Our diplomatic briefing was fascinating, we met a women who was not quite an FSO officer in traditional means. She told us that she had been living in brazil for over 3 decades, after falling in love with her husband while studying abroad from Cal Tech in the late 70s. She was a consulate officer. After diplomatic briefing was over Dr. White, Academic Dean, asked me to be the SAS ambassador to the FSO because she had been on several voyages before and usually a group of students who were apart of an Ambassadors Club would engage her after briefing. I was proud to have been chosen, probably because my sheer love for Diplomatic Briefings. While speaking with her my friends accompanied and we learned so much about what it takes to live in South America and to become integrated into the Brazilian society.
After the ship had been cleared we walked into our port Salvador (Bahia), we were met with a gang of drummers who reminded me deeply of the soul and rhythm of Morehouse or any good HBCU band. After dancing a bit, the Zimmermans led the diversity club to the area where slaves were brought from Ghana and sorted before they were sent out into the slave trade. Unfortunately the area was closed that particular day but we did see the stairwell that led to the area, also the place where they were sold to Portuguese in Salvador.
A group of us then travelled around Salvador, we arrived in the new area of the city that lay at the bottom of a big hill, then there was an elevator that took you to the top of the hill and there was the old city of Bahia. The old city was beautiful we looked for somewhere to eat. Although Brazilians speak portugese, Amiras spanish worked well in navigating us anywhere we needed to go, as my french had proved effective in benin and Mauritius and Chinese in Shanghai.
We ate and by then we had to take a cab to the airport for our flight to Rio De Janeiro. The way airlines work in Brazil is peculiar. Every flight is a conector flight for example our flight flew from Salvador to Brasilia to Vitoria to Rio. If that was't stressful enough Brazilians don't understand the concept of assigned seating based on the seat assignment on YOUR TICKET !
Neverthless 2 stops and 6 hours later we were in Rio. The hotel we stayed at was The Tulip Inn off Copacabana. When we looked out the window we saw all beach and in the distance the sugar loaf mountains.
From all the traveling we napped and when we awoke it was time for dinner. That night was a fantastic meal I had fried Crayfish and Amria got a Arugala Salad and we shared a fresh fruit plate. The fruit in Brazil was amazing as was all the seafood.
The next morning we walked around looking for things to do, the concierge was supposed to find us volunteer work but a language barrier found us empty handed in the AM. After a great breakfast we found ourselves at a travel agency trying to find places of interest, the forest was closed but we decided to take the public bus to the foot of Sugarloaf mountain.
We then set out through the streets of Rio to find the bus, we got onto the bus and met a bunch of Brasilians who at toted similar bags and had similar shirts. With terribly broken Spanish I tried to communicate with the portugese speakers. What Amira, from the back of the bus, and me from the middle came to learn was that they were celebrating 50 years of Herbal Life, the all natural company they sold products for. They were very friendly, they gave us a couple free products and gave us their contact business cards in case we wanted to start selling it too. Very Mary-Kayesqe.
We waited for the cable car and for the first time in a very longtime I spotted a water fountain. The heat made me so thirsty. Its really funny, the things we take for granted, I hadn’t seen a water fountain in months, let alone drink from one.
We got on the cable car and looked upon the splendor of Rio. We got to the top of Sugarloaf and saw a large group of SASers. We went to the rail and saw the beautiful landscape. I looked over and saw a helipad. A tour guide approached us and asked if we were interested in a helicopter ride, Amira didn’t want to spend the money. A French couple had planned on a helicopter ride but the rest of their group had cancelled, so the tour guide offered us a discounted price. I started speaking French with them and after about 20 minutes of persuading Amira, we split a helicopter ride with a French couple. We came to find out they had a daughter who goes to school in Idaho, who was thinking about doing Semester at Sea. The helicopter ride was amazing we flew up to The Redeemer and above and along the beach. The whole ride was about 15 minutes but we had the absolute best view of Rio de Janeiro. After the ride we walked around atop Sugarloaf, we saw monkeys, other SASers and we met a friend named Diego.
At this point we were very hungry so we decided to find somewhere to eat. We hailed a cab and the driver found us an amazing restaurant on the complete other side of town. He end up bringing us to a large stadium that had been converted into a outdoor market. We ate at a great place called Jerimum. It was a buffet, we had no idea what anything was, no one spoke English, so adventure we did. Everything was delicious and we were introduced to a Braziliam beverage called Guarana. After Jerimum we shopped for about two hours and returned to hotel for a nap.
We’d seen my friend Corey that day and met ith him at his hotel, he and his SAS group were going to a soccer game and we made plans with him for all of us to meet up and hit the samba club after dinner.
According to Amiras research we had to visit a seafood restaurant called Marius. Apparently it was 5 star, we went for dinner and I loved it.
