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Goiás and Brasília; the Land of Red Earth and Cowboys

Gallery of photos from our week long expedition to Goiás, a rural, arid land of cattle, cowboys, Sertanejo (Brazilian country music) and the most hospitable people in all of Brazil.

Our journey to Goiás actually begins in Rio.  We were happily taking in the beautiful scenery, sunshine and surf, until Moreno got crushed by a wave.  He was helped up by a friendly Brazilian named Bruna who spoke excellent English.  We ended up spending the rest of the day with her and her dad, chowing down on Picanha, a popular brazilian cut of beef and sipping Caipirinhas in Lapa, late into the night.  Before parting ways we promised to go visit her in Goiás.

One of best parts of traveling is meeting new people, travelers and locals alike.  Only while traveling can you get crushed by a wave, hangout with someone you just met for an entire night and then spend a week living with her family. We had never planned on going to Goiás, but because of this chance meeting we were able to experience brazil far off the beaten path with a multitude of friendly and interesting people.

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Cities are Psychedelics

People in this metropolis move on a schedule, they listen to a melting clock that keeps on ticking, and they ride a subway that’s so brand new it hasn’t even developed it’s own unique stench. It just smells like freshly printed plastic. I’ve been sucked into the  toxic bloodstream of South America’s largest city. I wake up, put one foot out the door, and am swept away in a river of new cars, old people, middle aged office buildings, and aging infrastructure.

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I have overcome the language barrier by becoming a very good actor. Basically everyone I have spoken to in the last month is convinced that I understood them very well; in fact so am I and that’s really all that matters. I should get an Oscar for my performance in “Paying for Dinner” and “Asking for Directions to the Night Club:Part 4″.It’s really amazing how much you can say by not saying anything at all. A smile convinces someone that you agree with even the most ridiculous notion, a head nod here and there will encourage someone to go on, even a grunt does wonders for making your partner go into detail about some experience years ago under a moon you will never see.

Even though I don’t understand a damn word these Paulistas* speak, I play my part perfectly. Laughing when a joke is implied, and frowning when a question is asked. Every now and then I pretend to think really hard about the answer. I’ll mutter things like “tuna sandwich” and “gasoline monkey” until they figure it out themselves, then everyone laughs, smokes a cigarette and has a fantastic evening dancing to whatever is playing. A Brazilian likes someone who will listen, and trust me, I can listen. I’ve made a lot of buddies down here, all with only a handful of words, and some choice herbs.

IMG_9738In between beers and bars where classic rock lives on, I have started teaching English in downtown São Paulo, right off of  Paulista Avenue, the Broadway of Brazil. I’ve got experience teaching people how to speak English from my last job, although, this time, I’m not helping a drunk guy pronounce his girlfriends name properly after closing the bill with  her card. I’m helping a Brazilian say the day of the week, and I like things much more this way.

The days that I work are irregular, I cover the teachers that are sick, or on vacation for the weekend. I have heard great things from my students. They seem to like our videos of protests and my lame jokes about American politicians who get caught in scandals. I’m doing my best to make sure when they travel to the USA, they can make fun of the right people, and hey, who doesn’t love a foreigner who can laugh with you about corruption? The next generation of Brazilian students are going to speak great English, refer to everyone and their grandmother as dude, and will  know why the air smells so funny when the clock strikes 20 minutes past 4 in California.

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São Paulo is a city where you can find anything you want, for half the price; unless your lazy and you went somewhere expensive.  Break that comfort zone, or break the bank; whichever your more comfortable with.  Go to places with lots of ethnic diversity, venture down those dirty alleys that are leading you downhill where the shadows are drinking and laughing at you.  If you want to really experience this city, you’ve got to chase everyones demons, and try everyones vices. Who knows, maybe you’ll pick up a few new ones.

Liberdade, Republica, Centro; these are all neighborhoods where Asians, Italians, Jewish,  and Lebanese people have settled and mixed so beautifully with Brazilian culture. Have you ever seen a Japanese person whip up some fantastic Ramen, and then cuss profusely in Portuguese because he’s so damn busy? I have, and now I want to live in Japan, make Ramen and cuss in Portuguese. Traveling makes you want to do weird things like that. Every time I go to a new neighborhood in this city, I want to trip somewhere else in the world.

