Wednesday, June 16, 2010

brasil fans: not as exotic as I once thought

I remember so clearly my first year in Syria. It was possibly the most memorable season of my life: stuffed full of heartache, and even more defined by thrills and joy. Life in the dorms, Armenian and Turkish roommates, living on top of 6000-year-old ruins, exploring the desert, making friends from all over the world, even little things like crossing the Atlantic for the first time! And the second, third, fourth and fifth times.

That was the year I had to fly back and forth to America for two weddings six weeks apart. The second wedding was my brother's, and just a few short days after we shipped him off on honeymoon, I swooped back to Syria. Oh, what a clear memory... I had a day-long layover in London and explored the city for the first time. Then people became utterly unhelpful and I couldn't find my way back to Heathrow. I missed my flight. That's a story to repeat in a blog someday - worth writing down every 10 years or so. When I finally made it to Damascus in the middle of the night, my luggage didn't. I showed up at the dorms, petitioned special dispensation to enter my building after curfew, and survived two days on the clothing handouts of my dear Armenian mates.

When I woke up the next morning, this is what I saw: GREEN and YELLOW! I knew it was the 2002 World Cup - what Brasil-bred person doesn't? - but I did not' realise that the world cup happens in the Middle East, too. And that Syrians love Brasil almost as much as Brasilians.

Then I went to Lebanon for the weekend. And that country was so GREEN and YELLOW that I thought for sure I'd caught the wrong plane and headed South from Asheville, NC, instead of East. But no, that is Lebanon.

That July, I watched the final game crowded into the only room in our dorm building that had a TV: it was the vice-building-director's room and my fellow viewers included 2 Armenians, 2 Turks, and 3 Lebanese chics wearing... wait for it... GREEN and YELLOW PYJAMAS. When Brasil won that game, we all clambered out to the balcony and wove our bountiful Brasilian flags and danced and shouted at the mob of men below, all dancing and wearing GREEN and YELLOW and waving flags. I felt so loved.

Four years later, I was once again in the Middle East, leading a team of students in a tour of Syria and Lebanon. While I couldn't quite convince my American or Danish students to care, the Brits in the group joined me as we hunted the streets of Old Damascus looking for the best old Arabic house with the biggest TV screen.

By the time playoffs came around, we were in Lebanon. It was a heartbreaking day for my team when England lost in the morning and Brasil lost to France that night. But at least I had several hundred Lebanese, many of whom have family members living in Brasil, surrounding me, crying with me, cloaking me with GREEN and YELLOW. (This brought back the bitter memory of the World Cup I spent in the United States. I believe that was the one hosted in the U.S., and I was watching with a group of international students all holed up on the Johns Hopkins campus for the summer. Among us loyal fans were me, the token Brasilian, and a guy named Etienne, the token Frenchman. The fact I remember his name just goes to show how traumatic it was when France beat Brasil in that final game. Ouch. At least in 2006 my team played poorly, but in 1998 it was just painful all around.)

Today was the first Brasil game of the 2010 Copa Mundial. I'm in Haiti and every other car here is waving a Brasilian flag. Streets are decorated with GREEN and YELLOW bottles and lamps. On a visit to a rural village today, we passed a home that advertised possession of a TV. They were charging 5 gourde (approx 15 cents U.S.) a game. But for the Brasil game, they charged 10 gourde for entry. At work today, colleagues set up a big screen TV and HR granted a 2-hour lunch break so no one would have to miss the game.

And I promise you, they groaned much louder than me with each missed shot Brasil made, screamed much louder than me with each of Brasil's 2 goals, and uttered curses much more diligently than me when North Korea scored in the last 5 minutes.

I'm afraid I've come to take the fan love for granted.


LKBrazil said...

Dear Daughter,

Mom and I missed the game since we were in London Victoria on our way back from a GC meeting (I was very disappointed to say the least). But I did see a Brasil goal through the window of a London sports bar :-). I hope Bryan's DVR worked for me so I can see it tonight!

magdalene said...

Hey Katiek!! I remember that 1998 world cup really well too... I was a spectator in more ways than one... I watched the game and watch you and Etienne (who's usually quiet) "trash talking" ... hahahaha...

Right now in Msia, it's a mixture of green and yellow (which could be for aussies or South Africa too :P) or reds... the groan when spain lost to the Swiss this morning vibrated through the whole city.. (kinda funny)..

Anyways, hope all is well with ya... btw, I have a brazilian houseguest staying with me for about a week or so. :D


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