Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Stephanie Goes to Work

.... me going to work is like Ernest going to camp -- hilarious pickles abound! Except it was more hilarious when Ernest went to camp, and more crippingly tedious when I went to work. But, you know, still similar.

I went to Rio for Thursday and Friday, which was actually nice b/c the Clifford Chance office there looks out on a tiny sliver of beautiful blue ocean. However I spent most of my day in the offices of Petrobras, the state-owned oil and natural gas monopoly, whose offices are perhaps the Most Depressing Offices Ever, underscored by the fact that they are just footsteps from the fabulous beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Yeah, Petrobras had it all -- employees in hideous green and blue polyester uniforms and/or grossly inappropriate streetclothes with exposed midriffs/buttcracks, buzzing neon lights, fake plants, cubicles as far as the eye can see, and a sad little man who wheels around a cart of espresso every 4 minutes. The coffee man was perhaps the saddest. Anyway, after V. and I spent all day Thursday laboring away, we got to retire to our Fabulous (capital F) hotel, the Pestana Rio Atlantica in Copacabana.

Ummmm let it be known that I have never stayed in such a posh hotel, EVER. It was magical. However, I still hold a special place in my heart for the Che Lagarto, dahling, the sweaty-ass (wonderful!) hostel we stayed in last time I was in Rio. I remember it fondly.

After Rio, I came back to SP for the weekend. Friday it was this kid from work's bday, so we went to a bar that also serves meat, which really is all you can ask for in life. Copious amounts of chopp (pronounced "shope-ee" for those of you boning up on your Portuguese alcohol vocabulary words) were consumed, and by 1 am I was so tired I decided to "sack it in" as the Brits say and go home. I later got a call at 2 am or so from a Stanford kid who is down here, noting that I obviously hadn't yet adjusted to the São Paulo lifestyle of "partying till you drop dead." All in good time.

Saturday, I went to the Afro-Brazilian culture museum in Iberapuera Park, which was an odd mix of art by Afro-Brazilians and historical displays about important Afro-Brazilians. There were also some decidedly phallic sculptures (what museum would be complete without them) and a section of religious art in which everyone pictured was white. Go figure. It was a nice museum though and I enjoyed seeing the photography on display.

That night, V. and I went out to dinner. We wanted to go to this Thai restaurant called Sutra, which my Fodor\'s guide promised had a real coconut tree growing in the middle of the restaurant, but when we got there, the restaurant had apparently burned down in a tragic curry powder accident, because it wasn't where freakin' Fodor's promised it would be. So, we decided to go to a backup Thai restaurant, from another guidebook, which, alas, was also non-existent. I will never trust Fodor's again, and I am considering writing a strongly-worded letter to their editor, that assface. So that sucked. But it was okay, because we ended up at this Italian cantina which turned out to be good -- and they gave us free garlic bread! We ate a crapload of lasagna and then met up with Mariana, John's friend who I am shamelessly usurping. She is from SP and really knows what's up in the city. V, M, and I went to a bar and listened to a stupendous band that actually did GREAT covers of songs. They were like the other cover band's non-sucky twins. Eventually Mariana's boyfriend and two of his friends showed up (before the friends came, she said, "only one of them speaks English, and only one of them is cute"), but by that time the gringas were tuckering out, so we went home unfashionably early. I hope this doesn't become a trend...

Sunday I went to Iberapuera park to run with V., then we caught a bus to Liberdade, the China/Japantown section of town. São Paulo has tons of Japanese people but apparantly they don't have their own section, because Liberdade was sort of an amalgamation of Chinese and Japanese kitsch in every direction. Every Sunday they have a little market with lots of tacky stuff -- doilies with Chinese characters and neon sand paintings and such -- but it's horrendously tacky in a fun way. They also have this outdoor food section that specializes in fried dumplings, fried meat, fried noodles, fried veggies, fried shrimp, etc. I looked at the milieu -- people standing up and shoveling food into their mouths with chopsticks and sneezing on the spits of meat, etc. -- and decided that if I was going to get food poisoning in Brazil, I was probably going to get it at that market, so I opted out and we ate at a Japanese place instead. It was one of those Japanese places where you have to sit on the ground on little pillows, which at first seems cute, but once your legs have gone numb, seems torturous and cruel. After that ordeal, we walked around the market a bit more then caught the sketchy bus home to Moema. Use your imagination.

Sunday night I got a real treat -- I got to go to a two-year-old's birthday party, which was bigger and more elaborate than any party I have ever had. In Brazil, they really go all out for kids' birthdays, and this was no exception. There was a huge cake, a full bar, tons of people, and a bounce-house for the kids -- sooo tempting, by the way. I am really glad I went because I got to talk to a lot of people in the family, and this family is really wonderful. They are Jaime's adopted Brazilian family, and they seemed to suggest that they had no problem adopting me, too. I think it's important to have a surrogate family in every country one travels to, which may seem unrealistic, but I am going to try. These people were super nice and complimented me on my Portuguese, which really helped my self-esteem. Good times all around.

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