Sunday, December 30, 2007

Towards Mocha

Here is a view of the vally (two rieberas over from mine) that leads up towards Mocha.

Cow Boy


Here is a soccer field I found out in themiddle of nowhere. And I mean Nowhere.

View from the Cliff

So this is the cliff I thought the driver was going to get thrown off of. (See story below)

Gano e Sab, e Sab pa Gano!

So I had a uniquely Cape verdian experience yesterday and I thought I’d share it with you.

The Chan di Igreja soccer team has been doing well. They’ve won all their local matches against the surrounding micro-communities, and yesterday they had a game in Ponto do Sol, which is about an hour and half away, and the equivalent of a county seat for this part of the island. I asked if I could come along to watch and take some team pictures, and was told of course, that there would be room for me in the bus that was taking the players.

As instructed, as I was waiting in the plaza at midday, and sure enough the bus showed up right on time. It’s sort of a Toyota version of a school bus meant to hold 30 people (I counted the seats later that day). There are 26 players on the team, plus the “coach” (who’s job it is to make sure everyone is sober), the “equipment manager” (who’s job it is to carry the soccer ball) and one “ball boy” (who’s job it is to fetch that ball when it’s kicked out of play). There were also, unfortunately, about 50 other people from town that were expecting to go as well. Apparently all of us were assured a place on the bus.

Naturally I assumed that I, as a town celebrity and designated team photographer, would get the remaining seat on the bus, and so I got on amongst the players and waited for the coach to explain the situation to everyone else. But then everyone else got on anyway. In a feat that would have made fraternity brothers and circus clowns everywhere stare in amazement, we managed to get 73 people on board (I counted when we got off). We had 74, but no matter what feats of human contortion were attempted, we couldn’t manage to get the door of the bus closed, so one poor soul was left at home.

I was “seated” in the middle of the second row between Nany and Pedro, although seated isn’t exactly the right word, as my left thigh was draped over Nany’s right leg, and Pedro’s left shoulder was lodged under my right armpit. My right knee was nestled snuggly in the crotch of some kid from Cruzinha, who was in front of us and seated backwards on the lap pf another guy. Quarters were, to say the least, cramped, and I quickly lost feeling in my outer extremities.

Nevertheless, we left promptly at 12:15 for a 2:00 game in a town and hour away, WAY ahead of schedule for Cape Verde. And a good thing too. Thirty minutes out of Chan and half-way up the mountain, some sputtering and choking noises from the bus, and we’d run out of gas. Dead silence in the van, and then from the very back “Ami n’acredita.” (You’ve got to be shitting me.) There are exactly 2 gas stations on this island, one on the South side in Porto Novo, and another one on this side of the island, and we weren’t very close to either one of them.

Everyone dismounted (a tricky process that took about 10 minutes) to complain and bitch and argue and threaten the driver with his life, but eventually cooler heads prevailed and we began to think of solutions. Mine was to send someone down the mountain to Chan di Igreja to send some hiaces to take the players to the game, and the rest of us non-essential personnel could wait with the bus. My suggestion was accepted and improved upon by requisitioning a bike to speed the descent. We also tried pushing the bus, as we could coast all the way to Provencao if we could just make the summit. For the first few minutes we actually made a little progress (10 metres), despite the obscenely steep grade, until one of the players pointed out that they’d all be too tired to play if we were to continue in the manner. Eventually a different solution presented itself, when a truck carrying rocks came by and someone convinced the driver to let us cyphen off a litre water bottle of his gas. A hose was procured from god knows where, and that operation was completed quickly, and everyone piled on to the bus again. But it wouldn’t start. Now blood pressure and tempers were rising and I thought surely the driver would be thrown off the side of the cliff that we happened to be stopped at, until the hiaces from Chan di Igreja arrived, the bicycle messenger sitting proudly in the lead vehicle, his face damp with sweat. Another dismount from the stalled bus, more quickly this time, and the essential personnel were on their way to Ponto do Sol at 1:20…cutting it close but certainly manageable.

