Archive | April, 2013

Argentina

28 Apr
No, I'm not smoking anything, it's tea you uncultured ruffians

No, I’m not smoking anything, it’s tea you uncultured ruffians

The meal

The meal

the accompianament to the meat

the accompianament to the meat

Flavia's mother and brother made a barbecue for me.

Flavia’s mother and brother made a barbecue for me.

So, last time i went to Argentina, was like 8 years ago.  Turns out that sometime in the last 8 years, they added a reciprocal fee you have to pay to enter the country for Americans, Australians and Canadians, since we charge them to enter our country.  I found this out when I was trying to check in for my flight in Cuzco, the lady would only check me into Lima, and not the whole way to Buenos Aires until I had the receipt.  So I go to the upstairs cyber cafe at the airport, shut down.  I leave the airport, go across the street to try another cyber cafe, but its not open yet.  I find one that is open, but the maze of finding the page i need to pay the fee is really complicated, and I give up because I can’t find a way to create an account, just to log-on.  I go upstairs in the airport and use my iphone on the wi-fi from a coffee shop.  But the form isn’t working on the phone, so i have to take the flight to Lima without having paid the fee.  I get to Lima, and because my backpack had to be checked, I can’t go upstairs to a cyber cafe or find wi-fi because they wont let me back into the baggage area once i leave.  I finally get my bag, run upstairs, connect my laptop to the plug-in at starbucks, connect to their wi-fi pay, pay the fee and run down to check in.  Check in is already closed for the flight, but they let me wait in line for special services.  By the time I get to the counter, there is no way to make the flight.  I show them the receipt on my iphone, and they put me on a flight at 11pm.  I would like to say i used it as an opportunity to see Lima, and explore a new city.  However, I was a little run down from the escapades in this trip already and my 3 year old guide book said they were revamping transportation and it would be totally different by 2011.  So, unsure of being able to get where i wanted to go, and be sure to get back on time, I just stayed at the airport.  However I have to give the foreign airlines a shout out, any domestic airline tends to try and get every spare nickel they can from you, this airline didn’t charge me a fee for missing my flight, instead they upgraded me to business class for the rest of the trip (to Buenos Aires and to Rio de Janiero).  Even on the first leg of that trip, from Cuzco to Lima, they gave us a snack.  So, the lesson is if you get a choice between an American based company and a foreign airline, go with the foreign.  I’m going to get off track on an airlines service rant here, skip ahead if you prefer.  Once I was flying to Brazil to move there for a specific period, and the airlines were dead set on charging everyone for over-weight bags.  However Brazilian law makes the airlines accept bags of up to 70 pounds without charging extra.  When I was checking in, the lady at the counter had obviously been given a pep talk about how baggage fees will save jobs, because she wanted to charge me for the bag being overweight.  I told her that going to Brazil the bags can weigh 70 lbs.  She disagreed, and called her supervisor over to find out which two countries it was that allowed extra weight, she was pretty sure they were Asian countries.  Her supervisor didn’t know, but tried to convince me to just pay the fee and hurry up the line, while she checked into it.  When she finally looked up the regulation was her response: a) oh, I am sorry, you were correct and we should have checked the regulations before arguing with you.  b) There is no bag fee, unfortunately we were confused.  or c) not say anything, simply take the bag and put the paper identity thing and load it on the treadmill.  I think it’s pretty obvious to those who fly often, the answer is c.

Anyhow, once I got to Buenos Aires, my cinnamon skinned lady friend surprised me by picking me up at the airport.  I got to meet her mother also.  Since the flight got in at like 6, and they live 2 hours away from the airport they had got up before 4 to drive to pick me up.  Driving back through the city i found out that Buenos Aires looks more like Chicago or Boston or a European city than any Latin city I have ever been to.  The traffic, the buildings, the types of cars on the road, the lack of street vendors, everything combined made it possible to think you were in a large American or European city.  In Rio, you never forget that you are in Brazil.  So, when I got to her house, her mother and brother made a barbecue for us.  This was really nice, and we had a lot of fun.  After the barbecue some of the family friends were at the house.  While we were talking I asked her mother if she heard how we met, her mother said she had heard but wanted my version.  I told her I was at church reading the Bible, and she asked me a question about a Bible verse.  Her mother said she had saw the picture of us meeting on the beach, and wanted to see me in the speedo i wore that day.  i told her i didn’t have that speedo with me, but i had a different one, and we laughed.  Flavia (my cinnamon skinned lady friend) told me it was time to go a little later, and i said i couldn’t leave yet, her mom wanted to get a picture of me in a speedo first.  Dog gone if that didn’t make the table start chanting “Pho-to!”  What can I say, i’m a crowd pleaser.  The group went crazy, and oddly enough Flavia thought it was funny.

