E-mail From My Brazilian Holiday...
I am officially at the very tail-end of my trip. I say this as my sister (Michelle) and brother-
in-law (Clarke) are mid-air right now on their way out to meet me in Rio.
As you all know, I have been traveling for quite some time now. Let the record state that I
never got burnt out on ‘traveling’. That being said, I did the math and I would have eight
days in Brazil before being joined by Michelle and Clarke. My last eight days of solo
traveling (as I have two friends meeting me in Buenos Aires for the final week of my trip).
All I could think was ‘I wonder when the next time I will be going on a vacation?’ For this
reason, I decided to hang up my traveling shoes and put on my vacation flip-flops (okay, I
will fess up…these are actually the same things).
Out were bus rides; in were airplane flights.
Out was buying food in supermarkets; in was eating at restaurants overlooking the water.
Out was doing a bargaining process for every purchase; in was shopping in boutiques.
Out with hostals; in with pousadas (come on…how vacation-sounding is that???).
Out were rooms without air-conditioning; in were rooms…well…with air-conditioning.
Let me say that I haven’t been challenged in any other country the way I have been out
The main source of my challenges are with the communication process…
Portuguese is not an easy language to swing. And when there aren’t a majority of bilingual
people (and I am talking about being able to also speak Spanish, not English), it proves to
be quite challenging. I learned a 5-word vocabulary upon arriving. Of those five words, I
was able to do a good job of retaining three words. I blurted these words out whenever the
opportunity arose. Everybody received an ‘Oi’ from me upon entering stores, entering
restaurants, approaching dogs (even little Westie Terriers deserve a ‘hi’, don’t you think?).
Even more than that word, I was using the Portuguese version of ‘thank you’ like it was
going out of style. Even if somebody didn’t deserve thanks, I still thanked them. I could
really only remember how to say this word because the first syllable sounded like the name
of a girl I knew back in the day. (South Africa crew – think of me and ‘buy a donkey’ in my
attempts to speak Afrikaans.)
All was going well until one day when I was about to thank a person. But then something
happened: the word slipped my mind. I stood there for about 30-seconds (a rather long
time) trying to think of it. I wanted the woman to know I was doing my part to speak
Portuguese. For that reason, I was not going to say something like ‘thank you’ or ‘gracias’
(no way was I going to use Spanish or English). So I stood there and continued to think.
Why do they have to have a word four syllables long to say something as simple as ‘thanks’?
Anyway, I had to throw in the towel. What I ended up saying was “Como se dice ‘thank
you’?” I’m not sure if anybody sees the irony of this. In not wanting to speak English or
Spanish to say thank you, I ended up using Spanish and English to ask them how to say the
word ‘thanks’. I’m a regular linguistic genius, I tell you…
Salvador de Bahia
What an amazing city! The culture there was like nothing else I have seen in the past year.
There were times where it startled me to think I was in South America. The city consists of
70% Afro-Brazilians (at least according to my pousada owner, Carlos) and they have
retained the African culture out here in ways of dance, music, religion, food and dress. The
dance that this area is known for is capoiera (I can only explain this as something that looks
like a combination of a couple people that are beginning to wrestle one another mixed with
some kickboxing moves where they swing their legs over the other one’s head mixed with
break-dancing mixed with a bit of gymnastics). And there is no better way to enjoy this than
to be sitting down with some caipirinhas while doing so.
Morro de Sao Paulo
The island of Morro de Sao Paulo was great. There were many things that made it unique.
First of all, the ‘taxis’. Very non-motorized. They actually consisted of guys pushing a wheel-
barrel. The wheel-barrel had the word ‘taxi’ painted onto it. How could a person not
instantly love this place?
The next unique quality to this area were the streets. The sand-filled streets. It felt like
walking along a beach while I was walking through town. Shoes were not necessary since
the sand was so soft. Mother Nature decided to rain on my parade (literally) the first night I
was out there. I have to say that the sand-filled streets lost much of their allure by the next
morning when they resembled something closer to tropical mud. The on-and-off storms
never relented for the duration of the time I was out there. It was a good thing for that
hammock on my pousada balcony that looked directly onto the ocean. Not a bad place to be
during a thunderstorm.
