January 6, 2003
The adventure has begun and I feel a little like Rodney Dangerfield after just three days on the road. "I get no respect!"
It started by sleeting and raining on the day of my departure after the garage called and said that the old Volvo would require a day's worth of extensive repairs before making the journey. The car is now purring like a pampered, expensive kitten, but I endured a late departure and drove through torrential rains to reach Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on my first night. If there was any doubt as to why I was leaving the cold climate, it only required a look out the befogged windshield to see the deluge that spoiled my departure parade.
My second morning brought a stop in Pocomoke City, MD, for lunch and a looooong drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge - Tunnel, down the entire length of the Outer Banks, across a free, 30-minute ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island, where I slept soundly after indulging in some delicious, local steamed oysters and fried scallops.
Day three brought a 2 hour and 15-minute, toll, ferry ride from Ocracoke to Cedar Island to start the day. The ride was enjoyable because I could sit outside in just a light jacket and bask in the sunshine and 55 degree temperature. Unfortunately, the sea gulls enjoyed the weather, too, and one of them made a remarkable shot splattering the back of my golf jacket. This wasn't just your ordinary gull excremental shot. This gull had indulged in a huge breakfast and some Metamucil and wiped out the jacket. I feel your pain, Rodney!
After departing the ferry, I headed south along back roads that took me through Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Of course, I was the object of a random vehicle search by the MP's, who asked me to open all of my doors, the trunk, and the engine compartment for their inspection. As they tediously searched through my suitcases and backpacks, I inquired as to the nature of their quest and they informed me that they were looking for "weapons of mass destruction." I explained that on quite a few days the golf clubs in my trunk would qualify, especially the putter, but they were in no mood for civilian humor. Rodney, this is no persecution complex; they are picking on us!
I spent last night in a Red Roof Inn in Myrtle Beach and got on the road early this morning. It is noon and I am sitting in the Public Library of Charleston, SC, keeping you abreast of the journey so far. It is 60 degrees today and I didn't need the now blue and white jacket to walk to the library, so things are starting to go my way. Internet cafes are few and far between in this country, however, because of the wealth of personal computers in our homes, so I will have to use the libraries whenever I can locate them. The temperature tells me that I am heading in the right direction! I leave to see what other indignities lay ahead.
January 10, 2003
#*&#@^*&%$##$#@%$#!!! A $157 speeding ticket in a typical little southern town speed trap!! Four points will be charged against me when they forward the violation to PA. I am still hot under the collar about it. Route 17, the little road that I was taking south instead of getting on an interstate, merged into Route 95 and I had to drive on 95 for one exit. I also had to increase my speed to about 70 mph to keep up with traffic. My exit came up quickly and I eased off of the accelerator to coast to a slower speed down the exit ramp, which was a quarter mile straight a way. There was no jug-handled exit to force you to slow down. The sun was shining in my eyes and I never saw the 45 mph, then 35 mph signs right at the end of the straight a way. Of course, a couple of blocks later I was pulled over by one of three brand new cruisers that I saw in this town of about 1,000 people. Ridgeland, SC, should be ashamed of itself. The revenue generated from the violations has provided them with beautiful, fully equipped squad cars, but they are a disgrace to law enforcement. Rodney Dangerfield is right; they are picking on us!!
I was so angry that I continued driving and slept the night in a small town about 15 miles south of Savannah. The next morning brought a calmer outlook on life, and after scraping the ice off of the windshield I headed south again. I figured that I would spend the night in Mt. Dora, a small, beautiful, lakeside town about 40 miles outside Orlando. I was a day earlier than I had told my friend, Schim, whom I met last year while teaching English in Spain. So, I decided to stay in Mt. Dora and call him in the morning.
Unfortunately, two Mt. Dora hotels were more expensive than I was willing to pay for a night's sleep and the third one was not clean enough to suit me. I decided to drive on toward Orlando. I really passed only one or two hotels along the way and they were both on the other side of the four-lane highway. I continued on, even though it was now dark and I was exhausted. Finally, inside the city limits of Orlando, I spied a motel. It was a little too garish for me, with a neon sign advertising the dancers who were performing in the motel's nightclub. I continued on for about two miles and saw no hotels, so I did a U-turn and headed back to the garish place. I didn't care who was dancing; they couldn't keep me awake as tired as I was.
Here it comes, another one of those unbelievable things that happen to me while I am on these adventures. I enter the motel and ask if they have a room where an old guy could lay his head for an evening. The two men at the counter look at each other and say, "Yes, but do you know what kind of hotel this is?" No, I didn't, but they quickly told me, "This is a gay hotel and nightclub." They looked at me for a response. I said, "I'm not offended, I just need a place to sleep." They told me that it was fine, but they wanted me to know. I checked in and called my friend, Schim, to let him know that I had arrived a day early. He howled with laughter when I told him where I was, but he came to pick me up and we went out to a great Cuban restaurant for dinner. He is a macho, former tight end and was somewhat concerned about his car being seen in the parking lot. I had already paid for the room, so I spent the night only waking when the bar left out at 2:00 a.m. and all of the guys left with their new dates for the evening. The shower in the morning felt great and I spent the day with Schim, sightseeing Winter Haven (or Winter Park), which is a gorgeous suburb of Orlando.
I left late in the afternoon, after doing my laundry at Schim's, and I am currently in Sarasota, visiting friends who are here for the winter. I will keep you informed of further humbling experiences, but I am beginning to wonder if it is wise to proceed to Rio with the way my luck has been running. Catch you soon.
January 14, 2003
After five glorious days of sun and fun in Sarasota with friends, where I walked the beach, biked, swam in the outdoor pool, and enjoyed the company of my friends, I have arrived in Miami. My luck appears to be changing, since I found this Miami-Dade library branch right on the Tamiami Trail that I took into town. The weather has been great (it is 70 already today) and I see that the high temperature will be 29 back home. I have beaten the snow and cold.
When I left Sarasota, I took the Tamiami Trail (route 41) south to Manasota Key, near Englewood, where I played golf with another friend from home. We had a great day on the links and I even hit the ball remarkably well after such a long layoff. These friends offered me a room for the night, but I wanted to press on to Miami. I need to find my nephew's home, where I will park my car, and get myself mentally ready to board the plane for the long flight.
I have been listening to a Portuguese language tape for most of the ride down here, but this particular tape is not very good. At least I am hearing a little of the language to attempt to allay some of the culture shock that I will experience upon my arrival.
I was going to sprint for Miami right after the golf ended yesterday, but I changed plans en-route and headed south on the Tamiami Trail instead. I spent the night in Naples and fell in love with that beautiful city. One of these years, I will have to winter in this town where the downtown streets are lined with pastel-painted, two-story buildings.
This morning, I headed across the state, through the Big Cypress Swamp National Park and reached Miami just a few minutes ago. I made a rest stop at a ranger station along the way and saw four large alligators sunning themselves along the fence, not five feet away from me and the other gawking tourists. The drive through the swamp was rich with avian wildlife and I regretted not packing my binoculars to get a closer look at some of the specimens. It was a wonderful, two-hour ride.
I leave you now to find my nephew and plan for my flight ahead. My next update will be from Rio.
Bom dia (pronounced bum gheea) from Rio, I have some great news!! The plane made it safely despite my worst fears and the temperature is warmer than in the frozen north of our country. Actually, think of the most humid summer day and night that you can recall and that is what I have flown into. I think that I may have flown too far south. The weather was perfect in southern Florida - 55 at night and 74 during the daytime. Here I would guess that the temperature is 90 degrees or higher and you can cut the humidity with a knife.
There is more good news! I appear to have packed properly in the two backpacks that contain all of my gear for two months. Tee shirts and muscle shirts are in, as are sandals, white sneakers, and shorts worn by men my age. I packed no sport coats or jackets and threw in my white, walking sneakers at the last minute. Jeans are in, golf shirts are in, cleavage is in, and everyone seems to dress in an attempt to beat the heat. About the cleavage, I haven't been to the beach yet, but I have seen enough cleavage here in the Flamengo area of the city to indicate that the beach may be a showstopper for the breast men who are following my travels. Personally, I have come for the culture and the library research and have barely noticed the flesh around me.
I have checked into a small hotel, which the taxi driver selected as best among the few that I listed to him. I will view several apartments tomorrow and hope to move then for the last time on this trip. The drive to Florida gave me flashbacks about living out of a suitcase and I want no more of that this year. My hotel room is advertised as air conditioned, but only the fan on the window air conditioner is working. The lobby of the hotel and the hotel restaurant are not air-conditioned either. There is no English spoken in the hotel, so communication is something of a challenge, but I have been up to it, so far. It is amazing how many things for which you can make hand signs. I will soon be a champion charade player.
The shower in my bathroom is wonderful with hot and cold water in a large, rather open shower. The process of showering requires enough energy to cause perspiration to begin, however. The sink has only one faucet and the water is room temperature. I am using bottled water to brush my teeth to prevent the traveler's diarrhea that haunts me when I travel. It is as common here as in Mexico.
This communications center opens late on Saturday and I arrived 15 minutes before the doors opened. I walked around, and then stopped in a little, open bar for a glass of orange juice to pass the time. I watched as they squeezed the oranges and felt good that I asked for no ice to eliminate the possibility of drinking the water-borne bacteria. As I finished my juice, I watched in horror as the dishwasher washed the squeezer in cold tap water in front of me. Tomorrow, I will probably not need Metamucil.
This afternoon, I have scheduled a bus tour of the city, including a trip to Sugarloaf, the mountain overlooking the city. Here's hoping the transportation never leaves the ground, because I will not be taking any chair lifts or cable cars on this trip. The tour should also include Copacabana Beach and Ipanema, so I will have more to report in a day or two. I will also update you right after my first mugging, so stay tuned.
January 20, 2003
I have moved into my own apartamento, only a short block and a half to the famous Copacabana Beach. Much has occurred since I updated last, so I will sketch the happenings over several days. First the apartment: it is a small studio in a very safe building with video security in all of the halls, the elevators, the lobby, and the garage. My landlord's son, who took me to several apartments, said that this area was very safe and I need not have any fear about walking alone at night. I believe him, since I was out after nightfall for a few moments last night.
I have a kitchenette, which has about 20 square feet of space, including the space covered by the sink and tiny gas stove. I must stand in the hallway (inside the apartment) to wash dishes or to get silverware. The small refrigerator is also in the hall, which makes it convenient to get milk and orange juice on the way back to the dinette table, located in the somewhat larger living/dining/bedroom. I won't be doing any cooking, but will eat cereal and orange juice breakfasts in my quarters. Only a few problems with that, there are no cereal bowls or cups large enough for cereal. This morning, I ate from a small pan, which did the job quite nicely. I will buy a couple of bowls if I see them.
My bed is a trundle bed, so there is room for a guest, if any of you decide to visit. Unfortunately, trundle beds are wooden structures with thin mattresses. Last night, my first night away from my hotel, I had to take the second mattress from the pullout bed under mine and put it on my bed in order to keep my hips from bruising against the wood. Two mattresses piled on top of one another are not easy to make-up, so my bed will be unmade some of the time. I will straighten things up a bit, if you decide to visit. I slept pretty well on my first night in the apartment where I will spend the next 50 days. The apartment has location, location, location, but is inexpensive, thanks to the wonderful exchange rate. The Brazilian Real is now 3.39 to the US dollar.
Yesterday, I had a great sandwich at a beachside restaurant. The sandwich had two slices of bread, each covered with melted cheese. One side had an over-easy egg on top of the cheese and the other side had a small, but very tender filet mignon. Served with three slices of tomato and a pile of French fries, the sandwich was under $4.00.
The Internet center in which I am writing this update is located halfway between my apartment and the beach, making it extremely easy to communicate. There is a grocery store across the street and a bank around the corner. I will have to go out of my way to exercise here, since everything that I need is so close.
Last night, I went to the Marriott Hotel in hopes of seeing the Eagles game, only to find out that the Raiders-Titans game was the only game shown in Brazil. The game came on at 9:00 since we are three hours earlier than Eastern Time. I didn't make it that late, exhausted from the packing, apartment hunting, grocery shopping, and moving. I am unpacked, however, and will stay in one place for the next 50 days. I am not a beach person, but for the first time in my life I will live like a beach bum.
Being a beach bum is not all bad here. Last night, after I found out that the Eagles game was not broadcast here, I walked the promenade along the beach back to my apartment. There was colorful activity everywhere with people active on the beach until 8:00, when the twilight was ending. Older folks began to make their way out of the air-conditioning around 7:00, which gave me an idea of how I will live during my time here. Up early and write emails, I will eat an early lunch and return to my air-conditioned (barely) apartment for reading and siesta. After 6:30 or so, I will re-enter the world to what is happening and enjoy the cooler weather.
I saw and heard my first Carnival activity during the walk home last night. A drum brigade was practicing its samba cadence on the promenade along the beach and the rhythm was contagious. Numerous young ladies in bikinis danced as the drummers rehearsed their complex rhythm. Two black girls between 17 and 20 years of age were standing next to me wearing almost nothing and they jiggled everywhere as they danced aggressively to the music. They were entertained by the tourist who was videotaping them and by my occasional glances in their direction. I was enjoying the energy and their enthusiastic smiles, but I am certain that they naively thought that I was watching them jiggle.
The beach was a circus of activity until dark. Three lanes of traffic adjacent to the beach promenade are closed, at least on Sundays, and people are walking, jogging, biking, and moving everywhere. The promenade and the three lanes were full of people, including street entertainers, merchants selling cold coconuts and other drinks, and the entire place was a people-watchers idea of heaven. I thoroughly enjoyed my walk, despite the humidity and my tired, aching body.
Tomorrow, I will discuss my tour to Corcovado, the mountain overlooking the city, which has the enormous statue of Christ with outstretched arms. Until then, obrigado (thank you) for following my adventures.
January 21, 2003
My tour to Corcovado the other day yielded some very impressive views of Rio. The ride up the mountain was a different story, however. The first part of the tour involved seeing both the Copacabana Beach area and the Ipanema Beach area. I am now living in Copacabana, which was the world's most famous beach from the 1960's to the 1990's. Ipanema has surpassed it since then, after the songwriter saw the tall and tan girl walking on Ipanema's sands. Ipanema is definitely upscale. Copacabana is more like the people's beach and its high-rises are reminiscent of Ocean City, Maryland. Plenty of people, activity, etc.
Ipanema is full of the most expensive hotels, shopping areas, restaurants, etc. I only passed by on the bus while taking the tour and have not carried my research to that beach as yet. I will get there soon, however.
Back to the tour, I inadvertently informed you that I was going to tour Sugar Loaf, one of the mountains that overlook the city. To tour Sugarloaf requires a cable car ride; I will not be touring Sugarloaf! Corcovado, another mountain overlooking the city, is famous for the giant statue of Christ with outstretched arms. You can get to the top of Corcovado by train or by tour bus (or so I was told). It seems that the tour bus goes only half way to the top before the road becomes so winding that it is impossible for a large bus to make the turns.
Never fear, the ingenious tour company had a 16-passenger mini-van waiting to shuttle us closer to the top. The only problem was that there were too many of us for two trips to the top, so they just loaded 24 of us into the van making it seem exceedingly top-heavy to me and a few of the other passengers. We held our breath as we rapidly turned the sharp corners before reaching the top. The driver was apparently trying to put the fear of God into us before we faced His son at the top of the mountain and it worked.
The view at the top, after walking the more than 200 stairs to get from the van to the statue, was absolutely breathtaking; I hope that my photos will tell that story. This morning on TV I saw that an escalator opened yesterday (the day after my trip) and handicapped people were now able to access the statue. Timing is everything!
The guide told us that the statue's right arm blesses the north side of the city and his left arm blesses the south side. She said, "Whenever He sees Cariocas (the nickname of Rio residents) working, He claps." The local humor suggests that Cariocas party much, but rarely work. The guide may be right, the past two days have been holidays and all the stores have been closed.
I had enough of the ride on the way up and told the guide that I would walk down to the bus. I was later caught by a young Argentinean couple that also feared the ride down. We must have walked several miles (and walking down hill yields very sore shins the following day) when the overloaded van stopped beside us and told us to get on board because this was the last shuttle down. We reluctantly jammed ourselves into the bus and held our breath again as the driver took the corners on what felt like two wheels.
However, I have seen Corcovado and have no need to make that trip again. The view was beautiful and I hope to share some pictures with you shortly. Today, I will continue my research on Ipanema Beach. My next update will be about the famous derrieres of Rio!! Stay tuned.
January 22, 2003
OK, before going on to the promised subject, let me say just a few things about the meals that I have been enjoying. I know! I know! You dirty old men who are following along want to get right to the nitty gritty, but bear with me a little while. Buffets are big here, some are called "kilos," because they weigh your plate each time that you fill it and you are charged by the kilo. I never liked buffets because I tend to eat too much and the food has always been sitting around too long.
Two nights ago, however, I went to a place called Porcao, which is a small chain here in Rio. This is as sophisticated a buffet as I have ever seen. Waiters in dress shirts and bow ties served drinks and desserts to your table with genuine warmth. A young man with a tray of cocktail glasses containing fruit greeted me. I deduced that he was inquiring if I desired a cocktail, so I decided to try the pineapple, from among the strawberry, lime, orange, and God knows what others on his tray. I watched him make the drink only 10 feet distant from me. He added two teaspoons of sugar, and then crushed the pineapples with a mortar, before adding vodka and ice to the top of the glass. He shook the ingredients thoroughly; making a sweet, delicious and refreshing beverage that dulled my senses after only two sips.
I then proceeded to the elegant buffet and selected a variety of foods for my plate. Porcao's is not a "kilo," so no weighing of my plate was necessary. I tried a large portion of seafood Newberg on white rice (one of my favorites) and also tried an apple and celery salad (delicious), potato salad, and a green vegetable similar to spinach. All were wonderful and didn't taste like they had been sitting there long at all.
My second plate was a generous portion of sushi, which is very popular here. The sushi was only average and did taste like it had been made sometime earlier. I accompanied all of this with a half bottle of red Chilean wine, which I selected from an extensive wine list. The sommelier (yes, the place had a sommelier) was impressed by my selection, which was excellent. I followed all of this up, probably because the excessive consumption of alcohol had weakened my legendary self-discipline, with as good a hot fudge sundae as you can buy anywhere in the U.S. The check, please (a conta): the bill was just under $20 - fantastic!
On the buffet, I had passed up many plates of wonderfully prepared fish, including a whole, grilled salmon, delicious looking stews and soups, and the entire section of grilled meats, for which the restaurant is famous. This was obviously before the alcohol had taken effect.
Last night, I went for sit-down service to a fine little restaurant and started with a crab cake appetizer, which was different than the eastern shore of Maryland's, but every bit as delicious. It was served on a large scallop shell and accompanied with extra virgin olive oil and some hot sauce. I followed that up with grilled linguado, which I selected from the fresh fish shown to me on a plate by the waiter, because it looked like a flounder. It was excellent, too, and served with a sauce meuniere of butter, parsley, and capers. They also came with delicious, boiled potatoes covered in the same sauce. With another half bottle of Chilean wine, the tally was again $20. This is more than I usually spend for meals, but I needed the treat because of the heat and humidity that I had endured during the day.
Oh my gosh, I forgot the derrieres!! Since I have spent so much time on the computer babbling about the delicious meals (did I mention the scrumptious grilled octopus for lunch?), I guess that I will have to discuss the derrieres in tomorrow's update. Sorry about that, but as a reward for your patience, I will also include a discussion about breasts in the dissertation. Until then, I will do more research on those subjects. Boa tarde!
January 23, 2003
I need one paragraph to relieve your minds about the conditions under which I am living. The landlady gave me three cereal bowls when I paid my first installment on the rent, so now I have three bowls for eating my cereal and one pan that thinks it is a bowl. This means that I need not wash the dishes for a week, since I eat all other meals out. With a quick rinsing, the bowls are good for two days, right? Since the technician repaired my air conditioner, my departamento (I've learned that apartamento means hotel room) is now a cool haven for spending afternoons reading the novels that I brought with me. Lord, help me when I run out of reading material, because English language books and periodicals are very difficult to find.
All right, I remember; breasts and derrieres are the subject of this update. Ladies, you might be well advised not to read on today, because this material is intended for the lowlife, chauvinistic pigs with whom I golf and for whom I have undertaken this exhaustive research. Others of my male friends, equally despicable characters, are, no doubt, interested in this research, as well.
I don't know much about ladies, but this much I do know: every lady who read my warning has continued reading, so let me at least state this disclaimer. I am in no way interested in the prurient aspects of this research, like my lowlife pals. My mission is serious academic research into the flora and fauna of beach life here in Brazil, which necessitates an academic narrative about their appearance.
That said, let's get on with what Hollywood calls the T&A: after extensive beachside surveys and careful observation, I can confirm that all specimens have two breasts and one derriere, much like our northern brethren. Furthermore, only the male of the species goes topless, except during carnival. Cariocan females go topless during Carnival; I'm told, only to reduce the cost of the costume, which must be purchased by each participant. Topless female bathers, which I have yet to see, must be European, my sources have revealed.
No discussion of breasts would be complete without mention of the word "nipple," yet I have some trepidation about the Victorian and Puritan influences that will hound some of my readers when I use this very biological and academic terminology. Relax, shed the bonds, and read on!
While I must admit that I have paid them little mind, I am certain that all males have two nipples here in Brazil. They are uncovered much of the time, even as they walk the streets away from the beach, in stores, in bars, etc. It is very humid, after all, and where there is no air conditioning, many go shirtless.
Women, on the other hand, just show cleavage to get some air on their skin. As I have said before, the cleavage here would drive a breast man crazy, even away from the beach. On the beach, however, cleavage gives way to flesh, flesh, and more flesh. Many bikinis are so tiny as to only cover the nipple (see why the word is so important to this research?) This, of course, means that there is much flesh to scrutinize at the beach. Lest you think that this is an easy task, be forewarned that Brazilians are like us in many more ways. They are short and they are tall, they are thin and they are fat, they are gorgeous and they are ugly, but most of them are average. That, after all, is the way it works statistically! It takes much observation to discern the finest of the specimens. I will continue my research.
Now, the derriere... Feminists are going to be uncomfortable with this disclosure, but this city celebrates the feminine derriere. The most important part of Carnival, the Samba competitions, takes place in a two-block parade, which ends under an arch, which represents the female derriere (I swear!). The arch has a strip curving downward from its peak, which represents the bikini of a bending woman (it's true!). I am certain that I will have to publish a picture to validate this research and I shall.
Derrieres are everywhere in Rio and shapely women are proud of their "curvas," as they call their shapes. Derrieres are meant to be swung as one walks and women here seem to have mastered the technique. I am certain that men here have no awareness of their derriere and whether it is shapely or not, just like their northern counterparts. I have seen some derrieres that qualify at the top of the scale established by Bo Derek in the movie, "10". I have seen quite a few more that qualify at the top of my friend from Missouri's scale of "two axe handles wide!" I have seen few string bikini bottoms; most derrieres are covered by a small triangular patch of material which matches the top two triangles.
This is no easy task and the work continues. I have been to Ipanema Beach and there are many better specimens there. I will return there tomorrow to continue the research, but I cannot yet confirm the observation of the friend of a friend who returned claiming Rio's derrieres are the finest and most perfectly shaped in the world. I will continue to study.
Ladies, if I offended you, I urge you to direct your wrath to the curs who not only requested this research, but who were too cheap to subsidize even a portion of it. Boa tarde!!
January 25, 2003
"The window, she is broken and the rain is coming in. If I don't get it fixed, I will be soaked right through my skin..." The lyrics to the Peggy Lee hit "Manana" were pretty accurate last night, although the windows were not the problem. As I went to bed, sometime around 9:30, reading another mystery novel given to me by my eldest son, it started to rain lightly. I could hear the gentle pinging on the air conditioner case beside my bed. When I awoke at midnight, the pinging had become
as cacophonous as the samba drum rehearsal I had heard earlier in the week.
It was a torrential tropical thunderstorm, with much lightening and it lasted for more than three hours. I stayed awake that long, battling the rain flowing in a steady stream through the ceiling lights in the hallway and kitchen of my apartment. I noticed the wet floor when I went to the refrigerator for some of the cold, bottled water that I drink. I gathered every pot, pan, and trash can and placed them in appropriate locations to catch the steady stream of water. Every 10 minutes until 3:45 a.m., I stopped reading my novel, arose from the bed and emptied the full vessels, the largest of which was the bathroom trash can, only 12 inches in diameter. I was not catching all of the rain, but I battled on, hoping to protect the tenants of the 9th floor directly below me. I don't know if I was successful, but I battled valiantly.
The rain slowed, but not before invading my living room with a steady dripping from a crack in the ceiling onto the small sofa across from my bed. I quickly moved the deepest of the pans to the sofa to prevent damaging that piece of furniture. Was I going to drown in a 10th floor apartment?? The thought crossed my mind.
As the flow slowed to a steady drip, I emptied the vessels into the shower one last time and turned off my light for some much needed sleep. When I awoke in the morning around 8:30 a.m., the rain had slowed to a drizzle and the vessels were only about a third full. I had timed the retreat from the battle perfectly. The river of water cascading from the ceiling light had stopped completely and, after all, it wasn't snow.
The song ends with, "but I don't need a window on such a sunny day. Manana, Manana, Manana is good enough for me." With the large, long-handled squeegee in the linen closet of the bathroom, I quickly cleaned up the little water remaining. Most of it had soaked into the beautiful, wooden parquet floor. The availability of the squeegee makes me think that "Manana" has been good enough for repairing roof leaks around here for a good, long time. I have packed an umbrella and will now place it on my nightstand. Manana! Or, as they say here, Amanha.
January 27, 2003
With rumors reaching as far south as Rio about the terrible weather in the northern part of North America, I will not complain about the spell of rainy weather that I have to endure. Actually, to make you eat your heart out, the overcast skies are a great respite from the broiling sun. The clouds keep the temperature and the humidity at acceptable levels and I have only had one further, minor liquid breach of the dry cocoon that is my departamento.
I spent the weekend using the cooler temps to walk miles along the beaches of Copacabana and neighboring Ipanema and Leblon. I have fallen in love with Leblon where the tree-lined streets and up-scale restaurants, shops and bookstores add a charm that is missing in Copacabana. It is only 5 or 6 blocks further walk for me to Ipanema and a 10 or 15-minute cab ride to Leblon, which is beyond the last promontory in Ipanema. The cab ride is $2.00 one way and taxi drivers are not tipped in Brazil, so it is not too bad. On Saturday, though, I walked the whole thing round-trip through Ipanema to Leblon and back and must have walked 5-7 miles, all in sandals. I was exhausted.
As I walk the beach, I have begun removing my shirt for longer periods of time each day. This brings a gathering of young, gorgeous beauties that makes my research that much easier. OK, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but with no snacks in my departamento and extensive long walks each day, I am becoming more fit and more bronze. You won't recognize me when I return, I'm certain.
Speaking of the research, my keen skills of observation have detected numerous "wedgies" troubling the ladies wearing these bikinis. Hampered only slightly by the language barrier, but steeled with the will of academic discipline, I have resisted, in order to maintain my objectivity, the urge to provide comfort by dislodging these fortunate triangles of cloth.
Yesterday (Super Bowl Sunday), I walked the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana - Ipanema during the morning and Copacabana in the evening. In Copacabana, in the three lanes closed for pedestrian traffic on weekends, I ran into a samba club practicing for Carnival. They were followed by a large truck with huge speakers mounted on the front, broadcasting the efforts of the male vocalist. He was accompanied by a walking rhythm section of drums and "bells-on-a-stick" and preceded by somewhere in excess of 100 dancers. The samba and the mummer's strut of Philadelphia have a lot in common, it appears. Almost any step is acceptable, as long as it makes your body move and jiggle in time to the rhythm. The dancers were led by six women in excess of 60 years of age who danced with much enthusiasm. The parade generated much excitement and many of the onlookers were infected with the contagious samba rhythms. As the crowd grew, I made certain that my pockets were buttoned, all security precautions were in place and no one came too close to me. But, the music was contagious and exciting!
The dancers' footwear of choice was interesting. Most danced barefoot; next most popular were flip-flops, followed by sandals. The six lead dancers were followed by children, the smallest of which appeared to be in the 7 or 8 year range (now that I think of it, the dancers were all girls), and they were followed by girls who were successively taller until they reached girls about 20 years of age. The musicians were all men.
Afterward, I showered, ate a light dinner and headed to the Marriott to watch the Super Bowl. We are three hours earlier here and halftime came at 11.30 p.m., when I adjourned to my cocoon. Tomorrow, I will discuss my plans for some day trips outside of Rio. Tchau.
January 28, 2003
I seem to have a problem with cameras! Those who followed last year's trip to Spain know that on my way to the dentist I slammed a car door on my brand new camera after I had taken only a picture or two. The camera, which was a gift from the children at Christmas, managed to continue to operate, but I could not change adjustments or be aware of the number of exposures left. The camera was repaired while at home last summer and appeared to operate perfectly over the Christmas holidays. I took one roll of pictures here, which is on the way home right now, but 13 exposures into the second film, the camera rewound and registered "E" indicating an error of some sort. I opened the camera to find that the film had not rewound, exposing the 13 pictures that I had taken. I had some beauties in there to validate the bathing suit research, too.
I took the camera to a shop yesterday and they sent me two blocks down to Mr. Yamaguchi, a camera repairman. He sent me to Nikon, Brazil, in downtown (centro) Rio and they shipped the camera to Sao Paolo for repair. They were not too confident that the repair could be made, however. If a part is needed from Nikon, USA, it will take 60 days to get here. Oh, the part will arrive in three days, but the customs office red tape will take 55 more. I will know in two days if a part is needed which will necessitate the delay. If that happens, I guess that I will buy the little throw-aways; I certainly wouldn't want to miss authenticating my research.
Centro Rio de Janeiro was very impressive. I took a bus to the Metro, and then rode a very modern and clean (no graffiti) subway directly downtown. Tall buildings stretched to the sky and bustling crowds darted everywhere in their haste to make a real ($). I walked the 5th avenue of Rio, lined elegantly with all of the big haute couture names, but the street was very narrow and no cars were permitted. It reminded me very much of a European shopping area. I ate lunch in a magnificent building called Confiteria Columbo, which must have been an old department store, but which now has been converted to an upscale restaurant, deli, bakery, and candy store, etc. A balcony overlooked my table and the largest, framed mirrors I have ever seen reflected the hustle and bustle of the lunch hour. No, I will not tell you what I ate lest I once more activate the criticism that all I think about is eating. Along with the language, however, the food is one of the most evident parts of a new culture.
I do want to tell you that I am planning two trips to nearby cities; I was planning to take one this week, but the camera problem will delay the trip until next week. The first city that I will visit is Buzios, a fishing village/beach town, made famous by Brigitte Bardot in the 1960's. It is now a popular tourist destination, crowded with Brazilians on weekends, so I will visit mid-week. There is a golf course where I will try my hand at the game. This will be the fourth continent on which I have enjoyed my favorite pastime.
After two nights in Buzios, I will return to Rio for the remainder of the week. The following week, I will visit Petropolis, only an hour from Rio. This city is 2,800 feet above sea level and I will probably need my only long-sleeved shirt during the evening that I spend there. After only one night in this mountain city that was a favorite of Dom Pedro (I and II), who built summer palaces there, I will return to Rio to continue the academic work that is so important.
Carnival is drawing closer and I may soon visit a Samba School to watch a rehearsal. They charge for this privilege, which helps them pay for the costumes. They only wear the costumes for dress rehearsal and then during the night of their performance at the Carnival samba contest. I will report back in a day or two. Tchau!
January 29, 2003
It hit me like a ton of bricks!! No wonder all of the maitre d's and hostesses looked at me so peculiarly every time I asked for a table for one: one never needs to dine alone in Rio, except as one is constrained by the dictates of one's own moral compass. As usually happens once on each trip, I found myself in a restaurant that was ultra-expensive; that happens eventually when one continues asking cab drivers and others for the best restaurant (in this case, the best seafood restaurant) in town. Sooner or later, you get what you ask for, but usually, they just take you to a restaurant that they like.
Last night, I dined with the crème de la crème in Ipanema! And, I dined; I didn't shrink away into the night, like some pensioner on a starvation budget. With the price of meals here, one extravagance will not break a three-month budget. Carpe diem!!
I was seated in the front dining room of this luxurious restaurant, entering the room through the refrigerated cases and heaps of ice displaying gorgeous specimens from the south Atlantic. I was the first to be seated in that room and again, the hostess looked at me peculiarly when I asked for a table for one.
Later, I was joined in the room by a couple that started the gears turning in my head. A gorgeous, blonde, 25 year-old, bronze-skinned, Brazilian in a beautiful black cocktail dress was accompanied by a Japanese male who was older than I, or who had not weathered the years as well. I think that he was older by about 5 years, but that didn't deter his companion from having a wonderful time and a wonderful meal. She laughed and smiled at him frequently through the course of the meal.
Two couples, one of whom was an American couple, were having a business dinner at another table in the center of the room. Then, another couple sat at the table closest to mine. As best I could tell by listening to their conversation, without appearing to be eavesdropping, he was either Argentinean or Spanish.
He was also my age or a little older. She was close to the same age as the Brazilian lady dining with the older Japanese man. The light finally clicked on completely in my brain: no one dines alone in Rio! They take some young thing to dinner or to their hotel, or to wherever and I have been standing out like a sore thumb by dining alone.
I will continue to stand out, but at least I know why that is happening now. Talk about naiveté, it took me two weeks to figure this thing out. I will include my further observations on this subject when I discuss the dangers of Rio in a later update. Stay tuned. Tchau.
February 1, 2003
All's right with the world! The camera is being repaired and they had the part in Sao Paolo. The cost will only be $30, which is a real break. Now, I can validate my research and make my trip to Buzios next week. I delayed my trip because I heard that the place is beautiful and I wanted to have my camera there. I also hope to golf and fish during my short visit to the little fishing village up the coast.
I told you that I am not a beach person, and it's true. Here I am, a short block and a half from one of the world's most famous beaches and I have not yet put on my bathing suit. I've been here for more than two weeks, but the urge has not struck me. Who needs all of the sand, sun, stickiness, and whatever? Actually, I have been secretly working on my physique and my tan. Push-ups, crunches, hour-long, aerobic walks with my shirt off, and constant fasting have honed my body to a competitive state. I am tight! I figure that I will throw my suit in my backpack for the trip to Buzios and there, where Brigitte Bardot may be watching, I will make my debut on the beach. I see it now: the bronze, tight body slicing through the air and piercing the azure, clear South Atlantic. Come on, help me out here with a little creative reading, and let your mind go there. Sometimes, all one has left is a fantasy, so just go with it. Work with me here.
What gave me away? I know: the fasting part. Everyone knows that I can't sacrifice the best part of the trip, certainly not to hone my already tight body. Yes, I am trimmer and certainly more bronze, but I'm sure that I would not win any competitions. I am also not the fattest guy walking on the promenade each evening. There are plenty of men whose physiques are much grander in scale than yours truly. But, I have been working on it, walking aerobically daily for at least an hour. I feel great when I finish, dripping wet, but my knees act up after I cool down. Watching me get out of a cab in the evening after dinner is not a pretty sight. I'm fine by morning, however, and ready to walk again. Thank you, Motrin!
While I'm here, talking about physiques, let me talk a little more about my research. There is another body part that I have been observing which has gone unmentioned in my earlier reports: the midriff. Not only is there cleavage and derrieres everywhere, but bare midriffs, too. There are washboard midriffs, flat midriffs and many not-so-flat midriffs. I mean people who have no business having their navels exposed just let it all hang out for everyone to see. I have seen bare midriffs that look like cooling lava, flowing over the top of the shorts that strain to contain the weight. I have seen many bare, pregnant midriffs, bulging proudly and announcing the imminent addition to the world. I have seen liquid jelly, well, you get the idea. Everyone just seems to let it all hang out and much of it is none too attractive by this researcher's standards.
Enough of that, it is 10:15 a.m. and time to get to the beach for a few minutes in the sun, no suit, just pull up the shirt and catch a few rays. Those of you in the frozen north will just have to eat your heart out.
Tonight, I attend a samba school to watch a Carnival rehearsal. I will keep you posted. Tchau!
February 3, 2003
The Escola de Samba (Samba School) on Saturday night was an inferno of music, color, noise, and hundreds of dancing, sweating bodies. It was a once in a lifetime experience (I hope), but the heat and humidity were absolutely oppressive. The major competition of Carnival is among the Samba Schools who design, plan, develop, and create costumes, music, and themes over the course of a full year (much like the Mummers of Philadelphia). On the two nights of actual competition, seven samba schools each night parade down the parade route in front of the judges. The Saturday night events like I attended are ostensibly to rehearse the music and dancing for Carnival. In actuality, they are huge community dances, which attract hundreds inside the concrete building with a Quonset hut roof. A cover fee is charged and drinks are sold to help to offset the cost of the costumes, etc. The clubs are mostly in the favelas, the hillside towns that are inhabited by the poorer families of the city. The clubs represent their community at Carnival.
At the beginning of the evening, which started at 11:00 p.m., the Salgueiros Club members played the song they will play at Carnival and the captains of their group danced and displayed their flags in a spinning whirlwind in the center of the room. The lead dancers were accomplished young male dancers and gorgeous females. The drums and rhythm played by a mixed group of musicians in the center, choir section of the balcony were absolutely contagious and all of the bodies in the room were jiggling to the samba music. It was a spectacle worth seeing and I wish that I could have viewed it from one of the luxury boxes, which circled the building like a balcony. The boxes were merely concrete pews owned by major donors, I guess, but one could pay extra and stand in the hall behind the boxes to enjoy the view. Lower boxes surrounded the dance floor as well, but the view was not as good. I can only imagine how hot it was at the upper level, because it was an oven on the dance floor.
The place was a weekly neighborhood social event and I am now in possession of a condom, which was given to me upon entry into the establishment. That and a folder about AIDS was meant, no doubt, to attack the problem that has Brazil ranked third in the world in the number of AIDS cases. All male entrants were searched lightly with a pat down before they were permitted into the fray. What was I getting myself into?
I was sweating profusely as I stood and just watched the early club dancers. The people jammed around me were also sweating, but they were dancing electrically and singing the song of the club. I would say that only three different songs were played during the evening and they all sounded alike to me, but it didn't matter, all danced and sweated profusely in time to the samba beat.
I attended the dance with a single, 46 year-old, Hawaiian concrete contractor whom I met at the Marriott on Super Bowl night. He has been traveling to Brazil for five years and was trolling for girls. He has been staying here five months a year since he found the place five years ago. He is a very handsome, 6'2", maybe 175 lb., certified fitness instructor who knows beautiful girls when he sees them, I guess. I can't believe there aren't a lot of beautiful girls in Hawaii, too, however. We stayed together for about three hours, when I called it a night. I got to bed at 2:30 after my taxi ride home. Needless to say, I crashed over the weekend. I left him at the club, still trolling, and he told me that the dance would go on until 6:00 a.m.
The place would have been a little frightening to some of you timid folks out there. But, because I knew that the place would be crowded, I had prepared for the worst; I took no wallet. Since Brazil requires everyone to carry identification, I took my driver's license and placed it in my back, buttoned pocket, along with two 50 real notes (about $30). I also put a 50 real note in both of my side pockets and my other back pocket. If I were pick-pocketed, they would only get one of the stashes and I would have enough cash to get home was my thinking. I had on sandals, shorts, and a golf shirt, so there was no room in my socks or shoes, or I would have gone there.
Before leaving my apartment, I coated my legs and inside my elbows and neck with a DEET solution to ward off mosquitoes. Dengue fever is prevalent here and it occurs most often in these favelas where there is water lying around. There is a local TV drive to get people to empty water from flowerpots, puddles, etc.
After exiting the cab, the Hawaiian and I walked about two blocks down a street that was lined with stands selling various local foods, many cooked on small grills that stood beside the stand. The walk was a little disconcerting, because there were many people milling about. I always carry a can of mace in my pocket, so I feel somewhat secure in knowing that if things get really bad, I can get the opponent's attention pretty quickly. They missed the mace on the pat down search. On the way home, I walked this street by myself and the crowd had multiplied many times over. Hundreds more young people gathered around the entrance to the club, listening to the music without paying the cover charge. Because of its volume, I think that one could have heard that music downtown, which must have been 10 miles away. On the walk back down that street teeming with people, I tried to act like a local. I stopped at a stand and bought a skewer of beef, paused at another stand to buy a bottle of water, and just strolled my way to the waiting line of taxis. All went well.
But, who was in this Club during the dance? The place was filled with young people of varying ages, although several of the women captains of the club were as old as eighty and drew a huge applause as they danced up the center of the building at the beginning of the evening. Of course, at my age everyone looks young. Every kind of dress was visible at the event, but the girls again showed much cleavage and displayed their best feminine wares for all to see. I have been told that men sweat, but that women just glisten. Well, let me tell you, these women were glistening by the bucketful. The heat of the tropics combined with the heat of the sweating bodies had me completely drenched when I left, but it did contribute to my weight-loss and conditioning program. The Saturday Samba School event quickly became a pick-up kind of place, but the Hawaiian was not yet successful when I departed. I can confirm that there are a few girls who would rate a 10 in the place.
I saw no trouble at the place and only saw one person who I believe was high on drugs. His eyes were glazed badly and he danced so vigorously that he simply had to have been on an upper of some kind. I was glad to get back to my apartment, but I wouldn't have missed the experience for the world. Come on down, we'll go again next Saturday!!
February 5, 2003
Greetings from Buzios, the town that Brigitte Bardot and I made famous. It is a gorgeous, little place, a multi-faceted peninsula that has sheltered bays, open ocean, green hills, and tiny beaches on the face of every facet. There is not a tall building in town; this is a town of pousadas, very similar to bed and breakfasts. Because of the pousadas, the town has lost little of its charm since being discovered by the tourists.
The drive here was scheduled to be 2.5 hours, but the mini-van lost its air-conditioner just before it reached the Marriott Hotel where I was to board. We waited for an hour and a half for a new mini-van to arrive and I got into Buzios about two hours late. Late for what? Nothing, so it was no problem for me.
The Frommer's guide that I am using described Buzios as very expensive and the pousadas that I priced on the Internet were just that. The cheapest place that I could find was $73 per night. That is not the way that I travel; I was going to come into the village and hunt a cheaper place. Lucky for me, I met a local businessman yesterday when I was in downtown Rio to pick up my camera. He was born in England and spoke great English. He got on the Internet for me and called Buzios several times, before finding me a pousada for $17 per night. Nothing fancy, but the place is a definite upgrade to my first night in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. This has bed, air conditioner, TV, and a bath that I must share with about 10 mosquitoes that scared the pants off of me when I entered. I am sure that each one of them is brimming with the Dengue bacteria, which will make me critically ill.
After leaving this Internet center, which has a different and mislabeled keyboard, I will shop frantically for bug spray. I have no idea how to say bug or spray in Portuguese, but I can win this charades game, I'm certain. After all, this is life or death!
The ride here was interesting and I am glad that I maneuvered my way into the front seat. We passed through Rio's port and through poor suburbs, before entering rural areas after an hour of travel. I saw many cattle browsing the hilly areas and almost all of them had a hump on their back. Obviously, this is because they were either Brahmas or they were crossed with Brahmas.
We cross with Brahmas, too, in our hot climates since Brahmas have sweat glands and can handle the heat better. We cross with Angus and produce a steer called Brangus. Sorry for the Geography lesson, I just can't help myself.
The beef here has been spectacular, with almost no fat. It has been my theory and one that I have read somewhere; too, that the cattle are only grazed on grass here and the meat is healthier. No fattening on steroids, etc., for marbling here. I came up with another theory today, however, for why the beef that I have been eating is fat free and tastes so different from the beef back home. What if all of the beef that I have eaten is hump meat? Hump meat would taste different. I have never eaten hump meat at home. I will need to do additional research on this theory, of course, but the hump meat theory is a definite possibility.
Tomorrow, I will take the big plunge, slicing through the blue South Atlantic for the first time. Stand back, ladies, it is time to share the new, bronze body with the world. I'll let you know how they receive it. Tchau.
February 6, 2003
Harry 16 - Dengue mosquitoes 0 !!! I killed that many of the little devils with the mosquito spray, but I may have wounded myself as well. I sprayed the bathroom after closing the window through which these deadly pests entered. Then, I closed the door and entered my bedroom, only to find that there were a bunch of them in there. I sprayed the daylights out of that room, too, but should have left the room. Instead, satisfied that all the threats to my life were vanquished, I took a little nap. Now, I am sure that I will be following the mosquitoes into the hereafter. My nose burns, my throat hurts, and the Raid-like substance that I sprayed is working on my brain cells, too; I can feel it. Seriously, I may have breathed in too many of the fumes and that was not the smartest thing that I have done lately.
I made it today!! I took a boat taxi to one of the 20 beaches that face the water on this beautiful peninsula, took off my shirt, asked a nearby Argentinean couple to watch my valuables, and waded into the blue water. It was a little chilly, but when I approached knee-deep depth, I leapt in a graceful arc, sliced through the air and pierced the water causing barely a splash. It is great to be fit!! As I arose from the water, it was a shame to see that there were only about 12 others on the beach, but at least they were all standing and applauding. Unfortunately, I do have a couple of photographs taken right after the occasion and they will be making their way back for verification. The beach was beautiful with as many as 30 boats of various types floating on the surface of the water. The photos will be spectacular.
This town is a combination of Key West, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and a small mountain resort like a Mount Gretna in my home area. Trees cover the main street, which is paved with large, gray, flat rocks and in the evening the street is full of people, families, and teenagers, all strolling and watching each other. Last night as I sat at an outside table eating a pizza (I can't always eat the native food and I only needed a little something), a balloon twister was operating only a couple of steps away, making animals and hats for children which generated many squeals of joy.
If you ever get a chance, this place is worth a stop. As a matter of fact, it should be a destination. It is simple, charming, and there is plenty of shopping available, too.
My $17 room included a full breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, unlimited French bread, ham and cheese, bananas, watermelon, and cantaloupe; that is what I call a bargain! And there was hot water for my shower, too, provided by a coil heater mounted on the showerhead. Turn the water on too fast, however, and the coil couldn't keep up with the water flow, yielding cold water. It is all in the touch. These heaters were common throughout Central America, where a cold shower usually feels pretty good anyway.
