This was meant to be the last subject I’d refer to, but I feel there is another phrase in me before I close down this patch. it is, nonetheless, the overarching philosophy of the country and one of Portugal’s most distinctive and perhaps illustrious legacies.

I’ve seen it translated (for however impossible it might be to do that) as “muddle-through-ology”. I do see a lot of sense to it, especially the “-ology” part, because the “jeitinho” is a way of life. It has numberous uses, such as “dar um jeitinho”, fixing up something on the fly; “levar jeitinho”, being handy, talented, even if not trained; or “levar as coisas com jeitinho”, the declination of the phrase that comes the closest to “muddling-through”, although in a happier, more relaxed way than the English counterpart might entice. But the “jeitinho” way of life, more than anything, lets you know about a Brazilian ethos.

I don’t criticize it, hell, I’m part in it, as a Portuguese, an inventor of the concept that, like a feijoada, just got tastier with the time spent under the slow burn of the Brazilian melting pot. More, I declare my affectionate reverence to the “jeitinho” way of life. Sure enough, a football team of 11 Brazilians might have a torrent of “jeitinho” but it won’t have enough cohesion or organization to win. However, take all the Brazilians out of a team, and the game just won’t be worth watching.

Anúncios

It’s called Vidigal and, when you see it by day, after a long stride along the coast line, the “orla”, it stands there, on the hill that was supposed to shape the sea- and skylines, like a scar.

But then you return at sundown and, by night, the poorly coloured brick and zink give way to little bright spots. it no longer looks like a scar, it looks like a constelation, a Milky Way that was spilled on the hill.

That’s the thing about the night time, in Rio. It does sweeten the sights.

My latest finding was a linguistic one.

You know how people fit their languages to the new digital media and what started off as a means to simply reduce the number of characters spent quickly became a code that only the initiated would have access toa sort of password, and entry code.

So, just the other day i was meeting a couple of friends from way back when… from the first time i came to sampa.

The restaurant where we met for dinner, onto itself, would merit a long description. It’s not the first time I go there, but it strikes me everytime. This, a typical eatery from Mato Grosso do Sul, o so very typically, served up of a number of Japanese noodle soups as first courses, with none less than a selection of equally typical German sausages to follow. All this because that particular part of Brazil was first populated by people from those two far ends of the world. So, why not?

But back to the language. As I meant the first of my friends, she showed me the texts she had been “whatsapping” (is it too early to turn this into a verb?) to the other person yet to arrive. “Xegamu”, she texted, as in “chegámos”, we’ve arrived. And she got a “xeganu”, a word loosely related to “chegando”, to let us know her correspondent, our friend, wasn’t long.

The next day, my favorite: there was the possibility of meeting up to catch a movie from the “It’s all true” documentary fest going on in the city. So, I simply stated that “Ok, i am going to watch this at that time, should you decide to join me, just let me know”.

“Don’t worry about it”, I got as a response on gmail chat. “Podexá”.

For the last couple of weeks or so, I’ve been telling people that I’m halfway through my 3-month stay here in São Paulo. It started being roughly true back then and it is stopping to make sense now. Now, I’m starting to count back the days to my departure, I’m well into the second half of it, soon enough I’ll be telling people there’s only one mor month to go. I’ll say it for about two weeks.

The first evidence that this is starting to wind up is that, for the first time, I said goodbye to someone that I won’t be seeing again. “Don’t you forget about me, you hear?”, she say with a somewhat sad smile on her face, like, more than a flat fondness, she had grown used to having me around.

“Don’t you forget about me.” What a beautiful way to start the ending.

It’s much like an Oasis song without Liam, Brazil is. Perhaps even more beautiful because he’s not there.

The 19th-Century positivist Auguste Comte named three main items with which to build modern-day societies: love as a principle, order as a base and progress as a goal.

I’ve always been impressed with the fact that Brazil chose an incomplete version of this positivist mantra for it’s motto. “Ordem e Progesso” you can find right across it’s banner. Is this a denial of Love? No, I don’t think so. They left it out not because it isn’t important but because it would be redundant. Love is the one resource that this people will never run out of, the one renewable energy source. It is the very fabric where the “Ordem e Progresso” is stamped upon.

Love, in Brazil, is that voice that plays in your head even when it’s silent, perhaps more beautiful even because it’s not there.

If there is an item in São Paulo that is in no short supply, that is “people”. You hear tales about the millions inhabiting the Earth super-metropolis, but it is not until you share a subway line with those millions that you fully grasp the meaning.

Once I saw people working on the pavement, fixing a hole on the ground. Whereas In Lisbon I would have seen  three people of which only one was doing the job) here there were at least thirty people, a small gathering of sorts, which three were actually at work.

Muvuca is a colloquial word from a large crowd, meaning the people that attend a Carnaval parade as easily as the ones on the weekend bike trail in the city park. As much as that absolute horde of human beings that, from 6 to 8 PM, try to make their way from line 2 to the terminal at line 4 of the subway network.

It is no easy feat. The block of humanity moving from one end of the station to the end is of such proportions that it blocks at certain points, the different floods of crowds trying to find their way to the single corridor that connects the two terminal. You just have to stand there, waiting, very much as if you were on your daily traffic jam, so much so that I really do think that a set of pedestrian traffic lights leading each flood of people through whilst holding the others, could actually rationalize what is going on.

In the shallow banks of the Pinheiros River, in São Paulo, as much as in the Tietê banks, on the other side of town, Várzea Football was born. It is one of the oldest and richest traditions in the sport and, even if it was one of the most prolific, it is disappearing.

Várzea football emerged along those banks for obvious reasons, as obvious are the reasons for most things in Brazil. Its history is riddled with examples of foreigners that tried to terraform the country, to shape it to their beliefs. They failed where the ones that understood the land they were in did not. It’s an old story about the triumph of tea, cocoa, coffee and the sugar cane over wheat and barley. And the same happened with football, the telling story of this country. A setting was found, a long, flat field layed down next to a river. You just needed to goals, because God provided the rest. Including the players.

Just the other day, I joined one of these games. “Don’t be scared”, I was told. “They like to talk trash” (and, as a Portuguese in Brazil, I should expect nothing different), “but never mind it. They’re good guys.” Eight- or nine-a-side, depending on the number of available players, the games took no more than 10 minutes each (either that or one of the teams scoring twice). An outside team would then come in for the next 10 minute patch, making up its ranks with players from the losing side, if need be.

My team was coached mainly by the goalkeeper,. In a more defensive-minded approach, he didnt let go a the two defensive midfielders in front of a 3-man defense, of which I was part. One of these “volantes”, who turned out to be more like box-to-boxes, was called Brotha, in a clear reference to his etnicity that he seemed to welcome (the name was stamped on the back of the vest he wore). He was a fan of academic football, always shouting “One-two! One-two!” in an attempt to keep his teammates from embellishing too much their play and readily give the ball up at their second stroke. Not surprisingly, I can say, it didn’t work as often as he’d like, much to his chagrin. Later, already in post-game-churrasco-time, we were commenting on someone’s nephew going through a rough patch in life, that included runnings with the law and whatnot. Brotha quietly approached the conversation, already in a fancy, “ministerial” attire and just uttered: “I used to be like that and I can tell you: what that young man needs in his life… is God.”

Another one of those players went by the name of Índio (again much to do with ethnicity). At 50-something, he lacked the mobility of yesteryear and, more often than not, it was up to him to officiate the 10-minute games. Otherwise, he would take that more “cerebral” role in midfield, where speed was not as much of a factor. Even if everyone else seemed to take to calling me “Manuel”, a stereotypical generalization of what Portuguese men are all called, Índio preferred to call me “Pois Pois” in yet another stereotypical reference to the phrase us Portuguese seem to be very well know for.

Índio was very vocal and laughed particularly hard when, towards the end of the game, one of his more skilled colleagues nutmeged me. After all, in Várzea football, a nutmeg is just another way of thrash talking, I guess. But not to worry, even the pros that had played there as youngsters (César Sampaio and Júlio Batista, to name just of the two Brazilian internationals who played in that particular field as boys) had suffered the humiliation of a well timed, well placed nutmeg. So I felt it as a sort of baptism.

Most Várzea fields are gone, along with what they meant. They are replaced, as with everything in this city, by tall office buildings. Players committed themselves to the Várzea tournaments of São Paulo, seen as the scouting occasion of, sometimes, a lifetime. As young men, they competed for a spot in the big teams and stars were born on those fields. Nowadays, I’m told, they find them much sooner than that, recruit them to the “escolinhas”, the football academies, so they can be sold to Europe for the well known millions. Brazilian players are no longer born of the Várzea, and they are no longer faithful to their club anymore, not even to Brazil it seems. The core of Brazilian love of football is fading and the Várzea game isn’t played by “moleques” anymore. Its true spirit inhabits only these aging characters I found there.

After the game, in the midst of some comments about my beard and how it made me look gay, Índio showed me his scars. “A serious injury to the knee”, he said, “slows me down, you see”. Trying to reaffirm my manhood amongst Várzea football players, especially after the nutmeg and the beard comments, I showed the scares running through my torso and stomach. After asking me if I had been shot, he simply shrugged and uttered “yeah, but those aren’t on your knees… that doesn’t slow you down, does it?”