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Me and my new girlfriend…

May 24th, 2009 by Matt
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Isn’t she gorgeous?

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São Paulo

May 24th, 2009 by Matt
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2 pictures from the capital.  Now I can say that I at least have SOMETHING from here!

SP Skyline

THE BRIDGE

Maybe an entry about Gioconda tomorrow? I don’t know how much of it I can recollect…

Até mais!

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Argentina and Uruguay

May 13th, 2009 by Matt
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I realize this post is about 2 weeks late, but I’ve been really busy with school (yes, I realize that is the only excuse I have but it is true).  Those of you that follow my Flickr have probably seen the photos from this trip already, but you haven’t read the stories!

Fortunately, we had a nice 2 week break from school inbetween terms and a large portion of the students (including myself) took the opportunity to travel a bit.  Many people went to the Northeast, some went to the Amazon, and a few went to Argentina. I spent 9 days in the latter, but seperate from the rest of the group.

I’ve always had this desire to do some ridiculous trip by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with other people, but you are much more likely to meet more people and have a much more redeeming experience when you travel by yourself.  The hilarity of it was the fact that I did not speak the language of the country at all.

I woke up for my flight relatively hung over and running on about 3 hours of sleep because Bea, her father and I had a long night of drinking beforehand.  Ironically, her father was also flying out about the same time I was and we ended up meeting eachother at the airport. The hangover was nothing a few espressos and bottles of water couldn’t cure, though.

I arrived in Buenos Aires around 2pm and was practically imploding from starvation.  After checking into my hotel (which was beautiful, by the way) I set off to the nearest place I could find food. The Cooper restaurant was the location and they served a variety of Argentinian cuisine, which unfortunately meant 100 different kinds of steak.

Because I don’t speak Spanish, I would just speak Portuguese with a few Spanish words that I know and hope for the best. I started this off with the waitress, and it seemed to be going ok until I wanted to order some juice:

Me (in Portuguese): “What types of juice do you have?

Her (in Spanish): “Pineapple, watermelon, papaya, fresa”

What the hell was a fresa? I had no idea, and she began describing it only to further confuse me. Eventually she started drawing a picture of it and I shouted:

“Ohh morango!”

“no sé en Portuguese, tal vez morango”

“strawberry en ingles, si?”

“Yes, strawberry in English. You speak English?”

Finding people that spoke English instead of my Portguese-Spanish hybrid happened more often than not actually. It turned out that she was actually a Peruvian that went to a private English school and was going to university in Buenos Aires, so her English was probably a lot better than mine.  We exchanged info and she showed me some cool spots in the city later on.

As for the city, it was incredibly beautiful. I would go on extremely long runs just to explore the place and it was almost as if I had been dropped in some random European city. I did not feel like I was in Latin America at all.

Statue

Floralis Generica

Old Man Sleeping

Obelisk

Israel Estado Terrorista

Street

Another Statue

Statue

Recoleta Cemetary

The final two images are from the stunning Recoleta Cemetary, a place where many of Argentinians political elite (including Evita) are buried. Some of these tombs are nicer than my apartment.

As for Buenos Aires, it was a whole lot of eating, drinking wine, walking around, going to museums, etc. I met up with some friends for 3 of the 9 days, but other than that I was on my own or with the people that I had met there.

I did end up meeting these 5 hilarious girls from South Africa at a burrito place by translating (if you could call it that) for them. We ended up going out for a couple nights as well.

The are a few things that I really disliked about Buenos Aires. First, even though the people are completely beautiful and well dressed, they are probably the most uptight, “metido” people I’ve ever met.  If you’re a foreigner, they don’t want to talk to you or help you at all. In fact, the nicest people I met there were the ones that weren’t originally from there.

Next, the city is incredibly shady. I went to an ATM machine and pulled out $300 pesos (about $80 USD) since nowhere takes cash at all. I spent $100 on something, and then I went to a restaurant for lunch. When I went to pay with one of my other $100 bills, the waitress informed me that it was a counterfeit. I tried the other one and it was the same deal.  Apparently people pull counterfeit bills from ATM machines all the time, and you need to recognize it immediately and bring it into the bank.  Unfortunately it was too late and there was nothing the bank could do about it.

