Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bruno’s Edition

Years ago, I read an article that talked about "Equally Cool Couples." You know those dynamic duos you meet in which each partner is totally neat in their own right, and together they make an enviable pair? I am graced with three ECC’s in my budding social circle: the aforementioned Victoria and Bruno; their admirable family, Aninha and Tôtô; and newcomer Americans, Joanna and Joe. Each, individually, is ambitious, creative, well-educated and well-traveled, witty, and a treat to be around. In their respective pairings they embody the kind of relationship I hope to find myself fortunate enough to be in someday.

Last Friday I drank champagne with Victoria and Bruno (right) at Santíssimo, where I was introduced to Joe and Joanna (left). They first set foot in POA (their first time in Brasil, actually) just two weeks ago. He is doing research on the relationship between the importation of goods and the colonization of South America—a project that will allow them to travel the continent, spending several months in each of a handful of locales. Meanwhile, she is offering her experience in biology and non-profits (don’t ask me, I don’t really understand it yet) to contribute to universities as they travel. See what I mean? Cool. We had such a lovely time!

After my Saturday morning class, Aninha invited me to almoçar (have lunch—but more like dinner at midday) in their home. I broke the ice with Yolanda, the shy but charismatic 3-year-old with bright blue eyes who is growing up bi-lingual. Victoria came too, with her ECC dog, Veia, and Bruno joined us after we had polished off most of the good stuff—including the wine. I felt really honored to be their guest. From what I have read about Brazilian culture, invitations to dine or attend a party in the home of a friend are akin to be invited to the “inner circle.” Certainly, this was my first experience—and what fun! What began as a casual lunch turned into a five-hour conversation fest. I loved it.

On Sunday, Internacional lost, to my surprise and dismay—sentiments exacerbated by Grêmio’s victory the same day. In the 8th round of the Campeonato Brasileiro this week, it’s a Gre-Nal cross-town classic. Yikes! That’s a lot of pressure. I’d like to attend, but because the game is at Grêmio’s stadium there are a very limited number of seats for the red and white torcida (fans)—who will be escorted in and out by military police. If I don’t attend in person, you can be sure that I will be glued to the television at some pub, likely on Avenida Goethe, armed with a stiff caipirinha.

Speaking of Inter fans, a few weeks ago I met Edison, a host at Mercado Público’s cultural center who has a penchant for writing songs for the torcida in his spare time. Here’s a photo of him, with the lyrics of a great song he wrote for the teams’ 100th anniversary next year, and a CD of his greatest hits.

I stopped by to visit him again this week, and in keeping with the heartfelt Brazilian hospitality I am continually impressed by, he introduced me to his colleagues, Luis and Simone. We chatted a while, and a few moments later, Luis clandestinely presented me with an assortment of not-for-sale postcards featuring historical photographs of the market. Once again, I left feeling warmed by the graciousness of “strangers” here.

Today Victoria, Joanna and I had Ladies Lunch at our favorite buffet, Sabor do Brick, where the staff (center) was costumed in celebration of Festa Juninha (June Festival). I proclaim a different celebration as the motive du jour for gorging myself. Victoria was just accepted into a high-ranking Executive MBA program here. (She has a startlingly bright future, that one.) The three of us chose a spot for our next happy hour, which we have agreed to try to make a weekly calendar entry. In the interests of diversity and exploration, we are trying to select new bars in different neighborhoods each time. When I visited Ênio today, he highly recommended we try Boteco do Natalício, which also made Veja magazine’s Best of 2008 list, I think. But one of the places on the shortlist that I will insist on, eventually, is the “Pit Stop Happy Hour Dancetaria”… come on! The fun is built into the name!

Oh, the darling Al Capone says hello to everyone. I promise to include his picture soon.