Sunday, January 08, 2006

BRAZIL: Bye Bye Brazil

Last night our hostel had organized an excusion to see one of the samba schools practice for Carnivale. There are many schools in Brazil - each school competes during Carnivale. Our school was called Viradoro. Carnivale is in February but I guess they practice for months ahead. We got on a bus at 11PM and went way, way across Rio in the dark to some sketchy neighborhood. It was in a big gymnasium/dance hall type of place and a few thousand Brazilians were all dancing. the band started and everyone had to get out of the way. Kathy and I wandered upstairs and found some box seats, (owned by different groups of people, I guess, just like at a baseball park) . I asked one of them if we could come in and they let us. We got the best view of the band and the dancers. It was so loud, lots of percussion to accompany the one song they practiced over and over and over. After hearing it about 20 times (with corresponding hand movements), we could sort of sing along:

...Brasil! Terra de encantos Mil
Em Que a miscigenacao,
Alterando os conceitos, incentiva a criacao,
Vindos de alem-mar, nao poderiam imaginar...

No, I didn´t memorize the words. They passed out sheet music.

Eventually they let everyone else join in and it was a big dance party with cheap beer and frightening food for sale (I had some meat on a stick! yum) You would think I had learned my lesson with the scary street food but I don´t care any more.

the people in our box were nice and insisted that we be in front for the best view. They tried to teach us to dance a little bit. I´m really bad at samba. I try to copy people but Kathy says that I end up looking like I am doing the running man. Anyways, I hope that Viradouro has a chance at taking away the title from beija flor this year! (When carnivale comes, I can look it up on the internet). I bought a ghetto-looking Viradoro tank top too that has their symbol on it, a crown with two people shaking hands.

We got home at 4AM.

Today I just messed around the hostel and went to the beach one last time. It was so hot, I think the hottest day yet. Once again I played in the waves with little teenage boys trying to body surf.

OK, now for my Brazil recap!

Funny things about Brazil

teeny, tiny waxy napkins
thin, crinkly plastic cups
men in speedos and a t-shirt, walking around
the thumbs up sign everyone does
having people laugh at me when I say "no falo portuguese"
lots of cutting in line. you snooze, you lose.
the lispy way people talk with the "sh" sound


Things I love about Brazil

people seem so happy
the strong drinks
People are stylish and suave, even when they are wearing crazy clothes
Bossa Nova
Brazilian pop music!
The unexpected rain forests and beauty of the country
Chicken pastels at the beach in Morro, even though they made me sick.
Mangoes and Pineapple
Guarana
cold Brahma chopp, our favorite beer
the sun
the mosaic tile all over the beaches in Rio with the mod designs. Lots of cool mosaic sidewalks in all Brazilian towns

My favorite beaches

Ipanema beach
Morro de sao paulo beach #2
Mendes Lopez beach if it hadn´t rained

Brazil, I´ll miss you!

XXX

Saturday, January 07, 2006

BRAZIL: pounding two beers and jumping off a cliff

I´m not coming home. Nope, I´m staying here. I was worried about Rio not fulfilling my expectations but it really has. I really think it is what they say.

Yesterday, after having a nice dinner by myself and waiting for my sick roommates to feel better, Kate was able to go out to see some bossa nova in a neighborhood called Lapa. After a crazy, winding taxi ride down Avenue Atlantico (just like Michigan avenue at home - tall buildings on one side, the beach on the other), we arrived in Lapa which was a little sketchy but very happening. The recommended place had a line down the block so we went to the place next door. Still full, but had great music. We watched the band for awhile and got a table. I am still enamored by Brazilian music. There are so many different types - the cheesy pop (I always love foreign pop music), the bossa nova, the samba (I think it´s faster, it´s what they dance to during carnivale). The lady I met on the salvador ferry explained another type to me, I forget which but I have the name somewhere. In the hostel bar last night, they were playing a CD that we really liked - Jorge Ben - When I get home I´ll have to get his greatest hits on amazon.

