Current Date: Thursday, March 20, 2003 11:30a.m. (Natal)

Current Itinerary: Leaving on overnight bus to Fortaleza tonight...probably will skip it and head straight for Jericocoiera (if I ever learn to spell it) for the weekend. Then Sao Luis and Lencois and up to Belem, possibly by the following weekend.

Note: Good luck to all my med school friends who are matching for residency today!!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

A REFLECTION:

The first phase of my trip is now over, so I must get philisophical for a second. It was just as a figured...fast paced, tons happening, and a bit of over spending. Now that Carnaval is over, I will get the chance to really settle into my trip. In the coming weeks, things will slow down considerably. I will be spending more time in each place I visit and hopefully getting to know people a bit better. My schedule will be much more free and I will have decent chunks of down time. I am excited about the next couple months...particulary the trip down the Amazon. I sit here wondering what things and people I will encounter and it is great. The truth is, I am not certain at this point what I will do after I arrive in Manaus. I think I will fly to Brasilia and then try to work my way towards Buenos Aires by May 1 and look for work there. Who knows. Either way, I am turning the corner now, headed directly towards everywhere and nowhere. What is waiting for me?

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Woke up in the hotel room and was officially beginning my post Carnaval detox. Laid there and watched TV until 2...soaking up my last few hours of the good life before having to return to the backpacker world. Checked out...and we were nicely rewarded...they forgot to charge us for our very expensive dinner from the previous night! Rock on.

Chris headed for the airport and back to H-town and I went in search of the hostel that was in Boa Viagem...the same that Doug had mentioned in his journals. I checked in and I must defer to what Doug had to say about a certain aspect of the rooms in this hostel. It was an immediate annoyance for me since it was so hot and muggy. If somebody already said it well...why say it again:


"Went to crash back at the hostel...and found one of the most jackass contraptions I have ever seen. The ventilator (most Americans call it a ceiling fan) was controlled by a switch not in the room...but rather, downstairs at reception...so we had to go down and ask that they turn it on in our room. And, it wasn´t just down at reception, it was housed in a locked wall box which could only be accessed by key. In the coming days, we would get pissed many times when the folks at reception would make a mistake and arbitrarily turn off our fan...requiring us to go down and request they turn it back on. This often happened in the morning while we were sleeping...so we would wake up drenched in sweat...arrrgh...I am of the opinion that a ceiling fan is not the type of thing that requires management oversight!"


Well put...still hasn't changed and still equally annoying.

I decided to head out and do internet for the first time since the previous Friday. Spent a couple hours chatting on messenger and answering e-mails. Went back to the hostel...read and slept intermintedly. The place was pretty quiet since most people had left after Carnaval. That was fine with me, I was just trying to recover from the previous days and was not feeling particularly social. I did meet a pretty cool guy, Sebastian, from Argentina that was in the same room as me. We talked about doing a trip on the Amazon...he had a really good book for the Amazon so he let me borrow it. That was really the end of the day. Nothing really happened, which was my plan. I needed some relaxing days after Carnaval. Went to sleep very early.

Thursday, March 6, 2003

Woke up early and was determined to spend most of the day working on journals, answering all the e-mails that had backed up on me, and perhaps get the website up to date. I found an internet place that was only R$2.50/hour...that is more like it. Sat and started to do some work. About an hour after I arrived, the server in the place went down...I lost an e-mail that I was writing but I was not that frustrated. "No problem, i thought, I could just type e-mails/journals for awhile until the server came back online. An hour went by...nothing. Another hour passed...still nothing. I decided to save what I had on that computer and go get some food and come back later. During the time I was in there, I struck up a conversation with this kid (probably was about 17 or 18...the fact that I am calling someone of this age a kid is really making me feel old) at the computer next to me. He wanted to keep practicing English with me so he asked if he and his friend could go to eat with me. I swear, there are so many Brazilians that love to practice English!! Since I have a pretty good understanding of what it feels like to have a great thirst for learning another language I invited them along. I can't remember their names at the moment but they were both from Recife and pretty cool to hang out and talk with.

We ended up spending a couple hours together because I had to walk in search of a Banco do Brasil to get some cash. Over the next hour, I went to two B do B's and both failed me, even the one that was in the Shopping Recife. (note: Here in Brazil, they call malls "Shopping". It is a terrible misuse of English that for some reason bothers the hell out of me. In many cases, shopping is the second word in the title...i.e. Praia Shopping. I just can't bring myself to be comfortable with sayiing "I am going to the Shopping.")
I did finally pick up the Tribalistas CD while I was there though...the first asset that I have purchased on this entire trip. Ironically, it is probably the first CD I have purchased in about 4 years. I could not resist. There is a song called "Ja sei namorar" that I absolutely love. It was sort of a Carnaval theme song for me but it has been popular here in Brazil for a couple months. There are several songs that I LOVE that I would want to to have. What is Porteguese for Napster?

