« February 2005 | Main | April 2005 »

March 31, 2005


The bus ride to Montevideo was pleasant, for a bit in the beginning we were close to the coast with occasional views of waves crashing on empty shores. There wasn't a lot of civilization before the approach into the capital, which is much as I expected. The only thing I knew about Uruguay was from a NY Times Travel section article I had read which described a week-long horseback tour which included two days with eight hours each of riding along the coast and no signs of humanity. Sounds lovely, maybe one day I can return and try it, but this time I only had a few days in the capital, where I arrived soon after nightfall.

Since I spoke no Spanish and did not even bring a guide book for Uruguay (or Argentina for that matter) I decided to stay in a hostel. English is almost always easily used in hostels and there's always plenty of information available.

Red Hostel Red Hostel

I was soon checked in at the Red Hostel which is one of the most pleasant hostels I've ever stayed in. Bright spacious clean and airy rooms, very pleasant staff and free Internet (w00t!). Within minutes of checking in I was in a discussion on how to get to the futebol stadium and buy tickets for the Uruguay-Brasil World Cup preliminary that would be held in two days. A young Australian had just returned from there, so he described the procedure and the hostel staff person wrote down all the necessary Spanish I would need:

  • Name of stadium: Estadio Centenario
  • The less likely to get mugged section to ask for: Olympica
  • The Brasilian fan section: lado Brasilero
  • Tickets: entradas

Josh, the Australian, had also gotten the Olympica section ticket. Which was one of the sideline seats (as opposed to behind the goals, which was the dangerous sections I was told). There were numbered seats for a little more, but Josh had bought a general seating ticket for $150 pesos. Which was like five or six bucks.

Josh said there was a long line when he was just there and the staff person said it might sell out so I jumped in a taxi pronto and made my way to the stadium. Once there I saw several lines and couldn't tell the difference between them. I asked someone "Olympica?" and they pointed to one. When I got to the front I said "Uno entrada para Olympica" and the guy started getting a ticket, then I said "lado Brasilero" and he started scolding me in Spanish and pointing to the left. I figured I was in the wrong line but there were no other lines to the left. I decided to just get the 150 peso Olympica ticket he had and worry about it later.

So after purchasing the ticket I walk completely around the stadium, which was a little sketchy in some of the darker areas, but maybe I was just getting paranoid. I never found another set of ticket windows so decided to just head back to the hostel and worry about it later. If I had to, I'd sit with the Uruguayans (although I surely would not wear my Ronaldo shirt then).

Then next morning, I was in the lounge by the check-in area when a British guy named Neal came in and started asking about tickets. A different staff person was telling him that in order to sit in the Brasilian section you had to buy the most expensive tickets (390 pesos), since they always sequestered the opposing team into an upscale section that was better protected. I ended up sharing a cab with him back to the stadium and this time asked for the America section, lado Brasilero. With new tickets in hand I gave my old Olympica ticket to the staff to sell to whoever else came in wanting to go to the game (many of the hostel guests were in town for the game it seemed).

New and Old Fountain

The next two days are a bit of a blur now. Not really much went on I guess. I was mostly just biding time until the game. Montevideo has an old European feel with many of grand statues and mostly old intricately decorated stone buildings (along with the occasional glass and steel box thrown in of course). I did like the buildings a lot, but it gets old quickly. I really liked this satellite map on the floor of the Itendencia, one of the historical tourist attractions near the hostel. It helped my get my bearings on where things were in the city very well.

Montevideo Graffiti Montevideo Graffiti

As usual I looked for street art (graffiti, murals, bombing, etc) and the picking were pretty dismal. Mostly scrawled words which I couldn't translate and simple line drawings. Some OK stencils, and I did notice a lot of tagging from someone named "How". Finally I ran across an actual work of art, and it had an email address on it! When I got back to the hostel I sent an email asking if there were any more examples of decent street art in Montevideo.

Montevideo Graffiti Montevideo Graffiti

Pretty soon I got a reply saying "Actually I'm not in Montevideo, I live in Buenos Aires and only get to Montevideo occasionally." I excitedly replied that I would be going to Buenos Aires in a few days, and maybe we could meet and he could show me some stuff there? He replied back: "Sure." w00t! I was really looking forward to B.A. now! I've been documenting street art for a little while and had never actually met one of the artists. I love the idea of them using email tags on their work.

