Current Date: Friday, April 25, 2003 12:30p.m. (Belo Horizonte)

Current Itinerary: I absolutely love it here!!! I will do a couple day trips to some small historical towns over the next few days and then Tuesday I will head for Pousa Alegre which is a few hours east of SP. At somepoint next week I will arrive back in Sao Paulo...I will look for work there or return to Belo Horizonte. Still not sure yet.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Awoke in Jericoacoara and wouldn't you know it, it was a bright sunny day. It was first truly sunny day I had seen in well over a week. I really wanted to stay in Jeri another day to enjoy the weather. During breakfast I talked it over with Janet/England and she convinced me the journey we would take would be worth it and we would still appreciate the sunny day. The ride was supposedly to consist of a jeep ride and a nice buggy ride to the next town. I reluctantly agreed...everyone else was on board and as I said before, I did not want to spend the two hours it would take to figure out how I was going to get to Sao Luis anyway. Little did i know, this would be one of the best forks in the road that I faced on my journey so far.

I had couple hours until we would leave so I went quickly to check e-mail, which I had not done since Forteleza. After that I had to rush back to the hostel to pack and get ready to go...I felt a bit bad, I did not get a chance to really say goodbye to Sonia. You face tough things like this when on the road though. C'est la vie.

Packed up and headed to the spot where the jeep would be taking us from. I was surprised to find that one of the people that would be taking the journey with us was Tanya from Israel that I had met back in the bus station in Salvador!! The traveling circuit is truly a small one. Anyway, Stefan/Germany, Aimee/Australia, Janet/England, Tanya/Isreal, Thomel/Isreal, and I all piled into the jeep and we were on our way. The jeep driver was this cool guy who happened to speak perfect English. He suggested to us an alternate path that we could take to get to Sao Luis that would take several days but would take us on several boat rides up a river and through a National Park. I had wanted to go to that park because Ilan (from Recife) had told me it was a must see. I was planning on doing a day trip from Sao Luis but this new Detour sounded like fun so I was very interested. It sounded so good that all of us were interested and it seemed that we would all take this alternate route and spend the next 4 days getting north to Sao Luis instead of doing it all in one shot. We would discuss it in Camocim (the city from which we would catch a bus to Sao Luis).

The jeep ride itself was quite scenic. We drove along the coast for about an hour, passing through some mangroves and crossing a river. It was beautiful and I was instantly happy that I had decided to move on with that group. There were amazing white sand dunes on one side and deep blue ocean on the other. A very nice ride with a cool driver and it gave me a better idea of why Jericoacoara is such a popular spot. Once you escape the part of the beach near town where all the cows and goats are, it is very beautiful.

Eventually we reached the spot where we had to go across a small river by boat and then take buggys to the the small town of Camocim where would catch a bus to Parainiba. From there we could catch a bus to Sao Luis, if we pleased, or try and take the path the jeep driver had told us about. The buggy ride was great and after we finally arrived at the Rodaviaria (bus station), all except Tanya and Thomel decided to take the detour and head to Parainiba and catch a boat the following day.

We arrived in Parainiba around 8:30, said goodbye to Tanya and Thomel and headed towards a pousada that had been suggested to us by the jeep driver. By that time, Janet and I had really began to rub each other the wrong way. She was far to anti-American for my taste...this is one of my biggest problems down here. I am always looked at as an American before anything else and all these stereotypes are attached to me...the most annnoying of which is that I am extremely wealthy. That was not the case with Janet and she probably did not realize it, but every other comment out of her mouth was "You Americans...this, you Americans that" It was getting old quick. It had taken almost 2 months but I was really getting fed up with the whole thing. But life is filled with these types of situations. I think that one must work best he can to try and break down stereotypes and teach people to look at one another as individuals. I figure anyone who spends a few days with me will eventually learn that I am not the typical Americano. I guess we would see.

The pousada, Porta das Barcas was located just near the port where we would take off from and in a nice quaint little area of town. It was a bit strange because usually ports are VERY shady. We checked in and then went out to find about a boat the next day to Tutoia and to find some food. We had to wait until the morning for the boats as it was late and the shops were closed. We found a pizza place just next to the Pousada and we sat and ate and chatted for a couple hours. Around 11:30, we went back to the pousada. Stefan and I sat up talking for awhile and then it was time to hit the hay.

