The slave weighing machine

Trip Start Feb 06, 2007
Trip End Jan 14, 2008

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday November 14th Belo Horizonte
The tourist place at the bus station offered an excellent 'What's On' booklet, a decent map, and help in English. Are we still in Brazil ? A hotel a stone's throw from the bus station had a room with a balcony and a radio, at our price. We got rid of 2 days and 2 nights grime in the shower then set off on the hunt for a laundry.
The music conservatorium puts on free concerts on Wednesday lunchtimes. Alas, the venue was in an open space between the street and the conservatorium, with heavy traffic roaring past. The string quartet had instruments not entirely in tune, playing was uninspired, but even if they had been a professional group the traffic noise would have killed any enjoyment of the music. We heard far better from music students in Bogota.
After eating too much lunch (Barb, anyway) at an all-you-can-eat place, we took a slow amble round the lovely municipal park. There are trees, lakes, adult-size climbing bars, and weird characters. We knew that Brazil has more than its share of transvestites, which probably explains the bloke with long curly black hair, a pretty lime green T-shirt, high heels, and a very tight pair of embroidered ladies' jeans that left nothing to the imagination.
There is a very ornate railway station building dating from the 1920s, which has been restored and now houses a museum of old tools, carpentry, blacksmithing, wooden waterwheels, wooden mangles and butter churns, and lots of other items that were essential to country living in our great-grandparents' time. We had seen all this before, but never such a comprehensive collection so well displayed. What we had never seen was a huge iron weighing contraption retrieved from a farm near the city of Salvador. This was for weighing slaves, who were occasionally bought and sold by the kilo, at least, the women and children were. This was common practice in parts of the US but uncommon in Brazil. Men fetched as much as $350 US, which sounds like a huge amount of 1800s money. Or maybe they meant in today's money. Translations into English occasionally came out oddly (yes, it did have descriptions in English).
A temporary exhibition upstairs featured work by Inuit women from the north of Canada. There were beautiful paintings and stone carvings or people and animals. Our favourite was a model of a woman carrying a baby, wearing Inuit jewellery and holding a water bucket.
Belo is built on hills, and street blocks are large, so what looks like a short distance on the map can be a long hike. So the other places we planned to see will have to wait. It is a pleasant city with decent restaurants and you could easily spend several days here.
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