Monthly Archives: February 2012

So you want to go to Rio for Carnaval and you come down with sinusitis

~*smiling on the outside, dying on the inside*~

Edited one year later to add: if you are looking for good travel advice on Rio during Carnaval, look somewhere else.  I actually had mostly an awful time; if you’d like to read about that, then by all means continue.  If you want to see the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, and dislike crowds, I’d recommend going during the off-season, when it’s still warm and a hell of a lot easier to get around.  My experience on the beach of Ipanema, for example, was that I had no view of the ocean and no breathing room both days I went during Carnaval.  And my other advice would be to go to a smaller city or town for Carnaval: you’ll still get the parties, the music, and the beaches, and things will be a bit cheaper and more relaxed.  I now live in Florianópolis, for example, and Carnaval here has been delightful this year.  The Northeast is also a great option: Olinda, João Pessoa, Fortaleza…!  Also, don’t just assume it’s okay to grope people because *it’s Brazil* and *everyone does it.*  Nobody does it, and you’ll get slapped at the very least.

So Carnaval in Rio wasn’t quite what I expected, if we’re being honest.  The first night I was there, I went out with Ma and the other girls I was staying with to a street party in Lapa.  This is relatively normal, sure, for Carnaval.  What is not normal is that I went home and woke up in the middle of the night with my nose running as if it were being chased by a madman with a chainsaw.  Ew.  Commence crazy sinusitis and migraine!  I am especially confused as to how and why this happened, especially since I’ve never had sinus problems in my life.  At any rate, this misery lasted through medication, “self-medication,” and a few nights of horrendous sleep–right up until the morning I left Rio, when it disappeared.  The Fates didn’t want me to revel, I guess.  But revel I did, somewhat.  Here are some tips, should you find yourself in this situation:

  • Sleep at night, go out during the day.  It’s harder to sleep during the day anyway–not to mention impractical to go to the beach at night–so you might as well get up [slowly] and get out.  I ended up passing out as early as possible at night, which sometimes wasn’t very early because I was sharing a studio apartment with 4 girls who were in the habit of inviting gentleman callers with flutes and tambourines over to pre-game before going out (I shit you not).  But sleep when you can.
  • Forget trying to be “fun.”  I’m pretty sure I got called a mala a lot behind my back (mala meaning suitcase, or colloquially, social baggage or a person who is a draaaag).  I was past the point of even trying to pretend I felt good sometimes, though, so whatever.
  • The beach is your best friend.  Stay there for a few hours, preferably under an umbrella.
  • DO NOT go around the city with a group that can’t decide–for two hours–on where to stop for lunch.  The building rage and low blood sugar will only intensify the migraine.
  • Medicine will not help.
  • Contrary to popular logic, beer will.
  • But then you will feel like absolute death afterwards when the beer wears off.  You will know pain you’ve never known before.
  • Avoid going to the Beatles-samba bloco, since the music sucks and is hard to hear, and it is über-crowded and you will end up just going to Ipanema and having a better time anyway.
  • Rio is beautiful, and even if you don’t get up to Christ the Redeemer or to any other super touristy attractions, and even if the hordes of people there for the festivities sort of dampen the effect, you will like it and want to go back.
A special This Week In Funny Building Names: Rio Edition: Edifício Kosmos.  And I also saw a few Jorge Ben Jors partaking in the merriment.

chegou a turma do funil…

”]”]Well, I am moved in and heading off to Rio for Carnaval.  Jeez.  It seems like every time I move, I am also under strict time limits.  But anyway, I did it, I have my key, I had a few celebratory beers (not the ones above) with Gera, and it’s bus time.

Also, look you guys: ;:?zzzzzz!!!  My laptop works with the internet at my new place!  É destino!!!

And apropos of nothing, let’s marvel at a country that drizzles olive oil on its cheese before eating it for dinner.  This is precisely why I’m not exactly, as ladies’ magazines would say, bikini ready–but that stops nobody in this country (you should see some of the bus fashions here), and it’s certainly not going to stop this gringa.

*The title of this post is from a pretty famous Carnaval song and it more or less translates to “The funnel class/gang has arrived.”  As in beer funnel.  Yeah.  If you’re into that (Big sis, I’m looking at you again), you can hear it here.

Greetings from technology

I am writing this on my phone. What a novelty. On the plus side, i can punctuate! On the minus side, i hate touch screens.

In other news, I am going to Rio for Carnaval, somewhat of a last minute decision. I am also theoretically moving into a new place today, but in typical Paulistano arts scene/other people who don’t work until evening fashion, I woke up at a friend’s house in Lapa at noon and have only just started packing. Also, have yet to coordinate with my new roomie. Ah, well, when in Rome…

I have also started haunting Liberdade, which is the Japanese section of town and very close to my job. Food there is super cheap and good, and yesterday I went into this little arcade mall and bought an adorable backpack that was clearly meant for some less than half my age.  Super cool story, I know.  One of my students is taking Japanese in addition to English, and his sensei works in the same building as I, and I am starting to think of picking up another language. We shall see.

Lastly, today in ridiculous building names: Edificio Prince of Edinburgh.

bullet points: free time edition

Kids, the title says it all, or most of it.

But friends, I had a really rotten day the other day.  I wanted to murder someone, or myself, because of a number of reasons (including the ever-present condition of not being able to find the damn colon on my keyboard, so pretend there’s a colon here) heat wave, lack of aircon, close living quarters, cats, having no control over my lunches (ie, rice and beans during a heat wave), the fact that Brasilian salad isn’t salad but rather old undressed lettuce and anemic tomatoes, the other fact that I was getting inquisitioned and side-eyed for taking second helpings of ‘salad’ instead of rice and beans at lunch.  Etc. etc. etc.  It was all too much for a girl to bear.

However, I don’t stay unhappy for long, and the heat wave brove, so I am back my usual jovial self.  Here’s some things that have been on my mind now that I am feeling less aggravated(COLON)

