On Tuesday, July 10th, I finally landed in Sao Paolo. While it took me a while to get there, I did finally arrive – exactly one week and about 2 hours before the terrible plane crash on July 17th. But, I made a two-hour drive to the northwest of Sao Paolo to Piracicaba – the hometown of my Brazilian sister, Heloisa (former exchange student in our home). I arrived a little after 8:30PM and saw Helo for the first time in 20 years. I met her husband, Regis, and her son, Victor.
The week proceeded fairly lazily yet I continued to get sick throughout the week. I slowly met the group of family and friends. One thing I’ve learned already is that the Brazilians love to socialize and usually over lots of food (typically something grilled) and beer. And, if there’s a good sporting match on, that will be playing in the background. During my first week, I think we had a barbeque most every night. I’m not sure how much grilled meat, cheese and beer one person can consume, but I think I’m going to find out while I’m here.
Late on Friday and all day Saturday, I was out cold. I couldn’t move a muscle. But, miraculously on Sunday, I woke up feeling refreshed and well. Luckily, I became well just in time for an all-day pork barbeque. And really, what better way to send a cold/flu on its way than pork and beer? The day ended with the finals of the Copa America football match between Brazil and Argentina. Brazil easily won 3-0 as the beer continued to flow.
Monday started the countdown to leaving for the beach. It started raining so the day of our departure changed daily. Monday night was another social event, this time at the in-laws. We didn’t have barbeque, but feasted on a huge homemade Lebanese meal. It was the best Lebanese food that I’ve ever had with several dishes that I never had. Still nursing a slight cold, I began to recognize my symptoms as allergies and started taking my Claritin. By Tuesday morning, I was golden again.
Helo’s family is very tight knit and everyone seems to travel from house to house each night with someone different hosting the meal. This is no small feat given that the group with kids includes about 20-30 people. And, this is the core. But, everyone seems to have a good time judging by the noise level at the table. And, there seems to be no shortage of stories. Most have to be translated by Helo for me. But, a lot of the time I just look around, smile and nod my head. Knowing Spanish is helping me with the Portuguese. But, in large groups, all bets are off.
We headed out Tuesday afternoon to Campinas, a large city in between Piracicaba and Sao Paolo, to the shopping mall. On the way home, the rain was heavy and so was the traffic. When we got home, we heard the breaking news about the TAM flight that went down at the airport. I was thankful that my next flight in Brazil would be leaving the country, not arriving into it. The rest of my travel in Brazil would be in car or bus.
As the rain continued, so did our delay in leaving for the beach. The week passed slowly with the only real highlights being the Rotary meeting I went to with Helo’s brother and sister-in-law and getting my teeth cleaned. I spent the afternoon at Helo’s mom. She made a quick batch of peanut brittle and asked me how it was. I gave her two big OK signals with my hands since my mouth was full of the yummy gooey stuff. Helo slapped my hands down laughing. Apparently, the OK sign is the Brazilian equivalent as giving some the middle finger in the US. Well, everyone’s had a good laugh at that one here.
On Wednesday night we went to a birthday party at one of Helo and Regis’s friends. We had a good time. But, the highlight was a very drunk woman, recently divorced (or so she thinks, but she’s not sure) hitting on me relentlessly. I got a kick out of it at first and then I just felt sorry for her. Hello dog, this is the wrong tree; so stop barking. Later, we said our goodbyes and Helo and I had a good laugh over the incident. Now we could focus on more important things, like packing up to go to the beach.
Originally Published July 21, 2007