Tomorrow, I golf. I am looking forward to an afternoon round on the links, planned to avoid the hottest rays of the sun. Although I only laid in the sun for 20 minutes on each side today, and despite the fact that I had some previous exposure, I got too much sun today. I have been careful, but today Mother Nature got even. It isn't too bad, though, and most of you in the North face a different kind of problem from old Ma Nature. I'll let you know how the golf goes, but you know you can't believe most golfers. This one is an exception. Tchau.
February 8, 2003
Each day is a new adventure; maybe that is what I like about making these trips each year, but then again, perhaps it is the sunshine and warmth when there is snow and cold at home that makes these adventures so attractive.
Last night's adventure was being informed that there was no room in the inn for me the following night. I had a bed last night, but was going to stay another night for a fishing trip today. So, I arose this morning, packed my bags before breakfast, and headed down to the recepcao/dining room for breakfast. The two sisters who own and operate the place were ecstatic - there had been a cancellation and I could stay another night. Of course, I was now packed and mentally prepared for the trip back to Rio.
Surprise! I have been flirting shamelessly with the four female staff members of the pousada and they have been enjoying my antics. There are a maid and a cook/laundress, as well as the two sisters who own the place. There are not many Americans here and I am something of a trophy for the place. When they told me last night that there was no room tomorrow, I responded by saying that I could share the bed of the younger sister (60), who has a great personality to offset the permanent effects of what looks like Bell's Palsy on the left side of her facial muscles. She jokingly agreed, immediately, and we all had a great laugh. This kind of joking is done with a combination of the Spanguese and the pantomime, which I have developed. They speak, literally, only one or two words of English. I could not disappoint them when they told me that I could stay another day and I enthusiastically agreed. They have been treating me like a family member and we touch arms often in passing, a common sign of affection here. Now, if only the young, bikini-clad beauties would touch me affectionately I would have something to write about. Of course, that would probably kill me and the journal would end abruptly.
The extension provided me with an opportunity to get in the two-hour fishing trip this afternoon, so I will get to see what strange creatures reside at the bottom of this beautiful sea. The ladies have agreed to cook the catch for dinner this evening; now, let's just hope that there is a catch. They arranged the trip with the fisherman friend who lives across the street, taking me with them to show me to their neighbors. Arrangements were made and they are now purchasing the shrimp and renting the rod (I think) for this afternoon's adventure. I will keep you posted.
Notice that I have saved the results of yesterday's golfing expedition for later in the broadcast. I'm hoping that golfing friends have given up by this time and won't read the results. Please note that I walked the loooong, hilly course in sneakers, using rented clubs, the wind was gusting at least 30 mph, there were many water hazards, and I have only played once in the last three months. Oh, yes, there were also many sand traps and the rental clubs had no sand wedge included. Not that I am offering any excuses, I hit the ball very well, especially with the 9 degree Orlimar driver, and shot a very respectable 105. I said 105, that's right!! Laugh all that you want. I counted every stroke and penalty stroke, which was a chore, considering that I must have lost a dozen balls in the water and the tall, snake-infested, high grasses that lined the wide, Bermuda fairways. As usual, I putted every ball into the hole, too.
My 16 year-old caddy, Vito, was pretty impressed with my game, although he was probably working on his tip when he smiled and complimented me on a shot. His handicap is more than 30, he said, and he declined when I offered him a chance to hit a few balls during the round.
I took a taxi to the well-groomed, very difficult course and, wouldn't you know it, we had an accident on the way to the course. The ride was about 5 miles to the course and entry to the "Campo de Golf" was on a dirt road that was at least a mile in length. My taxi driver was driving pretty fast on the rough, dirt road and we were about to pass a boy on a bicycle. The boy, who appeared to be 14 years of age, suddenly swerved directly into the path of the taxi. The driver went into a panic stop, but the car skidded on the loose dirt and hit the boy. I jumped out of the car to ascertain the extent of his injuries, but he seemed OK. He had rolled athletically away from the collision, which reduced the extent of his injuries. I am sure that he is sore today, but I think that he is fine. His bicycle was not so fortunate, however. The handlebars were bent in half and the sprocket was bent radically, although the chain remained in place. The bike couldn't be ridden, however, so I assume that the boy walked home with a lot of explaining to do to his parents. No compensation was offered by the cab driver, but he was sympathetic to the boy's plight.
I couldn't make these things up; I am not that creative. I am actually living these adventures and I have to pinch myself sometimes. I am certain that today's fishing adventure will produce my next adventure. The way things are going, I'll be sure to wear a life preserver. I'll keep you informed. Tchau!
February 9, 2003
During part of his writing career, Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba and fished for marlin. From his exploits came the classic, "The Old Man and the Sea." During part of my writing career, I fished the waters of Buzios, Brazil, and all that emerged were a few pages in this journal. Papa Hemingway caught marlin. I didn’t catch a lot of fish, but Papa couldn’t have had as much fun as I did yesterday.
The fishing rod that I thought that I was renting with the cash deposit of $15 turned out to be a purchase of two hand lines, a handful of hooks, and a large plastic shopping bag full of small shrimp. The fishing boat, which I had explicitly said should have a cover to protect me from the sun, turned out to be an open, 16-18 foot water taxi, owned by the neighbor's son. Antonio, the father, and I sat on his porch and rigged the hand lines. Actually, Antonio rigged them and I assisted. Then, Antonio placed the bag of fishing gear and bait on the handlebars of his bicycle and we headed for the water, a walk for me of about 10 blocks. Antonio rode slowly beside me.
Antonio talked to me the whole way to the harbor, though I understood only a word or two. Antonio thought it significant that he and I were both Pisces and he shook my hand enthusiastically, congratulating me on my birth sign. I knew that it was a good omen for a great fishing trip, but at the time I hadn't seen the vessel. Soon, we reached the harbor and shortly thereafter Genio, his son, appeared on the scene in his water taxi. I thought, of course, that Genio was ferrying us to the bigger boat - Not! We passed a number of fishing vessels that would have been perfect, but only stopped at a small, wooden rowboat to pick up a hand-made, multiple-hooked anchor and some line. Then we were off.
We stopped at a few of the 20 beaches along the way, once so that Antonio could throw his knife to another son who was on the shore. The son later returned the knife, but I have no idea what he did with it while he had it. He didn't sharpen it, that much I know. Antonio had been sharpening the large, rusty, kitchen knife, which had a broken tip, on a large, quartz-type rock that he had picked up off of the ocean bottom as we waded out to the boat.
They gave me a little sightseeing tour along the way and I took a few pictures. This is a beautiful place and I hope the photos will show you the beauty. The three rolls of film from Buzios will be on the way home on Monday. They should be on-line a week or so after that.
This is a windy place and it keeps the air clean, fresh, and relatively cool. Nights are absolutely fantastic. The wind does not assist the fishing processes, however, and we plowed through waves and swells that were four to six feet in height. There were many sheltered coves and I was certain that was where we would anchor to fish. Not! Genio maneuvered the small boat into the waves past the protection of a jutting peninsula and safely anchored after three attempts to get the anchor to hold. Then, the three of us fished.
I hadn't fished with a hand-line for years and it took some practice, but I was pleased with my powers of observation. I watched the way they handled the line and I mimicked them. One of the thrills about fishing in the sea is that you never know what or how big the fish is that will grab hold of your bait. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was delightful, so who cared if I had to struggle with a large tuna or grouper, or whatever. Not to worry, we never caught a fish much larger than the palm of my hand, but we kept almost everything. I did catch a sea robin that we returned to the briny deep, but the other six or eight unlucky fish ended up in the bucket. One was a flounder type fish that I caught that couldn't have been more than six or eight inches long, but it died in the bucket. The fish just weren't biting very well and I looked at Antonio to tease him about his guiding skills. He was eating the bait!! Yes, the raw shrimp that we were using as bait! I exclaimed in horror, “I can’t believe it!” His son, although he didn't speak a word of English, said, "the shrimp are good," and he popped one in his mouth, too. Ernest Hemingway never had a crew eat his bait, that much I can guarantee. Before the trip was over, I had eaten a couple of the shrimp, too, to their great delight.
We gave up the fishing after two hours and Genio headed the boat toward a large ship that was moored in the calmer water. He knew the young men on the crew and they handed Genio and me two caipirinhas, while they gave Antonio a slice of watermelon. You can have your marlin, Ernest, this trip was a blast!
On the way back, I explained to Genio that my male chauvinist friends would like a few bikini photos, so he headed closer to shore. He dangerously dodged among the swimmers with his boat, trying to get me a good picture. Then, three lovely Argentinean beauties called for a ride in the water taxi. I got some great photos as they were clambering into the boat next to me, and again when they were seated beside me. Two of the ladies were attorneys and one worked at McDonald's. They were all friends from Buenos Aires.
We had a nice conversation and I had caught something much nicer than the fish for which I had set out. I had finally gotten some great bikini pictures for the readers of the journal. Stay tuned for their introduction on the photo page.
I can't remember when I have had such a great day. This visit to Buzios has been fantastic: a swim in a sheltered bay of the South Atlantic, a day of golf, and a memorable fishing expedition. I am delighted that I left the hot, steamy streets of Rio to experience Buzios. You need to get here, too. I depart at 2:00 p.m. for the ride back to Rio. I will update you from there. Obrigado!
February 11, 2003
I am back in Rio again, where life is much like living in a small neighborhood in New York City. Everything is very convenient and I just picked up my laundry, which cost $4.30 for washing and folding.
Ah, the sacrifices I make in the name of science. This morning, I devised a new plan to procure photos to validate my research. I arose early, had my freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee con leite, and a buttered tostada (like a halved and toasted sub roll) at the neighborhood bakery for about 70 cents. At those prices, I have given up the cereal in my apartment. After breakfast, dressed in my bathing suit to fit into the environment, I walked to Ipanema, rented a beach chair and an umbrella, and waited for my prey.
I was using a Pennsylvania deer-hunting technique and allowing the bikinis to come to me. And come they did!! I took a dozen photos of various bikini shots to validate my research and to share with the eager men back home. I went relatively unobserved and, after paying $1.05 for an hour and a half use of the chair and umbrella, I was off of the beach by 10:30 a.m. Although I am not a beach person, it was almost enjoyable at that time of day. The photos will appear after the three rolls from Buzios are posted.
Some of the requests that I get from readers are interesting. One wants photos of buses, my apartment and my apartment building, the Internet centers, and meals that I am served. While it feels strange to take pictures of plates of food in a restaurant or an Internet center, I have complied with this request. Those photos are in the three rolls from Buzios, although I only took photos of two appetizers that I was served there. I will take photos of more dishes here in Rio and want to photograph the upscale "A Kilo" (buffet) restaurant. Perhaps, I will go there tonight and include the photos in this roll to complement the bikinis.
Some readers, well, at least one, and that was a son, wanted more descriptions of the food that I am eating. The old saying, "If it's in the dog, it's in the pup," comes to mind, but I will still share exciting food discoveries with you as I attempt to more fully describe the culture.
I have quoted the prices on daily meals and expenses so that you can understand the significance of planning vacations where the exchange rate is in your favor. When I traveled in Europe last year, I was getting about a 13% break because of the strength of the dollar, compared to a Euro. This year, the Euro is worth more than the dollar so things would be expensive. But, here in Brazil, my dollar is worth 3.6 times what a real is worth. Last year at this time, the real was worth exactly a dollar, but the monetary system here is in a troubled state. Research into the exchange rate should be one of your pre-trip research considerations.
It is almost lunchtime and I must make one of the big decisions of my day. Where will I eat lunch? I leave you as I ponder the question: Sushi? Argentinean beef? Buffet at "A Kilo"? Sandwich and a natural juice drink at a nutrition center bar? A filet mignon sandwich at the corner bar? Life is full of these dilemmas. Tchau.
February 13, 2003
The answer to the dilemma of the other day was, of course, sushi! I decided to have sushi for lunch and had a generous portion for $7.00, which I couldn't do at home because sushi is always expensive there. Apparently, there is a large Japanese population here in Rio and they have popularized Japanese cuisine. Many regular restaurants and almost all of the buffets have sushi on their menus.
Some of you have asked, "What do you do all day?" I will try to answer that, but those who have wondered, even just mentally and not aloud, need to do a little introspection. Are you really only fulfilled by the work that you do? The American or German (Pa. Dutch) work ethic is great in its place, but there are other things to do to occupy one's time quite satisfactorily, you know. Perhaps you don't know and that is why the introspection is necessary.
I do pretty much just what I want to do and that is not a crime. As a matter of fact, it is a great freedom! Oh, I may have a load of wash that needs to be taken to the laundry, or a few postcards that need to be written to those who don't have a computer or are too young to read, like my grandchildren and my little brother, but generally, I squeeze those into my hectic schedule quite nicely.
I arise about 7:00 a.m. and if I still feel a little sleepy, I sleep a little more. Usually, I am in the shower by 8:00 and walk the block to the little restaurant, which I photographed this morning, by 9:00 for breakfast. Then, it is a leisurely stroll of a block in my sandals, shorts, and tee shirt to the Internet center to read and answer email. I also read the latest news, since I am not able to regularly purchase American newspapers here. Every other day or so, because I believe that more often would bore my readers to death, I write a web page update to keep my readers abreast of my exploits.
Now comes the only hole in my day. What to do between 11:00 a.m. and lunchtime? Yesterday, for instance, I sat at an outdoor cafe, drank two glasses of fresh fruit juice (one was papaya, the other was a mixture of orange and something I couldn't identify), and read a few chapters of the novel I am currently reading. Today, in this hole, I will use my debit card to withdraw some money from the bank and visit the landlady to pay some more rent. After that, I will walk to the upscale Marriott Hotel, where they give out free International Herald Tribunes and don't seem to care that I am not a registered guest. I know, because I informed them that I wasn't staying there and tried to pay for a copy, but they refused the money, saying it was free. I only go there once a week, though, not wanting to take advantage of them.
Afterwards, it will be the daily dilemma again, "where will I eat lunch?" When that momentous decision has played itself out at about 1:30 or 2:00, I am back in my apartment to get out of the heat and the most damaging rays of the sun and to do some more reading.
When was the last time that you had a chance to read for long periods of time for your own enjoyment? I am currently on my 11th book of the trip and although I doubt that there are literary award winners among them, I am enjoying the detective and mystery books that I have read. You know the kind that you just can't put down because of the suspense. Occasionally, I might just drop off into a siesta, which lasts anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours. Yesterday, I did not doze at all because of my interest in the novel; I don't remember the title, but Dustin Hoffman played in the movie about a lifetime criminal who became a cop killer. I was mesmerized.
At 6:00 p.m. or so, I have changed into my exercise clothes: sneakers with athletic socks, spandex shorts under my lime green walking shorts, and a tee shirt. I head once again to the Internet center to check briefly on whether there have been any emails while I have been so busy. By 7:00 I am on the crowded, beach promenade for my aerobic walk, which lasts 45 minutes to an hour and ends with the tee shirt and me absolutely drenched with perspiration. I usually cool off by sitting at one of the beach-side kiosks, sucking on the cold, refreshing liquid that comes from the straws that are plunged into a coco frio (cold coconut).
This is an interesting time to be at the beach. During the walk, I pass a tiny fishing village at the south end of Copacabana, then head north past all of the beach activities, which make the walk so enjoyable. Hundreds of others are doing their exercise regimens of walking, jogging, and bicycling at the same time. There are at least three full-sized soccer fields on the beach and there are games every evening. There is only one major sport in this country and crowds gather nightly to watch the futzball on the beach. There are numerous volleyball games, too, and the participants are mostly young women.
The games that draw the largest crowds and on which numerous bets are made is a spectacular game called futzvollei, which combines volleyball and soccer. It is two-man volleyball, but the players' hands are never used. The skills they display with their head, chest, knees, and feet are absolutely unbelievable. The ball is served with the feet, as well, with the ball placed on a pile of sand outside the baseline. With the skills that these players demonstrate, it will be quite a long time until we defeat the Brazilians in soccer.
