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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Oh My Gawesome!

Greetings from Brrrrraaaazzziiiiiilllll!!! Here's the first 3 parts of our adventure thus far! More to come...

- Part I -
The Bike Rid

Bom Dia! (Good Day/Morning!) Get ready for a doozie, because we're doing A LOT!!!

I hope all is well for all of you out there in DeJerklandia, as you brave the winter's cold and gear up for the frenzy of the holidays! Tiago discovered, while reading, that Portland has been experiencing crazy-cold, and that our friends have been biking in 20 degree weather! Well, I can't say that we wish we were there, but I can express that we miss you all dearly, and wish you the best of luck in that hell-frozen-over-ish weather!

As for our side of the world, the weather is warm, varying from mild to hot, but all the while staying in the realm of spicy sauce descriptors. It's hard for me to imagine that Christmas will soon be upon us, as store windows display scantily-clad, beach-ready mannequins alongside saxophone-playing Santas and bright pink artificial Christmas trees. Yet, the kindness and proximity of Tiago's extended family, even upon our first meeting one another, does help me to get excited for the holidays we have soon to share.

Shortly after making our over 24-hour, Thanksgiving trip to Curitiba, BR, Tiago and I had the opportunity to participate in an uber-inspiring Critical Mass with about 50 locals. Here in the world's most ecologically sustainable city, which greatly mirrors some aspects of Portland (re: greenery, cleanliness, etc...), motorists are still largely uneducated as to sharing the road and being respectful of other modes of transportation. As such, bicycling (hell, even walking, I think) is still quite dangerous, even though anyone in Brazil will tell you that Curitiba boasts the bests drivers of any city in the country! Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive at first to ride a foreign bike in this foreign place. However, when we arrived at the meeting point at Tiago's alma matter, all of my apprehension subsided as I found myself feeling strangely at home amidst the exuberance and delight brewing amongst the participants that were getting ready to ride. Though they were sans costume, (except for one street punk dressed as some freak-bloody butcher-Hannibal-Lector character), they started to ride in a circle as we prepared to leave, following each other in a derby of merriment, raising a ruckus with voices and plastic instruments, and rallying one another for the ride at hand - and in doing so, making me feel right at home.

The ride was long and kept a great, even, and conscientious pace. About 50 people participated - I'm told that usually there's around 150-300 people, but the day we went held a hot rain in store, and even though it was stupendous for us to be in rain that didn't make us shiver, I guess getting wet is not Curitibans' cup of tea! No matter though, as the small number afforded us a chance to converse with almost everyone on the ride and to learn a little more about the bike scene. I was pleased to see everyone, not just the same 2 people throughout the ride, taking turns corking oncoming traffic, and I was thoroughly impressed when - during a rough bit of condemnation from the aggressive traffic behind us - the leaders of the ride took 4 or 5 donut turns/derby circles in the middle of a busy intersection, completely disrupting traffic for an entire rotation of traffic lights! To my surprise, almost everyone on the street was completely receptive to our hijinx. All the passerbys that I offered flyers took them graciously, and people of all ages smiled at our antics.

Yet the highlight of the ride, (for me anyway), was watching the aforementioned punk terrorize motorists that had the misfortune, or miscalculation, of leaving their windows down. You see, this bloody-butcher-Hannibal man, with a thunderous scream, and tree trunks for arms (he were 9ft tall if he were an inch, I tells ya!), also came equipped with a modified chainsaw that sported a bike-chain mechanism and an intentional gassy leak, which he pointed without mercy straight onto unsuspecting car drivers and passengers! Some people simply looked afraid, and rolled up their windows. When others objected, the environmental butcher simply retorted something along the lines of imitating what the motorists themselves were doing to those of us not in cars... the awesome and surprising result? Feeble retorts, and in some cases, agreement.

Later in the ride, the butcher-punk told me of the protests they've had recently in Curitiba over the increasing bus fares. The public transit riders, sans union, share a sentiment that the public transit should be free. In addition to suggestion and solicitation of public figures, they've also taken to the streets and violently let their wishes be known, sending several police officers and protesters to the hospital in the process. I only wish our Portland Tri-Met riders would demand the same from our city...

At the end of the ride, we congregated under the covering of some sort of shopping building, since the warm tropical rain had been steadily drenching us for the last half hour of the ride. It was then that we learned that several attendees of the ride had recently been charged with breaking environmental laws in Curitiba - the offense? Installing guerilla bike lanes. The city is charging them with over $3,000 in fines, and this Saturday they're holding a fundraiser for their cause and for future bicycle/pedestrian awareness projects. The ride leader introduced us and asked us to share about bike culture in Portland. Tiago did most of the explaining, naturally, and I chimed in afterward about how inspiring the ride had been for me, and how proud I am of all of them for braving the streets of Curitiba and participating directly in the bike-fun movement while doing it. After a group photo and bit more socializing, we eventually headed home, wet and elated.
- Part II -
The Family, The Food and More Travel

Well, not too much to report here. It's all damned wonderful! The food is delicious here in Brazil, and man, is there a lot of it! Daria and Bohdan (Tiago's parents) are extremely accommodating, and the entire family exhibits the hospitality of some Southern mom-and-pop diner, with an "eastern european twist," (re: "Eat! Eat! You're too skiiiiiiiiny!"). My Portuguese is improving every day, and I am determined to be as fluent as possible by the time I return to the states. Yes, so far I love just about everything about South America! There are only two things that will take me some more getting used to... (1) not eating what appear to me as "finger foods" with my hands, and (2) not putting toilet paper in the toilet (and in some cases, not being afforded the luxury of toilet paper at all)! I never thought myself a privileged-princess with a need for/sensitivity to such amenities... well I guess I never thought about it that long or hard! My friend Emy tells a story about having to re-train herself to dispose of her toilet paper in the toilet upon returning to the States form a stint in South America... I wonder, multiple times each day, if I'll have to do the same...