  • Found a Brasilian to listen to Television and watch L’Age d’Or with!  Didn’t expect that I would succeed in finding someone here with the same random tastes I have.  So–hooray.
  • The country’s obsession with panettone.  Granted, this is getting less pronounced the further away we get from Christmas, but it’s still baffling to me.  It’s a Christmas bread, but it’s really just everywhere around here.  Panettone, in all the grocery stores!  Panettone, in a themed subway shop of its very own!  Panettone, on all the tables and in all the kitchen of random people I visit!  Just when I thought that maybe I was making too much of a big deal about this, I sat back and started watching novela the other week.  One scene was in a kitchen.  PANETTONE ON THE KITCHEN TABLE!  Yes, Big Panettone has a firm stranglehold on Brasil–to the point where they are winning big product placement in Globo Novelas.  Or so I imagine.  I asked Ma why everyone liked panettone around here, and she seemed super nonplussed.  ‘Maybe because it’s really easy to make?’ she ventured.  But panettone is actually sort of a pain in the ass to make.  ‘Oh, then I don’t know.’  So…yeah.
  • I think some dude in a car called me rapaz the other day when I crossed the street, which sort of translates to ‘boy’ or ‘bro’ or something–but definitely masculine.  Then again, it could have been a figment of my imagination.  In other news, this other dude sat down next to me on a bench while I was waiting for the bus today coming home from work–I almost never get to just flop down because I’m always running to catch the bus so I was really looking forward to enjoying my time just staring around–and started, I don’t even know, hitting on me. His main objective was impaired by the vital fact that I could barely understand him, though.  He kept insisting I was Italian or something, and he was super inquisitive, so I just asked questions back.  ‘What?’  ‘What do you think?’  ‘Why Italian?’  But mainly I just gave him really confused and annoyed looks because I was tired and he was sitting really close and I had no interest in telling him anything.  He kept telling me to go somewhere across the street with him.  Nothing doing, dude.  I may look Italian (?) but I’m not stupid.
  • I have found heaven, and heaven is in Centro, past baixo Augusta coming from Paulista way, in Bar Estadao.  It’s called pernil, and it’s sort of a pig leg thing.  Do yourself a favor and look at the pictures of this food marvel.  The best news for me–and for everyone in the world, really–is that this place has been open for ages and also never closes.  So (hint hint) if you come and visit me, I will take you there, possibly multiple times.  Many thanks to my aforementioned Television-listening, surrealist-film-watching, Brasilian-author-recommending friend Gera for taking me there for the first time.  I wanted to take a picture of this pork (!)-farofa (!)-rice-potatoey goodness, but I was too busy eating.
  • On that note, I very well may (fingers crossed) be moving out this week to somewhere that’s not an hour away from work in good traffic.  Don’t get me wrong–an hour’s commute is actually a short commute here, and it’s not the worst.  I work in the evenings though, and so I have to leave before rush hour even starts, which results in a lot of wasted time in a lot of random cafes, waiting around for classes to start.  My hopefully future roommate is training to be a helicopter pilot and has an insanely smooth voice.  He’s a friend of my friend’s best friend, which is how these things work.
  • I’ve been trying to speak a lot more Portuguese with a lot more people.  This means…talking with random security guys at banks (key phrase Eu nao sou recepcionista! = I am not a receptionist!), getting to know the people who work in the reception of my building (key phrase Se Deus quiser = if God wills it), and basically bumbling around asking people to repeat things and smiling sheepishly.  People like Gera and my future roomie, who don’t really speak much English with me, are forcing me to get more agile with the language, and to pick up more slang.  My favorites are(COLON) sei la (which I’m not sure actually literally makes sense in Portuguese, but it means ‘I don’t know’), tipo (which means ‘type’–used like we use ‘like’), and negocio (which means ‘business,’ and people use it if they are searching for a word they don’t know or can’t remember).
  • This week in funny building names I bring you…Edificio Royal Place.
  • Lastly, I have a theory.  Allison, you’ll be thrilled.  Here goes.  The older Brasilian men get, the more they look like Jorge Ben Jor.  If anyone wanted to assassinate the great legend himself, I posit, it would be extremely difficult because, well, I have personally seen about a billion old men on the sidewalk who could work as his body double.  No joke.  Jorge Ben Jor at my bus stop, Jorge Ben Jor in a wheelchair chilling on Paulista, whatever.  It’s definitely JBJ, too–he has that just generic enough look.  You would never see a billion older men running around looking like Gilberto Gil, for example.  (See reference pictures.)  So anyway, that’s something I keep noticing around these parts.  The closer to God, the closer to Jorge Ben Jor.

Ma just said the words ‘cheeseburger with cheddar’ and now I have saudades.

Planes, trains, and automobiles

You`ve already heard about my bus triumphs, but what about the other methods of transit here in this giant city(question mark)  Planes, trains, and automobiles have been on my mind a lot, since transportation is rather a big theme in the beginning and intermediate EFL world. As you can imagine.

(And before I continue, let`s get this part out of the way.  Ma`s keyboard seems to have changed overnight, and now I can find neither the colon, nor any of the proper accents for Portuguese words, nor quotation marks and apostrophes.  Ugh sei la!)

First, the automobiles.  I arrived here in Brooklin my first day by taxi, and that has been the extent of my taxi adventures so far–thank God, because they`re expensive!  I have ridden a few times in Marilia`s sister`s boyfriend`s car (to a bus stop, natch), but I`d say that the most memorable car trip I`ve had so far was this past weekend.  We were at a bar in Butanta with some friends, who invited other friends to join us…you know how it goes.  One of this friends had a car and offered to drive us back to Brooklin, where people would crash in the apartment until the morning.  Okay, cool.  This girl had a special car because she was paraplegic, but that`s not even the interesting part.  She was a terrifying driver (some drivers of stick have an alarming way of braking suddenly) and we had 7 people crammed into this tiny clown car and had to drive casually past the police to get on the highway, so half of us were sitting on people`s laps and trying to bend over and hide under the windows.