There was one day that I took the ferry over to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. It was about an hour ride and $40 USD round trip, which was a complete deal because the ferry was nicer than any first class flight I’ve ever taken.  The day was absolutely beautiful, which was a nice change because every other day was FREEZING.

I rented a scooter as soon as I arrived in Colonia to make getting around a bit easier.

Lightouse

Wall

I think I only spent about an hour in the city of Colonia.  Sure it was picturesque, had cobblestone streets, a bunch of history, and whatever else, but all I cared about was the fact that I had a badass scooter that topped out at about 30mph. I decided to drive as far inland as I could and visit a bunch of wineries.

My Ride

Firepit

Beetle

Fences

Road

Me

Overall, I’d say that the 9 day journey to Uruguay and Argentina was a great success. I don’t think I’ll be doing much traveling until July, but that will be the epic journey of a lifetime.  I plan on spending 3 weeks hiking through Patagonia, doing the Machu Picchu Inca Trail, snowboarding in the Andes, mountainbiking down the Bolivian Road of Death, and rafting through the monstrous Foz do Iguaçu.  Any suggestions to this 3 week journey would be greatly appreciated!

Até logo!

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Coração do Brasil

April 23rd, 2009 by Matt
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When one hears the country of Brasil mentioned, almost always they will automatically think of Rio.  It is the postcard image of the country, full of those “Women from Ipanema”, the stereotypical carnaval, and unfortunately a massive amount of poverty and corruption.  I spent the last 4 days there and unfortunately saw the best and worst sides of the city.

We arrived in Rio after about a 7-hour bus ride at 3 in the afternoon on Saturday.  It was a beautiful day, about 78 degrees, and the skies were as clear as ever.  The first thing on everyone’s mind was food, so the majority of us went straight to a restaurant.  The restaurant was a Portuguese/Carioca fusion and was absolutely fantastic.  The Carioca food is vastly different than Paulistano food; it is heavier, fried, and a bit more flavorful in general.  Consequently it is also much worse for you.

After the meal, we went for a walk on the beautiful Praia Ipanema (we were staying 1 block away).  The water was a bit cold and the waves were moderately strong.  Ipanema is known for it’s incredibly soft sand, beautiful women, and lovely views.  All 3 elements were present.

The sun eventually went away and we had come across this large mound of sand where 5 or 6 children were jumping of it.  Being the mature adults that we all are, we decided to join in on the “brincando” with them.  They knew immediately that we weren’t from around there, and began asking questions:

“Where are you from?” one of the kids asked.
“I’m a Paulistano, from the capital.” I responded, being the smartass that I am.
“Mentiroso!  Your accent is very strong. Are you American?”
“Yes I am. I’m from California.”

All of the children seemed to find this exciting and immediately mentioned Obama, and a slew of musicians and actors.

“Where do you guys live?” My friend Angela asked.
“Rocinha.” (the largest favela [slum] in the country).
“How do you like Brasil so far?” said one of the children.
“I absolutely love it, I never want to leave” I said.
“I hate it here.”
“Why?”

This spawned a long speech by one of the children.  He talked about how the Rocinha is a community of people working together to try and better their lives, but then the police invade and start fighting/destroying things.  This never allows the conditions of the favela to improve, and the kids are forced to commit petty crimes in order to bring money into the community.

I was incredibly surprised at how well spoken these kids (who couldn’t have been older than 10 or 11) were.  It was absolutely horrible to hear about how the police, people who should be on the city’s side, were just making problems worse.

That reminds me of another story.  A friend of a friend of mine (major pothead) was in Rio a few months and was looking to score some weed.  He asked around a bit, and was led into a favela to buy somewhere he was greeted by several children with guns.  They were only there for his protection while he made his transaction.  After he had finished, the same children that protected him robbed him later that day.

He still had his pot, so he went to smoke some on the beach to calm his nerves a bit (for good reason).  The cops ended up catching him and brought him back to their station.  When they arrived, the cops robbed him AGAIN and let him go free.  To be honest, I have no idea what they were able to take from him if he had already been robbed once.

