Thursday, July 10, 2008

Appreciating Stuff (like "The Lotação Guy")

I love The Strokes. They are a total sing-along band, and they always make me feel good.

I rearranged my living room, which took a minute and a half. I decided I needed better access to my homemade zen garden so by swapping the positions of the loveseat and table, I created a more welcoming space to sit, comb the sand, and ponder. Oh, and maybe to study too. I was planning to go to Bento Gonçalves for my birthday to drink wine and eat pasta. Instead, I decided to treat myself to 30 hours of Portuguese lessons. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Ha!

Victoria set up a group on Facebook for estrangeiros in POA (or locals that sometimes feel like foreigners). Through the forum I have “virtually” met Jennifer and Stephanie, from California and Georgia respectively. Both are moving to POA this week so the socializing might almost become too much to handle. Yay! We’ve already decided to have three weekly “standing offers”: Ladies Lunch Wednesdays at our favorite buffet, Friday Happy Hours at different nightspots each week, and First Sunday Churrasco (gaucho BBQ) at the beginning of each month. Cool, huh? I have a life again. Happiness.

I also met Renato a couple times this week. He’s currently working on his masters in electrical engineering, but relayed a life roadmap just as divergent as mine. We get along quite well and he’s a very patient conversationalist! At our first meeting we chatted for two and a half hours entirely in Portuguese—it was great but I definitely had smoke pouring from my ears when I left. We’ve settled on Tuesday/Thursday for our “language exchange” coffee sessions. So if my plan to combine these with formal Mon/Tues/Thurs lessons works, I will be closer to functionally-fluent in no time (though I think it wise to stock up on aspirin)!

I was sensing that the relocation luster was fading a couple weeks ago—so I’ve been trying to be more conscientious. I don’t want to take anything for granted—the architecture, the quirks of the people, or the riches of the experience. Or the sun! Today was beautiful (sunny and 70F) and it’s still the middle of winter. I walked around smiling, admiring, and appreciating. That’s what I fought two and half years for.

I appreciate the lotação. Porto Alegre has loads of city bus routes and even a modest metro line. But on rainy or lazy days, I rely on the lotação, super-speedy and comfortable mini-buses, to zip around town. The Rio Branco line conveniently stops just in front of my apartment every 5 minutes or so throughout the day. You hop on, take a seat, and signal the driver when you wish to hop off, paying R$3.10 ($2) for the pleasure. Let me tell you friends, after coping with the mess that is the Chicago CTA for so long, I am in the height of public transport bliss.

I digress. Today I also appreciated The Lotação Guy. You see, at the lotação stop by Mercado Público, where I catch my ride to Gerdau a few nights a week, I regularly see this young guy—and I always smile. He’s in his late 20’s I suppose, neither handsome nor unattractive, with boyish hair, a pronounced jawline and kinda crooked teeth—and probably the most infectious smile I’ve ever seen. He stands at that stop keeping a score of some sort on a notepad, periodically shouting out the lotação destinations to attract riders, and chatting with passers-by. He seems to know everyone and he’s always in a good mood. When I saw him today, I felt smiley (again) as I watched him from my seat on the bus. Later I thought, isn’t is nice to know that just with our good nature and a smile, we can impact someone—a stranger—when we don’t even realize it?

Sleep on it,