Belizean sunrise

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Goodbye Rio

Well, I'm back home in California. Got home Sunday the 16th. Not too bad on the 2 flights back. Two 7-hours flights with a 5 hour layover in Panama. Nice to be able to hang out in the club room. Lots of free drinks and snacks. And, I gained the 6 hours I lost going so that's good. I rested up at home a couple days, letting my back relax from all the sitting and walking. Went to my back Dr Tuesday the 18th. She said I should have gotten an injection just before any trip, duhhhhh, lesson learned. :) She upped the dosage of Gabapentin, my med that calms the nerves. It helps for my neck injury so she thinks upping the dosage may work on the lower back. I've been trying it the past 2 days but the med makes me a bit tired and sluggish, not what a slug like me needs. Good thing I don't have anything I have to do so I have been chilling (literally and figuratively). I feel much better but I'm not all that active which irritates the back. I'm slowly walking more, doing my exercises, and getting out with some friends. My Dr. is super busy with many people trying to get treatments in before EOY for insurance purposes. I said I'm in no hurry and not going anywhere so she scheduled me for an injection the first week of January. She wants to do localized injections on the problem facet joints. It's more involved since it is 4 injections on each side. I had it done once last year and I recall it wasn't all that fun but I can take one of her happy pills to make it more tolerable. Just need someone to drive me home.
So, back to Rio and some thoughts on my trip. Rio is an interesting place. Way more people and cars than I expected. Busy all the time. Taxis, buses and the Metro are used by most people. Streets are narrow and a bit rough. Many buildings are quite old and a couple of the hotels I stayed in showed it. But they all were clean and complete. Many of the old historic buildings are quite beautiful and are being rebuilt all around the city. Here is one in the Lapa district where I spent the last few days.
This is the famous Arcos de Lapa, an impressive aqueduct constructed in the mid-18th century by colonial authorities. I think there are plans to totally renovate this historic landmark.
The whole city will be undergoing a major facelift with the soccer World Cup coming in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
The language was very hard for me to get used to. As I've said before, I think it's a mix of French, German, Spanish, and Dutch. I can understand some Spanish but there's not a lot of similarities with Portuguese. When they talk fast it's almost impossible to follow any conversation. It was easy when my friend was with me to translate but when I was on my own it was a bit difficult. I enjoy talking at length to people when I travel and that's rarely possible in Rio. I struggled at times just trying to order food. With some pointing and other hand gestures I got by. Maybe others enjoy and can handle the language difference but I feel like I'm missing out on talking to and learning from the local people there. That's probably why I enjoy Belize so much. English is the official language and I can fit in with all the locals and talk at length with them. Overall I enjoyed most of my time. No regrets. Yes, having back problems didn't make all the walking and bus and boat rides much fun. Poor planning, again duhhh.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Catching up - Ilha Grande

Haven't posted anything lately. Been kinda busy and Internet sucks most places, especially out on the island. I checked out of my timeshare at Copacabana Beach on Thur so we could go to Ilha Grande (Big Island) on Frid for 5 nights. It's an island about 2 hours south of Rio. Frid a.m took taxi to downtown Rio bus station to get the bus to IG. Great beaches and relaxing natural setting down there. Well, the trip down not so good. The 2-hour+ bus ride and then the 40min+ boat ride took a toll on my back. The beaches are not very close so you have to hike to them. Saturday wasn't too bad but my back really started acting up and I couldn't walk very far or very fast without stopping to rest.
Then Sunday morning we woke up to rain. Luci wanted me to go to the small town on the mainland to a free clinic to see about my back. I really didn't think they could do anything for me especially on a Sunday. I guess Luci didn't like that I didn't follow her suggestion about the clinic and with the rain she wanted to go back to Rio. I checked with the owner and he said we had paid for 5 nights and no refunds. She said too bad and left. Wow. I stayed since I had the room for 3 more nights. Crazy to just let it go.
