Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000Back Home Next
Sent: Friday, May 19, 2000 2:28 PM
Subject: Apr 26-May 5, 2000: Fortaleza/Belem
Current Date/Location: Friday, May 19, 2000 in Recife, Brazil.
Current Itinerary: I will leave Recife on Monday...flying to Sao Paulo (that's GRU to all you airline geeks out there)...then catching a flight GRU to DFW and onwards to Austin or Killeen to see the family. I think I am scheduled to take my mom to Corpus Christi immediately upon my arrival to visit my Grandmarky...smile...I think I will be in the Austin area for Memorial Day weekend. Planning to spend 3-4 weeks in Texas with friends and family...then will decide if I am going to continue traveling or get one of those...ummm...what do you call it...wait...oh yeah, I think they call it a job. Not sure yet...we'll see...
NOTE: In my previous journal I mentioned that Luciana took to nature "Like a dung beetle in ...". My good friend Jack sent me an e-mail asking whether Luciana appreciated this remark. My reply to him and to everyone else is the following warning: This was a potential landmine...because rather than just having to apologize for the comparison...Luciana did not know what a dung beetle was and asked me about it...so I had to explain the quote and exactly WHAT IS a dung beetle before I could get to laughing it off. NOTE TO OTHERS...IT IS VERY hard to navigate the translation of something where you compare your girlfriend to a SHIT-COLLECTING INSECT!!! I don't recommend it to anyone...but I explained it tactfully, told her it was actually a compliment, and she is still talking to me! WHEW!!!! I survived this ordeal...but not sure that everyone would...beware!
NOTE II: In a previous e-mail, I had mentioned that I am starting to feel like a yo-yo leaving and returning to Recife...but that it is practically my middle name. KUDOS to my good friend Kurt who correctly identified that my middle name is Duncan...and made the connection with the fact that the name brand Duncan Imperial Yo-Yo is widely sold in the USA. Just some info for all of those who always knew I was a yo-yo! Smile.
NOTE for my future reference: Camera broke after Passion play and wasn't fixed until last day in Belem...this is why pictures are in short supply during this part of the trip.
April 26, 2000 (Wed):
Arrived into Fortaleza, Brazil off the bus from Recife. It was almost like coming home (since I have been here before)...I simply took a taxi to Tereza and Cristina's apartment...smiled at the doorman who let me in without a question...went up the elevator...received a nice welcome from Tereza and Cristina...but this time it was pleasantly different...it was like a family member coming home after being gone for a week.
I showered and then hit the hammock! I read the last 200 pages in Jorge Amado's Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands...it is a very good book. It is the second Amado book I have read on this trip (Amado being probably the most famous Brazilian author)...and I enjoyed it immensely. He has a wonderful way of weaving a tale that is different from our traditional American/British authors that I am so used to reading. He has another even more famous book called Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon that is supposed to be excellent. I recommend reading Amado...a welcome diversion. Also, if you don't have time for reading the book Dona Flor...it was made into a movie that is supposed to be very good...it may be in the Foreign Films section of your local Video cabana. Some of my favorite quotes:
"The neighbors, too, recalled him in similar fashion, a bohemian without schedule or responsibility."
"The worse they are when they are young, the more sanctimonious they become when they get old."
"To hell with it! A country where there are no mulattas, nothing but honkies, that's no place for anybody to live. Forget it!"
"...for a maidenhead is not everything, not by a long shot, in spite of all the to-do that has been made over it. When all is said and done, it is nothing but a fragile membrane, a drop of blood, a moan and above all, an old prejudice, and if it is rated so highly that is because it has been in the hands of public relations agents for centuries, and they have been backed up by the army and the clergy, the police and the whores, all of them making this pellicle the be-all and end-all."
"Happiness leaves no history. A happy life is not the subject for a novel." DOUG NOTE: I think this to be a sad, but astute observation...here is a nod of respect to all who are leading happy, less than novel-worthy lives. Went to use the internet for awhile...then went back to the apartment and called it a day.
