Thursday, March 31, 2011

carnaval clowns

Sincere apologies for the lack of blogging over this month... I realize the last one was in February. Figured I needed to do one before this month ended. A lot has happened this month, probably the most interesting being Carnaval.

Carnaval was the first week of this month and is the Mardi Gras of Brazil (but way better apparently). It has a religious history that not many Brazilians remember; of the few I asked, they said its solely for fun and not religious tied. This is far from true haha. Carnaval has most of the word “carne” (meat) in it, so it historically is the last hurrah of meat eating before lent. It’s the same idea as Mardi Gras: see how drunk you can get and how many sins you can commit before you go into lent where you’re forced to act more Christian. Obviously I didn’t partake in those activities, but it was still a great time.

Brazil kind of takes the week off for Carnaval, and most people travel. Famous locations are Rio de Janeiro, which is the best Carnaval globally I guess, and Salvador, a beautiful city in the northeast part of the country. Most of my FGV international classmates went with their kinsmen, but I went with my host family. Initially, a  Brazilian girl in one of my classes had provided me with a couple ideas of good places to go that were closer to Sao Paulo, and one of those was Sao Luiz da Paritinga (whatever that means.... maybe “Saint Luiz da Paritinga haha I have no idea). So, our family went there and planned on sleeping a few nights. Little did we know it was kind of a Katrina-esque disaster area and the town had been devastated by a hurricane two years ago. Awesome. Muddy streets and a lack of people. So... after a bunch of drama and deciding what to do, we eventually continued on to a beach town called Ubatuba. The family and I spent a night there. It was a really nice city, the beaches were great and the waves were at least 5 feet high.... terrifying and ridiculously fun at the same time.
So we did the beach thang during the day, and at night they had a Marchinha (little march) in the town center. This was kind of an outdoor concert/club with a live band. Everyone is marching in place under this big tent, but it was more fun than it sounds. Junior, Diego (another family friend) and I started a few soul trains and plenty of little kids and druken 70 year olds joined in. It was a great time. We bought some ridiculous clothes and some plastic hammers and were hitting heads as we went by. Mental note: kids under the age of 15 don’t understand the “joke” of hitting them with a hammer. They look at you like you just murdered their entire family. Old people (sorry if you’re offended by my version of old... i’d say maybe 50+), on the other hand, eat the hammer up. They can’t get enough of it. When you hit a balding old man, he whips around, takes the hammer (I thought he was mad) and incessantly starts to beat his wife’s head with it. At least 3 different couples did this, and it was just as hilarious every time.

After Carnaval it’s back to reality for everyone. The first module, or half, the semester is almost over so I’ve actually been doing schoolwork lately. We have a lot of group presentations and projects, and being the only native English speaker in a lot of them, I often get roped into the job of writing the paper or speaking for the majority of the time during a presentation. But that’s fine, just another chance for yours truly to show off the natural language skillzzz.
Speaking of that, I just got a job speaking English. Johnathan (my Guyanese compadre, if you guys haven’t been reading all of these) teaches at this company called AimHigh Idiomas, where his aunt is the boss. I possess the one qualification that they look for (I am so special), so I figured it wouldn’t be a bad way to spend my free weeknights; teaching English, meeting a lot of new people, and making some money as well.
Carnaval was kind of like a spring break, but we also get the majority of holy week off, before Easter. A few Mexicans, Brazilians, and I are taking the opportunity to visit Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro over this 10 day break. You should google-image Iguazu Falls if you don’t already know what they look like, based on the pictures I think I’ll enjoy my stay there. It’s the widest waterfall in the world (over 1 km across I think, but I’m an arrogant American so I only do miles so all I know is that it’s less than a mile) and is “owned” by Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. So, I will pass through each of those countries during the tour of the falls. Apparently Eleanor Roosevelt went there and said “poor Niagara” because she was so impressed (source Wikipedia). Rio should be great too, the beaches are supposed to be some of the best in South America, and I can see the giant “Christ the Redeemer” statue as well, and do a cliché tourist “arms-out-aren’t-I-clever-because-nobody-has-ever-made-this-pose-in-front-of-this-statue-before” pose. So, in about a week, I will be seeing one of the “natural” 7 wonders of the world, as well as one of the regular ones. Touristic efficiency.

What else... I’ve definitely settled in here in Brazil, not a whole lot seems FOREIGN anymore. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been blogging with regularity lately; I’ve fallen into that path that all international bloggers do where you blog a lot in the beginning, then as you get comfortable there really isn’t that much more exciting to say anymore.

