Português of the Week

comemoração - celebration

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Trazzler: Rio, Is What Has Been Kept

In what has been a serious period of suadade for me, I have managed to mangle a couple of Brazilian Trazzler stories aka mini-travel-poems for your Keepin It Rio Blog obsessed eyes.

Expect more of this sort of writing in the future, thanks to the contract that the Keepin It Rio nation helped me win over at Trazzler with their NYCGO contest.

Below are my quick musings on Rio's greatest two gifts to the world: Baile Funk & Vasco De Gama

For more of Dweezy's Trazzler Tales:

Muito Obrigado, enjoy:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Congrats Cariocas: Olympics Headed to Rio (Yes We Créu)

I read Michelle Malkin's blog.

Not because I'm looking for any sort of political guidance but because it helps me stay balanced. Too much of the lefty and not any use of the righty makes my forearm muscles too big on one side.

Nasty jokes aside, I want to congratulate Rio for getting their game on with winning the 2016 Olympic bid. Yes, another reason for me to have an excuse to return to the Marv City in addition to the 2014 World cup.

But this recent post by Malkin, only touches on the tip of the sugar loaf.

What's really funny about "Yes We Créu" isn't merely the Obama word-play but the sex at play here.

Admittedly, if there are two things Rio is known for it's probably sex and violence. Which is why I notified the twitterverse of the more known usage of Créu. Soon, my Brazilian homie ReTweeted the message as seen here:

Yes, I am saying that there is a much larger and more plentiful pun going on right beneath the noses of anyone outside of Rio. Créu does literally mean something like "believe" or "can" or "do," however it also means exactly what "do" also means here in the U.S. — to bang.

Not getting the picture?

What about sexify, pork, grind, plug, slam, slide, push or almost all other verbs, any clearer? To "do" someone means to have sex.

So...more vulgarly..."Yes we Créu" can loosely be translated in plain-speak as "Yes we f•ck."

There. Now let's all enjoy Rio's win like we enjoy their insistence on always using the Sugar Loaf at every moment possible — even their winning Olympic logo (see Pelé's pin above)

See you in 2016 (and 2014 and probably sooner than that too).

I leave with MC Créu & accompanying booty, Rio's finest:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Keep In Rio: Southern Utah Press Style

On this, the day of the Trazzler final judgment, I give you — Keepin It Rio's first appearance in that archaic, rough, dirty-up-ya-fingers, form of media — newspaper.


In true, um, Brazilian-style — this wasn't printed until the day after the contest voting ended (Sept. 15).

Imagine the untapped potential of the dozens of literate Southern Utahans...a few of which, surely have the ability to use a computer.

I hope, within the next few hours, it is THEIR spirit that forces the Trazzler judges hands towards selecting my trip.

Good morning and good luck.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Travel Channel: Keepin It Phony

Travel Channel — how can you be so bad and so good all at once?

You give the Hunter S. Thompson of Food a platform (Bourdain's No Reservations) and then you barf up this.

Brace yourself folks. Below is the actual description of the shows first episode — taken directly from the press release sent to us:
Riku and Tunna, the two Finns behind the madness, begin their journey in Brazil where they encounter dangers I personally wouldn't dare to face. The episode starts with Riku in a medical chair getting his bicep sliced open with a scalpel. What for? A diamond of course! He gets a diamond sewn under his skin in case he gets robbed and needs cash fast.

This precaution makes more sense once they reach their first destination: a shanty-town (Rocinha Favela) run by gang members. The murder rate in this town is significantly higher than Rio's, which has one of the highest crime rates worldwide. A lot of criminals move to the shanty town to get lost after leaving prison. Riku and Tunna get up-close-and-personal with one of the gang members and his guns.

They have got to be joking...

Unfortunately, prior to this post, the preview of the show has been removed from YouTube.

It was probably because of the dozens of comments pointing out whatever false location the show was calling Rocinha.

I spent around a dozen Funk fueled nights scurrying up and down the morro of the most populated favela in Rio and, no, that certainly doesn't appear familiar. I'm no favela expert but I do also recall every single person (Brasilero or not) being accosted by rifled minions whenever even seeming to take a picture with so-much as a cell phone — much less a video camera.

