Date written: Nov. 17, 2003

Alright, so what has been up the past month. I was pretty busy there for a stretch...it seemed like there was almost TOO much going on. This past week has been relatively quiet though and I have enjoyed that.

One interesting thing was last week, Leandro had an American friend here from Colorado. She spent only about 8 days in Brazil, which of course is not enough time to really know any place. However, I would say her experience here, albeit short, was vastly different from mine for reasons other than time. She was, for lack of a better phrase, TOO American. Now, I think I should take a minute to explain what I mean by that. I mean that instead of adapting to the culture around here and soaking up the experience, she merely seemed to do nothing but complain about the differences. She actually made a comment that not enough people here spoke English, as if it was some sort of cultural flaw. HELLO...you are IN BRAZIL. She was also afraid to try some of the foods here because "people told me to watch out for the food." Classic USA attitude. Sort of like people who blow the amount of crime down here way out of proportion. Now, I'm not saying there is no bad food, or no crime...those things certainly exist here, but if you travel afraid like that, you are going to miss out on a lot of what countries like Brazil are all about. If there is anything I have learned about traveling, it is this...don't listen to people's opinions if they haven't done it or tried it themselves...and even if they have, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Some things you just have to experiment and try out for yourself.

So I was having an interesting thought a few days back, which is really what I wanted to write about today. At the school, one of the questions in one of the books is "If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it" Inevitably the answer is always starts with, quit my job, buy a house/car etc. I got to thinking about it myself and I realized...you know, if I won a million dollars, my life really wouldn't change very much. I mean, I would just continue to do exactly what I'm doing now. I probably wouldn't work at the school, atleast not as much anyway...but outside of that, things really wouldn't change a whole lot. How many people can say that. I think if you are at a point in your life where a large sum of money wouldn't change anything, then you are doing juuuuuust fine.

So once again I have changed my departure date from SP. I will now be here atleast until the end of January. I keep saying it to everyone and it seems more and more true...I'm never gonna get out of this place.

Another significant new thing is that I have another new roomate. Technically there are now 4 of us in this tiny apartment but since Jaymie pretty much went back with his girl (no comment on the stupidity of that one) there really are only three. Our new roomate is Bert, from South Africa. He's a pretty cool guy...seemingly a bit more mellow than the rest of us but since he just got here I can't really say as I don't know him that well yet. I do know he likes Seinfeld though...so he is already on my good side! His story is the exact same as every other gringo...came here b/c of girl he met back home, they broke up after a month, yada, yada, yada...yet another one for me to show the ropes for being a single man in Brazil.

Date Written: December 10, 2003

Well, life has been up and down (no pun intended) the last few weeks here in SP. A couple of pretty nutty stories I don't want to forget so I'll fire away with those..

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine somehow got his hands on this key that opens up the public phones. Before anyone gets excited, this is not some highly shady way of obtaining money...you can't put money in phones here...you must buy a small electronic card and insert it into a slot. So the beauty of this was not financial, but rather with the ability to open the phones and some other knowledge (purposely withholding) it is possible to make free phone calls to anywhere in the world. Nice even for making calls within Sao Paolo, but even better if you are from another country and wish to call home to friends and family. The catch is that only some phones open and even fewer have the ability to make international calls. Also, there is the obvious catch that you have to be very discreet as you don't want bystanders to notice what you are doing. Anyway, after a hard target search of my neighborhood we finally found a relatively out of the way phone that worked, but it was a full 20 minute walk from my place...making it a 40 minute roundtrip just to make a phone call. We had made this search during the day however, so several of the phones which were near busy corners, we didn't even attempt.

So that was all just the set up from my story from a couple weeks ago. One night, my friends dropped me off from the bars around 5:30a.m. For reasons understandable to anyone who might find themselves in a drunken stupor at this hour, I decided it was a good moment to make a few phone calls, figuring that back in Houston the bars would also be closing since there is a 4 hour time difference. There are two phones on the corner just next to my house, just in front of a bar that we go to just about everyday. (hmmm...next paragraph will be about the boteco) Since it is a busy corner, we hadn't tried it before so I figured I would give it a shot...a low and behold, it actually worked!! So I dailed away and eventually got hold of my friend Tony. About 5 minutes into our conversation, I noticed two slightly shady individuals moving in my direction with a clear purpose of interacting with me in one way or another. One of them had has hand in his shirt, and I was pretty sure it wasn't because his chest was itching. Simply put, he was either armed or wanted me to think he was armed. In seconds they were across the street and only a few feet away from me. The larger one with his hand in his shirt did the talking (in Porteguese). "What are you doing, are you trying to cheat this phone." So I just give him the no I'm just here talking to my friend and not trying to cause any trouble speech. So then he asks me if I have a gun...perhaps trying to size up how much resistance he was about to meet. Right about then I think there might a slight earthquake because my legs began to tremble a bit. So just at that very moment, the owner of the Boteco appeared out of nowhere to open the place up for morning deliveries, so I say to him (relieved) "Hey George, how are you?" We shake hands and then the bigger guy who may or not have been armed says, "Oh, George, you know this guy!? Okay." And the turned and walked away without a word. I think lucky is putting it mildly...that was a situation that had seirous potential disaster writtten all over it. Had it not been for my relationship with the boteco owner...I hate to think what might have happened. Good ol' George...looks like I owe him one.

So what is the boteco anyway!? I should definitely describe it because I spend about 60% of my time there. When I first arrived in Sao Paulo, I described these “corner bars” as:

“a neighboorhood eatery that happens to serve beer too...they are always very loud and there are always older guys in there hanging out drinking...looking like they have been sitting in the same place for the last 40 years...the kind of place where you could go in without a shirt, the food is greasy, and nobody cares.”

Almost a year later and I can say tell you that description is still pretty dead on. There is one on the corner a half a block from my house. Mark, Bert and I spend tons of time there, eating, drinking...and even getting in a few rounds of that classic board game Stratego (it’s a long story). Anyway, it is our hangout...we know everyone who works there and who goes there regularly. I love our boteco...I know that long after my days here in SP are over, I’ll look back on the Boteco with great fondness. It, for me, is a big symbol of my life here and will remind me of the days when three guys from different corners of the globe, came together like brothers. Mark and Bert have become a new family for me here in Brazil. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have ended up in such a great situation. We have a blast together and they are the greatest roommates a guy could ever ask for. You need people like that when you are so far from home. My travels have brought me many rewards over the past 11 months...but none greater than the bond I’ve formed with these guys...my new brothers forever. My family.

AC

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