Aug 25, 2010

Black Gold

The last two weeks have been spent in the beautiful UNESCO World Heritages site of Ouro Preto (Portuguese for Black Gold). The town was founded at the turn of the 17th century and was the focal point of Brazil's gold rush. The city has the largest collection of colonial Portuguese architecture in the world. I feel like we've taken a step back in time. It's so very different from the fast-paced week we just had in Rio de Janeiro. The town is extremely hilly and the roads are made of cobblestones. We walk everywhere (up and downhill in both directions to and from work). The streets are lined with small shops and cute restaurants. Everywhere you turn, you can see a church. We went inside one and the detailing inside was magnificent.

Tonight we had dinner on a patio overlooking a park, while listening to a talented musician playing your typical Antonio Carlos Jobim hits. The Portuguese language sounds so beautiful –like someone is telling you a secret.

There is always something going on in the town square, whether it's a marching band parade or a capoeira demonstration.

The people here are known for the kindness and I have had many opportunities to practice my Portuguese. I can now order food, buy clothes and ask for directions. But with great difficulty and a lot of "mais devagar por favor" (speak slower please). Most of the people here either work in mining or tourism, or they are engineering students at the university that is training us.

For our training, we have been learning about mining (geology, industry, economics, operations, logistics etc.) in a classroom and taking field trips to various different mines. There is so much to learn. Tomorrow it's off to the beautiful seaside city Vitoria for a few days to see more of Vale's operations.


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