Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Beach time beyatch

Onwards north from Salvador, and the equator is making it's presence more clearly felt.

The night bus to Olinda wasn't half bad actually - for me anyway. I slept like a baby. I can sleep pretty much anywhere if I'm tired, including standing up in line one time.

Anway, Olinda is just north of Recife, a large coastal city. Recife is a bit of a skyscraper-land, but apparently quite cultural once you get to know it. I didn't, so it remains skyscraper-land in my mind.

Olinda is a bit of a town, with more old buildings, like Salvador. There are registered "guides in training", who don't really speak english, but really want to show you around. Well, they really just want to take you to all the churches nearby. They are free (plus a tip of course, so not free at all), but we decided against using them and their enthusiasm. Anyway, by the coast the pace of life is getting more and more laid back. And the humidity and the heat is increasing. I spent the afternoon sitting by the water watching the boats and people fish, whilst drinking beer and eating ridiculously cheap crab - R$2.30 (about NZ$1.80) for a whole one!

The next day we continued our journey to Praia de Pipa, a beach town that is very popular with tourists, as well as holidaying Brazilians, but being the low season it's not too busy. It was about three and a half hours from Olinda, and it is hotter and more humid. It's a village with lots of restaurants and shops, and beaches galore. Beautiful beaches.

The beach nearest is a little rocky, but still really nice, with bathwater pools at low tide. There is a bus that is really cheap and goes to other beaches nearby. I went to dolphin beach yesterday afternoon and had a really nice swim - the water is so warm here. We saw really only one dolphin properly, teasing us with flashes of fins and small splashes. The best time to see them though is in the morning when they feed in groups, so methinks we will be checking them out tomorrow.

This morning I and five others went a little further than dolphin beach to a river that mixes with the sea. We went kayacking in amongst the mangroves and jumping fish, and went swimming - whether we liked it or not. It poured with rain for a bit, but it was just warm enough for it not to matter. And the water for swimming was nice and warm too, with black squishy mud that sucks you in to your knees. And I can also confirm that if you rub it on your face you look like Rambo.

The temperature is quite amazing for this time of year, but being so close to the equator now and all, winter really doesn't exist. According to my own measurements, at the beach yesterday it was 37°C+ in the sun, and 30°C in the shade. At 10am yesterday it was 33°C, with 93% humidity. So it's "pleasantly" warm, and warming up today now that it's no longer raining.

Tomorrow night we move on, to Fortalezza I believe, on another night bus. We stay there only one day, then go to Jeri-something, which is a small fishing village, now being tourist-ised with lots of activities available, such as surf lessons.

Life is hard, but someone has to take one for the team and spend some hard hours in the sun on the beyatch.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Dancing in the street, and other such daily activities

Forget Rio, Salvador is party central.

Since we last talked, I was in Rio de Janeiro, and had a lovely walk around Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, sipping out of a coconut. Then I joined the GAP tour that I'm now on, and flew to Salvador (and yes, I'm well aware flying is incredibly bad, but it's the first and last flight on this tour).

Salvador is quite amazing. We're staying right in the old part of town, with most buildings and the cobblestone streets dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. It's a port town, and back in the day it was the main hub of colonial Brazil. It's now a UNESCO world heritage site, with bars covering the basement windows of many buildings where they used to keep the slaves. (Sorry I have no pictures as it would be a nightmare to upload them on this connection.) It's surreal, with people going about their day to day lives in this blast from the past. Most places don't look like they've been painted for a while either... Restoration work is ongoing.

The first night here we realised how sweet our hotel is - equiped with a pool and bar, and definitely the most modern- and comfortable-looking building in the whole of this part of town. We also realised that we had a great group of eleven people - all good people, and also a mix. Two couples, four people twenty and below, and the others high-twenties and up. We also have an awesome Venezuelan guide who's done this trip 17 times now, after being a detective, electrical engineer, motocross champion, marine... He also guided John MacBeth (some NZ sports commentator apparently...) around Venezuela for the TV show Intrepid Journeys.

Anyway, that night (Tuesday night - one of the main party nights in Salvador, along with Sunday - some African influenced thing) we had dinner, and then went to the main square and listened to the drumming, and watched the dancing in the street. There was also singing, and lots of stalls selling beers and caiparinhas. Some got into it and danced, meeting a really good local dancer - but more on him later. Some also got money stolen straight out of their hands. Salvador feels dangerous at times, especially at night. There are lots of homeless, and lots of crackheads. It's very sad. And when you travel in groups of white people speaking english, your a huge target for beggars, and people trying to get you to buy things, or trick you into buying things. They put necklaces around your neck as a "gift", then demand you pay them money for it. They also tie things around your wrists for good luck, which are meant to be free, but you have to be very wary of their true motives.

Wednesday day we sat by the pool, then walked around the town - splitting up into various groups. There is a handicraft market, but most things are very similar to a point, and though I've been offered many things, I haven't felt the urge to buy anything yet. There are also lots of jandals for sale - the big brand is called Haviana and the local ones are made in Brazil.

That night we went to an amazing dance show that demonstrated about six different kinds of dances. There were dances about gods, fishing, harvesting and capoeira. The fire dance was amazing, so was the end of harvest one - with knives sparking as they "fought" with each other. But the most impressive was, of course, the capoeira. The guys were better than olympic gymanists, pulling of amazing flips with no protective mats - just as many do on the streets here, but better. Slavador is truly the dance capital of Brazil.

We then went out for nibbles and drinks to celebrate someone's birthday, and during met our dancing friend again. He sells things in the street, and it turns out he lives just a few doors down from our hotel. He offered us dance lessons for the next day. I went. He took us to a place with a view of the amazing harbour at 4pm, and we danced in the street for a good hour and a half or so. Tourists were taking pictures and the locals were laughing, but it was good fun. The sun was setting infront of us (it sets quite early this time of year). I learnt some afro-Brazilian moves, and I reconfirmed that I cannot dance. I got blisters on my feet as I had to be barefoot so sayeth tradition.

That night we went to an amazing restuarant, with local dishes - especially seafood. They make their portions huge here. The dishes are meant to be for two, but three could happily share one. There was more dancing in the street, more drumming, and music in cafes and bars. It's the tourist low-season here, so the people going to these things are mainly locals. Do they ever work?

This morning I tried capoeira - much more physically demanding. It involves kicks and blocks - a form of dance, but also a way of training fighters in disguise. We learnt the basic moves, and I learnt that I have bad coordination and balance, and reconfirmed that I am fit, but extremely inflexible.

In some ways I don't like the idea of being on a "tour" - it would be much better to be more free and true to the traveller's way. But the places you get to go on this type of tour would be hard, if not impossible to do on your own, and the huge advantage of having someone who knows his stuff book everything, and suggest things to do is invaluable. As is making new friends - both local and on the tour. It sounds like the GAP guides are mixed bags, but our one is definitely one of the best, and very experienced.

Tonight we take a night bus - 14 hours, joy! - to Olinda, the shark attack capital of Brazil. It's nice sticking to the coast, and going more and more remote.

PS I hope you NZer are enjoying Budget time!

Monday, 19 May 2008

When in Rio...

So I've been doing what one has to do when in Rio - and there's lots that fits that description. I visited Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), or Turisto Redentor as it seemed to be today. He watches over Rio, and so I did too. (It was a nice day, but look at the haze. Bloody humans and their cars).
I've also partied in Lapa for two nights - Thursday and Friday. On Friday, after drinking on some plastic tables and chairs outside a couple bars, we went to a really good and old Samba club, with live music. I think it was the first in Rio, and the building atleast was build in 1867.

I also walked around the centre area of the city, Centro, on Saturday. It was very quiet. Most people must just work there, and then stay in their neighbourhoods at week ends, which is understandable. All the shops that you need are nearby, and all the (wealthier) neighbourhoods are very nice. Centro has old buildings dotted in with new. There's a new Cathedral I went inside of that looks like a starwars parliament building from the outside - not too pretty, but inside is very different. Very peaceful, and powerfull, with an extremely high roof and beautiful stained glass.

Above are steps near Lapa, which are paved with tiles from some old artist. One day he just decided that they were his project, and now they are filled with tiles from all over the world - including one of a Tui. He's a bit crazy, apparently, and every picture he personally draws features a pregnant black woman as the main focus. The steps are always a work in progress - he smashes some tiles and replaces them, though he seemed to be taking Saturday off.

Above are the arches of Lapa. They are an old aquaduct that now support the tramline that runs to Santa Teresa, which I visited on my first day (see earlier post).

After visiting Jesus and the neighbourhood below it today, I strolled along Copacabana beach and watched the sun set. A very romantic moment with myself.

Tomorrow I will probably visit the beach again more properly, as I haven't done so yet and it's my last day. I move to a hotel nearby to join the 42 day tour I'm doing, which takes me to Salvador on Tuesday.

Sunday, 18 May 2008


Yesterday I did a Favela (or slum) tour, with Marcelo Armstrong`s company. He was the pioneer of the Favela tour, but now there are many companies that do it. Marcelo`s tour takes you to the biggest Favela in Rio (and second biggest in the world - with 60,000 inhabitants) Hocinha. It`s above Ipanema beach area. It also goes to a small Favela, with only 3,000 people, called Villa Canoas.
The whole notion of a Favela tour in the first place can seem a little bit wrong. In a friend`s hostel, someone wrote "It`s not a zoo!" on an advertising poster. However, apparently the communities were consulted before they started getting big, and they decided that they wanted the tours. They bring money, and change people`s perceptions. The first stop, for example, had a small market of local artist`s work to sell to tourists. The tour I went on partially funds a "school" - though really it`s a place to go outside of the short school hours to get fed, taken care of and have extra academic help. I certainly learnt a lot more about Favelas and what they`re actually like.

Favelas are a huge part of Rio. They are unusual in that they are scattered through out the city, instead of being on the outskirts (as they seemed to be in Sao Paulo). Some now famous people - such as sports stars - grew up in Favelas. They are also the driver that started Carneval in Rio, and apparently have the best after-parties. There are about 160 in Rio, so a large amount of people live in them.

On the way to Hocinha there was a graphic illustration of the appalling wealth divide. We went past a private school and saw all the cars and their chauffeurs waiting for the students to come out. Then, just around the corner, we hit the main (and only proper) road in Hocinha (shown in the first picture).

It was different from what I imagined. There`s all the problems you hear about - the low standard of living, the fact that organised crime units run the place and that police are actually worse than the drug dealers who keep the law and order and the buildings that are erected out of the materials people could find, with no building codes adhered to, and no meters attached to the web of power lines. (The gangs are only really are violent over drugs, and if there`s a war between them and another gang unit, or the police. The police on the other hand are lowly paid and corrupt, even robbing a bank not long after in opened in Hocinha). But the reality is they are the same as any people - clean, dressed in normal clothes, and going about their daily lives. There were shops, banks, buses, cars and bikes. They just earn a lot less, are less educated, and live in much more crowded conditions (though things are pretty crowded all over Rio, being a big city and all).

The second Favela, Villa Canoas, was a little different. It was sandwiched between wealthy houses and a golf course, again showing the wealth divide and the integrated nature of the Favelas. But it was small, and more like a labarenth. The houses were a few stories high (some piled on top of each other), and the "streets" were only just wide enough to fit two people across. The buildings closed in above, limiting the penetration of natural light. It was very strange, like walking through a dungeon, but with peoples` houses and even shops on either side. A very claustrophobic existence.

Villa Canoas, being so small and manageable, has had some reforms put in place. There are meters for power, street names, and a sewage system (I think). The federal Government is planning to put this kind of infrastructure in all Favelas - which is very ambitious, and will take some time (of course, being run by the Government) if it happens at all. It`s a trade-off - the people will have more regulation, paying for power and probably taxes too, which they don`t now, but then they get important and vital infrastructure in return.