April 27, 2000 (Thur):
Used the internet again, and then caught the 1pm bus for Belem. Tereza and Cristina were surprised at my quick departure...but after spending so much time in Recife and Fortaleza, I was ready to put some miles under me and go
Well, I got my wish...I hopped on the bus which was scheduled to take 24 hours...and eventually took 27. Bus ride was long and missing air conditioning and a functioning video system...it was a mixture of a good and bad ride...I had good legroom...but there was a water/coffee dispenser immediately in front of me...so I often had people leaning over me to serve themselves...cést la vie...ahhhh...life back ON THE ROAD AGAIN! There is some beautiful countryside and mountains (OK...maybe just big rocky hills) about 3 hours outside of Fortaleza...I couldn't stop...but for anyone traveling in this area...it looked great...you might stop.
April 28, 2000 (Fri):
The bus was delayed for 1 hour in the morning as a flat was fixed...we arrived 3 hours late into Belem. Normally in the USA when you have had this type of trip (problems and delays), companies are apologetic and offering refunds to dissatisfied customers...like I said...that is in the USA, here in Brazil it just happens, is expected, and no one does anything about it (company or customers).
Paulo Cesar met me at the bus station and picked me up. OK...some history about Paulo Cesar and his wife Mara. Paulo is the brother of my ex-girlfriend, Claudia. I had visited Paulo and Mara in Rio de Janeiro 3 years ago...more recently, they visited me when I lived in LA and shared a Christmas there...so it was like seeing an old friends again. Went to their apartment and I was given my own room...ahhhhh. It was a pleasure to be able to finally talk with Paulo Cesar (and Mara when she arrived) in Portuguese...something I had never been able to do before. Paulo speaks a little English...but Mara doesn't speak any. They both commented that now my Portuguese is great. I think they are exaggerating...but it is true, I have improved my language skills significantly since the last time they saw
We went out that night. I was driven around the city and shown some of the sights. Belem lies on the Southern side of the mouth of the Amazon River where it empties in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a big port city. We had dinner with some of their friends and then returned to the apartment.
April 29, 2000 (Sat):
Woke in Belem. Packed and headed out towards Salinas. Salinas is a city on the Atlantic coast about 2 hours outside of Belem. We were going to go out there and stay there for the weekend with Mara's boss and his family. We had lunch at Chuhascaria Texas (of course!) with Mara's boss and the rest of the Edilson family.
After lunch, we continued on to Salinas, arrived at their apartment (in a building still under construction). Their apartment, however is completed, and was nice for us to settle into. We all went to beach which was very nice. They enjoy playing a particular dice game which is fun and thankfully not high stress (no money is involved)...we relaxed, played dice, and enjoyed the day at the beach...ahhhh...this is why I travel.
We went into town that night...Salinas has a lovely ocean sidewalk and play areas for children. Had a wonderful crab soup for dinner...mmmm...I would later learn that Salinas is known for it's crab...returned to the apartment. I read Count of Monte Cristo for awhile (like until I passed out!) and went to sleep.
April 30, 2000 (Sun):
Woke in Salinas. Paulo, the kids and I all walked to the beach. This was done via a lagoon (literally swimming in and through this coca-cola colored watered lagoon), over dunes, and finally down to the beach where we met the others (who had leisurely driven there). The sea was out (at low tide) so we parked far from the restaurants/shacks. The shore here is very flat, so at low tide, the beach area extends about 300 meters out towards the ocean...at high tide...it extends about 30 meters. The sand is both flat and pretty compact here, so it is possible for normal cars to drive on it without problems.
We went swimming, played dice, and ate. But what we ate surprised me...they opened a Tupperware container that was full of cracked-open crab claws...MMMMMM! I thought I was in heaven! This is not your typical beach-munchies...we were dining high (I thought). I mentioned I was amazed to be served crab claws on the beach (as much as I could eat)...and was informed that everything I saw was about 8 reals / $4.50 USD in value...they had gone to the market this morning and bought it...I was stunned. I have been working on cracking open crabs and struggling to get at the small amount of meat at a rate of 1 Real per whole crab. Here, I was eating crab claws (undoubtedly the best/meatiest part of the crab) at a rate of 1 per minute (as fast as I could ingest them) for a fraction of the cost or effort...hmmmm...I think that this was living! I decided that at that price, we needed to go buy more claws for all the rest of the meals!
We had a wonderful day...playing dice, swimming, eating crabs, and when the ocean rose enough that the water was under out feet, we would pickup the table, chairs, and umbrella and walk about 60 meters closer to the shore. This usually gave us about 1 to 1 1/2 hours before we would repeat this process. We moved the stuff and the car about 4 times during the day. The only downside on the day was that at some point, I lost my disposable underwater camera (which I was using due to my regular camera being broken)...not too many photos lost...but frustrating nonetheless.