now the normal pic

now the normal pic

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hope she was just trying to obscure the view

hope she was just trying to obscure the view

Flavia, me, Flavia's mom, her little sister, family friend.

Flavia, me, Flavia’s mom, her little sister, family friend.

So, unfortunately I got a bad allergy infection, and lost a day of sight seeing to it.  However in Argentina you can get anti-biotics at the pharmacy.  So, I got medicated up and was able to see the sights with Flavia my last day.

Flavia in the downtown

Flavia in the downtown

we went to a tango show

we went to a tango show

doesn't look anything like a typical Latin city

doesn’t look anything like a typical Latin city

this might be the best ive ever looked in a foto of me dancing

this might be the best ive ever looked in a foto of me dancing

In Rio this would be impossible, the bus would be too herky jerky to be able tp enjoy the sites and listen to the commentary

In Rio this would be impossible, the bus would be too herky jerky to be able tp enjoy the sites and listen to the commentary

the flower opens in the sunlight, on non sunny days it stays closed

the flower opens in the sunlight, on non sunny days it stays closed

Planetarium

World´s Most Cultured Hillbilly part 2

26 Apr
me on the zip line

me on the zip line

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the key to this kind of picture is wearing a diaper so people can't tell how nervous you are on to of this rock jutting out over a cliff

the key to this kind of picture is wearing a diaper so people can’t tell how nervous you are on to of this rock jutting out over a cliff

the Inca bridge, closed down since a tourist fell to his death

the Inca bridge, closed down since a tourist fell to his death

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pretty sweet overlook

pretty sweet overlook

that's me in the corner

that’s me in the corner

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the mountain peak i didnt get to go to

the mountain peak i didnt get to go to

the peak behind the city i didnt get to hike

the peak behind the city i didnt get to hike

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hiking shoes, well atleast the ones i used to hike in...as you can see they are a little worn....most of the trad i had pulled off before.

hiking shoes, well atleast the ones i used to hike in…as you can see they are a little worn….most of the trad i had pulled off before.

Alright Valdosta State drop-outs and assorted poachers what read this blog.  When i last left you i was telling about how i totally mixed up the best way to get to Machu Picchu.  There are only 3 ways to get to Machu Picchu 1. Hire a tour guide and hike the Inca trail.-this was out of the questions because you have to make reservations 6 months in advance, and pay about $500 or more  2. Do a jungle trek-cool option that has you hiking, but staying in hostels instead of camping, and doing other exciting things like zip-lines, hot-springs, and mountain biking.  -again couldn´t do it because after i gave up on the Inca Trail i didn´t check out the other possibilities from tour operators, and i only booked my flight for 3 days in Peru.  Option 3- take a bus to Santa Maria, then a collective Taxi to Santa Teresa, a taxi from Santa Teresa to the hydroelectric dam, hike 3 hours from the hydroelectric dam to Aguas Calientes.

So I make it to Santa Teresa, read the guidebook again, find out that instead of being the place where the mountain biking starts, its where it ends.   All is not lost, because they end at this town because it has a sweet hot springs and a truly awesome zip line course.  Turns out there are now 2 zip line courses in town, since the guide-book is 3 years old.  The new one has an office right in town, is cheaper and according to them is better.  However, i wanted to go with the one i knew was recommended.  So I walk for about a half hour, arrive at the place, and the price has gone up nearly double.  But I negotiate with them, and get it down to $50, and get put into a group that is there with their jungle trek.    The weird thing was this group was chock full of hot girls.  I mean out of 10 or so people the only other guy was a married guy, and these girls were your typical hostel tree hugging crowd, they were more like the sorority circuit.  Anyhow the safety speech was basically don´t put your hand in front of the pulley no matter what. (people have gotten their fingers cut-off by the pulley you can see videos on youtube)  A cool bonus was their helmets were designed to have tabs for the helmet cam strap of a go-pro video camera, so i have some video from a helmet cam.  Anyhow the first go, you go with your hands over top the pulley, and if the instructor at the other signals to slow down you grab the cable behind the pulley (huge leather protective thing on strong hand, leather work glove on the other).

This isn´t your typical canopy zip-line where you go between the trees at 30-50 ft, this is going over ravines of 180- meters.  Anyhow, the second go you can go no hands and spin.  The instructor tells me to go no hands, so i do….i didn´t lose any fingers, but trying to grab the cable while your spinning and making sure you are grabbing behind the pulley was a little difficult for the coordinationally challenged….i burnt my fingertips trying to grab with the protective thing, and then slowed down enough using the gloved hand to be ok….no real damage, didnt even get any cuts or burns…

The next ride you could go monkey style, that is upside down with your feet up by the pulley.  Again since i joined the group late, i guess they might have gotten a longer safety speech.  I had noticed most people bail on the monkey thing about half-way, but i´m not really a half-way kind of guy.  If i were i would drink instead of doing heroin.  So, as i´m upside down, it occurs to me, hey what if the instructor is signalling to slow down.  So i look, and he is, but i have to get right side up, and stop spinning around long enough to grab the line behind the pulley.  i get right side up, but and spinning around and can´t slow down.  They have a little buoy thing they put out on the line that slows you down a few feet before the platform.  I bounce off that, and back towards where i came from.  i have to turn around and hand walk the pulley against the grain to the platform like they show you to do in the case of you getting stuck.

The rest of the zip line was fun, got to do a superman with a guide behind holding our legs(was paired with one of the girls).  And overall was a fun time.

Afterwards i walked to the hotsprings, which wasnt far away.  However, by going there and spending so much time, i wound up putting myself in the situation that I could either try and hike to Aguas Calientes (the town where Machu Picchu can be visited from) at night, or wind up spending most of the morning hiking.  Since it wouldnt be safe to hike it alone at night, i waited for the morning.  I had all my stuff with me, because i bought my ticket on the train for the way back to Cuzco, since i wasn’t sure how late the bus rides from Santa Teresa would go.  Hiking there was pretty nice, you hike along a railway track.  I got to Aguas Calientes and found a hostel where i paid some money to leave my stuff, and headed to Machu Picchu.  Since I had hiked starting at 6 am, by the time i arrived, I missed out on my ticket to hike the peak behind the city.  Overall, it was an amazing experience.  So, if you like to plan things out, pick either the Inca Trail, or the Jungle Trek option with a tour guide.  If you really want to do it without a tour guide, take a bus to Santa Teresa, then hike to Aguas Calientes during the daylight so you can sleep in Aguas Calientes and see the sunrise at Machu Picchu.

World’s Most Cultured Hillbilly part 1

16 Apr
it was cold, and i had stowed my jacket, so i pulled out the dress shirt i brought for salsa

it was cold, and i had stowed my jacket, so i pulled out the dress shirt i brought for salsa

 

these mountain towns reminded me of Salcoatitan and La Palma in El Salvador.

these mountain towns reminded me of Salcoatitan and La Palma in El Salvador.

On the bus ride to Santa Marta

On the bus ride to Santa Marta

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see the blocks weighing down the tin roof

see the blocks weighing down the tin roof

Walking to the zip line course, these kids wanted me to take their picture and let them see it.

Walking to the zip line course, these kids wanted me to take their picture and let them see it.

on the zip line course

on the zip line course

Alright you assorted carpetbaggers and scalawags.  I realize bragging about where i have been blessed to go is tacky, but i figure you all need some sort of inspiration to leave your computer desk and have a real adventure.  So, a few weeks ago i planned a trip to Machu Picchu, with a stop-over in Buenos Aires on the way back.  By plan, i mean i looked online for cheap tickets.  I had been looking for a cheap flight to Machu Picchu, and i wanted to visit my cinnamon skinned friend in Buenos Aires.  The trip to Argentina alone was going to be too expensive, and then i searched a 3 way flight with stop-over in Buenos Aires, and it turned out to be the same cost as a trip to Machu Picchu by itself, or less than the cost of a trip to Argentina by itself.

