Thursday, May 3, 2012

Balmy Belém

There's a saying here in Pará that they have only two seasons; raining and raining a little less. And HOT, of course. No spring, summer, winter, autumn nonsense for them! Without fail, the first question I am asked when someone meets me is 'So, what do you think of the weather here?' The first couple of times, I just implied that it was different, that's all. It took about a week before I stopped masking my distaste for the balmy climate, and now I just say I don't like it. What's the use in lying?!
In fact, the weather here can be a polemic topic to bring up. Just the other night I was at a birthday party, and I got caught in the middle of a disagreement. The point of contention was the lack of fluctuation in the weather here.

"I like how you can always tell what's coming. It makes planning your day or week easier."
"What?! (complete with look of disgust) That's something that I HATE about here."

These were two natives Paraenses speaking, by the way. It seems people are split about even on weather ;) or not the climate is to their liking. Honestly, though, does ANYONE like sweating their skin off every time they step out the front door, or suffering from varying degrees of dehydration throughout the day?

And then there's the rain... Here's another custom they have, at least in the "summer" when the rains are more predictably in the afternoon: "When should we meet?" "Oh, I don't know. How about before/after the rain?" With weather like that, who needs a watch? And of course every self-respecting and self-preserving Belenense will at all times carry his umbrella with him. I don't blame 'em. I've been caught a few times without one, and it is no picnic.

It seems though that Paraenses have evolved somehow to adapt to the daily weather phenomena here. I swear they have hypersensitivity to barometric pressures or something, because you can ask anyone if they think it will rain soon, and they'll give you a pretty accurate timing. As for the heat, it is rare to see someone sweating here. I mean, yeah, a bead here or there on the forehead, which is quickly whisked away by the ever-present handkerchief. But NOBODY sweats like me. I'll be on the bus, having only walked a city block to get the stop, a breeze from the window will be blowing in my face, and yet my hair is virtually matted with sweat, my neck and back are dripping, and I'm wearing only shorts and a cotton T-shirt! Meanwhile, the 60-year-old man in front of me has on a three-piece suit and his skin isn't even shiny! And don't even get me started on the gym, which doesn't have AC. If I just walk in I'm sweating, and yet the people who have been there for 40 minutes pumping iron are just starting to perspire. Has the world gone mad?!

Anyway, it's funny to see how weather affects culture. Southern Brazilians tell me all the time that "things are different up here in Pará. Slower, more laid-back." The culprit? 90 degree temperatures and 88% humidity... in the winter. Who wants to do anything in that? It's no wonder that any structure with 4 walls and roof has air conditioning blasting 24/7.

This isn't to say that it's all bad though. There's something to be said for the ability to know exactly what will happen everyday. It's like being in Groundhog Day! And I would usually rather be too hot than too cold, given the choice. The idea of coming back to the US in the dead of winter does not excite me... All in all, I can say that this is one person who's swiftly taking on a few Paraense customs. If it's Sunday, you'll most likely find me tirando uma soneca in a bed or hammock, cold guaraná or água de coco at my side, and with nothing but the sound of pounding rain to put me to sleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment