30 November 2014

Paraty? Not for Me!

9 January 2014

Let's take a moment to talk about talking. Brazilians speak Portuguese. I do not speak Portuguese. I was going to learn before our trip there in 2016, but there was just no time before the 2014 trip. We figured my Spanish would be enough for us to get by, and we were mostly correct. It even became a fun game; what does it take to make this Spanish word a Portuguese word? Eventually I found a sign that symbolizes some of my annoyance with the language.

See that? "Feliz Natal." In Spanish, it's "feliz navidad." In Italian it's "buon natale." It seemed to me that a lot of Portuguese is a mashup of Spanish / Italian / Latin that's just not necessary. I'd like to use this moment on this platform to share some feelings.


Hey there Brazil, 

No one is going to think less of you if you adopt a more common language. I get that it's "cool" to be different. But you're alienating yourself. You can't even talk to your neighboring countries. I'm not saying they're talking about you behind your back, but they might be. You wouldn't even know. 

Obviously you can't change your culture. We're beyond that. But this - this "feliz natal" - is just not okay. It's weird. And, um, I just want you to know what no one has been willing to tell you to your face. 

But I love your country and plan to use my visa multiple times before it expires.


We left Ihla Grande on Thursday like true Brazilians, meaning dressed for the beach. Putting on real clothes seemed unnecessary. We were going native.

Our last day was spent walking the streets, again. We really had seen all there was to see. The non-boating option would have been to hike to one of the other beaches. Ang never really presented that as an option and I don't think I would have been enthused to hike in a remote Brazilian jungle. I've seen movies.

The Aquaholic came back to get us and we returned to the same transfer point we'd used when arriving from Rio. Instead of going back north to Rio, we continued south to Paraty. The trip was uneventful. The shuttle bus dropped us off at our hotel and though we were back in a more urban area (read: roads / cars), the hotel seemed remote in the most relaxing way possible.

Mosquito netting.
We got settled and decided to get dinner around ten. Unfortunately, Paraty is not Buenos Aires. We had trouble finding a place that was open. Ultimately we ended up at a restaurant / bar / cafe / hostel. So there was pizza and an acoustic guitarist. Our food took a really long time to arrive and I don't even remember if it was good or not. We walked back to our hotel and called it a night. Bonus: the cable in our room included CNN. Anderson Cooper is always a treat, but even more so when you're face from home.

10 January 2014

As with all of our Brazilian days, our agenda was to walk and explore. Paraty is not a beach town, so we did wear actual clothes and went on our way. Our hotel was about a mile outside of town, but we'd been walking miles and miles each day, so it didn't seem significant.

In hindsight, we should have just stayed where we were.

At this point, we were about an hour into our day and I was extremely miserable. I thought it wasn't noticeable, but in my misery, I was uncharacteristically silent.
"You're quiet."
"Ang. I'm about to get my period. It's gotta be 100 degrees. I think I rolled my ankle. And I don't know what I'm even looking at. This might be my own personal version of hell."
"That's all the thanks I need for planning this entire trip."
"That's why I was quiet.
Ang did plan the entire trip. I agreed to that because it honestly didn't matter to me. At the same time, the old section of Paraty was full of white buildings without context. I could see the area as a photographer's dream but also as a curious tourist's nightmare. There were cobblestone streets that were slippery underneath my Havianas. It was unreasonably hot and just all around not that interesting to me. We had traveled thousands of miles and taken thousands of pictures but it wasn't until the streets of Paraty that I found my limit. Ang was happy and I didn't want to ruin that. But I couldn't bring myself up to her level.

I think another part of my issue with Paraty was that it seemed to be a low income area. I'm really opposed to poor people tourism. It's what's kept me out of the Caribbean. The whole "look at what the natives do to survive and be sure to tip" idea does not sit well with me. I saw Paraty as kind of worn down. Outside of the vibrantly painted old town, I saw it as a small town with working class people trying to survive around a misplaced tourism industry. I saw Paraty as a place that was trying to hold on to a (literally) brighter past. I could be wrong, but once I had that idea, I couldn't get rid of it.

Eventually (300 pictures later) Ang conceded to the heat - and to the pool we had waiting for us back at the hotel. Ang swam. I splashed. We observed a parrot. My spirits improved.

We went back into town for dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant. (I am just now realizing how much Italian food we ate while in South America.) We stopped along the way to have a drink and befriend a stray dog. We discussed our real life problems over caipirinhas and came up with acceptable solutions.

Paraty at night was pretty and significantly more palatable for me. There was live music and the food was delicious. Still, we were subdued because the trip was coming to an end. And even though we had another excursion planned, the countdown clock had started.

On A Boat

8 January 2014

At this point, I feel as though I'm just bragging. But I promise I'm just telling you the events as they happened.

Our plan for the second Wednesday of 2014 was to leave our beautiful beach to see other beautiful beaches that were in the area. You may recall from my trip to New Zealand that going from pretty beach to pretty beach is Angie's modus operandi. On this particular day, she had my full support.

See me?
Ready to set sail!
To summarize, we were here, and we decided to leave.
Our shipmates.

If you're sick of pretty pictures now, I advise you to stop here and await the next post. Words can't describe what I'm about to show you. However there are words to describe what you may feel after seeing the pictures. They include "jealousy" and "longing."

We didn't just wander the waters. The boat made three stops - all at pristine beaches. When I first imagined those pristine beaches, they had piers on them. You know, for the tour boats to dock. I imagined wrong. As we arrived at each beach, the boat would stop a couple hundred feet away. The captain would cut the engine and the passengers would jump into the water to begin swimming to shore. It's a strategy that would never fly in the United States. People just jumped off the side of the boat. Some used pools noodles, none used life jackets. As a non swimmer, it was a nightmare. The only way to explore the beach was to swim to the beach. I could not swim to any beaches and therefore did not explore any beaches. Instead, I got to spend some quality time with The Camera.

The only people on that beach came off our boat.
Proud moment: I spotted Ang from the boat. I centered her. I waited for other people to walk away.

The second destination.
A man jumped off the boat to tie us to a rock...
Because that's his job.
Then the dude did what I call "a dude thing."

Because dudes.

Totally unconscious.

And voila! That was our day. As the boat made it's way to our beach, we were assaulted by strong, violent waves. Initially, they were refreshing and comical. Then came a few moments when we were pushed up out of our seats and we wondered if either we or our things could have been swept overboard. After that, it was a matter of keeping the goods dry and our bodies planted. Actively sitting turned out to be the most exhausting thing I'd do that day.

Back on the island, we showered, ate and met up with our favorite Argentines to finally drink a bottle of wine Ang had been carrying since Buenos Aires. It was outside the Che Logarto Ihla Grande that Ang tried to explain hostels to me.
"Oh! They have kitchen?"
"Yes, they have kitchens."
"So they're like communes?"
I'm going to go ahead and say that hostels are communes. And though I'm good friends with a person who sings their praises, I admit I do not get it. Personally, I'd rather wait to take a trip than to stay somewhere where my room might be given away or where I'll be in a camp-style bunk with a dozen other people. I see the hotel as part of the vacation. The ability to go to the room and nap - in addition to the ability to keep my room key with me and come and go as I please - help put my mind at ease and contribute to the vacation mentality. I equate hostels with stress and I'm not sure (for me) it's worth the discounted price of admission. Still, our new friends stayed at Che Logarto and we might not have met them had they not booked space there. So obviously hostels have their worth.