Week 1 - Getting Settled

Trip Start Mar 30, 2008
Trip End Jun 28, 2008

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

I'm finally here, after years of wanting to do something like this, and a couple months planning. Well, no planning really (more on that later), but purchasing the ticket and visa. The trip went pretty smoothly for the first two legs to Lima and Sao Paolo, due in part to the fact that I'd  taken a triple dose of sleeping pills and slept through most of it, waking up on occasion, either thinking, "what the hell am I doing" or being really excited. Then I got to Sao Paolo, with no itinerary, only a little portuguese and apparently at a different airport than my departing flight. Long story short, I had to catch a cab to a completely different part of the city (which took 50 minutes, seeing as it's the biggest city in the western hemisphere) and walked up to the gate as they were boarding. I suppose you get what you pay for, and I paid for my ticket through CheapFares.com. That said, I made it safely to Rio where the cab driver Flavio, was waiting to take me to Rio Hostel in Ipanema. This is as far as my pre-trip "planning" would take me, the plans for the remaining 3 months have yet to be made.

Rio Hostel, as I feared it might be, was filled with Europeans, who, don't get me wrong, are great people, but I didn't sign on for a vacation in Europe. There are about 7 or 8 british girls, a young british guy, some older british guy, two french kids and a swede, who, despite his straight, blong hair and light complexion says he's also half west-african (Cape Verdean to be precise, so he speaks some portuguese). I'll take his word for it, because I get weird looks when I tell people I'm half Japanese and half white too. Needless to say, we all speak english with one another, a disappointing convenience that I didn't travel half way around the world to enjoy.

The first couple of days, the weather has been beautiful. 30 degrees and sunny. That doesn't mean it's just below freezing, it's centigrade and it's very hot, mid-80s I believe, to all my fellow Americans. I spent the first day, fresh off the airplane, walking up and down the beach in Ipanema which is surprisingly empty, I think due both to the fact that it's a weekday, and the low-season for tourism. There were still a decent amount of people on the beach, and I'm sorry to say the Speedo is still very popular down here, even with, or I should say, especially with, the older, hairier beach-goers. As for the ladies that Rio is so famous for, I havent been utterly impressed to be honest, but I'll hold off judgement until the weekend. That aside, the setting is beautiful. There are these huge mountains of black rock covered in green surrounding the city and in some places integrated into the city. The most famous of these two would of course be Sugarloaf (pao de acucar) and the pedestal for the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue (cristo o redentor I believe it is).

The second day I spent exploring the city, or as much of it that was in walking distance, to maybe find a place to stay, a more permanent, and more brazilian place, and maybe find some kind of productive way to spend my time, like volunteering to teach english or something (motivated in part by the fact that I'm here on a tourist visa and can't legally earn money). I accomplished neither of my tasks, but enjoyed a relaxing and interesting walk all the same. That night, me, the two french guys (Flo and Jerome) and one of the seemingly dozens of english girls (Chivonne, or Shavon, or Shivonne etc) went to a club that was also full of tourists, as we should have expected given the fact that we got the idea to go from a flyer that someone dropped off at the hostel. The hook was free caipirinhas till 12, the catch was, when it came time to pay the bill, there was some confusion that conveniently benefitted the club, and it was too loud and my portuguese was too bad to argue. It only ended up being 30 Reais ($17 or so) which, coming from L.A., is nothing to get worked up over.

Today was pretty overcast but still hot and humid, so, instead of the beach, "Shivonne" and I took the metro over to the artist district of Santa Teresa which is up in the hills. It's these really old, run-down colonial houses, but there are these beautiful murals everywhere and this huge staircase with ceramic tiles all painted with random images and phrases. The staircase, as I said, was huge, and was followed immediately afterwards by a steep, winding cobblestone road. All that climbing paid off with the views at the top. I just wish it'd been a bit clearer and sunnier but I loved this neighborhood and I'll be sure to come back on a nicer day. We ended the day eating at this restaurant Shivonne had been promising the whole time, had a salad that was the best thing she'd ever tasted. Ever. Anywhere. Skeptical that a salad could be the best thing I'd ever tasted, I went with the sampler platter, with all sorts of little dishes, and it was the best thing I'd ever tasted, well, in the past few days at least.

That's been my week so far. My plans for the next month haven't really gotten any clearer but I have a very vague idea that I want to visit Florianopolis, then head up north to Bahia, maybe check out the Amazon river or the rainforest, and then maybe back to Rio. We'll see where the tides take me.
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