Back at the apartment, I was pretty useless...I was deeply focused on reading The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (I couldn't help asking myself "What Dumas wrote this book!"...in a very Beavis and Butt-Head kind of way...so much for being culture...huh, uh huh). Everyone else was watching TV or talking...but I was huddled in a corner reading for all I was worth! It is a great book and I was about 100 pages from finishing. Anyway I took short breaks to have dinner and to refill my glass of Coke, but apart from that I read straight through until the end...finishing at about 2:30am...GREAT BOOK! Here is my favorite passage from the book:
"I accomplished astonishing feats which, more than once, proved to me that our excessive concern with the welfare of our bodies is almost the only obstacle to the success of any of our plans, when these demand rapid decisions and vigorous and determined execution. In reality, once you have made the sacrifice of your life, you are no longer the equal of other men; or, rather, they are no longer your equal, because whoever has taken such a resolution instantly feels his strength increase ten times and his outlook vastly extended."
...powerful stuff, eh?!!! Tony Robbins eat your heart out...you go Dumas!
After finishing the book, I crashed...hard.
May 1, 2000 (Mon)
Woke in Salinas. Went with Mara, Paulo, and Mr. Edilson to the market! Bought 6 kilos of Crabs (4 kilos of shelled claws, and 2 kilos of meat)...MMMM. Sat and ate some tapioca (made with coconut)...not my favorite dish here in Brazil, but OK. Everyone else loves it!
Back at the apartment, we packed up and left. Drove to the Edilson's weekend house closer to Belem...saw the river and the kids played in the pool for a short time...then we went into Belem.
We stopped and got some ice-cream (and acai) from a local ice cream shop. The Edilson's joined us for lunch at Paulo and Mara's apartment. I checked some e-mails, but was frustrated with computer server issues...grrr. Computers are great...when they work...when they don't, they are absolutely worthless!
Talked with Luciana on the phone...that made me smile.
May 2, 2000 (Tue)
Woke in apartment in Belem. Used the internet (with varying levels of success...server problems halting most of my progress) for a while. While I was in the midst of working on the computer, the maid presented me with a plate full of cooked crab claws...for breakfast!!! (I guess Mara had instructed her that I adored crab claws!) Anyway, so while I was frustrated with the computer, I happily munched on crab claws...what a great breakfast! I ate 48 crab claws (yes, I counted them)...1/2 a kilo...burp! Needless to say, being the caring considerate boyfriend, I felt it my need to talk to my girlfriend about my current dietary intake...so I called Luciana's cell phone...Luciana was pissed that I was eating crab claws for breakfast while she was working...ahhhhh...mission accomplished!
Went walking...visited Shopping Castanheira and Bosque Rodrigo Alves. The Bosque (which literally means forest (sp?)) is a preserve in the city. While walking around, I saw lots of animals in various cages and habitats...but also saw wild monkeys in the surrounding trees...it is a lovely place. Went back to the apartment for lunch...wonderfully grilled chicken. Hmmmm...I guess I could get used to this pampered lifestyle, eh?
Tried to use the internet (with no luck)...so I headed out again...this time downtown. Took the bus to the downtown (which is also near the docks). Checked at a travel agency the schedules for passages by boat to Manus...there are boats leaving every few days. It takes 5 days to get to Manus (city up the Amazon River...at the fork of the Black river and the Amazon River...big city in the heart of Amazonia) and costs 90 Reals ($50USD) and includes a space for me to sling my hammock, food, and lovely shared bathroom facilities. A bed in a cabin is 180 Reals ($100 USD)...as you can guess...I am going to go for the hammock...I'm Scottish and unemployed, right!??? But I will buy my passage another day...today was just to get info.
Continued to walk around...finally ended up at Shopping Iguatemi. Looked for books in English without any luck. Had a McDonalds burger...and went to see a movie, Girl Interrupted. It was an OK movie...a rental if you ask me. Returned to Shopping Center and called Paulo Cesar...he said he would come to pick me up. Then my powers of observation came into play...
