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Monday, September 21, 2009

Trip is over...life sadly moves on

I realize I never posted saying my trip is done. So here it is: my trip is done. Don't even know what words to use to describe how I feel.

The way of life is simply unparalleled. The freedom. The ability to do anything any day. Constantly seeing new amazing places. Always meeting new, different, unique people unlike any that I've met before. Doing whatever I want at any moment of any day. Being able to wake up, and without any prior planning, end up the day in a new country surrounded by new sights, new foods, and new people. The foods (both the diversity and opportunity to try new varieties daily) The music. The ability to go out every night. The partying. Life in hostels. Not having a cell phone. Not having people able to communicate with me 24 7. No text messages. Spanish. Non American people in my life. Reading constantly. Taking tons of pictures. Hearing crazy stories from crazy homeless backpackers that have been travelling for 15 years and have fathered children in 5 different countries. Getting to decide everything for myself. Not having anyone, ever, ever, ever, telling me what to do. I'm doing to have to repeat that last one. Not having anyone, ever, ever, ever, telling me what to do. Being able to leave my hostel and wander for hours by myself whenever I so choose. The feel of entering a new, unknown city, without any friends, any sense of direction, any idea where to sleep, no money, 2 backpacks on, hungry, tired, but nevertheless having more energy and excitement than is imaginable. Freshly squeezed juices. Argentinian steaks. Brazilian women and beaches. Everything about Bolivia. Peruvian history. Nature. Hiking. Camping. Being physically active. Being in the best shape of my life without even trying. The feel of a backpack on my shoulders. Never having to choose what to wear as there were barely any options available. Having "the book" not refer to the bible (lonely planet is the answer to that question). Bus rides. The fact that the standard number of people in a tiny Bolivian car is 7 people. That one of the best pastas of my life cost 3 dollars in La Paz. Ushuaia. Rio de janeiro. Not knowing what will come tomorrow. The lack of life's monotony. Eating at new restaurants for every meal. Having beer with every meal. Having every kid on the street being the best soccer player I've ever run into. The women in hostels. The native women. The unknown. An exciting life. Not dreading the dullness of tomorrow everyday.

Now I'm home. Went to vermont for a weekend with the cousins when I got back; was a great time. Had one of the best 4 days I can remember in Montreal the next weekend (Ron-A-Palooza...I have great friends). Started work last Monday (9/14). Yea...it's no backpacking. Moving into the city October 1st. Think I found a place on Union Square. I guess this is my next adventure. I know I should try to go into it with the same vigor and excitement that I did my backpacking adventure. Sadly, I don't think that will pan out. Yes, I'm very excited to live in NYC but I don't know; it's as though there is a void in my life now that can't be filled. It's an extremely eerie sensation. I'm worried about getting stuck with a group of friends, with a routine existence, and not expanding; Probably my favorite part of backpacking was the people. I always always met new people. I just find it much harder to meet new people back home.

I might post pictures from the trip one day. I'll hopefully finish up my Peru post. Myself 1 month ago would be very disappointed in my laziness with regards to that post. Anyways yea...my trip, and thus my blog, are now complete. Feels very strange to write that. Closure: something I've rarely gotten before. Feels good to put it into words. But for real, the blog is now done. I feel like kramer in the episode when he keeps promising to stop speaking. He constantly says he's done but continually has to say "Starting now!" after he accidentally breaks his own promise. But now for real: The blog is over.

The End. Adios.

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Peru

Yea...meant to write about Peru. Never had time. Here is a brief brief brief summary.

  • Arequipa: White water rafting. 2 day treck in Colca canyon where I made friends with our Peruvian guide Ivan. 2 day treck trying to climb Chachani. Ivan came with us (me and my buddy Pirox). Climbed from 4,200 to 5,000 meters to our base camp the first night. Pitched our tent, had dinner at 4, was asleep by 6. Lots of headaches. Woke up at 2 a.m. in the middle of the night to climb the mountain. Felt so exhausted. Made it to 5,800 meters. Couldn't reach peak of 6,085. Ivan and our guide continued while I waited, laying down on the floor in a cacoon made of my jacket waiting for them to come back. They suceeded. I was exxxxhausted. Never had colder feet. A french hiking couple was with us. The woman barfed 3 times on the way up but made it.
  • Huacachina: Awesome oasis desert. Partied my ass off. Went sand boarding and dune riding in the desert. The dune riding was amazing. Like a roller coaster
  • Naza: Tour of nazca lines. Was cool but wouldn't have cried if I missed it. Had lunch with 2 airline hostesses and a pilot in the most native Peruvian restaurant I've been to yet.
  • Cuzco: Loki hostel. Partied my ass off. Epicenter of partying in cuzco. Awesome times, many of which I only partially remember. Cuzco itself is nice and all but it is just too unbelievably touristy. Horrible. You can't walk down the streets without being inundated with requests for massages and excursions etc... Went bungee jumping. 120 meters. The guy claimed it was the highest bungee jumping in the Americas. Was so unbelievably scared. I was shaking. I got there and no one was there so I had to jump without having seen anyone jump before me. Took like 10 times of the guy saying "3,2,1" before I got the balls to actually jump. Took a tour of the sacred valley: nice stuff. Was in a 10 person room with 9 Israelis. Had a great time
  • Inca trail: 4 day hike to machu pichu. Unbelievable. Carried my bag with me during the entire hike. I'm amazed with myself. Never though I'd be able to do it. Will continue this some time...

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bolivia Continued

I`ve been cajoled into continuing this post....

The Women
My lexicon does not contain the requisite vocabulary to describe the dress of Bolivian women. As such, here is a picture of them. It`s not my picture, as I still don`t have the ability to upload pictures at anything faster than a backwards pace, but I will eventually post tons of pictures displaying the same idea.



So yea. All over Bolivia you have women dressed in this attire. In this picture it looks like they are just dressed for a parade or something but no; this is just how they dress. Not sure how easy it is to tell but they keep these giant bags on their backs where they move around with their supplies for the day (the stuff that they sell on the street...be it toothpaste, drinks, shirts etc...). The bags are huge. They keep it on by making a not around the front of their neck. At first, I thought they were all strangling themselves. These bags though are used everywhere for traveling. It`s kind of like the Seinfeld episode when Elaine is seated next to a guy that doesn`t trust to check his luggage in, and as such, brings all his bags onto the bus. These women will bring 3 of these bags, all packed way past full capacity, onto buses with them, stuffing them into every crevice imaginable on the bus.

They are so fucking annoying with how they sell shit on the street. For some reason, they think everyone is blind. When you walk by their ¨booth¨on the floor of the street, they start listing to you every product they have. ¨I have coke, chips, beers, chocolates etc...¨IT GETS SO FUCKING ANNOYING. It`s as if they don`t realize that you have eyes and the ability to see what is on the floor right in front of you. The same applies when you want to buy clothes. They don`t understand the concept of browsing. Instantly, the second they see you eyeing their stuff you get their routine. ¨Chompas? Hats? Scarves? etc...¨ This strategy of commerce has continued into Peru and continues to drive me crazy. I`m determined to open a store called ¨We Will Not Help You.¨ You will literally have to beg and pull the salesperson before they will even speak to you. I guess that`s probably what shopping in Paris is like...got to get their one day.

Another specialty of these women is selling juice on the streets. This, I actually enjoyed. They employ a unique (why is it that before unique I don`t use an? I thought you use an if the next word starts in a vowel? Help please) strategy on a couple of fronts. First, they have this device which is used to peel half the orange. It peels it in a circular pattern, starting from the top and working its way down circularly, going wider and wider until the middle, and then narrow again. Kind of like a a lathe with wood. I was told they do this to get rid of the bitterness of the peel. If they say so... The second strange thing is that they serve the drinks on the street in glasses. Not plastic cups, but glasses. You stand their by the stand drinking your juice so you can give them back the glass afterwards and get on your way. I actually started to like this too. Something more fulfilling about drinking from a glass rather than a dainty plastic cup (this was until I realized that they clean these glass cups in the same bucket of tap water all day long...nevertheless, I was undeterred by the total hygienic disregard and continued to drink numerous cups of orange juice a day.)

They have a whole range of other drinks they sell also, ranging from a peanut juice to one based on pears (kind of like a bad compot). For locals, the ones in a hurry, there is an alternative to waiting with the glass (I guess gringos could employ this method also but for some reason it isn`t used much). They put the juice into a plastic bag, put a straw in it, and spin the bag around the straw. Ìt`s kind of like a home made version of the drinks I used to get in my lunch bag in elementary school.


Other stuff in no particulat real order

Turns out Ron in spanish means Rum. Like the booze. Took me a while before I realized why people are always laughing when they hear my name. Imagine introducing yourself in the states by saying ¨Hi. My name is Whisky. Nice to meet you.¨You`re bound to get laughs.

I went on this tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats. Unbelievable. The salt flats themselves, sadly only the first day of the tour, are one of the most amazing things I`ve ever seen. the town of Uyuni, the place where these trips embark from, is somewhat of an old western town though. There is no law. It is ruled by force, Mafia style. You`ll soon know why. Our driver for the three day treck was named Jimmy. We had 7 people in our crowded jeep (2 Brazilians, 2 French, a german, and 2 jews....sounds like a joke). Was a really good group and we had a great time together. What`s the first thing Jimmy says upon entering the car? ¨Hey...I`m here to help you guys enjoy yourself? Anything you need, just ask me?¨ Anything of that normal tour guide idea? No. His first line is ¨No quiero problemos. (I don`t want problems).¨With this he turns back to the wheel, and attempts to start the car. We should have taken the inability of the car to start at the onset of the journey of an omen of things to come, and gotten a new car then, but we didn`t. Instead, we got out, and pushed the car down the street until it moved (a la Little Miss Sunshine...the pushing technique was one we were going to use many times during the ensuing 3 days). I found it funny, actually ironic, that the tour guide says he doesn't want problems and the first thing that happens is a problem that is his fault.

