Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cure for the common...

...blues? ...rhythm? ...or just, The Common?

Who cares! I was feeling a little down tonight. A little lost, confused. A little... closed in, perhaps. I started surfing YouTube for America's Got Talent clips. Yeah. I'm sentimental. So? There's something unique to be gleaned from watching the performances--which might be stunning, provocative, interesting, uplifting, strange, awesome (in the true sense), or occasionally, just bad. But each one of the performers comes to the stage with heart. And optimism. After about 10 hope-filled hopeful's performances I started feeling happy again. Optimistic myself.

One of the videos I watched was the NY-brother-duo Nuttin' But Strings. (One of my two favorite instruments happens to be the violin, the other, piano.) I'd seen their performance on the show before and liked it so much that I bookmarked their site. This time, I went a step further and bought the cd on iTunes.

Wonderful new music on my iPod: another thing that makes me happy.

Everybody needs a cure, now and then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Páscoa findi em Peruíbe

My Easter weekend in Peruíbe was a pleasant surprise.

Fernanda (one-half of Fernanda & Paulo, who I met last year in Maceió), called me out of the blue a few weeks back. We had lost touch after our meeting in the northeast, and she was trying to reach out, get my status, and invite me to hang out. She called, however, the night before I left for Porto Alegre--so we agreed to schedule a dinner when I returned. A couple of unsuccessful attempts later, she called me last Tuesday and said, "tem planos pelo feriado? Tô indo pra praia amanhã à noite e gostaria te convidar ir comigo..."

Go to your beach house for the weekend? Tomorrow?

The obvious and only correct response to which is "hell yeah."

Actually, though it was a four-day holiday here, I had to attend to some Stateside business Thursday afternoon so I hopped a bus that night and met up with Fernanda and her brother-in-law, Giuliano--already there. (Paulo, poor thing, was at a convention in Natal.) Fê's parents would join us the next day for what was forecasted to be a sunny, hot, last-hurrah-of-a-weekend for the season.

I was not disappointed. We spent all day Friday and Saturday wearing out our beach chairs, na procura da batida perfeita* , and tossing ourselves about the surf.

I found some little crabs to play with.

I saw living sand dollars for the first time in my life. I grabbed four from the seafloor and brought them to the shore to inspect and play with them. Sadly, I'm a bad mother and I let the littlest one slip from my hands into the waves, where he was lost in the warm, shallow water. I couldn't find him to return him to the cooler, deeper home with the others, and I felt bad about that. Until Fernanda pointed out that just walking in the sea, we'd massacred hundreds. Ok, then.

Interestingly, I am told they are called estrelas do mar in Portuguese, which is literally, "stars of the sea." I could go with them on that, except that it's the same word for starfish, which makes more sense to me, yet are completely different bichos.

* "in the search for the perfect batida," my funny, punny joke, a double-entendre meaning a type of cocktail as well as a beat or rhythm

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mais Você (More You)

When I was at the ReaTech convention with Juliana, I had a couple missed calls. The caller was from São Paulo, but I didn't recognize the number. I figured it was probably a potential student and I'd call back Saturday. But then there were two more missed calls. Four total, within an hour. Hmm. Someone is trying hard to reach me, I thought, so I called back right away. Between the reception and the noise, the only thing I managed to decipher was that it was a woman, and someone had given her my name and number. I explained that I was at a convention and gave her my email address.

When Juliana and I arrived home that night, I found an email with the subject "Depoimento para TV" (literally, deposition for TV). Since Ju had been filming her show that day, I assumed that, perhaps despite my attempts otherwise, I had been caught on camera by the crew and they must be writing for authorization to air it. Right?

Wrong. My jaw dropped as I read Tuca's email [translated and excerpted]:
Hi! How are you?
We tried to speak today, but you were at the fair, and really, the cell connection was terrible.
Well, the reason for my call...
I work in Production for the program "Mais Você" [which is, essentially, the Brazilian equivalent of Good Morning America] with Ana Maria Braga [a mega-star] on TV Globo [the biggest network in the country].
(That's the part where my mouth fell open.)
We're doing a piece with the theme "Foreigners discussing: 'I Discovered Brazil'". We're looking for cool people (I already know that you are!) that came to Brazil, already in the adult phase of their life and chose to live here. It will be a quick thing, a super-informal chat with our reporter. Please, accept our invitation and speak with us! Will you? Ha ha!
What do you think?
We already have the participation of a German and a Chinese, and we'd like yours. We can record on Tuesday wherever is best for you. We await your reply and appreciate your attention.
Among my reactions, in no specific order:
- Holy $*@&! (Which was, actually, the first.)
- I don't want to be on TV!
- How can I pass this up? It'll make such a great blog post!
- In Portuguese, really?!?!
- Out of the thousands of foreigners living in São Paulo, let alone Brazil--me?
- Why didn't I lose 40 pounds and study harder?
- In Portuguese, really?!?! (That thought was worth noting twice!)

