Monday, January 18, 2010

Exploring Rio de Janiero

So I was initially going to stay in Rio for four days but after being here for less than 24hours, I knew that I wanted to stay longer. The plan was that I would get to Rio Friday morning and leave the following Monday to visit the South of Brazil. Friday evening, I tried to buy bus tickets online without success and it was already late too late to buy from the bus ticket agents. The delay in being able to get tickets gave me more time to think. The family I was staying with were under the impression that I was going to stay with them for two weeks so having some place to stay was not problem.

Sabbath afternoon, I went to the beach with girl I am staying with and her boyfriend to watch the sunset. The beach and the sunset were awesome. The beach we went to was the famous Ipanema Beach, the best I have been so far in Brazil. Ironically the sun doesn't really set on the water in Brazil because Brazil is on the East coast of South America so, the sunrise on the water. However their is a rock or piece of land that juts out of land where the coast curves towards Copacabana, so it seems like the sun is setting on the water. Another cool thing about the beaches in the south is the fact they tend to have a mountain backdrop. So at sunset you have the mountains, the ocean and sun all together in the same scene. It was totally beautiful to see the changes in the color.

After witnessing that I couldn't help but decide to stay longer in Rio de Janiero. I am hoping to come back to Brazil sometime in the future so at a later date I can visit the South. Now since I am Rio, I figured I should make the best of the time and stay as long as I can. After this little encounter with the beach I decided that I was visit the next the following week when I had more time. That is definitely a big thing for me because I am not really a beach person.

Since I extended my time here, I have had a good amount to time to explore Rio at a calm pace. I really liked the fact that I had over a week here so I was able to actually experience Rio. The fact that I am a poor traveler also encouraged that too. I can't see all the tourist sights because they require money to enter but I have more time just to walk around and explore the untourtisty areas. I absolutely love were I am staying. I am staying in the Lajanieras area which is close to Botafogo and Flamengo. The Flamengo beach, though not clean enough for me is 10 mins away. But the cool thing about this beach is that it has an awesome park. In the mornings, I am able to run or walk along the beach. Another cool thing is that one of Rio's airports is close to the park so I can see the planes take-off and land. I love watching planes take-off and land.

So here are some things that have stood out to me since I have been in Rio: the Coroica culture the weather and public transportation. In Brazil, people from Rio the city not the state are called Coroico/a. As I have walked around and explored I have definitely seen a difference between the people here and the people in other cities. The people here are very casual. Almost everyone seem dressed for the beach. It seems like everyone here is ready for the beach. I know this might be the case but because it is summer, but the whole city or the parts where I have visited it seems like people are ready to go to the beach. Another thing almost everyone here wears Havaianas. These are the Brazilian equivalent to Old Navy Flip flops but up a notch. Havaianas come in different colors and styles and are a little more pricey than the regular flip flops. Whereas you can find flip flops for R$5, the cheapest Havaianas start around R$11 if you search well and these are the uglier ones.

The culture at the beach is also different. Women regardless of their age, shape or size tend to wear bikinis. If 500 women were at the beach no more than 15 would where a one piece. I am being honest, here. I went to the beach wearing a one piece and shorts and everyone was steering at me. The ocean here in Rio is very different. The water is much colder than the northeast and much colder than Jamaica. I was told that sometimes it is even colder. It is as cold as water with ice. I had learned about the water being affected but the season but I didn't expect it to be this extreme.

So, the weather here has been somewhat surprising to me. It is extremely hot. One day it over 40 C or 104 F. Added to that temperature was humidity because Rio is by the ocean. just imagine how hot it was. In the first few days I was having a really hard time adjusting to the temperature. I could get these excruciating headaches, but with time my body adjusted to heat. I guess I am preparing myself for Jamaica which has similar temperatures. With the scorching temperatures also come thunderstorms. So far there was only. That night with thunderstorm it rained almost for the whole night and for the early hours of the morning. The rain though was welcomed because it brought cooler temperatures.

As a poor tourist, my primary means of transportation is public transportation primarily the cheaper ones. This is not a problem at all here because Rio has every excellent public transportation. There are buses and the metro. I usually opt to take the bus because is usually cheaper and you get to see more of the city. In Rio, there are different types of buses. The regular bus which is cheaper without AC and the metro bus with is more expressive, even more then the Metro sometimes, with ac. I found that to be every interesting, that ac was an option for the bus.