Aside from Diplo's 'Favela On Blast', which doesn't even show too much visually, you will be hard pressed to find quality favela footage.

In addition to the obvious cultural clusterfuckery this show is about to induce upon the places it visits, I wonder about the legal ramifications of lying about the place you are claiming to be shooting from.

Of course, I refuse to actually tell you what day the show will start. If you really wanna see it you will have to figure it out by means other than those of my words.

Travel Channel stays losing.

Tony may wanna jump ship before it's too late.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Trazzler Halftime: The Push for 1,000 Slothy Wishlists


We are at the midway point in the Trazzler.com #NYCGO writing contest. It has been a lot mo' fun and exciting than people woulda predicted. From the jump, I've been all sorts of active about getting the word out and it seems like a few dozen of the 204 semifinalists did the same. The efforts have livened the experience up for everyone involved.

I don't readily toot my own horn but in this case I'll break for a squeeze.

For one, my idea to donate some of the winnings to charity has caught on almost as rapidly as the wildfires burning my current So-Cal surroundings. Initially, I felt a tad robbed but charity is still charity and I would rather the winner donate a portion of their winnings to positive cause — especially one having to do with their Trazzler trip. After all, the writers owe as much to the places they visited as they do to their writing abilities. It's also true that most of my fellow competitors have only been complimentary instead of malicious.

I've been impressed with my supporters' drive to hustle votes and clicks for my lil' writing tidbit. Some get pretty excited and I have to be wary to warn cats not to flirt with their five-per-IP address limits by allowing votes from their friends and family. Visions of mid-party music halts aimed at convincing everyone in the room to log onto Facebook and send a vote the sloth direction plague my mind.

Still, aside from a few techno-tards who can't seem to follow the simplest of steps (albeit the voting/wishlisting terms take an inkling of explaining) to vote for the trip, all of my efforts have yielded results. The YouTube video should hit 1,000 before the contest is up, my CouchSurfing comrades have represented well, the Twitterverse has been responsive and, of course, the majority of my wishlisters have flooded in from my Facebook contingent.

As the contestants tighten their shoe laces, adjust their shin guards and wait for the second half to begin, a lot could still change. Team SLOTH won't. And to paraphrase Mos Def:

"No Matter How Hard You Sloth, You Can't Stop Us Now."


Let's hit 1,000!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Trazzler Wishlisting Underway: This One's For The Sloths

The word sloth has zig-zagged in and out of this blog since its inception. Eventually both the physical animal and the metaphoric one penetrated my mind state and my writing. All things sloth intensified on February 7th, when I finally had the chance to not only see a sloth but meet one.

Among the many amazing adventures that I had in Brazil, that day ended up leaving the thickest mark on my memory of the country.

#24514 Slouching in Slow-Travel, Sloth Style in Caraíva, Brazil

Nothing says “take it easy” like a hug from a sloth. No matter how easy you have been taking it, it’s simple to find yourself past the point of relaxation in Brazil’s cultural dream state of Bahia. True, you may have spent the last few hours or days in a gentle zephyr of milky sand, soothing ocean suds, and soul-cleansing moqueca (seafood stew) in the petite village of Caraíva—but a state of zen is only attained via sloth. Kept as pets by the indigenous Pataxó tribe, these smiley, three-toed mammals accentuate wooden handicraft outposts on the path back towards reality. Need a hug for the road?

When I stumbled upon Trazzler and their #NYCGO writing contest, it was my duty to that day and that animal to try to relay that experience. After considering the total amount of money, the idea of giving back to the experience came naturally.

So, yes, if I win I will donate exactly half ($5,000) of the grand prize to the World Wild Life foundation's Brazil focus. Of course this will help the sloths but it will also help preserve the area around Caraíva and beyond. I think that is only fair. After all, I will be helping to increase tourism to that area just by publicizing it this heavily.

It's sort of part of a bigger eco-friendly tourism reality that travelers and trazzlers alike will have to start realizing sooner or later. The ease of travel increases and the likelihood of too many visitors adversely effecting a place becomes inevitable. I just want to get a head start. Most travelers can't afford big donations, so I would hope, if I win that this one would be for the team.

