Hello, everyone, and a big "Oi!" from Brazil.
Things have been pretty hectic for me lately. During my last week, alone, in Florida, I had to contact the Brazilian government, terminate the magnificent "Date of the Week" program after nearly six months (details later), visit Miami and hitchhike back in time for a jolly Going-Away-From-Florida-Bash, give my professors the 2-3 Zone for a stellar senior thesis defense (stellar - meaning only that I passed), eat my remaining supply of ice cream, sort out various other college graduation nuisances, and navigate a dense traffic jam with Katie to arrive at the airport with little time to spare.
I didnīt think Iīd make it. Whew!
So, I arrived in Olinda - a small coastal town of the Brazilian Northeast - and my level of productivity immediately returned to normal, thank god, to be about even with a slugīs.
Olindaīs an old town, one of Brazilīs two richest during the 18th century. Its streets were thin and paved with brick and wound tightly in all directions up and down steep hills and through crooked alleys. Houses came in white, orange, green, and yellow, and many were small cafes or al fresco restaurants.
I paid $12 a day to stay in a tiny four-room casa that slept a dozen travellers and up to six Brazilians at a time.
My first night, I went out for the pre-Carnaval festivities. A few hundred people were on the streets, and a marching band of trumpeteers and drum-bongers and saxophonemians danced to frevo music - local to the state, Pernambuco - by twisting their lower bodies and kicking widely.
So, there I stood, my first night in a new country, haunted by my recent dilemma: Is there romance after "Date of the Week?"
I spotted a pretty, lightly-freckled girl in a black, backless dress and gold high heels standing nearby with confident posture. She had a cool smile, a calm face, a tiny gold nose ring, and deep-set eyes like a wise cat.
I decided to make my move shortly after samba music started playing.
LEARN TO DANCE SAMBA QUICK IN 16, NO, 17 EASY STEPS
Step 1 - To avoid an accident, get a good distance away from your computer.
Step 2 - Not too far. Make sure you can still read the screen.
Step 3 - Lift your left heel to your right butt-cheek.
Step 4 - Rotate toes in a semi-circle.
Step 5 - Step 1 is very important.
Step 6 - Lift your other heel - the left one I think, no, thatīs my left, your right - to your middle forehead.
Step 18 - Congratulations! You can now dance samba. ...Wait a minute. Geez, thatīs way out of place.
Step 7 - Rotate toes.
Step 8 - Insert flap into opening labeled C4.
Step 9 - Now that youīve learned samba, your body should pop around when you dance like a child on a pony ride. Itīs very fun - my favorite Brazilian music.
Step 10 - I shouldnīt have included Step 5. That was extraneous. I couldīve actually taught you samba in only two or three steps.
Step 11 - But not these steps. Looking back on them, the only thing you could learn from what Iīve said is how to fall on your face, and possibly to break your computer. Iīll tell you what, forget the first ten steps.
Step 12 - Except Step 1.
Step 13 - Plant the heel of your longest foot (donīt deny it) at the front of your north-northwestern foot, and raise your toes.
Step 14 - See Step 4. (Also: Step 7)
Step 15 - Repeat this motion with the other foot and continue to alternate feet in rhythm with the music.
Step 16 - Fasten brown clasp to plastic border marked A9B62H727. Plug in cord, and your new microwave is ready for use!
Step 17 - See Step 9.
Hopefully, your computer still stands, so Iīll continue.
I showed the girl my samba skills and spoke to her in Portuguese. "E coreito?" (Am I doing this correctly?)
Of course, I knew I danced well (See above, Steps 1-17). But, I had to entice her with my "Dumb Foreigner/Cute Accent" routine.
And it worked like a charm!
She responded with a thumbs-up and a smile. Her name was Sula (for those of you who remember, sheīs not to be confused with Soley, who I met my first night in Iceland), and we spent the rest of the night dancing and talking.
She had a small, trim figure, and she moved like a sensuous, powerful boa constrictor. Her english wasnīt as good as her dancing, so we spoke Portuguese. She had to "mimicar" (act out) words a lot, which was fun. The conversation went well, with a possible exception when she said she was tired ("cansei") and I thought she meant she wanted to be choked ("cansar").
I got her number - even after trying to choke her (just kidding). We hung out the next few days, dancing and visiting the beach, and the more I learned of her life ("So trabalhar and estudar," as she put it - only working and studying), the more I liked her.
She lived on a sandy road in a poor town, where the small houses shared walls with their neighbors. Her lack of a car and other indulgences made her appreciate the simpler things in life, like her friends. There was a sweetness in how she looked after me - even in the way she mouthed my middle name, "Gabriel," like she was eating a lollipop - that I hadnīt seen in richer girls.
She didnīt drink, smoke, do drugs, or eat meat. She only wanted to dance and have fun. I couldnīt claim to be a saint, myself, but I hoped to make up to Sula the grief sheīd suffered when sheīd caught her only boyfriend, of nearly five years, cheating on her.
On the night before Carnaval began, we sat on a wall near the beach. Sula searched for the "lula" (moon), but there was none.
With the stars to her back and ondas do mar breaking on the sand in front of us, Sula sang to me sweet songs of Portuguese amor. Her eyes gazed past me, deep with gentleness - and a little hurt. I leaned towards her, wanting to take her, to make her forget her old boyfriend, to cause the stars and waves and music to spin around us as if we were the sun, and ...
... just then, a guy from the bar across the street rushed to join us - ten feet away on the same wall - and he leaned over to give his stomach and intestines a thorough cleaning. For a good three minutes, he puked.
Sulaīs song came to an end, and we slowly departed to retire our separate ways.
Tomorrow was Carnaval.
To be continued ...