Recife, Brazil 1 Apr 07
Odometer 44,378 m 71,420 km

Brazil is roughly the size of the United States. It’s a vast and varied land of rolling verdant hills, huge granite domes, steaming jungles, and sparkling beaches. Yet remarkably, it’s not the natural splendor that captivates me. It’s the people.

Brazilians exude what they like to call
calor humano. Though describing this is like trying to explain why the Grand Canyon is beautiful, here's a feeble attempt:
Calor humano is the warmth of the human soul, a deep interest and caring for one another, an intense need to be together, a reason for being.
This plays out in a variety of subtle ways during the course of the day. While most Americans would consider these customs an invasion of their personal space, Brazilians see them as a way to build and maintain strong interpersonal relationships. It seems to work.

When a man or woman greets or says goodbye to another woman, they embrace and kiss each other, first on the right cheek and then the left. When a man greets another man, they shake hands while using the free hand to embrace or pat the other’s arm or chest. While talking, both men and women stand very close to each other, reaching out and repeatedly touching each other for emphasis and to continually renew the bond.

Women walk hand-in-hand in the streets. The central park is full of people talking, touching, kissing, eating, drinking and laughing. You not only see the warmth, you can
feel it.

Brazilians don’t like to be alone. And where two or more people gather, someone will start drumming or humming and another will spontaneously burst into dance. It’s the beat of a lifestyle alien to most Americans. It’s slower. The focus is on
being together rather than on what is actually accomplished together.

calor humano runs deeper than this. Throughout the months I’ve spent traveling across Brazil I’ve been repeatedly adopted. Folks are curious and interested in my journey, to be sure, but they cannot hide their deep sense that I must feel terribly alone.

One such adoptive father was Lucio Flavio. I first met him and his family when they were vacationing in Foz do Iguacu on the Paraguayan border. There, they invited me to visit them when I would roll through their Atlantic coastal city of Recife, many months later.

Lucio lives every minute of every day like it’s his last. His
calor humano and passion is evident in everything he does or touches. He loves to laugh and talk and sing. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t know the words, or that he's sometimes off-key with his raspy, Dylanesque voice.

He dons traditional garb while striking up a folkloric tune on any number of instruments, saying it helps him feel the spirit of the music. He’s not easily embarrassed, and exudes an inner peace that lets everyone know he’s happy doing what he’s doing, no matter what anyone else might think.

Life has never been about the money for Lucio. He says it's about savoring your food, exercising, listening to and playing good music, and most of all--holding your family and friends close.

Lucio doesn’t have a plan; he dances to the music that’s playing. He adapts. He finds a way to make merry, to smile and to hope. “Pow,” he’s fond of saying, when describing something significant, tough or important.

Celebrating my birthday while in Lucio’s house, he confided to me in Portuguese that guys like us only have about 20 good years left, so we can’t afford to waste a single one. Each additional year will bring with it some new source of age-related physical pain, so it’s essential to stay in shape and do the hard stuff first.

Lucio guided me out of the city on his way to work. El Viento and I followed close behind his car while ruminating on my time here. As we turned out into traffic, Lucio offered an enthusiastic two thumbs up to wish me well on my trek northward. I raised my fist in thanks and praise to a true friend and troubadour.

I have learned a lot on this Journey, but nothing so important as what Lucio Flavio taught through his own example: We all need to laugh and sing and dance--

Lucio guitar
Lucio Flavio refuses to sing the blues.

Lucio accordian

Lucio family
Kindly adopted by Lucio & his wife.

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