Extracts from a Brazilian (not a Brazilian’s) diary: IV

All play and no work make Jack a dull boy (in the stupid or unfit sense). So, I’ve been partaking of a healthy dose of physical labour, in the form of some gardening – if weeding the lawn qualifies as such. In order to compensate my generous hosts (who are being so good to me that I struggle to argue against a job almost as wind-pissingly futile as trying to culture human germ cells), I purchased the necessary tools and, on occasional damp overcast mornings (of recently increasing frequency, thus further obviating my sun-sensitive, fair-skinned, gringo excuses), enjoying being out in some refreshing light rain, I’ve spent a couple of hours donned in (hopefully) tarantula-proof gloves, fork-loosening the stubborn roots of copious invaders unwanted natives. Aesthetically, it’s no improvement, looking like a plain bombed by military-exercising moles.

However, all work and no play also make Jack a dull boy (in the boring sense). Thus a day was had taking in the ‘Carnaval’ atmosphere. It’s apparent that Brasília doesn’t do it like other places: Salvador, for example, is, I’m told, the place for swarming garter snake-style body contact, particularly appealing to those who might want to cop a feel, or pick a pocket or two. And Rio de Janeiro, home of the huge, competing samba schools, the place if you want to directly observe the elaborate spectacle of overly-ostentatious themed processions. Fascinating cities both, to which I anticipate repeat visits, but from what I’ve seen of the TV coverage, I don’t think it would interest me for long, so I’m personally not too miffed about ‘missing out’ (certainly not on the inflated flight and accommodation prices): particularly Rio, where the interminable looped music accompanying each gaudy float had me even longing for some C&W; anything to reposition the groove-stuck stylus in my mind’s vinyl.

So, late afternoon, we homed in on the audible beacon of two technobeat-thumping trucks on one of Brasília’s main through-roads, which was blocked for the purpose. Initially, a very untight gathering had me thinking, ‘Is this it?!’ But eventually, these trucks started to slowly move, by now staging live bands; and the light dropped, and we got a couple of beers in us; and more people were ‘picked up’, dancing, cheering and singing, the atmosphere gathering palpability as we proceeded towards the centre of the city; flirting young locals (disconcertingly) flattering and amusing, such is the seeming exoticness that is a middle-aged gringo’s grey hair rendered blond under evening’s artificial light; lots of different food to be had at the culmination; unwanted attention from someone somehow under the impression, after shaking hands with him, that I was going to pay for his acarajé. By midnight, having been on our feet, walking and drinking, for seven hours, I was, despite taking it at a very steady pace, knackered.

Anyway, as this is a (former?) scientist scratching on a science site, I perhaps ought to contribute something ‘scientific’. And this biologist finished off the Carnaval period with a nice day exploring the nearby Jardim Botânico de Brasília. Ahh, plants: nature’s own ‘organic chemists par excellence’ (not my phrase; passed on by a friend). And what I’ve been learning of some of the research taking place here in the Distrito Federal certainly suggests so. Lots of vegetation means lots of birds to be seen there also, including – if you’re happy to indulge some more of my cod-ornithology – the Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Mimus saturninus; as is often the way, it is also charmingly named in Brazilian Portuguese: ‘Sabiá-do-campo’ – ‘Wise person of the field.’


At the end of a hot day, it was obvious another storm was coming, continuing the wet run we’ve been having here; and shortly after we got in, an electrically flickering firmament seemingly sucked the electricity from the earth. Candles were distributed; everybody went to bed, with me the last one up (except for the semi-feral, bloody-eared, but friendly, vocal, in-need-of-worming cat outside the door; I can’t bring him in – the resident feline wouldn’t countenance it; he removes to the shelter of the car port when necessary). Strange how a power cut can make you feel: calm, resigned; but out here, something else (aside from the thought that you’re likely within yards of things you wouldn’t want to step on) – Vulnerable. Such that, despite being dog-tired (a combination of the previous day’s run, several hours walking in the sun, and three vodka-heavy White Russians – One must abide ), I lay on my bed wide awake, listening to the rain kick-in like an over-stimulated thrash-metal drummer. And thinking….

…… ‘What the fuck am I going to do?’
Aside from the spontaneous crater-morphing of the tyre aneurysm-inducing roads, the increased general dampness has brought some extra visitors: a tarantula in the store-room; a large lizard with an iridescent blue-green tail; and I was somewhat alarmed to find a frog in the bog! Took a startled moment to deduce the nature of the big four-legged thing doing the wall-of-death round the bowel in the vortex, before it repaired back under the rim; this squatter in my squat steadfastly resisting repeated attempts to flush it out. It was later caught off guard relaxing, and evicted.

(There’s a moral there somewhere.)

One response to “Extracts from a Brazilian (not a Brazilian’s) diary: IV

  1.  "Sabiá" is not a "wise person". "Sábia" is a normal Portuguese word for a wise person, more specifically a female. But "sabiá" has indian origin, don’t know its meaning but I doubt this is it… Of course it begs the pun.


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