Friday, March 11, 2011

Carnaval 2011

... is over. Most of our guests have left, although we still have a couple stragglers. I can honestly say we had the best houseful of people yet, although it wasn't without some drama.

Carnaval for me is not as exciting as it used to be. I ended up spending most of my time with Lucas, both on and off the street, and that gets pretty tiring pretty fast. It's stressful to navigate the Carnaval on one's own, and it's stressful to navigate the streets with Lucas in tow, so add the two together and you get major stress. Plus I get to feeling like a walking wallet as I buy popcorn, spray foam in a can, hot dogs, cotton candy, soda, and plastic swords that light up - not to mention the trampoline and face-painting. In spite of this, I feel that the only word that comes out of my mouth is 'No' because there is oh so much more to buy- something our kids learn from a very early age. Don't get the wrong idea, I like spending Carnaval with Lucas- Evani tries to send him off every year to an aunt's house and I howl in protest. One of the high points of Carnaval was taking him to see the Blue Man Group on top of a trio eletrico. They mostly just threw freebies into the crowd, but Lucas enjoyed it.

We had a full house this year, eleven people from eight countries (plus various friends and family) although they weren't all here at the same time. They all got along well almost from the start, and it turns out that two of the couples actually knew each other from previously- they'd met in Peru or some spot and had run into one another somewhere else as well, that happens with some frequency when you are traveling a particular route (it's happened to me) but still it must have been a surprise to see familiar faces in the same house with you.

Only one couple seemed a bit off - an American dude and his Spanish-speaking South-American girlfriend, who was not from Brazil. We weren't even sure if they were a couple at first- it seemed like things weren't going too well between them. To make a long story short, it went from bad to worse, she was giving him the silent treatment and pretty obviously flirting with another guest in the house, and eventually the guy decided to get a room in a hotel and get out of the house. I spent some time trying to mediate the situation as the dude was threatening to go back home and leave her there and she was saying fine, let him go. I thought I was making headway until he left the country and left her at our house. I got pretty annoyed at that point, at both of them - her for biting the hand that was feeding her and him for... abandoning someone who didn't even speak the language and had never traveled internationally and was completely broke at our house. That lasted a day or so until the guy got back in contact with me, and asked if his 'ex' needed anything for "food or cigarettes or anything." I wrote him back saying she needed money for a ticket back to Rio so she could get her flight back to her family and two young kids.

He ended up sending three times what I suggested.

That pretty much changed the dynamic- a ticket was purchased, she waited out the rest of Carnaval and I think even enjoyed herself some, and in about forty minutes the cab is coming to take her to the airport.

This year's crime included a lost camera and a brazen pick-pocketing in a restaurant that resulted in the victim's shorts being torn from top to bottom and way too much money being absconded with- the guy really should have left that money at the house. In a separate incident, some Brazilian dude pulled the wrong gringa's hair and ended up on the ground under a rain of fists from her boyfriend- but only after he sucker-punched that same boyfriend from behind and then tried to run away. Opinion seems to be unanimous that this was a righteous move on the boyfriend's part- there is an attitude amongst some of the locals that all estrangeiros are idiots and you can push them around with no consequences... at least one deluded troublemaker has had his attitude adjusted.

Actually, I think the aforementioned South-American girlfriend had pretty much the same attitude toward her American ex-boyfriend. Problem is- I'm not sure she's been disabused of that notion.

This last item is the most horrible.

Lucas was jumping on the trampoline with his cousin, and I was standing there waiting for them to finish; it was not yet late on the last night of Carnaval. Suddenly, there was that electric confusion that erupts whenever there is a fight- people were running in the street in front of me, where the parade route was only a block away. I panicked a bit, as Lucas and his cousin were behind the protective netting on the trampoline- protected in some situations, more exposed in others, and not easy to get to. Suddenly a man is sitting in the entryway of the restaurant just in front of me, and he's bleeding. A lot. He's been stabbed, and his shirt is soaked with blood, and he also has blood coming out of his mouth. A crowd quickly gathered, but not fast enough- I turned around and there were Lucas and his cousin standing and watching. I immediately said "Keep jumping!" which they did, but they definitely saw the guy. I debated whether I should get them out of there but the cops showed up quickly and it seemed unlikely there would be any more fighting. It took what seemed like a long time for paramedics to show up and haul the guy out of there. The floor was washed and it was back to business as usual, albeit with a new batch of customers- nobody sat nonchalantly finishing their meal through the ordeal. If that had happened in Amherst, MA or Brattleboro, VT they probably would have cordoned off the area and closed the restaurant for a couple days.

I checked the internet the next day but couldn't find any news about a death in my neighborhood, so I guess he pulled through. I found out later that it was a guy from the area, a local bad boy who apparently 'had it coming to him.' This lends marginal credence to a cynical theory I've developed this year during Carnaval- that of all the thousands of people who flood my neighborhood for this one week a year, from all parts of Salvador and Brazil and even the rest of the world, the most obnoxious ones all live here. In my neighborhood. And guess what? When everyone else packs up and leaves, they stick around.

Of course, that's just a broad generalization by a grumpy gringo.


Fabio Bossard said...

Oh man. Your carnaval is full of strong emotions. I am jealous.

markuza said...

Yours isn't?

Fabio Bossard said...

It wasn't this year.

markuza said...

Sorry to hear that.

Fabio Bossard said...

It's ok, buddy! There will be others.