PUT ALL THE FEIJOADA IN THE BAG
Trip Start Dec 01, 2002
24Trip End May 26, 2003
I´m pretty good. I´ve moved on from the "hitchhiking alone/getting to know Argentina" part of my trip, and I´m in the "lazing around/visiting friends in Brazil and Venezuela" mode. There´s a lot of ground being covered here.
After three straight nights of sleeping in buses, travelling, I got to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where ... I slept in a restaurant. Which reminds me of a million-dollar idea my college roommate and I had of creating a restaurant where you could eat your fill, get sleepy, and then pull out a bed from the wall and take a nap. Brilliant idea, Johnny! we´re gonna be millionaires yet.
Brazil and HUGE city Sao Paulo, unfortunately, are world-notorious for danger and crime, and villainous nasties often kidnap people for money. Arriving in Sao Paulo, I went straight to the restaurant owned by the family of a friend.
Once there, I was kidnapped ... more or less ... by the other side of Brazil - the cheery world where everyone (especially girls) always wants to talk to you, stranger or not, all the time. A thin, female manager of the restaurant, with glowing brown eyes and a non-stop, glee-bursting smile, stole me away and held me captive in her happy, sweet Portuguese conversation. I felt bad that I couldn´t possibly match the excitement of her smiles. That´s Brazil for you. It felt good to be back.
But, things in Sao Paulo weren´t all fun and games. No; the stage (Sao Paulo) was once again set for the two-year-old Modern Oddyseus soap opera of angry ex´s and bitter breakups (starring Justin Breen as the strapping, yet foolishly naive boy-next-door, and Brazilian Geórgia as the wicked, spell-casting heart-breaker) to resume.
Oops, whoa! Back up there a few adjectives. The words "angry," "bitter," and "wicked" were used out of context, as was the word "strapping" ... no. wait. I´m gonna leave "strapping" in there.
Well, anyhow, even if my and Geórgia´s breakup wasn´t all that bitter, we hadn´t parted as friends in November of 2001, and I hadn´t heard a word from her since. For some reason, I took Geórgia´s lack of responding to my e-mails as a hint that - better yet! - she might want to see me in person. What was Geórgia up to now? I thought. And against better judgment, I went to find out.
From the restaurant, I hiked it down important, six-lane Avenida Paulista, walking a broad, busy sidewalk beneath banks and other granite-gray skyscrapers. A few familiar turns, and I´d left the commerce street for a quieter area of apartment skyscrapers.
At the foot of Geórgia´s tall, white-marble sparkling-with-the-hopes-of-loves-past building, the door-man recognized me. He was my bud; the powerful man who, with the flip of a finger, used to let me in the building or let Geórgia out. He now called upstairs.
Geórgia was sleeping, he was told by her maid. I appealed for a wake-up call, ... and waited ... and waited ...
It was suspenseful moment, for my heart. I spotted a sidewalk spot where Geórgia and I had once stood kissing, in front of a bus full of school-children who chanted out the windows, "Ooh, ahh! Vai dar casamento!" (Ooh, ahh! You´re gonna get married!) I remembered one night when we´d watched a silly David Foley movie ("The Wrong Man," or something) and Geórgia had sprinkled her young laughter throughout like a dewy flower blossoming. Ooh, I wanted to see her.
Then came the news. Geórgia had gone to "faculdade" (university), was the story now from the maid. I wasn´t quite convinced. I was kind of crushed. I left my phone number at the restaurant for her, and took off.
Being a sappy, sentimental sucker, I figured I would go to some of Geórgia´s and my old historical spots and be sad. As Daffy Duck would put it, "What a maroon!"
I passed the fenced-in, grassy, doggy circle where we used to let her little, shaggy-haired dog, Tchoko, run. Crossing a hectic turn of city traffic, I returned to the beautiful and peaceful Ibirapuera Park.
Now, I´ve been to Central Park in New York City; and I have to say, as big as that park is, I still could feel and sense the Big Apple´s stress in it. For my money, for a megalopalopalous´s park, Ibirapuera is the best. Sao Paulo´s noise and skyscrapers get left outside and distant. The park has large, brown ponds, orange or muddy, fat fish, ducks and geese and other fowls aplenty, littler, bright-red-headed, white-bodied and brown-winged birds, quaint forests, a grassy beach, a big, green field, and a small river with an arc-ing pedestrian bridge and a Japanese pavillion overlooking it.
Like a total lemon, I snapped a bunch of photos of dinky memories like the park bench my ex- and I had sat on, and the path where Tchoko had got loose from us and ran off chasing a jogger.
Loose from the park, I now chased memory lane to the next logical spot: the corner neighborhood diner. Like so many times before (but this time alone), I ordered a Sao Paulo-favorite "bauru" sandwich (ham, cheese, and tomato toasted between french bread, and mayonnaise) and an avocado "vitamina" (avocado blended with milk for you to drink). Aah, memory lane had a tasty ending. You know, as much as I hat big cities - and Sao Paulo is one of the world´s biggest - I never really did mind the place in all the time I spent there. Bauru´s and walking dogs in the park: life could be worse.
Memory lane quickly became Avenida Paulista. And soon, I was back in the restaurant, owned by the family of a friend from college, Yalonda. And she was there, and I was hugging her. Yalonda, my friends, comes from a true family of champions. Real Brazilian heroes, I must say. Yalonda and her family are as cheery as any Brazilians, their restaurant is delicious, and they always give me a place to stay when I´m in Sao Paulo chasing my heart. Woohoo for the Nunes´s!
