Sunday, September 28, 2008

"minha camisa vermelha" (my red shirt)

The Usual Suspects repeated last Sunday with a riverfront churrasco and a trip to the game. (This is a habit I could really get into!)

As we walked to the stadium you could hear the fans roaring from quite a distance.

We initially grabbed some chairs on the side opposite Popular (aka Headcase Central) for the first half.

Due to a caffeine deficiency, I shot this shaky-handed video (my apologies) about 20 minutes before kick off just to give you a taste. The opening shot is Popular, under the giant banners, jumping and leading the stadium in cheers. As I scan left you begin to get a feel for the atmosphere—about 40,000 fans in red—and (at the end of the clip) a few Gremistas sitting just past the empty section.


For security reasons, Grêmio fans (eventually about 3,000 of them) were cordoned off by fences, military police, dogs, and an empty seating section on either side. Toward the end of the game they broke down one of the fencesdespite having had police enter their section repeatedly to squash aggressionat which point Headcase Central feels like the safer place to be!

A minute before kickoff we decided we were too close to the Grêmistas and too far from Popular, so we relocated.

My induction to the legendary GreNal battle was a captivating frenzy in the stands and incredible comeback performance on the field! Let me recap:

Gooooooooool do Inter – 4th minute

Gol do Grêmio – 18th minute (Yes, I am biased.)

Gooooooooooooool do Inter – 28th minute

Gooooooooooooooooool do Inter – 40th minute

Gooooooooooooooooooooool do Inter – 46th minute

The second half was scoreless, but what a party! The fans did not disappoint the team, and the team did not disappoint the fans. At one point, Inter put on a great show of fancy footwork in an elaborate game of "Keepaway" that had the fans roaring "Ole!" with each sublime passing maneuver, as if watching a masterful group of toreadors. That was very funny! Even Clemer, Inter’s goalkeeper, got in on the act—playing a sort-of hackysack with the ball and playing to the torcida.

With the win, Inter moves up the tables from 11th place to 8th, and Grêmio loses their 1st place foothold in the Campeonato Brasileiro.

Mixing flags and fireworks always appeals to my rebellious side. Surely their mom’s also told them it wasn’t a wise idea, but…


Man, that was a great experience. I loved it.

Xailaiai, xailaiai,


Friday, September 26, 2008

The winding road

"The shortest distance between two points is a straight line." Therefore, I make as many turns as possible.

I arrived in Porto Alegre six months ago today. I don’t have a sweeping and elegantly composed reflection on my experiences thus far. Rather, each day I think a lot about the things I like and the things I don’t. I think about my path and how I can walk it with the most integrity. If there is one bold statement for me to make on this anniversary of sorts, it is that I hardly know what I’m doing with my life tomorrow, let alone how I see things unfolding over the next several months or years, and I’m okay with that. This is a fact which, in itself, is fascinating to me given my nature to be a compulsive planner, list-maker, and idea-factory. I guess that today, I’m proud of my improved ability to float.

So, back to the little things…

When I was in Chicago I would daydream about the fruit, the sun, the stadium visits, and the time to wander around. Though each of these little things has been appreciated since my flight landed, I realize that I can do better. I can try a little harder, while I’m floating, to not take these things for granted.

The weather has been lovely. Seventy-five degrees give or take with lots of sunshine. I walked more this week, camera at the ready, and took loads of pictures of strange trees and flowers. I visited my turtles in Parcão.

I’ve been experimenting with dates and figs, and waking up a little earlier to make my own coffee and eat a mango. I am trying to stick to the greener end of the buffet livres and walk to my classes and social appointments. I try to be aware of the warm sun and light on my face, closing my eyes, righting my posture and breathing deeply.

I swam my usual mile in the Olympic-sized pool for the first time, which seems very long when you’re used to a 50m lap. (Though I am not bothered by the saline in the shorter pool, I didn’t miss it either.) I also bought a new suit when I embarrassingly realized that the butt of my old one is transparent enough to be just-this-side-of-obscene.

I learned a little more Portuguese, including some of the catchy tunes of the 8 candidates in next weeks’ mayoral election.

This week I became a Sócio of my team, Internacional. I receive ticket discounts and the perk of being able to purchase early, so I was able to secure my place in the stadium for Sunday’s big GreNal a day before the public sale. I also received a nifty plastic membership card. Neat!

Tomorrow after classes I’ll meet some girlfriends for feijoada (a traditional stew of black beans and various bits of meat) and a walk past Usina Gasômetro and the riverfront. In the early evening I’ll head to a free concert. There’s an alt-rock band from Montevideo called “Dante Inferno” playing Santander Cultural for the closing night of an urban art and culture exhibit called Transfer. I saw the exhibit a few weeks ago and was really impressed.

Here’s a photo of a temporary skate park, if you will, installed in Santander, that gorgeous building I’ve featured many times.

Flashback: Speaking of temporary skate parks… my high school chum, Danielle, and I used to hang out with (read: have enormous crushes on) these skaters. The ringleader of the misfits, Sage, was a really bright guy. I remember his frustrated mom once joked with me, “too bad he doesn’t use his powers for good instead of building homemade tattoo guns from household items.” Yeah. So, one night, Sage et al stole several bulky sheets of plywood from a construction site about a mile down the road and, not-so-clandestinely skated back home with them in the middle of the night. With the loot, they set about building a rather large half pipe in the yard. Not one to bother with sketches or plans, Sage just worked out the design and construction process seamlessly in his head. What a prankster. His long-suffering Mom was right though—he’s in prison now.

And that has nothing to do with Brazil. Or maybe, somehow, it does.


