A Return to Normalcy

August 30, 2009

Scott and I had a lovely, productive day.  We woke up, went for a six mile run to Copa, had some açaí, and set to work.  He commandeered the dining room table, covered it with draft lists and chose his fantasy football team.  I spent the afternoon exploring the world of urban agriculture while sitting on our narrow deck, feet propped up on a plastic chair while reading article after article on the internet.  We went for a walk on the beach in the late afternoon, had a snack, went to Devassa to watch Botafogo tie again, went to a wine bar in Jardim Botanico for dinner.  It feels settled.

We copped to homesickness. Not real homesickness, but missing little things, a richness of life that we had in the US that we don’t have here.  It’s so pleasant, so easy, but not full.  We think it would be different in Sao Paulo, it was definitely not the case in New York, where we had tons of friends and family around, and would not be the same in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, maybe San Francisco.  We keep all of this in mind as we think through the next months, the next years, trying to figure out how this goes, what happens next.


Com Amigos Brasileiros

August 6, 2009

Karla, a girl who worked as a graphic designer at Cookie when I first started there, is from Rio.  While we only overlapped at the magazine for a few weeks before her visa issues got the better of her CondeNast situation (she moved to a different magazine that helped her get a more permanent visa and stay in New York), and we weren’t close, she’s here visiting her friends and family for a couple of weeks.  We had a great lunch yesterday, catching up and talking about New York and Rio and the people we knew in common.

Tonight we went out with her and her friends from PUC (she went there for college) in Botafogo and had a few drinks with them.  It was super fun, and we made ourselves speak Portuguese (with a caveat that they couldn’t make fun of us).  We tried our best to understand as they spoke quickly, peppering their rapid-fire catching up (Karla hasn’t been back to visit in three years) with gíria, (slang) that we didn’t get.  We have a long way to go to really be able to have a functional conversation, to casually slip in points, or even to be the funny foreigners who sometimes get things a little wrong.

That said, it was really good for us.  A good benchmark on our progress, a super nice thing for Karla to do, considering she hadn’t seen these friends in so long.  There was a soccer game in the background, Fluminense vs. Sport Recife, and the bar was packed with Fluminense fans.  It was a good thing they were up 3 to 0 by the end of the first half (right now they’re up 5 to 1).  Poor Karla tried to make a case for Vasco, her team, but couldn’t find any allies.

On the other side of the bar there was a birthday party–a long table of revelers with a birthday cake and shots of tequila singing the Brazilian birthday song (not Happy Birthday in Portuguese).  The birthday boy took three shots in a row, and was taunted with the entire party of twenty shouting, “Mais um! Mais Um!”  He didn’t take another.

The other thing that’s so lovely, but also pretty amusing to watch, is how time consuming it is for Brazilians to say hello and goodbye to one another.  While we were sitting with Karla’s friends–there were four when we got there–four more came during our drinks, two together and two by themselves.  They each made their way around the table giving warm double cheek kisses to each person at the table, including me and Scott, before they even knew our names or that we were Karla’s friends from New York.  It’s beautiful, but also sort of comical, a Saturday Night Live skit in the making.  Scott and I spent a good five minutes, while finishing our last sips of beer, wondering, whispering, whether we had to kiss them all on the way out, too.


August 2, 2009

We’ve just returned from Buzios, Rio’s version of the Hamptons, or St. Tropez (Brigette Bardot gets credit for ‘discovering’ this amorphous peninsula), and there is quite a bit to write about–each thing could be a post in itself, but in the interest of keeping you engaged, dear reader, I’ll try to be concise.

We took the bus from Rodoviaria, Rio’s main bus station, on Friday afternoon after school.  It’s on the north side of the Centro, and super easy to navigate.  There were big halls, and vendors all around the outside selling grilled meats and cheap backpacks and flip flops.  Inside there were counters selling tickets to go anywhere, and the whole thing was sort a dismal yellowish tile.  It worked extremely well.  We got our tickets in no time, Scott bought a Brazilian soccer magazine.  The bus set off out of the city, past massive lots of colorful shipping containers from China and Germany stacked like Legos for maybe a mile at least.  It’s hard to remember that we live by a gigantic port.  We went over the Niteroi bridge–impossibly long and with no railings to speak of– and then set off through what was mostly country side, once we cleared the outskirts of the city. It was all green hills, cattle, small churches set into cliffs.

We drove for about three hours, the darkness gathering, until we got to Buzios.  Walking from the bus stop to our hotel, we strolled past the more typically Brazilian part of it–florescently lit juice bars, lanchenettes, drogarias, and then we hit the more glamourous beach part, and  took in the fashionable tourist town–cobbled streets, brightly lit shops with small esplanades, bustling restaurants skirting a bay filled with colorful wooden boats and bigger fishing boats, bobbing.  There’s a pier, and pousadas everywhere.


We explored the small coves of beaches, not really so impressed, but intrigued by the beautiful houses and the view from our own hotel.  Today we went running around the jutting lobes of the peninsula and got to explore, up and down cobbled hills that had spectacular Atlantic views, white capping waves stretching for forever.  The sunshine was perfect after all the rain we’ve had and after our run, we stretched out the white chaise lounges until it was time to come back.


Last night there was an early evening Botafogo game.  We made our way to a Botafogo bar (the first we’ve seen) to watch soccer, and while I was prepared for another jaunt through Cincinnati, the atmosphere at the bar was pretty incredible.  Older men sat at plastic tables, transfixed on the television, pouring beer into small glasses from big bottles of Bohemia sheathed in styrofoam cozies.  A group of overweight women sat in front of us. Families filled some of the tables, the benches, parents with small kids, sleepy from the beach and still in swimsuits, groups of brothers in Havianas.  The crowd grew and shifted, people bought popped corn, everyone yelled or hushed at the same time.  IMG_0095


Our team was tied for most of the hour and half, until the last two minutes, when they scored a winning goal and everyone went crazy.  The camaraderie was amazing–sometimes, on the right nights, even Cincinnati can be fun, full of stars and fireworks.

While in Buzios, I also managed to buy a tiny Brazilian bikini.  We’ll see if I’m able to adjust my existing tan lines for it to work out okay.  It seems impossibly small, but there’s no real down side when I don’t know anyone.  It will be quite some time before a picture of that ever makes it to Menina na Rio.

Last night, after the Botafogo game, we went to dinner, hung out around town and then went to the bar we decided was our favorite.  It stretched the length of about 20 liquor bottles and then led out to a deck that had steps to the beach.  Wooden boats listed on their sides on that stretch of sand, and many of the shops and restaurants sent their glow onto the waves.  Last night there was a guy with a guitar singing, and another with a drum and a cymbal, playing mellow Brazilian music.  We sat and sipped cold beers, and walked along the beach a little bit.  We spent a long time talking about what to do with our lives, how this will all work, how we put it all together (with no real answers yet, but every time we have this conversation it becomes more articulate.)

We capped off the night at a ridiculous mini-golf course.  With ten holes fit along a steep slope, every one was near impossible to actually play.  The pitch got the better of Scott’s new Havianas, three times.  He’s in the picture below, trying to fix them.

We got back to Rio tonight hanging onto the sunshine.  We’re a little browner, a little more relaxed.  The city woke up again and was out and about after all of the rain.


Soccer and ties

July 19, 2009

We just went to Devassa, a local bar, to watch an inner city soccer rivalry, Botafogo v. Flamengo.  Botafogo has had a rough go of things this season (I’m learning about all of the different leagues, etc. and Scott has become a serious Botafogo fan), and it looked like they were going to win for the majority of the second half, but alas, with just a few minutes to go, Flamengo scored, and the game was tied, 2 to 2.  Soccer itself is growing on me slightly, I can get into watching it, but really, all the ties are so middle wiggle, so mediocre.  To invest the time to watch an hour and a half of a pretty damn boring sport (I only watched the second half, in all fairness) to have it end in a tie is so neither here nor there.  It stinks.  I’ll try to curb my complaining about overtime in American sports, at least someone wins at the end.

The benefit of sitting at a bar to watch soccer games is watching young Brasileiros interact with one another.  From an anthropological standpoint, it’s great.  They’re super affectionate and physical, greeting each other so warmly with hugs and kisses.  It just looks so fun to be a Brazilian 20-something.  I have visions of us speaking Portuguese fluently and sitting there with all of our friends, erupting in glory when Botafogo wins.