Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Sent: Friday, March 31, 2000 3:45 PM
Subject: Mar. 14-17, 2000: Recife

Current Date/Location: Friday, March 31, 2000 in Recife, Brazil (big surprise, eh?).

Current Itinerary: Going to Joao Pessoa beaches this weekend...then early next week, I am heading to Fortaleza.

JOURNAL:

March 14, 2000 (Tue):

On bus from Lencois to Maceio all day...my lymph nodes were not getting worse...but not any better. I probably drank 4 liters of water on that bus. The bus arrived into Maceio around 1730...but, we had found out that the bus continued on to Recife, so we decided enroute to stay onboard to Recife and to skip Maceio...plans change quickly on the road, eh? Anyway, we finally got off in Recife around 10pm.

Took a bus to hostel...didn't know exactly where to get off...so we asked the bus attendant. He didn't know...but he asked everyone who got on...so we ended up having the entire bus gathered around discussing how to help us...it was very nice...Brazilians always show their willingness to help...as a whole, Brazilians are probably the friendliest, most willing to help people I have encountered in my travels. Eventually, we got to our stop, and with lots of thumbs-up gestures, smiles, and thank-yous we got off and went to our hostel.

The hostel is located in an area of Recife, called Boa Viagem (literally meaning Good Trip/Journey). We checked in...dropped our stuff in our 6 person dorm room...and headed out in search of water and Dorritos! I figured that maybe I needed more salt in my diet for my saliva glands/lymph nodes...and water always helps...so we went walking around the area in the middle of the night in search of water and Dorritos to help my throat which
was still swollen.

As we walked around...we weren´t certain (this is sarcasm), but we think that all the scantily clad girls on the streets were not ALL waiting for busses...I guess they were probably hitchhiking...because they got in the cars when they stopped...nice of folks to pickup these girls needing rides...eh? Seriously...it is always sad to see this sort of thing...guess I´ll never get used to it.

Went to crash back at the hostel...and found one of the most jackass contraptions I have ever seen. The ventilator (most Americans call it a ceiling fan) was controlled by a switch not in the room...but rather, downstairs at reception...so we had to go down and ask that they turn it on in our room. And, it wasn´t just down at reception, it was housed in a locked wall box which could only be accessed by key. In the coming days, we would get pissed many times when the folks at reception would make a mistake and arbitrarily turn off our fan...requiring us to go down and request they turn it back on. This often happened in the morning while we were sleeping...so we would wake up drenched in sweat...arrrgh...I am of the opinion that a ceiling fan is not the type of thing that requires management oversight!

March 15, 2000 (Wed):
Woke...Agustin and I went to the Shopping Recife where we heard there was internet access. Found internet and bookstores with books in English. I went absolutely nuts and bought MAXIM (the worlds greatest magazine!), National Geographic (yes, I am reading it this these days...and not for the naked pygmie pictures...I feel sooooo old...), and some way cool books:
Darwin - The Origin of Species
Jostein Gaarder - Sophie´s World
Gore Vidal Creation
Carl Sagan - Cosmos

In one of the book stores, I met a couple (can´t remember their names to save my life) who were studying tourism. I talked to them for awhile, and they invited me to come visit their class at a local trade school the following night. I thought it would be interesting, so I agreed.

Went back to the hostel...met Sharon (a guy from Israel), Robert from Australia, and Luciana/Brazil and talked for awhile. I was up to go out...Agustin was feeling like he wanted to stay in...so I headed out with Sharon and Robert to a local bar called Boddeco. It was a fairly quiet night, and not many folks in the bar. We sat down for a while, just shooting the bull (Texas expression for talking)...then the waiter handed Robert a note!

It was sent by 3 girls at table across the patio from us, it read "If you would like to talk to us, please join us...if not, just smile." Well, we probably confused them for a minute, because we all smiled...and then joined them. Gislene, Renatta, and Luziana are their names...and Gislene and Renatta spoke English (which is good, because Robert and Sharon don´t speak Portuguese). We all talked for a long time...then as the bar was closing, we hopped in Gislene´s car and went and drove around for awhile. We didn't find anyplace that we wanted to go hang out...but finally went to a place near our hostel called Planeta Pâo (Planet Bread) which had good pastries, cakes, and drinks...and was open 24 hours...a true rarity here in Brazil. We had a great night, and they dropped us off at 4am back at the hostel.

March 16, 2000 (Thur):
Woke...internet at shopping Recife...Saw my Italian friend, Sabrina at the internet place. Lunch with Gislene, Rob/Australia, and myself at the mall. Hung out with Sabrina for awhile, she was staying in Olinda, got her number to catch-up later. NOTE: I tried to call Sabrina, but the number didn't work...didn't mean to stand you up Sabrina...REALLY.