I waited with bus and watched as the driver crawled beneath it and massaged the fuel line for about 5 minutes, which worked, as the bus was up and running minutes later. In the end, the huge bus, previously packed with 73 souls, arrived in Ponto do Sol (after stopping in Provencao to fill the tank completely) carrying only me and the ball boy, and an old lady that we stopped to pick up along the way. We arrived in time to see most of the first half, including the only goal of the game, a deftly turned corner kick from the foot of Chan di Igreja’s best player Nany.

The victorious bus ride home was a raucous affair with singing and chanting “Gano e sab, e sab pa gano!” (Winning is Good, Its good to Win!) and very loud zook music. Any awkward moments of silence were filled when someone would yell to the driver “Oi mos, no’ten bastant combustivel pa volta? (Hey asshole, do we have enough gas to get home?) and the whole bus would break out with laughter. (This joke never got old.) Upon arrival in Chan di Igreja, the horn was sounded, the zook turned up to ear splitting levels, and all the players were singing and clapping to let the town know we’d won. Given the cramped conditions (we were all being slapped about the head and shoulders when the clapping commenced) I’d have thought everyone anxious to get out, but we actually drove around in circles in Chan di Igreja for about 15minutes (honking and singing and clapping and chanting all the while) until everyone in town was out on the street waving and clapping along. Then we drove all the way to Cruzinha and did the same thing there. Thirty minutes later we had turned around and arrived in Chan di Igreja, and I think we were about to faze folta (drive around in circles) again until someone let flee a monstrous and insufferable fart that had people yelling and threatening death to the dealer, the putrid smell so bad that we were eventually literally crawling out the windows of the vehicle. Really an epic fart.

Then last night we all sat in the plaza and people drank and laughed (someone even bought the bus driver a beer) and relived the more exciting moments of the game. Eventually the conversation turned to our strategy for next week’s opponent. I think people must have been tired because the plaza was cleared out and quiet by 9pm.

So that was my day yesterday. I hope everyone at home is well and having a happy holiday season.

Celso on Penalty Kick

Valter (During the Game)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Gisela and Tianara

Beni and Tianara

Gisela with her Christmas Hair

Its a Kriolu Christmas

So it’s Christmas Day in Chan di Igreja and Vida e Sabi (Life is Good). Although it was about 90 degrees here today, the town is all decked out with blinking lights and colored banners, and Boas Festas music is playing in the plaza, and it feels like Christmas. Sorta. Last night I went to misa (mass) in the igreja (church) with Beni and her family (I got to ring the church bell!!!!), and when that was over we all (Me, Beni, Gisela, Lalino, Nelinda, Suzi) went to her house to eat dinner of delicious chicken and rice and beans and salad. Later we opened prendas (presents), drank some paunche de coco (sorta like egg-nog), and sat around and talked until about 1am, when the town festa (party and dance) started.

The festa was 1700$00 to get in (that’s a hell of a lot) but included all the food and drink you could handle. There were pastels and paunche and little coconut morsels and a million other little treats. Benvinda was looking spektakulo (spectacular) in her very tiny black dress and her hair all pentiad (sort of like Jamaican corn-rows, except the braids are made into designs…REALLY pretty). She was very definitely the Bell of the Ball, and all of the guys in town were coming up and telling me bo tava t’ranga muit dret (in this context it means “you picked a good one”) and I was feeling like the King of Chan di Igreja. Anyway, we danced together a few times but ainda mi n’e nada’d dret (I’m not very good yet) so I turned her loose on the dance floor and went to sit with the rest of the old folks, where we talked the night away. We were all drinking caiperinhas (the Cape Verdian version of a mojito) so everyone was prop fuska (real drunk) pretty quick. Thank goodness the party didn’t start until 1am (it is the custom in Cape Verde to start everything REAL late) or I’da been in real trouble. Anyway, at some point Beni tava’t panya’m (came and got me) and said it was time to go home.

