Current date: Monday, June 16, 2003 12:15p.m. (Sao Paulo)

Current Itinerary: Same...still teaching. My appreciation for weekends is growing:) Excited about the 4 day weekend this week but haven't made a plan yet...but I'll be strapping on the backpack for sure.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

As the sun came up that morning on the bus from Brasilia to Belo Horizonte, I was pleasantly reminded of yet another beauty of being back in the south of Brazil...the region has many beautiful mountains and is very scenic. I had been up north for so long, I just completely forgot about the visual treat of the busrides down here.

I arrived in Belo Horizonte (here after refered to as BH) around 11. There was only one hostel in the city that I knew of so I decided to go in that direction. BH is Brazil's third largest city and has about 4 million people. As with any big city here, the bus system is impossible to figure out if you do not know the names of the barrios. The hostel seemed like it was only about a mile and a half away so I decided to walk it...even though I was lugging my 50 pound backpack. This would turn out to be a near fatal error. (okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was pretty costly)

The first problem was that I did not take into account the fact that BH is a very hilly city. Secondly, when I got the place where the map said the hostel was, I was quite puzzled because it was not there. I met a nice girl who tried to help me and called the number of the hostel for me but there was no answer. The street number of the hostel in the book was in the 500's and I was in the 1300's so was a thought that perhaps the hostel was back up the road. Problem was, I had already walked a considerable way and walking back up hill with my backpack did not sound too appealing. Plus I began to think that the hostel may not exist anymore and I would be progressing further from the area I wanted to be close to. I decided I would walk to the nearest major road and then search for a hotel. To spare you all the pain of the long story, TWO hours later after circling and climbing up and down the hills I had STILL not found a hostel OR a hotel. I was willing to pay ANYTHING at that point if I could just find a place to put my things down. I stopped at a little shop to get some water and rest for awhile. The people there were really nice and I ended up having a relaxing hour talking to them about my travels and about BH. One of the ladies there suggested I go to Cafe Cancun that night. Some my remember that last year I went to a Cafe Cancun in Florianapolis...I knew it was a cool place so I sort of leaned towards going there...but I didn't have to worry about that for several hours. For now, there was a different priority.

I picked a hotel at random out of one of my guide books and got in a cab...I just couldn't walk anymore. I arrived at the hotel Macedo downtown around 3:00...four hours after my arrival in the city!! I slept for a few hours and then was finally ready to do some exploring.

When I got dressed that night, I realized for the first time that I have been losing weight on the trip. My pants literally fell past my hips when I put them on! I thought about it then though and I realized I had not eaten more than a snack in the busstation in Brasilia in the previous 24 hours...so maybe it was sort of temporary. Plus, I must have lost about 10 pounds alone that afternoon lugging my backpack all around the city:) Anyway, I guess it is common when travelliing...you are always active and your eating pattern can be sporadic. As far as I'm concerned, traveling is probably the most fun way that a person can lose weight!

There were two people that I knew were in Belo Horizonte that I wanted to meet up with. One was Christi/Spain whom I had met back in the hostel in SP at the beginning of my trip. The other was Marcella...the girl who Stefan and I had shared a room with back in the hostel in Porto de Gallinas. Christi knew I was arriving that day...I had called her during my 4 hour hotel search that afternoon...but she was working until late. I had e-mailed Marcella just before coming to BH and had not heard back from her yet. Anyway, that meant I was on my own, which of course was fine with me.

I found a great internet place in the nearby Bahia Shopping. I got some food and spent a bit of time at the computer. The place also had international phone calls at AMAZING rates...R$20 for 50 minutes to the US!! That is about one third of the BEST price I had seen!! I couldn't get a card that night but I promised the guy I would return the next day. I also got some advice on HOW to get to Savassi...an area where there is lots of night life and where Cafe Cancun was.

It was only around 9:30 at the time so I decided to kill some time around the centro before heading to Savassi. I walked around and checked out the scene...a lot of pretty packed bars but mosty an older crowd. One place seemed lively and was showing a soccer game so I went in for a beer...might as well mix some sports into my day!

I got a bus to the Praca Savassi around 11. It was too early to go the club so I looked for a decent bar to chill at. I found one that was packed with a good crowd and the same soccer game was on. I sat there for awhile, talked to a few people and tried to convince them to go with me to Cafe Cancun. Unsuccesful, but it was all good. A little after midnight, I headed to the club. It was pretty nice but a little on the empty side. Of course, over the next hour it began to fill up and it was a good scene...but not great. I spent my time chatting with different groups of people but nothing of great interest. Around 2 I was about to call it a night when I saw these two girls who had been at the first bar I had gone to in Savassi. We started to talk and they told me they had met another American guy at the bar that night...which REALLY surprised me. BH is not on the coast and is therefore not known for tourism and I did not expect to see many foriegners...let alone another American there. Anyway, they introduced me to this guy, Billy, from California. He was with a couple other people from BH, Bernardo, Carlos, Cynthia, and one other girl. I ended up hanging out with that group for the next couple hours. Everybody was super cool and we drank and danced hard all night. Billy was a great guy who was only in Brazil for 8 days...the story behind which did not unfold for me until the next day. Anyway, he was funny as hell and we clicked instantly.

When the bar closed, Bernardo suggested we go back to one of his friend's apartments so I figured, what the hell!! As we were leaving the bar, there was a pretty comical sequence of events involving Billy...

He had pretty much been pursuing this girl, Cynthia for most of the night but was getting continuosly denied. She had the tease going pretty well though and was REALLY being forward with him...but not really letting him get anywhere. Of course it was killing him and even in the 2 hours that I was hanging out with them he had given up and then changed his mind atleast 5 times. Well, as we were outside the bar, sort of waiting for everyone to pay and decide exactly where we were going, Billy began talking with a couple girls who he had met earlier inside the bar. One of them (who was, shall we say, less attractive than Cynthia), was absolutely drooling all over him and was trying to get us to out to eat with them...wink wink. It was more than clear that this girl was interested in Billy and she was practically begging him to go with her and he, of course was strongly considering it...BUT he had spent most the night with the other gang AND also Cynthia, who he was very interested in. WELL, finally we were all in the car trying to get Billy to come, but he was still torn between what move to make. We were getting pretty impatient so Cythia's friend turns to her and says, go and get him. Cythia walks over to Billy, as he is in mid sentence and just lays a big kiss right on him!! There was a pretty big roar of laughter from the peanut gallery (us) and a look of disdain from the bystanders (the other girls). It worked pretty well though...he came right along with her back to the car. Well, at the time all this was transpiring, I think Billy was getting the phone number of the other girl, so she had his small notebook in her hand. So he was saying to us as he is being forced into the car, "I just need to get my book." Well, the balance of power had sort of shifted because the "less attractive" girl who liked Billy had the book and knew we could not drive away until he got it back. She walks over to the car...with a look of determination on her face...starts to hand him the book, and in the big bal...er...ovaries move of the night, leans into the car and lays an even BIGGER kiss on him than Cynthia did...garnaring a huge "ooooooooohhhhhh" from the bystanders (us this time) and an eruption of joy from the peanut gallery (her friends). A classic moment in Brazil. At that point, here was the score as I saw it:

"Less attractive" chic: 1

Cynthia: 0

Billy: 2

As we drove away from the club and Billy and I were laughing about what had just occured...I questioned him to why was he even considering going with those girls...and he capped the whole thing off perfectly..."I didn't know what to do man...I had bird in the hand!" From right there, I knew he I were going to get along juuuuuuuust fine.

We drove about 25 minutes to an apartment outside the city. Belo Horizonte is similar to Monterrey Mexico in that it is completely surrounded by mountains. We were in a place that was pretty high up in the hills and the building had about 15 floors and the apartment was at the top, complete with rooftop access! You could see the entire city from up above so I was treated to yet another spectacular sunrise. We played music, talked, danced and drank for hours and it was a TOTAL blast. I finally passed out around 8:00a.m. Another phenemonal night in a new city.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Woke up in a haze two hours later, thinking, "where the hell am I?" for the first 30 seconds as I got my bearings. I was supposed to meet Christi/Spain that morning at 10 because I was going to move from the hotel to her apartment. I gave her a call and we agreed to meet at the internet place in Bahia Shopping. Carlos drove Billy and I back into the city...we dropped Billy off and I went straight to the mall to meet Christi. I had to wait for awhile, and it was just after nine back home so I called my parents...thanks to cheap rate, we were able to talk for a FULL half hour!! It was great.

Christi showed up during that time and it was cool to see her again. We went to the central market and got some lunch and caught up on the past few months. I needed to get some rest and she had to go to teach a class (she is teaching Spanish in BH) so we decided I would head for her place the next day instead. Back at the hotel at 3, I crashed hard. At 5, the receptionist woke me up because I had a visitor. It turned out to be the guy from the little shop where I had stopped the previous day during my "walking tour" of the city. Another good show of how great Brazilians are...he had just come to say hello and to be sure I made it to the hotel okay since I had been so distraught the previous day. I was glad to see him and appreciated the gesture, but I was still super tired. We talked for 45 minutes and then I went BACK to sleep until about 7.

Woke up a new man and was ready to finally get something done. I gave Billy a call and we decided to meet up later. I also talked to Bernardo but he said he was too pooped to go out again so we made a plan to do something the next day. I headed out to the internet place to check e-mail and send a journal. By that time, everyone in the internet place knew me! It was possibly the best internet spot I have found on the trip...fast, brand new computers, great staff, only R$5/hour and plenty of computers so never a wait, so anyone going to BH, this is the place to go. (In the Bahia Shopping in the centro)

Billy and I met up at midnight that night in the main plaza in Savassi near his hotel. We wanted to just do a mellow scene for awhile so we searched for a good bar for awhile...we ended up sitting at a place on corner that was near some of the clubs in the area. We figured we might want to step it up later but there was also another reason we sat at that bar...there was a one guy sitting there with 3 girls and there was two of us (you do the math). Well, we strategically placed ourselves near their table and Billy asked the guy a question about one of the nearby clubs. Well the guy replied in perfect English so of course we asked him where he learned. He said he had gone to college in Chicago...so I am like, "cool, I am from Chicago...what school was it?" So he tells me it was IIT (Illinois Institute of technology...a pretty small engineering school just south of downtown).

Now, I have not one, but TWO pretty strong ties to this school despite it's relative obscurity. First, my good friend, Sunny (the da dugga), in Houston went to college there. Second, Patricia (girlfriend from Spain that I dated in college) had a friend from Madrid who also studied there. During my years at ND, we had gone to visit him several times and stayed in his dorm so I was pretty familiar with the small campus.

So I say to the guy, "Really, that is cool...I know some people who went to IIT. When did you graduate?" He says '97...right on target. So I ask him if he knew this guy, Jesus, from Spain and it was his FREAKIN' ROOMATE!!!!! That is unbeievable. This guy and I had slept in the same damn room at one point! I had never met him face to face b/c he only lived with Jesus for a semester and whenever we were at IIT, the roomate was gone for the weekend...but the magnitude of our coincidental meeting was still not diminished in any fashion. It does not beat the Alhambra story (possibly the best small world story in the history of man) but it was still pretty damn amazing. Also, since he did NOT know Sunny, it finally settled a two year argument on who is the center of the universe:)

Anyway, the guy, Chris was pretty cool. They were leaving at that point so we said we might meet up later. Billy and I ended up staying at the bar for about 2 hours talking. It was very cool. I really enjoy hearing people's stories (and telling my own...heh heh) about how they ended up where they are in life and Billy's was a great one. He is a 30 something wanna-be film maker from all over but now lives out in LA...yes I know, that is not entirely uncommon situation but it was interesting to hear. And I thought I was dedicated...the story he told floored me. He put everything he had (and didn't have) into making a movie. It is his life dream and what he wants to do. He is now putting the finishing touches on a progject he has spent years on. Even in the brief time he told the story to me, I gained an appreciation for all the little things that one doesn't consider when thinking about movies. It is impossible to encapsulate the whole thing so I won't even try. We also talked a lot about his brother who is doing his residency out in NYC and he told me the story of how he ended up coming to Brazil and ended up in BH. Turns out he had a friend from the States that was travelling in Brazil and in Rio at the time. He had come to spend time with him but after a few days wasn't liking Rio that much and feeling like he was in his friend's way. So, being a #3 type person (see Recife I journal) he bought a bus ticket to come to BH as he had heard good things about it. Pretty cool move.

After awhile we headed down to a nearby bar called "Pop Rock". The name did not fit though because it was all dance music and hip-hop inside. It probably had as high of a gorgeous women to guy ratio that I have seen. The only problem was that we arrived around 2:30 and it was a weeknight...the place was just starting to clear out. We saw Chris again and hung out with him for awhile. Nothing of major interest happened except a decent show with girls dancing on th stage...didn't touch the "Show Bar" though ( I can't wait to get back to that place). One thing that I thought was sort of funny was this one girl there who was apparently a quasi-famous model. She had all these bouncers around her the whole time. What was funny to me was that nobody was really even paying attention to her. I mean, she was pretty, but so was every girl in there. The only difference was she had bouncers around her, making her appear more important than everyone else. I even asked a few people who she was and they had no clue. I think this happens pretty often...many times security is nothing more than a show...sort of a measure of how important a person THINKS they are or society thinks they are. It reminds me of this grat story Tony told me from when he was growing up in D.C. Back in 91, if you remember, Clinton and Quayle were battling in the presidential elections. Well, it so happens that Tony went to the same highschool as Quayle's son and that spring he had a Lacrosse game at the school and his Dad came to the game. So of course, there was all this security and secret service and a section roped off and everything. It was quite a big deal...the possible future president of the USA...let's roll out the red carpet!!! As if an assasination attempt is gonna occur at a highschool soccer game. Well, of course, Clinton won and went on to be president and Quayle tumbled back into obscurity. Anyway, Tony said it was hilarious because the next year, when Quayle came to the game, he was just sitting in the stands, drinking a coke just like all the other dads. No security, no special section...just a regular guy whose 15 minutes were up.