Over the course of the next 3 days the car continues and continues to break. The second day it broke for 3 hours. Watching Jimmy and the other drivers trying to fix the car was like the scene from 2001 A Space Odyssey with the monkeys. They just took out arbitrary parts, started hitting it, and put them back in hoping it would work. It got to the point where I even had a suggestion for them that turned out to be correct. Nevertheless, the car somehow repaired, and we proceeded.

The third day we set out at 5 am to get to these geysers. An hour and a half into the drive (30 minutes from the geysers) the car breaks. In the middle of fucking nowhere. Jimmy gets out and starts to analyze the problem. As other jeeps make this same journey, their drivers will stop, and try to help out our inept Jimmy. Eventually, after consiglieri type consultations with 3 other jeep drivers, they decide that the carborator is frozen and that is why the car isn`t running. (Somehow...the idea that the car has run for the past 90 minutes and the engine has heated up and that there is no chance that a part of it suddenly decided to freeze never crossed their minds.) What is their solution to this problem? Jimmy walks 15 paces into the desert, unzips his fly, and begins to pee on the carborator. A minute later he returns. 5 minutes later the carborator is reinstalled. 5 minutes and 15 seconds later the car will still not start. WAY TO GO JIMMY. I forgot to mention that these cars obviously have no heating. There we are, in the middle of the desert, freeeeezing. Our toes were literally on the verge of falling off. I had my feet wrapped in all the clothing I had with me, to no avail.

Eventually, by 9 in the morning, the car is still not running and we decide it`s time to eat breakfast. Somehow I got selected to make hard boiled eggs for the group (my Aylmer roommates will understand the irony in choosing me to cook for anyone...especially when there are 2 french people there. I would`ve thought they would have loved to show off their amazing culinary treats). Using a stove that is connected to a gas tank I proceed to make hard boiled eggs in the middle of the desert. turned out pretty good. I was quite proud of myself.

Come 12, the car is still not working. We missed the geysers, the hot springs, the biggest volcano in the park and the blue lagoon. To cut this story short...cause it does go on, eventually, the car gets ¨fixed¨and we get back to Uyuni that night (by fixed I mean after working for 2 hours it breaks down again and we all hitchhike into other jeeps that are heading back to Uyuni.) Right before we get into our new rides Jimmy pulls us aside and put this one on us. ¨You can`t tell the agency what happened. I have kids and a family and they will fire me if they find out. I`ll be on the street if you tell on me.¨ This actually raised in me quite the period of moral questioning. To tell, or not to tell? Eventually, I decided to tell. My logic? I didn`t want any other tourists to endure what I endured because I know Jimmy, and he was never going to fix that car. My moral dilemma was further quelled by my knowledge that one of the passangers in our car had hitchhiked before getting this guilt trip talk, and he was bound to reveal to the office what happened.

Fast forward past my fight with the management that doesn`t understand that when you don`t provide a service you will lose money. Not just your profit but actually go into the red in reimbursing your customers. They don`t understand the concept of business.

Back in La Paz the next day the German from my group went to complain (me and another passenger from the group went with him as evidence of what happened) to the agency that he had booked the trip through. This was actually a real business. They realized they fucked up, and proceeded to give him back half the cost. Amazing to see actual business people. The story she told though is precious.

She said...¨Over and over they have had problems with these tour agencies. Half the times the drivers were drunk, on drugs, transporting drugs, or would just leave passangers during the trip. As such, companies from La Paz had tried to open their own companies to provide actually good quality tours of the area. What happened to these ventures? Their stores in Uyuni were burnt down. The jeeps they sent out had their tires knived and burnt down. It is effectively a mafia running the show down there, not allowing any company run by non-uyuniers to operate. They are trying to build an actual road through the salt flats so buses can get through with larger groups of people. What did these Uyuni companies do? They sabotaged the roads. They put their bodies in front of the construction. They know real roads will end their horrible companies. Once again, there is no rule of law in Bolivia.

What shocks me the most is how beautiful the park is. It would be like the grand canyon being run by a bunch of idiots. What a waste of such an amazing resource. The best thing was the final line the lady from the La Paz travel agency said. ¨Those people (the tour operators in Uyuni) are medieval. Just like our president (Eva Morales).¨ I`d get into more details but Morales is a demagogue to the extreme. He is the Hugo Chavez of Bolivia, but luckily for the rest of the world, without oil.

I have a lot more to talk about but I only want to write for around 5 more minutes so I`m picking a short topic. Anti-semitism in Bolivia. It actually is relatively prevalent. There are only, I believe, 1,000 jews in Bolivia so they mostly get all their information from the propaganda on the internet. Anyways, in La Paz I went to get food on the street once. It is this burger egg potato type amalgamation. I order it. A few minutes later I look and notice there is a Swastika tattooed on the hand of the kid (probably 18) that was making my food and that I had ordered from. I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is a Buddhist. I ask him what it is on his arm. ¨A swastika¨ he says, with a look on his visage that said ¨how the hell do you not know that.¨ I walk away, don`t pay, and don`t eat the food.

In the salt flats I ran into this group of Bolivians (actually those girls I was dancing with on my FB profile picture were from that group). One of the guys was wearing a bandanna with swastikas all over it. Once again, there is no law in Bolivia, so counterfeit copies of books are sold on all street corners. After being told about this from a friend, I go and look at the books they are selling one afternoon, and notice they are selling copies of ¨Protocols of the elders of Zion¨ (Wiki it if you are unaware). Inside the book there is no disclaimer saying the contents are false or selling it for antisemetical educational purposes. I proceed to tell the lady that the book is bullshit and she shouldn`t be selling it. I`m just a businesswoman she says and offers to let me buy her entire stock if it bothers me so badly. Furthermore, I met a guy who`s girlfriends`mother (a Bolivian) at dinner said ¨How do you fell to belong to the religion that killed jesus?¨ ¨Don`t you think the jews purposely killed the other jews during the Holocaust to help make Israel¨ and the standard ¨But the Holocaust was fake¨ (Stupid lady. Her lies have contradictions. If the latter is true, that the Holocaust didn`t exist, how could the jews have killed jews during this fake Holocaust? Stupidity has no bounds). For all of this, it should be noted, that Bolivia´s tourist population comes from mostly 2 countries. By far the most being Israel, and then for some strange reason, france. In the tourist area, you find signs in hebrew everywherreeeeee!!! It is like being in Israel. In all the internet cafes I hear more hebrew than spanish. I`m not trying to paint an entire nation by what I saw from a few people. Just trying to tell my story. Furthermore, I still would fell 1'% comfortable and still desire to return to Bolivia.

Whew. Much love. Peace.


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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bolivia Stuff

I`ve been thinking back over my trip and trying to decide what my favorite country has been. Upon much reflection, Brazil appears to be the victor. However, Bolivia was by far the most interesting and unique of all the countries I visited. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and only a week after leaving, I find myself missing its idiosyncrasies and traditions. I didn`t know much about Bolivia prior to going, but now, I long to go back. (Not meant to be a put down on Peru....It`s just, no other country is like Bolivia).

In an earlier post I described Bolivia as taking place in ¨a new dimension of time; one where the past never ends and the future, mimicking a cellphone with bad reception, only arrives in sporadic bits and pieces.¨ In hindsight, one of the most accurate lines I`ve ever written. Ok. Here comes Bolivia.

Transportation

Getting around Bolivia is as much a part of the Bolivian lifestyle as anything else. At times (almost all times) it is a true test of ones patience and compassion.

I made friends in every single Bolivian bus, van, jeep, and car ride I was in. The people are just incredibly friendly. During my first ride from Quijarro to Santa Cruz Fredrico introduced me to everyone on the bus. He told everyone where I was from, where I had been, what I was going to do back in NYC etc... When our bus stopped for dinner, I was invited by numerous people to join them for dinner at their table. They had bought a 2 liter bottle of coke and insisted on me drinking from it (aside...In Bolivia, people don`t really buy individual drinks. At home, if me and 3 friends go out for lunch we will inevitably all buy our own Coke. Not in Bolivia. Instead, they buy a 2 liter bottle, get plastic cups, and serve everyone some of the drink. This continues onto the bus ride itself, where plastic cups of orange drink was being passed around to anyone that wanted some). For the rest of the ride Fredrico and Juan served as my guides, showing me all the sights along the way. Furthermore, they told me al about their lives, and how Fredrico gets $2 for each tooth he pulls out of his patients. By the end of the bus ride, I had Fredricos phone number, address, and an invitation to dinner that night in Santa Cruz. This pattern, more or less, occurred on all my Bolivian rides.

Bolivian buses blast music 24 7. Literally. There are a couple of caveats to this. First, there arn`t CD players in Bolivian cars. Tapes still rule. As such, it seams as though all cars end up with the same 4 tapes of crappy horrible Bolivian love songs that are played on an endless cycle. Furthermore, there is no concept of turning off the music during the night when passangers are trying to sleep. At 4 in the morning the music will be playing just as loud, throughout the entire bus mind you, as it would at 4 in the afternoon. As I would often hear the same song 10 times on one bus ride, they have become etched into my permanent memory. My personal favorite ¨Fria...tienes el alma tan fria¨(you have a cold soul...all about love these Bolivians. Why can`t they write songs about drugs and prostitutes and sex and violence like the rest of the world?)

10% of the ride is just getting into and out of towns. This is seemingly true in all countries as towns have more stop signs and street lights and things to cause a bus to slow down. However, this is supplemented in Bolivia by women (there is a forthcoming description of these women) that enter the bus to sell food. Like termites, these women rush into the bus trying to sell their product. They all have the same horrible slogans ¨Saltennnnnnnnnnnnasss....calientes saltennnnnas¨in this unbelievably nasally and high pitched sound. By the end of Bolivia this sound would give me a headache the second I heard it. I never understood who let them onto the buses. Was the bus driver got a cut of their action or what? I doubt it...Bolivian economy is not that advanced. So yea...these women would swarm the bus, litter our ears with their horrible sounds, sell their pretty crappy food that was never caliente like they so claimed, and leave the bus as quickly as they entered.

There are also salesman that board buses in Bolivia. Once the food vending women have disembarked, this man would stand in the middle of the bus and make his pitch. This would occur while the bus was moving, and would range in product from Magnetic wrist bracelets to pamphlets, literally, on ¨How to use the internet, how to use the computer, learning spanish and quechua (Bolivias other main language), Bolivian laws as it applies to buying homes, Atlas of Bolivia, How to cook Bolivian foods etc...¨ those pamphlets sold like hot cakes. How sad is it that the majority of Bolivians use these bullshit pamphlets on buses as their main source of information...

No bathrooms on Bolivian buses. My first bus ride I was awoken to the sound of a mad rush of people leaving the bus. As we were in the middle of no where, I had no idea what was going on. Being the sheep that I am, I followed the group outside the bus and got my first lesson in Bolivian urinal habits. Everyone was peeing in the middle of the road. Men with their dicks out, women, squatted down with their dressed pulled up, peeing all together like one giant family with no shame. That first time there was a hazy grey in the air and the picture would have just been amazing. Sadly, my camera was in the car. You get used to this bathroom process pretty quickly though. The second you have to pee you scream ¨necesito bajar¨and the driver will stop and let you pee. Useful trick sometimes if you want to take a picture of outside.

No working lights in Bolivian buses. Curtailed my reading.

I mentioned before that half of Bolivia has no asphalt. I tried to leave San Ignacio de Moxos on a rainy day. Bad idea. What was normally a 3 hour ride took us 8 and a half hours. Furthermore, out camioneta never arrived. Instead, after waiting for 2 hours for our ride, a man in a van pulled up offering to take people to San Borjas. Like animals, we all swarmed into his van. We fit 11 people into a 6 person car. The road had transformed into mile after mile of blocks of mud the size of heads. Throughout the ride we saw cars that had given into the elements, stuck in the mud, lying unable to move, like wounded soldiers after a battle. Three times we had to get out of the van to push the car because it was stuck. Somehow, the Bolivians were only wearing flip flops and they managed to move around outside in the mud with no problems. I was rocking my hiking boots, and with each step I had to exert myself greatly just to get my foot out of the mud that had encapsulated it. I have no idea how the Bolivians did it in flip flops, without losing their sandals.

From San Borjas to La Paz was an adventure. I could have taken one bus that left S.B. at 1 pm and gotten into La Paz the next day at 7 am. Instead, I used the Ghengis Khan option. Khan had a flock of horses at stations around his empire. Each station was a short distance from one another. Whenever he wanted to send a message from one part of his empire to another, the message would be passed from horse to horse at each adjacent station, allowing the horses to move at a full speed gallop the entire time and permitting messages to get across his vast empire in astonishing speeds. Similarly, instead of taking one bus my entire way to La Paz, I took 5 separate cars. Cost me an extra 6 dollars, but I got into La Paz at 8 PM the same day. In the little Bolivian towns of the north, they have cars that will take passangers to the proximal towns. These are somewhat like cabs, except that they wait for the car to be full and then proceed with the journey. There are no time schedules, no rules. Once the car is full, it goes. Each of my rides had twice as many people in the car as seats would normally permit. In my final leg I was between two men in their 70s. What did they have for the journey? Each had only a transistor radio and a bag of cocoa. Gotta love it. Made it to La Paz but lost my sleeping bag amidst the journey.

The concept of one seat per person does not exist in Bolivia. To begin with, children do not count as people. If a parent so chooses, and they often do, they can have as many children as they manage to fit on their laps included in the one seat. I`ve seen 2 seats holding 8 people (6 children, 2 parents). Furthermore, Bolivian cars will constantly pick people up along the way. On my way to Uyuni, the aisles got so crowded that there were 5 people in the one aisle spot between the two rows. It got to the point where there was a 65 year old lady on my lap for a couple of hours. Fun stuff.

I could take about the bus stations and the manner in which they sell tickets but I need to move on. Books could, and should, be written about getting around Bolivia.

Rule of Law
It doesn`t exist. Rules are just vague concepts with no real implementation or enforcement.

Example 1.
In San Ignacio during the fiesta I made friends with a group (an italian, israeli-american, and two finish people). As there was no lodging in the town due to the fiesta, they decided to sleep (with permission) in a tent in the backyard of a house that was recommended to them. Their second night, while they were sleeping, someone robbed them of all their stuff.

The next morning I run into the Italian on the streets, heard what happened, and join them in the police station to help them out. Needless to say, the efficiency of Bolivian police is non existent. To get to the point, during this time, they bring in a topless man from the street for some nameless crime. They put him in his cell and he begins to ask for a phone call. He asks, and asks, and after around a minute, the police officer that is doing my friends paper work excuses himself, walks to the man in the cell, and sprays him, probably 2 centimeters from his face, with pepper spray for a good half a minute. I`ve never heard anyone wail in pain like that before.

Example 2.
Would take about salt flat mafia stuff but too lazy. Good story though.

Example 3.
Went to the Potosi silver mines. Went on a tour of the mines. To cut this short, there were 13 year olds working in the mines. I met a 49 year old man in the mines who had been working there for 36 years. During our conversation he calls his 13 year old son over to introduce us to him. Our guide explained to us that this is most definitely illegal. No one cares though. No one enforces anything.

We bought dynamite and after the tour our guide blew it up for us. Amazingly cool. He told us that in Potosi it is easier for a 13 year old to buy dynamite (as there is absolutely no control over it. anyone can buy it at any age) than it is to buy cigarettes. Needless to say, there is no problem for a 13 year old to buy cigarettes.


Really lazy. Maybe one day I`ll actually finish this....
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Welcome to Peru Post

Wow. Shocked is the understatement of the century. The change from Bolivia to Peru is like night and day. I intend on doing a post on all of Bolivia soon (I am switching from my city by city posting to more general ones. The latter is just too much work) but I don`t want this moment of clarity to fade away before I had a chance to write about it.

I just got to Arequipo. Peru is not known for being one of the most developed nations in the world, but I feel as though I have entered a new world. VISA is accepted. Credit cards are accepted. No where in Bolivia did I find a place that accepted credit cards. I guess, rightfully so, that the credit agencies don`t trust Bolivia.

Me and Peros (Swedish guy I met on the bus ride from Puno that I`m traveling with now) went to travel agencies to book some activities. Wow. I forgot what service was actually like (this mostly applies to places outside of La Paz. La Paz did actually have some agencies that spoke English and provided good service). Here, every place I went to was friendly, proffesional, and looking to provide a good service.

There arn`t vendors selling stuff all along every single street. In Bolivia, the idea of selling items in stores does not exist. Everything you want to buy is on the street. You want a pen? You don`t go to a CVS or a Staples. You go to the street that you know sells pens. This goes for everything from paper clips, to safety pins, to batteries, to food, to clothing, to razors etc... WOW. I saw a supermarket. I didn`t see one supermarket in all of Bolivia. Like I said earlier, everything, literally everything, is sold on the street. You want a steak, you go to the steak part of the food street where there will indubitably be no fridge or freezer. Fridges and freezers don`t exist in Bolivia. Food is eaten as is, or raw.

There are garbage cans on the street. In Bolivia I would hold onto my garbage for hours looking for a place to put it. At the same time, Bolivians would throw any piece of garbage anywhere. It`s funny how tourists look after the country more than they do themselves.

The transporation. What a nice bus I took to Arequipa. It was called a semi-cama (semi bed) and it actually was. The seat actually leaned back. Oh. And the reading lights on the bus actually worked. No such thing as a working reading light in a Bolivian bus.

There are real restaurants. You want food. You walk 5 minutes down the street and you will find an establishment to eat. In Bolivia, unless you wanted fried chicken which you could always find, you could wander for an hour without finding somwhere to eat (as Yoni, Frans, and Quintin can vouch for on our quest for lunch in La Paz). Here, we found a breakfast establishment within 5 minutes. We found a great place for lunch just as quickly. No more eating every meal from an indigenous woman (I will go into detail about these women in a post soon) on the street where you have no idea how old the food is or what you are actually eating.

THEY USE COMPUTERS. When I booked a bus ticket, the person actually was using a computer. They saw which seats where free, asigned me one, and printed out a ticket. This does not exist in Bolivia. Instead, there are elementary school type seating charts representing the spots on a single bus ride. Multiple people have different seating chart for the same ride. Guess what? This leads to synchronization issues. Different people will book the same seat on a bus without the other venders knowing. This lead me to having my seat double booked many times and having to switch companies minutes before my ride. HOTELS USE COMPUTERS. In Bolivia every hotel organizes their rooms by a piece of paper. There is no way to book online because computers don`t exist. Half the time the people arn`t even sure if they have an available room because of their esoteric method of recording room alocations.

The bathrooms here have soap! And toilet paper! And don`t smell like someone shat on the floors and walls and ceilings. Instead, there is an odor of cleaning supplies. The funniest thing is that all over Bolivia there are signs warning about h1n1 swine flue. ¨Wash your hands¨ they say. YEt no one has soap in their bathrooms! Not even government institutions. How`s that for hypocrisy.

The music doesn`t suck. All in all, Bolivian music is shit. Here, there is a very nice mix between actually good spanish music and famouse American tunes (dancing queen is playing as I type this).

The women arn`t gross. This will definitly come across as racist or misogynistic but the Bolivian indigenous look just doesn`t cut it for me. Within my 5 hours here I have seen more good looking native women than I did throughout my weeks in Bolivia. The woman working at the tourist information office was stunning. Sadly, she rejected my inviation to come rafting with us. Dinner it will have to be.

This post may appear as me putting down my time in Bolivia. Nothing so. I loved it and would not give it up for anything. It was an amazing experience and I would go back in a heart beat (maybe not a heart beat...but definitely in the future). This post is just to show the differences I`ve noticed withing being in the new, seemingly ¨highly developed,¨ country of Peru for around 5 hours. I loved Bolivia and think I am going to love Peru as well.

Aside:
For all the inefficiencies of the Bolivian system, at this moment, I am missing it. I lost my hat yesterday. As for some reason I tend to get sunburnt very easily on the top of my head (sarcasm) I am in dire need of a hat. In Bolivia, within 3 minutes I would be able to find a hat. Every other person with their makeshift store on the street sells hats. This is because they sell everything. You can get everything everywhere. Sure, they may not be able to profit from economies of scale like developed countries. But the consumer cost of finding a good is much lower in Bolivia. Here, in Arequipa, I have to go and find a store that sells hats. It`s suprisingly harder than it sounds. As such, I am without a hat and about to go white water rafting. I hope I don`t end up with a tomato colored scalp.
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Friday, August 14, 2009

San Ignacio De Moxos

After Santa Cruz I headed to San Ignacio. San Ignacio is not on the normal list of places a tourist visits in Bolivia. However, San Ignacio has a giant fiesta every year on July 30th - August 3rd or so. As this perfectly coincided with my location at the time, I decided to go. I was very split about going or not. The town is somewhat in the middle of nowhere and no other gringos, or even Bolivians, that I had spoke to were going there. Nevertheless, after consultations with my consiglieris (my family) I made the fruitful decision to go.

I made it there the 30th, thinking the party began the following day. I was wrong. I got into the town around 2 hours before the festivities were to begin. However, as this is the one week of the year when anyone actually goes to this otherwise lifeless town, it was impossible to find a place to sleep. I walked from hostel to hostel but all were booked. I started to walk the streets in desperation as I notice a blonde headed girl, with skin paler than snow and with beach (spelling?) blonde dyed hair coming towards me like a homing missle. She correctly assumed I had nowhere to sleep, and informed me that her and her boyfriend needed 2 more people to fill out there room. I quickly praised jesus and jumped on the chance. (When I finally met the boyfriend it was unbelivable. While she was 100% black, he was heart a heart of Africa black American. I swear. If you took a black and white photo of the two no one would be able to tell the difference).

Anyways, I went out on my own to wander the fiesta. There were tons of natives, all dressed in traditional outfits (not even going to try to explain. Pictures will be 100 times better. I should mention, because Bolivian internet is slower than me making a move, no photos will be uploaded untill I probably get home), dancing all around the city. Music was playing everywhere (sadly, the same song for 3 straight days), everyone was drinking and just having a good time. After a couple of hours of ambling I sit down on a bench in the main square with 2 other Bolivians (where a boyfriend and girlfriend that are my age were also sitting) to continue my book (About a Boy). Quickly, a 40 year old man comes by and forces himself between us.

He`s holding 4 beers and gives each of us one. Needless to say, he was trashed. He begins to tell us (By this point the 2 other people sitting on the bench have joined into our circle) his father is Eva Morales (the President of Bolivia) and that he is in San Ignacio on a special mission. He shows us his cellphone which has a picture of his wife in a very compromising and revealing position. In short, he was a blast to hang out with. He kept buying us beers and strangley enough, we ended up having some interesting conversations. (for some reason, whenever I mention I am starting work after my trip Bolivians always ask me how much money I will make. This continues with asking me how much my trip costs, my apartment will cost etc... They have no sense of shame when it comes to talking about money with complete strangers).

After a few hours of talking the four of us get hungry and go out to dinner. Really good. Nice ordering with Bolivians because they know what is actually good as opposed tgo when I order based on a choice of either chicken, beef, or fish. During dinner somehow, I was never sure if anyone knew her or not, this woman joins us. She is probably 27, and has 7 kids. Between the 8 of them, they eat 2 plates of dinner (while all the rest of us had eaten one for ourselves). A sad thing about Ignacio is that you see kids, literally as young as 5, going around all day long and collecting used beer cans to sell. They come and ask as politely as possible if they can have your used can. One of the saddest sights I`ve seen yet. These kids grow up way, way, way too fast.

After dinner the lot of us went to a bar and embarked on an interesting drinking game. The game kind of resembled blackjack. I was the dealer and I was kept facing one Bolivian at a time in a who can drink fastest competitions (they were all in somewhat of a horseshow. The game started with me verses the person most to the left, working right person by person, and after the last person on the horseshow was reached, we went back all the way to the left). As my friends from McGill can vouch for, I am a horrible drinker. Funny enough, I never lost a round. While I may be a bad drinker, Bolivians suck. After a couple of hours of this game, we were all under the table. The night ended with a giant competitive fireworks show put on by the two richest families in the town. Overall a great day. (except for the point where I accidentally stepped with my flip flops into one of the open air sewers. I ran to the hostel to wash my foot, rubbing it with soap until I almost reached my bone).

Aside...
The crazy thing about San Ignacio is that literally the town is nothing. Besides for this one party a year, it is a tiny waste of space. The people do nothing with their lives and the children go to school just to get a warm meal a day. They are in a state of stangant living. Yet for this one week it is a new world. Tons of new restaurants are opened (makeshift restaurants under tarps. They all only serve rice with meet or fish. Soup is also big in Bolivia, I forgot to mention that. Before most meals, soup is served. It`s actually good).

Back to story...
The next day I meet an awesome Italian Spanish teacher named Sarah. We get to talking and she informs me that a cock fight is scheduled for 2 on this random side street. Gladly, I decide to tag along. We meet up with two other Finish people she has ben traveling with and go to the fight. Like usual, the fight that is scheduled for 12 doesnt start until 2. We rectify this problem with drinking. Eventually, the fight begins and we enter the arena. Funniest thing is that the fighting Arena was beautiful. I think the town invested more in this one litle rink where birds can kill one another than in any other building.

Here`s how it goes. They attatch little blades to the back of each of the cocks` legs. There`s a time limite, and the birds go at it. It`s insane. The people in the crowd go nuts, literally betting hundreds of US dollars at a time (in a country where the average monthly wage is 100 dollars). the first fight ended when one of the owners withdrew his bird because the leg was about to break. Round 2 had no winner. After the time was up, it was declared a tie (technically, after time is up, there is a 30 second window. The first bird to make a noise in those 30 seconds loses the match. Neither bird made a noise, leaving the fight at a tie. Many spectators were upset).

After the cock fight we went to the makeshift bullfighting ring that was created 2 days earlier by a bunch of drunken bolivians out of tree trunks. We all thought it would collapse at any moment.

To be continued....if I ever get the time
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Santa Cruz

Possibly to come...
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Entering Bolivia

I´ve been postponing this post for a while. Simply put I´ve been lazy and busy. Although both excuses still stand, the thought of having to write one post on all of Bolivia has frightened the indolence out of me.

Prior to coming to Bolivia I`d been informed about the poverty, the low price levels, the bad food, the indigenous people, the beautiful scenery, the cold showers etc... Nevertheless, I wasn`t prepared. It was like a waiter warning you not to touch a plate because it`s hot. Even though you know you`ll get burned, you touch it. I guess you just have to experience something for yourself to believe what you`ve been told. Needless to say, I got burned entering Bolivia. The world I had known and lived in seemingly evaporated into thin air like the end of a nice dream. I had entered a new dimension of time; one where the past never ends and the future, mimicking a cellphone with bad reception, only arrives in sporadic bits and pieces.

My first port of call was Quijarro, a town that provides three services. 1) Border crossing with Brazil 2) Transportation to Santa Cruz and 3) Keeping its residents` lives in a state of perpetual stagnancy. I soon came to realize that service 3 can be found in all Bolivian pueblitos (little towns). I had intended to take the notorious ¨Death Train¨ to Santa Cruz that day, but as it was was sold out, I had to choose between staying the night in Quijarro or a 15 hour bus ride. As the former appealed to me about as much as a dinner with Michael Moore, I opted for the bus ride.

I had a couple of hours to kill before the ride so I headed out for my first Bolivian meal. The sun was at full force that afternoon, mercilessly punishing anyone foolish enough to venture outside the safety and comfort of the indoors. I began wandering around Quijarro looking for a place to eat, carrying my two backpacks and sporting pants and a sweater (the Pantanal had been very cold). After a dozen unsuccessful minutes of searching I saw a crooked sign above a doorway with ¨comida¨ sketchily written on it by hand. By this point in the search my clothes had gained 5 pounds from sweat, my skin was beginning to burn, and my standards for food establishments had dropped below zero; as such, I entered the doorway, walked through a narrow stone path and found myself in a courtyard.

In the courtyard there were a few dying trees, a broken moped and 2 tables with benches on opposite sides of the square. Standing in the middle of the yard was a man, naked, except for an apron, yielding a giant knife in his right hand. He stood there, with myriad mosquitoes gravitating towards him like paparazzi to a celebrity, chopping the heads off fish on a table in front of him, dropping the headless creatures into a bucket, and repeating the process. ¨Very hygienic¨ I thought. He must have heard me enter because he looked up from his work, smiled, greeted me with a ¨buenas tardes¨ and pointed towards a door behind one of the benches. I thanked him, walked over to the door, and proceeded to knock.

As I waited for a response, sounds of grumbling accompanied by a crying child snuck out through the windows and cracks bordering the door. A few minutes later, an obese, elderly, indigenous women emerged from the door. She greeted me with ¨tenemos pollo. quieres?¨ I gladly accepted the offer. Without thinking I dropped my aching, overheated, exhausted body onto one of the benches like a doll being thrown onto a bed. Minutes later, the obese lady came out of her home with a plate of chicken, rice and salad in hand. The presence of food induced a swarm of mosquitoes to make me their prime target. I quickly found my insect repellent and began to apply it with a fury. The lady looked at me, laughed, and told me that the insects in this part of the world actually prefer repellent. I returned her laughter, presuming she was joking, only to realize days later that her hypothesis, sadly, stood the test of time.

The meal was actually good (especially for US $1.4.) This was a very pleasant surprise given the warnings I had received about Bolivian food. While I ate, the obese lady sat down next to me on the bench and we spoke throughout my entire meal (in spanish...go me). This was a telling experience for me on pueblitos. Everyone is extremely friendly, everyone wants to speak with you, everything is abnormally cheap and every meal will have rice and meat. A week later, like a teenager finally comprehending a lesson given to him during adolescence by his parents, I understood the warnings I had been given about Bolivian food. It`s not that the food is horrible. It`s that rice and yuca (a tasteless Bolivian vegetable) three times a day for a week will drive anyone (except for Bolivians) crazy. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Bolivian salt shakers don`t work. Somehow, the salt is always too big for the dispensing holes. This was an intolerable surprise for my Jacobson, salt inclined, tongue.

I paid for the meal, thanked the lady for the food and conversation, waved goodbye to the man that was still chopping away (while simultaneously scratching his ass with his left hand) and made my way to the bus station. Asphalt does not exist in pueblitos. Sidewalks are of stone and streets of mud, which like icing on a cake, are covered with a thick layer of dust. I found myself constantly cleaning my glasses in a futile attempt to perverse my lenses` transparency against the dust enemy. Between the roads and sidewalks are exposed sewers containing a blackish, thick as molasses, liquid. These open air sewers provide pueblitos with a beautiful aroma of rotting shit and urine; great company for a stroll down the streets of Quijarro.

I finally make it to the bus station, got to the loading area, and took a look at the bus. It was older than I am and I was convinced that like an overgrown star it was on the verge of implosion. As I boarded the bus I was told by the ticket collector that this particular vehicle is especially bad and that the normal bus is under repair. As I stepped further onto the bus, I walked past the driver; He tells me that the normal vehicle has been under repairs for over a year. Gotta love Bolivia.

Being on a bus in Bolivia is like being at a holiday dinner table with your family. First off, someone will always be late. The entire family will begin to question and wonder why this member is late. A heated debate emerges of weather or not to start the meal without the person. Similarly, our bus (and all Bolivian buses for that matter) departed late. Just like the debate at the holiday table, 15 minutes after the schedule departing time everyone on the bus was talking to one another about what is going on. Why is the bus late? Who`s to blame? Mind you, these are people that didn`t know one another prior to the ride. Within minutes of complaining it is as though they have been friends for years. They are all talking, laughing, telling jokes and swapping seats (I didn`t even realize the similarity with swapping seats at a family dinner but the metaphor just keeps getting better.) I guess misery truly does love company.

There is always that one person at the family dinner that is the heart and soul of the table. He tells the jokes, keeps the conversation alive when it is dwindling and always manages to make it a memorable occasion. Likewise, a leader emerges on every Bolivian bus ride. Luckily for me, Fredrico, our ride`s most popular member and unquestioned leader, was my seat neighbor. 20 minutes after scheduled departing time Fredrico begins with shouts of ¨vamos.¨ Like the wave at a baseball game, the shouting starts off with only Frederico, but soon enough, the entire bus, myself included, is shouting ¨vamos¨ at the top of our lungs. Eventually, be it because of our chants or not, I`m not sure, the bus began its journey for Santa Cruz...
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Random Rambling Post

It`s the middle of the night. I think blogging at this time reverses my previously mentioned paradox (unless, my lack of sleep diminishes my ability to travel tomorrow...time will tell). A couple of things I wanted to mention

Since I started the blog I`ve been averaging just under 15 hits per day. The average time spent on the site per hit is 2 minutes and 56 seconds. Wow. Combined with the comments and general feedback that I`ve gotten, it`s really helped me out a lot. It`s very nice to know you have a base of people who actually look at what you write, and even more, that I have that many people who will take the time out of their day to read my bullshit. Thanks a lot. In the low points of my travels it really helps to know.

Secondly, I don`t think I`ve ever explicitly mentioned this, but my travelling finish date is determined by my start date at the Fed. I start work on the 9th and get back from my trip on the 4th (of September). With every day that passes my desire to quit my job preemptively and continue traveling grows(this is not meant to reflect on my job. I`m just loving to travel). If graphed it would look kind of like tangent from 0 to Pie over 2, with day of trip being the x axis and likelihood of quiting being the y. However, just as tangent goes to negative infinity after Pie over 2, I`m sad to say so does the likelihood of quitting the job. I guess it`s just a pipe dream.

Ok. I`ve caught up pretty much with the blogging. Bed time. Peace.
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Foz do Iguaçu

After my second stint in Rio I headed off to Foz do Iguaçu to see the Iguaçu falls. I`m not sure precisely where they stand in the world fall ratings but they are definitely amongst the top 3 in size and water flow and all that crap. Getting there took a 25 hour bus ride which I spent sitting next to a fat Golda Meir`s look alike. Sadly, she didn`t have Golda`s sense of humor.

Upon arriving in Foz I made friends with a German (so many Germans traveling) named Martin and we set off to a hostel. Now, the Iguaçu falls can be viewed from both Brazil and Argentine. The former has only 25% of the falls and is known as the more panoramic view (seeing Argentina`s 75%) while the latter provides the traveler with the opportunity to get up, close, and personal with the falls. Anyone that makes the impossibly long trek to the middle of nowhere that is Foz do Iguaçu would be stupid not to go to both sides.

First day we headed off to the Brazilian side. We met an American and a Brit at the bus stop and we all went together to the falls. The Brazilian side has a 2 km walk that you take to see the falls. To say I was disappointed at first is a huge understatement. I was pissed the fuck off. All I saw were 5 little falls that had less of a water flow than myself urinating. I couldn`t believe I`d come this far to see this crap. As usual, I was being stupid. As I continued along the 2 km walk more and more falls, gradually larger and with a stronger water flow appear. By the end of the walk you are at what is known as The Devil`s Throat, the biggest of the falls. It`s just amazing. This final fall easily compares with, if not supersedes, the glory that is Niagara. Coupled with the hundred or so smaller falls leading up to this culminating masterpiece, I`m forced to give the crown to Iguaçu falls. Sorry Niagra.

The next day Martin and I headed off to the Argentine side. As crossing the border is quite the bitch on buses we took an organized trip. We were grouped with 5 Americans. Of these 5 Americans 2 were born in Mexico, 1 in Venezuela, one in Vietnam, and the last was your typical American southern hick.

Tom, the 65 year old Vietnamese whose birthday it happened to be, has quite a story. He had been put in a Vietnamese jail for 10 years for being a political dissident (he said the fence to the American embassy was to crowded to climb). Later, he embarked on a 14 day expedition on a makeshift raft with his family to escape Vietnam for Hong Kong. He is now a high school math teacher and takes 2 month vacations every summer. He is the American dream.

I forget the name of the hick American we were with but I now understand why Americans get a bad rap. He was the typical loud, obnoxious, brash, embarrassment to all normal Americans that we are portrayed to be around the world. When asked what country he was from he responded with “the most hated nation.” When we took a photo of the group everyone else said cheese or something to that effect; he said “Kill Iraqis.” Yea. Fun times.

Anyways, the falls from Argentina are even better. You get wicked close to the falling water. It`s strange; from up close, the falling water almost seams to be hovering. I can`t quite explain it. We also took a boat ride that brought us literally underneath the falls. Needless to say, I`ve never had a shower with such good water pressure in my life.

Overall, falls were really cool. Once again, I advise to go.

One last note. At my hostel the second night I made friends with this Israeli girl Ingal. The next day we went together (before I took the bus to Campo Grande) to Brazil`s largest bird sanctuary. We proceeded to have lunch and then I had to go. Made me think. She was a great and really cool girl and I was sad to have to leave her so soon (I was going to Pantanal and she had just come from there). As my sister put it, “that`s the life of a nomad.” She`s right. Backpacking has it`s ups and downs. Up: Getting to meet tons of new people, each with different experiences, all the time. Not living the groundhog day that is life at home. Down: Having to leave (not always but often) those same people as fast as you met them. Its sad at times.

Th- Th-Th-Th-Th-... That's all, folks. Pantanal next.
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Ilha Grande and Paratay

Continuation of speed blogging...

Went from Rio to Ilha Grande. It`s an island south of Rio with no cars and only a few thousand people. Great times. On the boat ride there, within 5 minutes of our ride, the Captain and two co-captains had sparked joints. Basically explains the atmosphere of Ilha Grande. Extremely laid back. I spent a lot of my time on the island with Monica, Philipe, and Paula (3 Colombians that are also backpacking.)

First day there we took this 2.5 hour hike. The destination is a beach called Lopes Mendes which is supposedly one of the top 5 beaches in Brazil. By now I should mention that I`ve been to 7 of the top 5 beaches in Brazil; I think this ranking system needs some refinement. Anyways, there`s no better feeling than getting to a beach after 2.5 hours of hiking. The water just feels so unbelievable when it hits your dirty sweaty tired body.

Next day we took a boat cruise around the island. Had stops for snorkeling, swimming, eating etc... Good times. For some reason it`s hard to find non fried fish in Brazil. Everywhere you go, they fry the fish. Eventually, I had to go out of my way to get grilled fish. Strange for a people that are so thin generally.