Christmas morning it was back to misa (me in the exact same clothes since I have exactly one “nice outfit” here), then someone killed a pig and roasted it for lunch. Everyone was walking around town visiting and chatting for most of the day, and Beni and Gisela came over to take some Christmas pictures. Later I was informed that we would make a pizza for Christmas dinner. They started making the crust and mandad (sent) me to Cruzinha to panya polvo (catch an octopus) which, to my horror, was to be cooked and used as a pizza topping. I protested until Benvinda pointed out that one day years from now (or today, for that matter), when I’m back in the States, I’d be able to brag to my friends that one Christmas day I jumped in the ocean half a world away, caught and killed an octopus, and put it on a pizza. Me Tarzan, You Benvinda! Unfortunately, I won’t be able to tell that story, as mar foi brop (the sea was wild). The waves were huge and crashing (I could hear them long before I arrived at the water’s edge) and I felt certain that this would be the death of me. I sat staring at the crazy waves for about 20 minutes, trying to talk myself into jumping in and going octopus hunting (If Tarzan were here, he’d do it! Don’t be such a wuss!) but remained unconvinced. Not wanting to disappoint, I did what any clear thinking American would do…I bought some from a fisherman in Cruzinha. In the end, I am unable to assure you all that pineapple and sautéed octopus does in fact make for a delicious pizza, as Beni and Gisela got tired of waiting for me and made a sausage and pineapple pizza instead. Superb. After dinner we drank a bottle of wine, took some pictures and watched Shrek (Shrek keeps his Scottish accent even when he speaks in Portuguese by the way) for the 12th time this month. Nice day. Tomorrow I’ll sit in traffic, fight the crowds at the mall and look for good deals on unsold Christmas lights and neck ties. (ha!)

So, I hope everyone back in the States had a great holiday and was able to spend time with their friends and family. My thanks to everyone that called…despite my makeshift family here in Cape Verde, m tava’k sodade (I was missing you all) and you made a great day even better. Boas Festas, Feliz Natal.




Me Tarzan, You Beni!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Chan di Igreja Cemetary

So when you die here, you can pay to be buried, but only for 7 years. After that, you either have to rent the plot every year, or someone else can get buried on top of you. I'm sure you can tell from the photo which ones will be renting and which ones are fine with the 7 years.

The Road to Cruzinha


So for those of that were concerned after not hearing from me in a while (both of you), I just wanted to write and let you know I’m alive and well.

I just returned to Chan di Igreja from a week of Peace Corps training on the island of Santiago. The training was interesting, with a lot of theory (3 or 4 days) on international development work and then a day full of more practical information, such as project development, proposal writing, and sources for possible funding. We also voted on Peer Support members (like a counselor for volunteers), Volunteer Action Committee Members (a liaison between the volunteers and the staff), had a Safety and Security session, and listened to a Dr. tell us about all the terrible things that can befall us if we don’t take good care of ourselves. All in all, pretty good. The crappy part was the expense, timing, location, food and weather. We were at a half-way finished hotel up on top of a mountain and it was “prop frio.” (Friggin’ Cold.) I’ve got pretty much nothing in the way of warm clothes and I really could have used them this week. As far as meals went, we had no options except what the hotel served, and that at a very pretty penny. I spent more on food last week than I did all last month. Also, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Not only did they not schedule any time during the training to see our host families again, but Christmas break started last week so all of the kids were out of school (and thus it would have been a great week to be in our villages) and the teachers in our group were rushed to get grades turned it etc., and of course, Holiday Travel is a pain in the ass everywhere, even Cape Verde. Boats and flights were all full or delayed, hotels booked, prices higher than normal, blah blah blah. Everyone seems to have made it back in one piece, even the 2 volunteers from Sao Nicolau, who got to take a 12 hour boat trip back to their island.