Anywho - after arriving in Curitiba, we spent a few days settling into the room that Tiago and his brother Diogo grew up in (which wasn't too settling for me!), and then it was off to Salvador, Bahia, in the Northeast of Brazil, for more travel, adventure and fun!

- Part III -
Salvador, Bahia

The trip to Salvador, Bahia consisted of a several-hour long plane trip to the Northeastern part of Brazil. During the flight, Tiago and I flew over one of the prospective areas where we are interested in procuring land, sometime in the future. From the aerial view it looked like paradise, and I am anxious to go explore the region more, perhaps later in our trip. Also during the flight, I received a briefing from Tiago about what my demeanor should be like once we got to Salvador, including walking faster than normal, not making direct eye-contact with those trying to approach me or talk to me, and practicing how to say "No Thank You" in many different ways. I'm glad he had the foresight to tell me then, because those tips came in handy as soon as we arrived, and were bombarded with taxi and goods solicitations.

We could have afforded to take the fancy-schmancy shuttle bus to the bed-and-breakfast at which we were going to stay, or a taxi, but instead opted for the sort-of-fancy shuttle bus to near where we were staying. After waiting for over an hour, the bus finally arrived, and I got my first lesson in the need to dominate a line in South America. Geeze Louise - for a place where the every day pace is half that of the United States, these people sure do like to be first in line... and I don't blame them! In most places I've seen, the bus will start moving whether you have both feet in or not, so it's best to get on first... pushing and shoving is playing it safe, and I've learned to do the same, although each time i do, I wonder what my mother would say...

We arrived at our pousada (bread and breakfast) in the mid-afternoon heat; the heat during which locals avoid the beach and tourists stand out more on the streets. The place was BEAUTIFUL, and although it may be 2nd rate to some travelers, it was paradise to me. Only three blocks from the beach, with a snippet of ocean view, each room's facade was painted a different color, and like most of my experiences thus far in South America, the service was impeccable.

We unpacked, relaxed a bit, and then - on just 2.5 hours of sleep - went out to establish our bearings, get a big plate of food, a cold drink, and a heapin' of curious looks from the locals... (Turns out that the new skull tattoos Tiago and I are bearing - his birthday present to me this year - is also the sign for a local gang... We were informed by some young kids on the beach who thought we were awesome for being a part of that "hardcore" gang... ai yi yi.)

We stayed two lazy, hot nights at that pousada, and during the days we ventured to the historical heart of Salvador - the 3rd most populous city in Brazil, and 9th most populous in Latin America. Salvador was the first colonial capital of Brazil, and as such is host to a magnetic marriage of old, older, and new. The convergence of Brazilian tradition and European influence is overwhelming, and makes for a really colorful experience... and I'm not being facetious! It turns out that the homes of Salvador didn't originally have address numbers, and as such were painted a different color from all other homes on the same street... when the colonizing forces decided to raise taxes, people would stow away at night and re-paint their house a different color... leading to a truly varied viewing experience! The city is pretty much a giant tourist trap, with some areas containing more "trappers" than others, and I'd be lying if I said we didn't fall for some. We even took refuge from the heat in the nearby shopping mall - a very well air-conditioned establishment with lots of security. I got to see so much culture that was on the one hand familiar to me, and on the other extremely foreign. My favorite image, though, is of Tiago in the food court of the shopping mall, eating empanadas and tortas, sporting an un-car-friendly expletive-laden baseball cap, sitting in front of a McDonald's - a scene I'd never be privy to in the US of A. All in all, we enjoyed an enriching experience in Salvador, and the overcrowded city served well as a stark contrast precursor to the paradisaical adventures that came next...

To Be Continued...


Anonymous said...

Oh I miss y'all! Keep the tales of your adventures streaming in. I feel ya on the toilet paper thing. It felt like such a ridiculous thing to throw toilet paper into the water after a few months down south.

revphil said...

fyea! keep em coming deJerks!

t-b0ne said...

wow... how fun! are you guys going to rio?? i've always dreamed of doing a central/south american tour. like that of sir che guevara. on a motorcycle. so hawt.

be safe!

Carolina Penner said...

que legal! continua escrevendo suas aventuras, porque por aqui elas estão em falta.

um beijo grande pra vocês,

Hotpink said...

Glad you're having a wonderful time. Keep up the bike adventures!

Morgan said...

That's awesome you did the Critical Mass there. We saw it in our last night in Curitiba two years ago. It was about 150 people on nice night. Mostly mountain bikers from what I saw. Any freak bikes there?

Tiago DeJerk said...

There were no freak bikes at CM, but I have seen a few choppers around, or, at least, some modified beach cruisers. I still need to meet those freaks, though...

Anonymous said...

You are a wonderful writer, and I am so glad that you shared the link to your travels with me. Can't wait to read the next installment! Enjoy!