Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Sports Section

It’s the final countdown! And in the last weeks I spend here I’m rushing to have all the “American” experiences. So, I went to the ball game. Yes, BASEBALL! What else could it be? Don’t hold your breath for pictures, because my camera is still out of service. This is just a picture stolen from a website.
The stadium is HUGE, I mean HUUUUUUUGE and we were at the top of it. Cheap places, surrounded by true fans, who were very much into the game. Now, first, the stadium, called the Minute Maid Park, after its sponsor, is not only huge but it is also like a small shopping center. You have all kinds of fast food, stores where you can buy t-shirst, hats and all sorts of baseball souvenirs, it has escalators as well, to go all the way up to the top seats. It reminded me more of the bullfight arena in Lisbon (Campo Pequeno) than of a football stadium… Strange. Anyway.
Baseballl is for everyone. Top executives, white collars, blue collars, no collars whatsoever, they’re all there, united by the passion of this game. You see friends together, couples, families, from 5 months babies to 80 year old grandmas. Why are these people so interested in this sport? Well… honestly… I guess because it’s… challenging!! Really. Ok, the games do last around 3 hours, where ¾ of the time is spent looking at a guy swinging a bat and missing the ball, or not swinging at all. Now… let me try to explain the rules to you.
There’s a square, right? With 4 bases in each corner. The home base is where the batter is, swinging his bat. Or not. The pitcher is in the center, and he tries to throw the ball to the batter, or not… (at this point it helps to clarify that batter and pitcher are from opposite teams), but it is only a valid throw if the ball goes above a small area marked on the ground beside the batter. Now… the batter, if he swings when it is not a valid throw, it’s a strike – meaning a bad thing for the batter’s team. Because 3 strikes, make a batter go out. Each team has, I don’t know, around 10 players… I don’t remember, but every player has to bat. Now… When a player hits the ball, and it’s a valid throw, he can run to the next base. If he gets there before the opposite team’s players return the ball to the base where he is arriving, he can stay there. I saw a player actually making it to second base from his own batting, which apparently is great. And I understand why… Other things may happen, like they can hit the ball and it can go outside the field (fowl), or he can hit the ball really well and it goes really high and the opposite team catches it in the air, before it touches the ground and that is BAAAD – the batter is immediately out. What happens when a batter is out? Another batter comes in. When a team who is batting has 3 players out, then the teams switch. I believe this is the end of an inning (but I’m not very sure).
Why the hell is it so difficult to bat well? Because there are many types of throws that a pitcher can do. He can throw a fastball, a slow ball, a curved ball, etc… The batter has to guess where the ball is gonna be at the time he swings, if it’s gonna be valid, etc. Owf. I would say baseball is not a big emotion game. It’s calm and nice. There is very little contact between players, except when they are running to the bases. Then you get to see them sliding like seals, exactly in the same way, because they’re also a bit chubby, baseball players… And they may accidentally or on purpose bump into the guy who is receiving the ball. Last time that happened was a recent event, and both teams got into a huge fight, it was like rugby, everyone in a pile.
The goal of the game is to "bring home" as much players as possible. This means that a player (who started batting at home base) returns to the home base. And now I think the significance of home run is clear. I'm not sure, but I guess it would be when a player hits the ball and can go all around the pitch and return to home base in that one hit. How the hell do they do that, I don't know.
So, let’s end, because I already see heads tilting and saliva running down the corners of my virtual audience’s mouth. Playing: Houston Astros versus Texas Rangers (a team that was owned by George Bush, son). Another reason for me to support the Astros. Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, ‘Stros!!! That was the ridiculous cheer they had. They lost. I'd go for changing cheer. Or players.
In the end, we had a lovely sunset over the Houston downtown skyline. Very nice indeed. So I liked the game, I liked the sport, it’s nice and gives you time to go get a hotdog or something… Not like soccer where my heart jumps every second (I just don’t know whether from emotion or from my sister’s screams – this time I’m not watching the World Championship with her… * sigh * ). Which brings me to the next topic!!! Soccer!!!!!!! I’m looking forward for the Championship! Everybody, let’s do our best! But anyway it will be fun to watch the games, no matter who wins. Hmm, I wonder if there will be a Portugal – Netherlands. Cause we’ll kick your ass again, ehehehe.
This was this blog's Sports Section, dammes en heren, have a great day and hope to see you soon. :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

