Sunday, October 11, 2009

Brazil Nuts!

Link to my pictures from the trip is here.

Well, its long overdue, but I figured I'd write a little bit about the end of my time in Brazil. So, I finished up my time in Rio de Janeiro with a few more days of beach lounging and some great hiking before heading to Florianopolis for Carolina's wedding.

In Rio, I spent a bunch of time with Joaquin from Argentina, Blaise from Switzerland, Genaro from Argentina, Sonja from Sweeden, Laurent from France, Renatto from Peru, Marine from France, Katia from Peru, Larissa from Australia, Jes from Argentina, and of course Cristiana, my brazilian host. We spent a couple days at the beach and went out at night together to Lapa, Rio's nightlife hotspot, best described as insanity on public streets.

One morning, I set out with Renatto and Marine to mount a mountain. Specifically, the giant and steep hill on which the Cristo Redentor, or giant stone statue of Jesus stands. We decided to walk up, instead of taking the expensive train like the rest of the n00bs and it turned out to be fantastic. It was pretty much vertical for the whole 2,300 feet (710 m), so we were doing switchbacks in the heavily forested jungly area which sits about 5 blocks from the beach in the Copacabana neighborhood. It was pretty amazing the sense of solitude we got being in there, even though the most densly populated neighborhood in the planet was a stone's throw away. We couldn't really see any kind of view other than the canopy of all the trees that covered the sky until we were virtually at the top, but when we reached an opening, it took our breath away. A few hundred feet further waited the cristo... and I was hit with a wave of awe when I saw it's back facing me. I don't know why exactly, its just been a traveling icon for me I guess, but it was quite the experience being there in Rio atop the Corcovado. I realized at the time that I was visiting my 3rd of the new 7 wonders of the world. Arriving just as the sun was setting was perfect because the crowd was small and the lighting was perfect.

I visited a favela and saw a really bad jazz band one night, as well. Then, the next morning I saw some awesome jazz at a brunch place. Probably the most jazz I've ever seen in my life.

As goes the story of the trip, I had some troubles getting to Joinville to meet up with Carolina. I flew to Curitiba and was going to take a 2 hour bus to Joinville, but I didn't know it was some holiday and was gonna have to wait til 4am to get on a bus, so I sat around for a couple of hours while she and João Paulo came to pick me up. It was again great to see her, and we talked lots about my previous trip and the past year of our lives. João Paulo said he didn't speak any english, but once he got comfortable he realized he actually could, it was pretty awesome. We spent a few days in their current city, Joinville, and then headed down to Florianopolis to get ready for their wedding.

In Florianopolis, I didn't really do all that much before the wedding. We spent the week relaxing and getting ready for the ceremony and reception. I went out and rented my suit and stuff, cause I was one of the groomsmen. I also visited parts of the city with friends, and went to my favorite restaurant in Brazil and had the most delicious pasta of my life for the second time. Its a shame I didn't take my camera that night.

Finally came the wedding day, and everyone was pretty excited. We had a few relaxing hours at the house with Carolina first, then she went off to get her hair done, and I headed to her grandfather's house to get dressed. I got dressed with some aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents and then we drove in the pouring rain to the church, helping shuttle people from the parking lot indoors. We made some introductions to each other, and the 14 of us in the wedding party received our instructions... which I sort of understood. One weird thing was that my date wasn't there yet, but i figured that was just normal or something. Apparently, her hair dresser took WAY longer than she had anticipated, and showed up like 30 minutes after the scheduled start time. So, this meant that I was to walk down the aisle... SOLO. So, I knew virtually nobody, was the only non-brazilian there, and on top of it was walking down the aisle by myself... lots of people there didn't really know what my deal was. But once I sat down, my date showed up and the ceremony was great. Somehow, I understood everything that was said during the whole thing, so it was even better than I had imagined.

The reception was awesome too, it started around 8pm and lasted til 6am. Throughout, people came up to me and asked if I was "the one" who came from america for the wedding, so I had a good time talking to a lot of the people there; I got to know a lot of her friends and cousins. The food was delicious, too. So, we chatted, samba'd, salsaed, michael jackson thrillered, and waltzed til dawn pretty much. Carolina, João Paulo, her parents, 3 friends, and I were the last one at the reception. We shared a bottle of champagne in the parking lot in the morning light, heading home soon thereafter.

The week after the wedding, Carolina and João Paulo were on their honeymoon, and I hung out with her parents and friends in their absence, it was really fun. They took me to a few bars and things at night, and I spent a day full of delicious seafood and driving around the whole island to a number of beaches.

Backstory: January 1st, 2009 in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada approx. 2am, I was using a urinal in the bathroom of Harrah's Casino. I heard 2 guys speaking spanish, and since i was 2 weeks out of Colombia, I figured I *should* probably enter in the conversation. Turns out, one of the guys didn't really speak much spanish and was annoyed that we thought he did, just cause he kind of looked like he would. He was brazilian and spoke portuguese. So, to make up for my social blunder, I started bullshitting about what little I knew about Brazil, which at the time consisted only of Florianopolis. So I threw 2 names out there (the only 2 I fully remembered at the time), and he knew both of them!! It was Carolina and her friend Igor, they had all gone to university apparently. We promptly exited the bathroom upon realizing we'd been there for over 5 minutes, and greeted everybody waiting for me with our arms around each other to show our new found friendship.

Anyways, that story was about Tiago, and I was on the guest list to his birthday party which was on my last weekend there. I guess he remembered that I'd be there, so Igor took me there and we reunited in Brasil... it was pretty crazy, he silenced the party and told the story of our first meeting... it was so romantic!! Some of Carol's friends from her wedding were there, and I once again hung out with some fun brazilians.

I was sort of sad to go again, but not so much cause I knew I'd be back sooner than later... So I headed on my 3 day journey home. As I was walking to the bus station with my backpack at 5:30 AM, I saw some girls in a car with a dog that were singing super loud after leaving a club, and as I passed them at a stoplight I recognized them from a party I was at! They offered me a ride to the bus station, which was key because I would have been late otherwise. They gave me my last half of a brazilian Skol (beer), cause its legal to drink in a car as long as you're not driving.

I then hopped on my 12 hour bus to São Paulo, to another hour long bus, to my 10 hour plane to México City, followed by a 12 hour layover where I bought some sweet kitchen supplies (tortilla press!), then flew to L.A. and met up with the old roomies for a glass of wine in Santa Monica. The next day, my flight was delayed and I finally made it home that night, only to get ready for Jonelle's wedding in Tahoe 4 days later.

In conclusion: Go to brazil. Its wonderful.

1. Panoramic of Rio de Janeiro from Parque da Cidade, Niteroi
2. Rio and Pão de Açúcar from the Corcovado
3. Cristo Redentor
4. Sunset behind Rio de Janeiro
5. Praia de Ipanema, Rio
6. Carolina and her parents singing at the wedding
7. Me, Carolina, Igor, and Melina at the reception
8. Me being dumb at the beach
9. Tiago and I. Saude!
10. My last Sunset in Brazil, Lagoa, Ihla Santa Catarina

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

México & Brasil 2009

Well, as some of you may already know things got off to a rough start. I blew it, and didn't check my visa for Brasil before coming here, I didn't think I was given a visa with a typo but from now on I'll be checking for those. I left LAX pretty excited to try and learn some portuguese and to do whatever it is I was gonna do here, and got to Mexico City for my layover. It was a stretch to kill the 5 hours there in the airport, but I did my best. Around 11:30 pm, we boarded the plane and took off for Brasil... or, better said, ALMOST everybody boarded the plane and took off. I was stopped in the jetway and directed to the desk where I was promptly told I wouldn't be getting on the plane and I was to go downstairs and get my bags. When I asked "what the deal was," the best answer I got was that I had to go "fix things."

So, I was already tired, but around 1:30 am I made it to the other terminal where I thought I could find some information, but everything was closed... so I milled around for a bit, then found a REALLY cozy spot on the tile floor for an hour or two of shut-eye. Around 5:30, I was awoken by a guard telling me not to be such a bum and get off the floor, so I moved to a table til about 7 when things opened back up. I went to the immigration office and was told to go to the Brazilian embassy to fix things. Also, I had no map or information about Mexico City (DF - Distrito Federal) at this point, so I jumped in a taxi with hopes of fixing things and getting on a plane that morning, so I could at least make my connection later that day in Brasil. I got to the embassy and the guy told me to go to the consulate instead. Right. I hopped into a taxi to the consulate, and was in the right spot! The nice woman sent me on a scavenger hunt to find a photo studio, a bank, an internet cafe, and a photocopy place. I was literally running around the neighborhood asking where these places were to get it all back by the 1:00 deadline. I made it at 12:45 and all was well. I then jumped into a cab taking me to a hostel I called earlier, because I realized I wouldn't be leaving on a plane that night. I arrived to the hostel just in time to cancel my internal brazilian flight and for the futbol match between México and the US. After a giant lunch, it was all I could do to not fall asleep during the game, and was glad we lost just so I could go to sleep.

16 hours later, I woke up. I guess 6 hours of sleep in 72 isn't enough for me. My roommates told me there was talk of me being dead at the breakfast table because I had been in there for so long. I told them I wasn't dead and just had a long day. Oh, by the way, I was to spend 6 days in DF while they processed my visa. I lost this time in Brasil, and the $500 I spent in taxis, visas, and flight changes, but I had a great time there and I'm actually glad it happened. As I emerged from the room, the other guests and the owner looked at me somewhat puzzled. For the first hour or so, I felt as if I could only communicate in grunts and hand gestures. For example, I pounded the table when I wanted more watermelon at breakfast.

