Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Honestly? Sometimes I feel a little lost. I’m in a new place where I am not fluent in the language, I don’t have a social circle, and I don’t fit in culturally. Don’t think I didn’t anticipate every bit of that statement, because I did. Sometimes I felt lost in Chicago too.

But what is really irking me at the moment is that a new episode of LOST aired last night in Brasil and I am without means to reunite with my crew. Big sigh. Anyway…

I don’t have a key to my mailbox. So, I suspect Ênio must have intercepted the mailman because last week he handed me an envelope - my CPF card. The number (similar to a social security number in purpose) was granted six weeks after I filed the application with the Brazilian Consulate in Chicago last year. But the process of securing a physical card has been a great deal more intricate. Somehow, holding the card feels like a personal achievement. Plus, it was mail. Addressed to me. In Brazil. Neat. I am expecting some bills to arrive in the mail soon too, and am strangely excited to receive them.

Being keyless, I am learning the ins and outs of the segunda via. Literally, I suppose, it means something like “alternate route.” It’s the back-up plan for Brazilians. The way you work something out when the usual way doesn’t work (for a multitude of reasons). My internet bill was due on the 24th, so on the 23rd I went to Claro to pay for my internet service in person. I thought it was a one-stop deal, and was slightly caught off guard when the clerk handed me a printout of my account and instructed me to go to the lottery shop. Como? Lottery offices are abundant here, for predictable reasons. Paying my internet bill in a lottery shop initiated a flashback to my childhood, when my mom asked me to run into the neighborhood drugstore to pay the electric bill. Oh, apparently the segunda via for the electric bill is at the supermarket, Adam advised. Good to know, until I get the key.

I hung out with Adam and Fabricia again last Thursday afternoon. We ate McDonalds (ha) and had a great time. Later that night they embarked on the twelve hour bus ride to São Paulo. I have been thinking about them ever since they left. Adam was flying back to Connecticut and Fabricia will be working in São Paulo until they can sort out the necessary details. I hope that happens very soon. I know how it feels to get on a 5,500 mile flight without the person you love. It’s awful. Boa sorte queridos. Godspeed.

After bidding them a safe journey, I met Victoria Winter at Champanharia Ovelha Negra. I met Victoria, a kiwi expat that has been living here since late 2006, through Facebook and we had coffee a few weeks ago. We agreed to rendez-vous again at the Black Sheep Champagne bar because it’s on the corner near my apartment and was just awarded best Happy Hour in the city (for the third time). We drank lots of champagne (wink) before her boyfriend arrived with four of his friends to take us elsewhere. I chased the bubbles with two beers. That’s notable, by the way, because I never drink beer. I got in around 2am and achieved nothing the next day.

On Saturday night I attended Opera do Malandro by Chico Buarque. It was somewhat of an amateur, but also economical, production at the previously highlighted Casa de Cultura. I enjoyed it and was pleased with myself when I actually understood a cultural joke, drawn from the film Cidade de Deus (City of God, look for it, it's excellent).

Sunday was the first of two games in the final round of the Gauchão. It was a very intense game which nearly ended in a 0-0 tie, a good enough result for Inter since the next game is here in Porto Alegre. But the opponent, Juventude, scored a wickedly cunning goal at quite literally the last second of extra time. Ufff! I couldn’t believe it, nor could I deny them their credit – they deserved the win. To win the state championship, Inter has to win by two on Sunday. This week I’ll be trying to score a ticket from a cambista (scalper) on the streets of Centro. That should be interesting.

In other news, I had my thinking-like-an-American* checked this week. My microwave wasn’t working so Ênio told me to leave it with Clare (who works in the lobby) and he’d have it fixed or replaced. I brought it down the next day and, assuming Clare had stepped out for lunch, left it behind a planter as I ran out for class. I returned an hour and a half later. Neither Clare nor said appliance was there. When I visited with my fun (ex-) neighbors, Adam mentioned that he saw it earlier and that I probably shouldn’t leave it there, because Clare wasn’t working that day. I said that it was already gone… what did he mean Clare wasn’t around? Did he think someone took it? He responded with a raised eyebrow. I have no official answer on this yet, but it’s possible that someone in our small apartment building made off with the decrepit old thing. Merda.

I found the mecca of fruit and vegetable markets, by accident, and plan to get an old-lady cart and go back next Saturday for things such as these:

The green Sonic-the-Hedgehog thing is a graviola, or gaviola, or something with a g and a v. It looks and feels so strange but, in fact, tastes like cucumber. I don’t know what the magenta thing is called. It is reasonably flavorless, though it’s probably full of vitamins-isn’t that what they say about brightly colored vegetables?

I was expecting a rainy Sunday and planned to prepare rice and beans (I mean, if I’ve already started drinking beer…), study and watch the game on TV. But when I awoke to sunny blue skies at 9:30 after a mere 5 hours of sleep, I hastily rushed to dress and scrambled to get outdoors! I took some photos of Parque Farroupilha, that great Sunday hang-out, for you to enjoy.

Happiness! Remember the cuia I told you about – the chimarrão cup that I saw (in magnified version) on a rooftop during the bus ride to Torres? I saw something similar in the park. I give you The Giant Cuia!

I have been living this new life for a month. I have so many personal reflections, but those are, well… personal.

My hope is that among the bright colors and sunlight, the malleable “rules” and time to soak everything in, I keep growing and changing into the Me I envision. To find, perhaps, the parts that feel lost.


Loquinha Gauchinha

*For the record, I use the word American because that is how it will be best understood by my peeps. It deserves to be noted, however, that my ethnocentrism has been corrected. There are many nationalities within the Americas.