Absinthe, Churrasco, and the Cabaret

20 08 2006

Mandy called me around two o’clock today and asked if I wanted to go to a churrasco out in Holambra. A churrasco is a barbeque, but it goes from late morning until well into the evening, and there are no hotdogs or hamburgers. They grill beautiful cuts of steak, sausage, and chicken all day long over an open flame and keep serving it ’til they run out. The steak is cut into small slices, then served with “vinagrete”, which is diced tomatoes, garlic, onion, vinegar, and olive oil. The whole concoction is stuffed into a half of a French roll. We eat these with our hands, or pick the meat up with our fingers, which surprises me since Brazilians have so far shown that they eat everything with utensils.

The Churrasco was in Holambra, which is this beautiful rural region just outside of Campinas, maybe a 20 minute drive. I went out to Holambra when I had just arrived and had been in Campinas only a few days. We went there for a churrasco, but we arrived too late at night for any food. And I didn’t get a chance to see the landscape. Holambra is beautiful–rolling wide green hills, perfectly sectioned out for different crops. In the distance, I could see a quilt of bright greens, yellows, browns, and golds–all sewn together with the red thread of the oxidized dirt roads. At times it reminded me of upstate New York–those wide open fields at the end of summer, but the bright red dirt here throws me off and continues to convince me that I am nowhere near my familiar North American countryside.

Of course, I didn’t know anyone at the churrasco except Mandy, her boyfriend Marcelo, and Agnes, Marcelo’s friend and business partner. When we first arrived, we weren’t readily welcomed because Agnes didn’t know anyone there either, and we were mostly going because her brother knew people. (But her brother wasn’t there, so I’m not exactly sure why we were there.) But after literally a half-can of Skol beer, I was making friends and feeling better.

In my attempt to learn Portuguese, I made friends with some of the guests at the churrasco, who believed I should learn the bad words in Portuguese first. So I listened while they taught me the slang for body parts, and then laughed at me while I repeated them. I proudly announced to Mandy that I knew how to say “butt,” and the small crowd seated behind me on the grass broke into peals of laughter.

Our goal for the evening was not to attend just the churrasco, but to go to a cabare (cabaret) at UNICAMP. I hope to get involved with UNICAMP more here because it is a smart, fun, artsy university and so far, my two experiences there have been wonderful. Last week, I went to the play about the transvestite. Tonight was the cabaret–jugglers, clowns, acrobats. All in Portuguese, of course, but still very exciting. By the intermission, my head hurt from trying to digest all the language, and I was still tired from last night at the techno club, but I muddled through the rest of the night, laughing when I thought things were funny and yawning when I was clearly bored. (UNICAMP actually has a Circus Arts major, which is why the cabaret was so heavy on Acrobatics, I think, and Clowns. Some of the acts should not have been there because they were terribly boring, but whatever.)

Even though I wanted to go home directly after the cabaret, I stuck with the group, who had now expanded to a total of five. Agnes’ brother Stefan, the one who knew people at the churrasco at which he was not present, had joined us for the cabaret. And so we went for pizza….and the fun really began.
Mandy, subversive and wiley as she is, decided to drink absinthe because it is illegal in the US.
And YO–I don’t blame the US for making absinthe illegal. OH MY GOD. Three sips of that and I was daydreaming in the bathroom. No joke. At one point, both Mandy and I were in the bathroom and I was so far inside my own head that I was daydreaming something was happening to her and I called out her name (in my daydream–and in reality) and she answered me from the second stall.
We ordered a second drink of the same kind and passed it around the table, playing a question game using Marcelo’s cell phone. Whoever spun the phone got to ask the person it pointed toward a question. So naturally, when you have five guys and girls together, drinking absinthe and caipirinhas, conversation is clearly not going to be about politics and the weather. Wow. For three hours we sat around this table ordering pizza, absinthe, caipirinhas, and lots and lots of water and asking each other riske questions.
Here are just a few:
-Have you ever been in jail?
-What’s the better sexual fantasy: 10 guys and 1 girl, or 10 girls and 1 guy?
-What is the craziest thing you have done when you were drunk?
And my personal favorite:
-Have you ever slept with someone in your family?

So the night went on and on with more of this illegal booze and Mandy said again and again that everytime she turned her head the room was spinning. I wasn’t nearly as affected as she appeared to be and I was concerned about the drive home, so I drank a lot of water and called it quits with the absinthe.

It’s always nerve-wracking when I’m in the car with someone who I think might throw up because I am so afraid of throwing up that I would often rather walk home alone than be in the car with someone who might get sick. The car ride back to Cambui was the nerve-wracking part of the night–not just because Mandy was in the car, drunk on absinthe in the middle between me and Marcelo, but because driving at night in Campinas is NOT safe. Red lights? Don’t matter. They are like “suggestions” of caution. While Marcelo zipped through the streets and came close to intersecting with another car, I just held on to the door and prayed that the worst I would end up with is vomit on my dress.

But nothing bad happened and I’m sure Mandy is now safe in her apartment with Marcelo. I have been home for a half hour and am so excited to get into bed I can hardly sit still. But I had to put my day down into words first, otherwise, I’ll never remember it.
Tchau–Boa noite. (Well, right now at this hour, bom dia.)




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