Monday, February 28, 2011

Two Faces of Iguaçu

After a wretchedly quick but totally tubular excursion to Florianopolis (Obrigado Eduardo e Julia para a hospitalidade!) we took a quick 15 hour bus ride to Iguaçu. We love you Niagara, but, uh..yeah...Iguaçu is just a more graceful and powerful animal. Me wishes to live in it!

Both sides of the falls are monumentally beautiful and when you go, ensure you've been to the toilet because the awe you experience might cause you to evacuate your bowels unwillingly into your shorts. It's with reluctance that we state the Argentine side is better, for we wish not to understate the power of all angles of Iguaçu. The Brazilian side offers an overview of the whole thing, a zoom out if you will, a gander at the big picture.... while the Argentine side allows you into the beast, to zoom in and get up close with the details. It is tourist season, there were a lot of tourists, especially on the Argentine side, but to let that bother you would be a grave mistake.

The video is 86.3% on the Argentine side as a result of us spending more time there, plus the camera finger had been well rested at our lovely hotel in Puerto Iguazu, so it was itching to get clicking.

The creatures at the beginning of the video are Cuatis (kuatis in portuguese) and they swarm you at the entrance of the park or at any time you wish to engage in snacking. They are basically raccoons but aren't nocturnal, can't climb, aren't as fat and are not less likely to have rabies. Signs all over the park tell you not to feed them or touch them, but 86.3% of people ignore that. Petting friendly animals is instinctual, I suppose. The area also had numerous monkeys, a gazillion stunning avians, mammoth lizards/miniature dinosaurs and creepy quantities of butterflies.

The song is a portion of 'Gaio Da Roseira' by Hermeto Pascual. He was unable to work in the fields with his family as a young man because he is albino, and thus developed mad skills on multiple instruments while spending so much time indoors. I feel deep connections to anyone who likes tropical climates but has no tolerance for the sun.

Video 1: Our excursion to Iguazu
Video 2: Other people's excursion to Iguazu in the 20s

Friday, February 18, 2011

Livin' Large in Angra dos Reis & Ilha Grande

 In January, the delightful unit known as my parents came down to Brazil for a visit.  My father has a business associate who also happens to be of high caliber character and he (and his splendid, culinarily gifted wife) invited the lot of us to stay for a weekend at their most phenomenal waterside home.  Every evening we were treated to some good ol' home cooking that gave us a proper view of some typical dishes that had underwhelmed us in restaurants but gave our taste buds a sensual massage once prepared by a skilled foodsmith.
During the days, the boat in Paulo's possession was  piloted by a skilled navigator who brought the gaggle of awe-struck Canadians around different points of Angra dos Reis & Ilha Grande.  Swimming, oysters, beaches, waterfalls, beer and all that good stuff.  The last clip is of the very rainy drive back to Rio.
Thanks to Baden Powell for the song Petite Waltz from the album É de Lei as it accompanies the video.  I don't own the rights to the song, but I did pay for the album and hope nobody from record labels minds me spreading the work of a dead Brazilian music hero.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Discreet Charm of the Bidet

                In Brazil, as with numerous countries, one is well advised to ensure no toilet paper mingles with biological business in the bowl before flushing.  Legends tell of those who have tried and experienced nothing but tragedy.  Instead, you must learn to embrace the bidets and mangueiras (which can mean both 'hose' or 'mango tree') found to the side of any half decent throne in the country.  Bathrooms bereft of spraying apparatuses lead to the garbage bins of your worst nightmare.

               As a 9-year old youngster, I discovered the bidet in the lavatory at my grandparents' place of lodging.  Curiosity led to an experiment with this novel device, and the ensuing high-pressure aqueous tingle gave me the sensation I had done something morally incorrect.  It also dawned on me that I had just sprayed myself with the same thing that cleansed the nether regions of my grandparents.   From that point on, I didn't stray from the conventional wiping method until traveling to Asia with my lovely chum, Rebecca, more than a decade later.
                    James & Guthrie the Bidet, Iguazu Falls 2011
                It is only now, as a man of 30, that I realize these devices are truly phenomenal.  I do prefer the hose over the bidet as you don't have to move from the toilet and one can control the aim with greater precision.  A roll of toilet paper also lasts 2-3 times longer given that you only really need it to do a quick dry.  We must have saved 30 reais on toilet paper over the last 5 months.  