At the hostel I had set the desktop background on the three Internet terminals to my three favorite photos of Mie at Burning Man [1,2,3]. Whenever hanging out in the lounge I enjoyed watching people sit down to use the machine and then spend a minute or two staring at the desktop image trying to figure it out. I started doing this every time I went to an Internet cafe too.

Grill in the Mercado Publica Grill in the Mercado Publica

On game day I walked down to the Mercado del Puerto which is a touristy little part of the city near the docks at the northwest corner of the old town. The central attraction there is a large old warehouse with a number of open air grill restaurants inside. Each restaurant consists of a brick wood-fired grill stacked with meat (and some fish) surrounded by tables. I sat down at one and had a great grilled salmon. As I was enjoying that I noticed a grilled provolone cheese dish that looked delicious, but I was too stuffed to try it out. Next time.

In the evening Neal and I headed to the stadium and managed (after a number of unsuccessful attempts) to find the proper entrance-way for our section. Once we got to our row we realized there were people in our seats but decided to just take a couple of empty ones nearby and hope for the best. So we stood on our seats (like everyone else) and watched as the stadium cheered and jeered the players warming up on the field. Neal, being British, actually knows something about futebol so he pointed out the various famous players and explained some of the rules I was unclear about.

Uruguay vs Brasil Uruguay vs Brasil

Before the game started the Uruguayans in the Olympica section across from us unfurled a huge "Uruguay 1950" banner. Oooo, cold. It was referring to the year where the Uruguayans won the final World Cup match 2-1 against the favored Brasil who needed only to tie to win the tournament ...in Brasil. It is often referred to as Brasil's Worst National Disaster. There's a great chapter about it in this book. The Brasilian goalie who let the goal in never was forgiven.

The Brasilians around us took this in stride though, simply chanting "Uno, Dos, Tres, Quatro, Cinquo!" over and over again and punctuating each numeral with the appropriate hand gesture. It was much fun and I was looking forward to some ass-kicking from the Brasilian side as they were way ahead of Uruguay in the current standings. Once game time started though, it was obvious that the Uruguayans were not outclassed and in fact seemed to be doing quite well. I think it was early in the second half when they first scored. That didn't quiet down the Brasilian fans though (although we were a pretty small group compared to the Uruguayan fans. Maybe 2000 versus 42000). The Brasilians ended up scoring soon enough and the game ended as a 1-1 draw. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the opportunity to see some of the top athletes in the world perform for about US$14, and we even had decent seats.

For Your Own Safety

At the end of the game though, as we tried to exit the stadium, Uruguayan cops in riot gear wouldn't let us out for thirty minutes. Apparently for our own safety. When they finally did start letting people out they made sure everyone had hidden away their pro-Brasil clothing and banners. I suppose things have happened in the past but we didn't have any problems outside of the stadium.

06:44 AM in Travel | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

what's that smell?

Now the thankfully not too exciting conclusion to my misadventures in Chui.

After failing to fill in the misaddressed web-form in the last episode, I realized that some of those weird codes that were required fields were also in the address my landlord had given me for the Internet company on the first floor of the building I live in back in Garopaba. I have no idea what they mean, and suspect that they have something to do with taxes or other official identifiers, but I copied in all the fields from the address and hit the submit button. This gave me a completed form with some bar code data on it. I printed it out and hoped for the best.

As far as I knew, all I had to do now was go to Banco do Brasil in the morning and give them this form along with some cash and they would give me something for the Policia Federal. Then assuming I could figure out where the bus station was on the Uruguayan side of the border I could get my ass on to Montevideo. So feeling a little celebratory I wandered out of the Internet cafe and smack into some sort of political/music rally. The was a sidewalk cafe next to the rally stage so I sat down there and enjoyed a truly delicious fried fish in shrimp sauce dinner along with a number of beers.

I felt much better with the printed form in my pocket and some good food & alcohol in my gut, so I enjoyed this precious hour or two in Chuy. Not enough to forgive the sorry excuse for a town, but enough to stop bitching for the evening. I didn't know what the speakers were saying, but some of them were such great orators I wanted to clap and cheer along with the crowd. The live music afterwords wasn't bad either, a mix of acoustic and electric Uruguayan rock.

In the morning I showed up at Banco do Brasil and managed to pay my fine and get the coveted receipts. Next step was another taxi to the Policia Federal station (this time I inquired about the cost first, it was 4 times less than last time, R$5). The cop at the desk there wasn't too happy that I didn't follow the directions (which I couldn't read of course) to photocopy the receipt first but after making me sweat a little he went in the back and made a copy for me and made sure I understood that I needed to keep a hold of this if I didn't want more problems. Yes sir. I got out of there as soon as I could, before he changed his mind or something, and had the taxi driver take me to the bus station on the Uruguayan side of town. The ticket was purchased with no problem and soon enough I was on my way! Never to return, I hope.

11:39 AM in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2005

chui: the ass end of brasil

When I got to Pelotas last night, my choices for getting to Montevideo were limited, I decided to take the quickest option which was leave for the border town of Chui at 6:30pm. I had been told that it would take two hours to get there and then two hours more to Montevideo. I figured I had a shot of making it all the way there before midnight. It actually took four hours. Right before the bus reached Chui we pulled over to the side of the road to go through the Brasilian checkpoint and that's when things started going downhill.

When I entered Brasil via Rio de Janeiro in February I was given some kind of immigration form, a little white piece of paper. When I left Garopaba for Porto Alegre, I wasn't planning on leaving the country so I didn't occur to me to make sure I had everything I'd need. Naturally I need this form, the Policia Federal officer was a real asshole about it too. He said I could continue on to Chui to spend the night and then head back to Garopaba in the morning, and that if I tried to keep going into Uruguay he would see my name on the immigration list and then (at this point he makes finger cutting throat movement). Nice guy. Fucker.


So I get to Chui which is this weird town with the border running right down the middle of the main avenue. On one side is Uruguay and the other side is Brasil. Both sides are crappy. There's trash everywhere and dilapidated buildings. I wander around in the dark eventually finding a hotel on the Brasilian side for R$18 a night and check into a sad little room.

Streets of Chui Streets of Chui

In the morning I wake early and go to the bus station to get a ticket back to Porto Alegre and meet frustration #2 (try to keep count).  The man there refuses to sell me a ticket out of Chui BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE THAT FUCKING PIECE OF PAPER. I was starting to feel like I was in a Jim Jarmusch movie as I walked out of the bus station and wandered around trying to figure out where the Policia Federal building was. Early morning wandering around deserted streets in this Tex-Mexish border town with piles of trash blowing by like tumbleweeds. Soundtrack: Cowboy by The Sugarcubes.

Chui Streets of Chui

I find a taxi and the guy drives me to the immigration station just outside of town. I'm able to explain my situation to both him and the officer there well enough in Portuguese, but I can't understand what they're trying to tell me. Eventually it comes out that I can pay a fine of R$165 (about US$65) and then I'm golden, I can even go on to Montevideo. I can't just hand him the cash though (so much for the bribery stereotypes of Latin America), there's some complicated procedure involving going to some website and filling out a form, then going to a bank and paying them the money, then going back to the immigration station with a receipt. I guess. It's not really all that clear. We spent a long time trying to make me understand all this, eventually a traveler came through who spoke enough English to explain the above to me, although he was also unclear on exactly what was entailed.

So great. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, today is Sunday and the banks are closed. That damn christian mythology again. So I have at least another 24 hours in this purgatory which seems to be leaning to the hellish side. The taxi driver takes me back into town and shows me the cybercafe, which is closed of course, and then takes me to the hotel. I was planning on giving him a healthy tip since he spent time inside the Policia Federal station trying to help out, but as he was running off the meter he named his own price when I left and made sure it included some extra.  No biggie though, it was about what I was planning on giving him anyhow.

I spend the day drinking beer, watching Brasil beat Peru on TV, and wandering around town. There was plenty of siesta time thrown in there too, which is probably about the best way to pass the time here. The town is mostly just trash blowing in the wind and outlet-factory-ish shopping. I walked for a bit out of town to the east hoping I'd get to a beach quickly, but gave up after I realized I could see the tops of trees way off in the distance. There's a sad little kiddie park on the Uruguayan side, a lot of beat up looking dogs and rusted out cars puttering up and down the main avenue. It gets old fast.

Chui's Amusement Park Image184

Eventually as the sun is going down I find an open Internet cafe on the Uruguayan side, which is where I am right now. Of course the first thing I try to do is type in the URL printed on the document they gave me at the Policia Federal station. Of course it doesn't work. I fiddle around a bit and manage to get a form to come up which looks like it is probably the right one, however it has several fields to fill in that I cannot, such as CPF/CNPJ # which is like the Social Security number for Brasilians. GREAT. FIGURES.

Tune in tomorrow, kids. Same crappy town. Same crappy trip.

02:35 PM in Travel | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 26, 2005

dancing, fish and off to uruguay?

On Wednesday I loaded up on the little tour bus with the Meme dance troupe and we headed down to Rio Grande where they were to perform at the local Fish Festival. The festival was held along the docks and consisted of a row of a few warehouses containing a maritime museum, an expo for commercial goods and a concert area, with two large food tents at either end. On arrival we checked out the stage, which was the deck of a shipping crane floating right next to the dock.

Meme Rio Grande, Brasil

The dancers worked out their routines on the crane deck for awhile, then we went into the food tent where we got to eat in the VIP area with the festival queens. VIP in Portuguese is Pessoa Mointo Importa but they still spell it VIP and it doesn't mean your important enough for free booze.

IMG_3299.JPG Old Men and the Sea

After dark the troupe got into costume and began the evening with some guerrila theater in the food tent, improvising characters and interacting with the unsuspecting diners and staff. After getting some attention they lured folks down to the crane, stopping along the way to dance with cop stands and whoever else got in their way.

Dancing with the Military Cops Laco

Once on deck, they put on some great performances. I took a lot of photos and even some video. Many of the photos are blurry because I didn't want to use the flash which messed up the colors. It was really quite a nice scene: some fantastic modern dancing framed by the huge orange crane and a darkening post-sunset sky. The routine Laco and Fernanda did together was particularly good; they're both amazing. Laco is the group's leader and quite an accomplished dancer. He had never actually done the routine before but Fernanda's usual partner couldn't make it, so he stepped in. In practice earlier in the day the unfamiliarity showed, but when they  performed it for real that night it came together beautifully, even though they improvised large portions of it on the spot.

Dancers Dancers

After the performance we enjoyed the festival, which meant eating and drinking. Especially drinking. Laco was from Rio Grande and had many relatives there, so we we all split up between them for the night. I ended up at Laco's Mom's house where I passed out on the pull out sofa.

Laco's Mom lives in Cassini which is a beach town neart to Rio Grande, or maybe it's technically part of Rio Grande. I'm not sure. What I am sure about is that the beach is huge. At low tide the waters edge must be 100 yards from the dunes, and the flat beach in between is packed hard enough that you can drive normal cars on it. In the summer time, Laco told me that the beach is filled three rows deep with parked cars with people grilling out and blaring music for kilometers. One day when Laco's sister drove us from their mom's house to her place in Rio Grande, we went half the way there  on the beach. I wish I had taken my camera with me to get some photos of it.

Laco and his Mom Boats!

So the next morning I was hungover and had picked up a bit of a sore throat. Besides visiting the beach, we also hung out for a bit at the home of Laco's childhood friend and business partner (I forget her name now). This was fun, especially since they had a hammock, which is great for hangovers. Also I tried my first chimarrão tea there (It is known as Yerba Mate south of the border). It was slightly bitter, but not that bad. It also wasn't so delicious that I understand why everyone in southern Brasil, Uruguay and apparently parts of Argentina are completely addicted to the stuff.

I didn't make it to the bus station in time that day to get on to Montevideo, and when I did make it there I discovered that since the next day was some sort of Christian holiday (Good Friday I guess? Catholic school was soooo long ago.) I wouldn't be able to get out that day either. Laco and Fernanda were heading to Pelotas on Saturday to perfom at another party, and they told me it would be easier catching a bus to Montevideo from there anyhow since it was a bigger bus hub.

So I spent the evening back at the fish festival again with Laco and his extended family, but I didn't drink so much this time. We all spent the night at Laco's sister's place in Rio Grande and in the morning took the bus back to Cassini.

Rio Grande Fish Festival Rio Grande Statue

We spent the afternoon back at Laco's mom's place. She was a great cook and even accomodated my bizarre non-legged-animal dietary restriction, but she didn't speak much English at all. At one point in the afternoon while I was engrossed in flipping through some photo albums, she was talking in Portuguese to her friend on the couch next to me. Suddenly I hear her say "I love you, I fuck you" in English. Startled I look up at her and she gets very embarrassed as everyone starts laughing. Apparently she had just told her friend "I only know how to say two things in English" and went on to say them. It was pretty funny, and she stayed embarrassed right up until I left.

That evening it was (surprise!) back to the Fish Festival. First we all took a boat ride along the coast as the sun set. It was a great time of day to be out on the water. The sky went from bight to dark and the moon rose over the course of the 50 minute ride.

Grilling at the Rio Grande Fish Festival Boats and Sunset

Later at the food tent I finally tried some of the grilled anchovy fish and it was delicious! There was also some very tasty fried-shrimp-and-cheese-on-a-stick things.  It was a fun night. Laco's nephew Fernando spent hours teaching me the Portuguese word for every noun he could see and I had some good conversations with the family about things like michael jackson, economics and ipods (Fernanda did all the hard work of translating). Everyone was super nice in Rio Grande, I was happy to have met all of them.

But I spent a couple of days longer than I expected here and was glad to be moving on to someplace without a Fish Festival. I left on the Saturday afternoon bus for Pelotas where I hoped to catch the overnight direct bus to Montevideo, Uruguay. I found out on Friday that one of the World Cup qualifying games between Brazil and Uruguay would be held in Montevideo a couple of days after I arrived there, so I was planning on trying to attend! The last thing I did in Rio Grande was buy my #9 Ronaldo Brasilian team shirt :)

There's a lot more photos of this part of my trip here.

08:10 AM in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Exit Stage South

On Friday I made a second attempt to find Cafe Porto, the only free wifi cafe in Porto Alegre, apparently. This time armed with the right address I met with success and spent a few hours catching up on email, news and blogs. The other customers were notable for the fact that they were almost all tall attractive women and none of them were using a laptop. It was as if there was a modeling agency next door. It is certainly not what I'm used to in the free wifi cafes in San Francisco.

Image131 Image138

Image171 Image172

Later that evening I met up with a friend of a friend, Fernanda, who lived in NYC for five years where she met my friend Thomas at a school for the arts. I was Skyping with Thomas a few days before heading to Porto Alegre and he mentioned he had a Brasilian friend and that he would get in touch with her to see where she was. I told him "Brazil is a HUGE country, there's no way she´ll be anywhere near me." Of course the day I arrive in Porto Alegre I get an email from her saying she lives in Porto Alegre.

So I met her at her apartment and we went to a cool party called Baga-Sexta at a nearby place called Cine Theatro. The music was an extremely eclectic mix of old and new domestic and foreign tunes and throughout the night the music would stop while a local comedy troupe did quick skits. Much fun! Also met many of Fernanda´s friends which included a lot of dancers (she's an actress and dancer). She kindly played tour guide (and translator) throughout the weekend.

Cousins Baga Sexta at Cine Theatro

Baga Sexta at Cine Theatro Baga Sexta at Cine Theatro

Saturday afternoon she picked me up and we drove around a few spots including Ipanema beach (yep, they got one here too) and then that night I went to a modern dance performance she and her troupe put on at a local club. It was a birthday party for the guy who composed the music for the troupe's current production. Some Marilyn Monroe look-alikes sang a breathy Happy Birthday to him, and there were some other very entertaining performances. Afterwards we went to another birthday gathering for Ivan (whom I had met Friday night at Baga-Sexta) and ended the night with a trip to a 24 hour buffet place with Ivan, Fernanda, Leo and his wife (whose name I forget). Leo is highly regarded hairdresser in the Porto Alegre area and had done everyone's hair there except Fernanda who had her appointment scheduled.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President Dance

Fever Zombie Dance

3AM buffet with friends

Sunday we ate vegetarian Indian brunch at Ocidente and saw and Indian dance performance. Then checked out a local park which featured a lake with Swan shaped paddle boats and a nearby street market.

Park with Swan Lake Sunday Indian Brunch at Occidente

On Monday I was able to finally get all the legal documents filled out and fedex'd off! I spent most of the day after that either in my hotel room or at a nearby internet cafe that allowed me to plug my laptop into their network, although I had lunch back at Cafe Porto (the food is as good as the view there).

Today (Tuesday) I finally met the lovely and talented Marta for lunch and a coffee. She's so busy because she is reaching the final months of production on an animated film she and her co-conspirators have been working on for years called Wood & Stock: Sexo, Orégano e Rock'n'Roll. We had a yummy vegetarian buffet lunch in the basement of a huge church near Ocidente. I tried some tasty Brasilian cuisine including a yummy desert called Blood Wine (or something like that).


Later I found some more street art I really liked. The whole set from Porto Alegre is available here.

Porto Alegre Street Art Porto Alegre Street Art

Tomorrow Fernanda's dance troupe heads down to Rio Grande for another performance. They invited me to ride down in the van with them which sounds like a lot of fun, so that's what prompted me to keep heading south for a bit instead of going back to Garopaba.

12:46 PM in Travel | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 17, 2005

Now in Porto Alegre

The bus ride to Porto Alegre stuck to the coast for only a short while before turning inland. Much of the landscape passed was quite nice, lots of waterways and hills. Occasionally I could see waves on sandy beaches in the beginning. If you owned a car you could probably always find a nice empty surfing beach somewhere in southern Santa Catarina. Once we turned inland there was the beginning of another one of those fantastic sunsets that seem to last for hours here.

Image107 Image112

Porto Alegre came into view as a broad strip of lighted skyline across a river, definitely the largest city I had seen since leaving Rio de Janeiro. I got a map from a tourist booth at the bus station and took a taxi to Hotel Lancaster which was not far away. The hotel was located in a vibrant area of the centro section downtown. Nearby were several pedestrian-only street markets, bars and various other shopping options. A few blocks further there were museums, parks and public squares. There were people everywhere, quite a change from sleepy little Garopaba!

Image115 Porto Alegre

Porto Alegre Porto Alegre

Porto Alegre Porto Alegre

Since it was late and I was tired I just got a quick bite to eat near the restaurant at a small place with a live music and then went to bed. Before leaving Garopaba I had searched on the Internet for free wifi cafes in PoA and had written down the addresses of the two I found. Thursday morning I took my laptop and hopped in a cab to check them out. The first one was called Cafe do Porto and was listed as 393 Rua Chagas Padre. The taxi driver took me to the beginning of the 400 block and I walked around a bit but could not find the cafe anywhere. There did not even seem to be a 393 address as it went straight from something like 370 to 400 with the only thing in between being residential apartment buildings.

I gave up and hopped into another taxi to check out the other place, Cafe Scirocco at 66 Rua Marques do Herval. I found the address quite quickly this time, but it looked like a residentail home, not a business. I asked a man sitting in front of it if he had heard of Scirocco but he had not. He did confirm that I was at the right address though. So the free wifi options seemed to be a bust, I headed back to the hotel to drop off the laptop and went to a nearby Internet cafe to use their computers instead. While there I double checked that I had copied down the correct addresses, which I had, but then I searched for other references to Cafe do Porto on the web and discovered that the free wifi site had the address wrong, it was actually 293 R. Padre Chagas!

Porto Alegre Street Art Porto Alegre Street Art

Porto Alegre Street Art Porto Alegre Street Art

Porto Alegre Street Art Porto Alegre Street Art

Also while checking email I found that Marta had received both of the Fed Ex packages that afternoon! We arranged to meet later to do the hand-off and I walked around downtown for a bit taking photos of graffiti and street murals. There were some really good pieces. Porto Alegre seemed like a very artistic city to me, I ran across street theater buskers in a park near my hotel, there were lots of murals and all over downtown there were college age kids standing in the street splattered head to toe in paint (this would be explained to me later as an annual hazing ritual for the new students accepted into a local art school).

Porto Alegre Porto Alegre

In the evening Marta drove by my hotel and I met her in the street to get the Fed Ex documents. She was running late for a meeting so we only spoke for seconds but it was nice to finally meet her however briefly! My gaucha heroine rode off into the sunset and I retired to my hotel room to have a few beers and start going over the documents.

That got boring fast, so I headed back out and walked to a bar called Ocidente which Marta had previously recommended. Along the way I took photos of show posters with my cellphone since I forgot to bring pen and paper, and I stopped at a restaurant called Don Deigo with a live musician and a very paltry menu for pescevegetarians (I ended up with a bowl of tomato soup and some french fries). Even with all this lollygagging I showed up early to an empty Ocidente, but within an hour it was packed and a very mediocre but enthusiastic rock band played.

Image124 Image125

Image119 Image120

Image127 Image129
Tomorrow I would make a second attempt to find Cafe do Porto and hopefully get the legal documents filled out and FedEx'd back to the U.S.

09:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2005


I haven't been posting much, let me explain why.

I'm a total geek.

The waves went flat for a few days and in my boredom I actually started working on some computer stuff I'd been planning on getting into, and once I get going ti's tough to stop. So other than popping out for a few hours in the ocean when the waves are up (the surfing has been excellent the last week or so), I haven't been doing anything that would be of interest.