Well, that was a nice tangent...we stayed at "Pop Rock" until about 4 and finally headed home.

Friday, April 25, 2003

I slept in until about noon that day and then headed up to the internet place. I talked to Bernardo and we decided we would meet at Billy's hotel at 3 and then all head out to his country house to have a little party and a barbecue. At the internet place I took advantage of the cheap calls and phoned some more friends back at home.

I caught a bus to the hotel Savassi where Bernardo and I waited for Billy for awhile. Billy had a flight back to the States the next day that left from Rio so we had to book a flight to Rio from BH. Incidentally, in Brazil, depending on how much you are willing to spend at how much time you have, taking flights is cheap enough to consider over taking the bus, even for relatively short distances. A major difference here is that one-way flights are not more expensive so it doesn't matter if you go round trip. Secondly, if you book a flight on the same day or one day before, it is the same price as if you book it a month in advance. Nice system that opens up the chance for people to use planes for very short distances without having to cash in their life savings.

Anyway, Billy booked a flight for the next afternoon, then we went back to my hotel to get my things because we decided we would be staying out at the country house that night. Afterwards we went by Bernardo's apartment to get some stuff...finally we were on our way to the country house. We stopped and got some stuff to barbecue and picked up some supplies to make caipiroskas with maracuja (a favorite of mine from the carnival days). Poor Billy had not tried many of the things that one must have when travelling to Brazil...and one of them is the great exotic fruits that one finds down here.

The country house was unbelievable...it was up in the surrounding mountains of BH...sprawled out on a huge piece of land. It was literally like a small resort...complete with a large open area with tables and a barbecue pit. I was plenty impressed and once again reminded of the large gap between classes here in Brazil...those who are well off, are VERY well off. It was really like 3 houses in one...there was the main house, a small guest house and another house where the groundskeeper lived with his family.

We listened to music for a awhile and began grilling the food and having a few drinks. Billy took TONS of pictures of everything we did which was cool...you can really tell he is a film maker. It was a really cool evening...just eating drinking and talking for several hours. I even got my South America map out and showed Bernardo where I had travelled in Brazil...I sure have travelled a looooong way. It is cool to look back on...and there is still a lot ahead of me!!

Eventually, Carlos, Cynthia, and her friend showed up. We stayed at the house until about midnight and then finally left for a nearby bar that was great. I met a pretty cool girl there that was a lawyer from BH that works both there and in Miami. We talked about South Beach for awhile and about the things I miss from the USA. She was not hard to look at.

Anyway, we eventually went to this club called "La Sala" which was VERY nice...that is an understatement. It was quite the exclusive club...I think you had to be some sort of a member just to get in that place but some fast talking by Bernardo got us in with no trouble. We danced awhile and met some people and it was great. About an hour after we got there, I became unbelievably tired and could no longer keep my eyes open. It was pretty funny...we were all sitting at this table in the upstairs portion of the club talking. I fell asleep for an indeterminate amount of time and when I woke up I was at the table bymyself and pretty confused. They all just let me sleep there...what is up with that! Later on, Billy showed me some pretty funny pics that he took of me sleeping. Oh well, I figure in life, you've gotta laugh at yourself for being an idiot once in awhile. Despite my sudden narcolepsy, it was another awesome night out in BH...the city was growing on my quickly. Carlos and Bernardo said they could help me get a job if I wanted to stay and I was seriously leaning towards doing so. I mean, in SP, I can probably make more money and I really like that city...but maybe it would be better for me to try out things in BH. It is better because you can easily get out of the city of needed and travel to some great mountain towns. Also, it's a bit cheaper and easier to get around. It is a tough call but I have to decide soon what I am going to do. I have to go to SP no matter what though because Sunny is coming to visit and I want to see all my friends that live there. It's strange...I feel like there is so much riding on where it is I decide to stay, when really, I'm sure I will enjoy myself plenty no matter what decision I make...I mean, I'm in Brazil...can't ask for much more than that.

AC

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