I can't remember where I left off yesterday, and I'm not going to go back and look...they charge you by the minute to use the internet here, so my emails might get a little shorter... :) I think I talked about the strike we saw and eating the cocha (pronounsed coke-uh or coke-a) leaves. I still don't even know what they are...probably illegal drugs for all I know! Haha! Anyways, I took some and wadded them up and started chewing them. Ugghh they were so sick! Luiggi said everyone chews them there...keeps the farmers from getting tired or cold. (Yeah...right.) I could tell after a few seconds they weren't sitting well so I spit them out right there on the front steps of the church :) and we went to eat. 6 soles for a three course meal again...really good food. Luiggi and I started walking back to the hostel...getting cold and starting to rain again. He pulled me in to some little shop and asked the lady something. I followed them back to some jewelry and he picked up a little black and red beaded bracelet and bought it for me. He put it on me and said it means good luck in the jungle...I could probably use all the luck I can get now that he is gone! ;)
We kept walking and he said he was going to run home and told me he would come get me to take me to the airport. I didn't want to deal with trying to get a taxi on my own, and he always gets way better deals than me. In fact, he did all the bartering for me when I was shopping...got them to come down and told me when it was a good deal and when it wasn't. :) So anyways, I headed back to the hostel and started writing that email, and then Luiggi popped in the door exactly when he said he would and said he had a taxi for 4 soles outside waiting for me. I kind of thought he would just put me in it and send me on my way, but of course he came with me. He walked me up to check in and even waited for me while I checked in to get my boarding pass. When I had to go through security (where he couldn't go anymore) he gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheeck and made me promise I'd come back and see him. Of course I said I would...I really want to see where he grew up in the jungle...but the odds of that actually happening, realisticly, are probably slim to none. :( So Luiggi was gone and I was on my way back to Lima and then on to Rio.
One hour flight to Lima, an hour or so layover, which was just enough time to get off the plane, through immigration, back through the check-in line and through security and immigration again, and to my gate. I"m getting the airport thing down, no matter what country! I was using some random guys computer at the airport to finish that email last night...that's why it got cut short. His name was Guiellermo and he was from Chile. He looked like a nice enough guy and he was sitting there on his lap top so I went up to him and asked him if spoke English. No, of course not. I have to say I have been somewhat surpirsed with the lack of english speaking people down here. It's a wonder what body language and hand gestures can do. He figured out I needed to use his computer and passed it over. Since he didn't speak english and my spanish is quite limited, where he was from and his name was as far as I got with him! :)
The flight from Lima to Rio was only 5 hours, and I didn't sleep a wink. I watched Mama Mia and then I got hot and uncomfortable and just couldn't sleep. Got in to Rio and 3am my time and 5am Rio time. Crappy little run down airport...I was actually pretty surprised...I just thought it would be nice I guess. Didn't take long at all to get through immigration and customs because my flight was pretty much the only on there at the time. Unfortunately, my taxi (which is offered free through my hostel here) wouldnot come before 6am unless I wanted to pay. So I sat there and waited for an hour...dead tired and hungry. About 10 after 6, a guy showed up with "Terri Marie" written on a piece of paper. Score!! That's two for two on the arranged airport pick-ups! :) He spoke a little english, so I followed him in to the parking garage and got in his taxi. And let me tell you, this guy takes the cake HANDS DOWN for the craziest taxi driver I've ever been with. I'm sure you guys probably think I'm exaggerating at this point, so I actually got out my video camera and started recording him driving smack down the middle of the busy highway, and driving so crazy like we were going to a race. I rather enjoyed it for awhile, because that's how I drive sometimes, especially when I'm bored...like I'm racing every other car on the road. But after awhile...I started getting sick. It was hilly and there were lots of sharp turns that he definitly did not slow down for.
The surrounding area was absolutly beautiful. It's so green and lush and tropical here...I felt like I was in the amazon already! But the houses and buildings were just terrible. I still find it hard to believe how poorly people live in foreigh countries. I mean nothing will ever come close to the people in Kenya, but this place was pretty shocking. I guess I thought Rio was going to be some beautiful nice city, and it probably is in some part, but where I was was definitly full of shacks and run-down buildings and dark allies filled with trash. :( I rolled down my window trying not to puke. (That would've made it two for two on throwing up in foreign countries this trip!) but somehow I managed to hold it back. Once we stepped out of the taxi at my hostel, I actually keeled over and just knew I was going to puke all over, but didn't. The combination of the heat wave and humidity and lack of food and sleep almost did it for me.
A very nice looking Brazilian guy named Roger checked me in and showed me to my room. Glad I'm not paying much for this place! I walked through a room with 12 beds and through another door in to a TINY room with three sets of three bunkbeds. Nine beds so close together there almost wasn't walking room...and there was one empty bed on the very top of the wobbly thing that looked (and felt) like it could collapse at any second. People sleeping in every bed in every room...apparently this is a busy hostel!
Off to sleep I went. It was 5am my time (7am in Rio) and I ended up sleeping until about 10am. Believe it or not, I actually took a shower! First real shower I've had and the first time I've washed my hair since I left...LOL...I'm such a skank, I know! The showers here actually are pretty nice and big for a hostel. And toilets actually have seats, which is a change from most of toiltes in Peru. NOt that it really matters to me because I dont touch anything in public restrooms...mom taught me how to squat when I was really little, and I became quite proficient at it while living in Beijing (where the toilets are wholes in the ground). Felt so good to be clean again!
