|Life in Belo Horizonte|
Three months later and 20 pounds heavier, our time in Belo Horizonte is coming to an end. Peter is flying to Vancouver tomorrow to catch the tail end of the Winter Olympics (mostly the parties) and I am taking short trips in Brazil before I join Peter March 17th.
It was a solid 3-month period visiting with family and friends and staying at my mom's house the whole time, feasting on her delicious meals and everything else I ate as a child – sweets from Minas Gerais and the hundreds of different cheeses from the region. It was also good for me to get on the daily routine here and have a really long visit with mom. We went to Pilates classes together twice a week, we cooked together, made teas from fresh herbs in the garden, shopped for produce and groceries, hosted many relatives who visited for short periods of time and organized the house for the many parties that happen here. I even went to her doctor with her a couple of times and... let me not forget our many evenings together watching the news and the soup opera afterwords. I will miss her as much as she says she will miss me.
It rained the whole month of December which was nice at first and it only eased up mid January when we started exploring around town. We went to museums, strolled around town and also went out of town for a couple of days. The highlights of our visits were Inhotim, Tabuleiro (see previous posts), and our strolls around town. I especially enjoyed revisits to my favorite childhood, spots like Minas Tennis Club, a place my family frequented almost daily, Praca da Liberdade, where I hung out as a youth, at Xodo for milkshakes and ice creams and where the craft market used to be on Sundays.
Seeing Pampulha again was also a treat. With its artificial lake built in 1940 by the well known architect Oscar Niemeyer and a series of buildings, like the Art Museum, Ballroom Hall, Church of San Francisco and the Yacht Club that became a modern reference for Brazilian architecture, have not changed much over the years. The soccer stadium, known as Mineirao was built in 1965 and is the second largest covered stadium in the world. Right next to it is another stadium, Mineirinho, a multi sport stadium built in 1980. As I visited these places in Pampulha, I thought of my childhood and youth in the city. I was surprised to see that the rides at the fairground my father used to take us children to were pretty much the same original ones. I also thought of the first (and last) soccer game I ever went to with my first serious boyfriend. I am not much of a sports fan, much less a soccer fan, so I never went to another game.
Now that I've became a “regular” family member and no longer a visitor, I think it is time to move on. My usual opinionated self coupled with cultural shocks regarding some Brazilians habits got me the nickname of “alpha bitch.” This is a name not given by any of my relatives or friends, but by my beloved partner, Peter. The name actually made me laugh when I confided in him that I felt guilty for interfering and wanting things to be different. For example, I have long forgotten the habit of some people being late or even not showing up at an agreed place and time. I also noticed a general disregard for others space. Some people would not flinch about talking on a cell phone in a gathering or inviting a third party to join a meeting on your behalf without checking with you first. Maybe the culture is too casual for me or maybe Brazilians are too much of a gregarious culture, but at times it was painful not having my space and time respected. And I am not even going to start talking about husbands never doing anything in the kitchen and children, up to the age of 30 and beyond expecting their parents to treat them as if they were 12! These behaviors were too foreign to me and I think I overacted to everything.
But things were usually good with my mom and her house was a good refuge for us. As the Brazilian summer got hotter, Belo Horizonte was a comfortable place to be. The weather here is temperate, even when the sun is shinning brightly in the sky. The rolling hills around town and where her house is located is always cooler than the city. We had fun hanging out by the pool and going out to bars and restaurants with my sister Jeanne and her husband Jean Michel to nearby hills. The places are hidden at the end of long winding roads, some not even asphalted, making for exotic nights out “in the woods,” yet mere minutes from some of the most urban parts of the city.
I am glad I was able to come back “home” for an extended period of time after living abroad for almost 30 years. Now I can go on with my travels, having checked out my roots and my childhood digs, filled with my mother's company and daily routine. And I am sure I will find something to bitch about the North American culture when I go back. That is the price of not belonging anywhere; there will never be a perfect culture. Until I master the skill of acceptance, I will be the one suffering.