Estupidamente Gelada em Lapa-Land/Stupidly cold in Lapa-Land

So anyway, my girfriend “Vanessa” (not her real name by the way), had already moved back to Brazil from Barcelona to start in her new post. I was staying in Barcelona to finish the academic year; I would like to say that I was staying because Im a dedicated teacher, and I was thinking of my students….but come on, 6 months, no girlfriend = playing with yourself…alot…if you know what I mean.  The reason is, as is the reason a lot of the time in my life, was a cash one, and I really didn’t have enough cash to go anywhere at the time, come to think of it 6 months later, I still didn’t have enough cash to go anywhere.
So I was coming to Brazil during semana santa holiday break to ‘test the waters’ per say, and see how would I like it. Now, unknown to my girlfriend, whether or not I liked it on first impression, I was going to come anyway. When you step out of a familiar environment, it’s going to be different, regardless of the super person that you are, regardless of how well you think you are going to adapt, cultures are different, and just when you think you have it nailed, you get a slap in the chops, and a healthy reminder you are not a local.  I think you have to give anywhere a year, it’s a long time, yet, it has to be done I think, I never understood people who say “it’s only a year”. There are 8760 hours in a year, we ‘should’ sleep around 2555 of that, minus work of 1920, which still leaves us with about 180 days, a lot of shite can happen in 180 days. I have chosen to come to Brazil, because basically I want to be with my girlfriend. You have to give a place a chance, but you know what the great thing about my girlfriend is that, she is always open to suggestions and new possibilities, and if we are not happy somewhere, there are a million other places we can go. My girlfriend really liked Ireland when we were there, and had mentioned living there maybe for a year or 2, I agreed with her, and said it would be a great experience for us both…lying through my teeth of course, there was no feckn chance I was going to go back to Ireland.. ever again!….I know I know, ‘never say never’ right, but unless Star Trek’s Scotty beamed me there unknowingly, and put me straight in the middle of some bog land on the West coast, and had already drained my brain dry of every bead of memory!.
Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m super proud to be Irish, U2 is the best band in the world, Guinness is the king of beers (fuck off Budweiser…King of Queer-beer more like it, what a stupid beer!. Great horses…but what a waste of a nice bottle), and of course, quite simply… you can’t beat the Irish. I remember one of my good friends made a comment in his Irish bar in Barcelona. We were all there with our usual pale or maybe slightly blue skin and beer bellies hanging out all over the place, and we were in the midst of our Brazilian and Argentinean friends, all beautiful, dark, slim, bleach-like teeth, and worse, they are all happy mother fuckers. My friend looked at them for a bit admiringly, and then looked at us, not so admiringly.
“Well lads, we may be ugly, but we’re great craic”.
“Yes”, I replied. “And thank god for our blue eyes, otherwise we’d be really fucked” I said… to my browned eyed friend.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Ireland and living there, too cold, goodbye.
Excuse the tangent.

So I was arriving into Rio de Janeiro, the once capital of Brazil, “Fuck me it’s big” fell out of my mouth, as we flew over and continued to fly over the city for about 20 minutes. And it is big!, if you include the metropolitan area of Rio, there are over 20 million people. We eventually landed, and taking one of my students advise I ran out of the plane in order to get to the top of the queue at customs.I got the same loving attention as I did 3 months later from the customs official, I showed my passport and my teeth,then I was realised. As far as airports go the airport in Rio is shite, I think it was designed by the same nutcase that did Sao Paola’s airport, its looks like a concrete factory …set in a concrete making factory… based in Romania!, its grey, dull and crap.

I could see her smile even before I walked out of the departure, my girlfriend has the biggest smile in world, it’s a kind of smile that tells you the whole world is not only ok, but very very happy, even the poor bastards who work in the concrete factory are having a ball according to her smile. We hadn’t seen each other in 3 months, long enough, and as we hugged and kissed each other, I thought to myself… “Fuck, I’d murder a beer”…oh yeah and of course, “jaysus babes, I’ve missed ya”. But to be honest, we didn’t have time to embrace properly at the airport, as we were being accosted by people wanting to sell their money, stay in their hotels, take their taxis, marry their children, so we kind of ran out, and I was glad to get out of the concrete factory.

Brasil.Semana Santa.09 008

My girfriends perfect smile...and those 300 teeth!.