Nights on the island are rather low key, but our hostel made up for that. Our hostel and the neighboring hostel were owned by the same person, resulting in joint hostel parties every night. Good times. My first night on the Island there was actually a festival in the middle of town which was fun. Live music, drinking, and lots of food.

In the center of town there are tons of movable stands that just sell sweats. Tons of amazing desserts. These stands are everywhere. Makes it almost impossible not to eat them.

Was supposed to go scuba diving but it rained so I was off to Paratay with Monica and Bernie (an American we met).

Paratay is a nice colonial town; kind of a better Colonial de Sacramento. Made friends with this American girl Jeannette who was living in BA. Kind of did the same thing in Paratay as in Ilha Grande (although the atmosphere of Ilha Grande tips the scales in its favor). Went to beaches, took hikes to beaches, went to an old fort that overlooks the water. Overall really good time. I had only intended to spend one night there and it turned into 3, so that speaks for the caliber of the town in and of itself.

Ran into Mareike, girl I met in Puerto Madryn, on the streets. Actually, I ran into her as I was buying this chocolate desert at one of those portable desert stands (yes, Paratay has theme also. Thank God.) It was amazing running into her. Wasn`t expecting to see her until I make my way to Germany, so was just a nice surprise. My friends and hers hung out the next couple of nights.

Last thing. There was a big fiesta in the city on my last night there. Was amazing. Was an awesome live band playing Portuguese music. Something about Portuguese just makes the language designed to be sung. Anyways, there was a huger fiesta with tons of dancing. They had this square dancing type dance, except instead of a square its a giant circle that goes around. I was pretty good at it until the time you were supposed to switch partners. I never knew which partner to take, and ended up alone after like 4 rotations. Oh well.

Best part about the fiesta was this lady Maria. She was of a grandmotherly age but she had more energy than me by leaps and bounds. I think she was crowned like the fiesta queen or something, because the entire night, for around 3 hours straight, she was non stop dancing on the stage; dancing with a vigor of a teenager. Also, she was wearing this skin tight white body suit that was covered in red hearts. A very funny sight indeed. Eventually I found some flowers and gave them to her up on the stage. She held them for the entire next song while she danced (There is a Seinfeld connection here...anyone?) She gave me a kiss, and after that song was over, I was called out by the man on the microphone and given a round of applause. Go me.

So yea. Once again, this is the briefest of descriptions but I think it gets the point accross. Had a great time in both places. Highly recommend (Ilha grande definitely...Paratay is skippable if you are in a rush, but I do strongly advise it as well.)

Needless to say, I was very excited to get back to Rio.
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Final Rushed Rio Post

I`m way behind on blogging so this post is going to be more pithy than I originally intended.

Transportation and Sights

I used public transportation more in Rio than I had in any city before. The city is big, and somewhat spread out, rendering walking unfeasible at times. I did most of my sight seeing with Celine, the Canadian girl I met on the beach. As I earlier said, she speaks Portuguese, making my travels much much easier.

First thing that should be noted is that whenever you ask someone for directions you will always get an answer. However, the validity of the response is highly fickle. I don`t think they purposely give wrong information; It`s more than Rians think it would be rude to say they don`t know the answer, so instead they give an answer that could possibly be right. This led to my newest proposal: The Question Response Time Hypothesis. The length of response time is inversely proportional to the validity of the answer. A person that fumbles around for a minute before giving an answer is probably just trying to save face. An instant response is given because there is no doubt about the answer. In our extensive testing, the hypothesis has worked beautiful.

We took lots of buses to get around as the hostel`s tours are rip offs to the Nth degree. We would usually ask the bus driver before we got on the bus if it was the correct bus to take. Most times, the bus driver would stop and talk to us for around 4 minutes, thinking and discussing the possible routes and other buses we could take. Once on the bus, the game wasn't over. Everyone on the bus would get involved in our query. It would literally be like a holiday dinner the level of discussion going on between all members of the bus to help us get to where we had to go. Once again, we would always get 5 different answers to the same question, but with Celine`s Portuguese at our side, we always found our way.

On our way up and down to Christ the Redeemer we hitched. The first way up one of the workers at the park picked us up. By the end of the ride he was asking Celine for her phone number and to go out that night (I felt like Jerry in the episode where the salesman asks Elaine for her number right in front of him. How did he know they wern`t together? Very Rude). The way back was better though. We were picked up by two beautiful Brazilian girls. Sadly, my lack of Portuguese, coupled with their not being multilingual resulted in me being quiet for most the ride and Celine doing all the talking. Crappy.

Christ the Redeemer is just amazing. Bigger than I ever imagined up close. No words will do it justice so I`ll move on.

We also took these cable cars to Sugar Loaf, this mountain overlooking all of Rio. Really fun and good time. I highly recommend it to anyone that goes. Once again though, no words will do it justice so I`ll move on.

There was one area that had a San Fransisco type trolley. Only difference is that every couple of minutes or the power would go out and the trolley would just role to a stop. They would have to start the motor up again, and restart this circular process. I was hanging off the side and soon realized I am in very bad shape, as my arms were on the verge of collapsing from holding myself on.

Night Life

Great. I`ll leave it that that. Lapa on Friday nights is a huge street part. Tons of gringos and locals combined. Drinking on the street, tons of food stands; an overall good time. We by mistake went into a gay club. This was realized when a guy told me I have nice lips. We quickly left. The whole area, and Rio generally, is very gay and transsexual friendly. Certain areas of the beach have gay pride flags and are frequented by gays and transsexuals.

Other night went to this Salsa club. Live music playing Salsa, Samba, Basanova on different floors. It is somewhat of a Rio institution. People range from 18 year olds to 60 year olds, all dancing their asses off. My salsing sucks, although I owe Monica credit for taking the time to try to teach me. Sadly, my legs and feet are slightly retarded. At the place when you enter they give you a card that lists every drink they offer. As the night goes on and you order drinks they mark the card. You hand in the card before you leave and pay your tab. Thought that was cool..

Food and Drink

Almost every corner of rio has these juice stores. The fist time I went to one I didn`t know what anything meant as it was all in Portuguese. I chose Maricuja, which I later realized is passion fruit. Needless to say, awesome juice. The juices are just amazing. You find these stores everywhere.

The basic Rian meal is meat, rice, beans. That`s about all, but I loved it.

Went to a couple Charuscarias which are those Brazillian all you can eat bbqs with the card that is green on one side and red on the other. As long as the green side is up, they keep bringing you food. There are also huge salad, pasta, sushi etc... bars to go along with it. Great times of gluttony.

Edit:
I need to stop rushing...I forgot the Caipirinha. This drink is the national cocktail of Brazil. It`s made with cachaca (a native Brazillian booze made from sugar cane), sugar and lime. It is drunk everywhereeee. I both love and hate it as it caused me many a hangovers in the morning. Impossible to go to Rio, or Brazil, without drinking them.


Public Displays of Affection
Rians love to make out in public. I don`t mean theyou may now kiss the bride type of kiss. I mean full out making out with tongues, groping of bodies and squeezing of asses. This happens everywhere. In lines to restaurants, this is a normal occurrence. When we went to the beach for sunrise that time we saw a couple having sex probably 20 feet back from the shoreline. People were walking by, within 10 feet of them, and they just kept going. Yea. PDA is ever present.


I apologize to Rio for the disservice I did by rushing through this post.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Paradox of Blogging*

I`ve noticed a catch-22 that is inherant in blogging and traveling. Heller would be proud.

The more I blog, the less I time I have available for traveling/learning about cultures/going out/eating. The less time I have for doing all those activities, the less I have to blog about. Ergo, the more I blog, the less I have to blog about.

This can be extended. The less time I have for doing all those activities, the less interesting my trip becomes. Ergo, the more I blog, the less interesting my future blogs will be.

Quite the conundrum. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQZ_GKN9Ufw&feature=related - Go to second 35)

*This paradox is based on the short run assumption of a fixed duration of traveling. In the long run, where the assumption of fixed length can be removed and infinitely long traveling is allowed, ceteris paribus (i.e. non changing ratio of money per day, health, weather...) this paradox is removed. **

**I`m currently reading The Age of Turbulence again. It has brought out the economist in me.


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Friday, July 24, 2009

Rio - Part 2

I just arrived in Campo Grande and am about to begin a 4 day adventure into the Pantanal (look it up). Trip starts in a couple of hours so I`m trying to get as much blogging out of the way as possible before it begins. I kind of feel like I did every semester come finals time with regards to the blog. I know I didn`t do my work during the past 4 months and am somewhat overwhelmed by the amount I realize I have to do. That`s what I get for taking a week off of blogging during Rio.Oh well....

Favelas

I should probably explain what favelas are before I begin as I
didn`t know before I got to Rio. They are basically ghetto type shanty towns filled with people living in pure abject poverty (ever notice how `abject` always comes before poverty? Don`t think I`ve ever used it in another context...food for thought.) They are run by drug lords and have no connection to the normal Brazilian rule of law. If you`ve seen City of God you have the idea somewhat, although the real thing is much worse than anything showed in the movie.

Ok. So I took this favela tour while I was in Rio. At first I was somewhat hesitant to take the tour. My reluctance wasn`t based on a fear of getting mugged or killed or anything; I just felt strange walking with a group of rich foreigners and taking pictures of poor people while ambling around their homes (It kind of felt like it would be a zoo but instead of animals with poor people.) I put my hesitations aside and took the tour but am still undecided on how I think the tours affect the people living in theFavelas (It must feel like shit to have these rich expats just walking around taking pictures of me because I`m poor...as though I need these people to make me feel even worse about myself).

I took the tour alone and made friends with this Brit named Ritash in the van to the Favela. It was 1 in the afternoon and Rit was trashed. He had a coke bottle which was surreptitiously Jack and Coke. In his drunken stupor he offered me some booze; as that particular combination is my poison of choice, I gladly accepted. A general rule of thumb in backpacking: a person that is drunk at 1 in the afternoon is either within their first 3 days of their trip orhasn`t gone to sleep the night before. In this case, the former prevailed, as Rit was on the first day of his trip. Stupid freshman.