Today voting (wishlisting) has begun for the Trazzler.com NYCGO writing contest and my trip is in fourth place out of 204.

For the sloth's sake, my sake and your sake, fellow traveler, let's hope I win.

Click here to vote/wishlist for my trip.

Check out the YouTube Video: Vote Sloth

Let's do it live!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trazzler: The Razzmatazz of Travel Blogging

And by razzmatazz, of course, I mean tiny sweet, tangy strips of gooey bloggy goodness sprinkled with sugary narrative.

But it's the bite-size length of the writing strips that are the site's most delicious feature.

Yes, the twitter of travel writing, Trazzler has its recipe just right. They don't give their writers (although mostly talented) enough room to ramble on and ruin the places they are trying to praise. This rapid fire approach on their mini-blogs (called "trips") forces writers to be concise. This also allows for more writing to be spent on other "trips" in other countries for other readers. It's a double victory.

Maybe, best of all, they don't open the floodgates to any-ole-hack with a keyboard and a passport stamp to write for their site. They have focus, consistency, quality and breadth — and all of these qualities compliment each other to make one hell of a great travel site.

If they play their cards right, maybe I will even lend them my words about my "trips", in Rio and out.

For now, I guess I can just be happy to be a semifinalist in their #NYCGO writing contest with trip #24514 Slouching in Slow-Travel, Sloth Style in Caraíva, Brazil. Sure it was only one of a few hundred Brazilian "trips" I took, but it was one of the fondest — still illuminating the room storing my memories in true saudades-steez.

It's almost been six-months since my six-months in Rio and I'm still writing about it.

Join trazzler and 'wishlist' my trip starting Monday August 31st and maybe, just maybe the site will get the chance to host my trips about the marvelous city.

For all of you loyal Keepin' It Rio readers, still checkin' the site after six months of absence...enjoy the exclusive photos of Caraíva, including bonus Sloth shots. Maybe more to come next week...

Vasco 4 lyfe...I'm out.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ordem e Preguiça: Rio’s Legacy On A Dweez


What is this, my first sloth in 2 months?

Sloth me.
Sloth on over here and help me out.
What the sloth?
Fuck these sloths.

I got slothed over tonight.

Pathetic sloth.
Precious sloth.

Eeking up trees
Life on

Sloth head.

Melon faced sloth.
Burping smiles all bubbled off Skol.

Is that a slotherhouse?

Little bandit sloth stealin’ up all my time.
Robbing urges.

That’s a real sloth slapper.

Crispy fur.
Ya hiding anything under that fur?

Betcha are.
Hope ya are.

I work at a Slothel.
Slothing everyone. All the time.
12 hrs for the price of 6.

There’s no business like Sloth business.

Sloth yourself.
One, hairy, three-toed sloth at a time.


Made in Sloth

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


are probably aware, Alex and I have left the land of juice bars and sand bars to return to the land of milkshakes and handshakes.

I am shocked, culturally.

A few nights ago, I was introduced to a girl at a bar. I went for the double cheek-kiss as her extended hand nearly jabbed my lung. Oh yea, we shake hands. I forgot how cold we are.

I also forgot how cold we are--in the literal sense. I wanted to give my new Havaianas sandals a whirl, but the only whirl was that of freezing wind that instantly incapacitated my feet. So much for all the tank-tops I bought.

Also so much for all the new tank-tops I bought--those being the cannons of miniature model tanks I bought from a Brazilian military enthusiast. No, I'm just kidding. I don't even think you can find those separate from the whole tank.

At any rate, I am readapting to the culture that I once knew exclusively.

Perhaps the most comforting experience thus far has come in the form of an efficient errand. Alex and I returned just one day before our grandmother's 80th birthday. Our gift? A framed collage of pictures we'd taken in Brazil, co-starring other family members that had visited us. So, we decided to devote an afternoon to this project. We started by ordering lunch...online. Sandwiches from Bay Cities Italian Deli on Lincoln. Point. Click. Point. Click. Ready in a half an hour. Next stop: Fed-Ex Kinkos on Wilshire. 15 minutes on the parking meter. We put in the USB flash drive into the Sony picture printer and out falls one $4.99 8"x10" photo, with 9 minutes left on the meter. Next stop: Joann Fabrics (isn't fabric already pluralized?). One frame--also $4.99. We picked up our sandwiches and returned back to the house within an hour.

