Thursday, June 24, 2010

Brazil by Bus

I wanted to post some pictures of my two bus rides in Brazil. One was from Foz do Iguacu, in southeast Brazil, to Brasilia, in central Brazil (27 hours). The second was from Brasilia to Salvador, in northeast Brazil (24 hours). The scenery was really impressive all the way. Busses are the best way to go to really see the country.


The bus to Brasilia:

Early on in the bus ride:

Still Early:

Stopping for construction long enough to stretch my legs (day 2):

Passing through the city of Goiania:

Stopped at Churrascaria's for both dinners (but I brought my food):

Sunset night 2 (close to Brasilia):


Beautiful beginning to bus ride 2:

A large valley is turning into a Savannah outside of Brasilia:

Very savannah like:

Turning into more of a jungle/palmtree forest, with some small lakes:

Flattened out with mountains in the distance:

Imnpressive rock formations start:

More Rocks/forest. This area is a national park somewhere within 6 hours of Salvador:

Flattens back out with new mountains:

I threw this in here because the clouds are really cool looking:

Turned back into forest outside of Salvador (still inland but approaching the coast):

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rio de Janeiro, Parte dois

So I landed in Rio Saturday night. Brian met me at the airport.

Rio from the airplane. You can see the big soccer stadium, Maracana:

Rio from the plane:

Timing was good again, as the next day was the second Brazil world cup match. For this, Brian and I went to his girlfriends apartment. There, many people came over for the game. Mostly family members. By that, I mean, mom, step fathers, step brothers, cousins, some children, and a few friends. Probably about 20 people in total. The whole afternoon, they had drinks passed around to everyone. The hosts made a good effort to keep everyone’s glass topped off with the Brazil beer Itaipava. So by halftime, everyone, regardless of age, was jolly. Also, by halftime, they had the food ready. They had a bunch of sausage that they had chopped up and basically pan fried. Also, they had a bunch of fried chicken that they topped with parsley and chopped green onions, and it was quite delicious.

With Brian, his girlfriend, and two of his friends before Brazil's second game:

The scene in the subway. People are heading to Copacabana beach:

Brian loaned me his dad's vintage Brazil shirt for the game, can't go without wearing yellow (the hat is a joke):

So, as you can imagine, being Brazil, everyone is basically nuts for soccer. Everyone, men & women, knew all the players names, and were pretty loco whenever there was a shot attempt or a penalty called. When a goal was scored, you could hear the air horns and car horns going off in the street. They also show the game at Copacabana beach on a jumbotron. However, they say that the beach at these times is populated mostly by favela kids. So, it just ends up being a lot of people, and maybe not the safest place. Anyways, lots of the streets are decorated with streamers, hanging flags, and things are painted. In fact, they actually have a ‘top 5 decorated streets’ competition.

Another street decorated for World Cup. This is one of the 'top 5':

The same street above at night:

Another Street decorated for World Cup:

Monday, I went with Brian’s mom to a school, where her Rotary club was sponsoring a play to the kids on biodiversity. I probably understood 10%. 20% when I was lucky. But the kids laughed a lot. They were probably no higher than 3rd grade.

I felt guilty for sitting in the front seat in front of all the little kids:

The play at the school:

That night, I went with Brian and his mom to her Rotary meeting. They had sponsored some people from Ohio to come live with their members for one month, so it was their final dinner. I was just the random American that was there it was pretty funny. In addition, I left my dress shoes and dress pants in Argentina when I found out I was not going to teach, so my dress clothes consisted of a decent shirt and tie, jeans, and tennis shoes. Nonetheless, very funny. During the meeting, they wanted to hear more about the project I was involved with with Rotaract Chicago to build emergency services in a town outside Sao Paulo. So I spoke in Portunol for about 5 minutes to 20 or 25 people. It was quite entertaining. Basically, I spoke Spanish and replaced words here and there and changed pronunciation of some words. But, they understood me, which is what counts.

Anderson, me, and Brian:

Today, I went out to lunch with Anderson. We ate at a really good buffet, where you pay by kilo. The last time I ate chicken hearts was here in February. I tried them again, and I must say, still delicious. But otherwise, lots of other good food. Went for a run along the beach (with the beautiful rock/mountains in the bay as a setting), and studied Portuguese and talked to Brians mom (Dulce) in Portunol the rest of the day. Rough, I know.

