Sunday, November 16, 2008

Events and non-events

Thankfully, today was the last day of the 54th annual Feira do Livro.

Don't get me wrong, I love the book fair as much as the locals. Its popularity, evident from the size explosion I witnessed between my first visit in 2005 and today, is easily explainable. It's interesting to browse the 100+ stalls and there are very good deals to be had. But walking through the event (situated in my neighboring Praça Alfândega) almost daily for the last two weeks, it was only through great determination that I limited my purchases to 3 books and a 2009 planner.

The best random event in recent months happened yesterday. After morning classes I enjoyed a leisurely lunch (and a bloody mary...heck, why not?) at a nice seafood restaurant near the school. I browsed some travel guides and started compiling my Wish List of sights for my inevitable tour of Brazil's many wonders, both natural and unnatural.

Being a holiday there wasn't a lot to do. I was en route to another coffee shop when I overheard a woman asking directions. Since I was headed that way, I piped in to offer to lead her to her desired street. As we set off together she inquired, "Where are you from?" I laughed and we began a new conversation in English. Five minutes later, finding that my destination was closed, Isabela said, "I know a place you can have a coffee. My house."

And it was thusly that I met Isabela and Julio (I hope I've spelled those right!). Isabela emerged from the kitchen with coffee and a gorgeous piece of chocolate nut cake--ala mode!--and we began a rambling and diverse conversation. Julio, a porto-alegrense that relocated to
São Paulo at seventeen, works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (still, I think). Isabela used to work at the U.S. Consulate in São Paulo. Together, they lived in France for more than a year, and he was "loaned" (he said) to World Bank for a time--a project which sent him on assignments in Nigeria, Senegal, Mozambique, and Angola. Cool. Tri-legal, in fact. They moved to Porto Alegre just three months ago for a change of pace. They were positively darling, and they shared the most wonderful stories and tips during the few hours I spent in their home. What an unexpected Saturday afternoon treat!

Ok, on to the random thoughts and experiences that I've been withholding.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

...well, inside at least. Outside, not so much!

Aventuras na cozinha: Cantaloupe is not good in a smoothie. It is, however, worth a little picture loving--it's pale yellow and smooth on the outside. Neat.

There are lots of interesting things to see on Centro's Main Street, Rua dos Andradas. Just the other day I found the strangest coffee shop on Earth. T
here's no way I can relate its' atmosphere without the aid of pictures. I felt too intimidated to ask last time, but I'll go back. I can't help myself. Anything less would be irresponsible journalism. I digress. Another thing that makes me smile on Andradas is passing Correio do Povo. On the ground floor of the newspaper's office is a live radio studio that is frequently surrounded by hoardes (far more than I captured in this photo) of men who get visibly engaged, streetside, in the day's broadcast--be it politics or futebol.

In addition to the most surreal coffeehouse ever (story coming soon), I think the most humorously named is this one...

...which could be used in a very punny ad campaign by the producers of Beano.

I've had ants in my pants to get out of the city. I applied myself on Thursday and managed to take the
lotação on a little excursion to the only beach in the area--Ipanema. I took a walk and enjoyed a rather distinguished seven o'clock cocktail at a bar overlooking the river. I saved this picture for last--enjoy.

And remember folks, ler enriquece.

Loquinha Gauchinha

a glimpse of life in Butiá

Several weeks ago I was invited to Butiá. Where?

Butiá is a small town in the interior (that is, countryside), to attend Clair and Carlos’ son’s batismo (baptism) and the family churrasco that followed. The bus from Porto Alegre took a little over an hour. I love bus trips because I can zone out with my iPod and absorb scenery that is otherwise elusive to your carless reporter. I didn't worry much about finding my hotel without directions--there's only one.

I dropped my backpack in my room and gave myself the grand tour of the town (twice) in under an hour.

After a coffee and a quick read through the local newspaper, I headed back to the hotel cafe for dinner and the game. There, I met Julio.

From the distant border town of Uruguaiana, he moved to Butiá a handful of years ago to be near his children and grandchildren that live in Porto Alegre. City life isn't for him, he says, nor is living alone--so he has taken up residence in the hotel! Both a gentleman and a character (actually, he's just a few less shades of yellow than Homer Simpson, don't you think?), he was eagerly informative. He insisted I sample one of these rather greasy doughnuts and taught me my favorite new phrase: Ala pucha, Tchê! It's a safe alternative to some of the more colorful language I have learned to shout at the television during a game when my team is not living up to my expectations.

I tried to call it an early night because I had to get to the church the next morning by an hour I normally miss. Unfortunately, I think my humble accommodation was inexpensive because it is subsidized by a bedbug tax. It was not a pleasant sleeping experience, but hey, I needed no further motivation to get out of there in the morning.

The church kinda reminded me of the one in the November Rain music video.

The officiant was young and hip--a one-man-(of-God)-show--who played guitar and sang throughout the Sunday service. It was nice. Kinda... earthy.

Clair's parents, in town from Germany, are really friendly, interesting, and adventurous (they were headed to Manaus in the Amazon after their visit here). Clair, her Dad, and I decided to walk back to the party for a little fresh air. We stopped for a look around the local cemetery and this little sítio.

Then it was time for a home style barbecue.

The others in attendance included four generations of Carlos' family, most of whom still live within blocks of each other in town.

I was really honored to be invited to such an intimate family event. Naturally, I was treated with the utmost hospitalidade, and felt thankful to be in such great company.

Thanks again Clair & Carlos (and family)!