Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Days 9 (and 10): Brazilian Steakhouse (and Sau Paulo)

Well I made it home safe and sound today - Saint Patricks Day 2009!!  Mom and Dad were at the airport in KC waiting on me - holding a sign with my name on it, haha! 

So let me back up again - I haven't written since before leaving for the Brazilian Steakhouse in Rio on Sunday!

We all (Patrick, Kalen, Sean, Aaron, and myself) piled in a taxi to head to this famous restaurant in Copacabana.  The freaking taxi driver did not speak ONE WORD of English, so it was a real struggle to get him to figure out where we wanted to go!

He EVENTUALLY got it!  Marius Carnes Brazilian Steakhouse!! 

The atmosphere and decorations at the restaurant were SO cool!  And the food was pretty good too, I mean for all-you-can-eat meat!  I didn't really know what kind of meat they all were, but I tried one or two bites of just about everything they brought by - until I realized they weren't ever going to STOP bringing new stuff by and I seriously couldn't breathe anymore! ;)

One pece of meat Aaron got was literally RAW - and he ATE it!  Ugghh - YUCK!

All the guys gorged themselves until I thought they were going to throw up!





I got up to go to the bathroom, and came right back for my camera.  These bathrooms were DEFINITELY picture worthy!!  I couldn't figure out which one was mens and which one was womens - so I just picked one.  Turned out the H on the door is for the guys, LOL! 

The floor was all little pebbles, like you were walking on a rocky beach.  The sinks were full of rocks too (the restaurant was a Pirate theme - did I say that yet??) They had this super cool thing to pee in - with ice on it so it steamed up when you peed!  The stalls were super cool with big pad-lockson the doors.  Coolest bathrooms I've ever seen! :)  The women's bathroom was pretty much the same, except no ice things to pee in! ;)

After the restaurant, we took a taxi back to my hostel and the guys walked back to there's.  It was late and they didn't want me to have to walk through that tunnell again at night (thankfully)! ;)  I just went to bed - I think the guys went out again - crazy partiers!

I took a taxi at the crack of dawn to the half-dead airport, made it through security in about 5 minutes and waited at my gate for the short flight to Sau Paulo.

Sau Paulo was pretty lame compared to Rio.  Then again I was only there a day and didn't really do or see anything cool.  I pretty much drove around in a taxi and walked around the old run-down city.

Back at the airport that night for my flight to Lima, then Houston, then HOME!

My awesome South American adventure has come to an end. :(

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 8 : Favela Tour, Cristo Redentor, Hippy Market...

Okay, so I feel bad for not really writing yesterday like I usually do...I actually left out some kind of funny/interesting things.  SO...back I go!  I'm sure this is going to get super long! :) 

I'll start at the end of the jungle tour yesterday because I think I really would talk forever and ever about the jungle (IT WAS SO AWESOME!!!).  So on the drive back (cruising through Rio in the open top Jeep!)...

...I started talking to the two girls from Brazil.  One of them did her senior year of high school at some little town in Missouri!  They both spoke pretty good English, and were telling me how now is the best time of year to shop in Rio because it is the end of summer.  Just what I needed to hear, right!?  I've seen lots of sale signs in like every window, but I just figured they were there all year 'round just to attract suckers like me!  But apparently not. I've done pretty well so far...kind of...I do have 3 new soccer jerseys, but that's about it!  And some socks, a scarf, and a beanie from Cusco because I was freezing to death so that was necessity! :)  The Brazilian girls also told me about Ipanema beach as we drove by it. 

The beach is divided by posts, and each area between the posts is for different people.  One of them said, it's really easy, 7 is for the gay people, 8 is for the illegal/bad stuff (??), and 9 is for the beautiful and famous people.  Apparently around post 8 there is a guy there every day that sells brownies with weed in them...LOL! :)  They also told me about good restaurants near by and the cool clubs to go to at night.  The other girl on the jungle tour, Patricia (we're facebook friends now!) was the tour guide in training.  If I hadn't asked, I probably would've thought she was from the US she spoke such good english with no accent!  She was SO happy when I told her that.  She's never been to the US but she said she's obsessed with American tv shows and watches tham all the time...I would assume that is probably true from the way she speaks! :)  So anyways, she was really cool and she gave me her email address and phone number, etc.  She is the one who kept talking about Brazilian football and how much fun it is to go and see, so I need to thank her for the advice!!  We (Patricia and I) might go to the beach today...maybe.  I just have so much stuff to do and not enough time to do it!! :) 

So the jeep dropped me off back in front of the fancy hotel on the beach, and I walked back to my hostel.  And like I said yesterday, as soon as I walked in, some people there were talking about the big game.  I asked when, where, how much, etc and quickly decided to go!  I mean what an opportunity!!  To get to go to  Maracana Football Stadium (which is like the biggest and most famous stadium among soccer fans)...

