I like American music too, baby

10:00 AM
Thaís’s Estate, Brasília, DF

Sunny and windy, poolside at our current place of residence. Our time in Brasília is coming to a close, too soon just as it did last time. Wonderful people here.

This place truly is the lap of luxury. It’s difficult to imagine that five minutes away, beyond the tennis court, soccer field, pool patio area, and sprawling garden there is a sea of sheetmetal hovels where the undereducated and underprivileged scrape out an existence. I suppose that’s the point, though, isn’t it; making that world hard to imagine.

Wealth brings a certain level of freedom and mobility in this country that I had never really experienced before. Last night was chorrinho night here on the estate, and Thaí’s youngest brother and father were joined by three other musicians for wine and a couple of hours of chorrinho. Chorrinho, for those of you not in the know, is a type of very mellow and difficult Brazilian music, played by a band with two guitars, a mandolin, another tiny guitar thingie I can’t remember the name of, and a pandeiro. Somewhere between jazz and flamenco, but without the same furious passion. Amazing stuff.

While the patio band plucked away, Thaí’s oldest brother was joined by twenty or so guys (neighbors? hired help? who knows) for soccer out on the courts. We were invited, but after a few minutes of watching, we decided against it. The Brazilian race has an instinctual passion and ability for this strange, decidedly unAmerican sport, and what we expected to be a friendly three on three was more like a top tier round robin tournament. The fuckers even had jerseys. Too rich for my blood, friends. I’ll just drink this here beer and watch the other brother crash into fences with his atv.

Amidst this, all manner of maids, workers, and gardeners scurry about in the shadows, cooking, cleaning, maintaining. Two vicious looking but friendly boxers patrol the ten-foot walls, like palace guards.

Despite the opulence, and there is no word for it but opulence, they are a kind and generous family. An American home like this would be a soulless battleground of divorces, lawsuits, drug problems, and general fuckery, but despite their economic status, these people maintain a good family.

We spent last night at another college bar, then headed to the actual Uni B campus for a forró. A bar here is not what a bar is in the U.S., by any means. Although to my untrained, alien eye all their bars look the same, Thaís navigates us through Brasília’s tangled grid to a very specific one, Por do Sol.

Brasília is an unnatural city. There is nothing humane or warm about it, and it amazes me that the populous doesn’t slip into a cold, 1984 psychological daze living inside this grey fortress. A bar here is a sprawling set of plastic molded tables and chairs at the base of a skyscraper. Always outdoors, to me these bars look like somebody set up the patio department of Home Depot outside the Sears Tower and decided to sell booze. This gives the bar a seriously tacked on, artificial feel that the natives don’t seem to notice.

After the bar, we headed to campus for the forró. A huge stage and booths manned by students of various departments set up in a parking lot just outside the central administration building. Ana, Thaís, Nate and I alternately danced and wandered the crowds. College is college, and if you changed the music, the language, and the latitude this could easily be a town in America. The Nutricão booth was filled with hotties, the EE booth full of dorks, the física (physics) booth full of weirdos, and the graphic communication booth was completely empty, since none of them even bothered to show up. So much like home.

And yet so different, in many ways. Meeting people is ridiculously easy, and dancing is actually fun rather than a sort of ridiculous but necessary spectacle. Asking a completely unknown girl to dance is simple, easy, and encouraged. People are all smiles and no mean-muggin. People are enjoying themselves. All of this contrasts starkly with a bar/club in the U.S. The concept of a “fortress” is absolutely unknown here, and there is none of the frantic ritualistic pressure so prevalent in the States.

We walked in, and Ana immediately asked me what was wrong.

“Nothing, what do you mean?” I replied
“You look so angry”
“Oh yeah. I suppose I do. My mistake, darlin. Let’s dance.”

Purely on American instinct, I had been glaring. That’s just what you do when you go into a place like this. You front, you scope, and you judge. Not here. Quickly realizing my faux pas, I vaulted the cultural barrier like a god damn Olympic high jumper and started grinning like a shithead and dancing.

What a god damn hoot. Places like this make Mothers seem like a tomb, like a forced labor camp, in terms of fun. Even my hypercynical Grinch ass had a wonderful and good-natured time.

What a fuckin hoot. Brasília rules.

-T.

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