Back to the story about the children, after we finished our conversation with them we began walking away. One of the children said to Zoe “Dá me sua bolsa” and she didn’t understand what it meant, so she smiled and walked away.  It translates as “give me your purse”.

So now I’ve explained the bad side of Rio, now there’s the postcard version.

02-stadium

08-gears

14-beach

19-library

20-banco

22-cristo2

23-rio

24-rio2

More photos in the Flickr Set.

It had to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life, even more so than Florianópolis. The last day was rather rainy and unfortunate so we stayed inside for most of the time.  When we saw a break in the rain, we walked about 3 blocks to get a bit of lunch. Afterwards, it began pissing rain again while we walked to the hotel and this is the aftermath.

31-wet
32-soaked

Sans the problems that the city has, I still really enjoyed the trip there.  I only wish that I had spent more time, but I think that a weekend trip shouldn’t be too difficult to manage. I didn’t get a chance to go to Biblioteca Nacional, which is one of the things that I was most excited for so I’ll end up doing that next time.

As I write this, I’m on a plane (no internet, will be posted subsequent to my arrival) to Buenos Aires, Argentina where I’ll be spending the next 9 days vagabonding around, tango dancing, sipping yerba maté or Mendoza malbecs, and perfecting my ultra-thin Porteño moustache.  Stories and pictures to follow when I return!

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Pantanal

April 17th, 2009 by Matt
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Well, with finals this week and being in Pantanal last week, I haven’t had much time to update anyone back home.  I’ll also be heading out of town for the next 2 weeks beginning tomorrow!

Clara, Bea and I head to the Pantanal wetland last week from Monday night to Saturday morning.  The bus ride was about 21 hours in total, most of which I slept, and I think that we could’ve flown for what these damn tickets cost!  It was quite the experience, however.

From Wikipedia:

“The Pantanal is a tropical wetland in South America, mostly within the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, and also portions in Bolivia and Paraguay. It is an area consisting of a variety of floodplain sub-regions, each with distinct hydrological, geological and ecological characteristics; in fact, up to twelve of these hydrological ecosystems have been defined (RADAMBRASIL 1982 [1]). In total the Pantanal covers between 140,000 km² to 195,000 square kilometers (75,000 sq mi) [1][2], making it the largest wetland in the world.”

So yes, I was asking for it when I decided to spend 4 days in a swamp with 2 women.

We arrived in the small town of Bonito in the late afternoon on Tuesday and really didn’t have a lot of time to do anything that day. We stopped at a local Brazijapachinese restaurant for a meal and head back to our hostel for bed.

I was awoken at 5:30am by the shrieking of a rooster.  I immediately tried to get the girls up and asked them if they were up for some “badass extreme shit” that day, but they wanted 30 more minutes of rest.  I tried again 10 minutes later, but that only agitated them more.  I let them have their rest.

The breakfast at the hostel was ok, but far too much meat products.  Clara and Bea are both vegetarians, and I’m not a pork eater so the food choices were extremely limited.  The watermelon was great, though.

1-cmbreakfast

2-beadog

After breakfast we head into town and grabbed motorcycle taxis to the Balneiro Múnicipal: a nice park 6km south of the city.  It was a relaxing way to start off the trip, and Bea had far too much fun with the fish.

3-beawater

23-trash

4-cmbanho

After a bit there, we head back into town to plan some “badass extreme shit”.  We head into a travel agency and were greeted by a hilarious man who set us up on a river tour.  He said it was pretty calm, other than the fact that we would be descending waterfalls.

7-hut

8-cmboat

9-randomboat

10-beawaterfall

After the river tour, we grabbed a quick bite and this parrot wouldn’t quit begging us for our food.

11-parrot

12-parrot

The motorcycle taxis brought us back to the tour planner, and after a few shots of various types of alcohol with him we head to a local exotic meat restaurant.  Not the greatest place for the vegetarians, but the piranha soup and alligator parmesan were amazing.  A great meal to finish off a big day.

The next day, we head to the Gruta Lago do Azul: a badass cave with incredibly blue water.  We had to drive a ways out of town and then hike for quite some time to reach it.

15-road

25-shareema

16-beahelmet

17-cave1

18-beacave

19-cave2

Afterwards, Bea wasn’t feeling too well so she head back to the hostel while Clara and I cruised on innertubes down a river, also descending down waterfalls.  The tourguide told us that anacondas sometimes hung out at the bottom of the river and I proceeded to soil myself every time I saw a log. I didn’t have my camera for this one for obvious reasons.

The final part of our trip was a presentation by some guy about snakes.  He had an extremely thick accent and talked very fast, so I only got the gist of it.  Apparently cobras are really important or something.

20-cmsnake

The next morning we had to wake up extremely early to head back to São Paulo, 4:00am to be exact.  We hopped on a bus, slept, and woke up in Campo Grande where we had a 4 hour layover.

The girls went to the internet café and I had no cash on me, so I set off to find an ATM machine.  As I was walking, I popped my head into a hotel and asked the guy if he knew where an ATM machine was. He immediately noticed my accent and asked me if I was American, to which I responded yes.  “OOOH A GRINGO”

We talked for quite a bit, because he wanted me to clear up a ton of stereotypes regarding the US.  From women, to personal hygiene, to George Bush, he didn’t leave a question unasked.  I did notice something rather curious about this hotel;  it seemed that weird looking men were walking in and out at random.

Down the stairs came 3 quite attractive women and the guy introduced me as “meu gringo” (I don’t think we had exchanged names at this point).  The girls were very nice, and also had a barrage of questions to ask.  After about 30 minutes, they began getting very personal with the questions.  A ton were regarding sex, masturbation, etc, etc.  This was slightly weird, but I just went with it for the purpose of telling you all the story later on.

I really honestly believe that I was at a brothel and these girls were prostitutes.  They didn’t explicitly try and sell themselves to me, but the guy was really pushing them onto me.

For some reason I exchanged contact information (instant messenger) with these girls and have been talking to them every so often since I’ve returned, but I haven’t had the balls to ask them if they were prostitutes.  Only time will tell.

We got back on the bus and I managed to sleep 17 additional hours, only to be awoken periodically by the girls sticking crackers down my shirt.

I guess this takes the cake as the most explicit blogpost I’ve written, as well as the one with the poorest grammar and structure.

I won’t be posting for the next 2 weeks (most likely) because I head to Rio tomorrow morning, return to São Paulo on Tuesday, to Argentina and Uruguay on Thursday, back to São Paulo the following Friday and then finishing that weekend out in Ubatuba.  Lots of pictures and stories to follow, I hope.

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I’m still alive…

March 23rd, 2009 by Matt
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… at least for the time being.  It has been difficult to find time to write things on here between school, marathon training, and constant womanizing.

The last week has been pretty ridiculous for school.  4 major group projects are due this week and I’ve literally spent the past week in front of my computer, or buried in handouts.

I started training for a marathon again, but I don’t know when I will be participating in one.  I won’t be back home for the Portland marathon and the São Paulo marathon is at the end of May, so I don’t have enough time.  Maybe I’ll just do a 10k instead.  Fortunately the knee has healed quite well 🙂

Last night I saw Los Hermanos, Kraftwerk and Radiohead in concert.  I was surprised how popular they are here because they completely sold out a 50,000 person venue.  It was fantastic.

Anyways, I’ll be hitting the books for a bit more but it should ease up by the end of the week 🙂

Tchau, beijos.

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Fala inglês?

March 12th, 2009 by Matt
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One of the main reasons I ended up coming to Brasil (besides a life of promiscuity) was to get a better grasp of the Portuguese language.  Immersion is really the best way to achieve this goal, and of course there will be hardships and misunderstandings along the way.  The best way to learn is to make mistakes, né?

Due to the color of my skin and overall appearance, I tend to blend in here pretty well. Many of the other international students have asked me if I’m Brazilian, and random people on the street are always asking me for directions.  However, my chameleon qualities are thrown out the window as soon as I open my mouth.

