A Travellerspoint blog

Brazil - Entry 4 Leaving :(

Leaving Rio...

Hi Everyone!

It~s my last night in Rio (and I still haven~t found out how to use the keyboard here but whatever) and I~m very sad to leave but at the same time it will be good to go home. The other day I went to a BBQ at Stephanie~s friend~s mom~s house where Stephanie~s friend~s mom Moira (age 42) had a boyfriend (age 21- and coincidentally the same age as her daughter). If any of you care for a physical description of this boy- he is roughly a cross between Eminem, K-Fed and my personal favorite celeb- JT (yah right). Anyways, at this party, he was telling me that whenever Brazillians go to another country they always DESPERATELY MISS the word ´´saldages´´ (again I don~t know if I know how to spell this word, but considering only one to two people on this email list speak Portuguese- who the heck really cares, right)- moving right along... this guy- I don~t know if it was the capirinas (they have a lot of vodka), the grass some of the people at the Q were smoking or what but he spent a good 5-10 minutes describing the beauty of the word SALDAGES- and the fact that the reason this word is so special is that it is similar to the word ´´miss´´ in our lovely English language, only it~s way freaking cooler than ´´to miss´´ because it encompasses much more than just missing someone or something, from what I gathered from our convo, this word encapsulates all that you love, miss and desire about someone or something...

Maybe it~s just me, but when I go to another country, I don~t particularly miss any WORDS in the English language, instead I tend to miss things or people- like my boyfriend, my dog, my parents and an Intermezzo chef salad without croutons, with turkey meat (sometimes a little extra turkey meat- especially now that Intermezzo re-vamped it~s turkey meat into a brand that smokes that stuff up) and of course- poppy seed dressing on the side- although let~s be honest- everyone from Berkeley knows that everyone that works at Intermezzo is always high on ´´grass´´ and the likelihood of them getting your order correctly is about 1 in 10 but who cares- Intermezzo is a Berkeley staple and part of the fun of ordering a salad there is not quite knowing what~s going to be in it! Most people I talk to when they go on vacation always miss Mexican food and the first thing they do when they get home is head over to a burrito joint and stuff themselves... okay you get the point....

After a ten minute discussion about the word ´´saldages,´´ this twenty-one year old boy spent another good 5-10 lecturing me on the fact that ´´Portuguese is not Spanish, you have to understand that it~s a different language...´´ yeah, I know, after attending a prestigious University for a number of years, and actually even before then, I~m pretty sure that I knew that Portuguese is not Spanish.

Okay... let~s talk a little more about this ´´BBQ´´- let me backtrack to some of the events that took place after our arrival- so at this Q, before I had the opportunity to speak with this young gentleman, I had the pleasure of meeting Moira~s niece, a beautiful two year old girl named Isabel with olive skin, curly blond hair and beautiful brown eyes. After dancing around the living-room to the Brazilian version of Barney, she brought me over her toy purse and pulled out some of her toys- a few of them were some miniature toy cars, but then she pulled out her real treasures- a wind-up set of boobs and a wind-up penis (apparently these were her favorite toys- they were the ones she didn~t want to let go of, and I have a great picture of her holding her wind-up boobs)- maybe it~s just me, but I thought it was a little inappropriate to give such a young girl those toys, but considering that age-appropriateness (for toys or boys) wasn~t something that ran in the family, I guess I wasn~t really so shocked!

All jokes aside, I had a wonderful time at this BBQ, the food was good, the music was good, the capirinhas were delisioso and most importantly the people were SO incredibly nice. As funny as it was that Moira~s man was the same age as her daughter (and she did make a few jokes- where she called him her daughter~s ´´step dad´´)- Moira was such a great hostess- so sweet! She kept coming to check on me, to ask me if I was okay, to talk about what I was doing in Brazil, what I thought of Brazil, whether I liked the food, etc... and she really wanted to practice her English so she sat down and talked to me for a long time. She was such a sweet person- and as I was walking out the door to leave she said, ´´I love you!´´- it was so cute!

Honestly the people in Brazil are some of the nicest people I have ever met- Stephanie~s family is wonderful, I really do feel at home here, but also her friends are so nice, and everyday I meet people here who hear me speaking English or look at me and know I~m not Brazilian (sad but true...) and ask me where I~m from, then respond by saying, ´´I love California, I lived in San Diego for...(X amount of time)´´- I swear I~ve met at LEAST ten people here who have lived in San Diego (why, I~m not sure but probably because San Diego has people as nice as San Franciscans and they also have the amazing weather and the beaches)- so the other night this idiot at Melt came up to me and tried to impress me with the fact that he~s lived in San Diego, and I~m like, yeah buddy, you and every other upper-class Brazilian from Rio... it~s not like I~m from a small town in Iowa that we share in common... JEEZ... the Brazilian guys, I tell you, some of them are so aggressive (it~s probably just the blond hair- either that or my newly acquired Buns of Steel...), either way sometimes it was so annoying I just wanted to come home early- (although I only could handle going out about 2 nights a week anyways- Stephanie has been going out EVERY single night... but then again, she~s 21)...

I think my favorite line so far was at Stephanie~s birthday when I was having a piece of cake, this fifteen year old who must have had enough drinks to muster up the courage to come up to me and let me know that, ´´chocolate tastes better in Brazil, it~s CREAMIER, like you!´´- then he asked if he could kiss me and so I gave this guy my favorite kickboxing move (the elbow to the gut...) and then the other night we were out and just saying I have a boyfriend was not good enough- Stephanie started telling every guy that tried to talk to me that they had no chance because I was married (even her ex-boyfriend the other night at dinner was asking about my husband)... or we tried hanging out with non-Brazilians- Americans guys (who were lawyers and therefore too dorky to even really talk let alone act like Slick Rick), Swedish guys (we felt especially comfortable around the Swedes because we found our self asking that eternal question- ARE THEY GAY OR ARE THEY EUROPEAN?, we actually thought for shizzle they were gay until they told us they were brothers, one of whom was 17- JEEZ what~s up with letting kids into night-clubs... hmmm... maybe this is how Moira (age 42) met her man age 21- but did I mention that they~ve been together since she was 39 and he was 19 (EWWWWW.. I wonder what his mother thinks).

