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September,19 2010

Brazil: My Favourite Country

Brazil: My Favourite Country

There are many things I am learning about Brazil, this being my third visit, especially now that I am in a relationship with a beautiful Brazilian. Brazilians like meat. Brazilians like the beach. Brazilians like bending the rules so much that they eventually snap back and become rules again. Brazilians like football. Brazilians like drinking caprinhas and exceptionally cold beer. Brazilians can spot each other in a crowd of Latin Americans. And Brazilians like where their country is heading, because they are proud, so very proud, of the country and culture. This is the story about my month escaping the northern hemisphere winter blues for the second year in a row in Brazil.

I arrive in Rio de Janeiro and the heat, Oh My Godfrey! So hot, and sticky, my sweat is sweating, and it's early  in the morning. Early morning, groggy jetlagged, I watch an old lady in the apartment block opposite the street pray to the glow of the sunrise. That's why I love Brazil. You can catch moments of humanity at all hours of the day. Downstairs are the fruit juice stores, freshly squeezing a bunch of tropical fruits you won?t find anywhere else, for the price of bottled tap water back home. Cold, freshly squeezed watermelon should start every day. There's an adjustment period to consider when travelling from cold, timid Canada to hot, rowdy Brazil. Everything just seems too crazy, at first. How do people drive like this? How is it possible to sit on a beach when the sun could fry an egg on your head? How is that girl keeping her breasts from exploding out of that thread of a bikini? One thing for sure: Brazil is BOOMING! Much has been written about the importance of the BRIC economies for the future. Brazil, Russia, India China. China is where everything is made, India is where everything will be serviced, Russia is where everything will be owned by the same three people, and Brazil is where everything will be bought. BOOMING!

The air-conditioned malls of the satellite city of Barra (pronounced Ba-ha) are jammed, and prices ain't cheap. New, compact cars are everywhere, darting between each other, and the occasional brave pedestrian. Benefitting from its massive natural resources, 192 million inhabitants, and a welcome stretch of political stability, Brazil has finally awakened. By the end of this decade, I expect the entire planet is going to feel its morning stretches. China will give the world its product, India its market and Russia its power, but Brazil will unleash its culture. And trust me, we all need a little bit of green, blue and gold to break the damp, gray fraidy-cat, over hyped, paranoid media mess that has become North America's cultural legacy. In Brazil, people dance in the streets! In Brazil, people sleep late and drink early! In Brazil, people sing and screw and celebrate! They just don't cut down the tree because there's a chance a bad apple might grow on it (a favourite pastime in Canada). Their tree is fertilized by passion and violence and beauty and laughter. Who wouldn't want a bite out of that?

Rio has a population of 12 million people, but Rio, as Cariocas keep reminding me, is not Brazil. It is its own microcosm, just as Sao Paulo and Salvador and Florianopolis are theirs. I finally make it up Sugar Loaf Mountain, get a photo of Christ the Redeemer against a blue-ish sky. In the weeks before Carnaval, everything is seriously busy. But it does not feel like a tourist invasion, so much as an infusion of foreign culture. On Ipanema Beach, we sit on rented chairs, drink ice-cold beers, suck coconut water through a straw. It costs about $10 to rent chairs and an umbrella, and you simply run a tab of beers, caprinhas, or freshly squeezed juice. How civilized! The contrast between Vancouver, where cops patrol beaches in search of beer cans, is stark. The beach feels like a community, and people take responsibility for themselves. Drink too much, someone will advise you it's not a good time to swim. In Vancouver, they don?t give you the option, just in case. Shwick! Another tree down. Thought I smelled a bad apple there son, move along! In a city so widely delegated for its crime, how come these things even work in Rio? No deposits, no forms, no waivers. I'll pay when I leave, and I do. In Vancouver, you'd have to get a preauthorized credit check before anyone would rent you a beach umbrella.

Just another reason why Brazil is my favourite country to travel!

More of Robin's foray into Brazil coming soon! Robin Esrock is a travel writer and presenter for travel TV show. You can read more of Robin?s take on the world at his website: www.moderngonzo.com. He is a good friend of www.greentoadbus.com, which will take you backpacking to Brazil.

 

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