Dear members of the Gary Coleman fan club,
I have been back for about a week, and it took me about that long to write this. If you get bored with all of the social commentary, skip to the last story. As you read this next message, you might view my thoughts as more conservative. Two of my friends are attempting to brainwash me away from my socialist perceptions of the world. They have me reading this book, The Commanding Heights. It’s all about the world and economic policies of different countries since WWII. Needless to say, I think that they are trying to turn me into a republican, and the elephant will show it’s head in the upcoming message.
As I said in the last e-mail, one of my favorite things about Brazil is the culture. As you read in this email, you will realize that the country and the people have much stacked against them. Despite this, they continue to live a very free lifestyle. When things go wrong or do not work, they smile, shrug their shoulders, and say “that’s Brazil, pass the canchasa.” I guess it is like working for the Chicago Public School system. You go and you work hard in an attempt to do things the right way, and it always just blows up in your face in one way or another. You just get used to it, shrug your shoulders and say, “that’s CPS, pass the beer.” So I guess I work in a mini Brazil, where most have good intentions, and try, but when it just doesn’t work, you might as well laugh and have a good time with it.
I will miss the Brazilian neighborhoods. Seeing these small streets with all the kids outside playing, and the parents hanging out on the stoop or at the corner café/bar reminded me of growing up on the coolest block this side the Mississippi: Mohawk Street. Due to the fact that kids do not have a lot of room to play in their houses, and that they often can not afford Playstations or computers, Brazilian kids play in the street. Toys are few and far between, so the kids must improvise. Homemade kites, bottles attached to string become fishing poles, and any thing that is round and will roll becomes a soccer ball. Kids are independent and running everywhere barefoot like my cousin Willie used to. We used to create all of these toys and games in a place known as the “dirt lot,” and we were independent. Look at kids now in the US. Parents will not let their kids walk to school alone, but they will let them sit on the couch all day, watch sponge bob (what the fuck is that thing anyway?), play on their myspace, get them a cell phone at age 10, and feed them all the cheetos and McDonalds that they want. Parents, you can learn something from Brazil, kick the kids off the couch and out of the house, make them become independent and exercise. They have a patriotic duty to fulfill…this next generation must keep the lead on Australia and maintain our status as the 2nd fattest country per capita on the planet!
The gigantic sand dunes of cumbuco, negotiations and deals in Portunol for planes (Portuguese + Spanish = Portunol) , trains, automobiles, and boats (It was often actually just a little more expensive to fly rather than taking a 24 hour bus), Jiu-Jitsu in Fortaleza, a half tank/half bus that cruised down the beaches at night to get to the magical dune town of Jericoacora, a big headache that took some of the magic out of Jericoacara, another dune buggy ride, acai, a lake in the middle of the dunes, maybe quicksand, rice and beans, cervejas, some capoiera, a mototaxi, the desolate Amazon town of Belem (see Detroit), a cool Argentine named Julio, some cooler chicks from Belem, a good zoo with Amazon animals, including my favorite, the 3 toed sloth, lots of dirty laundry, canchasa, more rice and beans, the island of Marajo (the size of Switzerland), a cool party in the center of the island, a swim in the Amazon, a ride on a water buffalo, a parasite on my leg from the water buffalo (eewwhh!!), and last but not least, I ate a water buffalo steak with water buffalo cheese (hopefully that was parasite free), 3 plane delays, 8 consecutive days sleepin in a hammock (it is actually quite comfortable), malaria pills, the romantic getaway of Alter do Chao, river dolphins, white sand beaches 400 miles up the Amazon, another mototaxi, brazil nuts, and some rude French backpackers, a cool chick named Natally, cold nights in the hammock, good Brazilian bootlegged mixed martial arts DVDs, the arainha jungle lodge, A cool Irish couple, a cool Italian couple, I caught a red piranha, I made acai juice, I watched the wonders of the manioc tuber and the process of making farofa (Indian staple flour), lots of misquotes, coconuts, even more rice and beans, more capoiera, more cervejas, crocodile hunting (actually caiman hunting, but crocodile sounds cooler and more dangerous, we, er I should say the guide caught three of them), more misquotes, the Manuas opera house, about 18 hours straight on planes, Venice Beach, Vega$ (I won $15, yippie!),the circus circus, a cheesy Hollywood part DJ’d by some tool named Nick Cannon, and last but not least, the world famous Roscoe’s chicken and waffle house.