A word about the boats here. They are not the hulking, steady, well-maintained ferries that you can find in Seattle and other parts in the Pacific Northwest, nor are they the shabby little car ferries that tote people back and forth to Port Aransas. These are a poor mix of the two, with room for perhaps 250 passengers on an open deck up top, and a dozen cars below. The guide books for Cape Verde recommend taking boats as transportation only in cases of “extreme emergency,” as they are “neither safe nor reliable.” Outstanding. It’s REALLY windy this time of year, and these broad-sided bastards pitch and toss and lurch and sway in a way that makes Cape Verdians….well…vomit. A lot. For an island people, Cape Verdians are amazingly unaccustomed to sea travel. When you step on to the boat, the first thing that happens is a guy gives you a little plastic baggy to put your barf in. Everyone takes one…many ask for a couple extras. Many of the Cape Verdians feel ill immediately after stepping foot on the boat…breathing deeply into their plastic baggies, eyes closed, their faces a portrait of pure dread. Sure enough, minutes after departing the port, the boat starts squirming, and (in the case of my trip from Mindelo to Porto Novo yesterday) once you broach the harbor and make it out into the channel (where the wind was actually howling) 200 or so people, almost simultaneously, begin to wretch and heave and fill their plastic baggies. Some try to spew over the side, but then there’s the wind, so a lot of it ends up on the shoes. Some just throw up right their on the floor in front of them. (The deck has been astro-turfed, to enable easy cleaning.) Babies cry, children wail, old people moan and swoon. Mothers struggle to contain their own their own puke and that of their kids. The guy with the baggies is very busy. It goes on like this for the pretty much al of the 50 minutes or so that it takes to arrive in Porto Novo. The line to get off the boat forms about 15 minutes before the ride is actually over. It was a spectacle like I’ve never seen before. I’m not sure the cause of it either. I am less accustomed to sea travel than people from my island (I think most Santo Antaoians probably take that boat several times a year), but I didn’t ever feel even the least bit queasy, nor did any of the other tourists that I saw on the boat yesterday. Anyway, I can’t imagine what the 12 hour trip to Sao Nicolau was like, but I certainly don’t envy the 2 volunteers who took that trip.

Hmm…what else? Not much. I talked on the phone to Benvinda (I call her Benny though and will refer to her as such from now on) pretty much every night while I was away and it was good to see her yesterday. She came over right after I got home and brought some rice and beans to east for lunch. Apparently the power was out for quite a while during my trip, because the food in my fridge all turned to soup and sludge, and she and I spent the better part of yesterday trying to clean it out. Everyone else in town is asking me if I’ve graded their tests yet (I have) and if they did well enough to get a diploma (they did). The entire town is totally decked out with Christmas lights and they’re playing holiday music in the plaza, and although I’ll miss my family terribly on Christmas, I’m glad to be “back home” in Chan di Igreja. I did some Christmas shopping in Mindelo and Praia and have a few things for my friends (a blouse for Benvinda, some crayons for her little sister Nelinda and tea for their mom, a journal for Gisella, bottles of wine for the guys, and a matchbox car for Djonny Jr.). There are “big parties” in Chan di Igreja on the 24th, so I’ll go to those for Christmas Eve. I have plans to go swimming in Cruzinha on Christmas morning with some of the kids from my English class, and then I’ll walk back home and spend the rest of the day with Benny and her family. She’s told me that I need to bring my one good shirt over so that she can iron it before we go to church, which I am NOT looking forward to. Anyway, that’s what the next few days look like. Then Benny and I will go to Mindelo for New Year’s Eve (she said that she gets sick on the boat like everyone else). Looking forward to the next week or so!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about the annual meeting that my association had this morning. I’m still reeling from it actually, or I’d tell you right now. I love the people in the agencia (association) and I know that they mean well and have Chan di Igreja’s best interests at heart, but it’s as if they’ve actually taken colleges courses in procrastination, tardiness, inefficiency, and ways to minimize their time. Imagine everything you ever learned (and have probably forgotten) in a government or civics class. Ok…got it in your head? Now imagine the exact opposite, and you’ll still have no idea of what I’m talking about. Anyway, I’ll save that for tomorrow.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Gisella, Suzy and Tiynara

My School

So this is where I teach my classes, and also where I go to my Portuguese classes with the 6th graders. I'm on the top left there, and get to ring that bell three times a day. Sweet.


Here is a pic from up along the lavada. This is the ENTIRE town.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

You know what the Sun's all about...