I would also be introduced to a new adventure activity out here. It was a zip-line. I know, I
know. Zip-lines are pretty common. There are many places in the world where you can zip
from one side of…let’s say…a rainforest to the other. But this one was different. This one
went down…and straight into the ocean! And I have to say that it was pretty <add any
expletive you would like> scary. I mean most adrenalin-inducing things have you going
downwards but never coming into contact with what is below. Not the case here. With this,
all you could think was ‘<Once again, add any expletive here>! How much is this going to
hurt?!?’ I should admit that the first point-of-contact wasn’t necessarily the most
wonderful-feeling sensation. But that doesn’t mean that the whole experience wasn’t
Another adventure activity (though this one was unexpected) was the ferry ride back to
Salvador. Was I back in Drake’s Passage in Antarctica???? When the nauseated-feeling
kicks in ten minutes into the trip, you know the next 1 hour and 50 minutes is going to be a
looooong ride. I removed the barf-bag from my seat and opened it up for security
measures. Then I lied down with it next to me just like Linus with his blanket. The good
news was that when I awoke, we were pulling into the port in Salvador de Bahia. And the
bag never had to be put to use.
I originally wanted to go to a more remote island. But after doing some brief research, I saw
that I was going to lose a day of traveling to get there due to the ferry schedule. Since I didn’
t have much time, I would have to put that one on hold for another time and opt for Buzios
A traveler can feel a bit grubby when arriving in this posh destination spot. But it has now
been a long time since anything like that has phased me.
This area has a good amount of activities to offer. I decided to do two different boat-rides to
different beaches/islands while I was out there. On each, I ended up being some sort of
novelty act being the lone person from Estados Unidos. Several people wanted to practice
their English on me. One guy was Ricardo who was a vet from Sao Paulo. During the
beginning of the trip, he came up to me to speak some English and profess that the U.S. is
on the top of his list of places he wants to visit. By the middle of the boat ride (and God
knows how many caipirinhas), Ricardo was starting to be an annoying drunk. He wasn’t
leaving me alone as I was really wanting to enjoy the scenery in a bit of peace (meaning I
didn’t want to listen to somebody slurring away). He then came up to me with a bee on his
finger telling me that I should love the bee as he was attempting to pet it. Oooookay. All I
can say is that I won’t be rushing to send my future English bulldog to him for its shots.
I should also point out that snorkeling + bottomless caipirinhas is surprisingly not a bad
combination. You have no concerns at all when it comes to being within inches of sea
urchins that nobody warned you about…
I made a Brazilian friend ‘Natalia’ on my other boat ride. She was with her family and she
was the only one who spoke a bit of English as she was taking classes in school. I should
also point out that Natalia was a 10-year old. Her family thought it was great that she was
speaking to someone from Estados Unidos. She asked me questions like “What’s your
name?”, “How old are you?”, “Do you like spaghetti?” You know…the common questions.
She told me in the middle of the trip that I was her friend. We then hugged. It was a
touching moment. Her family shared their grilled fish meal with me. Then Natalia and I
exchanged email addresses. Gotta love 10-year olds in Brazil having email addresses…
Buzios wouldn’t be filled with only boat rides for me. It would also include a visit to the spa.
I opted for a body mask that was good for moisturizing the body (how else was I supposed
to hydrate my salt-laden skin???). Sure I could have just loaded up on drinking water but
that wouldn’t have been nearly as fun or relaxing. And I do have to say that a relaxation
room with an infinity whirlpool that looks right onto the water is quite the way to unwind. I
could justify this because…hey…I’m on vacation!
Starting tomorrow, I will see what Rio has to offer. Clearly two weeks is nowhere near
enough time to see much of what this massive country has to offer. But I will be back. I