My accent is a bit difficult describe as it’s not the traditional “American” accent.  I learned to speak from a  Carioca, (people from Rio have very distinct accents) I use a lot of São Paulo expressions, (for obvious reasons) and of course I have the “American” qualities. So my accent is this american + carioca + paulista hybrid, or as I like to call it, the “São Americarioca” accent.

The people here are incredibly nice to foreigners attempting to speak the Portuguese language. They often will slow down, write things, or even show visuals in order to get the message across. In addition, a large portion of the population (especially at various stores) speak English.

The problem is, I didn’t come to Brasil to practice my English, even if I could use some.  I came here to speak and practice my Portuguese.  It has become a pet peeve of mine when I’m speaking Portuguese, people recognize that I’m American, and begin to speak English to me.  I usually snub them by continuing to speak Portuguese, but unfortunately this makes me come across as an asshole.

My friend Cesar has the same outlook as I do, but also doesn’t want to come across as an asshole. After much thinking, we came up with a solution to our dilemma.  What do we say when someone says “Fala inglês” or begins speaking English? We respond with “Não falo inglês, falo polaco!”

It was a genius solution. Polish is a big enough country to make our alibi seem realistic, yet far away and small enough that we wouldn’t run into any speakers of it. Or would we?

For the last few weeks, saying “falo polaco” as a way to speak more Portuguese worked perfectly fine. I was speaking more and more, and my Portuguese was getting better everyday with this simple white lie… until today.

After class, I went to recharge my cellular phone (which is horribly expensive, but that’s another blog post). There seemed to be some confusion with my credit card at the kiosk, and we weren’t understanding eachother all too well. The lady began to speak English to me me and I interrupt her with “falo polaco”.

Suddenly she starts rapidly speaking Polish to me, and I get this awkward “deer in headlights” expression on my face when she is clearly asking me a question. I decided to give up the charade, explain the story about my alibi, and she had a good laugh about it. It sure was awkward, though.
I guess it’s time to pick a new fake language. How about Greenlandic?

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The Impossible City

March 5th, 2009 by Matt
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This article PERFECTLY describes São Paulo.

http://enroute.aircanada.com/en/articles/the-impossible-city

Cheers, Ana Luiza.

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The Greatest City in the World

March 2nd, 2009 by Matt
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I’ve never been so depressed in my life at the end of a vacation.

Last week, the other Americans and I spent the Carnaval holiday in beautiful Florianópolis, Santa Catarina.  The city is a 178sq mi island just off the coast and is known for it’s beautiful beaches, beautiful people, and relaxing atmosphere.

Before heading to the bus station, Bea and I stuffed our faces at Nagahama, a horribly expensive (over R$100 per person) but incredibly delicious sushi restaurant in the Jardims neighborhood.  We were feeling overly satisfied afterwards, but we would need it for the upcoming 13 hour bus ride.

We arrived at the bus station only to find it completely packed full of Carnaval travelers.  People of all ages and income brackets (usually in the US it’s the lower income people that travel by bus) were scrambling to catch buses, make transfers, or grab a quick bite while their bus refueled.

The buses down here are much different than the ones in the United States.  I once took a Greyhound from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia and swore that I’d never do it again because it was such an unpleasant experience.  Here, the buses were roughly the equivalent of flying business class on an airplane; comfortable seats, air conditioning, and even beverage service.

Fortunately the bus ride was in the evening so I was able to sleep nearly all of it.  I gave up my original seat to a group of travelers that wanted to sit together (doing so, I abandoned the rest of my group but I didn’t want to be a dick by saying no) and had to sit next to an attractive woman with horrible breath, but other than that it was quite ok.

When we arrived, we had lunch at Jurere Internacional while we waited a few hours for the others to deal with the house we rented.  After a few beers and a sandwich, half of us finally head over to the house.

This place was incredible.  It had 10 beds, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, 2 hammocks, a yard, a BBQ, and was only a 30 second walk from the beach.  Julian took advantage of the numberswiki.com

hammock right away.