All and all, I have had a great time in Rio. My host family has been great and I have loved getting to know Rio. I hope in the future I will be able to return with a little more cash to see even more sights. I am now off to my final destination in Brazil, the super city of São Paulo.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Visiting the Cristo Redentor

So I am really loving Rio. My first stop on my Rio tour was the Cristo Redentor. One of the most famous landmarks in Rio. The place where I am staying was only 5 mins away and I am able to see the statue from the window of the living room. I have been so blessed in having this family let me stay with them. I didn't know them and they didn't know me but they opened their home to me. Besides being able to see the Cristo I am also able to see the famous Pão do Açuzar or Sugar Loaf from the apartment.

So back to my visit to the Cristo. When I arrived at the building to buy my ticket to take the train up to the Cristo I was greeted with a very long line. I guess I was not the only person with the idea of touring Rio in January. There were tourists from all over the world. The truth is the months January and February are peak tourist months in Rio because it is summer time in Brazil so school is out. I had to wait in line for a 40 minutes just to buy my ticket and then waited another 40 minutes to actually get on the train.

The train was one of red old school trains, so cute. The trains are actually the original trains used to reach the statue when it originally constructed in the early 1900's. As you can imagine the trains were pretty slow but the ride up was breath taking. The Cristo is on a hill and the train tracks cut through the bush and forestry on the sides of the hill. Along the tracks were gardens and fruit trees typical of Brazil.

The train stopped at the base of the stand of the statue so we had to climb several more feet to actually get to the Cristo. The more I climbed the bigger the statue became. Let´s just say that describing the statue as huge is an understatement. It is ginormous. To take a full picture of the statue you have go some distance away from it.

~Just got off the train and I'm making my way to the top~

~I made it to the base of the Cristo~

The view of Rio from the Cristo is breathtaking. You can practically see all of the city by walking around the base of the statue. The only bad thing about the trip was the fact that the day was overcast. I was able to see the city but not very clearly. It was still totally worth it though.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Journey to Rio de Janiero

I´m in Rio de Janeiro! That famous city! So the trip to Rio was some what of an ordeal. As you know I am visiting several cities before I leave Brazil so after Salvador my next stop is Rio. I am all by myself, which is not a problem I am used to that. The problem is the fact that I have all my earthly belongings with me. Unlike the previous travel arrangement, I am going to Rio by way of plane. It should be faster and easier right? Or so we would think.

When I arrived to Salvador, I left my suitcase in storage at the bus station and just took my knapsack with me to the hotel. So, I returned to the bus station around 3pm in the evening even though my flight was at 11pm because I was hoping to find someone who would split the cost of the taxi to the airport with me. The taxi fare was almost two times the cost of a night in a hostel in Salvador so you just imagine how expensive.

While waiting, I made rounds at the bus station to see if I could spot people who look like they were going to the airport and I also asked the taxi desk to ask people going to the airport too. I waited at the bus station for around 6 hours with no luck. I was a little disappointed as a you can expect because the little money I have to spend was getting even smaller.

Anyways, as I got to the airport I had another potential problem, my luggage. Flying to Rio from Salvador is flying domestic and here I had all my belongings in a large suitcase which I was sure was more than the 23 kilos limit. The line for check-in was short so I was attended right away. I went to the counter, gave the attendant my passport and put my suitcase on the scale thingy. It weighed 38 kilos. That is 15 kilos over 23 lbs over the weigh limit. I kept my mouth shut and the guys started asking me about Jamaica and I asked about the flight.

I noticed he didn't say anything about the weigh of the bags. He went ahead to print my boarding pass and my baggage claim sticker. He handed me the document and then said, "Your bag is over the limit but I took care of it, because you are the first Jamaican I have ever met." At that moment, I was so proud to be Jamaican. Jamaican culture is idolized in Bahia so I guess being Jamaican there had it´s perks.

I got the flight to Rio as a present so I really shouldn't complain about horrible the flight times were. I left Salvador at 11:40pm and arrived in São Paulo (SP) at 2:40 am and had a lay over for around 3 1/2 hrs. My next flight was scheduled for 6am. During the flight to SP I slept for around 1 1/2 hr because I lost an hr in the time difference. During my layover I also didn't have much of an opportunity to sleep because the chairs were so uncomfortable. Then I finally got to Rio 7am tired.

So, one of my friends has a friend who has a friend in Rio and she decided to let me stay in her house. That means no money for hostel and at least one meal free a day! Talk about a blessing. So this friends who is now my friend picked me up from the airport and we went to her house.

