Friday, November 26, 2010

New Abode brings us closer to the Big J, and the Favelas.

Oi Gente,

James & Jasmine here; update from Rio is that we've recently moved a couple of days ago - still in our beloved Santa Teresa neighbourhood, but this time way up in the mountains, on the way to the famous Corcovado - or 'Big J' as we've taken to calling him.
     Our move has brought us closer to some favelas; from our bedroom window we have an excellent view of both big J, the mountains, and Prazeres, the closest favela. The first few days we were here were somewhat interesting; lots of intermittent gunshots throughout the morning. Then Tuesday, a whole slew of them. Later, we saw the 'BOPE' (the police force dedicated to infiltrating the favelas) go in, and then go out.
     Since then it has been quiet over there, although today is Friday, and we expect to hear some crazy loud Baile funk blasting from there later on tonight! Our housemate Aglaia, tells us that since buying the house, there has been very little disturbance from the favelas until now.
It was later that we started hearing about all the police forces invading the favelas in the north zone of Rio, and the subsequent retaliation by the drug gangs they are trying to drive out of the favelas. Military tanks have been going in, cars and buses have been burnt, highways and major roadways blocked in Vila Cruzeiro which the BOPE is trying to pacify, and a few incidents in the wealthier Zona Sul area, and in the Centro
     The tally that they have been reporting is as follows :23 deaths, 96 burnt vehicles and 192 injured 25 dead, and over 100 people arrested. Rest assured friends and fam, besides what's mentioned above, we haven't seen any burnt cars, or been affected by what's been going on - we too are just seeing the images and video on the news. We're safe and sound; and planning to stay that way!
   To go back to our new digs, we are very happy about the place - although we are only renting a room only now, we are with a very lovely Brazilian couple, and an equally nice Mexican Photography Student. The house is large, old and charming, and up in the hills with great views, breezes, and with a feel of real-life in Rio. Take a look at the pix below and see for yourself!


Excursion to Buzios

The last long weekend (feriada), we abandoned Rio, snagged a bus and aimed ourselves at the expensive but lovely beach town known as Buzios.  Despite not having more than 12 minutes of sun and an abundance of soggy precipitation, the excursion was a positive one.  The Buzios tourism website describes the place thusly……

 Just 105 miles from Rio de Janeiro, a pleasant 2-hour trip takes you to the peninsula of B├║zios, whose more than 20 magnificent beaches and crystal-clear water contrast with the exuberantly sculptured landscape and exotic vegetation, which a prodigal "Mother Nature" has privileged with a wonderful year-round summer.

To alleviate some potential financial pain, we decided to lodge ourselves in a 6 person hostel room.  
(pretty decent place run by Argentinians)
We crossed our fingers and hoped that the other 4 inhabitants wouldn't be youngsters wishing to self destruct, scream and fornicate while us oldies were trying to get some quality shut-eye.  They turned out to be decent human beings, although one individual’s feet provided an aroma that inflicted great anguish on our innocent nostrils.  The only feasible explanation for the smell was that he’d cut open the carcass of a decaying mule, stuffed his feet into the putrid innards and marinated them for a week before coming to the hostel.

Buzios Highlights:

    1)  Scooter Rental
Jasmine's idea to rent a scooter was the best thing in the world despite it eliminating my goal of renting a horse.  The name of our trusty metallic steed was Lord Scootsalot and our love for him was palpable. We scooted not just hither, but also thither.  We felt the spatter of the elements on our faces as we cruised to beaches and up the hills to take in the smashing vistas.  We made people drive around us due to our inadequate velocity.

    2) Boat Tour
We took a boat tour.  The tour involved caipirinhas, tootling to beaches & islands, going for little swims and talking to an old Chilean guy about the good seafood in Santiago/how sailing is beautiful because there’s no sound of motors.  The scenery engulfed the senses. Thumbs up for boat tour.

    3) Muqueca in the mouth
Food here was mostly pleasing, but reading the menu prices sometimes made us soil our undergarments.  The Muqueca (a traditional yummy fishy, shrimpy, spicy coconut stew + rice & farofa) at one spot, name forgotten, was likely the most delightful thing we have nourished ourselves with since arriving in Brazil.  The fact that the meal was fairly priced boosted the pleasure of the experience.

 Buzios Weirdlights

     1) Festa de Buzios
Buzios had a music festival that weekend.  This excited us… but shouldn't have.  We ended up being a group of drunken gringos wielding big cups of alcohol in the middle of an evangelical pop rock concert.  It took us ten minutes to realize that we were the only ones drinking, and that the singer was preaching about sins and how we needed to fully dedicate ourselves to the Lord.  We absorbed the surrealism for about 15 minutes until things got too awkward and we started to worry that the crowd would end our lives with a pelting of rocks.

      2) Mammoth Snails
The size of the Buzian snails is startling.  They weren’t on any menus, which is something a savvy restaurant owner could capitalize on.  3 of those things with a little garlic butter would be enough for a meal.  You could easily charge like 10 bucks, too!  Stepping on one would be disgusting!

       3) Nightlife
Surely there are cool, little spots to visit with good music in Buzios, but they alluded us.   For such a pretty place, it provided a massive buffet of sonic vomit that made us want to weep.  Some songs from the bars gave me the same feeling that I got as a child when my parents told me our cat, Snowy, had been crushed and deleted by a 4-wheeled road monster.  I won’t get started on the club, Pacha, that was charging 80 reais ($50!!!) to walk through it’s doors of mediocrity.  We didn’t go in, but a lot of people did.  Maybe if one were younger, single & desperate for action, you could find yourself in a mind state to pay such a fee.

Suddenly, all interest in continuing the blog post dissipated and was replaced with an urge to look for the possum (gamba) that lives in the garden.