Update on the sunburn: the bottom half of me legs (that were in the water most of the time since I was sitting on the surf board) are peeling already. The top half, however, have actually blistered and aren't even beginning to heal yet. I had a pretty good shorts tan line before I came here so that part of my legs hadn't seen much sun at all. My poor nose is still bright red and my forehead is kind of starting to peel...I look like a disaster! ;)
So I don't even know why I took a shower, because it is SO unbelievable humid here, that I literally couldn't even dry off enough to put lotion on, let alone clothes! I dried off at least three or four times before I decided I was just going to have to get dressed wet! I put on shorts and a tank-top and set off on foot to see the city. Found a grocery store (an actual grocery store, not a disgusting open-air market with raw meat everywhere) and bought some chips and a big bottle of water. Everything is much more epxensive here in Brazil than in Peru. :(
After that, I decided to head to Copacabana beach to check it out. Three blocks straight down the street and I was there. I seriously feel like I'm in the jungle here! I LOVE it! The streets are lined with those big trees with big leaves that make a canopy above you so not much sun gets in, and then there are those vines, like the ones that Tarzan swings on, hanging down - right in the middle of the city! I totally want to just climb up the trees and try swinging from them! LOL! :) Beautiful flowers and plants...everything is so green.
And the beach isn't too bad either! Pretty sure I ended up walking right on to the gay area of the beach though...haha! I read in my book that the posts on the beach divide the different areas of the beach, but I didn't have my book with me to figure out where I was. There were definitly lots of really good looking guys all hanging on each other wearing little speedos! I took some pictures of two hot guys walking and holding hands together. What a shame... ;)
I was so ridiculously hot (and still sweating from the humidity) that I didn't care about being on the "gay" section of the beach...I hit the water. Never felt so good in my life! The water was so cool and felt soooo good! I walked for awhile and took some pictures of the beach that stretched for almost as far as you could see.
All of the girls wear string-bikines...ie there whole a$$ is showing! Pretty funny... And I hate to disappoint all of you guys, but I honestly have not seen one really hot girl...not that I´m looking or anything, but they just aren´t what I expected. Might be a different story when I go to Ipanema and Leblon beaches tomorrow. I lathered on spf 55 sunblock over my entire body, but I'm still so burnt that I couldn't stay on the beach long. I think I am going to take surfing lessons tomorrow, but it depends on how my skin is doing...I can't afford to get burnt anymore than I already am!
I walked around the streets some more just to see what was around, and eventualy made it back to my hostel to talk to the people working here about what kinds of things I should do while I'm here. They gave me lots of good ideas and now I´m weighing my options to figure out what I have time for. The one thing I know I am doing because I booked it while back in the US is a jeep tour through a part of the Amazon rainforest that is near here. I had to print off this one page voucher for it, but of course my hostel does not have a printer. So out I go again, trying to find an internet cafe that will let me print. Found one just a few blocks away that with hand signs and gestures, let me use one of there computers and print.
I really can´t believe no noe speaks english down here!! Did I already say that!? And just when I was getting good at my spanish, I switch countries where they speak Portuguese!! Come on...who speaks Portuguese!? It´s so weird and I don´t speak or understand a lick of it!! :(
I walked around some more trying to find someplace to eat. Being the good little Catholic girl I am (right, Mom?) no meat for me today since it´s Friday. Wait, t is Friday, isn´t it!? I´ve lost track of the real world!! After walking in a couple of sketchy places, I found a cute little Japanese sushi restauarnt down some little ally. I haven´t had sushi in awhile, and even though none of the staff spoke english at all, most of the menu had english descriptions below it so that was good enough for me! It was SO good! We´ll just wait and see how sick I get from eating raw fish in a foreign country though! ;) I had spring rolls for an appetizer, some sort of big sushi roll, and then FRIED ICE CREAM for desert!! It wasn´t near as good as Will Jenny´s fried ice cream, but you´ll never believe how they served it! The little waitress brough it out and it looked normal enough...just a ball of ice cream that was fried. But then she had this bottle of something and a lighter. Hmmm... So she pours a big spoonfull of this liquor and then lights it on fire with her lighter, and pours it over my fried ice cream! My ice cream was actually on fire!! Haha...it was SO cool. I´m actually contemplating going back and ordering another one just so I can get it on video or at least take a picture of my flaming fried ice cream! It kind of ruined it though because I could taste liquor or alcohol in every bite, and was starting to feel tipsy after like 4 bites so I quit eating it. It was pretty crazy though!
So I´ve decided I have a gift. THIS is my calling!! To travel the world and meet great people and find little hole in the wall restaurants and write a book about it for other people to use when they travel! Yeah!? Haha...I wish, huh! I just always seem to get so lucky and have the best experiences when I travel, and the stupid travel books I buy never seem to help me out much! They usually only have the really touristy stuff and the boring things to do and stay in the nice places. I want to get out in the side streets and really experience the culture and the local people! Not hang out with other rich people in fancy hotels and air conditioned busses! I guess they (the authors of these books) probably can´t really write about off the beaten path places, huh. Probably a liability. I guess I might not be in the best area (I really don´t know) and that´s why nothing about it is in the books...LOL (sorry, Mom!) but everyone has been nice enough and it´s all been great so far!! :) Plus I don´t really stick out here. The people in Peru were all very dark skinned with black hair and eyes...and SHORT...I mean ALL of them. But here in Brazil there are blacks and whites and latinos and hispanics and everything in between. Plenty of light curly haired girls around so I´m going to be just fine! :)
Okay, so I´m back at my hostel now - 6pm local time and it´s starting to get dark so I´m not sure what I´m going to do now. My hostel has a little bar so I might hang out here and meet some new people! I´m actually pretty tired, and I have about a million things planned for the next two days in Rio (Monday will be in Sao Paulo and then back to US Tuesday) so I´ll write more tomorrow when I figure my day out!
Thanks to everyone who has been writing back (with words of encouragment) and filling me in on the real world back home! So good to hear from everyone!! :)