Sunday, October 31, 2010

other random bits of laughter

It's Election Day (Round Two). It has been a heated and contentious race so, frankly, I'll be glad to see the day pass. With it, there will not only be a new President, but there will also be far fewer demonstrations clogging the streets (well, more like "normal" for a South American nation). And quirky campaign stickers such as this one for the ex-boxer Maguila (who was disqualified from running in the election after all, for failure to present his criminal record to the Election Board) won't be littering the corporate corridors at lunchtime.

Forget Maguila, though. An even worse embarrassment to the country was the election of Tiririca, whose campaigning must have looked something like this:

On another topic, as much as I loathed seeing the odd Starbucks around São Paulo a few years ago, I confess that now I am extremely thankful. It's the only place I can satisfy my urge for a giant, iced coffee. It's also a nice (safe) place to bring my laptop and work somewhere other than my bedroom. I'm not the only one who appreciates them now--they are everywhere now, nearly as prevalent as in Chicago. The mall near my house has two. And they always have a creative new way to spell my name.

I would wager that 90% of the t-shirts manufactured in Brazil that incorporate English (very chic, you know) contain more than one spelling and/or grammatical error. However, this one was so bad that I had to buy it. I figure I can use it as a teaching tool.

(click to "embiggen")

There's a little lancheria around the corner. A real mom'n pop kinda place that serves sandwiches and omelets in an unassuming corner shop. Amusing, I thought, that they missed the point of lining up clocks on the wall to show the hour in some of the world's most fashionable cities.

One more for the running series on little-things-made-big: a gigantic Tic Tac dispenser, filled with (probably) millions of cereja and maracujá candies!

In case you're curious what the Yuppie's are noshing these days, the chain restaurant América serves a salad of watercress, cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh mushrooms in a lime and caper dressing.

Oh, and for dessert, they tease, American-Style Pancakes. A) I don't think so. B) My kinda pancakes are not for dessert.

I'll be savoring the real thing on Tuesday. With a side of Pumpkin Spice latte.

Pre-election, post-inclusion: My 1st Brazilian Family

Something cool happened tonight.

First, a throwback. I've been visiting Brazil, reading about Brazil, and/or living in Brazil for about six years now. Of course it all started with an ex-love... but from him I didn't learn much about the country's history or culture. No, I learned on my own. I'm proud of my perseverance in this regard, because I believe it sets me apart from a lot of people. I mean no insult in the observation that, of course, when one falls in love with someone from a culture/country different from one's own, most are inclined to learn about that foreign place/identity. Rather, my objective is to note that, when that relationship works, the learning curve is probably a smoother road. In my case, however, and quite in line with my general life experience--everything. moves. in. reverse.

So I fall in love. I get destroyed. And *then* I continue my passion for the other culture. I throw myself to the wolves by moving, alone, to a place where I don't speak the language, don't understand the nuances that are plainly obvious to everyone else, and struggle daily to acclimate to a truly foreign world.

I think this might be the first time I have given myself credit for this battle (and to face it, it has been a battle)--in my own mind, let alone publicly. But I am proud of myself, for this otherworldly expedition. And tonight, for the first time, I felt really rewarded. I felt really included.

Eu, Carolina, e Neida - olha, já tomamos muito vinho: 'tamos meio-bêbadas então...

Sunday is election day in Brazil. More specifically, the day of the run-off election for the next President. On Friday, Neida (Carol's mom) and Leila (Carol's aunt and my friend/Portuguese teacher) came to stay with us (Carol, Mari, and I) for the weekend. We have been living it up: eating at the nicest french/baiana/arabian restaurants. We shopped at the weekend street fairs and wandered the cutest streets in the neighborhood. And at the end of the day, we sit around talking about everything under the sun, not the least of which, the election.

But as we opened another bottle of wine tonight I had a realization: I was being included in a family discussion. Polemic and feisty, sometimes calm and sometimes agitated, but all the time--I was included. I listened, I understood--and when I didn't understand, they invited me back into the fold with an explanation. For the first time in all of my "Brazilian experience," I felt like I was part of a family here in Brazil. And uau! (wow!) what an amazing triumph. It has been a long time coming, and a lot harder-won than many, but I'm getting there. I am becoming a part of the place which has been a part of me for years.

Neida and Leila with mouths full at Consulado da Bahia

Me. Satisfied.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

heard (II)

"I've only had three bad breakups in my fantasy world."

"But it's your fantasy is that possible?"
"I'm a pessimist."

"When a lesbian couple has PMS at the same time, pffff... well...
that's the Everest!"

"When you choose an IT profession, you also have to choose from a menu of disadvantages. You could be overweight, for example. You could be addicted to MSN or to gaming. Or you could drink a lot. I chose Warhammer and drinking."
-Ivan I

Friday, October 29, 2010

See you, Sunny Sampa

Last weekend we changed our clocks ahead an hour for summertime. Que chato que voltarei pra Chicago novamente bem na hora de inverno!! Bah!

