Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: In a few short weeks, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will open in Brazil. From Aug. 5 to 21, all eyes will be on the South American nation as the world’s top athletes compete for gold in 28 sports. The setting for the games, Rio de Janeiro, will also give spectators — fans watching the games in real-time in the stands in Rio, as well as those watching the competition in the comfort of their own homes — a taste of Brazilian culture, particularly its music and dances. And for at least one Hawai‘i sansei, those cultural cutaways will take her back to a place, a time and a culture that still reverberates in her heart more than three decades later.
As a child, Sandy Tsukiyama’s father would bring home the records of Harry Belafonte and fill their house with the faraway rhythms of calypso. “I was 9 years old, and that was the first time I heard the word ‘Ipanema,’” reminisced Tsukiyama in a recent interview. “I didn’t know what it was or if it even existed, but it sounded beautiful and I knew I wanted to go there.”
Tsukiyama’s dream lay dormant until her sophomore year at the University of Hawai‘i when she was awakened from a deep sleep by a languorous Brazilian ballad emanating from a local radio station that reignited her childhood memory of Ipanema. “I was already a music major by that time and I had studied enough Spanish to understand a third of what the singer was saying.”
Tsukiyama enrolled in Portuguese language classes at UH, which, back then, offered only two introductory courses. “Because I knew Spanish, I found the classes really easy and I began to make friends with the Brazilian community on campus, which made me hungrier to learn more.”
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