...AND to be there when the biggest Rio team is playing another Brazilian team!!  So my guide came to pick me up at my hostel, a black Brazilian girl named Emily who actualy grew up near the stadium.  We walked to the van at the end of the street and hopped in.  Three guys in the back (Aaron, Kalen, and Sean from Cali) and two girls in the middle (Mariana and Wilma from Holland)...and me and Emily in the front!  The guys were really cool.  Aaron and Kalen were just down in South America for their 2 weeks of vacation (they spent a week in Buenos Aires too) and Sean is actually fron Singapore but has lived in Cali for while...a 24 year old senior at USC.  I'm pretty sure they are the first Americans I have met on my travels...ever.  The girls were nice, too...but they both smoked like a chimney.  I think that is like the national pastime of Europeans.  Americans play baseball and eat hot dogs, and Europeans smoke. :)  It seriously got old...constantly blowing smoke in my face! :( 

When we pulled up in front of the stadium and got out, two guys came right up to us selling jerseys.  They had a little kids one (XL) that fit perfect besides being a little short so I asked how much.  He said 80 Real...YEAH RIGHT!  That's like $40!!  So I handed it right back and said no way.  He kept following saying how much how much and I finally turned around and said not anywhere close to 80 Real!!  He kind of laughed and I said 20 Real, he said 25 and I said deal.  So I got the jersey for like $12...not bad I guess.  It's supposedly official because it was the little Nike swoosh on it...haha...it was probably made in some sweat shop in Vietnam...I guarantee it isn't real or official or anything! :)  I was SO excited to be there and to have my cool red and black striped Brazilian Flamengo soccer jersey!!  LOL...I fit right in! :) 

Emily told us that we were not allowed to buy beer in the stadium anymore (too many DEATHS) and since we were there almost 2 hours early (had to go early because the crowd gets to bad/busy close to game time) we decided to find a bar nearby where they could drink beer...and I could drink more water! :)  Turns out the new mayor put a new law in to affect like a month ago that no alcohol could be served at the game, and none of the bars withing some certain radius could serve beer before the games either.  We walked to at least three different bars and they couldn't serve us beer.  Lots of shops around there were closing on Saturday afternoon because of the game...it is a REALLY big deal down here!! So we eventually found a bar several blocks away that could legally serve beer.  They all ordered beers and we sat around talking for awhile. 

I hadn't had lunch yet, and two of the other American boys were hungry, too...but we couldn't read anything on the menu and Emily couldn't really translate very well for us.  So we walked up to the counter where they had some fried food in the little window and asked what it was. Of course the guy working didn't speak a word of English...but we are getting good with our hand gestures!! ;)  I pointed to one of the little empanada looking things and shrugged my shoulders (like what is that?) and you'll never believe what this cool guy did!  He pretty much started doing the chicken dance for us so we knew it was chicken in there! LOL...we were just cracking up...I got out my camera and motioned for him to do it again so I could get a picture of it...he was laughing too...such a good sport! :)  So then we pointed to the other one next to it and he did this little hand motion thing like a fish swimming through the water...haha!!  I LOVED that guy!  So one was chicken and one was fish.  We ordered three chicken and they were actually pretty good.  Oh I still laugh when I think about that guy doing the chicken wing flap for us!!  :) 

So we sat there at the little bar outside and ate and drank and watched all of the crazy fans just get hammered and stumble by on the way to the game with there drums and banners and whatever else.  I guess people (as in more than one) DIED during and/or after EVERY game at Maracana stadium because they would get so drunk and start fights over the game and who was better or whatever they wanted to fight about.  That's why the mayor just put the new rule in to place...which is probably a good thing for me because I can't even imagine how much MORE crazy it would be if everyone continued to drink DURING that game!  I guess it was nothing for fans to launch beer bottles, cups full of urine (yeah...seriously) AND dead chickens (??) into the seats below and/or on to the field.  NUTS...that's all I can say! 

We made it in to the stadium with the rest of the red and black striped jerseys flooding in.  It was all just so exciting - the sounds and the people and everything!!  I mean I love sports (pretty much any big sporting event) anyways so this was just so cool...I had a huge grin on my face the whole time I think!  I took lots of pictures of the crazy people walking by us and one of the big crowd of people trying to buy and sell tickets. 

(Aaron and Kalen)

When we got in, it was just pure madness...people jumping around and screaming and beating there drums and chanting...turns out that eventually got a little old because it literally did not stop once throughout the entire game.  Wait, I guess it did stop once when the other team scored a goal and it went dead silent...haha!  But about 10 seconds later they started up again and just kept going the WHOLE time!  The Flamengos won 2 to 1 which was good...I would've hated to be there if they lost!!  I bet the fans really lose it then!  They already boo and throw stuff when they miss a goal or do anything halfway bad!  So we stayed  and had a BLAST...just such a crazy experience (live futbol in Brazil!!) for all of us! 

We got back in the van and headed back to the hostel.  All 5 of the other people were staying at a hostel just up the road from mine, so I just got out with them at there place and we decided to walk and find some food...we were all starving!  We set out on foot (three of us wearing our red and black jerseys - two of the American guys bought the same ones) to find something good to eat!  We decided to go to this pizza place I had heard about...the girls from the jungle tour that morning told me about it, and I knew it was on the beach just up the street from my hostel.  Somehow I managed to find it from there place, but it didn´t open until 7 and it was only like 6:50.  Since we were all starving, we decided to walk across the street to some road-side little bar type place that had food in the window you could just point at and buy...that´s usually our best bet since none of us speak Portuguese! :) 

Guess what I ordered??  I decided to break out a little an try a banana and cheese fried something - haha!  I don´t really know why...just wanted to try something new.  It wasn´t really that bad...not that great either though.  The boys all got a beer, and the other girls smoked (of course) so I passed around my little cheese banana thing for everyone to try...no one was too impressed!  While we were sitting on the street there, some guy walked by and started pointing to our soccer jerseys ans yelling at us and booing and giving is two thumbs down...LOL...guess he isn't a Flemengo fan!!  :) 

By that time it was 7 and the doors were open across the street at the Italian restaurant so we went.  The other two girls decided it was too fancy for them (and too expensive) so they left and said they were going to try and find there way back to the hostel.  No idea if or how they made it...they had just arrived that afternoon and left immediately for the soccer game, so they really had no frame of reference...I gave them the best directions I could and I am assuimng they made it okay! :)  The three guys and me stayed and ordered two pizzas.  They got a big one with everything on it...including "fungi" which was NOT mushrooms...no idea!  And I got a smaller one with four kinds of cheese.  We all "shared"them...but I didn't eat any of the weird one and Sean is the only one who had a piece or two of my cheese.  They also got some expensive bottle of local Brazilian wine which they said was really good.  They all had a good hard laugh out of my not being able to handle alcohol stories! :)  I just stuck to my water, as usual. :) 

So after dinner, they were talking about going out, and I was like no way...too tired!  I haven't been sleeping all that great here.  I am on the top bunk and the a/c is RIGHT by my head, so I just get blasted with cold air all night. Plus the tiny mattress and pillow aren't that comfy, and any time anyone moves in the stack of three beds, all three beds wobble...AND there are constanly girls coming in and out and turning lights on and off all night.  So I went back to my hostel and they went back to there places.  I walked the streets of Rio alone at night and was JUST FINE!!  I don't think Rio is as bad as everyone thinks...just my opinion though. :)  So I went to bed, and Kalin and Aaron went out until like 6am I guess!!  Crazy boys... 