Kissing, sweating and waiting are only a few of the cultural skins that I've had to shed since I got back. I'm sure more will emerge, in true awkward form. Until then, I guess I will just have to be keepin it Rio--in California.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Brasil, Brasil (a poem)

Brasil, Brasil. You keep me on my toes
The three o'clock rains and the Glória hos
You stole my heart like you stole my phone
Brasil, Brasil. You keep me on my toes

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tchau Carnaval

Yes my friends, Carnaval is sadly over; which means summer is over, which means school has begun, which means university initiations have begun, which means paint-covered freshmen have taken to the streets, which means...well, yikes.

If you are wondering why there hasn't been a blog post in over 2 weeks, perhaps this answers your questions:

A 3-week cerveja/bloco binge takes a toll on you. But would I do it all again?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pneus Envy

The Portuguese word for tires is pneus. That is all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


through some blogs about Rio de Janeiro. Written mostly by self-proclaimed ex-patriots, these web logs capture experiences and provide a comprehensive guide for travelers and prospective residents. I have a deep admiration for such selfless bloggers, these literary philanthropists. They provide a service. They help people. They use their efforts and creativity for purposes beyond their mere amusement.

My blog posts help nobody. They are for me. They are medicine for my ailing self-esteem. If anything, they would give travelers a disadvantage.

And yet...I am devoting this blog entry to you, traveler. I want you to be as prepared as possible when you arrive in Rio. I want to pave your road with the smoothest of pavements. I want to personally pack your parachute and be the one to kick you out of that helicopter. I want to be your Jesus, but instead of God’s message, it is Rio’s message—a message of hope, of joy and of where to go to get 3 beers for R$5.

What a better place to start than the Centro? If you find yourself downtown, particularly around the Uruguaiana black market, you will come across one of the most popular professions in Rio—the paper-passer-outer. I would call them flyers or pamphlets, but these disposable sources of information are no bigger than a band-aid. And your normal moves of evasion won’t work against these experts. The I’m-looking-at-the-ground-and-don’t-notice-you won't work. The all-the-sudden-I-have-something-very-important-to-tell-my-friend-next-to-me fails every time. Even the both-my-hands-are-holding-very-heavy-bags won’t save you. These people are smart. They will wave those little cards at your soul. You want to know my advice? Take the paper. Yeah, why not? Take all the papers en route. Hell, even thank them for it. Then when you get to your destination, simply place the wad of juice bar promotions and love motel ads into the nearest receptacle or use it later as free confetti. Sometimes confronting a conflict is the only way to reach urban enlightenment.

Don’t Push It!
In Portuguese, the word for pull is puxe (pronounced pooshie). I know this, yet I always pull a door that opens outward. Learn from my mistake.

Playing Cards
There is a park in Ipanema that, on certain days, converts itself into a card tournament for senior citizens. I have no idea what game they play, but it involves a small table, four players and about twenty spectators. This is, however, not what I want to discuss. The card playing that I’m talking about is that of the Gringo Card.

That’s right, it is okay to play the Gringo Card in Brazil. But don't mistake this for a Master Card or a Visait is not accepted everywhere. For example, if you are haggling down the price of speakers at the black market, mispronouncing cinco reais is not going to help your cause. If you are walking through the Praia de Botafogo underpass and are approached by several bottle-huffing runts asking for money, you may not want to say, “now fallo Porchageeze." Basically, if money is involved you should keep your Gringoness safe in your pocket with your wallet.

There are, however, instances in which the G-Card can be helpful. Let’s say, hypothetically, that you and your cousin are at the last Vasco da Gama futebol game of the season and you buy two scalped tickets only to find out they are not for sale nor accepted by the turnstile guard. Stay calm. Don’t be afraid to over-gringify your Portuguese and explain how your other cousin gave you the tickets. With any luck you will only be threatened to go to jail, and the security guy will eventually just let you in. The Gringo Card is also an acceptable form of payment in the area of romance. Although I personally am not a GGG (Gringos Getting Girls/Guys) cardholder, I am very confident in its effectiveness. As exotic as dark-skinned samba-dancing Brazilians are to us Gringles, our bad-rhythmed pasty-white asses are attractive to them. To some Cariocas, there is no sense of sexual accomplishment greater than the Gringo. If shame is not an option, use that card!