I enjoyed just hanging out in the small island town of Abrao. It was a small bed and breakfast called a pousada. Cute place...simple accommodations and nice for the price of $60/night including decent breakfast. I met a couple from London and had some nice chats about their trips around South America on their way to Australia. And then another couple from Germany who spoke English. A pleasant change from most people only speaking Portuguese. Most of the people coming to the island are Brazil tourists. Again, they really don't seem to cater to English-speaking people but you get by. Weather wasn't all that great so I just used the time to walk around the town, relax my back and do nothing.
I checked out on Wed morning and took the boat to the mainland to a van. It was called the "Speed Connection" to Rio but it wasn't what they advertised. Not much is down here. The boat ride was fine but the van was a junky 15-passenger van which we crammed in 14 people plus luggage. And, no a/c as they said. I tolerated it and was first off for some reason at the airport since it was close to Luci's place. I took a taxi to her house to get the rest of my luggage and went to a small hotel in central Rio.
Rio's Nice Hotel. Kinda a nice place in an area that is being redeveloped. Lots of people, small streets and numerous cars and buses. I got used to it. A girl at the front desk spoke good English (rare) and helped me call Copa to change my flight home. I got the only seat left over the weekend - leaving late Frid night. Today, Thur, I wandered slowly around the area toward a small marina, seeing all the interesting buildings old and new. My back and feet hurt but I stopped and rested enough so I made it OK. Back to the hotel early and up to the roof to splash in the 8x10 pool – woohooo. Then I found the sauna room and used it with turns in the cool pool. A big storm front was coming across the city and it was pretty neat to see it come over us on the roof.
At one point I just sat up there and let the rain wash me off. Really was an amazing experience. Back to the room to dry off and decide what to eat. Still raining out so I just walked next door to Bob’s Burgers. Haaa. Had like a big mac for dinner in my room with beer. Woo hooo. Tomorrow I'll rest up for the trip home. Leave 230am Sat and get into LAX around 330pm. Gain the 6 hours back. Great, I need it.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Where'd my Karma go?

OK, I was being positive and so far everything has been working fine. This afternoon I decided to see if I could get my Galaxy S3 smart phone to work down here. My friend Luci loaned me an old phone of hers and I bought a cheap chip at a news stand and we finally got it to work. Buy time as you go. It's good to be able to call her but I wanted to see if I could get my new phone to work here. In the US I couldn't get ATT to unlock my phone before I left. I tried online to do it unsuccessfully and the local stores won't do it. Sigghhhhhh. So I thought I'd try down here since I did figure out the unlock code. Just needed a sim card from another carrier. The S3 uses a smaller chip than other do. Sigghh.. Went to one of their carrier stores here and finally got a guy who spoke English. Of course when you walk in and don't have any idea where to go then everyone looks at you like you're crazy. Kinda am and getting over my fear of looking stupid. Well, the guy says they cant do it. I guess just like ATT in US. But he says there is a place "just down the street" that can do it. He said 2 blocks down the same street. Well I walked like 4 blocks and couldn't find it. Asked someone on street and of course got the whole "stupid American" look. Went back and asked guy again. Now he says it at Santa Clara St which is like 5 blocks. So, off again and finally found it. My back was killing me and my feet were partially numb but I tried to stay positive. In the store the guy spoke English but said he had no sim cards to fit my phone and didn't know who did. sighhhhh. I said screw it and stopped at a small grocery store to buy something for dinner. Nope. Rush hour time and like 10-12 people in every line. So, came back to hotel for a beer and let my back relax. 6pm now - think I'll go down to the bar for happy hour. TGFB. Thank goodness for beer. Trying to get my positiveness back. Ciao.
