terça-feira, julho 06, 2004

My 24th birthday: Should it have been a major event? Perhaps, but early celebrations and heavy drinking turned it back into a Sunday, regardless of the willingness to contribute more to it. Being on semi-vacation, as in not working at ACBEU (ferias), Meuamor is more apt to parties than during the school year, and indeed this is what we have been doing.

Interesting things I learned and events of the past week:

1) The phone system: Here the regular land line phones work similarly to the typical layout of cell phones in the U.S. Unlike the manner I grew up with where you are allowed X amount of calls for the month (prepaid, but paying $0.65 for each additional call or something like that), here you are allowed X amount of pulses (in our case 100) that you prepay for. Pulses are not the same as calls. In fact, during typical peak time hours (much like cell phone in the U.S.) 6 AM – 12 AM Monday through Friday and 6 AM – 2 PM Saturday, the phone company records 1 pulse every 4 minutes (I think). So this amounts to a 12 minute call (or 12 minutes dialed up to the internet) counting for 3 pulses (sort of like making 3 calls I guess). Last month our phone bill was 118 pulses over the allowed 100. Being an internet junkie like myself, having to dial up (even though the dial up service here is free) and having it cost this much extra on the phone bill, makes broad band or DSL or the like look very appealing. The cost of having it installed, however, is kind of steep, and the company tells us our phone lines are not equipped for this service (read more $$$). Time will tell. Maybe my fairy godmother will magically deposit money into my account for this purpose. Maybe just my mother.

2) A cell phone is not quite necessary right now: Unlike in the U.S. where one pays ~$50 for ~500 minutes and free nights and weekend (with some other additional perks that vary from company to company), here one pays about ~$25 for 20 minutes and there is no free nights and weekends or additional perks. If you go over your 20 minutes, you pay different rates per minute according to who you call, on what kind of phone you call them, what time of the day you call them, and what service of phone they and you use. With all this “sometimes but only if” stuff, I am not surprised that it seems difficult to understand the phone systems here, and I suspect a lot of people could easily get ripped off. At least they make it confusing upfront here, as in one will have a hard time understanding so it is best to not try, rather than in what I am used to where it seems easy to understand, but then you get smacked by hidden charges, small print exceptions, etc. Unlike the U.S. however, someone can call your cell phone and it will not count against your minutes. So, if someone needs you, you are just a phone call away, but if you need someone, get ready pay for it.

3) Lela discovered lizards. They are tremendously fascinating and very high up, but this does not stop her from chattering at them for over an hour and attempting to climb the doorframe to get at them. However cute this sounds, and it is, it does not continue to be quite as cute after about an hour.

4) The stray cat I have been calling Mr. Grey (also known as Cinza) and feeding at the backdoor now comes regularly, about the same time everyday, to be fed and talk with the girls. Last night we gave him some raw chicken, which he really really liked. He is becoming a bit more aggressive of his “territory” outside and actually hissed at Lela because she was sniffing around the door.

So, back to the story of my birthday…

After some random late nights with friends Kari and Beto among others, on July 3rd I spent some amount of the afternoon sleeping due to random exhaustion from staying up till 5am using the internet. I was awoken (is this the right tense to use here?) just in time to drive to the other side of Salvador, see the sunset at this lovely bar that serves boiled clams for about R$5 a dozen (we ate 3 dozen and some carne do sol), and met some other native English speakers. This is the fun thing about being in this context: Anyone you meet who speaks English as a first language is pretty much automatically your friend. Our new friends were from Indianapolis (Randy) and England (I can’t remember his name – I’m really bad with names). Since we were on our way out to a party that had started almost 3 hours before, we didn’t chat long, but after our brief interaction, I had a thought that the man from the Midwest looked a tad familiar. Last year, before I came here and I was perusing the internet in search of information about Salvador, I came upon a website (see the link on the right – Salvador Online) called “The Online Tourist Guide to Salvador da Bahia.” The entire site, although unfinished, is full of all kinds of gringo point of view (a knowledgeable gringo) information about the city, the history, even cultural advisories. I read the entire thing before I came here. So, then consequently a year later, I actually meet the guy. Small world. We made some brief small talk about tattoos. They are useful for something (mom). Lovely interlude.

We left here in search of the party that wasn’t. Or rather, it was very prompt for Bahia: it had started at 6 PM and ended on time, apparently, because it was no longer happening when we got there at 9:30. So we continued on to the next party, this one sure to be continuing since it was at some one’s house in a hippie upper middle class area. This party was marked by such comments by myself as “Cade a bunda?” and some memorable events like MeuAmor doing some kind of Jimi Hendrix on acid like break dance on the floor (I was laughing my ass off, while the rest of the party was sort of standing there, staring in horror at the ridiculous stunt of a not so refined English teacher). I liked this party for the music: almost exclusively what we played on The Impact during the year and a half I was there (see The Finest in Radio link on the right). After much drinking and use of the digital camera, we left there at around 2 AM. Pobrecito, he was so hung over the next day (my birthday) that he slept until around 2 PM.

By the time we got to the beach at 3:30, the sun was going behind some clouds and chuva was coming in off the ocean. We sat on the beach for a brief time, watched some surfers, got rained on, and left shortly after 5 PM. I had planned to go out with some of our friends for a drink and to eat some more clams (YUM!), but by the time we cooked and ate dinner we were both feeling exhausted enough to just go rent a movie and go to bed. Indeed. What an eventful birthday. But at least I get the promise that we will go spend a day at the beach this week because finally, after the exams he has tomorrow, he will be on vacation for a whole 3 days. I hope we can take the time to enjoy it, but I fear it will be full of such errands as buying a sofa and paying bills (read: standing in lines for hours at various banks around the city). Here’s to hoping ~clink clink~

In other news:

This afternoon my dear friend Kerido Kevyn arrived. He has been teaching English in the southern end of the state of Bahia since January. He is on vacation for some time, so he’s passing through for a bit to visit here and then will head up North. He called this afternoon when he got into town and then came to eat dinner here. This is a terribly exciting event for me, since I haven’t see him since sometime in November of last year. We walked to Minha Mae’s so I could introduce him to my friend Larissa and her friend Laura (a mexicana) who is also visiting from the States. On the way home we stopped at an almost closed store so he could buy some bread and butter for breakfast. The poor dear is only making R$325 a month teaching and then he had to pay R$5.32 for bread and butter in Salvador! After his comment that he would have only paid R$0.20 for the same in the small city he has been living in, I suggested he come eat at our place while he is here, since feeding him in addition to the both of us will hardly cost me anything extra and probably save him a shit load of money. And I like having him around the house, and to walk with, and converse with. I can have actual discussions of things without having to give a while historical context to my opinion (which I often do here in my not so good Portuguese). Tomorrow we will go in search of tennis shoes so he can go running. I think I will be getting out a lot more while he is here. Hopefully that will continue to be the trend.

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