Brasil – Rio de Janeiro Aeroporto

Segunda-Feira 18 Março 2008

The ride from Buzios to Rio de Janeiro airport is just as easy due to Mario’s excellent driving.

After an hour on highway BR-101, we come upon the Rio harbor and can see the now-familiar landmarks of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) and, Corcovado mountain on which Christ the Redeemer stands. Mario negotiates his SUV into the traffic of Rio with seeming ease. Five lanes choke down to three for no apparent reason as if we had just left a toll collection booth. He doesn’t break a sweat.

A ship’s horn blasts in the distance.

“Excuse me,” I say. “Must’ve been the feijoada.”
Mario and Mary laugh. Mario speaks only Portuguese. I guess fart jokes are universal.

Rio de Janeiro Aeroporto (GIG)

Getting our boarding passes at GIG proves to be a breeze. We sat at an airport café and ate one of the tastier–if not strange–burgers we’ve ever had. In addition to the all-beef patty, lettuce, pickles and tomato, there is cheese, bacon and egg. And beber (to drink)? Mary drank a guarana and I had an espresso com creme. We looked out at Sugar Loaf and just smiled.

Mary wanted to pick up a book at the airport. She’d read the book she brought with her (The Princess of Burundi), plus four she found where we stayed: Murder at the Margin: A Henry Spearman Mystery, The Investigation, Fashionably Late, and Citizen Girl. She found a Michael Connelly book in paperback at a small loja and tossed it on the counter. It rang up at 50 Reais (about $30). We got Veja (Portuguese for “See It”) instead.

We went through Rio Airport’s security with a slight hiccup. The screener mistook my thumbdrive for a penknife. Once on the other side of security we found ourselves in a cramped terminal. There seem to be about thirty chairs for three-hundred seats. We share our claustrophobic conditions with passengers waiting to board ah hour’s delayed Air France flight.

I know that we Americans take heat about our fashion sense abroad. But…what are some people thinking? She’s in line for the Air France flight.

The American Airlines plane flight is long (eight hours plus a thirty minute delay waiting for clearance), boring, food unremarkable, uneventful. It’s perfect. I slept off and on throughout. I’m surprised by how quickly my fellow passengers spring out of their seats to clog the aisles. I know how they feel, you just want to stand up and be moving. Many have connecting flights that they are now late for. My stiff legs and sluggish brain can’t compete.

Next to me, a criança (little girl) threw up into an airsickness bag. Mary and I pulled the bags from our seat pockets and hand them to the girl’s mother. The little one upchucked again before we could get them in the mom’s hands.

The plane emptied slower than, well, a plane full of logy passengers.

We girded ourselves for the real communications problemsUS customs and the officious and bureaucratically Anglo-centric Transportation Security Administration–after a red-eye flight to Miami.

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Brasil – Búzios Tchau

Segunda-Feira 17 Março 2008

We are ready to go. Packing took very little time. We decided that everything would need to be washed when we got home. Those items we had washed two days ago are still wet. Humidity is high here.

At around 11:30 AM, we were enjoying one last cup of cha on the porch overlooking the water, trying to burn the scene into our permanent memory. Rosa, one of the condo complex caretakers, walked up to the top of the hill to the condo where we are staying. She speaks no English. We speak halting Portuguese and recognize only ten percent of the words when someone speaks to us. I wish I could turn on the captions. If I could read what is said as well as hear it my comprehension rises slightly. Out of the cloud of sentences, we are able only to understand the words cinco minutos (five minutes).

Mario indeed arrived five minutes late just as Rosa explained.

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Brasil – Búzios Palm Sunday

Domingo (Palm Sunday)16 Março 2008 Búzios

We hoofed into Búzios centro twice (mind you I had few complaints).

On the first trip our plan was to use an ATM, get some folding cash, a cafezinho, and wander about a bit. The first couple ATMs could not would not read our card (not on a train, not on a plane). As we considered our options, a guy slightly older than me asked if we were having trouble having our card read. The British accent gave away the fact that he wasn’t from around these parts.

“There’s a Bradesco Bank just down the road on the left,” he said. “I’m going there myself.” He had lived in the US for twenty-four years and had been now in Brazil for nearly three. He was traveling with friends and headed over to their black Land Rover.
We hiked down the street and held the door open for the man, who had arrived at the same time we did. Inside, none of the machines we tried read our cards. Not his. Not ours. One can only surmise that some sort of problem existed in accessing accounts outside Brasil at that moment. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that JP Morgan just bought Bear-Stearns and the economy is melting.

Whatever the reason, that reduced our options to the cambio, which also meant walking back to the condo to retrieve traveler’s checks and passport. At $R1.51 to the dollar, the exchange rate was not ideal. But we had them for times when the ATM didn’t work, so it was what it was.

Reais in hand, we went off in search of (lunch).

It’s difficult to find bad food in Brazil. Lunch in Búzios is a treat. The least expensive meals are found on the praia (beach) where food vendors abound; the most expensive overlook the waterfront. We chose Boom again. We had the system down (grab plate, fill plate, weigh plate, receive coaster with bar coded price, find seat) and the food tastes great.

After lunch, we went in search of açai (pronounced ah-sa-ee) and found it listed on a menu in a narrow open-aired cafe. Brazil has many frutas e legumes that have no other names except what they have in Brazil. Incredible tastes. Açai came in 150 ml to 750 ml cups and had a list of what we suspected were toppings: mel (honey) and banana (with different possibilities for said banana listed in Portuguese that our dictionary didn’t explain). I ordered a 200 ml cup with banana and mel.

The counter-moça took my name and we passed the time talking with a university student from Israel until she picked up her order and said goodbye. Açai looks like a motor-oil Slurpee or blended coffee drink. It’s a dark purple almost black, very sweet, and can induce a whopping brain-freeze if you consume it too quickly. Mary and I found 200 ml was plenty. The cup of sliced banana on the side helps cut the sweetness and the cold.

That left one last i
tem on our to do list: down Brazil’s famous drink, the caipirinha.

About an hour before sunset, we walked down the rua to a restaurant overlooking the praia. The first, O Pescador (The Fisherman) was playing loud music, as it had every day we passed. At no time did they ever play anything that we would say; “now that sounds nice.”

We saw dolphins swimming offshore, and we saw everyone run to the water’s edge with their cameras, trying to capture it.

We picked the place next to O Pesky and sat down at a table and ordered uma caipirinha and uma agua com gaz (sparkling water). A caipirinha is something of the national drink. It is made from cachaça (distilled sugar cane, the Brazilians do not call it rum) and who knows what else. It tasted something like a margarita. One goes a long way. They do heft a wallop.

We watched the beach close down for the day as we sipped–the umbrellas and chairs taken down and folded up for the night as each party left. The sun was setting as the bar staff started to tip the empty chairs against the tables, and our waiter brought our bill and apologized for having to close. We had thought the bar scene would be open all night, so we were glad we hadn’t put off our caipirinha any longer than we had. Another hour and it would have been too late.

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