Monday, July 11, 2016

Boogie Parenting - Ribeirão Preto, Brazil

Buggy aka "Boogie"

I'm not much of a helicopter parent. I grew up in my parents' school of "go have fun, be back when the porch bell rings, and if you're muddy, that's fine, just go clean it off." Yes, I wore a helmet when bike riding (at least until I got around the corner and out of sight of mom) and wore a seat belt and was pretty clear on right and wrong ways to get back at my older brother (sarcasm, yes; chop up his favorite blanket into small bits, no) but I had a wonderful, nature-filled and independent (to a point) childhood. Thanks, mom and dad! 

Now I try to do the same. I don't let the kids ride bikes without helmets, they don't get on a pony in any country without a helmet, and they won't own hoverboards or motorcycles in my lifetime. Yes, I will chase them down when they are 35 years old and on Harleys, and knock them off. I did not go through NICU bull-oney to have them splatter it all on a roadway.

That being said, I have been known to let them out of my sight. They disappear to neighbor's houses, to a town park across the street from a hotel in Vermont (that was not popular with the mother of the girl with whom they were playing) and I don't have a porch bell, nor really a porch, but maybe I shall invest in the former.  

And then I get to Brazil. And the "boogie". The "boogie" is really the "buggy" pronounced cutely in Portuguese. It makes me smile every time--"the kids are off in the booooogie"....yes, yes, they are. 

Interior of the boogie. Fancy, no? No engine cover.

The buggy is a deathmobile designed by lunatics, or possibly my inlaws. Just kidding. It runs on diesel or some kind of fuel that smells like you are going to blow up within seconds. It has no muffler, no environmental protection, emits gigantic mushroom clouds of thick grey smoke and seems a heartbeat from exploding at all times. It's possibly 40 years old, has marginal brakes and extremely tough manual steering. It is the most fun that two generations of BH's kids have ever had. I say two generations because almost 15 years separate my stepkids from my kids. Until they see the buggy.

15 years ago, I watched my stepkids roar around the farm with their uncle on its "seats"--currently thick-cut foam, but other iterations have been cardboard pieces and other flotsam--screaming with laughter, no helmets or seatbelts. I will have to find the photos when I get back to the US of my stepkids when they were small so I can put together a retrospective on the buggy (I hope you are all saying "boogie" in your minds).


So when I saw the yellow and rust colored buggy parked out back of the weekend house last week, I knew that the air was about to get a whole lot more polluted. And sure enough, the day after we arrived, my son Lalo disappeared out the back door with Marcos, the ranch manager for the last 20 years. Marcos is a calm presence who has adored my kids from day one, even as they break various items, mess up, well, everything, and make his day just a little bit tougher. He just smiles and fixes what's broken. I have no worries about Marcos, except for one: he finds Lalo, my kid who takes risks and lots of them, extremely hilarious. 

While eating my second piece of delicious French bread, the house was suddenly shaken by a sound roughly like 14 semi trailers simultaneously starting up and colliding at the same time. The air was filled with the smell of an oil refinery. Suppressing my helicopter thoughts, I sashayed down the hall in my moose pyjamas to see what was going on. Too late. In a cloud of dust and dung (one of my favorite lines from a Hobbit sendoff book), Marcos and Lalo were off--Marcos sitting up on top seat back and Lalo steering and working the iffy accelerator and brake. 

Off they went down the driveway, disappearing around the corner. I pretty much knew where they were from the cloud of smoke following the car, and they got suspiciously close to the roadway. No helmet. No seatbelt. Marcos. L.a.l.o. As in, who is in charge here? The big kid or the little kid?

Big Kid and Little Kid arrive back. With smoke cloud.

I refilled my coffee and Nico and I went to watch the arrival of the pair back on the driveway. While no good pictures exist of this moment, I cannot tell you the happy looks of Marcos and Lalo as they roared by. Nico had just finished saying "I want to go next!" when the buggy zipped across the lawn, and crashed into the only light pole on the whole property. Nico and I watched as the pole fell over as if in slow motion. [I have a video of this moment but I can't get it to load up--where are my teenagers when I need them?]

I started to laugh. Yeah, I'm a bad mommy. I didn't even know if someone had been hurt so it was not a good reaction. But the whole lightpole-in-slow-motion-crash was simply hilarious. It was like America's funniest home videos. Nico said immediately "I don't want to go anymore" and Lalo called out "I'm fine, mom" and Marcos was still moving so all's well that ends with a broken lightpole. And a buggy hood with a huge crevice in it. The steel bumpers were fine, by the way. The buggy is a champ.

Two hours later the lightpost was fixed (it was actually a rusty bolt that caused it to fall over) and the buggy had a new silver scar up its front hood. Unfortunately for the kids (and fortunately for everyone else) the temperamental buggy would not start again that day or the next. But it will be back, of that I am sure. It's indestructible. Much like my nerves.

Back to the US tonight. And helmets.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Re-re-patriation starts with soccer - São Paulo, Brazil

Lalo with the Palmeiras mascot, which is a parakeet (who plays pretty good soccer at halftime)

There is so much to say about my return to Brazil after 10 months away. I cannot possibly cover it in one blog. So, my first blog will cover the most important: soccer. 

That there is a joke: as some of you know from my old blog Brazil in My Eyes, I am not a soccer aficionado. There is a multitude of reasons for that, mostly to do with the play-acting, lack of replay fairness and well, too many tattoos. Seriously, calm it down, Messi, or there will be no real estate left on your body.

But of course, Messi is not ours; he is not Brazilian. So here in Brazil I cheer for Palmeiras, the team of my husband and his Italian family. Lots and lots of Italian-descent fans. Lots of emotion, lots of really interesting swears. Some are not as interesting swears. The most common one is used interchangeably with the words "the" or "a". In fact, I was first convinced that the team had not changed at all from when I last saw them two years ago: all of the players on the field have the last name: "filhodaputa". Miss a shot? :FDP! Ref misses a call "FDP!" My 9-year old caught on to all the swearing for the first time--at age 7, he didn't get it, but now the questions were fast and furious on "what does "caral**" mean? But I get ahead of myself.

The last time I was with the heroes in green, they were temporarily playing at Pacaembu, the world's cutest and most decrepit stadium. You can meet it here (my former blog) if you wish. I loved Pacaembu--the views of the city, the crumbling concrete seats, the Ionic columns at the front door. Alas, we have a big new stadium. Big. Beautiful. May I say it? It looks like a US stadium, except perhaps BETTER. 

So it's now the Allianz Parque Palestra Italia. Allianz is the German company which fronted the bucks, and Palestra Italia is the name of the old stadium. Directly translated I see that Palestra Italia is "Italian Lecture". I do not know the source of such a name, but it works for me--if this is an Italian lecture, I am buying. 

Listen, kids, there are CUSHIONED seats. We were about 20 rows up at midfield and I could see the players sweat. We were very close to the field. Not true at the old Pacaembu. True perhaps at the New England Revolution but only because they play at Gillette, which is not exactly a soccer stadium.  Also they have 20 fans so it's pretty easy to see. 

I have to say that getting into a soccer stadium in Brazil is one of my least favorite things. First you have to pass through massive masses of massing humanity. All wearing green or white. 95% males. All gathered on a side street buying cheaper beer out of coolers, snacking on questionable food (see the cat barbecue here), buying $10 knock-off soccer shirts (yep, we got one for Lalo) and milling about. Massing. Try keeping track of your small child in this. Skeery. No violence. Just lots of people. Lots. Last night's crowd in the stadium: 32,000. Outside the stadium, at least a couple thousand more. 

When you finally get to your gate, it's time for your "revision." I have grown used to being pat down by a female military police officer. Some are pretty rough, some, like the one last night, patted down my sides and waist and just said "have a good night!". Then run your fidelity card (yah, my husband is card-carrying loyal to the green ones) and zippy-zip, you're in!