Rio - day 3 or 4 or 5 or ????. It is so easy to lose track of time and days. Not complaining, it's pretty nice to be able to do it. I am so fortunate to have the universe's abundance that is mine for the asking. I know it sounds crazy to some but the meditation series on abundance by Depak Copra that I took before I left really seems to work. I don't fret over what will happen, I just imagine the best possible outcome and almost always things work out great. For example - just before I left home, my friend Luci in Rio, had asked me to find a backpack for her 10yo neighbor girl. She showed me one online with an owl on it. Or something about Justin Bieber. I went to a Ross store and on the way in I suddenly thought, wouldn't it be nice to find a combination - a backpack with Justin's face on it. I went to where they had kids' backpacks and right on the top corner peg facing me was a backpack with his face on it. It seemed to jump out at me. It was freaky, I swear. I asked an employee if they had any more Bieber stuff and she said no, that went as fast as they got it. She was surprised to see me holding the backpack as they sell even faster. Coincidence? Or karma and my abundance meditations? Who knows? :-) Anyhow - After 2 nights in the Hotel Debret I am now in my timeshare-traded hotel, the Rio Othon Palace. It's one of the nicer hotels and the tallest on Copacabana Beach (30 floors). My room is the 21st floor with a great side view of the beach from a 2-foot wide balcony with a 3-foot tall glass wall. Freaky for me but I adjust.
The room seems to be one of their older ones that hasn't been remodeled - probably why I got it through RCI, where my timeshare weeks are banked. It's quite nice though - roomy, clean, big king bed, quality linens, etc. Carpet has some fraying and TV is older but who cares. Saturday noon-ish I checked in with Luci's help dragging my stuff from the other hotel 2 blocks away. I had 2 suitcases since one was full of old clothes I was bringing for her to take to those less fortunate. I got quickly checked in around 1pm which was surprising since they said RCI check-in was 4pm. He said he had an open room he could give me but was on a high floor. I said sure. So, I settled in and we took a quick tour of the hotel. Amazing view from the 30th floor bar/pool. She had to go home before rush hour traffic via the bus so I just walked around the area exploring. It is a bit hard trying to figure things out since rarely is there anything in English. And Portuguese is a whole other language than the few things I know in Spanish. But I am slowly adapting. I just say what I want in English and point to it. Somehow we get there. Still, it'd be nice to converse with people better. I doubt I can learn Portuguese. Sunday Luci calls and do I want to go to Ipanema Beach for the day to meet her son's girlfriend. Sure. She brings the bus in, about 2 hours trip. Ughhh. But she's used to it and doesn't need a car. We get our beach bags filled and walk to Ipanema. About 1-1/2 miles but I make it OK. My back has been acting up so walking aggravates it. But I survive. The beach is literally packed with people.
There are little stands along the beach that rent umbrellas and chairs for the day. Almost everyone does it since it's easier than lugging your own. It's on the honor system which blew me away. They have numbers on the items and a guy takes them down to a vacant spot - about 3 feet away from someone else in every direction. Crazy. I rarely enjoy just "going to the beach" but quickly acclimated. It was fun actually You sit around and talk awhile. When you get hot you weave through the people to the water and jump around in the surf like everyone else. Then back to the umbrella and vendors bring beverages and food around. Almost whatever you want. Ice-cold Heineken beer was only $2, some meat pie thingy $1.50, etc. - delivered to your umbrella. It looked like rain around sunset 7pm so we walked back to hotel to shower and go out to eat. Little place down the street - had great dinner - fresh fish w/shrimp sauce, mashed potatoes, and rice. With drinks it was around $40. Not bad. Back to the room and collapsed from busy day at beach. She had to go home to attend to some business this morning (Monday?) so I walked around some shops, then back for a nap to recover from the beach day. Now I am trying to figure out how to register for the bike rental system here. It only costs $5US for whole month. You sign up with credit card, go get a bike from the closest rack where they are locked up, ride for an hour, and take it to whatever station you want. You can only use it for an hour at a time with 15-minute breaks or they charge extra. Kinda weird system but it make sense. Can't get the online system to work so off to find some help. Ciao.