Friday, February 27, 2009

Think about it...

Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that you are exactly where you want to be, doing exactly what you want to do, with exactly who you want to be with at that exact moment (lots of exactly´s, but necessary for my point)? I´ve had a couple of those moments in the past few years, but they happened to be when I was spending time with good friends. This isn´t to say I haven´t been happy the past few years, because I have, but in the back of my mind I always had thoughts of what I still had to get done, or where I had to be the next day, or who I had to speak to. These thoughts of responsibility didn´t ever keep me from having a good time, but they were an ever-present reminder of obligation. Last night I had one of these rare, purely happy moments. After having changed locations yesterday, I was sitting by myself at a cafe in the early evening, reading a book called Eat, Pray, Love (one about pleasure, spirituality, and the combination of the two), sporadically watching the people go by, and I realized that this was one of those rare moments. I was genuinely happy to be alone in the midst of the city hustle and bustle reading a book and people watching. While this isn´t the first time I´ve done something of this nature (as in sitting and reading at a cafe), it is the first time in a long time that I have felt no obligation to do anything I didn´t feel like doing. And I was alone. Don´t get me wrong, I love my friends and family and often wish for their company, but I was perfectly content with my own company. I heard a friend of mine say once that ´if you´re not your own favorite person, you´re not trying hard enough.´I suppose that is one thing that this trip is about for me: becoming my own favorite person. I will always have other favorite people, of course, but I should be first and foremost dammit! Anyway, not much has happened in the past few days by way of action, so I thought I´d share this bit of self-reflective information with you. Maybe it will make you reflect as well...

Monday, February 23, 2009

And on the eighth day, we rest

Thank gosh. The past two days of blockos have been extremely fun, but after 8 hours each day in 90 degree weather, accidentally rubbing arms against other sweaty, dancing robots, and getting five different burn lines despite applying and reapplying sunscreen, I was ready for a bit of a break. So we stayed at home today and I read one of my books, wrote a little, and chilled out. I even got to do some laundry. But enough of this uneventful day, you want the good stuff...
Yesterday we were in downtown Rio by 830am and my host took me to see the famous steps of Lapa. A Chilean artist has been working since 1990 on building tile into around 180 steps. It started with the tiles being only the colors of the Brazilian flag, but has since evolved into tiles from all over the world. My description isn't doing it justice, so google it: "the Selaron Stairway". We walked up and down and even met the artist, who happened to be doing paintings of the stairway...He asked where I was from and when I told him Los Angeles, he asked in Portuguese whether I knew of Snoop Dogg, who had called his stairs "beautiful".
We went on to a bloco which was pretty similar to the herd of cattle from the day before, but with less marching and with more people hanging and dancing on buildings. From there we went to Ipanema Beach for another bloco, and this one stretched for at least 3 miles along the strand. We were dancing and singing (I was basically just mouthing sound) when a hole parted in the crowd and these two statuesque and busty Brazilian women started samba-ing like crazy. Standing nearly six feet tall and wearing incredibly skimpy clothing, they were spinning like a pinwheels so aggressively I wondered if they were on acid. Noticing strange looks around me I started to examine them more closely, and (wouldn't you know it) under their heavily made-up faces and Rapunzel-like hair was the significant presence of Adam's apples. My friend told me they were "he-shes", and they were getting looks from everyone. It was hard not to, really, since they were dancing so relentlessly, tossing their heads back like elephants waving their trunks (no phallic reference intended). They were truly mesmerizing, especially when one's nipple became exposed without his-her knowing it, but he-she continued to dance. Why should it matter I guess? It's like a man having his shirt off, right...??

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tranny Cattle

It's almost 7pm here and I'm watching the Wayans Brothers television show dubbed in Portuguese at my host's house. It just isn't as funny when you can't understand it, though I never thought it was very funny in English either. My host and his family are very nice and live in an apartment outside of the city in a town called Iraja. It's pretty run-down, sort of like being in East LA, but I've got a bed and a roof. My host speaks a bit of English too, so we've been helping each other with our respective languages. His English is much better than my Portuguese, however, and when he and his parents are speaking I get the feeling they might be laughing at my ineptness. They're trying to teach me a few things though, and with the help of my host's English-Portuguese dictionary and my new phrase book (!), I have learned a little.

Today we took the bus and the subway to the downtown area of Rio to meet up with some other couch surfers and hosts and go to the blocos aka street parties. Everyone was dressed up in something, whether it be a subtle mask (like me) or a full-on outfit. There were fairies, brides, flappers, and those were just the men! Women dressed in similar garb, though some were dressed as men as well. We drank a few cheap beers and then marched the streets of Santa Teresa dancing to the samba drums and whistles and chants. There were so many people, and since everyone was a part of this ongoing parade, it was as if we were being herded like cattle; transvesite, drag queen cattle. With all the bodies around us it was basically an orgy without all the sex, though I'm sure there probably was at some point. We finally made it out of there and moved on to another street where we were much closer to the samba band and actually got a chance to move around rather than march the whole time. It all reminded me of tailgating with no game to attend, and just dancing for the helluvit. While it was all very fun and crazy and eye-opening, I'm happy to be back at my host's home in the "safety"of East LA (at least for now, because it starts all over again in about 12 hours). Wish me luck...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A lovers´quarrel is the same in any language

I had to walk over a mile through many hoardes of construction workers to get to this Internet Cafe so that should tell you how committed I am to updating this...

