Posted by: standing_baba | February 24, 2011

Update: Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Street food vendor in Salvador, Bahia

FOREWARD: The following is an e-mail I sent to friend that outlines where I am as well as my immediate plans as I transition back to the bike life again. Soon, my friends, Bob, Surly, and I will be reporting to this blog more regularly with stories from the road.

It’s a polite kind of intro to give excuses for our silence and lateness and busyness. That’s very much our pattern, and me talking about the pattern doesn’t break it. I’ll start with this instead: I’ve thought about you often despite not writing and sent my best on more than one occasion, even though you didn’t realize it I’d like to think it made at least one of your days a little brighter.

Belo Horizonte from seven stories up

I’m in Belo Horizonte now, in northern-ish Brazil, very far away from my old wooden house life in Floripa. Here there is no coastline, no bikinis, no bike. The people are proud of the fact though that they have more bars per capita than any city in the world. I’m not sure if that’s true but inevitably I hear it when I enter into typical stranger conversations about the whos and wheres and whys about me. After so many weeks of vacation with friends and family (I’ll write posts on my blog later) my American friend Justin is putting me up in his apartment, along with his Australian roommate who has lived in-country for three years and practiced capoeira for thirteen.

Some strange things have happened since I arrived to the city. One, Justin’s apartment building borders a favela. Shortly after my arrival the neighborhood was on the verge of a smallscale war because two local Brazilians were killed (innocently?) by the military police. In retaliation, a bus was set on fire. The police then responded with real and rubber bullets into the hills. It’s all a classic case of eye-for-an-eye blind rage, but then again my brother wasn’t shot on the stoop. The news claims the police routinely enter the area, rough up hustlers, steal their drugs, then snort cocaine under streetlights while on duty. Lots of arm-flying, table-pouding, voice-raising accusations. Local residents are fed up. The TV news programs are so sensationalist that I don’t pay much attention, except when vans of armed police pile out near the cornerstore down the street.

Eric and I overlooking the port in Salvador

Second strange occurence: a few weeks back when meeting my friend Eric at the Salvador airport to kick off his vacation there was a city-wide blackout. Unprecedented blackness. Again, the news pointed blame and heated the batch for answers. The taxi we took to our hotel eerily coasted through the town that seemed like some zombie apocolypse starring Will Smith in riot gear. Nobody was in the streets. It was nice though to catch up with Eric on our room’s balcony, stars and candles humming instead of electric light. Fast forward to now. Yesterday another blackout happened in the middle of an English lesson (I substitute teach when in Belo Horizonte) and the owner of the language school interupted my class jokingly to blame it on me: “You brought it with you!”

I’m doing some international education consulting work and translations for the same school, which is great for my finances—cash!—and morale—creating!—but it distracts from my other pending projects that lost momentum during my six-week romp around Brazil. I’ll keep you up up-to-date on it all, especially when I finish loose ends or finalize future plans….

Some random Latin-ness in Morro de Sao Paulo

I related to your returning home experience that you blogged about. We’ve both been through it more than once. You said the materialism and complacency and general apathy (maybe I superimposed the last two?)(superimposed?) shocked you after so much humble tropical Latin-ness. I’m fully expecting the same. I’m not expecting friends to pull me back into their lives just because I’m physically present again. It’s never worked that way and never will. I know too they’ll be busy baby-creating and ladder-climbing, which is fine. That’s life, and it’ll be interesting to watch it unfold with them. My plan is to treat wherever I move in the future like Paris or Istanbul or any city seems exotic in my mind. I’ll explore different social scenes, get involved in everything international, Skype much more than I do now to maintain friendships and practice my languages, and cook away reverse culture shock with progressively harder (and spicier) Indian and Thai recipes. Just a few ideas that may help you as well….

Friends at beach in Florianopolis

…Carnaval is the first week of March. I’ll catch a flight back to Florianopolis during that time, dance, camp, hike, and visit friends while training (e.g. actually riding a bike again), then head south toward Uruguay around March 15th. It will be a shock to my system.

Just yesterday I was trying to decide if I’m excited to start the hobo bike lifestyle again, free from all the comforts I’ve piled on as of late. I couldn’t decide one way or the other. I love Brazil so much that the idea of crossing the border, leaving my friends, speaking Spanish again, and diving into the unknown only to rebuild anew didn’t seem appealing. I sat in silence with it. Meditated at the desk with all my brower tabs closed. Then suddenly all my bike travel memories up to this point flooded my now and I became giddy with excitement. It’s been an interesting ride, to say the least, and there is no reason to believe Floripa to Buenos Aires won’t be more of the same….

Brazilian bike in Búzios

In short, it’ll be bittersweet to pedal out of Brazil but beautiful in everyway to be back on the bike. I just hope Bob and Surly are not too moldy and rusted out for the journey ahead of them (a neighbor is babysitting them in Floripa). I plan to reactivate the MB&S blog too. Expect a Facebook media blitz soon. You can read all the happenings there, just not the business and personal versions I prefer to send you directly….

Ending on a personal note, a reassuring note: I’m happy. I think you should be too. You probably are. If you’re not, why not? You’re free with a known time limit ticking down the things you want to do but never got around to doing. I’m starting to feel that way too with continent running out. Do them. Then tell me about it. I’ll brag a little too when interesting happens. Whatever you chose to do, I’ll be thinking about you. Happy meditating. A kiss from Brazil.



  1. I stumbled upon your blog when looking for ways to learn Spanish. It is inspiring and also gives me some hope in learning the language. I am living in Costa Rica at the moment and don’t have my bike with me. I just went on my small first tour in the states this year. Anyway love your blog. :) happy travels!

    • Hey Whitney, welcome to the site. Of course you’ll learn Spanish. Here’s the formula: 1) Don’t speak English; 2) Make Costa Rican friends (speak only English with them unless doing a language exchange); 3) Don’t be shy (you won’t make any friends unless YOU approach THEM); 4) Don’t be embarrassed to make mistakes; and 5) take advantage of every opportunity to start a conversation (taxi drivers, waiters, that woman sharing the park bench, the guy ordering a beer next to you at the bar, etc, etc). That’s it. Skip the grammar books and hit the street talking. I also lived in Costa Rica off and on for a total of 2.5 years. Write anytime if I can help with info or Spanish tips. Glad you love the blog. I’m getting back to Spanish-speaking territory soon (e.g. Uruguay and Argentina) so stay tuned. All the best from Brazil!

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