22 February 2009

MARKET DAY - Part 4 Saturday Night

This is Part 4 of a 4-part series describing
a typical Saturday ---Market Day ---in Glória.

Note: Some of the names in this story have
been changed because I can’t remember the
real names of all of the people in the town.

Saturday Night - "Hole" Numbers:

        After dinner, Brunie and I strolled around the praça near the church and the post office. This was the time and place to watch the movemento and to be seen watching the movemento
        When we tired of strolling, we chose a bench emblazened with script telling us that the bench had been provided by the benevolence of our esteemed mayor. Sometimes we would be surrounded by inquisitive students and neighbors who loved to hear about the United States.
        The Ciné Glória presented a film each Friday and Saturday night. Typically it was an American film with Portuguese subtitles. The projector's sound was so bad we couldn't understand the English. The theatre had hard wooden seats that had not been built for long-legged Americans. It was hot and stuffy inside. If possible, I usually begged off by saying I had seen the film previously ---which was likely because the theater showed mostly old black and white films that had been shown on American TV hundreds of times. Brunie often went to the theater and returned to the praça around 8:30 or 9:00.
        While I waited for her, I purchased popcorn from the children who sold it outside of the theater. I continued socializing with my students and neighbors, or I might stop into a nearby home to visit.
        Then we headed toward the A.A.B.B. ---Associação Atlética Banco do Brasil. Most of the bankers, young and without seniority, were exiled to small towns in the interior. Those who honed their skills, learned English, and stayed with the bank long enough, could receive promotions to better positions and in larger, more-desirable cities. Meanwhile, they set up a club to entertain themselves. Although they had occasional parties, most nights they played buraco, a card game similar to Canasta, and ran up bar bills that rivaled the Brazilian national debt.
        Brunie and I sat with Cardoso and Carlinhos and several other young men and a few female friends. The young men and women from the town were home with family, but those who worked in Glória, but were not from there, joined us at the A.A.B.B.  
        We could purchase Cokes or beer or other liquor, but generally the guys insisted on paying for our drinks. Brunie loved Coca Cola. I preferred Brahma Choppe.
        Carlinhos, a handsome bank teller, was dating one of my students. She was at home. Cardoso, considered one of the most eligible bachelors in town, delivered loan money and collected payments from farmers who lived so far into the interior that they rarely made it to town. Where there was a definite language barrier, what I liked about him was that he had a sense of humor that I understood.
        When the next hand was dealt, I entered a game. I had played buraco so much, I could have played in my sleep. In fact, I spent many nights dreaming about the game. Besides the giant box of paperback books provided by the U.S. government, it was my only entertainment. 
        Buraco means "hole." I guess it was so named because it was possible to lose so many points that one ended up 'in the hole.' The object of the game was to earn as many points as possible ---or at least stay out of the hole. The men kept meticulous records of ongoing scores in notebooks filled with numbers.
        At nine forty-five, the electric lights flicked off for a few seconds. That was the signal that the town’s electric generator would go off in fifteen minutes, time enough to head home while the street lights were still on.
        For me, living without electricity was one of the most difficult aspects of life in Glória. But I had been told that it could be worse. The mayor’s friend, Zé, ran the electrical generator. When the opposition political party had been elected before the present administration had regained political power, Zé refused to run the machine.
        When I arrived in Glória, we had electricity for four hours each night. But that was going to change within a year. Energipe, the electrical company for the state of Sergipe, would be installing full-time electrical power.
(L to R) Bankers Cardoso & Carlinhos, Agronomist Etivaldo (?)

          Carlinhos and Cardoso carried kerosene lanterns from the back room for each table. Brunie and a few other women left at midnight so they could rise for early mass the next day. I, on the other hand, preferred to spend my Sunday mornings on my straw-filled mattress.  The rest of us continued playing cards until 2:00 in the morning.
        Cardoso drove me home in his new VW Beatle.  Then he and Carlinhos headed to the pensão where they boarded. Outside my door, I looked up. Without electric lights competing with the sky, the heavens seemed to hold more stars than I ever remembered seeing at home. The Southern Cross, in the shape a a huge kite, dominated the sky over Glôria.
        Inside the door I used matches to light a small lantern. With lantern in hand, I crept past Brunie's door to my room. After crawling under my misquito net, I read by kerosene light until my eyelids became heavy. After reaching under the netting to extinguish the flame, I fell asleep, satisfied to have survived another busy week in Glória.

(©2009, C.J.Peiffer)
Market Day - Part 4 Saturday Night (this one)

See my story "CARD TRICK" about my best
practical joke ever ---on my other blog


  1. I love this....
    I'm going to look at Card Trick...I love a good card trick and I can't do a single one.
    Could you teach me?

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  2. My post "Card Trick" isn't really about a slight of hand card trick in the usual sense. It is about a practical joke I played ---my best ever --- that involved playing cards. It was a practical joke of opportunity, not planned, but played out exceedingly well, in the end. And I kept the secret of who was responsible (me) for about 25 years.

  3. Oy Carolina,
    How do I contact you? I would like to invite you to participate in a panel discussion featuring RPCVs who have served in Brazil. It is set for the end of the month at George Washington University as part of the DC-Brasilia Partners of the Americas Lecture Series. Would you be able to come down? Either way, please contact me, LISA at dcbrasiapartners "at" gmail.

    Estonia 96-98
    DC-Brasilia Partners
    Lecture Series Chair