I had tried to look up treks on the Inca Trail, but you have to plan that ahead like 6 months, and it costs like 500 bucks.  So i told myself i would research it in the time before my trip.  So, as i’m waiting to switch planes in Lima, i go to a bookstore and buy a Lonely Planet guide to Peru.  Turns out it is the 2010 edition, so a lot of the info was outdated, prices higher, etc.   So i land in Cuzco, and collect a few offers from different tour operators, but none have what i am looking for a shortened version of the 4 day adventure/jungle trek that the book talked about.  I decide i will go to the city the book talks about having hot springs that people mountain bike to.  This might be a good time to mention my travelers dyslexia.  See, i often get details mixed up with regard to travel.  It defies reason, one of the reasons for my terrible study habits is i would always just go to class, listen to the teacher and remember.  However with travel details, i get super confused.  I missed a flight i was four hours early for when i was coming back from Korea.  First, i figured i needed to leave the house two hours before the two hour check in time.  Somehow i got confused and left two hours before that, then because I was so early i went to my gate sat and read my book.  After reading for a few hours, i realized something was wrong, turns out i was waiting for the flight at my seat number not the gate number.  I also missed a flight and got stranded in Honduras, because i was looking at the flight time for my connecting flight in Chicago.  That was terrible.  Anyhow, my travel dyslexia started a little early on this trip, and i brought a big bag of clothes to store with my baggage at Marli’s house, (im couchsurfing at the moment and didnt want to clog up Diego’s apartment)  anyhow, i packed up my jacket and coat from the pedra da gavea trip and took it all the way to Sao Goncoalo to be with my other stuff.  Machu Picchu is in the mountains, and airplane flights get too cold for me in a t-shirt.  Realizing my mistake, I grabbed a bed sheet and stuffed it under my shoulder straps of my backpack.  Well, the other part of the travelers dyslexia was I took a bus to a small town that the mountain bike trips go to, not start from.

Anyhow before I put all the puzzle pieces together, I was on a bus.  When I got on, I was the only whitey, and this lady wanted her kids to practice their English with me.  So, i made friends with a 10 year old and a 6 year old.  We didn’t speak any English, the 10 year old could only get to g in the alphabet.  She claimed that was all she knew.  Anyhow, when we passed the town where the mountain bike starts, a whole bunch more people got on.  The bus was crowded and these gringos that got on were upset that they didn’t have a seat even though their ticket had a number.  Since it was all paper tickets, i’m sure the bus operator sold duplicates in different towns, not knowing the seats were already sold.  I’m about to take a picture of the woman in the aisle with the baby wrapped around in the traditional blanket/backpack method, when i realized “oh yeah she’s a woman with a baby standing” So i gave her my seat.  This bus ride was a real hillbilly affair, at one point the bus stopped, no announcement, and the family i had made friends with and several other people get off.  I know the family is on the bus to the end, so i don’t understand what is going on, then i see people headed for different bushes.  By the time i figure out that it was a restroom break, now the bus is started back up and no chance for me to get my relief.  A little later the bus stops, and the family i had made friends with tells me i have to get off, that i was in Santa Maria where I catch the bus for Santa Teresa.  I get off the bus, and get a ride with a collective taxi (an suv fitting like 8 of us) to Santa Teresa.

That night, I am finally able to print off the ticket to enter Machu Picchu.  The government limits the number of visitors to Machu Picchu to 2500 a day, and my Peruvian friend had told me i needed to buy my entry ticket before I went so I wouldn’t get stuck in Peru and not able to go.  Well, buying the ticket was complicated enough, Verified by Visa had a link that was a never-ending loop.  I finally (after calling verified by visa, and the help line for the internet site ) get the entry ticket not for saturday, because they sold out while i was messing around with the websites, but for Sunday.  However, when i went to the cyber cafe to actually print out the ticket, i couldn’t access the ticket, said it was invalid reservation number, but i had saved the image of the entry ticket to my laptop and in the little country town of Santa Teresa, i brought my laptop to a cyber cafe and printed it out.  That was a nice relief.  However, that must have been soaking up to much of my brain power because instead of planning to go to Auguas Calientes in the afternoon of Sat, i thought i would go at night after going to a zip line in the morning and the hot springs in the afternoon.  This plan would have been fine, except the only way from Santa Teresa to Aguas Calientes (the town where Machu Picchu begins) is taking a taxi to the hydroelectric dam, and walking a trail by the railroad tracks for 3 hours.  Obviously walking alone in the dark, in Latin America with all my stuff didn’t seem like a good idea.