The plan was to meet at 8:30am this morning, and we were going to take a taxi up to the Cristo Redentor, which is this huge statue of Christ that has like 360 degree views of Rio...it's kind of like the staple view of Rio...that big statue is on everything around here.  So I was supposed to walk to there hostel because they didn't know where mine was.  I woke up at like 8am, grabbed a bowl of cereal (with hot milk) for breakfast and a piece of watermelon, and set off to try and find there hostel...I'd only been there that one time the night before, and it was for like 2 minutes, but I thought I could find it.  I knew it was just on the other side of the tunnel by my hostel, and I didn't want to talk up and around the tunnel because I thought I might get lost, so I headed for the big dark tunnel.  BAD IDEA!!!  That place smelled like...ugghh...I can't even describe it.  Not only was it dark and musty (at least I could see the other side though so that made me feel a little better), but there were literally piles of shit (I don't know if it was human or animal?) everywhere, and urine and trash...and homeless people sleeping all along the walkway that I had to step over.  I just knew one of them was going to wake up and grab my leg and eat me or something! ;)  I was a little nervous...only the second time I think since I've been on this trip (the first time being when I was going to Luiggi's house).  I was practically running through that tunnel, jumping over piles of poop and sleeping homeless people by the end of it.  The worst part was at the very end, there was this young girl sleeping on a piece of cardboard by herself...she couldn't have been more than 10 years old...just so sad. :( 

To my surprise, I did make it out on the other side without stepping in any crap and without waking up any of the homeless people...what a relief! :)  So now that I was on the other side of the tunnel...the side that I didn't know very well, I had to find the boys' hostel.  I knew I could at least see the tunnel from the street that it was on, so I was walking along, trying to get my bearings.  Unfortunately, everything looked different during the day than it did at night.  I walked and walked and walked, up and down the streets around where I thought it was, and just couldn't find it. :(  So I walked back to my hostel...the LONG way this time...not through the stinkin' tunnel, and sent them all an email telling them I tried, but couldn't find it, so I was going to do the Favela Tour that morning instead.  Turns out Kalen and Aaron were sleeping anyways, and Sean was going to do the Famela Tour as well.  When the guy walked in to my hostel to pick me up at 9:30 for the tour, I walked with him to the van and Sean was sitting there too!  Nice surprise to already see a familiar face. The guy sitting next to me was Patrick from Ireland...he just quit his job, his wife got laid off, and they were traveling around the world for 8 months!!  OH I so envy him!!  That would be SO much fun!!!  His wife wasn't with him because she was sick.  There were two guys from Italy and another guy from Israel...I don't remember who else, but all nice people. 

Okay so before I start with the Favela Tour, I'm just going to throw out all of the random facts that I learned about them today, in no particular order...this is going to be really random:  Favelas are where all of the really poor people and drug dealers live because they can't afford to live in the city.  There are around 900 favelas in Brazil that house around 30% of the population, and I visisted the largest one today called Rocinha. 

200,000 people live in this favela.  It brings in around $4 million USD per MONTH in drug money.  The children are recruited to be drug dealers around age 13.  The houses (or shacks) are built one on top of another on top of another because they can't spread out anymore, only up.  The people of the favela do not pay any taxes to the city of Rio or to the government, so they do not have postal service or running water, etc.  That also means the police are not allowed in to the favelas.  NO cameras or pictures were allowed through many parts of the trip because if the pictures go out, the cops would have a better idea of what the favelas are like or who was there, etc.  (I didn't know that until later...I took plenty of pictures of course!!)  The people were very nice, and our guide said the same people who shook your hand there are the same ones who would rob you on the streets.  Not much crime at all happens INSIDE the favelas because the drug lords do not allow it.  There are three gangs in Rio and the three leaders of the gangs (I don't remember the names of them) are coincidently the head drug dealers and they run the favelas.  If any crime happens in the favela, you go to the leader of the gang and they "take care of it" since there are no police.  My guide literally knew almost everyone in the favela and knew all about the different kinds of drugs they have there and how much they are...hmmm....  The men really like light haired/skinned girls :)  Apparently they "have sex like we change clothes" according to my guide and HIV and young girls having lots of babies is a big problem in the favelas.  Rio is so dangerous because it is literally almost completely surrounded by favelas that light up the hills at night.  Not all of the people in favelas are bad or drug dealers.  Many of the people who work service jobs in the actualy city have to live there because they can not afford anywhere else.  You can live in a room or floor of a house for around $50/month.  The smell of the trash and fecal matter everywhere was almost enough to knock you out.  There are electrical cords ALL over that just look like a total disaster. 