When you are seated they ask if you prefer the meat track or the seafood track. Naturally, I chose the seafood. Every 10 minutes the waiter comes to your table with a new dish shrimp, prawns, crayfish, crab legs, octopus, squid, salmon etc. Everything you could ever imagine. Amira ordered meat, they brought her steak, ribs, lamb etc. While we waited for the food to be prepared the buffet had all kinds of gourmet vegetables, oysters, caviar, salad and fruits. Our plates were a medley of deliciousness. As we got dessert I noticed a brother in the corner with a red polo on, as he passed us on the way out I called him over and we talked briefly and BY GEORGE (Waymond Caine) he was also a Nupe. He was from North Carolina and down in Brasil on holidays.
After dinner we went to Scenarium, ranked #1 club in South America for Samba. The club had 3 levels and was a invigorating mixture of the rich history of Rio fused with a night club atmosphere comprised of a 30+ crowd. Ironically enough, we danced but we found ourself more tired than the older crowd. We sat and watched as near middle aged brazilian intimately danced with one another and exchange arousing banter and touching.
The next day we walked along Copacabana beach. We spent the afternoon just relaxing and watching professional sand sculptors. Our flight to Sao Paulo was later that night so we decided to see as much of RIo as we could before it was time to go. So we decided to head east and eventually found a couple of museums. The first was a botanical guardian which was very beautiful, we saw different grasses and flowers. The we decided to find the Rio museum of modern art. A 20 minute cab right brought us to one of the most amazing art museums I'd visited.
The first exhibition we saw was the work of Claudio Capri. Capri is a famed photographer who's work was largely shots of celebrities. Very artistic and simple. The museum was full of complex art such as a piece called "os raimundos, os severinos e os franciscos". It addressed immigration, social territory and depth. These were my two favorite parts of the exhibition. When we left the museum I felt eery creative and started snapping shots of the lily garden in front of the museum and aound the trees and the empty downtown of Rio (because of a holiday). We decided to take the subway a little further. We dilly dallied around Rio, had lunch at a place called Itahys then headed back to the Tulip Inn and then to the Airport. When we got to the airport we waited about 2 hours to board the plane then we realized the plane would be making 2 stops one in Sao Paolo State (Countryside) and in Sao Paulo (The City) where our hotel was. We neglected to get off at the correct connection and ended up finding ourselves in the airport that was about 1.5 hours away from where we needed to be, It was Amiras fault.
100 Rais and 1.5hrs later we were at our hotel. It was really nice and about 3AM. Thankfully Ashtin was on Skype and we wre able to plan our visit. I was geeeeeked!! So excited to see Ashtin. The next morning Amira and I had breakfast at a eery interesting store, half of it was a convience store the other half was a diner, I had an egg bagel and we split a bowl of fresh fruit. We continued around our area of Sao Paulo as I giddily awaited the decided time we'd meet Ashtin. The time had come. We scurried to the meeting spot, above the subway stop across from the Sao Paulo Mall. except I had no idea where I was going. I guess the time while I was excited I could have procured directions. Nevertheless, I finally got there. I went down the stairs and there stood my buddy Ash. She told us about the ups and downs of living in Sao Paulo and we exchanged study abroad stories. That day we had a blast. We had chocolate strawberries on a stick in the mall, shopped around, I found a great Tshirt shop and met a beautiful brazilian girl who sold me a "Lucy in the Sky wit Diamonds Shirt". We went to a museum <
We were very hungry from all the excitement. Ashtin led us on a long search for a restaurant. We eventually found a comparable place Esquanao Grille. We ate our fill of various beef shoulders, chicken hearts, venison, Ox, quail eggs and salad. We left with magnificent cups of brazilian coffee and then called it quits for a couple of hours. Ashtin came back to the hotel with us, I slept and they got ready for our night out. I donned some white linen pants and a polo shirt with the number 7 on he breast pocket. I was sharp!
We then went to Ashtins host family's home where she finished dressing and we were off to the Samba club. What i learned that night is that Brasil is very racist, contingent on skin tone and facial features. We encountered problems getting into the samba club and getting a table from another group. Not even our brash American ways bullied us into getting what we wanted. But, with after a couple great drinks and exchanging laughs and memories of the fall semester with my buddy and after meeting her hard nosed but lovely friend Michelle from brooklyn. We all sambaed. Actually i did my own version of the samba, a mix between the Detroit step and ballroom dancing, still the ladies had their eyes on me. So here I am, in the middle of the dancefloor dancing with beautiful women, in the largest city in Brasil, in arguably the most beautiful country in South America and it hit me…This is my life.
We had to leave about an hour later and catch a flight back to Salvador Bahia. I said my goodbyes and it was off to the airport. The plane ride was bittersweet for I knew that this was the last day in our last country! We arrived back in Salvador, Bahia at about 10AM, went back to the ship and took naps. We got up and ate at a restaurant overlooking the bay of bah, eating prawns and shrimp and some cornmeal type deal, which was really good.
An hour later Amira, Abbie and I walked around Salvador seeing the sites, meeting people and even encountered a very rude cab driver. We fellowshipped with brasilians and got some ice cream.
Before long On ship time was upon us and that was our last country before retuning to the USA.