Saturday, April 12, 2008

Time flies when you're not working.

It is so easy to forget what day it is. I’m not sure how I’ve arrived at Friday already, and even less sure how more than two weeks have passed in a blink. (And I’m just getting around to posting this missive—it’s Saturday afternoon… see what I mean?)

I have Pilates this afternoon, and was reconsidering my outfit. After you’ve gasped that I have uttered such a sentence, hear me out. Carlos is a torcedor (supporter) of Grêmio, the cross-town rival of Internacional. I’d compare it to a Cubs-Sox thing, except somewhat frequently the intense passion for one’s team has been known to incense violence. In our case, however, it’s merely playful rivalry. Carlos pointed out on Monday that I was (inadvertently) wearing Grêmio’s colors—black pants and a blue top. Before our next class on Wednesday I had been shopping to correct my error, and was wearing one of the two Inter t-shirts I found. I was planning to wear the other one today but I decided to give him a break.

You see, there are two national tournaments being played in Brasil at the moment; the state tournaments (the Gauchão in my case) and the Copa do Brasil. Incidentally, neither of these are the main event—the Campeonato Brasileiro—which runs May through November. The Gauchão is a tournament among teams in my state, Rio Grande do Sul, while the Copa do Brasil is a tournament of 64 teams representing each of Brasil’s 26 states. Mind you, some of the best teams don’t play in the Copa because they are already playing in the international Copa Libertadores which happens at the same time. Confused? Yeah, it took me a while too, and I still have a lot of questions! It will suffice to understand, for now, that the big stuff starts in May, the Gauchão is interesting because it’s a local thing, and the Copa do Brasil, as far as I can tell, is just a way to feed a habit during the “off season.”
Back to my sympathy outfit. Last Saturday Inter won their game, moving them to the next round in the Gauchão. Their biggest competition, Grêmio of course, lost on Sunday and therefore is out of the tournament. To further Carlos’ troubles, Grêmio suffered an embarrassing defeat in penalty kicks on their home turf Wednesday night, which also meant the end of their run in Copa do Brasil. They have earned themselves a month’s vacation, the headlines read, while they wait for the Campeonato to begin. Rather than rub salt in his wounds, and be a cause to my own suffering (I mean, he is my pilates teacher—he has ways of making me pay!), I’ve opted to wear the blue shirt today instead of the red one that triumphs Inter’s World Championship win in 2006.

There is more to life than futebol, of course, although I am happy to be in a place where the spread is so thin.

My communication abilities are improving slightly, though I have resolved to stop messing about and concentrate a little harder on my books this week. Still, I had a couple of linguistic breakthroughs this week. Ok, perhaps that’s a little dramatic—but I am pleased to enter three bits of evidence. 1) On Monday’s walk, I went to Chocolatão (Big Chocolate). It’s quite undelicious actually—that’s what locals call the big brown building that houses the Ministerio de Fazenda, the government department that deals with employment. I went there to complete the next phase in obtaining my CPF card, which in theory, should arrive in the mail in 30 days—given that I managed to follow all the signs and instructions. 2) Walking a little further down the road, I was stopped by some brasileiros asking for directions to Chocolatão. I pointed them in the right direction, pleased that I knew what they were saying and how to respond. 3) I went to Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana (below) to see Nicotina, a film in Spanish with Portuguese subtitles and, to my surprise, understood it. Neat.

I explored the Casa de Cultura this week more thoroughly than the first time I was there in 2005. Formerly a hotel, it was renovated to house some literary museum exhibits, a library, art shows, three 100-seat movie theatres, two cafes, and rooms for courses in the arts. I found a great little study nook on the 2nd floor where I have vowed to spend a couple hours each day this week. That is, until Friday when I leave for the hot air balloon festival in Torres.

As promised, I have attached a few photos of the most entertaining parts of my apartment. First, well let’s call it the sitting area. You see my loveseat and lovely artwork. Superb! Oh, and the metal gate in front of my front door. Did I mention that I was given seven keys when I moved in? No worries, I only carry six.

Missing from that photo is the wall of mirrors with it’s nice wood trim running in parallel diagonal lines about 18” apart. Speaking of 18”, that’s the approximate width of my kitchen door. I like the form actually… little frosted glass panes to conceal a messy kitchen but still allow light into the apartment. It the function part that’s, well…

Now behold the kitchen. The fridge is immediately on the left which opens toward the hall, rather than toward the stove and sink, where any single-occupant might be standing. (I know, I can change that and will once I figure out what tools I need.) But what really makes me laugh is the microwave and it’s “countertop” that juts out from the wall on the right, quite hazardously at eye level. ?????

I cooked my first meal in there today, and thus far haven’t cracked the noggin with enough force to require stitches. It’s all good. Yes, I have been here a week and a half, and just cooked for the first time. I ordered some pizza…

…which lasted me a few days. It was the size of the stovetop. At the joint across the street, you choose 2 or 3 “flavors” and a dessert. So in this example, we have: Mafiosa (sausage and eggplant—I don’t like eggplant), Mexicana (bacon, sausage, onion, black olives, and eggplant-d’oh!), Palmito (hearts of palm), and Chocolate com Morango (strawberry).

I have more about the week, but that's quite long enough for now. Besides I'm going to the see Apenas Uma Vez (Once), again!

Good thoughts, 
Loquinha Gauchinha