Date: Tuesday, January 25, 2000 5:43 PMDoug McLean World Tour 1999-2000Back Home Next
Subject: Dec. 31, 1999 - Jan. 1, 2000: Y2K Today!
Current Date/Location: Jan 25, 2000 in Florianopolis, Brazil (along the Southern coast of Brazil...between Sao Pàulo and Pôrto Alegré.
Current Itinerary: Will be leaving here Thursday afternoon/evening and going to Rio for the weekend. After Rio, will probably head up towards Minas Gerias then Brazilia then on to Cuiaba (Pantanal area of Brazil). Still ontrack to be in Salvador for Carnival.
Editorial Note: Thanks to my friend Helena, I have learned that the racoon like creatures with big noses and long tails, that were traveling in packs and begging for food are called "Coati Mundi"s...aparrently they also live in Panama where Helena used to live...Thanks!
Dec 31, 1999 (Fri):
...New Year's Eve...Y2K...and the Festival of Imenaja...all rolled into one...IT'S TIME TO PARTY LIKE IT'S 1999 FOR THE LAST TIME!!!
The bus arrived about noon into Rio. We disembarked into a crowded, noisy, and hectic bus station. We started calling around to check out our options...the place that the South African's had heard of, Hotel Vila Verde, seemed to quote 38 Reals per night and had rooms available...but it was hard to hear them and I don't really speak great Portuguese, so we were somewhat skeptical...hmmmm...everywhere else that we called was either full or quoting 200, 300, or 600 Reals for tonight...New Year's Night! We even
checked with the tourist information office...they again quoted that the city was very full and we would need to pay 200-600 Reals for a room...we all decided that we would take a taxi to the Hotel Vila Verde and either check-in or come back to the bus station and check our bags for the night and party all night without a room.
The taxis dropped us off infront of the Hotel Vila Verde...it was a run-down hotel in a part of Tijuca near Maracana Stadium. We got the keys to the rooms to take a look...and lo and behold we were in for a treat!!! The reason that we were able to find lodging here became apparrent (sp?) when we opened the door to the first room...I don't know whether it was the mirrored ceiling, red lights, or mirrored walls that helped me come to the realization that this hotel was actually not really in the business of daily
rental of rooms...but rather more in the business of HOURLY RENTAL OF ROOMS.
This type of hotel is actually quite common in Brazil under the name of MOTEL...some of it is due to to prostitution, but probably also augmented in large part by the large percentage of young adults who live with their parents until ages of 25, 26, 27, 28, or until they are married...this results in these young folks (who both often still live with their parents) going to Motels for a night of whoppee.
Anyway...we were pleased to find that they provided us with clean, freshly starched sheets...we had private bathrooms...Air conditioning...and very "special" late night TV programming at no additional cost. We were all tired from our 24 hours aboard the bus...and it is amazing how your standards can drop when you are tired and have no other options...and for 38 Reals per room...(19 Reals per person works out to about $10.50USD) it was a VERY cheap (again, very appealing to my Scottish blood) option and we so we said WHAT THE HECK and happily settled into our rooms at the brothel.
We were all tired, and Andrea seemed to feel somewhat better by this time...we all napped for a while to gain energy for the big night on Copacabana Beach!!! After our naps...we got up to go out. When in a
foreign place, I always get a card from the hotel, so I can show a taxi driver the address if necessary to get home...needless to say, I was a little surprised to find that the cards were prepared with the customer in mind: Hotel Name, address, and small 2000 Calendar on one side... and a picture of a topless woman on the other! ...hmmm...I guess it is par for the course at this type of establishment, eh? Anyway...I figured without a doubt all the people in our party needed the address of the Hotel, so I happily collected enough cards for everyone and distributed them to all...calendar side up, ofcourse...hee hee...
We went out and met the Belgian guy who had been at the Foz Youth Hostel and reccommended (sp?) the Hotel Vila Verde to our South African friends...his name is Phillipe...and after giving him lots of grief for knowing about our Hotel of Ill Repute, we thanked him for providing our only housing option...with that said...we headed out to join the action...we were conveniently located next to a Metro stop that took us directly to Copacabana!
We arrived at Copacabana around 6pm...the streets were full of folks wandering around...many dressed all in white. We found out that these folks were wearing white and carrying flowers in honor of the Sea Goddess Imenaja. We stopped at a Choppe Shoppe (If you go Chopping in Brazil, you are drinking Beer...Choppe is Beer.) so everyone could add some spirits to their spirits...then wandered to the beach.
The beach at Copacabana was absolutely wonderful. It is lined on one side by intricate "mosaic" type sidewalks that are one of the famous trademarks of Brazil...and ofcourse on the otherside by the ocean. If you have never visited Copacabana...be assured that there is a reason that it is world famous. It is a crescent shaped beach with the famous Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf) mountain dominating the view at one end and other equally interesting hills dominating the other end of the beach...needless to say, it is lined by apartment buildings...all vying for a better view of the spectacular natural scenery. It was my second time to visit Rio (first time being several years earlier with my ex-girlfriend Claudia...we spent a wonderful week in Rio visiting her brother and sister-in-law), but as I visited it today it seemed all new and exciting!
Today, the sidewalks were jammed, and the beach was fairly crowed at this time. A big part of the beach crowd were folks honoring the Goddess Imenaja (note- if you look up this word in other sources, you will see that there are many spellings...I use this one...don't know which is correct...not going to spend the time to figure it out...maybe Stuart will do it...hint...hint...)...anyway...lots of folks were dressed in white...wading hip deep into the surf to throw flowers to the Goddess...also many candles were lit and lots of praying was going on. It was truly moving...especially with the sun setting, everything seemed to glow with energy and vitality...sounds corny, but it seemed like the future was coming, and everyone was preparing in their own special way...the beaches were covered in flowers...it was truly one of the loveliest sights I have ever seen...and I was thankful that I had the opportunity to be in Rio and to experience
Beyond the folks making offerings to Imaneja, and beyond the surf, we could see lines of cruiseships floating offshore awaiting the new millenium at sea. As I have mentioned before, I think that cruise ships act to insulate rather than involve their passengers...but needless to say, those aboard had paid for the privledge of viewing the Copacabana fireworks and avoid the crowds...and in doing so, they had missed the flowers to Imenaja, the men, women, and children in white, the folks dancing on the beach...in
short...they missed all the culture that Rio had to offer...in favor of watching a show that could have just as easily have been viewed at home on TV...firework shows are commonplace...the estimated 2.5 - 3.5 million folks on this beach are not...I had been thinking about how I would spend my millenium for about a year and a half now...and as I sat on the beach in Copacabana watching the sunset, I was truly pleased to have chosen to be among the folks at Copacabana...among the humanity of the world...and more
so, I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to be here with them...it is corny, but when I am really happy travelling, I often think of the song by Jesus Jones which is titled Right Here, Right Now...and the song goes, that RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW THERE IS NO OTHER PLACE THAT I WOULD RATHER BE (it is
a rocking song...go buy the album!)...and that was certainly true for this evening. I was among many people who would never have the money to do a similar trip that I am doing...many of whom could not afford the simple Metro ticket that I had paid so easily and they had walked to the beach from
their homes or often from their favelas (Brazillian slums)...but, no matter how we got here, we were all here...brothers in arms together as a big group to celebrate something that was bigger than all of us...the dawning of a new Millenium!
I know I am getting sappy about the New Year...but what the heck...it was a big event for me...and a big moment...This celebration is one of the main reasons that I had chosen this time in my life to pause and to travel...I had known that at work I would not have the opportunity to have much time off during the New Year celebrations...and I wanted to be somewhere special...do something different...and I had succeeded! But, this was not done alone...I have a wonderful set of parents who have been very
supportive...I have a Grandmother in Corpus Christi who inspires me to do more everyday and a grandmother and grandfather who's traveling and living abroad has inspired me to do lkewise...and to write about it seems to be an inherited trait! I have a brother who I have very little in common with,
but I recognize that he has the deepest sense of selflessness and biggest heart of anyone I have ever known. I have family, friends, and former coworkers that have provided help, insight and support along every step of my life...I truly would not be in the sand at Copacabana with out these many folks...and if you are receiving this e-mail from me...please include yourself in this group. I also sat on the sand and remembered the recent passing of my two wonderful Great-Uncles, Mike and Red Stoner. They were
two of the greatest men I have ever known...true cowboys in the most pure and honest sense of the word. I reflected on lots of things in Copacabana...and savored a few private moments...reflecting on the past and the future...