You know what the sun’s all about…

when the lights go out.

So we’ve had some power supply problems, to say the least, here in Chan di Igreja (and all the rest of Santo Antao. Beginning early last week, we lost power during the daylight hours. (Up until then I’d enjoyed power 24-7.) I asked and was informed that all the electricity on Santo Antao is provided by two smoking and ancient diesel powered generators in Provencao. (Environmentalists feel free to cringe.) Anyway, apparently there was a delay in the latest shipment of diesel fuel, and so Electra, the (one and only) power company in Cape Verde was rationing the electricity for the island, doling it out in 8 hour dollops to the various villages. I had to cancel my classes on Thursday and Friday of last week after Chan di Igreja ran out of candles. I was assured that it wouldn’t be more than a day or two before normal power was restored.

Then it got worse. We went from having power only at night time, to only having power (quite inconveniently) from 2AM to 8AM. I asked and was informed that there was a problem with the “motor” (generator) in Provencao. Apparently, having gotten a rest, the machine decided it liked sleeping a lot better than working, and it couldn’t be coaxed into action again. I was assured that “teknikos” (technicians) were on the way from Praia (only a few islands over) to look into the matter. Surely the idea that someone qualified to operate and repair generators that supply power to an entire island and its residents would actually be stationed on that island, is too ridiculous to consider.

Then it got worse. Now, in its infinite wisdom, Electra has decided to “randomize” power to the villages. (I should note that after Cape Verde gained its Independence in 1975, one of the first orders of the new government was to privatize the previously (poorly run) telephone and electric operations. CVTelecom, the county’s only telecommunications provider, quickly invested in Broadband Internet, and made improvements to existing lines and constructed cell towers on every hillside. As a result, there is at least one (albeit sketchy) internet connection in every village, cell phone reception in nearly 100% on all the islands, and the pre-paid cards you buy to use your “movil” (cell phone) can be purchased just about anywhere. By all accounts, CVTelecom is a Cape Verdian success story. Electra, on the other hand, raised the rates for electricity, made no improvements to the infrastructure, and has no plans to do so, according to my (very smug) local Electra representative. If anything, electrical service has gotten worse since 1975. Basically, Electra sucks.) But where was I? Oh yeah…This means that we get, using today for instance, 2 hours of power spread out in 10 to 20 minute intervals, completely at random. (I picture an evil and happy old man, sitting at the controls of the generator, flipping switches on and off…Now you’ve got it, now you don’t. Now you’ve got it, now you don’t. I heard, several times today “Luz bem! Bo podi danos aula!” (The power’s back on! You can give class!), only to be followed, shortly thereafter, by “Luz jda bai! Nos ten aula oje?” (The power’s gone already! Are we having class today?).

Anyway, there is, believe it or not, an upside to all of this. The stars. Out here in the middle of the ocean, with, literally not one electric light burning for over a hundred miles, it is Dark. Real dark. Unbelievably dark. Ridiculously dark really. In Chan di Igreja they call it “obskuro mut fundo” (Very Deep Dark) With no moon this week, you can’t see your own hand 2 inches in front of your face. (Or, I can assure you, the crotch-level door knobs that they are so fond of here in this country.) Anyway, about the stars…they’re glorious. More than I ever imagined there could be…Like you could lie down in a bed of them. The night sky here looks like it’s had a gauze blanket draped across it. The Milky Way seems to stretch right across the top of my house (although I’m sure that’s an egocentric view) and out into the ocean. I’ve seen Mars every night this week, an impossible amber beacon just atop the mountain to the West of me, like a red needle in a shimmering white haystack. And shooting stars too. Lay down on my roof and look up, and you’ll not wait two minutes before you’re pointing at a streak of light, hollering “Bo tava t’oja-l? Bo tava t’oja-L?” (Did you see that one? Did you see THAT one?) *Yes, Benvinda thinks I’m a total nerd. The first night I thought we must have been in the midst of an epic meteor shower, but as the lightless nights have worn on, and the stars have continued to fall, I’ve grown certain that this is the norm, we just can’t see them at home. Dozens and dozens of them in an hour…some of them trailing across the sky for two or three seconds. Its…well, its beautiful. Just…beautiful really.


