July 25, 2008

Semester at Sea - Brazil

Oh my God unemployment is so boring.

My trip to Brazil was my first south of the equator. Apparently there is somesort of maritime tradition for people who are crossing the equator by ship for the first time. Our toned down version involved "fish guts" (smelly pureed leftover food), kissing the Captain's ring and head shaving. All of this was optional, but I participated as much as I could. The humidity and constant breeze and sea spray on the ship created its own weather conditions inside my hair. I was too nervous to loose all my hair but had my friends each take some cuts with a pair of scissors. It was not attractive, but super easy to maintain and it dried so fast. I miss it but not one person has encouraged me to return to that style.

In addition to my first ridiculously short hair cut and first time south of the equator, I experienced my first case of absolutely horrific sunburn. I was naiive and figured I could prance around in a bathing suit all day in Connecticut, why not in Brazil. The end result was a sunburn that resembled bubble wrap. I was instructed to stay out of the sun for the rest of the year.

We arrived in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil just before Carnivale. Apparently, it is so dangerous that many of the crew members wouldn't even disembark - the Captain was one of those. We always received a port debriefing the evening before we docked so it was not a vote of confidence when the captain told us he wouldn't be getting off the ship. In fact, there were several people who ended up being the victims of muggings, some at knife-point, but none causing injury. I was lucky to be one of those that avoided any sort of violence.

There were so many choices of what to do while in Brazil - stay and soak up all of Salvador, a much less toursit affected area of the country; see Iguacu Falls - brilliant waterfalls that border Argentina; or travel down the Amazon and sleep on a hammck in a riverboat. But I had to experience Rio de Janiero.

My father did a lot of travelling when he was younger through the Navy and Coast Guard and one of his favorite places was Rio. That was one reason I wanted to visit, but primairly I couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend my 23rd birthday in Rio during preparations for Carnivale. To this day, it remains the most unique and probablly best birthday I have ever had. It was warm, one thing I usually hate about my birthday is that it is in the midst of winter, a season I despise, so to be in a country where February is a summer month was fantastic.

Our flight down to Rio was the scariest flight I had to date (later to be replaced by my flight from Hong Kong to Beijing). We entered some sort of storm and lightening was all around us. The turbulence was heavy. Everyone on this trip from the ship was seated alphabetically, I was first so I was the only person who sat next to a non SAS person. She happened to be the most beautiful model I have ever seen and she was so scared she begged to hold my hand. That was just about the only time guys on the ship had any interest in me.

The official start of Carnivale wasn't until the day after we left Rio but we were able to sit in some rehearsals and I even got to try on a costume. It weighed a million pounds and I couldn't walk in it without looking drunk. Rio's Carnivale is considered more pagenty whereas Salvador is where the Brazilians go to celebrate. We were back in Salvador during the first night of Carnivale and it was absolute insanity. When I was 19 I spend New Year's Eve in Times Square. This put that to shame by a longshot. I have never been in a bigger crowd - it was chaotic but so much fun. Because of the high crime, we were instructed not to bring cameras - even disposable ones. My friend Sandy had her disposable taken from her pocket. Unfortunately, I have no photos from that night - but here are some other highlights from my visit to Brazil:


Posted by karen at July 25, 2008 03:44 PM
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