A great experience, I learnt a lot.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Last night in SP, and first day in Rio

For my last night in São Paulo, a friend told me about what seems to be the premier Jazz bar, called Teta. I went there for dinner with some other friends - more people I met through the Global Young Greens - and there was quiet and live jazz playing. We waited around for who we were there to see, which were a really good Brazilian trio, with a promising, and happy young drummer:
Sorry I don't know any names, but they were good, and fushion-ish.

The next day I had a final lunch with a couple of friends - one Brazilian, one Sri Lankan. The place was a typical (but nicer than usual) self-serve weigh-and-pay Brazilian place. The downstairs area was very novel. You could watch the chefs make pasta and other pastries from scratch, and, if you so pleased, who take a nap on one of the lavish beds after your meal.

That night, after a very smooth bus trip, I arrived in Rio, at my hostel in Copacabana. The next morning, after sleeping in as usual, I discovered my cellphone had gone missing. I HATE loosing things, and that was number three, though easily the most expensive (number one being my Onslow leavers hoodie, and number two my plastic soap holder - very handy, and is being sorely missed). No luck with finding the phone yet, but the delay sorting it out allowed me to be around long enough to get a phone call (to the hostel) from yet another GYG who is still hanging around Brazil. The Green invasion is still not over.
Anyway, that ended me up in Santa Teresa, which is kinda like the Kelburn of Rio (for those of you that know Wellington). Very laid back, old houses (and very old tram), and really close to town. Fancy restaurants and nice shops dotted around too. It's a nice place.

That night I joined with more Aussie Greens, plus some other travellers and a local, to party in Lapa, the night club live music area. The main party nights here are Thursday, Friday and Saturday - so I better start working out how to party tonight. There were parties spilling onto the streets from venues, and a place that sold R$1 (about NZ$0.70, US$0.50) beers in the street. It was a very free, and slightly disorganised feeling. We also got to witness a fight about cocaine near the end of the night. Not pleasant, but it seems violence about drugs here is common, but doesn't cross over to general violence so much, luckily.

'Tis all for now, but there's so much to do in Rio I have lots more to tell.

Pictures! (Finally)

Good evening all. I finally managed to get some pictures for you - and there will be more to come in future. Though I am now in Rio, here are some retrospective shots that I promised you. Firstly, a shot of a (small) part of São Paulo from some big park which I don't remember the name of. It is looking towards the wealthy area of town, with the main business street, Av. Paulista, at the back. I stayed near there, to the left a bit, for my last week in SP in an area called Jardins.
Some Capoiera entertainment on the first night of Global Greens. It is a dance mixed with a martial art, developed by the African slaves in Brazil.
The powerful New Zealand delegation at the Global Greens.
Some intense thinking and discussion at the Global Young Greens meeting, on the second, more formal day. This is in the basement of a church on Av. Paulista.

And finally, one person from each country at the Global Greens doing a hello, and stading on stage. In this picture there are only about two thirds of the total countries on stage.

So there you have it, some pictures to satisfy your visual cravings. I am in Rio now, staying in Copacabana, but I have to go now, so I will leave it at that. Some more pics and updates to come.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The questions you're dying to ask answered

How's the weather?

In São Paulo, not as nice as many Global Green attendees were hoping - I mean, it's Brazil, right? Well as far as I'm aware yes, it is Brazil, but Brazil is a big country. So it's been Wellington-ish actually - if you know what I'm talking about. Cool at nights - 10 to 14°C and cool during overcast days - maybe no more than 18 or 19°C at most, with a cool breeze. On sunny days though it's been warm in the sun - low twenties, but feels hotter in the sun. Rio should be quite a bit warmer though. Can't wait.

What's the food like?

Well, there's a lot of places, being such a huge city and all, but mainly it seems to be pizzerias, sushi bars, buffets (with local type food I guess - salads, roasted and grilled meat - very popular) and snack bars, with pastries and the like. They love their fruit and their sugar/sweet things. They also love their meat - a problem for the many Greenie vegos. Often chicken isn't considered a meat, and something as simple as a "cheese sandwich" on the menu can include big slabs of ham in reality. That's the other thing. Loads of cheese - especially melted. You can even buy fried cheese on a stick.


