A Travellerspoint blog

Final Map

View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

Posted by flaviaU 19:27 Comments (0)

Coming Home- Part 2

I’ve been home now for over a week and had a lot of time to reflect on the trip we’ve been on. It’s pretty amazing to think of all the places we’ve been, and going through shipments we sent home from SE Asia, it’s hard to believe that all that time ago we were in Thailand or Vietnam. Europe still feels so fresh, and like with my trip to South America, the memories from every stop are so vivid, the sites, the smells, the feel of every country. It’s great to go on Facebook and see posts in all different languages from friends we made around the world, and it’s interesting to run into people that have followed our blog, especially the unexpected ones. So I guess this will be my last blog entry about this trip, and although I won’t stop thinking about it, now is the time to finish it, but use what it has taught me to continue on with my life.

The world is a big place, to say the least, and even though we covered 25 countries, I feel like we have just begun to scratch the surface of traveling and seeing what the world has to offer. As we moved, I became more interested in culture, art, history, and language. My mother in law said something very interesting about the way I travel, something that I’d never thought about, something that I’d never strived for, but it meant a lot to me and perhaps defines me as a traveler. She said that when she goes on vacation, they go to where they are supposed to, visit the old towns, eat at the restaurant with the big sign that says “typical food” or something like that. But not me, she was amazed after reading my book about how I search, travel, and struggle to find the real culture, no matter where it is. In this trip I think we were able to do this, to find the true culture, and I think that only a backpacker, without the strict limits of time or pre planning can do this, and that’s why I love to throw on a pack and see where I end up. Our friend Julia half criticized me for saying hello to everyone that I see, but this is the only way to connect, with a smile and a greeting, because you never know who you are going to meet and where that is going to take you.

We started our trip so far back in Fiji, in an amazing setting with wonderful locals, great backpackers, unbearable heat and our first and only real illness of the trip. The nights there were full of hope, laughter, and a realization that our dream had begun. As we continued through New Zealand and Australia, I was forced to really change my style of backpacking, my first time on a tight budget in a first world country, a complete 180 from the way that I traveled through South America. Then Asia, the heat, the confusion, but most of all, the inability to communicate, taught me so much about keeping calm, guarding my frustration, and overcoming obstacles. Asia was difficult because I wanted to talk to people, I wanted to learn, and when we did get the opportunity to talk to someone it was amazing, but I again added a notch to the backpack, and was forced to change how we traveled to adjust to not being able to communicate. The Middle East was a wondrous stop after Asia. From the moment that the plane made an unannounced stop in Lebanon, I knew that this would be a part of the trip full of surprises and tests. Jordan and Israel felt like we were walking through the pages of a history book. They were so raw and extreme, and the old town of Jerusalem was one of the most exciting places I have ever been in my life. Europe was tougher than we thought it would be. Everything was a bit more expensive than we’d hoped. It was hotter or colder than we’d expected. We had more trouble communicating than in Asia. Returning to Europe a bit older and a bit more traveled allowed us to choose places to visit both on and off the tourist path and having friends in those places gave us the opportunity to see cities from a unique perspective.

I look back on this trip not as something that’s finished, but something that is continuing. I hope to be able to use the experiences gained in the future, bring them to work, to our relationship, to my friendships and to whatever obstacles we encounter. I have come home a bit more relaxed, more knowledgeable, and in a marriage that has been through more than most. I’ve put almost 60000 more miles on my backpack and gained so many new friends in different countries. I’ve renewed my love of reading, food, wine, and relearned the importance of a comfortable bed, good service, and multiple drawers full of clean clothes. I’ve now spent over two years of my life with a backpack on, and although I think that this is the end of this type of adventure, I know that the backpacker spirit is alive within me, always eager to explore, learn, teach, communicate, laugh, and cry. The difficulties of a horrible night in a loud room or an old bus are worth the joys of a steaming hot bowl of the best soup you’ve ever tasted, and that a pounding hangover is worth the friends that you made and kept you out until the wee hours of the morning. The pain of carrying your backpack through the summer sun in Europe is worth that small restaurant hidden behind the church, or the smile of the B&B owner that goes the extra step to make sure you are welcome in their town. The struggle to save money gives the opportunity to go where only the locals go, and the few words of a language that we learn allows the chance to communicate.

Those nights in Fiji were just the start of the realization of a dream, and we slept in 110 different beds along the way, each time not knowing what the next day would hold. Life is short, and fear is pointless. We just celebrated life for 10 months, and I hope that when we see you, you can notice the joy that we both feel, and in my words, I hope you can hear the enthusiasm we had. I loved the cities, the chaos of Saigon, the beauty of Paris, the joy of being with friends and family in London. I smile when I think of the small towns, my love of Koh Phangan, the perfection of Belluno and everywhere in between. For all those people that we met along the way, thank you, you made our trip, you opened your doors, you took us in, and you made this trip a success. To everyone that we knew and saw while going, thank you for the break, thank you for allowing us to come home even for just a few hours over tapas in Barcelona or dinner overlooking the bay in Sydney.

Favorite place: Koh Phangan, Thailand
Favorite City: Paris/Saigon
Least favorite city: Naples
Favorite beach town: Byron Bay, Australia
Worst night of travel: Hoi An to Hanoi
Most memorable restaurant meal: Hosteria il Brigante, Salerno, Italy
Favorite night out: tie Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan / Bukowski’s Bar, Prague
Best Sunset: Fiji or Santorini, Greece

Reading List
: (chronological order) *=FAVORITES
The Grapes of Wrath- J. Steinbeck *
Lincoln- Gore Vidal
A Cooks Tour- Anthony Bourdaine
The Overcoat and other Stories- Gogol
The Quiet American- Graham Greene
100 Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez *
Satanic Verses- Salmon Rushdie
A Thousand Splendid Suns- Khaled Hosseini *
The Odyssey- Homer
Summer of Fear- T. Jefferson Parker
Anarchy and Old Dogs- Colin Cotterill
Kiterunner- Khaled Hosseini
Juliet, Naked- Nick Hornby
Love in the time of Cholera- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The School Mistress with the Golden Eyes- Stratis Myrivils
About A Boy- Nick Hornby
Slaughter House 5- Kurt Vonnegut
Shantaram- Gregory Roberts *
The Jacaranda Tree- H.E. Bates
Too Loud a Solitude- Bohumil Hrabal
A History of Language- Steven R Fischer *
Barcelona- A History- J. Castellar-Gassol
Fever Pitch- Nick Hornby
The Mayor of Casterbridge- Thomas Hardy
Tales of the Alhambra- Washington Irving
East of Eden- John Steinbeck

Posted by JonathanU 12:26 Comments (3)

O fim de uma aventura inesquecível

10 meses dando a volta ao mundo

sunny 45 °F

Nove de Fevereiro de 2010, o primeiro dia do resto da minha vida, o primeiro vôo da nossa jornada de volta ao mundo que duraria 10 meses, ansiosos e com os corações abertos para receber o que o mundo tinha a nos oferecer. Mal sabíamos que o nosso peito seria tão pequeno para comportar toda a beleza, doçura, honestidade, compaixão e solidariedade das pessoas, mal sabíamos que teríamos que conter as lágrimas e o sentimento de impotência ao ver toda a dor e as tragédias do mundo. Hoje 23 de Novembro de 2010, ao desembarcar do avião, depois de um longo dia de viagem de volta, digo que tudo valeu pena, que nada nessa vida havia me dado mais prazer em estar viva, que tudo que vivenciamos nos enriqueceu profundamente como pessoas e por fim que somos pessoas diferentes do que éramos antes de partir. 76.000 quilômetros viajados, 10 meses na Estrada, 25 países, 130 cidades, 110 camas dormidas, 11 meios de transporte utilizados, uma aventura inesquecível com o amor da minha vida...a gente deu a volta ao mundo!

February 9th, 2010 - The departure!

February 9th, 2010 - The departure!

As lembranças dessa viagem sempre irão ficar marcadas na minha memória, desde o primeiro pôr-do-sol em Fiji, as paisagens gloriosas da Nova Zelândia, as aventuras a bordo de “campi” na Austrália, os majestosos templos de Angkor contrastados com o calor escaldante e os olhos curiosos das crianças do Camboja, o sabor intoxicante da comida Vietnamita, a pureza e tranqüilidade do Laos, as ilhas e o curry da Tailândia. Também dos canyons do deserto da Jordânia, da alma, das cores e sabores de Jerusalém em Israel, a beleza inigualável das ilhas gregas, das paisagens dos Alpes Italianos regadas a taças de prosecco a beira de um canal em Veneza, do azul profundo das praias da Croácia, aos jardins de contos de fada na Áustria, a arquitetura Gótica da melancólica Republica Tcheca, ao estilo de vida alternativo de Berlim e a tradição da Bavária Alemã, do sorriso hospitaleiro e dos queijos Suíços, das bicicletas de Amsterdam, a diversidade de Londres e a prestatividade dos Escoceses na Inglaterra, do litoral Irlandês regado a Guiness, do romantismo de Paris adicionado à língua, os vinhos e a culinária francesa, Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí, tapas e a constante luta por independência dos Espanhóis, a riqueza cultural e arquitetônica de Portugal e para encerrar com um final feliz, a família, os amigos e o jeito brasileiro de ser.


Essa aventura ainda parece surreal, nunca na minha vida achei que seria possível fazer parte de uma viagem dessas, que mais do que tudo foi de um aprendizado inigualável, pois nada nesse mundo vale mais do que o nosso conhecimento, algo que ninguém pode tirar da gente. Não só o conhecimento do mundo, dos povos e suas culturas, mas acima de tudo o conhecimento de si mesma como pessoa, dos nossos limites, medos e angustias. A Flavia de hoje quer viver cada dia como se fosse o ultimo, não quer mais ter medo do desconhecido, quer ser dona do seu destino. E tudo isso eu devo ao meu parceiro de aventuras, do meu lado em todas as horas, da diversão ao pânico, das descobertas as discussões, das risadas ao choro, do amor ao ódio, das duvidas as decisões, o melhor parceiro do mundo, o meu amor pra toda vida! Que essa viagem sirva de inspiração a todas as pessoas que leram o nosso blog e que viajaram com a gente pela tela dos seus computadores, que cada um de vocês saiba que viajar e necessário e que vai mudar a sua vida pra melhor. Na próxima vez que você pensar em trocar de carro ou redecorar a casa, lembre-se que existem milhares de lugares nesse mundo que você ainda não conheceu e que em cada um deles você ira vivenciar algo inusitado e aprender algo novo com a sua gente, essas lembranças serão para sempre.

Agora chegou à hora mais difícil, à volta pra casa, à volta a vida real, acordar todo dia na mesma cama, saber exatamente o cardápio do café da manhã, almoço e jantar, ver rostos familiares, andar pelas ruas sem precisar de um mapa ou de pedir informações em uma língua estrangeira, ter gavetas e armários para guardar as roupas, ter um telefone, uma televisão, um banheiro só meus...coisas que eu senti falta, mas que agora não tem muita importância, pois fazem parte de uma rotina, de uma vida que não parece ser mais minha. Agora que estou em um lugar seguro e aconchegante, vou com certeza sentir falta do caos e da incerteza dos nossos dias de mochileiros, daquela constante adrenalina correndo nas veias, da liberdade, do imprevisto, da surpresa, da felicidade em estar vivos! A realidade dói, mas é necessária , e eu tenho certeza absoluta que os nossos dias de mochileiros ainda não acabaram, porque viajar é um vicio benigno!

November 22nd, 2010 - Back home!

November 22nd, 2010 - Back home!

Want to pack your bags something small
take what you need & we disappear
without a trace, we'll be gone, gone
The moon & the stars follow the car
& then when we get to the ocean,
we're going to take a boat to the end of the world...
all the way to the end of the world…
you & me together we can do anything,
you & me together …
You & I we're not tied to the ground,
not falling but rising like, rolling around
eyes closed above the roof tops
eyes closed we're gonna spin through the stars
our arms wide as the sky, we gonna ride the blue
all the way to the end of the world,
to the end of the world…
We can always look back at what we did
always remembering you & me…
You know that you and me we could do anything!

Song by DMB

Posted by flaviaU 10:29 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Brazil to home

Part 1

It certainly feels good to be home. Aside from what I am confronted with right now, no job, living with my parents, and having no real assurance of what is going to happen to us in the next few months, I am happy to be here. This is the toughest blog entry to write so far because of what has happened over the past few days, our hopes for the future, and of course a bit of a recap of our whole trip. I wanted to write all day yesterday, but there never seemed to be the right time, or perhaps I just wasn’t in the mental state to do it, and by the time I finally decided to start, I was so exhausted that nothing would come out. So I guess a bit of jetlag at 6 am after arriving home at 1 am from 24 hours of straight travelling is the best time to start! So here goes… Part 1!

I love going to Brazil. This was my fifth visit and my third time to Flavia’s hometown of Itapejara d’Oeste, and each time even with little to do, the days pass quickly, we are welcomed into so many homes, and life rolls at such a nice pace. Over the weekend, we headed to Flavia’s family’s small lake house on Lake Iguassu, an hour drive from their home. It was nice to get away from the craziness of extended family dinners for a few nights and really just hang out with Flavia’s mom, dad, brother and his girlfriend. As usual there was a lot of beer and BBQ, and I also found my “in” to the hearts of Brazilians. This was the second time I’ve cooked French Toast for Brazilians, who by the way love sweets, and the word of my weird American breakfast has spread far and wide, and the requests seemed to pour in and everyone wanted to know exactly how I made that delicious concoction. While there, I tried to read as much as possible, and I got the opportunity to do a bit of fishing, a weird craving I’ve been having for a bit, although I didn’t catch anything. Lake Iguassu has an interesting feel. It’s mostly weekend homes and as many of the more affluent families are originally from the south of Brazil, there is this feeling of Gaucho (people from the Southern state of Rio Grande do Sul) culture. The people are more fare skinned here, and from every house comes the terribly redundant country music called “Sertaneja”. This music sings of cowboys, loss, love, girls, and food.

The days moved surprisingly fast after the weekend. I spent a morning with Flavia’s aunt and learned how to make Tortè, homemade pumpkin stuffed pasta with a red chicken sauce. It’s Flavia’s favorite and is so amazingly good that I had to take the recipe home with me, but then again all the food we get here is great. I find that of all the travelling we do, Brazilian’s really know how to fill a table with an abundance of good food, and no lunch is ever just thrown together. The influence of Italian, German, and Brazilian traditions in the south have created so many great inadvertent fusions and the abundance and quality of fruit, produce, and meat allow Brazilians to really create amazing food. I find that tradition does overwhelm creativity a bit here. I think that many Brazilians are a bit timid when it comes to trying new food, and many have a long list of things they don’t eat. This kind of stems from the close knit family culture where some children are over mothered, and I would like to see an advance in the culinary world similar to what we have with Gastropubs. The idea of really eating A La Carte food is still a bit foreign outside of Sao Paulo and Rio. Instead most restaurants are buffets, por quilo (where you pay by the weight of your food), Rodizio (an all you can eat with servers bringing around food, especially popular for pizza or sushi) or the all mighty Churrascaria (Brazilian Steakhouse). There does seem to be a growing demand, and I was asked to cook a few times while here, which I took as a great sign of respect, and people seemed very interested in the way that I cooked and my liberal use of fresh spices and other ingredients that may be a bit foreign to them.

I think the main purpose of going to Itapejara is family, and it’s always tough to say goodbye to them when we leave. It’s such an exhausting trip to get to the town that it’s well known that we can’t come more than once a year. For Flavia, it’s always most difficult to say goodbye to her Grandma. I had a good time with Nona, I like to talk to her and find out the interesting history of the Brazilians and especially her family. Stories seem so different when told from her lips. She was from a family of 14 children, and her and Flavia’s Grandfather, who died in a car accident about 20 years ago, were the first family to pick up and move from the south and settle in this lush forested area surrounded by rivers. Flavia’s mom had 8 brothers and sisters, and her dad had 7, and this sort of huge family, and the stories of how the town grew and the way that a town was constructed really fascinates me. We left for Curitiba on the midnight bed bus, and slept very well for most of the eight hour trip. We then went back to Fiavia’s aunt and uncle’s house and rested for pretty much he last time before the weekend. After this we were busy for all but about four hours each night, when we slept! We spent one night at our friend’s place, where I was asked to prepare Mexican food, so I did! We woke up and went to lunch at another Aunt’s place and then showered, changed and rushed to see a Vale Tudo tournament, which I’ve wanted to see for years. Most of you know how much I like Mixed Martial Arts fighting, a combination of many fighting styles but best known for Muay Thai kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Curitiba is the center of Brazil’s fight schools, since they have a bit more money and can produce world class fighters (two Curitiban fighter hold belts right now in the UFC). It was fun to watch the event with a packed crowd and see some fighters who may be coming to the US soon. We spent a few hours after the fight with some other friends and made it home just before sunrise.

As I awoke on the final day I was presented with the challenge of cooking lunch for 18 of Flavia’s family members. I’ve never really cooked for that many people (not BBQ) and was a bit nervous and a bit overwhelmed. I prepared Congrio, a type of fish, with capers and mushrooms, as well as some pasta with a creamy shrimp sauce and everyone seemed to like it, so I guess things went well. We found everyone asking us when we are going to move back to Brazil, and we don’t really have an answer. We would love to live there but just don’t know what we would do, although everyone tells us that we should open a restaurant. Now that we’re home we know that we have at least five years or so before we would be in the position to make any drastic changes in our lives, so we’ve had to ask them to be satisfied with knowing that we’ll be there in 2012 for Flavia’s Grandma’s 90th birthday when probably 200 or so relatives will come to town. We will also be going in 2014 for the World Cup. Brazil always welcomes us with open arms and leaves us with tears in our eyes. This time is was also the last stop on our amazing trip around the world, and a great way to end it indeed. This is only part one of my last blog entry series, and I will write in a few days to talk about my feeling of coming home and also try to make a bit of a conclusion about our trip.

Posted by JonathanU 09:28 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

De volta as raízes

View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

Demos adeus a Europa e partimos com destino a terrinha natal, o meu Brasil querido, que apesar de tantos problemas ainda é um dos melhores lugares do mundo e ocupa um lugar bem grande no meu coração, juntamente com toda a minha família e os meus amigos. O meu verdadeiro local de residência como muitos já sabem, é a Califórnia, onde já estou residindo a quase 6 anos, um lugar que eu aprendi a amar como se fosse a minha casa, também é onde estão os familiares do Jonathan, a minha família americana. Saudade (sa-u-da-de) - Recordação suave e melancólica de pessoa ausente, local ou coisa distante, que se deseja voltar a ver ou possuir. É isso que eu sinto todas as vezes que alguém especial está de aniversário e eu não posso abraçá-los, todos os casamentos de amigos ou familiares que eu não posso estar presente, todos os natais e feriados reunidos com a família na casa da minha nona, saudade é o que sinto. Mas o destino me fez ir pra longe por uma boa razão, então todo mundo que sente saudades minhas pode fazer uma reclamação direta com o responsável pela minha partida, só para dar uma dica de quem é essa pessoa, ele é um gringo, grandão, cheio de tatuagens, com espírito aventureiro, um senso de humor peculiar e um coração do tamanho do mundo pra caber todo o amor que eu tenho pra dar ele.

Flavia and some of her aunts and cousins

Flavia and some of her aunts and cousins

Na nossa chegada ao aeroporto de Curitiba, fomos recepcionados pelo meu tio Osni, o tio mais figura da família, sempre contente em poder agradar todo mundo, ele nos deu um abraço forte e no caminho a sua casa nos alertou sobre o cardápio do almoço, uma feijoada reforçada feita pela tia Delize, com direito a farofa, couve e laranja, esse foi o nosso almoço de “bem vindos ao Brasil”. A “pensão” da tia Delize é onde nos hospedamos sempre que chegamos de viagem, é onde nos sentimos em casa, um lugar aconchegante e com uma receptividade enorme, onde o Jonathan sempre pode degustar a infinidade de pimentas e cachaças selecionadas especialmente pelo tio Osni para a nossa chegada e eu posso colocar a fofoca em dia no sofá da sala com a tia Delize e a minha prima Jamile, enquanto assistimos a novela das oito. Durante a viagem, a minha tia acompanhou o nosso blog e sempre que podia fazia um comentário ou outro a respeito dos lugares que visitamos, ela até aprendeu a ler em Inglês, com uma certa dificuldade de compreensão e um pouco de desentendimento, mas o que valeu foi o esforço, não foi tia? O nosso tempo é sempre dividido entre a família e os amigos, mas nunca parece ser suficiente para agradar a todos, na sexta-feira passamos a noite na casa dos nossos amigos, a Carol e o Gregory, eles organizaram um churrasco com toda a galera dos tempos da faculdade (Fernanda, Bethania, Paloma e os maridos e namorados) e nós matamos as saudades dos velhos tempos, já se passaram vários anos desde a nossa formatura, mas nós continuamos as mesmas, foi muito bom dar umas risadas e relembrar das historias de faculdade. A Carol e o Gregory nos visitaram na Califórnia durante a lua-de-mel deles e desde então a nossa amizade ficou mais forte, pois desde que eu havia me mudado muitas coisas aconteceram nas nossas vidas e nos acabamos nos afastando um pouco, mas foi muito ter eles de volta e saber que eles dão valor a nossa amizade. Eu amo as minhas amigas e sinto muita falta delas quando estou longe, me da um aperto forte no coração quando eu não posso estar junto delas nas horas de alegria e tristeza.

Flavia and her friends from college

Flavia and her friends from college

No nosso terceiro dia aguardávamos ansiosos a chegada dos meus pais, que vieram de longe pra nos buscar, depois de beijos e abraços apertados, reunimos uma parte de família para jantar e depois fomos todos para a balada Curitibana, curtir um concurso de bandas, da qual o meu primo Felipe participava, o mais engraçado foi levar a família toda pra festa, regada a champagne e whisky com red Bull, até os tios curtiram, voltando pra casa de manha cedo. No Domingo partimos em direção a minha terra natal, Itapejara D’Oeste, com um total de 15.000 habitantes, onde o meu pai é o orgulhoso prefeito e nota-se que a cidade já sofreu varias mudanças nesse ultimo ano, com todo o esforço tanto do meu pai quanto da minha mãe, que parece ser muito popular com o povo Itapejarence. Passaremos duas semanas aqui, relaxando e colocando as coisas em dia, já que a nossa viagem já esta chegando ao fim. Agora eu já vou indo, pois ainda tenho muitas visitas a fazer e muitas estórias pra contar...

Flavia and her parents

Flavia and her parents

Posted by flaviaU 08:34 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Life in Brazil

It’s always nice to come to Brazil. It’s one of those places where you get off the plane and you are engulfed in a feeling of warmth, a kinda tropical, very relaxed, and extremely friendly kind of warmth. I guess for me, Brazil is like a second home, where as for Flavia, it is a time for her to see her friends and family and catch up on what she’s missed. Even though it is very relaxed here, we certainly don’t get to spend too much time relaxing. Too many aunts, uncles, and cousins prevent us from really sitting down and relaxing, especially Flavia’s uncle Osni. Everyone has a crazy uncle but Tio Osni takes the cake. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t take no for an answer and always has to be sure that you are happy. Therefore there’s too much beer all the time, a light snack turns into a full on raid of the fridge, and the fact that I have to try a bit of everything. Every time we stay in Curitiba we always base ourselves at he and Tia Delize’s house. After a heavy lunch of Feijoada, Brazil’s national dish of a black bean chili with all sorts of pork, I managed to get a quick nap, then Osni woke me up by jumping on the bed and whistling to indicate that it was time to go to see his local soccer team, Atletico Paranaense, play. We headed to the stadium with another uncle and Osni’s daughter’s boyfriend and had a few beers, a Carne do Onça (raw beef on toast with onions, green onions, soy sauce, mustard and hot sauce on top(does wonders for your breath)) and of course a few shots of Cachaça to warm us up. The game was as exciting and intense as I expected, with 10 teams currently within a shot of winning the title, every game is important, and we sang and whistled and jumped and cursed and screamed and jumped while whistling, and cursed while screaming, until Atletico scored with only 5 minutes left and everyone simultaneously jumped, whistled, screamed, cheered, ran, stopped, and went insane.