This morning the sun was out! And it was hot! and bright! We walked two blocks to ipanema beach and it was exactly what I had always dreamed of. I played in the big waves and drank coconut juice out of a coconut. The beach is actually clean, for a city beach. Kate saw a guy wearing a hot pink speedo with movie star faces on it. Marylyn Monroe, the cast of casablanca... It was fun to play in the waves until I had a minor jellyfish sting. There have been little jellyfish at a few beaches but they are mostly harmless. If they sting you, it only hurts for about an hour. Still unsettling to see them floating around.

I signed up for hang gliding (well, Kathy signed up for me when she ran back to the hotel to put our cameras away to keep them away from beach thieves.) I have been talking about hang gliding for months but when it came time to actually sign up I got really nervous. K & K left to go see Christo the redeemer (the giant Christ on the hill that overlooks the city, I´m going to see him tomorrow) and I waited for the hang gliding guys to come get me. Thankfully another guy had signed up at the hostel, Brett from Birmingham, England. So I had someone to be nervous with. Well, actually he didn´t act nervous, just me. I w├úsn´t bad at all until we go up there and had to look over the cliff and see where we would be jumping off. Huge, huge cliff overlooking Rio. I thought we would be running down a flat surface, but noticed that the jump off point was a slanted wood plank, down at an angle. That bothered me A LOT. My knees were shaking and my heart was racing. I met a funny woman from Detroit who wasn´t nervous at all and I asked her "why are you not scared and shaking like me?" She had a bunch of caiaparnias beforehand. Then I noticed there was a little bar at the top. Thank God. I figured that one Michigander knows what´s best for another (former) Michigander, so Brett and I ran over to the bar and pounded a beer while taking pictures of eachother. I had to drink one more, then it was time for me to go. My flight instructor, Marcel (I think! prounounced in that lispy portuguese way) counted down and we ran down the slanted boards. If you don´t run really, really fast, you will drop much faster so it was an incentive for me to not screw it up. We jumped off, dropped really fast, I screamed, then all was very calm and I could take in the amazing view of Rio. It felt like 3 minutes but was actually 15. They had an automatic picture-taker so I have a roll of film from the hang gliding. I can´t imagine a more perfect place to try it. Rio is such an incredibly beautiful city. I want to do it again tomorrow. I´m not sure the website works but this is it http://www.riosuperfly.com.br/

Well, Kate leaves in an hour, I´ll be sad to see her go - Tomorrow night, Kathy and I leave. I don´t wanna go! I´m sure I´ll write one more blog though.

Schirmy

Friday, January 06, 2006

BRAZIL: what a meat pie can do to you

The good thing about travelling for three weeks (a drop in the bucket for other nationalities, an eternity for Americans) is that if you have bad weather, or get sick for a few days - hey, you have 2.5 more weeks to spread your fun around. It puts less pressure on each day. You start to just live normally. When you take a 5 day vacation, every day better be damn good or you are sort of disappointed. So that´s why I don´t feel bad when I say that all three of us have puked our guts out on this trip, and not once from alcohol.

Every country has its one street food that you come back to again and again - for the quick breakfast, lunch or dinner. You combine it with the local pop (here, "guarana") and it´s a meal for just a few dollars. In Greece, it´s the chicken gyro. In Costa Rica, rice & beans. In Italy, the panini. In Asia, some variation of fried rice. In Belgium, the waffle. In France, the crepe. In Spain, the tortilla espanola. You are trying to catch a train, a bus, hungry when walking down the street. When you have to eat every single meal at a restaurant or take out from a store for three weeks, you figure out what´s cheap and trustworthy. In Brazil, it´s the meat pie. Either a pastel (fried dough with meat inside) or the empanada/empada (flaky biscuit with meat inside.)

