Saturday, January 12, 2008

Parabens para voce: the Brazilian children's party experience. One thing that is a given about being a Dad is that vast chunks of your time are spent doing things you would not normally have chosen to do. This week Nelson had 3 birthday parties to go to and I was there for each one. I shouldn't be bitter though. If it weren't for Nelson, Rach and I wouldn't have a night life.

Brazilian children's parties are something else. They tend to happen in the evening, usually starting at the time Nelson would probably go to bed. Like a wedding, the evening concludes with the cutting of the cake, often ornately decorated. This can happen quite late - just when the kids are at their most wired, unruly and dazed. Goody bags loaded with sweets are given to each of the kids who attend, just to tip them over the edge into oblivion. Unlike my childhood where sweets were an extreme luxury and I was only allowed like one every other month, Brazilian children are fed a steady diet of processed sugar until they are adults at which point they have the right to choose their own sweets. Nelson probably falls in the middle of these two experiences, but needless to say the top deck of our fridge is loaded with the goody bags of many a birthday party and Nelson is always trying his luck for a lolly pop or a packet of M&M's. The last thing that should be said about Brazilian parties (and I am now a certified expert) is that a party is not a party without at least one TV blaring out at top volume the sing-a-long karaoke tunes of that most surreal of Brazilian personalities: the blond bombshell herself, the perennial children's TV presenter Xuxa*.

I have decided to rate this week's parties based on these criteria: timekeeping, food, company, location and venue, entertainment, goody bag quality and of course the Xuxa factor.

Party A: Monday night. Jercia, aged 2.
Timekeeping. The cutting of the cake happened probably half an hour too late at sometime after 9pm. Everyone was exhausted. 2/5
Food. Nice finger food - coxinhas and brigadeiro - and a plate of rice and corn. 4/5
Company. Jercia (who up until that evening we'd thought was called Jessica) is the daughter of a neighbour so it was nice to hang out with the other folks on our street including the Mum of Nelson's "girlfriend" Bia. 4/5
Location and venue. In our neighbour's house. Being close enough to our house was an advantage. When Nelson had had enough and wanted his bed, he waddled over to our house and rapped on the gate. 4/5.
Entertainment. One of Jercia's cousins was dressed as a clown, which Nelson loved. The other kids were good value and Nelson seemed to be at home. 4/5.
Goody bag quality. Jercia's family are quite devout Catholics and they provided quite a snazzy zip bag with a Bible verse on and Jercia's name. Inside the bag, of course, was sweets. 5/5.
Xuxa Factor. The TV was on, and Xuxa was strutting her stuff. 5/5.

Party B: Thursday night. Felipe, aged 2.
Timekeeping. The cutting of the cake happened probably an hour too late at sometime after 9.30pm. Everyone was exhausted. 1/5
Food. Waitor service, with pizzas, hot dogs, popcorn. To drink the Dad's were offered whisky. 4/5
Company. Generally, this was a huge gathering of some quite posh folks who we did not know so well. Rach did a good job talking to the other Mums, but I found it all a bit stifling. 3/5
Location and venue. In a huge party venue, with dance room, games room, swimming pool (not used on the night). Less than 10 minutes drive from house. 4/5.
Entertainment. They had everything here - trampoline, trampo-bungee thing, a room of balls, a climbing wall, a doll's house, arcade games, and everything was themed around the film "Cars" much to Nelson's delight. Huge soft toys modelled on the films characters were everywhere, awesome! 5/5.
Goody bag quality. A bag of sweets in a toy truck. 4/5.
Xuxa Factor. Music in the dance room was by Xuxa, but no TV. 2/5.

Party C: Saturday night. Lukas, aged 5.
Timekeeping. The cutting of the cake was late but not too late. 3/5
Food. Excellent home made grub, including some special brothy soup which was Lukas' Grandmum's homemade dish. Lukas' Grandpa kept my glass topped with cool beer. 5/5
Company. Lukas' Mum (Giane) is a secretary at the Cultura language school, and although we didn't know anyone else, these were "pessoas simples" (down to earth folk), mostly family and very friendly. The comical moment of the evening for me was when Lukas' great Uncle arrived in his jeep from a day fishing, got out and strolled into the party wearing his speedos and a vest top. Now, that's how to dress for a party! 4/5
Location and venue. In Giane's house. It took us half an hour to get there, and Nelson was grumpy about that. Rach had to ask directions about half a dozen times. It wasn't her fault - Brazilians tend to give directions even if they don't know the way, but we worked it out eventually, thank God. 2/5.
Entertainment. Balloons and the great Uncle's jeep. What more could you ask for. 4/5.
Goody bag quality. Lots of sweets. 3/5.
Xuxa Factor. The TV was on, and Xuxa was blaring out at a volume that impeded normal conversation. 7/5.

*Xuxa has been around on TV since the 1980s and is an institution in Brazil and one of the country's wealthiest citizens. Rach said she remembered Xuxa on TV - in particular, the bit where Xuxa dances out of a space ship. I found the very clip on YouTube here. It is dreadful, and there's something not quite right about the young girls' costumes. Xuxa is a controversial character, and has been accused of "over-sensualising" adolescents in her videos. The writers of the Simpsons parodied this aspect of Xuxa's act in the infamous "Simpsons in Brazil" episode, which was subsequently banned in Brazil. And, I found that very clip on YouTube too.

And that will do for today's post...

No comments: