Thursday, March 6, 2008

Beans for dishes

I'm shocked that I've been here in Brazil for seven and a half weeks. In that time, I've gotten used to being without NPR coverage of the primaries, hot showers and chai lattes. I don't think twice about sleeping in a hammock in a room with twenty other people and no walls (okay, there are bunk beds available again, but I choose to stay in the hammock as it's less mildewy), picking off the hand-sized moths and leaf-like insects from my computer in the mornings, or hiking to the instrument container in rubber boots every day.

But it's only a week and a half more here, and I'm already a bit nostalgiac. Tired and ready for a full night's sleep, some clean clothes and a good plate of sushi, but I have that feeling of the last couple of weeks of school, saying good bye to people I don't really know but who have become my family here.

For example, there's the bean game. Perhaps it's because there are so few of us left at the site, but last night, we (the foreigners) got to play for dishes with the Brazilians for the first time. Everyone piles their dishes in the middle of the table, and takes two (dry) beans. You then slam your fist on the table with some secret number of beans, and we go around guessing how many beans are on the table. Each number can only be taken once.

Once everyone has guessed, we all open our hands. Whoever guessed the correct number of beans gets to put one back, and once you've gotten rid of both your beans, you stand up and leave the table, out of the game. It was a close call last night. I made some poor guesses and was in the final round, so it was just Fazinio (the cook) and myself at the table with a horrendous number of dirty dishes. Fortunately I had the first guess, so put my remaining bean in my fist and slammed it down. With the ten other players and about six bystanders standing around the table cheering, jeering and generally making a lot of noise, I went with Uno. At which point poor Fazinio shook his head, opened his empty hand and let me stand up to the victorious cheers of the other scientists (and sympathetic sighs from the Brazilians).

Fazinio is a true character. He absolutely loves cooking, and takes care of the entire site. He is fastidious, cleaning every counter and table multiple times a day in the kitchen and dining area. He takes care of the two dogs, the parrot and keeps a stash of bread for the jungle chickens. In his spare time, he takes great delight in fishing. (I take even greater delight in eating the results). He knows how to wield a machete in the face of venomous snakes, doesn't flinch when a tarantula crawls into the kitchen and yet manages to tell jokes in Portuguese so well that even the foreign scientists have to laugh. He has a good eye for people, and always goes out of his way to show me the cool moths he notices, or the monkey stealthily crawling around behind the alojamento.

He also is the first person to grab the beans for the dishes every night. And, far more than pure chance would have it, is typically the last person with beans in his hand.

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