Well, obviously I accepted. After a sleepless night wracked by nerves, last Tuesday I met with the Globo team at Casa Club Hostel Bar--a location I deemed appropriate for its influence on my decision to move to São Paulo.

The interview took about 40 minutes (of me trying to cobble together coherent responses in Portuguese), after which they spent another 40 minutes filming: a pretend English class (which, being unanticipated, felt, and surely looked, very awkward and unnatural; me pointing out my trajectory on a giant world map; me sitting on the rooftop terrace of the hostel surrounded by the São Paulo skyline; and, in what became much more provocative than intended, some shots of me laying on my stomach on one of the dorm room bunkbeds!

The program was set to air on Friday, April 22, to coincide with the anniversary of the Portuguese discovery of the country. Knowing that they would edit my long story into, likely, just a minute or two, I was one-part-relieved, two-parts-dismayed that it wasn't on. I received an email from Tuca this morning, apologizing that the material got bumped on account of time. She noted, though, that the studio really liked the content of all three interviews and they plan to incorporate them into a different program. She'll keep me posted, she said.

If it airs later, I'll surely post a link. Even if not, it's still an interesting story, no?
Oh, My (incredible, in every sense) Life in Havaianas!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

ReaTech 2011

The day after flying back to São Paulo, Juliana was on her way here too. She would be attending the huge ReaTech convention, an international technology fair featuring developments in rehabilitation, inclusion, and accessibility. I spent Friday at the feira with Juliana, learning about cool new stuff on the market and watching Ju filming for her next episode of Faça a Diferença (Make a Difference).

Being such a good sport, the extreme heat inside the convention center didn't stop Juliana from filming a little workout demo on these special weightlifting machines designed for cadeirantes.

Other booths featured representatives from the City of São Paulo, the Brazilian Committee for Special Olympics, and various vendors exhibiting souped up wheelchairs. (One of my favorites was the Evac +Chair: it goes down stairs!) There was even a demonstration of a computer that receives commands through its users' eye movements. Wow!

My favorite product in the vehicle division, though, was this Independent Life car. It's like a SmartCar with a hydraulic lift in the back. Press the remote to open the hatch and lower the ramp, and scoot right in to the specially designed dashboard. Neat.

There were even exhibitors demonstrating developments in Xtreme sports and tourism. The blue surfboard is adapted for the blind, the pale yellow longboard is adapted for paraplegics, and the red bodyboard is for people with Downs Syndrome.

I love this picture of Juliana and her good friend Billy Saga, the President of Movimento SuperAção (SuperAction Movement, an organization that promotes social inclusion) in Brazil.

In the back of the giant facility were sports courts where cadeirantes were playing basketball, and a stage where there were various song and dance performances by deaf artists and disabled dancers. Very cool.

"The most important muscle for our athletes is the heart." Right on.

Guess who we found? Frederico (ARCO) and Sonia (Profilo Smart)!

Juliana and I were so delightfully surprised to find Sonia. We kept our poor, exhausted Italian friend chatting far too long (on her birthday), but it was as if no time had passed at all--that evening or since our last encounter.

It was a great day. To top it off, when Juliana and I got back to my apartment around midnight, there was a very interesting email waiting for me. Next post!

For now, let's all take a Restroon break.

Signage: come again?

I have a few stories to tell today, but before I get to them I feel compelled to clean out the outtakes pile. Here are a few other funnies from the recent Porto Alegre trip.

There's a secret place in Porto Alegre for roupas intimas, or, intimate apparel. I say it's secret because it's very well hidden. It was only through word of mouth that I discovered it a few years ago. There's a high rise building in Centro called Galeria Malcon. The ground floor contains an assortment of clothes shops, snack bars, and the like. Presumably the rest of the 20-ish story building contains offices, though I had been warned not to take the stairs, as there might be some seriously shady business being transacted on various floors. On the 11th, 12th, and 13th floors, unadvertised at street level, there are dozens of little shops that sell underthings for very good prices. Maureen had never been there, and I wanted to re-stock my supplies so off we went. One alarming thing I found was padded bras for little girls.

On the entertaining side, I caught this brand of menswear.

Pequeno, Médio, Grande, and Duplo Grande. To each his/her own on which one is really the "Keeper!"

Speaking of buns, Fernando, Mariana, Danilo and I went to Priscilla's on Monday. We passed by "Mr. Bimbo"--a place to host childrens' parties. I am easily entertained.

Later that evening, Fernando had a futebol game at São Jose, the field and clubhouse of one of Porto Alegre's smaller soccer clubs. Fernando, Mariana and I stopped by the restaurant for a beer. We enjoyed their quirky, hand-painted-but-not-spellchecked sign.