Agustin and I headed to the airport for several reasons. I needed to check on getting my tourist visa extended, Agustin wanted to check on prices for flights Recife-Sao Paulo and Fortaleza-Sao Paulo, and we needed to meet my new tourist studying friends (the couple I met at the bookstore). Well, apparently, the visa extension can only be gotten at the Federal Police Station in Old Town Recife...so that was delayed until tomorrow. Agustin checked on tickets, then we went to meet my friends.

They showed up, we got in their car, and were whisked away to their school (a trade school, teaching tourism, English, and Spanish all at once). It was the most mixed-up thing I have ever seen...we sat in the class and just watched the proceedings. It was absolutely disorganized, people seemed to talk as they wished and come and go at random. The teacher seemed to both lack control, or interest in pushing the students...and the students didn't seem to want more. We had come prepared to try to discuss what they could do to work with tourists, what tourists to Brazil wanted or needed, but in the end, we were left wondering why they had wanted us there. The teacher
simply asked us to introduce ourselves (me in English and Agustin in Spanish) and explain our travels. ...and that was it. I think it is somewhat indicative of the entire Brazilian attitude towards tourism...they aren´t ready for it. Meaning, they are not geared towards tourism and what tourists want. Rather than asking us questions...they asked us not much more than our names and nationalities and thanked us for our time...it was a disappointment. We truly felt that these students were not learning much...and it didn't look like they were going to...sad...I truly want Brazil to prosper through the money that tourism brings...but until they improve their understanding of what brings tourists (amazing sights, infrastructure to make it easy for tourists, and additional sense of security for tourists) and keeps them, it is unlikely that tourist money will flow into Brazil like it does into Europe and other top tourist
destinations. Oh well, they dropped us off at our hostel and we wished them luck.

We showered and changed and then we (Sharon, Rob, Agustin, and I) were picked up by girls (Gislene, Renatta, and Kelly) at 9pm and headed for Old Town Recife. The place is very nice, sat at one of the many sidewalk cafes
and had crepes. Then went dancing at a local disco until around 3am. Piled back into the car...got stopped by the police at a standard roadblock where they were checking everyone´s papers and insurance...technically, 7 people
in this small car was easily a moving violation...but jokes about being a bus and our foreign accents seemed to work, the policeman didn't fine us and we continued back to the hostel. International relations seemed to be going
well, and language barriers were broken down...Rob and Gislene were feeling the pangs of love, as were Sharon and Renatta...ahhhh...amor.

Now here, I must regress...both Rob and I had been somewhat attracted to Gislene...she is smart, witty, and attractive...but for me, something just didn't seem right. So, I didn't try for her...and Rob did. I am not saying that Gislene might or might not have liked me...but I am saying that it didn't seem right for me, so I held back. I actually had talked about this with Agustin that I had a feeling that it wasn´t right for me to go after her...Rob ended up gaining her affections...good for him! The next night at Fun House, this would prove to be a VERY good for me...

Got to bed around 4am.

March 17, 2000 (Fri - Happy St. Patrick´s Day!):
Woke around noon...with the ventilator off!!! DAMN IT!!! Anyway, the lymph nodes were much better...almost no swelling now...not sure if the copious quantities of water, salt, antibiotics, or Brazilian music cured it...but now I am on the road to recovery.

Went to Old Town Recife with Agustin. I needed to get my Brazilian entry visa extended (I have been here almost 3 months, and plan to spend more time!). As we had learned at the airport, this extension can be obtained at the Federal Police office...we found it, entered and asked the nice receptionists where the office was to get the visa extension. They smiled and said that it was here in the building, but frowned and said that I would have to come back when I was wearing pants! Now, I almost had to restrain myself...I have visited many places in many countries, and one of the last places I thought I would be required to wear pants was in Recife, Brazil!!!

I expressed both my surprise and amusement (best to always keep these negotiations happy...I figured that going hard-line and telling them that they were absolutely nuts for trying to require tourists to wear pants was only to be used as a last resort...that would either prompt a quick resolution by forcing them to acquiesce...or would lead to either my expulsion from the building or the country...so needless to say, I tried tact first)...and asked if there was anyone they could call to help me, as my hotel was far away, and I didn't want to come back another day (especially wearing pants...this city is darned hot!). They asked me to wait a minute...they would make a call to see if they could resolve the problem.