I could not help but to think that at the beginning of that day, I could not have imagined that I would be sleeping in a pousada on the port in Paranaiba...poised to go on an 8 hour boat ride the following day. That morning, I was uncertain if I would even leave Jericoacoara or if I would go towards the National park or Sao Luis. Once again I had found myself in a city I had never heard of, with a new set of travelers, going on a 3 day path through rivers and forests that I had not anticipated or planned. This has GOT to be the best thing about traveling. Heading out in one direction and ending up in a perfectly different situation. The freedom to paint my own path. It is so beautiful I don't know what to say. I still continue to feel so unbelivably content with my travels and the decision I made to come on this journey. On days like this one, I realize that from one day to the next, I can really do whatever I want and there is always another adventure waiting around the corner. If I am dreaming, nobody wake me up.

Ahhhhhh life on the road!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Woke up just after 8. Showered up, woke up the girls and then headed out to find out about boat tix. Obtained tickets to Tutoya on an 8 hour boat ride with hammocks included for R$30. Sweet. Also found out about where the nearest B do B was. We were all running low on cash and we knew it would probably be the last opportunity we would have for several days to get some. Ran and got cash and batteries, headed back to the hostel, packed, and dashed for the boat...when we got there we were pleasantly surprised. It was a nice, double decker boat. We got our hammocks and put them on the upper deck. We had the whole upper part to ourselves!! There were very few passangers aboard and they mostly all stayed on the lower deck.

The boat ride was spectacular!!! It sure beat the heck out of sitting on a freezing cold bus and we even got a nice lunch. We floated along the river all day, watching the small villages and foilage pass by and lounging in our hammocks. It was just peaceful as could be. Truly traveling in style...and let's not forget that I owed it all to Janet. She had been the one to convince me to leave Jeri the previous day and she had pretty much organized everything. Despite a slight clash in our personalities, I was really grateful to her. Throughout our time on the boat, we began to get to know each other a bit more and I began to find her fascinating. Ironically it was I whose eyes were being opened. I was so quick to judge her for being anti-American, that I had sort of closed myself off from listening to what she had to say...I was slowly learning that she is an amazing woman. She is 39 years old and traveling alone. That, by itself, speaks volumes about her character in my opinion. She has traveled what seems to me like the entire world in her life. When I meet people like her I realize that I haven't done ANYTHING yet. I have got a long way to go but I am working on it!

About 7 we finally arrived in Tutoia. It is a VERY nice little town that is at the northern part of the delta de Parainiba. It is a port city that has a lively restaurant and cafe area near the docks. There was even a large open square that had space for Forro dancing on the weekends.

A guy on the boat led us to a nearby hotel/pousada called the Palace that was very nice. I found it funny that even in these small towns they try to call the nicer hotels "palace". In my opinion, anyplace that only costs 5 bucks a night can not be considered a palace. Anyway, we checked into our rooms and then inquired about catching a Toyota to Cabure...this is a generic term used in this region for a four wheel drive truck...I guess they are just about all Toyotas. Sort of like when people in the southern US ask if you want a Coke...when they really mean any type of soda. (Note...this bugs the hell out of me) By the way, another tendency that is quite annoying of southerners (ateast in Houston): the needless plurilazation of the proper names of places...particularly restaurants. "Yeah, last night we were at Mi Luna's". Let's get it straight people. Yet I digress.

The woman at the desk regretably informed us that a "Toyota" to Cabure would set us back R$40/person. Hmmmm this little detour is starting to become a bit pricey. We had heard from our jeep driver the previous day that we might be able to get a cheap ride in a plaza in town so we set out in search of that and food. The idea was to get to Cabure the next night, a small town at the mouth of the delta de Parainiba. From there we would take a boat to Atins, possibly see a portion of the Parque National de Lecios de Marenhenses, which is the park that I mentioned that I wanted to see. It had been recommended to me by Chris/SP and as we all know by now, her suggestions are gold. Anyway, our extended plan was to take a boat from Atins to Berreirinhas, see more of the park, and then finally get a bus from there to Sao Luis. I know it is tough to keep track of all this if you did not live it so bare with me. Once again, the immediate task at hand was to get to Cabure the next day.