As we drove around the city, I almost instantly feel in love with Rio. The city has some much more culture and history. I could wait to explore and the best thing too was that I was staying with someone from Rio who know the city and could show me around. We got to her house around 8, I took a shower, ate breakfast and then was ready to explore because I was only going to spend a weekend.

I will tell you about my adventures stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


So I packed up my bags said goodbye to my friends in Natal and got on my bus with destination to Salvador in the state of Bahia. Salvador was one of the cities I vowed to visit in Brazil prior to leaving Brazil. My masters degree focused on Afro-American culture and Salvador is know as the mecca of black culture in the Latin America. So I just had to visit there. The bus ride was long approximately 22 hours. I left Natal at around 5pm, which worked out well for me. It had been a long day and I was close to my regular bedtime so I went to sleep in less than an hour.

I got to Salvador around 3pm not knowing anyone and with only a vague idea of where I was going to stay. My first area of concern was my luggage. I had decreased my luggage but I still had a lot and I really didn't want to take all the luggage to the hostel because I really didn't know were I was staying and I was planning to take the bus to my destination. Fortunately, while I was on the bus I was perusing my guide book and realized that the bus station had luggage storage. That meant I could store my luggage. Yay! I didn't have to use a taxi to go my hostel. One less expense for my very small budget.

I stored my luggage and made my way to the local bus stop. I still had no idea of where I was going to stay but I knew the area I wanted to stay in. I wanted to stay in the Pelorinho, which is the touristy area of Salvador and the safest. I got information about the bus number and soon got the bus. There was however one little problem. The bus from that area did not go into the heart of the area because the area a UN Protected area with limit or no car traffic and the road themselves are very narrow and can't accommodate car traffic. Another thing, this area is on a high hill.

After walking around for a long time I finally arrived at the Pelourinho. I had identified a cheap hostel from my book and I went in search of it as soon as got into the main square. I tried to use my map to find the place but was without luck. Basically I was walking around in circles. Eventually, I gave up and decided to just find a place.

As I was walking, obviously looking like someone looking for a place to stay because of my bag pack and sleeping bag, this bum sleeping on the steps of one the many churches in area offered to take to place. He showed me a flyer. I decided to follow him even though it probably was not the smartest thing to do but I figured I was safe because I was walking on the main street and there were a lot of people on the road.

We finally arrived to the hostel and he ran the bell and the owner came and showed me place and a
room where I would stay. The room was cool and the price fit into my budget. I decided to stay there. My first point of business was to take a bath. As I was taking a bath, the drunk was downstairs outside of the hostel shouting to me to give him a tip. He was shouting at the top of his voice. I was planning to give him at tip and told him I would after I took my bath. He kept shouting. I took my shower and asked the owner how much would be a good tip. He told me a few reals. I went outside to give him his tip. He was not happy with the amount I gave him and started to argue. I told him that that was all the money I had and I walk away quickly. I was not trying to get in an argument in with him. I was afraid that he would follow me so I tried to get away from him as soon as possible. Thank God he didn't follow me.

Now started my exploration of Salvador. I got some food and headed for the Barra area. This is one the two places in Brazil where you can see the sun set on the water. It is also a popular place for beach goers and tourists. I asked for directions to get there by bus and I walked 10mins to the bus stop and looked for a bus with the name Barra. When I got on the bus I asked the conductor to tell me where the get off. The bus rides are usually longer but I like them because I get to see more of the city for cheap. I got to Barra a few minutes before sunset. I was not the only person with the idea of watching the sunset because the place was full. I bought a coconut water and watched the sunset. It was very beautiful. I just spent the rest of the time walking around and decided to head back to the hostel because I was alone and I was a little tired.

~Barra Beach~

~More of the beach~

~Beautiful Brazilian sunset~

I would have loved to go to bed early to get a good start the next day but it did not happen. Tuesday nights are noisiest night in the Pelourinho. There are many bands which go around the area playing music practically all night long. Most of the music these bands played was Samba which is indigenous to Brazil and some reggae. And to make matters worse my hostel was along the band route. I didn't get much sleep. I had to suck it up because it was part of the experience. The bands were pretty good. I was very impressed by the children band. The band members were probably no older than 12 years old. The band leader was a children of around 12/13 years.

