Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Last night in Rio

Monday, December 12, 2016
Last night in Rio.  Dave and Bobby and I took the bus from SP here.  Six hours, and SUPER comfortable.  I slept almost the whole way.  Quite surprising.  Glad I didn't book a flight—would have been a huge unnecessary expense. 
On the first day, Saturday, we went for a walk on the beach, and I even went for a swim.  The hostel (Case Del Mar) is just three blocks away from the seashore.  The undertow was so strong and the waves so huge that I actually got tumbled quite a bit… and decided it was a bit much so came out after just ten minutes.  But was worth it.  Really fun.  Then we sat at a beachside bungalow and had some $3 burgers.  So yummy.   And I've been drinking Guarana non-stop.  So delicious and refreshing.  That night, we went back to a beach bar.  I danced with some girls.  Quite fun.
On day two, Sunday (yesterday), we walked all along Copacabana beach to the fort and then all along Ipanema beach.  I found a statue of Jobim!  Then we went out to the beach again and sat at the bar for a bit in the evening.  Dinner was pasta we cooked at the horribly hot hostel.  They only turn on the AC from 10pm – 10am, and my gosh, no joke, it has been 94 degrees and 100% humidity every day.  Unbelievably hot. 
Today, we went on a bus tour that started at 8:30am and took us to Christ the Redeemer (so beautiful), the soccer stadium, the colorful steps, and then Sugarloaf mountain.  Met some cool people on that tour too.  Then back to the hostel at 5pm.
I was planning to head back to SP tonight on the bus, but… found the Full House reboot on Netflix, "Fuller House" and couldn't stop watching.  Watched 10 episodes.  It's so funny!  I love it so much.  And it's ten times better than the original.  It's like the original was meant to happen in order that THIS could happen.  Makes me reconsider a lot of the 'bad' things that have happened in my life over the years. 
In any case, I'm staying here one last night.  I did some coding just now, have already said goodnight (and goodbye) to the boys, and tomorrow morning, heading to the bus station to take the bus back to Sao Paolo.  And then one more night at Viva Hostel Design in SP, and then an early morning flight back to NY via Bogota. 
All in all, an amazing trip, and I am SO glad that I came.  And again I am reminded how much fun it is to stay at hostels.  Really fantastic.  Met so many fun and cool people, and… I really feel like I've been on a great adventure.  I don't even know if I want to be a cop anymore: this was adventure enough.  I really feel like I want to be a computer programmer.  I really enjoy it so much.  I am going to finish this law case; finish these coding training programs; and then yes, try to get a job as a programmer somewhere, and develop my own projects part-time.  Can't believe I just said that but I want to get a job as a programmer somewhere.  And everything I learn on the job I can use developing my own projects.  Could be a win-win.  
In any case, off to bed now.  Big long travel day tomorrow.  Gotta get to bed.  

Friday, December 09, 2016

The wonders of Brazil

So I've been here in Sao Paolo for a few days now, and here are my observations:

a) It really is very much like Europe.  If someone told me I was in southern France, I'd believe them (aside from the different language, of course).  And aside from the fortress gates in front of nearly every home, as if they were fearful that an army was soon to attack.  Definitely unFrench.  

b) I finally understand why over the years I have met two Brazilians in NY who inexplicably look Japanese: the incredible Japanese migration.  Starting in the early 1850s, so many Japanese came here to Brazil from Japan.  And today, they don't really even identify with Japan.  They are fully Brazilian.  It seems weird at first until I realize that I, as an American, am the same.  I'm technically from Europe, but I don't identify with the land of my ancestors.  I'm 100% American.  I learned all this at the Japanese migration museum in Liberdade--like a Japantown.  

c) I like it here.  The longer I am here, the more I feel comfortable and at home.  Everyone is so nice and welcoming.

d) The country doesn't feel so much in 'poverty' as I had originally thought.  It's just got a tropical island feel.  Very cool.  Laid back.  And... colorful!  The graffiti murals are EVERYWHERE.  And it doesn't look bad.  It looks really great!

e) The hills.  You can't be fat in this city.  Or you can be, but you'd need a car.  The steep hills; the steps that go on forever--every day is a hike.  At least in the area where the hostel is.  Just walking around the city, I climbed "75 flights" according to my phone, just today alone.

f) I admit I ate at Subway.  But I had the Brazilian steak on my sandwich. :)

g) This is the nicest hostel I've ever stayed in.  And given that I've stayed in more than twenty throughout Europe and Asia, that's saying a lot.  Clean, hip, friendly.  And I can get work done on my computer.  And the beds rock.  And the other residents from all over the world: England, Peru, Ireland, Netherlands, France, Brazil, Panama, etc.  Viva Design Hostel.  A fine choice.

h) The subway system is complex, clean, modern, and air conditioned.  The city has over 12,000,000 people and you can tell in the subway---I felt like I was back in Shanghai.  Throngs and throngs of people.

I want to write more but the tapping on my keyboard is probably annoying my roommates.  It's 2:30am.  Gnight!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

China meets Iraq, With a Splash of Europe

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.