The guy from the hotel (incidentally, the SAME guy who had led us from the boat) was nice enough to walk us to the plaza we were looking for which was just a short walk through town. I don't think I captured the image of this town correctly before...it is a VERY small town and quite simple. Narrow brick streets lined with local businesses...not particularly lively and certainly off the backpacker circuit. It was nice to be where there are few tourists. It gives you a better look at Brazil and it's people. It excites me a lot seeing these small towns. What is great is that the people are equally excited to see tourists coming to see their towns. They really go out of their way to be nice to you and they are very curious. The man from the hotel was a good example of this. He left the desk just to walk us to this plaza and he even pointed us in the direction of a good restaurant. While walking down the street, a group of kids literally walked up to us and just started following and staring and talking. Finally one of them wanted to show off his english so he asked us what time was...obviously a one of the first phrases one would learn when learning another language. We told them in English but of course they had no idea. So I asked them in Porteguese if they spoke English. One of the kids said yes, and then his friend said to him in Porteguese, "You don't know English!!" And the other one got all defensive saying "I know more than you!!!" It was very funny and a cool reminder that kids are kids, no matter what language they speak. Anyway, they said goodbye and walked off laughing, no doubt excited about their rare encounter with gringos. (side note: In Brazil, "gringo" refers to ANY foriegner, not just Americans)

Anyway, we finally found a cool place to eat at a restaurant that was also a Pousada. It was great, despite there being one of those little yappy dogs nearby that would not shut up. We spoke to the owner of the pousada (incidentally, the lonely planet metioned this guy and said he is refered to by locals as "the gentle giant". He might have been a nice guy, but he was about 5'6"...165cm. for you metric folks. My mental image of him and what he looked like were vastly different.) and he quoted us the same price as the girl back in our hotel did on the Toyota. He was nice though and showed us a bunch of pictures of some of the places we would visit, so we decided to book the Toyota through him and had it set up to pick us up at 9 the next morning.

The girls headed back to the hotel around 11:00 and Stefan and I decided to explore the town a bit and have a couple beers. Back near the port, we found a little bar that actually had pool tables...not in the best shape, but it was something. We played a few games (note: it was not like in the US...8 balls, 4 green, 4 red...he who knocks all his balls in first wins. Apparently this is how they play 8 ball in England and other parts of the world. The same but different) and had a beer. It was cool and we both really liked the town. Stefan had a funny incident at a small store where he tried to buy cigarrettes. First of all, he was propositioned by a toothless woman. Secondly, the woman in the store did not have the 20 centavos to give him in change...of course he said don't worry...but she insisted on giving him and handful of candies, which became a funny source of humor for us for the next several days.

We walked around a little more but the town was pretty dead. Not surprising, I think the population is about 1500. We had another beer and headed back to the hotel.

I must say, that night, for the first time on my trip, I sort of hit the wall. I was frustrated with the shabby accomodations and the cold showers and longed for a clean hotel with A/C. I don't know why that particular night I was freaking out...it just happened. I guess you feel like that some nights when you come from where I do. There were just growing pains I guess. That good old comfort zone stretching. The next day I was very angry with myself and how I had acted. Oh well, we all have our weak moments. Mine usually comes as I am stepping into freezing cold shower number 50.

Stephan and I talked for awhile...he helped me through my "episode". I was really glad he was there. It helps to have someone to lean on when you get frustrated like that.

All in all, it was another GREAT night. Crashed happily and actually slept better than I had slept in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, March 26, 2003

Woke up after a quality sleep in Tutoia. Had a nice breakfast at the hotel and then we set out in our Toyota towards Cabure. The first part of the ride was pretty uneventful as we headed inland to go around a river that extends west. It was interesting to watch the very small villages we passed through. This area of Brazil is quite poor and has the feel and look of it. Many of the houses are merely huts made from mud and stone with palm leaves as rooftops. Some are nothing more than a one room square. After passing through the small town of Paulino Neves, the ride got much more exciting. Our driver may have been one of the best I have ever seen...navigating his way through the swampy land towards the coast. We had entertained the idea of renting our own Toyota to save money and driving ourselves. That would have been disasterous. First of all, there are virtually NO real roads. They are all sort of dirt roads that sort of dead end into a swamp...we were then forced to sort of create our own path, passing from one dry patch of land to another. Secondly, once we were out of town, there was NOTHING around us but swamp. It was vitrually impossible to tell what direction we were going or needed to go.

Somehow this driver steadily made his way in the right direction and we ended up at some beautiful sand dunes that overlooked a large natural lagoon. We walked up the dunes and snapped some pictures. Aside from the lagoon, it literally looked like we were in the middle of a desert. Just beautiful. I started to rain a bit so we did not swim, and decided to trudge forward. The driver navigated his way through several small streams and quicksand and eventually we hit the coast. We sped along pretty good but the water was so inviting that I had to stop for a swim...despite the fact that it was raining. It was just this remote spot along the coast. The water was absolutely beautiful!!! Warm and not to strong. It was a nice swim but I was the only one willing to brave the rain to do it. I was sure I was the first American to ever swim in that stretch of beach as it was quite remote. Pretty cool.

