Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Sent: Saturday, March 04, 2000 9:24 AM
Subject: Feb. 17-21, 2000: Chapada, Pantanal, and Graduation

Current Date/Location: Saturday, March 4, 2000. In Salvador,
Brazil...enjoying the heck out of Carnival!!! This place is incredible!

Current Itinerary: Who cares...it is Carnival!
(OK...someday, after Carnival, I think I will be heading up the Northeast coast to Olinda, Recifre, Natal, and Fortaleza.)

JOURNAL:

Feb. 17, 2000 (Thur) CHAPADA and Graduation -

Ana Paula and I headed out towards Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park. It is about an hour North of Cuiaba. It was very nice...it is a National Park with lots of cool rock formations, cliffs, and beautiful views. There are all sorts of waterfalls (the biggest is Veu de Noiva/Bridal Veil which is 60 meters high off a sheer cliff...very cool), down to smaller ones to go swimming in. We decided to go swimming in one of these smaller waterfalls that we ncountered, and we had a check of our intestinal fortitude as to whether we would get in the water. We figured (correctly) that he water would be pretty cool (ahhh...read: COLD) ...but, at times like these, I remind myself of the same thing that I think right before stepping into a cold shower (of which there are many here in Brazil...hmmm...OK...next
paragraph will be about showers in Brazil.)...I say to myself "No one dies from this!" and then I get in the cold shower. I think this is an important thing to remember...there are many important things in life that we do that
would benefit us...if we can withstand the initial shock, discomfort, or detriment. Quitting my job was this type of trial...it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done...but in the long run, probably one of the
most beneficial. That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger (someoneelse's quote). Anyway, we braved the cold waters, and had a nice swim in the pool and waterfall, it was exhilarating!

NOTE...SHOWERS IN BRAZIL: It has come time for me to explicate, expound, and expand on what is one of the most interesting (and scary) things on my trip...the SHOWERS!!! Now, I hope the reader can imagine my horror the
first time I entered a shower in Brazil and found what looked like an apparatus designed to kill rather than to clean. If you have ever seen a bad Grade-B horrow movie and can imagine a combination of brain-washing device and electric chair headpiece, then you might be able to imagine showers in Brazil. First, you notice that the shower head is generally directly above you, high up...this is a good thing. Second, you notice the electric wires running from the wall to this device, which has a switch on it. The switch has 3 positions...cold, lukewarm, and warmer lukewarm (note, hot is not necessary in Brazil...just go outside...infact to have hot water would be redundant because you are always showering in Brazil to cool off...not to warm up!). The device electrically warms the water immediately
above your head before it falls on you. Now, I am thinking that OSHA might disagree with wires (note: Many of these wires often have open contacts...no sense in wasting electrical tape increasing the level of safety, eh?!) in a shower...something regarding electrocution might spring to mind! But, nevertheless, one is forced to utilize these
showers...because there is absolutely no choice...I'd rather die than stink for 3 months in Brazil...so, if you hear of me dying in a freak shower accident in Brazil...think nothing of it...atleast I'll be clean, even if my conscience isn't!

We then headed into the small town of Chapada and went to a bakery...mmmm...it was fabulous...and as you may have guessed, I sampled their coconut pastries...mmmm! Ana Paula's parents have bought a lot in an exclusive community in this area, so we went to go visit the community, the plot of land, and their club house. We went through the efficient security gate (ofcourse manually operated by someone on duty, always in Brazil...don't forget how cheap human labor is here...better to pay someone to watch the gate than to buy equipment to have the gate open automatically!). They are certainly living in a lovely place. The house will be built soon...but for now, it is just a small field. The clubhouse is more impressive, with volleyball courts, churrasca (bbq pit), futball field, and 3 heated pools (which proved to be key, because it was raining). The pool felt awesome in the cool rain...warm pool water was just the ticket...we relaxed and enjoyed getting soaked!

Then, we went to the geographical center of South America (near Chapada). It is supposed to be an amazing spot with an incredible view...hmmm...I couldn't see because of the fog that had rolled in...but I could tell that
there was an absolutely anti-climatic blob of concrete that marked the exact center of South America...it was the most un-remarkable geographical marking I have ever seen in my life! It was nothing, no sign, nothing! Brazil has
not become aligned to tourism yet in this respect...hmmm...maybe that is an endearing quality that should be admired, rather than chuckled at...don't know...but the spot was monumentally unimpressive (sorry for the pun)...cést la vie.

We returned to Cuiaba and got ready to go to the official graduation. I sat with the family...and yes, this is the Official (and BORING) Graduation. However, when it was over, Ana Paula did say that she was very, very happy
to have had the ceremony...it gave her closure on her University experience. I would tend to agree with that, when I graduated from High School and University...the ceremonies were god-awful boring, but I was glad to have
gone, to have walked across that stage, and to have been given my diploma. That all said, it is somewhat arduous (sp?) to have to sit through it...for anyone.

Went to a club...crashed.

Feb. 18, 2000 (Fri) - PANTANAL BOUND!

We got up early the next day (around 9am) and we (Ana Paula, Maria Angelica, boyfriend, mother, aunt, grandmother, and friend of family) headed for the Pantanal! But, first, I had us stop for one thing that would make the trip more interesting...RAW MEAT!

Now, you may only think that piranhas are in the Amazon...but they are actually supposed to be abundant in the Pantanal! So I had us stop and buy a large rack of ribs...figuring I would lower it into the water and feed the voracious appetites of hundreds of teaming piranhas!!! (well, that is the way it works in the movies, anyway.)

For your information, the Pantanal is basically like the Florida Everglades. It is a large flat area that is subject to flooding in the wet season, and drought in the dry season...it is covered in marshy flats and acts like an enormous river of water flowing over a flat landscape. It is currently the wet season (although, water levels are a little lower than normal...) in the Pantanal. We drove in and saw many types of birds of all different sizes. We also saw many Jacare (Brazillian type of alligator (or crocodile...who knows the exact relation...I didn't bother to ask one of them...they just look like huge lizards with big teeth, ok!!!)). We drove quite aways into the Pantanal, and then stopped for lunch at a hotel in the center of the Pantanal. The dock at the hotel showed us some of the biggest jacare's
sitting around, sunning themselves. As tourism will do, they had become accustomed to being fed an so they stayed near the hotel...go figure. We weren't here to feed the jacare's...we wanted to see the fury of a piranha feeding frenzy!

The hotel had boat excursions up the various streams and deeper into the Pantanal. We decided to take a trip, and to feed the Piranhas from the boat! So 5 of us piled in and we headed for our date with a bunch of meat hungry piranhas! We got to an area where the guide said there were piranhas...tied the meat with a piece of wire...readied our cameras...and threw it overboard! ...and waited for the piranhas to attack the side of ribs......and waited...and waited...and waited......and waited, until we decided that there weren't so many piranhas in that spot...so we moved to another spot, threw the meat overboard...and waited...and waited... and waited...

well, you get the idea...after a while, I became to think that all the Pantanal Piranhas were either off duty, or had become vegetarians (damn I hate those salad lovers! ...ok...hate is a strong word...but I was a little out of my mind at this point...the piranhas were not acting as expected...sorry, I extend my heartfelt apologies for this emotional outbreak to all of those souls of salad, lovers of legumes, grazers of grass, virtuosos of vegetables, junkies of juice, connosieurs of curd, and to the people of pasta.). Anyway...we headed back to the dock and tied up the meat, hoping that it would eventually attract piranhas...

We had some drinks and ice cream...and after a while, we did notice that about 4 or 5 piranhas did eventually come up to the meat...and wouldn't you know it, they were actually pretty tentative eaters! They would circle the meat...and only every once in a while, would they move quickly forward and bite a chunk of the meat. But, it is true, when the did move to eat, it was a ferocious bite that they took. We finally had to leave, so we threw the rest of the meat to a lounging jacare...who actually seemed unimpressed, and let it slip below the water (I guess where he would retrieve it later from the bottom, I don't know.).  Drove back to Cuiaba...later, we ended up going out with Marcia to a dance club until late.

Feb. 19, 2000 (Sat):
Picked up my rented suit and my shoes (gotta look Rico y Suave, eh?).

Ended up using most of the day on the internet, but also talked with Ana Paula for quite sometime about various ideas. I was in a brainstorming mood...and started talking about what it would take to create an English school in Brazil. One that would target higher end clientele such as Ana Paula´s father. Executive English classes or something like it. Spending time with the client at their office...then again intensively for a weekend at a time, only speaking English. Another idea is that the kids here have lots of holidays off from school, and to have an English school...or more appropriately, an English immersion camp or the like would be an idea. Hmmm...something to think about...Now, I don't know how, but Ana Paula´s mother got wind of the fact that I have a slight proclivity to enjoy coconut products and the like. So I was more than surprised and honored when she made an incredible coconut cake for me...mmmmm. It was outstanding! A huge cake...with not just a sprinkling of coconut...it was covered, overwhelmed, and innundated with shreds of coconut...needless to say, not wanting to be unappreciative, I ate at least 4 pieces...

Then...we all got dressed up...it was time for the Graduation Party! Ana Paula had left earlier to go to the hair dresser...so I left with the family. We arrived and were seated at our tables...and again, it was a wonderful affair. The tables were beautifully decorated, music was playing, and everyone was looking their best. Ana Paula arrived later, and I could hardly recognize her! In her evening gown and new hairstyle she looked different from what I was used to...she looked lovely.

To make a long story short, the graduates were introduced formally and walked in with their fathers (male graduates with their mothers)...lots of pictures, lots of dancing, lots of fun. It was a very nice affair and I think the Brazillians know how to celebrate graduations much better than we do in the USA. We finally left around 5am...I think.
 

Feb. 20, 2000 (Sun):

Woke just in time for lunch...and more coconut cake...mmmmm. Went to the Rodoviaria and saw the other relatives off and bought my ticket for the 7pm bus to Campo Grande (where I will connect to Bonito). Returned to house and
hit the internet and the pool! NOTE: Having a pool is a big sign of wealth in S. America (and the rest of the world for that matter), but more so here because it is so practical to cool off on the many hot days.

It was about 5pm...I was using the internet, when Ana Paula told me of a party she just found out about for tonight. Not being one to miss an event, I decided to change my ticket for the next day. We went to the BBQ party...it was fun...lots of meat to eat (ahhhh) and it was fun to watch the host get rowdy and pull a couple of folks into the pool...ahhh...youth.

Used the internet later that night and waited for my new website created by Nathan and my dad...they had expected to have it online tonight! ...well, it turned out that there were a few things that needed to be corrected before we announced it...cést la vie...these things happen. I was online sending them e-mails while they were in Jarrell working on things...somehow it made me feel closer to home...
 

Feb. 21, 2000 (Mon):

Got up...at breakfast (OK...brunch...around 11am...I mean, who gets up any earlier??? ...oh yeah, people with jobs! ...smile :), Ana Paula told me that last night Marcia and her friends had been robbed. Aparrently, they were getting into their car after leaving a club (one of the clubs we had been to this week...), when 2 armed men approached them and forcibly entered the car with them. The men had them drive out of town, where they took their money, jewelry, car and shoes (I guess to slow them down). Marcia and her friends were left on the road outside of town barefoot and penniless...not a fun way to spend the night...and it was raining hard. Quite a sobering experience to hear about...but this stuff does happen here in Brazil.

Ana Paula and I ran some errands, including returning my suit, and getting money...I was estatic when the Banco do Brazil ATM took my card and actually GAVE ME MONEY!!! It was such a great experience that I had to celebrate
with a coconut milkshake (Note: I had planned to get rejected by the machine, and to drown my sorrows in the milkshake...coconuts are not long for this world in my presence!).

Returned to house...heard that the police had located Marcia's car which had been abandoned after the thieves got away...watched the progress on my new internet site on the internet...Nathan and Dad are making good headway! Packed my bag and headed to the busstation with Ana Paula. Hopped on the 7pm bus to Campo Grande with the intention of connecting to Bonito tomorrow.NOTE: Ana Paula's entire family was wonderful...and again, I am in debt to them. I thoroughly enjoyed spending my time with them and learned many things during my stay in Cuiaba. Experiences like these make me realize how lucky I am...truly.

Doug
Texas Nomad