A late night led into an early morning and I prepared lunch for the family, fish and shrimp and some other goodies. After a nice meal Flavia and I headed to our friend’s house. Gregory and Carol visited us last year and Flavia was best friends with Carol in college, and they always have us and all the rest of the ol’ college gang over whenever we come. This always means lots of good meat, and of course beer. I spent the night with the guys playing Playstation 3 while the girls went through photos and caught up on old times. We woke up early again the next day, still a bit jet lagged and now very tired and headed back to the house and waited for Flavia’s parents to arrive. We celebrated their arrival with Tio Osni forcing a few beers into our hands, then headed out to meet some of the family at a local Churrascaria. For anyone who hasn’t been to a Brazilian BBQ restaurant, I’m sorry, you haven’t lived. Brazilian BBQ is an all you can eat feast of meat, or as I’ve heard it called “Meatapalooza”! Here, you fill up your plate at the salad bar, then sit and wait, as server after server comes by with all different typed of meat, and they slice you off a little piece of everything you want, until you are about to explode. From there, the whole lot of 15 headed down to a local club where another cousin, Felipe, was in the semifinals of a big time “Battle of the Bands” competition. We heard about 10 bands, and theirs was certainly in the top 3, and were likewise rewarded with a trip to the finals. What was most interesting for me was the fact that everyone, cousins, uncles, aunts, my in laws all headed to the VIP section at this bar, and most stayed until 4 or 5 am, only in Brazil!

Finally, after yet another BBQ on Sunday at Tio Newton and Tia Lucy’s house we got in the car to head to Flavia’s hometown Itapejara d’Oeste. Coming here is always nice. This is as small town as it gets, a few roads, about 15000 people, rolling green hills, and peace and quiet. I was impressed as we pulled in to see some of the improvements in the town and immediately scheduled a meeting with the mayor to let him know how much the town has changed since just one year ago. Since Flavia’s dad is the mayor, organizing this meeting was no trouble! I will say though that it’s nice to see politicians doing actual work, as he heads to Brasilia each month to lobby for funds to improve infrastructure. The hospital has been renovated, I toured a school today that Flavia’s brother is building for the city (he is a structural engineer), the uneven brick roads have been pulled up and paved, there is a city park being put in, and nearly 250 new houses are being built for lower class families, all the terrible things you would expect from there dreaded socialist government!

Once we arrive here, it is a bit tricky to find things to do, in between relaxing at Flavia’s grandma’s house, or seeing a few more aunts and uncles. Right now I’m kind of stuck in resume hell. It’s time for me start thinking about work, so I’m really using this time to start applying for jobs and trying to figure out what we’re going to do. To be honest, I am really ready to get back to work, I’m eager to see what kind of jobs are out there for me, and I think that coming back with a clear head and being motivated will hopefully allow someone to take a chance on me. The only thing is, I haven’t really put a resume together for about seven years, but fortunately my friend in Germany is playing email ping pong with me to get it together. One thing that is a true constant here at Flavia’s house is that there will always be food. Lunch is a serious affair here, and there is never a shortage of main courses on the table, like today with lasagna, roasted pork, a big chunk of grilled lamb, salad, beets, rice, and then a few desserts! I love to eat here, everything is a family recipe and the precision of these family meals is amazing, Flavia’s mom never let’s anything be short changed. They work a lot though, with her dad busy all day and night, and Flavia’s mom doing more work for the city than you would expect with such a small population, although a recent city poll did show her with a higher approval rating that Flavia’s dad!

So now here we are, trying to get a job, reading, hanging out with family, finishing up our trip. This is my fifth time in Brazil and my third time in Itapejara d’Oeste and each time we are asked when we are we going to return. It would be an interesting life here, don’t worry, we wouldn’t expect too many of you to come all the way down here to visit us, but really, rural Brazil in the south is something so different than what you may expect.

Posted by JonathanU 20:08 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Ham... A life changing experience!

The last few days in Spain have been extremely varied, from seeing one of the greatest sites so far on the trip, to shopping and spending like a bunch of tourists, to trying to waste the day without spending anything, and finally just counting down our last few days in Europe. We left Sevilla for Granada not really sure what to expect. I’d had a bit of an argument with the Hostal owners, and tickets to the Alhambra were completely sold out online and on the phone for the holiday weekend. We navigated through the old city and eventually found our place, with parking, as we weren’t really into taking risks with the car at this point. My first impression of Granada was that it reminded me a lot of Cuzco, Peru. It is perched high in the mountains and surrounded by desolate plains; it is lined with cobblestone streets, some poverty, nice churches, and of course tourists, all converging really to see La Alhambra, and then spend their money at the surrounding shops. But these weren’t the typical type of tourists that I was accustomed in Europe, a lot were hippies. These were traveling hippies, with colorful and obviously new pants, white boy dreads, the kind of people that look like they came for a month and stayed for a few years. On the other end of the scale were the weekend tourists, filling the jewelry stores and boutiques. I liked the feel of Granada though. It had an interesting blend of over touristy trinket shops, a huge Muslim population selling shisha and falafel, some nice restaurants for tourists, and then tons of pedestrian only stone streets lined with tapas restaurants, and there rule in Granada is that you get a free tapa if you buy a beer. The attitude is mellow, the streets are all inlayed in white and black stone patters, and the maze of streets up into the hills is overwhelming and tiring. As soon as we were shown to our bare bones room we were told that we could go to an ATM in town that sold Alhambra tickets, so we set out, and were very happy when we were able to buy two tickets for an 8:30 entry time, right when it opened the next morning. The alternative was that we would have to wait in line outside for a few hours hoping to get one of the remaining tickets, and since it was a holiday weekend, we had been expecting to have to begin to wait in the cold at 6 am or so.