There are many kinds of trips we take in life. The trip to the store, the trip that leaves a mark on your face, the trip with your friends to south america, the trip to cabo with the girls, and, if you’re lucky, the trip from a potent portion of something someone made in a lab (you hope it was a lab at least).

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I didn’t realize this until I lived in São Paulo for a month, but there is a new kind of trip that we’re all on. If you’re living in a big city, you’re hooked on a drug, and you’re tripping as we speak. If you’re laying in bed and you can hear rubber tires squeaking on asphalt,  if you see grime clogging up the gears of trains on their way to work, if you have an appointment at 5 and you leave by 3:30 because of traffic, if you see graffiti on nearly every empty surface, if homeless people sleeping in front of banks is a normal fixture of your neighborhood, if concrete is comfortable; you, my fortuitous friend are on a sneaky little psychedelic named after whatever metropolis you are currently dosing yourself with.

That’s what your rent is. It’s a bill for that trip you take when you put one foot out your door, and your swept around from 9 to 5, then shuttled back home in a little machine with wheels. Welcome to the modern day my friends, where drugs are legal, and cities are psychedelics.

 

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Portrait of Rio de Janeiro

Everyone has an idea of what Rio de Janeiro is like during the World Cup, with the massive parties on Copacabana, the violent protests, and the hordes of tourists. While living in Rio for a month I took my camera around everywhere, attempting to shed light on the other side of Rio, the real Rio, the one not seen on TV or in the newspapers. Here is my portrait of Rio de Janeiro.

 

Photos by Walker Dawson

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The Road to Zion

Camping on Ilha Grande, Brazil

Ilha Grande is a tropical island near Rio de Janeiro.

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Upon arriving in by ferry in Vila Abrão – the largest settlement on the island packed with cool hostels and backpackers – we decided to hike 2.5 hours to Lopes Mendes.  It has been voted one of the best beaches in the world and it certainly did not disappoint, even though the hike was brutal with our packs.  

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Our plan was to camp on Lopes Mendes, but a life guard warned us that it was illegal and not safe because of the corrupt guards. The southern part of the island is patrolled by the military because it is national park territory.

IMG_9715We took the lifeguards advice, walked to the closest beach, which was just outside the national park, waited for all the boats to leave and the sun to set before setting up camp.  The setting was simply spectacular.

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There were no lights, so we could see the milky way by 7.30 pm.  We ate our remaining bananas, oranges and cookies while kicking it on a beach.  The sound of the ocean was quickly drowned out by the jungle.  A night of natural solitude was exactly what we needed after a month in Rio.  Walker was the only one with a sleeping bag and a mat, so the rest of us barely slept because of the cold, damp conditions.

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We were ‘woken up’ at dawn by a troop of howler monkeys, hiked back to Lopes Mendes and passed out on the beach for hours.  We had amazing time, but the next day we were filthy and starving so we took a boat back and spend the following night in hostel.

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Filmed and edited by: Nick Neumann
Music: Damian Marley – Road to Zion (EFIX & XKAEM Cover)
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World Cup Protest Turns Violent (Video)

Instead of watching the Argentina-Germany final, we were trapped in a square by 1000’s of military police. They began firing tear gas, stun grenades, and pepper spray, injuring dozens of people in the process.
Here is a short recap.

Followed by an extended version with all of the craziest footage.

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Rio’s Top 5 Neighborhoods

There is not other way of putting it, Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s best cities. It’s equal parts first world and third world, part European, part Latin, and part African. It flows to the beat of Samba and Funky, and enjoys hands down the greatest setting of any city in the world. It is far from perfect, the crime rate is high, the poor are mistreated by the military and police, and the economic disparities are some of the most extreme on the planet, but it is those exact tensions and contrasts that make Rio endlessly fascinating.  At the end of the day, Cariocas (a resident of Rio) seem to put these differences aside in favor of white sand beaches, the warm Atlantic water and the vibrant nightlife.

