Wednesday, December 8, 2010

And things end, on a weird note.

It's happening! I'm leaving here in just a matter of days! It's super sad to say goodbye to everyone here; at least I have lots of things to look forward to in the coming months. This will probably be my last blog post before I leave for Panama, where I'm not sure what my internet situation will be since I'm selling my computer to Felipe. In short, I may not be able to write again until after the new year, in which case, Happy Holidays!

As awesome as my time here has been, larger forces conspired last night to give me the weirdest send-off from my Brazil experience.

I am walking to my friend Carolyn's house around 8 o'clock, when I see two people on the sidewalk, one struggling to help the other up onto their feet. I run forward to help them, and find the strangest pairing of individuals I have ever seen. The man on the ground did not look good; he was dirty, wearing some tattered jump-suit, was missing teeth, smelled bad and had crazy hair. The person helping him was a short, chubby, Asian boy (I only mention this because he's literally the second Asian person I've seen in this city), who looked exactly like the kid from "Up." By running up to the scene, I feel pretty committed to help. So, me and the boy each grab one of the guy's arms, I'm handed the man's umbrella, and we finally manage to pull him to his feet.

"Is everything ok?" I ask. "What's going on?"

"I'm just coming from church, but now I'm going to my karate class," the boy says. Sure enough, he was wearing white pants and had a green cloth belt draped around his neck. "But, why do you have that weird accent?"

"I'm American, do you know this guy?"

"Kind of."

"What's going on then? What are you doing with this person?" Meanwhile, the man, who has not let go of our hands since he needs them to stay standing, let out a long string of slurred babble. I know enough Portuguese to tell when a person has actually used words, this man was not.

"He wants to go to karate with me," the boy said. At this point, I'm worried about this boy and the people he is inviting to his martial arts sessions, but whatever, it's his prerogative and I'm off to my friend's place. I try to figure out how I'm going to detach the man's death grip from my hand.

"Do you have time?" he asks, "I need help taking him there."

"Uhhhhh, where is your class?" I ask.

"On the other side of this hill," he says, "it's kind of far."

We're interrupted by the man, who has resumed his chatter. He manages to say, "I know a Brazilian woman," and the single word "panorama." The boy keeps asking him what he is trying to say, before the man turns to me and says, "Explain this to him." I have literally no idea what I'm supposed to be explaining to the boy who is a native Portuguese speaker. We are all still holding hands while getting passed by many people, all of whom give us weird looks. I'm ready for this situation to be over.

"Ok fine," I say, "Let's go."

We start walking at a painfully slow pace, this man is simply in no state to be walking, much less up a steep hill. We stop, and the man starts shaking his arms and groaning. Then, he looks straight forward and starts huffing. "Oh God, he's going to vomit," I think. I then push the button to open umbrella I was given earlier, trying to shield myself from what's going to happen. This umbrella ends up being huge, so I'm able to protect a lot of my body. However, the man does not throw up, and we start shuffling along again. I can't collapse the umbrella, however, since I'm still holding hands with some stranger. We now take up the literally entire sidewalk and people have to walk into the street to pass us.

"How do you know this man?" I ask.

"I've met him once or twice." This boy really needs to be taught about inviting strangers to his extracurricular activities. The man stops walking and starts shaking again.

"This man is not well, I really think he needs help!"

The boy looks at the man, "Are you ok? You're worse than you normally are." He looks at me, "Do you think he's sick?"

"I have no idea." Maybe we can take him home, I think. "Where do you live?" I ask slowly.

The man groans, "Guarani," he finally manages.

Great, he lives in another town. This does not help me. "Do you know where he lives?" I ask the boy.

"I think he lives on the sidewalk, but I usually see him a couple of blocks down the street. I don't know what he's doing over here." Awesome, now I really feel like an asshole, I can't just return this man to the street. I don't know what to do.

The boy looks at me, "Your accent is just soooo funny!" REALLY LITTLE BOY?!?!? Is that the weirdest thing about this situation? My accent?

We keep walking, displacing people, and I still have an open umbrella. The boy thinks I'm the strangest thing that has ever happened, and asks me a bunch of questions about where I'm from and what I'm doing, apparently oblivious to the individual between us. I find out that he's from São Paulo, which has one of the largest Japanese populations outside of Japan. Well, at least I solved the Asian mystery.

