"Brazil 2001" story # 25

Rio, Rio de Janeiro           July 24, 2001

I found a better waaaaaiiiii.
     In my search to make money, I finally devised a Modern Oddyseus marketing strategy sure to stuff my pockets full with english-speaking tourist dollars. Basically, the plan was to insult people into submission and subsription to Modern Oddyseus' Travel Annals.
     I planned to stand near Corcovado, the train that lifts people to see Rio's giant Jesus Christ statue, with a Modern Oddyseus poster, trying to get the attention of rushing tourists by saying things like:
     "You don't have time for a funny story? There's gotta be a funny bone in that large body of yours, sir."
     "I'll tell you what ... if I can guess what color your hair used to be, would you just listen to me for a second?"
     "You're too thin; you need a sense of humor."
     and possibly even:
     "You're ugly. Subscribe to Modern Oddyseus' Travel Annals!"
     and definitely:
     "You've seen the Corcovado. Now, see the work of Otto. My name's not Otto. But, hey, it rhymes." This would be followed by my spectacular, sure money-maker, with an arms-swinging, smily dance to accompany the "work of Otto" ghetto rap.
     The morning after this plan was born, I sat on Copacabana Beach, eating a low-quality ice cream bucket and thinking of how when I'm rich I'll be able to buy the expensive ice cream.
     My tasty dream was ruined, though, when four sketchy-looking guys walked past slowly, pointing about the near-empty beach and staring at me. They might've been plotting to rob me, I considered. Breakfast interrupted, I headed to a safer park bench, worrying over every shadow that overtook me. Dangerous Rio was making me uneasy.
     Too uneasy. I couldn't live like this. As much fun as insulting people for a living would be, it wasn't worth it if I was going to get assaulted all the time (one unreliable source told me 60% of foreigners get robbed while in Rio). I had to leave town as soon as possible. Lacking money to bring myself elsewhere, I was going home.
     "Embora." (Away.)
     It's sad that it had to end this way.
     But, in the sadness, there's happiness. And sadness. Because, there's MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!!
     First, the happiness. The Top 5 Best Things About Brazil:

Brazilian girls are a treasure. They seem to be made up of nothing but good things: happiness, sincere smiles, warm touches, care for others, dark hair, sweetly-accented Portuguese, thin bodies, legs that change directions like tops as they dance samba, light eyebrows, good moods, wet kisses, and, above all, love.

This island, in a river but bigger than Switzerland, is full of boa constrictors, and, oddly enough, water buffalos. In the dry season, the surrounding brown river water recedes to reveal cliffs, beaches, and the tall roots of trees whose bottoms start ten feet above the mud. During the wet season, the water turns dark green and salty, rising fifteen feet and making most of the island a swamp. All year, it's boiling hot.
     Thousands of people live there. What made the place so great for me was to observe the towns by day. As people worked in clothing stores or bakeries or selling hamburgers, it looked like they were playing. No one frowned; they made little money, but they knew nothing but to keep joking and laughing together. The type of place you're stupid to leave.

To begin with, Brazil already has a decided advantage on the rest of the world in this category. Even if I didn't see them all, Brazil has probably a hundred fruits we don't, with names like mangaba, açerola, and graviola.
     The açai juice is fantastic - it's cold, purple, tarty but sweet, and so thick most people eat it with a spoon. In the North, guaraná juice is grayish-brown and made with blended peanuts, ginseng I think, and other ingredients that make it taste like a liquid peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.
     Using nuts like fruits in juice and ice cream is pure brilliance. You should try a peanut-flavored milkshake.
     In addition, there are vitiminas, which are juices mixed with milk to make a strong, creamy, foamy, sweet drink. (Banana, papaya, and avocado are the best.)


I can speak quicker, prettier, and sometimes with more precise wording in this language than in English. I still sound like an idiot at times, but that happens even without language problems.

HONORABLE MENTION includes JERICOACOARA BEACH, TALES FROM BRAZIL'S HISTORY, TRADING IDEAS WITH THE GUYS (the educated and young of whom are as open-minded as can be and would practically marry you upon hearing you're a foreigner who speaks Portuguese), THE FESTAS, and FUTEBOL. "Samba" would be included, but it's blasted impossible to find, and it's even more difficult to find where you can dance.

