Festa no Clube do Laço

This morning, Duca and Lygia told me they were taking me to a party in Corguinho. What kind of party, I had no idea. Lygia reminded me of my big sister by asking if I would be her "doll" for dress-up. She rejected my dusty men's pants and stained tank top (my best outfit) and replaced it with a peasant dress and full make-up.

"The dress is too beautiful on you!" she exclaimed. "It's a gift! I don't want it back."

Duca recieved a similar make-over, and Lygia barely had time for herself before we finally got on the road with our cooler of ice-cold water and terere mug in hand.

After an hour-and-a-half drive down red dirt roads and a few stretches of asphalt, we arrived.

(The names get confusing. Corguinho is the municipality, sort of like a county, and also the central town in the municipality. Taboco, where I live, is a smaller town in the same municipality.)

We drove through Corguinho to what appeared to be a country fairground. A sign named it "Clube do Laço," the rodeo. We paid 20 reals (pronounced "hey-eyes") each, equivalent to $6 USD, and entered the ruckus hoe-down.

From left: Duca, Lygia, a gaucho, me, two more gauchos, and a young cowgirl.

I scanned the crowd to understand its social culture, and I was bewildered to see a mixture of familiar American country (boots, rhinestones, bleached-blond hair), motorcycle gang (full black-leather, combat boots, chains, gun-and-rose tattoos), and traditional Brazilian gaúchos (broad straw hats, red scarves, flowy black pants tucked into brown boots -- see the above photo).

Then I saw a banner tacked to the wall: "Sponsored by the Dinosaurs Motorcycle Club," decorated with a skull and crossbones. The bikers had come dressed up as the sponsors, the cowboys came in costume to barbeque the meat, and the rest of us showed up in normal attire which, for rural Brazil, is country. Nobody but me seemed to be paying the slightest attention to one another's fashion.

Dozens of beef ribs roasting over burning logs.

The lunch was an unlimited buffet of rice, feijões (soupy, salty, brown beans pronounced "fay-zhow"), farofa, lettuce, and a steaming pile of greasy tender beef. We ate firsts and seconds, then piled thirds into a plastic bag for the dogs back home.

I learned a two-step Brazilian dance, but I got dizzy from all the tight spins.

Then it was time to dance. The yellow plastic tables and chairs were cleared to create a dance floor on the concrete. The band played a booming set of rock and roll -- Hotel California, Hey Jude, Satisfaction -- recognizable by their beats but not their approximated English lyrics.

A young girl with long, curly hair was the star of the show. We great time dancing, though our heights were not quite matched:

I couldn't understand a word once the fundraising auction began, but Lygia's ears perked up when the auctioneer said, "Welcome to the family visitng from Seattle!" He wasn't talking to me. Lygia went on a hunt and found Pedro, a young boy, and called me over.

Pedro and I became fast friends.

"You're from Seattle?" I asked in English, expecting a look of confusion.

"Yeah, Redmond!" he replied.

What were the odds? Then I met Pedro's mom, Carina, and his younger brother, Rafael. The family lives in Redmond, but Carina's parents own a ranch in Corguinho. She moved to the US when she was 17, and she brings her sons back as often as she can to experience the sun-baked country life.

From left: me, Pedro, Rafael, and Carina.

When the loud music started to hurt my ears, I explored the rodeo arena behind the party. Some young people had gotten tired of dancing and saddled up their horses for a bit of -- what esle? -- lasso practice.

The horseback rider tried to lasso a fake, black bull on wheels towed by a dirt bike.

We finished the day with a few desserts sold by high-schoolers earning money for their tuition. We bought seven tiny paper cups filled with brigadero, a sticky, sweet lump made from heating condensed milk with Nesquik and sprinkling it with chocolate gimmies.

On our way home, Duca decided it was past time for me to learn how to drive a stick-shift. So, for the last hour, in the bright setting sun, around deep potholes and over one-lane bridges, I drove a manual truck for the first time. Nothing like getting thrown in the pool to learn how to swim!

"The clutch! Now the brake! Now the gas!" --Lygia

I am proud to say I did not stall the car once, until we made it to the driveway and the four (very stupid) dogs sat wagging their tails directly in front of us. I killed the car instead of the dogs, though a Darwin award might have been in order.

Since my last post, I have learned that not one, but two of the brown mutts are named Ven-Ven. So that makes the four dogs Ven-Ven Grande (Big Come-Come), Ven-Ven Pequeno (Small Come-Come), Bala (Bullet, because he was shot in the face by a previous owner and hates to be touched), and one more I do not know. The eight cats are quite beyond me.

Dad's Daily Bug

A huge brown moth after I rescued it from the jaws of a cat.

Mom's Daily Bird

A rufous-tailed jacamer (ariramba-de-cauda-ruiva) perched next to our stream in the morning.