Secondly, the trains.  Picture this.  I am at Sao Bento, which can get semi-dodgy at times, and it`s 10 pm.  I am with a friend and we want to get to his house in Jabaquara, which is straight down the blue line.  Nobody is moving through the turnstiles: yes, the system of swipe cards is broken.  (I found the colon!)  The crowd is pissed (inclusive me, as I just observed a 3-hour lackluster lesson in beginning English and I am HUNGRY), and there are a few harried policemen trying to keep peace.  There`s no way this will go on much longer.  This is Brasil, my friend says.  And he`s right: a lone guy darts through the turnstile.  Suddenly the floodgates break.  People everywhere, flouting convention because they want to get home!  The two policepeople try to get a grip on the situation, and they almost do, but a tired crowd without answers is an unhappy crowd, and in an uncharacteristic move–in the States I am quite the rule folower–I go through the stile and keep walking.  A free subway ride.  Oh, Brasil.

I also keep making the inevitable mistake of taking the CPTM at rush hour.  The CPTM is the commutery train here in Sampa, and one of the stations is right by Ma`s apartment.  The second time I took it, I was still getting used to Brasil, and I got really spooked by the close quarters and people talking about me like I couldn`t understand, and I vowed not to take it again.  However, after today, that trip was like a walk in the park–and yet, today I handled the even more hellish voyage so much better!

I just came back from Shopping Eldorado, which is 3 stations up the Emerald line.  How bad can that be, right(question mark)  In Sao Paulo at rush hour…you have no idea.  I got in with my shopping bag, and the train was crowded.  I almost didn`t make it in the car before the doors closed, actually.  With each station, more people packed in–to the point where, manners be damned, everyone basically knew each other really well by the time we reached the stop before mine.  Body odor, awkward body part contact, the works.  I raised my eyebrows convivially, in a sign of mutual suffering, at the female coworker of the guy whose butt my hand was forcibly pressed into.  Isso nao e vida, she had said as people crammed into the car (This isn`t life, or maybe This is no way to live.). 

Shit, I thought to myself, I have to get off at the next station.  No time to be timid.  This was not going to be easy, since the door was barely in sight and I really hate making a scene.  I readied my shopping bag, I shifted my weight a bit so that the people directly around me perceived that I was preparing to make a move.  The train stopped.  I shouted.

Licenca, pessoal, quero descer! (Exuse me, people, I want to get off!)

Ela vai descer, vai descer! went down the line. (She`s getting off, she`s getting off!)

Ahhh, vou tentar pelo menos, I shouted jovially (I`m going to try, anyway).  I shoved and elbowed and smiled, and finally I was on the platform.  A helpful set of hands birthed my shopping bag out of the melee behind me and into the free air, I shouted a `Brigada! (Thank you!) and the doors closed.  Oof.

That was actually, I think, my biggest victory here so far.  This is no place for the timid.

You’ve been speaking a lot of Portuguese when…

  • you are typing a phrase and it comes out “connotations coloquial” instead of “colloquial connotations.”
  • you realise when your boss makes a comic aside about difficulties that Brasilians have learning English, that you, too, tend to erroneously say “polemic” when you mean “controversial.”

In other news, I have a few free days (read, one full day) in between now and when I start my job teaching English as a foreign language.  I still have to get my CPF and buy some professional clothes (because, contrary to whomever the hell inhabited my body when I packed to come here, flip flops and tank tops do not professional attire constitute) –> (and ohmigodyouguys, work clothes here are called roupas sociais, or “social clothes” hahahaaaaa).  So anyway, I have a few thoughts for the next bullet point roundup, but those will have to wait.

(P.S. The ‘jesus mother of god i hate cats’ tag will always be relevant. I hate them, I hate them, I hate them.  And I hate dogs that act like cats and lick cats and then sit on my pillow WHYYYYYY.)