Trip Start Feb 20, 2001
27Trip End Jul 30, 2001
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I'm still on Earth, actually, and a familiar part, too. I'm back in the Brazilian Northeast, where time is getting short. Up to old antics, I recently attempted the Tamandare - Ain't That Far-ee - Praia do Porto - Try It, You Poor Fool - Dos Carneiros - Don'cha Tear Toes - Ten-Hour - Top 10 Beach-Gallop, in south Pernambuco.
Firstly, I had to get there. Four days on boat had returned me to Belem, where a twenty-nine hour bus ride immediately followed. I took a break in Fortaleza to drop in on some of my old hangouts and remember how it felt to stand on solid ground.
Friendly Bruno proved an entertaining host. Preparing for the night's rave, he gave me his old sneakers and cooked us a five-egg, six-hot dog-bun, pot-full of shredded meat feast packed with green peas, which Bruno would eat with his toothpaste if he could.
With a full stomach and quick shoes, I was vaulted into having my best time yet in the country. It may not be uniquely Brazilian, but dancing to electrical music in a crowd is one of the best ways to forget anything exists except good feelings. The setting, in a dusty, twenty-story rock quarry, was "como dancando na lua (like dancing on the moon)."
And my old friends were there. JoAnna bounced and kicked her thing legs in colorful shoes and dress. Ana Carla shook her fists and swirled slowly to the booming, deliberately changing beats. Bebeko only swayed his hands in the air, pointed at people, and gave a cool wink. I mostly ignored the others, shooting my feet about furiously in quick-fatigued efforts at matching the rapid zaps in the music's background.
"Nosso gringo nunca parava," said JoAnna at the following day's feijoada. (Our 'gringo' never stopped dancing.)
Feijoada, Brazil's national dish, is black beans concocted with pigs' feet and ears and butt and stuff. It may sound gross, but JoAnna's mom made it scrumptious. The dark, heavy soup-like meal tasted like it had taken all the meat you and ten people would eat in a month and crammed it all in two big pots. The pigs' feet were especially meaty; the little red balls tasted like you'd just grabbed a piglet running by and took a bite out of him, only to get the most tender parts.
Unfortunately, I was also only running by Bruno and the others. When I caught my bus out of Fortaleza the next day, luckily, my Brazilian friends weren't biting.
Twelve hours later, as my butt was being molded into the pentagonal shape of the bus seats, I woke in Pernambuco. Here, I visited the Olinda house of Carmen, my worn and wise, poor but happy, "maezinha Brasileirinha" (little, Brazilian mother). As the small, subtly grey-haired lady looked up to view me, her smile was like a cloudy sunrise.
Also, I went to Shopping Recife. This is the largest mall in all of South America, but that's only one of the many reasons not to go there.
A great girl, Bia, manages a store there. She suffers in a store there, is more like it; she'd really just like to take the meaningless job, shove it, and go take pictures on a beach somewhere. About the fourteen days straight she'd been working, Bia said, "Minha cerebra esta atrofiando." (This means, basically, "Due to lack of use, my brain is losing its ability to function." It sounded prettier, though, in Bia's flowing Portuguese, and I dubbed it: THE BEST SENTENCE I'VE EVER HEARD PHRASED.)
Bia, a connosieur of south Pernambuco beaches, was also the one to recommend I include the Praia Dos Carneiros in my Top 10 Beach-Gallop. This created problems for me by complicating my already-demanding assignment and also providing a tricky beach name for which I could come up with only a less-than-mediocre rhyme to accompany my catchy title for the day. But, I listened to Bia, because:
1. Three-and-a-half months ago, I attempted a long Pernambuco beach walk with Porto de Galinhas as my final destination. At the end of my sunburnt walk, it was Bia who I met and who wisely informed me, laughing all the way, that I'd passed Porto de Galinhas and even walked fifteen kilometers beyond it.
2. She looks like a thin Cindy Crawford. I've come to like Bia's ever-delighted smile better, though.
And so, my work was cut out for me. The following morning, I caught a 5:40 bus.
At Tamandare, clearish turquoise water spread out before the beach, rated one of Brazil's ten best for snorkelling.
