"Brazil 2001" story # 4

THE MISERIES OF TRAVEL
Olinda, Pernambuco           March 17, 2001

The most interesting thing thats been happening to me lately is whats been happening to my bowels.
     Drinking the Brazilian water was a mistake. Certain foods now, including the ice cream (which is water-based rather than milk-based and not very good to begin with), go through me like a greased seal. So, for the first time in years, Ive had to reconsider my all-ice cream-diet.
     But, what would be the new staple of my diet? How could I make up all the nutrition Id be losing from my all-ice cream-diet? I had the following popular Brazilian foods to choose from: bread, cheese, papayas, ice cream, mangos, eggs, rice, ice cream, beans, soup, ice cream - why do I keep writing that!? Ice cream is NOT an option. (Sniff, sniff) I have to move on now - noodles, chicken, carne do sol, some sort of root, and my dreaded slop-based nemesis, cuscus.
     Let me just take a moment to explain my hatred for cuscus. Eww! It shares a place in the pit of my heart with booty dancing, memories of my job at the gay bar in Iceland, and that fiend, Pansyckas. Rrrrrggh, Pansyckas!!!
     You see how mad its already gotten me? Why, I remember a camping trip I once took where the insane members of my group thought it would be a good idea to bring along cuscus for our dinners. Id never tasted cuscus at this point, and, frankly, as its name called to my mind furry rodent droppings, I wasnt about to. For four hungry days, I went without dinner. In fact, Im proud to say I didnt even blemish my eyes by glancing at a single cus.
     Last week, however, I was taken by surprise when my girlfriend made me breakfast. Id always thought Id treated her well, and shed thus have nothing against me. Heck, Im a good guy. But, out of nowhere, she maliciously handed me a plate piled high with glob after disgusting glob of burnt-yellow cuscus. I think it was moving; what could I do?
     Well, Ill admit: I caved in to my girlfriend, whod tried so hard to make me a good meal, compromised my morals, and captured a piece to taste. It tasted about how I thought it would - like a mixture of sand, glue, and stuff youd find deep within the pipes of your sink. My face shriveled up instinctively. Sula patted me on the back, thanked me for being brave enough to try it, and honored my cries to take the slime as far away as possible.
     The point of all this? Cuscus is gross.
     There arent a lot of foods here to choose from. I decided my first experiment would be an all-bread diet, because it wouldnt require me to go to any effort in preparing my food.
     So, during the past week, I ate about eighty pieces of Brazilian bread, which is soft like a stuffed animal, tastes delicious, and comes in round balls.
     It was a diet I could live with, taste-wise, but I was finding that I was getting no energy from eating just bread. The only activity I was up for was sleep.
     For the final two days of my experiment, I didnt leave the house of Carmen, where I stay, except to buy more bread. Then, Id eat the bread, slowly sink into my chair, decide that whatever Id planned for the day could wait an hour for a small nap, and sleep for three or four hours more. During a recent thirty-two hour period, I ate eighteen pieces of bread, spent a half-hour on the toilet, and slept for twenty-nine hours.
     Normally, I would be ecstatic to sleep 29 of 32 hours, but I get the feeling I could be spending my time more productively. The 16-year old daughter of Carmen, Rebecca (who teams up with me and the dog to form the "tres preguicosos" - three lazies), jokes that Ill go home and have nothing to say of my time in Brazil except that I "dormi, come, dormi, come ..." (Slept, ate, slept, ate)
     So, its obvious the all-bread diet isnt going to work, unless Im happy sleeping away the next four months in Brazil. Currently Im considering the following options in the following order of probability:

1. Chocolate milk & Cereal Diet
2. Pudding, Yogurt, & Cheese Diet
3. Fasting until I get home
4. Sand, Glue, and Stuff found deep within the pipes of your sink Diet
5. Ever eating cuscus ever again, even once

People of the Brazilian Northeast are very poor, but this still doesnt explain why they or anyone would eat cuscus. To illustrate my point, the lady Im staying with now, Carmen, works six days a week and makes only US$100 every month. During my three weeks in Brazil already, the Brazilian reia has fallen 50 % in comparison to the U.S. dollar (which was caused mainly due to the worlds largest oil-drilling platform tipping into the ocean in South Brazil last week).
     Things come a little cheaper here, but I still dont understand how the people survive on such money. Nevertheless, most Brazilians Ive met have been happy, usually carrying big smiles, and they really care for their fellow man.
     I can tell Brazilians care for others because theyre always willing to take time out of their days to provide lengthy, complicated directions to lost travellers such as myself, even when they dont actually know what theyre talking about - no, ESPECIALLY when they dont know what theyre talking about.
     The other day, for example, I was trying to catch a bus to the north. I talked to one guy, who said I needed to stop an azul (blue) bus when it went by. So, I stopped one of the next buses, which turned out to be the wrong one, and my correct bus passed.
     Next, a lady told me that buses would still be coming, and that I, of course, needed to catch an amarelhao (yellow) bus. I never put this theory to practice, though, because, by the time the next correct bus passed, I was feeling ill in a nearby bathroom.
     So, I waited another hour. A helpful gentleman took it upon himself to tell me the bus I needed would, logically, be verde (green). By the time the third correct bus passed, I was too baffled by the whole situation to stop any bus. Of course, I wouldnt have stopped that bus anyways, because, as it turned out, the correct bus was vermelhao (red).
     Fed up, I abandoned my plan to go to the north and returned to Sula and Carmen in Olinda, and the real travels will have to wait until I work out a feasable diet and locate a Brazilian who isnt colorblind.

later, Modern Oddyseus


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