization.
I believe I have mentioned in previous posts that I hold a position on the board of directors for The Atlanta Community ToolBank a non profit organization in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.  Their mission is to lend tools like hammers, rakes, drills, etc. to organizations with community projects. This lending of tools allows these organizations to invest more of the money they raised into the projects which allows a larger focus of the work they are attempting to accomplish.  Well, in 2011 the Atlanta Community ToolBank celebrated twenty years of service to the Atlanta community and in recognition of that achievement the board decided to hold a gala.  I was honored to co-chair the event with Chris Sears, another board member, and I have found that the ToolBank provides a great service to the
city of Atlanta and any assistance I can give to spread the mission is sure worth my time and talents.
Planning - A committee is formed consisting of  board members and a couple of additional people.  My assignment is to work with the committee members who are planning the actual event and Chris is going to work on ticket sales.  We will also surely get assistance from the ToolBank team of Gina, Emily,  Shannon, CJ and Patty as well.  The group quickly decides on a catchy name for the gala:  Hammers, Nails, and
Cocktails.  The creation of a logo begins as we start brain storming on everything from the date of event, site selection, food, entertainment,  ticket price, and the style of our event - not to mention sponsorship and ticket sales (Yes...Chris' area of focus, but since it is a large undertaking and our goal is to make money we will all need to pitch in and drive ticket sales).  A date of Saturday, December 3rd  is chosen and the ToolBanks staff shares with myself and the committee their vision for the event. This vision is to create an event that is not your traditional sit down affair with awards presented and a little dancing afterwards.   We want to bring a little of the Atlanta Community ToolBank's impact to the event and help anyone who may not be familiar with the non profit a little knowledge.   As most non profits find, one of their major struggles is awareness about what they do so why not make that a part of this years celebration.
After a little searching and weighing of options, King Plow Arts Center in West Midtown is chosen as our location and that means Bold American Catering is our food provider.   Wow that was really quite easy and with a venue chosen we are ready to start getting the details hashed out.  Patty starts working on getting sponsorship and Chris and I meet to discuss ticket sales.  I hold a conference call for our event committee meeting to discuss our first agenda item: entertainment.  Although we do plan to give out our usual end of the year awards,  we want it to be more about the connecting of people and checking the organization out.  After a few discussions and looking around we narrow our choices down to three.  It is 
time to take a vote and after all votes are tallied,  Joe Gransden and His Big Band is contacted and contracted for the evenings entertainment.  
With another part of the evening decided,  it is time to kick the planning  into high gear.  We need to work on getting some silent auction items,  create the decor concept, and finalize some of the venue details.  We set up a meeting at King Plow to go over the food choices and get a feel for the venue.  We ask a floral designer to come in to discuss options for transforming the space. The venue really does not need a whole lot of tranformation as it is a blank warehouse and fits perfectly into our ideas for the evening.   A silent auction committee is formed with my friend Karen M. heading the charge to solicit donations.  We seem to be on track.  A meeting is set up with Erin from ALLURE Event and Meeting Productions
which afterwards we decide to bring them on board to help with the decor and organization of the evening.  The months fly by and all the specific groups come together to play their parts.  Invitations and programs are created, tickets are sold, silent auction items are collected and the decoration details are planned.
Patty rounds up some great sponsors with Home Depot Foundation leading the group as presenting sponsor. Stites and Harbison,  Turner, The Best Consultants, Delloitte, and Kilpatrick Stockton all step to the plate with their cash sponsorship as well.  We are moving right along and November comes quickly.  
The committee comes up with the idea of playing "Toolbox Trivia".  This is how we plan to bring the impact of the ToolBank to the evening as four vignettes will be strategically created throughout the
venue.  These vignettes will contain answers to trivia questions.  When guests arrive, they will be handed a trivia sheet and asked to find the answers to the questions which can be found in the vignettes.  Once the trivia card is correctly filled out, the guest is entered into a drawing for a couple of great prizes:  - A Stanley Tool's tool package and a get away to the Ritz Carlton Plantation in upstate Georgia.  Awesome prizes!  Since we have brought Erin with ALLURE on board,  she, Gina, and I begin working on these vignettes and what they will look like. The first one will represent the work many of the tools do for neighborhood homes for the elderly.  We plan to construct the front of a house  and add details in the yard to hide the trivia answers among.  The second vignette will be a play ground because many of the tools are used by them to build 
them.  We begin looking for a playground company that would sponsor this or into purchasing a playground that could be part of our silent auction.  The third station will be a garden as many organizations barrow tools to plant and create their community gardens. Railroad ties, dirt, plants, a scarecrow and a shepherds hook complete with bird feeder hanging from it are the ideas we come up for this station.  Finally the fourth vignette will be a festival tent as many of the tools are used during the installation and removal for various festivals and fairs in different communities.  Gina begins to create the trivia questions and Erin and I work on the ideas and details for each of the vignettes.    
