presented by Gaitpost Magazine

Monday, July 23, 2007

Whoa! Harry Potter Flips the Bird!

It's probably made news back home. A shot taken by an Argentinian photographer went out on news wires last night. Waylon Roberts (aka Harry Potter) gave the finger to the Brazilian crowd that booed the Canadians and Americans, and that cheered when they had a knock down. I was busy typing a press release in the work room during the victory gallop, so I missed the silent rebuttal. I'm not sure, but I think Waylon was following Karen O'Connors lead; apparently there is a photo out there with her doing the same thing. It's politically high on the incorrect list, but I say good on both of ya! It made my blood boil to see the Brazilians appear to be trying to interrupt their shot at success. I'm not sure that's what they intended, it's just what they do at sporting events in Latin America and they really don't know anything about horses. We polite, nodding, smiling, sanitized northerners started feeling rather Latin by the end of it all.

A counterpoint to that low moment in the eventing was the inspiration of watching 14.1 hand Theodore O'Connor win individual gold. For those of you who are curious about how a _ TB got to be that small, he's an eighth Arab and an eighth Shetland pony. I found out that Kyle Carter is an irrepressible card, and he had a very upbeat attitude considering he lost bronze in the show jumping. And why couldn't Phillip Dutton have become a Canadian instead of American? They have enough eventing movie stars of their own. Come on Phillip - we spell properly and we drink more!

I have caught myself on more than one occasion giving the thumbs up like a local. Hand gestures are easier to learn than Portuguese, I can tell you that. Apparently the Brazilian equivalent to the finger is making a circle with index finger and thumb, with the other fingers extended. That's a bit dangerous considering at home that gesture means 'ok'.

I'm getting desensitized to the driving habits here. When our taxi went through two red lights the other morning, Jan and I just shrugged. What I'll never get used to is being a passenger (and potential victim) on the wilder bus rides. 'Hurtling' is the word that best describes yesterday's trip to the Main Press Centre. I actually started to feel car sick, though I can't be absolutely certain that wasn't caused by the two gigantic caipirinhas I'd downed the night before. Caipirinhas, made with cane alcohol and lime, are an excellent alternative to Margaritas. The two drinks also share the common trait of going down real easy…then wham!

I wonder how common it is for people to go deaf here. The noise is unbelievable. The only flaw in our lovely beach front apartment is that it is right on Avenida Atlantica, a favourite late night spot for drag racers, party animals, and Brazilians in general, who are LOUD. This is one of the most densely populated spots in the world. Our seven floor building is sandwiched between other taller buildings, and the small concrete column between them acts like an amplifier. What sounds from the bedroom window like ten village idiots throwing a tantrum always turns out to be just some people having a late night street-side chat. It's not just a Brazilian thing either. The other day I asked an Argentinian photographer sitting beside me in the press centre why he was screaming. He said, “good question. I don't know.” Several times I have thought that people were having heated arguments when it turned out, after the laughter started, that they were just having a conversation.

Last night we had our most entertaining ride back from the equestrian venue so far. Our good friend Fernando, who works in the press centre (and linguistically screws Jan and me up because we communicate in French with him), came out to the street to help us flag down a cab. When he put up his hand at a passing little yellow box, another car stopped as well. It was driven by a retired Army commander who is involved with the equestrian venue and who thought he was being flagged down. Lucky us! He immediately offered to give us a lift to Copacabana, where he and his passenger were headed. The first thing I noticed was that the passenger had a can of beer. The second thing I noticed was that the driver had a can of beer. After we spent a while watching him juggle two cell phones that he dialed and answered alternately while he drove, Jan leaned forward from the back seat and commented on his having two phones. “I have three!” he replied, dragging the other one out of his pocket and putting into circulation with the beer and other phones. The passenger was continuously on his phone during the 45 minute drive.

Two beers and many phone calls later, our chauffeur delivered us alive to our door. As we got out of the car, he shared with us the fact that he was on the Brazilian event team in Winnipeg in 1999. They won silver, I found out on my stats list this morning. He may be the very same rider that Jenn Ward described to me. After the medals in Winnipeg he jumped off his horse to hug his family, leaving the horse unattended. Jenn says you could see the horse's thoughts pass through his expression as he realized he was free to take himself back to the barn, which he then did at 'mach 10', according to Jenn.

We have a little break before show jumping starts (and I predict possible goldenness for our kick ass team), so you won't hear from me for a day or two. But keep checking in because I still haven't written about my Fear Factor Brazil proposal.

Ciao (they say that here) for now

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