Friday, they are planning a little party for my Birthday. Dulce is going to make fejoida for us, as well as 6 or 7 of Brians friends that I have met at various times. Tomorrow, we are going to go shopping for the fejoida ingredients, so I am quite excited to learn how to make fejoida from someone who has been making it all their life!

In other random news, I am supposed to hear more official news regarding my scholarship to study fire protection engineering in Europe this week. We shall see.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Salvador, Brazil

Salvador is a really gritty place.

I don’t really take everything in the guide book I have seriously, and prefer to make my own observations, but the first line they say about this city is “If there is a city you are likely to be mugged in, it is Salvador”.

I didn’t get mugged. But I can see where this comes from.

Coming into the city by bus, there was a good 10 or 15 minutes of favelas to either side of the highway, piled up high on the hills. Just based upon this, it appears to be very poor. Unlike Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, it is recommend you stay only in a few neighborhoods. The first two days, I stayed in a hostel one block from the beach. The hostel was fine. Actually, I don’t like hostels, because I didn’t come to Brazil to meet Australians, Americans, and British people. But anyways, I could not find a couchsurfing host, so hostel and gringos it was.

Favelas going into the city:

My timing was quite nice. The day after I arrived was Brazil’s first world cup game. People live by soccer here. Anyways, not more than 5 blocks from the hostel, on the beach, there were 3 massive jumbotrons set up for the game with some grandstands as well. The game was at 330, and by 1pm there was a buzz in the street, air horns going off, cars honking, people migrating their way to the beach, and yellow and green everywhere. You could really tell that this place was about to let loose. We had a barbecue at the hostel, ironically, with a bunch of gringo’s (at least it was cooked by a guy from Brazil). Everyone watched the first half in the hostel, then we headed out to join the crowd and watch on the jumbotron for the second half.
There was a drizzle on and off, but that didn’t prevent at least several thousand people from taking to the street to watch the game. Luckily (but predictably), Brazil won. Anyways, people lingered in the streets into the night near the jumbotrons (this was a Tuesday!), and it kind of felt like one of the street parties they had in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. Just people selling drinks from grocery carts, people selling food, and a large crowds of people hanging around.

The scene after the game:

One of the jumbotrons for the game:

I had found a couchsurfer for the rest of my time there, and she lived in the center of the city, with a great view of the impressive coastline. From there, I was able to walk to the historic center of Salvador in about 30 minutes. This is really where I felt like I could have been mugged.

View from couchsurfer apartment:

Salvador is basically all afro-brazilians, so having light colored skin, I was automatically labeled a tourist. I was automatically someone to sell stuff to. Comments like ‘Where are you from’ ‘France?’ ‘Hi, How are you’, and ‘Are you from Sao Paulo’ were very frequent and annoying, and I’m sure the only sentences these people knew in English. So basically, I felt like I was always being watched. Thankfully, the city puts lots of police in this area.
But the center has a large quantity of very old, beautiful churches. The most famous church is filled with gold, everywhere, it was incredible. The center is very hilly and full of cobbled streets and plazas. The center is called the ‘Pelourinho’. There is one steep, triangular street, that they call the ‘largo do Pelourinho’, which basically means the area where they whipped slaves publicly (whipping post). The area is famous for its type of religion, called candomble. Unfortunately, I did not get to learn more about this interesting type of religion. But instead of explain about it, send yourself to wikipedia, cause it is interesting

Took this photo from the point where they used to whip slaves publicly. I think people probably watched from below.

The city center is on top of a giant favela. It rises rapidly from the coastline, the favela, to the city center. Actually, there is a giant elevator between the city center and the coastline below. This is to bypass the favela. It is that dangerous. You can walk the road down, but everyone recommends against this. It cost about 7 cents to go on the elevator, down to the lower part of the city/coastline. If I haven’t mentioned, Salvador is on the northeast coast of Brazil, so the city follow the coastline, and is quite beautiful. It has some great beaches as well.

Looking down on part of favela plus lower city:

The elevator from upper city to lower city:


Part of the coastline:

I forgot to mention it was god forsakenly hot and humid the whole time there, this being the middle of winter. Shorts, sandals, and sleeveless tshirts for all men. The 30 minute walk from my couchsurfers place to the center was interesting. There were real stores along the way, but street stalls as well the whole way, selling everything possible. Most notably, hundreds of tables selling womens underwear, with many clients, piled sky high. This just seemed weird. In addition, salls with tons of universal remotes and cpvc pipe. Hundreds of stalls with kids Brazil clothing. One guy was selling dead rats that looked like he dried out after finding on the street. On top of this, plenty of beer vendors and coconut sellers. It was just a total mess. I walked back one weekday at 2pm and there were thousands of people, body to body at some points, and quite uncomfortable. Also, every 3rd storefront was selling home applicances…I don’t get this, because this seems to be a very poor area.

