Current Date: April 22, 2003 3:30 p.m. (Brasilia)

Current Itinerary: Same as earlier...Catching up with journals and website. I promise pictures from everything before Sao Luis will be up before the day is over. DON'T MISS the pictures of the dunes in Lencois de Meranhenses...there is a spectacular panoramic!

Friday, March 21, 2003

Woke up from my short nap at Lua Cheia in Natal and it was finally time to go. It was STILL raining so I was sort of glad to leave soggy Natal behind. I figure that from this point on it will be pretty wet though...I am getting relatively close to the equator and the climate is much more tropical. Maybe I should think of getting a raincoat at some point soon.

Anyway, the girl at the reception desk called a ride for me to get to the bus station. The guy was going to be awhile so we started talking and she asked me if I had seen the news. I figured something major had happened with the war since the last thing I had seen so I sort of inquired about what happened. Then she tells me that the war had started and gives me this look like "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?". It really pissed me off...what the hell do I have to do with any of it...I mean, she looked at me as if I PERSONALLY had given the go ahead. Anyway, I brushed it off, I cut the conversation short and waited impatiently since I could not wait to get out of there. I was very frustrated...as if I didn't get enough crap from people about the war before it started...I knew that now it would be the only thing I would hear about. I have been getting e-mails from many of you asking about my perspective of the whole thing being down here...it is a VERY big subject matter that I will address at another time. I guess I am still trying to organize all my thoughts on the whole thing...probably the same as many people are at this point. It has been just over a week since it started and I will say that I am already getting sick of it.

Anyway, the guy finally showed up at 8:40!!!! Needless to say I was worried about catching my 9:00 bus...but he zipped me through the city and I was able to buy my ticket and get on the bus, literally about a minute and a half before it left. Whew! For some reason I was not able to get much sleep on the bus...which is really annoying when you are really tired. I made it to Fortaleza around 5. I was hoping to catch a bus and get to Jericoacoara but the next one was not going to arrive there until 2:00a.m. Oh well, one night in Fortaleza couldn't be too bad.

I got a moto-taxi to the hostel...my second time on one. It must be a hilarious site to see a motorcycle going down the street with a guy and a HUGE backpack on the back. I still enjoyed the ride immensely. At the hostel I checked in, met a cool guy from Australia, and went in search of an internet place so I could tell Stefan I was not going to make it until the next day. Afterwards I went to the store and bought some food to make dinner...ahhhh a ham and cheese sandwich...the luxuries of being a backpacker. Back at the hostel I met a guy, Steven/England. He was actually half Brazilian so he had been traveling in Brazil for quite some time, stopping to teach English every so often. He gave me some good pointers about how to get into it and what I needed...which is important. After the Amazon, I will be looking for work somewhere...not sure where but I might end up teaching English. Anyway, I also found out from the guy at the hostel that a van would leave from the hostle the next day at 8:00 a.m., headed to Jericoacoara. The Aussie guy I met and his two friends were going too so I had some folks to travel with.

Steven and I decided to go out that night but I needed to get a power nap...I was running on a pretty much empty tank. When I woke up about 30 minutes later I discovered that Kenneth/Norway and Dars/Australia (who I had partied with back in Pipa) were staying at the hostel. They were awesome guys and we were happy to see each other again. Kenneth had a bunch of friends from Norway who had come in to visit for a few weeks and they were staying in a hotel close the hostel. Kenneth told me that they had bought a stereo and they were going to have a party before going out that night...sounds good to me. Nobody ever has a source of music when traveling (besides a discman or MP3 player...but nothing big) so it really was a luxury. We picked up some rum and coke and headed for the hotel. There were about 6 or 7 Norwegian guys there and they were pretty crazy. Since they were only traveling for a few weeks they were able to spend money like water...and it showed. They sort of had a small harem of women with them...I don't think they were hanging out with the guys because of their great personalities. A quick side note: Fortaleza is well known for it's sex tourism. There are MANY, MANY "women of the night". Most of the bars are packed with them...but often people are unaware of the occupation of these ladies until...well, lets just call it "crunch time". They really target the foreigners so you have to be careful. Anyway, the Norwegian guys were all happy contributors to the economy of Fortaleza. A couple of them even took Viagra pills before we went out...now that is what I call optimism:)

Anyway, we all headed out that night to a club across town that was pretty good. We had a bit of trouble getting in because of a couple guys were wearing shorts but they went back to the hotel and returned properly attired. The place was actually pretty nice...large outdoor area with a few bars outside and a HUGE dance floor inside where they played great house/trance. Much to the chagrin of the Norwegians, the club was a bit too upscale for them to find "ladies of the night" so they were forced to really purely on good looks and charm. Quite a bit of Viagra went to waste, but the night was not without entertainment. There was a pretty comical sequence of events.

