Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
March 2006: Calouradas and Churrascos
An amateur rock band at a churrasco night
The first autumn month in Belo Horizonte may be considered as a transition month. The rainy season that started in September, October, comes to an end. The almost daily rain showers decrease in number and become less intense, but that does not mean at all that you may leave your umbrella at home. Still, a sudden cloudburst may surprise you completely; you will blame yourself many times that you did not carry your umbrella. Most umbrellas are imported from China, are foldable and thus easy to carry in your bag. However, the downside of these umbrellas is the inferior quality. It is not uncommon that another umbrella has to be bought after just one or two months. They are also not expensive, up to ten, fifteen reais (about 5 euros) to buy a new one. And what is the default color? Black.
The first birthday was celebrated
at a sítio…
March is also a transitional month for the students. For the students, a year is divided into two semesters. For university students, the first semester starts after carnival and runs until the third week of July. The second semester runs from early August until early December. Within the semesters, only official feast days remain, and no more holidays, as we are used to have in Europe. During the first weeks of each semester, freshmen are being ragged by the older students. These activities are sometimes barred by the faculty. And students may enjoy the freshmen parties, the so-called calouradas. These calouradas are spread throughout the semester: one or more such parties are being held every Friday night.
An edible photograph on a delicious birthday cake
Not only calouradas are organized during the semester. In addition, private churracos (barbecues) are organized. Students collect money from each other to buy charcoal, meat, and the drinks. Almost every faculty of the Federal University in Belo Horizonte, the UFMG, offers a small open space where a barbecue oven is placed, and where staff and students are free to use it. The only condition is that the users clean up the mess themselves. Such a barbecue starts after the work hours, at about six, seven PM, and will continue until there is no more meat to fry, or no more beer to drink. It is common that students drive to the local supermarket or a gas station to buy more beer and ice cubes, to cool the beer.
Harvest of a manioc root
Samba and rock
There must be music at such calouradas. It is quite common that three student or amateur bands play at a calourada. A samba band, a forró band and a rock band. Sometimes a samba band is replaced by another rock group. The partygoers enjoy this varied music program. For an outsider, it is very striking that most rock bands are playing covers from the sixties and seventies. Most popular is music from Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith. The kind of music that you will not meet at such parties in The Netherlands, with the exception of theme parties. Most partygoers prefer samba bands. Almost everyone knows quite a number of samba texts by heart, and the rhythmic music forces your body to move along.
For me, March was an interesting month thanks to these calouradas and barbecues. Every Friday night there was a calourada, and there were some private parties and churrascos from Thursday to Saturday. A more than welcome change, because during the week days I was busy with writing and rewriting parts of my thesis, inside my ‘private room’ within the Biology Department. A small room with a table, a chair, and no windows. I was able to work uninterrupted, without anyone bothering me. They could not even reach me by phone, since the equipment in this room blocked any signal. As a result, I worked steadily on finishing my thesis, and made great progress.
Autumn: banana season!
At the end of this month I had to say goodbye to this little room. This room and adjacent rooms were subject to reforms. I moved to another space available, only a few meters away, thanks to a befriended professor who invited me to have a seat inside his department. I was no longer sitting alone and isolated, but I was surrounded by students and technicians. I was ‘among the people’ again. Initially, the contacts were not that easy and intense, but soon we learned to know and to respect each other. At the time of my PhD defense in 2010, I was still there. One of the colleagues has become one of my best friends, and thanks to him my stay in Brazil was given a surprising turn. But more on that later ….
By Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom