nós poucos, nós poucos e alvinegros

Being a Botafogo fan in exile is a decidedly mixed bag. On one hand, as I’ve been amply reminded, outside Rio there is no-one to shove the humiliations of last night’s game into my face. (My mom still recalls with dismay the time “the bus driver cursed you out,” and I always have to remind her that the driver was the one who shouted “BOTAFOGO LOST!” and started laughing, and then I cursed him out.) I’m vastly better at dishing it out than I am at taking it, and Botafogo’s most recent travails — including an exquisitely painful loss on the eve of my departure — had me on the verge of a sporting-emotional breakdown. But, as I argued to a freshly wounded baby botafoguense as we stalked out of the stadium, the joy of a well-placed goal can be the highlight of one’s week. (Even if the defense is also so overjoyed that it falls all over itself and lets another goal through about 5 minutes later.)

I miss being close to the game. The pain is incomparable, but I still miss the sensations of the match, from the birds swooping in the rafters of the stadium to the vendors who walk in front of you just as the offense sweeps down the field to the bizarrely delicious tiny pizzas eaten on cracked yellow tables while a trumpeter plays the team anthem. There are few things more pathetic than watching a game alone in one’s room on a spotty streaming feed, clicking away ads every couple of minutes and simultaneously streaming Globo commentary in case the video drops (rather, for when the video drops). If someone yells “GOOOOOOL” during a Botafogo match in Charlottesville and there are no cariocas around to hear it, does it make a sound?

I miss my people. Today the universe conspired to produce a small miracle — I was walking back from the corner market in Washington wearing my jersey, arms full of milk and eggs, when I heard a friendly bellow from a truck at the stoplight. “BOTAFOGO!” I almost dropped the eggs as I spun around.

“E aí!” I said happily. “We must be the only ones!”

“Que coisa!” he yelled, and then the light changed and he revved off, waving. I couldn’t stop smiling all the way home.

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in which i hit the thesis-research lottery and happily eat lots of dust

“Go to the countryside if you want, but it’s going to be boring.”

With that enthusiastic send-off, I set out for the bus station. Today marks the beginning of my last week in Brazil this year (probably) so I didn’t have much time; I blocked out a lightning-fast trip to the interior of the state of Rio de Janeiro – a 5-hour bus trip each way, returning the next day. Actually, I was juggling two itineraries. Either I was going to Aperibé, in Rio, or out for a jaunt in Ouro Preto, but Ouro Preto fell apart spectacularly at dawn on Wednesday (my trip, that is; I assume the city is fine) and since my bags were already packed, I called ahead and said I’d be getting into the bus station in Santo Antonio de Pádua at 3 p.m.

A little context: Ouro Preto, of course, is a nationally known tourist destination. Aperibé, my final destination, has 10,000 inhabitants (according to Wikipedia, which seems like a blatant exaggeration – and even the Wikipedia page acknowledges in the first paragraph that the town’s infrastructure is “inadequate”). But the 24 hours I spent in Aperibé comprised the best day yet this summer.

Backpedaling, context. The person on the other end of the line, when I called to say when I’d arrive, is a friend of — drumroll — Santiago’s. He also happens to be the person who inherited practically everything when Santiago passed in 1994, and he said that he’d hung on to some things. He warned repeatedly that it was a lot of junk, and that a day wouldn’t be nearly enough, it was all a big mess and he was very sorry. But just the prospect of stumbling across some trace of Santiago — a fragment of paper, a typewriter ribbon — was sufficient temptation for me to brave the bumpy ride out to Santo Antonio de Pádua, through the potholed and then unpaved roads of Aperibé, and up a dirt incline to Santiago’s friend’s adorable house, ensconced amidst tangerine trees and sugar cane and white-flowering bougainvillea. Santiago’s friend and his wife insisted on feeding me and then tutted when I scarfed down a plate of rice, beans, and fish and went running rather ungratefully out to my real destination: the warehouse next to the house. “It’s all dusty,” he warned. I told him that I love dust, and he cocked his head skeptically. “Coisas de pesquisador,” I explained.

The warehouse, as a cinematographer friend commented upon seeing the photos, deserves a documentary all its own. Continue reading