Somewhere during the night, Kenneth had picked up some "E" (Ecstasy for you less hip folks) that did not react well with all the drinking he had been doing. He wanted to crash so he and the other guys said they were heading back to the hotel. Steven/England and I stayed behind because we wanted to keep dancing for awhile. Well, about an hour later we walked outside and Kenneth had passed out on the ground, in the rain. I got there just in time as the bouncers were picking him up trying to get him out of there. Some of the other Norwegian guys were still around too but somehow they had not noticed the commotion. I intervened and was able to convince them to let him stay. I got him a few bottles of water and got him somewhat coherent, but we basically had to carry him out of there. Let that be a lesson to you kids...drugs are bad. Anyway, that was not the end of the escapade.

We got a cab back to the area near the hotel, which happens to be very close to an area that has many bars. It was about 4 at that time so everything was closing and there were a TON of people out in the streets. We all got out (including Kenneth who had sort of snapped out of it) and started cruising the crowd. I spotted a meat on a stick guy and headed for him with great jubilation. Well, as I was waiting, the others sat down nearby at some tables of a restaurant that was closing. Well, in his inubrieted state, Kenneth knocked one of the tables over. It was one of those faux marble table tops so it broke pretty readily when it hit the ground. Well, these guys (I was NEVER sure if they even worked there) started making all this commotion about how he was going to have to pay for the table. Lack of ability to speak the language and drunkeness made for a bad combination and things began to escalate rather quickly. I tried to get in the middle and seperate things and help but it was too late. The number of people involved doubled and it started turning into this shoving match and a lot of attention was created...MANY people were watching. Here we were, a group of gringos surrounded by all these guys yelling and screaming at us about a broken table. This was not something I wanted to be in the middle of so I was trying to drag Kenneth out of there and just walk away...but it wasn't possible. We were trying to give the guys 50 reals but they wanted a hundred. Just as things got to a point, the police showed up. I quickly faded into the background...when police come, I go. Kenneth tried to give the guys all the money he had, which was about 60 reals...but it wasn't enough, so the POLICE took his watch!! The whole thing was pretty funny in the end as the watch was worth about 5 dollars, but it was a narrowly avoided catastrophe. It was also fortunate for me because while I waited for Kenneth to deal with the cops, I was able to return to the meat on the stick guy (I did not get any before b/c all the commotion started) and I ate two. They were delicious.

We went with a few girls to a nearby cafe and laughed about the events of the evening. Kenneth and I finally headed for the hostel around 7:00. I had to catch the van to Jericoacoara at 8...painful. Looks like it was going to be two nights in a row with 45 minutes of sleep. No problem.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Woke up after my "nap" and it was time to get a move on! Whew, this is getting tough! I quickly packed my things, grabbed a banana for breakfast, and got in the van headed towards Jericoacoara. In the van were three Aussies, Jon, Cathy, and Dillow (who I had gone to the internet with the pervious day). Also there was one Israeli girl and a french guy. We headed out on our way just afer 8. Just after 9, we had gone absolutely nowhere. Seriously, we were STILL in the city. We drove around and made all these weird stops for the family of the guy who was driving the van. It was a bit frustrating. After that, we ended up picking up two more people...these American girls that were studying in Fortaleza, Anisa/Chicago, and Liv/New Mexico. Finally we made some progress and got out of the city at almost 10.

That Anisa girl was a little strange. It was weird...she had been to many places...a few countries in South America, Europe, and even Japan...so it was clear that she had seen a lot, but you could tell she had not REALLY traveled. I mean, she did not know what a hostel or a pousada was. She thought it was weird that the Aussies had been to Peru and Bolivia and she was in awe that we were all traveliing with just our backpacks. It was as if she had never heard of backpacking before...which is understandable...I think MANY Americans have no clue what it is like, but she had been to so many places before so it did not make sense. I mean, even if you aren't backpacking, you still run into many of them as you travel in these places...especially Europe! Oh well,I guess she learned a bit from us.

As we got closer to Jericoacoara it began to rain...one thing I definitely did not want to see more of. The van dropped us off in a town about 45 minutes from Jeri. From there you must take a larger 4 wheel drive vehicle because there are no paved roads and the terrain gets pretty rough. Jeri is pretty remote. Up until a few years ago they did not have electricity. Somehow, it has become a popular spot amoungst Brazilians and backpackers.

We finally arrived in Jeri just after 3 p.m. Stefan/Germany was at the pousada we stopped in front of so we were reunited again!!! I checked intot he pousada and got a room with him and two other people that he had met on his way there. I did not meet them until much later that night.