Alright, i’m going to let you know about the zip line experience and trip to machu picchu in part 2.

Pedra da Gavea

9 Apr
In the misty morning fog....

In the misty morning fog….

 

barra

surfing the rock surfing the rock

daybreak

i’m such a pretty, pretty man

actually i was in between them most of the night....the good side was i didnt have a sleeping bag so being crunched in there atleast kept me warm

actually i was in between them most of the night….the good side was i didnt have a sleeping bag so being crunched in there atleast kept me warm

of course when it came down to where to lay, she moved to the outside and i got stuck cuddling with dudes

of course when it came down to where to lay, she moved to the outside and i got stuck cuddling with dudes

tent

The party crowd outside the party tent. Except it was mostly a sausage party…..

laid back

with my mind on my money and my money on my mind

sunrise

I’m no pro photographer, and i always use a point and shoot camera, but i think i have some pics that stack up against anyone’s.

 

Rio Walkers is a cool idea from a couple of couchsurfers who enjoy hiking.  They offer different hiking trips that range from free to the most expensive being 20 bucks.  They told me about this trip a while ago, and I was super excited to do it.  On Easter weekend, we were going to hike to Pedra da Gavea, a difficult hike with some climbing parts to it.  We were going to see the sunset and then camp on top of the rock, and watch the sunrise in the morning.

If you read the last post, you know that I had a housing crisis the weekend before.  Also, since Easter was at the end of the month, I was a little worried about how everything would shake out as far as having to move my stuff before the weekend.  I decided to not worry about it, but i had another problem.  I was getting car-sick and feeling nauseus often.  I had this experience when traveling in the Philippines, and the doctor there told me not to skip meals.  So i was trying to avoid fried, greasy or cheesy food and eat more regular.  The last time i had been to the doctor in Brazil was like 8 years ago, and i had a friend to help me.  Finally on Good Friday, i get online and look for what to do and where to go.  When i was last went to the doctor here, you could go to the public hospitals for free, but it had to be the emergency room.  They seemed to just lecture people if it wasn’t a real emergency, but i didn’t want to go wait forever and then wind up not getting to the doctor.  Online somebody lists a clinic where it’s all bi-lingual doctors, know how to fill out insurance forms so you get re-imbursed and blah blah blah, but it’s in walking distance.  I walk down the street, the clinic is open, but its 250 reals (130 dollars) for a consult.  I ask the lady if there is any place cheaper that’s open, she sends me to the new public health post, a little farther down the street.    I wind up getting both a consult and free starter medicine.  Cost, nothing.  I had started taking some medicine from a pharmacy earlier in the week, he continued the medicine and gave me some advice.  Ok, i am far from political, but if i hear one more time that the USA has the best health care system in the world, I would like to comment that it’s the best health care system for people who can afford it.  Brazil, a developing country has free public hospitals, but in the USA a doctor visit by itself sets back someone who doesn’t have insurance 100 dollars, and if you are self employed you pay monthly a certain amount, to have to pay the first 1000, or 2000 yourself.  Ok, off the political stump.

Anyhow, I arrive at the spot to meet people on Saturday to start the hike, and they start saying “are you that tired, did you stay out all night?”  Not a good sign when we haven’t started the hike.  I hadn’t stayed out late, but the bus trip and the walk from the bus stop there with my back pack was taking a toll, which i blame on my stomach troubles.  Luckily, there were 2 girls and a guy from Chicago on the trip so I wasn’t the weak link making everyone stop and wait.  Satuday was a beautiful day, sunny like it hadn’t been in several days, except at the top of pedra da gavea, there was a lot of dark clouds.  Although my luck with beautiful scenery has improved lately, the first time i went to the Sears Tower, it was cloudy, the first time i went to Cristo Redentor (the big statue of Christ in Rio) it thunder-stormed, and when we biked to Caesars Head mountain it was so cloudy Doyle asked me if i wanted to waste a quarter by looking in the view finder.    Whatever, it is sunny and nice; the clouds around the rock will move on by the time we get there.