Lots of fruit juices of all varieties, usually freshly squeezed or from a can - which tastes pretty real too. Beer is very popular too, as are spirits. The most popular are made from sugar cane and the bog-standard cocktail is the mighty caparinha. The caparinha is kinda like a metaphor for Brazil itself. Sugar cane-liquor, ice, lots of sugar and lots of lime. It tastes sweet and citrus-y - you can barely taste the alcohol a lot of the time. So though it is tasty and easy to drink, it can go straight to your head.

And btw, what're doing next?

Rio! In the next few days to check it out. I'll probably have about five days there before I start my tour, which will take me first to Salvador on Tuesday, 20.

And what've you been up to?

Not a hell of a lot. I've been recovering from the previous week(s), which left me with a cold and sleep-deprived. So I've been sleeping a lot, walking around, going to parks and museums and getting more confident ordering at restaurants where no one speaks English. I went to university with my friends on Thursday - which was interesting, but I was still very tired and therefore quiet. They have one class a day for three hours in the morning in a high school-style setting. I haven't managed to see them as much as I would've like, but that's life. It's Mother's Day in Brazil today, so it was quiet comparatively. (Happy mother's day mum).

A GYG is coming back from Rio tomorrow, and I should be seeing another local then too. So things should be picking up again, and then I'll be off to Rio! Hopefully my health will be back to normal by then, as I feel the smog hear is delaying a full recovery.

And, PS, hopefully at the next hostel I will be able to post photos and avoid such bland pages full of text, which are a crime against the internet these days.

Friday, 9 May 2008

The Second Global Greens Congress 2008

After a great warm up with the Global Young Greens meeting (see post below), it was on to the official Global Greens Congress. Set up in 2001 as the first truly global political movement, with a unique philosophy and a common Charter, it was high time these pioneers met again to regroup and strengthen their global movement. The congress was a chance to make connections and networks, share ideas and to come out with something official and concrete to take the Global Greens into the future that so desperately needs them.

Day one, 1 May, started off with talks and discussions sponsored by the Heinrich Boll foundation. It then moved to the official opening ceremony in the evening, featuring a hello from each of the 88 or so countries present, as well as one from Brazilian President "Lula". We also were entertained by a local Capoeira group - with their music and their dance-fighting.

Day 2 started on a more sombre note, with a presentation dedicated to Ingrid Betancourt, who was a Green Presidential candidate in Columbia until she was captured by FARC rebels almost seven years ago. Still in captivity in the jungle, but with failing health, she is a inspiration, and her speech to the 2001 Global Greens Congress in Canberra was replayed. There was also a very moving speech by someone who was only recently released after being captive for four years. He had seen Ingrid, and tried to escape with her. They swam at night down a river for six days until they could no longer, and had to give themselves up again. The rebels chained them to trees day and night as punishment.

After this we got into the swing of the serious business. More discussions on the big issues (sustainability, climate change, biodiversity and so on), workshops to improve the many resolutions we were working on, as well some workshop to share ideas about more specific issues. I went to one to improve our resolution on post-Kyoto negotiations, and also one about online campaigning. The Canadian Greens are apparently a huge success story in this area, getting more votes in the whole history of their Party in one election, with funds and membership numbers increasing many times over. I took notes.

Finally, on the morning of Sunday 4 May, delegates voted on the main resolutions and their amendments. For those who made it, I'm sure it was riveting - but I was confident that New Zealand's sole delegate, Keith Locke, did an excellent job voting for us. They passed the 21 action points for the 21st century - which was an extensive statement on what the Greens want to see happen. The other most notable resolution was a plan to establish, by next year, an International Global Greens Secretariat - probably in Canberra - that would greatly improve the co-ordination of the Global Greens. There's so much information-sharing potential, and it really needs to happen!

Some videos and information about what happened at the Congress seems to be slowly appearing on the Global Greens website.