We meet one more time at the venue to work on placement of these vignettes as well as registration,  a photo booth, and the tables for the night.  The team obtains donated linens rentals from Graceful Tables,  discounted table rentals from Event Rentals Unlimited, and ficus trees with twinkle lights from Foliage Design.  All great donations which we will use to assist in transforming the room for this wonderful evening.  The night is coming together and soon it is the Friday before the event.  I run around town collecting the last minute silent auction items and work with Gina and Karen to create the bid sheets.  The ToolBank staff works on gathering all the supplies we requested to create the little vignettes and stage them so they are ready to load onto the truck Saturday morning. 
Saturday comes quickly and our first set of volunteers arrive at the warehouse and begin to load the items onto the truck.  Of course it always takes longer then we expect and our 2 P.M. venue load in time passes and we are still at the warehouse.  We quicken the pace and a little behind schedule we set off on the short drive to King Plow.  Unloading and Erin directs the volunteers as to where each item needs to be placed. Visions are explained and assignments are made for the volunteers to begin putting together the vignettes.  I begin working on the decor for the silent auction as we have decided to hang chain from the rafters down the middle of the table.  The silent auction item descriptors will be secured to sand paper discs found in the warehouse and these descriptors will be hung from the chains.  The corresponding bid sheets will be placed on the table below the descriptors.  After working on this for about 45 minutes I begin to wonder if the idea was a little ambitious and might need to be scrapped.  But after looking around at the vignettes and how they are coming together,  I refocus and continue working away.  
The task of organizing the seventy plus silent auction items is quite daunting and thankfully there is a little help at the end.  We finish and I take a look around.  The buffet table is set with a delightful display of food,  the four vignettes are perfectly set,  filled with corresponding clues, the photo booth is ready , the band has arrived and is warming up to play.   In the back room the tables are covered with copper linens and a blue runner adorned with a creative centerpiece put together by Adam using copper nails which are simple and perfect. The twinkle of lights from the ficus trees soften the corners of the room and add a touch of elegance.    
The volunteers who are working the registration table arrive and I head to the restroom for a quick splash of water and a change.  I had intended to head home for a quick shower but with traffic and the  late start,  I opt for plan B - a superman change in the back room.
Guests began to arrive and the evening was kicked off with welcoming remarks by Executive Director Patty Russart. It was a great evening and many of my friends who had not known about ToolBank before the evening started,  really enjoyed the toolbox trivia and learning about the organization.  Heck, even some of them who knew about ToolBank did not know how much of an impact they make. Awards were handed out and after a short program,  back to music to finish off the evening.   The overall mission of  celebrating 20 years along with an element of enlightenment was truly accomplished by a great team of staff and volunteers.  It was a lot of work but money was raised,  people had a good time, and we honored those who had contributed to this great organization.  Another great time volunteering for a great organization - here's to the next twenty years!
Oh and just some statistics from the evening.  Over 160 tickets were sold.  Adam used 840 copper nails in the centerpieces.  The highest grossing silent auction item was the "Instant Sommelier" starter wine cellar package at $500.

Some more 2011 Atlanta Community ToolBank Impact and photos from Hammers Nails and Cocktails

To get involved or be a part of this years fundraiser:  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Next Stop - Belo Horizonte - Part 5 - Ouro Preto

Wow,  Ouro Preto is amazing with history around every corner and although I have no connection with the afterlife,  I get the feeling a psychic would be extremely busy here.   If I remember correctly,  on our visit to the city of black gold we had  just gotten to Tiradentes square and left the car.  I shared about the beautiful buildings which line the square and how I wanted to explore them some more.  However, today the clouds continue to get darker and I know there are many interesting things to see so we will have to leave that for a later visit. 
