Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

In Belo Horizonte, besides volunteering and seeing Pearl Jam, I enjoyed time with wonderful hosts Patricia and her mother and celebrated my birthday.

Confins, Belo Horizonte’s main airport, is located almost 40km out of the city. To reach the city centre I took the executive bus (R$23.70). Patricia was kindly waiting for me and we took a taxi to her Mum’s house.

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

With Patricia’s bubbly mother prior to dinner

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Another hilly street

Belo Horizonte, like Vila Madalena in Sao Paulo, is full of hills and my hosts lived on a steep sloping street.

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

A cheese shop, Mercado Central, Belo Horizonte. Minas Gerais is famous for cheese and it featured prominently in the market

On my birthday Patricia and I planned to visit Inhotim, a sprawling contemporary art and environmental space outside of the city. However, continuous morning rain caused localised flooding and changed our plans. Instead, we visited Mercardo Central (Belo Horizonte’s ‘Central Market’). Like Adelaide’s Central Market, Mercardo Central has dozens of stalls and is the place to buy fresh food in Belo Horizonte. Although most foods were cheaper than in Australia, I was still surprised at how expensive they were relative to the wage difference.

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Turkish apricots, Mercado Central, Belo Horizonte

Apricots in Brazil are named Damasco after the city of Damascus, Syria.

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Chilli stall, Mercado Central, Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Fruit stall, Mercado Central, Belo Horizonte

I loved exploring the market and looking at the various stalls. Patricia explained local specialities and was a font of knowledge.

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Stall selling baskets, Mercado Central, Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Birthday lunch with Patricia, Casa Cheia, Mercado Central, Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Feijao Tropeiro Com Torresmo, a traditional Minas Gerais pork dish, Mercado Central, Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil Lace-work, Mercado Central, Belo Horizonte

After Mercado Central, Patricia dropped me off for my first Brazilian haircut. The haircut experience went well, despite limited shared language.

The Miss Brasil 2015 beauty contest was televised from Sao Paulo. Comment was made that, despite Brazil’s majority African-origin and mixed-race population, the top ten finalists were all light-skinned with straight hair

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Patricia’s mother’s cleaners made a delicious lunch on the 20th: galinha caipira (‘country chicken’), tutu de feijão (a bean dish), rice, salad and pasta (latter two not pictured)

The salad and pasta served for lunch on the 20th both featured pickled palm hearts. Although I had seen jars of palm hearts in Australia, I don’t recall tasting them. The hearts complemented the salad and pasta nicely and they are a new favourite food. However, reading the Wikipedia article detailing the poaching of wild palms for heart harvesting, has now tempered my enjoyment.

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

With Patricia and her mother

On the 20th I caught a taxi to the city centre and then the executive bus back to Confins Airport. Next to my departure gate was California Coffee cafe. What an ironic name for a cafe in Minas Gerais, the biggest coffee growing state in Brazil, the world’s largest coffee-producer.

Thank you to Patricia, her mother and relatives for making a wonderful and memorable Belo Horizonte stay.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Belo Horizonte, 20 November 2015

Pearl Jam performed a fantastic concert in Sao Paulo but Belo Horizonte’s performance was amazing!

It rained consistently the concert afternoon and evening. Rain combined with peak-hour in Belo Horizonte leads to crawling traffic. My taxi to Isabela’s apartment (R$25.10 on meter; R$30 including tip) experienced some delays. However, this was nothing compared with the drive to Mineirao Stadium.

Bruna drove admirably for over two hours to cover the limited distance (as short as 13.5km according to Google Maps). To dodge the worst of the traffic we took many side roads. We even went up a road too steep for the vehicle and had to delicately turn around to go back down.

We eventually arrived to the stadium around 8:30pm, the time Pearl Jam has previously started. Pete, Pearl Jam’s head of security was viewing proceedings at my entry gate. After seeing how many people were still lining up, I expect he advised the band to start later. Although my ticket wouldn’t scan, entry staff let me through. After a quick toilet stop and water drink I was on the ground, ready for the band.

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Entering the stadium Pista Premium section

Within minutes, Pearl Jam came out and gave an epic performance, starting with a song I didn’t recognise (The Beatles’ Rain). The rain had stopped by now and hardly a drop fell during the concert.

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A partial video of Even Flow from the night. Even though I have seen this song played at every Pearl Jam concert, in Brazil the audience participation never makes Even Flow boring

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Singer Eddie Vedder talked about the mining disaster in both English and Portuguese during the night. He expressed his sympathy with locals and slammed the operator. A crowd recorded video of Eddie saying this was shown on the news with the next day. Eddie also said concert proceeds would support the families hurt by the disaster.

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

The crowd lights up during Imagine (Lennon)

In tribute to the terrorism victims at the concert in Paris, the band covered Eagles of Death Metal’s Want You So Hard (Bad Boy News).

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Tonight the band played 36 songs in just less than three hours. Even in my tenth concert, I still saw eleven(!) songs for the first time. Personal highlights included Sometimes, Rearviewmirror and  Mankind, the latter sung by guitarist Stone Gossard.

