Current Date: Tuesday, March 9, 2004 12:30 p.m. (Sao Paulo)
Current Itinerary: Getting on a bus in a few hours headed to Iguazu Falls and then I will move into Argentina
Note#1: Hello out there...yep, you read it right...I've finally decided to uproot from Sao Paulo and continue my travels. That means your mailboxes are about to become cluttered as they were at this time last year when the journals were flowing freely. It was a very difficult decision to leave SP and I will miss my life and friends here dearly...but as they say, onward and upward.
Note#2: I plan to settle in Buenos Aires and should be there in about 10 days. If anyone has any connections there, please let me know.
Note#3: I know that I never sent those last few journals at the end of last May. I have posted 2 that were never sent on my website for those who wish to read them (second from Belo Horizonte and Pouso Alegre). What follows below was the last journal I wrote when I first arrived here in SP. I figured it was a good enough place to start things up again plus I thought it was interesting to read about my feelings from when I first arrived. Throughout the next week you will get the journals I wrote while living here...so it will be awhile before you get new stuff. Sorry about that. For now, it's good to be back. Here we go again...
Arrived back in Sao Paulo on the bus from Pouso Alegre at 4:30. Good old Tiete...I know that place like the back of my hand. It was weird...since I had been there 3 months prior they had done some serious remodeling...many new additions, including an internet place. A whopping 9 reals/hour though!! Welcome back to Sao Paulo. I gave Raquel a call to see if she had talked to Renato's brother...negative so I headed for the hostel. I checked in and called Cris to tell her I was back in Sao Paulo and then called Gabi and Telma (the girls I had met in Natal) to see if they wanted to meet up. Of course, for everyone else, it was the middle of the week so they were all pretty busy. That's all good though, I was planniing to stay in SP for atleast a few weeks.
I hung around in the common room in the hostel where I met Lars/Sweden, Veronica/Germany, and Anne Marie/Holland. Lars had been in SP for several months and knew a few people so he invited me to go out with a him. He was leaving right then so I told him I would meet up with him later.
Around 9:30 I found Lars and two friends of his at a chopperia on Paulista. They were cool...one of them was from Argentina and worked for a newspaper as a translator. I'm thinking that I may be able to get some work doing something similar...I can't speak Port. THAT well yet but I can certainly read it and translate to Spanish or English. I've heard you can scratch out a pretty decent living doing that so I think I'll check into it. I really need to focus on what to do for work at the moment. I always have teaching English to fall back on, but I would prefer to do something else.
Anyway, Lars' friends left as they had to work early the next day, so he and I headed to the only place I knew in that area...the good old Oxford Street Pub! It was so cool to see everyone again...all the guys there remembered me and I talked to Rafa (the bartender) for a long time about the past 3 months and how great it was traveling around Brazil. Eddy said he would probably be able to help me get work at a bar in SP, which really sounded appealing but I really was leaning towards going back to BH. I also lucked out on something else...since I was going to be SP for a few weeks, I was looking for a room to rent since staying at the hostel would become a little expensive. Plus, with Sunny coming I figured it would be better to have a little more space and a place of our own. Zaca, one of the guys who works at the bar, told me that there was a room for rent in the house he lived in and I could go and check it out the next day. I had been in SP for a total of 8 hours and I already had a potential job and a potential place to live...not too shabby. Maybe I'm meant to stay here.
Headed back home relatively early, around 2, and hit the sack.
Thursday, May 8, 2003
Being back in the SP hostel was nice for it's amenities...the common space is really good and having cable is a decent luxury since you can see movies and TV in English. I spent the morning talking with the folks I had met the night before about whether I would stay in SP or not. I'm realizing that I can't really afford to stay here for the next 3 weeks and then spend 2 more weeks getting settled in BH. Every single day that passes is one where money is going out and none is coming in...plus I'm sure the days Sunny visits will be pretty expensive. Anyway, I guess what I'll do is see if I can find anything here and if something pans out, I'll probably stay.
Anyway, all of us planned to go out that night to a great club Tony and I had gone to last year called "Show Bar". That place is unbelievable. We recruited another guy, Paul/Holland to go with us also and I even got Anne Marie to stay in SP a couple extra days. It turns out that she's a salsa instructor and I mentioned going to this place, Azucar, that I had heard was really good. So with that, we were set for a plan for the next couple nights.
I headed out in the afternoon to take a look at the room that Zaca had spoken to me about the night before. It was a little tough to find but I eventually got there. The good thing is that was pretty close to the subway which is good for getting around. The downside though, is that it isn't in a safe area, which doesn't bother me too much but I figured I could find something a little better for a similar price. Another problem was going to be having Sunny stay there and I was going to have to share a room with 2 other guys. If I had no option I would do it...but I told him to give me the weekend to keep searching.
