Saturday, July 18, 2009

Moro No Brasil

Two weeks down, twenty-two to go! I'm just gonna jump right in, because it's Saturday night in Rio and I've got places to go, people to see, yadadimean? So I found the Igreja Assembléia de Deus do Leblon- the local Protestant church- last Sunday, but I was too late for the service. Tomorrow I'm gonna check it out at 10:30am with one of the girls from the Brown in Brazil program. I'm excited to see how worship works down here, and fully expecting a warm welcome from my Brazilian brothers and sisters. I'll let y'all know how that goes. On that note, yesterday morning as I was eating breakfast, I heard Monica singing along to a song on the radio as she was washing dishes. I recognized it immediately as the title track off of Jamily's album "A Fé Faz o Herói" and surprised her by telling of Jamily's visit to my Portuguese class freshman year. Jamily is a teenage gospel-singing phenomenon that won an "American Idol"-type competition when she was 11 and has been called "the Whitney Houston of Brazil." As a result of some random contact at Harvard, she happened to visit my class one day, singing to us and speaking about her life as a gospel artist. None of us in class knew whether she was actually popular in Brazil, although she could definitely sing. Now I know, and the answer is YES! Monica doesn't have any of Jamily's cds, so I told her I'd make her a copy of mine. In exchange, she let me borrow all of her Brazilian gospel music this weekend, which I've been listening to nonstop. It's crazy how worship music defies all language and cultural barriers- I can feel the spirit even if I don't understand all the words.

The Hippie Fair last Sunday afternoon was surprisingly low-key. After experiencing outdoor markets in Mexico and Italy, I just assumed all vendors yell promotional slogans ("¡¡Bara bara!!") at prospective customers and set their prices three or four times too high in anticipation of street-smart hagglers. Not so at the Feira Hippie. No vendors raised their voices to attract attention, and most items had pretty set prices to cater to the non-Portuguese-speaking tourists. I bought a couple cheap bracelets and a tiny crystal etching of the Cristo Redentor. I paid half price.

That night I went to a neighbor's baby shower upstairs. The mother-to-be was the sister-in-law of Alina, the housing coordinator for the Brown in Brazil program. Small Rio. She was also an actress in a popular Brazilian soap opera (pre-pregnancy), which made sense given her blonde hair, light brown eyes, and intangible glow (?). The next morning we had a lecture at PUC on race relations in Brazil, a topic whose surface you can barely scratch in two hours. As I was leaving class I ran into a bunch of my Harvard friends who are studying in Rio for their summer; since I already knew they were on campus, it wasn't a huge surprise, but cool nonetheless. On Monday night I went with Gustavo to play pick-up soccer on a dirt field at the university. The players were all around 26 years old and most were amazing; I was intimidated but played pretty well, even scoring a nice goal through the keeper's legs! On Tuesday we had the day off, and I spent my time wisely on the beach at Ipanema, soaking up the sun with some friends.

Wednesday marked the first day of our intensive Portuguese course that will run 3-5 hours per day, 5 days per week until real classes start. We'll be switching off every other day between two professors, Ricardo and Adriana. They're both really fun people and fantastic teachers. Ricardo covers culture and Adriana takes care of grammar, and that's the way we like it. Thursday we attended a pre-class lecture on the formation of the Brazilian national identity and the origin of jeitinho, the "Brazilian shimmy" that somehow gets things done when they appear impossible and usually involves some sort of clientelismo or bending of the law. Yesterday after class I wandered around Leblon with some of the program students searching unsuccessfully for tickets to the Flamengo-Botafogo game on Sunday at Maracanã Stadium. We ended up at the mall, where we wandered some more and eventually went our separate ways. I returned home to Alto Leblon, ate a quick dinner, then went back out to a friend's apartment in Gávea where we gazed at the lights of Rocinha- the largest shantytown in Latin America- and enjoyed a mix of philosophical discussion and Youtube videos of the Brazilian version of "Who's Line is it Anyway?"

Since I got home around 3am this morning, I slept in a little prior to my afternoon trip to the beach. I like simply strolling on the boardwalk, people-watching and taking in all the sights and sounds. Today I walked all the way from my apartment in Alto Leblon to Arpoador, which is an outlook point on the far side of Ipanema. I was in the sand four hours total, but not necessarily walking the whole time... I also stopped to play some futevôlei and work out on the permanent pull-up bars and sit-up boards scattered along the beach. I got a blister on my foot from my havaianas (Brazilian flip flops), an obvious sign that I still need to break them in!

--------So I'm just coming back to this post right now after five hours out on the town with Gustavo and two of his friends. They asked if I wanted to "get something to drink close by," and we ended up near the center of the city at a crowded bar. It was cool and amusing to hang out and listen to their conversation about the veracity of the pick-up tricks used in "The Game"- if you don't know what that is, look it up. Just when I feel like my Portuguese is getting really good in the classroom setting, I hang out with Brazilians my age and am humbled by how much I have yet to learn. One thing I love about Brazilian youth slang is the way they throw in random English words whenever they feel like it: Gustavo says "bruh-ther" at least five times per sentence when he's talking to his male friends. I'll impart more fun slang to you all in the next post. For now, I'm exhausted and calling it a night. Tchau gente!  

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