Category Archives: Portuguese

Brazilliant, or, a tale of two parties

I am still having to train myself into certain aspects of Brazilian life – patience in the face of overweening bureaucracy is something I have yet to develop, and the relentless lunching, while very good fun and pleasingly welcoming, is proving too much even for my innate greediness: was thrilled the other day when one lunch was cancelled as it meant I could eat fruit for lunch, and allow my body a small chance to digest the constant three-course extravaganzas. However, the socialising timetable – going out at 11pm and staying out till 5am – is one thing I’ve slipped into with remarkable ease.

Largely this is because I’m working ridiculous hours – a solid week of 12 hour+ days has not been my favourite working period ever, and will determinedly not become the norm; something must be done to change HQ’s seeming expectations of my ability and willingness to work London and Brazilian hours. However, the upside of being here is that long after London is in the pub, and indeed long after most Brazilians have finished work, the evening fun is just beginning.

On Friday night, having finished work at 10pm, I had a celebratory and initiatory caipirinha with my flatmates before they headed off to a hip hop club up the road (a musical style which, brilliantly, because of how Portuguese treats consonants on the ends of words, is here pronounced ‘hippy hoppy’, a translation which to my mind does wonders for the ‘chood inherent in most of its practitioners), and was picked up at 11.30 by a couple of friends to go to a house party not far away. Our hosts were three guys – English, Brazilian and Argentine – and their amazing Great Dane puppy, in the most hilarious bachelor pad I’ve seen in a while – beautifully if predictably modern, entirely without kitchen implements save a large wine rack and a overly complicated coffee machine, and hired bar staff to keep the caipirinhas pumping out…Dogão, the Great Dane, whose name is semi-translated as ‘Big Dog’ but which is also the nickname here for a hot dog (pronounced hotchi doggy – love this language), was of course the star of the show, until he decided to join in the dancing by jumping on someone and ripping their back with his claws. He’s an excitable puppy who weighs the same as a small person, so perhaps not surprising, and the attention was taken with grace by his chosen dancing partner. The mishap also barely slowed the dancing, particularly once Dogão had been banished outside.

It was a very different crowd to Saturday night – Friday’s party was about half expats, half locals, all with good educations and very good jobs, so for a shindig filled with lawyers and accountants it was really remarkably fun. The following evening I went with my flatmates to a proper student house party – in a residential suburb of São Paulo, to celebrate the occasion of his parents being away. It was fun in a very different way, much grungier music-wise, and certainly self-made caipirinhas this time…the only downside was of course being in a room full of 22-year-olds. Nothing like that for making one feel ancient.

Am flying out tonight for a couple of weeks – a week of work in the US and a week of holiday in Thailand – and I feel how little sleeping I have been doing because I can’t wait to get on the plane so I can pass out…And, while I am very excited about the holiday bit, I can’t wait to get back either.  A month in, this city rocks. It is considerably better to live in that to visit, and the quality of restaurants, bars, people and lifestyle here is outstanding. The childish part of me, which admittedly rules the roost on too many occasions and which doesn’t like missing out on stuff, feels petulant about all the fun that will be going on here without me over the next two weeks. Couldn’t ask for better.

No zouking way

It was the phrase, “You know how to lambada, right?”, that should have rung the first alarm bells. Tonight I had a language exchange coffee with a very sweet if somewhat snaggle-toothed Brazilian guy – an hour spent talking in Portuguese, in which we covered such key issues as what I had done yesterday and, um, how to pronounce words in Portuguese, and an hour in English, in which, shall we say, the conversation was more wide-ranging in subject matter.

Depois de nossa aula de portugues, uma aula de Zouk. For the uninitiated – of which I am a proud if recent non-member – zouk is a lambada-based modern dance, in which music from all over the world is blended with the base 1-2-3 of lambada to create a deeply sexy, hair twirling frenzy of impressiveness. I’m still unsure how verb conjugating segued into this, but still, Sunday night at the Buena Vista club is zouk night, I now know.