One more thing about the Swedish guys- I was excited to meet them because I got to tell them my favorite story about Sweden, about the time that Brett~s good friend (I guess I shouldn~t mention any names) decided that Sweden was on their MUST-SEE list for their bar trip because he was really eager beaver to hook up with some Swedish Bikini Models- well SURPRISE, SURPRISE but after spending around three or four nights there (including hitting up the hot spots recommended in the Lonely Planet)- he moved on to another country empty-handed without seeing any Swedish Bikini Models, and even feeling like the girls there were not that attractive! I remember Brett calling me from there, reporting that his buddy hadn~t found any bikini models, and actually the found the whole country to be a bit boring. Well, sorry buddy but going to the most poppin city in Sweden to hook up with a bikini model is pretty equivalent to that scene in Borat where he comes to America to seek out Pamela Anderson (plus he should have known that going to the capital of Sweden was not really the equivalent of going to Spring Break in Cancun- I mean have any of you ever seen ads for Girls Gone Wild- Sweden???---- what this guy should have done is come to Brazil- there are plenty of girls here that look like bikini models...

Anyways, the non-Brazilians were useful because we could use them for protection- if we stood next to them, the Brazillians would back off and the American and Swedish guys are lacking the Latin Lover mentality- so they aren~t likely to pull any SMOOTH MOVES- we thought these were all good ideas- strategies if you will- that is until we came up with another plan- the Mini-me version of Big Bird (but in hot pink)-

so the other night Stephanie, Larissa and I were enjoying the most delicious sushi I have ever had in my life- no joke- at Sushi Leblon when this hot-rod with about 4 teeth came up to our table, trying to sell us his hand puppet which when you squeeze it, the tongue comes out and makes a weird squeaky noise)- in all honesty I bought this thing for 2 purposes; (1) for my dog Olivia and (2) as a ploy for the super-aggressive Brazilian guys we encountered at our favorite night-spot Melt. All being blonds, we decided that this sweet toy was the perfect way to keep the aggressive guys at Bay- we would just take turns holding the hand puppet (you know, one hand in the pocket sort of thing) and then when a guy approached whichever of us was holding the puppet- the other two girls would just say, ´´ELLA ES MUDA´´ (pronounced MOOOOOOOOO-DAH) = SHE IS MUTE and then the girl with the puppet would bust out the puppet and squeeze the button so the tongue would fly into the guy~s face. We were all laughing so hard we were crying! Sweet idea, huh? (oh and friends- don~t be shy, let me know if any of you want to borrow the puppet for a night out at a spot in SF where the guys might be a little aggressive, I don~t know maybe the Holy Cow)?

Which leads me to my next mini-story... the highlight of my weekend- actually the highlight of my time in Brazil was this weekend when my friend Larissa came to visit me! Larissa was an LLM student at Boalt (the Masters program for foreign students) who I met in my second year- and we had so much fun going out together around San Francisco, making capirinhas at her house, etc... She lives in Sao Paolo (which is the same distance from Rio as LA from San Francisco)- and I was suppose to see her earlier but she was really busy working (she~s a partner at a law firm and a law professor at two universities, plus she just told me today she´s working with the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Brazil and has even had meetings with the Ministry of Finance here about changing some of the laws related to the capital markets- very impressive, I thought that was so cool- but she~s so modest (plus she looks young and beautiful- and doesn~t look old enough to have accomplished this much) she didn~t even mention any of this until I asked her about her thesis topic but anyways...) now that you know her credentials I can get on to the important stuff- we had the greatest time catching up this weekend- going to coffee, going to the beach, we went to watch the sunset from this place I call The Rock (but really has a cooler name I don~t remember), going to sushi, Melt (the bar/dancing spot), etc...

Larissa is one of the nicest people in the world- someone who after hanging out with her for a few hours, you feel like you~ve known her for years- just a really great person- she~s someone that I know I will always keep in touch with and every time I see her- it will be like we see each other every week and I know this is corny but I realized that my favorite part about traveling is really the people that you meet along the way- I think the reason I am so obsessed with Brazil and Spain is because these are the two countries in the world that I feel the most at home- I know that at any point in my life I can come back here and visit friends and be warmly welcomed by people I already know and people I meet when I get here (well all except this one girl- I can~t remember if her name is Carol or Alessandra, but that~s beside the point- the point is that when I was living here eight years ago this friend of Alexie~s use to come over a lot and hang out with us- then one day Grandma got the phone bill and somebody had racked up a huge bill calling the PSYCHIC HOT LINE to try to solve their love-life crisis and the investigation pointed the finger at this girl- Carol (if that~s her name)... so when she was confronted about what the HECK she was doing racking up a bill to the psychic hot line- she told Grandma that it wasn~t her that was calling this number- it was me! ´´Sure,´´ grandma said, ´´I~m sure Sarah is spending hours on the phone calling a psychic hot line when she doesn~t even speak Portuguese...´´ anyways- I saw that girl in the street the other day and gave her the evil eye!

