Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Brazil Part II - Rio de Janiero - A Small Touch of Paradise

So when I last left off on the story we had just finished with the English Convention in Sao Paulo. We had a house with people who took us everywhere, and were more or less babysitting us all week. Now began the real adventure of the trip; the journey to Rio de Janiero.

This is the part of the trip where me and Xerxes parted ways and each followed our own path. He left by plane from Sao Paulo to meet his parents in Rio, and then stay with them in a hotel once he arrived. Originally i had planned on renting a car with another friend from the English group in BA, and driving up from SP to Rio, and then after our week driving back to SP and flying home to BA from there. But at the last min this friend was not able to go (Pablo!!!) so i was stuck with a ticket returning from SP to BA.

So instead of paying for another roundtrip ticket, i decided to take a bus from SP to Rio. I promise the image of a dirty Grayhound that is coming up into your mind is not accurate. In Argentina and Brazil, the bus system is much nicer, and much more extensive than what we have in the states. In fact it is far more popular than flying here, and it cost only a fraction of the cost. I personally believe that its a great way to see the countryside. So for about 40 bucks i got a one way ticket to Rio from SP, a distance of about 270 miles.

After an overall uneventful ride, (the scenery was lovely though) i arrived in Rio late. I grabbed a cab and headed for the scribbled address i had for the brother i was going to be staying with in Rio, my new friend Gilson. After arriving at his place (somehow i manged to get a cab, tell him where to go, get in the door, and get upstairs without any Portuguese) me and Gilson went out for a nice Rio dinner around 1 am. My favorite part of the whole night was when i got to his place, at first he was not there, but his elderly mother who live with him was there to greet me. She dear sister insisted on trying to communicate with me, despite that fact that she spoke no English or Spanish, and I spoke no Portuguese. After about 10 min of just being completly incomprehensible to each other Gilson finally arrived home.

The next day, my first in Rio was spent mainly just getting "Pleasantly Lost" as I have termed it. I have found that one of the best ways to explore a city, is to pick a place you want to get to, and try to get there on your own, by walking if you can, and then try to get home. So i wanted to see the world famous beaches of Rio, Copacabana, Impanema, and Leblon. So i started out that way (Its easy to get there, Gilson has a sweet pad that is only 5 blocks from Copa, and 8 from Impanema). And well, blah, blah, blah, half the day later, i was very tired, but deeply touched by the natural beauty of this place.

After dinner that night with Xerxes, his parents, and a few others, I went home and crashed.

Me and Pablo's Lady after she came out to dinner with us one night...

Day II in Rio
- Corcovado

I went and met Xerxes and his parents for a trip to the top of Corcovado to visit the Christ The Redeemer statue, and with it the best view in the city. To say that this was an amazing view would be the greatest understatement ever! However there simply is no way to convey to you what it was like being up there.

To get to this, the highest mountain in Rio you take a rustic, historic train to the top. At the top is the huge Statue of Christ with his arms open to the city below (Im sure all of these people live their lives like they care at all...). All of it is set on this almost unearthly, surreal set of stone platforms. At one point its like walking on a sidewalk that is simply floating in the clouds. (See picture below)

Once you are there you are simply put into a trance as you begin to take in the vista that is all around you. Beyond breathtaking, this simply stopped my dead in my tracks. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be the first Portuguese to have climbed this hill and looked out over this amazing place. It is not so much that the City of Rio is all that great (not bad, looks a lot like Miami) but Where this city is built, the harbor, and beaches, and the coast, will without a doubt in the minds of anyone that has sen it, be among the top 5 most beautiful places on Earth. And now where is that better seen than from the feet of Jesus (or at least this huge statue of him) atop Corcovado. My only regret is that i did not have my nice SLR camera, because these photos on my little tiny compact camera simply do not do it justice.

That night, as with the night before, our friends from the local English congregation (Thanks again Patricia, and Bob-Rachel) took us out to eat Sushi. We had a nice little sit on the floor table with paper walls and everything at this place we went. Brazil has one of the largest populations of Japanese people in the world. As such if you find a good place, run by real Japanese, you can get great Sushi.

This reminds me of a lyric i once heard talking about the hypocrisy of Religions
"Selling Skin, selling God,
The numbers look the same on their credit cards"
Meaning: While on the streets of Rio you can go find more Immoral, things than you would ever believe this world can offer, you come up here, and you see this huge Jesus, and then at the bottom of it you find them selling anything and everything they can with his picture on it for money. In the end both are just for the money, and run by the same people.

