Current Date: Saturday, March 15, 2003 5:30 p.m. (Natal)

Current Itinerary: Just got here today from Pipa!!! Staying for 4 or 5 days (I think) and then heading to Fortaleza. Then Jericocoira (sp?), Lencios, Sao Luis, and finally Belem to catch boat up the Amazon. No clue on time frame of all this. With each passing day, I am less and less certain about what path I will take over the next month.

Note: Sorry I have been MIA for awhile...Internet in Recife was TERRIBLE...servers were down more than half the time (this was VERY frustrating at times...I lost several long e-mails) so I couldn't do much e-mailing. Everywhere I have been since then has had through the roof prices so I have not been doing ANY internet. I promise to get everyone caught up as quickly as possible...many great stories from the past few weeks. Looks like internet here is good (fingers crossed) so many journals will come in the next couple days.

Welcome aboard to the MANY new friends that are now on my list.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Painfully awoke at 5:30 when Paula had to get up to leave for the airport. We both packed up our stuff and said good bye. It was sad for me to see her go of course. I wonder if anyone else will come and visit? (hint hint) Hope so.

I decided to sleep for awhile and then grab the free hotel breakfast before taking off. Woke around 9:30, ate, and was on my way once again. I decided that I would head for Morro de Sao Paulo, an island about 70km (40miles) south of Salvador. I figured I could use a little down time relaxing on the beach before the madness of Carnaval began. I had read in the lonely planet that I could take a direct ferry at 2:00 p.m. or I could take a bus to Valenca and then take a boat from there. I didn't want to wait around all day so I went for the bus. I went to the bus stop and proceeded to wait about 45 minutes just to get the bus to the bus station. It was good though b/c I during that time, I met this great girl, Tanya, who is actually from Israel but had lived in NYC for the past 7 years. She was heading to a city north of Salvador called Cachoiera so she was also going to the main bus station so we ended up going together.

I would just like to pause a second for all you folks out there who think I am brave for doing what I am doing. This girl was traveling by herself (making a strong statement against "it's different for a girl" argument...it is true, for women, life is different, but with respect to traveling alone, this is living proof that women can do it too!) and does not speak a WORD of Spanish or Porteguese (making a strong statement against the "I don't speak the language" argument). Quite courageous and just goes to show you, ANYBODY can do it...it just takes desire and the ability to overcome that small fear of being in unfamiliar surroundings. You can always find your way. I have met many people in that same situation. Sure it can be tough at times, but here was a good example of a person that knows it is worth it!!

Anyway, with a little help from another guy on the bus, we arrived at the bus station. During the ride, I had told a bit of my story to Tanya and had told her about some of the places I visited that Chris/SP had told me about. She seemed interested, so when we got to the bus station, after getting her ticket, we sat and I wrote the names of some of the places down for her. During the time we were sitting discussing things, this random guy came up to us that was Brazilian but spoke English. He was going on about how he loves english and it is his passion and he heard us speaking so he had to come and talk to us. He was a bit weird but very nice. I thought he might be gay for a second (not that there's anything wrong with that) but then he started hitting on Tanya pretty bad. She didn't seem to phased by it though so it was cool. Just before that guy came, I was telling her how I had met so many Brazilians that wanted to practice their English with me. It seems very common. That guy was a true example of this.

Finally Tanya had to catch her bus so we said good bye...hope our path will cross again!!!! I had discovered that there was actually no bus to Valenca and that I had to take a ferry anyway. So I got BACK on another bus that took me to the ferry. I then discovered that after arriving at the ferry stop, I would have to take another bus to get to Valenca, and then take ANOTHER boat to get to the island. Man, lot of work to get to this place.

On the ferry to Valenca, I met a cool couple from England, Chris and Katie. They had been traveling for 6 months and were at the tail end of their trip. We talked for the entire ferry ride. They were also headed to Morro de Sao Paulo, so we sort of became a team.

During the ferry ride, we were talking about the dangers of traveling and I was asking if they had any trouble. They said they had only been robbed once, in Belem, but didn't really lose anything. The story was pretty good though, but I will refrain from telling it as to not cause any alarm amoungst the parental units. Anyway, Katie made a good comment (the first of many incredibly intelligent comments she would make over the next several days) about how it can be tough sometimes if you are in a foreign land b/c when you are at home, you sort of know the danger signs and the things that indicate to you that a situation is potentially dangerous. It is true that they change when you are outside of your home country, but a lot of times, it can be intuitive and she basically lived by the idea that if she felt that a situation might become dangerous she got out of it. It sounded a lot better when she said it, but it was very well spoken.

