This weekend has been heavily influenced by rain as Brasil finally cools down from the crazy heat. I’ve also finally finished my portuguese lessons. Hard to believe its been 3 weeks here already! It was also a little hard to maintain enthuiasm for the classes given how intense it felt, but I think I did a pretty good job there. That was definitely helped by my teachers being friendly and easy to talk to, and I tried to keep my responses to questions at least a little interesting rather than just the dry facts. Definitely glad I didnt taken the option with more comtact hours though!
So last weekend I went to hang out with my friends’ teacher CM. Kuata. He’s a great guy, gave me some good tips for my game and has been really generous. Along with one of his students called Urso (who has also been really friendly) we went to a place that did amazing feijoada after training in the morning. I ate so much I was good for the rest of the day. Then he took me to a capoeira angola roda, I always love watching good angoleiros, especially old men. After all this I was pretty knackered, but the day wasn’t over. We headed off to a forro night (a brazillian dance vaguely similar to salsa) with another of Kuata’s students. I’d danced some forro before in the UK and thought I at least knew the basics, but going there convinced me I could barely see the basics from where I am. These people were amazing! I was pretty intimidated but I got a bit of coaching from J and some friendly girls we were standing next to and ended up having a great time.
There was more brasil-based-boogie the next day as my hosts André and Julia took me and a bunch of their students to a samba school. They were rehearsing for the carnaval of course, and since it’s nearly the end of the year they were very tight. What amazed me the most though was that they hit a peak of energy very early on, then managed to sustain it for the next 2 hours! With about 70 musicians in a hall it was also incredibly loud. There were probably twice that number of dancers and they pounded the floor for that length of time as well. My favourite dancers were the flag couples. Each flag was held by a woman and sort of attached at her waist. They would present the flag to the audience at intervals and the dancing involved a lot a spinning, one of my favourite things. Quite often the woman would be spinning in the middle with the guy running large circles counterways. The youngest pair looked to be about 10 and they were awesome, more awesome than any 10 year old has a right to, but the older dancers were stunning.
After training monday to wednesday on top of the active weekend my body had decided enough was enough. Fortunately it was then time for a little finishing-the-course drink with the school, which was very friendly. The next day I was off to Belo Horizonte!
As my plane landed my occasional rain-calling powers kicked in with some force, preventing all the later flights from landing (we were lucky to get in when we did I think) and even stopping Dani on her way to pick me up as she could no longer see out of her windscreen! Once Dani had managed to get me though we had an amazing weekend. First she showed me an awesome museum about Minas Gerais (the state BH is in) then we went to an absolutely insane market where we had some drinks and traditional Minas pub food. Minans seem to be very proud of their food and it was indeed awesome. Apparently it is also home to artesan cachaças, so we hunted around the market and found a place I could buy a couple of bottles. I was a bit worried about the plane as I just brought hand luggage and didnt want to check my bag in, but this is Brasil. Of course you can bring 1 and a half litres of cachaça in your hand luggage!
Next we headed off to Ouro Preto with a couple of Dani’s friends. This is the small town which was a former capital of the country as well as the center of the gold rush. It’s fantastically pretty in a mountainous Portuguese style and is now mainly a tourist destination and university town.
We had a great weekend here with a bit of cachaça and some stunning gold-covered churches. These make me feel quite sorry for the poor people who initially donated all the gold, it’s one thing to want a beautiful place of worship, but at some point you expect them to say “You know, we finally have enough gold leaf, solid gold ornaments and beautiful statues.” In Ouro Preto this just didn’t happen.
We also got an invite into a republica – basically a brasillian frat house with a decent party and plenty of free beer. After a quick tour I was sceptical how anyone who lived there managed to get any studying done, but apparently they don’t.
Back in Belo Horizonte for my last day I was dropped off for the morning next to a lake which would have been gorgeous if it had less crap floating in it. On the other hand it also had capybaras floating in it and chilling out on the sides. I wanted to see some of these massive rodents for years so this was an amazing surprise. They were so relaxed, paddling around or having a sleep with their sprogletts and I took a lot of pictures. Some of them seemed to be receiving a groom from vultures while they slept, although if they didn’t move for too long the vultures seemed to give them a hopeful nip to check they were still alive. I think vultures are nature’s optomists. After all, everything dies if you wait long enough. Other, less morbid birds had built some little mud houses in the trees, so I got a look at those too.
Dani’s mother really wants a picture of a roo with a joey!
I arrived back in São Paulo late, so grabbed a taxi to Osasco. This was a mistake. Generally Brasil has been well balanced or a little cheaper than Aus or the UK, but not the airport taxis. Made it just in time for a last roda with Kuata and his students and stayed over for a solid morning of training. CM. Kuata has been incredibly generous while I’ve been here, not charging a penny for his classes and giving me a bunch of instruments for Lee back in aus (and one for me!). It was also a great test of my portuguese as we had a decent chat over lunch, albeit with lots of simple words and explaining.
I’m still a bit behind but I better post this before it becomes the entire rest of my trip. Next time, Mel arrives!