It was amazing to be mixed with so many different people from so many different countries, who were all united in our philosophy - best summed up with the word "Green". We want to see a fairer and more sustainable world - not just out of love for people and the world around us, but also out of necessity. There were the European Greens, who have representation not only in many of their countries, but also internationally, in the European Union Parliament. This contrasted with the Green Parties of Africa, many of whom were in their infancy, and struggling daily with the very real and very local issues that are beyond belief to westerners. There were Green Parties from oppressed countries - such as China - and Green people from countries where Green Parties have yet to form. There were Members of Parliament, Local Body Officials, Leaders and people such as myself who can't claim any title really. Their were some indigenous people, people who spoke English, and people who didn't. It was truly inspiring, and a hard-hitting reminder that we need to act now to save all these beautiful people.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Global Young Greens meeting!

Now for the first informal report about the important meetings.

The Global Young Greens were established in January 2007 with a founding congress in Nairobi, Kenya. We have our own charter, a sweet logo (above) and our own organisational structure. Official congresses are the only body that can make binding decisions, and they are held only once every three years - so the meeting on 29 and 30 April this year was more of an informal sharing of ideas - and contact details.

April 28 saw a lot of the Young Greens arriving in the São Paulo Hostel Downtown - run by the YHA, and near the defacto centre of São Paulo. It was great having everyone in the same place - and I knew straight away that I struck lucky with my roomie. We met a few of our new friends, had a few drinks, then slept off the jetlag.

The first day of planned activities was 29 April, and we got a room in some local Government building. We did introductions with those who were there - and quickly found out how many Taiwanese had come (over 20). There were people from Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and other places - but this was only the first group. There were more to arrive for the second day, and unfortunately not many Africans were there as they were having important African Greens meetings - though there were a couple represented. And of course we had lots of brilliant Brazilians showing us where to go. This day was really just workshops - sharing ideas, facts and thoughts on things such as Carbon Trading, deforestation, indigenous rights and so on. I took notes if anyone's interested.

That night about six foreigners, and like all the young Brazillians went to Bar Brahma, for dancing to live music and drinking.

Next day saw us move to the basement of some old church building on Ave Paulista (photos are ready to put up when I'm able). This day had more people and was more formal. We even got to start wearing the interpreter headphones, which magically translated any foreign languages. We shared what we are doing in our countries, our opinions on certain issues, and then crafted a draft point for the Global Greens 21 actions for the 21st Century about young people. It was a crash-course in consensus decision making (of which I have mental notes that I can share if anyone's interested) and we came up with something pretty good in the end.

After another fast and busy day, we went back to the hostel and then went to a Samba club, which I blogged about in my last post. It was on this day and night that friendships really started to be consolidated - after only about two days. It's so great that people from all over the world can become friends so quickly - and share a similar, but equally diverse view of the world. We were definitely a shining example for the older Greens.

Speaking of which, the next day we started to mingle with them. Some of us were delegates, others merely representatives supporting our delegates (such as myself) or people with other groups. But we always had each other to rely on for friendly conversation, and scheming plans. And to party with. And therefore to be late to the conference with the next day. We even shared a cold amongst most of us!

The Global Young Greens meeting itself wasn't the most organised affair in the world - but given the distances involved in communication, and the fact that it was all free and all organised with voluntary labour, those involved did an amazing job and I'm eternally grateful to them. However, any lack of organisation should be a cry out for those who are interested to get involved in a fledgling but immensely important group. You make amazing friendships, learn a lot, and most importantly can contribute to the change in the climate politics and the global paradigm shift we so desperately need. Just remember that "Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. Everyone must play a part." (Thanks Gil Scott Heron for that quote).

I will blog about the Global Greens side of things another day, as it's getting late and I'm hogging the computer.

Impressions of São Paulo

Ok, I finally have some time again to catch up with sleep, eats, emails and blogging. And what a week it was. I'll make this post about the São Paulo experience so far, and what my future plans are. Then I'll blog about the Global Young Greens, and then the Global Greens and all the amazing people therein.