Suffice to say zouk doesn’t flow naturally in my British veins. Which is doubly hard because on that side of the pond I’m an OK dancer. What I lack in ability I make up for in energy and a remarkable recall for crappy 80s songs, enabling me to look like I’m reacting well to the beat when in fact I’m simply responding to deeply entrenched cues from my otherwise-useless memory. That trick is proving less useful over ‘ere.

So I’ve been bumped from centre-of-the-floor showoff to footshuffler by the wall, and man is it a bumpy ride down. Still, I loved the Buena Vista: the dancing is so good it is half-club, half-show, and the atmosphere was brilliantly vibrant, with everyone loving the beat and there just to dance. (And maybe flirt a little.)

And all sober. Wow, that’s a difference to clubbing in England – the wonderfully patient Joao couldn’t see any logic behind my initial refusals at 9.30 to go dancing because ‘I had work in the morning’ – and indeed, I’m home sober at 11.30 and as fit for work as I otherwise would have been. Sure, many people had a beer or two, but far from everyone, and absolutely no-one seemed drunk. Joao was driving, and saw nothing strange in that.

Also, while Brazil is rightly famed for its obsession with beauty – drogerias are everywhere and packed to the ceiling with face creams and hair products and lotions and potions – that comes second to dancing. So some real specimens of unloveliness – cross-eyed, bulging belly, and such an unfortunate penchant for bandannas that he was wearing three, was my fave – could easily dance with some beauties of girls if they could produce the moves. And while it is sexy it is not sexual, something every fibre of my British being really struggles to compute.  At the end, the guy kisses the girl’s hands, they both smile and say thanks, and that’s that.

However, I’m not sure I like the model that the girls who want to dance but are partner-less hang around the edge of the floor waiting to be asked. I mean, I see that the zoukers have to go in two by two, but the firm gender roles not only mean I had to bring out the no-need-to-elaborate excuse ‘obrigada, nao, sou ingles’ on a number of occasions, but also just feel wrong. That’s Latin America, I guess.

So now as well as Portuguese, I should learn samba, capoeira, and zouk.  I desperately want to be able to do this stuff – standing helplessly at the side of the floor is just not my thing, even with a gentlemanly local guide – and so my only option is lessons, and perhaps a lot of praying. If only there was some way I could download all of the Bangles lyrics and fill that freed-up mental space with the magical knowledge of how to follow gracefully (yes, I know), “feel the music in my hips”, and not duck out in overwhelming embarrassment after 15 seconds. I hope they have good teachers.

The weather

At least there’s one thing I can fall back on – my weather vocab seems to be holding up better than more useful forms of communication, and there’s something about my pronunciation of basic Portuguese which makes most Brazilians respond with “voce e ingles, nao?”. Then I’m allowed to talk about the weather – I don’t want to challenge international stereotypes, after all.

And it has been a glorious first weekend, meteorologically speaking: blazing sunshine, 30ish degrees, but cooling in the evening so it is still comfortable to sleep. Or would be, if my new mattress didn’t have wood in it. Honestly, its a wooden frame with thin padding, covered to look like a normal mattress. That’s just cheating.

In other ways, my flat seems to be determined to balance out the weather. My Brazilian flatmates keep complaining about how dry it is at this time of year, but inside, the walls are seeping enough moisture to ensure I have little need to cover myself in the body lotion the girls keep telling me is necessary during these inter-seasonal months. Its a blessing, really.

Still, my return to student living means offering my roomies a beer bought in the supermarket has me marked out as one of the most generous people alive, which isn’t a bad start. If only I hadn’t bought the beers at the end of a four-hour-long exploration of the city, necessitating a fairly pricey cab ride back, I’d be reais-in right now.

Of course, the taxi journey was further complicated by me (duration of time here: 36 hours) arguing with the cab driver (duration of time here: 24 years, and he had satnav) in broken Portuguese because I knew where we were going and he, I decided, didn’t. I was of course wrong, but it was relieving to see that nothing really changes.

In more ways than one. I may have got more obstreperous in my old age, but when I happened across an awe-inspiring view across this amazing city, some impromptu samba in the park, and a Sunday market selling inordinate amounts of crap (which is of course my idea of heaven) with a few minutes of each other as I wandered around today, the thrill of it took me right back to my travelling days of yore. I would have loved it, even without the sunshine.