Our choice of bebidas (drinks) includes the lesser-known whiskey, "John Walkey." They also serve a selection of petiscos (snacks), or in this case, "Apetiscos," including picadinho misto--oh, wait, no, that's mixto. Well, close enough.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Porto Alegre Calls Me (other) Home

That. Was. An. Amazing. Trip.

(Thanks for the sign, among other things, Gina!)

I really can't begin to explain it all. Even this blitz of photos won't do justice to the week. I felt like a mini-celebrity [I'm not--not yet (foreshadowing)]. I laughed so hard, so many times, during my week in Porto Alegre. Good Times, pra caramba.

My plane was late on Wednesday (the 6th). I'd say that was the reason I jetted straight to the Shamrock, but who am I kidding? I was planning to do that anyway. So with light luggage in tow, I grabbed a taxi at the airport and headed to meet my friends for English Quiz Night at the pub. I managed a slight detour to run into Zero de Conduta. I literally ran, leaving my bags in the taxi out front, into the bar to give a giant, suadade-filled hug to my good friends Fernando and Danilo. Then I was whisked into the opening night festivities. The greeting I received at Shamrock was heartwarming. Truly. Comical, even, as about 25 people yelled, "JENNY!" when I walked through the door, there was a brief pause in the game, and Victoria handed me a cold Guinness.

And the scene was set...









I did manage to take care of some business (dentist, accountant, genius hair stylist) in between parties, but not much else. Instead, I spent the week, delightfully, hanging with old friends and making new friends. Just the way I like it. Thank you everyone, for welcoming me (back) with such widely outstretched and warm arms. The friendship and fun was actually overwhelming, and at the end of the last night, I shed a couple tears, knowing I had to leave it all behind--again--in the name of Disorder and Progress.

A most sincere obrigada to Maureen and Rudimar for making me so welcome in their home.

Com amor,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

(more) odds & ends

Time, once again, to clean out the "pending post" pile in my photo archive.

Air & Water Show

I can't remember exactly, but I think I snapped these on my way back from Recife last year. I do remember being mesmerized for over an hour by the play of the sunset on the water, through the pastel clouds, as the aircraft sped by.

Enough of that sappy stuff. It's time you meet "Thing."

Thing is my rather large adhesive friend that I found affixed to the front of my refrigerator when I moved in. I wouldn't dream of evicting him.

Guilty Pleasures: snack pack peanut butter with the uniquely crunchy "Black Diamond" chocolate bar.


But you can call me Jhony. Or Jane. Whatever.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A marketer's dream

Along the same lines as the last entry, the thing that all five of the images below have in common is that I bought every one of these items for the sole purpose of taking its picture. What can I say? I'm a sucker for packaging. Sometimes, it's the most insignificant details that make the day fun.

Bread: paine in Romanian; pain in French; pane in Italian; pan in Spanish (now we're getting somewhere); and pão in Portuguese.

Ack, close enough.

And in Portuguese, Laughing Cow is "the cow that laughs" (and wears very Brazilian earrings).

What on Earth is it? Blueberry candies, as the diagram illustrates. Average.

But these, Yowza!

OH! Powerful indeed. When I popped this lemon drop in my mouth, my face went all contort-y-like. They're a sour sock to the face, but they're growing on me.

Why not start your day with the truthfully-named "Sugary Cereal"?

But, what's with the deal Mr. Cornflake? Using your buddy as a surfboard?
And since when do cornflakes wear havaianas during the practice of water sports?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Say what?

I'm on the road again, but I've crafted a few posts in advance to (hopefully) keep you entertained the next few days.

Today's topic is signage, again*.

Let's start with The Clever. Those Tic-Tac people are good attention grabbers: I've seen huge crowds gathered around this gigantic-domino-effect-Tic-Tac-promotion-thingie at the mall. The challenge, of course, is to guess how long it will take for them to fall.

(Click to embiggen.)

"Ooh baby baby, Get up on this!"

(I actually just made myself LOL.)

Moving on to The Not-So-Clever: from the same marketing Dream Team that brought us the awkwardly-named Fartaria Café, I give you...

...the Farto Farmacy, for all your toot-stifling needs.

So, what exactly does that entail? Looking for something, or something?

Big Ben? Really?

They were already starting the craic when they wrote up the menus for the Twenty-Thirth Annual St. Paddy's Day party.

This sign reminded me of those warnings in the Iberê Camargo Museum. While this bus terminal cafeteria did serve coffee, there were no burgers, nor silverware, and certainly no martinis. Trust me, I tried!

Maybe I'd have better luck asking here--because this, as you can clearly see, is a real, American Bar.

I can just hear Elvis now: "VIVAAAA LAS JEGAS!"

With a chuckle and a smiling sigh, I'm off to find more goodies out there.

(*That is, again again. Again. Again. Again.)