So, we  start hiking.  Hiking is actually not my favorite thing, it is kind of boring.  But we get to some nice viewpoints, and have some good conversation.  After about an hour of hiking, we start the first climbing stage, its still more or less hiking, but you have to pick your steps, and you sometimes have to use your hands.  This part is a lot more exciting and the time goes by a lot quicker.  Then we get to the actual climbing part.  Since the cloud hadn’t moved, we had to scale the rock in the rain and cloud.  The rainfall was pretty light, but it definitely took away from the climbing experience cause we just were trying to get to the top to get the tent up and get out of the rain.  We hid under a large rock/almost cave for about an hour while the rain came pouring down.  Then because it was getting dark, we climbed the rest of the way and put up the tent, we put it up an a downhill slant because of the wind.

Inside the tent, it was surprisingly warm.  Maybe it was because there was 6 of us in a four person tent.  That reminds me, about 20 people had signed up for this trip, and the park authorities tolerate camping, but didn’t want a group of 20 people going to camp.  They called the group leaders, who took down the page, but sent an email saying the trip was still on.  Luckily only 6 people showed up, or some people would have been sleeping outside the tent in the rain.  I didn’t know anyone i could bum a tent or a sleeping bag from, so i packed my big backpack with a jacket, my leather coat (i had to make a special trip to Erica’s mom’s house to pick them up), and i was going to bring my inflatable bed, but it wound up taking up too much space.  So, the closest thing to rainproof i would have had is my leather jacket.  So since we were under the rock for about an hour, and since we were in the tent at like 7 pm, we had to pass the time somehow so we played truth or dare.  It was a very informative session, as once we were in the tent, it became only truth since we didn’t want to move around in the sardine like tent.  After a couple hours, we had to get out, and move the tent, as it was nearly collapsed from being on steep angle.  by then the rain was down to a drizzle so we could move it to flat territory.  Unfortunately both girls slept on the outside edges, and i got stuck cuddling with two dudes.  And i do mean cuddling, not actively, just and not using our hands, but there was a lot of legs on chests or backs.  In fact, Zihm and i were crunched up with my knee over his legs for a while.  The worst part was, since the both guys next to me had sleeping bags, instead of being grossed out i was actually kind of thankful.  Otherwise it would have been a cold night, with no shoes inside the tent, and no sleeping bag.  But like people say about Jiu Jitsu, it’s only gay if you smile.  You might know, i often have to pee, there is a medical reason for this.  So anyhow, i had to go out and pee in the middle of the night.  While I was out, i noticed the clouds had gone away.  We looked out at the great view, me having woke up everyone when i left the tent.  Also with my upset stomach i had to wake everyone up a second time and find a place in the weeds that i could be relatively sure the hikers in the morning wouldn’t walk into.  Having learned the lesson from the epic Tampa Bay spring break trip with Aaron Sauer and Jeremy Brown, i made sure to take off my shorts and leave them on the trail before wading into the weeds.  No way i was going back to the tent with poop splatter on my shorts or drawers.

The next morning we got up before the sunrise, and watched it.  It was a truly beautiful view.  Three of us climbed over to another set of rocks, the others didn’t want to bother with climbing.  It gave us a nice view of barra, and we had a lot of fun.  The way down the rock to the trail was a little scarier in the bright daylight.  In the cold rain, with all the clouds the night before we were scurrying so much that you don’t really take how far you would fall if you slipped.

Milena’s family had talked about having a barbecue on Sunday, so i called them when i got back.  I took the subway to see them, and instead of having a barbecue, we went to a barbecue restaurant.  It was really nice, and they wouldn’t let me pay for my part.  I wind up benefiting a lot from others’ generosity; like the Auger’s who hosted Milena for like 3 months, and now she takes care of me.  It was an amazing weekend, I hope everyone had as good of an Easter as I did.