So, São-freakin'-Paulo. I think I've already articulated that it's quite big. And crowded. However, there's only one place that I know of (besides within one of the many helicopters - the unsustainable transport-method of choice for the rediculously rich) that you can see the whole city from, which is some Empire State Building wannabe. Otherwise you're just looking at another corner, with more cars and people and high-rise buildings. (I'd love to show you some pics, but unfortunately this computer doesn't seem to like my camera. So you'll just have to put up with boring latin characters for now.) Very confusing, even for the locals. The only way you can tell it's really huge is when it takes ages to get somewhere, even though it looks like it should be just down the road on the map. The city is constantly moving, people are constantly getting in each other's way, and beeping at each other. There seems to be no consistancy at crossings other than pedestrians walking out at bad times and car drivers - who seem to have priority - getting pissed off. There a good metro system, an OK bus system, but way too many cars. Some people think in about two years people will drive to work one day and never return because the traffic will be stuck in a standstill for eternity.

The Brazilians in São Paulo are just as much party animals as they probably are in Rio, just maybe they are more subtle about it. There are bars and clubs everywhere, and many of them go well into the morning on any night you feel like dancing. And, just like with most other things here, if you know where to find it, you can find clubs of all shapes and sizes. On the second night of the Global Young Greens (30 April) we went to a traditional Samba Bar which was packed on a week night, with live music starting about midnight, and continuing, I'm sure, well after I left at about 4am. Those who were game enough (not me) ended up being taken to a line-dancing country and western club the next night, which was also packed on a week night. It sounded like it was more Texas than Texas, with people dressed as cowboys and everything. Some unsuspecting Europeans also ended up in a gay bar one night, only realising that it was when they went to the toilet and... well, I'll leave the rest up to your imagination.

There's the Japanese quarters we went to on one of the last nights - which helps make up the largest Japanese population in a city outside of Tokyo. I didn't particularly notice so many Japanese, but everyone here is so mixed race (and therefore beautiful) it really doesn't matter who or where you are. The Brazilian people are so nice and welcoming, but also seem disorganised sometimes from my impressions at the conference. I think, however, that that can be put down to a confusing city and large groups of "intellectual" Greens who never seem conscious of what's going on immediately around. They also have a culture of lateness in a sense - extended lunch breaks, which lead to late dinners and a late start to the partying...

Of course there's a huge problem with the wealth divide - the sky scrapers of the wealthy Ave Paulista, mixed with the beggars, dirty street kids, and people with strange jobs that must not pay much - such as the guy who sat in this lift pressing the buttons, which one of my Canadian friends accidentally led me and two others on to. There are also literally hundreds of thousands of police officers, judging by the numbers that are around. Some look busy, others just standing around. And very few people speak English. This hasn't been to bad a problem so far, but now that I'm more on my own I'm starting to learn the language. Of hand signals.

Anyway, that leads nicely into my current plans - or lack thereof. There's a couple of incrediby awesome locals that seem to have taken me under their wing, which is more than fine with me. I met them at the Global Green congress - they were volunteers, and are both about my age. They go to the local university, studying first-year International Relations. I've moved to a boutique bed-and-breakfast hostel near where they live (pretty much just around the corner from one) which I found through the power of Google. It's in a more wealthy part of town - so I guess a safer one too. It's still not advisable to be out late alone though - although most streets are busy and safe all times of the day. And there's music shops (mainly with shiny guitars) by the buckletload just down the street. They've asked me to come to one of their classes on Thursday, and I'll probably stay the weekend here too. It sucks having had to say goodbye to so many new friends the last couple of days. I want to put off saying goodbye to these two a while longer.

Once I finally do say goodbye, methinks I will just hop on a bus straight to Rio and spend a few days their before my mamoth tour starts on the 19th.

Friday, 2 May 2008

I´m still alive

Hey friends, family, and people who get here by accident. I am still alive, just very busy - hence the lack of posting. Everything is going well, and the Global Greens Congress is an amazing experience. After just Young Green meetings, the Global Greens congress officially opened today, and so that will keep me occupied for the next few days. I will post properly about the details, and hopefully with some pictures for you after it´s all over and I have time to breathe.