After arriving in Rio, we checked into our little hostel, the Ipanema beach house (2 blocks from ipanema beach!), and wandered around. For a little late lunch we stopped at a cute little meat pie fast food place with a trustworthy-looking grandma face on the sign. Now how can abuela steer you wrong? Kate and Kathy had some meat pie and I had some other pre-wrapped thing and a bizzare-tasting fruit shake that I picked by just pointing to the portuguese menu. Later, went out for a thai dinner, happy to be in Rio, even though none of us were 100%. At dinner, Kate had the familiar symptoms that I had on new years day. nausea, heartburn... We planned on having a night out in Leblon, which is the district next to Ipanema with some good nightlife, etc. Kate felt sick at dinner and we went to drop her off at home. All of the sudden, she violently puked in the taxi. I know the feeling well, because I violently puked in the crepe restauant in Buzios. Poor Kate threw up so much all of the sudden that we had to stop the taxi all of the sudden and she even threw up a little bit on me. The taxi driver must have thought we were drinking, but we weren't, I tried to explain to him. 20 reals and he stopped complaining and drove away.

The cruel irony in all this is that I am completely, unbelievably sick of ham and cheese or meat pies. Even when they don´t give me a.b. And what is the only thing waiting for me in my freezer at home? Why, Ham and cheese hot pockets!

Kate went to bed so Kathy and I decided to try one of the bars near the hostel. Being early (10PM), we had a few chopps (the ice-cold lite draft beer) it was kind of dead so we decided to call it a night. Early this morning, poor Kathy got sick and threw up a few times. It must have been the meat pie, or something the two of them ate. they were both illin´so today I took the favela tour advertised in the hostel.

Favela means slum. A few years ago, a couple of places in Rio began offering tours of the slums. Apparently the movie "City of God" gives a good example of the slums but I haven´t seen it. The tour guide, Luiz, picked me up at the hostel and I joined an Australian couple, a danish guy and a guy from L.A.

I have always been fascinated by slums. As a kid I had a reoccuring nightmare of getting lost in my yard in Battle Creek, then ending up in the slums of New York. I had that same dream at least 20 times. A tour of the slums initially sounds like a bad idea - some people are opposed to it, thinking that it exploits the poor, puts them on display. I went out of curiosity. The little tour company works with the people in the favela, teaching them not to beg but to produce artwork. It educates tourists and exposes them to the problems in Rio. Luiz knows some people who live in the favela, and had a lot of inside information on the rules and social structure. We drove over past Leblon, past Ipanema, over a hill and into a bad neighborhood. We had to be taken to the top of the hill, one by one, on motorbikes. I had no idea we´d be taking motorbikes and held on to my guy tight - pretty much burying my face into this shoulder, squealing and crushing his ribcage with my hands. We sped up a hill, between cars, around moving busses, I was so scared that sometimes I couldn´t look. He knew I was scared because I would shriek NO NO NO NO NO!!!!! and he would laugh YES YES! It was kind of fun, but scary as hell with no helmet, darting around all these moving cars on a steep hill on an angle with no helmet. so much worse than the Vietnam motorbike ride. I knew I wasn´t that much of a wuss because the guys were a little shaken too at the top. The favelas are on very steep hills, pretty much vertical cities.