Wired

3 Apr
The cause of the problem

The cause of the problem

“We spend a lot of time out on the highway,

thumbing from some town we played along the way.

Every time I leave the stage I know you’ve had your fill,

And I wonder why you grew up, and why I never will.

Hey, I’m 41 today still going on 22.

But you know I can’t change and live the way you want me to.”-Merle Haggard Red Bandana

Turns out the law of diminishing returns even applies to ghetto-fabulousness.  I´m not a picky guy, well except about eating.  The apartment/room i stay in is about 15 feet long, and maybe 6 feet wide.  The fan, which came with the room, i had to take the protective guard off because i was tired of trying to use plastic sacks tied to the door to keep the fan blades from rubbing the guard.  The shower heater (in Brazil the water is heated by the shower head) almost never would work.  I bought an air mattress,because the fold-down bed was like sleeping on concrete, the air-mattress is a double and it barely fits.  All of this is ok with me, i even don´t mind sweeping the water from the shower down the drain, otherwise my pants get wet as i sit on the toilet.  All of this is actually kind of cool in the whole ghetto-fabulous sense.  Brings me back to my hillbilly roots.  But at some point it goes from being quirky and funny, to frustrating, for me the point was worrying if the place was going to burn down.  Sat night i hear a loud pop, i think the  light buld burst, but i flip on the light and it works.  Later i see another flash and another pop.  I check the fuse switch, and flip it once or twice to see if that helps.  Sunday morning, I am woken up by the noise, and the flash.  So instead of going on my hiking trip, i call the guy who rented me the room.  Of course he doesn’t want to check it out, because its like 8 am on a sunday, says he will come by at noon.  I ask the building janitor to check it out, he says it just needs insulation, he’ll buy some stuff and do it this week.  When the guy who rented me the place shows up, he flips the switch on the fuse box, sees that the power is running and says he will call an electrician tomorrow.

Since i don’t want to burn to death in my sleep, i go to Milena’s house.  The upside was i brought all my dirty clothes to wash, (and all my electronics since i didnt want them to get melted in the fire) and didn’t have to pay for the laundry mat.  I go back, call the guy who rented me the place in the afternoon.  He starts saying that he is at home because he went to the doctor today, but he will be by.  After waiting an hour, i realize if i don’t find someone to look at it soon, they will be done for the day.  I go to the hardware store that’s a couple blocks away, and there is a guy there who comes and looks at the problem.  He opens up the place where they had hillbilly rigged the wires, and they are all burnt. (see picture)  He says the problem is they wired the shower heater to some wires that really shouldn’t carry that much current.  He simply splices the wires, adds some new wires to reconnect, and tells me to turn off the water heater as soon as i am done with my shower, and not take long showers.  He tells me not to stuff the wires back into the place they came from.

I take him to the owner of the apartment, explain to the owner the situation.  The owner refuses to pay him, saying he has his own electrician and doesn’t know this guy.  He calls the guy who rented me the place, and after getting the story from him still refuses.  I go outside while they talk it over, the guy who rented me the place tells me he can’t afford to pay it.  i tell him i’ll split it with him.  So for 50 reals, the guy risks me taking him to the defense of the consumer.  My part was only 25 reals, 12 bucks but still i am thinking about going to the defense of the consumer.  My only hesitation is that the guy who rented me the place will probably get fired and he is a friend of a friend.  He didn’t seem too concerned if my apartment burnt up with me in it, but i would feel bad if he is the one who gets screwed.

This happened about a week before the end of the month.  So i moved out of the apartment on the beginning of the month, and am in a hostel until tonight when i move in with a friend from couchsurfing.  Milena went to the couchsurfing  weekly meeting and had been flirting with a Brazilian who lives in Copacabana and has his own apartment.  When i was looking at different apartments, she said why don’t you stay with Diego.  So, she texted Diego and i’m good to stay at his place.  So I am able to stay at nearly the same location as before, which means i can keep going to my same Jiu Jitsu instructor, and if i get up early enough i can surf.    So, everytime I get frustrated and ready to quit being a bum and get a career, I never actually do it.  (You had forgotten about the Merle quote at the beginning, but i tied it all in.)  It helped that when i was chatting with people back home, they told me there was 6 inches of snow on the ground.