#5 Urca

The upper middle class neighborhood of Urca is an unexpected delight. It has beautiful treelined streets with local neighborhood restaurants and bars (make sure to check out Bar Urca where you can sit on the sea wall overlooking of Rio and the Christ the Redeemer statue). But what makes this neighborhood great is its setting. It is situated on the end of a narrow peninsula between the iconic Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain and the bay.

Things to see:
  • Pista Cláudio Coutinho
  • Praia Vermelha
  • Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain
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Praia Vermelha and Pão de Açúcar, Urca.

#4 Copacabana

This is the most typical of neighborhoods on this list, but it must be mentioned. This is what Rio de Janeiro is famous for; if you’ve seen this city in a movie or on a postcard, it was probably from Copacabana. Here lies one of the greatest stretches of urban beach anywhere in the world. One minute you are underground, packed like a sardine at rush hour on a crowded subway car, and the next minute you are riding waves in clear, warm water with white sands, palm trees and blue skies. An added bonus is that the people are beautiful, the juices are plentiful and otherworldly and the setting is spectacular. This is why people come to Rio, and I can understand why.

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Copacabana Beach.

#3 Centro

For a city of 12.5 million, the downtown of Rio may seem disappointing at first (the skyline could be compared to a mid sized American city such as Cincinnati or Denver), but what it lacks in soulless skyscrapers, it makes up for with history and old world charm. This is the historical heart of Rio de Janeiro, and some might argue all of Brazil, but this isn’t like the tacky tourist joints of the North End in Boston, or Midtown Manhattan where teeshirt shops outnumber locals, these streets are rough, with homeless men smoking crack, people shuffling through garbage and the walls are covered in graffiti. But pause for a second and you will find over 400 years of Portuguese and Brazilian history all around you.

Things to see:
    • Mosteiro de São Bento
    • Centro Cultural Banco Do Brasil
    • Travessa do Comércio
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Igreja de São Francisco de Paula, Centro.

#2 Lapa

If there is a crazier party strip in Latin America I’d like to see it. Lapa is where Cariocas of all walks of life come to party and be merry. The sounds of Samba flood into the street, strangers meet and begin dancing, people sip caipirinhas while chewing on grilled meat from migrants from Brazil’s Northeast, transsexuals sell themselves on street corners in skimpy dresses, and in the shadows crack dealers sell their goods. It’s a crazy mix that must be experienced, preferably with a sweet caipirinha in your hand.

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Street Vendor, Lapa.

#1 Santa Teresa

This bohemian hood of narrow, 100 year old cobble stone streets is Rio’s crowned jewel. This is a neighborhood of poets, writers, artists, and those who inhabit crumbling, turn of the century mansions. This neighborhood would certainly take the cake as one of the worlds great neighborhoods. Make sure to check out Largo do Guimarães and Largo das Neves, two old squares with bohemian bars (Bar do Gomez) and restaurants (Bar do Mineiro). Our personal favorite is Largo das Letras, a wonderful place where music dances through a library like setting and caipirinhas flow freely.

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Bar do Gomez, Santa Teresa.

Stay tuned for our neighborhood review of Sao Paulo.

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The Dark Side of the World Cup

After many crowded days of watching World Cup games at the FIFA Fan Fest on Copacabana, I wanted to see what other Brazilians thought of the World Cup being hosted in their country. Back in June of 2013, Brazil came to a standstill as the largest protests in decades swept the country, with citizens expressing anger at the increasing cost of living and the governments decision to spend billions on FIFA stadiums while ignoring the basic needs of lower and middle class citizens. While these protests are largely over, there still exists a small minority who continue to express themselves, yet while the number of protesters are getting smaller, the response from the military police is becoming increasingly more violent. While I have only been here for 3 weeks, it seems that most Brazilians are quite content with the fact that the World Cup is here, in fact they seem so swept up with their daily lives that the World Cup is just an afterthought. That being said, the frustration of these protesters speaks volumes about the massive internal problems Brazil faces as a country. The violent military and police crackdown I saw on this night is no way of dealing with these problems, it is only sweeping it under the rug for another day.