The title of this entry was stolen from my favorite Black Keys song. Also, please forgive the use of the parenthetical within the parenthetical, and various other grammatical irregularities that always gave Mrs. Williams, my amazing 12th grade English teacher, apoplectic fits.

Friday, December 7, 2007


So here is a picture of Jaicy. She would, without a doubt, be the next American Idol...if Cape Verdians were allowed to compete. She's one of my best students, can sing, dance, tell jokes (that I never understand) and is a total knock-out to boot.

Me and Leo

So I've been spending so much time with Leo that he's starting to think I'm his Dad. (He doesn't really think that obviously, but he likes to tell people I am.) Anyway, I've been walking him to school in the mornings (his mom, Gisella has the new-born so it's hard for her to do it, and plus I love it)and when we get there he yells "Oi Patch!! (a nickname he himself thought of when he learned my "real" name is Patrick) Bo n'ti te be sh'k'sem depois di aulas? (You aren't going to forget me after school?)


So in this photo you can see the lavada that runs along the side of the mountain here in Chan di Igreja. Once every 2 or 4 days, they open a valve up on top of the mountain in Garza, and the water flows down through the lavada. Along the way, there are valve-like openings to let the water fall off into the cane fields or the tanks...for those people who have invested in such things. Anyway, you can see that the system works well for those that can afford it. The cane here is 8 or 10 feet tall in many places.


So this is an example of some of the work that my Associacao has done. They constructed a huge dike and "caminho de agua" (water road)to catch the run-off from the mountain and corrall it into some tanks near the bottom of the hill. Now if only it would rain....

My Address

So a few people back home had the care packages they had sent me returned to them this week...which is REALLY depressing. I went to the post office yesterday to try to get some info, but the guy there was not very helpful. I asked him if it was possible that the VIA PORTUGAL part was causing trouble and he said "yes it is possible." I asked him if he was the same guy that suggested putting VIA PORTUGAL on packages in the first place, and he said "yes it is possible." I asked him if he thought the packages would get here if people took off the VIA PORTUGAL part and he guessed it, "yes it possible."

Cousin Patti did some investigating with the Cape Verdian Embassy (Who knew there was such a thing?)and apparently they got a little huffy about the VIA PORTUGAL thing and insisted that packaged will get here just fine without that little extra bit of indo. Anyway, I'm not sure why several packages made it here just fine with the VIA PORTUGAL part on it, and why all of the other volunteers have no trouble receiving their care packages, but if anyone is brave enough to try to send me something (PLEASE PLEASE!!!) here is my address, without the VIA PORTUGAL.

Caley McCormick
Cha de Igreja
Frequsia de S.P. Apostolo
Ribeira Grande
Santo Antao
Cape Verde

Thanks again to anyone sending things. I'm going to be starting a School supply drive after the new year (they have NOTHING at the school here as far as school suppl goes), so if anyone is in SAMS or WALMART feel free to pick up a box of pens or pencils or erasers or small notebooks.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Benfica vs. Portugal

Benfica vs. Portugal

So last night, Portugal’s 2 biggest soccer teams played each other, which in itself would be enough to cause pandemonium here, but the fact that it happened to fall on World’s AIDS Day (which is a MUCH bigger deal here than in the states) only served to increase the vibe around the game and, basically, people got very, very drunk and went ape-shit. It was the Super Bowl. It was also the Kentucky Derby, Daytona 500, Boston Marathon, Tour de France, Colts/Patriots, Lakers/Celtics, Sampras/Agassi, Longhorns/Aggies, Yankees/Red Sox, Kasparov/Fischer, Bush/Gore…you get the picture. Futbol (soccer) is the only sport that anyone plays in Cape Verde, but they have, obviously, no official or professional teams of their own, so the population has adopted the Portugal teams as their own. It is important to understand that EVERYONE in Cape Verde follows one, passionately, with an undying love, one of these two teams.