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Singer Eddie Vedder at the side of the stage

Mineirao Stadium’s seating is largely covered and the covering helped keep the sound in, creating an amazing atmosphere. Even though the crowd wasn’t as into the concert as in Sao Paulo, the atmosphere was better. It appeared that many of the attendees in my section came to concert for the ‘event’ and not for the music. People lined up for beer throughout the concert and I’m sure Heineken and the promoter made massive profits. Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

The lights are on near the concert end

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Pearl Jam band members waving good night

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

The crowd exiting the ground

Once out of the stadium I caught up again with Bruna, Bruno and Isabela. We all agreed that Pearl Jam put an a fantastic show. Thankfully, the Uber ride home did not take two hours. Not that I would have noticed, as I slept most of the way back.


For the full set list and more fan views:

Pearl Jam nerds, here are the songs I’ve seen live:

I’m about to catch the metro to Maracana for tonight’s Rio de Janeiro gig, Pearl Jam’s fifth and final Brazilian concert of their 2015 Latin American tour. Stay tuned for my report on this as well as a write up of my time in Belo Horizonte.

Volunteering after the Bento Rodrigues dam disaster

Belo Horizonte is the capital of Brazil’s Minas Gerais (‘General Mines’) state, where the Bento Rodrigues dam disaster occured. On the fifth of November the wall of an iron ore mine tailings dam operated by Samarco (a Vale/BHP Billiton joint venture) collapsed, flooding towns, killing several people and causing an ongoing environmental and ecological catastrophe. The poisonous dam water is still flowing downstream and yesterday a friend said it had almost reached the sea.

The disaster region’s administrative centre, the town of Mariana, is only 20km from Bento Rodrigues. The flood victims were moved to Mariana and the disaster relief is coordinated from here. Patricia’s nieces Isabela and Bruna and their friends Bruna and Maria Clara went to volunteer in Mariana yesterday and I was lucky enough to join them. I could have explored the nearby world heritage listed historic town of Ouro Preto but chose the more meaningful option.

The entire 120km drive from Belo Horizonte to Mariana was hilly. I’m amazed at how hilly the region is. The relief centre is a large warehouse fronted by a smaller shop front where disaster survivors receive aid.

The mountain of toilet paper

The toilet paper mountain, Mariana, Minas Gerais

The warehouse contained masses of of donated supplies: non-perishable food, toilet paper, bottled water, cleaning products, linen and shoes.

Piles of shoes in the foreground and bags of unsorted shoes in the right background

Piles of sorted shoes in the foreground and bags of unsorted shoes in the right background, Mariana, Minas Gerais

There were many bags and piles of second hand shoes of all types from thongs to high heels and slippers to sneakers.

One of the final hat sightings

One of the final sightings of my Barmah hat, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Following registration, our job was to sort the shoes, ensure the pairs were together and place them on the appropriate pile: male, female, girl, boy, single and worn out shoes. Shopping trolleys of shoes were then taken as required around to the shop front to be selected. Shoe shorting wasn’t well coordinated and could have been streamlined with a better process, clearer labelling and crates to place shoes in.

The shoe sorting team

The shoe-sorting volunteer team, Mariana, Minas Gerais

In our final few hours we separated the single okay shoes from the damaged and worn-out shoes, looking for pairs and shifting more than 30 garbage bags of poorly shoes to the loading dock for disposal.

My volunteer nametag

My volunteer name tag, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Different media visited throughout the day and Globo, Brazil’s largest television company recorded me sorting shoes. I could be on Brazilian TV! If you watch Globo and see a person wearing a Barmah hat sorting shoes, that’s me! Unfortunately, that will be the final footage of my hat as it later disappeared off a seat a few metres from where we were sorting shoes.

No, this is not the replacement hat

No, this hat is not a satisfactory placement

The warehouse shopfront where survivors receive their supplies and choose their shoes

The relief centre store front where survivors receive supplies and choose, shoes, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Storm clouds threatening

Ominous storm clouds, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Rain came several times during the day and as we left the relief centre storms threatened. Due to hail on the route back we postponed our return journey and stayed for a coffee at Isabella’s boyfriend’s aunt’s nearby boutique hotel located next to a stream on a (surprise, surprise) steep street. As soon as the aunt heard I was Australian she went on a tirade (in Portuguese) about BHP Billiton.

The stream below the boutique hotel

The stream below the boutique hotel, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Chicken parmigana at the restaurant

At Sinha Olimpia Restaurant, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Chicken Parmigana, Sinha Olimpia Restaurant, Mariana, MInas Gerais

Mashed potato, potato chips, rice and tomato sauce accompanied the chicken parmigana

The storm was still impacting the road back to Belo Horizonte so we had dinner at Sinha Olimpia Restaurant a few buildings down the street. A large, delicious share plate of chicken parmigana and (for me) a caipirinha later, we drove home.