Since making it back to CA I've been busy getting travel plans sorted out, getting documents, cards, accounts, clothes, this and that all sorted out.
I booked my flight from Sao Paulo to Montevideo this week. I'll now be in Sao Paulo from Thurs Feb 18th- Mon Feb 22, and I squared everything away with my buddy Thiago to stay with him in SP. Also, it should be awesome, I am going to meet and spend some time with the President of the Rotary club of Itai. Rotaract Chicago is helping to build an intensive care unit in the town of Itai near Sao Paulo, for a 1 year project, that started last July and ends this coming July. It just so happens I'll be in Sao Paulo, so I thought it would be a big help to meet the president and talk about the project. we emailed a few times, and it looks like we are going to meet, he might show me his home, and take me around Sao Paulo. Awesome!
I also chatted online for a few hours with the president, Anderson, of one of the Rotaract clubs in Rio de Janeiro. I'm staying with the vp of their club, in a nice (read: rich) neighborhood of Rio, called Sao Conrado. However, the president lives in Rocinha, which is why he would not let me stay with him. Rocinha is one of the biggest Favela's in South America. They are slums/shanty towns...known to be dangerous, crowded, and have poorly constructed buildings, sometimes on the sides of the mountains. Rio is also a place of contrasts...Sao Conrado, a rich neighborhood, is basically adjacent to Rocinha, one of the poorest areas. They estimate that almost 20% of Rio's population, 1.1 million, live in favelas. In the picture below, the circle is actually Anderson's house. Anderson said he would take me to his house to meet his family & see Rocinha during my stay in Rio. I am really excited about this. I mean, I've heard alot about these favelas, how terrible and crowded they are, but to get a chance to see up front from a Rotaractor living there will be a great experience. The second picture is more of an overall view of Rocinha.
Anderson's House in Rocinha:
Overall view, Rocinha.
I also booked my flight to Easter Island. I wont make it to Chile until around March 7th or so, going to Uruguay, Buenos Aires, & Mendoza before, & after my Brazil & Peru excursions. However, I fly to Easter Island on March 15th and return March 19th. For a quick refresher from your grammar school text books, Easter Island is a Polynesian island about a 5-6 hour flight into the Pacific from Santiago. It has been a part of Chile, however since 1888, and is most famous for the hundreds of statues calle Maoi on the island. I'll probably rent a bike and trek around the island one day. You are kind of at their mercy for accomodation. I guess you can do that when its a 5 hour flight to the nearest place. I found a few hostels online, so hopefully I can book ahead. The official languages are Spanish & the local dialect, Rapa Nui, we'll see how that goes, hooray!
Some of the Maoi:
I also got lucky and was able to get a host for my 3 days in Lima, from Feb 8th-10th, through couchsurfing. He is a web developer so he makes his own schedule, and he even said it was cool that my plane arrives in Lima at 5:30 in the morning. He gave me directions, his phone number, and some advice on getting from the airport to his place, which is in Santiago de Surco, a nice neighborhood near Miraflores (known as one of the nicest in Lima). My first experience couchsurfing, although of course in Chicago I have hosted plenty of people from Europe before, and it makes for a great introduction to any city intead of just puckering up for a 5 star resort hotel and hitting the top 5 tourist sights. Current 10 day Lima forecast: Sunny & 80 degrees, all 10 days. Beach, Pisco Sour, Ceviche, here I come, haha.
Other than that, I've been getting all my loose ends tied up for travel. Cancelled my auto insurance, my Iphone ($85!!! For a plan that expires in June), bought a quad band phone so I can buy SIM cards whever I go, picked up CA license & license plates, completing my teaching english training course, and checking off a list of about 50 or more things I need to do before I leave. Certainly staying busy.
On that note, here is another cultural oddity native to Chile. It's called Cafe con Piernas (Coffee with Legs). Fast forward to about 6:10 minutes into the video, or watch the whole thing. As I have read, this was a response by some women with newfelt empowerment after Pinochet was overthrown. Curious, indeed.