February 28, 2004

Maybe it's time to come home when...

  • You sleep better on a bus then in a bed
  • More than two changes of clothing seems extravagant.
  • A three-day beard is well groomed.
  • Diesel fumes no longer choke you
  • At 25 degrees you need a sweater.
  • You no longer care if movies are subtitled
  • You have trouble typing on an American keyboard
  • 56kbs is fast.
  • Webmail is fine.
  • Viruses spread by email don't concern you, viruses spread by mosquitos do.
  • You no longer bother with bug repellant or sunblock.
  • Your English is getting rusty
  • Locals ask you for directions
  • You don't stop for red lights either.
  • You can drink the water.
Posted by dhuska at 03:59 PM | Comments (3)

February 24, 2004

Salvador da Bahia, Brasil

Drums, music, sweat, rhythm, dancing. This is what I wanted Carnaval to be. This is what I found in Salvador.

As elsewhere in Brazil, all week huge bloccos composed of sound trucks, musicians and hundreds of dancers wind their way through thick crowds in the streets. Smaller groups of dancers and musicians wind through the steep and narrow cobblestone of old town Salvador. Tribal drummers, capoieristas, brass bands, costumed dancers and spectators all squeeze together and move about the city as one concerted yet chaotic sea of people. Music and dance surrounds always.

Yesterday was Mardi Gras - the climax of Carnaval. This morning, exhausted, I watched the sun come up on Lent signaling the end of the festivities and starting the second half of the world's biggest binge/purge celebration. The city will be a lot quieter now, though not the solemn observance I was expecting.

This won't be my last Carnaval here.

Posted by dhuska at 05:45 AM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2004

Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

Trying to explain Rio in a few paragraphs is difficult. Trying to explain Rio at Carnaval in a few paragraphs is hopeless. If you've seen it for yourself, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, get here. This place is insane.

For the first time on this trip, I'm not able to talk to the locals. In the south of Brazil and São Paulo, I was able to speak slow, clear Spanish, and they would reply in slow, clear Portuguese. The two languages are close enough that we could get most things across awkwardly. This isn't working at all in Rio - the accent is different and the local's exposure to Spanish is minimal - but if I had to pick a place to get by with body language, this would be it. I doubt there's friendlier, funnier, more laid-back people anywhere on the planet.

São Paulo was all about night. The restaurants and clubs there are some of the best in the world. Rio is about the day. Some of the best beaches in the world - Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana - are literaly steps from the city. White sand, blue water and minimal clothing are status quo.

I spent the afternoon today in Rio's largest favela: Rocinha, a slum that is home to a quarter million people. Favelas are shantytowns that are home to 20% of Rio's population, or about 1.3 million people. I'll let the shots I took there show what the hillside communities look like, but they can't convey the stench of poverty, decay and sewage that permeates the place. They also show only the "tamer" side of the favela. Taking out a camera in the worst areas would have been stupid. The inhabitants in Rocinha fall under the protection of one of two warring drug lords. I don't. And obviously, taking pictures of drug dealers is asking for trouble. Ditto pictures of the scariest millitary police I've ever seen - they were in the favela on a drug raid. Pics will be up soon.

Posted by dhuska at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2004

Florianópolis, Brasil

After Tierra del Fuego, I came back for another killer week in Buenos Aires, then went up Iguazu falls. Smack in the middle of the jungle on the border of Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu is taller than Niagara and twice as wide. You can't help but be awed by the power flowing over the falls - or at how people have harnessed it. 45 minutes to the east on the Paraná river which separates Brazil and Paraguay, the two countries have built the world's largest hydroelectric dam: Itaipu. This thing breaks records all over the place. Words fail. Take a look at the site (English and Spanish versions available) or here.

I crossed into Brazil at the falls and after hanging around the small towns on either side of the border for a few scorching days (42 degrees average), I've made my way to Florianópolis on the coast where the ocean cools things down into to the high-thirties. Florinopolis has gorgeous beaches, but not a whole lot else going on. I'll spent about four days here in all, then up the coast to São Paulo and Rio.

About Carnaval: I had originally planned on spending it in Rio - the first place that came to mind when I thought of Carnaval - but after talking to a number of travelers and many Brazilians, I've changed my mind. It seems Rio's Carnaval is an spectator-only event, over-marketed globally to those who simply want to come, watch, and leave. The more authentic Mardi Gras are to be found in smaller towns and cities all over the country. I will be spending mine in Salvador, the heart of Brazil's African roots on the northeast coast of the country.

Posted by dhuska at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)