We started wandering througth the favela - Luiz was a great guide. At the entrance of the little narrow streets, he pointed out a guy with a walkie talkie and told us he was big drug dealer looking for police. When police are near, they set off firecrackers to warn everyone. It´s safe for us as tourists, but police would have trouble there.. 2 months ago there was a big raid and 5 people were killed. The drug lords run the favela. Luiz pointed out gang graffiti, pointed out bad people. There is little or no crime among people living in the favela - the drug mafia keeps them in line, they basically run the favela with an honor system. The people pay no taxes but get free electricity and gas. When we were walking, I heard firecrackers and pops three times. Probably the worst neighborhood I have wandered through for that long, but not shockingly bad. They have water and some little stores. The shocking thing was how the drug dealers run the community and the police and governement can´t change it. Kids and old ladies live there too, they are totally safe as long as the police don´t come, and they get out of the way when they do. There is terrible plumbing and garbage everywhere - horrible, horrible smells. We stopped in a meat shop and a man killed a live chicken for us (yuck! and sad!). I really regret wearing flip flops because it was raining and sewage was running down the street. we stopped in some guy´s house and I bought a small painting that I liked - an abstract painting of the favela. They had the paintings there for sale because of the tours teaching the people to make art instead of beg, that kind of thing. Down the street, some kids were selling some little paintings they had done on cardboard, and bracelets made out of electrical wire. I bought a tiny little crude cardboard painting of the favela with Christo the redeemer in the background. It´s so cute, just a child´s painting, I love it. The kids were cute and polite, it was 5 reals ($2.50) going to my little artist. We visited a day care center and played with the kids awhile. Wandered through the favela some more and got to peer into some houses. The whole thing was fascinating to me but I thought, some neighborhoods in Chicago or New York are like this too. Run by the drug lords. In Morro, Michiel was telling me that when he and Vishalini did the favela tour a few weeks ago, they weren´t all THAT impressed because they work with poverty in Africa every day. Few people really get to see that. The Rio favela had concrete and some (bad) plumbing, unlike parts of Africa. I´m still glad to see a little 4-person company making the most of it, helping the locals and that kind of thing. (http://www.bealocal.com/) It was an interesting opportunity for me as a dumbass middle class Chicagoan but you have to remember that this kind of thing happens all over the world, not just in Rio. I´m really glad I did it, though.

I think Kate is feeling better and we may go to Lapa for some live music for her last night. I think Kathy is still illin´. They have been such great travel buddies. Kathy and I have been on many trips and have pretty much seen it all - having things stolen, looking for a room forever, taking loooooong bus rides, but this one really takes the cake for us all getting sick at different times. The three of us have had a really good easygoing, funny trip. Having good travel buddies is key.

I just had a great dinner of random BBQ meats and some middle eastern salad at a swanky restaurant around the corner of the hostel while K & K rested in the hostel. I´ll try to stir up some more trouble in Rio for you! XO, Schirmy

Thursday, January 05, 2006

BRAZIL: goose/man-wolf/possom on the roof

Our apartment in Ilha Grande was our own separate building, surrounded by trees and thick plants. It´s spooky. After coming home last night early (2A), We crawled up into our upstairs loft, I put my earplugs and eye mask, and went right to sleep. I kept hearing Kathy and Kate talking and laughing and panicking about some noise on the roof but I just drifted off to sleep. The last I heard was "doesn´t abuela hear it??!!" (They still only call me Abuela - my grandma camera, my swollen ankles, worrying about the rain...) At 4AM, when I was fast asleep, Kate started screaming bloody murder and screamed THERE´S SOMETHING IN OUR ROOM, IT GOT IN!!! This scared the living hell out of me and I jumped out of bed, screaming, grabbed the railing and tumbled/jumped down the stairs in the dark. Kathy was screaming too. I thought there was somebody or some animal in our room. But no, Kate had some nightmare. Now I have a bunch of bruises on me and I look like someone beat me up. Apparently, they had been hearing some loud animal for hours, some scraping and knocking and sliding around on the roof so loud they couldn´t sleep. It doesn´t sound scary now, but at the edge of a tiny jungle town, in the thick trees when you are alone in your own building it´s scary as hell. They were trying to look up in the lonely planet Brazil what it could be, and apparently there is some animal called a man-wolf (!) , or something. That´s what I secretly hope it was. In the morning, the pousada lady thought it might be geese taking refuge on our roof in the rain. I´m still hoping for man-wolf. Last night was kind of creepy and sinister with the rain. It was really hard to sleep after that, it felt like a horror movie. You know when you get that horrible feeling in your gut, like when I watch the Exorcist, it was like that. It´s been a long time since I was that scared.