Monday, September 22, 2008

o sol e o futebol

Sunday marked the first day of Spring—wheee! Granted the temperatures have been far milder here than the Chicago winters I am accustomed to, but for nearly ten months my sunshine didn’t play after six. I am very eager to spend evenings in the park walking past gorgeous blooms in radical colors.

What a great spring day it was. I went to Parque Gigante, which is essentially a country club located on the long and narrow strip between Internacional’s stadium (Estádio Beira-Rio) and the Guaíba river. Victoria and Bruno and a handful of their really friendly friends made churrasco (more meat!).

(I was going for clowny, but it came out a little bit "Shankhill Butcher" I guess.)

We drank beer (yes, me too), chatted, and played soccer, err, futebol.

Gooooooooool para o Bruno!

Very Serious Futebol.

Brazil just passed a law making it illegal for spectators to drink alcohol in the stadium (gasp!). I'm pretty sure drinking on the field is not within regulation either, but whatever.

I think I was an awesome goalkeeper in another life...

...but in this life, given the choice between saving the beer or saving the shot...

well as you can see...

About six in the evening we headed over to the stadium to watch Inter take on Vítoria, named for the northeastern Brazilian city and not to be confused with Victoria The Kiwi (though I think that would be a funny match too).

Photos never do justice to beautiful sunsets, but the stadium is certainly well placed for them.

Bruno deserves lots of credit for my happy Sunday. First, he was watching out for me the whole time. Second, he graciously and unexpectedly hooked me up with a ticket, gratis. But most of all, he knows his stuff! During the first half we sat in the calmer arquibancada inferior, but when the teams switched goals we moved too… to Popular—where the very… spirited… people sit. This proved a brilliant strategy because I was able to focus on the game during the first half and have a great view of Inter’s penalty shot, and able to be distracted by the passionate torcida during the scoreless second half.

Here’s a video of one of my favorite cheers. (Trust me, it’s probably a good thing most of you won’t understand the words, ha!) The crowd only dies off at the end because the game ended and people began pouring out into the streets, for more chanting, of course.


This is only a third of the madness of a GreNal game (between Inter and crosstown rival Grêmio). The next one happens to be next Sunday—and there’s a very high probability that I will be therefinally!to witness the spectacle in person. I’m veeeery excited about that.

Although GreNals are always high-intensity, important games, this one will be even bigger. Inter needs to win it to get closer to qualifying for next years’ Copa Libertadores. But more importantly, Grêmio has been leading the point tables for many weeks now. However, their once-comfortable lead has diminished to just one point (after their tie today), and an Inter victory is even sweeter when it’s the game that dethrones the reigning king, ?

I hope it's springy next Sunday, too.


Quiet, then loud


One day couple weeks ago I was in a shoe store trying on some sandals mid-afternoon. It was sunny when I entered the shop, and I noticed as I glanced out the window about 15 minutes later that it had become dusky dark not long after lunch. Uh-oh. Wearing my strappy new mules out of the shop wasn’t one of my better-thought-out decisions, but neither was leaving the umbrella at home. And anyway, attempting to stay dry in the sudden monsoon would have been futile with Wellies and a parachute.

No matter. The rainy weeks lent themselves perfectly to my blues. I would apologize for my long absence, but I’m trying not to apologize so much.
They say Porto Alegre sometimes has four seasons in a day. I’d amend that to three, but otherwise the ubiquitous "they" are spot on. So I’m glad my club has an indoor and an outdoor pool. Oh, did I just jump over something? (ha!) Yes, I joined my first country-club-ish place, Grêmio Nautico Gaúcho. I went there last week to inquire about swimming a couple times a week as a non-member, and walked out with a carteira social (membership card). I'm such a sucker! They have weights and aerobics and handball and a dining facility, blah blah blah, all of which I’ll probably never use. But they offer a convincing two pools: a 25m indoor pool and an Olympic size outdoor pool (currently under a giant bubble until summer), which I have already frequented three times this week.
I am relieved knowing that when the summertime mass exodus happens—when Porto Alegrenses head for their beach houses in January and February—and my class schedule gets cut in two, I will have a place to retreat, swim, relax, read, maybe even get a little color. Oh, there’s even a Recanto do Chimarrão (tea corner) where the club provides tea and hot water to fill my cuia. Love that.

Semana Farroupilha is an annual celebration of gaúcho traditions which culminated yesterday, Dia da Farroupilha, with a big parade. The day marks the anniversary of a civil war predominantly fought in Rio Grande do Sul from 1835 to 1845—though it seems to me that the day has come to be more significant as a time to honor one’s southern heritage through the rituals of song and dance, churrasco and chimarrão. I wasn’t able to watch the horses on parade Saturday morning because I had some classes. I did attend two barbeques in the afternoon and evening. Mmmm, meat.
A Saturday Summary Equation:

Gauchinhas felizes… yours truly, Fifi, and Victoria
(Hot tip: If you click on any picture, and this is a good one for it, you can see a larger version.)

Aventuras na Cozinha: Recently in Kitchen Adventures, I dropped a glass bottle of grape juice this week. Great. Ants for life. In other food items, would someone kindly show this photo to my favorite boss, Denny? I purchased this overpriced snack item (low demand I guess, har har har) just to take this photo for him. We shared an affinity for baby carrots and I was simply bowled-over to find carrot balls.

Carrot balls! Ideais para pratos sofisticados” – yes, ideal for sophisticated dishes.
Stay tuned, I have another entry about today. Vamo vamo Inteeer!
The Loquinha-est Gauchinha