The moment we get out of our van at the Favela, named Riconha, our tour guide gave us a little speech. It went a little something like this. `This place is run by drug lords. There are no police in here and no normal laws apply. You are going to see people riding around with M-16s and
Kalashnikovs. Don`t take their photo. They work for the drug lords. If you respect them, they`ll respect you.` What respectful drug lords eh?

They have a motorcycle taxi service to get you up the hill that leads to the heart of the favela. 20 motorcycles that each take one passenger. My motorcycle was the last to leave and the first to arrive at the top of the mountain. Needless to say, my driver was fucking psycho. He literally had the horn pressed the entire time, driving faster than anyone else on the road,swerving at times from road to sidewalk and back and in between trucks that were going in opposing directions . I thought I might die and hung on to that motorcycle as though my lie depended on it (in fact, it did depend on it). What do we see the moment we get let off in thefavela? A guy on a motorcycle with a kalashnikov reminding our guide to tell us to not take photos.

After that we basically just walked around the favela for a couple of hours, going into peoples homes and looking at what they do for a living. Went into an artists `studio` (makes great art depicting thefavela in an apartment 4 stories up the narrowest lowest staircase I`ve ever walked on), another group of people that made music and performed for us etc... Just got a picture of the favela zeitgeist. Also saw tons of people passed out on the streets, completely drunk, and hookers trying to pick us up by referring to us (or maybe themselves...wasn`t sure) as `sex machines.`

The favelas have been locked in on all sides by the government as the residents were constantly expanding the village into the forests (which Rio is trying to protect.) As such, the only option available for residential expansion is up. They have 4, 5, 6 story high shanty homes that are just getting taller and taller as more people are born. Condoms are an unaffordableluxury in these areas resulting is an astronomically high birth rate. This particular favela was one of the largest in the world with 200,000 residents. (Rio has around 515 favellas. All but 4 are run by drug lords.) As our guide put it, favelas will never go away. The only option is to try to educate the kids and improve their prospects. Best of luck to him.

The streets of the favelas shouldn`t even be referred to as streets. Narrow paths with arbitrarily rising and falling steps and shit/piss filled puddles would be abetter description. At times our guide would say `Ok . We are on street a. Street b, one over, is where you can get your drugs, prostitutes etc...` It`s all very much in the open that the area is run by drug lords. No one is trying to hide it, and for all intents and purposes, no one seams to mind. The people are generally pretty happy though. I still saw a lot of smiles on children and adults and all were very friendly. I probably got the mostsuperficial and false appearance that they display for foreigners though, so nothing I say should really be taken at face value. Water is acquired through makeshift pipes that run around the favela. However, most of the time, these pipes are empty. In these cases water is procured from the sewers. I saw children drinking straight from sewers (almost with pride strangely in showing us how poor they are...this act was proceeded by their asking us for money.) The streets are littered with garbage. Everywhere you look you see more and more garbage. Chickens run throughout the streets and people often walk barefoot around the favela (I wore flip flops that afternoon and had to spend around an hour cleaning my feet afterwards from all the shit, literally, that had gotten on them).

As I said earlier, the regular police can`t go into the favelas (as they don`t have the requisite weaponry, manpower, or experience). To combat this problem a special operations unit was created with the power to infiltrate favelas and capture drug lords. Within a year, these units had been corrupted. A third, more exclusive unit, had to be created. This unit hassurprisingly stayed clean and is somewhat effective (although their small numbers do not allow for them to be an ever present force in all thefavelas. Instead, the intermittently infiltrate random favellas and leave just as quickly, hopefully with a dead drug lords in hand.) It has been trained by foreign nations, Israel included, and is currently the only force that stands a chance to do any good within thefavelas. However, whenever these elite forces storm a favela the drug lords will start to kill children. Why do they do this? Because afterwards they blame the deaths of these children on the police, rousing public resentment and hatred for these elite forces (that are actually trying to doing good.) Fucked up world eh? I hard that every couple of months a stray bullet from a machine gun that is fired in the air will kill a person on the beach (which is rather far away).

What else....kites are flown everywhere. In `City of God` they make the kites out to be a sign that cops are coming. This is no longer the case as cell phones have taken over that job. I guess kites are just an affordable option for entertainment. I have this amazing video of a kid standing on a roof of like a 4 story building and climbing and jumping between sequentially lower and lower roofs to get to the main level and get his kite. Wish theinternet didn`t suck and I could actually upload it.

On our way out of the favela a man on a motorcycle with a M-16 stopped the group. At random he took one of our cameras and began looking through the photos. A few minutes later he hands the camera back and drives away. He was looking through the photos to make sure there was no picture of a man, much like himself, holding a machine gun.

My last comment. Probably the most striking aspect of the favelas is their proximity to wealt. From the favela I could easily see one of Rio`s richest neighborhoods bordering it. All throughout the city, rich neighborhoods are bordered by the poorest. both sides go on with their lives as though the other doesn`t exist. Unbelievably amazing and sad at the same time.

kk. Pantanal trip is about to leave. Don`t know if I`ll have internet for the next couple of days. Peace....

Still to come...

Night Life

Sights (Corcovoda - Sugar Loaf etc...)

Transportation

Food and Drink

Language


Public Displays of Affection

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rio - Part 1 of many

Rio...

I don`t even know where to begin. I do know that whatever I post will be an injustice of the greatest magnitude to the wonder that is Rio. Lets be honest. It goes by `the city of god` and `the magnificent city`(both names which are gross understatements in and of themselves ); how am I ,and my crappy writing, supposed to describe such a city? In short, it`s an impossible task. Nevertheless, literary ineptitude aside, I`m going to give it my best. I figure I should start at the beginning, and in the case of Rio, the beginning goes back to my freshman year of college.

During my first year of school two landscapes occupied my computer background for a semester apiece. The first, Machu Pichu (which will be my penultimate stop of the trip). The other, Rio. The view is famous and it continues to dazzle my mind to this day.



(Only once I was Rio did I realize that this photo could only be taken from a helicopter. Let down.) (I didn`t take this photo...It`s the photo that was my computer background that I wished I could take.)

This anticipation was amplified by my longing to escape the cold Argentine winter and the strange mental state I was in during Montevideo. Needless to say, Rio matched and exceeded all my hopes and dreams. On the taxi ride from the airport to my hostel the cab driver was laughing at the expression on my face; I was in a state of awe. I can still remember my first time seeing Christ the Redeemer. It hovers over the city, in both a physical and mental dimension, unlike any other landmark I`ve ever seen before. Coming from a stridently zionist Jew that says something.

Once I got to my hostel I quickly changed into shorts and flip flops and proceeded to run to the Copacobana beach. It is difficult to describe myself as I walked along that 4 km beach for my first time. My face was occupied by a smile that stretched to the back side of my head coupled with intermittent fits ofuncontrollable laughter. Why was I laughing? I really don't know. Never before in my life do I remember laughing for no specific reason at all. My only theory is that it was out of pure happiness. I was literally in shock from finally being in the city I had dreamt of for so long. Furthermore, my dreams were actually vastly inferior compared to the reality of Rio. (At times I just stop and think about where I am and what I`m doing and it feels surreal...as though this isn`t my life and I can`t actually be so lucky to be where I am. This was definitely one of those times.) I walked the beach until sunset; once again, I was in awe. (Only later did I learn that the Copacabana sunset pales in comparison to the Copacabana sunrise).

I got back to the hostel a new man. Rio has the ability to bring out the best, and in some cases the worst, in people (much like women). After my stoic and isolationist period of Montevideo I was transformed; I was more gregarious and loquacious than I can ever recall being. The world was my playground and I wasn `t afraid to fall off the monkey bars (don`t know where that expression came from). I instantly befriended a group of Australian guys from my dorm room (whose names I now forget) and a Swedish girl Judith. We went upstairs for our hostels happy hour which begins at 5, a time that is so early as to only lead to trouble. Without going into details, the Australian guys went crazy that night (I engaged in debauchery as well, but not to the level of these Australians.) In our 12 person dorm only 4 actually managed to spend the night in the room (the 3 Australians and myself). At points throughout the night security was called, fist fights occured, furniture was broken, people had to be restrained etc... Needless to say, we were awakened to the head of hostel security kicking out the 3 Australians (as 7 of the other people from our dorm checked out of the hostel and refused to pay for the night.) The Australians convinced hotel security that I wasn `t involved, which for the most part was true, so I was spared banishment from the hostel. The night was unforgettable and got me a free day of drinks at the hostel bar the next day for managing to spend the night in that room of mayhem (something I wouldn`t have traded for the world).


Beaches and Brazilian Women (Somehow they blend into one section)

What to do in Rio on my first day? Easily answered. Spend a day at the infamous Copacabana beach. With Russ, Brooke, Dani and Rosy (all brits as my hostel was 80% British) I headed off to the beach. The beaches of Rio are situated in the most magnificent and unique locations I have ever witnessed. They are sandwiched to the sides by mountains, in the rear by mountains, favelas, and a full fledged city, and in the front by a sea that is filled with myriad islands. It amazes me that Rio even exists. It is as though the founders decided to find the least inhabitable piece of land in the world and build a city there. I guess it truly takes the seemingly ridiculous to produce the spectacular.

