March 26, 2005
dancing, fish and off to uruguay?
On Wednesday I loaded up on the little tour bus with the Meme dance troupe and we headed down to Rio Grande where they were to perform at the local Fish Festival. The festival was held along the docks and consisted of a row of a few warehouses containing a maritime museum, an expo for commercial goods and a concert area, with two large food tents at either end. On arrival we checked out the stage, which was the deck of a shipping crane floating right next to the dock.
The dancers worked out their routines on the crane deck for awhile, then we went into the food tent where we got to eat in the VIP area with the festival queens. VIP in Portuguese is Pessoa Mointo Importa but they still spell it VIP and it doesn't mean your important enough for free booze.
After dark the troupe got into costume and began the evening with some guerrila theater in the food tent, improvising characters and interacting with the unsuspecting diners and staff. After getting some attention they lured folks down to the crane, stopping along the way to dance with cop stands and whoever else got in their way.
Once on deck, they put on some great performances. I took a lot of photos and even some video. Many of the photos are blurry because I didn't want to use the flash which messed up the colors. It was really quite a nice scene: some fantastic modern dancing framed by the huge orange crane and a darkening post-sunset sky. The routine Laco and Fernanda did together was particularly good; they're both amazing. Laco is the group's leader and quite an accomplished dancer. He had never actually done the routine before but Fernanda's usual partner couldn't make it, so he stepped in. In practice earlier in the day the unfamiliarity showed, but when they performed it for real that night it came together beautifully, even though they improvised large portions of it on the spot.
After the performance we enjoyed the festival, which meant eating and drinking. Especially drinking. Laco was from Rio Grande and had many relatives there, so we we all split up between them for the night. I ended up at Laco's Mom's house where I passed out on the pull out sofa.
Laco's Mom lives in Cassini which is a beach town neart to Rio Grande, or maybe it's technically part of Rio Grande. I'm not sure. What I am sure about is that the beach is huge. At low tide the waters edge must be 100 yards from the dunes, and the flat beach in between is packed hard enough that you can drive normal cars on it. In the summer time, Laco told me that the beach is filled three rows deep with parked cars with people grilling out and blaring music for kilometers. One day when Laco's sister drove us from their mom's house to her place in Rio Grande, we went half the way there on the beach. I wish I had taken my camera with me to get some photos of it.
So the next morning I was hungover and had picked up a bit of a sore throat. Besides visiting the beach, we also hung out for a bit at the home of Laco's childhood friend and business partner (I forget her name now). This was fun, especially since they had a hammock, which is great for hangovers. Also I tried my first chimarrão tea there (It is known as Yerba Mate south of the border). It was slightly bitter, but not that bad. It also wasn't so delicious that I understand why everyone in southern Brasil, Uruguay and apparently parts of Argentina are completely addicted to the stuff.
I didn't make it to the bus station in time that day to get on to Montevideo, and when I did make it there I discovered that since the next day was some sort of Christian holiday (Good Friday I guess? Catholic school was soooo long ago.) I wouldn't be able to get out that day either. Laco and Fernanda were heading to Pelotas on Saturday to perfom at another party, and they told me it would be easier catching a bus to Montevideo from there anyhow since it was a bigger bus hub.
So I spent the evening back at the fish festival again with Laco and his extended family, but I didn't drink so much this time. We all spent the night at Laco's sister's place in Rio Grande and in the morning took the bus back to Cassini.
We spent the afternoon back at Laco's mom's place. She was a great cook and even accomodated my bizarre non-legged-animal dietary restriction, but she didn't speak much English at all. At one point in the afternoon while I was engrossed in flipping through some photo albums, she was talking in Portuguese to her friend on the couch next to me. Suddenly I hear her say "I love you, I fuck you" in English. Startled I look up at her and she gets very embarrassed as everyone starts laughing. Apparently she had just told her friend "I only know how to say two things in English" and went on to say them. It was pretty funny, and she stayed embarrassed right up until I left.
That evening it was (surprise!) back to the Fish Festival. First we all took a boat ride along the coast as the sun set. It was a great time of day to be out on the water. The sky went from bight to dark and the moon rose over the course of the 50 minute ride.
Later at the food tent I finally tried some of the grilled anchovy fish and it was delicious! There was also some very tasty fried-shrimp-and-cheese-on-a-stick things. It was a fun night. Laco's nephew Fernando spent hours teaching me the Portuguese word for every noun he could see and I had some good conversations with the family about things like michael jackson, economics and ipods (Fernanda did all the hard work of translating). Everyone was super nice in Rio Grande, I was happy to have met all of them.
But I spent a couple of days longer than I expected here and was glad to be moving on to someplace without a Fish Festival. I left on the Saturday afternoon bus for Pelotas where I hoped to catch the overnight direct bus to Montevideo, Uruguay. I found out on Friday that one of the World Cup qualifying games between Brazil and Uruguay would be held in Montevideo a couple of days after I arrived there, so I was planning on trying to attend! The last thing I did in Rio Grande was buy my #9 Ronaldo Brasilian team shirt :)
There's a lot more photos of this part of my trip here.
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