For our last night in Ilha grande, we went out to one of the few restaurants in town we hadn´t yet been to for some pasta, then went to the two tiny bars in the main square (where else) to people-watch. We ran into our Argentinean friends, Santiago, Thomas, Frederico, I forget all their names. We had some beer with them, then all went to their place a few blocks away, partly out of curiousity to see how messy their place was. OK, we were bored. It was raining. And it didn´t disappoint. Mattresses pulled out on the floor, the couch taken apart, a certerfold of some magazine taped on the wall (of some lady named "Sabrina"), empty pot of spagetti on the stove, nothing but beer in the refrigerator, one bottle of hand lotion on the counter (which we teased Frederico about but he insisted he really used it as hand lotion). surfing stuff, the distinct smell of 4 or 5 guys all sharing an apartment...it was funny. They had been invited to some party down the beach at the hostel but kind of needed us to get in, just so that they didn´t appear like 3 guys crashing the hostel party to hang out with the busty norweigan girls, haha. We went along anyway, figuring there might be caiaparinas and maybe some British boys for us. But there was neither so we left them there. They were fun to hang out with in Ilha Grande, our Argentinean posse, we have some pictures with them.

We are now in Rio, in Ipanema, in a cute little hostel with a nice pool and deck area. I hope I don´t snore and annoy the other people in my room. I hope Kate doesn´t wake up screaming. I hope we don´t annoy the other people in the room by singing "dragonstea din tei" by O-Zone. Remember the website/email that was sent around with that video of a fat dutch kid lip-synching that song? I have it on my ipod. We sing it pretty much every day. There is even a spanish or portuguese version that I have heard twice here. Its a euro-trash classic, look it up on Amazon.com and I´m sure you´ll recognize it, I dare you to get it out of your head. We had a nice bus ride today to Rio through green jungle-y scenery. I listened to Afterlife, Everything but the girl and some latin music, it was nice and fit the scenery. I still just love the new i-pod.

It´s still raining but we have high hopes for hang-gliding tomorrow. I have no idea what we´ll do tonight. It is so wierd being back in a big city again! The beach area is beautiful, even in the rain. I love the mosaic designs they have all over the beach-front, very 60s mod. Steep little mountains rise right near the city, it´s a cool and stunning sight. Rio must have one of the greatest skylines.

OK, what time is it? It´s caiaparina o´clock.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

BRAZIL: mistaken for a pothead

Remember on the first day, when my luggage was missing, how I bought that skirt with a Brazilian flag on it, and stripes with the colors of the flag? At the time, I wondered why it had a red stripe in it along with the green and yellow, and looked Jamaican. But never really thought about it again. Last night, when we were out, a guy gave me the thumbs up and said:

man: you like Jamaica, you like the weed?
me: uh, no, what are you talking about?
man: your skirt, you like the weed?
me: huh?"
man: you know what that means, don´t you?
me: huh? I had to buy this because American Airlines lost my backpack and I needed clothes.
man: (long laugh) Brazilians like Jamiaca, when they wear the colors, that means you like to smoke (mimes smoking a joint), you know...

So I have been wearing this skirt for two weeks that looks like I like Jamiaca, and I like the weed and the whole rasta thing. hahaha! I do like reggae music.. but not the other stuff! It has a Brazilian flag on it too. I guess when I get home I´ll have to wear it to Exodus 2 or the Wild Hare.

We are still in Ilha Grande. I had been looking forward to going to the beaches here, and today we took a 50 minute boat ride to what some consider to be the prettiest beach in Brazil, Lopes Mendes. And it was sprinkling! Actually, I really do think it was the most beautiful beach I´ve ever seen. Perfectly clear, warm, water. Surrounded by misty steep green hills and palm trees, just surreal. If it had been sunny, it would have been perfect. But I still enjoyed it and went swimming. Now it is pouring buckets outside - all there is to do it internet or watch novellas, kill some time before it´s time to go out for dinner.

