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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I don't know why, but this makes me laugh till I cry every time I see it:

As of this writing I've probably watched it about ten times and it still brings me to tears. You can file this under things that only Baditude finds funny. At least no one I've shown it to seems to find it nearly as funny as I do. I think the secret is that it actually gets better after one or two viewings. Or ten.


The official months of summer have come and gone. The last few months have been pretty good to me but there's still more fun to be had out there, so I think I'm gonna go have it. This weekend I'll be in Vegas to celebrate Rena's 30th in style. The big trip though, is in about 2 weeks when I leave for South America. I'll be spending the first couple weeks of October exploring Brazil and Paraguay. This will be my first trip to that part of the world and as the departure date draws near I am getting more and more eager to get there.

I will in fact be visiting good 'ol Long Beach Becky. As most of you remember, she high-tailed it outta here earlier in the summer to take up a teaching position in an American high school there in Belo Horizonte. So along with the excitement of seeing new places and doing new things, I'm also looking forward to spending time with her again. It's also great to be able to travel with someone who already has decent understanding of what’s going on. It is true that part of the fun of traveling (at least for me) is getting one's bearing, figuring out things like public transportation, and navigating new areas -- but there's something to be said for having a lot of that work already done for you.

A lot of what needs to be done of course takes place before you even leave. Traveling to both Brazil and Paraguay requires traveler’s visas (alongside your passport). This meant a couple of trips to L.A. to visit various consulates, fill out forms, and jump through a few bureaucratic hoops.

I found it especially interesting that the Brazilian consulate did not accept cash. I mean...anything else you give them (including the money order I had to get), is eventually gonna just get turned into cash. Why go through the middleman? I dunno...maybe they would have accepted Reals.

The other thing different about getting ready for this trip (as opposed to any others I've been on), is the amount of concern it can generate amongst other people. I mean...I recognize that we are talking about a place you might consider "developing"...but people can really freak-out when you tell them you are going to South America.

My Aunt (who - to be fair - worries about everything) gave me a look that was gravely serious when I told her I would be going to Brazil. "It's very dangerous there...I'm serious. Are you SURE you should go". Another friend told me "you couldn't pay me enough money to go to there." (This statement was later retracted but I still found it funny).

At the Paraguay consulate an older gentleman (who I think was actually from Paraguay) began by giving me friendly advice about which places had good hotels, and where to get cheap beer, but eventually told me not to trust cabs, and to always wear sneakers so I could run away faster. "These flip-flops" he said...pointing to my shoes, "Are no safe".

Even the "seasoned traveler types" at the Lonely Planet Forums would occasionally have a tendency towards hysterics...though for the most part those forums are filled with positive accounts of various South American adventures.

Actually that's a lie. Most of the people who leave accounts of their experiences are positive, but what the forums are really filled with is unanswered questions. I tried posting questions on several travel forums and it was a tremendous waste of time. This is because once people visit a place...they no longer really need to go to travel web sites about it. So no one is around to answer your question. It's like showing up to a bar for ladies night only to discover a complete sausage-fest.

So here's the deal. I recognize that there are places in the world that are less safe than Costal North County San Diego. I'm not going to blindly travel around Brazil wearing hundred dollar bills around my neck, or looking for a cheap place to stay in a Favela. But I'm certainly not going to be scared away from a place that millions of people live in safely everyday.

It shouldn't take anything more than a little common sense to carry me through a two-week vacation. I intend to pack light, speak the local language a bit (Eu falo um pouco de potuguese), and have an amazing time. Besides, I have friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan. I speak a dozen different languages, know every local custom, I'll blend in, disappear...

If I don't...well...that's just bad luck. Which can strike at any time, any place.




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