This is because the people of the favela have wired in to the power of the rich people outside of the favela and just run it to there houses themselves. There is only one way in to and out of the favela we visited, one main road, and we took motorbikes from the entrance of the favela up to almost the top of it (I took video the whole way up...later found out video cameras aren't allowed at all in the favela :) ) 

Here is the link to my YouTube video of the ride up and in to Rocinha:

There are guys sitting at the entrance with big guns who shoot off fireworks if danger is coming (ie rival gang members or the Rio police).  The Rio police never enter the favela with fewer than 200 officers in armored bullet proof vehicles and bullet proof helicoptors.  This doesn't happen very often, but when it does, lots of innocent people in the favela die in the crossfire.  Around 10 to 15 people die PER DAY in Rio from bullets.  The drug dealers inside of the favelas have better and more powerful weapons than most of the police force in Rio.  There are no "streets" once you are inside the favela, besides the main one.  There are only little allies and stairways that twist and wind and connect everything.  It is totally like an underground city or something - but it's built on a hill.  They have there own grocery stores and barber shops and bars, etc.  They have there own little secret world up there in the shacks. 

This favela is the second worst living conditions I've ever seen...next to Africa.  Children were literally playing in piles of trash. :(  I snuck in as many pictures as I could! :)  Okay, I can't think of any more random facts about the favela's right now, but it honestly was one of the most interesting parts of this whole trip and I am SO glad I went and learned about it.  OH...just thought of one more!  The people of Angola (a country in Africa) are now sending there drug dealers over to Rio by the hundreds to be "trained" by the drug dealers there...apparently there is like some underground drug dealing school...LOL!! 

Here are some (okay, a lot) of pictures of the favela:

(It was VERY hot and VERY humid!!)

So after we walked all the way back down through the little allies and saw a drug deal go down (for real!!), we all went back to our hostels.  Well actually, I got out with Sean at his hostel (I was SO close to that location this morning...just barely missed it!) to see if Kalen and Aaron were around.  We couldn't find them, so I set out with a couple of other guys from the hostel to see the Cristo Redentor statue.  We took a taxi to the area where you get on the tram, and took the tram up.  There was a big storm moving in and it started raining just as we were getting up to the statue.  AND of course my camera battery was dead because I left it on the whole time at the favela...and I haven't charged it yet this whole trip.  So no pictures up there, but you couldn't see anything anyways because of the clouds and the rain.  I think some of the other guys got some...I'll have to get those from them.  We came back down (weren't up there very long, but glad I at least got to see it) and then Sean and I decided to go to the local "hippie market" that happens every Sunday.  It was over off of Ipanema beach (the next beach over) so we decided to walk (after I charged my battery for like 15 minutes :) ) since the rain was letting up. 

Let me tell you, the walk from Copacabana to Ipanema is a LOT farther than it looks!!  We were SO tired by the time we got there, and that's saying a lot coming from me, because I walk A LOT! 

We ordered a little pizza from the back of a supermarket (they had a little cafe in there) and ate really quick and then headed across the street to the market. 

It was SO cool!  They had such interesting stuff there and it was all made locally!  Of course, I spent WAY too much money, but I got a lot of my friends some really cool souvenirs from Rio! :)  I LOVE this city...everything about it...I mean where else can you go from the beach to the city to the rainforest to the mountains in like 20 minutes!?  I bought some cool coasters that have different scenes of Rio on them, some jewelry, just all kinds of stuff! :) 

We probably walked around that market for a couple of hours I bet.  It started to POUR rain again while we were there, so we kind of hung out under a tarp for awhile until it let up enough for us to start the LONG walk back.  We kind of got lost...okay I was totally turned around...I mean just ass-backwards to the point where I was arguing with the map because I thought it was wrong :)  We eventually made our way back though...poor Sean had to deal with me the whole way just SWEARING I was right and the stupid map was wrong! :) 

So it's after 6pm now and I am back at my hostel.  The guys from last night and I are going out to eat at some famous Brazilian Barbeque place tonight.  Sean has this book called "1,000 places to see before you die" and this restauarant is in there so we're going to check it out here in an hour or so.  I think I might just stay up and go out to the clubs all night again...my flight for Sao Paulo leaves at 6am so what's the point in trying to sleep for a couple of hours!? :) 

The plan for tomorrow is to just find some nice taxi driver who will let me hire him for the day to drive me all around Sao Paulo! :)  Then I fly to Lima late in the evening, and my flight back to the US leaves at 11:40pm.  I really don't think I'll be able to write tomorrow, so you might not here from me until I make it home on Tuesday! :)