After the cool down period, I return to my apartment for a quick shower and change of clothes. By 9:00, in collared shirt, khaki pants, and again in sandals, I am off to dinner, usually at a place recommended by the Frommers Rio de Janeiro guidebook, which has been an excellent resource. I need to make a major event of the evening dining experience, because I need to fill the time in my day, which is not easy when there is no one with whom to talk. It is both a recreational and a nutritional event for me as I attempt to communicate to the wait staff. I am home no later than 11:00 p.m.; ready for bed after the wine that accompanies most evening meals.
That's it folks! That pretty well describes a typical day for me in Rio. Some of you are saying that it sounds pretty boring and you are the ones who need introspection the most. The day is full of people-watching, dog-watching (in a later update I will discuss the dogs), different foods, a new language, buses, subways, grocery stores, drug stores, banks, post offices, and a million other interesting things. One needs to have the freedom of time to enjoy it, however, and I am blessed that I have been given that freedom. Tomorrow's update will be about the dangers of Rio. Stay tuned. Tchau.
February 15, 2003
At one time, Rio de Janeiro had a reputation for crime that it probably deserved. Large numbers of poor people trying to make ends meet turned to the tourists to get a quick buck for their families. The crime was not violent, simply the pick pocketing, purse snatching, etc., that plagues many tourist locations around the world. Once the economy of Brazil got back to an even keel, although it is in a terrible monetary slump again, money poured into a police force to protect tourists. Today, I feel as safe here as I did anywhere in Europe and safer than in Madrid, Rome, and Milan. In Buzios, the little fishing village that is full of tourists, I felt as safe as walking the streets of the little towns in Amish country back home.
When I venture into the Centro (downtown) area of Rio, as I did when I needed to have the camera repaired, I am still very apprehensive, however. It feels very much like New York City, teeming with people, every one of whom I am certain is a pickpocket. I have stopped carrying my mace with me during the daytime, except when I go downtown. When I go out at night for dinner, I put the mace back in my pocket, but I have never felt the slightest threat to my person and have never taken it out of my pocket. It is nice to have, however, as a defense of last resort. It is illegal to carry on the plane, but it passes in the checked luggage when I put it in my toiletries kit. I have also stopped using my door alarm on the apartment door; I feel as safe in my little apartment as when I am at home.
No, the biggest dangers of Rio are not the threat of crime. Perhaps a bigger threat, especially for younger males, is the presence of very available females, eager to find a better life through a wealthy partner. These are not all prostitutes, although prostitution is very open, especially at Cafe Help, a famous nightclub on the ocean street of Copacabana. I have never been in the Cafe and have only walked past it one time after 9:00 p.m., although I walk across the street from it daily on my exercise walk. As I walked by that night, I was targeted by the lascivious smiles and longing glances of many prostitutes inviting me to be their next John. The average Brazilian woman does not engage in those types of glances and or smiles, any more than does the average American woman.
Many of the prostitutes seemed young and beautiful and, as usual, I felt a great deal of sympathy for women who must earn a living in such a manner. Despite the length of time away from my wife, I was not even tempted; but a younger, weaker, more macho male may well have been. I guess that is obvious since there are so many prostitutes working there; they certainly aren't there because nobody admires their work. Other young girls, like the ones at the Escola de Samba would probably die for the chance to hook-up with an American or European male, if even for a week or two. Remember, our money goes three and a half times as far here. It would be very inexpensive to take a young lady to dinner in a restaurant that they would never be able to afford. That, of course, could lead to action that would put a young man's health in jeopardy, since this nation ranks third in the world in the incidence of AIDS. Makes one wonder how the prostitutes could possibly stay in business, but I think that the availability of women is a bigger danger than violence in Rio.
Another danger is to be involved in a traffic accident. The taxi drivers here are gentleman and drive accordingly. I have never been concerned by the speed or recklessness of a taxi, except that one ride in Buzios to the golf course where we struck the child on the bicycle. Here in Rio, unlike in New York City, the taxis drive respectfully. Ah, but watch out for the buses!! Almost every bus has a maniacal driver, the one exception being the bus to the metro. The bus drivers seem to delight in scaring the wits out of pedestrians and passengers alike. Drivers frequently take corners a little wide, so they can cut the wheels hard in what looks like an attempt to unseat every passenger in the vehicle. I know that it seems unlikely, but you have to ride one to believe it. Riding or being hit as a pedestrian by buses does provide a minor danger.
Then, there is the food and water! Apparently, Montezuma did not visit Brazil or, if he did, he is not upset about anything here. I have been brushing my teeth with tap water, eating lettuce and other fruits and vegetables that are washed in tap water, and have not had a touch of the old explorer's revenge. I did the same without problem in Buzios where they truck in much of their water because of the shortage of fresh water locally. I only drink bottled water, however, and I have thus far escaped my old nemesis - traveler's diarrhea.
The food is wonderful; there has been a variety of food from many countries, Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, as well as Brazilian. It has all been tasty and I have enjoyed the variety. I have also eaten from the street vendors, as Frommers recommends, and have experienced no difficulty.
There is a danger of dengue fever, which comes from the bite of mosquitoes that are active in the daytime. That is why I was so paranoid at the little varmints when they were buzzing around my room in Buzios; it was daytime. I was probably more damaged by the bug spray that I inhaled by killing them, however. The mosquitoes were there because the rooms are kept open when they are not rented; when a room is closed and air-conditioned, there is practically no danger. There were 30 cases of Dengue, almost always non-fatal, in Rio during January. I'm sure that most of them were in the favelas where tires and other containers full of water provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. There are warning posters on many walls and blurbs on TV reminding folks to empty water-filled containers. I do not think that dengue is a significant threat, but it can produce a 7-day siege of illness.
The real danger in Brazil is the deadly caipirinha. I have encountered the caipirinha on several occasions and have always emerged safely, but I believe that I am the exception to the rule. The caipirinha strikes quietly and one strike is not deadly. Two doses, however, do start to numb the body's nervous system. The caiprinha is, of course, the national drink of Brazil and is made of several slices of lime, sugar, and sugar cane alcohol. In recent years, vodka (interestingly pronounced vodjka here) has been substituted on occasion for the sugar cane alcohol. This dangerous drink goes down very easily and I am certain that many tourists have awakened after encountering the caipirinha wishing they had gone to Disneyworld instead.
That's it; there is no other large danger. I am certain that the crime rate in the favelas, the hillside slum communities, is much higher, but here in Copacabana, in Ipanema, and in Leblon, the tourist areas, I feel absolutely safe. Of course, there are police everywhere and that makes one feel safe. Perhaps urban high crime areas in our own country can take note. It is possible to provide safe streets and beaches, even at night. It has been done in Rio. Hopefully, this update doesn't presage a violent event in my future, but I really feel safe here. Tchau!
February 16, 2003
I wasn't going to update the page daily, but I had an interesting experience last night and you folks are the only ones with whom I can share. Sorry for creating so much reading material for you.
Before the Euro, when I traveled from country to country on Leonardo, my trusty steed, I constantly had to plan ahead to spend down my monetary reserves from the country that I was exiting. It is much easier now with the Euro, but even when spending time in a single country, one should plan ahead on when to spend down reserves and when to withdraw money with one's ATM card. I do that here, but miscalculated last night and that miscalculation provided a couple of harrowing and exhausting experiences.
It costs good money to withdraw money using the ATM card and even more if you visit the bank more than four times monthly. So, I try to limit my visits to the addictive machine. Last night, as I approached the dinner hour of 9:00 p.m., I checked my resources and had, give or take, about 35 Reals left. No back up 50's in my wallet, like I usually carry. I had used the last 50 Real note for lunch earlier in the day, while I toured the downtown area. But, it never costs more than 10 Reals to take a cab anywhere that I would be going for dinner, so 35 Reals is plenty; Not!
Who would have guessed that I would run into an Ipanema gridlock because of what appeared to be a pre-Carnival celebration at a bar whose inhabitants spilled out, covering an entire block from sidewalk to sidewalk. I had been dropped off there by cab number one, whose driver told me that the restaurant that I wanted, gleaned from my Frommer's guide, was in that block covered by the mass of bodies. Boldly, I made my way through the enormous crowd of mostly men without shirts, but including some women, searching for the restaurant. It was not in that block!!
Boldly again, I reversed paths and made my way back through the crowd that turned out to be a gay celebration. On the return trip I saw a couple of men dressed in drag, but with Carnival type, glitter-covered, brief costumes. A woman about my age, walking around the fringes of the crowd as I exited, helped me with directions to the restaurant, but cautioned me to be very careful. She spoke decent English. "At Carnival time," she said, "the young men traditionally get very rambunctious (not her word) and robbery is prevalent." Oh, great!
I hailed another cab and again we waited in the grid locked traffic. The meter kept running and running, but the cab sat still. Finally, more than 10 Reals into the ride, we got to the restaurant, which was not all that far from the crowd of revelers. I paid the cabbie, but, as I studied the menu while seated in the restaurant, I noticed that almost every dish was meant to serve two people (which is very common here). It was already after 10:00 p.m. and I figured that even if they cut the serving in half, it would be too much for me, so I decided to leave that restaurant and go to a little Italian place that I like at the end of the beach at Copacabana.
I hailed another cab and, wouldn't you know it, he turned right up the street into the gridlock again. I am not sure that he knew the traffic was there, but I started to get suspicious. I didn't want to jump out of the cab, because I would have been right back in the wrong neighborhood and have to walk through the gay crowd of revelers once again. So, I sat and I sat, and the meter ran, and it ran. Finally, we emerged from the gridlock and got to the restaurant of choice, but, after paying cab number three, I was down to 4 Reals.
It's OK, I was planning to use my credit card for the meal, anyway, and I would figure out a way home after dinner. Dinner was good, but I ate as much as I would have in the previous restaurant, no doubt out of frustration.
Here comes the good part of the story, the part of which I am pretty proud. I walked home! Yes, I had little choice, since I knew not where a bus stop was located, but I had walked this far earlier in my sneakers and I could walk it now in my sandals, I thought. As I left the restaurant, it was 11:45 and I had a little more than two miles to stroll. My path would take me right past the infamous Help Cafe and I was going to be exposed to the prostitute barrage, but even after the wine, I knew that I was up to the task. What choice did I have, since I had so little money?
The universal opening line of the prostitutes was, "Wha's you nahng?" If they didn't even know my name, how could we possibly do what I was sure that they were going to suggest next? I did not respond to the three queries about my name, but I noticed that a young, short guy that I had seen when I left the restaurant was still behind me. I stopped and looked toward the sea so that he would have to pass and he did. I was glad that I had been reading all of the detective novels about following people, etc. I strolled slowly up the street, allowing him to get further ahead. After receiving the warm smiles and loving glances of a couple of more prostitutes, I turned and he was behind me again. The dude was following me!! It was not my imagination.
Again, I stopped and made him pass. I watched as he feigned interest in the patios of restaurants we passed, but about a block later, he took a seat on a bench so that I would pass him again. "Wait a minute, I'm going to confront this issue," I thought, and I walked past him and quickly sat at the other end of his bench, only six feet from the little creep. He was ostensibly glancing back the way we came and didn't see me sit. When he turned to see where I was, I was glaring at him, not six feet away. With my other hand on my trusty mace, I motioned for him to come on, let's get it on now, adding a profanity he may have seen in an American movie where there were convicts conversing. I didn't know how much English he understood, but I wanted to act confident, unafraid, and to challenge him. It worked!! He quickly arose and headed back down the street the way he had come. Slimeball!!
As I rose to walk toward home once again, another person of the night smiled at me and nodded in my direction. Oh, no, not another one! This guy was different. This lowlife thought that I was a gay male looking for a young man to entertain for the evening. Give me a break!!
This young man was pretty handsome and rugged looking. Any gay in his right mind would have to have some concern about being rolled by this guy. How was I going to get rid of him? Twice, I stopped and gazed at the ocean on the well-lit street across from the beach promenade. He stopped, too, and continued to make the smile and the questioning nod. I really wanted to use the mace on this creep, but I restrained myself. Thinking quickly, like the protagonists in the books I have been reading, I walked into the lobby of the Marriott Hotel, like I was going back to my room.
I stood at the Registration desk for a few minutes while the clerks waited on another client. Then, when it was my turn, I asked for the Herald Tribune. They gave it without hesitation and I rolled it up, thinking that I could use it for a weapon until I got the opening for the mace. It got exciting there for a few minutes and I was proud of my actions. When I got outside, neither creature of the night was in sight and, although I constantly stopped to check behind me, I walked without incident the rest of the 15 minutes left in my looong trek home. I had survived the night and I felt good. The adrenaline rush and the walk had consumed most of the meal and the wine from the restaurant. It was 1:00 a.m. Tchau!
February 17, 2003
Not to worry, this will only take a minute! I want to apologize for the lack of photographs. The three rolls of film have not arrived at my home in the States and I mailed two more this morning. That means that there are five rolls of film in the postal pipeline, clogged by American holidays, snowstorms, and the like. The pictures are coming and they will make me proud, I'm certain. Just hang in there for a couple more days to get the research validated on film. Desculpe!
February 19, 2003
Not a whole lot of exciting things to report about from Rio, unless you consider showering in cold water to be exciting. It does send chills down my spine, I can tell you that! They were digging up the street in front of my apartment building and must have cut the gas line, which feeds my hot water heater. This will be the second full day without gas. I only have to worry about the cold showers; others in the building cannot cook. They are making no promises about when they will repair the problem, either.
I have adapted, however. One must always do that when one is staying as cheaply as I. I have cut my number of daily showers in half and am down to one. If I shower after my evening exercise walk when I am dripping with perspiration, the water temperature is tolerable and even feels good. The air temperature has been so warm all day that it heats the cold water to just below body temperature. I really don't even shiver in the stuff. But, by morning, the water has cooled and I just can't jump in the stuff. I do get in the standing shower and let the water trickle slowly on my head, so that I can get a morning shampoo to start my day.
The only other interesting thing to report is that I have found a dinner companion; actually, for one night there were two companions. Feeling a little melancholy, or perhaps even a tad homesick, since I had not spoken more than a few words of English in over a month, I decided to go to the upscale Sofitel Hotel (a European chain) for a drink and a snack, instead of dinner. I sat at the bar being slowly poisoned by the deadly caipirinha when a young woman sat two stools down from me at the bar. As she struggled to order, I could tell that she was English speaking, a very attractive attribute in my state of mind. It turns out that she was born in England, raised in Australia since she was two, and is now back in London, working in banking. We started talking about travel of all things, since she told me that she was traveling alone.
As we talked about several of our favorite European places, a lone American from Dallas joined us at the bar; he had only one night left on his vacation. He said, "You two are talking about some of my favorite places in the world." We all started talking about travel and ended up walking two blocks to a restaurant (all of a sudden, I was hungry) for dinner. Over dinner, we talked more about the places we had seen. I was a piker! These folks had really traveled! They talked about a city named Fang in Thailand and about traveling down a specific river there. There were excited that they had shared that city and that experience, knowing that few English speaking people had been there. By the time the evening ended, we had deduced that the American, his name protected to ensure that his employer doesn't find out what he has been doing with his time, has been to 85 countries. That's right, 85!!
He went home the following night, but I had told the Brit that she needn't dine alone while in Rio. I would walk the three blocks to her hotel around 9:00 p.m. every evening and, if she hadn't found a bronze-skinned young Brazilian with whom to dine, we could eat together again. We have dined together for two nights now and have counted and recounted the countries we have visited. I am in the neighborhood of 32 and she is approaching 40 countries. There is a club called the Travelers’ Century Club where individuals must have traveled to at least 100 countries to qualify for membership. David is approaching that number. The Brit and I have a little more traveling to do. I found it interesting to look up the club's website and this morning have printed out their list of 317 defined countries, or areas with sufficient significant differences to be counted a separate site. Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii are separate sites on the list, for instance, along with the continental United States.
What a coincidence, finding two other English-speaking people who love to travel enough to do it alone and who were sitting at the same bar with me. The last three dinners have been a little less lonely and I may just have the company for five more days, if some Brazilian hunk doesn't come along and spoil my communications bonanza.
Not much else happening in Rio, but not a single snowflake has fallen!!! Tchau.
February 20, 2003
Brit 42 - Harry 39. After downloading the country list from the Travelers' Century Club, the 36-year-old Brit and I checked off our lists while we ate dinner last night. She is up on me by three, but we're not certain how to count the three countries that she was in when she was too young to remember. Those three took her to 42, but, since the Club counts plane fuel stops as time enough to count a country, I figured that she should count those trips when she was under two years of age and traveling with her parents, too. Her total is pretty remarkable, when you think of her age. We are a long way from Dave's 85, but we have seen a lot of the world.
The Brit was aided by living in Australia and having fuel stops in places like Dubai, Singapore, and Malaysia on her way to the United Kingdom. I increased my tally with my travels in the Caribbean, which I hadn't computed when I updated you yesterday. So, that is the tally, but it begs the question of whether breadth of travel is as significant as depth of travel. A plane fuel stop is hardly equivalent to spending 13 months in Korea in the military or several months living in Spain or Costa Rica, for instance. I guess that we will never know the answer to that, but it almost makes me want to hop on a plane and do the three- hour flight to Paraguay, so that I can check it off of my list. Almost, but with my love of flying, not quite.
The security people at my apartmento (and apartmento is right, not departamento, as I had erroneously informed you earlier) think that the gas line will not be repaired for a month, so I better get accustomed to the cold-water showers. I will pay more rent today and discuss it with the landlady, but I prefer to stay in my little studio and not move until I head back to Miami in 21 days. I don't have that much to pack, but I am comfortable and the neighbors know me, so I don't want to move to the larger apartment in the building behind ours that she had offered me earlier.
I have been reminded that I would talk about dogs, so not wanting to disappoint the dog lovers of the world, that is just what I will do. The Brazilians love dogs, almost as much as the French and Americans do. This is a tropical climate, so one would expect to see hairless Chihuahuas, etc., here, but one would be surprised.
I have seen almost every breed of dog that I have seen in the USA. Greyhounds, Golden Retrievers, yellow, brown, and gold Labradors, Huskies, Cocker Spaniels, Schnauzers, Old English Sheepdogs, Pit Bulls, Shih-Tzus, Dalmatians, Weimaraners, Boxers, Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers, and the list could go on. But, the overwhelming dog of choice in Rio de Janeiro is the French poodle and the most popular color is white.
Unlike the French, however, the Cariocan dogs are well trained, as are their owners. There is little of the doggie do-do that plagues pedestrians in European cities. Here, the owners clean up after their animals and almost all dogs are walked on leashes, although that is probably not true in the favelas. Even as they stroll with the pets on the beach promenade, the animals are under control. Rarely do dogs even bark at one another in passing, and there are many walking the promenade each evening. The dogs do seem to have one thing in common, however; they all have their tongues hanging out!! What are these folks thinking? Huskies and sheep dogs in a tropical country? It's a wonder the hairy dogs don't head for the ocean and swim north. Wait, I guess it would be quicker to reach cooler temps by swimming south. Need to get that geography right!
There is not much else to report about the dogs, so I will revert next time to the continuing research on the Cariocan female. Stay tuned. Tchau.
February 21, 2003
I didn't plan on updating today, but when I have an interesting day, I know that you will want to hear about it. Yesterday was interesting. As I was paying the next-to-last installment on my rent, the doorbell rang and my landlady, Norma, escorted a handsome, 30 year-old, Australian surfer into her apartment. He had arrived in Rio late last night after a 24-hour trip from Sydney and was experiencing his first day in Rio. Murray is a building contractor in Sydney who shut down his business for the next seven months so that he could travel. He expects to see 16 countries during that time. And people think that I am the crazy one!
Although a friend will join him in Rio for some of the trip, Murray was alone, needed some Brazilian orientation and I volunteered. He needed banking, language, transportation, security, dining, and geographical orientation, which I happily provided - once a teacher, always a teacher.
After settling his business with the landlady, we headed for the agency that Norma had recommended for Carnival tickets. Murray will be here for Carnival, too, and decided to go along with my plans. Great, he's 6'1", fit as can be, and his friend that will join him is probably the same. My concern about safety at Carnival is diminishing rapidly. It also helps that the $85 ticket for the event (to sit in good bleachers, like at the Rose Parade) includes transportation to and from the event, a souvenir tee shirt, and a tour guide to provide safety.
While at the agency, which also does travel tickets, I noticed that the six girls in the shop kept looking in our direction. Aware that my bronze and slimmer body is attracting more and more attention, I straightened in my chair and ran my fingers through my hair to make sure that I was presentable. Then, the girl who was writing our tickets, who was the only one in the shop who spoke English, said to Murray, "the other girls all think that you are beautiful." No comments about me? What am I here, chopped liver?
Picture this now, Murray has scruffy, brown, slightly sun-bleached hair combed with his fingers and maybe a little gel, a three or four day growth of beard, sunglasses on top of his head, and looks like a Calvin Klein ad. It hit me then, and although it is a highly illegal Pennsylvania deer-hunting technique, this wasn't the Appalachians: I had the perfect bait for my continuing research on the females of Rio de Janeiro. I asked the girls in the shop where they go to have some drinks at night and, thinking they could get close to Murray, they told me, "Shenanigans, in Ipanema." Murray and I would be there!!
After a short afternoon rest period, when I finished my 14th novel of the trip, I met Murray on the corner between our two apartments. We hailed a cab and headed for Ipanema. Murray selected the restaurant and we dined on a delicious salad, with crisp greens, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and tuna, then a pizza topped with bacon. He insisted that I select the food, since he couldn't read a word on the menu. We were both pleased with the meal and I with Murray's company. Oh, yes, the Brit had asked for the night off, to spend in her room. Maybe, I can get her and Murray together tomorrow and they should have much in common, since they are both Aussies.
Murray and I headed for Shenanigans, two short blocks away. The place was a second-floor bar with pool table and dartboard, both of which received heavy use even in the absolutely packed environment. The darts were dangerous and while nobody was injured while we were there, I'm sure that the ambulance visits often for dart wounds.
Each of us was handed a slip of paper upon entry and every drink that we had was recorded by the waitress or bartender on this order form. We paid upon exiting, so that money was only collected once and only by the cashier - pretty slick, but you needed a receipt to exit the building or the bouncer sent you back upstairs. The place was not air-conditioned, but ceiling fans helped a little, if you could find a spot directly underneath.
Then, we were among them - the objects of my research! After coaching Murray with his opening line, "Fala Anglaise?" (Do you speak English?), the baiting worked perfectly. The Calvin Klein look must be in, because Murray started collecting a crowd of the prettiest young ladies in the room and I was rubbing shoulders with them. Shoulders and other things! How much better could the research sample get? They tried to get to know Murray and even I got a little attention. "Is this your grandfather?" one soft, brown, gorgeous, young brunette asked of Murray. Murray tried to sell my positive attributes, "No, he is an American, has lived here for two months, speaks a little Portuguese, knows good wines, etc., but the sweet young things only had eyes for Murray. Actually, I felt like a grandfather. Most of these kids were in their 20's.
I was perspiring heavily, which made me even more attractive to the objects of my research, and suggested to Murray that we head to another pub around the corner. Murray reluctantly agreed. Who would want to leave all of that adulation? The Irish Pub around the corner was full, too. I had my second drink of the evening there, and suggested to Murray that it was time for an old man to call it a night. After giving him directions home, a distance of about four blocks, I headed home and climbed in the sack. It was 12:40 a.m. and I was bushed. How will I stay up for Carnival until 6:00 a.m.?
I awoke early, wrote frantically in my research notebook about my observations of the evening before and here I am in the Internet center. Murray is out catching a wave somewhere and we will meet for lunch. I just don't see what they see in him, when they could have me. Tchau.
February 24, 2003
Breakfast eaten, laundry dropped off, a roll of film and some postcards mailed, I am ready to update the web page. How can I find words to describe the past weekend? The words won't be adequate, I'm sure, and I don't have the time, nor you the patience, to read all of the interesting things that transpired, so I'll cut to the quick:
I now have two tickets in hand, one for the Sambodromo, where the colorful samba competition will take place a week from tonight, and the other for a 3 hour plane flight to Iguacu Falls, one of the wonders of South America. I had no intention of getting in a plane until I returned to Miami, but after I curiously inquired about the price of a ticket to Iguacu, I couldn't pass up the bargain. For $240, I will get a round trip ticket, two nights in a hotel in Iguacu, breakfast and dinner each day, and two tours, one of the falls and the other into Paraguay. I am going to make a run at the Texan who has been in 85 countries. Paraguay will be my 40th; I'm sure he is looking over his shoulder! I'll let you know what I think of the falls and of Paraguay in an update after the trip.
On Saturday, I went to a bloco (a jumbo, moving, pre-Carnival, block party) in Ipanema. It was fascinating. This particular bloco was formed to ridicule the military government in the 60's and has been offering criticism ever since. This year was no exception as large banners declared in Portuguese, "Make Love, Not War," then boldly displayed the word "Translation:" followed by English words with which I am sure you are familiar - a suggestion for our President. I took pictures and they are on the film that I mailed this morning. I will post one to show you what they think of the war with Iraq, but remember, I am only a reporter.
The block party, with its truck loaded with musicians, zealots, and huge speakers, inched around several blocks, singing irreverent lyrics accompanied by the loud, incessant, contagious music and rhythm of the samba as people danced in a huge throng along the route. Some were even dancing in the open windows of apartments overlooking the mass of people. I was caught up in the crowd and the spirit and moved along with the others, albeit on the outside of the group along the buildings.
Standing on the stoop of one building was a huge, ugly, mustachioed, body builder with his shirt off, displaying tattoos over most of his exposed flesh. He smiled at me and waved a card in my face. I had no idea what the card was, but took it like I have other advertising that has been handed to me. It was an employment card and had his identification on it like a driver's license. As he handed me the card he took my hand and kissed it. Gross! I handed the card back immediately and he took my hand and kissed it again. Double Gross!! He then flexed for me and I must admit that his physique was impressive. As I samba-ed by, he took my head in his hands and kissed me on the cheek. I almost vomited on the spot! When I was past, I turned around to look and he was already looking for his next "victim." I could see his back, which was covered with a tattoo of his skeleton. Even if I were gay, this guy was obviously not my type! It was amazing how dirty that contact made me feel and I couldn't wait to wash my face.
On Sunday, I watched three different blocos during the evening on Copacabana Beach. I could not complete my exercise walk because of the size of the crowds. Two of the groups stood out. The first was a group that was delivered in 15 or more buses and danced in unison behind their speaker truck laden with zealots. The batteria (band) played the throbbing samba rhythm while dancers, who numbered at least 1,000, sang and danced uniformly, occasionally holding blue and white balloons colorfully over their heads. It was an impressive sight and the music was again infectious.
The second group, however, would have blown your mind; it did mine. Up to this point, most of the bloco participants that I had seen were dressed in tee shirts colorfully displaying the organizations' colors. Not Carmen Miranda, the bloco made up predominately of gays! These folks were dressed to the hilt and most of them cross-dressed. Many, many drag queens proudly samba-ed their stuff down the street to the delight of the huge crowd. They gladly posed for pictures and threw kisses to the crowd. I ran out of film snapping their pictures, but I am sure that I recorded the event sufficiently for you to appreciate their enthusiasm and their efforts. With my wife, children, and a Spanish exchange student, I had happened upon the gay pride parade in New York one year, but nothing could compare to the Carmen Miranda bloco. Absolutely unforgettable!!
I can't go on. I am exhausted from trying to summon up words to describe the events that I witnessed over the weekend and Carnival is a week away. Stay tuned!! Tchau.
February 26, 2003
It is difficult to be a continent away when your wife is in a car accident. I learned of the accident in this morning's email, the last of six that I answered. Of course, I went right to the phone and talked with her. She is fine, with only a bruised knee and maybe a broken little toe, which isn't bad, considering that a guy in a pick-up hit her from behind and pushed her into oncoming traffic where she had a head-on collision. Although the air bags deployed preventing more serious injury, the car is, no doubt, totaled. Fortunately, her mother still drives and came to pick her up after she declined medical treatment. I encouraged her to see a doctor as soon as possible.
This morning, after finding out that my wife was OK, I met a 14 year-old beach boy at the computer center, as scheduled, and went to the beautiful Botanical Garden for which the city is noted. The beach boy lives in a room with his brother, according to a Philadelphia lawyer that I met who comes to Rio for six weeks annually and speaks fluent Portugese. The brothers eke out a living on the beach renting chairs and umbrellas and running errands. If you need a coco frio, Jonas will run and get it for you. Their parents are living in two different cities in Brazil and I don't know the rest of the story. I have never met the brother, either, but Jonas always remembers me, even though I have only rented chairs from him on two occasions. He remembers my name and that I am from Pennsylvania, like the lawyer he knows.
On different occasions, I have bought him two hot dogs and four or five coco frios in the evening after finishing my exercise walk on the beach promenade. The first few times, Jonas tried to learn a little English and I tried to help, but it is pretty hopeless unless he studies and practices daily, which he cannot do. I respect him because of how hard he works to meet his needs. Today was his first day off in a long time and he asked me last night if I wanted to go to the gardens; he hasn't been there, to Sugar Loaf or Corcovado. Just like us, he doesn't take the time to see the local points of interest that tourists travel great distances to see.
We caught the bus and bounced around for 35 minutes until we reached the gardens. And they were just beautiful, many tropical species from around the world, a rose garden, a Japanese garden, an orchid room, and great stands of trees and bamboo. The most noteworthy thing, besides the blister that I wore on my little toe from the sand on the trails grinding under my sandal, was seeing a gorgeous blue and gold toucan with a beak almost half as long as his body. When he flew, he had a red patch of feathers on his tail. He was sitting in a tree not 10 feet from me, sharing his perch with several squirrel monkeys. They must have been squirrel monkeys, because they looked like squirrels except for the longer prehensile tail that supported them as they played on the limbs and jumped from the foliage of one tree to the next.
It was hot in the garden, but there was plenty of shade in which to get some relief. After the gardens, which we did not explore completely (do you know any 14 year-old interested enough in gardens to complete the tour?), I hailed a taxi to avoid the beating that I took on the bus earlier. We went to an "A Kilo" restaurant around the corner from this Internet center, where I treated Jonas to a meal.
Last night, as we sat on the beach promenade and I told him that I was leaving to shower and go to dinner, he gave me a woeful look and said that all he ever eats is hot dogs. It could have been a con, but it could have been true, too. I sprung for the meal, which was a huge plateful on his part, along with two dips of ice cream with syrup for dessert. He thinks that I am very generous. The bus ride cost me 30 cents for him. Entrance to the gardens was a dollar each and the bill for both of our lunches was $7.68. Amazing the amount of good you can do for under $10 in a third world country.
Tomorrow, I think that I will head for Petropolis, the city on the mountain where emperors have built a castle, which is now a museum. I'll probably stay overnight tomorrow and return Friday, just in time for the festivities of Carnival to begin. Hold on to your hats; here we go! Tchau.