~Children band, girl in the green is the leader~

My lack of sleep did not dampen my spirits to explore the city. The Pelourinho reminded me a lot of Jamaica. It was commonplace to hear reggae in English or Portuguese being played from houses or by people on the road. One thing that made Salvador and the state of Bahia by extension stand out from other place in Brazil was the complexions of the people. The people were darker. Salvador is considered to have the largest number of black people in South America. This fact was what originally drove my desire to know Salvador. My master's thesis focused on people of African descent in Latin America, so I had to read a lot about the black population in Salvador.

It was interesting to see how the tourist activities and thing to see all focused on the African ancestry of the people. For example there were a lot of women offering hair braiding services and there were many Capoeira groups dancing capoeira. There were also women walking around in colonial slave clothes talking pictures with tourist for a small cost. Well, every thing cost money in Salvador. For example if we were watching the capoeira groups and took a picture, we were sort of bullied into giving a tip. As a Jamaican though, I felt many of the things that were taken to be indigenous to Salvador was actually Jamaican. Ok, let me explain. Dreadlocks which is a big thing in Salvador is Jamaican derived from the Rastafarian culture and then the reggae music which was common, is totally Jamaican. Another thing was the use of the colors, red, black and green. These colors are associated with Rastafarianism which has it's root in Jamaica.

~Capoeira dancers~

~women in slave/colonial dress~

One thing that did disappointment was my visit to the African History Museum in Salvador. I was hoping to see more information about the lives of the slaves in Brazil and in Salvador. The information was basically information about slavery in general and they had a few very weak artifacts. I really felt like I had wasted my money to see the museum.

Anyways the highlight for me in Salvador was the colonial buildings. Salvador was once the capital of Brazil so there is a lot of colonial history just in the buildings. Many of these buildings are being restored thanks to the UNESCO so they are really beautiful. I really like seeing the colonial Catholic churches and there are 360 just in Salvador alone. I had a field day just visiting the colonial buildings. I just love the bold colors used to paint many of these buildings.

~One of the many churches in Salvador~

~One of the major squares, Largo do Pelourinho~

~Cool colonial building~

Salvador is a coastal city and there are several islands off the coast of the city so I also got the opportunity to visit one of these islands. It was pretty cool to take the ferry out and see Salvador from a far.

~View of Salvador from the sea~

I must say a did enjoy my time in Salvador. I would to go back one day but off course with a little more money and time. There were other things to go and see but the lack of time and money prevented me from doing them. One thing I forgot to mention was the food. Of course food was good here. They eat a lot of coconut products and fish products. One of the typical street food is the acaraje. This a fried dough cut down the center and filled with vegetable, peppers and seafood (optional). It was really good! It reminded me Jamaican dumplings.


Well that my Salvador summary! Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Tchau Natal and Brazil

After being in Natal for two months, I decided that it was probably time to leave Brazil. I came to this decision with a very heavy heart and with much emotions. I absolutely love Brazil. I could see myself living there but I could not continue living in Natal. I didn't like the city and my job was just not happening. I had made up my mind probably within the first two weeks of arriving in Natal but I spent the rest of the time just thinking about it and weighing my options.

I decided to stay in Natal for the remainder of the year then in the New Year I would spend some time traveling then I would go home to Jamaica. My supervisor was not to happy with my decision to leave and I really felt bad to tell them I was leaving but in all honestly I had to think about my happiness and my future. I am not getting any younger and need some form of job security and satisfaction which I did not have in Natal.

I thought the decision to leave was difficult but it was nothing compared to the packing process. Imagine packing up all my stuff and making them easy to travel with. Let's just say I had much fewer things that I had when I first came to Brazil. But the downsizing will be worth it because I am going to see more of Brazil. Yay!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Things worked out perfectly for this trip. I had to go the US Embassy in Recife, which though only4 hours away from Natal, was not to easy for me to go. I would have to think about taking the bus there, then I would have to think about finding somewhere to stay because my appointment was early in the morning.

Fortunately prior to making my appointment I met a lady in church who worked in Recife and traveled back to Natal each weekend. I told her that I was planning to go to Recife and she offered to take me with her and allow to stay with her while I was there. The only problem was that I would have to make sure that my appointment was scheduled for before she would go on vacation. We exchanged numbers and I went about booking my appointment.

I was fortunate because I got the only available appoint in the same week the lady was going on vacation. My appointment was on a Wednesday and she would go on vacation the weekend after my appointment. I went with her on the Sunday before the appointment so I could get acquainted with Recife and see some of the sights. My plan was to return on the Wednesday night on my own since she would be staying until the Friday.

