Bolivian Peruvian border crossings

10 days into the trip I head up from Copacabana, Bolivia up to cusco, Peru. We stop off at Puno, and pick up a lot of locals. We’re encouraged by the woman organizing the tour, to go on
the tour bus with other tourists. But I decided I wanted to have a local experience. And that’s exactly what I got.

After stopping Kuliaca, to pick up more Peruvians we head up north to Cusco.
The bus smells of burning garbage that infiltrates through the windows. It continually honks as it lasses any intersections on the highway. We occasionally drive in the lane of oncoming traffic just to show that we’re in charge of the road. You can hear the wailing honks zoom by us as they drive by partially in the shoulder lane.

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Brazil and Bolivia Border Crossing Confusions

The only way to truly get to know a culture is to be open to it manifesting all around you. I’ve been living in Cuiaba for the last 10 months, and decided to go take a bus through Bolivia rather then a plane, to get a sense of the real culture, and that’s sure enough what I got. After crossing through Caçeres, and Corixa, I made it to the Bolivian town of San Matias. Unaware of  where I needed to go for my customs stamp, I just went to buy a bus ticket to Santa Cruz . I was more enamoured by a dead tatu (or armadillo) with its feet and head cut off while I waited for lunch, then considering the fact that I needed an entry stamp into the country. A chicken sat calmly under the buffet, seemingly unaware that she’d end up plucked and on someones plate sooner or later.

I arrived to the bus station, to find out that there were’t any tickets left. The tickets were being sold in the dusty downtown of San Matias though. After getting one for 120 Bolivianos, with a women and child, I had my first Bolivian Beef, Chicken Cutlet, rice and Pasta with cheese. Upon retuning  and I started my informal Quechua lessons with my friend, who had also came across the bus from Caçeres. He’s actually been working in Brazil for past year installing electrical wires  that would bring electricity from Sao Paulo to Acre in the Amazon.
We jump on the bus in its typical 40 minutes late fashion. I try to imagine the Im getting a Bolivian Massage, from rattling of 500 km of a dirt road as we swerve through the Pantanal. I discuss with a woman sitting next to me about many topics, since my my goal for these long bus trips is to discover the local cultural and how people see the world. She explained how when her child was younger she was very concerned of him getting abducted and sold for adoption. I fall asleep only for a few moments until I’m woken up at a check point about 40 minutes out of Santa Cruz Continue reading

Physical space and proximity between people!

So I often find myself in an interesting dialogue back and forth with Brazilians about physical proximity in space and how people show affection in couples. Most days when I wait on the long lines of hundred of students waiting for lunch, there’s a couple which is basically creating a child with their clothes on, I guess to kill the time or just to share their intense romance with everyone around them. To American standards, we are a bit more secretive about kissing an too much physical contact with each other, even if its an intimate partner.

I’ve found myself in a number of situations where I reacted more like an American man, then at least what my stereotype of how a Brazilian man would react. Like when I was at a party, and a girl told me “my friend told me she wants to taste the inside of your American mouth!” I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept dancing and tried to be friendly, but not too friendly! Or in another instant when a girl seemingly seemed to be leaning in to give me a drunken kiss and I had to dodge this with respectful skill as I ran off to drink some water!!

Today, I was yelled at by a Brazilian girl. She said, “control your friend, I’m not his namorada (girlfriend), control him. She was referring to my deaf friend.  I explained to her in Brazilian sign language “Brazilian culture,” with a big smile. She said emotionally “Safado (shameless), that’s not culture, I’m not like that!” I didn’t know how to deal with the situation and felt a bit guilty, maybe I’m wrong, is this overt assertiveness in showing you like someone really part of Brazilian culture, or is it my American culture critiquing what I perceive to be as the Brazilian way?

It all started from my experience of carnival and this new Brazilian concept I learned about called “desentupidor pia”  (plunger kissing). where it looks like a man is giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to a woman. I’ve watched people dance jumping up and down for 20 minutes with their mouths connected like conjoined twines. But maybe Brazilian culture isn’t as sexually aggressive as I thought, since that girl seemed to not call it culture, but shamelessness. That questioning thought lasted all but 45 minutes.

 

I found myself reading a book on a bus, and a lady passed and I gave a quick glance through my peripheral vision towards her revealed belly, she seemed to be relatively young and beautiful. I made sure not to make eye contact, since that made mean more intimacy than I want to have with anyone on the bus anyway! As I read my book, I noticed she was leaning in onto me with her butt. I found it strange but didn’t think much of her butt being so close to me, the bus most be filled! But as the bus rumbled forwards and I felt it slightly rubbing up and down on my shoulder, I wasn’t sure what to do. Do I just move away, do I look at her, do I take her number? She just seemed to be typing on  her phone, does she not noticed that this is my shoulder ? The thoughts in my head were racing in semi-uncomfortable random directions. I told my housemate about it, and he said, it’s happened to him as well, as he did circule motion in front of his crotch. “Crowded bus” he said laughing! Which made me really wonder, because the bus I was on wasn’t crowded at all!!;-)

Brazilian Dynamite in Cuiaba

You can feel this tension in the air. light static electric energy before alighting will strike. With less than three weeks left before the start of the world cup her win Brazil, everyone is waiting to see how it will all unfolds. I heard from a friend that even a military person had said that the events during the Cup in Brazil have three options, “bad, more bad and terrible.” So no one knows if anything out of the normal will occur with the immense influx of tourists to the country, with the potential forecast of great protests occurring across the country.

My main advice for tourists would be to stay in tourist area, and during the evening try not go out a lot, unless with large groups of people. If there are any protest, try to avoid them, because you never know how it may results. In 2013, the protest that erupted and were so large, that it was impossible to surprise this reality from the media. However the violent quality of the protestors was portrayed by the media, in order to villainize the protestors.
I imagine Brazil as a power keg filled with a lot of dynamite, the question is when and how will it manifest its explosions?  We’ve already heard rumours of police, bus stickers are always in occurrence here in Cuiaba, so you never know what may unfold. A major political officer was arrested for robbery of funds. Which here in Mato Grosso is a quite expected role of politicians, that they will steal. However somehow, that this man got caught, makes one wonder why and how? I think that the small-time thieves learn from the big time politicians:-l !!
I believe that those people who have found themselves in abject poverty, victims to a system of inequality for years, will try an gain whatever sense of power that they can over their situations.

 

The Brazilian Mystery

Speaking in tongues that have never been spoken before, the american specimen comes to Brazil to try an speak and learn the portuguese language and understand the Brazilian people. He speaks various words that sound like portuguese,but not everyone understands the utterances out of his mouth. Yet he continually speaks to people in hopes that his efforts will be appreciate and that people will understand him. Even if they don’t he speak with a big smiles and emotions reflected on someones facial expressions is the international language, that goes beyond the sound system.
With all of this popularity of one of the few Americans in his city, expressed for many mormons who preach on hot street corners sweating in white shits with black ties with name tags and black pants, living the American missionary dream!. As an american teaching english in the university, his primary responsibility is to teach share american cultures and values and be a force of positivity in the eyes of everyone he meets. Its pretty easy most days, but some days its challenging to keep a positive face. Some days are different some days are the same, and some days are just a Brazilian mystery.