We caught a cab and arrived at our place of stay at 6pm, I was surprised to see that it was dark already. The guest house or Pousada is owned and operated by Irish women (well…I say Irish; she’s from the north… if you ask my brother about the ‘Northys’, he will tell you, “there just a fuckn strange lot brother, strange” ), and her husband who is from Brazil. They had been living here together for quite some actually and had bore a son, and then bought a guest house in the Santa Teresa area of Rio. It’s a nice part of the city, kind of at the back of the centre of the city, a bit away from the beaches. Anyways, so after settling in, and “catching up”, it was now time for food and beer. We left the pousada and walked down the winding cobbled stoned roads lined with huge rich green trees, down the steps, up a short road, turned a corner and straight into BANG… Rio De Janeiro, de verdade,our nice evening hand in hand stroll into the centre had turned into “Jesus Christ woman, hold me for dear life”, light turned into night, and Santa Teresa turned in Lapa. The first thing I noticed was that the street was filthy, there was graffiti everywhere…but not your cool colourful graffiti you may see in the Raval in Barcelona, this was just black scribbles, the buildings were covered in it. I stepped over drunken people lying on the paths with their legs dangling out into the road. Guys were hanging out on street corners looking for customers with wallets. Bars were packed, with people spilling out onto the street. Cars, taxis, buses, and bicycles, drove carelessly, looping around each other. It was an electric atmosphere, one I had not experienced in years. There was definitely an air of suspicion all around, everyone checking out everyone, I was desperately trying to fit in, I narrowed my eyes, and moved them from side to side, but it’s kind of difficult to look hard when your girlfriend has you by the hand, and is rushing you up the street, shouting “come on dear!” But even though there was this ambience, there was this sense of tranquillity about it, there was laughter and music everywhere, the odour of beers and food was heavy in the air. Every bar seemed to have a live band playing, and each with its own flavour. It reminded me of somewhere, and then it clicked, it reminded me of Bangkok on a Saturday night…not a bad thing, trust me.
As I had just arrived, and tired after a Crap ‘Tap’ flight, I wasn’t ready to launch myself into the jaws of Rio just yet; I preferred a chilled first night with a quiet few beers and some food, and catch up with the girlfriend. So, we decided on a place, it wasn’t that hard, it’s wall to wall bars in Lapa-land. We sat down and immediately a waiter came over with a menu, a smile and a salutation. That was the first thing I commented on I think in Brazil, the service in the bars, go live in Barcelona and you will see what the level of service is like in the bars and restaurants there. We quickly ordered, and then I surveyed the place like a typical tourist. Then I noticed something, it was sitting on the bar, displaying a number in red neon lights.
“What’s that?” I asked my girlfriend.
“It tells the temperature love”, she said.
“Of what? Its says -2.5, whether its Celsius or Farenheit darling, I very much doubt Brazil has ever been under the 25o mark”.
“No honey, it’s the temperature of the beer”.
“Fuck off….really?”
“Cool”, I commented, as I sat there and nodded in awe.
“But why is it on the bar?”
“Because precious the beer has to be very very cold in Brazil, the people need to know the temperature, if it’s any warmer than this, they won’t drink it, it’s very common, and you will see the temp displayed in most bars”

Brasil.Semana Santa.09 007

-2.5oCelcius - the temperature reader on top of the bar

My mind shot back to Barcelona, when I use to go drinking with Claudia, a mutual Brazilian friend of ours, who would ask for “cerveja…pero muy fria né?!”…the beer would be handed to her, and if it didn’t stick to her hand and take off half her skin, she would return it. We Irish aren’t so choosy ya know, yeah, if its cold, great, but you know, if it’s not, it’s still beer, fuck if it’s the last beer, and its been sitting in the sun all day, in a pile of manure…I’d drink it but children don’t forget!, we come from a very very cold and damp place where we see the sun for about 8 minutes every 8760 hours, so we don’t need anything more colder inside our systems, therefore a lot of us drink Guinness, which is served at room temperature, so we are not sooo fussy, ok?!.
So the waiter comes over with the beers and the food, the bottles I notice have this thin layer of white ice on them on then, “véu de noiva” they call it here, he then opens them… and then you hear it… you hear that sound the cap makes as it is forced from its bottle top, and when a very cold bottle of beer has just been opened..


Then the cold air rises out of the bottle top, he pours it, and you hear that other unmistakable sound as the liquid hits the bottom of the glass, the golden beer and the white foam mix and then it folds around each other repeatedly as its rises…



He places a beer mat on the table, and places the glass on top. Gives another smile, thumps up, and walks away.

I stare at it in amazement.

“It looks feckn freezing honey”!

“It’s what we say here in Brazil my love;esta estupidamente gelada, stupidly cold honey, stupidly cold”.


Mmmm ...Estupidamente Gelada Brahma


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