I am posting this photo of the blue sky (seen from my bedroom) and these colorful little flowers for my own benefit--to look upon when I'm feeling cold and a little vitamin D deficient... week.

By the way, it struck me, on my wandering path through Vila Mariana on Monday that, sometimes, São Paulo reminds me of England, on prozac.

Eu te amo, Sampa!
Já volto!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sunday in Parque Villa-Lobos

Brazilians do parks as well as they do beaches. I spent several hours last Sunday, strolling through the huge and wonderful Parque Villa-Lobos. I thought Ibirapuera, just a leisurely 45 min walk from my apartment, was cool. But Villa-Lobos, just a few extra minutes in the opposite direction, is even bigger and arguably better. What good fortune to live smack dab between these refreshing oases!

There's a restaurant in the park, but if you get peckish beforehand, try the Popcorn Kombi! ("Kombi" is the word for the old-school VW buses.) For sale: Special Popcorn, made to order, with provolone cheese, butter and oil.

I have become much more active in recent weeks, walking or jogging an average of 10 miles a day and swimming a couple times a week. Even though Sunday was overcast, it felt nice to be amid loads of other active people--of all ages and fitness levels--enjoying walks, jogs, bike rides, the playgrounds, or working up a good sweat on the volleyball, tennis, basketball courts and soccer fields.

What's more, there are workout stations throughout the park with nautilus equipment, a skate area...

...and ample practice space for capoeira (my favorite).

If a picnic (or piquenique, even) is more your speed...

After all that movement, you'll probably want to rehydrate with a deliciously cool água de coco!

Good thing, this discovery!

Sampa, eu te amo.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Last week I made a new friend with an interesting story.

It started because I posted a message in a Couchsurfing social forum looking for new friends--under the guise of needing a tour guide. Great idea but the response was overwhelming. I received so many emails that my head (given my sometimes-committment-phobic nature) nearly imploded. I ended up replying to dozens and blowing off most of them. Nothing personal towards the respondents, of course, I just felt stupid asking for friends and then replying with, "Yeah, I can pencil you in a week from Thursday, k?"

I did, however, meet Polish-American "Nika." Born in Poland, lived in a refugee camp in Greece for over a year when she was 8, moved to Philadelphia, magnet school, college, volunteered abroad, moved back to New York City with new Brazilian boyfriend, Master's Degree, moved to Brazil a couple years ago, to São Paulo a couple months ago. She's my new teacher/translator/writer/whatever-pays-the-bills friend. Last Friday we ate dinner at a chic Morrocan restaurant and drank and mingled at the Casa Club Hostel Bar with owners Sávio, Paulo, and Leo, and countless guests, until 3am. What a blast!

Mari was in Rome last week reporting on the Brazilian teams' bid for the Men's World Volleyball Championship. They won, in case you haven't heard. I haven't been much into futebol lately. I guess I'm in mourning from the distance.

Another weekend night recently, I stopped at Pão de Açucar (the 24-hour supermarket next door). I hadn't been in a very good mood that day, but as I waited in the checkout line, I couldn't help but smile at the odd two-some on the bench in the front. An older man, with a guitar and small amplifier, was crooning out his 6-out-of-10 rendition of Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven," apparently for his weekend night gig at the supermarket. Even more grin-inducing was the even-older woman next to him, not an intentional part of the act, warbling along, eyes alight in her own private moment of glee.

An odd post, admittedly. But it's all I feel like revealing at the moment.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Yes, Why not?"

You all know Ivan, by now. He was my ever-present sidekick in Porto Alegre.

Ivan gives the most thoughtful presents of any guy I've ever known. I've seen it. And when I left Porto Alegre, he handed me a little gift bag--flowery and light--and said he had tried to come up with something that would be easy to keep with me. (Ivan and I both will likely have several two-suitcase-moves around the world still ahead.)

I was deeply touched and delightfully humored by what was inside that little gift bag, though not at all surprised.

They are buttons--transport-friendly reminders of all the great times, laughter and seriousness, binges and bonding, dancing and chilling, and fantastic friendship we've shared.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Jen 2010: A BB in a shoebox

Certainly 2010 has been one of my busiest years from a travel perspective. I was looking back on all the movement:

January - Chicago, Porto Alegre
February - Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
March - Torres
April - Belo Horizonte
May - Maceió
June - Olinda, Recife
July - Chicago
August - São Paulo
September - Porto Alegre
October - São Paulo (this is only month I didn't travel!)

No wonder I went broke and my brain is spinning! Sheesh!

Ok so, my very shaky plans to establish myself as a freelancer here in Sampa are well-conceived but ill-timed, what with the approaching summer/holiday season.
I'll head back to Chicago on November 1st (don't tell Gram!), where I'll stay through Christmas. I will quickly swap the winter sweaters for the tank tops, at my apartment here in São Paulo, before I scurry off to Rio de Janeiro for New Years Eve.

I'm not sure if I'm delighted by the overview of 2010's movement (mission achieved, huh?) or overwhelmed! I wonder what will happen in 2011?

Paulistinha Global