I had always thought of México City as a dumpy place, but that was just my ignorance of the city talking, and I'm looking forward to going back. Over my week there (I ended up staying an extra 2 days cause it was fun), I met a few really cool people and saw quite a bit of the city. I ate a load of delicious food, per usual, and spent quite a few days just walking around getting lost and wandering through some of the random markets. I really enjoyed seeing Diego Riviera's murals in the Palacio Nacional showing the history of the aztecs and the spanish invasion. I also visited the 3rd largest pyramid in the world, Tiotehuacan... or something. Big pile o rocks, no biggie.

One of my favorite things about the city is the Plaza Garibaldi, not so much for the way it looks or anything, but its where you go if you want to rent Mariachis. I think every town should have these. The Mariachi guys hang around decked out in their black suits and instruments talking with one another til someone comes along and hires them for their party, girlfriend, graduation, or whatever. I think I will encourage this back home when I get there.

I think the massiveness of the city really hit me too, moreso than other cities I've visited. I got lost with a friend in a huge outdoor market surrounded by huge boluevards, and I got to thinking about the unbelievable amount of people who are street vendors and taxi drivers there. It put a little perspective on the job first mentality back home.

As the week ended, I said goodbye to a few of the friends I made, and walked, subwayed, trammed, planed, bussed, bussed, taxied, and walked, arriving in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Like DF, I was a bit weary of the city, due to all of the horrific robbery stories you hear about it, but I've been here a while now and think its great. I have learned to never not go to a place just because of what you hear. Except for maybe Guatemala City. Here in Brazil, I have been CouchSurfing, which some of you know is a short term pay-it-forward cultural exchange type thing where you get to stay with a local at their house for free (but help with groceries, cleaning, etc). My friend from Colombia recommended that I stay at Cristiana's house here in Rio, so I contacted her before coming and set it up. I didn't know before, but she's way into it and has people at her house all the time. When I got here, there was an Aussie, Swede, Swiss, French, 2 Argentines, and a Brazilian staying here, with 2 Peruvian guests of honor that live close by. The official language of the house is spanish, because Cristiana, the brazilian owner, is in love with all that is Argentine.

The weather my first weak was bleak. I really didn't do much during the daytime because it was grey and rainy, but after Cris came home from work she'd take whoever wanted out somewhere in the city... or we'd stay in talking and playing music til late. One night, some of us went to a concert in one of the favelas here in Rio, it was pretty amazing. Another night, the frenchie made us a chocolate fondue for dinner with 7 pounds of chocolate, it was absolutely amazing; it was a week ago and I think I still have some chocolate in me.

After a week, I decided to go to the small town of Buzios a few hours away, I found someone on the site there and went. She picked me up at the bus station, and took me to the house. It was actually a hotel that she and her sister owned with their mom. 9 months out of the year they don't use it for guests, and don't work really, so I got a room there. We all hung out in the main living area, and they cooked me some amazing food. I was lucky cause they spoke spanish too (lived in spain for 3 years), so we could actually have some intelligent conversation, rather than me struggling with portuguese. Because, you know, I'm all about intelligentical things. Anyways, the weather there was much much better and I spent those 5 days either on the beach, in the kitchen, eating someting good, or making a caiprinha... mmmmmm.

I had to say good bye, but they offered to let me come back anytime I wanted to live there in one of the rooms, as long as I helped with cleaning, maintenence, and cooking... hmmmmmm. Sounds pretty nice, huh? My portuguese is funcional at best. I can have conversations with people by Portugues-ing my spanish, and they tend to understand me. And I've picked up the basic verbs and stuff, but I still think its hard.

And now, I'm back in Rio de Janeiro again at Cristiana's house. I was a little sick yesterday but I think I'm better now. I went to Copacabana beach today and fell asleep in the sun. I'll have a few more days here before I head south to meet up with Carolina and her fiance, getting ready for all the wedding activities!!!

Unfortunately, I don't have any horror stories about foods I've been eating or anything like that, I'll try and do that though... I know how much you all love hearing about my near vomit enducing experiences. I tried to eat some maggots one day, but couldn't find any.

Also, so you can all stop wondering, I AM returning home this time, I have a rather important wedding to attend the weekend after I get back.


  1. México city at night
  2. Siesta in DF
  3. Piramide de la luna
  4. Diego Riviera's mural
  5. Breakfast in Rio
  6. Parque da cidade, vista of Rio
  7. View from my room in Búzios
  8. View from my spot in Búzios
  9. Below: Jamming on the street in Rio after a concert