Friday, April 4, 2008

Redemoinho de vento

That’s cool. Redemoinho de vento. (hedge-ee-moy-n-yo gee vent-oh) That means “whirlwind,” at least, according to one of my scholarly sources. I have never moved twice in a week before, but this week, merely six days after my arrival, I moved into my humble new home on Rua Duque de Caxias. Most things have been flowing thusly. I had my first and second pilates class with Carlos this week (more on that another day). I hooked up the cell phone, and learned firsthand how quickly the reais ($) add up from a few brief calls and text messages. I did not manage to open a local bank account, though I have one more shot once I receive my first electric bill in the mail later this month. I learned the words for shoulder, heel, broom, scissors, sheets & pillowcases, and a key word, proof. I learned that one is better off spending a few extra reais (hay-ice) on a decent bottle of wine. I learned that the mosquitoes (thankfully, not of the Dengue Fever variety) are so small that they can fit through the wire weaving of the screen—but at least they don’t seem to bite.

Most importantly, I learned the incredible value and luck of having the aforementioned Ênio (Ain-ye-oh) on my side. That man is a godsend. When he emailed the lease for my review, he mentioned he was going to introduce me to a New Yorker living in the building that offered his assistance with “newbie” things. When I signed my lease on Tuesday, Ênio walked me to Claro to help me get my cell phone hooked up and price out internet service. Later that day, while I went to the bank, he went to have the electric transferred to my name, and called a different phone company to compare phone/internet plans. He has jumped through a handful of bureaucratic hoops on my behalf, and I really cannot express my gratitude well enough. He would like a Chicago Bulls hat, which I have my people working on, but somehow it still seems very uneven. And my experience with Ênio is but one of the many fantastic encounters I have had with helpful, generous, and patient porto-alegrenses in a single week.

Want another? Carmem, the manager at Hotel Lar, didn’t hesitate to adjust my rate from a monthly one to a weekly one, upon hearing the news that I found an apartment. She was only sorry to request that I wait until April 26th to receive my refund, which apparently will be in cash, because (quite reasonably) they have to wait for the international credit card transaction to clear. What’s more, she had no issue with my boxes being delivered there and said that she would gladly call my cell when they arrived. Jefferson, Ricardo, and Dione were sad to see me go so soon, but told me to stop in whenever I needed some help or advice, or just to say “hi” once in a while. Will do.

In fact, the only experience I’ve had so far that lives up to the stereotype about Brasil’s penchant for red-tape was getting a tiny wireless modem for my laptop. To achieve this seemingly simple chore, I made five visits to Claro, each with its own waiting time. In my trips to and fro, I gathered the many documents, and then I gathered more. In the end, I needed my passport, CPF (the equivalent of a SSN), my apartment lease (which then had to be notarized), the official government registration of the building, the receipt from the electric company regarding the service transfer request, a photocopy of the identity card for the property owner, my mobile number (which I have) and a landline number (which I don’t have). Seriously.

But just when you reach the point where you nearly give up in frustration, if you persevere, you get what you’re after. Tonight I am in my room, singing along with The Decemberists on my fun little iPod speakers, clicking out my thoughts on my laptop, with its little blue “you-have-wireless-connection-you-cool-girl-you” light flashing at my side. Man, life is good.

On to the pictures and the funnies. I will post pictures of my apartment in short order, once I figure out how to photograph the kitchen! (Maybe a video of me turning in place?) In the meantime, here’s one of the pôr-do-sol (sunset) for which POA is famous, taken from my bedroom window. Naturally, the photo cannot possibly do justice to the spectacle. Rest assured, I enjoy it immensely from my perch.

And one of Monteiro, the charming old man I met in the park selling these little paper toy things that transform into many shapes—including, um, headgear.

My favorite entertaining experience of the week (well, of the sort that can be relayed en masse) is this. Ênio introduced me to a friend and colleague during our lease review, and business was suspended for a few minutes as “get-to-know-you” chat took precedence. During the conversation, I caught enough to understand that Ênio was relaying to his friend that when I phoned him on Sunday about the apartment, he thought, based on my accent, that I was Japanese. He was surprised, seeing me waiting outside the building, that in fact I had blondish hair and blue eyes. Me, Japanese? Ha ha ha, apparently I need elocution lessons in Portuguese.

Alright friends, I think that’s enough for now.

Beijos, como sempre,

Loquinha Gauchinha

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