Date: Friday, January 14, 2000 3:33 PMDoug McLean World Tour 1999-2000Back Home Next
Subject: Dec 24-Dec 27, 1999 - Foz Natal!
Current Date/Location: Jan 14, 2000 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Current Itinerary: Heading South from Sao Paulo in the next week or so...Florianopolis, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, etc.
Dec 24, 1999 (Fri):
Woke in San Ignacio Mini, Argentina...took 6am bus to Cataratas de Iguazu (the Argentinian city at the falls)...connected to bus to Foz Do Iguazu (Brazillian city at the falls...cheaper to stay in, and I had heard about a great hostel...Hostal Paudimar.).
I caught a bus out of Foz do Iguazu towards the Youth Hostel...then caught another bus to the entrance of the hostel...quite a ways out of town...but it was worth it! I walked through the gate into the Hostel compound...and felt as if I had truly found an oasis! I was greeted with a vision...green grass shaded by palm trees, hammocks, a lovely pool and poolside bar, nice cabinas and buildings...ahhhhh...this was exactly what I wanted for my Christmas...a quiet time in the country!!! Hostal Paudimar in Foz do Iguazu...if you visit the falls...you MUST STAY HERE!
I checked into the hostel (without Hostel Card...remember...I forgot it in Uruguay...some quick talking and a receipt from the Buenos Aires hostel with my IYH card number helped me gain admission to the hostel at the cheap rates)...bunks in this oasis were a mere 10 Reals per night...that is about 6 dollars...ahhhhhhh...I was asked if I wanted a ticket to tonight's Christmas dinner...I said "Heck Yes!" and my dinner plans were set.
I met my roommates (2 UK guys and a guy from Australia). I went into town with the guys (Shawn, Rob, and David) and Aussie girls (Eliss and Natasha)....lunch...all ATMs not communicating with my wonderful AA Cash Card or any of their cards...frustrating, but what can you do??? We went back to hostel and did what I am sure all of my friends did on Christmas Eve...hit the pool and laid in the sunshine working on our tans...ahhhhhh...there was somesort of Camera crew that arrived and filmed us by the pool and interviewed some of the folks...we were told that the local station would run a story about how foreigners were spending their Christmas.
The Hostel is run by an Argentinian family that left Argentina during the days of the dictator. They are a wonderful group of people and made all the guests feel at home. Every evening, the Argentenians and Brazillians would invite the guests to join them in a futball game (soccer). This was my first night at the hostel, so I was gung-ho to play! Next thing I know, I am running around barefoot on the nicest patch of field that I think I have ever been on. The grounds were maintained perfectly and it was great to run
around barefoot playing futball. Needless to say, the Argentenians and Brazillians generally ran circles around the rest of us, but we all had a good time.
I then showered and dressed for Christmas dinner...here in South America, the big night for celebration is Christmas Eve night...not the traditional Christmas Day like in the USA. The staff gave us all lovely cards wishing us a Merry Christmas/Hannuka/Kwanza and other things in 10 languages. We all sat around the pool area while the staff prepared the tables of food...it was very impressive. They had also decorated many of the palm trees and fences with lights...it was a wonderful festive atmosphere. They
really put on an amazing meal for us! Turkey, suckling pig, chicken, and all sorts of other stuff.
At Midnight, they gave us champagne lots of wonderful fruits for dessert. They may have regretted giving us the grapes...because with different groups at tables across the pool from each other, it was ineviatible that a grape fight would errupt (with a little help from me...oh well...Americans are always blamed for starting wars...I figured it would be better for me to unleash the fury of a couple of bunches of grapes than Nuclear Weapons...it is Christmas after all!) Well, as you would imagine, the fight continued until the arms supply of both sides were completely exhausted...causalties were few...more wars should be fought this way...it would be a grape improvement (no wining about where my bad puns stem from!).
Then a guittar came out and one of the guys from Argentina started to sing...we were told he is somewhat famous in Argentina (I don't know, but he sang some great tunes by the poolside). Various people sang songs...needless to say...anyone who knows me could anticipate that I sang Rawhide and The Eyes of Texas (I had to represent for my hommies...didn't I???) We sang some Christmas carrols...the almost full moon came up over the palm trees...it was truly an ideal way to spend Christmas Eve and early Christmas Morning...Merry Christmas y Feliz Natal to everyone!
Dec. 25, 1999 (Sat- Christmas Day)
Woke...breakfast of mangoes, melon, and bread with dulce de leche launched me into the day. I was determined to not do much today...vowing that the biggest decision would be which color hammock I would lie in...ahhhhh...Merry Christmas to me in Brazil.
Went swimming in the pool...tanned...watched the movie Blade on the VCR...and relaxed in a RED hammock (I guess it wasn't such a tough decision...red is my favorite color...), but nevertheless, I was simply wiped out from the stress of decision-making...almost like being back at a real job...NOT!!! I had to spend lots of time in the hammock in recovery...
After sleeping off the effects of high level decision-making, I organized a volleyball game. This is my newest Christmas tradition! (Last year, I ouldn't get back to Texas for Christmas Day and I spent it playing
volleyball in Hermosa Beach, California with friends). I guess there are worse traditions in the world, eh??? Anyway, the only downside to the whole game was when I was retrieving a ball, I banged my leg on a wall I was trying to jump over (guess I am not 16 anymore...). My right shin was bleeding and my left thigh felt like I had hit it with a hammer...but needless-to-say, I followed the advice of every coach in the world and simply tried to "walk it off" and forget about the pain (hmmmm...these guys are not exactly rocket scientists, are they???)...I continued to play volleyball for a while, but we stopped when we were told that the TV station was going to run the program about Christmas at the Hostel. We all gathered
around the TV and watched their video-footage of us the day before by the pool and playing soccer...it was cool to see all of us on Brazillian TV.
We then played the nightly soccer game...hung out at the poolside bar...and then then went out to a techno disco with Ariel (one of the guys working at the hostel) and David/UK. We had a blast...went to a Techno club and danced until 4am then went to a club next door with live band...the Brazillians know how to party...and apparrently were not deterred with it being Christmas night...we returned at 5:30am...and passed out...it had been a very Merry Christmas!
Dec. 26, 1999 (SUN)
For some unknown reason I woke at 9am...I felt like the walking wounded...the bleeding shin had improved to the point of only being a deep, gruesome gash (no problem)...but the deep thigh bruise was killing me (pretty sure that the extended volleyball game, soccer, and dancing until 5:30am had not helped my recovery)...the leg was in bad shape...so I vowed to take it easy...hmmmmm...wonder what color hammock to utilize in my recovery???
While using the hostel internet, I began talking with Ricardo and wife Fabiana who both work at the hostel. I also found out a very interesting fact...Ricardo also works for Varig at the airport. This is only important if you understand the following information: I used to work for American Airlines...so I like airline stuff, information, and contacts...and second, my friend Andrea would be arriving the evening of the 27th from the USA for 10 days in Brazil...and Ricardo will be the sole person working for Varig greeting her flight. Hmmmmm...imagine the odds...only one Varig representative working this flight in the entire city, and he works at my hostel! Cool, eh? I had been worried about picking her up at the airport...now it is all easy...Ricardo invites me to join him at the airport tomorrow night and we will greet the plane together...I have an in!
Fabiana, Ricardo and I all sit in the office and practice English and Portugueese for an hour and a half...after our class (and they actually had to get back to work), I went to read in the BLUE hammock (another tough decision...I figured that change was good, so I chose Blue instead of Red)...wiped out from my lame legs and from all the decision-maiking I spent quite a lot of time in the hammock! Then swam in pool...tanned...skipped the soccer game (leg is absolutely killing me)...but I guess I couldn't be
stopped from going out again...went out with 2German guys and Ariel to Samba club...
All I can say is WOW! The Brazillians really know how to dance! I must say, I was concerned about my dance skills before I arrived...now some of my doubts are alleved and some are confirmed:
The Brazillian girls dance like crazy and are absolutely impossible to keep up with! Fogettaboutit!!!
The Brazillian guys dance some, but do not seem to be into it like the girls...no way!
I did my best to dance on my bum leg...ended up looking like a drunken stork doing a samba imitation...not a pretty sight...but had fun in the process. Returned at 3:30 am...early night, I have to recover, don't I???
Dec 27, 1999 (Monday)
Woke at 9:45am (just in time for breakfast...10am is the cutoff time.)...leg feeling much better...went swimming...lounged in hammocks (hmmmm...forget what color...too much stress to worry about the colors...) ...almost did something...thought better of it...resulted in doing nothing...ahhhhh...
I moved out of the dorms and into one of the private cabinas. At only 20 Reals (about $11USD) per person per night it was worth having the AC, private bath, and privacy for Andrea who would be arriving off a grueling 30 plus hours of transit. No Kidding...while I am lounging on the hammocks in
Foz, she is currently in the air with the following itinerary COV-EWR-MIA-GIG-GRU-FOZ (OK...for those of you Airline geeks out there...I don't actually know the city code for Foz Do Iguazu, Brazil...I just faked
it...deal!)...and for the rest of you, this hideous schedule is Cincinatti - Newark - Miami - Rio de Janiero - Sao Paulo - Foz do Iguazu...tough schedule, eh??? She would leave Cincinatti at 9am on the 26th and arrive in Foz at 10:30 tonight the 27th...you do the math on the times and time zones...a hell of a long trip in anyone's book...can you say insane itinerary??!!! Well, out of sympathy for her, I relaxed for an extra hour today in the hammock...I figured it was my duty...
OK...some history on Andrea...I know her from my time in Hermosa Beach, CA...she had e-mailed me while I was in Europe saying that she wanted to be somewhere memorable for the turn of the Millenium...I told her that I was going to Brazil for Y2K and that she was welcome to buty a ticket if she felt so inclined...next thing I know she has bought the most obscure routing to South America I have ever seen...and we were scheduled to meetup in Foz. She is a travelling nurse if the USA who works for 3 month stints in various places...Los Angeles for a while (where I met her)...she just finished a 3
month contract in Seattle...and is going back to Los Angeles in the New Year. She works with children with Cancer...tough/important job and I really respect the heck out of her for it.
Anyway, I went to airport and met Ricardo/Varig and his wife Fabianna at about 8pm. I got the grand tour of the airport...the Varig flight is the last flight of the day in or out of the airport...so there is only a skeleton staff working. The airport had lost normal power due to local
thunderstorms and was running on generator power (Brazil, eh???)...the power finally came on and we were able to check in the computer to confirm the flight arrival time...but alas, things here are not like in the USA with American Airlines...we were not exactly sure that the plane had taken off out of Sao Paulo until about 30 minutes prior to landing...updates are not nearly automatic around here. Confirmed that Andrea was onboard in seat 11F...listened to air traffic control talk with the pilot...this is cool stuff, MAN!!! Ricardo cleared it with security and we went out on the tarmac, watched the plane land, and met the plane! It was awesome...the rest of the people meeting the plane were inside the airport, and there I am beside the stairs of the aircraft and greeted Andrea when she got off...I love this airline stuff! Anyway, I took a picture of Andrea departing plane...she was pretty wiped out from all the connections and waiting
time...but doing OK. I thanked Ricardo and Fabiana for everything and Andrea and I went with the owner of the hostel back to the oasis!
Back at the hostel, we dropped the bags and went to hang out by the pool to let Andrea relax and winddown...Andrea tried the local drink Caprinhas (lime and rum) and wasn't impressed...we talked for a while while looking at the stars by the soccer field...it was cool, we hadn't seen each other since my
going away party July 16, 1999 in LA...had arranged the whole trip via e-mail...technology is nifty sometimes, eh? Cranked the Air Conditioning in the cabina and crashed.