Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
February 2006: Going out with a medicine student, visiting Mangabeiras and an anatomy classroom.
Going out for a weekend with students, and the first card tricks to understand truco.
Compared to the previous months December and January with a number of travels, February 2006 was a very quiet month for me. I did not celebrate carnival, but my weekends were full of meetings and small trips with my friends and colleagues. I met a medical student at a student churrasco, and we quickly became friends. We made some short trips together, including a long walk from the center of Belo Horizonte to the Mangabeiras Park, a few kilometers away. We made this trip on a Sunday, with a burning sun above us. Despite the summer heat, we enjoyed our visit to the park.
This student, Tatiana, had some crazy habits and activities. She was an avid Bee Gees fan, a band from the seventies that is losing popularity in The Netherlands with the years. For me it is very striking how many Brazilian people admire international pop music from the sixties, seventies, eighties. Bands like Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd are still very popular. You can hear their music at almost every student party or gathering. Even a Dutch pop group from the seventies is still very popular: Focus. Most likely, many Dutch students never have heard of Focus, and likely will not remember their most successful music: Hocus Pocus.
Tatiana loved studying, and during the time I met her, she was studying the tough subject Human Anatomy. When I was student, I had to follow Human Anatomy and Neuro-anatomy courses. At that time, I had trouble enough to memorize all facts and details of the geology and topography of the human body. Especially the abstraction of the human brain was very tough. I had to do a re-examination in this subject. Tatiana was busy studying the elements of the face, including the numerous facial muscles responsible for our characteristic facial expressions.
Tatiana invited me to accompany her to her study site: the anatomy lecture room of the university. For this we had to travel to the center, where most hospitals are clustered together, flanked by the medical faculty and university hospital. This type of clustering also occurs among law faculties and judicial buildings in Belo Horizonte. Law faculties of both federal and private universities are at a stone’s throw from the offices of various lawyers, prosecutors, and tribunals. Tatiana knew where to go and where to enter the anatomy department. We entered the anatomy lab, were we were welcomed by a faint but pungent smell of paraformaldehyde. It was about 9 PM.
A dozen stainless steel cutting tables were positioned in the lab, and dozens of sealed plastic storage containers were stored along the wall. These containers were full of autopsy material that was immersed in formalin. Tatiana opened her anatomy book, and looked for the appropriate preparation, the head. Cautiously, she turned the head various times, in order to have a closer look to the various parts of the head, and to name them. She showed respect for this human head, which once was alive. That made me think back to the time I had practical anatomy courses, and the assistants made us very clear that jokes and lurid acts are not tolerated. Fortunately, none of us dared to joke. For me it was very striking that the students, who were scared during the first class, were the most fanatical students some weeks later..
It was already 9 PM when we entered the room, and we left it at 3 AM. Since there was no bus, there was no other alternative than a long walk to her apartment. I was invited to sleep in her guest room. We walked through the deserted town. Few walkers crossed our path; we observed some intertwined gay couples in the entertainment district of Savassi. For me this was remarkable, since Brazilians are somewhat less tolerant towards gay people, compared to the Dutch. There was little traffic on the wide avenidas. Tatiana told me that she often made the nightly journey, sometimes alone. Despite the poor reputation of the safety in the center of Belo Horizonte after midnight. After a walk of almost one hour we arrived at her apartment. I could hardly keep my eyes open, and fell almost immediately asleep.
And what about Claudia, who I had met in December? Who invited me to join her and her family to spend Christmas and New Year in Vitoria? With whom I visited several birthday parties and weekend parties? We were about to travel to Bahia for Carnival, spending the time in a country house. But fate had decided otherwise, her brother came up with a last minute trip for Claudia, a stay in the historic city of Diamantina during carnival. That same evening she left for her trip, and since then I have not seen her again. However, we maintained a long-time contact through Internet, but we did not meet each other again.
One week before carnival, I was invited by colleagues to spend a weekend in a sítio, an outhouse. This literally is a cottage, generally at a respectable distance from cities like Belo Horizonte. These distances, sometimes over a hundred kilometers, are peanuts for the Brazilians. We were there with fellow students and one teacher, it was a crazy happening. There was more than enough beer and booze to drink, but it was not only the consumption of alcohol that created a very animated atmosphere that particular weekend. The atmosphere was mainly determined by the open-mindedness, cheerfulness, and the spirit of the students. There was a rare level of harmony and consensus among us. Two days full of joy, full of jokes, full of booze and even a real churrasco. I still have very good memories of those two remarkable days.
That Sunday we went home, and I hitchhiked along with Marina. She was about visit her friends, who were staying in another sítio, less than sixty kilometers from Belo Horizonte. One of her long-time friends was celebrating her birthday. With a lot of beer, and a churrasco. Did I drink a lot? No, I am what you call a social drinker. I am crazy to drink too much, and get drunk, without retaining control of myself. I prefer to maintain control of myself, and prefer to avoid the inevitable hangover on the following day. Such a day, suffering a hangover all day, appears to be a waste of time to me. Moreover, I often busy with recording such events with my camera. To take nice shots, I must have a steady grip of my camera. On this Sunday, I also learned a new card game: truco. This card game is somewhat like some Dutch card games. Truco is played with two teams of two partners. The partners must work together to fool their opponents. You have to bluff, as an answer you have to deposit, and there will be more bluffing. Then suddenly you hear someone screaming “TRUCO!”, and the noise is then amplified by cynical and ironic replies that the bluffer is nuts. Then everyone show their cards. The bluffer will then be awarded or punished by his reckless action. To my greatest surprise, I won one match, together with my partner, at my debut…
By Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom.
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