July 24: Big excitement in BH

Where to start? First of all, yesterday Hamner’s conference had an outing to Inhotim, which is an amazing combination of botanical garden, sculpture park, and art installations. My friend and former student Claudia, who lives in BH, had contacted us and suggested we go there together, and we’d already been planning to go with Hamner’s group. So we met at Inhotim.

It’s bizarre. One of the installations is a big sort of prison-looking structure with five rooms. Each one has a different light show, music, and furnishings. Like the one with old newspapers projected on the wall, with a floor made out of foot-thick foam rubber, where Yoko Ono screeches bizarrely in an endless loop. Or the one that’s full of hammocks and plays Jimi Hendrix.

Another installation has a bunch of huge girders stuck in concrete at random angles. We spent a good bit of time going around kicking the girders to hear the sounds they made.

There were some birds around as well, though I kept getting in trouble for wandering off to look at them. Or just stopping to look at them while the rest of the group abandoned me.

Great Kiskadee (aka Bem-te-vim, in Portuguese)
Sayaca Tanager
Rufous-collared sparrow
*White-Browed Warbler
*Yellow Tyrannulet
Social Flycatcher
Great Egret
Masked Water-Tyrant
Black Vulture
House Wren
*Nacunda Nighthawk
Neotropic Cormorant
And yet another of these damn birds that really look like Orange-Backed Troupials, but those aren’t supposed to occur here. Fourth one I’ve seen.

*I’m taking Leon’s advice and starring the ones that are life birds for me.

I think the best part of the whole place was an installation in a huge aircraft-hangar sort of building with about 50 speakers arranged all over and a bunch of chairs. A spoken word and musical piece plays, with each individual voice or instrument in its own speaker. It was eerily haunting and moving. Worthwhile.

So we were supposed to meet Claudia and her husband and son to go to a bar and musical show in the evening, but our bus got mired in traffic. The BH Galo soccer team was playing the Olimpia team from Paraguay, and it was the final game for some championship cup. The entire city lost its mind, apparently. We had to give up on getting back downtown early in the evening, and instead we stayed with Hamner at his hotel for a while.

His hotel is how the other half lives — very posh. Peggy, Robin, and I are sharing one room in the Best Western, and it looks like a mini-barracks with three little beds. Anyway, we went to a mall across the highway and had beer and munchies — I had manioc fries, mostly. Then around 10 we got a taxi back to our hotel. The game was starting then, so the streets were deserted. Around 11 there was a hell of a lot of yelling and fireworks outside, and Peggy went downstairs to find a TV with soccer. Apparently the doormen set her up in the exercise room with a big TV, where she watched the game. It was a nail-biter, and the local team won in penalty kicks.

Robin and I, meanwhile, tried to sleep. About 12:30 the game ended and we awoke to a cacophony of fireworks, yelling, honking, and general insanity outside. I turned on a light and read until about 3 AM, when I was tired enough to fall asleep finally. When I awoke at 7, there were still occasional explosions going on outside.

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