When we got to our seats, most folks were already in. The teams had been introduced and it was time to stand for the Brazilian Anthem. Except it was not the Brazilian anthem. It was the Anthem on the big screens and on the speakers but the entire crowd sang "Palmeiras" along with all of the words. Seriously, a whole anthem with the words Palmeiras or Meu Palmeiras (my Palmeiras). The video I took was terrible but someone got a good one here. I thought the whole thing rather sacrilegious or disrespectful perhaps of the country's anthem, but I don't sing it anyway, so what do I care? I tried not to laugh too much.

My neighbor with Palmeiras and fire tattoos up and down his arm and a bicep bigger than my head sang very enthusiastically. He was quite a good chanter and singer the whole night. I liked him except when he accidentally elbowed me in the head after the third goal--then I literally saw stars. Here is the photo I thought was in focus when I took it but turns out I was very very fuzzy myself:

A lot of the chants have to do with pigs (Palmeiras' nickname) and pigsties. Then there's "Dá-lhe, porco" which I always hear as "Vale, porco" or thanks very much, pig. But I think it actually means "give them hell, pig". I should not be counted on as anyone's Portuguese teacher.

I will spare you all the play by play on the game. Suffice it to say that there are lots of good young players on the Palmeiras team of today, and my favorite "old guy" Prass is the only one I remember from two years ago. He is the goalie, and he just made the Brazil Olympic soccer team at age 37. Ah, there is one other old guy on the team, José Roberto, who at age 41, has LOTS of energy. Also, he has really good hair.

Jose Roberto. Great hair.

So Lalo made me choose my favorite player who is not Prass. Not sure why I wasn't allowed Prass as I actually own a Prass jersey but whatever. I had to choose a new guy. Just then, Jesus got a goal. Yes, it's true! My neighbor started yelling "Vai Jesus!!" (Go, Jesus!) and I thought, say, the Catholics have come out in numbers. Oh, there is a 19-year old player named Gabriel Jesus. He is now my favorite non-Prass. Who can resist yelling "Go, Jesus!"? Not me. 
Jesus. No, I am not swearing

Lalo chose an 18 year old named Roger Guedes. Yes, Roger. Why this strikes me as funny, I don't know. I now have a glass of wine while writing this so that may be why. Lalo chose Roger because he has blond hair...and yeah, he also is pretty good. Very good. He apparently got a couple of assists on goals but I was busy avoiding the elbow of doom from the neighbor. 

Roger Guedes. Does he look like Lalo? See below.

All right, so the game went on and on and on and we cheered and we swore and we jumped around, etc. At halftime they took out an inflatable pig with big teeth for a tour of the field (umm, what?) and the parakeet balanced a ball on his claws. Then our brand new player went out on the field and said hello. Mina, I think it is. Colombian, I think. Could not understand his intro video.

Okay, out of focus but that is a giant inflatable floating green pig with fangs.And Mina.  I've got nothing.

Game over (yeah, I skipped a bit). Palmeiras 4 - Figueirense 0. As we are filing out past a couple of long-time (ahem, older than 60 years) fans, the first man looks at Lalo and his blond hair and says "Roger Guedes!!! and Lalo looks a bit nervous. I said, yes, this is Roger's younger brother. The older guy's friend then looks at Lalo, grabs Lalo by both sides of his head and kisses the top of his head. Apparently by being blond, Lalo has saved the team. We walked out a bit faster.

Outside everything was ending in pizza (another blog post explains that phrase of "tudo acaba em pizza") and seriously it did. There were piles of pizza boxes, and people were buying them up and carrying them off to wait for the metro. God love a Palmeiras game and its Italian fans. But BH, the Brazilian husband, was after something else: "pernil" sandwiches. 
Pernil is ham but you have no idea how this sandwich is not an American ham sandwich. Warm ham chopped off the bone with a paint scraper (I am not kidding), shredded with same paint scraper, and served on a crusty roll with tomatoes and onions. O.M.G. All served out of the back of a tiny hatchback by a woman and her husband (he took drink orders--beer or Coke-- and moved around plastic stools for people to sit on). I cannot even begin to tell you the yum. 

And so we were off home in a taxi where we listened to the talk radio about the game and cracked jokes with the Palmeirense taxi driver about their rival team Corinthians. A really good time was had by all.

So happy to be back. More soon.