Sol Y Sombre

 

“It is better to be alone than in bad company.”
 – George Washington

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It’s strange to think that this was only a month and a half ago. It seems as if at least half a year has past. In the absence of being able to take my camera out I’ve been sifting through my photos…

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Frustratingly the main things to see and do in this area are outside of the actual city, costing significant amounts in transport or for tours which I can’t afford at this point. Of all the places to be stuck in, that I’ve visited so far, I have the feeling that I’ve drawn the short straw.

I’m getting more than a little disgruntled by standing out like a sore thumb in this dodgy Panama city neighbourhood. I just popped down to the shop to get a couple of apples and a drunk Panamanian ran ahead of me and lay down in a puddle for me to walk over, pretending that I was the queen. Ok, granted that is a particularly amusing example. I found it very difficult to maintain a straight face as I walked on by. When he intercepted me on the walk back and repeated this episode, this time with his friend joining in, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing at how ridiculous the situation was. This did not help, however, as they then continued to crawl after me on their hands and knees until I managed to shrug them off. 

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I can’t seem to find a place to while away the time in the hotel either. I’ve been trying to soak up some last minute sun before heading back to the rain; yesterday, late afternoon, I went up for a dip in the roof top pool (more of a plunge pool really, but I can’t complain for the price I’m paying! Also it’s got a hell of a view to make up for it). There were not one, but two couples making out heatedly in the square metre of pool. That’s what your rooms are for you morons. Get out of the communal area. Anyway, standing there wrapped in a towel, I felt it would look ridiculous to turn around straight away and walk back down, so I determinedly got in the pool and awkwardly swam a couple of ‘lengths’. It didn’t take long before I couldn’t take it any more and retreated back to my cave room.

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Back in the days when I knew people here so felt comfortable taking my camera out, this poor planning error caught my eye. The elevated hands of Jesus in ‘Casco Viejo’ make the perfect perch for the local vultures. Not sure that’s the image they had in mind…

P.S. Warning to vegetarians. Panama city = not ideal. Went scouting round a series of cafés/street stalls/restaurants and could not find anything at all without meat. I thought Brazil would be bad but this is by far the worst place for it yet.

Dirrty


When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

Clifton Fadiman

We headed out to one of the biggest block parties this morning. It was as if the entire city had transformed into an overcrowded festival. There were people going to the loo on the streets. I say ‘people’ as it wasn’t just men, and I say ‘going to the loo’ as it wasn’t just peeing. Charming. Any way, it’s perhaps unfair to start on such a low note. The atmosphere was ecstatic. Everybody had some form of fancy dress; masks for the less enthusiastic, full body costumes were the norm. There were stalls and coolers full of beer everywhere and men struggling through the crowds selling metre long tubes of brightly coloured liquid which, through curiosity, we decided to try. Unsurprisingly they tasted highly poisonous and merely had ‘alcohol drink’ as their label.

Parts of the rabble were hilarious such as particularly good fancy dress efforts (the transvestites were superb) and overly vigorous dancing. However the young men were not so entertaining. It would be highly inadvisable to visit one of these parties alone! The Brazilian equivalent to a chat up line consists of the man grabbing the girl as she walks past and forcing himself upon her. Not so great when you lose your friends in the crowd. I’m hoping the Sambadrome tonight will be slightly more civilised; Although at first amusing, I must admit that I’m not entirely taken by the down and dirty 24/7 block parties.

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Here’s an example of some of the debris which accumulated at the sides of the roads. The parties, incidentally, take place all along the main roads of the city centre.

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A standard group of locals. By the way, this is by no means my full costume. It’s supposed to be worn with a long skirt, which I didn’t feel was appropriate for obvious reasons, and the top half!

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I thought this was hilarious: A man sitting on a roof, dressed as a cat, throwing glitter into the crowds. Also somebody was squirting foam from an aerosol in the foreground.

Jesus Walks

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“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.” 
 – Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo, however much I love him, clearly had never visited Rio. The official carnival holiday does not even begin until tomorrow and already the streets are swarming with hilarious costumes and roaring music.
Today I’ve been pretty busy, firstly heading out to successfully get my costume (yay!), then heading off on a small tour. The tour was great, just a local  man driving a small group of us around the main sights. First came the statue of ‘Christ the redeemer’ which was, as you can imagine, utterly beautiful. Though, I soon realised where the tourist industry had been hiding! We then headed over to the old ‘San Theresa’ district before stopping at the ‘Lapa steps’ (a.k.a. Escadaria Selarón) designed by Jorge Selarón and apparently made famous by Snoop Dogg in one of his music videos. The steps consisted of a mosaic of tiles, with larger tiles sent in from 160 countries across the globe to be part of the spectacle. What really made it a great experience for me, however, was the flock of ascending locals in fancy dress climbing up to a ‘block party’ at the top of the steps. Unfortunately they arrived after this photo was taken so you will just have to imagine the fairies, cavemen, clowns and transvestites.

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The last stop was the sugar loaf mountain, with, rather foggy, but nevertheless stunning views of the city. Our guide told us a couple of stories of eccentric activities which had taken place there: One American man apparently rode a motor bike up the cables to the mountain…a little sceptical about that one…and Falko Traber, a German tightrope artists walked to the mountain! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKxHyGClRMc

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I was interested the view of the ‘Christ’ by night so Sebastian, my roommate, and I headed out to Botofago beach this evening to check it out. The metro was hilarious – overflowing with excited Brazilians in assorted ridiculous costumes. The statue seemed disappointingly far away following this morning’s trip but was still worth seeing! I’m not planning on heading out to join the marauding gangs tonight. My main excuse is that last night we had an addition to our room: an overweight Brazilian with token handle-bar moustache who, more relevantly, snored, as Sebastian puts it: “as if he were in pain”. So I’m looking forward to catching up on some sleep!