Beach Vendors
You may think your trip to Rio will include a leisurely period of relaxation on one of the many picturesque beaches. Think again. First, good luck finding a 5 square-foot area to put your chair. Second, unless your headphones block out a rocket take-off, you will not experience any form serenity. Another one of Rio’s favorite careers is the beach vendor. The cheese-on-a-stick guy. The jjjjjjjjjjornal do Brasil guy. The guy that sells those twisty bikini tops that, when untwisted, look like footwear from Aladdin. My personal favorite is the AAAAHHHHH-bacaxi guy, who finds so much amusement in scaring people with his pineapple kabobs that he never actually asks people if they want to buy anything. If you’re thirsty, I recommend waiting for the guy with two kegs of matte iced tea and lemonade under his arms. Number one, it’s cheap. Number two, shouldn't you support someone who’s been carrying around two kegs in the sun all day? Another tip: If a vendor has passed by and you want to flag him down, use the Carioca hiss. It’s a loud tssssssthiiuuu (kind of like saying ‘tissue’ but with more of a hiss). My hiss can travel hundreds of meters, and it's so accurate that it communicates to the vendor what I want.

My Issue with Scar Tissue
Within a few weeks of being in Rio, you may notice a scar on the right arm of every Carioca. They are small dots no bigger than a frog’s eye. This will baffle you—these little crop circles of flesh. Where did they come from? I discovered, through my own deductive reasoning, that there is a form of initiation in Brazil. On your fourth birthday, you have to go into the rain forest for seven days. In that time you have to find and kill a family of monkeys and turn their hides into Samba drums. When you come back out, the oldest member of the family stabs you in the arm with a smouldering-hot churrasco spear. My friend who lives in Lapa explained to me that Brazilians get their childhood vaccinations injected into the right arm, and the scars are from the needles. We agreed to disagree.

And there, my friend, is your travel guide. I hope my new blogging philosophy will enrich the lives of fellow travelers instead of just obscuring my own personal experience as unsubstantial, lowbrow comedic material that, at the end of the day (and at the beginning of the day), benefits no one.

Boa noite e boa sorte.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Angra Management: A Weekend Getaway

Friday night. Please God, no more Lapa. I call Luiz.

“Okay. This is what I’m thinking.” He starts most of his conversations this way. “My friend has a beach house in Angra and people are going for the weekend. There should be lots of girls" (there were 3). I wasn’t terribly thrilled about the idea of leaving for the weekend, especially still treading in the wake of my hellish sickness. But hey, we only live once, right? Well, unless you’re Hindu. Also I think Buddhists. How do pro-reincarnation folk justify spontaneous decisions? “Well, I could buy this plane ticket to Norway. Nah, I’ll just catch it next time around.”

“There’s only one thing.” Luiz is so predictable. Of course there’s a catch. “We have 2 cars, but only one person that can drive.” (Un)Fortunately, I have my California driver’s license with me. So, needless to say…

…we arrive at the beach at 4:40am on Saturday. It’s dark. It’s quiet. There’s no house. Pedro, the rich Brazilian with the to-be-inherited-beach-house-that-I-don’t-see-yet, takes out his cell phone and makes a call. Either 4 hours of driving in a 3rd world country had driven me completely insane, or I began hearing a phone ring in the ocean. Turns out, I wasn’t crazy. A man stands up in a tiny boat about 50 yards from shore, glowing phone in hand. He buzzes over to the dock. Seeing as no one else was questioning the peculiarity of this, I join them in transferring our bags and groceries from the cars to the dingy. Sardines in the truest sense, we jet through the bay’s blackness.

Faint lights dotting the base of an island grew larger and brighter. We finally got to our destination. The combination of dawn and delirium sabotaged any thoughts I could’ve formed a
t the time, but this is what I saw once the sun came out.Screwdrivers on the deck followed by frontflips off the dock—a perfect getaway weekend combo. Dance parties. Jam sessions. Barbeque. Laughter. Portuguese. We even played the hilarious Brazilian drinking game, “consequências ou bebe”, which ended in everybody eating meat by the dock in their underwear.