                But wait!  We go back to Canada in a month to a land where the toilets and sewer system are capable of handling waste paper.  How can I go back to the barbaric methods utilized for post-defecation  clean up after becoming so enamoured with the customs in dear Brazil?  And with how much one must spend on toilet paper in the "developed" world, how are we to save enough money for the installation of a spraying device?  Please leave comments if you have any ideas about that issue.

watch this cat fumble with the toilet paper.  What a waste!  With a bidet, it could've been avoided.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Photographic Nibbles of Ordem e Progresso

A man-made vessel of flight just brought us back to Rio from Recife.  Once the sun has risen tomorrow morning, we will be on a similar vessel to Florianopolis, then by ground vehicles to Iguazu Falls & Buenos Aires.  In the last number of weeks we have spent more than 50 hours on buses and 7 or 8 on airplanes....less tiring than anticipated due to quality company, enough good music to last a million bus rides and those inflatable pillows in the shape of a 'C' or 'U' depending which way you turn it.

The visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory & taste systems of the body have all been thoroughly stimulated in this time and our forefingers are in extremely good shape due to the billions of times they triggered the camera.  At some juncture we'll sift through the river of pixels to pan out the gold, but for now we present just singular nuggets from each location we visited.

Click the photos or open them in a new tab to make them big and snazzy.  Zoom in on the map above to get a better idea of the route.

1. Vila Madalena - Sao Paulo - Sao Paulo
Jasmine surrounded by the most grand display of graffiti we've ever seen.  We really thought Rio was the center of urban wall art in Brazil, but nothing compares to what we encountered in Sao Paulo.  Being there reminded me of the feeling I got from certain substances I haven't put in my body since university.
2.  Ouro Preto - Minas Gerais
Pretty far from Sao Paulo, but not THAT far from Rio or Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto is simply gosh darn spectacular.  The heaps of beautifully atypical churches perched up on hills, the immaculately kept
historic center and the lack of hobos trying to kill you are some of the many reasons to visit here if you get down to Brazil.
3.  Brasilia
Jasmine deemed Brasilia essential as a part of her architectural education.  I thought it would be lame.  The 12 hour bus ride through beautiful nothingness gave us an idea of how out of the way it really is.  Turns out that it's a surreal and impressive city with plenty to keep you overstimulated for at least 2 days.
The presidential home has emus as guards....
4. Alto Paraiso - Goias
Even further out into nowhere, Alto Paraiso is a great way to understand the geography of the interior of Brazil.  It is also a haven for atypical spiritual groups that are fascinating, perplexing and 'unknown adjective x'.  It is also the only place where we felt our security compromised.
5. Salvador - Bahia
Been excited to set foot in Salvador for years, ever since realizing some of the best music on Earth comes from here.  While looking out of our apartment window, we did witness a Canadian lose his backpack to the hands of a local thief, but he was acting like a racist our pity was minimal.  Need more time here in the future.
6. Cachoeira - Bahia
Instead of going to beaches, we took a bus 2.5 hours inland to the small town of Cachoeira.  Quite pretty by itself, but the highlight was a boat tour we took down the river to a small village, the name of which I forget.  Our guide got us on the drink wagon at 8:45am and we had numerous hours to soak in a bit more of what Bahia contains.
7. Olinda & Recife - Pernambuco
Olinda is a charming nook full of life, pleasantry and debauchery.  Recife is ugly, stinky & poor...but somehow we still found it highly enjoyable.  The culture is strong here and the people are perhaps more open to different styles of music than anywhere in the country.  Again, we only had a tiny taste and don't really know a damn thing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Night of Cambomble in Salvador, Bahia

Well gents,we are here in Salvador,Bahia, staying in a sweet and very cheap apartment in the heart of Pelhourino, taking about a thousand photos a day, and melting in the heat of this hot hot sun!
We have already been to Sao Paolo, then Ouro Preto in Mina Gerais (an beautiful old colonial gold mining town), then Brasilia (purely for Architectural Observation purposes), then a little town 2 hours north called Alto Paraiso which James did his previous post on.
Salvador has been treating us very well, we have been loading spice on every single meal and snack (except for in the fresh juices of course!) It is crazy tourist season right now, both foreigners and other Brazilians, but nonetheless we have been enjoying this town immensely.
Here is where Brazil´s most famous and flavourful cuisine originates- lots of spice and seafood and coconut milk and such, delicious! Also, things like Capoeira, and Baianas (Bahian ladies in traditional dress selling typical Bahian fare and trinkets on the street). And of course, where a lot of Candomble - an Afro-Brazilian religion that incorporates practices and traditions of Christianity, Native Indian, and African elements combined - thrives. We signed up to see a ceremony - unfortunately it was with 15 other foreigners which sucked, but nonetheless it was super interesting. We were not allowed to take pictures or video,so I have attached the following video so you have an idea of what we were seeing.

Both James and I loved it -people going into trances, dancing, the hypnotic rhythms of drums, some cigar-smoking by the entranced, some yipping and singing - muito legal! It is not for everyone though.
Anyways, one more day until we head out, perhaps south or north of here, and then to Recife in Pernambuco.
Anyways, love to you all, and stay tuned for another episode of SAMBA LIKE IT HOT!!!!

-Jazz ´n´ James