Nipple Chafing

I had never before heard about nipple chafing; actually I had never heard of armpit chafing or elbow chafing either. Thigh chafing, yes. I remember at a party in 7th grade a guy in my class, Agustin, got a deep dark bruise on his thighs from running too long in his wet bathing suit. “Want to feel it?” I remember he asked. I slapped him before realizing he was talking about the bruise.

You can probably imagine my surprise when at lunch, a day before my first half marathon, I heard one guy friend ask another what type of cream he used on his nipples. Nipples, had I heard that correctly? I listened intently as they shared tips with each other, like how you should pat your whole body dry before applying Vaseline and how it’s a good idea to coat your underarms and elbows too. ‘Do you wear underwear?’ I asked, and the conversation took a weird turn.

This conversation should have made our lunch neighbors uncomfortable, but here, only a block away from the Rio de Janeiro Marathon sign-up tent, it blended in with similar chatter close by. I was the only one cringing; not so much at the prospect of lathering myself in petroleum jelly, but from the fact that this was the first I’d heard of the matter and I was scheduled to run 21km in less than 24 hours.

In the end, I made it through the race alive. At around kilometer 13 I started to feel my toes grow larger and at kilometer 19 my chest started to burn. After the finish line, after posing for a photo and gathering my backpack, I took off my shoes. Oozing blisters covered my pinky toes and my sports bra had chafed a semicircular line onto my upper chest. It burned. It really really burned. And all I could think was, why didn’t I have the Vaseline conversation with a girl?

Rio Half Marathon

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Celebrities

Some people spot celebrities on the streets of New York. Others find them champagne-in-hand at glamorous fashion events in LA or Paris. And some even find them at the restaurants they frequent on the daily, like the countless Vandy girls who have seen Taylor Swift at Bread & Co. or Nicole Kidman at Whole Foods. These conventional celeb-spotting techniques are lost on me because they all require actually recognizing the celebrity first.  I need more than that – paparazzi, cameras, posters, screaming fans, life-size cutouts – in order to determine whom I’m looking at. This is why I have only ever spotted the famous at airports.

Airports are great. Almost certain delays on almost every airline these days allows the onlooker plenty of time to determine who is scheduled to show up shortly. This was the situation at the Athens International Airport five years back when I saw my first celebrity: Ernest Valverde. That’s right, the Spanish soccer coach hired and dumped by the Greek team Olympiacos. (We made it into the Greek newspapers that day.)

Ernest Valverde fans in Greece

My next big sighting was Rod Stewart in Miami and then Matisyahu in New York. Nothing, however, was as exciting as finding Snookie and her beau Jionni in La Guardia waiting to board my flight to Nashville.

My latest spotting was last night at the Recife International Airport in Brazil. My sister and I arrived in Recife at 3:00am to a sea of Pernambucanos screaming, banging drums and madly waving signs to welcome a group of fifty teenagers, who we assumed were the cast of High School Musical (Brazil Edition). The screaming went on for over an hour spoiling our plan to find a cozy and quiet corner where to snooze while we awaited our parents’ arrival. So, we decided to join in. Turns out the teens were returning home after spending six months in high school in New Zealand as part of a government-sponsored exchange: Ganhe o Mundo.

Where were these free international exchange programs when I was in high school?

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Desculpe o transtorno, estamos mudando o país

(Sorry for the inconvenience, we’re changing the country)

A little over a month ago, The Economist published an article entitled “Brazil isn’t growing – so why are Brazilians so happy?” The article explained the math behind economic development: by shifting the 0.9% GDP growth in 2012 from the top 10% of Brazil’s population to the bottom 10%, the rich remain rich, though they don’t get richer, and the poor become infinitely wealthier.  Relative income growth, The Economist argued, has appeased Brazilians.  I guess they didn’t foresee the string of Brazilian protests this month that would debunk their argument; no one did.

The past ten days have been some of the most exciting in Brazil in close to two decades – arguably more exciting than the days following Brazil’s World Cup win in 2004. The protests that commenced in São Paulo due to bus and metro fare hikes of R$0.20 (US$0.10) on June 1st have expanded exponentially to more than 80 cities in Brazil.  The demonstrations are taking place as Brazil hosts the Confederations Cup, a month prior to Pope Francis’ visit, and while close to a dozen stadiums are being built or remodeled to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Had it not been for the military police’s overt aggression against activists in São Paulo on June 14th, the manifestations might have become just one more in a series of occasional bouts of protests that characterize Brazilian democracy. However, images of the strife were captured by amateur video recorders and madly tweeted, re-tweeted, posted and shared. In a country with over 65 million Facebook accounts and almost as many Twitter feeds, news travels fast.

These images compelled thousands of Brazilians, many from the emerging middle class, to take to the streets on June 17th. Throughout major cosmopolitan centers and around the world, activists exhibited banners and placards calling for reduced government corruption and increased services, and denounced the use of billions of reais in the construction of soccer arenas for next year’s World Cup.