...and sure enough...in about 3 minutes they had found a way to resolve the problem...they somehow got an extra pair of pants for me to wear!!! I am not kidding...a disgusting pair of brown pants was handed to me with many
smiles...hmmmm...I had hoped that they would simply waive the rule...but they had instead provided pants...damn it! OK...so I was going to be a good sport...I went to the bathroom...and somewhat to my surprise, the pants did
fit me fairly well (I had thought that they would be way too small...I am bigger than most in this country). So I returned to the lobby...properly suited (or panted) to go walking through the entire building...in front of
everyone...I now had PANTS ON...bring on the royalty, I am clad in the Emperor´s New Clothes!!!! OK...so that is a little melodramatic, but it was a silly situation, really.

I expected to be led to the back of the building, past lots of offices and workers who would see my glorious brown pants...but much to my chagrin and amazement, I was directed to a door that was a part of the lobby (where it is OK to wear shorts). Just through that door (like 4 feet through the door), I found the window for visa extensions. OK...so I now am wearing my AMAZING brown pants...that have been given to me so I could walk 4 feet into a room and stand on the other side of a window, whose counter is at the level of my stomach! I was absolutely dumb-struck...the folks at the counter both couldn´t see my pants...and didn't seem to care. I still struggle to understand the monumental stupidity of the situation...but can not fathom either the reason or benefit for me wearing pants that day...but oh, well...once I was finally at the window, they quickly and efficiently provided me with my requested 90 day visa extension (no doubt very impressed with my pants!). I returned to the lobby victorious...had Agustin snap a
quick picture in my groovy threads...and quickly went to the bathroom to do my Superman reverting to Clark Kent imitation and re-emerged in my shorts. Quite a silly experience that could have been avoided if I had simply had the zippered legs to my zipper shorts...but alas, they were not with me...cest la vie.

Since it was St. Patricks Day...we walked around, looking for an Irish Pub...couldn´t find one! This may be the only place on earth that doesn´t have an Irish Pub!!! NOTE: If you want to celebrate St. Patrick´s Day in Brazil (at least Recife)...you better bring your own shamrocks...these people don´t celebrate it at all...there was not a Lepruchaun (sp?) to be found anywhere!

NOTE: I must take a moment to remember last year´s St. Patrick´s Day (1999). I was in Queenstown, New Zealand with my friend Chris, and my newly found friend Emer (who is Irish!). We had a great time...one of the best St. Patrick´s Day I have ever had...and those 3 weeks in New Zealand and Australia served as a warm-up trip for my year off.

We walked around the city...found various old squares and old buildings. We also happened on the Governor´s Palace...we kind of meandered in and looked at the stained glass windows in the lobby. We were practically attacked by a friendly greeter/guide who proceeded to talk our ears off...she apparently wanted to practice her English...OK...good for her. Anyway, we said that we wanted to go to the gardens...she said she would escort us...so we traipse through the Governor´s Palace and out the back...into the gardens (which we had not known, but are off limits to the public). Anyway, one of the other greeters/guides quietly called our guide over, said something to her...and she apologetically led us out...because of our SHORTS!!! OK...now, I have a problem. I understand churches in many places in the world wanting you to wear pants...I have even worn a sarong in Thailand at the Vitamnek Palace...but in BRAZIL??? Come on! This is the land of the tiny bikini, topless sunbathing on Wednesdays in Ipanema, more skin than you can shake a stick at...but you should wear pants to go to the Federal Police Station or into the Governor´s garden??? Hmmmm...don´t you think that something is wrong here???

Anyway...we were not done being touristy...so we took a bus from the center of Recife to Olinda (which is about 8km away). We were absolutely pleasantly surprised...it is a lovely old town. Olinda ("linda" in Portuguese and Spanish meaning beautiful...they knew what they were doing when they named this town) is on a hill overlooking Recife and gives a great vantage point for sunsets. There are many churches and narrow streets that make this a very charming, quaint place.

We went back to Boa Viagem...both needed to send some e-mails...so we went online at internet bookstore in Shopping Recife (mall). Next thing Agustin and I know, a spotlight is turned on and we are being filmed using the computers by a TV crew. They were doing a story on lack of internet availability in Recife. We both gave interviews (mine in English and basic Portuguese, Agustin´s in perfect Spanish)...my 2nd time to be on Brazilian TV (first time was Christmas in Foz do Iguazu)...hope I´m not using up my 15 minutes...