On one side there are the red-jerseyed jugadors (players) from Benfica, and their fans. For people who understand (American) football, you can think of them like the Chicago Bears of the mid 80’s. They are well-coached, crafty, tough, bleeding veterans that play good defense, and are known to sneak in a few cheap shots when the ref isn’t looking. To Benficans, David Beckham is a sissy little bitch. In years past, Benfica was a powerhouse in the European Champion’s League.

On the other side you have the blue-shirted ballers of Portugal (Port as its known here) and their fans. These, you can think of like the St. Louis Rams (when they had Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce and were the Greatest Show on Turf). They are fast, young, flashy, and love to talk-trash. They haven’t won a Champion’s League yet, but their star is definitely on the rise. They all cut their hair like David Beckham.

Sports fans will recognize that this is the standard script for every great game in history, regardless of the sport, much as it is the basis for many great movies and books. Fans of Port were billing this is they day that the lumbering, rusty Benfica would finally be toppled, a new, “blue” dynasty to begin. Benficans were salivating at the chance to put the impudent whelps of Port in their place. All day yesterday people were dressed in blue or red. Those that could afford a replica jersey (just like in the states, officially licensed merchandise is ridiculously expensive here) wore them with pride. Chants of “Fica, Fica!” or “Port, Port, Port!” rang through the village all day long. People were drinking very early in the day. The game was to start around 7, and on TV, ads and promos were running all day long. To add to the buzz in the air, it was actually (relatively) cold here yesterday and last night, with temps in the mid-sixties after the sun went down. They put the game on the television in the plaza in Chan di Igreja and people had sweaters and windbreakers and jackets on for the first time in a year.

Benvinda and I watched the game at Gisella’s house. I made popcorn and French fries, Benvinda made a “salad,” and Gisella made the booze. Like the Super Bowl, there were hours of pre-game coverage, and a lot of World AIDS Day tie-ins. Portuguese Sport TV has copied, exactly, everything from ESPN and so there are lots and lots of graphics and talking heads and panel discussions and shots of crazy drunken fans at the stadium. The game started promptly at 6:45PM.

Gisella and Benvinda are, without question, die hard Benfica fans. They even have jerseys. Under normal circumstances, so would I have been. But where’s the fun if everyone at a Super Bowl party is rooting for the same team, so, just to be ornery, I told them I was for Port. Trash-talking, bragging and bad-mouthing ensued. To add to the fun, I wagered the washing of a week’s worth of dirty laundry on the game, and they readily accepted.

Within the first 10 minutes of the game, there was blood. One of the Port players, wanting to prove they weren’t afraid of anyone, slide-tackled one of the Benficans from behind. Caught unaware, his head hit the ground hard and ended up colliding with the cleat of the Port player, cutting his lip. He was rushed off, stitched-up and returned later. The crowds were chanting. Yellow cards started flying. Then, about half-way through the first half, Port got a good look down the right side and one of their guys was moving with the ball, coming right at the goal with one defenseman and the goalkeeper in front of him, and another on his heels. Just outside the penalty box, the chasing defender caught-up.

Even given my marginal knowledge of soccer, I understood that the goal was exquisite. The Port guy, in true Port fashion, put some sort of wicked juke on the defender in front of him; just a stutter step and a twitch of the shoulders, and the poor bastard ran right out of the picture. It’ll be replayed on the highlight reels for a month. Three more steps and then the Port player, with an effortless-looking flick of his foot, sent the ball, not rocketing, but slowly floating on a trajectory such that it sailed magically over the legs of the 2nd sliding defender, and just millimeters beyond the reach of the diving goalkeeper, to find its home in the upper corner of the net. It was the only goal of the game. Port fans sang, and drank, well into the morning hours.

Needless to say I’m very happy to not have to do laundry for a week. (This is clearly one of those bets that you never intend to live up to should you lose, but one which you’ll certainly insist be fulfilled should you win.) Anyway. It was really a lot of fun to experience a popular sporting event like this over here. Sports and rivalries are definitely some of the things that transcend cultural boundaries, things to which anyone can relate.