afterthoughts

Brazil Travel Blog

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For me, Brazil was like and all you can eat buffet for the senses. Often overwhelming (like most buffets) but never boring. Quite simply, I never got tired of looking at anything. It assaulted my senses and delighted them at the same time. No wonder Brazilians are usually smiling! It was one of the most intense places I have ever been, but absolutely never let me down in any department. Brazil is an amazing place. I left wanting to return immediately. For all the hassle it took getting there, it was worth every bit.
The first (among many) mistakes that I made was not bringing a rain jacket, or umbrella with me during the wettest month of the year, February. I guess I just forgot. But it seemed every time I needed to go anywhere with any kind of bag, I got soaked. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of sun, but there was a hell of a lot of rain too. Weird. It wasn't raining in any of the pictures I have seen of Brazil........
They have buffet restaurants where you pick out what you want to eat and you pay based one how much it weighs, regardless of what is on your plate. Great idea! Even better? A pay-by-weight ice cream place! Let me tell you, the first time I saw one of these I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Seriously. 50 flavors, all the sauces and candy condiments you can imagine and the smallest bowl available easily fits a three scoop sundae with various toppings! And that's the smallest bowl! Screw lunch. Screw dinner too! I just want per-kilo ice cream! The stomach cramps afterwards did not dissuade me one bit. I ate a lot of ice cream in Brazil.
I wasn't as lost with Portuguese as I thought I would be. It's similar to Spanish, so I ended up relying on that most of the time. So a typical exchange between myself and a Brazilian would start with me looking perplexed, uncomfortable and obviously in need of something, slightly wincing and guardedly offering a few words in Spanish, after the usual Portuguese greeting. This was usually followed by an encouraging smile from the Brazilian and a flourish of Portuguese, most of which I did not understand. It's great for the Brazilians, as most can understand Spanish, maybe can't speak it so Portuguese is offered in the response. Not so great for me who can get my needs across but can't understand the response. Although many words are written similar or have the same roots, the pronounciation is completely different so it threw me through a loop in the beginning. Not many Brazilians I encountered spoke English, but I found myself speaking English all the time in the hostels, it seemed to be the common language. It felt strange almost to speak English all the time agian, after speaking virtually none in Argentina for the three months prior to my adventures in Brazil.
I feel really hypocritical writing this, but I feel an overwhelming urge to say it.......American tourists are really annoying! I found myself cringing whenever I would hear that grating North American accent piercing the virgin air (exactly the same accent that comes out of my mouth I might add). The last night I was in Salvador there was an older American man staying at the hostel. He wanted to put his valuables in the safe behind the reception because he didn't trust the lockers that the hostel provided for each guest in their respective rooms. Well, the safe was broken and the person working at the reception didn't want to take the man's valuables and put them in a broken safe. So the man demanded to know when the safe would be fixed. The man working responded that he didn't know. Chances are the safe had been broken for some time, and probably wouldn't be fixed for some time. The man stormed off and blurted that he would check back later. So the best part was several hours later when the man returned and asked the new person working if the safe had been fixed. The new person working was not an english speaker. The new man working responded "I don't speak English', obviously the only phrase he knew in English. The American became angry and said, still in English, "Oh you don't speak English? Well then, when is there going to be somebody here who can speak English?" and he glared angrily at the man behind the counter. And then nobody said anything because the angry man was waiting for a response from the non-english speaking man who obviously didn't understand him and couldn't respond so then he just turned and walked away. I stood there watching the whole thing, at one point considering trying to translate, but then I thought, like the bitch I am, if this asshole isn't making a single effort to try to communicate with this man in a language he understands while IN that country, I feel very little desire to try to help him solve his problem. It became apparent that this idiot planned on prancing around Brazil without learning a single foreign word and then get pissed off when people don't speak his language to him when HE'S THE ONE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY! Arghhhhhhhhhh! I feel like the worst ones are the Americans. They just expect everyone to cater to them and their 'universal' language. Boo!!! My experience with Brazilians was that they are very friendly and appreciate any attempt at all (no matter how butchered) to speak Portuguese or Spanish or something they can understand. Even just a few words. Hey American dude, 'por favor' and 'obrigado' go a long way!!!!
The people watching on Ipanema beach is spectacular. Not only did I see every type of thong bikini (fio dental=dental floss) but every shape, color, age, nationality, and socioeconomic group was represented. Not only could you see every type of person imaginable, you could purchase anything under the sun (a wicked hot one at that). My favorite sight was when I was lounging one day with two Australian girls and a Canadian guy. The Canadian guy was laying flat on his back, totally relaxed, well as relaxed as one can be on Ipanema beach.....when a man walked up to him and threw this kind of flying spinning toy made of garbage that landed on his stomach. Canadian guy was startled and looked up to see what foreign object had come in contact with his skin and obviously needed to evaluate whether it needed to be removed quickly. As he looked up, staring back at him with a grin was the vendor. Canadian guy threw the toy back at vendor guy as in to say 'no thanks leave me alone please' but alas too late! By throwing back the toy to Smily Vendor Guy, he engaged in a game with the toy. How fun! Vendor guy throws garbage toy back to Canadian guy who more quickly throws garbage toy back at Smily Vendor Guy who picks up the pace and returns the toy again and so on. It was really funny to watch how uncomfortable Canadian guy became when just a few short moments before he was laying on his back relaxing more or less undisturbed. Ipanema beach is also a really great place to get a sunburn. With the exception of my very first day in Brazil, I had peeling skin for the rest of the trip. My favorite ice breaker became "Hi, I'm Sara, I'm at war with the sun and I'm losing"
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