We stop in the middle of a thru-street, and the man says he wants to walk "normally." "Thank you Jesus!" I think, I'll get my hand back and can let these two do their thing. The man, however, lifts his elbow up over my arm and tucks my forearm hard into his armpit. We are still holding hands, though I'm now losing circulation in mine by how hard I'm being squeezed in his pit. I really start to notice how bad this guy smells.

"I think we should call the police," I say, "This man really needs help."

"But he really wants to go to my karate class!"

People start lighting off fireworks a couple of blocks away, which just upsets this guy and he starts saying "I'm scared, I'm scared", over and over again. People keep passing us, staring at the chubby Asian boy, homeless man, and foreigner with an open umbrella. "You know it's not raining, right?" the boy says, "you really don't need that."

Forty-five minutes later, we make it to karate. We arrive at the door, and the whole class just stares at the craziest trio that has ever existed. I finally detach myself from the man, but see that my arm and hand are covered in dirt. I really want to wash this off, but I don't want to admit that in front of all these people. Instead, I say I need to go to the bathroom and walk through this class into the back of the building while the boy asks his teacher if the guy can stay and watch their session. I find some kitchenette thing, scrub my arms with soap, then start walking out. I pass the boy and the man, they are now literally in the middle of this karate class, and the boy says that the man wants to go to the bathroom also.

"Where's the bathroom?" he asks.

"I don't know, I didn't up going." I'm really not keen on saying I just wanted to wash my hands.

"But, you said you were going!"

"Yeah I know, I just didn't end up going. I'm going to leave now." I figure there are enough Portuguese-speaking adults around that I can leave the man without feeling too guilty.

"You are just so weird," the boy says.

This is how the story ends, with the three of us in the middle of a karate class, and me managing to come across weirdest part of the whole situation. Perfect.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Soccer follow-up

So, a couple of months ago I wrote a post about starting to participate in indoor soccer. I've been playing periodically since, usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays when I'm in Juiz de Fora and not traveling. Despite the disparity in skill, playing futesal has been a positive experience largely because of the social aspect. Soccer is definitely an important way for guys to hang out with each other here, so it's been fun meeting new people and hanging out with an entertaining group of people. Male bonding, love it.

I guess I've probably got a little better since starting, though any such improvements would be hard to notice since literally every other person is playing on a entirely different level; like a, "I've been playing my whole life in freakin' Brazil", sort of level. Hanging with this crowd, it's pretty apparent I don't know what I'm doing.

It's one thing to write about how weak my soccer is, it's another to demonstrate. So, here's a video of me playing the other day, which I'm really not sure why I'm putting on the internet. Before you watch, read my viewing guide so you know what highlights to look for. In case you can't pick me out, I'm wearing a blue t-shirt and spend my time running around directionlessly.

-The guy who blasts the ball from one end of the court to the other: People do this all the time, and it's the reason that being the goalie is the scariest/worst job ever.

-The ball that is thrown to me: The goalie throws a ball to me, not too hard, and I just let it drift right out of bounds. I indicate my indifference with an only mildly effeminate hang gesture.

-The pass I interrupt: Some guy tries to pass the ball to someone behind me, but just kicks it at my feet. You'll see how surprised I am that I just stole the ball by the fact that I almost fall over backwards.

-Probably the most spastic thing you've seen today: So then, I supposed to pass the ball, because I'm sure as hell not going to dribble it anywhere, but the guy passes it back to me. I'm unclear as to what it is I do after that, I just know that someone decides that they've had enough and just kicks the ball out of bounds when I try to rid myself of it again.

-Corner kick: I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing during the corner kick, so I just hop around a little.

The next video is from our Thanksgiving that we made, and by "we" I mean Carolyn and Athena. The spread involved two chickens, green beans, yams, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, mac 'n cheese and four kinds of desserts. Carolyn's American mom brought down a lot of things when she visited which made the dinner super authentic. We invited over our teacher who gave us Portuguese lessons our first two weeks here, Felipe and his mom, Carolyn's roommate, our Brazilian friend Lucas, and our Argentine friends Paloma, Macarena, Florencia and Jaime. One of my favorite moments thus far in Brazil was watching everyone from this international group go around the table saying the things for which they are thankful. The video is for our exchange program that wanted all their students to make a video from their countries communicating some sort of seasons' greetings in the language. We thought it best to include as many native speakers as possible in ours. This is the result, we're saying "Feliz dia de ação de graças, do Brasil", which means "Happy Thanksgiving from Brazil." Our timing was a little weird, and we were also taking other self-timed pictures during the video, so ACM will probably need to do a little bit of editing on our contribution to the holiday video.