February 28, 2003
Murray's back and gone again! He returned bored from inactivity in Curtibe, except when his female friend was not in university classes. He saw three movies while there, so I guess that he was, indeed, bored. Who says that a gorgeous young female can make you forget other things? I remember; it was I! We ate dinner together on Wednesday night and he explained that he needed help getting off to Buzios to catch a wave. I gave him the address and phone number of the little Pousada where I had stayed and he managed to get through enough of the language barrier to book a reservation. Then, the problem was getting him and his surfboard (I didn't realize that they were so heavy) to the gorgeous little town. I decided to accompany him to the bus station to make sure that he got aboard the right bus in the complicated mass of humanity that passes for the Rio Rotoviaria (bus terminal).
I figured that while I was going to the bus station, I might as well catch a bus for Petropolis, the mountain retreat about an hour and 15 minutes from Rio. I packed my little backpack with socks, underwear, blood pressure medication, and my camera and met Murray at the corner at 8:30 a.m. Murray wanted to catch as many waves as he could in two days, so he was eager to get started. The only problem was that all the buses were full until 2:00 p.m. Murray was crushed!
We desperately tried to call the company that took me to Buzios in a mini-van, but could get no answer. With a little of the Portuguese that I have picked up, I managed to find an alternate form of transportation for him with a company that waited at the terminal shouting names of cities and filling mini-vans. Murray was off in a mini-van packed with locals and the huge surfboard. I'll bet the locals loved that! Fortunately, the thing was air-conditioned, but Murray, no doubt, had a long ride. I'm sure that he got to Buzios by 1:00 p.m., so he probably ended the day a pretty happy camper. I'll say this: he would never have gotten there on his own.
I paid about $2.50 for a ticket to Petropolis on a modern, beautiful, air-conditioned luxury coach. The ride was up into the mountains and, although it was a four-lane, concrete, very divided highway (I never saw the lanes going the other direction), the switchbacks caused some sweaty palms. I don't do precipitous drop-offs very well, either.
I was glad to arrive in the cooler temperatures of the city where the federal government maintains a Presidential Palace for the visits of the country's leader. I checked into a hotel recommended by Frommer's and started to explore. Wait, it was lunchtime. I decided to find a bite to eat and wandered through the city's center. I wasn't happy with some of the early options, but saw a steak house across the street and decided to give it a try.
I just happened to choose the best restaurant in town and my lunch was absolutely fabulous. I had a filet mignon, cut lengthwise instead of across the tenderloin, rice piamontesa, and a pitcher of a fantastic fruit drink that I will be trying to make at home. The steak was the best that I have had in Brazil and perhaps the best I've ever tasted. The rice was made with mushrooms and diced ham, and then baked in the oven until the thick coating of Parmesan cheese was golden brown. The meal was "to die for," as the saying goes. The fruit drink was a mixture of pineapple juice and spearmint leaves, blended until it was a light green and served with ice cubes. This was not the first time that I have enjoyed this drink here, but it was the best. The juice man on TV will have a new customer when I arrive back in the states.
I toured the city in a two-horse carriage and took a few pictures. There were some beautiful houses in the town, including a "Crystal Palace" which is used for dances, meetings, etc. It was beautiful later in the evening when it was professionally illuminated.
Hopefully, my pictures will reflect the beauty of the town. Like Murray, however, I got bored. I wanted to stay long enough to eat lunch at The Majorica one more time, but boarded a 10:00 o'clock bus for Rio. For some reason, the trip back cost more than the trip up, but at still less than $3.00, it remained a bargain.
I am back in the sweltering heat of Rio, but I feel like I am home. Now I understand how the residents of concrete neighborhoods in New York City feel. This is my home in Brazil and it was good to see familiar faces this afternoon. Tomorrow begins the celebration for which the world knows Rio. I will try to provide you with a play by play. Stay tuned for the excitement. Tchau!
March 3, 2003
Newsflash!! They do more than samba during Carnival. Why else would the government start a TV and poster campaign to get people to wear condoms during Carnival? The campaign is pretty explicit, using a caricature that looks like a banana in a raincoat, to get its message across. The caricature is how I recognized the campaign; I never turn on the sound of my TV - what's the point?
Newsflash II!! For those of you reading about the violence in Rio, rest easy; I am able to stay pretty isolated from the problems about which you read. The problems come from a Colombia drug lord who controlled all of the drug trafficking in Brazil before his arrest. He was captured in Colombia, extradited here, and placed in a high security prison in Brasilia, the nation's capitol. From there he was transferred to another high security facility in Rio. Using a cell phone, a lap top computer, and the prison grapevine, he soon controlled drug traffic again. He even had his three mistresses making alternate conjugal visits and ordered his meals from the city's finest restaurants.
The government decided to put an end to the good life and transferred him to the nation's highest security institution in Sao Paolo, where there is a hooded, armed guard outside every cell and where his every moment is monitored by TV. His only contact is through monitored visits with his attorney and, surprise; he doesn't like his new digs. He wants transferred back to Rio and has threatened and delivered violence unless the government complies. He informs the government that a bus will be firebombed at a certain place and it happens. He has had more than 100 buses firebombed. The government cannot seem to stop him from communicating in some kind of code to his attorney.
He has now threatened violence during Carnival. The government has cracked down in the favelas, making raids and seizing guns, but the violence continues. Last night's main Carnival event went on without incident, however, no doubt in large part to the heavy police presence and the 5,000 Army troops with tanks, who surround the Sambodromo, where the main event takes place. That's good; the only problem is that I don't go to the Sambodromo until tonight. I'll let you know tomorrow if all goes well.
Newsflash III!! We have the wrong reporter assigned to Carnival. I am able to report the events that occur during regular human hours, but I have suffered another birthday here in Rio and am unable to report events around the clock. I am just too old! I see blocos and parades, which occur during regular human hours, but I am in bed by 11:30 or 12:00 and miss the hard partying, drinking, and other events that require government ad campaigns. The parades or blocos that I see disrupt traffic, make me take circuitous routes home, or make my daily exercise walks a human obstacle course. These are noisy, happy events with hundreds of mostly sober dancers, dressed in shorts with tee-shirts displaying the colors and names of the organizations to which they belong. A few are dressed in celebratory costumes with masks and much glitter.
There are huge speaker trucks that broadcast the loud, almost identical rhythms and songs, which can be heard several blocks away. People sing, dance, laugh, and often spray one another with what looks like Gillette Foamy shaving cream. Sometimes, their entire heads are covered. I know the reason that they are celebrating is because of the sacrifices that they will make for lent, but I don't understand the fervor. I observe these things from a distance, but that limits the experience, I guess. God knows I don't want to get kissed by another tattooed, muscle-bound, mustachioed male.
I awoke at 6:00 a.m. today and forced myself to stay awake and read more of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." I absolutely must nap this afternoon if I am to report on tonight's activities, which start at 9:00 p.m. and last until morning. I watched the end of last night’s events on TV and it was daylight when they finished.
Murray popped back in after a great three-day trip to Buzios and just told me that he stayed up until sunrise every morning. That doesn't sound like fun to me, but there goes that age thing again. I'm starting to sound like my grandmother. Perhaps, we should get Murray to report on late night events, but he is probably too busy living the experience to be much of a reporter. I will make some sacrifice for you tonight, but I make no promises about lasting until daybreak. My camera is ready to record it, but this is the last late night event for me. I need my rest. In 10 days I return to Miami. Tchau.
March 4, 2003
The Goodyear blimp circled overhead, a TV helicopter hovered over the half-mile long stadium, and fireworks sparkled, announcing the imminent opening of the second night of samba competition. The curse levied by those of you envying the warmth and sunshine that I am enjoying prevailed, however, and before the spectacle began the air crackled with lightning and booms of nearby thunder shook the bleachers as the skies opened with a tropical deluge that christened the event. It hasn't rained in four or five weeks, but the heavens made up for the absence by soaking all of the more than 100,000 in attendance.
Murray was able to buy the last plastic raincoat from a passing vendor and quickly put it on. Despite sitting three and a half hours to secure a good seat, I opted to scurry under the bleachers with others seeking shelter. The retreat did little good, however, as weep holes in the concrete bleachers quickly channeled water below and splashed the few dry spots that I shared with the others huddled there.
In 45 minutes, the rain surely totaled two or three inches, so severe was the downpour. After 10 minutes or so, Murray appeared beside me along with many others wearing the inadequate, thin, plastic garments. He looked like a drowned rat and his coat, like others that rubbed against me in their owners' search for relief, quickly wet the remaining dry spots on my shorts and tee shirt! Was it really that bad? I had three pills in my pocket, the evening medical dosage, to take during what I knew would be a late, late night. The pills disintegrated in the damp environment, making a delightful mess whenever I plunged my hand in for extra film, the camera, etc. Fortunately, this pocket had only two functions last night: medicinal and photographic. The camera and the extra film were stored there along with the three homogenized pills. Other pockets were assigned different functions as I prepared to deal with potential pickpockets in the huge throng. The pills would be the only victims of the evening.
Thirty minutes late, the spectacle began and words can ill describe the orgy of color, music, excitement, pride, energy, and friendship that I observed last night. The place was absolutely electric! No photo or film can adequately capture the event that I witnessed. You just had to be there to catch the crowd's displays of loyalty, patriotism, and pride, as well as their sensual singing and dancing. I tried, however, and took 71 photos, which I will send tomorrow as soon as the post office reopens.
In the melee that followed the start of the event, which began with light rain still falling, Murray and I stayed huddled in what little shelter the underside of the bleachers provided. We quickly lost the seats that we had protected for almost three hours and stood for the rest of the night. Three native South Africans, now residing in Sydney, eventually stood next to us and joined Murray in tipping a few beers. The beers cost less than a dollar (American) a can. Actually, I think it was many more than a few that they tipped, for the Aussies and other tourists seemed to be the only ones who drank to excess. To stay awake I used coke for the first time in years. Cola, that is! I drank one at 9:00 p.m. and another at 11:00 p.m. and had trouble falling asleep at 3:30 when I finally climbed into my bed - the sacrifices I make for you people. I left Murray there at 3:00 a.m., determined as he was to see the evening through. I awoke for a few minutes around 6:00 a.m. and watched the event continue on television.
The pictures will provide some of the splendor and color, but the number of participants was absolutely awesome. Each of the schools had at least 5 or 6 enormous floats and as many as 5,000 individual participants. I will never look at a parade the same way again, because all will pale miserably in comparison. It took one hour for each school to complete its spectacular samba down the half-mile runway and, during that entire time, the same song and rhythm was played. It sounds boring, but, by the time the school was concluding, we knew most of the words and, of course, I sang and danced right along with the crowd. The fervor was contagious. The Brazilians around us loved my participation and explained as many details as they could manage. They are justifiably proud of this event. Murray's participation mostly involved talking with beautiful girls in the neighborhood, taking some photos, and drinking with his new friends. He was fun to watch and I have a couple of photos of him in action.
I stayed for four of the five schools' presentations, but at 3:00 a.m., much to the chagrin of the Aussie brigade, I called it a night. I couldn't locate the meeting point for the tour bus that brought us safely through the many police and military barricades, so I headed for the long queue waiting for a taxi.
A cab driver about my age said to me in the middle of the hubbub, "Taxi, senhor?" I should have known better, but I said, "Sim," and followed him up a narrow street past the line-up of taxis. Immediated realizing the danger of the situation, I removed my mace from the pocket assigned that function for the evening and prepared for an assault which never came. The cabbie took me through a dangerous favela to avoid traffic, so I never put the mace away until I reached my apartment, but he successfully negotiated the narrow streets and passed through two barricades of police and soldiers who looked in at my face before allowing us to continue. I arrived home at 3:15 a.m., exhausted, but still energized from the spectacle and the coke.
I have paid my debt to the readership and I offer this advice. If you are ever in the neighborhood, don't miss this event! With all of my travels, I consider the Grand Canyon of Arizona the most spectacular natural phenomenon that I have ever seen. This event ranks second in terms of its grandeur, though it is a man-made spectacle.
Oh, yes, on my way to the event last night, I learned of the latest terrorist incursion into my very own neighborhood. It seems that a lone gunman rushed into a grocery store two blocks from my apartment and, at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon, opened fire with an automatic weapon killing one or two people and injuring several more. I walk past this store on my way to dinner on many evenings and the disclosure of this tragedy started my evening on a negative note. I was a little nervous as I approached the Sambodromo and so were Murray and four other Aussies who shared our bus. The spectacle passed uneventfully, however, and I will leave this interesting environment in just a few days. It will be great to reach the good, old, US of A. There is nothing like an extended time overseas to make you appreciate your own country. I am exhausted from describing all of this to you. I need lunch and a nap! In a few days Iguacu and Paraguay, stay tuned. Tchau.
March 6, 2003
I learned a new dance last night called the Montezuma Hustle. I was at the far end of my walk on Copacabana's beach promenade when the first cramp hit. I had a 35-minute walk at my regular exercise rate to get back to my apartment. I was a blur walking, although I had to stop twice to get through cramps. I made it back to the apartment before the explosion and haven't felt well since. I will go on a three day fast to try to kill the bacteria that caused the Hustle, the fever, and the achy joints. The fast worked in Costa Rica, so I'm counting on a quick recovery here. It will also give me a few pounds in my battle of the bulge, so I guess it will turn out all right – unless it is Dengue Fever, I guess. I'll have to look up the symptoms when I finish writing.
Despite my misery, I went to dinner with Murray and two of his Aussie mates. They had come to the Internet center to find me earlier yesterday, hoping that I would select a restaurant and go with them to order a steak and vegetables. They have been living on mostly pizza with a few hamburgers thrown in to soak up the beer. They felt like their bodies needed some vegetables and they didn't even know the word for it. Sometimes, old men can show the way!
I took them to a nice little place where I have dined four or five times and it was fun watching them dig into the filet, French fries, and huge plate of vegetables. Only one of them would try the hearts of palm that were included in the vegetable platter, however. My meal consisted of two tonic waters and I felt worse as the night wore on.
The Aussies, however, were just getting started. The night before, they had wandered into the Mexican Restaurant where Murray and I had eaten a few days back and found that drinks were free between 11:00 and 2:00 a.m. The place was jammed, each of them found a girl with whom to cuddle, and they got back to their rooms at 5:30 a.m. They were headed back out to another club last night and Murray opined that, "It is a shame that I'm leaving tomorrow, just when things are getting great!"
But, he is leaving, flying to Santiago, Chile, today and on to Buenos Aires from there. He will spend two weeks with a mate there and return for six days to Santiago. From there, it is off to Peru, before heading to Martinique, where he has another mate. Then, I think that he heads to Canada, before starting his cross-country tour of the US. I'll probably have him knocking at my door sometime this summer. He has been fun.
Hopefully, Montezuma will retreat and I will be fit for my trip to Igacu Falls three days from now. I look forward to the journey, but am more eager for the trip back to Miami and the civilization I know. Thanks for enduring my illness. Tchau.
March 7, 2003
Today's headline in "O Globo," the biggest newspaper in Rio, reads, "Violence Continues, Seven Dead!" Relax, obviously, I'm not one of them. Apparently, there was another gun battle between police and the drug cartel and seven died. The violence has put law enforcement and the military much more in evidence all over the city.
It was a little disconcerting yesterday, when I left this computer center which is across the street from where a terrorist gunner sprayed a grocery store killing two, to see about 30 soldiers standing on all four corners with large military trucks up on the sidewalk, a military ambulance, and rifles on the ready. They were serious about something. I don't know if the drug lord said that he could strike the same place again or what, but it seemed unusual for them to be at the same location as a previous attack. They weren't there when I entered the Internet center, but they sure were when I went out. I quickly headed for a place where I was less likely to be a target or an accident victim. They were not here today when I came in and I was relieved. The rest of the city just seems to go about its business and does not appear alarmed.
Before reacting too negatively, remember how many are killed in New York City and Los Angeles every day by gunfire. I am eager for the peace, quiet, and cool temperatures of Miami, but Gianni Versace was shot to death there. No place is 100% safe. I will try to keep ducking, however.
I'm in the 43rd hour of my fast and so weak that I can hardly press the keys. Nah, I'm not feeling too bad and just had a little tea at my breakfast restaurant. The locals are trying to care for me, but I will continue to fast until tomorrow evening. I'm still hoping to get to Iguacu Falls on Sunday. I'll try to keep you informed. Tchau.
March 8, 2003
Newsflash I: I have had further contact with the traveling Texan, who used the Travelers Century Club website to check his country totals. He is no longer at 85 countries; he is up to 97, because of the generous way that separate countries are listed. He also did not count the one additional country where he made a fuel stop. Overtaking him is looking pretty bleak, but at least he is a nice guy who reads my website. Three more and he qualifies for the club!
Newsflash II: The soldiers are back and were on duty as long as the grocery store was open yesterday. I got a few pictures of them to verify their presence in my assortment of stories about this trip.
Newsflash III: This morning I drank a glass of guyaba juice at the behest of several neighborhood business owners that I frequent. They say it will be good for me; it was delicious and refreshing, too. At the 70-hour mark of the fast, I ate a bowl of chicken soup; I was getting pretty weak by then. I wish it had just been broth, but it was a full meal with chicken, carrots, green peppers, onions, and rice. I attempted to eat mostly rice, broth, and a little chicken and am still feeling pretty good. Of course, only 30 minutes has transpired. I will stick close to home for the rest of the afternoon and look forward to another meal of chicken and rice tonight. Keep your fingers crossed.
Newsflash IV: I leave at 10:00 a.m. for Iguacu on an airline called VASP. Here's hoping they are a competent airline. The three-hour flight will allow me to see the famous falls and enter Paraguay. I'll update you when I return. Tchau.
March 12, 2003
"Poor Niagara," exclaimed Eleanor Roosevelt when she saw Iguacu Falls (Iguazu in Spanish) for the first time. I knew that I would gush again as I tried to describe the awesome beauty of this place and was glad to read that Eleanor had also waxed ecstatic about this magnificent wonder. Niagara is awesome, but is located in a pretty flat, stark environment. Iguacu is spread out over a mile in the middle of a sub-tropical rainforest (jungle) and the intensity of the green combined with the beauty of the white falls makes it a spectacular natural phenomenon. Iguacu has many falls in one, some small, others enormous, and all spectacular.
My trip started with a choppy plane ride to Sao Paolo, where there was an unexpected stopover. The layover was planned, but it wasn't indicated on my ticket or itinerary, so when the plane started to descend after only 45 minutes in the air, I thought that a major problem had developed. Quickly downing the other half of the anti-anxiety pill prescribed for the plunge before the crash, I heard the captain say something about Sao Paolo on the intercom. It was a routine landing. We were delayed a couple of hours in Sao Paolo for some reason and the airline (VASP) issued a voucher for a wonderful buffet luncheon in the airport restaurant. The remaining hour and a half flight to Iguacu was uneventful, but another half-pill probably eased the way.
My hotel was anything but impressive, but all the travelers to whom I talked complained about their rooms, even the ones staying where President Clinton had stayed a few years ago. Before checking into my hotel, I got the opportunity to walk the Brazilian side on concrete walkways built to view the gorgeous series of falls while the guide took the other people in the van to a nearby hotel. Along the trail, many butterflies flitted and a striped-tailed coatimundi (I think that's what it was) crossed in front of me, then walked past me on the path.
I finished the breathtaking walk in humidity that could have been cut with a knife, just as it started to rain, soaking many other tourists. It rains almost daily at Iguacu. I met my guide at the end of the trail where he waited after dropping the rest of the group (8 people) at President Clinton's hotel. I was the only low-life staying downtown. That night, I opted to go to a show recommended by the guide and had a fantastic evening, sitting with three, non-English speaking, Frenchmen who became friends, and enjoying a spectacular show featuring 30 dancers demonstrating costumes and dances from the three contiguous countries, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Samba, Tango, gaucho, and primitive Indian dances were colorfully choreographed, along with glamorous Carnival costumes from Brazil. The girls were not all that beautiful, but the skimpy costumes displayed amazingly gorgeous bodies.
The following day was spent on the Argentinean side of the falls and it became one of the most spectacular days of my life. It started with a lengthy walk on fantastic steel walkways, built on concrete pilings sunk into the rock, some at the very crest of the falls. I got sprayed many times as the wind shifted and the walkways were showered in mist. The views were absolutely awesome, and although I took many pictures, I know that they cannot do justice to the breathtaking scenery. Butterflies were everywhere!!! I saw more butterflies in one day here than I have seen in the rest of my life combined. There are 600 species here and they were as spectacular in their own way as was Carnival in the Sambodromo.
We finished the upper falls and, after a short, miniature train ride through huge swarms of yellow butterflies gathering in the mud of its roadbed, slowly descended on walkways to the lower falls. This view was equally spectacular and ended with a climb down a steep, natural stairway (with handrails most of the way) to the river itself. There, we put on orange life preservers and prepared for a boat ride to the very edge of the falls. With two, powerful, 150 horsepower Yamaha outboard engines, the 25-foot open boat took us under some of the falls. Fortunately, I had placed my camera and my wallet in the plastic shopping bag that was provided at the point of embarkation. I had forgotten the leather wallet worn under my pants to protect my credit cards, American currency, passport, and return ticket to the States. We got so drenched that the wallet was soaked through. Fortunately, I think the documents dried sufficiently to be acceptable. The ride to, around, and through the falls was incredible. It was followed by a 5 or 6 kilometer ride at high speed down the churning rapids of the Pirana River, which was equally exciting and at least started the drying process.
After disembarking, a walk up a gradual, but exhausting stairway took us to an open truck (it looked like an Army deuce and a half) with seats lined across the back. We were taken for an eight-kilometer ride through the mud roads of the semi-tropical rainforest, guided by a naturalist who explained, in magnificent English, all about the flora and fauna of the jungle. It was just great!
On the way back to our hotels, the guide took us to the most spectacular aviary that I have ever seen. I was tired and not eager to make this side trip, but went reluctantly because everyone else in the group wanted to go. This Parque de Aves (Bird Park) had more tropical birds assembled in one place than I have ever seen. Toucans, parrots, flamingos, emus, each more beautiful than the other, were housed in large aviaries where they had some freedom of flight, etc. Some displayed in smaller pens permitted stroking of their feathers and repeated, "Hello," or mimicked whistles. The park was huge and turned out to be another highlight to a day absolutely filled with natural beauty.
A single Frenchman from Versailles, who spoke very good English, was on my tour during the day, marveling at all of the natural splendor. He was amazed at another tourist, who the day before told him that he was here for the day. "Only one day," exclaimed the Frenchman, "you can't appreciate this place in one day!" It's true, and I could see myself doing just that in years past. Rush in, rush out. Iguacu, been there, done that, now on to the next. I have learned to appreciate taking the time to really see a place, but I still need reminded occasionally. I would probably have done Iguacu in a day, had I been able to get such a tour, and would have cheated myself out of so much. The whole day in Argentina, including the boat ride, the tropical bird park, and the beauty of the place could very easily have been missed had I gotten in and gotten out.
The following day included a trip to Itaipu, the largest hydroelectric plant in the world, which is a joint project of Brazil and Paraguay. It was an ugly concrete place and probably just as boring as it sounds. Their concrete is remarkably dirty looking. The dam was large and I'm sure it was efficient, providing 25% of Brazil's and 95% of Paraguay's electricity. I was glad when that tour ended and eager to get on with the rest of my day.
Stop complaining about illegal immigrants; we're not all so bad. That's right, I was an illegal immigrant in Paraguay yesterday. It turns out that Americans need a visa to enter Paraguay since the country cancelled their agreement with the USA about five months ago. I had no visa, but I needed to get Paraguay checked off of my list, especially when I was so close. I told the guide that I wanted to go, visa or not, so away we went. I was in a van with two other couples making the trip. Had my passport been checked at the border, I would have been refused admittance, unless I had paid a bribe to the immigration officer, which the guide says is a frequent occurrence.
The Paraguay-Brazil border is a mirror image of the Mexican-American border at so many cities on our southern edge. This is real poverty, where people are scrambling to make a living, selling food from dirty grills and carts, hawking copycat electronic products, stolen cigarettes, and other contraband. Ciudade del Este in Paraguay looks exactly like Tijuana, Juarez, or Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. This place need not be a destination of yours, although the interior of the country is probably beautiful like the interior of Mexico.
My flight back to Rio was scheduled to depart at 5:00 p.m. and, with what was now an expected layover in Sao Paolo, my arrival in Rio should have been at 8:15 - just in time to get one of my last two dinners in the big city. Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out that way. I took my magic pill at 4:45, boarded the plane on time and awaited the take-off. We were delayed a few minutes as mechanics in blue coveralls walked down the aisles and worked underneath the plane on what appeared to be an air-conditioning problem. It certainly was oven-like in the cabin.
We took off smoothly at 5:45 and quickly climbed to about 5,000 feet. Then, the pilot throttled back the engines and announced that we were returning to Iguacu to have a small problem repaired. Uh-Oh! Come on, Xanax! The male half of the young British couple I had befriended on one of my tours, now seated in front of me, looked back at me like, "this could be it." I said a quick prayer and rode it in, to a smooth, routine landing. After another hour or so of attempted repairs, we took off again, but only flew at 3,000, very bumpy feet because of a pressurization problem. We landed safely in Sao Paolo, with the help of another half Xanax along the way, but were delayed while the mechanics again worked on the plane.
I arrived at my apartment a little after midnight, completely exhausted. The pilots and I had experienced a rough time getting these planes from Iguacu to Rio. I slept like a log and rushed here this morning to share my experiences. Tomorrow, I leave for Miami at 9:55 p.m., but I will update one last time to give you my final impressions of this country. Thanks for tolerating the verbosity. Tchau.
March 13, 2003
Today, I leave for Miami. I still have to pack, but I retrieved my clothes from the laundry and folded them for packing. All that is left is the packing itself. I hope everything fits in the two backpacks that I brought. If not, some of the old clothes will spend the rest of their lives in Brazil.
Before I leave this interesting country, I thought that I should share a few observations. This is a third world country, although its economy is the largest in South America. There is a vast difference between the wealthy and the poor and it is sometimes difficult to watch people struggling so hard for survival. As I left for my final dinner in Rio last evening, for instance, I watched as two men rifled through the eight or ten large garbage bags set outside my apartment building. The bags represented a week's worth of trash produced by the apartments' inhabitants and the men were looking for aluminum cans. I watched as they found and flattened cans, then placed them in their own large bags. The apartment trash produced a windfall for them, but I wondered how much money they made in their daylong search.
That scene was common here. As you sit along the beach at a kiosk drinking a beverage, men, women, or boys will come along and ask if your can is empty or pick it up to check. They are really struggling to survive.
Another observation marking Brazil as a third world country is the prevalence of obvious birth defects in adults that would have been treated when the individuals were children had they lived in the United States. I saw some very unusual problems in adults that I would never see at home, such as a man with one foot and leg turned completely sideways while everything else seemed normal. I saw another man with what looked like a permanently dislocated shoulder with his arm and hand protruding in too unusual a manner to even describe. It made me wince to see the poor chap. I have seen kids with lazy eye, adults with pink eye, and other assorted medical problems that would be corrected in a wealthier country. Either these folks could not afford treatment or there was no treatment available. That said, most people here look as normal as you and I. I am talking about the prevalence of uncorrected medical anomalies here.
The people here are very friendly and outgoing. I have made friends easily in my neighborhood and had a difficult time saying goodbye this morning. Much literature has been written about the friendliness of Cariocas and I can attest to that.
And now the results of my research: I was sent to evaluate the relative beauty of the female portion of the population here and I have taken my job very seriously. That is rather easy to do, since I have been away from my wife for two months. There is no question; the combination of African, Indian, and European genetic traits has produced a very handsome people. However, just like everywhere else, the younger ones seem a lot more attractive than the older folks. Mother Nature has its way of evening things out all over the globe.
Lower and Middle-income folks appear to inter-relate well, no matter their skin color. On the surface, the country appears to be a place where Martin Luther King's dream of, "...children will be judged on the content of their character, not by the color of their skin," seems to be a reality. I often see white, European-looking grandfathers walking hand-in-hand with a black grandchild and I appreciate how healthy that makes a society. A closer look, however, uncovers some inconsistencies. I see no black faces on television or in television coverage of governmental leaders. I noticed no black pilots and only one black flight attendant during my flights in the country and my time at the airports. I know that there are a few blocos (community clubs) that celebrate during carnival without any people of color.
Overall, however, I believe that this country has gained immeasurably from the willingness of its inhabitants to accept people of different colors and backgrounds. Incidentally, more than 30,000 Muslims live in the city of Foz de Iguacu near the falls. Most own and work in the businesses on the Paraguayan side of the border, but live in Brazil. The Arab news channel is broadcast on cable TV in that city.
Back to the research: Alright, they are a handsome people, but their derrieres are no better than many that I accidentally observed while on South Beach in Miami or in Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. This place is hot, however, and the styles here reflect the heat. That means that there is an abundance of breast displayed in everyday wear. Again, this would drive breast men crazy, but as a researcher I must say that the actual breasts themselves appear no different than what I have seen elsewhere in the world. The heat and the style just make breasts much more evident to a person accustomed to seeing women bundled to the neck.
As part of the research, I have conducted interviews with these beautiful ladies and learned that not a single respondent knew how to make boiled chicken potpie, shoofly pie, or chicken corn soup with rivels. Furthermore, not one had any idea what sauerkraut was. The Pennsylvania Dutch have a saying that, "Kissing wears out, cooking don't," and this researcher subscribes to that outlook.
It is true that it is impossible to stand in one place on the beaches of Rio for more than a minute or two, without seeing a really beautiful young lady. I think that would be true on most beaches of the world, but it is especially true here, where the bronze color of their skin, caused by sunshine and the delightful combination of those genes, adds emphasis to the beauty of their thick, usually black hair, high cheekbones, and lithe bodies.
But, I am certainly not interested in trading my wife of 40 years, who, incidentally, makes outstanding pot pie and chicken corn soup, for one of these bronze and beautiful creatures. You thought that I would say something different, perhaps, and jeopardize the itinerary of next year's trip? One doesn't get to make these trips by being undiplomatic.
I have had a wonderful time in Brazil, but I confess to having missed my wife and family. I am not at all certain that I will want to be away from my family this long again. But, I have been thinking about a road trip next year down Baja California with a ferry ride across to the mainland and a trip back up through Mexico. I wonder if I could do that in a month, or if I could find a friend to go along to help combat the loneliness? Hmmmm...
This will be my last update because it is so difficult to find Internet access in the States. Also, most of you have been to Florida. My wife and a couple of our good friends will be meeting me in Miami on the 19th, then we will drive to Key West for a few days of fun in the sun. After this horrible winter, it is sorely needed. Don't you agree?
I will not write any more (quite a relief, isn't it?), but I will update the pictures. The photos from Carnival are already in the process and should appear in a day or two. The ones from Iguacu Falls will appear at the end of the month. The photos on the page, however, are just a sampling of the many pictures that I have taken. To see the rest of the pictures, or to hear a more detailed accounting of this winter's adventures would require an evening of say, dinner and drinks at your house?
Thanks for accompanying me on this winter's trip. At times, you were the only company that I had. Tchau!!
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