How was everyone's Carnaval? I love Carnaval. I love the marchinas, the music that is composed each year for the "blocos" or block parties, that involves lots of drums and percussions. Maybe it's my marching band past, but there's something about it that just gets me going. I love the costumes, kids dress up like it's Halloween (minus the scary outfits), and adults put a lot of effort into coming up with creative and interesting costumes. I love the excuse to get together with friends, to eat and drink and dance and have fun. I even love the confetti and streamers, even when I find them all over my apartment a full week after it's all over. I love the show on TV, watching the scantily clad dancers gallivant around fancy floats. One day I'm going to go to Rio for Carnaval, and I'm gonna be in the Sambadrom. Mark my word.
If you had the privilege of celebrating Carnaval in Brazil, I hope that you had fun, and you got to enjoy some of the joy I mentioned above. But you may have also experienced some of the following:
-excessive partying. Carnaval is a time to let loose. Whether it's Rio de Janeiro or Salavador the Galo, or the Historic Cities and their revelry, Carnaval is a time to drink, dance, celebrate and party. And with that comes all the craziness that people do while they are having fun. I'm tempted to elaborate, but I will just let you use your imagination here.
-excessive traffic. Everyone wants to go somewhere for Carnaval. And they all want to go at the same time. We experienced this 2 years ago at Carnaval. A drive that should have been 1 hour, turned into a sweltering, slow, 3 hour endeavor. Have I mentioned that I have a family member who HATES traffic? This makes the traffic even more miserable.
-excessive weather. It is February in Brazil, summer time. That means not only is it HOT, but it rains. Often. And like crazy.
Now, I realize that I'm coming across as a grumpy pants. Carnaval can come with it's challenges. We had considered taking a 4+ hour drive into the interior of Minas Gerais to visit a friend's tiny home town where they have a very fun but low key Carnaval celebration (imagine people bringing their own instruments, making music together, staying up late, dogs and kids running wild....). But we just recently returned from New York and Rio and Tiradentes, and we were feeling like keeping it mellow, and avoiding some of the challenges that are involved with traveling at Carnaval. So we joined a club!
Brazilians who have the means (hmmm, didn't I say this when I was talking about school?) will frequently opt to buy a membership to a club, so their families can have a place to swim, take soccer classes, socialize, take Yoga, rub shoulders with a certain group of people, etcetera. I think that one of the reasons that public spaces (parks) are so lacking in Brazil is because the middle class and upper middle class don't use them, instead choosing to spend their recreational time at the Club. Clubs offer and enclosed "safe" space, with relatively well maintained and clean equipment, and you can order food and beer there! What more can you ask for! I supposed you could compare it to a really nice YMCA in the states, but you have to pay a lot more, and you can go and hang out for a whole day. Clubs come in all sorts of flavors. You can find the "very expensive and pretentious," "soccer," "low budget," "this neighborhood only," "I only play tennis," or "I like my pool open at the time I want and I have no problem paying for it" options. We opted for a place that was close to our apartment, that offered classes for the kids, and that wasn't insanely expensive (i.e. NOT Minas Tenis, where memberships run R$20,000 to R$45,000!! And that's JUST to join! That's not including the monthly fee!!!)
We've spent 3 of the 5 vacation days at the Club. I love that the kids can swim and scream and burn off energy. I love that they make friends there and play with the other kids. And we've met some interesting people there too. I can go and read or just space out or eat crackers, or do whatever I want and not have to worry about the mess that we are making. And it makes me feel a little bit more Brazilian to be able to say "eu foi ao clube..."