I plunged in, entering the underwater world. A kilometer out, colorful shapes spidered out from the underside of an exposed coral bar. Timid fish, whose light blue grew whiter towards their centers, loitered near blocks hanging from the coral. Mud-green, red-finned fish swam wavy paths. And, from within a deep crevasse, a red pufferfish the size of a stuffed turkey eyed me with googly, alien-like peepers.
I kept submerging and searching the corals for fish treasures. Ninety minutes passed without my even being aware of it. It's quite interesting to note how great it is to enjoy snorkelling, or dancing, and yet how nearly impossible it is to remember much of what you saw or felt once you've returned to the everyday world.
Following the snorkelling, my world was the sand beneath my feet, which I walked on for the next two hours.
I passed pescadores (traditional fishermen) throwing big nets from small boats. I passed the other kind of pescadores, those who snorkel without boat in search of octopi and lobsters. I passed a shallow, swift river and two semi-circle beaches with nothing near them except green, forested hills.
The third smooth beach was Praia do Porto, six kilometers from Tamandare and rated among Brazil's ten best for beauty. In the middle of the curving, handsome beach was an island more beautiful than anything I'd ever seen before in this world.
Round, half-submerged boulders made up the small island. Their colors climbed from black to brown to orange, resembling a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. In the center of the island stood a single palm tree.
The island sat near the shore, at the point where forest was broken by an orange, sloping ridge decorated in green, frizzed-out plants. I waded through shallow, gray waves, entered the island, found a good sunbathing rock, and drank from the coconut a local farmer had given me.
My stay was short, as the rising tide forced me to shore. I couldn't look away, though. I climbed the smooth ridge of the mainland. I played Jethro Tull's "Thick As A Brick" (possibly the best album of all time) on my walkman and propped myself uncomfortably in position to try and figure out what the heck this island looked like to me.
Here's what I saw:
The tall, solitary coqueiro (coconut palm) stood in the middle with its spindly leaves. An orange mound rose behind. Two gray boulders sat to the sides. A square of grass lay before the coqueiro. The rest of the island's rock was slowly being absorbed by the sea.
It took me forty minutes of staring, but I finally got it. It's pretty abstract, and thus a bit ridiculous, but here it goes:
The tree was someone who'd risen to achieve greatness. Its leaves were the fruits of his labor. The mound was the support of friends, family, and strangers. The boulders standing beside him were his parents, the one on the right being his father. The grass was the awards laid upon him. The island was his influence, waxing and waning due to the turbulent world.
Ofcourse, this all might've been just a result of the Jethro Tull. "Thick As A Brick," a forty-five minute song, tells of a son's efforts to avoid the un-creative, power-hungry toil his father wants him to enter.
Then again, in light of the pressure upon me and my expensive college education to now work fifty weeks a year for a profit-seeking American company, maybe the island doesn't represent a different world at all.
As of now, I hope to keep creating and learning, a.k.a. travelling. I've got to start supporting myself in July. So, I just might take my college to diploma to Rio De Janeiro and put it to use on a $1.50/hour lifeguarding job on Copacabana, checking out the babes and earning enough to get by.
From the orange ridge, I began rocking to "Thick As A Brick's" jammin' guitar finish. I took one last look at Praia do Porto. I hoped to return someday to the island. I hoped it would still be as beautiful the next time or more.
I made it to Tamandare in time to catch a moto-taxi to Praia Dos Carneiros. At this shady beach on a tranquil inlet, I celebrated the completion of my assignment, for this day at least. Unfortunately, however, due to the low sun, the snorkelling wasn't as great as Bia had claimed.
But, I forgave her, because:
1. I could never be mad at someone who looks like Cindy Crawford.
2. Heck, I just saw three great beaches in one day. Why on earth should I be mad at anyone?
And so, I'm on my way now to Rio. Join me as I go in search of never having to say, "Minha cerebra esta atrofiando."
Although, really, that is a great sentence. I think I'll say it again, just once.
"Minha cerebra esta atrofiando."
That should do it.
"Geekik-flibbm," Martian Oddyseus