Sunday, December 14, 2008

metamorphosis: from cocoon to social butterfly

I intended to be more frequent and less epic, but I’ve been caught up in a social whirlwind. Weddings and parties and happy hours, oh my! Let’s begin a couple weekends ago when I donned my new Indian-style sundress and headed Jessica and Rafael’s rather nontraditional wedding. Jessica has light to spare and it shows.

The wedding and reception was held on Jessica’s mother’s sítio (there’s no equivalent word for this in English, but it’s something of a country house). The backyard, including a sports court and pool) was converted to an Indian-themed banquet facility. (Sadly, my photos just didn't do justice to the spectacularness of the surroundings.) There were two DJ’s—one that began spinning pre-ceremony at 5pm and carried on until 2am, when the second DJ took over to keep the party people dancing until 8am. An acoustic Indian band played just before the ceremony, and throughout the dinner that followed. I was so impressed by the phenomenal decorations, the gorgeously unique and meaningful ceremony performed by the mother-of-the-bride, and the fantastic reception (which even included a fireworks display).

It was there that I met Lauren and Rogerio. They kept me laughing throughout the dinner, particularly when Rogerio explained how he made a turban from a piece of bed sheet which he learned to wrap with the cunning use of YouTube.

The following Wednesday, I took Rogerio up on his offer to watch the Copa Sul Americana final at the home of his friend Ramiro’s father, Tunilo.

Essentially, the guests were fathers and sons—some by nature and some by imaginary adoption—and boyhood friends. Tunilo makes the best carreteiro (a gumbo-like rice and sausage dish) in the land, and his home is the headquarters for gatherings.

Though fantastic, it wasn’t the fact that my team won (late in the second period of extra time after an anxiety-ridden hour and twenty minutes) that made the night so great. And it wasn’t the simple pleasure of having a group to jump around and holler with.

No, my night was exceptional because of the gracious and welcoming company. As I am becoming accustomed to here in Porto Alegre, I was treated so warmly by strangers. My wine glass was always full. I enjoyed being regaled by stories of boyhood friendship and Tunilo’s stateside escapades when he was finding himself in his 20’s. And Tunilo’s friend educated me on João Bosco as he drove me home at 2am. It’s no surprise that Tunilo’s home is always abuzz on Sundays with generations of friends—and he said I would always be welcome to join their surrogate family. I even received an invitation for Christmas, which I would have jumped at had I not already made other plans. They are great people.

Somehow I managed the energy for a night out with the girls the following day (insert trademark smirk).

Then on Friday (still in the previous week, lest you lose track), I went to Sakura for sushi and tempura with “old friends” Fifi and Lisa, new friends Richard and Jackie and their two daughters, and the birthday girl, Diane. That was a blast! The restaurant had great food and ultra-cool décor, and I was so pleased to finally meet Jackie and Richard. They chucked their teaching jobs in Seattle a few months ago and moved the family here to take positions at the Pan American School, so they already have my highest respect, right? Topping it off, this is neither their first adventure nor their last, and their wealth of experience is matched by their good humor and broad perspectives.

Fifi, Diane, and Richard

Jackie and Lisa

Richard & Jackie's girls, who, even in the face of difficult transition, are among the coolest young ladies on the planet!

I can’t remember what I did on Sunday, but on Monday night I attended a holiday party at a really cool Spanish tapas restaurant. I drank sangria and laughed more. I met a guy named Fabio that made a lasting impression, too. During our chat (conducted 75% in English and 25% in Portuguese), he innocuously commented, “you are lazy with your Portuguese.” I know it was merely observational, not critical, but it certainly made me think. He was right—kinda. While I would only describe myself as lazy in the context of exercise, I have let communication frustration get the better of me too often and it is impeding on my language acquisition. I am pleased to report that for the past week I have amped up my study time and deliberately participated in horas e horas of Portuguese-only conversation.

All in all, during these last few weeks I have spent a lot of time meeting new people and laughing. For a long time, I hadn’t felt quite myself. I am delighted to report that I seem to have found my old, spirited, lighthearted self. At the same time, I have definitely detected hints of a change…a new ability to relax and run with it. Thank you for that, Brasil.

I just turned my little canoe to head downstream.