Okay, it~s time to go wrap up my last night here with a movie in the living-room but WOW- this has been an amazing trip- Africa was INCREDIBLE (I can~t get this image out of my head -- of kids in the desert- with nothing around but dirt for miles- wearing their Kangas (their outfits looked like a piece of colorful cloth wrapped around their thin, bony, bodies), herding their goats and cows--- driving by them was so sad (knowing they would have to walk for miles or even days just to find food or water- but they looked so peaceful and it was just so beautiful- our encounters with the animals on the safari was also just incredible- so peaceful and serene)-- plus having these pictures in my head is always good for times when I start to think that my life is pretty rough (sad, but I think we all do this sometimes)- but whenever I start to feel this way- I just pull up one of these snapshots in my head and think about how life is all relative, how easy I really have it, and how I can~t really be upset because my sink broke, or because I didn~t get enough sleep last night because at the end of the day- I have everything I need and much more...

It was also wonderful to stop-over in London (which I miss so much)- AND THEN being in Brazil was the most BEAUTIFUL, relaxing time- I really could not have had a better trip (especially considering that this is the first time in years I have been able to hit up two countries (let~s not count London because then it will ruin this theory) without even seeing a Starbucks (sadly next time I come to Brazil- Starbucks will be here- they are planning a roll-out strategy here Larissa told me- good luck competing with a culture that doesn~t use TO-GO cups for coffee, it~s no coincidence I did not see one person drinking their coffee on the run here- in a country whose coffee is I don~t know, 100 or 1000 times better than Starbucks (not that I don~t go to Starbucks, I~m not that much of a tree-hugger) but I~m just saying the coffee at Starbucks SUCKS)!

SUMMARY-I~m coming home feeling great! Can~t wait to see everyone when I get back!


Posted by bjmorris14 11:55 Comments (0)

Brazil - Entry 3 More Rio Craziness

The girl from Ipanema

I'm watching a documentary on the life of the famous poet/singer who wrote that song- it's good- it's the kind of movie that makes you want to dance! Even though I'm lying on the couch too sore to move, I still want to dance (I'm sore from that gym class where Monika the Porn Director/Personal Trainer makes us do squats with weights for an hour- which is why even though Rio is big on plastic surgery, the only place where you can get the "Brazilian butt lift" surgery is actually in the US (well at least according to my friend who just told me about this surgery where they extract some fat from somewhere else in shove it all into your booty)- so anyways nobody here needs any butt lifting surgery- they are all born with butts and then they go to the gym and lift weights all day- sometimes they go to two weight lifting classes a day- I know this because I saw a girl last night in my 7:30pm class and she was also in my 10:30am class this morning.... tricky city! (I mean even the guys show off their butts in the Brazilian version of the Speedo which basically looks like a daisy-duke version of the Speedo- just as tight, with a little more emphasis on the butt- which to me just looks weird- especially in the old men, one of whom was walking in front of our house the other day wearing his Speedo and a t-shirt and at about 75 years of age- it just didn't look right. You know?)

What else is new? A lot I guess considering the fact that this is the first time in years I've gotten to just sit back, relax and enjoy (because even though traveling to Africa was SUCH an amazing experience- it's still tiring at times traveling, changing hotels all the time, etc...) One of the things I like about the condo we're in (other than the fact that we're half a block from the beach and this neighborhood is so cute) is that there is an old man who lives across the street who is straight out of the movie As Good As It Gets- meaning he's what you would call obsessive-compulsive. He has a dog which he walks four times a day (probably at the same time) and each and every time this poor dog gets a walk he also gets a bath (which is really just insane in the membrane)- when I got my little Olivia, the pet store told me to bathe her once a month- not four times a day- and unless this dog is just a different species of animal- this guy is committing animal cruelty. I would like to call the SPCA on his a** but considering the fact that the police here rarely respond to any calls (unless there is bribery involved) I doubt there is any reliable way to help this poor animal. What I feel like doing is learning how to say, "hey buddy, I have an idea for you, why don't you take a bath every time you leave the house," then maybe he can see how it feels. Mio Dios!!

So I know I've said this before but I'll say it again- I LOVE RIO! It is so beautiful here, everyday when we are walking back from the beach around sunset, I still can't believe how beautiful it is. I need to bring my camera with me to the beach, the only problem is that bringing valuables with you is always a bit risky here (especially with two blonds- everyone thinks Stephanie is American now so being Brazilian doesn't really help us here). The problem with Brazil is that the divide between the rich and poor is so great that there is a lot of crime here- in the favelas (shanty-towns) the numbers of deaths per year is enough to consider Brazil in a state of constant civil war and on the streets in the nice part of town, where we live, or really anywhere in Rio- people get robbed. It's just a fact of life... on the one hand, I lived here for a few months when I was 17 and now I've been here for weeks and nothing has happened but at the same time, every time I leave the house I'm prepared to be robbed (so I carry my ATM card and any large bills in my bra or bikini top and some small change in my pocket)- in fact there is even a word here for the money you disperse throughout your body- the money in your pocket is called "robber's money." Still, if you know where to go- you will be fine and I'm here with people who live here- so I feel completely safe. Plus, it's not really "dangerous" per se- it's just that if someone asks for my wallet- I give it to them, fine.

That's the price you pay for living like royalty here- how can one expect to live like this- with a maid, cook, driver, dog sitter, etc... (I mean we even paid an "ice man" to come to Stephanie's birthday party)- and not expect to have to give something up. The counter-part to all of this is basically that if you're poor here, you're screwed. Getting out of the favelas is almost impossible, and even if you do get it- life will not be easy. I'll tell you why...

