1 February – 14 February
I’ve put of writing about Brazil until today, the 19th of February. I’ve forgotten a lot of what I would otherwise write about, but it’s something that I have to try. We got back from the beach on a Monday afternoon. This was the week of Carnival, which is a different week most years, but celebrated all over the country in a big way. As such, everyone takes the week off, and one day – Tuesday I think, is an official holiday. This made for a much different week than most, since the place was pretty dead, traffic included.
We had talked about trying to go somewhere for the week, but couldn’t find anyone to watch her dog. Her mother was burned out from watching him during our trip to the beach, and I’m not really sure anyone likes her dog – except maybe her brother. This dog – Thothe, is a walking bad habits. If you name a bad behavior, he’s probably got it. Jumping on people (he caught me a couple times in a very sensitive area), biting, luckily playfully (Simone has several small scars – he still has sharp teeth), barking, whining, chewing on clothes and shoes, having his way with pillows, tearing up furniture, begging for food, doesn’t play well with other animals, and several others I forget. Thing is, he’s not really a bad dog – he just acts like it. It’s really more Simone’s fault – she never says no to him. When he does some of these behaviors, she just laughs and does what he wants. While I was there, a couple of things happened. Dogs are pack animals, even among family, and I was the leader of the pack. When he would bark, I would just put him outside. He learned quickly that if he did bark, he would go outside, and it cut his barking dramatically. He is a very smart dog, and like all dogs, just want to make you happy. I’m sure he’s back to barking just as much as ever now, but he’s far away, so I can’t hear it.
Since we were stranded watching this dog (remind me never to get a dog), we just ended up staying in the city all week. On Tuesday, I woke up and had one of the worst days I have had in a long time. First, I had been working on her computer. She had Windows 98, and an amazing number of viruses and spyware, including several keyloggers (which keep ALL keyboard input, including logins and passwords and mail it to another server.) At one point she e-mail someone a letter with 28 viruses in it. That was a very funny, in a “I’m glad it’s not me” moment. So I’d been trying to get her system clean again, but well, some things just aren’t going to happen. So I ended up destroying her computer. I don’t feel too bad about it in retrospect, since she was sending viruses to people who she e-mailed, and she was doing that several times a day, and I suspect she was being used as a spam relay. But, as you can imagine, she wasn’t very happy about that. Luckily, that was the worst thing I did this day, but not the last.
I took apart her water filter to see if I could clean it. It had been so long since it had been apart that the washer crumbled, and then it leaked when you tried to use it. Next I tried to take a shower. Her shower, like almost all in South America, were an electrical shower head that heated the water in the shower. I bumped it with my elbow while washing my hair, breaking it. All of the sudden – cold showers, for her and for me. Later that night I was trying to watch TV, and when I turned on her 35″ TV, it would only come on for about two minutes before shutting off. Later I find out that she’s been having problems with her TV, so that wasn’t me. She’s teaching classes this night, so she is gone while I’m breaking stuff left and right. I’m thinking that her house is going to be a heap of rubble before I leave, so I just want to go to bed. The next day might bring a fresh start.
Her mother has been less than happy that a strange man is staying in her house, and making Simones life miserable. Simone is upset at all the stuff I broke, especially her computer, and I’m not too happy being around her dog and his bad habits, so I get a hotel room (after I fix the shower.) It was an apartment hotel, about 10 minutes by car from where she lives. It’s somewhat expensive at $36 a night, but it’s very nice, and in a decent part of town. Her mom seemed to think that it was the best deal around (then again, she wasn’t paying for it.) The hotel is very nice. Breakfast is included (for both of us) there is a pool, sauna and weight room, and free, secure, underground parking. In the room, there is a refrigerator, a 24th floor view, two TV’s, and a HUGE shower/hot tub. There is still a separate trash can for toilet paper, but otherwise, just like home. Oh, and the INTERNET. Hurrah.
On Thursday, we (OK – I ) need to fix her computer, and this means windows XP. In Sao Paulo, there is a district where you can buy anything electrical you can think of. I’d read about this place online when I was in Seattle, and had forgotten about it. I was very excited about going there, well, at least until we got there. We found XP and Windows 98 from one of the many guys selling CD’s on the street. Later we found out that Windows 98 was something like Corel Draw, but that was OK – it gave me an excuse to install XP. While you could get anything you wanted in these small storefronts, things were very expensive. I looked into buying a wireless router/firewall for her, but it was almost $100/US for a very basic unit (something that would cost, at most, $40/US), from a company I hadn’t heard of before. If the crime and pollution weren’t enough, expensive electronics would be a deal breaker for me. Oddly enough, in this same area, I saw my first prostitutes in South America. I figured there had to be some, but I hadn’t seen any yet. And they were gross. I guess prostitutes are like that.
One of the goals I had was to find good coffee. I’d read that all the good coffee is exported, but I did manage to find one place that served decent expresso – It was called Vienna. It was a chain, and the coffee was only decent, but better than anywhere else I could find. I really, really look forward to a good cup of coffee from Seattle. I don’t really care where – it’s all good coffee.
One of my other goals, and one that proved to be equally as frustrating, was finding an ATM. Brazil, which was much more developed than any other country I’ve visited so far, had a lot of ATM’s, but most of them wouldn’t give me cash. I had more trouble getting money here than anywhere else I visited. Even when I considered using my secret stash of universal currency (the dollar) I couldn’t find a place to exchange it. It took me almost six days to find money. Luckily, Simone was with me, so she took care of the small stuff, and I paid for the larger things (hotels, dinners, etc.) on a credit card. On a related note, you can’t get more than a very small amount of money ($15?) out of an ATM after 10 p.m., and it may now be that the machines are just turned off at night. Criminals were kidnapping people, then driving them from ATM to ATM , forcing them to withdraw all the money from their accounts.
On Thursday, I finally got my ticket to Buenos Aires, leaving the 14th. It was about $340, which was about what it cost to get from La Paz to Sao Paulo. I was told flights were cheap, but I’ve yet to see it. Once I realized my time was short in this town, that mean I wouldn’t be seeing my favorite meat places any more. This made me sad, but in the meanwhile I’m going to eat as much meat, and drink as many Capharinas (sp?) as possible. One night Simone took me to a churrascaria that was supposed to be very nice. I didn’t realize until we were there that she is a vegetarian, or in other words, how the hell would she know if it’s good or not. I deserved what was coming next. The brings of meat were cowardly, and the selections they carried substandard. The next night, and three times in the next four days we went back to the first churrascaria, with the manly men, and their fantastic cuts of meat. Dr. Atkins would have been proud.