Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
January 2005: Day trip to Santos Dumont (MG), match of soccer team Cruzeiro and surprising meetings.
The New Year had been welcomed by fireworks and champagne. The New Year also made me add one more year to my age. In contrast to the three preceding years, I did not return to The Netherlands shortly after New Year. Instead, I managed to modify my day of return to the end of March. I got permission to stay in the house of Myra, until June if needed. I was no longer a tourist, but a possible migrant. January and the following months would be used to consider all available options for constructing my life in Brazil.
In the second week of January, I joined the family to travel to the Santos Dumont, a small town at a few hours’ drive from Belo Horizonte. In this town the famous Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont was born, he was the first man who flew in a motorized aircraft in Europe. It is still debatable whether Alberto or the Wright brothers were the first in the world to fly a motorized aircraft. The Brazilians are convinced that their Alberto was the first. It was an interesting drive to this small town, to watch the mountainous countryside of Minas Gerais. The town itself has no real touristic sightings, except a monument that has been erected for their famous pioneer: Alberto’s aircraft circling around the Eiffel Tower.
Usually I spent some time in the evening on the internet, to check my emails and to chat with some friends. One night I was online in the ICQ program, the program that started my contacts with Myra and other Brazilian friends. I was browsing from some time; the program provided some random names. It gave then a name of a person living in Belo Horizonte. We made contact and we chatted through the ICQ program. It was an interesting “conversation” for both of us and Jessica proposed to meet each other in the center of Belo Horizonte the following day. We met each other the next day; it was like we knew each other already much longer. Jessica suggested to visit her house in the south of the city, to meet her father and brother. I agreed. Jessica guided me to the bus en we entered. Coincidence or not, her father was already in the bus, I became acquainted with him. We continued our conversations during the one-hour bus ride to their apartment. There I was warmly received, there was even a little party going on. I met more friends of her. Her boyfriend was not there, but soon following this night I met him too.
That night, Jessica invited me to a birthday party, of her ex-boyfriend Alex. They were still good friends with each other. I invited another friend, Anita, to accompany me. I only had met her some weeks before. She had a car so I was not dependent on the bus in the late hours. At the birthday party, it turned out that Anita already knew Jessica’s father. For Anita and Jessica’s father it was the start of a long conversation, talking about each others families. At that party I was not the only one speaking poor Portuguese. That same morning a Uruguayan student had arrived for a brief internship at the university. This handsome, dark blonde Patricia fortunately spoke fluent English, and we started our conversation in English. Later we became good friends; she worked close to my department at the university.
In the final week of January I had an appointment with a professor from the Department of Biochemistry. I had contacted Prof. Marcelo (you call the professors in Brazil with their first name!) one year before, and now I was invited to work at his department, to complete my thesis. The members of his group accepted me warmly, for them it was not common at all to have an European student in their group. I attended their meetings, even though I barely understood of what was being said. I enrolled for the course Basic Portuguese for Foreigners, and joined a group of English speakers from three U.S. regions, Canada, Scotland, Denmark, South Korea, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. We all spoke English with sometimes totally different accents, but we had no trouble at all to understand each other. Our Portuguese teacher was a Brazilian student, studying English Language and Literature, but she was not able to communicate to us in English.
In the final weekend of this month was invited by Frances and her boyfriend to attend a game of Cruzeiro, one of the two main soccer teams in the city. It was a match of the competition of the state of Minas Gerais. You do not need to be very excited about this competition, because the finals often are decided by the same two or three teams. Often the rival Atlético Mineiro and Cruzeiro play against each other for the title. The match I attended was the first of the state league and played against a weak opponent. The Mineirão stadium was less than half full. Nonetheless, there was a jubilant atmosphere amongst the Cruzeiro supporters, singing and encouraging their players loudly. Three months later, when Cruzeiro had to play against arch-rival Atlético, the atmosphere was more intense. The stadium was crowded; it even was shaking for a short while on its foundations when both Cruzeiro and Atlético supporters were pounding their feet on the concrete floor. A very peculiar experience!
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom © 2007