Stephanie has a good friend Jonathon (this guy grew up in the favelas, has dark-skin, etc...) but is friends with everyone in Rio. He is such a cool guy- someone I really admire. He now works for the NGO that works with the kids from the movie City of God (if you haven't seen it- go see it- it's a great movie based on the true story of growing up in the slums here) and he has made it out of the favelas and into the Hollywood of Rio- he is in a few films here, etc... plus he is really doing good for the community. He actually took us into the favelas the other night, it was quite an adventure. Going into the favelas is not really a good idea- I've heard stories of Americans wanting to go there to check out the scene and getting killed- but he assured us that he knows everyone in the neighborhood he was taking us to, it was a "nice" part of the favelas and that we would be safe. We took a cab from Stephanie's house to the gate where the favelas meet the city (now Brazil is interesting because it's the only place I've ever been where the rich live in the flats- on the beach, in condos mostly, and the poor live in the hills- with amazing views)- once we got there he said that we had to take a motorcycle taxi to the place we were going (I think because the regular taxis won't go there).

So each of us got on a motorcycle with a guy and drove up to this NGO to check it out. Honestly I was terrified- I really don't like motorcycles, I knew the favelas were dangerous, and it was nighttime- plus I was on my own motorcycle with a guy that could probably drive off with me if he wanted to.... but after awhile I realized that Jonathon was right. Going into the favelas is really a matter of knowing the right people- being with him, nobody would mess with us- plus we were going to the NGO where the City of God was made and many famous Brazilian directors, etc... had worked there in the past.

As we were riding on the motorcycle winding through the hills of the favela- I kept thinking 1) how scared I was but 2) at the same time- these are the experiences that you remember looking back- and it was really interesting to see what it was like in this part of town. It was like a separate city- little street stands, people out walking in the street at night, kids playing, little shacks all practically on top of each other- you could tell the people were poor but they were so full of life. It was truly a beautiful place.

We got to the building, walked around the NGO, took a walking tour of the neighborhood which had an amazing view of the city, and then after awhile Jonathon took us back down the hill and we came home.

Okay- back to the problems here- so on Saturday Stephanie went out with Jonathon to a nightclub (I didn't go because I can only handle so much nightlife here- at 26 years old I'm not as interested in staying out until 6 or 8am as I was when I was 21)- anyways once they got to the nightclub, the bouncer wouldn't let them in and when they started complaining to themselves (saying, "that's messed up...")- the security guard walked over to Jonathon and punched him in the face for no reason at all. Jonathon had not said anything to this security guard- him and Stephanie were talking about how unfair it was they couldn't be let in the club, but because he is "black"- this jerk just punched him in the face. Tons of people were standing around, even policemen, but nobody cared- because he's black.

And just last week, Jonathon's brother, who lives in the favelas was sitting in his house, enjoying an evening with his girlfriend when the police raided his house claiming he was selling drugs (which is bullsh*t- I know this because when I was here when I was 17- the police once pulled us over and claimed that my Lip Smackers lip gloss- a sparkly lip gloss was probably cocaine- all because they wanted me to give them a few bucks to get them to leave me alone)- the police robbed his brother for almost everything he had- for no reason- his brother is in the military here and not a drug dealer but that's what happens in the favelas here- the police go into the bad neighborhoods- and just steal and shoot whoever the hell they feel like whenever they want. It's ridiculous, it's unfair and it makes me glad that I don't actually live here (as much as I love the lifestyle I'm living at the moment- I can't say I would trade my life in the US for a country filled with dire inequality).

Okay enough on the crappy things here- let's be positive. Rio is amazing- I just got the best manicure here yesterday for $4! Stephanie had a beautiful birthday party in this amazing house overlooking all of Rio- even the Christ the Redeemer (the newest "Wonder of the World")- it was a great party... while I was there the host introduced me to "his friend"- some old guy that looked like what my mom calls "your dad's guitar friends"- aka not someone you would want to talk to at a party. He was around 55+ and from New York- the whole time I was talking to him I was thinking "what the heck are you doing here, this is a girl's 21st birthday party and you are over twice her age and really weird," but later I found out it was all good in the hood- apparently he was a part of Lenny Kravitz's band (they were at her party)- so that validated his attendance at the party (I guess)...

Then the other night we went out here to this great bar/dancing spot across the street from our house called "Melt"- in Portuguese they pronounce it "Mel-ch" which always cracks me up but anyways we were there having a great time, Stephanie was teaching me how to dance Samba and then she pointed out some Chubby Bunny who apparently was a famous soap opera actor. She told me to go over to him and say "Bocatoa" and ask him for his autograph- so I did- and let me tell you that he was laughing so hard when I came up to him with a pen and paper (maybe it's because after gaining more than I would consider to be just a few pounds- nobody gives a rats about him anymore, especially some super cool American sister like myself,,, ha ha)- eitherway... I got Stephanie his autograph.

Then a few minutes later I went to get a drink at the bar and some guy was talking to me, but I just ignored him. When I walked back to Stephanie with our drinks she said, "do you know who that is?" "NO, who is it, another fat soap opera actor, who freakin cares?" "No," she said, "that's Romario, he's the best soccer player in Brazil." WHOOPS! I thought- maybe I should have said hi.

Then Stephanie told me to get his autograph- so I walked up to him (in a story Stephanie would re-tell 100 times) and said, "Por favor, poge fazer voce Bocatoa"- please give me your autograph... well it turns out what I said to this guy (who is supposedly a legend in Brazil and in the soccer world- I did see him on CNN the next day but whateves) is "please give me your Bocatoa"- aka- please give me your Chubby Bunny autograph. At that point he started talking to me in English, "where are you from, etc..." and I did end up getting two autographs- one for me and one for Stephanie- just for fun! By the way- does any of you know who Romario is??

