Potty Please

So, one of the things that many of you people who are sitting in your office or home where the bathroom is within easy reach dont think about is the idea of NOT being able to go to the toilet whenever you want. If you have ever driven on the Mass Turnpike (Grant - hehe! Thanksgiving 05) you know what I mean.

Here it is a constant battle. We get so used to the good old US of A, where we can stop at McDonalds or Starbucks or the Rest Stop on the side of the road (ha! no such thing here!) or...pretty much
wherever and people will let you use their toilet. Here, first of all, they probably dont have a toilet and if they do, they may or may not let you use it. If they DO let you use it, you may have to pay. Oh, and, there probably is not toilet paper. Actually, it is more than likely there is none. And maybe no seat on the toilet, as if you were going to sit on it anyway. Oh and probably no sink.

BUT you are LUCKY to have found a bathroom in the first place, so you can't complain. But it sure is a shitty situation sometimes!


In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle...

I have arrived in the Amazon and there are many trees.

We first arrived in Manaus, which is not the middle of the jungle villiage you imagine. It is a teeming city of over two million people, which is a major hub for commerce on the river. It reminds me of something that used to be a beautiful place and could still be if it hadnt gone into disrepair years ago and never recovered. The city is filled with what used to be beautiful buildings, with tile façades and gated courtyards, but are now covered with soot and dirt and grime.

Next a boat cruise was in order. There are two ways you can do it... 1) like the locals, who use the Amazonas River as a means of transport as well as commerce. This entails a 3-5 day trip from Belem to Maunaus, which can be fun. However, the river is quite wide and you dont really get to see a lot of wild life. 2) a group tour, with a bunch of white people. We chose the latter. Which I was not really too keen on at first, becuase going with a bunch of other tourists is not usually my thing. However, it was GREAT! The first day we went on a sunset canoe ride and saw snakes, birds and frogs. The next day we went on a sunrise canoe and saw another snake and many birds, including parrots and macaws. We also took a hike and learned a lot about the flora of the jungle. There are about 800 species of vines, many of them with medicinal properties. There are more than 3000 species of trees in the Amazon. And 3000 fish, 70% which are edible. And the Amazon dumps more water in one day into the ocean than the Thames river dumps in ONE YEAR!!! Crazy huh?

The next day we went piranha fishing. I caught NO piranha, but our driver caught about 7. I kept feeling them nibble, but could never jerk the line up fast enough to catch one. They are smaller than you think and most of them do not eat human. So, there goes that myth.

The last day we went to see the meeting of the waters, where the Rio Negro meets the Amazonas river. The Rio Negro is black and the Amazonas is brown and they flow next to each other for about 3-5 miles without mixing. It is pretty cool!

So, I got a little bit of edumacation and had a very awesome time on my jungle trip!


Trip Pics

Well, it is raining today so I finally got a chance to put more photos online! Yay!

You can, of course, view them here.


Chopping Broccoli

You never realize that when you travel you are going to miss some things. Little things. ¨Normal¨ things. Everyone alwasys wonders how much fun you are having, what new things you are doing, who you are meeting, etc. But sometimes I just want people to tell ME what THEY did today, who they hung out with and what they did. The normal things, the mundane, everyday, normal things have become more desirable to me. I want to go to dinner on Friday night with the normal work crowd. I want to have a beer at Vics while watching the koala fly back and forth. I want to play pool at Cooter Browns; I want to make pizza with Matt and Pam; I want to hike to Bucks creek with Dad and Shay. Okay, so I am not saying I am not having fun, quite the contrary, but it is funny how we always miss or want what we dont have.

The food here is good. A lot of it is fried, but there is also a lot of good local food, seafood and fruit...oh the fruit! It is delicious. Many papaya (mamãou), pineapple (abacaxi), passion fruit, watermelon and more! Every day for breakfast I eat about one ton of fruit. However, I had a dream the other day about broccoli, and now I want some broccoli SO bad! However, they dont have it here at all. Well, at least I have not seen it. And it is not a choice on the street or in the grocery store.

So, I have made a list. When I get home, I am going to eat good cheese and many soy products. I am going to play pool at Cooter Browns; I am going to go to the Mission for a burrito; I am going to have miso soup with K; I am going to have girls night on Thursday (where I eat good cheese and drink good wine) and last but not least, I am going to have tons and tons of Broccoli!

The Bane of the Bag

Chris and I always say that our home is where we lay our backpack. However, it is more than that. Not only do we lay our backpack somewhere, but we also lug the damn thing around everywhere before finally laying it down in its temporary home. There are levels of difficulty when carrying a bag that you dont think about when you are traveling in the US with your car and your hotel room and your whatever else.

The worst so far is Brazil. All the local buses have turnstyles. You pay, then you go through the turnstyle. If you are overweight or you have a big packpack, there is NO WAY you are getting through the turnstyle. So, luckily I am not the former, but I am still the latter. So, here is how it usually goes...

I get on the bus, give the guy at the turnstyle one of those looks (you know, glance at the pack, shrug your shoulders, raise your eyebrows - what should you do now?), then he gives you one of those looks (you know - glances at the pack, raises his eyebrows, shrugs his shoulders - what can he do about it?) then you give him one of those guestures (point at the backdoor - can I get on that way instead?) and he gives you one of those guestures (finger goes in a circle - go around to the backdoor). Then you go around to the backdoor (and, by the way, the bus is ALWAYS packed with people when you have your pack on, never fails) and put your pack down OR bump EVERYONE on your way back up to the front to pay the guy. You finally pay the guy and then have to stand there with your pack on, or stand there next to your pack, always taking up way too much room in a crowded bus.

It is funny, kind of tiring, the bag is very heavy and it is sometimes hard to communicate...but most people are nice and they dont mind too much my standing in their way with my pack or my ignorance about how to board the bus with the huge thing.

Luckily one of the things I DO know how to say in Portuguese is EXCUSE ME.