We had a great time last night. I´m happy to be back in a small place where you see the same people over and over. We were watching people, having a beer in the main square - which is great because everyone in town goes to the same place at night. Sometimes people dance in the street, they mingle, it´s very social. We were laughing about this guy who was wearing a speedo with a long t-shirt and a knitted hat. Just out, without his pants on. We see that ALL the time. Brazilian men sometimes do not wear pants, even at 11PM when they are nowhere near a beach. Kate and Kathy have taken many photos of this phenomenon. Eventually he came over to meet us and told Kate that he wanted to go for a walk on the beach with her, which we have been laughing about all day. Later, we ran into our Argentinean friends and hung out with them for awhile. We are really starting to recognize everyone in town, and I´m sure they recognize us. The huge Swiss family with 6 blond, moppy-haired kids (we call the swiss family robinson), the Austrian Rick Steves-like solo tourist with the sensible hiking shoes and daypack, our Argentineans, the three other American girls in town who we´ve never talked to and like to refer to as "our rival gang"... The odd hippie woman who was doing hillarious sexually provacative stretching excersizes on the beach, the norweigan girls with breast implants, the guys with dreadlocks, the guy with one leg...

Tomorrow we go to Rio for a few days. I admit, I´ve had high expectations of Rio and might be let down. I´ve always built it up in my mind as this exotic, sunny place with samba music and beaches. I know it´s loaded with slums and cime too, but that´s just never been part of the fantasy. We´ll see if it lives up to my Getz/Gilberto-esque expectations or if I just get mugged.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

BRAZIL: In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue

After a few days in Buzios, it was time to go somewhere new. We had no real plan, though. We have been really falling into a pattern of slack. New Years day night we treated ourselves to a nice dinner at a beautiful cuban restaurant for our last night in Buzios, went to bed absurdly early (1AM) and said "whoever wakes up first goes to buy bus tickets to Rio". Thank God Kate woke up at 9 and went to the bus station while I was still sleeping. We had an hour to pack and get ourselves out. That involved checking out with our pousada hosts, Karena and Danielo.

Karena is a piece of work. She is maybe 60ish. Frizzy brassy hair from too many attempts to make dark hair blonde. She wears a red muumuu, or something like a sarong that she wraps around her slightly flabby body in a very percarious way - like if it catches on something, the whole thing will fall off. It´s just one piece of cloth. Same one every day. When we arrived, she hugged us and sat on the terrace (with hammocks and couches) and told us about her 5 husbands and some of the random places she´s lived. How some of the towns around here gave her some good times in the 60s and 70s. Her voice is similar to a truck backfiring. A combination of broken muffler and Patty & Selma from the simpsons. Years of hard living have seasoned this woman. There are pictures of her in the lobby as a young, carefree woman in the 70s, with wild, crazy hair, posing with what we guessed to be the 5 husbands. We even found a photo collage of her with, I guess, all the different husbands. Husband number 5 and co-owner of the pousada, Danielo, is just a meek little old Grandpa. Karena clearly wears the muumuu in the family. I have been imitating her laugh for days. It´s kind of a raspy bark that she gives after chuckling and rolling her eyes. She would tell us something in a combination of spanish, english and porturguese, then, heh heh, heeeeaaagh! Picture Marge Simpson doing it. Now you got it. She made sure to charge us for every little ride they gave us in their car and every single thing we consumed out of the minibar for three days. (heh heh. heeeeagh!)

We thankfully got on the morning bus to Rio, ran around the bus station trying to get tickets to Angros do Rios (by writing it on a piece of paper in portuguese from my translation book) and ran on the bus 5 minutes before it left. Another 3 hour bus ride, then a 1.5 hour boat to Ilha grande. We arrived at 10PM but could see that it was a lush, tropical paradise. We are in the south of Brazil now, and the vegetation is very different from Salvador and our first week here.
Because it is the high season, we couldn´t find a room for awhile and thought we were going to have to sleep in the Christmas manger ouside the church. We went into one place that had no room, I gave my panicked pity-on-me-face, and the guy´s friend knew of a place and walked us there, with the beer he was already drinking and his girlfriend. Wasn´t that nice? N0w we have a two story little tiny apartment (bigger than some apartment´s I´ve lived in) where we sleep upstairs in a loft with a TV (novellas for Kathy and Kate). It´s great! Even a little kitchen for abuela. I doubt I´ll cook in it, out of laziness and fear of baratas, but it´s cute.