To cut a long story short I ended up staying the entire week, well from Monday to Friday because I just fell in love with Recife. This city was totally different from the other two cities in the northeast that I visited thus far. Recife is very historic. There are many brightly colored old colonial buildings and also many colonial churches and plazas. I loved exploring the city and seeing the history of the city as reflected in the buildings and museums. Most of the historic buildings were found in downtown Recife or Recife Antigo.

~downtown Recife also known as Marco Zero or Ground Zero, where the city got started~

~ a cool church I found while exploring, located in the area of one of the commercial center~

~cool colonial buildings, look at the colors~

~ Capela Dourada or the Golden Church, one of the oldest churches in the Old Recife~

~Justice Building~

On my first day I spent the day finding the bus route to the Embassy and exploring the city. Recife is huge and very dangerous city (it has the highest murder rate in all of Brazil) so I had to be extra careful. The Embassy was located in the heart of city so most buses pass by there. My appointed at the embassy was only for a couple of hours so I had a lot of time to explore Recife. One of the must see places in Recife is actually outside of the city in the city of Olinda.

Olinda was originally the capital of Pernambuco and had some of the most beautiful churches in northeast. It is also on a hill so the city has the natural backdrop of the sea and beautiful blue skies.

~View of the ocean from one of the highest points in Olinda~

I explored Olinda on foot, which was the best way, because the streets were extremely narrow and that way I could get to see the flavor of the small city. Olinda was the exact picture of what I had in my head of colonial Latin America. The city was filled with small colorful houses, large colonial/Victorian houses with large gardens and many very old churches. I really felt like I had stepped back in time.

~one of the many churches in Olinda, this one is cool because there is like a courtyard in front of the church with a fountain, which was dry, and a cross~

~Another church which has a beautiful view at the back of the lower parts of Olinda and of Recife~

~View of Recife from Olinda~

I must say unlike the other northeast cities I had visited up to that point Recife was my favorite northeast city because it had much more to offer the visitor.

~Boa Viagem, the best beach in Recife~

Sunday, November 1, 2009


So I left Fortaleza and got on a bus for the 8 hr trip down south the city of Natal, the capital of the state of Rio Grande de Norte. I heard a lot of good things about this city. People said it was more beautiful then Fortaleza and much smaller. So, I was somewhat looking forward to this new adventure. I hoped that my teaching experience would be better. Deep down however, I was beginning to feel homesick. Being in the Northeast by the beach reminded me a lot of Jamaica. I am really beginning to miss my family.

~ View of Natal from the beach~

I arrived in Natal 8pm and immediately went to my new home . I found out I would be sharing an apartment or better yet a studio with one of the female workers at the Missão Nordeste. This experience was a little different for me. I was used to having my own space and here in this apartment, I obviously would not have my own space. I guess I was now going to have the real missionary experience. Even though I spent most of the bus ride sleeping, I was tried so I just took a shower and went to bed.

The next morning I woke up early to go for a walk and to see the area around the apartment. The apartment was located in one of the most commercial areas of the city. As a result, besides being very noisy during the day, it was also very dirty. Let just say I was not really liking the city too much when I first got there. As much as I am a city girl, I prefer the country.

So, Natal is much smaller than Fortaleza but it is similar to Fortaleza in the sense that it is a beach city. Many tourists visit there primarily to go to the beach. However, unlike Fortaleza and many other cities in the Northeast, Natal lack other forms of attraction. I was not too happy with that because I am not really a beach person so I didn´t have any other thing to do as a form of entertainment.

~Ponta Negra Beach in Natal~

One cool thing about Natal is it´s name. Natal is Christmas in Portuguese so it's funny to have a city named Christmas. The story behind the name is that the city was founded on Christmas Day. The first fort of the city is called the Three Wise Men Fort because of the story of Christmas too. I visited the fort and it is pretty cool. It has a little church for statues of the three wise men. It also has a lot of history about Natal, it was a pretty cool expedition.

~The Three Wise men Fort (it's actually the shape of a star) ~

~old time canon within the fort walls~

~courtyard window within the fort~

~Small church within the fort for the wise men"

A couple of day before leaving Natal several of my co-workers and I went to a famous Northeast restaurant for lunch. This restaurant served typical Northeastern Brazilian cuisine. Since I lived on my own, I didn't have much exposure to Northeast Brazilian food so this was actually a good little treat. It was even better than I didn't have to pay because the restaurant is really expensive. The restaurant also have old time northeast Brazilian clothes which I had the opportunity to try them on.

~ female war apparel... I think~

~leather jacket and hat~