You know that feeling of having your mind blown? Of course you do. At least, I hope you do!
Brazil blew my mind so hard that it took me a while to recover. I don’t know if I’m even the same person I was. I doubt it. Overdramatic? Read on and see. I will attempt to backtrack and bring you up to speed on an incredible month in Brazil. It will most definitely take several parts.
Where better to begin this wild story than to start where I left off. I was living in Buenos Aires for about 10 days, feeling calm and at home. I wanted to get to Florianopolis as soon as possible for as cheap as possible, so I went shopping for bus trips at the Retiro terminal in B.A. The cheapest bus would be a 27 hour journey to Florianopolis for about $175. Yuck! Anyways I tried to use my last Argentinian Pesos and round off the 870 Peso price with my credit card, but there was a problem… My credit card wouldn’t work at the ticket office, at machines or anywhere else! I tried to call the Royal Bank of Canada and sat on the phone for 20 minutes. 12$ of phone fees later, I get no answer. Thus, I went back to Damian’s on the scorching hot city train and an hour later returned to my temporary home in BA. There, I bought Skype minutes with my credit card, which surprisingly worked and finally reached RBC. It turned out that ALL of the credit cards in Canada were down for 3 hours on the day.
As Damian, my CouchSurfing host put it: “That’s not very first world of you.” So, I bought the ticket online with my credit card which left me stuck with 700 Pesos and only a few hours the next day to use it. That’s because if you sell a Peso outside of Argentina you might get 7 for a dollar when I bought it for 5. I wasn’t in the mood to lose $40 for nothing so I went on a shopping spree, which was actually really awesome. I bought shorts, sunscreen, Che’s diary, a falafel sandwich with an extra box of hummus (which was actually good!) and much more. I felt like a baller.
The bus to Florianopolis was pretty shit, but I’m so used to it by now. They didn’t give us food and the air conditioning was freezing cold at night, but again, at least it wasn’t as bad as Bolivia. I feel like I’m gonna be saying that about a lot in life: “It’s not as bad as Bolivia.” But, as I’ve mentioned before, my experience in Bolivia was incredible and I recommend it to every traveler I met that is going in the other direction. It also helped that outside my window on the bus to Florianopolis I could see lush green hills, palm trees and quaint fishing huts. I was also impressed that I was driving on paved roads the whole time and the infrastructure looked solid. Again, much better than Bolivia!
I do miss Bolivia’s prices though! Brazil can be much more expensive than even Canada at times.
Florianopolis is known as one of Brazil’s most beautiful cities. Across a bridge from the city centre, where I stayed, the island of Florianopolis is circled by incredible beaches with high waves and amazing scenery. On the island, there are lagoons, lakes and nice restaurants, but I actually didn’t see much of that. The hostel I stayed at, near Campeche beach was in a residential area, so it was hard to get anywhere without the help of the really kind hostel staff. In addition, the hostel was clean, relaxed and had AMAZING food for us every night. The Loki effect, is what I’ll call it – a throwback to the amazing hostel I stayed in during my stay in Cusco.
For only 20 Reales ($10) each, we were treated to a massive barbecue feast one day, and an onslaught of delicious homemade Brazilian pizza the other – usually includes as many toppings as possible, I was throwing in the white towel even before 6 more pizzas came! We were also provided with one fresh homemade caipirinha – sugar, a molasses-like substance, crushed lime, ice and the nasty local liquor called cachaca filled to the top. You might notice that this drink is not mixed with anything, it is pure liquor with lime and sugar. Nuts!
Another reason why I didn’t depart on my own much from Sarau Hostel was because I didn’t yet speak Portuguese. “Everyone in Brazil speaks English,” some stupid person told me. “You can just speak Spanish and they will understand you.” WRONG! WRONG! Whoever is perpetuating these lies just needs to stop. Brazil could be as bas as America when it comes to speaking other languages. There are people who speak English and Spanish, but not a lot. If you are planning at trip to Brazil, and if not what the fuck are you doing with your life, learn Portugese or at least try to communicate. It’s easy, pick up a dictionary or phrase book and write down some words you would use. Also, write out some key verbs and their conjugations. Even if you memorize that, it will be hard because the Brazilian is so strong, but do it anyways. It’s fun! Throughout this trip I have learned how much I love languages! English, French, communicational Spanish and now a bit of Portugese. It makes the world a lot smaller to say the least.
One of the nights with the gang from Sarau Hostel, we went to our first pre-Carnaval street party in downtown Florianopolis. This would be my introduction to Brazil and once I got a taste I couldn’t get enough!
For hours, hundreds of people sang and danced to the SAME SONG and it only got better and better. Singers on top of a huge bus tirelessly repeated “Berbigao do Boca” while thousands of people including costumed dancers swung themselves below. In addition, beer, caipirinhas and double-weiner hot dogs were available every few steps along the way.
One of the hostel staff enjoyed parading me around as the gringo of the group, so I got a chance to meet some cool (and beautiful) Brazilians – like this gorgeous singer who I had the pleasure of photographing before my camera decided to stop working…
A couple days later, I got mugged and had my ass kicked, but came out laughing.
Another pre-Carnaval party meant more people, more drinking, more dancing, more music (not-repetition this time) and more experiences. As I walked down the beach road amongst thousands, I tried my camera, but it wouldn’t work. It says that the SD card is locked, when it isn’t. Conclusion: can’t use the camera until I send it back to Canon for warranty. Pretty bummed about this.