I had tried to use a phone for my call...but it didn't work. So I used another...but, while I was on the other phone, an employee of the shopping mall walked up to the non-working public phone...did something to it's workings behind the phone...and made a call. Hmmmmmm???? So, when they left (after again adjusting something behind the phone), I inspected the phone...it still didn't work, but then I noticed a wire behind the phone that was cut...with the two ends each bent with a loop. I connected these two loops, and viola...dial tone! I had learned how to HOTWIRE the phone! I dialed Recife (without need of a calling card) to talk to Luciana...I didn't get her but I got her mom...thus proving the trick to the phone. Free calls...cool, eh?
Being Scottish and Cheap, I decided to use this newfound knowledge to best advantage...when Paulo arrived, I asked him how to direct-dial the USA...he told me and next thing I know, I was talking to my parents in Jarrell, Texas! Ahhhh...I love modern technology. It was good to hear their voices (I have used internet exclusively with them for the past 5 months). We caught up for awhile...then bid them goodnight.
Returned to the apartment...talked with Luciana on the phone...she always makes me smile. I talked with her about some of my philosophical thoughts for the day...regarding Darwin and the medical profession. There are different ways that one can look at Darwinism, the medical profession, and God. My focus was on the medical profession, and how one could view all of medicine as fighting Darwinism. Certainly fighting diseases and preventing people from succumbing to disease and natural infirmities, and old age fights exactly what Darwin says molds and shapes a species...Medicine fights natural selection...every step of the way. ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW is that the medical profession is a highly adapted defense mechanism that humans have developed overtime to maintain the species and is not fighting the ideas of Darwin...but rather is exactly what Darwin predicted...species that can change and adapt to be better suited for the environment will survive...medicine is one of our adaptations to our environment. I related this to Luciana...it made her happy to think that she is not fighting evolution, but rather working as a part of it. It's a thought, anyway.
Went to bed.
May 3, 2000 (Wed)
Woke...used the internet for awhile (server finally being somewhat agreeable!)...then it stopped working...c'est la vie.
Took the bus towards downtown...got off at a place that has internet access for 2 Reals per hour! ...but it wasn't working either...c'est la vie...computers are against me today I guess!
Went to the docks and talked with various ticket sellers for boat passages to Manus. Found one that I think I will take on Friday for 80 Reals. Walked down the docks to the various markets with people selling all sorts of clothes, electronics, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, etc...yes, you name the smell, and it can be found at this market!
I visited a pathetic city art gallery...then went to Forte Castelo (Fort Castelo)...it was a small, but enjoyable little fort. What I liked about it was that it actually had military guys around it. Yes, rather than being merely a tourist attraction, it still functions as a military base. And unsurprisingly, they military guys in their off duty were playing soccer in the shadow of this fort...nice, eh?
My walking tour of the city also took me past the Voter Registration office...which was a madhouse...and another source for me to philosophize about. In Brazil, voting is mandatory. They won't fine you in this country for speeding, parking illegally, running red lights, or practically for anything...except not voting...this is a hard and fast fine, guaranteed. Today was the last day for registering to vote...so there was an enormous line around a couple of blocks of people wanting (or rather, needing) to register...literally they had been waiting for 4-6 hours...it had been in the news yesterday as well. I have discussed this with Luciana at times, and also with Paulo and Mara...they all say that this mandatory voting is actually a hindrance to democracy...rather than assisting it. ...let me explain.
Brazil is a country of huge disparities...10 percent of the people in this country have money, education, prestige, and influence...90 percent are poor, generally poorly educated, and maintain no power or influence. My friends are in agreement that this mixture is in favor of politicians who like having 100 percent of the population forced to vote...thus providing the politicians with a huge number of uneducated, disaffected voters who care little about the process or who they vote for...this plays into the hands of the politicians who do not have to perform for the intellectuals voters in the society...but rather, they pander to the uneducated voters for a short time before elections...often buying votes outright or through the smallest of gestures or words...fooling those who are easily fooled and swayed by splash rather than substance...and marginalizing (sp?) the more interested, intellectual 10 percent by making their voting block a minority.
I wonder out loud: Is compulsory voting really democratic? I believe that it is obligatory to a democracy that all people be ABLE to vote...but that it is UN-Democratic to force people to vote. I believe that it is a subtle form of suppression...diluting the votes of those who CARE about the process with the votes of those who DON'T CARE about the process. It sounds like a good idea on the surface...but in reality, true democracy is the independent ability of all people to decide if and for whom you will vote. It is similar to the Communism experiment, it seems like a great idea in theory...but in practice the brilliance of the idea is never realized due to human shortcomings. Many people would say that this is the fault of the people with shortcomings...but I disagree...a Social Policy must be designed for the people it is meant to serve...and if it doesn't serve them, it is inappropriate to say the people are flawed...