We woke up a bit too early the next morning, and while it was still pitch black we headed out of the well located Hostal, which was on the street leading up to the entrance to La Alhambra. When we got to the entrance it was just us two and two very nice Canadian girls and we chatted and watched the sun rise behind the Alhambra, and then we were the first ones let in to see the Alhambra that day. This was a great break for us, because even the Japanese tour groups didn’t get in until 9 am. We hurried through the first room to get ahead of the rest of the people and were amazed at this Moorish Palace filled with trickling water, astonishing ceilings, peaceful courtyards, amazing Arabic phrasing on every wall, and a feeling of peace and calm. I studied La Alhambra a lot when I was in college, but like Machu Picchu, reading about it and seeing pictures really doesn’t capture the amazing detail and scale of how remarkable the palace is. In short, this was my favorite site in Europe. I was just so amazed at the detail that went into every bit that was both beautiful and elegant, but not overly pretentious as is the case in so many Catholic churches or medieval castles that we’ve seen. Also, I can’t stress how magical it was to walk through without other people near us, to be able to stop in the courtyard and just here the water running along the marble aqueducts, or just gaze at the view from the curved doorways of the city down below without being pushed out of the way to make way for someone’s photo. We toured the gardens and the museums after seeing the Nazaries Palace, but the palace really was worth every penny. Go early!
Outside the Palacios Nazaries

Outside the Palacios Nazaries

So now, we’d seen the palace, eaten some tapas and we still had two more nights, and unfortunately there isn’t much else to do in Granada, and the options became even fewer when it started to rain. I finished two books that I’d been struggling with and we went for short walks in between storms. We ate a few tapas and enjoyed the amazingly cheap beer. We worked on buying gift replacements for the ones that were stolen in Lisbon, but mostly we just anticipated heading to Madrid and even started to plan what we were going to do once we got to Brazil. We headed out early to Madrid on a Sunday morning; it was a five hour drive through the rain and into the spread out capital of Spain. The terrain here is pretty desolate, it’s dry and arid, and there seems to be nothing growing. The people in the north say that outside of the cities in the south, the population does not work. This was confirmed to us when we saw nothing going on anywhere. The people outside of the cities live in a socialist system, where the government is forced to subsidize the nearly 20% unemployment rate by giving 400 euros a month to keep their people from starving, and therefore most of those people feel no real incentive to work.

We arrived into Madrid and were assured that we would be safe and free to park on the street for a few days since it was Sunday and then a holiday on Monday, so we wouldn’t get a ticket. We had felt pretty fortunate that we’d found a cheap place to stay in the city, as during holiday weekends, it is packed, and our normal websites didn’t give us many alternatives. A quick Google search pulled up a small B&B, which we booked and were greeted by the older Argentine couple that owns the place. These two are the friendliest, most talkative, and most Argentine people I’ve ever met. They were so sweet, but Eduardo was also quick with the borderline offensive joke or comment, the strongest opinion in the room, and had a thousand hilarious stories or anecdotes for any situation. Our room was small but very cute, everything had been hand painted, there were little antiques everywhere and we felt very happy and welcome there. We didn’t really have many plans, except the plan of doing nothing, but Eduardo told us that we were fools and had to do a whole list of things, because Madrid is the best city in the world, he said, after Buenos Aires of course! We walked through the city on a chilly night and waited for an hour to get into the Prado Museum, supposedly the best painting museum in the world. It was nice, the Goyas, the Velazquez’, and other Spanish painters had a nice distinction from most of the northern European art that we’d seen. I really like the use of shadow and method to give a three dimensional appearance. We’ve seen enough museums already and since it was free night at the museum it was absolutely rammed, so we sped up through the rest of the exhibits, ate a cheap and terrible dinner and headed home.

The other days in Madrid followed the pattern of heading out in the mornings, relaxing and taking a siesta in the afternoon, then eating a cheap dinner. I replenished a few clothes, tossing out well worn t-shirts and other things and shopping in this fashionable city. I liked walking the streets here as the city is spread out but easily accessible by foot as everything tends to lead to exactly where you need to go. We walked the tiny streets in the shopping district, where small stores were giving way to cheap boutiques and vintage stores, and art galleries were placed in the corners of architectural offices, and everyone was happy to talk to us and explain the direction of the story, the city, or the country. We found an amazing market where we at great cheese, croquetas (breaded fried balls of cheese and goodness), fresh and smoked seafood, and lots of great Spanish wine. I then found a wonderful taco bar, with some of the best Mexican food I’ve had in way too long! We talked for an hour while scarfing tacos with the Brazilian woman who worked there, and after a farewell free shot of Tequila, we began to feel like we’d experienced everything that we needed to in Europe. The next morning we got up and headed out to kill the day, with an evening flight ahead of us, we wanted to tire ourselves out a bit. We bought some last minute gifts and stopped by a ham shop. Now ham is taken very seriously in Spain, it is all aged, and it is left hanging in the shops by the hundreds with a little plastic cone underneath to catch any drippings. All of them are covered in a pleasant mold wrap, and although we have eaten ham in sandwiches and such, we haven’t had a plate of just ham so far in Spain. We wanted to buy a package of ham to take with us and we walked through the legs of ham perched on a stand where the gentleman would slice off a micro thin slice for us to try. We tried a few that were good, but then we tried a ¬reserve Iberico, aged three years, and literally it was different than anything I’ve ever tasted in my life. It wasn’t salty, it was just meaty and a bit oily, but it was so soft that it almost dissolved when it hit the tongue. The finish lingered like an amazing wine, and it was so good, that we bought our package, then headed back the previous nights market where we split a plate of ham, enjoying every bite.

So now we leave Europe, what a trip it’s been here. We’ve been here for more than four months, and have really seen so much since we got here. This continent is so varied, from the calm and beautiful beaches of Greece and Croatia to the chaos and screaming of Napoli and the rest of Italy. We’ve seen the structure and eccentric nature of the Germans, and the relaxed and “whenever I get to it” attitude of the French. I’ve learned a lot about history, culture, language, and us, and seen us have the best nights ever, and the most difficult days of the trip. I’ve been blown away by Paris, Salamanca, Barcelona, a glass of wine, a piece of ham, or perfection in the form of Fois Gras, laughed with friends, and had romantic dinners of rabbit and ridiculously good cheese looking out at the Eiffel Tower on our patio in Paris. Most of all though, I think that going through this with Flavia has been the real treat, the growth of our relationship, the merging of our minds, and the way that we have grown so close, so content with each other, and matured our relationship to the point where we can make it through anything, and in some cases have endured some extremely difficult times. I loved Europe, I loved this part of the trip, and I’m so happy with my life and excited about the future and the possibilities and the hopes that we can bring what we’ve learned here to whatever adventure we take on next.

Next stop… Brazil!

Posted by JonathanU 11:12 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Flamenco, touradas e tradição...

o verdadeiro sul da Espanha e o Adeus a Europa.

