Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Brazilian Speedos - An Intervention

As soon as I crossed the Brazilian border, clothes seem to have disappeared. I mean, literally.I mean, Brazilians (women AND men) wear as little as possible, no matter their shape or sizes. I have watched with admiration how the tiniest layers of cloth can cover even the most enormous breasts. I have seen the world's shortest-tightest-most-revealing-most-cleavage-showing dresses. Though maybe not always tasteful, you just have to admire how Brazilians breathe, walk, dance, run, travel in their minimal outfits - without EVER showing ANYTHING that's not supposed to show! With one exception: the Brazilian men's love for speedos. For everybody who is not familiar with these small swim shorts for men, here the definition of the Urban Dictionary: "Really tight pants made out of spandex/rubber which the professional swimmers wear." Please pay attention to the last part - professional swimmers. Nobody, I mean no man who is not a professional swimmer should ever even entertain the thought of thinking about looking at them in a store!!! (Daniel Craig alias James Bond being maaaybe the ONLY exception)
Men, listen to me: Women do not, I repeat DO NOT, want to see anything that shows through those trunks. It is not sexy. It is not hot. It is not trendy. It is not manly. Until now I thought that men worldwide had understood this simple and clear fashion rule. Until I came to Brazil. It seems to be an essential part of Brazilian manhood to wear speedos. Girls, I am sorry, if you now imagine a hot Brazilian in tight swim trunks, say goodbye to that fantasy. I will be honest here, this is what you will see: Old men, wrinkly men, fat men, bear-belly-men, white-like-a-sheet-men and men that VISIBLY got distracted by too many beach beauties. So I feel the need to call out for more good taste. "Brazilian men, friends of Brazilian men, wives of Brazilian men, children of Brazilian men, tourists that want to be like Brazilian men, please please please follow the following instructions: Go to your (your Brazilian friend's, your Brazilian husband's, your Brazilian father's, your Brazilian wannabe's) closet, take those speedos, and throw them out. NOW!" Thank you!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Beautiful Brazil

Being in Brazil after traveling through the rather rougher grounds of Bolivia and Peru seems like a treat. What is so great about Brazil?

1. Brazilians are OBSESSED with cleanliness.
This means: They shower 3-5 times a day, men and women alike run into every possible bathrooms to make sure the make-up and hair are still perfect and they polish their cars every day and then again after every rainfall. But it also means: The garbage cans on the streets are being used! You can go to the bathroom without having to hold your breath and you will even find toilet paper. Hotels and hostels are spotlessly clean and even the plates and silverware in restaurants have seen soap. Plus, every beauty product you can think of (or haven't even thought of), you can find it here. There are entire supermarkets dedicated to hair products or facial products or make-up. Love it!

2. Brazilians love coffee.
Even though they drink it with a ton of sugar, they understand my daily need for real and fresh and GOOD coffee. So even if they have to go through the trouble of preparing me an extra cup without sugar, it is never a problem, THEY UNDERSTAND!

3. Brazilians love chocolate.
I am not sure what is wrong with many South American countries but they don't seem to appreciate the drink of the Gods at all. If you find chocolate, you either get a sugar shock or it is so expensive because they import it from the US or UK (???). Finally, in Brazil, I have found a country of chocolate lovers. Only downside: It is so hot that by the time you have opened the wrapper it is already melted.

3. Brazilians are addicted to the newest technology.
Every Brazilian has at least an IPhone, though mostly it comes with an IPad and a laptop. I am not quite sure what they have to type and read every two seconds but I love their tech love because:
- You won't melt in the sunshine because there is air-conditioning (meaning REAL air-conditioning, not just a tiny fan).
- They have hot showers
- There is always wi-fi (meaning: it is fast and it works 24/7 and not only when the hostel owner feels like it or when there are no clouds)
- Believe it or not but Brazilians are used to their working techno world so if something doesn't work, they fix it!!!

Coming from the US or Europe you might get a different first impression, or you might call me a spoiled brat, however, after various toilet-internet-hostel-adventures, Brazil feels like a big, tasty Reese's Peanut Butter Cup!


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Amazon Adventure

Hammocks, hammocks, nothing but hammocks

Riding along the soft waves of the world's largest river. Seeing nothing but water and rainforest for WEEKS. Sleeping on hammocks swinging along to the movement of the boat. Getting a taste of the jungle, its animals and the heat. Yes, that's what we wanted – an Amazon adventure.
There are basically two ways to do it. Number one, Fitcarraldo style: You build your own boat, buy all the supplies, get hammocks, mosquito nets and leave it to faith, fortune and the good mood of the mosquitoes if you make it or not. I have met two adventurers who actually did that. They made it. How was it? “Oh, it was the best experience ever! We had no idea what we were doing really. The bugs bothered us during the days, there were some weird insects that came in swarms during the night – so we hardly slept. After a couple of days I got an infection in my leg from a mosquito bite – it got worse with every new bite until I couldn't move my leg any more.” “Well, and this is where I had to jump in, since he couldn't help me push the boat any more. Once our compass fell into the water and I had to dive really deep to get it. 

That gave me an ear infection and I am basically deaf on my left ear now.” Great adventure??? No thanks! I decided that I'd stick to option number two: cross the Amazon on a passenger boat. That would take me across safely, no major adventures included. Little did I know … In total, I went all the way across the river, from Peru until the Atlantic coast of Brazil. It took 13 days and 4 boats and A LOT OF PATIENCE. While the first boat was exactly what I expected: two days just hanging out in my hammock, reading, writing, chatting with travel mates, seeing river dolphins and watching beautiful sunsets, it seemed like I stepped into a horror movie afterward. 

As soon I set foot on boat number 2, I knew that something went horribly wrong. The “boat” must have been designed for transporting animals: tiny, no protection from wind and water and bathrooms that smelled worse than cow dung on a hot day. This is all within the first 10 minutes on board. 

How many people can you fit on one boat?

not very much space at all for these two buddies ...i somehow can understand them now

Obviously, with 250 more people squeezing in, space became a relative word with hammocks on top of you, children sleeping below you and moving from one place to another always involved crawling; no protection from the outside elements meant a mini-flood all over your belongings and don't even make me explain the increasing toilet odors I was exposed to. Let me just say the following: For the next 3 days I didn't shower (considering the toilets – the showers are inside the toilet booths – and the brown water coming out of the faucets, sweating seemed like the best option) and I drank and ate as little as humanly possible, just so I didn't have to use the bathrooms more than twice a day. For some reason, the majority of the Peruvian passengers did not seem to mind at all: Crawling around all over, taking shower after shower and even eating the breakfast porridge (= oat meal with hot river water). Up to this point, I could still attribute it to cultural difference in perception. But: little children peeing into my backpack, their mother laughing at it, a little girl shitting all over herself (no, there is no nicer way to put this!) and her mother cleaning it up with a towel that was later used for drying the little girl after a shower, raggaeton coming full blast out of cell phones and speakers (different songs at the same time, mind you!) – now that was just too much! I was counting the minutes until our arrival and sure enough I was the first one to jump off this boat from hell. Now if you want an Amazon adventure, here it is. An ear and a leg infection?! Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!