I was in serious need of getting my laundry done (I had not washed anything since Carnival) so that was the first order of business. Stefan directed me to a place where he had done his...I dropped off the clothes to be picked up the next day. The only problem with doing laundry while traveling is that you end up having virtually nothing to wear for the time peoriod in which your clothes are being washed. Since I needed everything cleaned I was down to a pair of scrubs, one long sleeve shirt that I had not even worn on the whole trip yet (it is too hot) and my bathing suit. It was still very rainy and wet that day so the trunks it was...but there is always the sense of worry when you hand off all your clothes to someone and you can only hope that you will see them again the next day. If anything goes wrong it would be disasterous.

We went down to the beach afterwards to grab some food. There we ran into all the folks that had taken the van with me from Fortaleza. The rain actually let up for about an hour which was cool but I must say, I was pretty unimpressed with Jeri. The beach was not that great...there were random cows and horses all over the place. As we all know, where there are cows, there is cow stuff. Not a pleasant thing on the beach. It was quite an interesting juxtapositioin though...sitting there at a restaurant on the beach, watching the ocean, and then 4 cows go trotting past.

We sat talking/drinking for a couple hours but since the rain had chased most folks away, the restaurant closed pretty early. We went and got some beer at the store and then we all went to the pousada where the Aussies were staying. It was a cool eventing an a good way to pass the time since it was soooo wet outside. Eventually we went to dinenr at a nice restaurant in the main square. They actually played a Mana CD while we were there which made me happy!

After dinner we went down to the only popular bar, Planeta Jeri. It was a great time...I met the others who were staying in our room (Aimee/Australia and a German girl). We stayed there talking/singing/drinking until about 2 but then Stefan, Liv, and I wanted to go check out the Forro place that we had heard was good that night. Jeri is very small so there are not many options. We went to the Forro place and I ended up dancing most of the night with this cool girl, Sonia. She was a great dancer and super nice. She taught me some of the words to this song I love. We danced/talked until about 5:00 a.m. and then I walked her home. I was absolutely exhausted after that 3 day stretch and was very happy to see my bed in the pousada.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

I woke up at 3:00!!! Guess I needed some rest after the stretch I had lived the previous few days!! Sadly, it was STILL raining pretty good. I was beginning to think I would never see the sun again. Aimee/Australia, Stefan/Germany, and I all headed out for some food and so I could pick up my laundry. On the way, we stopped and talked to the other Aussies and decided that since it was raining we would go to their pousada after getting food and hang out and have a few beers. Hey, it seemed to work the day before. Lunch (or linner) was very good and aftwards I picked up my CLEAN CLOTHES!!!! I true moment of delight for any backpacker. It really is indescribable. After grabbing my laundry, I stopped by Sonia's place to invite her along but she was not around so I left a message. With full bellies and clean duds we went back to the Aussies and hung out drinking beers and goofing off for the next few hours. (waaaaahh). It was really fun and a great day to spend a rainy day. I was really enjoying Jeri, even though there was not much to do because of the rain. It is true that the people you travel to a place with can really make a difference as to the impression you get. Anyway, Stefan and I really needed to keep moving north so we kicked around the idea of leaving Jeri the next day. I sort of wanted to stay another day and see if I could atleast go out to the beach on a sunny day...but Aimee/Australia, Janet/England (who I had not met at that point) and a couple other folks were going to leave the next day and had organized a car for us to get to the next town where there is a bus station. Jeri is pretty remote as I had said before so getting to/from there can be a bit of a hassle. I liked the idea that someone else had already spent two hours going to all the agencies figuring out the cheapest and best way to move on so I was pretty much ready to jump on the bandwagon.

Around 8:30 I headed back to shower up and then was going to meet up with the others where they were eating. I stopped by Sonia's house to pick her up on the way but by the time she got ready and we went to the restaurant the others were already gone. We decided to just walk around town. We talked for hours, walking the streets of Jericoacoara. We never found the others but it was a great night. I was speaking Porteguese the entire time and really got to know here a bit better. It was interesting hearing her talk about Fortaleza and how she wanted to get out of there so bad but the only place she had to go was to Jericoacoara, where her uncle owns a pousada. She was having a hard time readjusting her life to being there and away from her friends, but she knew it was better for her. I admired her for her courage to stretch her comfort zone like that...if even only a little bit. I know plenty of people who might not do the same for themselves.

Anyway, we ended up sitting outside on the porch of an empty house near where she lived and talking until about 3 a.m. I told her I may be leaving the next day but I must say I was really considering staying. I said goodbye, not really knowing if I would see her again, but happy that our paths had crossed.

AC

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