Virtual Etech

But all that is about to change! I'm being forced to unplug from the sweet sweet opiate cocktail of Internet and coding and get on that bus to Porto Alegre tomorrow. This time I remembered to buy my ticket in advance.

I'm not heading there for anything quite as appealing as a psy trance party this time however. I have to go there because Porto Alegre, an eight hour bus ride from here, is the closest Federal Express will come to Garopaba. I have to pick up some very important legal documents being sent from NC and Tokyo pertaining to the acquisition of the company I co-founded 5 years ago (and quit four months ago). Why Tokyo? Because Mie had to leave abruptly for there when her grandfather passed away suddenly last week and she didn't have time to send the documents that had been delivered to our San Francisco home so brought them with her (I feel extremely bad that I can't be there for her now too, but I'm glad she got to go for the funeral and for her mom).

FedEx required a destination address and would not let me just pick up the packages at their office in Porto Alegre. I had attempted to communicate with some hotels there to make sure that they could accept packages if I was a guest, but in my limited Portuguese I didn't get very far. Marta, who has been mentioned here before, graciously allowed me to use her home address for the destination of the packages.

It will be nice to get out of Garopaba I suppose. I've been enjoying it here but a change of scenery can't hurt. I should mention that part of the reason I came here was to get away from distractions (other than surfing) so I could work on some software venture ideas I'd had and try to select one to concentrate on. I wasn't planning on being a bum forever! In that regard it's been quite successful. I have decided to focus for the immediate future on one particular idea and am working on a prototype now. If all goes well I'll start looking for seed funding when I get back to the States.

It's wonderful to be excited by a project but I also feel a little bit of regret because it's difficult to relax once you have an idea to bring to life, and I know from experience how life-consuming that drive to innovate can be. In my last venture I often worked 100 hour weeks, basically doing nothing but napping and working. I'm older and wiser now (I hope) so maybe it won't get that extreme again, but then you never know. I brought a heavy 1100+ page tome I'd been meaning to read with me on this trip, chances are pretty slim I'll even start now.

So I'll be offline for 5 or 6 days, but when I get back I'll have lots of photos and something more interesting to say.


02:29 PM in Travel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 06, 2005

i want to ride my bicycle

Having decided that I needed a bike, I set about looking for one. My first stop was Senhor Siega, my landlord, who had offered a couple of weeks earlier to sell me one from his garage for US$50. I had decided to wait because at that time Mike was still living here and I thought it would be weird having one bike between the two of us. In retrospect I should have just got it since Mike tended to sleep all day anyhow so we could have been using it at different times.

When I spoke to Siega about the bike again, it turned out that it wasn't actually his bike so he couldn't sell it. He suggested I just buy a new bike in town and then sell it when I leave. I asked him how I would sell it, because if there was a market for selling used bikes maybe I should just go there and buy one. He didn't have a really good answer for that. Sometimes I wonder about old Senhor Siega.

So I walked around town checking out all the places that sold bicycles. I checked a few places and picked a 21 speed mountain bike type for R$249 which was one of the cheapest ones I found. That's about US$100. Since I had no confidence on my ability to sell a bike when I was leaving I didn't want to pay any more than I had to.

It felt pretty nice zipping around on the bike, but as I shifted into a lower gear to climb the hill to my apartment the rear gear mechanism came loose from the frame and jammed the rear wheel. They must not have tightened the bolts well enough at the store but it didn't come loose until I really started to exert pressure on it. I kicked the wheel a few times to get it unstuck from the frame and walked the bike up the hill. Later that day I had to carry the bike all the way back to the main strip of town to where I bought it because my attempt to ride it in the flats still ended up with the wheel jamming and I couldn't get it unstuck this time. That sucked since it's a shitty cheap heavy bike.

I asked the guy at the store they had a wrench in order to re-position the bolt, but he didn't, or else he didn't understand me since I have no idea what the Portuguese word for wrench is (but I think it was pretty obvious what was needed). I ended up having to buy one from a hardware store and I fixed it myself. Unfortunately my wheel kicking earlier had warped the wheel enough so that now the rear wheel slightly brushed the frame with each revolution. It was still ride-able though so I continued on my way.

I had decided to ride back out to Ibiraquera to visit Shawny and Fabiano again. This turned out to be an hour long journey, much of it slightly uphill. Twenty minutes into it the cheap seat was killing my butt and as I got closer to Rosa the bumpy road and lack of shocks was adding significantly to the pain. Oh how I yearned for my nice broad comfy-seat on my Burning Man bike!

