I didn’t have time before my trip began to get my Brazilian (visa, not wax), but I figured with all this time in Sydney, it was sure to be a breeze. Then a few days ago, I went online to find out to my horror that no, it would not be a breeze in fact. First, you have to gather a list of things a mile long (application form, passport photo, bank statements, money order for $208, and verified itinerary) and then make an in person appointment where you will deliver all of these items AND turn over your passport for a minimum of 15 days. I thought I would just make it in time, when I noticed that the first available appointment to book was weeks away, AFTER I was to leave Sydney. And the website contains a lot of very strict language about how they will not expedite shit, for nobody, no how. So I started to worry a bit and thought that perhaps I would have to re-route myself somewhere outside of Brazil. But before doing that, I thought what the hell, I would give them a call. In case you are thinking of doing the same while here in Sydney and in need of some Brazilian service the consulate provides, let me save you some time: don’t bother. There is no human being you can talk to on this line, I must have pushed every button in the damn phone tree. My final option was to send them an email, which I thought totally laughable. I have never gotten prompt or good service via email from any government organization anywhere in the world. But it was my last shot, so I sent them an email explaining my situation and asking them to bend their very strict rules. I thought my chances were between 0.0 and 0.0137 percent.
Are you sitting down? About an hour later, I received a reply telling me to come to the consulate two days later with all the items mentioned above and they would indeed expedite my request. So I carefully gathered and printed all the things they had asked for in the attachment to the email, and made my way to the consulate this morning, and asked for one Mr. Geraldo referenced in the email. After about an hour of waiting, he finally saw me and looked over all my documents and told me there were two items still missing, the email itself printed out (who knew I would need that as well) and a special mailing envelope to send me my passport. Wait, I asked, “Why can’t I just come pick it up?”. Apparently you can only pick up if you go through the “normal” channels. The expedited process requires mailing. I helpfully pointed out that this seemed counter intuitive, but Mr. Geraldo was in no mood to discuss workplace efficiencies, so I ran out and returned 40 minutes later (and $20 poorer) with the final two items. I am glad I saved the tracking number from the express envelope, because I will be able to track it online. And apparently, they have already processed and sent it off, because the tracking shows it was received by the post office at day’s end.
So very soon I should have my visa, and apparently they have changed rules in the last few years and the visas are now good for 10 years (instead of 30 days). For all the hassle, this was easier than the last time I did this, I guess. By a smidge.
Josh and I are at the airport, awaiting our flight out to NYC. We spent the last day of our trip in Rio, enoying the beach and the gawking for one more day. The drive back was very easy (Gabe) and returning the car and checking in at the airport was a breeze (Gabe).
I have some mixed feelings about our trip back to NYC. On the one hand, I am excited to be moving to New York, and looking forward to the thrill and challenges that await. Not exactly in opposition to these feelings, I am also a little wistful about ending this part of the amazing journey I have been so fortunate to have been on these past 27 months. This is really the end of a particular chapter in my life and the beginning of another. It was especially nice sharing the last couple of weeks with my cousin Josh, acting as a kind of bridge between these two worlds.
During the day yesterday, I was coming down with a cold, and by dinner time it was getting pretty bad, so I decided to go to the pharmacy and buy something to help with the symptoms, then go back to the apt for an early night with lots of sleep. I took two of the pills and went to bed. About an hour later, I was awake, unable to breath very well with a tight feeling in my throat and unable to push much air through my nostrils. I was having some kind of reaction to the medication. At first, I sat awake (but groggy from the meds) trying to breath slowly and deeply, but I felt unable to catch my breath. I called our friend Brazilian friend Eddie who was out and about in the neighborhood, and he kindly came over to wait it out with me, at the ready to go to the hospital if necessary. Josh and Eddie were trying to be helpful with all manner of home remedy suggestions from breathing steam to meditation, but alas nothing made me feel much better. At about 3am, I thanked Eddie and told him to go on home, as it hadn’t gotten worse. I was finally able to breath more normally around 6:30 and slept for three hours. I am feeling somewhat sick and beat, but happy to have avoided a complicated and potentially expensive trip to the emergency room and explanations in Portuguese. Josh and I aren’t sure if we will stay one more day in Rio (which will involve a hotel switch) or head out down or up the coast for one more place before heading back to São Paulo tomorrow to take our flight back. I am hoping to feel better before boarding the long flight to NYC, but if I have learned anything in the past few years, it is that what is, is.