I saw the sunset into the Atlantic Ocean twice. So you need to think about it, the Atlantic is to the east of Brazil, and that is where the sun rises from. So how does geography permit it to set into the Atlantic? Kinda cool…
I am not impressed with the Brazilian educational system. Kids only go to school for 3-4 hours a day. Kids in big cities can drop out at anytime and become the illiterate trinket sellers or pickpockets of society. At times it is difficult to accomplish little everyday things because a lot of the population did not eat their wheaties. Let me give you some examples " I needed to buy a bus ticket from Rio de Janeiro to Cachoeira, Bahia. Cachoeira is very close to Salvador, and a bus to Salvador took 27 hours. As the worker searched on the computer, he found a ticket that would take me from Rio to Cachoeira in 5 hours. I told him that it was impossible, and showed him the map. He still tried to tell me that it was the correct ticket. I briefly thought that perhaps Brazil had some super bus that travels at 300 miles an hour and is hidden deep in the rainforest. It is powered by street kids running in gerbil cages in Rio. Brazil hides this Superbus technology from the rest of the world and keeps it just to themselves. I had to convince the ticket seller that there had to be another Cachoeira in another state that was appearing on his computer. He still did not believe me (he really liked the superbus). Finally, he finds the Cachoeira that I am looking for - 23 hour bus ride. I was able to find a plane ticket for about the same price.
I had to leave my hostel in Rio for a weekend. The night watchman who had worked there for more than a year could not calculate $30 reals a day for 10 days. He thought that I was trying to rip him off, and that I owed $500 reals.
I would ask for the bill in Spanish “Cuenta.” In Portuguese it is “Conta.” People thought that I was speaking Japanese. Where is the common sense person - Look at the table, the food is all gone, I am signaling for the check with my hand. I am saying basically the same word in Spanish….comprende guey…..ssshhhiiitttt!!!! I needed to bite my tongue before exploding a la Larry David. It takes a lot for me to do that, but I was close.
After encountering so many Brazilians with empty craniums, I felt even more proud of the outstanding educational system that I serve, the wonderful world of the Chicago Public Schools. I will hereby declare Brazil as the dumbest country that I have ever been to. Granted they do have a free university system, and I did meet many intelligent Brazilians, but there were far too many people that slipped through the cracks of the educational system. By the way, that does not happen in Cuba, long live Communism J! They are educated and no street kids.
I met a lot of people from United Kingdom on this trip. I was shocked to discover that it is not a big deal if they do not carry a state ID card. The card that they do receive does not have a picture on it! So if they get in trouble with the police, they can just lie and give their fiends name and address and the friend will receive the ticket. I told them what we do in the USA, and they claimed it might be a violation of our civil rights and privacy. I told them that American citizens have this tendency to lie when we are in trouble with the police. They could not understand my concern with national security. Shit, they have a major terrorist attack every six months in England. Idiots, but God Save the Queen.
My last night in Brazil…I had two choices in how I was going to say goodbye to this wonderful country. I could go out with this girl Natally, that I met on the Amazon river boat and have her show me around Manuas. Or I could go out with this crew I met at a jungle lodge to a crazy club with chicks taking their shirts off and such. Two very good options, which one to choose? I chose to go out with Natally. I take some cab to some far away neighborhood, and she meets me out in front. She kisses me and holds my hand as we enter a courtyard. I see a Brazilian barbecue pit blazing, and I see about 12 people seated with some guy standing in the middle. As we get closer, I start to decipher the speakers Portuguese….”the people try and get you to hang out in the club with them, away from your family so you can drink beer and socialize and the drugs…” I start to look around at the people and I notice they all have a book…The Bible! So here I am, thinking that I am going to have a nice night out with a chick, and I end up at a Brazilian bible study. Next thing I know I am holding hands with everybody singing about Deus (Brazilian for God). I even join in with the crowd where some lady is standing in the middle praying to God, and we all have to raise our right hands with our palms facing her so that she feels us our power or we feel her or something like that. I even impress Natally with my biblical knowledge, as one of the readings that we were studying talked about Rei Davis. I asked her if it was King David, and made a sling like gesture. She must have thought, “wow, what a smart American, able to translate from the bible in a different language”J. As service continues, I keep picturing my friends at the crazy club, dancing to house music, chicks with their shirts off, and then I look up and here I am again, sitting in this circle, holding hands with Natally, and then I gotta hold hands with this dude to pray! Shit, how do I put myself into these situations? Do other backpackers encounter the samething? During the service I have to bite my lip to avoid chuckling because all that I can think about is writing this ending to my letter. After the service/bible study/cult ritual, whatever you want to call it, we all start the traditional Brazilian asado barbecue. That part was fun, as everybody was very friendly and we all cooked together. A few hours later they dropped me off at my $10 a day hotel, and I said good be to Brazil as a young republican should, with a bible study.
Maybe the parasite that I got from the waterbuffalo is a republican…maybe it is taking me over…….but back to my socialist ways, Rage Against The Machine is playing at Alpine Valley on Friday, Aug. 24. If anyone wants to go, let me know. If you want to see pictures, you gotta visit me in Rogers Park. Next year, who knows, may be Asia.
Peace and Hairgrease,