Intro video for my column with Forget the Box back in November. Wow, how things have changed in 4 months!
When I set off on this South American tour four months ago I promised that I would meet amazing people. You know where I have met the most amazing people? Transportation ie. the bus! The first time was on my first flight to Peru, unfortunately the woman got arrested before she could help me. Then, on a tumultuous first journey from Lima, Peru, to La Paz, Bolivia I met a wonderful Peruvian woman who helped me get to La Paz and across the Bolivian border without speaking a word of English. Later, I met Bruno on a bus in Florianopolis, Brazil, which meant that I could make my Carnaval video, take some photos of Brazil because he leant me his camera, go directly to Morro de Sao Paulo and survive the scrupulous Portuguese accent on many occasions.
On the last leg of my journey, I was again helped on the bus, this time by a local Paulista (person from Sao Paulo). I simply said hello and introduced myself to the guy and 30 seconds later he offered to pay my bus fare to enter the city. On the bus he told me he worked in TV and offered me a tour of the TV station he worked at! I said ok and he organized the tour for a couple days later. Leonardo paid for my metro too then we shook hands and I was off.
It happened a couple more times in Sao Paulo where I was trying to find somewhere and the person went out of their way to help me. Since Rio I have been thinking non-stop about open vs. closed cultures and have had many conversations about this in the process. An American I met who has moved to Sao Paulo told me he agrees 100% that Brazil is a more open culture and Brazilians are generally more warm. He told me that he recognizes his closed American culture when he is being introduced to new people – and he doesn’t like it. I too feel closed on occasion and blame my English culture.
Still, Brazil is not perfect. This excellent National Geographic video on Rio during Carnaval this year shows the scams and underground criminal activity associated with Carnaval. This might explain some of the fear associated with Brazil…
The two wonderful Uruguyans that saved my computer said they feel rejected by Bahian Brazilians in Salvador. They have been condescended and called gringos even though they aren’t gringos.
I definitely did not feel this with the Bahian I stayed with in Sao Paulo. Indra, a Bahian studying in Sao Paulo, offered me her couch for my final five days. She met my brother in Palestine when they were teaching capoeira together.
The day after I arrived, Indra was speaking at the University of Sao Paulo for a conference. The thing I noticed about the campus is that is pretty much exactly like most other universities I’ve ever been to – there were cliques, people dressed the same as any young people, public hall make outs etc. Sometimes we think we are so different at a specific place or especially at a specific university. We forget that other students are doing the same thing and acting the same way at many other universities all over the world.
The only tourist site I saw was the Sé Cathedral, a massive twentieth century cathedral.
I built my own tourism by visiting TV Cultura thanks to Leonardo. His friend Vanessa showed me around the TV sets and newsroom. I also got a chance to sit in on the screening of a political talk show featuring four panelists that talked about International politics. While I understood probably 5% of the conversation because it was all in Portuguese it felt special to be in a professional studio and it re-sparked my desire to work in TV. After the show I approached the two American panelists and asked them what it takes to work in Brazil. One came here 13 years ago without any Portuguese searching for a freelance job. He found a few and then landed a two-year gig as a foreign correspondent in Brazil for the illustrious New York Times. Now he is a correspondent for Reuters. The other was a business correspondent for another major US news magazine.
At first when I told them about my desire to work in Brazil they gave me the speech about how it’s hard to get a job in journalism blah blah blah… After that, however, they said that the key to getting a job in a foreign country is speaking the language and if you open up to learning new languages and taking chances there are jobs. Enough with the fucking negativity and more with the positivity ok journalists? I’m tired of your whining about no jobs when there are so many jobs out there. I know that negativity awaits me when I return home, just look at the newspapers or online to see the daily if not weekly article about how there are no jobs for young people or journalists. Dare to challenge this negativity! I will!
On my last day before leaving Brazil I made sure to try eating at a churrascuria – a buffet where fresh meat is brought to your team, a carnivore’s delight!
And now here I am back in snowy Ottawa, Canada.
Instead of looking back at particular events, intending to blog about them, I am now looking back at my entire trip in hind site.
What an amazing trip! I did all I wanted and much, much more.
Here are some of the highlights.
Best photo: La Paz at night HDR – End of the World. Tough one because I feel like I captured so many magnificent things on this trip, but this photo taken on one of my first days in Bolivia is one that I am most proud of. It was featured across two pages in the issue of the Bolivian Express that I wrote for.
Best city: Rio de Janeiro – This city is absolutely as it sounds, beach, beauty, kindness, culture, fun. One day I will return, I have to!
Best spontaneous decision: Playa de los Hippies in Cordoba, Argentina. Without any idea where I was going, I found myself on a crystal clear river beach surrounded by mountains in the company of great people.
Best blog/article: “Celebrating the end of the world on Lake Titicaca” for Vice. The article as well as the circumstances in which I wrote my first ever published freelance article made it something I can be extremely proud of.
Best purchase: My Michael Jackson towel from the Feria de El Alto, of course!
Best party (other than Carnaval): Tarija, Bolivia. Singani, Fernet and beer and good friends led to a wild night off the gringo trail with the gang from the Bolivian Express.
Best meal: La Comédie, La Paz Bolivia. This French meal with fresh local lamb and French cheeses was spectacular! And it was on the BX’s tab :P.
Best street food: Saltena, Bolivia. This delicious empanada meat pastry is a perfect breakfast, but only if you make it there before it closes at 11am.
Worst sickness: Salar de Uyuni. Altitude sickness is no joke – I felt like death. I recommend coca leaves!
Worst meal: Bull soup in Bolivia. Bull looks like a sliced orange, but it is white and gelatinous. It is a combination of touch cartilage and fatty gelatin. Absolutely horrific.
Worst crisis: Purchased non-functional iPod in Bolivia and returned it. I have never complained and screamed like I did to fight to return something, but this time fortunately it worked!
It’s been fun and very worthwhile writing these posts. Now I have a record of what happened and you have been able to join in on the stories.
Keep up with this blog, as more stories will be coming soon!