We sped along the beach for another half an hour, passing out of the rainstorm into a very sunny and pretty day. We arrived at Cabure and it was such a COOL little village. The houses were literally about 30 huts...and I mean HUTS...mud, wood, and bamboo/palm as a roof. There were actually a couple pousadas there that also doubled as restaurants.

Cabure is situated along the Rio Preguica, a small river that extends from there to Barreirinhas, which was our final destination. The town actually is on a small stretch of land the divides the river and the ocean, so we were actually only about 400 meters from the ocean also. It was VERY beautiful there. Talk about a place to get away from it all!!! Stefan and I walked around and took a bunch of pictures but the entire time I was thinking what I always think...the camera's eye was never going to be able to capture what I was seeing. ANYONE who is backpacking/traveling in northeastern Brazil MUST come and see it for themselves!! It was a spectacular experience.

We ended up spending about 2 hours in Cabure, having a few beers, swimming and just enjoyng how amazingly beautiful it was. I have to say, it must be in my top five of places in the world to stop and sip a few cold beers. I wish I could describe how it felt to sit in that little village with the sea on one side and a river on the other. For the umteenth time on my trip so far, I was at a complete loss of words to describe the beauty of what I was seeing.

Finally we decided to get a boat to a nearby town called Maracau that has a well known light house in it that was built in the 1940's. We traveled ther in a small makeshift sailboat of one of the locals. You should have seen this thing. It was basically a tiny canoe with two long sticks cut from trees and placed in an L shape to hold the sail. The sail was literally a very large two ply plastic bag. These guys make sailing look pretty damn easy...but it was a bit scary. The boat was very tiny and the water came up to within inches of the sides. We were in this boat, with ALL our stuff...backpacks, cameras, etc. Seriously it seemed like one slight shifting of weight would send us and all our stuff into the river.

We arrived in Maracau in about 10 minutes and made our way towards the light house. It gave us a good glimpse of the upclose life of the people living in this very small village. When I think about it now it still overwhelms me. We met a couple little kids that were locals and spent a good amount of time talking to them while our guide fetched the key for the lighthouse. One of the kids actually had a shirt on it that said USA. Not exactly a common thing to see down here. I took a picture with him...later when I asked him about it there was a pretty funny exchange.


Me: So I am from Chicago. Do you know where that is?

Him: I think so.

Me: What country is it in?

Him: Is it close to Sao Luis (a city in Brazil that is about a 4 hour bus ride from where we were.)

It was hilarious! Ironically, in the grand scheme of things, Chicago is pretty close to Saint Louis...which is Sao Luis in English. I guess technically, he was right.

Anyway, the view from the lighthouse was spectacular. You could see the entire area!! Not that any of the small villages were really made of much, but hopefully my pictures will give people an idea of how truly small and primitive these little towns actually are in comparison to what we are used to in the US.

After the light house, and a beer at a local pousada, we were ready to head to Atins, where we would catch a boat to Barreirinhas. We hopped back onto the sailboat (where there was now a significant tear in our "sail" and about 40 minutes later we were in Atins. The boat that would take us to Barreirinhas was already there so we stored our bags and headed into town. It was about a half mile walk across the beach and then on a path through this small swampy area. I jokingly made a comment as we were walking that it would be interesting to try to navigate that same path on our return when it would be pitch black.

Atins was also a cool little town...a bit bigger than Cabure and it seemed slightly more developed. By this I mean that there were actually houses that had brick and stone walls...not just straw and mud. I guess in Atins they had read the story of the 3 little pigs:) There was a fair amount of activity as it was around 6 and kids were all heading to school. For some reason school is at night in these parts. Probably because there are many chores and things that must be done during the day. We garnered many stares as we walked through town...more curiosity than disdain. I doubt they see many travelers in their midst. It was cool. The roads were a bit tough to navigate because it is the rainy season and there were many puddles and lots of mud (of course the roads are not paved). Anyway, we found a pousada that had a restaurant and sat to eat. The food was pretty good and we enjoyed the place, despite being eaten alive by the mosquitos and being attacked by a flying beetle the size of a pteradactyl.

