carnatal like carnaval

December 8, 2012
Hello again good people. Hope all is well in the northern hemisphere. Down here we are in the midst of Carnatal — Natal’s out-of-season version of Carnaval, or the Brazilian Mardi Gras as most Americans know it. Carnatal is the biggest out-of-season Carnaval in Brazil. Beaches are crowded and the hostel is full as people from all over the world come to this fine city to enjoy the festivities. Streets are shut down for pedestrians, and there are a ton of different floats, each blasting different types of music accompanied by different types of dance. There is a seemingly infinite number of food vendors come from all across Brazil, as well as a bunch of people selling different carnatal trinkets. The whole ordeal takes place in the city center, adjacent to where they are building the new world cup stadium.

Essentially, there are three main options for official participation: you can either pay to dance on top of the float next to the DJ/live band (this is by far the most expensive and exclusive option) OR you can pay for a shirt that allows you to enter the roped off area surrounding the float, thus allowing you to be part of the procession (granted, you still have to be willing to drop at least $100 and get thoroughly thrashed) OR you can pay for boxed seats that line the streets where you can watch the floats from a safe distance (which looked like a serious yawn fest). All of these options include access to an unlimited amount of alcohol, but as they also all include hefty payments, and Mia and I are currently in the midst of a financial crisis, we opted for none of the above. Instead, we decided to stand on the side of the procession and cheers all of our drunken comrades as they danced by us, which was really a grand ol’ time.

I didn’t bring my camera for fear of it being nicked, but here are two photos of Carnatal that I found online:

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And that’s exactly what it’s like.

The hostel bar has been quite busy the last two nights with customers looking for some pre-carnatal beverages, though if I’m being honest, Henrique, George, Mia, and I are by far our best customers.Tonight marks the apex of the festival so it should be even wilder than the nights before, which I’m actually quite nervous about.

December 10, 2012

We survived!

Kinda.

My body still hurts.

After playing bartender for the few hours leading up to Carnatal, Mia and I eventually went with a British girl named Sophie, and a French guy named Kevin. The four of us arrived around 9pm, only to be greeted by utter chaos. There were thousands of people drinking and dancing and eating and shouting all around.

I would offer a detailed account of what occurred on that faithful night, however 1. I don’t think it is blog appropriate, and 2. I’m just not really sure what happened.

I know at one point we found ourselves off the sidelines and actually in the exclusive float-zone dance party area. (Does that even make since? My mind is still wrecked).

We had attempted to sneak behind a float on Thursday night, but got kicked out. However, we managed quite easily on Saturday. Mia even made her way on to one of the floats, only to quickly realize that the door she believed to be the portal to the uber-exclusive top floor was actually the men’s bathroom. Whoops.

Our time in that area was fun, but it made me glad that we hadn’t succumbed to buying a shirt as I don’t think I could’ve survived more than 10 minutes there. As a means of confining the area solely to special t-shirt wearers, a group of probably 100 people encircled each float with a rope and moved according to the speed of the crowd. This means that everyone is sardined together, pushing into one another and spilling beer everywhere. Needless to say, I was a sweaty, beer-soaked mess by the time we escaped.

My favorite bit of the night involved us dancing next to a SUV that had been stacked with massive speakers, and was blasting Brazilian music. There was a crowd of people dancing there, so we decided to join in. Upon seeing our moves, a few Brazilian girls took pity on us and tried to teach how to shake our hips the Brazilian way. Must be quick learners as we each soon had a few Brazilian boyfriends following us ’round. Either that, or they were impressed by my sparkling, 1980s-prom-dress-pink color nail polish that I had sloppily applied earlier in the evening. Very posh. Or perhaps it was my mascara unibrow, of which Mia was kind enough to tell me I was sporting. How does that even happen?? Mia, on the other hand, seduced everyone with her 3-feet-in-diameter sombrero that had been purchased on Thursday night.

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So pretty.

A lot of other things must’ve happened as we didn’t get home until morning, but I’m just not sure what those things were. Mia and Sophie went on an extended food adventure, sampling something from each food cart as we walked down one street. Much time was spent searching for places to go to the restroom. And I know the night concluded with us dancing in a crowded tent playing electro-house music and functioning as a makeshift gay club. ‘Twas swell. Until morning. Which followed as such:

6:30AM — Finally arrived home, long after the sunrise.

8:30AM — Woke up for a bit of brekky…only to realize I was still drunk. Shovel two ham and cheese sandwiches in mouth. Back to bed.

8:40 – 11:20AM — Clutched bed frame, all the while uttering intermittent cries of pain and personal death wishes a la Joe Withey, Christmas Tour 2009.

11:30AM — Finally sober, but so hungover. Popped pills, then hammock.

11:35AM — Evacuate hammock as rocking motion makes me nauseous.

11:40AM — Bed. Sleep.

1:45PM — Awake and feeling normal. Attempt reading.

1:55PM — Reading proves too difficult. Settle with listening to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” on repeat.

7:30PM — Showered, sober, well-rested, and still unable to read. The four of us went to dinner and chortled about the night before.

I’d say it was a successful Carnatal.

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