Sunday, June 29, 2008


Although I was excited to watch tonight’s game between arch rivals Internacional and Grêmio (a long-awaited event for me), I confess I wasn’t expecting to leave celebrating. Not only did Grêmio have home-field advantage, but they also top the tables in the Campeonato Brasileirão while Inter (having recently lost their coach, team captain, and two other star players) is at the bottom. So when Inter scored at 15 minutes in the first half, which they bravely dominated with excellent passing, I cheered heartily along with a jam-packed neighborhood bar (of mixed fans).

The game grew intense as Grêmio failed to even the score and Inter had a few excellent shots that were hair-raisingly close. But it was the last 15 minutes that were the best. A now-desperate Grêmio was playing very aggressively, Inter ever more defensively, and all of the fans—on both sides—were increasingly zealous. Though I pleaded with the clock to tick faster, it wasn’t fast enough. At 33 minutes in the second half, Inter goalkeeper Renan jumped to intercept a shot (which he did) and, while in the air, extended his leg out front to lessen the impact from the player charging at him. Unfortunately his leg struck the Grêmio player in the stomach and the referee issued a red card to Renan, thereby expelling him from the game. Uffff! And then there was chaos—as people in the stadium (on and off the field) and in the bar alike went mental.

I felt both tense and gleeful. Grêmio made the subsequent (and arguably undeserved) penalty kick to even the score - plus Inter had to play the remaining time one-man short. Everyone in the anxiety-ridden crowd was roaring. Inter managed to prevent another goal by an adrenaline-fueled Grêmio during the next 15 minutes of play and, in the end, a tie was a great result for my team. The whole experience perfectly encapsulated one of the primary reasons I moved here: it was a passionate and thrilling exposition of camaraderie and rivalry in a single moment.

Ahhhh…I still haven’t quite calmed down! Nevertheless, on to other happenings and observations.

On Saturday my wandering took me to Redenção, that glorious park, where I spent some time reading the Zero Hora newspaper on a park bench. When I got up to head home, I spotted a familiar dog—Veia. Zuh? There, in front of me, were Bruno and Victoria, out for a walk. What an odd coincidence in a city of 1.5 million! Bruno was off to play futebol so Victoria and I spent an unplanned afternoon walking around the city. Eventually I ended up at Shopping Bourbon Country for a browse in the wonderful bookstore/café, Livraria Cultura, and a movie. I saw Antes que o Diabo Saiba que Você Está Morto (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead). I read about it a few weeks ago and was eager to see it, in part because of the cast which featured Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was not disappointed! I have seen lots of films in my three months here, and this was my favorite (with a close second being Persepolis).

I’m sure that in the US there are nuclear and extended families that are equally tight-knit as those I’m coming to understand here—but it wasn’t my personal experience. As an “outsider” I sort of covet the bond that I’ve witnessed here. Families stick close together: young adults typically live in parents’ homes until marriage, sometimes even afterwards; aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces and nephews visit frequently; and long meals are shared frequently. On the other hand, having my independence rather young gave me a certain freedom—autonomy—that I enjoy. Still, I feel a bit like a stray dog.

Luckily, I have been adopted by the United Nations. Not only has New Zealander Victoria taken me under her wing (as have Brazilians Bruno, Aninha, and Tôtô), but today I was invited to lunch with some new international friends: Christiane (German) and her husband Roberto (Uruguayan) prepared a spread for me and four other friends (plus children). Four languages were being spoken at a single table. I felt delighted and “at home.”

The process of creating a network is going very well. I’ve had lots of social time this week, which is a welcome departure from the first couple months here. This week’s Friday Happy Hour was at Boulevard de Vasco, where we discovered that a martini, as listed on the menu, was not the straight-up-vodka hit-me-where-I-need-it cocktail, but the aperitif Martini—a liquor with a sweet taste—served bem gelada (very cold) with a cherry and a slice of lime. Good to know.

Also good to know: aipim does not do well in the juicer. Aipim (pronounced A-ping) is some sort of root vegetable—course and dry—from which manioc flour is derived. I guess it was a bit foolish of me to assume that its placement in the produce aisle makes it a worthy additive to my standard carrot-apple-cucumber concoction. The result was vegetable paste. Gross. Lesson learned.

There’s more on new legislation, maple syrup, mini-pineapples, and telenovelas (evening soap operas)… later...


P.S. Inter's new coach is named Tite, but I hereby officially dub him "Grite" which is funnier if you know Portuguese.