Nightlife in this town involves two open bars in the main square by the dock. It´s a small, quaint little town. I hate the word "quaint" but that is the only way to describe it. cobblestone streets, hand-painted signs and steep green mountains rising in the distance. We had some beer at the one bar (little 2-man live band with a guitar and bongo drums) and went across the street to the other bar. We were playing "guess the nationality" and met some young Argentenian guys. Very polite, very trustworthy. We were kind of making fun of one of them because he had a mullet and they came over to talk to us. They spoke great english and knew more about American pop culture than I did. They love the OC, Gilmore girls, Everybody loves Raymond, Friends, Seinfeld, E! Wild on, E! True Hollywood story, Best week ever. How do they have time for Argentenian TV too? They were telling us how they had to study English and American history for years in school. I was very impressed. One of them asked me when America was discovered. Now keep in mind, it´s been MANY years since I learned this and couldn´t think of the answer right away.

"uuh, 15-something? 1542..."

He laughed at me. My excuse was, and I had to think fast - "Well, it´s under debate!"

I am so stupid. Hello, 1492! I remember it now. But that was how some Argentenian boys made me feel stupid. And I fully deserve it. I deserve it for not knowing who the president of Argentina is or how to speak spanish better. Fellow Americans, we are so sheltered!

Today we went to a small, beautiful, wild beach near an abandoned prison. It reminded me of Costa Rica. Thick jungle and loud bird and insect noises. Absolutely beautiful.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

BRAZIL: New Year´s eve with our new Brazilian family

Brazilian families are mighty entertaining to watch. At the water park, A boy of about 15 was wearing shorts that had the words "sexo" and "mujeras" (sex and women) all over them, while his mother was fussing over him and putting sunscreen on him. The Grandma was there, the whole families go out together everywhere, from the water park to the beach to the bar at 4AM. The WHOLE family. The guys we have observed are charming, a lot of them are cute, but they sure are mama´s boys.

For our second night in Buzios, we didn´t really know what to do because it seemed like all the bars had packages and everyone had a big night planned. This isn´t like the little thai town I was in last year. Lots of New Year´s anticipation in the air. Buzios has a real mediterranean feel to it, with the italian architecture and the whole Bridgette Bardot thing (she hung out here in the sixties, there is a statue of her by the water). In Brazil, the tradition is to wear all white, gather by the sea and throw flowers in the water at midnight. Then stay out all night. We did the best we could to wear white - Kathy had a white skirt, Kate had a white top and I had some white on my halter top (I don´t wear white when travelling, or ever! I attract dirt like Charlie Brown´s pal Pigpen.)

We had a crepe at a crepe restaurant/dance bar, then went back to the only bar we really know, Mix bar. (The previous night, thousands of people were out - it was crazy. we just kind of hid in the little mix bar because we liked the music and the caiaparinas - they had some good hits from the 90s and electronic music you know but don´t know the names of. The little Mix bar is where we hang in Buzios.). I had been feeling a little sick on and off for days. I think my body does NOT like Brazil. Like Greece, (TMI ahead warning - TMI) I have a.b. every other day, at least. I must be getting sicker because I threw up right after dinner from both ends of my body. Not due to alcohol, but likely from all the street food I eat at the beach. Like room-temperature meat empanadas that are probably hours old, and the pile of tapioca and shredded coconut on a plate with sweetened milk on it. That´s what I eat every day. So anyway, I had explosive diahrrea ALL night. At least 5 or 6 times. But I was determined to not let it ruin my good time! I was in Brazil for New Year´s and a.b. be damned, I was going to have a good time.