The Deputy Mayor of Long Island and his buddies were also at Melt that night- I was trying to hook them up with some Brazilian girls- but I didn't get their autographs because it's no fun asking someone for their autograph in English you know. Plus when I told my dad about my night later he said "Long Island doesn't have a mayor" but then I googled it and found they do have a deputy mayor- I mean either way who cares- I guess some people think it's cool to go on vacation and pretend like they are someone important because they feel like such low-lives at home... Who knows? Who cares?

I can't believe that my life as a student has ended, that law school was not nearly as bad as I though it would be (in terms of the fact that I've had so many great experiences, met some great peeps, even reunited with one of my greatest friends from elementary school this summer- visited so many countries in law school I feel so lucky it's unreal- let's see- first year I went to (don't read this paragraph unless you're really bored- I'm really just doing this for my own sake to make myself feel good about joining the working world- plus to make my parents feel like they've given their child a better life than the one they were raised in.. but really... I love my parents)!

1) Dominican Republic;
2) Haiti (the DR and Haiti were such amazing experiences- especially because it was a law school funded trip so we learned about the human rights violations there- memories that will be with me for the rest of my life);
3) UK (London six times);
4-10 ) Copenhagen, Denmark; Bruges, Belgium; Hamburg, Germany; Aun Flore, France (can't spell in French, oh well- it was a beautiful place); Oslo, Norway; Mexico (but those countries don't really count because I went there on a cruise- but whatever I went there- I had a great time in each of them- I'm going to count them!);
11) Tennessee (it's really a different country over there, one of the best "countries" I've ever been to- and a place I love SO much- bless their hearts over there- I want to go back!) On the other hand- BAMA is not really my favorite place on earth- Bama (aka Alabama) is from what I gathered the American equivalent of living in the favelas- CRAP CENTRAL;
12) Canada (Victoria and Vancouver- Vancouver looks just like a cleaner version of San Francisco);
13) Spain (Sevilla twice, Madrid, Pamplona for Running of the Bulls which would have been the place of my dreams at 20 years old but at 25 it was more like- when can I go to bed & San Sebastien- places I will go back to many times in my life);
14) Dubrovnik, Croatia (I love this place- go here)!
15) Kotor, Montenegro (also an awesome country)
16) Bosnia (a place I'll never return to);
17) Geneva, Switzerland;
18) Warsaw, Poland;
19) Cairo, Egypt (wow- what a crazy, cool place);
20) Glasgow; Scotland (so-so, I mean they sell fried Mars bars there- what can you expect)?
21) Dublin, Ireland;
22) Greece (Athens & Santorini- Santorini is one of the most beautiful places on earth- go there- NOW)!
23) Rome, Italy (this is one of the most amazing cities in the world- on every corner there is another treasure);
24) Tanzania (including Dar es Salaam, some of the best spots to view wildlife on earth- Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti and the amazing and exotic Zanzibar)- one of my favorite countries by far;
25) Rio, Brazil (ahhhh, a place that will always be close to my heart);
26) China (go there now- this place is changing so much everyday- you should go there before it becomes an entirely different place)-
----I don't know if these places count because I went there the summer before I started law school but here they are...
27) Thailand
28) Cambodia (although I can't really count this country- I went there for a day- the military threatened to kill my traveling companion and we had to flee back into Thailand- so all I really saw here were the maimed children- victims of landmines- at the border- I never made it to Angkor Wat)
29) Myanmar (the former Burma)- a really crazy place- the scariest place I have ever been

And those are only the places I've visited in the last three years- now I'm not trying to toot my own horn here- honestly I was just thinking about how lucky I've been in the past (mostly as a result of being able to "live-spend a significant amount of time-work" in really cool places for an extended period of time- like London, Brazil and the big TN- so I just was wondering- JEEZ how many places have I been in the last three years- I might as well write them all out and let's be honest anyone who's not interested will have stopped reading this email a long time ago (paragraphs ago)- if I've still got your attention at this point- you must be someone who really loves me so Thanks!

On another good note- my friend Larissa- this really cool girl I met when she was an LLM student at Boalt who is from Brazil and lives in Sao Paolo is coming to visit us this weekend- she is a lawyer here and just got a job as a law professor teaching corporations (which is cool because I met her in my corporations class in law school)---I use to take all the foreign students out in San Francisco- it was so much fun!

I think I need to get to bed........... otherwise those who really love me (aka my parents and my boyfriend if he finds this email more interesting than ESPN.com that is) will be reading this email all day tommorrow.... Sorry guys- I like to write!!!

Boa noite


Posted by bjmorris14 11:53 Comments (0)

Brazil - Entry 2 Living in Rio De Janeiro

No soy eu que fala, el povo que gise!!!!!!!!

EL MEHLOR! EL MEHLOR! EL MEHLOR MOUSSE DE RIO! NO SOY EU QUE FALA, EL POVO QUE GISE! (translation = THE BEST! THE BEST! THE BEST MOUSSE IN RIO! IT'S NOT ME WHO SAYS IT, IT'S THE PEOPLE)!!! This one liner is a part of my new favorite slogan on the beach here in Rio. There is this old man that walks around with a cooler full of chocolate mousse who repeats these lines over and over again all day! And I seriously cannot get his slogan out of my head (so I wonder how he feels- literally all he does everyday is walk around the beach yelling the same slogan)- so a few days ago I was on the beach and really did not feel like having any mousse but I wanted to talk to him so when he would say "It's not me who says it," I would reply, "It's the people!" You know how some jokes never get old? That's exactly how I feel with him!

It's been so great just to do absolutely nothing everyday (well here's my typical day- wake up, have the most amazing coffee, walk down the beach until we reach the cool part where everyone is sitting and where I'm sure to run into my mousse-man, hang out all day on the beach, where all the girls are wearing skimpy bathing suits- put it this way- the Brazillians have the same word for "bathing suit" and "dental floss"- both of them are called "fio dental."