It wasn’t until Sunday morning when I thought, “where am I?” I was the first one up. I made a chocolate milk and a cheesebread then jumped in the bay for the better part of an hour. Coves and islands covered in jungle trees. Little fishies under me and fishermen in the distance. Where am I?

The crew on this voyage consisted of me, Alex, Luiz the sloth, and 5 Brazilian ex-strangers.
It was a bonding trip, a culturally uniting adventure not to be forgotten for at least a few weeks. But nothing topped seeing the boat guy come over and hearing Alex say, “Are we getting in that?”

We arrived back in Rio exactly 48 hours after we’d left. 2 days I may never understand. That seems to be an ongoing theme here in Brazil. I don’t understand much. Anything from tiny beer cups to having 10 workers at one juice bar. But understanding is overrated. It’s for mathematicians and people that help stabilize ladders for painters.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cops and Robbers: Okay, Just Robbers

In Rio, you should expect to be robbed.

Not only because that means when robbed you will be less upset, but this way you never bring around anything of value. Or maybe you just value what you bring less (?) I carry around R$ 50 (lil’ over 20 bucks), a copy of my passport, the apartment key and my very disposable celly (with at most R$15 of credit on it).

Needless to say, the only thing I legitimately worry about being stolen is my glasses. I’m running low on contacts, you see. Still. I have managed to fend off three robbery attempts from various vagrants in this crimed ridden city thus far.

The first came during the gayest moment of my life.

I was skipping beneath a football-field sized rainbow flag at one of the biggest gay parades on the planet. After reemerging, I headed towards Copacabana beach to chill on the sand and watch the spectacle from afar. Right then, I felt a hand dip into my trouser pockets. Admittedly, I was a bit concerned about someone going for my goods but I soon realized it was my monetary goods this wondering hand was after.

I caught the hand, tossed it to the side and continued to the beach unscathed.

Another hand hovered above my pocket entrance in the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Lapa. Using the popularized (by Bob) arm swing technique, I ran into this intruder the moment he limb was making the diving move.

I turned in time to see an arm coming down on my head. I felt a series of hands beginning to pummel my dome while I scurried towards the safety of a X-Tudo stand. The two run-by-beating-thieves slunk away in the crowd, as ready to get away from me, as I was to get away from them.

Another Rio robbery attempt foiled by my quick hands.

Embarrassingly, the only Carioca who managed to get money outta my pocket was a kid no older than nine. I was shortcutting my way to teach a class at Rio Sul, a massive shopping center close to our pad. This route went through a tunnel that cuts through one of Rio’s trademark steep rock faces that pop up all over the city. Without this shortcut you have to go around the protruding mount, leaving you about 20 minutes stupider. This time, a series of tunnel dwellers roamed on the far side of the road as I entered the tunnel. One ran towards me. He was a runt.

Runts are young (5-13), drugged-out (via huffed chemical compounds in water bottles), beggar kids often from the favelas but who spend their nights sleeping on cardboard (at best) on the sidewalks and streets of Rio’s neighborhoods.

These kids have less than nothing to lose — they’ve never had anything in the first place. They are the last bunch you want to run into on the Rua.

This time, one particular runt began to straggle beside me, asking for money. About five other runts crossed the street, targeting me as well. I started to get nervous entering the tunnel with three more runts lurking above me on a ledge like gargoyles ready to swoop on a gringo. In my increasing discomfort I spoke some broken Portuguese words.

This mistake almost did me in, as the little runt waved his friends forward to the foreign feast in front of him. I started to feed him little coins, hoping to satisfy him. Right when I was ready to break the bills out, an average João was walking the same path and served as my scarecrow to these raven runts.

“Why do you walk through a tunnel? Everyone know don’t walk through the tunnel,” my middle-aged student told me fifteen minutes later, in the safe confines of the 21st floor conference room. It wasn’t the first time that a student tried to give me tips to avoid bandieros (bandits).

I don’t know a Carioca who hasn’t been robbed. Usually, they are more fearful of their city than gringos. This weekend I learned that they also get a little mad if you aren’t as scared and careful as they are. Despite my “expect to be robbed motto,” I’m no fool. If I can, I avoid robby scenarios. But on Friday I walked my friend Ellen right into one.

