I am referring to Brazil.
I just arrived here but a few hours ago, from New York, through Bogota. And I was already taken for a fool once already, at the currency exchange at the airport. The exchange rate is 3.34 Real to the Dollar. They gave me a rate of 2.5 to the dollar. Sigh... Live and learn. Alas, at 1am in a strange country, where you barely speak the language, you have to do what you have to do.
Why the title? Because as soon as I got off the plane, everything felt like China. I love China--that poor but vibrant vibe of a country bustling at the seams, ready to explode onto the world stage. Here you get that same poor but bustling vibe that you get when you arrive in China. Driving from the airport to central Sao Paolo (50 minutes), I was taken aback by how many concrete-like structures were everywhere. And factories of some sorts all along the highway. And strange looking trucks. In other words, it reminded me so much of China. Even the driver, who was clearly of Asian decent (Japanese?), but who spoke perfect Portuguese, gave me the vibe of China, cause he really did look Chinese.
Then, suddenly, I decided to open the window while driving along the highways and byways, and uproads, and downroads, and whoah--the smell! It smelled just like Iraq. Now, what does Iraq smell like? That's hard for me to say. Hard to describe. The best I can say is that it was the smell of wet dust and dirt in the air, mixed with a tinge of gunpowder. It's hard to explain, but I am pretty sure anyone who was in Iraq with the military will know the smell to which I'm referring. That's the same smell that wafted through the windows on the way to the hostel.
Finally, I'm now at the hostel in central Sao Paolo. And hostels, as many travelers know, are best known as a staple of Europe. I don't know if Europe came up with the idea first, but no matter where I go, if I'm in a hostel, I feel like I'm in Europe. And right now, I'm in a hostel in Sao Paolo, and--ta dah--I feel like I'm in Europe.
So that's how I describe Brazil so far: China meets Iraq, with a Splash of Europe.
One other thing jumped out at me: the hills. I thought San Francisco had big inclines. Brazil might have San Francisco beat. Hard to say. But I was amazed that the taxi was able to drive up and down these hills without too much difficulty. Steep STEEP roads.
Anyway, although it's only 11:30pm in New York, here's it nearly 3am. So I'm gonna head off to bed. Wake up tomorrow and perhaps go on a walking tour of the city, or more likely, just relax for a bit. It was a long flight. 6 hours to Bogota (I really love the airport there) and then another 6 hours to Sao Paolo.
Truly, if you look at a map of South America, you will see how far EAST Brazil really is. It's halfway to Europe! I never really recognized that until today. And that, ladies and gents, is proof positive that traveling is indeed eye-opening and horizon-expanding. It took a trip to Brazil for me to finally learn geography I should have learned when I was a child. :) While western Brazil may be in the same time zone as New York, eastern Brazil is just a stone's throw from the African coast.