Before we continue,  I figured I would share a little more of the knowledge I found about Ouro Preto.   Since we are going to visit many of the churches in the city,  I would share their importance in the early years of the community.  There are a total of twenty three churches dating back to the golden age and all are filled with intricate details of how life was back then.   Heck, with all the gold  being extracted from the mines at that time,  you would expect there would be some flaunting going on.  Faith and the church was just one of the 
outlets for these powerful mining companies to show their might.  They hired the best the world had to offer in regards to artists and craftsmen.  Commissioning them to build the most beautiful church in the city, demonstrating the mining companies strength and influence.   This avenue created a competition of who could adorn their sanctuaries with the most gold among the alters, images, and liturgical instruments.   This competition  allowed the arts to flourish and those who created them became geniuses.  
The most famous of these artist was Antonio Francisco Lisboa.  Born of a Portuguese man and his slave, Antonio learned his sculpting skills from his father who was a carpenter by trade.   The most amazing thing about this great sculptor is that he was plagued by leprosy thus giving him the nickname "O  Aleijandinho" (The Little Cripple).  After the disease took his feet and most of his hands,  Aleijandinho became recluse and only worked during the dark hours of the night.  His most profound
Nossa Senhora do Carmo
work is the creation of the "Twelve prophets" sculptures.  These soapstone figures were carved with hammers and chisels tied to his fingerless hands.  He would maneuver up and down the ladder on his knees as he no longer had feet to use.  Today, there is some challenge to the actual existence of Aleijandinho.  If he was real, he was truly a  remarkable talent and if it is a myth then he sure adds a nice story to a great city.   
Can you tell I start reading the history of this city an get lost for a bit?  I am sure there is much more I could share but maybe a future visit.  For now, lets move to our first stop which is the Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Lady of Mount Carmel).  Built between 1766 and 1772 by the
Photo of inside from internet 
brotherhood of terceiros do Carmo  this church does not lack anything.  Being a wealthy brotherhood,  they did not have difficulties building it with the finest materials available.  Aleijandinho is said to have contributed to some of the artwork inside which is again breathtaking.   
Next door to the cathedral in the churchyard a large building housing the Oratory Museum stands.  This is our next stop and not being Catholic I have to admit that I was not sure what an Oratory is or what we would find.  Upon entering the museum my learning begins as it is filled with oratories which are movable alters.  These alters range in size from the so called pocket oratories to the conventional oratories which are quite large and would require a couple of people to assist in 
Photo from internet 
moving them.  Inside the walls of the museum are hundreds of these small and not so small portable places of worship all telling a story.   Many have been created in the baroque style and are filled with intricate details.  The written guide provided at the front desk is in Portuguese but I am happy the labels on the actual pieces have been translated into English.  Some of the pieces were gifts given by fathers to their daughters on their wedding day and others were kept in the merchants cash drawer to keep their earnings safe.  Although photography is once again not allowed,  I do truly enjoy the time spent here.  
notice the 3' step
After this stop, the next church is a distance so we begin our walk down a steep street.  It is easy to see why the internet advises people to walk instead of driving.  It is quite steep and the streets are so narrow,  I am not sure you can travel down a couple of them even with a little S-Mart car.  The sidewalks are intense as well.  Not because of their artistic beauty but because of the drop offs as you walk along.   Yes,  drop offs, as they are not steps with more then a three foot drop to the sidewalk below.   You best pay attention or you are in for a nasty spill.   Although the cobblestone streets are narrow,  they are lined with wonderfully colored houses with fantastic colonial doorways.  One could fill a photo album with glorious photos of all the different doorway styles. We finally arrive at the third church on our 
Matriz Nossa Senhora do Pilar internet photo
journey The Matriz Nossa Senhora do Pilar which was finished in 1731.  As we walk to the austere facade of the church,  one can only imagine what is inside. We pay our small stipend and enter the sanctuary.  Its lavish interior is adorn with 434 kg (956lbs) of gold and 400 kg (880lbs) of silver. The most of any other church in Ouro Preto.   One could not spend an afternoon gazing at the intricate work and discover all the details.  I purchased some post cards to share with my readers as no photography is allowed but my scanner here in Brazil is only black and white and that could not do this place justice.  My next solution is to pull some photos off the internet so I hope you get a little idea of its grandeur.
internet photo
After sitting in the pews admiring the masterpiece,  we head to the side door at the front of the sanctuary which leads to the stairs taking us to the crypt of the church.  Down the stairs lies the Museu de Arte Sacra which is filled with over 400 pieces of religious importance from the early years of Vila Rica.  Holy images, flushes, banquettes, documents and even garments worn by residents of that time.  All displayed with a story interpreted into English which makes it a good visit for me and also helps me learn a little Portuguese as well.   Time passes and soon we are ready to head back through town . 