My friendship with Grandma has progressed with great strides since our wonderful shower scene incident (again, you need to read all of these blogs to understand.... if you didn’t get that, don’t judge me). I’ve tried talking to her a little more, even though her Portuguese is kind of broken and she has a lot of trouble with my accent. I think she was a psychology major or something.... every time I try to converse with her I always end up getting candy at the end. So now my brain is trained to try to talk to her... brilliant strategy. We don’t have very productive conversations, but one thing I definitely understood was when she said, in Portuguese, “I really like you, but not that friend of yours (Johnathan).” So at least I’m on her good side. The cable went out the other day so she asked me to fix it, but there was a problem with the “smart card” in the cable box so I was trying to explain it, but she kept just saying “Canal dezessete” (channel 17). I was speaking correct Portuguese, repeating “no, it’s not possible” and “there is a problem with the smart card” and every time the response was “sim, canal dezessete.” Ugh. YOU’RE NOT LISTENING. Anyways, I finally figured out the issue and turned to channel 17.... so Grandma could watch Different Strokes in Portuguese. It’s called Arnold here. I tried to explain to everyone that Gary Coleman was dead, and also explain why the double-meaning joke “life is short” (J. Cole) is hilarious, but nobody understood so I just gave up.


For those of you who have been fortunate enough to know me since maybe age 5 or have slept over at my house, you’ve probably met Bert. Bert, from Bert and Ernie, has resided in my bed for the last 20 years. Nowadays, regardless of the jokes that you make, he is there out of habit and tradition, so he came to Brazil with me to continue his tenure as my bedmate. He’s pretty shredded up, as would any stuffed animal that received so much love over the years (awwwwwwww). So, the other day, (host)Mom asked for my sheets so she could wash them. I definitely forgot Bert was taking a little nap in my sheets.... great. I’m sitting at my computer and I see Bert’s head pop into the doorway about 5 feet up. My host mom is making him wave his little arm and playing a ventriloquist him saying “Oiiiiii Andrew” (hi Andrew) as she is giggling like a child, out of site behind the doorway. There goes my respect in the house. And of course, since it was SOOO hilarious, other family members asked me about it later since apparently this was big news. Trying to explain that I’m not a loser in Portuguese is difficult (for those of you that are now thinking “it’s hard because you actually are a loser,” I hate you). So for next time, I’ll have some sweet pictures from Iguazu and Rio.

The infamous hammer


That's Diego... they call him "Boca" for his huge mouth. I call him Steve-O for obvious reasons

Mom did work at the Marchinha

silly string... and that was one of the aforementioned "old guys" that took the hammer


Monday, February 28, 2011

beast/beach mode


It's been a bit since I posted last... my b. This past week has been a little busy since I finally found a way to play soccer often... so I've been doing that nonstop. So, to reward your waiting, there will be two (yes, 2) embarrassing moments at the end of this post, just do add more incentive for you to stick with me until then (unless you're a butt and you scroll down now because I said that).

I FINALLY went to the beach, the weekend before last. It was really nice, both in aspects of scenery, and "scenery." Nameen? The water was green, and the beach was in this inlet-type deal, with green-coated mountains in the background... it was unbelievable. But you know me, rather than taking a ton of pictures of the beautiful natural setting, I just took weird pictures with the dudes I went with (feel free to scroll down to see those, you impatient readers).

Soccer has been the theme since my last post... there is an indoor futsal court at FGV that I play at 3-4 times per week now (haha I say "per" week like I didn't start doing it this week... you know what I mean though) and it is by far the best part of Brazil so far. Two of my great passions, soccer and diversity... present in one place (Savannah and Dea that diversity was a shoutout for you, I know you appreciate my love for it haha). The first time I played, we did a Brazil vs. Rest of the World type game, with my team consisting of American (cough me cough), Guyanese (Johnathan), Colombian, French, and German backgrounds. We did better than anticipated and frustrated several  Brazilian squads. 1 thing I've learned.... not to tell people I'm American before I play with them. If I do, the ball doesn't come my way for a good 5-10 minutes until people realize that I'm not just a dumb yankee that'll try to pick up the ball with my hands. However, I have received several ego boosts and have done my individual part to alleviate the US from the stereotype that no American is capable of playing a decent brand of soccer. "No way are you American, I thought you were Brazilian" and "I've never seen Americans play like that" do wonders to inflate my already hot air balloon-sized ego. At least now I'm respected enough that people tell me when everyone is going to play. Good week in that respect.

I danced forro last weekend for the second time... it was Johnathan's birthday. I'm starting to get it a bit more... I have the basic step MASTERED haha. Right when I think I'm getting the hang of it I look over to see if Junior saw, but he's in the zone twirling girls and looking like a beast. Plus he has his eyes closed the whole time.... showoff. He, however, is a very good forro "pimp;" he impresses girls with his skills, then asks them if they'd be willing to teach me and/or Johnathan. Since he's such a snake charmer they usually agree, so Johnathan and I appreciate it greatly since it's hard to work up the courage to ask a girl with a line like "hey... I have no clue what I'm doing but let's go!"