We sat right on the water and watched other people filter in. A big Brazilian family came and sat at the table below us. Kathy, Kate and I like to speculate about stranger´s lives and tried to figure them out. Are the dad and mom getting along? Is that the brother´s girlfriend or just an affectionate sister? That must be the gay uncle. Oh yeah, it must be.. Look at that kid! He must be the bad seed. But he´s so charming!

One of the sons was about 17, we guessed, and such a little charmer. We couldn´t stop staring at him. He had huge brown eyes, floppy black hair and looked like a little teenage lady-killer. Kate jokingly said, as Kate does, "I´m gonna make out with him!" So we watched this family for over an hour and pretended to take pictures of the sea, but really took pictures of the family. (That sounds dumb but that´s why we are all friends.) Near midnight we all gathered on the beach and threw our flowers in the water and watched some scarily close, awesome fireworks. No safety code here! The burning embers were falling right by our heads and the fireworks were directly over. So loud but so good! Seeing everyone dressed in white with the flower ritutal was really pretty and it made New Years eve seem really official. Kathy and Kate have been calling me "abuela" (grandma) because I complained about the loudness of the fireworks and I like to clean up the empty pop and beer cans out of the room. Like a grandma.

We met the family on the beach and talked to the son. Turns out he really is 20. We lied about our ages. Kate was 23 and Kathy and I were 25. (It´s nice to be 25 again.) He was really charming as expected and spoke english so well. The whole family did. They are from Sao Paulo and come here for the holidays. He likes the O.C. and we talked about different kinds of music and pop culture. The family kind of adopted us. They took family photos with us in it, then we all went inside to dance. An hour later Kate was indeed full-on making out with Bernardo, in front of his dad, mom, 2 brothers, cousin and family friends. For hours. The parents didn´t even bat an eye. It was all so normal. Dancing to electronic dance hits with the Brazilian family in a circle while the son makes out with the american girl. The mom even hugged us when they left. She even gave Kate a kiss. What a nice gringa bar hook up for my son! After dancing with the family for awhile, Bernardo has a friend who wants to meet me, Andreo. He didn´t speak english except for the standard "I tink you are very beautiful" line. I figured it would be a good idea to make out with a Brazilian on New years, just to make it official and all, so I did. He even had a gold chain, a hairy chest and a half-open white shirt. Just my type! haha. Well, not really. But it sure was funny at the time. Bernardo had warned me that he was 31 years old, and that might be a little old, me being 25 and all. I said "oh, yeah, that might be a little old". Haha, I´m 4 years older than him. And recall that I threw up a few hours earlier. Classy.

Kathy and I left and Kate came home later. I was worried that she wouldn´t be able to get in and get stuck outside with her 20 year old Brazilian, so I buried the keys under a big leaf, put rocks on it and left a note in pig latin with how to find them. I´m sorry, but that´s how my mind works at 4AM. It made perfect sense to me at the time and I thought I was being so clever. Let´s think of a secret language that no-one will figure out! So I left a note on the door: "K8 - ook-lay under the eaf-lay to your right for the ey-kay." Luckily, someone let her in at 6AM and she didn´t even see my note or have to decipher it. This morning we just had a good laugh about it. At least I tried.

We have also been enjoying Brazilian TV. Kathy and Kate have a certain novella (overly dramatic evening brazilian soap operas) that they like, I think it´s called "bang bang". It´s a drama, supposedly set in the old west, with a priest who is sleeping with a prostitute. It all seems very low budget. K & K have somehow managed to follow the storyline. Usually I lay in the hammock at that hour. This morning, though, I watched an elvis impersonator show where the people all sung in heavy Latino accents. I highly recommend the Brazilian TV. If I worked in our Brazilian office, I could place spots on Futura network on highly rated "bang bang!"

Happy New year´s everyone!