Let's talk about "fio dental"- most of the women here are beautiful and look great in fio dental but as you can imagine- the fio dental look is not for everyone- but that doesn't stop them. Fio dental is a Brazillian tradition as much as the churrascurias or samba dancing but you just have to wonder how someone who is 200+ pounds feels comfortable wearing a bathing suit that is the size of a golf ball if you scrunch it up. But hey- good for them!

The wierd thing is that on the first day at the beach, before I had purchased my very own fio dental (which is by the way the cutest most beautiful bathing attire I have ever seen in my life- I'm obsessed with this bathing suit) I was wearing my regular old bikini and I actually felt really uncomfortable that so much of my butt was covered up. Maybe it's because Stephanie told me as we walked to the beach "if they don't already know you are American, once they see your bathing suit it will be obvious" or maybe it was just because compared to everyone else, I looked like I was wearing a diaper... Actually last time I was here my friend Alexie told me that she refused to go to the beach with me in a regular "American style" bikini because I would embarass her.

Any speculation on how all the Brazillian women manage to look so good in their fio dentals was quickly solved by two revelations I've had

1) The gym is a very serious part of the culture- particularly anything that involves working your butt (we are talking serious stuff here- we joined a gym and started going to this class called "Local" which is one hour of weight lifting for women where we must do around 1000 lounges in an hour and the teacher Monika sounds like she's directing a porn "squeeze your butt, squeeze your butt, squeeze your butt harder"!!!!!!!!!! Monika is a scary woman and at around 60 years old her entire body looks like a steel rod! Crazy!

2) Plastic surgery is so common here that every newstand sells a copy of "Plastics and Beauty"- an entire magazine dedicated to plastic surgery. I don't even know if such a magazine exists in LA- maybe it does but even so it's not something you can find at your local 7-11. Plus, all of Stephanie's best friends and there parents have some kind of plastic surgery. The other day we went to her friends house who was looking into getting a nose job and her mom was there showing off her new lipo, later that night we went to another friend's house whose mom had just gotten some gastric bypass surgery (which apparently is the new rage here). Last night I was having a discussion with a girl whose uncle is the Brazillian ambassador to Portugal and I was asking her how his wife liked living abroad, etc.. and her response was, "I think she loves it, her job is to be the ambassador's wife, to be beautiful, to throw dinner parties and to get a nose job." Okay.... how was I suppose to respond to that. Whatever, the point is that plastic surgery here is just as common as Starbucks is in the states.

The wierd thing is that although the women here are very concerned about their apperance- the men don't seem as concerned. For example- last night we went out to this really nice club in the old part of town in a converted mansion with a open roof so you could see the sky. We were on the guest list but it was $60 a person for men to get into the club (which is A LOT)- so as you can imagine all the girls there were dressed beautifully wearing expensive cocktail dresses while the men were wearing jeans, tennis shoes and ugly t-shirts. I made a comment to Stephanie about the male dress-code (literally not one of these guys would even be let into a club in the US for how crappy they were dressed) and some guy she was talking with heard me and asked me, "do you think I'm dressed poorly," and I just couldn't help myself but to say, "yeah. you are wearing a "RIP CURL" t-shirt- my boyfriend would never wear that even to a baseball game, let alone a nice club." Rip Curl might be a cool brand if you are an eight-year old surfer dude but it's not really flying for me in this swanky club.

I might have offended him but frankly I didn't care- I mean I was the one who was offended, wearing a cute dress with a bunch of my girl friends who all looked great and all the guys looked like some Joe Shmo you would find at a frat party's after party. I just couldn't stop thinking about how poorly everyone was dressed- I mean the guys looked so ridiculous compared to the girls that I couldn't even talk to them. Normally when I guy is interested in me I have the curtesy to say, "no I have a boyfriend," but these guys were looking so sloppy I just couldn't even respond.... know what I mean?

All in all, I am having an amazing time here- I seriously am in love with this city! Everyday when I walk around I just can't stop thinking about how beautiful it is- on the beach, with the mountains, and the favelas in the background. Ahhhhh it's just exquisite!

I have more to write about but I'll save that for later- like the fact that Stephanie had an amazing birthday party in this beautiful house (we are talking so cool that even Lenny Kravitz' band was there); today I went to a bbq at the house of a 42 year old mom whose boyfriend is the same age as her daughter-21 and she has been with this boy since he was 19 (okay...) and the other night Stephanie's friend who works with an NGO that works on theatre with the kids from the City of God (great movie about Brazil) took us into the favelas to visit the NGO and the neighborhood- it was a crazy, interesting experience... and some other great stuff....

Okay, it's bed time! Hope everyone is doing well!


Posted by bjmorris14 11:52 Comments (0)

Brazil - Entry 1 Preliminary Impressions


Hi Everyone!!!

After five really awesome flights and roughly three days of traveling- I made it to Rio from the exotic island of Zanzibar (which really was all it was cracked up to be)... I got to stop in London and spend 15 hours there on the way to Rio which was really fun- I forgot how much I LOVE London.... I spent the whole day with my friend Sabrina and her new baby Ronan (cool name, huh?) who is adorable and even got to babysit for a few hours which was so much fun!

Let's cut to the chase- Rio is a crazy city! On top of being insanely beautiful and so much fun- everytime we go outside there is another dramatic event taking place. Three days ago we were walking down the street when a fight broke out where two guys were about to throw cement cylinders at each other (one of them ran past us and my instinct told me to stop and watch but Stephanie thought it would be better to leave just in case), two days ago we were on the metro when someone pushed an old lady and she fell into the car- and today we were coming back from the market and there was a helicopter on the beach in front of our apartment. We were trying to get into the house but the doorman left and was on the beach (apparently the doormen here are huge gossips which isn't really a shocker considering that for a living all they do day in and day out is open doors- I think I would be a huge gossip too!)