Alright, I know you're waiting. So here's the #1 moment of the past week and a half or so:
So, as many of my friends will tell you.... I wouldn't be considered the LEAST sassiest human being on this planet. If I hear something that is sass-able, odds are I'll be obnoxious and call you out on it. Since I've been doing that since I can remember, it was about time that all that "crap" caught up to me (foreshadowing quotes...). Johnathan and I were walking from my place to a bar called Rabo da Peixe for my international buddys, Ana Luiza, birthday celebration. I don't even remember what idiocy Johnathan was rambling about... I suppose it doesn't even matter. The only thing that matters is that my sass was cut short: "Johnathan, that was probably THE stupidest thing I have ever.....splaaaaat.... squisshhh.... oh. my. lord." Apparently dog owners here aren't courteous about the sidewalk souvenirs that they're "cute" little furballs leave behind.

Hokay, here's number 2: (maybe the previous one should have been number 2.... zing!)

This one is probably more in the more horrific/uncomfortable category, rather than embarrassing. I was riding the bus home from my second soccer session, all gross and sweaty and whatnot, in a pretty good mood from playing/ego boosting. Usually all the seats are taken on these buses, since around 6 or 7 trillion people live in this city. But on this occasion, there were 2 open seats. I considered sitting in the first open one (a logical and efficient choice) but immediately regretted my decision to even CONSIDER it. Sitting near the window was this... guy...? Girl...? Well it was definitely a tranny. I'm not sure which pronoun to use if I'm trying to be politically correct. But all political correctness aside... no thanks. And, to put the icing on the cake, this hybrid Dennis Rodman / Hillary Rodham Clinton lookalike (maybe I should have called this person Rodhman... haHA!) DEFINITELY WINKED AT ME. Ugggghhhhh. My euphoric mood from soccer immediately turned into a nauseating one. Now, before you righteous readers think to yourself "come on... I bet it was a tranny" IT WAS TOTALLY A TRANNY. Mr./Mrs. Rodhman had bright red eyebrows drawn onto the most prominent brow I've seen in recent years, plus an adam's apple the size of the Epcot center. Sorry, I didn't have the quick thinking to snap a picture, so you're just going to have to take my word for it. I decided to walk past the second open seat also and stand in the back.

Until next time... I'll stay on adam's apple patrol and make sure to do more entertaining for you/ disturbing for me things over the next week or so. Tchau.


Franklin REALLY likes Johnathan haha
p.s. I was the only guy wearing shorts that went past... wherever theirs go past haha. Yes, girls wore thongs... but so did the guys. Guess you give and take.
Fat people get preferential seating on the bus as much as old or pregnant people... they can't fit through the turnstyle

that's my sexy "bout to eat some batatas fritas" face

Ana Luiza, my int'l buddy

where I'll be spending the majority of my time

no idea what I'm doing... she knew it too

probably my favorite picture of Johnathan thus far haha

Friday, February 18, 2011

vineyards and creepy grannys

Greetings hypothetical audience,

It's been over a week since I blogged last... I've had a few computer issues. I'm sure their not really interesting to anyone except me, so I'll be brief. We went to on a weekend trip to Vinhedo, a small town maybe an hour outside Sao Paulo, and like some kind of idiot I left my computer plugged in. Didn't think it was a big deal, since the voltage here is actually less than in the US. Well, my hard drive was scorched. Like with fire. So I had to pay a nice sum of money to buy a new big hard drive (500gb was the smallest option... are you kidding me) and a surge protector (that doesn't work because it uses some goofy 3 prong connection... dammit).

So beyond the frustration of that, the past week and a half or so has been awesome. I've started to learn a lot about Brazilian culture...

1) I have accepted the fact that the word "plan" does not exist here. It was unbelievably frustrating for me, a reasonably punctual human being, to have plan after plan put off for sometimes hours. I've realized that there is literally nothing I can do about it, so there's no point in getting mad.

2) I have accepted the fact that my life is in the hands of the driver when I'm riding in a car. My blood pressure probably doubled the first few times I drove around in a car (Franklin: driving here is like fighting UFC). But, as I have driven with people several times now and have yet to die, I have "let go" and I just let it happen... even if it's terrifying to witness the absolute zoo that is the road here.

3 (and probably the most valuable... although it took guts to admit it haha)) Girls don't love you just because they kiss you on the cheek. That's just what they do. People are very friendly and talk to you here, and once they realize you speak English, they jump at the opportunity to practice English with you. I have learned to not interpret this as "every girl here wants my bod." I've gotten phone numbers and contact info from random people on the bus, simply because they asked me a question and I stared at them for 10 seconds then managed to jumble the words "uh.... nao falo portuges" which is met with "YOU SPEAK ENGLISH??!! WHATS YOUR NAME?" I thought I was just naturally sexy, but I think people just want my language expertise (sniff....). Learning a lot about myself....