Unfortunately, this brings us to the sadness. What goes up must come down. The Top 5 Worst Things About Brazil:

There's no way I could like a country you can't hitchhike in. I missed out on learning lots from Brazil's older generations and country workers.
     Riding buses constantly, with unopened windows, I felt like I was in a prison travelling Brazil.
     Granted, the country is full of beggars who can't all be helped. But, the unwillingness of the country to assist a well-groomed stranger on his way has to reflect somewhat on how much the people care for the well-being of others.

This isn't an attack on Súla; I refer to my pathetic behavior while with her. When we started dating, I waited for her to call without hardly the independence to walk down the street alone. As time went on, I stopped liking her, but I lacked the confidence to break it to her. I learned from the relationship. Unfortunately, some things I can never change.

The girls handle the poverty with style. The guys, though, are taught by society to struggle for personal prosperity with zero need of morals, respect, or pride.
     Lower-class Brasilianos lie in business, steal things they don't need, cheat in love, try to run over pedestrians when driving, honk forty times on a quiet street at six in the morning because they don't feel like knocking on their friend's door, give horrible, wordless stares that say, "I'd just as soon have you dead so I could help myself to whatever change is on your body and be on my way," and, in something that strikes me as very vain, assemble massive photo collections of which they know the exact number of (one guy's was 970) and of which EVERY photo is of themselves, or of themselves with a cute girl.
     Outside the cities, with no visible riches to remind them of their poverty, it's not so bad. But, I was robbed by more lower-class, city-dwelling Brasilianos than I met and would trust.

Recife, Manaus, and Vitória are three examples of gorgeous natural habitats that somebody decided to plunk a hideous city in the middle of. In these places and including Fortaleza, Belém, and Olinda, I didn't see one house with a yard. It's as if the city-planners wanted the kids to forget anything but concrete exists. ("Johnny" Pessoa was nice, ofcourse.)

If you're from a Western country, where logic accompanies rules, and you go to Brazil, you're eventually going to reach a point of frustration where you want to yell, "Frjhrark!"
     For example, why did I have to walk a half-kilometer circle at the port of Belém when the place I was going was directly behind a security guard who wouldn't let me take one step through his gate beacause I didn't work there? "Frjhrark!"
     And why do all ticket booths come complete with a fiberglass window that makes conversation with the ticket-seller impossible unless both sides (the ticket-seller always prefers to sit and not hear you, of course) smush their faces as close as possible to the window to talk? "Frrjjhhrraarrkk!"
     Also, why did I get soaked at Tamandaré Beach because Brazilian beach houses are constructed so close to the water that the beach is eliminated at high tide, wetting all who walk past? Wouldn't the name "beach house" signify that one might, I don't know, actually want to have a BEACH there? "Frrrjjjhhhrrraaarrrkkk!"

Calm down, Justin. Okay. Well, I'm sorry to have to break that to you, but it's better that it comes from a friend.
     To sum it all up?
     I came to Brazil already knowing some Brazilianas. Thus, I expected it to be pure happiness. My expectations were high and possible unattainable. I was disappointed - by the lack of samba, the unspectacularness of the beaches, and, especially, by the fact that this was the first country to teach me distrust in people.
     The good news, though, is that I have a week left to enjoy Brazil's best. This is because I've got a new girlfriend, and she's a pick of the litter. She's from Sao Paulo, but we met on Copacabana. She's seventeen. She's got smooth, white skin; a smile so pretty it's painful; peaceful, loving eyes; and a cute, clear-worded paulista accent that's especially a turn-on because I can almost always understand what she's saying. Her name's Geógia, and I'm starting to be crazy for her.
     And so, "Embora!" (I'm out of here!) But, for how long? The next week with Geógia should tell.
     Before I go, let me try to make some cash with my new get-money-quick technique:
     "Hey, you. Yeah, YOU, you bug-eyed, nose-haired, chicken-lipped, turtle-brained dufus! Why don't you get off your lazy butt, stop twiddling around on the internet, and send me a check already!!!"
     "Work of Otto's here, in a brand new way; you make likes what'chu see, but'chu gots to pay; we all say, "Tomorra," but why not "Today?"; you's a fool, and that's how you'll stay!"
     I'll be waiting.

- Modern Oddyseus

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