We are at the end of our times in paradise, we can no longer stomach the Cachaca, the sun is too damn hot, the beaches are too sandy, the samba and reggae have lasted a lifetime, and I have had enough Açai. Okay I lied; you can never have enough Açai. But the chill times must end. We have been on vacation for almost 6 months now, then took a vacation from that trip starting on the Uruguayan coast almost a month ago, followed by a friend flying halfway around the world for a visit so we took a vacation from light beach going to heavy beach going. The beach is nice but now we realize we can’t spend a lifetime there, I guess life is not a beach. Sorry for the pun; I just couldn’t resist.
While on this multi-tiered vacation we learned a lot about Brazil mainly because we had guides almost everywhere and when we didn’t we had unintended adventures. Everyone who travels mentions the great people they met along the way; this has and always will be true. Having someone on the inside of the culture and willing to share it with you is basically why people travel, otherwise it is almost no better than flipping through pretty pictures online. Well in Brazil we had the gold standard, a friend’s Mom who both loves Brazil and loves to cook. For the better part of week we were given the inside track on Brazilian food, a blend of tropical, European, and African. We ate cheese filled bread, mountains of delicious beans and rice (Lu didn’t eat beans before and is now a convert), exotic fruits, hard cheeses, spicy salami’s, ribs, jerky, sausage, frozen Açai cream, tapioca, pastel, coxihna, dried meatballs, more cheese bread, more fruit, more more more more. We were forced to drink pitchers of caipirinha and feioada (A salty Black bean stew with sausage) and forced to enjoy the view while doing so. While we did this our host went to go work 4 hours at her husband’s shop till it closed. Through little things like this we came to realize that paradise and real work do mix, and mix well. Brazilians do work hard, take pride in their work, but also take pride in their country, their mix of people and taking time to cut loose.
We learned that Carnival is a time for spectacle and party but also everyone in Brazil seems to use it as a time to cut loose, to forget last year’s problems and look forward to the New Year. While to the outsider it might seem like a week of indulgence and binging (which it is), I think it is a good way to let go of grievances and grudges from the last year, instead of one night at new years the Brazilians shake it all off and do so while loving each other (lots of public affection going on in Brazil this time of year) or relieving stress through drumming or drinking. The funny thing is we were sort of the lame ones at Carnival because while we did go to the parades and a few of the parties we were not cutting loose as hard as I think people wanted to see. Probably the reason for this is that we were already on the vacation from the vacation from the vacation. They didn’t like that we weren’t partying hard enough I think because Brazilians take time to go on vacation, take time for long lunches, go out for drinks etc. because they know it’s important to you health to get all the stress out of you. That life is hard, but it doesn’t need to be if you take time to go out. But as I said we didn’t need it, we were deep in the levels of Vay-Kay.
To make matters worse, after carnival we retreated to the tropical, tranquil island of Ilha Grande……. Now a vacation from a vacation from a vacation from a vacation, we are deep in the levels of vacation. The islands postcard perfect beaches plus no cars on the island meant nothing to do but lay, no sights, no monuments, no bus/plane to catch. It was heaven on earth, but honestly at the beach I was itching for something to do, even hoping for some hilarious awkward encounter but alas it was just sand.
Our friend left us and as soon as she did we hurried our way to difficult travel, where things will not be easily sorted, to where the internet cannot fix all our problems. We enter Bolivia in a few days, there we will have difficulties with visa’s and borders, harrowing train rides, no English, Spanish school, legendary markets, dizzying altitudes, and most of all the hard adventure again. We might yell at each other, we might throw up, we might learn Spanish (finally), we might get lost, but we will be happy because this is what we set out to do. Easy travel is not the kind we like, easy travel does not make stories and quickly fades from the mind. Our travels in Africa were difficult but in a way feel like yesterday and have a glow about them, and while we cannot say a bad word about Uruguay I have already forgotten much of the place as it was too ‘tranquilo’. I will say though that while Brazil has been ‘mui mui tranquilo’, it will still remain a memorable stop not because of the beaches but because of the hilarious and wonderful and awkward lunches we had with our new Brazilian family of whom speak no English and us no Portuguese. I think both they and we will remember that one lunch forever, where we talked for nearly 3 hours, ate a mountain of food, had no idea what the other person said but we understood each other completely. I think this reflects Brazil well, it is a mix of people from everywhere that work hard at mixing and blending even if they don’t understand another’s language or custom, they accept them. I think it’s the one thing I will take from Brazil as we head off into a place quite different than where we were before, a place which will finally end the vacations and take us back to travel.
And frozen Açai cream, seriously it’s the best thing, if it’s the only thing you do in Brazil – go eat it.