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