With the weather improving to give us a hot day with a clear view, we decided to do the touristy thing and take the tram to the highest lookout point in Rio, where the Christ the Redeemer statue is located. It is a pretty impressive statue and view of the city, and pictures really do not do justice to the sense of the city one gets when up there. On the tramway on the way down, we met a fun, large, and loud American woman named Peggy, who clearly had our number a few minutes into the trip. She started to break the ice with us by talking about the Bush shoe throwing incident, and then moving on to how much she was missing The Daily Show while she and her husband were on their South American cruise. A few minutes later, she came closer and in what was a more subdued tone told how great a “fag hag” (her words) she had been in previous times and how she missed hanging out with her gay friends. We were so taken with her we had our picture taken together at the bottom of the tramway on the way out.
So we finally had a day pretty much filled with sun. Josh and I hit the beach with several new friends, enjoying the weather, water and view.
Before coming to Rio, Josh and I had both been advised many times (given the economic disparities in this part of the world) to be on the lookout for handsome men plying the world’s oldest profession. It seems that there is a fair amount of prostitution going on, and we should never be sure that advances are genuine. This of course has caused us to lose a small amount of self esteem anytime a cute guy looks our way. As a sad (but, we feel necessary) consequence, we have unceremoniously decided that any man sporting a perfect body and killer face must indeed be a hooker. As there are many such strapping devils out and about (at least in Ipanema), Josh and I have made a small game out of bellowing out the word “Whore!” any time either of us spots one of these beauties. It just makes us feel a little better.
– Maybe it is the weather or time of year, but beach culture here seems a lot like…beach culture in a lot of places. Ipanema and Copacabana are great and all, but I was led to believe that life on the beach was everything here, and that it was quite a bit different from other places. To me, it is quite similar to places in Mexico, Florida, and the French Riviera. I would love to come back at carnival time and see what effect it has on the beach life.
– It is shockingly difficult to find a restaurant for breakfast in areas that should be crawling with them, like Ipanema. There are several dinner places, just not very much for breakfast. I guess people are still recovering at that hour or making something light at home.
-Speaking of restaurants, there seem to be mostly three kinds: Italian, sushi, and stand up at the counter snack places. Outside of that, we have seen exactly one all you can eat meat place.
– Although I have always heard that Copacabana is not as nice as Ipanema, we took a walk over there today and found it to be every bit as pleasant and in some ways better served than Ipanema.
It has been fairly rainy since coming to Rio (although not as bad as we feared from the weather reports), and this morning the fog is so bad we can’t see mountains and hills that are quite close to us. Looking through the information on Rio on the internet, you realize to what a great degree this city relies on good weather and views for a large part of its attractions. After all, what is a trip to the top of Sugarloaf without something to look at? One of the guys we met in a club last night told us that Rio just isn’t itself lately with the weather, and that people are staying in and cocooning while waiting out the rain. Rain or no, I think we will try to visit some of the historic parts of the city today, as well as Copacabana.
The boys from Ipanema go walking.
We are totally loving Rio, even though we haven’t left Ipanema (and to be honest, haven’t even gone very far in the neighborhood). Our apartment is very well located and quite nice, a two bedroom, two bathroom affair in the heart of Ipanema. We went out to a small club with amazing music and energy last night called Galeria Cafe. It was really packed and oh so flirty and it seems that there is more public kissing here than in any other place I have ever been. I think a heavy lip lock often takes the place of a handshake here in Rio. Josh and I danced and danced and before we knew it, it was 5am. Today we eventually woke up and went to the beach, and although it was fairly overcast, we had a very pleasant afternoon, watching all the men go passing and saying “ah”…
Just before the harrowing car ride to Rio, Josh and I took a two hour boat trip in the bay around Parati, and it was beautiful. Click on the pic below to go to the album…