The beaches of Rio are inundated with amazing looking women making this as good a time as any to address the woman of Rio. Simply put, they are stunning. I firmly believe that God took the pinnacle of genetics and placed them all into the Rian gene pool. From their amazing bodies, to their beautiful faces, to their girl next door vibe, to their approachability and willingness to be social and conversive they are simply amazing. As if their natural beauty was not enough, the women of Rio supplement their good looks by taking extremely good care of themselves (more than all the other South American women and probably more than American women as well). The vast majority of women in Rio are always dressed to kill, have hair that looks as though they live in salon, have bright red nail polish and adore their bodies with myriad jewelry: bodies, mind you, that are simply mind numbingly amazing (once again going back to my divine inspiration theory). On the beach the staple item of clothing is the thong. Sitting on the beaches of Rio is like being at a tennis match; your head constantly goes from side to side following woman as they stroll along the sea.

I should mention that there are some less than good looking women in Rio as well. However, this does not deter their desire to look good. If anything, they take better care of themselves than the beautiful women of Rio . Furthermore, they are not intimidated out of wearing thongs. A 65 year old, morbidly obese, cellulite ridden woman will proudly strut along the beaches of Rio in a thong (that looks as though it is being choked to death by her ass) with the same confidence as Rio`s finest women. Way to go ugly Rio women. Probably the most shocking aspect of the beautiful women is their numbers. They are literally everywhere. I took a picture on the beach that was designed to show the juxtaposition of the beach, favelas, and rich upper class homes. After looking back through my photos I noticed that an unbelievable looking women is standing in the middle of the photo. Had I asked her to pose for the photo I would have been rejected and the picturewould not have turned out as well (a friend I showed the photo to asked me how I got her to model for me.) I bring this up to display the sheer quantity of these women. Without even intending to my pictures are filled with amazing looking women.

(I will post the picture here once I get to a computer with a DVD drive...oh South Ameria)

Back to the beaches. They stretch as far as the eye can see. They are littered by men and women going back and forth selling everything you could desire. This ranges from beers to sandwiches to towels to jewelry to bathing suits to drugs to shrimps to chips to shirts etc... Without moving, your every desire can be fulfilled (at time this gets a bit annoying, but for all intents and purposes, it is a joy). I also found that the family is a very large part of the Rio life. All over the beach, on weekdays mind you, entire families were hanging out on the beach (very nice to see). They were nice and looked out for my stuff when I would go into the water (assuming everyone I was with went into the water as well). I`ll quickly address soccer by saying that it is played all over the beach, by everyone, ranging from full fledged games to hackey sack type games that are played with a soccer ball. All these players are simply amazing. It is as though they all come out of the fetus soccer ball in hand (or in this case, I guess soccer ball in foot is more appropriate). Similarly, beach volleyball is ever present.

On my second stop in Rio, I witnessed a photo shoot on the beach. I have some funny videos I will post of how stupid a photo shoot is.

Me and some people I made friends with went to Copacabana at around 5 am one night for swimming. It was amazing. The water was suprisingly warm for the middle of the night and the swimming was just great. The waves look unbelivable with the moon light shining on them. Furthermore, we stayed at the beach for the sunrise. Sadly, as you are advised not even to go to Copacabana at night let alone bring anything valuable with you, I didn`t bring my camera. As such, I have no photos. Needless to say, it was the most amazing sunrise of my life.

I know I`m leaving out tons of things but I kind of have to move on... In summary, the beaches of Rio are unreal. Even nicer than Copacabana is Ipanema beach, located a few kilometers away.

That same first day I returned to the beach to take photos of the sunset. I was wearing my McGill shirt and a girl, Celine, who is from Sherbrooke Quebec saw me. We got to talking and we spent much of the remainder of the week traversing Rio together. As she was also a solo traveler, and spoke Portuguese (very usefull), this worked out very well for the both of us.

Soccer

On my second stay in Rio I managed to get to Maracana for a soccer game (this was half the reason I came back to the city, just to see a game). It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. First of all, the size of the stadium is amazing. It sits 150,000 people. Me and Monica (my Colombian friend that I met inIlha Grande) and Ivan (our buddy from Mexico) headed off to a Flamengo vs. Botogago game. As both teams are from Rio it was bound to be a great game. Our hostel offered a package to go to the game, but like everything designed for tourists, it was just a fucking rip off. Instead, we ventured on our own (I ended up paying 25reals when the hostel would have charged 70. F U hostel). The game was just amazing. From the moment we got off the subway police, many holding machine guns,separated the two sets of fans. Botofoga fans to the right, Flamengo to the left (we sided with the latter). The lines to buy tickets are segregated as well. The seating is segregated as well (and for good reason). I would not want to be aFlamengo fan in the Botofoga section (and vice versa).

Edit: I realize I forgot to mention this. There were two lines for the tickets. One, very very long. The other very short. I asked a guy on line which is which and it turned out the long line was for the more expensive tickets. He then went on to explain the the more expensive tickets are the ones higher up and further away from the field. That`s right. The further away, the more expensive. The exact opposite of any U.S. sporting event. I asked him why and the answer actually made sense. The atmosphere is better up top. All the true fans are in the upper level, and as half the game is about getting the atmosphere of said fans, those seats went up in value. We got the more expensive, higher up seats, and were definitly better off for it.

From the moment you enter the stadium their is a visceral passion unlike anything I`ve ever felt before. The Colombian and Mexican that I was with, both who have been to championship games in their respective countries, said that the level of fan intensity at this regular season lower league match was more palatable than anything they had ever experienced in their respective countries. The game started at 6:30 and endedaround 8:30. From 6 on there literally was constant, non stop, singing and chanting by the fans. Their was a drum ensemble that played non stop the entire match. I am not using hyperbole here. Singing, chanting and drums the entire game, growing louder and louder as the game progressed.Botofoga got off to a 1-0 lead. What did the Flamengo fans do after the goal? They chanted louder than ever. They sung with more passion than ever before. They literally willed their team back into the game. The passion is just amazing. I don`t know any curses inPortuguese, but I knew that with every perceived miscall, with every stupid pass by a Flamengo player, with every dirty play by a Botofoga player, every single Flamengo fan was enraged, screaming at the tops of their lungs, uttering what I´m sure were the dirtiest curses imaginable. We were sitting behind a group of what were probably 11 year old boys. Once again, I don`t knowPortuguese, but even native people were even looking over at these little boys in shock whenever they started cursing. When Flamengo was down 1-0, I swear I saw a tear go down one of the boys faces. Eventually, the game got to 2-1, botofoga. WIth 2 minutes left to go Flamengo scored to tie up the game. Never in my life have I heard a group of people exude such joy and unfettered happiness as that moment. I think they would have been less happy if God himself had granted them passage to heaven. All in all, the game wasunfucking believable. One of the best experiences of my life.

Some quick notes. They don`t sell beer at the games. They sell `Cerveja S.A.` standing for `Sin Alcohol`(without alcohol). It`s a good thing too. I can`t imagine what would happen if the fans got drunk.

After the game walking back to the subway there were gunshots. At first me, and the people I was with, being the stupid gringos that we are, just stood there wondering what was going on. All theBrazilians however started screaming, running at full sprint to take cover behind a cement barricade. We eventually followed them, leisurely mind you, until we saw cops beating the crap out of the guy on the street. Similarly, on the walk out of the stadium, at one point everyone started screaming and running away as though a grenade was in the middle of the stadium hallways (I`m not saying there was a grenade. Just that everyone ran away in the same path as if there had been a grenade; running away forming acircle in the hallway). Just as fast as everyone ran away, everyone went back to walking out of the stadium. I`m not sure what happened but it was just crazy. ToBrazilians soccer is not a past time. It is life. Either way, if you go to Brazil, you have to go see a game. Just amazing.


Religion
Religion is ever present in Rio. It`s as though the statue of Jesus actually imposes a higher sense of religious observation and devotion throughout the city. Churches are abundant and are packed to the brims on Sundays (sadly, most shops are closed on Sundays as well). At the street fairs there were many religious objects ranging from icons to statues of Jesus the Redeemer (one which I bought...I`m going to hell. Bad Jew I am eh?) Two specific instances to discuss.

I mentioned that there are vendors on the beaches that sell shrimp. The shrimps are placed on kabobs and the average vendor heads out with probably 30 sticks of shrimp. I noticed one of the vendors after selling his last kabob. He went to the sea, put some water on his head, and made a cross. I inferred that he was thanking God for another successfull tch ofshrimps sold. While I can`t confirm this, I`m pretty sure its correct, as I noticed this happening to another vendor at a later date on the beach after he finished selling his shrimps.

Another time I was taking a van transport service to get to Niteroi. I was sitting next to a man and we started to talk. I noticed that whenever the van passed a church he would cross himself. This happened probably 9 or 10 times during our ride. Ididn`t ask why he was doing it but I`m pretty sure I put 2 and 2 together correctly.

I can`t really articulate the sense of religion in Rio but I definitely felt it. Jesus the Redeemer`s presence is felt by all.

to come...

Favelas

Night Life

Sights (Corcovoda - Sugar Loaf etc...)

Transportation

Food and Drink

Language

Whatever else I can think of. Too much to say, so little time and will...


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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Photo Order

I didn`t post the pictures in a proper time sequence. It should go as follows:

-Uruguay
-Rio (to come)
-Ilha Grande
-Paratay
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Uruguay - Photos

Agua caliente means hot water. They sell hot water on the streets so people can refill their thermasts.

Hamburger stands I described in the post.

Collection of matte cups and straws. Very fancy stuff.

Old man I liked.

Favorite lunch of the trip.
Restaurant with old men that I befriended.


All different matte brands for sale.

Fishing in Montevideo.


`Quincy Market`of meat. (cant find quote key on this keyboard)


Yum.


Uruguay`s national bank. I stopped by pretending to be an ambassador from the FRBNY.



Could this not be NYC?

The Uruguyuan street vendors have unionized.

Colonial.


Shut down bull fighting ring. That`s my moped on the left.


Thomas my buddy from El Chalten that I ran into.

On my moped.










Boat I took over from BA.


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