Part of the charm of Paraty is that it’s a compromise, albeit an accidental one. The little city, which back in colonial times was nestled among hills bristling with cannibals and Frenchmen, is almost perfectly halfway between Rio and São Paulo. This surely contributes not a little to its bustling social calendar; every couple of weeks Paraty sweeps itself clean and plays host to another festival, be it literature or jazz or booze. “Paraty doesn’t stop,” a local told me a bit defensively in a bar (we were there to watch the Botafogo game). “People say that it’s monotonous, but there’s always something going on.”
That’s what you get when your hometown is a sort of professional convention center, I guess. I hypothesized out loud that it might be strange to live in a place with such a mobile population, where the restaurants and the cobblestoned city center are flooded and then recede, human tides governed by a festive moon. But then someone walked in front of the TV right as Cidinho was about to score our second goal, and the analysis was cut short.
To return to my train of thought: Paraty is an almost perfect site for the convergence of carioca and paulistano populations. Exaggerated accents and big-city arrogance all around! What could go wrong? Actually, the people are all perfectly sweet, that’s not the problem. Rather, the coming-together of Rio and São Paulo poses a basic, terrifying dilemma. How many kisses to give?
It’s so simple when you’re in one city or another. In Rio, it’s two kisses for all acquaintances and a kiss and a hug for friends (the transition from one to the other can often be fraught with unrequited friendship, incidentally, but that’s another story). In ever-economic São Paulo, it’s invariably one kiss — more fleeting for first encounters, and accompanied by an energetic hug for friends, relatives, etc. But what to do in Paraty, that colonial no man’s land?
Brazilians seem to have a sixth sense for knowing how many kisses to give, which I am still struggling valiantly to pick up. Often during FLIP, when I was introduced to others as an American, they gave me a cautiously friendly handshake, as if sensing that I wasn’t calibrated to correctly gauge more physical salutations. But when I was left to my own devices, I found myself doing a hasty calculation every time I went in for a greeting, trying to keep methodical track of everyone’s origins.
Paulistano living in São Paulo: one kiss. Paulistano living in Rio: two kisses. Or does the greater proximity to São Paulo mean that we have to go back to one? Carioca living in São Paulo: two kisses, because some things never change. I met this woman at last year’s FLIP, so does that mean that we’re on hugging terms? Carioca friend, regardless of residence: one kiss and a hug. Are goodbyes two kisses, or only one? Will it be rude if I just wave? Where did this guy say he was from again? The hell with it, go in for a hug. All this to say that in 5 days of FLIP, I managed not to accidentally make out with anyone, and I’m very proud of myself.