Anyway, after we finally got to Valenca we found the boats to take us to Morro de Sao Paulo (from here on out referred to as Morro). One funny little tale from that boat ride. There was this one girl on the boat (pretty cute) that seemed to be a little nervous. She turned out to be from SP and spoke English very well. Just before the boat was taking off, I asked her what she was so nervous about...and wouldn't you believe her answer was that she was afraid of the water. I was like, "you know, we are going to an ISLAND." It struck me as quite ridiculous...that's like going the desert and being afraid of sand. What was cool was that the girl told me there was a party on the second beach that night (eventually I would learn that this was the case everynight). Anyway, we all made it to the island safely, so she could relzx.

The island is pretty small...there are no cars or paved roads. It has become a popular Brazilian tourist destination over the past decade so there are MANY shops/restaurants/cafes. It has a nice personality to it...sort of like a scaled down version of Buzios. Chris, Katie and I set out in search of a pousada...the first few of which did not suit us for whatever reason. We wanted to be a bit closer to one of the four beaches on the island so we headed that way. While walking down the street I turned and saw this guy, Max/Australia, who I knew from the hostel in Rio!!! Pretty cool. Second time I ran into somebody I knew on the street. Well, he had two other people with him, Bob/England and Anna/England. We decided we would all search for a place together. About that time, a guy came up to us and said that he had a house for us to rent if we wanted. We decided to check it out and it was perfect. We had a living room, a kitchen, and two rooms for the six of us...all for the low price of R$15/night per person. Not bad. We were all pretty excited.

We decided to settle in later and immediately head out for the beach since we had very little bit of sunlight left. On the way out to the beach, I met some cool girls from Argentina that said they would be headed for the beach party that night too. Sweet. We eventually found a cool beach bar and sat and had a few beers and I got to know my new traveling companions. It was great couple hours. During that time, we met this girl, Carla, from Brasilia, who was pretty nice. I had probably a 30 minute conversation with her completely in Porteguese. It is weird, some people I cannot understand very much, but others I can get almost everything. Anyway, I was proud of myself.

It started to rain a bit right then so we headed for a different bar that had some cover. We had a pretty cool discussion about Philosophy and Science. I was amazed by Katie then. She is such an intelligent, well spoken person...I really cannot over state this..I am very glad I got a chance to meet her. I spoke for a long time about how being a scientist, I had witnessed first hand how we can many times get so concerned with micro-dissecting every single little pathway and protein, that often the big picture is lost. We forget about why we are doing what we are doing and about the ethics/philosophy that can be involved. Quite an interesting subject matter and something I have a lot to say about...but for the sake of time, I will shelve the topic for now.

Finally it was time to go back to the house to get ready to go out. On the way back, we decided that we would go on a beer run so we could save some money by having a few at the house. Katie and I were elected to go for it. As we returned through the "centro" on the way back to the house, somebody was calling my name...it turned out to be my friend Christina from Houston.

(background: Chris is originally from Brazil...actually from a town near Sao Paulo. She has lived most of her life in the States. She is a Med Student in the class behind my grad school class and well graduate in May. She has completed all her requirements and is taking a couple months to travel around Brazil before beginning the hell that some people refer to as residency. We had talked in Houston and had been in contact over the past few weeks about our whereabouts...we planned to spend carnival together in Recife, she had set up a hotel package...fyi: I will refer to her from here on out as Chris/HOU, even though she is from SP to avoid confusion with the other Chris/SP)

I knew she was in this area of the country at the time, but I did not know she would be in Morro, so it was a pleasant surprise to run into her on the street!! I invited her and this Israeli guy she was with back to the house with us. We chatted for awhile and talked a bit about our trips and what we had done. Cool, I didn't even have to go 24 hours without seeing somebody from Houston:)

Eventually, we showered up and were ready to rollout...Chris/Katie/Anna/England all decided to stay home so it was Bob, Max, and I out on the town. We headed down to the second beach, but we were a little early. We decided to head for this bar that Carla/Brasilia had told us was pretty cool and wait for the party to start. While there, we ran into Chris/HOU and some friends of hers. Sat and drank for awhile...Bob was pretty smashed so he decided to head home early. The rest of us headed to the beach party which was GREAT. I was upset that I didn't find the girls from Argentina that I had met on the beach earlier. Anyway, I took a few pictures and we danced to the awesome music all night. Eventually everyone left except me. I often end up being the last man standing. Met some cool girls to dance with though and drank and shook it until 6:00 a.m. So much for relaxing before Carnaval.

Monday, February 24, 2002

Woke up around 11, ready to head out to the beach. We had heard that beach four (real original names for these beaches, heh?) was supposed to be really nice so the six of us headed for there. Bob, Max, and I ended up not even getting in the water...we sat at this great beach bar and kind of crowd watched and joked around for a couple hours. Chris eventually did join us, leaving the girls alone. I think he was happy to have a bunch of guys to have "guy talk" with.

Anyway, I needed to do internet since I had not for a few days so I headed back early on my own to find an internet place. The only one I found was R$15/ hour...absolutely a RIP-OFF so I did not stay too long. Got back home about the same time as the others.

We hung out at the house drinking for awhile and just joking around. We even caught an episode of the Simpsons!! We all agreed that it is still quite funny in Porteguese:) We decided that we would all go out to dinner together that night and then head out to the party on beach 2.

On the way out to dinner, we ran into Chris/HOU and this guy, Gavin, that she had met at her pousada. They were also going out to the beach so we said we would meet up later.

At dinner, we had a great meal of chicken/meat, potatoes, rice, and veggies. It was cool sitting there eating that night...sort of like one big family. I really enjoyed it. We laughed and talked alot about the differences between northern and Southern England. Max and I also spent quite a bit of time talking about one of my favorite subjects...Seinfeld. I am really starving down here without it!!! Over the time we spent in Morro, Max and I would spend sometimes a half an hour straight spewing off Seinfeld lines...much to the chagrin of the others in the group. That's a bunch of Poms for you, they never know what's funny:)

We headed down to the beach around 10, which we quickly discovered was WAY too early. THere was very little action. It started to rain around then so we had to seek shelter. We ended up at this reggae bar on beach 3 that was pretty cool. No shortage of reggae in this region of Brazil.

Around 12, we headed back to the beach party. It wasn't really going yet...this night it was going to be at the same two level bar that we had been in the night before. The DJ and dancing was on the first floor, which was empty when we arrived, and the upstairs part was sort of the chill, bar area. We headed up and grabbed a table. From the upstairs part of the bar, you could see out on to the beach. I decided to just stand up there and people watch for a bit...and I just happened to spot Carol/SP (the girl who was afraid of water). I went down to say hello to her. We ended up talking for over an hour. I told her basically my whole story of how I ended up in Brazil. She was very cool and told me that it was sort of her dream to do something similar. Hope she makes it!!

Anyway, eventually I went to find the others. They were all pretty tired and bored since the party had not really got going yet. THey all took off around 1:30 and headed back to the house. Once again, I was on my own.

I went back into the bar and I ran into Carla/Brasilia who we head met the night before. We talked/danced for awhile but I was starting to hit the wall. I headed for home around 3:15 but on the way I spotted Chris/HOU and Gavin at a bar so I stopped to chat. A couple of beers later, we went BACK down towards the party. We just hung out there talking and then everyone else left and I was on my own again. I went back inside the party and ran into Carla again...danced for awhile and decided to call it a night.

When I got back to the house, Bob and Max were still awake, playing cards and drinking. Sounds good to me. This is the beauty of being in a house rather than a hostel. I sat in with them as tehy taught me a very popular game that they play in England called shithead. It is pretty cool and easy to learn. I have seen it being played by many people since then, so if you are traveling on the hostel circuit, it is a good idea to learn it. We played cards and joked around until 7:30...finally I had no gas left in the tank so I hit the sack.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Woke around noon. Chris and Katie were nowhere to be found and Anna was on her way out the door. I was feeling pretty run down. Another looooooong night was behind me. Bob and Max woke up pretty soon after me so we decided to head out for some food together. Hit a great by the kilo spot...although Max was unimpressed.

Afterwards, I went to an internet place that Katie had found that was pretty cheap. I spent about 4 hours there writing/sending journals and doing e-mail. THen I went to find the others out on the beach. I was feeling extremely exhausted.

Got to the beach and lounged there joking around with the gang. I tried some cheese on a stick for the first time and it was actually quite good. Wait, I need to explain that. I had seen this cheese on a stick for the first time in Salvador. Guys basically walk around with a pail, FULL OF HOT, SMOLDERING COALS and they have a basically a bunch of skewers with cheese on them. When you ask for one, they use the fire to heat the cheese up for you. At first sight of this, I had two thoughts...one was, how many times that guy had burned his leg or somebody elses with that pail. I am not kidding, these guys walk around on the VERY crowded streets of Pelourinho with fiery hot stainless steal buckets that are at about knee level. Doesn't seem like the safest move in my book. My other thought was, could that entire thing be JUST cheese. Seemed excessive...but I would find out that it was all cheese and as I said, very tasty.

Anyway, we sat there and played cards for a bit...it was basically a lazy, lazy day on the beach. We headed home around 7 when it started to get dark.

When we got back to the house, the electricity was out (good thing I had my trusty flashlight...thanks mo!)...a bit annoying. Eventually, Chris found the fuse box and BOOM, there was light. It was easier said than done. It wasn't one of these walk into the kitchen and there is the fuse box situations. The box was up on top of this hill that the house was on...around the corner and not exactly in an easy to locate spot. Anyway, we decided we wouald go out to eat that night, then come back and hang out at the house until midnight and THEN go out so we would not there that early as we had the night before.

We went out and had another quality "family" meal in the centro. I was totally exhausted so I headed back to the house before everyone else for a power nap. That was at approximately 8:30 p.m...woke up at 1:30. Everyone had come home and passed out. We were all so tired. Sadly though, when we woke up, the water in the house was out and so was the TV. Man, what was up with that place that day!? I was actually considering taking a shower and heading out to check out the beach party, but the no water situation killed that idea...oh well, back to sleep. That was the end to a truly lazy day. Here is the recap for those not paying attention: woke up, ate, internet, beach, ate, slept. Life's reeeeeeeeeeal tough, heh?

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Woke up around 9...that was about 12 hours of sleep total!!! Guess I needed it. I felt like a million bucks. Katie and Chris were leaving that morning which sucked. They were catching a painful 36 hour bus to Rio. Hope they made it okay. True pleasure to meet you guys!!!

Headed to the internet spot for a bit and then to meet the others out on beach 4. We sat at the bar out there and had a couple beers...trying to soak up what would be our last day in Morro. It was cool. We decided to hit beach 2 and have a few more beers. These are really tough decisions...deciding what beach to sit and have beers on:) We stayed out at the beach the whole day.

Went home and played cards and joked around for a few hours. It was so cool having that house!!! Headed out a bit after 10 b/c we needed to get some grub before hitting the beach party. On the way out, we stopped at this little bar and I ran into these pretty cool guys from Chicago. We talked for almost an hour...mostly about how awesome Brazil is:) Finally met up with the others and scarfed down a couple of pastels (meat filled dough pockets...think empanada with thin, flaky bread that is fried instead of backed). From there it was time to go shake it. The others needed to party all night b/c their boat back to Salvador left at 7 a.m. Mine was not until 11, so I was all set.

When we got into the party, it was pretty good. I ran into Carol/SP again and I danced with her and her friend for quite awhile. (note: crashed and burned without a wingman there...where is Tony when I need him?) Everybody else kind of disappeared for awhile...Bob was doing okay for himself with some girl he was dancing with...I found Anna and some girls she had met from Brasilia so I danced with them. Right around then, Max reappeared and Bob came back to the group to. We had a great time just dancing. Once again, I must say, one of life's many great pleasures is dancing in the sand on a beautiful beach. For once, I was the first person to throw in the towel though and I headed back to the house around 4. The others arrived at 6, in time to pack and head for their ferry. I groggily said goodbye but I was really happy that I had those great days in Morro with all of them. For a short time, we were really like a family and it was a nice feeling. Anna I will see again when I get to Santiago (she is studying there). Bob and I will probably cross paths in Buenos Aires and Max and I planned to do the Amazon together...so it wasn't like I was losing my family...it was only goodbye for now. Ahhhhhhh...life on the road.

AC

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