View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

O sul da Espanha é de verdade tudo o que eu imaginava que a Espanha deveria ser, trajes de flamenco em cada esquina, arenas para touradas em todas as cidades, bares de tapas servindo sangria, siestas de 3 horas ou mais durante a tarde e uma multidão de pessoas andando nas ruas até a madrugada. A cidade de Sevilla possui uma arquitetura lidíssima, a cidade histórica foi uma das maiores que nós já vimos na viagem, historicamente ela foi ocupada pelos Mouros, que lhes deram o nome de origem e a rica arquitetura Árabe, mais tarde foi retomada pelos cristãos, os judeus também fizeram parte de sua historia, mas com a inquisição foram expulsos da cidade, juntamente com a sua cultura e arquitetura que foram derrubadas e transformadas pela Igreja Católica. A música e a dança flamenca são muito vibrantes, as touradas acontecem com freqüência e os moradores parecem sempre orgulhosos em exercer essas tradições herdadas de seus antepassados.

Inside the Secrets Room in the Palacios Nazaries

Inside the Secrets Room in the Palacios Nazaries

De Sevilla cruzamos as montanhas da região da Andaluzia, passando por varias vilas, todas no topo das montanhas com casas dos mesmos estilos e cores, ou melhor, de uma cor só, branca, por isso são chamadas de “Pueblos Blancos”, sendo a mais impressionante Ronda, um povoado que foi construído na beira de um abismo, formado por cânions e pontes que ligam a cidade antiga a cidade velha. No final do dia chegamos ao nosso destino, a cidade de Granada, onde está localizado o palácio de Alhambra, uma das obras mais extraordinárias do continente Europeu, que lhes foi deixado pelos Mouros (povo árabe originado no deserto do Saara, que conquistou a região Ibérica no século VIII, que como principais habilidades, dominaram as técnicas de captar, elevar e distribuir a água) eles construíram o local no topo da montanha para servir como forte e moradia do sultão. O local é formado de vários palácios e jardins, todos extremamente decorados em estilo árabe, com milhares de manuscritos e desenhos, que durante os séculos passou por diversas modificações devido à mudança de conquistadores e a expulsão dos árabes. Apesar de tantas mudanças, ainda existem muitas partes originais que foram mantidas e restauradas e que fazem do local uma das obras mais bonitas que eu já visitei, apesar de ter visto muitos palácios e construções antigas na Europa, eu nunca havia visto algo tão impressionante. Até chegarmos no sul, havíamos visitado vários lugares na Espanha, mas nenhum desses lugares mostrou ter orgulho de ser Espanhol, desde Barcelona até o norte da Espanha, todas as regiões possuem um sentimento muito forte de separação, de não querer fazer parte do país como um todo, de não apoiar as decisões do governo e de sempre achar que eles são os verdadeiros trabalhadores e que o resto do país se aproveita do esforço e do dinheiro deles. Depois de conversarmos com varias pessoas, começamos a entender melhor a situação do país, apesar das generalizações, cada lado tem suas razões, se olharmos para trás e ver como a Espanha foi formada, cada região possuía reinados diferentes. O país sofreu muitas influências externas, o sul que pertenceu ao norte da África e a adotou a cultura muçulmana, no norte o País Basco possuía autonomia, seu próprio reinado e sua própria língua, existem 6 dialetos falados ou reconhecidos em todo o país e mais alguns que não são considerados oficiais, cada região possui muito orgulho da sua língua e tradição, como se fossem países diferentes. A história da Espanha é fascinante e a nossa visita foi uma experiência incrível.

Outside the Palacios Nazaries

Outside the Palacios Nazaries

De Granada seguimos em direção a Madrid, a nossa ultima parada na Europa, onde vamos devolver o nosso carro e seguir viagem para o Brasil, a última parada da nossa aventura pelo mundo. Tenho saudades do tempo que estávamos na Oceania e Ásia, viajar nesses lugares é fácil comparado com a Europa, pois tudo é mais barato, quando se esta cansado da cidade a praia fica sempre perto e o clima de verão é quase sempre mais agradável, exceto no calor de 45 graus e 90% de umidade na Ásia. Tenho que admitir que já estamos exaustos, o continente Europeu é muito grande, com muitas cidades interessantes, apesar de ter passado 4 meses na Europa não conseguimos ver tudo, mas posso dizer que vi o suficiente para mudar a minha opinião sobre o mundo, vi o suficiente para nunca esquecer do conhecimento que adquiri e as pessoas que conheci. Todos os lugares que passei foram um marco na historia, todo edifício foi uma obra de arte e todos os jantares foram uma aula de gastronomia, conhecer a Europa sempre foi um sonho e agora posso dizer que é realidade.

Posted by flaviaU 20:52 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

O litoral Português

View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

Já cansados de cidade grande e um pouco traumatizados com o aconteceu com o nosso carro em Lisboa, nos resolvemos ir em busca de sossego, ouvimos falar que o sul de Portugal, o Algarve, tinha praias lindíssimas e que não haveriam muitas pessoas, pois a temporada de verão já acabou, então alugamos um apartamento por cinco noites na cidade de Lagos.

O nosso apartamento estava localizado em uma praia um pouco distante do centro da cidade de Lagos, em uma área mais calma, com dezenas de condomínios, que estão sempre lotados no verão, o senhor João, um português muito simpático nos recepcionou e nos disse tudo que poderíamos fazer, todas as praias que poderíamos visitar e tudo mais que tinha direito. O apartamento tinha piscina, churrasqueira e uma cozinha, tudo que precisávamos pra relaxar, pagamos muito pouco, pois já não haviam muitos turistas no lugar e os apartamentos estavam saindo por menos da metade do preço. Fiquei muito impressionada pela beleza dessa região, nunca imaginei Portugal sendo tão bonito, quase todas as praias eram rodeadas por falésias, as rochas tinham diferentes cores e tamanhos e água é cristalina, muitas praias na costa leste são muito boas pra surf, as ondas são super grandes, teve até um campeonato de surf no norte, com os melhores surfistas do mundo, tendo como campeão o Kelly Slater, é claro! Conhecemos varias praias, Carrapateira, Sagres, praias mais desertas do Alentejo e as praias de Lagos até Faro, tomamos um solzinho pra recuperar o bronze, já que não pegávamos uma praia desde a Croácia e até fizemos um churrasquinho com picanha e tudo.