I had enough cash to last me the rest of the day so I decided to put it off until the next day. I was starving and tired of looking for ATM...we went in search of food instead. They took me to a cool little bar that serves food near the Shopp...er...mall. Just talked and ate and it was cool. They both spoke pretty well and I also practiced Porteguese.

We headed back to the internet place afterwards, and the server was STILL down. In the coming days I would learn that in Recife...or atleast in that area of Recife...that this was the norm rather than the exception. It became ridiculously frustrating.

I left those guys and headed back to the hostel. I took a pretty long nap...I was still in recovery from Carnaval. I gave a call to a few of Doug and Luciana's friends to try to meet up but was not able to get ahold of anyone. I had talked with a couple of folks, Ilan and Karina, during Carnaval but our schedules had been too different/full to meet up. I was staying in Recife for those days to recover, but also in hopes of meeting some of the friends/family of Doug and Luciana. The problem that I quickly realized though, is that they are ALL doctors so they have pretty busy schedules.

I decided to walk down to the beach and just sit on the seawall for awhile...and maybe grab some food. Found a great hotdog guy...had two and a beer (all for the equivalent of 1 USD). I called up the guys from lunch earlier that day and we decided to meet up around 10 that night.

I headed back to the hostel...things were still pretty quiet there. I went up to the internet place and the server was STILL down. Eventually met up with the guys from Recife and just hung out at the beach talking and had a few beers. It rained for awhile so we were stuck at a kiosk for a good chunk of time. I wanted to give the internet place one last shot before we went out so we stopped by there again...no luck. I ran into Sebastion/Argentina in front of the place so we talked there for awhile. There were a few other people hanging out in front of the place too, one of which I recognized from the hostel. It turned out to be this guy, Lars from Norway. He and I, the guys from Recife, this guy from New York, and a couple people who worked at the internet place ended up standing out there talking for two hours or so. It was very cool. It was late, I tried to get a few people to go to a bar that the guy from the internet place had told me about...no luck though. I was tired anyway and it was a cool night. Lars and I walked back to the hostel together and ended up talking for another hour. There was a very nice girl in the hostel from France (can't remember name at the moment...sorry) that was sitting downstairs writing some post cards. (how NINETIES!!! Where is her pocket PC? Just kidding...truth is I should be doing the same.) We all talked for about an hour...well, maybe that is not really saying it right...it was more like I talked and they listened. I can get long winded at times...but they didn't know that:) Seriously, I told a bit of the Doug McLean story and about how influential he was in my being on this trip and especially spending Carnaval in Recife. They seemed very enlightened by the whole thing...it really is quite a story. Anyway, it was a good chance for me to get to know Lars. He is a great guy who is a month into a four month trip in Brazil. At that point, I was down to about 15 reals and he needed cash too so we decided that first thing in the morning, we would go together to a nearby citibank ATM that the French girl told us about. Crashed around 3.

Friday, March 7, 2003

Woke up around 9:15, just in time for a bit of the hostel breakfast...it was pretty weak as far as hostel breakfasts go. With each place I go, I am realizing how good the one in SP was. (note for those who forgot or for those who have not been with me since the beginning...SP=Sao Paulo) Lars/Norway and I then went out in search of the citibank, which is always a never fail ATM. Found it in about 15 minutes. (for anyone staying in that hostel that needs an ATM...it is about 2km North on the main road that is to the right out of the hostel...always good to share this type of information. Particularly because that same night, this guy in the hostel missed his bus to SP b/c he did not know about this ATM and went all the way to the airport at the last minute for cash.)

A little side note about cash: Since I am not in the US, and you cannot really use credit cards in MANY places down here, I am always forced to carry cash. In the US, we have really gotten away from this and are basically dependent on debit/crediit cards...which is much better in my opinion. It took my some time to adjust to having to grab cash everytime I leave the hostel/pousada. I few nights have even been screwed up by my not carrying enough cash. Anyway, there is a strange feeling of elation when you go to the ATM to replenish your funds and you finally have a bunch of cash again. It is really the same feeling you get on pay day, even though the money was already there. I think anyone traveling in Brazil can relate to this.

Lars metioned that morning that he had trained in Capoiera for the past 2 years in Norway and was pretty interested in it. Okay, I am going to explain what Capoiera is one more time...don't recall doing a good job before. Capoiera is a fighting style that was developed by the slaves here in Brazil. Obviously it was forbidden for them to practice any sort of martial arts so they developed a way to sort of hide it by disguising their training as a sort of "dance". It is very fluid and requires a decent amount of strength and balance. You really have to see it to understand...but I recall just before leaving the US that it was starting to pop-up as the new "it" thing to do for excercise in health clubs (sort of like Tae-bo 3 years ago). I am sure it is a watered down, westernized version of what it is really supposed to look like.

Anyway, Lars' Mestre (I assume this translates to his master or something of the sort...think Mr. Miyagi) is somewhat well known in this area of Brazil. He actually had trained or trained with this guy who owned the hostel and had been in contact him about Lars coming to Recife. That night, the guy who owned the hostel was going to take Lars to a Capoiera school and Lars invited me along. We were supposed to met at 7 that night.

Anyway, after getting money, we decided to go back to the internet place to see if they finally got things straightened out. Server was actually working!!! Alright! About 45 minutes later it went down again though...arrrrgh!!! Got to read a few e-mails...lost another long one. I was really becoming upset. I spent another half hour doing offline web page work in hopes that the server would come back up and I could upload afterwards. Negative. Went to another internet place...had luck for a couple hours and finally had gotten my inbox down to a workable size. Server went down at that pace too...went back to original place...nothing. Went to ANOTHER internet place...negative. What is going on in this city with the internet?!!

Lars had left after the second internet place so I was on my own. I went down to the beach...I had not been the ocean for several days so it was time for me to return. Swam around for a bit. Walked around and was actually truly bored for the very first time on my trip. I literally did nothing for about 3 hours. I went back to the hostel to read for awhile. Tried to get ahold of a few people Doug had given me numbers for but nobody was around. Eventually Lars showed back up at the hostel and we waited for the local Mestre (guy who owned the hostel) to show up.

He did not show up until about 7:30 and he had a few things to do around the hostel. He really wanted to save the Capoiera thing for another day but being nice as most Brazilians are, he decided to take us in the end.

It was wonderful experience at the Capoiera school. I watched a few people "play" as they call it...more like sparring really. Some of the people there were very good and for the first time I got to hear this very cool instrument played. It is called a Birambao. It looks like a bow (as in bow and arrow) with a big bowl tied to the string at the bottom. It really has unique sound and is cool to watch/hear someone play. We stayed at the place for an hour and Lars got a chance to show off his stuff. He was very good!!! I was impressed. Everyone at the place was VERY welcoming to us foreigners and I really enjoyed my time there. I nice piece of Brazilian culture that I would not have gotten had it not been for Lars. I really send you met heart felt gratitude, Lars.

We got back to the hostel around 9:45. I was ready to go out but Lars was not because he was going on a day trip early the next morning. Another guy showed up in our room that night who was from SP. It was probably one of the only people I have met on this trip that I geniunely just did NOT like. Very pompous...sort of fit the Brazilian stereotype of people from SP...very absorbed in work and money. I generally find myself defending SP, I have met MANY great people from there and both times I have been there I have had a wonderful time. Most who travel here (and many Brazilians int he north) do not enjoy SP because they see it as just another large city. This is true in a since...it IS a large city, and the general mentality there is not as relaxed as in the rest of Brazil, but I think there are many great things and people there. I am of the belief that a place is what YOU make of it. I am reminded of yet another Doug McLean quote at the moment:


"OK, I believe that in this world, you have three basic options of action:
1. Take whatever the world gives you, passively without thinking.
2. Allow the world to give you options, and only take the ones you like.
3. Go out and create the options you want and take them."

See, what happens far too often as that people live as a 1 or a 2. If you travel with this mentality you are going to be disappointed very often. Sometimes it takes effort and sometimes a little luck in meeting the right people...but I think every place has SOME redeeming qualities. And I happen to love Sao Paulo...but this guy got on my nerves very quickly. He actually was trying to tell me that you could not live comfortably in Brazil and have what you needed with 10,000 reals a month (about $3000 USD). This is a FORTUNE down here(I think the average salary is somewhere around 3-4 percent of this)...I mean probably the economic equivalent of making 6 figures in the US. Puhleeze.

Anyway, I didn't really have anyone to go out with so I decided I would create my own fun. I got out of there as quick as I could and headed for the only place I knew in the city...Recife Antiguo. It was VERY diffent seeing this area of the city in the abscence of Carnaval. I literally could not believe it was the same place. Not very many people and quite shady. I made it to the main road and had a great meal at a Chopperia (hard to translate that for me...places that specialize in beer on tap...often times they brew their own, but not always). I just sat and crowd watched and then decided to look for this club Doug had told me about. Couldn't find it so I ended up going in the only place in the vicinity that seemed to have music and people, the Calypso Club.

Interesting atomoshere in that place. It was not very full but the music was pretty good. There were several very young women there with what I think must have been their fathers:) Seriously though, it is eerily common here in Brazil to have a large age discrepency between couples...and it goes both ways. This place was more extreme than I was used to though. Truth is, I was a bit unsure of whether or not it was the type of place that my friend from back in the Rio bus station would frequent.

Anyway, I eventually met these really nice girls from Recife. Although they did not speak English, I was able to communicate fairly well. We danced all night and I ended up having a TON of fun. Did some serious practice on my forro (remember it is a style of dance down here that is quite common...sort of like a slower, sexier, salsa). Somewhere during the night, these two Israeli guys came into the picture...which was perfect because it evened out the numbers (there were 3 girls). Anyway, they were older guys on one of these "see all of South America in 3 weeks" tours. I would go off on a rant about these ridiculous tours but it isn't worth my time or brain power at the moment.

What was cool was that they had rented a car and gave me a ride back to the hostel. Exchanged numbers with the girls and crashed around 4:30. Good thing I was a #3 that night...ended up being GREAT time. It is the only way to be.

AC

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