Along the street we stumble upon the Casa dos Contos (money house),  a tax collectors residence built between 1782 and 1787 turned into a present day museum.  The museum holds a large number of eighteenth and nineteenth century furniture pieces as well as documents,  letters, and a large collection of coins.    In the back corner of the home is a stairway leading to the underbelly of the house where the slaves quarters were.  This dungeon like area is filled with artifacts telling the story of slave life in the colonial period.  A 
wonderful collection of items depicting the hard life of slaves forced to work in the local gold mines.   All this set in a perfect dark and musty setting allowing visitors a true sense of what life must have been like.  As we leave the Casa dos Contos the skies continue to get darker and upon arriving at the restaurant we are stopping for lunch at, they open up and it begins to rain. 
We are not too worried about the rain as we enjoy a good meal but soon it is time to head back out and get a little wet.  It seems much later then it actually is as we have toured a lot and yet there is so much still to see.  I think we have covered only three of the twenty three churches in the city.  We walk to the Praca de Tiradentes  and as we look out over the city we can see a church around the corner so that will be our next destination.   
We arrive at the front steps of Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis,  built in 1766 this church is filled with work by Aleijandinho and painter Manuel de Costa Ataide.  It is considered one of the most beautiful catholic temples in Brazil and I say it is more masterpiece of art then cathedral.   After a short time admiring the wonderful details, we head back out to the little courtyard in front of the church.   In the distant valley we see another church steeple and decide to head in that direction.  It is getting later so we quicken our step to see as much as we can.  With the rain we will have to be careful as the roads and sidewalks begin to get slippery.  We soon realize just how slick they are as  Beatriz takes a spill.   She gets back up,  checks her camera and all her limbs.  Fortunately she is just a little embarrassed and happy her camera made it out of the ordeal without a scratch. 
Down the narrow streets not knowing which way to go.  We twist and turn as the streets are steep and windy.  As we had gazed from the courtyard above,  the cathedral had seemed so easy to get to.  Although a little turned around we do 
internet photo
manage to stumble upon the Igreja de Santa Efigenia dos Pretos.  This beautiful structure was built by the Encardadeira mining company.  It is actually decorated with less gold then some of the other churches in the city.  Don't get me wrong,  the artwork inside is still spectacular and the story even more interesting.  You see,  Chico-Rei was an African tribal king brought here as a slave to work the mines.   He worked extremely hard and over time was able to buy his and his tribes freedom.  After gaining freedom he continued mining and working hard until he was able to purchase the mine and later built the church.  Its a wonderful structure and although it does not contain the quantity of gold as the other churches, it is truly a masterpiece with an epic story.
Matriz Nossa Senhora da Conceicao
After a quick visit we head back outside determined to find the church we had seen in the valley.  When we finally arrive at its front steps it has rained a little more and we have had one more near casualty.  Luiz has followed Beatriz's lead and fallen on the slippery streets.  We are quite fortunate as neither have acquired any injury to limbs or cameras.  In our journey we realize we are not the only ones struggling with the wet roads as cars pass us heading up the steep hills only to return in reverse unable to make it to the summit.  Upon arriving at  Matriz Nossa Senhora da Conceicao we enter and find another masterpiece with a museum in the basement.   This is where Aleijadinho was buried and the museum here is in honor of his works.  Filled with many of his sculptures and his story,   it is definitely worth the hurried adventure to find the steeple.  After we are finished looking around (but rest assured we could have spent more time here as well)  we head back to the praca where Danillo and Junior are waiting for us.  They 
had decided not to follow us as we hurried down the hill in search of the church.  Once we meet up with them we stop at a couple of shops, grab a cup of coffee and a snack.  At this point it is beginning to get dark and with the rain and winding roads a decision is made to leave the city of black gold and head back.  Any more exploring will be left for another visit.    We take our time and arrive back in Belo Horizonte a little after dark,   just in time for dinner and then off to bed.  Tomorrow is a day of travel as we head back to Mineiros and home.  

Belo Horizonte - where we ate dinner 
thanks wikipedia  - the official Ouro Preto Tourist site -  and virtual-Brazil for helping me match the churches with my photos. 
All photos used  from the web are link to their original websites - click on the image to be taken to that page.