Whoops-heyooh, what´s this? A message. Geórgia had called? Give me a minute, Yalonda, will ya´!?
A voice as cheerful as little Tchoko greeted me, "Oi, Justin!"
Yeah! Geórgia. We took a moment to catch up. I had been hoping I could see Geórgia during the daytime, so that I could move on and ride another bus that night. But, Geórgia wasn´t going to be able to come hang out until late that night. She asked if I couldn´t stay and leave the next day.
"Heck, no!" I said. "I´ve got places to go, sweetheart!"
"You blew your chance, baby!"
"Girls are all lined up to go out with this strapping young man!"
No. Of course I said I would stay.
Even if I didn´t have any place to sleep that night. You see, the house of Yalonda´s family - bless their sweet hearts - was full to the brim. Full of visiting grandparents, it was. And I couldn´t stay there.
Now, frankly, I was a little offended that the Nunes´s would decide to put up their grandparents over me, but ...
Ha, ha, just kidding. I love grandparents. I would even kick out a good friend from HIS OWN house if one of my dear grandparents told me to. Except, of course, if it was ol´ senile Grandpa "CallMeIshmael" Breen.
Ha, ha, just joking, none of my grandparents is senile!
But, Yalonda - being the angel she is - couldn´t bare to see me stay in a hotel. She offered to let me stay in her family´s restaurant: Feijao Brasil. This was - in addition to odd - very, very nice of her, because if I tripped the restaurant´s alarm, or if Yalonda´s father found out about this in any other way, he would be very, very mad. And ol´ senile Grandpa Nunes would make both Yalonda and I walk the plank.
I thanked Yalonda, and told her Geórgia´s new news. Geórgia recently had started dating a new Brazilian. And, the last year, in addition to university, Geórgia had spent three months in Spain and a month-and-a-half in South Africa, both times alone. Pretty ambitious of my little ex-, huh? Yalonda suggested her Michitraveligander first love had maybe had an effect on her after all.
Like me, Yalonda said she´d also been in love one time. And she saw the difference between love and passion and other relationship reasons. Interestingly, Yalonda doesn´t think she´ll, personally, marry or even want to marry someone for love. I guess her first experience hurt her too much.
I, on the other hand, found that dating Geórgia had only made me want to love and be loved more than ever. I notice now that I think about and want girls a huuuge percentage of the time, when in the past I used to have a freer mind to think about my other dreams.
Yalonda went home, and she left me with the big, closed restaurant all to myself. Speaking of "dreams," I or any other big eater would´ve been in heaven.
At midnight, I finally rendezvous´d with Geórgia on a street corner. She was eightteen now, and driving! I got in her car, and we gave a hug that was packed with feelings. She looked the same as usual. Soft hair - dyed lighter now to a blond pine-brown color - floated off her face and down her back a bit. She still had cream skin, a clever smile, and a soft look.
She was impressed by my long hair, uncut since I´d seen her last.
For lack of anthing better to do, I invited Geórgia into my home for the night.
"Eu tenho fome," said Geórgia upon entering. (I´m hungry.) Well, we were in the right place!
Geórgia snook around the kitchen, until she stumbled upon a gigantic tub of feijoada, ready for the next day´s lunch. She grabbed a fork. Feijoada, Brazil´s national dish, is made up of black beans, pig feet, pig intestines, pig butt, pig legs, pig ears, and just about every other part a pig has. It´s a very dense food. Geórgia stood in the middle of the kitchen, holding a fork to her face, and trying to get her mouth around a pink lump of pig. Not exactly her most attractive moment.
After the light meal, we combined to wash our dishes. Geórgia, who comes from a very rich family, commented that she didn´t think she´d ever washed a dish before in her life.
But Geórgia wasn´t done snooping around the restaurant. She eyed the full bar, and suggested we fix ourselves some drinks. She nad I were making off like the Ozzie and Harriet of restaurant crooks.
I felt bad, but Geórgia said we´d pay Yalonda for the Johnnie Walker we drank. We made ourselves at home at the empty bar. Man, girls are attractive when they´re mischievous. We hugged some more and further caught up.
Geórgia laughed, telling how the poorer, black South African street salesman used to advertise their prices with an accent. "Fifty rrrand! Fifty rrrand!" Everything cost fifty rand, she said.
On a sadder note, Geórgia also told of how her parents had gotten divorced in the past year, and her sister was now in a clinic being treated for some drug problems. I felt bad for this. But Geórgia was doing quite fine. She´d finished one year of university, and this year she was doing two separate university courses: one in the morning, one at night. Whoosh!
In addition to this, she had a car now. And - important! - the dog, Tchoko, was fine. We passed a very nice night talking until late.
Importantly, we both saw and felt and heard - even though we´d barely written one another the past sixteen months - how we still loved and cared for each other. It was a big burden off my shoulders. I was friends again with the girl I once loved more than anything. The night felt great. Even if I was sleeping in a restaurant.
Geórgia and I said a sentimental good-bye, and she arrived fine in her home.
Four hours later, the happy, funny cooks of Feijao Brasil were whistling as I let them in the restaurant doors for work. Yalonda arrived later, and she turned down any money I offered for the Johnnie Walker. Instead, the thin, young manager of the restaurant took me out for açai (a mashed-up, purple Amazonian fruit that gets frozen in a bowl and tastes tarty and sweet, usually mixed with granola bits, and one of the world´s greatest foods) to say good-bye.
Aaaahhh, Brazil. Feels good to be back.
Later, my friends - Modern Oddyseus
Much thanks to Yalonda, Rildu, and the staff of Feijao Brasil for the place to crash!