Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Though I would've settled for half-priced sushi

When you heard "fun things to do,"  getting a little volume boost was what first came to mind, right?

I found the link on a friend's facebook wall. I'm not especially against the idea of plastic surgery, breast implants, or near-naked models.  In fact, I'm a big supporter of companies advertising their services in a truthful, respectful way, which, given the nature of the product in this case, is bound to be scrutinized a bit regardless. 

Even so, this still struck me as a little odd and definitely not the type of thing I'd expect to see when I click over to the page.  I've never used Groupon or any of its copy-cats which have gathered a pretty decent following in Chile over the past couple years, but I've always thought I might.  
Well, some other day, I guess. 

Edit (April 9th, 2012): Another good find this week... 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dangerous? I'll convince myself otherwise...

In Chile, everybody who doesn't live in Valparaiso tends to claim that Valpo is "dirty and dangerous."   I will usually give them that first point, but not the second.  I tend to believe that people exaggerate and that bad things can happen anywhere.

I lived in Minneapolis for a while before I moved to Chile.  Minneapolis is a fairly big city.  It has a downtown area with sky scrapers, a good sense of culture, people of diverse backgrounds and religion, and a crime rate that makes the charts nationwide... especially in some categories such as forcible rape (where it unfortunately leaves most other cities in the dust).  While the amount of violence one is exposed to varies depending on where you spend your time and what type of people you hang out with, that's not a rule, and one should always be careful and alert, especially at night.   When I lived there, I rarely felt unsafe during the day, but I was never very fond of walking alone at night in some areas.  I would always have my phone close in case I needed to call for help.  I'm not entirely sure how true it is, but I was usually under the impression that if you called 911 upon entering a dangerous situation, there was a chance that the police would get there quickly and in time to help you and/or catch the offender.  This idea is probably supported by Hollywood movies, where the police surround the house just as someone is about ready to pull the trigger... but honestly I feel that response time is pretty good, as I have noted it when calling for things as little as a neighbor's loud party.

The other thing in Minneapolis is that it felt safe walking in places where there were other people.  I felt less likely that something would happen to me with witnesses around, and if it did, I felt fairly confident that other people would step up to help.  This might not be the case if I were being held up at gunpoint, but especially if others weren't putting themselves in danger, I feel they would be more than likely to help a victim, call an ambulance, possibly even go after a criminal.  Luckily I never tested this out personally, but at multiple times I saw this process in action.

In Chile, my hope of being helped in a dangerous situation is non-existent, as numerous events have formed this outlook.

But if I'm going to find myself comparing places, its good to live somewhere where I am not in constant risk and fear of physical danger.  My worries in Chile, in general, are limited to getting robbed, groped, or my house being broken into- not getting shot or raped. However, to some extent, I feel my perception of security is just a myth I hold on to.   In reality, I have been followed home and attacked by a man from behind a car.  Just last month, on the way home from seeing the giant puppets, I overheard two sketchy individuals planning to attack me.  According to them, my pants would be ripped off in the process. Friends who have been robbed have also been beaten or worse.  Tourists have their cameras ripped off at gunpoint. I am uncomfortable sitting next to men on public transportation.  Despite convincing myself I should feel safe, I have felt unsafe in many other situations, whether with cause or just on a hunch.

My boyfriend has a friend who has been living with us while he saves some money and looks for a place to live.  Friday on the way to our house when he was getting off the micro, the chofer heard a lot of change in his pocket and accused him of having stolen it from the micro.  He denied stealing anything and tried to push by the driver to get off, though the driver jumped up and stabbed him in the neck with a knife.

As he grabbed his neck to put pressure on, he started asking everyone on the busy street for help, that they call an ambulance.  But nobody would.  He was already bleeding all over his clothes, and said people literally ran away from him.  He made his way to some police at the gas station, who rushed him to the emergency room and got him attended to immediately.  The doctors said if the knife would've gone a little big deeper or sideways, he would've been dead.  Instead he's already back home with us, neck stitched up, ignoring his doctor-instructed rest.

The driver got away.  Given how often I recognize stickers and trinkets hanging from the rearview mirrors inside the busses I take, I will probably unknowingly ride in his micro within the next couple months.

I try to convince myself this was an exception, one crazy isolated occurrence.  Maybe I need to tell myself that in order to feel safe, and I support it with the fact that I've been relatively lucky so far. But objectively, this is our third friend/acquaintance to be stabbed within the past year.  Is that number really able to coexist with my perception of safety?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why I've gone back again and again

Don't get up from your beach towel to shop! In Florianopolis (and Rio) beach vendors pass around selling everything from munchies to dresses. 