On the existence of cell phones

It’s eight o’clock and I just finished my lab work for today. Instead of going home I feel like writing even though I’m really tired and the pain in my arm is bigger each day from both using the laptop and pipetting every day. But I can’t help it, the words are waiting impatiently to being written. And they’re not even wise words. Not even deep, not even interesting. Just random thoughts in my mind. Quoting Catarina Fonseca in her recent book “Clube das Encalhadas”, if you don’t want to read, skip to the end, but don’t complain you don’t get anything of the story.
Last Sunday I dropped my cell phone, my beautiful Nokia 6101, sorry for the advertising. It was inside my bag so I didn’t see the effect of the drop until I pulled it out to see what time it was. At this point I should tell you that all my watches are broken, and I rely solely on my cell phone to tell me what time it is. I tried guessing by the position of the sun, but it just didn’t work out. And people tend to get angry if you set appointments to “when the sun is setting down”. I looked at my cell phone. Nothing. I tried to turn it on and off. Nothing. It was alive, yes, I could hear the little beeping noises created when I pushed every key in the hope of reviving it, but it showed nothing on the screen. My cell phone was…. BLIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I felt blind with it. My contacts, my pictures, my CLOCK! The very thing that allows me to wake up in the morning, the alarm clock, was impossible to set. Ok, I had my differences in the past with this alarm clock, and I do tend to ignore it most of the time, but I still feel close to it, like to a relative that you hate to see at your doorstep, but still let in, quickly hiding your favorite cookies out of sight. On Monday, I relied on my housemate Rodrigo (yes, he’s new) and on Clea to wake me up with heavy knocking on my door and phone calls. Yes, because I could receive phone calls, I just couldn’t see who was calling, which can be dangerous.
Monday went by and my phone was still as blind as a mole. I asked everyone, in the hope that the brains studying here at Rice University could come up with a solution for my cell phone. “Buy a new cheap one”, they said. As if I could do such a thing. First, because there is no such thing as cheap, second, because I really liked this phone, it has a deeper meaning to me, since I bought it from Maya, who was eager to buy her new phone, the recently recovered from a drinking problem Motorola RZR (see comments of last post). No way I was going to give up on it that easily. Clea suggested “Drop it once more, maybe it will work again”, in that wisdom that decades ago made people face high voltage as a good solution for problematic behaviors. I sniggered.
On Tuesday, while I was pouring plates and thinking of how I will manage to make my new undergraduate student (yeah, I got one, they’re also known as “slaves”!!!) actually help me instead of destroying my already sensitive experiment, my phone, sensing my desperation, took a plunge to the ground from the back pocket of my trousers. “Shit”, I thought, “as if it wasn’t broken enough…”. When I turned it to me, I saw…. It was telling me: --:--
My phone could see again!!!!!!!!!!! I could see as well! He had come out of his vision-coma, and was asking me “Where am I?” and “Who am I?” and “Please insert time and date”. So I did, and the world shifted back to normal.
What is the take home message of this story? Cell phones have mysterious ways. They seem connected to us at a level that not even cats and dogs manage. Not even boyfriends! You can count on them to wake you up, to give you detailed messages from dear friends, to put you in touch with the world, and if they are dropped they eventually come back to you without big complaints, which is something a boyfriend hardly ever does.
However… Sometimes, when you’re expecting that call, cell phones can be a bitch, and give you the impression that you’re lonelier than ever. Just because they’re not ringing.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Homesickness - part II or some other kind of sickness...

Today I feel sick. I know this weblog is supposed to make my friends know how I am, without them thinking I’m collapsing, but today I have to say I feel sick. Not sick in the sense my body is sick, but my mind feels sickened by many things in the lab where I’m working. All I can say is that I look forward to leave.
Sometimes I miss the Netherlands as if it was my home, I already said that. I miss the biking without the feeling of facing a danger beyond reason, I miss being able to do simple things without a car, like going to the movies, or better yet, going anywhere without a car. I miss Dutch people and their cold politeness, I miss what used to be my home, I even miss the rats in the kitchen, because rats are way better than cockroaches. Here there are a lot of cockroaches, which are probably the only living being that I would promptly choose to condemn to extinction, had I such powers. Keeping with the melancholic list of things that I miss, I miss my friends in Groningen, I miss the coffeeshops, I miss meeting Maya in the Grote Markt for another pathetic adventure ;), I miss talking to Saleta in galispaniguese (for those who don’t know, that’s a mix of Portuguese, Galician and Spanish), I miss the long coffee breaks with Aniek where everything from science to hopes and dreams is discussed thoroughly. I miss the sunsets in incredible colours.
But the other day I had a dream. I dreamt I was in a city, living there. The city had hills, converging to the center, and a light like I never found anywhere else but in Lisbon. The sunlight reflects on the white, yellow, baby blue buildings, and on the red tile roofs, creating a warm glow that tells me “you’re home”. And everyone in this city (which I still wasn’t sure to be Lisbon) spoke Portuguese. The little man in the kiosk selling newspapers, the ladies chatting on their way to the subway, everyone I met spoke Portuguese. In the dream I was astonished by this! How convenient, a foreign city where everyone is Portuguese. That’s just what I need. Then I realized I was dreaming about living in Lisbon, and woke up.
Truth be told, I am now so used to being away that it’s hard for me to name what I miss the most in Portugal. The habits are gone, and this is what we always feel that we miss. It was a long process of breaking the old habits and creating new ones, in fact creating a whole new life, from scratch. The only things left now of my life in Portugal are feelings. Feelings for people, feelings for places. And going back to these people and these places is like putting on a pair of old and extremely comfy shoes. You may feel sexier in a new, more fashionable pair of shoes, but these still hurt in critical places of your feet. The other shoes are so worn that they know where to bend, where to be soft, where to be hard. But perhaps you need both types of shoes.
Enough with the shoe analogy. Why am I thinking of this now? I don’t know, honestly, but anyway… I would already feel better if I could go as quickly as possible to my second home (Groningen) and just stuff myself with stroopwaffles, or drown my sorrows in a bottle of Palm. But going to Lisbon and stuff myself with Pasteis de Belem and drown my sorrows in Moscatel would be infinitely better.

nome da foto.JPG
View of river Tejo from somewhere in Chiado, Lisboa.

PS- I just remembered now that my dream could mean that I feel like a foreigner in my own country. Buahahhahahaha.