Anyways, I started school this week. The classes have been very interesting... the semester is split into halves, and I take 3 classes in each half, or module. This module I'm taking Marketing in Latin America (professor is a joke), BRIC analysis (Brazil/Russia/India/China....future world powers), and Politics and Culture in Brazil. So that I don't bore you by saying how interesting the material is (because it is) I'll entertain you rather by describing this aforementioned joke of an educator. See, most teachers use facts when they teach... that's how knowledge is normally passed from one person to the other. Not the case with this gem. We spent the "first" 30 minutes of the class (first is in quotes because the class starts 30 minutes late ALWAYS, so its really minutes 31-60) debating for fun, without previous knowledge, which latin american countries had the largest populations. Everyone knew Brazil was #1... but all countries after were in question. One girl (from Mexico) suggested Mexico. The professor immediately rejected the guess, saying that the state of Sao Paulo had more people than Mexico did. The following dialogue is as follows (P = professor, G = girl):

G "no."
P "really? are you sure?"
G "yes."
P "no... i think it's true."
G "no."

So it turned into this whole research fiasco... and we brought up a statsheet that had Mexico at about 112 million and the state of Sao Paulo with.... 40 million. 

P "oh....."

...yeah. Well the class material is interesting and its fun to see what she will make up next, so I'm not complaining. Plus the other 2 classes are great... interesting and the professors really seem like they know what they're talking about. 

So this Vinhedo town was pretty sweet, Vinhedo means "vineyard" so the town is obviously famous for its grapes and wine production. We were lucky enough to get there for the "Festa de Uva" (grape party), which was this giant grape convention I guess. It was really more interesting than it sounds... there were a bunch of families that owned wineries in the area that offered wine sampling and an explanation of how they made their wine. There was also a big concert with this Samba guy... who I had never heard of but I guess he's pretty famous in SP and Rio de Janeiro. The family we stayed with was very friendly, the dad was my host-moms brothers... so I had a chance to meet some cousins, Tata who was 16 and Filipe who was 12... I think. We had a lot of fun with the kids and their dog, Madonna. I finally got my video game fix out of the way... Filipe, Franklin, and I had some pretty intense Pro Evolution Soccer and guitarhero battles. We had grilled meat for the meals there... which seemed a lot like Fogo de Chao... so that was optimal.

Those are the big things that have happened I guess.... I finally met my international buddy, Ana Luiza, who is very nice and speaks excellent English. She said she might go to the beach with us next weekend. Well, at least going to the beach is THE PLAN but we all know what that could mean. I'll probably have some nice/super-creepy pictures from the beach in next week's blog. There should be plenty of camera-worthy "scenery" there.

Last but least... I've decided to create a theme for the end of my blogs. From here on out, the last paragraph will be dubbed "Andy's embarrassing Brazil moment of the week." As you recall... last week we had a little "Pao vs. Pau" de Acucar incident that left me crying on the inside. Since another equally as questionable thing happened this week, its safe to say that I will do at least 1 stupid thing worth mentioning each week. So, it's like your own personal reward for bearing with me through the more boring parts of the blog. So here's Andy's embarrassing Brazil moment for this week:

Host dad told me the first day I arrived that when I use the bathroom, I should lock the door. Now, to all of you that are already assuming what happened based on that first sentence, that's logical, but LET ME FINISH, geez. I have never forgotten to lock the door... to go to the bathroom, take a shower, what have you. So I was showering the other day.... and forgot that there's a window in the shower. Now, the apartment I live in is shaped like a giant U... and since it's so humid here, they have more open shower ventilation so that the bathroom doesn't get all steamy when people shower (which is irrelevant to me, since I take ice-cold showers here). So... I left that WINDOW open, not the door unlocked. And since the apartment is U-shaped... the laundry/cleaning supply room is visible through the window. SOOOOO...... along comes granny... humming the same song she has since I got here. This time she added some different words when she realized the window was left open: "mmmmhmmmm diga... meu amor... mhmmm AY MEUS DEUS". That "ay meus deus" was an "oh my god" at seeing my body through the window... awesome. I've never seen her move that fast... pulling that quick 180 like Fogel in Superbad when he got caught checking out that girl and then told her what the time was. Grandma and I have not discussed our encounter since. I think we're going to keep it that way haha. Anyways, until next time, peace! Oh, and the pictures below are mostly from Vinhedo, a couple of the first ones are from the city center, where Sao Paulo was founded, and the big church there, Catedral da Se.