As you may have guessed given that I recently gave advice about how to get a tourist visa to Brazil, I recently travelled there!  Though jumping through bureaucratic hoops just for kicks sounds fun too... 

This was actually my third trip to Brazil, I keep going back because there's always more to see and I love it.   I went through a little rough spot this summer when I got injured during my vacation (honestly the main reason I love vacation is so that I can go running during daylight and work out at the beach), so I price-checked about 15 countries throughout South & Central America, Europe and Africa and deduced, based on price and having not really researched most of those options, my best travel option was Brazil.   

To me, Brazil is very comfortable, almost nostalgic, to travel in.  There are so many tall blondes I don't call too much attention.  Things in Southern Brazil are organized and clean, the people friendly, the system easy to navigate.  It actually reminds me a lot of Minnesota in how things work and how people in society act.  Nobody bothers or cat-calls, health and fitness is big, recycling is everywhere, public transportation works with set bus stops and orderly lines, and people are willing to help you out in whatever situation.  It helps that I'm fluent in Spanish, which is fairly easy to get by with in the parts I've been, though from what I understand it gets progressively less useful as you go further North.  English is also pretty useful, as many people speak it well, especially those in tourism.

I don't really want to do a play-by-play of my entire trip, so instead I wanted to highlight some of the places and things I've seen, liked and tried.  

Iguaçu is worth stopping by!
I am not a luxury traveler.  I usually travel by bus between cities, carry only a backpack, don't book anything in more than a few hours advance, and sleep in hostel dormitories.   I love the open hostel atmosphere and enjoy meeting other people from around the world while I'm traveling.  

During my trips I've been to Foz do Iguaçu 1 2, Rio de Janiero 1 2, Curitiba, Sao Paulo, Florianopolis (city proper, Canasvieiras, and Lagoa da Conceiçao), Sao Vicente, Camboriu, and Santos.  By far my favorite cities have been Rio, and Florianopolis, though Foz makes the list just because Iguazu Falls are not to be skipped.  I've enjoyed everywhere to some extent, though Sao Paulo has nothing on Rio for anyone wanting a city, and Camboriu, despite a beautiful beach, lacked atmosphere (for my standards in Brazil, at least, though it easily surpasses Chilean beaches by a long shot). 
Rio has a little (or a lot) of everything...  city, beach, character!

Most of the places I've stayed have been good, though I suppose since my very first night in Brazil over 5 years ago was in a scetchy motel... it can only go up from there!  I added links added to the city names above for hostels I'd recommend.  Two places I will hands-down promote are Tucano House in Lagoa da Conceiçao*, which has an absolutely spectacular, relaxing atmosphere for backpackers, and Copa Hostel in Copacabana*, Rio de Janiero, because it has everything you could want in a hostel including an unbeatable location just 2 blocks from the beach, in the middle of shopping and night life, and with easy access to everywhere in Rio.

Açai and a cheese/onion quiche!

Honestly, I am not a fan of the food (and especially not the juice!) in Chile, so I love going on vacation to places that have tasty new things.  In Brazil, I pig out on 3 things:  Açai, Guaraná, Pão de queijo.  I could live off these and nothing else.  I may start obsessively writing Chilean supermarkets begging them to start importing Açai, anyone with me?  It'd probably be so expensive I'd never afford another trip again anyway.  I always like to try feijoada because its traditional, and, just because I can, have some guy whack off the top of a coconut with a machete so I can drink the milk out with a straw.  

The green ones have way more coconut milk than the brown furry ones you buy at the grocery store. 

I've been studying Portuguese on my own for about a year now, and though this trip would be a good chance to practice.  However, I have sort of a struggle seperating Portuguese and Spanish.  The two languages are so similar that its not terribly difficult to manage with the comprehensive skills..  its pretty easy to read in Portuguese if you already speak Spanish, and you can probably at least get the gist of a conversation.  However, this can become a negative aspect of studying the language because everything in Portuguese seems so obvious that I think the brain doesn't put in so much effort to remember new things...it thinks its so obvious no effort is needed.  However, when it comes to actually needing to produce the language, its difficult to recall the slight changes or pronunciation to the words I thought I knew. I did to speak sometimes, but I found myself speaking a lot of Spanish and just hoping whatever I said was similar enough that they got the point.  

*I wasn't sponsored to write this but if you feel like sending me money in retrospect, thank you in advance.  I accept paypal, flight vouchers, and/or shipments of tasty goodies.