Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Brazil visit last May!

So this is a "guest" post from my buddy Danielle (although I really am pirating it, not having gotten her permission) but she posted a link to it today and it was such a good entry (and I wanted to have my own record of my wonderful trip) that I decided to shank it.

Where have I been? Being social, that's where! My life in Brazil is significantly different when I have someone else to hang out with!So, here's all about Kristin's visit:First, she flew into São Paulo, and we picked her up from the airport.We spent the weekend there aaaannndd I LOVED IT.

We went to a huge beautiful park called Parque Ibirapuera.We took the metro.We had lunch in a yummy Italian restaurant.We walked to the Museum of Modern Art, but by the time we got there, we were so exhausted that we just sat outside for a while and then went back to Alex's sister's apartment. :)Nobody asked me where I was from, and I could buy water and ask for the restroom without explaining my life story.We had dinner and drinks at an adorable pizza cafe across the street from Alex's sister's 13th-floor apartment.I LOVE LOVE LOVE São Paulo. It really reminded me of San Francisco.The few pictures we took in São Paulo pictures are here.

On Sunday morning, Alexandre headed home, and Kristin and I flew to Foz do Iguaçu.Foz do Iguaçu is the name of the city where the waterfalls are. It's the city that's the farthest west in Brazil, and it borders Paraguay and Argentina.Although there had been a bit of drama with the travel agency when we had booked all the tickets and guides and stuff, it ended up working out really well. (It was also a very good deal, in my opinion!) We had someone to pick us up from the airport and take us to the hotel. That night, they took us into Argentina to go shopping. (We weren't super excited about "Duuchii free shawpeen!" but it was pouring down rain and everything in the city was closed on account of the rain and the Sabbath. Besides, we wanted to say that we'd been to Argentina, even if it was just the border area.)

The Argentinian mall thing didn't amount to much and wasn't exactly my favorite part of the trip. People could smoke in the mall and in the little bar/restaurant place there, too. It took us about 8 minutes to walk around the entire thing. It's really not much cheaper than buying stuff in Brazil. Also, my brain hurt by the end of it after switching between 3 languages for so long.We did get ONE picture of Argentina. Proof! Kind of...

The next morning, we woke up bright and early and were happy to see that the rain had more or less moved on. We were scheduled to be picked up to go to the waterfalls at 8:30, so we scarfed down our complementary breakfast in the hotel (stealing some pão de queijo for later) and met our tour guide at the door. Our tour group included us, a retired Brazilian couple from the center of the country (the guy was so hick that he rolled his Rs), and a 60-year-old Taiwanese lady who was traveling alone and didn't speak Portuguese. We were certainly the youngest of the bunch!

On our way up to the falls, the tour guide explained some of the history and interesting facts about the area. Because we were part of the group, we got to bypass the super long line to buy tickets, and we even got a 50% discount on the entrance fee! (Unfortunately, we had to pay extra because we didn't have Brazilian IDs, and I kicked myself for not having figured out about my damn RG before going on the trip.)Then, the guide took us on the hiking trail that led to us around the falls. Sooooooo beautiful!Here's my favorite picture:

(I took that!)

I mean, you can look at pictures of it, and I can use words like "beautiful!" and "amazing!" but it's hard to grasp without really being there.

We had sandwiches for lunch in the park, and had to keep shoo-ing away the coatí:

so cute! They squeak when they realize you have food.
Then the tour bus people took us to the Parque de Aves: The Bird Park (which was also included in the tour package, I might add).If you remember from my last entry, there was a slight mishap there with a galinha d'angola who mistook me for a branch. But aside from that, I think that the bird park was one of my favorite parts of the trip, because I do like birds very much. And I mean, I can only get so mad at a polka-dot turkey.That night, we relaxed in the hotel, and enjoyed our complementary hotel dinner (greatest tour package ever). We had another early morning ahead of us!Tuesday morning was our trip to the Itaipu Dam, which is also on the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

It's the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world! I tried to channel Elena as much as a good. I wish I knew more about engineering. The tour guide (a different guy this time) spouted off all of the details about just how much energy the park can produce (25% of Brazil's energy and something like 92% of Paraguay's) and how much water it releases, etc.It was hard to get decent pictures because it was really cloudy and we didn't get out of the bus much (the place was so massive that it was really more efficient to just drive around and stop off at looking points). Everything was just GIANT GIANT and also perfectly semetrical. Plus, it had a big man-made lake, which I think functions as the reserve for the water.After the dam, our tour bus went into Paraguay's Ciudad del Este, the border town between Brazil and Paraguay.

We had to take a bridge over the Rio Paraná, which is the biggest river in Brazil after the Amazon (if I understood the guide correctly). This city is relevant for Brazilians because Brazilians love to go to Paraguay to buy cheap crap imported in from China that gets marked up by import taxes in Brazil. It was basically Tijuana, but like 8 times more intense. We had 4 hours to kill there, so, in an attempt to avoid the malls and insane shopping district, Kristin and I just started walking to see where we'd end up. We saw a sign that said "Catedral," so we headed toward it. The church itself wasn't that interesting (very obviously built by religious Americans that had recently invested in the area), but we did get a nice tour of the city. We also got some good pictures, if I do say so myself. (Click here for the Paraguay pictures.) I bought Alexandre a wireless video game controller and some black socks (those were more of a present for me, since I'm trying to wean him off of white ones in the Land of No Good Bleach), but we avoided the sprialing malls on the whole.

Oh yes, and this was another afternoon of maddening PortuSpanglish.We went back to the hotel (again, a ride courtesy of the tour package) and enjoyed another yummy complementary dinner there (+ not-so-complementary but entirely delicious drinks).Wednesday was our long, LONG trip home. It included 2 flights, a very unnecessary 2-hour layover, 2 different buses, and lots of waiting. We left our hotel at noon and got home at 4am. ;oPThe rest of Kristin's trip was a lot more laid-back, since we were just hanging out at home and I had to work and stuff. I took her downtown, we went out with a couple of my friends / my couple of friends, basically just showed her my day-to-day life. The highlight of the second half of her visit was definitely...

The Monkey Park!

That's right, a monkey park. Right here. In our city. I've been here for over a year and NO ONE told me about it until my student-friend Melissa a couple of weeks ago. When I asked Alexandre, he said he'd vaguely heard about it but had heard it was closed.So fun! Cute little monkeys that are eager for your fruits and attention!
The rest of the monkey park pictures are here. It was hard to get good shots, because the little buggers are so quick! But you'll get the idea. :)We had a great time, and I hope that after reading this entry, you'll see what a good host I am and how beautiful and interesting Brazil is, and you'll decide to come visit me, too! :D :D
at 2:46 PM