Thursday, August 14, 2008

well I can dance with you, honey

I am sitting in the lobby of our hotel in iguzu falls and all of mamma mia´s biggest hits have been playing for the last half hour. it´s pretty catchy.

I haven´t written in a few days so I´m going to try to catch up a bit. I had a wonderful time meeting all of my family, especially the cousins my age. Before I left sao paulo I went out to dinner with my cousin livia and a few of her friends. livia is the daughter of one of my dad´s closest cousins. it was so funny to hear the jokes the paulistas (people from sao paulo) made about cairocas (people from rio). there is this friendly rivalry between the two, where paulistas accuse cairocas of being lazy and dirty don´t speak well, and the only bad thing about rio, and cairocas say that paulistas are all work and no play and have sticks up their asses. the cities can sort of be compared to new york and los angeles, only angelinos dont really have much to say about anyone (which can be attributed to either our amazing ability to accept everyone or our amazing ability to be self centered, depending on your affinity for our city).

one thing that I am coming to LOVE about brazilians is how warm and friendly they are as a culture. they themselves say the only country they think can compare is italy. and it´s true that there are a lot of similarities. everyone you greet with at least one kiss, two if they are adults or from rio. Remember the ability you had as a child to make immediate friends with anyone in a second? In Brazil, that never fades away. all of this family business could easily get very awkward in the states, but here it doesn´t matter that we´ve never met before or that we may never meet again, we are best friends and family immediately. It probably helps that all of my cousins are so brilliant and attractive and successful and can make conversation about anything. I feel like I´ve been missing out on this huge network of family my whole life. it´s a sad feeling, to suddenly realize what I´ve been missing.

We arrived in Foz do Iguassu yesterday evening, and immediately ran to catch the last bus into the park and see the falls before dark. They are, literally, the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. It is basically at least a mile long worth of river cascading in tons of beautiful waterfalls. when you take the walk along the side, every view is more breathtaking than the last. Today we crossed the border into argentina to see their park. basically Brazil has the more panoramic view, and argentina gives you the opportunity to see the falls from up close. and I mean close. I now know what it is like to stand at the foot of a massive waterfall and feel the power of it all bearing down on you. Literally the moment we left a tropical rain storm began. I´d never seen rain drops so large! As long as the weather clears up, tomorrow we´ll go on a boat ride, wet rapelling, and on a zipline, and maybe see the aiary.

I am loving Brazil, but also feeling very ready to get back to school. This last week will be a whirlwind! On Saturday we´re heading to ouro preto, then monday night back to sao paulo, then wednesday back home to LA, then saturday back home to walla walla. It´s going to feel so good to collapse into my bed at school...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

sao paulo in the rain smells like portland in the rain

a mix of green and pavement and water molecules hanging suspended in the air. in the winter it falls lightly, gently and slowly smothering the city, for days without stop. it reminds me of the northwest. this city confuses me. it seems to familiar - like new york with more green, like vancouver with more poverty.

I had a realization that if I were raised in Brazil, the US would feel as distant to me as Brazil does now, because neither of my parents were raised there. it tells you how constructed and experiental (is that the right word?) nationality and identity are. I would be south american completely. not that brazil is like anywhere else in south america...

we´re going out for pizza in a few minutes with lots of family. my dad likes to joke that the brazilians steal bits of cultural identity from everywhere else in the world and improve upon it. so far this has proven true. we´ll see how they do with pizza.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

the most beautiful city in the world

I call this my "travel blog," although I normally use it to document more symbolic travels. Well, now I get to use it in the literal sense. I am in Rio!

My parents and I landed in Sao Paulo on Sunday night after a full 22 hours of travel, including a very surreal 5 hour layover in Miami. We found a hotel in the airport and rode the elevator to the top floor to have breakfast at 7 am est, and then slept of their wicker chairs. Once we arrived, my dad's cousin Tavino surprised us at the airport and swept us off to Tia Junia's house. She lives in a very large almost-mansion in some neighborhood in Sao Paulo. Turns out a lot of my family here is rich. Her husband, who passed away, was a famous civil engineer, who I guess designed the whole subway system for the city. I can't say much else about it because I barely had time to get an impression of the city before we left for Rio the next morning. Truthfully, the city's biggest impression on my was physical, in my lungs. I had to buy an inhaler yesterday for all the chest pains it left me with after one night. People who claim LA is polluted do not know the meaning of dirty air. My dad told me that all of his childhood he had asthma - now I know why.

Since we landed in Rio, I have been enchanted, non-stop. I cannot describe this city and do it justice. First of all, the lagos and inlets of the bay curve around and around, so there is waterfront literally everywhere. Brazilian culture permeates, but there is something European lingering also. And EVERYWHERE is beauty. My family described it to me as maybe a subtle reflection of the surroundings. Seriously, when you see the views this cuty has day in and day out, when you hear the birds and smell the clorophyll, you feel instantly inspired to live life the fullest. The food - oh lord. Brazilians know how to cook and they do not settle for halfway decent. We went to a sushi bar, and they have created this way of eating sushi in a cone shape that was some of the best sushi I've ever eaten. I ate the best pizza of my life at a bodega-style outdoor restaurant at night with a view of an entire lagoon, with a guy playing slow samba music on his classical guitar. It's the stuff of fairytales, but very common in Rio. The alcohol is the strongest I've ever tasted. it's the kind of stuff college students chug down to get drunk fast and not have to taste it. Caiparinas are basically a national drink made from cacasa, which is a liquor made from sugar. Sounds like it would be sweet and easy, right? Ha.

We are staying now with Lucia, who is another of my dad's cousins, in her - get this - penthouse apartment, which is the top two floors of a building. Behind it is a giant rock. seriously. also, a tree is growing out of it, which is pretty cool. It is two stories tall and when we went up to the second floor on our tour, it turned out she wasn't kidding when she said it was a party floor with a pool and a sauna. There is also a magnificent view of the lagoon and of cristo el redentor. she also has a live-in maid. The aunt we are staying with in sao paulo also has a maid and a driver. Brazil is a very divided country among class lines, so it is common here for the wealthier families to have full time help.

well I am just overflowing with information! I have tons more I could write about, and I'll probably get to it eventually, but I need to go get ready. We are having a lot of family over tonight for a dinner/party/get-together.