Date: Thursday, February 10, 2000 2:56 AMDoug McLean World Tour 1999-2000Back Home Next
Subject: Jan 18-21, 2000: Ihla do Mel, Brazil
Current Date/Location: Feb. 10, 1999 (Thur)...still at Juliano's house in Brasilia, Brazil.
Current Itinerary: Around these parts for the next several days...then on to Cuiaba and the Pantanal...then who knows...I will be in Salvador for Carnival...route between the Pantanal and Salvador is currently unknown.
Jan 18, 2000 (Tue):
Arrived at 6am into Curitiba off the bus from Sao Paulo...my ex-girlfriend Claudia had provided me with a telephone contact for her cousin who lives in Curitiba, but I could not reach him on the phone either the previous night or this morning...so I weighed my options...decided that the famous Curitiba-Paranagua Tourist Train was leaving in about 2 hours (8am)...and that I should try to be on it! I was fortunate, and was able to buy one of the few remaining tickets and hurredly went to board the train. While boarding, I ran into Catia (who I had met at the Rio Youth Hostel) and a couple of her friends who would also be on the same train. I had to hurry to my train-car, so we only chatted briefly...and would meet-up at the end
of the ride.
The guide books had said to get a seat on the left-hand side of the train...and this would prove to be a good reccomendation. The train goes through the mountainous (sp???) terrain, through many tunnels, through wonderfully lush forrests and almost jungle settings, and offers sweeping panoramas of the countryside along the way...it was awesome...I highly reccomend it. I guess I was dumb-struck by the beauty of the ride, because when the train stopped, I got off...thinking it was Paranagua...but in
reality, I had gotten off one quaint town too soon (I actually don't even know the name of the town) before Paranagua...oh, well...I wasn't on much of a schedule anyway!
I guess it proved to be fortunate, because Catia and her friends had also gotten off here...so we all met-up and walked around the small town which proved to be very scenic...had lunch with Catia and her friends...then caught bus to Paranagua (1.10 Reals...what a bargain)...then on to Pontal do Sul (where one can catch a boat to Ihla do Mel!!!).
On bus to Pontal do Sul, I met Agustin/Guadalajara, Mexico and Roberto (Roby)/Italy...great guys. We all took the boat to Ilha do Mel and landed in the small settlement/town that is aptly named, Encantada (which I belive means Enchanted in Spanish). We found a room for the three of us for 15 Reals per night per person (1.80 Reals to the dollar...this is about 9 dollars per night to stay in Heaven)! Then, we went to take a dip in the water...now, Ihla do Mel is a very small island which has a shallow bay on the West side of the island (Read: Calm as your bathtub, warm as bathwater...and just about as deep! No kidding, you could wade about 100 yards out into the water and it would barely touch the middle of your chest.)...then had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the bay (NOTE: The island isn't really big enough for a restaurant to exist that doesn't somehow overlook the bay or ocean...tough, eh?). There was a volleyball court on the beach immediately infront of our restaurant, so I played a little volleyball as we enjoyed the evening. NOTE: The beaches here are nice...but don't expect deep, powdery sand...it is lovely sand that is often affected by the tides so it is compacted by the water...READ: It is almost
as hard as cement...but nice...really...difficult to explain. Needless to say, on this sand volleyball court, diving for the ball was somewhat out of the question...but had a good time anyway.
It rained in the evening as it does this time of year...met some Israeli girls at the restaurant and ended up playing TAKI with them until late (NOTE: If you want to make friends with Israeli's...just learn how to play TAKI...they love the game and figure that only they know how to play it...when I first offered to learn how to play, they said that it was probably pretty hard for me to learn...hmmmmmm...for all of you who have ever played UNO...you will seem like a wizard to them...it is the EXACT SAME GAME!!!).
After we had exhausted our will to play TAKI, we heard about the dance club...Note: THE DANCE CLUB...this island isn't big enough to have more than one. It turns out that THE dance club is an open walled structure that looks like a open-air cafe by day...and is a dance-club by night that is across the path (NOTE: PATH...there are no vehicles of any type on this island...they actually have named foot-paths that act as streets...I love this place!) from our pousada (hotel).
We walked in (NOTE: This place has no bouncers to pick and choose the beautiful people, no cover charges, no attempt at being formal, and no pretentions...just people having fun dancing and socializing...and an establishment trying to sell drinks at very reasonable prices...the way the
rest of the world should function...although, I guess if the rest of the world worked the same way, I wouldn't consider this place such a PARADISE!) out of the rain and watched the dancing. They played a mix of songs including Forro, Axe-Bahia, Samba, and pop. For all of you gringos out there who think you will make a fool of yourselves dancing here in Brazil...let me offer this advice: YES, you probably will ! Samba, Axe, and anything from the North-east of the country of Brazil will prove to be very difficult...needless to say, I continue to try all of these dances (often to the amusement of my Brazilian friends)...practice makes perfect...I think I need about a thousand years to practice. The Brazillians can dance (as I have said before...the skills seem to lie with the women in this area of expertise)! But, upon closer inspection...one learns that if one can dance in Country Western Bars (a trait that most of
my Texas friends will have or have seen)...you can probably keep up with Forro.
OK...some history on Fuhol. It is a dance that was actually developed in a club called "For All"...which was named that because it catered to a largely foreign clientele...and had the name "For All" to make everyone feel welcome. They played Country Music and other forms...well...the dance became known as "Forro" came out of the way that the Brazillians pronnounced "For All" (really, they do sound about the same with the Brazillian pronunciation of Forro)...this means that the origins of this dance go back
to a place that was frequented and influenced more by foreigners than Brazillians. Hmmmmm...guess what Forro resembles???? It seems mighty similar to a polka to me...it is a simple 2-2 step...2 one direction...then 2 steps the other direction...so if you can dance a Country Polka in the USA...you should not be intimidated when you hear that folks want to go dance Forro. That being said, Brazillian country music is SIGNIFICANTLY different from US Country Music...much faster...probably something like a
cross between Two-step and Tejano music. But, believe it or not, in certain parts of Brazil, Country is king...and rodeos are the weekend norm. But, not here in Ihla do Mel...here there is only ocean...beaches...sun...surf...palm trees...and a very cool nightlife...I met an Argentinian girl from Cordoba, Victoria, who could dance the hippy Forro/Polka music...and enjoyed dancing for awhile. Crossed the street (ummmm...I mean path...smile) in the rain, and went to bed around 3am...truly feeling Encantada!
Jan 19, 2000 (Wed)
Slept late...woke...it was raining...rolled over and slept some more. Woke around 2pm. Agustin and I went hiking on the ocean side of the island...walked along until a German Shepard started following us...we met 3 Argentinian girls while walking (I forget their names...although we would hang out with them for the next several days)...also met a German gal while walking (would meet up with her and a friend of hers in a couple of days...again...can't remember their names...funny how the sun bakes your
brains after awhile...it isn't like everyone out here has business cards to help you remember, eh?). We walked up to a point that overlooked the ocean from a high vantage point...this island has the corner on lovely...it is absolutely beautiful!
Anyway, the dog was very loyal and stayed with us for several hours...loved to play fetch with sticks...but seemed to go somewhat overboard on the subject and often attacked trees to gain a stick...no kidding...the dog almost ate a tree in the process! He was with us until we returned to Encantada and a person saw the dog, said "Brillo!" and the dog turned around and was gone...sniff sniff...
Stayed up late again that night. Partied with the Argentinian girls at a club that overlooked the ocean. The night was clear and the moon was almost full...it illuminated the entire island in an eerie and beautiful light that cast many shadows. After the festivities at the beachside bar had calmed somewhat (around 4am), I left and wandered towards our pousada (on the other side of the island...probably 800 yards away). As I walked, I became enchanted by the moon which was now significantly lower on the Western Horizon. I climbed a hill that overlooks the town of Encantada and the bay to the West...it made for a stunning view. The moon reflected off the bay and showed the boats that were tied-up just off shore. I have never seen anything like it...it is exactly what you read about in the tourist books of
the moon illuminating the water and illuminating the beaches...it was very serene...I was practically speechless. I took several pictures that I hope turn out! I got in a somewhat philosophical mood and sat there and contemplated life...no great revelations...just contemplated lots of things...I kind of had a moment.
Anyway, it was about 5am...and I figured that it would be an incredible sunrise soon...so I went to the room to get more film...and to get Agustin. Agustin and I had discussed wanting to see a sunrise...and since we had both been up sooooo late...it seemed natural that we would also greet the sun in
the morning. So, Agustin and I reclimbed the hill to see the moon and to wait for the sunrise. At this point, the moon had moved visibly down on the horizon...and as we sat there, we watched the moonset in the West. I have actually never done this...to watch the moon set is a great thing. Agustin
and I felt very lucky to be there...talked for a long time...watched the moonset and the sunrise (which was OK...but not as spectacular as hoped for) it was an awesome way to see the end of one day, and the start of another. It was one of the greatest moments of the trip so far...very tranquil but
special. ABSOLUTELY CRASHED about 7am!
Jan 20, 2000 (Thur):
Woke around 11am...started reading Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger...went to the ocean beach and hung out with Roby and Agustin most of the day. I didn't do much on the beach except soak up rays and read, as I was pretty engrossed in the book, but found it to be a very fast read. I finished reading Catcher in the Rye sometime around 6pm, I think it is a pretty good book. Having finished the book, my focus now went elsewhere...I noticed that there was a volleyball court near us...I located a ball and
talked Roby, Agustin, and a nearby group of 3 Brazillian girls and started a volleyball game (can't remember their names to save my life...)...also saw Victoria (who I had danced Fuhol with the other night) and her two friends (Monica and Patricia)...all of had a good time playing volleyball and
talking on the beach until the sun went down. One of the girls mentioned that there would be a complete lunar eclipse later that night...something to look forward to, eh?
Later that night, we all met up and went out dancing at the Fuhol Dance house...about 1am we noticed the eclipse starting...the dance club was perfect, because we would dance for awhile, then step outside to watch the progression of the eclipse...then back to dancing...until the place closed at 2am...then we all walked to the ocean beach...looking up was amazing!!! We could see the moon, but it was totally eclipsed and was very faint...and the Milky Way was brilliant and amazingly evident in the new darkness that had fallen during the eclipse! We saw millions of stars and the Southern Cross dancing above our heads. We went to the ocean bar and talked with everyone (NOTE: On Ihla do Mel...everyone goes to exactly the same places...when the Fuhol place closes, everyone walks to the oceanside bar...it is cool) and danced until late...crashed about 4am.
Jan 21, 2000 (Fri):
For some unknown reason, I woke somewhat early (around 9am)...ate breakfast...felt somewhat ambitious and decided to hike to Brazilia (not the capital (about 2000 KM away), but rather another city with the same name on the Northern side of the island). I walked barefoot the entire time...it was great!
I want to describe a tree I saw along my route. I saw it while going over a hill...it was a palm tree that had a trunk basically in the shape of an S. It was on one of the opposite slopes of another hill, and it was perfectly profiled against the horizon as sticking out as the lone hold out...the lone tree that was visible in a forrest of trees and shrubs on that hill...it stood out while all the others blended into one mass. I love the individuality of this tree...and yet, from another perspective, the one obtained when you get to the beach below is that my wonderful S tree blends in perfectly with all the others...no difference hatsoever...it is simply another part of the mass of greenery from this perspective. I also like that perspective...and offer these thoughts...some original...some painfully unoriginal...but nevertheless, they are my thoughts:
We all stand out in different ways.
We all blend in in different ways.
It all depends on your perspective...let me give you an example...
I personally find an inspirational paralell between this tree and Michael Jordan (OK...here comes the sports analogy...). Most would not doubt the statement that Michael Jordan is one of the greatest sports athletes of all time. Few would disagree with this statement...unless you only look at his record as a baseball player...where he was only a fair or mediorce player at best. For him to be considered on of the greatest sports athletes, one must confine one's perspective to that of his basketball accomplishments...for which you would probably find no equal. We are all subject to being judged
from the perspective of the evaluator (being friends, acquaintances, bosses, etc.)...often, we are not at liberty to display our truly finer talents, but rather unfortunately restricted to utilize our lesser abilities depending on circumstances. One might keep this in mind next time one evaluates the quality of the people around us. I would like to quote from Mark Twain's book, Roughing It (which I have been reading in Feb. at the time of this typing...sorry to quote out of order...but it seemed appropriate). It shows
what Twain learned from mining for gold (and coming up with fool's gold (mica)):
"...and lay it up among my treasures of knowledge, that nothing that glitters is gold. So I learned then, once and for all, that gold in its native state is but dull, unornamental stuff, and that only lowborn metals
excite the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter. However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica. Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that."
...it is truly a favorite passage of mine.
Anyway, continuing past my favorite tree, I walked along until I arrived in Brasilia. I and then found a nice per kilo restaurant (where you fill you plate from a buffet and pay for it based on weight...very common in Brazil) complete with hammocks overlooking the ocean. I ate my lunch and read Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I continued reading in the hammock for quite some time...then left the hammock for the beach. Again, I sat on the beach totally engrossed in the book, reading to the exclusion of all around me...barely noticing the lovely water, trees, and beaches. I eventually finished the book...an absolutely marvellous book!
I was moved by the ending pages of Bradbury's 451...the book itself was incredible and talks about censorship (which struck home because of my recent visit to Berlin and the site of the Nazi book burning) but further, Bradbury shares his personal experiences with censorship in the ending pages...the Coda. It is especially amazing what he says about digression...and had I not read JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye the day before, I might not have been so impressed...but having read both books within 2 days, I was stunned by some of the similarities in views in regards to digression...it blew my mind!
Quoting in order of Copyright, JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Copyright 1945, quote from chapter 24. The story is about a boy who fails out of school...the quote pertains to his thoughts on why he left school and the Oral Expression part of his favorite subject, English.
"...It's this course where each boy in class has to get up in class and make a speech. You know. Spontaneous and all. And if the boy digresses at all, you're supposed to yell 'DIGRESSION!' at him as fast as you can. It just about drove me crazy."
"...that digression business got on my nerves. I don't know. The trouble with me is, I like it when somebody digresses. It's more interesting and all."
"...I guess I don't like it when somebody sticks to the point all the time. The boys that got the best marks in Oral Expression were the ones that stuck to the point all the time..."
"...lots of time you don't know what interests you most until you start talking about something that doesn't interest you the most. I mean you can't help it sometimes. What I think is, you're supposed to leave somebody alone if he's at least being interesting and he's getting all excited about something. I like when somebody gets excited about something. It's nice. You just didn't know this teacher, Mr. Vinson. He could drive you crazy sometimes, him and the goddam class. I mean he'd keep telling you to unify
and simplify all the time. Somethings you just can't do that to. I mean you can't hardly ever simplify and unify something just because somebody wants you to."
NOW, to quote from Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 on the subject of digression. Now, the reader should note that the book is Copyrighted in 1953, but the Coda is a personal addendum and opinion, was written and added by the author later and is Copyrighted in 1979...this Coda is added significantly after Ray Bradbury had experienced the trials and tribulations of getting published, and after his reputation was established. He writes about how the editorial establishment looks to cutdown the size of an
author's works or to condense it for the masses to digest...in short...various ways that attempts are made to censor his works for various purposes:
"For, let's face it, digression is the soul of wit. Take philosophic asides away from Dante, Milton or Hamlet's father's ghost and what stays is dry bones. Laurence Sterne said it once: Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine, the life, the soul of reading! Take them out and one cold eternal
winter would reign in every page. Restore them to the writer-he steps forth like a bridegroom, bids them all-hail, brings in variety and forbids the appetite to fail."
"In sum, do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my had to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whisper with. I will not go gently onto a shelf degutted, to become a non-book."
"All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees, hit the showers. It is my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases. At sunset I've won or lost. At sunshine, I'm out again, giving it the old try. And no one can help me. Not even you."
OK...enough with the quotes...but, really, these words and works moved me. I throughly enjoyed both books, but especially that I read them a day apart...a fact that is mere good fortune...for if I had read them a week apart, I may have not noticed these similarities of spirit by the authors. Now, some scholar out there may tell me that they were great friends or that they were college buddies...and yes, they probably knew eachother...but I still enjoy the quotes and the ideas that censorship can manifest itself in
many forms...it does not always have to be as obvious as a book burning. Censorship occurs in everyday life...and we must be ever vigilant against encroachment on our rights from this form of tyrrany. They are both pretty quick reads and I highly reccomend them to all.
...enough for my literary book reports...I eventually got over my stupor of book reading and headed back towards Encantada. Walking back through Brazilia, I saw my friends Naomi and Tal/Israelis I had met in Sao Paulo (remember, we had danced the Hava Nagila in the park in Sao Paulo???)...anyway, they were hanging out in Brazilia with about 30 other Israeli's! Note: All Israeli's (Male and Female) go into mandatory military service around the age of 18 or 19...at the end of about 2 years of service, they get out and it very common for them to travel for 6 months to a year before entering their Universities...I am told that most go to either South America, Asia, or New Zealand...from what I have seen, they all come
to Ihla do Mel! Anyway, Naomi, Tal, and I stopped for icecream (I had 2 Coconut Milkshakes...I love these things!!!)...then I had to go back to my side of the island...
Anyway, I walked back to Encantada late...arrived to find Robby, Agustin, the Argentinians, and 3 Israeli guys at a bayside bar. Hung out for a while...I had a 2 Real dinner of pasta with the Israeli guys (they knew the cheapest place to eat in town)...we talked for quite awhile on all sorts of things. Later, we all (everyone...Roby, Agustin, all the Argentinians, Israelis, and the German girl we had met a couple of days before and her friend...ofcourse names are totally lost) met up again at another bayside
bar to listen to blues. I ended up talking with the German girl for much of the night. We all went to the Forro...danced at Forro place a little...then headed to oceanside of the island for the Lua (sp?). It was WAY cool...everyone gathered around a pit-fire and several musically minded folks started to play acoustic instruments. It was just about as ideal as you'd want with about 50 people sitting around a campfire with guittars playing and the ocean 30 yards away making noise as the waves hit the shore, and an almost full moon to illuminate everything...then the other shoe dropped...the clouds came out and it started to rain. So everyone ran to the oceanside bar and the night continued until very late or early depending on your perspective. We continued to talk, dance and hang out until I crashed early around 3am...having been thoroughly Enchanted by the Island of Honey...Ihla do Mel...and having had a great time with my new good friends Agustin and Roby.