On my way home I stopped on Paulista to get some info on more apartments and I happened to walk pass the little cafe that I had stopped at for me first beer when I arrived here in January. The only difference was that now it was pretty chilly outside...I'm not very excited that the winter is coming. Of course, the winters here are mild...sort of like Houston, but there are still some cold days. I'm not used to this after spending the last 3 months on the beach and in the tropic northern region of Brazil! Anyway, I stopped for a nostalgic beer and a little snack and then went back to the hostel.
I was able to get ahold of Gabi and Lais (who I met in Natal) and they said they were down for Show Bar. I went out to a store and got a bottle of rum for us to drink in the hostel before going out. We were Lars/Sweden, Paul/Holland, Anne Marie/Holland, Veronica/Germany and me. None of the others had been to Show Bar so I knew they were in for a hell of a night.
After a subway ride and a (sort of) short walk we were there. In line, a guy came to me selling VIP so we got to go past this huge line and go right in...sweet. We got there a little early...well, by Brazilian standards...it was probably about 11:30 so it was a little empty. That was good though because when Gabi and Lais showed up it gave us some time to talk. It was so awesome to see them again. Gabi looked absolutely incredible. We all danced like crazy and everybody loved the place. A funny little side story...this guy came up to me saying that he remembered me from some club in Sao Paulo. I told him I had only been here for two days and he's like..."No, it was 3 months ago...you were with this Australian girl!" He had remembered us from when we went out my second night in Sao Paolo way back at the beginning of February! He even remembered my name! I can't believe how many times something like that has happened to me. We left at 4:30 and the girls took us to this GREAT hot dog place just off Avenida Paulista called "The Black Dog." We hung out there until six and we caught the subway back to the hostel. Show Bar came through for a great night once again.
Friday, May 9, 2003
Woke up around 1 and headed out in search of a good, cheap internet place. I worked through the afternoon trying to catch up on journals and getting some pictures up on the website. While there did a little searching for some possible jobs and apartments in Sao Paolo. I came across an ad for a school that pays R$1000/month plus an apartment. I thought it sounded okay so I decided to call and check it out when I got back to the hostel. I talked to the guy Mark who sounded pretty desperate to get someone in...he even asked if I could come in that very same night...uh no. We set up an appointment for Monday morning.
We hung out in the hostel for several hours but everybody was pretty wiped from our night at Show Bar. In the end, only Anne Marie was ready to go out to the salsa place...so she and I went alone. First we made a stop at my favorite pub here in SP, the Oxford street Pub where all my friends work. I told them all I was thinking about maybe taking a teaching job and staying in SP and they were happy. At the bar we met this couple from Norway who were just traveling through SP and stopped for a few days. They were cool and had no plans for the night, so they headed to the Salsa place with us. The place was a little too small and very pricey, but the music was GREAT and we had a great night. Since I went out to many latin bars in Houston, I really missed the scene and it was great for me to be back in it. It was strange that in SP, the level of talent of the salsa dancers is much less than that of Houston. I would say that I am average at best but Anne Marie and I were by far the best ones there. It probably had more to do with her than me though. Due to the huge consumacao (R$60) we all get VERY hammered. We were the absolutely last people to leave as we stepped out into the morning sun at about 6. We took a cab to "The Black Dog" which we loved so much the night before. We said goodbye to the Norwegians and grabbed a subway back to the hostel, stumbling into bed around 7:30.
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Woke up in pain at around 1, just in time to see Anne Marie off. She was headed to the Pantanal and then to the Amazon later in the month. I gave her my info on staying at "camp Gerry" where I stayed and told her everything about my experience there. I wish her the best of luck...she was a great girl and a fantastic salsa partner!
Since I know for sure I'm going to stay in Brazil, I wanted to get a cell phone so people would be able to contact me. One major difference here is that ALL incoming calls are free, so it doesn't really cost anything to have a cell phone. The problem is that outgoing calls are ridiculously expensive. I have found this is generally true in all my travels...talking on the phone is never cheap. It actually changes a lot about the way people interact with each other. For example in the US, friends spend a lot of time talking to each other on the phone, even though they may live only a few blocks from each other. In Brazil, and other places, it isn't the same...people are forced to actually get together and see each other in person more often because of the expense of talking by phone. It's one of those invisible reasons that people become a bit more closed off in the US I think. Just interesting to think about. There is a downside to this however...the lack of dependency on the phone system results in terrible service, often dropped calls, and lines with so much static it is sometimes difficult to hear. This can really become frustrating. Here is my take on the average Brazilian phone call...payphone to a cell phone:
Anyway, you get the idea. Phones can be a serious pain in the ass here. Despite that, I went out in search of a cell phone so I too, could contribute to the frustration of others.
At the first store I went to, it dawned on me that I would not be able to get a phone with a plan since 1) I don't have the Brazilian equivalent of a SS# and 2) I didn't plan to stay here for an entire year. So that meant I had to with the pre-pay option, which of course is about 4 times more expensive per minute, HOWEVER, if that wasn't annoying enough...if you buy a pre-pay phone you pay TWICE the price you would pay for the same phone with a plan. Somebody please tell me how that makes sense. And we aren't talking about small amounts here...I mean you are talking about the difference between R$300 and R$600. Anyway, there was no way I was gonna go for that. This guy told me about a place where I can get a cheaper phone and maybe a deal. I did eventually find one and I finally have a phone now so folks back home can call me whenever they want. Wohoo!
I was going to try and catch a movie but I still had a pretty bad hangover so I decided to go back to the hostel and take a nap. Afterwards, Paul and I went for food in a bakery near the hostel and I had this great sandwich called Bauru that was sort of like a chicken salad sandwich in a Pita pocket. Anyway traveling in Brazil should try them...I can bet there will be many more in my future. I called Gabi who said she was going to meet us again that night but she couldn't. It was better b/c I was not in that good of shape to go out. I had a couple beers at the hostel and then went up to the corner bar near the hostel with Patrick/Norway and Veronica/Germany. We met Lars and some of his friends up there which was cool...but the best part is that they were showing in NBA playoff game on the TV in the bar. Rock on..it was my first glimpse at any NBA action since I arrived in Brazil...and it turned out to be an AWESOME game between the Kings and the Maverics that went in to double OT. God I miss sports.
Back to the hostel and in bed around 2.
Sunday, May 11, 2003
I got up pretty early and spent pretty much the entire morning and afternoon working on journals. I also looked through the paper for an apartment. I called up Cris/SP, Mike/Canada (from Amazon) and some other folks to see they wanted to meet up at Moca Bonita...my favorite Sunday evening drinking hole in SP. Lars and I went there around 6 and later Bianca and Cris showed up and we were happy to be reunited. I hadn't seen Bianca since last year...and ironically the last place had been in Moca Bonita. In my life I have spent 3 Sundays in SP, and all of them have been at that place!
That day was mother's day, both at home and here in Brazil. Since I had my cell phone then I received my first call! My Mom called me for mother's day. Things get all screwed up when you're traveling! Anyway, I talked with her and my dad for about 20 minutes...our first conversation in 2 months that lasted more than 3 minutes. That was cool.
After Moca Bonita, Cris and Bianca took Lars and I to this great hotdog/Pastel place near their university. It was really good and we all had a fun night. Afterwards we dropped Bianca off and went to the bar on the corner near the hostel. It was great to catch up with Cris and tell her of all the adventures I had and how influential she was in deciding on some of the places I went. I told her that I might end up staying in SP for awhile so hopefully we would get a chance to travel together sometime.
Back at the hostel I was thinking that all the friends that I had and the new ones I was making was really making me consider staying in SP. I really feel great here and I absolutely love the people. BH was great to...but maybe this is where I belong for now.
Monday, May 12, 2003
Actually woke up early enough to partake in the great free hostel breakfast...but I must admit it wasn't by choice...I had to meet with that guy Mark about working at the school I had found on the internet the previous Friday. I found the school with no trouble and talked with Mark...he seemed a like a super cool guy from Australia. He's been more or less traveling over the past 10 years, returning home intermidantly and working in many countries throughout the world. I watched a class and then he told me the job and apartment were mine if I wanted them. He told me to come back at 7 to see a few more classes and the apartment and then I could decide what I wanted to do.
It was a lot to think about. This was it...take this job...which seemed like a pretty good deal and Sao Paulo would become my home for the next few months. I mean, is this what I really want to do for the next couple months? Should I look for better options? Maybe other schools will pay more...but then the apartment is there for me already and is probably the nicest neighborhood in SP. But then, do I really want to live in Sao Paulo...and can I live on R$1000/month. That's only about 300 USD...slightly less than I've been spending over these couple months.
The school is near a huge park here in SP so I went there to think about what I was going to do. I remember having a similar feeling when I was making the final decision to choose a lab back at BCM...you just get this feeling that it is going to have this drastic influence over your life. I was seriously not sure what to do...but in the end, I knew I didn't have much choice. I couldn't afford to live another month without working and this was a lucky opportunity...I mean, I had only been in SP for 5 days and here I was with the chance for both a job AND an apartment. So sitting there in park Ibirapuera that day...I decided my fate...SP would become my home and that's where I would hang up the back pack...at least for a little while.
I headed back to the hostel to tell them I'd be checking out the next day. Then I went to meet Gabi and Lais for a late lunch. I told them about the job and that I had decided to stay in SP. They were happy for me and told me that it was pretty lucky.
I went back to the school at 7:00...they had already put me down to teach some classes the NEXT DAY...alrighty then. I hadn't even said I was going to take the job yet. I guess Mark could see it in my eyes...but still, that made me feel like atleast they wanted me there. I met some other part time teachers and JP/England, another full time teacher who had only been there a month. I watched a couple classes and then headed back to the apartment with Mark to check it out...even though before we got there I told him I'd be moving in.
The apartment was more than impressive. It's a huge place with 3 bedrooms and only Mark and I will be living there. I will have my own bathroom and there is free cable and the mother of all amenities for a traveler...a washing machine right there to use at my disposal!! Yeah, I was pretty sure I had made the right decision. Mark seemed even cooler as I got to know him a bit more and I was sure we would get along. You can always tell when you are comfortable with a person when within the first two hours of conversation you have with them, one of the topics of conversation is "Most memorable farts."
Back at the hostel I announced the news to everyone. They seemed pretty excited. Paul/Holland was in bind for a place to crash for a few days so for the first time in a long time I was able to say, "Hey, you can crash at my place if you want!" Pretty cool feeling.
So that was it...I went to bed thinking about how the second phase of my journey was coming to an end.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Got up and packed up my backpack, thinking that it would be the LAST time I would have to do that for awhile. Sort of exciting...I would have my own bed, and my own dresser, and a place to put all my things. No more wrinkled clothes, no more "smell test" on my shirts before putting them on, no more cold showers, no more changing beds every couple nights, no more sharing a room with 6 other people...I was moving into my own place, and that part of it felt pretty good.
I headed to the school and went through a quick training for about 2 hours and then taught my first class at noon that day. It was two young kids, a boy and a girl, of about 10. It went pretty well (atleast I thought so) and probably was good for me to start off like that.
After class, I went with my backpack to the apartment. Mark had a friend, Bukela/England, who arrived that day who was going to stay with us for a week. She is beautiful girl who is actually from Kenya but grew up in England. She was heading out when I came in but said we would be able to chat later. So I put my bag in my room and grabbed some food and sat down to eat when low and behold, Seinfeld pops up on the TV. My first episode in 3 months!!! Those who know me well understand the significance of that. I was one happy guy!
Afterwards, I unpacked my things, and put the backpack away...it was a surreal moment. I took a fantastic hot shower with great pressure (wohoo!!) and just sat and relaxed in MY apartment for awhile...working on journals and just thinking.
I had two more classes that night that went smoothly. The method is a little different and it might get old quickly, but for now, who cares.
Back at home, Mark, Bukela, and I had a few drinks and sat around and told stories. I had made it...MY place in SP. Mark and Bukela were great and I could tell they knew how happy I was to have settled for the time being. We didn't do anything that night besides sit around and talk and take some goofy pictures...but it was a perfect first night in my new place. I can tell good things are in front of me here in SP...so I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride.
So that concludes this big chapter of a trip that will go on for lord nows how long. I have enjoyed myself so much already and have done so much more than I could have ever imagined...including writing down EVERY single thing I did over 3 and a half months!!!!! That is no small task...but it has been great for me. My heart felt thanks to all of you out there who have shown your support and been with me throughout this part of my journey. A very special thanks, of course, goes to Doug McLean...a true inspiration, and without whom I would have had to carry all my stuff in my arms for the past 3 months...I'm literally carrying on his legacy on my back as he was kind enough to hand down his backpack which I have used on this journey.
I also must thank those who have extended their help to me throughout my travels and have offered me suggestions and places to stay...Raquel/Pouso Alegre, Juliano/Brasilia, the folks at camp Gerry and Cris/SP.
I especially would like to thank my road dogs...those who put up with my antics day in and day out for more time than they really had to...Dave/Australia, Stephan/Germany, Janet/England, my housemates in Morro do Sao Paolo, and my entire Amazon team. I appreciate each and everyone of you and thanks for being part of the most special piece of my life. I'll remember you all for years to come.
So for now, I close out these journals...for how long...I don't know. I guess you'll have to stay tuned...but in the immortal words of a certain well proportioned actor:
I'll be back.
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