But I made it to Ibiraquera and had another great evening talking and smoking with Shawny and Fabiano. As the sun was setting it had started to rain so I decided to stay the night in one of Shawny's many guest houses. In the morning I took a few more photos around Shawny's place (I had regretted not getting a clear photo of that wooden walkway to the lake where I spent much of my time dancing at the party) and then started the journey back.

Lagoa de Ibiraquera Lagoa de Ibiraquera

On the way back to Garopaba I decided to stop by the Enchanted Mountain Yoga Center. I had found this place a week earlier when googling around for yoga places in Garopaba so I could buy a yoga mat. Unfortunately it was located too far out of town to walk to, but I figured now was my chance.

Also, the craziest thing happened a few days earlier. Lenira, a woman from campalicious, my Burning Man tribe, is Brasilian although she lives in San Francisco. I had heard she was back in Brazil for a few weeks so I emailed her. We're not really that close so I had no idea what part of Brazil she was from or where she would be, but it turned out she was doing a two week course at the Enchanted Mountain Yoga Center! Seriously, what are the odds of that? Garopaba is pretty far off the beaten track I think.

So I biked off onto the dirt roads leading to the yoga center, but I didn't expect to see her since she would likely be busy doing the retreat classes, but I happened to arrive just as she was sitting down to a short breakfast between classes! It turned out that the center did not sell mats, but Lenira had brought her own and she could use the center's mats while she was there so she sold me hers. Buddha provides.

Me and Lenira Still waters

I left Lenira to her Indian Medicine classes and continued on home, stopping to take a few more photos along the way. By the time I got to the apartment my ass felt like someone had tried ramming a flagpole up it, the crappy handles had rubbed off a chunk of skin on one of my fingers and my entire body ached. I can't remember the last time I have done so much bike riding. It was worth it though, I have some more stories to tell about Fabiano's media projects back in Prague that I will be posting soon, and now I've got my yoga mat. I know you're excited for me Laura :)

Here's a couple of more photos from the journey, the whole set is available on Flickr of course.

View near Enchanted Mountain Lagoa da Encantada

03:25 AM in Travel | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

no waves = hacking

Nao olas. Starting with the day after I left Ferrugem, the ocean went flat for a period of 4 or 5 days. Each day I would walk out on my deck and look down at a lake as far as I could see. As I've mentioned before, the beach in Garopaba gets smaller waves than the beaches here that face south (like Ferrugem or Silveira), but usually there is some activity.

Twighlight and Flat Ocean

On the 3rd or 4th day in a fit of frustration and optimism, I took my surfboard and walked across town and up the south ridge in some unreasonable heat to see what it was like at Silveira. Perhaps it was picking up some minor southerly swell. I reached the top of the ridge panting for breath and dripping with sweat, only to look down at another lake. Not even shore break.

As I turned around and lumbered back down the ridge defeated, I made up my mind about two things: 1) I needed to buy a bicycle, and 2) I needed to figure out a better way of telling if the surf was up in Silveira than looking at it from the top of the ridge. I'm happy to say that I have fulfilled both of those needs. I'll get to the bicycle in the next post, but here's how I check the waves in Silveira now.

Well first I should point out that I my initial direction in solving this was to try searching the Internets for a wave report. These are pretty common in the States, and you often can even find a live webcam pointed at the more popular breaks. This came up fruitless though.

Then I started thinking about the geography of this area. Silveira faces southeast like all of the better surfing beaches here, but since Garopaba beach faces north and is shielded from the southern swells by an outcrop of land where that ridge juts into the ocean, I can't look at the waves hitting Garopaba and tell anything really about Silveira. But looking at a satellite image of the area, I could tell that this tiny rock island which is out in the bay and which I can see from my deck is far enough east to not be entirely blocked from southerly swells.


So now I can get a good idea of how the waves will be in Silveira by simply watching that rock island way out in the distance and noting how much white water is splashing up on its southern side! It's so simple that I feel like an idiot for not thinking of this before (especially before that hell walk for nothing).

I'm happy to report that the waves have since returned and I've had some good sessions in both Silveira and Garopaba in the past few days (today was an especially good day in Garopaba actually, must have been an east swell). Also on the plus side, the lack of surfing meant that I had time to get started on some geek projects I'd been planning on tackling, like learning Ruby and Ruby on Rails.

01:46 PM in minutiae | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack