Sunday, June 1, 2008

Under the weather

Occasionally I have a stretch during which I am completely unmotivated to write. Right now, during one of those times, I am not a happy girl. I have a cold which I can’t seem to shake no matter what combination of tea, soup, sleep, and assortment of over-the-counter remedies I try. I feel cranky and lonely, I’m bored, and no one is here to make me laugh.

Well, there is the news, and the story about frost. Apparently the 38-degree low recorded Friday night was the coldest temp on record in 15 years. Ha, that’s worth a little laugh. In fairness to the brasileiros, not only are their bodies unaccustomed to the chill, but their homes are typically unequipped for it. I am among the lucky few to have the equivalent of a space-heater built into my bedroom wall.

Further damaging my self-esteem and overall demeanor is the approaching Dia dos Namorados (Valentine’s Day), so that this year (in addition to having shorter winter days for roughly 10 month straight), I can be painfully reminded *twice* that something is missing. And then there’s my guilty conscience for not posting.

Other than my present stretch of dark-cloud grumpiness, the week began quite nicely. When I returned to the Tupiniquim Hostel in Rio de Janeiro last Friday, I was greeted by Eliseu, Dudu, and Lucas (familiar from my visit six months ago). I spent the first evening at the popular hostel bar sharing animated stories with new acquaintances Lívia, Mario, and Luciana. Delightfully, that is how I spent my entire four days, more or less. I conversed with really interesting travelers on topics ranging from life in Cuba to the importation of the massive mirrors in Confeitaria Colombo’s Bar Jardim (Google it, it’s cool). I made some Brazilian guys laugh really hard with a well-timed curse word in portuguese during a midnight soccer game in the park. I met a guy, Adriano from Minas Gerais, who was in the final round of try-outs for Ídolos, the Brazilian equivalent of American Idol. I met Vitor (left), a smart-as-a-whip 11-year-old from Bahia, who gave me his insights on the fragility of Brazilian politics and the potentially explosive economy. And I spent many enlightening hours with Pierre (right), who just left his corporate life outside Paris and embarked on a round-the-world adventure while he brainstorms what he wants for his future. Pierre was the embodiment of that “kindred spirit” you meet along the road – they are rare, but they exist.

I wandered in Cinelândia, Centro, Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana, Botafogo, and Flamengo. I observed the people and the scenes, because I’ve done most of the tourist stuff before. This time, I marveled in the architecture of the side streets, browsed in bookstores, and went to some art cinema. I ingratiated myself with a Brazilian couple from Goias on a city bus and followed them to Maracanã on Saturday night to see the game (which sadly Inter lost to Rio’s Flamengo).

On Monday I led Pierre and Hermes to Escadaria Selarón, because they hadn’t seen it before. Selarón’s famous staircase is 215 hand-tiled steps, probably 15 feet wide, which create a lovely explosion of color on the hill between Lapa and Santa Tereza. We met Selarón. I think he fancies himself a Chilean Salvador Dali, but he does have an interesting story. He’s met thousands of famous people from all over the globe during the 18 years he’s been creating and recreating the steps. His work has been featured in a variety of media from National Geographic to Playboy to a Snoop Dogg video. He encourages tile donations, and the staircase currently contains pieces from over 60 countries, from the wall of a Paris Metro station to a hand-painted skyline by a 7-year-old New Yorker. I didn’t bring my camera along so I’ve swiped a picture from the last visit (thanks, Thiera).

This sign made me smile.

I actually have to set my alarm clock tomorrow. I don’t like that one bit.
Hopefully I’ll feel healthier and more positive in a few days.