Julian

While we were relaxing at the house, we noticed a few hours had passed and the other half of the group hadn’t arrived yet.  Apparently the “shuttle” never picked them up, and boy were they furious.  Hell, I would be too if I just rode 13 hours on a bus and had to wait an additional 7 at a sandwich place.

Finally the “shuttle” picked them up, and they arrived.  We all had a huge seafood dinner and went to bed early.

To be honest, we didn’t accomplish a whole lot on this trip.  It was a lot of lounging, some reading, and eating good food.  We did visit the city center, go to the winners parade of Carnaval and attend a block party, but other than that just enjoyed the peace.

I said earlier that this place is the most amazing city in the world.  Why? Well, it is because there are two completely different sides of the island (figuratively, not geographically).  You can experience an intense night life, gourmet cuisine, and dance parties on the beach, and then drive 20 minutes away to be in the most tranquil, quiet, and beautiful place around.  It’s the best of everything.

Child

Cesar e Coco dele

Sunset

Anchor

Boat

Beach

Sure, the trip did have some bad things happen.  The beds were uncomfortable, I managed to get 48 mosquito bites that swelled up horribly, Sam locked his laptop on the patio, and 3 of the girls missed their bus coming home.  Other than those minor (ok, some of them major) setbacks, it was an incredible visit.

Anyways, I apologize for the poor grammar/spelling/structure in this post.  It’s nearly midnight and I’m horribly exhausted, but I had to get an update out.  I promise that I will get some pictures of São Paulo in the near future, but here’s a shot from my bedroom window until then.

Window

Beijos.

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Reinforcing Stereotypes

February 19th, 2009 by Matt
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Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, right?

Right now, it is Carnaval season in Brazil.  The various samba schools are practicing for the big event, people are planning on taking trips out of town (including myself), and the country as a whole is expecting an influx of tourists (mostly to Rio, Salvador, São Paulo, and to a lesser extent Florianópolis).

On Sunday, a group of us went to spectate Mocidade (a samba school) practice.  They have a fairly large following and have won a few times during the past few years.

The event was definitely not what I had expected.  Mocidade practiced their routine while a few thousand spectators danced, sang along, and partied for about 4 hours.  It was ridiculous.

Mauricio told us about another samba school practice the following day and of course I had to attend.  The details were vague, but if it was anything similar to the prior night, I knew that it was going to be fantastic.  We gathered a few people and set off for the center of São Paulo.

Finding the parade was rather difficult, especially when we don’t know the city all that well.  We managed to speak to a few people in broken portuguese, and every single person managed to point us in a different direction.  Even if a Brazilian doesn’t know where something is, they will incorrectly tell you how to get there because they just want to help :).  After a bit of searching, we finally saw a crowd in the distance and knew we had reached our destination.

There was something very peculiar about this crowd of at least 2000 people.  It seemed that the only women that were at the event were the ones that had come with me.  The rest of the people were gay, transvestites, transsexuals, pre/post-oppers, and every other combination. more info

We even ran into a few people that had lived in our home town.

This had to be one of the most entertaining evenings of my life.  We danced, marched in the parade, took pictures with the ladyboys and overall just had a blast.  Once the fabulous and beautiful Luisa uploads the pictures from that evening, I will add them to this post.

After about an hour, we were getting a bit hungry and decided to make our way to a sushi restaurant in the neighborhood of Liberdade.  On the walk to the metro station, we overheard a man saying some of the following things:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

“It’s not just enough to change the players. We’ve gotta change the game.”

“There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

We turned around and saw a man dressed as, saying the quotes of, and wearing a mask of Barack Obama! We had to stop and take pictures with him (the 2nd photo I have taken with Obama), and he thanked us for helping elect such a great leader.  Our president is outrageously popular here.

At the sushi restaurant, Luisa and I ordered an obscene amount of food (sushi rodizio, baby) and barely finished all of it.  When we left, some street kid followed us for a little while and then he tried to scare me. I easily could have taken him.

Anyways, I’ll be in Florianópolis for Carnaval, so no updates until my return next Friday.  The next post should have a ton of photographs, and this one will someday be edited with the pictures from the parade.

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