Once again in Lapa, on an infamous inclined path (where I’ve witnessed no less than 10 other robberies), I led us by some runts. Walking in front, I turned around just in time to see Ellen being dragged by purse that was being strangled off her wrist. After a fruitless chase, I was left with earfuls of “told ya so” from my befriended Lapa-ers. I shouldered some blame and thought that was the end of it.
No less than 12 hours later, at Ipanama Beach’s post 10 on Saturday afternoon some Karma enforcing bandiero got me back. Although it’s another place I’ve repeatidly been told to be wary of, I’ve never felt the least bit threatened by the invisible bag boosting crowd who roam Ipanema’s squeaking sand.

I can’t tell the details, because I wasn’t there. But someone stole my bag from right under the noses of Bob and three other friends, while I was meeting a friend.

I lost R$50, a 2 Euro pair of aviators, a somewhat pornographic Spanish towel, sunscreen (which is like gold here) and a copy of Moby Dick, in which, I was entrenched waist deep in Whale lard.

I won’t bash Bob’s trustabilty as it is officially his birithday, but with the tourist season now in full swing, I will keep my “expect to be robbed” mentality.

Especially in Lapa.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Raw: Not Just War Backwards

Four months deep and I still struggle finding the right words to describe Rio de Janeiro. My cousin/traveling companion/hip-hop enthusiast/insomniac continually refers to this city as “raw”. I like that word. I’ve stolen it.

The other day I dropped eaves on a conversation between my cousin and his (girl)friend:

“You keep using that word!”
“Because that’s what it is.”
“Yea, but what does it even mean?”
“It means what it means!”

So. What does it mean to be raw? Let me break it down.

Raw like raw meat—flavorful but ultimately dangerous. I like my tri-tip as bloody as possible. “Still beating” is what I tell waiters. Why don’t I just eat it uncooked? Because I wikied it and do you know what those experts say? Raw meat can cause anything from mild discomfort to death. Death! Combining my analogy with their expertise on raw meat, “Consuming [Rio] is not the problem. It is what is in [Rio] that can be a problem.” Those smart bitches.

Raw like raw sugar—unrefined and naturally sweet. I always church up my double espressos with Sugar in the Raw. There’s just something about dissolving those tiny crystals that brings a smile to my foam-stained lips. Like raw sugar, Rio is unstirred by its well-processed neighbor, São Paulo. There is no bleaching process here...okay, maybe a little bleach. But aside from the bourgeoisie Zona Sul, Cariocas are overwhelmingly brown. Did you know that because of the natural presence of molasses, raw sugar is brown in color? Just like these people. And they're beautiful. They’re beautiful glimmering brown crystals, not dull bleachy white specks.

Raw like a raw wound—painfully exposed yet captivating. Have you ever cut yourself deep enough to see the white underskin staring back at you for a few seconds as if to say, “ahhhh, you found me!”...then quickly covering himself with a red flowing blanket of blood. Well Rio’s rawness, too, is hidden under layers and layers of skin. Tourist skin. Catholic skin. Samba skin. Soccer skin. It’s like every Carioca element has an excruciating underbelly. From favela funk to futebol fanáticos, you gotta cut deep to see the good stuff.

So when I say that my experience in Rio de Janeiro has been raw, you now have a slightly larger inkling as to what I mean. I’m not giving you a short answer because I want to get back to soaking in the summer sun on a bikini-filled beach, it’s just because it’s the only word in my vocabulary that accurately illustrates this crazy place. That and I just want to get back to soaking in the summer sun on a bikini-filled beach.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kombi Nation: Hands Up, Eyes Closed and Fist Clenched

There are a variety of ways to get to and fro in Rio. All are inefficient.

But only one comes to mind as a steadily wobbling mascot on wheels for the city. That creature of a vessel is known as the Kombi. Kombis appear to be compact Volkswagen buses. Well, actually, that’s what they are — at least from the outside.

Once you get past the two-color braided retro paint job (note: only scene on the up-to-speed Kombi’s) showcasing the Kombi’s two primary destinations, you enter another dimension.

A demented dimension.

Stinky men, with stinkier wives struggle to hang onto even stinkier children as the Kombi parties its way through Rio’s windy-est neighborhoods.

Many times these neighborhoods are favelas or somewhere in Zona Norte (the part of the city where they majority of Carioca’s live and most gringos avoid). However, between the hours of two and six in the morning you can catch a Kombi in most parts of the city, even Zona Sul (The south zone includes the beach cities and the nicer neighborhoods).

At R$2.00 a pop, Kombi’s are a bargain to the inflating 2.20 price of a bus, the 2.60 for an all-too-limited subway ride or the 4.50 starting price of a Cab fare. This drastically low price and the hard-to-reach location of our old Jungle house, had Bob and I coming in and out of Kombi’s like a good sex pun that I would could be used here. We became regulars on the Silvestre-Largo De Machado Kombi.

On one such occasion, I had the privilege of riding in the front of the Kombi. There, wedged between a Brazilian-hairy (another level, I promise you) retired linebacker looking fellow jostling between gears and a make-me-sit-in-the-middle-wanna-be suave favela type, I began to admire the stickers and trinkets that decorate most Kombi dashboards.

Giant sparkly bumper stickers, like the ones you buy at truck stops in the US, sparkled little religious sayings like “God Protect This Kombi” were slapped on every nook of this particular Kombi’s guts. Enjoying the breeze, I looked behind me to see what I wasn’t missing—16 people jammed into a space that only seats 9 comfortably. And this was not irregular. I turned around and enjoyed the breeze as we sped through Laranjeras.

My lucky day would be thwarted by a swerving taxi-cab driver, a complete rarity in Rio…dot dot dot

Another funny component about Kombi’s is that the engine is in the back, so when you are in the front only a couple of inches of plastic and tin separate you from the outer world. So when I realized the Kombi was in for a splash into a sea of yellow taxi paint, I did what the guy next to me did — nothing.

The cab, having been jackknifed, spun onto the patio seating area of a snack stand. Our Kombi, complete with screaming women and children, came to a screeching halt and everyone deboarded.

Besides a few strangling injured saps (bloody lip, fouled-up leg) the rest of the passengers waited as the driver radioed another Kombi. One arrived promptly 15 minutes later and the unfazed passengers (including myself) hopped on as if nothing happened.

Sure the Kombi’s are said to be run by the drug trafficanos in the favelas and squeezing so tightly so many times did a number on my personal between the legs baggage — I have to say I miss the little buggies.

After all, if going anywhere is a chore, wouldn’t you like that chore to cost you the least amount?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cajus Everything Around Me: When keeping it Rio’ goes Raw-ng

I always thought Cashews were a nut. And I’m nuts for ‘em.

Apparently, however, they are actually a seed from a fruit — cashew (or Caju) fruit. The delicacy is as popular here as it is in my heart. At all of Rio’s juice stands you can order Caju fruit juice and buy salted cashews from street vendors.
A strange looking item, the Caju fruit is so tender that it cannot be exported. Before coming to South America I had never encountered the source of my beloved “seed.”

Naturally, I was eventually bound to buy a few Caju fruits myself in order to extract and dine on a cashew or two in their purest form.
Many times Keepin’ It Rio is best achieved by Keepin’ It Raw.

Raw is a term as loaded as an Irishman who lost his flock. But for the purposes of our blog it usually means pure, un-tampered with and honest.

And honestly, it is usually a day-to-day goal of mine while roaming Rio to get raw with the city, at most to all costs. This time the cost was my lips.

I had only consumed a fraction of the nut before learning (via recently bill-paid-up-and-running and saving-my-life Wikipedia) that you must NEVER consume a raw cashew seed.

It’s nestled in a cocoon of the same toxin found in poison ivy. Mid-read my mouth started sizzling and popping like pork in a microwave.

I’m ashamed to admit I freaked-out a little bit. I watered, juiced and soaped my mouth while Aria, one of our three holiday Gringo visitors braved the language barrier storm and created a vitamin C paste for my poison ivy-ed mouth.
Liquids tasted strange for a couple of days but I’ve survived.

In other news, its 2009, so Happy New Year and remember, not everything is best raw.