But...alas...I WAS surrounded by about 3 million people (and some Australians, Belgian, and some South Africans)...so quiet moments were scarce. Anyway, we ate food on the streets and settled into an area on the beach nearish a samba stage (right infront of the Copacabana Palace Hotel). We watched the samba band for a while, danced, and met our beach neighbors...we especially befriended a huge off-duty policeman from Minas Gerias, named Marco. He was great and his friends were nice as well. We
all had a great time and I even bought a cheap bottle of Champagne (Note: I use this term only generically...I am not sure, but I don't think that my 5 Real (about 2.50 USD) bottle of Champagne was ACTUALLY from the Champagne region of France...but I am not that enamored with the French anyway...so I choose to call all this type of stuff Champagne...I hate calling it Sparkling Wine...and the French figure that us Americans don't know the difference anyway...so what the heck!).
Unfortunately, I am not exactly an expert at opening a bottle of Champagne...so I figured I would take the wire off it a few minutes before New Year, so I could pop the cork exactly at the turn of the millenium...well, good idea and poor execution...I took the wire off and a minute or two later, the cork popped of it´s own volition...quite unexpectedly into my left cheek, just below my eye! I was quite happy that I did not require serious medical attention and that the only thing wounded was my pride and a small welt under my eye to testify to my stupidity...anyway...that which does not kill us mkes us stronger...I think
I will stick to caps on coke bottles in the future...live and learn...I guess I am not cut-out to be a big drinker!
We stood on the beach and waited for the countdown...but unfortunately, where we were for some unknown reason...there was no countdown on the video screens...everyone was anxious...no one knew the exact time of the turn of the New Year...and everyone started to celebrate anyway...but the party truly started when the fireworks were lit at midnight...THE PLACE WENT ABSOLUTELY NUTS!!!
We all hugged and kissed eachother to ring in the New Year...many hundreds of gallons of cheap Champagne seemed to rain down on our heads as everyone in the vicinity seemed to be shaking and spraying Champagne in all directions as the fireworks ignited overhead....overhead and off
buildings...There are probably few firework displays in the world to compare with Rio...the fireworks were being shot off from one end of Copacabana to the other end...from everywhere it seemed that fireworks were being sent...including a fountain of fireworks pouring off one of the tall buildings on the oceanfront...it was incredible.
After the tremendous fireworks display, we danced in the sand as the music played on stage...and around 1am it started to rain on us...I actually loved the rain...it felt wonderful and it somehow seemed appropriate...some folks obviously didn´t appreciate it...but I truly enjoyed getting wet on the
beach and dancing in the downpour. We endured the rain for about an hour...then the group seemed to tire of it some (and it was getting a little chilly), so we headed back on the Metro to the hotel.
Got back to the hotel (brothel) around 3am...and crashed in bed...and as I lay in bed and looked at myself in the mirror(on the ceiling) before going to sleep, I smiled and acknowledged to myself that I had achieved something BIG. And with a great deal of personal satisfaction I closed my eyes, and
enjoyed the revillry (sp?) of the evening as I drifted to sleep...we had partied in 1999 for the last time!
The world had not ended...the lights had not gone out...nuclear missles had not been launched...and Martians had not invaded...I guess the Y2K bug was not quite the terrible animal that we thought it might be...it was not the end of the world...but only the start of a New Year...or simply, the start of a new day...which is actually probably more important...a new day means new opportunities...new goals to be met...new challenges...I was happy to go to sleep knowing that I had ushered in the new Day, Year, Century, and Millenium!
Jan 1, 2000 (Sat) Happy New Year!!! Y2K!!!
Went with the whole group and walked a huge distance in the town...from downtown...along the coast to Boatafogo...it was nice but it was pretty rainy at times...not much to write about, all the shops were closed, and the downtown of Rio is probably not actually that interesting.
One of the highlights was sitting under a tent watching these guys play footvolley...wow...what skills! I love volleyball and think I do a passable job of playing...until I see these guys playing! Footvolley is volleyball with one immense difference...these guys don´t use their hands!!! They only hit the ball with their feet, shoulders, chests, and heads...and they always do 3 hits and over...incredible! It was fascinating to watch, really! We went all went to have dinner in Copacabana...Andrea found out that the wine in Brazil tastes like sweet bathwater (in other words, she hated it!). After dinner, we all felt tired and called it an early evening.