We all (Rob, Sharon, Agustin, the girls, and me) went to Fun House that night. Fun House is an enormous club with lots of different theme rooms (Mexico Room, Woodstock, Blackout, African Room, Japanese room, etc...including a TEXAS ROOM! ...no kidding...but it and some of the others were closed for renovations...shucks!). It was very cool, each room had a different sound, theme, vibe, and atmosphere...literally every room was a different club...whatever you felt like...they had the club for you. Agustin was ecstatic that they Mexican room was open...and actually playing some good Mexican (and also Cuban) music!

Anyway, at one point, Rob, Gislene, Agustin, and I were all in the Woodstock room...and I saw HER. The band was playing "My name is Luca" and I saw this beautiful girl in the crowd dancing and singing along to it. She was with 4 other friends (2 couples)...she happened to be standing directly under a light that bathed her in a pale reddish glow...I was enchanted...literally. Not sure if it was love at first sight...or what...but I pointed her out to Agustin, Rob, and Gislene and told them that she was the only girl in the building that I wanted to talk to that night...no kidding. Now, I will tell the reading audience that this is not normal for me. I have indicated a cute girl to Agustin or something like that, but I have never made that kind of absolute statement as I did that night. The girl in question was tall, probably 6 feet...has shoulder length brunette hair, is very thin, beautiful, and speaks English (or at least I was pretty sure she did...she was singing along to My Name is Luca pretty convincingly...it is both an obscure song and not easy to mouth the words if you don´t know them.).

I figured that I would try to talk to her later...but for now, Agustin wanted to go to the Mexican Room (surprise)...so went there for awhile. We ended up dancing for awhile in the crowd (with noone in particular...one of the joys of Agustin is that we can just hang out and talk and dance, and don´t feel the obligation to have anyone else with
us...it is cool...we were just having a good time dancing to the tunes!). Then, Mambo Number 5 started (not all the songs in here are from Mexico)...and while dancing, a cute girl walked in front of me...it turned
out to be the girl I had mentioned earlier! So, I casually tapped her on the elbow and started dancing with her...and to my amazement, she smiled at me and danced with me. We ended up talking for a while in the Mexico room...I found out her name is Luciana and that she is a doctor. Then she had to go watch her brother play...he is the lead singer for the band playing in the 70´s Room. I talked my way into going with her and her friend to watch her brother.

I ended up talking to Luciana for the rest of the night...found her fascinating...she used to play basketball for the Women´s Basketball team representing the state of Pernambuco (smile...she is athletic)...she hasn´t played much beach volleyball (sniff...sniff...but maybe I can train her...smile)...she is a doctor in her second year of residency. Her father is a doctor as well. She had to work the following day (Saturday) from 7am until 7pm (ouch!)...so she had to leave Fun House at about 4am...

That left me in an amazingly awkward position that most American guys are not used to experiencing...how to ask a girl out on a date...but talk her into picking you up because you don´t have a car!?? Anyway, somehow I navigated through this minefield, got her phone number, and she said she would drive us to dinner tomorrow night! Ahhhh...I quickly kissed her good night...said goodbye...and I was one happy Texan!

I found Agustin and the others in the Black Room...and I was in a great mood...and primed to dance! There are few things in life more liberating than knowing that you have met someone very special...and that she is gone from the building...so you can dance and party like an idiot without caring what anyone else thinks about you! I danced like an absolute happy fool until around 5:30am...simply put, I was on Cloud 9.

I got back to hostel around 6am...I absolutely could not sleep until I had written in my pocket journal...this is what I wrote at 6:21am in my hostel room:

"Tonight (or rather, last night...as I have just returned), I met Luciana!

I don´t want to sleep, for fear I will lose this feeling! I am truly on a cloud right now. Tonight at Fun House, I saw her. She was basked in a pale redish light...I was electrified at the sight of her. Tall, beautiful, and speaking English (Singing along to "Luca"). Right then, I told Agustin that SHE was THE GIRL I wanted to meet. An hour later, she walked by and we started to dance and talk...we were inseparable the rest of the night. She speaks English, is almost 25, and is in residency as a doctor. I am so happy I met her...quick kiss good-night was all, but it was a supreme moment. I couldn´t have scripted the evening any better. I don´t want this feeling to end...ever..."

The moment and feeling was incredible...I am pleased that at 29 years old, I still feel like a kid at times like these...joy, excitement, adrenaline, and happiness...these are wonderful emotions to have crashing down on you because you have met someone truly special. And in retrospect, I would have never have met her if I (rather than Rob) was with Gislene (who wasn´t a great match for me). We all have choices in this world...and if you settle, you will often end up with what you deserve (which is less than what you could have had). I say hold out...don´t take what you merely will accept out of life...decide what you want and go for it! Don´t you owe it to yourself?

Doug
Texas Nomad