lunes, 11 de febrero de 2013

Rio de Janeiro

Rio.  Hot, steamy, crowds and costumes.  Carnaval is in the air, on the streets,-you hear and smell and see and it all makes for a sensory spectacle.  The cariocas (locals) are open and friendly, expressing with their words and movement at all times.  Carnaval is the biggest party going on right now-there are blocos of musical troups parading through the streets of all Rio´s neighborhoods.  All you have to do is join.  The costumes are inventive; sparkly and colorful-you see Superman, Snow White, fairies (of both sexes), the Flintstones, top hats, wigs, and masks, all walking down the same street.  You eat  pao con ceixo, and get frozen acai served up for an energy boost.
The beaches are teeming and the ocean is speckled with bodies riding the waves.  The sand is beatifully coral in color and gleams in the sun.  In the distance you see the famous view of the Sugar Loaf and the favela creeping up the hillside.  It´s beautiful and intense, friendly and agressive, hot weather in a cool place.
There´s nothing quite like it.

jueves, 7 de febrero de 2013

Iguazu/çu Falls: Brazil vs. Argentina

Yup, still here in Foz de Iguaçu, Brasil-in a few short hours we´ll be hoping on a 16 hour bus back to Sao Paolo, ouch.  On the 4th we went to Iguaçu Falls on the Brazilian side.  We paid (a bit too much) to go onto a pontoon boat that took us up the Iguaçu River for a close and wet look at the falls.  It was spectacular from this vantage point, and that was only the beginning.  After getting drenched and hoping our zip-lock bag holding our cameras didn´t leak, we began the walking course of views along the Brazilian edge of the Falls.  It is huge.  You see smaller waterfalls with giant neighbors, most dropping at least 250 feet, the roar is constant as you explore this area.  The finale, at the end of the path is a cat walk that juts out into the river and brings you right to the edge with views over to Argentina and the famous Garganta del Diablo (Devil´s Throat) drop, which is the highest at 269 ft (check the wiki link for an even better description. 
Two days later I went alone to the Argentinian side of the falls (my friend would have had to pay the entrance visa, just for one day in the country, I luckily have my German passport).  The views here were different, and also spectacular.  On the Argentinian side you are able to walk around the park further distances to see the various views of the falls.  There are more possible angles here, and the grand finale, the Devil´s Throat view point is phenomenal.   Here you are slightly above the drop point and can see up close the immense amount of water rushing over the edge.  At first it gave me slight vertigo to have this view, and I felt a bit light headed as I peered over the guard rail.  At this spot you are getting quite wet from the spray. 
I always find it worthwhile to visit these natural wonders of the world, but it must be said that at the height of summer vacation (in S.A) there were throngs of people taking photos, kids screeching and the like.  It can take away from the natural beauty of the place you are visiting.  This feeling of crowds, heat and sun were more pronounced on the Argentinian side, despite the fact there were more paths to walk on-the Brazilian side was a bit more tranquil.  On both however, there were people trying to feed the local (but wild) Quatis- which resemble racoons-and can be equally as vicious.  Although you are surrounded by natural beauty you are also surrounded by fast food stops and gimmicky and expensive extra attractions.  The paths you walk on are paved and fenced.  That is the price of making a natural place an attraction-but yes, we want to see it, and hopefully it works to create appreciation of such natural wonders.
Next up: Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro-two of the Cidades Maravilhosas (Marvelous Cities) famous in Brazil.  We will experience Carnival which officially begins on the 8th, and all the fun and color that has to offer.  Stay tuned!

domingo, 3 de febrero de 2013

8 Months Later...Brazil

First, an apology for abandoning this blog.  It happens.  I hope to revisit some of my experiences in Peru in the future, to wrap up my experience with the Peace Corps and write about some of my travels before leaving the country.  At this time, however, I am in Brazil and want to stick with the present.
Currently, I am in the city of Foz do Iguaçu, the gateway to Iguaçu Falls which it shares with Argentina.  It is hot (summer here in the southern hemisphere) and tropical.  Lush and green.  I am traveling with Shay, a good friend from home (Eugene, Oregon), and so far our travels have gone smoothly.
My first impressions of Brazil have been many.  The people are as varied and diverse as I had heard, with many European immigrants, and a mix of African and indigenous roots.  The people have been overall friendly and helpful despite our botched attempts to speak Portuguese.  Ah Portuguese, I just don´t speak it.  My Spanish has been useful to be sure, but much I don´t understand, and just can´t say.  I hope to learn more in this next month. 
Our first stop was Curitiba, a city known for it´s excellent recycling and sanitation systems, efficient public transport, and green spaces.  It lived up to all this as it appeared clean, easy to get around, and cosmopolitan.  We saw some interesting sights, such as the Botanical Gardens and the Oscar Niemeyer museum, which holds the largest collection of Brazlian art.
Brazil is huge, the 5th largest economy in the world, and it shows.  In just a few days we have already taken one 6 hour bus, and a 10 hour overnight to get to Foz, and we have only crossed one state line.  Especially when it comes to buses I can´t help but to compare Brazil to Peru.  At this moment I can say that while they compare in comfort (good seats that recline, leg space, etc), Peru could learn from the peace and quiet on a Brazilian bus.  No annoying movies featuring Van Damme or Stalone blasting while you try to sleep, not too hot, or too cold, and no meals at 11pm, that you don´t want anyway. 
The Brazil we have thus seen is leaning towards overdeveloped with it´s deluxe mini-malls and gourmet coffee.  The prices show too-it´s not cheap by any standards.  But it definitely has it´s own flavor.  The curvy language and curvy ladies, the flavorful foods and tropical fruits, and beautiful music which is becoming the soundtrack to our adventure.  We are definitely in Latin America (or whatever you decide Brazil is, Latin? Portuguese?) Perhaps, to borrow from the film title, it is its own `Sexy Beast.`