Monday, 25 February 2013

Good times with young and old

Yesterday ended up being a pretty special day- didn’t see too many city sights but I since we were able to cover the vast majority of hotspots in a couple hours, I’m sure there will be plenty of time for that.

The community lunch at the temple was really fun.  It began people taking turns reading and reflecting on brief quotes from scriptures.  This part was in Portuguese so I could pretty much follow along- one of my favorites was something along the lines of “an elephant may be big and strong but it takes an ant to pick up a piece of sugar”.  Reva and her husband continue to amaze me.  One of the discussed themes was modesty and her husband talked about being in California for a conference and offering to help a man pick up a projector.  The man said he didn’t need any help but once the presentation got underway, they realized the ordinary, modest man that was lifting his own projector was being awarded the Nobel Prize!  They said, in Switzerland, they asked a man to take a family picture at the World Economics Expo and that man was very humble and said he couldn’t work a camera… they later realized he also won a Nobel Prize.  I’ve gotten to know some amazing people but I can’t say I’m close to regularly rubbing elbows with world-renowned greatness!

Speaking of greatness, the average age of attendees at this lunch was significantly past retirement but they had many amazing stories.  Through a translator, I was talking to one retired army general who literally looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger but better.  He was 81 and had been doing yoga for 61 years.  He makes Dick Clark look like a raisin- everyone should do yoga!  I also met an Italian countess who biked 16 kilometers during the world war.  I talked extensively with a couple “younger” women (40s-50s) who spent time studying in the US- a civil engineer and an environmental scientist.  They were amazed that I chose to come to Brazil of all places, and that I was travelling alone as a young, female physicist.  They are already trying to convince me to come back and volunteer for the Olympics or the World Cup- my Visa doesn’t expire for 10 years so it’s certainly possible.  Don’t know if I’ll ever finish my dissertation with all this traveling but it may be worth it! J  And Reva wants me to work at the prestigious American school in Brasilia after I graduate so I’ve got options! 
Round 1 at the community luncheon

Lunch itself was delicious of course- although all attendees were Brazilian except for one Chinese woman and an Indian man but most the food was Indian.  Spiced chickpeas, a delicious saffron rice, a pumpkin curry, Arabic lentils, Reva prepared beans harvested from the temple, fresh lemonade from the lemon tree, another fruit juice which was delicious, a French pear tart, strawberry ice cream, almond milk balls and sesame seed dessert.  

Interesting thing about this luncheon- I was talking to a Brazilian about how much I loved potlucks and apparently there is no word for this in Portuguese but he loved learning the English word.  He thought it made since because everyone brings a pot of food and you hope that you get lucky with good food.  He said the closest thing he could think of was so-called "American parties" that he used to go to when he was 13.  For these parties, the girls would bring snacks and the guys would provide drinks.  Which I guess happens in America- I was just talking to Scotty last weekend and he was reminiscing about game nights during undergraduate when the boys would bring wine and the girls would provide appetizers of cheese and fruit.  

After that, I had my first international couchsurfing adventure- Gilberto invited me to his friend’s birthday party and barbeque.  The house was gorgeous- I wish I remembered to take a picture before it got dark and started to downpour.  But there was a nice covered cabana, pool, brick oven for cooking the meat and most of all great people!  A surprising number of which had spent at least a little time in the US and much time listening to American music and watching American movies so I had plenty of people to talk to.  I learned how to play Truco, a popular Brazilian card game.  The first game was very close and we were defeated to a last round which dramatically left things up to chance (someone made a comment that American games never end that way).  The second game was high stakes since the losing team had to dive in the pool (the clouds were coming and it was colder at this point).  Despite my complete lack of a poker face, I learned to shout Truco with such fierceness to make the other team run and Gilberto and I were victorious when it mattered!  I stopped playing after that game to end on a triumphant note- I guess if you don't score in any Brazilian game you have to crawl under the table so I decided to avoid that possibility.  

I had my first caipirinhas and those didn't disappoint.  The drink is made by mashing limes with sugar cane, then adding vodka and ice.  I've been warned that caipirinhas cause Americans to drop to the floor like flies because they are so sweet and delicious.  I couldn't resist having more than one but they told me I handled it like a Brazilian.  I also learned some interesting random facts about Brazil- no casinos in this country, all Brazilian beers are Pilsners (from what what I tasted and what I heard, American beers are infinitely better) and no guns are allowed even though this country has a reputation for being a country of thieves, and a haven for South American outlaws.  I had many interesting conversations comparing the politics, quality of life, etc. with people who had spent time in America but I'll save that for another post because this one is getting long and I'm getting tired of writing.  

The evening ended with people taking turns playing the guitar, makeshift drums and singing.  I recognized a Bob Marley jam and Adele's "Set fire to the rain".  But they were playing quite the variety- from Brazilian pop songs to samba-ish tunes and some rapping.  I'm looking forward to experiencing more Brazilian music.

That's all for now- more later!
New Brazilian friends at pool party