It was about 8:30 so it was time to head back towards the boat...which was to leave at 9. I was of course slightly prepared...I had my trusty keychain flashlight with me (thanks Mo!!) but we would soon learn that it would not be enough. We got out past the edge of town without incident...my small light was enough to help us avoid the puddles and the mud. However, when we reached the small swampy area we could not find the path that led us through it to the other side. It was just way too dark and we were looking for a tiny path in a very large open space. There was a slight bit of panic as the boat was a solid ten minute walk past the swamp and it was getting close to 9, the supposed departure time, and our bags were already on the boat!! Anyway, about 10 minutes went by and we just could not find the path. The girls were sort of yelling at us pigheaded boys that we should go back to town and get help. Women just don't seem to understand that if a man does not know the way, he prefers to find it on his own...especially if that man has his trusty little flashlight with him, dammit! Anyway, I was just about to throw in the towel when a local fisherman and his son appeared out of the complete darkness, walked past us and directly to the path!! They had no fancy flashlight, or light of any kind for that matter. The led us through the darkness all the way to the shore. When we got to the shore, it was so dark that we coud NOT see the boat even though we would eventually find it about 100 meters from where we were...whew! It was a bit scary there for a minute.

The whole thing was moot though b/c we sat there for another hour before the boat left...which surprised none of us. This ride was not the cushy, lay in our hammocks ride that we had had the previous day. We sat on pretty hard sort of benches that were not exactly comfortable. It was also raining, and a few of the windows leaked so the floor was pretty wet. It pretty much rained the whole way and the boat ride lasted about 4 hours...we arrived in Barreirinhas just after 2 a.m., ready to find a pousada and get to a bed. We lucked out though, because as soon as we got there it stopped raining.

Now, as any backpacker will tell you, when you arrive in a place at such an hour it can be a bit of a challenge finding accomodations...especially if you are in a small town. With a bit of effort, and Janet leading the way, we found a decent pousada and eventually we woke up the guy at the desk and checked in.

We had finally made it!! The culmination of the past 3 days was getting to this National park, Lencois de Maranhenses. After many boats, buses, and cars we had arrived!! I thoroughly enjoyed the days we all spent together traveling off the beaten path. We really got to see some special places. I really must thank Janet because there is no way I would have come this direction had she not persuaded me to leave Jericoacoara several days before. The dynamic of our relationship had changed drastically by the end of that day. That happens after spending 48 straight hours together. I think both of us had gained a sort of mutual respect for each other...and certainly stereotypes were slowly crumbling.

The four of us had had our moments, but in the end, we all made it together and we ready for our reward...the next day it would come.

Worked on journals for awhile and then finally crashed, exhausted from a very long, funfilled day of traveling.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

By the time I woke up at about 8:45, Janet had already gone out and found a tour company that offered rides into the park and the was going to the lakes we wanted to see.

I should explain...the attraction of this park is not what you would think of when you normally think of a large park...lots of vegetation, animals and things of the sort. The attraction of this park is the beautiful landscape of white sand dunes that stretch for miles and miles and the natural lakes that form from the rain water that pools inbetween them...some of them that are actually very large and never dry up.

Anyway, Janet booked us on a tour that would leave at 9:30. We had been concerned about finding a place that would take us where we wanted to go because the rain had washed out the road to the dunes. Only large trucks would be able to pass the high water...which is exactly what we had.

Aimee had decided that she had enough of being off the path and needed to move on to Sao Luis and not go to the park. This made no sense to me...we had come so far! To each his own I guess. So, after breakfast Stefan, Janet, and I got on board our truck...tough to describe, look at the picture of me in front of it...and we were on our way with our group of 7 people.

A short drive and a ferry later we were in the park. We had to drive another 30 minutes to get to the dunes. It was a very difficult path to maneuver and there were many deep puddles. I instantly understood why many companies were canceling their tours. We were in a VERY large truck...I would say the hood was a good 4.5 or 5 feet off the ground and there was one point where we drove through puddle that must have been 6 feet deep!!! The entire hood and cab of the truck was completely submerged!! I still cannot believe we made it through. It was amazing.

(Note: the beauty and amazement of the things I describe in the following paragraphs will be very difficult to grasp without seeing the pictures...be sure to look at them)

We finally made it to the edge of the dunes and the left the truck. We would walk from there. The dunes were absoletely SPECTACULAR!!!!!!!!!!! I mean it...it was probably one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It literally seemed that we were out in the middle of the Sahara desert rather than in northern Brazil!! The sand was so white and the sun reflected VERY brightly off of it. The dunes stetched on forever and ever it seemed and they were so amazing. The lakes that formed were crystal clear water and the contrast of the blue on the white sand was just overwhelming.