Protests2

A few videos also emerged calling on the international community to sympathize with the Brazilian cause.

A poll released by Epoca magazine shows that 75% of Brazilians support the protests. For the past week, Facebook pages and news articles alike have been sprinkled with quotes from Brazilian nationals calling for better healthcare, improved public education, reduced government corruption, lower transportation fares, and better management of public resources. Specifically, Brazilians are calling for the rejection of PEC37, a proposed amendment to the constitution currently being debated in congress, which would take away the Public Ministry’s power to launch investigations into corruption.

Although most manifestations have taken the form of peaceful marches, protests through June 21st were marked by gratuitous police truculence and the destruction of public property by protestors. In São Paulo groups of protestors clashed when a small minority attempted to invade City Hall. In Brasilia, police formed barricades around the Foreign Ministry building to shade it from sticks and stones launched from the 100,000-deep crowd.

The violence of a few may present a peril to the efforts of peaceful protestors. This was the message on Friday night when President Dilma Rousseff addressed her jittery nation on primetime television.  The speech broke the government’s paucity of response, which has been a further complaint by protestors.

It seems as thought the noise resounding from all corners of Brazil and around the world has served as an impetus for change. President Rouseff  has promised:

  1. To form a coalition between all governors and mayors from the major cities and provinces in Brazil to address public transportation concerns
  2. To dedicate 100% of oil profits to improve education
  3. To recruit hundreds of foreign doctors to work for Brazil’s public health system, SUS
  4. To join protestors in discussion for other concessions

I guess we’ll see this week if her words have allayed the demands of protestors.

 

Sources: Associated Press, The Economist, Folha de S.Paulo

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June 23, 2013 · 3:58 pm

Walmart: A journey to Assis

My neighbor, a sassy little Italian from Perugia, convinced me to visit a nearby city for almost free on Friday. It was almost free because our university was sending a delegation to a foreign language teaching conference with their government-owned charter bus. And she convinced me because she promised me a trip to Walmart. In all my years in the US I resisted Wally World. When I was a New Englander, I avoided Walmart because it was just too Southern to shop there, and when I became a Southerner, I avoided Walmart to dispel the stereotype. But now, in my state of normal food deprivation (and I mean normal, not American, because Brazilians eat meaty, carby, repetitive meals, unlike anywhere else in the world, except maybe Italy, but that’s OK because repeating ravioli is always welcome),  the prospect of visiting Walmart made my insides jitter.

I accepted and we departed at 5am Brazilian time, so 5:45ish, from the Dentistry School campus. We had on us small packs with water, a book, shorts,  our non-chip credit cards, and absolutely no expectation of where we were going, because frankly, we hadn’t so much as stopped to think about it. The bus looked comfortable enough and we each managed to snag a two seater to ourselves before getting busy at forcing our bodies back to sleep. I woke up abruptly after, I don’t know, forty five minutes or maybe an hour. The bus was shaking madly, the roof vibrating loudly, and the windows were frosted over from the evident moisture in this interior Paulista land. This ride resembled any number of trips I took with mom’s choirs as a kid. I looked over at Martina, my sassy Italian, and her eyes are fixed on mine, telling me ‘I think last night’s rice and beans are gonna come flying in your direction soon’. I love this girl. I couldn’t contain my laughter, and as I let out a loud yelp, the bus driver hit another pothole and I flew sideways hitting my forehead against the frosty window.

I think the driver was doing it on purpose. You see, all administrators and public workers at our university are on strike, and somehow this unlucky bloke got stuck driving over eight hours in a day instead of being allowed to protest for his rights like the other administrators and public workers: at home, eating three meals of rice and beans at his kitchen table and spending time with his sons and daughters who were probably on strike from elementary school too. But, just as when you play guitar hero and try to hit all the notes to form a tune, our driver was keeping himself entertained,  protesting in his own manner the injustice that is work, by hitting every pothole on the highway. And so we proceeded to Assis.

We tried to look studious as soon as we arrived by following the crowd into an auditorium to listen to the day’s opening ceremony. It wasn’t an opening ceremony so much as a presentation by the conference’s director on her research. I tuned in to catch the gist of a situation she analyzed for her study. A Brazilian student went on an exchange to France, Nice I think, and her first assignment was to submit a paper for her linguistics course. She was excited because the prompt was very similar to an assignment she had already completed at her university in Brazil – an assignment where she had scored a whopping 10 out of 10. So she pulled a Brazilian jeitinho. She dug up her assignment on her hard drive, quickly translated it into French, submitted the sucker, and moved on to better things, like eating pâté or whatever it is you do in France when you’re a poor exchange student. To her surprise, but not to the surprise of the audience, she failed the assignment. The speaker continued to explain what her study entailed, but I wasn’t paying attention anymore. I was laughing hysterically again and had to remove myself from the auditorium. I could only think to myself, ‘How do they choose these kids who get to use the government’s, thus the taxpayer’s, money on international exchanges? They must have to pass a test  to prove they are stereotypically Brazilian. I bet that girl can also dance samba, has a plump ass and likes to spend her summers in Paraty ‘. And so with that, we proceeded to Walmart.