Day III & IV in Rio - Beach Bumming it, Samba, & More Beac
h Bumming

The next two days became less and less interesting to read about. Basically I just bummed it out hardcore on the beach. About 6 hours of sleeping all together, and countless more simply hanging out on the endless expanse of white sand, and fighting against the endless, fierce South Atlantic waves. I had wanted to rent a surfboard and spend the rest of the week just attempting to conquer the surf, but i was unable to find a shop that would rent (I guess next time i will just have to borrow one from Pato).

Later that night our new friends from the hall took us out to a Museum / Restaurant / Antique store / Samba hall for dinner. This was a super cool place and for some reason i did not take a single picture of it. I guess it will forever have to live only in my memory. But rest assured that we had a great time. After a fine dinner, we headed to the dance floor downstairs to enjoy the live band and learn to Samba. This would turn out to be the last night for Xerxes and his parents in Rio as the next day they flew to BA to spend a week there.

Xerxes and his Parents - Note the nice Devil Beard he has going on here....

The Final Adventure - The Meeting & Getting Home

This whole time I still not sure how i was going to make it back to Sao Paulo to catch my 10 am Sunday flight back to BA. After the meeting (Which was Saturday Afternoon) I was able to finally buy a return bus ticket back to SP leaving from the station at Midnight. After somehow managing to get the people at the station to give me my ticket; I guess hanging them my confirmation number, passport, credit card, and pointing at the screen with my name on it, and saying confirmation in Portuguese was not a clear enough way of telling them that I had a reservation - I finally got my ticket and began my epic journey back to BA.

This is what happens when you give a camera to a little kid, They find you at the best moments.

I arrived back in SP the next morning at 6 am. I had planned on taking the Airport shuttle from the bus terminal to the airport. imagine how frustrated I was when they told me that it only when to the other airport, and the one i needed (this was despite the fact that Gilson had called and asked if it went to my airport and they said YES). So not wanting to sit in traffic for 2 hours to get to the other side of the largest city in South America (and spending 50 USD to do it) discovered that I could take the Subway. If only i could figure out the map that was in some this strange, alien language i could get there. One long subway ride, short cab ride, and 90 min later I had done it, i made it to the airport.

Once there I had 3 hours before my flight to get on the plane and head back to good old Argentina. Once again, imagine my shock when they started telling me that they didnt have my reservation! I had to leave the counter and go over to the help desk. And wouldn't you believe it, that despite everyone in the service industry in the world speaking English, all 8 people in there did not. After nearly an hour in line, i did finally manage to get up there only to have to try and work with translating from Portuguese into my limited Spanish, and then into English. And then somehow reverse the whole thing tell her what I needed. Again somehow I manage to be blessed with a miracle and they found my reservation.

2 hours later, with barley an hour to make it through customers, baggage, and security, i somehow managed to get to my plane on time and off i went. Now all that remained was to make all 3 connection, not loose my bags, and once i returned to Argentina meet the guy from the Apartment agency at my apartment and get the keys to my apartment.

Even with a few bumps with my bags, i did finally mange to land in one piece 8 hours later in Buenos Aires. I never thought i would be so happy to hear people speaking Spanish in my life! It was not close to 730 pm, with suitcase and vastly overloaded backpack (Before i left I took most of my things to a friends house and left them there, since i did not rent an apartment while i was gone just to save pay for the place to be empty for two weeks. However after dropping everything off i remembered that i forgot to empty my one dresser out so i had to lug a lot of extra stuff with me for two weeks in Brazil) in tow i rolled up to my apartment right on time to meet the guy with the keys. After somehow managing to pull off so many 11th hour victories over the course of my 22 hour sojourn, I simply could not have been prepared for what awaited me...The guy got mixed up, and thought i was coming in at 8 AM, not PM. So tired, bags in tow, and very VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY HUNGRY, I waiting in the hallway for 2 and a half hours for nothing. After calling every number i had, I decided to try and go to Xerxes to meet up with his roommates and try to email the agency. They were kind enough to let me stay there that night (The next day i did manage to get in).

So after everything i finally made it home. I did manage to finally get something to eat, (Empanadas have never tasted so good) ad i even made it in time to go and play soccer with some guys from the hall (I know i normally am not that good, but after such a long trip, no sleep, and overstuffed with Empanadas i was even worse than normal).


I am so pleased with the way my Brazilian adventure turned out. I got to meet a lot of really amazing people and make many new friends, visit one of the most awe-inspiring places on God's green Earth, and even have a bad travel experience that while terrible to have gone through, now in hindsight will hopefully bring laughs to all of my friends and family back home. And in the end isn't that really what we are really out here to do...

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