Even though I am standing in a hot, crowded bathroom with a cold metal beer stein pressed against my lip, I can still hear the German music coming from the stage in the adjacent room. In my mind’s eye, I can see the musicians on stage, dressed in leiderhosen and feathered hats jumping up and down, chanting “Blu-men-au! Blu-men-au! Blu-men-au!” in between songs, sweat pouring down their knee-stockinged legs. I press the cool cup harder against my bottom lip to soothe the throbbing from a recent violent kiss from a stranger out in the crowd. His teeth chewed my lip so intensely in the instant our faces collided and before I pushed him away that I fear I may actually be swollen. Meet Gina the Painful.
My friend grabs my camera and snaps the shutter just as I am telling the story of the wicked encounter to a woman standing next to me. I would as soon prefer a papercut beneath my fingernails than to go through that again. But it is probably approaching midnight and so I know I have many more beers to drink and many more people to wade through, so I might as well make a go of it.
Meet Gina the Curiously Observant: Out into the crowd my friend and I go, among the thousands from all over Brazil who have come to this springtime Oktoberfest. It is so strange to be at an Oktoberfest in a tropical climate instead of cold New England. Around me I see traditional German homes amidst an array of palm trees and Portuguese bilboards. We see women dressed in German clothing, their hair in braids atop their heads, their simple aproned-dresses twirling as they spin while clutching steins. Their children are with them. Little boys and girls also dressed in old German clothing, leiderhosen, black shoes. Even at this late hour, the little children are walking around with their parents in between drunken and staggering others toward any of the three huge stages piping horns and accordian music from the speakers. These kids have actually gained entry to Oktoberfest under a Children’s Rate. Yes, kids are not only here, they are welcome. They are encouraged to come. To a beer festival. Kids. Beer. Am I making myself clear?
Meet Gina the Nauseous: There are tables set up inside, occupied by large groups of laughing red faces. Some eat, some kiss, all drink, all talk. The sound is deafening and so my friend and I think it is time to go outside. In the street, outside of the expo center, there are restaurants and shops, beer stations, pastel stations, and Big Dog stations. I feel a little shaky from so much beer and so little food, so my friend buys me a Big Dog, even though I have no idea what it is. I maybe should not have ordered it. A Big Dog (pronounced “biggy doggy”) is a thin, long hotdog on top of which is layered ketchup, mayonaise, mustard, onions, and potato chips. It is my first hotdog in Brazil and after a bite, when I tatse the combination of mayonaise, potato, oddly-spiced meat, and beer in my mouth, I nearly gag and offer it to my friend. Naturally, she turns it down, so I toss it and opt for a small cheese pastel, which is a staple food in Brazil. It is a flavor I have grown accustomed to, and although I am in the German part of Brazil, I am not prepared to give myself over totally to a gigantic loaded hotdog just yet, regardless of how traditional it may be. There’s something about a good, solid Yankee hotdog that I refuse to believe can be bested by anything, anywhere.
Meet Gina the Not Amused: For hours, my friend and I wander through the mazes of people, with no real place to go other than the bathroom and the beer stations. Outside there is electronic music and because it is easier for us to dance here to this kind of music than to German bouncy happy music, we opt to stay outside. On one of our forays to the interior of the festival toward a beer station in the expo center, we meet two guys who are ordering beer next to us. We strike up a conversation and it looks like this. and then..the pièce de resistance…
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is a crack and I am not amused. Clearly.
This is pretty much how all of Oktoberfest goes that first night. Drinking, goofing off, and laughing. There are kisses aplenty, or rather the opportunity for kisses aplenty, and at the end of the night, my friend and I stumble onto the bus exhausted and ready to go back to our pousada, nearly two hours away in a beach town called Bombinhas.
Meet Gina the Hungover: The days that follow are filled with sunshine, sunburn, and more beer. We go to Oktoberfest just one more time this time on Friday night, when we stay out even later. When we get back to our pousada this time, Saturday morning, at 6:30 or 7am, I can just barely keep my eyes open enough to see my way to our door and crawl into bed for three hours. My head is thick with beer and music, my skin smells like all the beer that was spilled on me over the course of night on the densely packed dancefloor. My hair is matted down where I slept on it on the bus, and my face looks like I have been in a fight, my eyeshadow creating dark circles around my eyes . It is in this moment I know I can not rock Oktoberfest a third night in a row, nor do I want to, and I opt to spend my entire day at the beach if the weather is nice.
Which it is.
Meet Gina the Pampered: The beautiful thing about beach life in Brazil is that they–the people who work near the beaches–cater to one’s every need. We wanted some beer–presto! There it was, chilled, four glasses, on a table next to our beach blankets. We wanted some food–poof! amazing carne asada and fresh vegetables.
We wanted I needed an umbrella to keep the sun off–R$4 and the guy set it up for us.
We spend our final night eating sushi on a farm, and it is so perfect I can hardly believe it. I have done it all this weekend–got crazy with a friend, drink lots of beer, went to an awesome party, relaxed on the beach, slept whenever I wanted, went swimming. All in all a perfect time.
Meet Gina the Grossed Out for A Different Reason: And then two things happen that end up not contributing to perfection: a fourteen-hour bus ride home, and a hot make-out session during the fourteen-hour bus ride home. Oh, and did I mention that the hot make-out session was one I had to listen to and, obviously, not participate in? Oh, and did I also mention that the hot make-out session in which I was not a participant was one that I could actually see upon opening my eyes from one of my many naps on the fourteen-hour bus ride home? Because it was happening in the seat directly in front of me? No, I don’t think I mentioned that. I am quite sure there is nothing worse than listening to the sound of kissing and whatever else, unless it is the sound of someone throwing up. And trust me, because hours still remained on the long bus ride home, I would have given anything to hear anything other than a hot make out session. Even the sound of someone throwing up would have been an acceptable alternative. I resorted to the ye-olde cover-my-ears-with-my-hands-and-cover-my-head-with-the-thin-flannel-blanket-and-pretend-I’m-not-here method.
Ah, but it is what it is. A weekend with a range of experiences and emotions. I have returned to Campinas having seen a different part of Brazil, having met new people, gotten completely exhausted, and with a beautiful tan. Well, a beautiful burn. But it will eventually be a beautiful tan. And the potential for a beautiful tan is awesome. Meet Gina the Totally Happy.