We caught a public bus to another public bus that would lead us to America. As we rode on we got to see most of Assis, including its sad outskirts where skinny horses still pull carts and roofs are still made of sugar cane scraps. I asked if anyone knew if the government funded development here, or sponsored families to upgrade from latrines to toilets. No one knew.

Walking into Walmart I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I held it briefly while I tried to distinguish the scent of apple pie from that of New England clam chowder brewing in the back. I could sense neither – I could only distinguish the sharp fried stench of chicken coxinhas being prepared at Walmart’s own lanchonette. And right then, all of a sudden, our adventure seemed foolish. We endured four long hours of bone-rattling shakes, suffered cold in the morning and suffocating heat at noon, and became accomplices to desperate poverty, all for the false hope of finding fresh mozzarella, cheerios and almond butter.

The most exotic food we were able to uncover was ciabatta bread. We ate large quantities of it. And with that, we returned home.

IMG-20130614-00106

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O canavial e a cachoeira

Combinamos todos duas e meia na praça. O ônibus de Alexandre só chegou duas e trinta e dois. Um calor insuportável na cidade. Mais uma hora e chegou a Verona e o namorado. Dali, fomos para a casa de um amigo deles para buscá-lo e enfim conhecer a cachoeira.

Conversamos durante todo o trajeto até chegarmos no mesmo lugar onde fomos o dia pasado, das coxinhas, pedir informações. Lá tomamos outro sorvete. Quinze minutos depois, seguimos viagem até a tal cachoeira. Uma estrada deserta, com canaviais a perder de vista pelos dois lados. A entrada era para um assentamento particular, mas tinha um de cada lado. Pegamos o da esquerda.

sugar cane

Era, em todos os detalhes, uma cópia da Colheita Maldita. Naquela estrada, a cana virou milharal e havia, sem exageros, mais de quarenta corvos e urubus pelas cercas e solo. Demos meia volta urgentemente antes que fosse tarde demais. Pelo caminho da direita, eternamente o canavial. Minutos depois, uma descampado e outro caminho estreito à frente, na lama. Entramos lá e depois voltamos de ré, porque era pedir pra morrer também. Seguindo em frente, finalmente encontramos o lago. Havia um carro lá, mas paramos mesmo assim. Saímos e demos uma olhada pelo lugar. Havia dois casais abraçados na água, mas nada de cachoeira. Então fomos andando mesmo, até encontrá-la.

Um caminho horroroso, cercado pela floresta e um canavial seco e denso. Ouvimos barulhos de coisas se mexendo lá dentro, mas ninguém disse nada. Sério, era um cenário de assassinato e desova de turistas, mas fomos andando mesmo assim. mosquitos e aranhas por todo lado. Andamos por dez minutos e nada de queda d’água, então desistimos e decidimos só entrar na água quietos. Na volta, a mesma coisa…

Quando chegamos perto do lago, conseguimos ouvir uns barulhos de gente. Ficamos quietos e era uma das mulheres dos casais. gemendo e gritando, porque estava dando pro cara dentro da água. Parece ser a cereja da história, mas ainda não. Hold your panties.

Chegamos na margem do lago e o namorado da Verona tirou quase toda a roupa pra entrar. O outro casal estava encostado no carro, olhando e ouvindo. Ficaram rindo porque nós só estávamos falando em inglês, independente de com quem. Mas quando o idioma mudava, eles ficavam confusos. Antes do cara por o pé na água, chega um outro carro, a mil por hora. Uma família completamente estereotipada da favela, farofeira, chegou. Dez pessoas num carro, com direito a duas no porta-malas aberto. Desceram todos, mãe, pai, filhos e filhas, primos e afins, e foram pulando na água, gritando e rindo. O som do carro estourando “ai lek lek“. Foi o primeiro indício para irmos embora imediatamente.

Eu começei a rir, totalmente descrente de onde vem parar ao sair de Nova York. Percebi como a menina que estava no lago e foi pro carro tinha, no máximo, uns 14 anos. De repente, do nada, aparecem ciclistas, com capacetes e roupas coladas, pela estrada de terra. A cena foi a gota d’água e fomos embora, finalmente. Era um lugar sem deus e sem lei.

This really happened. Narrated in Portuguese by Alexandre Soares.

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Bueno de Andrada

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May 1, 2013 · 11:48 pm

São José do Rio Preto

We walked and wandered searching for Bady Bassett. A good 45 minutes later, we arrived at our destination: a quaint coffee shop and used bookstore called Cafeizinho. I picked up a book and my arms started shaking. Saliva began rushing to my mouth and my face went pale. I sprinted to the bathroom.

That’s right friends. São Jose do Rio Preto was so hot I vomited.

It's chucking up time in Rio Preto

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