So apparently some smart-a*s was drowning (apparently people come to the beach from the favelas- the poor areas- not knowing how to swim and think that the ten foot waves on the beach would be a great place to practice their breast stroke).

Anyways, there was a helicopter and a ton of people surrounding it. Now we're not just talking your regular old rubber-necking like you would have in the states. No... we are talking full on the entire portion of the beach comes over to watch, getting in the way of the ambulance, buses UNLOADING just to watch this person die- it was crazy. I think the best part was that people were standing in front of the helicopter scene having their friends take their picture in front of the helicopter. Ummmmmmm k- what the HELL is wrong with these people? I mean I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't walk half a block to check out the scene and stand there asking people what was going on but at the same time I didn't wip out my camera and take pictures- and it wasn't that they were even merely taking pictures OF the accident, they wanted to BE in the pictures with the accident.

It turns out this guy was dead but that didn't stop them, they were so intrigued by the helicopter- everyone was lining up to have their photo taken as if it was a movie set with Pamela Anderson from Baywatch rescuing someone from the beach. It was so unbelievably tacky! JEEZ!

I will say that the 911 emergency system seems to have really improved since I was here 8 years ago. Last time I was here we encountered some teenager passed out in the middle of the street- who was injured and needed some serious medical attention so we called 911 to get him help (well their version of 911 and 911 literally just did not pick up the phone- I guess the operators were too busy taking pictures with the accident victims to be bothered with actually saving a life). Also- we took a road trip to go to Carnival in Salvador in the North of Brazil and on the way we stopped at a gas station and found there was also an ambulance with an accident victim in the back stopping to get some gas as well. The accident victim was in the back seat praying for his life as the ambulance drivers were nonchalantly picking up some petrol- I didn't know whether to laugh or cry- but I did get it all on video- it was a classic moment!

Rio- this is the city where my traveling addiction started eight years ago when I came to live here for a few months (during Carnival) when I was in high school- its great to be back! I'm staying with Stephanie's grandma (she's like my little sister and today is her 21st birthday) in a condo half a block from the beach in Leblon (right next to Ipanema). The lifestyle I'm living for the next few weeks is quite different from my life in San Francisco- there is a maid and a cook and a bunch of other people at the house each day working or coming to do hair or nails for us (services are really cheap here because the way it works in Brazil is that either you have a maid or you are a maid- there is no middle class).

The maid's name is China (no not like the country- Chee-na- say it with a Portuguese accent)! And
aparently she LOVES me- everyone says she's acted totally different since I got here because she wants to please me- which I find really unwarranted and kind of sad. Either way she won't let me lift a finger and if I do so much as try to get my own coffee or bring my dish into the kitchen she has a fit. It's really wierd not having anything to do (like school or the bar) and on top of it not having to wash a dish or go grocery shopping- life is super rough right now!

I think the reason she loves me is because she says she loves Americans (wow that's a first, huh?) because a bunch of Americans from Habitat for Humanity built her a house here a few years ago. Honestly it was a real shocker for me to hear that someone "loves Americans," after all- I'm use to going places like Spain where people interrogate you "why did you vote for Bush? what's wrong with you?" and they don't understand that you think Bush has the same intellectual capacity as the maids in Rio who have never been to school and assumed I was African
because I had just come from Africa or last time I was here there was a maid who just could NOT comprehend that I didn't speak Portuguese because he didn't realize that there are actually languages in the world other than Portuguese- so after about two weeks of realizing that screaming at me in Portuguese wasn't going to get him anywhere he finally said, "oh she speaks a different kind of Portuguese"- okay....

Also- Stephanie's family is great! I adore her grandmother- she is SO cool and I don't mean that in just a "my grandma is cool" kind of way- because my grandma is cool but that doesn't mean that I would borrow her outfits for a night out on the town. Stephanie's grandma (Voa- thats how you say grandma in Portuguese- I don't know if thats how its spelled but lets call her Voa even though her name is Lillian because I like saying the word Voa in Portuguese) anways- she's so cool that Stephanie borrows her clothes, like her shirts, dresses, etc... and her grand-daughter Carolina who is a model does to. So Voa was flipping through a magazine the other day and saw an advertisement with Carolina wearing her skirt (Voa's skirt)- plus she is SUPER funny! Always talking crap about the maids, etc... just a real great character all around! Not to mention the fact that she stays out till midnight on a regular basis.

What else- the weather here is AMAZING- supposedly it's "winter" here and people here are cold- I mean Stephanie's friend Blondie (that's her nickname even though her hair is jet-black- so where the got the name really beats me) wears Uggs everyday. "Cold" weather for Brazillians is the exact equivalent of what the British consider a "Heat Alert," like last year in the newspaper in London the front page was "Heat Alert" when it got up to about I don't know 80 degrees- it was just CRAZY for the British people!

Still- it's really hot, we can go to the beach everyday (I don't know the temp, maybe its around 80 or 85 but it's really hot when we are on the beach) and I even like the weather better because last time I was here in the summer and sometimes it would be 115- my friend Alexie, who is Brazillian went to the beach one day and got so sun-burnt she was bleeding!

Rio is a spectacular city- it is just SO beautiful. The combination of the beach with the mountains in the background makes for some great photo ops!