Oh well, back to Brazil...I then walked to Praca da Republica and visited the Teatro da Paz (Theater of Peace). It is an absolutely magnificent theater built in the late 1800s...1100 seats with 3 balconies...marvelous! It is currently closed for renovations so no performances are being held, but tours are still running...if you happen to accidentally find yourself in Belem, Brazil...please consider it a must see!
Then I went back to Shopping Iguatemi...figured I would call Luciana from my special phone...but, alas, someone had fixed it...sniff sniff. Anyway I returned to the apartment and chatted with Luciana on the phone before going
out to dinner with Paulo and Mara.
We went to a wonderful restaurant and had a great fish and shrimp dinner for 3...mmmmm...back to the apartment and to bed.
May 4, 2000 (Thur)
Woke...tried to use the internet without much luck...was given a big plate of crab claws for breakfast, again...mmmm...I could get used to this! Decided that while it is not nice to talk to your mouth full, this does not apply when you are trying to make someone jealous...so I called Luciana and informed her of today's breakfast...hee hee. I then decided I should take my first malaria tablet (1 week before being in a malaria area...the Amazon)...gulp...then headed out!
Caught a bus that I thought would take me to the docks downtown...it didn't, and went the wrong direction, but I got a tour of a different part of the city...it is good not to have a schedule sometimes! I ended up getting off at a lovely plaza, having a cold coconut, and walked around the neighborhood. I eventually wound up in the old part of Recife and located a camera repair place for my trusty Canon Elph. They said they would do what they could before I got on my boat to Manus tomorrow at 6pm.
I continued to walk around...found an office of the Ministero da Saude...figured it wouldn't hurt to have some more Malaria tablets (these things are expensive in the USA...and free here). The guy in charge of inoculations and things told me that there is no such thing as a tablet for the prevention of malaria...hmmmm...now, I am not exactly sure why he told me this...I have visited the office of the head of malaria control for Brazil who gave me anti-malaria pills, and am dating a doctor who said I should take my pills so I think this guy was a quack...or something. Well anyway, I should have enough pills as it is for now.
Went to the internet place...2 Reals per hour (the cheapest I have found yet)!!! It worked, was fast, and comfortable...ahhhh...heaven.
Back at the apartment I got interested in seeing if I could rent the movie, Dona Flor and her two Husbands. Paulo took me to his video store...they didn't have this movie...but Paulo (and many of the staff) worked to find me two REALLY BRAZILIAN movies. We ended up renting Guerra dos Canudos (War of the Straws) and Central do Brasil (Brazil Central). Watched Central do Brasil...VERY GOOD MOVIE!
May 5, 2000 (Fri)-
Woke...watched movie, Guerra dos Canudos. It was fairly good. The camera repair place called and told me it would be 140 Reals to fix my camera...I told them that it was too much, and that I would come by and pickup my camera later. I packed...had lunch with Paulo and Mara. I was going to go and buy a hammock, but they gave me a nylon hammock that they had in the house and insisted that I take it. I appreciated their gesture...and accepted it with many thanks. It is a great hammock and incredibly small which fits into my pack very well!
Paulo drove me to the camera repair store so I could retrieve my camera. When I arrived, they informed me that they had actually fixed my camera and it would be 140 Reals. Hmmmm...I told them that I had not authorized them to actually fix the camera, because this amount was too much. I was pretty sure it was an easy fix...some computer adjustment or something...but no actual damage to the hardware or replacement of parts...I was being charged for services only. I told them that I appreciated them fixing the camera, but that I had only ever considered paying 50 Reals or less to fix the camera. So I gave them a 50 Real bill, thanked them, and walked out with my newly fixed camera! I was happy...and my camera was fixed for my Amazon trip. When you travel, don't be taken in...stay in charge.
Paulo took me to the docks, I bought my ticket for the Sao Francisco III, departing at 7pm. Paulo drove me around the city a little to a couple of parks...tried to find me an English book store...and then dropped me off at the docks so I could catch my boat. Finally, I was going to realize a lifelong dream...to take a boat up the Amazon River!
...to be continued in next journal...