Dona Ana Beach

Dona Ana Beach

Deu pra relaxar bastante e retomar as energias pra reta final da nossa viagem pela Europa, vamos retornar a Espanha, onde visitaremos Sevilla, Granada e algumas cidadezinhas de Andaluzia e no final vamos a Madrid, onde retornamos o carro e pegamos o nosso vôo para o Brasil, não vejo a hora de rever a família e os meus amigos, comer a comidinha da mãe, da nona e das tias e não ter que me preocupar com nada por alguns dias.


Posted by flaviaU 14:40 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Ahhh, the Beach

We were pretty eager to leave Lisbon. Even though we stayed in probably the best hostel on the planet and met some really cool people, the whole window event really soured our time here. I think Lisbon is a truly beautiful city, and well worth a visit, as I think it’s often overlooked by people visiting Europe. I took the Metro early in the morning across town to the Renault dealer where we left the car overnight to be repaired, then drove it back through dreadful morning rush hour and parked it in a secure lot. We finished breakfast and packed the car and drove south, without much as far as plans. We were eager to take five or six days and just relax a bit by the beach in a small town, just kind of put the events behind us, rest up a bit, and prepare for the last push through the south of Spain. As we drove down the coast we bleak through the bleak landscape a bit inland, always with mountains to our left. The small buildings in the many towns were all painted white, and every once in a while we’d get a peek at the blue ocean nearby. Many of the towns were rundown and some even looked abandoned, proof of the urban shift that occurs when a country’s economy sours. The roads were empty and we cruised along until the highway finally spit us out along the coast near the city of Sines. We drove by tons of vacant parking lots with staircases leading down to small coves and beaches, packed during the summer or weekend, but now just a bunch of desolate brown patches. We selected one at random to spend a few hours. The coastline here is made up entirely of cliffs, and then every once in a while a bit of sand will remain creating a beach with towering walls, sheltering it from the cool autumn breeze. We relaxed on the beach in the sun, although the water was a bit too cold to go in without a wetsuit. It felt really nice to just kind of put Lisbon behind us, although we are both now pretty weary of leaving the car anywhere out of site, especially if there is anything in it. One thing that has proved to be a great purchase was a small plug in cooler we bought when we left Paris. This has come in handy for us to store our food and keep our lunch things cool so we can make lunch wherever we are.

We planned on stopping somewhere along the western coast for the night, but in the end, we continued down towards Lagos and gave a quick call to our reserved apartment to see if we could stay one extra night. As it is currently low season they were more than happy so after a bit of trouble finding the place we settled in and were very happy about the great studio that we had for the next five nights. It’s felt good to pay a minimum price, and be in an empty apartment complex that looked more like a villa and feel like we were really getting the most out of our money and were going to be able to relax for the next few days. And relax we did. Although two of the days were a bit cloudy, we still went to the beaches nearby or a short drive away, went for walks on the cliffs, or just hung out by the pool, cold beer in hand. I enjoyed making dinner with ingredients from the market and using the grill. The coastline is very dramatic, with high sandstone cliffs towering over the deep blue water. There are tons of trails all around the coast, so it was easy enough for us to just walk a bit and really experience the beauty of the region. I think that one thing that especially excited us was the element of surprise. We really had no idea what to expect from Lagos, we’d heard it was going to be packed with tourists, and there were some English travelers, but overall it was very quiet. We heard that the town wasn’t very nice, but we found that there was some culture and feeling beyond the sprawling timeshare resorts. I think mostly we were just unprepared for how beautiful it was going to be there, and we haven’t had a few days to just sit on the beach, read, and relax since Croatia.

It’s surprising how officially tired we are now. I’m not sure if it’s because the end is near so we’re slowing down or if it’s just kind of time for us to have a place to sit and do nothing, or even do something, as long as it’s not just walk around, look at churches, look at a castle, etc. I think we are both really looking forward to getting to Brazil, to be with family and to just not have an agenda, or a list of things to see. Although it has been great to have a car, the hours of sleeping on buses or just bouncing along on a train are something that I miss, although getting to and from the stations was always an annoying adventure. Instead the stress of driving has been tough, and especially inside of cities has fatigued me and frustrated me at times. We’ve now put about 4000 miles on the car, and have about 700 left, it will feel good to return the car and not have to deal with it anymore. Also, we aren’t that amazed by things anymore. Maybe we’re spoiled but I think we’ve seen everything we need to see. We absolutely refuse to pay to enter churches so most of the interiors are off limits, but most of the time I can imagine just what is inside. To me, that was what I liked the most about, say, Salamanca, where the church was beautiful, had some originality, and was free. It’s kind of like when you go to classic art museums, I mean really, how many Madonna and Child paintings can you see before they all start to be too similar?

After five days in Lagos eating nice dinners, and becoming sick of basic sandwiches for lunch, we packed up and headed back east, to Spain. We stopped once along the south coast to relax at one more beach. This one was particularly spectacular with a staircase that funneled through the cliffs and spilled out onto the beach. The beaches were particularly nice for Flavia who had felt it a bit odd traveling so much and not really seeing beaches. For me, nearly the entire final six months of my South America trip were spent at the beach, and I think most importantly while backpacking this gives a great excuse to spend a whole day without really spending much money.

We arrived into Sevilla in the early evening, and drove right by the hostel where there was no parking and kept going, weaving down streets no wider than the car, then kept going, directed left or right, with no way to return on the multitude of one way streets, until about 20 minutes later when we managed to find a parking garage. We haven’t walked with all of our stuff for a great distance for a while, and while wandering lost through the alleys with our packs on, without a map, trying to find our hostel, I was reminded of the redeeming qualities of having the car. Sevilla reels nice, the temperature is very agreeable, and the old town is huge, and great for getting lost. There are a fair number of tourists here, I think that the summer is too hot and the winter is too cold so many come during this time of year. We crammed as much as we could into one and a half days and two nights, basically just wandering the alleys, eating tapas that make us miss San Sebastian, and seeing something that we haven’t seen yet in the bullring and Torero museum. Tomorrow we are off for three nights in Granada followed by three nights in Madrid before flying out of Madrid to Brazil.

Posted by JonathanU 15:38 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

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