Being on the beach here is really funny because there are a ton of people walking back and forth all day weaving in and out of the beach bums trying to sell stuff and each of them has a slogan- and they are all SCREAMING- it's kind of annoying actually- I'm sitting there- trying to relax in the sun and every ten seconds another guy walks by screaming his slogan. Some of the slogans are crappy- like "All Natural Sandwiches," and some are really catchy, "Psychedelic Sandwich..." My favorite is this guy that Stephanie said was saying, "Mutha F*cking Ice Cream, Mutha F*cking Ice Cream," which seems a little off. If I decide I want an ice cream- his slogan makes me feel a little uncomfortable- am I suppose to say, "I want an ice cream," or am I suppose to SCREAM in his face, "I want a MUTHA F*CKING ice cream." All press is good press I guess.

I would write more but I don't want to make this email too long. All in all I'm having an amazing time- soaking up every last day before I start work October 8th, I'm also trying to learn Portuguese and the cool thing is that since I speak Spanish I can understand A LOT of Portuguese and I've been practicing a little each day so hopefully by the time I leave I can have a decent conversation. The one thing that sucks is that it's not quite as funny to learn to speak Portuguese as it is to learn a few words in Chinese. When I was in China- I had no problem walking up to any random on the street and saying, "my father is Chinese, I am half Chinese," where as here I'm a little more hesitant- but at the same time its about one billion times easier to speak Portuguese than it is Chinese. It took me practicing each Chinese word at least fifty times a day (I would just walk up to every person I saw in China and practice) just to get seven words/phrases down in a span of two weeks- where as after two days in Brazil I have racked up a large enough vocabulary to have a very basic conversation with someone.

okay time for dinner, then tonight is Stephanie's 21st bday so we are having an event (which for here means serious business with two bouncers, etc...) at someone's house.

Hope everyone is doing well! Email me if you get a chance!!!

(I can say the word but I don't know if I can spell it- but who cares because I doubt anyone on my email list can either)


Posted by bjmorris14 11:50 Comments (0)

Tanzania - Entry 3 Zanzibar


PS- I just figured out the cooks name was John and I wanted to let you know as I'm sure all of you were being kept up at night trying to figure it out...

We are now on the amazing island of Zanzibar. We spent two days in Stonestown which is a really cool Muslim influenced city with narrow alleyways (like the Barrio de Santa Cruz in Sevilla), white washed buildings and ornate doors (apparently the cooler your doors/door-knobs- the more money you have- the more you are respected here). In Stonestown we went to this resturant called "Two Tables" where you show up at this man's house, ring his doorbell, tell him when you are interested in eating and he cooks you an amazing meal in his kitchen- the food was incredible and it was a really unique dining experience!

After two days in Stonestown we drove to the East Coast and are now somewhere on the beach at a resort with only 20 other people (all Europeans, some of whom are wearing speedos)- the water here is beautiful, the sand is like powdered sugar and each bungalow has their own private section of the beach- it is amazing!

So one thing I forgot to mention about the Tanzanian government is that they have recently implemented a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to poachers *it reminds me of some sort of policy that President Bush would implement* (the only thing that keeps the tourists coming to Tanzania is the animals) so now if you are caught hunting animals- they don't bother taking you to jail- they just shoot you on the spot (the government literally has hired people to roam around the national parks looking for poachers who they can kill- cool huh?)

But if you are into hunting don't even worry- you can pay to hunt certain parks here if you get a permit- and these hunters are really smart people- our cook John/George told us that he has been on a few hunting safaris with some really fat Europeans who feel like the highlight of their life would be to come to Africa and shoot a leopard. Apparently on one of these hunts there was a German man who found a leopard he wanted to kill so he shot the leopard- not knowing that the leopard had a buddy in the tree above him- so as soon as he stood up through the hole in the roof to shoot the leopard- the leopard's friend came down and jumped on him and ripped off his face. I bet he feels like a real winner now...

Also- I left out a few things in my last email- like the fact that there is a wide range of safaris you can go on- where you can spend anywhere from $10 to $10,000 a day- at the lower end of the spectrum is the same group of tourists who are likely to get maimed by the lions (like this smart German guy who decided to take a walk 2 kilometers from his campground at night where he encountered a hungry lion) and at the high end of the spectrum are these people that come on safari with their "SAFARI GEAR"- the whole nine yards- we are talking camoflauged clothes, vests, their safari hat, the local Massai jewerly (the Massai are another huge tribe- they are the only ones that are allowed to live in the national parks with the animals- I think they're a pretty sweet group of people because their breakfast of choice is to literally make a cut in a cow with their knife and then suck their blood for breakfast... delicious!

The cool thing about taking your bar trip in East Africa is that I seriously forgot that I ever took the bar- instead of sipping a cappucino in Italy contemplating how I did on that torts question I am driving down the street thinking about why the Massai make cuts in their animals to drink their blood for breakfast- wow this is a different world!

Okay back to the safari crowd- so they come on a safari with all their neatly pressed safari gear when you know damn well that these people are not going to be camping with the hyenas like we did (not that we are hard-core or that we would ever do it again- but still...) and they just look really how can I put it, "real." I guess it makes them feel better and either way they don't look as tacky as the Chinese tourists who come to the safari with their specially made safari dust masks....

Oh and speaking of the Chinese tourists- my friend Nora was on a safari here not too long ago in Ngorongoro/ the coolest park with the largest concentration of animals- when she saw a few Chinese tourists who had gotten out of the car and were walking around like they were in a zoo. When Nora tried to yell at them to get back into their car they just waived at her thinking she was trying to make friends *yeah like any normal American would want to make friends with someone who comes on a safari with a hot pink dust mask across their face*- but anyways, a few minutes later she saw those same smart tourists running across the grasslands....

Back to the beach!

Sarah and Brett

Posted by bjmorris14 11:47 Comments (0)

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