After two adventurous nights in the poorly named Mellow Yellow Hostel, I moved to a much more mellow hostel in the Urca area of the city. Both nights at the previous place I was out with my dorm-mates til about 3 in the morning. It was fun, but that is not exactly what I want this trip to be about, so I was very happy to move to the place I was at last night and will be tonight as well. It is located in a more suburban neighborhood and is much less commercial than the other area. It actually reminds me a lot of San Pedro because there are many fishermen and sailboats in the bay right across from the building. The fact that it is less touristy is something I like too, yet this also has made it more difficult to communicate, so I´ve been pretty quiet the past couple days.
I went to an outdoor cafe last night for an early dinner and pointed to the only thing on the menu that I understood: pizza. It was actually very good and apparently I made friends with the waiters because when I saw them today in a completely different location, they came up and said hello to me. As I was sitting there last night looking at a lovely view of the bay at sunset, I saw couple obviously having an argument. I tried to judge by the body language what they were saying, and I think it went something like this:

Man: I hate how you are always flirting with other guys!
Woman: I can´t help it if I´m gorgeous and they want to talk to me!
Man: Well then I can´t be with you anymore.
Woman: No, please don´t say that!
Man: It´s me or them.
Woman: after a long pause...You I guess.
Then they kissed and made up.

So you see what I resort to when I can´t really communicate with anyone? I think I might need to buy a Portuguese dictionary or a phrasebook...

I´m moving to someone´s couch tomorrow so hopefully I´ll be able to update a bit more often. Carnival aka Mardi Gras starts today and lasts through next Wednesday, so there are sure to be some interesting stories to come...Bon dia!

Monday, February 16, 2009

There are lots of middle-aged men with beer bellies wearing bikini bottoms

Well I arrived this morning around 830 after 18 hours in the air, so I was a little beat but I´ve managed not to crash just yet. The taxi driver from the airport to my hostel was pretty cool, and even though he did change his shirt while he was driving, he was very nice and patient as we tried to speak broken Spanish to each other. I asked him about soccer and he told me what teams he liked, and I tried to tell him I played in the US but I don´t think it made quite an impact on him...we then discussed the weather and the traffic while listening to Marvin Gaye, so really it wasn´t too big of a stretch from being out of LA.
These first couple of nights I´m staying in a hostel called the Mellow Yellow Hostel and it´s pretty foreign to me considering I´ve never stayed in one. I´m in a 10 bed mixed dorm with a couple guys from New Zealand, one other girl and some other guys I have yet to meet, and with the exception of exchanging idle ´´hellos´´ we haven´t interacted much. I´ll have to come out of my shell a bit I think...
I took a walk down to the famous Copacabana Beach and strolled along the strip until I stumbled upon a boys´soccer team practicing in the sand. They were doing speed and agility and skill work in this 85 degree weather, so naturally I sat down to watch them while having my first Caipirhina (similar to a mojito but without mint and made from sugarcane rum). I marveled at their level of skill since a lot of what they were doing was stuff I didn´t learn til my last year in high school and even in college. Soccer is different down here.
I´m possibly meeting up with a man who owns his own production company down here to pick his brain about the business. He produces mainly documentary films, which is something I´m very interested in, so I hope he can spark some ideas and maybe even help me get my foot in the door. If nothing else he´s a good contact to have and will be a friend to me if I need anything.
Anyway, I´ll do my best to update this frequently and thanks to all who helped me get here. Now we´ll just have to wait and see what happens...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Leavin on a Jet Plane

So this is my blog for the next few months while I'm in Brazil and Argentina. I leave Los Angeles on Sunday morning and arrive on Monday morning in Rio de Janeiro where I'll be until the end of March. From there I'll be traveling to Buenos Aires, the "Paris of South America". I figured this would be the most efficient way to communicate with everyone about the goings-on of my trip, and it will also give me a chance to work on writing a bit. Being an art major obviously doesn't require a heck of a lot of writing, so I'm somewhat out of practice. I hope to get better as I go along...
I'm really excited to finally go off on my own, but for this reason I'm also a bit nervous. Two-and-a-half months all by my lonesome is pretty heavy to take in right now, but I know I'll make some friends along the way. At this point my Spanish is rusty and my Portuguese is limited (I really only know how to order a shot of rum, which is "uma doce de hum" just in case you needed to know), but I'll be around a lot of native speakers where I'm staying so I'm sure I'll pick up some stuff. For the time I'm in Rio I'll be "couch surfing"; for those who don't know what this means, is a website that combines social networking similar to facebook and myspace and couches or places to stay while abroad. The hosts are generally natives looking to make friends and offer hospitality to travelers in exchange for learning more about other cultures and languages. From what I understand, it is a great way to travel not only for the friends and experiences, but also for the price (it's free), though this fact is definitely not the main reason to do it. It is actually stressed on the website that if someone is just looking for a cheap place to stay, then couch surfing is not the best option; the friendships and cultural exchange are what make it so special. So I'll be staying with about 5-6 different hosts, men and women, throughout the 6 weeks I'm in Rio. When I get to Buenos Aires I might stay in an apartment, but if I find my couch surfing experiences in Rio to be amazing, I might just do that in BA as well. On that note, I hope all is well for those who are reading and that this doesn't bore you too much...I'll try to keep the blog as entertaining as possible. Happy Valentine's Day to all, and for those of you who are single, do something that makes you happy. My best Valentine's to date was with my best friend Allison in Oregon when we got Chinese food, a bottle of red wine, and a chick flick. So simple yet so satisfying...adios y abracos.