We hiked to the first large lake, Lagoa Azul and stayed for awhile. I had a blast there. I felt like a little kid. I took a page out of the adventure on the Natal dunes and did some great cliff jumping off the edge of the dunes. I took some good pictures. The water was beautiful!! Crystal clear and warm. It was paradise there! Really. One cool thing I did was write a huge 40 foot ND insignia into the side of one of the dunes, the pictures of which, came out perfect!!! It may be my favoirite picture I have ever taken!! Gotta spread the pride of the best school in all the land across the world!!!

We eventually hiked to two more lakes, walking over an hour total. The dunes were just so unbelievable. You really have to see them to understand. It was very cool also for us because there was nobody else out there due to the roads being washed out! We had the whole thing to ourselves!!! It really was a trip highlight...and at that point, possibly the coolest thing I had seen. Anyone who is traveling this way MUST make a stop at the Parque de Lencois de Maranhenses. I give it my HIGHEST recommendation!!

We returned to the pousada around 4 for a shower and recharge. We met up with a couple other girls that Steven had known from Jericoacoara, Ruta/Canada and Kristie/England. We all went out together to a cafe that Janet had found that supposedly had internet. I was suffering...it had been 4 days since I had checked e-mail or read any news. I am finding that internet is becoming increasingly difficult to find as I move further north. Also I have spent lots of time away from the big cities and in small towns. Anyway, it did not matter, the internet at the restaurant did not work. I was dying to know the ND score...I was pretty sure that their sweet 16 game was on that day.

We sat in the cafe and ate and talked for a few hours. It was cool. I really love getting to know more and more people from all over the world. Ruta and Kristie were both headed for the Amazon so I decided to hitch my wagon to theirs. Stefan had decided to bail out on it due to lack of time and I heard from Max (stayed with him in house in Morro) that he was not coming either. The girls were meeting up with a girl, Lisa/Australia, that I had met at the Natal hostel. This backpacking world is very small! Ruta sort of rubbed me the wrong way but Kristie really seemed like a cool girl and I was interested in getting to know her...guess hanging out with all these Poms is having an effect on me:)

After dinner, we all went down to the port area and had a couple drinks. The girls were pretty tired so they headed for home but Stefan and I decided to see what we could find. I ended up finding out from these girls about a party that was going on in town, but a bit far away from the port area. We got directions from a couple of local guys and started to walk.

The town of Barrenrinhas is sort of split into two parts by a small beach. One side, the port side, has many bars/restaurants and is pretty active because people come there from some of the smaller towns that are up river. The other side of the beach is much more residential in nature. The party was supposed to be over there so that is where we were headed. It was sort of like crossing to the other side of the tracks...basically no lights or people around. The roads were unpaved and it seemed a bit shady on the surface, but the small towns are all very safe. People are friendly and there is virtually NO crime, so we did not feel there was any danger.

Eventually we heard the music and headed in the direction of it. We found the place...a stretch of bars with a truck outside playing music. It was pretty happening actually and of course, everyone there was locals. We stuck out big time but that is all good. We sat for a beer but for some reason I became completely tired. I was pulling a Tony and falling asleep at the table. About a half hour later, we decided to head back to the pousada, but of course when we got there I was wide awake. I hate that. Worked on journals for an hour before hitting the hay...I had to write about the park while it was still fresh in my mind. It was crazy all that I had done over those 4 days and again I say it all stemmed from Janet persuading me to leave Jericoacoara with them. I am not kidding when I say that it was the best 4 day stretch of my trip so far. I saw so much and getting to travel and know Janet really was interesting. While on the dunes that day, she gave me one of the best compliments I think I could have heard...she said "I have to admit, my opinion about Americans is changing". Music to my ears. (note: it wasn't all me...she had also met another American girl a few weeks prior). I too had relearned a valuable lesson. Since I felt like I was being judged in the beginning, I too became defensive and judgemental. It is so important to give people a chance to show you what they are really like. Had my attitude not changed, I probably would not have really gotten to know Janet. She is a wonderful woman who really is very wise about the world and it's ways. I think that that was the day that she finally decided that I am not your typical American. I think I said this at some point before, but one of the true pleasures in life breaking down the stereotypes that people have for certain groups. Being black, it is something that I constantly have to go through in the States...and being American, it is something I have to constantly go through on the road. Both situations are similar as there are many negative stereotypes attached. As Janet learned that day, though, we aren't all the same. To me, it was a small victory for individualism...I guess I'll keep trying to spread the word.

AC

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