Anyways, I can explain to you what happened the old-fashioned way… After hours of partying with thousands of massively macho hammered male Brazilians (some of which were dressed in drag because that’s what you do at Carnaval) and beautiful female Brazilians it started to pour rain. Before this, it hadn’t rained in Florianopolis for exactly ONE MONTH! I haven’t gone a month in my entire life without precipitation, so that’s a pretty crazy thing to think about…
Since I had my camera and wallet I brought my trusty rain jacket and slipped my bag underneath. As I looked around the flooded streets (both with people and water) I realized that I was the only person with a rain jacket, so I basically stuck out like a super-white sore thumb.
Regardless, I was prepared and they weren’t ie. I saw a girl cry cause her phone was destroyed in the rain. Bam!
Soaking wet (with my bag still in tact :P), we decided to call it a day and head back to the car. I let the first wave of people from my hostel go, and I waited with two of the hostel’s Brazilian staff and a box of beer in a white Styrofoam container.
Just as it turned to dusk, I put my jacket and Bolivian bag (with $1000+ camera and wallet) on top of the box as I went a few steps away to pee. When I turned around, three large Brazilian men were standing in front of my friends and one had his hand on my bag. I rushed over, grabbed my bag from him and retreated back a few steps. One of the three came over to me and started wailing punches to my skull. Pushed back by the blows, I fell to the ground clutching the bag close to my chest. Another one came and started kicking me. I guess I faced about 45 seconds of punches and kicks before my Brazilian friend (and wingman) Jesse grabbed one of the attackers and threw him back. The third attacker simply jumped on the box of beer, took the beers and they all left.
Immediately after they were out of sight I jumped up with elation! “What pussies! I got hit like 20 times and I’m not even hurt!” It’s true that I was pretty drunk, but still, after this attempted mugging I left with only a bunch of bruises, two small scrapes and all my stuff. Sweet deal!
Now, I expect this will fit nicely into the stereotype that Brazil is dangerous and scary and you should never come here. What ridiculousness! In my experience so far by being out tons of times on the street with thousands of drunk people I have seen barely any acts of violence of any kind! I see wayy more fights in an average night out in Ottawa than I have in my month in Brazil where you are actually allowed to drink outside.
While some parts of this trip have made my proud to be Canadian especially in comparison with other English speakers, my realization that Canadians have an irrational fear of South America finally hit me in Brazil. Despite what I would have expected, I have barely encountered any Canadians. Meanwhile, I have probably met more Australians than South Americans and their country consists of 14 million less people…what gives!?
Canadians feel that South America is too dangerous and thus generally do not go. Instead they opt for resort trips to Central America, museum/club backpacking trips in Europe, or to South-East Asia for cheap debauchery at the Full Moon Party in Thailand etc. One Canadian couple I met in Rio de Janeiro the day before Carnaval had a flight booked to Bolivia ONE DAY before the greatest party on Earth was about to begin. Why? Fear. Someone in Canada actually told her that in Rio people come up behind you with a silencer gun, shoot you and take your stuff. It makes me laugh just thinking about this, but come on, the thieves are far far too poor to own a silencer. You may get robbed, its true, that is a reality of South America, but you won’t lose your life! I only got attacked cause I fought for my stuff, you can just give it over and you will be fine. At the same time, everyone I’ve talked to about this subject in Brazil say they feel safer here than in any other South American country.
I don’t understand it! Brazil is everything we wish we had in Canada – identity, culture, beaches, beautiful weather (what Canadian doesn’t complain about the weather), and IT ISN’T LAME! An Israeli recently told me that all she knew about Canada was that it is the lamest place on Earth. I resent that statement and strongly disagree, but at the same time it is ONE of the lamest places on Earth without a doubt. Less regulations does equal more fun. Brazilian culture is 100x more open. It is also a country made up of immigrants, but is has developed their own music, dances and unique culture unlike Canada. For example, in Brazil, I have barely heard any English music. Instead, on the radio, on the street, in the bars and in the clubs they play Brazilian music and EVERYONE knows all the words! I think every Brazilian has a catalogue over 20 000 songs in Portuguese that they know every word to. In Canada, you’d be hard-pressed to even find someone that can sing all the words to our national anthem, but I digress.
Brazil > Canada.
While I was in Florianopolis, masked bandits were burning down buses in the name of drug lords in prison, which kinda messed up the flow of the city, so I wrote a story about it: “Fire and chaos greets this backpacker in beautiful Brazil.”
On my last day in Florianopolis I decided to take a trip alone to the beach. While there, I asked a guy on the bus where the stop was, even though I knew where it was, just to spark up a conversation with a local. Being from Argentina, the guy did not understand the few Portuguese words I was speaking that I had learned from reading the dictionary and picking out words I thought I might use. As the Argentinian bumbled and fumbled to figure out what I was saying, a Brazilian in the seat behind me interjected and answered my question in English. After that, we sparked up a conversation. It turns out he was going to the same beach, so we agreed to go together and hang out.
Bruno, the flight attendant from Porto Allegre and I got along amazingly. After just a couple hours of getting to know each other we agreed to meet in Rio de Janeiro and shoot a video! I had planned to shoot videos this whole trip, but never had someone to help me and now, in Brazil, I finally had! We ate some acai (a magical purple berry from the Amazon) with fruit and granola and promised to meet each other in a couple days in Rio de Janeiro for the first few days of Carnaval.
What ensued was a ridiculous video that you can watch in a couple days when it is ready, and one of the greatest weeks of my life!
Up next: Part 2 in Rio de Janeiro. This one will be a MUST READ!