So, I suppose Salvador was as unique as everyone had made it up to be before I went there. But, I don’t think it was my cup of tea.

A street in the historic district (Pelourinho):

Another Church:

Just one room in the Church that was really elaborate:

Inside the church, this is all gold:


The main church in Pelourinho:

Another Church:

A church:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

More Brasilia

Post dated like a week....

So on Friday morning my host Jackie had to work, so she had her friend Daphne take me around, along with Natasha from South Africa. We drove around and she pointed out some buildings, then we went up the antenna tower in the middle of the airplane design.

The view from the top was very cool. Daphne knew a ton about the design and the city plan (and thankfully spoke perfect English since her Dad was ambassador to Haiti and somewhere else). For example, all of the apartments are in the wings of the plane. They dug artificial lakes on the outer side of each wing. The two rows of apartment buildings closest to the water are all 3 story buildings. These were designed for the ‘poor’ people. Then, there are two more rows of 6 story buildings, which were designed more for middle/upper class. Well, things didn’t work out so well, and the poor could not afford to live in the ‘poor’ buildings, which are now inhabited my middle class people & students, like Daphne. This also lead to a huge boom in ‘satellite’ cities outside Brasilia. People who couldn’t afford to live in the airplane had to move outside the city.

You can see the layout of the airplane from the tower. Also, you can get a feel for how the city is compartmentalized in ‘quadrants’. For example, you can see all the banks are concentrated in one area. All the hotels are located at the point on each wing that connects with the body of the plane. There is a sector for sports, which really just contains a large soccer stadium, as well as an indoor facility for concerts/basketball. The shuttle of the airplane is one giant green space, and the roads on the sides are symmetrical. At the very front of the plane are 3 buildings, which are for the 3 branches of government. Then, there are about 6 large rectangular buildings on the side which are all government buildings. The bus terminal is one of the only things located in the middle of the shuttle. The green space was designed so to allow for the people to walk directly up to the president’s house and protest. Product of the urban planner, who was a communist (and the city was designed in the late 50s).

This is a wing, which you can kind of see curves:

The front of the plane with the 3 legislative buildings (president in middle). Plus green space to walk up to:

Legislative buildings (10 on each side):

The front of the airplane shuttle:

The view of the rear part of the airplane:

The 'sports' sector. There is a soccer stadium in front, and a venue for concerts & baskeball in back:

On the way back, in the large tent market below the tower, we tried some green coconuts as well as some ‘pastels’ which are just like empanadas, dough filled with something then fried.

Trying Brazilian Coco's (drinking then scooping out the edible part) with Daphne and Natasha:

So after this, we watched the USA England game. It was a good game. I know a whole heck of a lot more about soccer now (probably watched a bit of soccer every day the last 3 weeks). We tried to go to a brewery to try some local microbrews (not impressed with Brazilian beers, they are extremely light/watery, but not without a purpose...because it is always hot here so drinking a Guiness probably wouldn't be the best). Anyways, it was closed, so we just watched it at Daphne’s apartment, and thus I got to go in one of the bleak, 3 story, rectangular, working class buildings!

Later we had some Brazilian hot dogs. Topped with corn, peas, mini French fries, two types of mayo, one infused with garlic, the other can’t remember. I think there probably was more stuff in it as well. And, it was quite delicious.

Hot Dog:

Then that night we went to a party for Brazil’s Valentines day (maybe they flip it because the seasons are switched…I have no clue). It was in the backyard/back patio of the house of a friend of theirs. It was very official. They had a list with people’s names and everything to get in. Anyways, they had some DJs playing music in the backyard. Seemed like a rich house, but we couldn’t go inside to check it out. However, they did have a pool out back. Hmmm.

Host Jackie (hold the beard comments, I trimmed it recently! haha):

A drink with Natasha, girl with Brazilian name I dont know how to write, and Pree:

Sunday, I left for my 27 hour bus ride in the afternoon. Jackie took me to the bus terminal, and a big hug was given! I really enjoyed Brasilia, not only because it is the strangest city I have ever been to, but also because Jackie and her friends were so nice and treated me like an old friend (except for the fact that they speak English with a Portuguese accent...) So, maybe I will stop back in on the way to Bolivia at the end of the month.