Thursday, December 02, 2004


still in brazil

Yep, I just don't leave.

The Blogger thing finally allowed me to post some new pictures, so here's a rather random bunch. I've been mostly out of commission this past week because I've been in work purgatory: I did a lot of work on the paper with Roland, and at the same time was applying for a National Science Foundation grant to hopefully fund grad school. See how that goes. I basically had a week of working all day, going out at night to assorted parties, getting back at 5am, sleeping until 10am, and working again. It made me feel cool, but then it also started to suck. Now I'm finally out of work purgatory (slept a total of 22 the last two nights) and into work limbo as in the next month I finish up remaining issues with the Roland paper, apply to grad schools (probably), and try to finally resolve where I'm going and what I'm doing with microfinance.

Brazil is a very loud place, as I am reminded hourly, when the school across the street emits its air-raid-siren-like change of class bell. Just last night, for the second time in a week, I was treated to fireworks outside my window, ostensibly to practice for New Years. Apparently they need lots of practice. There are small trucks with loadspeakers that troll up and down my tiny street, advertising onions and potatoes and peppers at wall-trembling volumes. How often is someone at home, perhaps in bed, and hears the cacaphonous wails from the street below and thinks, "I really could use some onions," and, donning a dressing gown, runs down to catch the truck before it drives away? And yet, something like that must happen with some regularity, or they wouldn't spend all the money on sound systems. It's a puzzle. But the biggest sound emitter in my immediate vicinity has to be the soccer field attached to the school across the street. Many a morning have I awoken to cries of "porra! porra!", which is used kind of like "damn" but translates literally to "semen." It's by far the most popular thing to yell at a soccer game. One morning in particular appeared to be some sort of school spirit day, because there were special banners and after the game there was a rather entertaining cross-dressing couples dance competition (boys as girls and girls as boys). I feel that's the sort of thing you see in Brazil but not really the rest of Latin America.

Am I complaining about the noise? Maybe. But really, it's less a complaint than an observation, just one of the many things that is really, really different here. I mean, work robbed me of much more sleep than noise did. I'm not suffering much from the noise. It's just different, and takes some adjusting.

Márcia borrowed my camera to photograph her godson's (not Oma, a different one -- she has four) dance performance, so I've posted a bunch of those pictures. I was forced to stay home because of my aforementioned work, but it looks like it was fun, and the pictures are nice. I know I've fudged his name (it's something like Mascelson) but Márcia isn't around right now to give me the right spelling.

I went to see Márcia play the other night with a small subsection of Ilê Aiyê (the whole band is huge). Ilê (in English) is an African pride band, started in 1974 as a response to the exclusion of blacks from playing in Carinval. It's not really a band the way I've been taught to think of them -- it's a bloco, a Carnival drumming group -- and it has a large and ever-shifting membership. They teach music and run a cultural center in Curuzú, where this show took place. Since its founding Ilê has spawned a bunch of imitators, but maintains a place of honor in town as the originator of the movement. Though they have female singers and dancers, Márcia, ever the iconoclast, is blazing a trail as one of only two female drummers.

The show was really fun, though I left early to work and had the horror of work polluting my fun the whole time. Lots of dancing, call and response, the musicians enjoying themselves. It's one of those bands that really likes to say its own name, and there were several songs that told the story of its founding, etc. A refrain I heard repeatedly was "Que bloco é esse?" (what bloco is this?). The gleeful and ever-ready response: "Ilê Aiyê!"

UPDATE: it's spelled "Macleidsom". How I ever got that wrong is beyond me.

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