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Sleeping in the lower hammock is dangerous

Beware - Gold diggers around

semi-overcast 38 °C

The happiest person on our ship is the guy wearing ‘Crocs’. I first became aware of him towards the end of our initial shore excursion when I was thinking, “Its difficult to appreciate 3rd world despair when ones feet hurt”. I guess that idea extends to; the best place to raise funds for the needy would be at the exit from a chiropodist. I further surmised, “That guy packs his own luggage”. He has continued to wear them on every occasion – the restaurants, shows, lectures, excursions and in the gymnasium. He radiates confidence and security while I try to disguise my envy. The observation caused me to categorise my fellow passengers into: those who follow their wife’s instruction and those who don’t. It’s a fascinating study that doesn’t restrict to dress sense. Type and quantity of food on the plate, comments in the lift, choice of seating in the theatre and selection of new friends are all indicators. The majority of the passengers are easy to categorise. (1) The lady is obviously conscious of her appearance while the man is equally smart – and even puts on clean clothes for dinner. (2) The lady is appropriately dressed while her partner, although uncoordinated, appears ‘comfortably’ attired. In some instances, it seems he thought he may be asked to help in the engine room. There is a 3rd group - (3) Both partners appear they took a wrong turn on the way to a fancy-dress party. Unfortunately, exacerbating the understanding of this normally consistent group, is the fact we have experienced Christmas afloat. This gave opportunity for some to break out their red & white costumes. Funny hats, bizarre shirts, often emblazoned with advice for Santa or his reindeer) and ‘overgarments’ (I struggle for a better word, although I considered, regalia) that would, if still at home, result in their children consulting a mental health professional. I further suspect some believed their grandchildren would show up for the holiday as usual. I do hope the excellent medical facilities on board include counseling facilities,
It was one of these ‘cat 3’ people who joined us in the elevator up to our ‘stateroom’. We often have interesting 10 – 20 second conversations on the way ‘home’. The guy, who I was reluctant to engage, said, “Are you odd”? My quickly considered reply was, “We expect others to reach that conclusion as we seldom dwell on the subject”. While we completely understand those who consider us odd, especially as we have a very strange accent and Flypaper is often possessively holding my arm suggesting I need support and direction, I don’t believe we are asylum material yet. It wasn’t until we were safely locked in our room we realised he was enquiring which side of the ship we lodged. (We have an even number, but noticed he appropriately turned to the other side.)
At the Amazonian port of Parintins we enjoyed a festival called ‘Boi Bumba’. It is 2nd only to the Rio Carnival. Check it out at … http://boibumba.com/brief_en.htm The costumes are stunning and the rhythmic music is entrancing. There is little likelihood of going to sleep. At the restrooms latter I overheard a couple of guys commenting … “The girls really made the show – particularly the leading ladies who didn’t need costumes to gain attention”. The restrooms are the best place to hear true sentiment. The same guys would have told their wives and friends at dinner, “Wow, those costumes were stunning”. When Flypaper asked me how I liked the show, I said, “The music was a bit loud and repetitive”.
The ships 900 passengers use an astonishing amount of water. I suspect most is in the form of ice in the drinks. The ship has a massive desalination plant to convert salt water to fresh drinking water. However, the Amazon River is brown, silty, fresh water – the plant doesn’t work. As a result, the vessel purchased water at 3 of the major cities along the way. They also advised us not to drink the local water. There’s a conflict. We were additionally instructed to drink copious amounts of bottled water when ashore. Nothing unusual about this. Gullible people everywhere believe they need it. As a result, frail passengers who had spent a fortune purchasing flimsy clothing and lightweight shoes, staggered down the gangway laden with multiple bottles of water. These people had just risen from breakfast where they consumed juice, smoothies, water and gallons of coffee. Quite enough liquid to last 3 hours until lunch where the menu included water, juice, beer, wine and gallons of water. A significant amount of a 3- 4 hour excursion is typically spent at restrooms along the way. Such is the power of brainwashing. (Note to business people, not only involved in offering baubles to tourists but any business, offer free restrooms and you will prosper.)
I was privileged to spend some time over a coffee one morning with a gentleman who was a regular traveler on cruise ships. He was a widower of many years who figured out cruising was cheaper than owning a home and employing a house keeper – which he added, was still cheaper than taking on another wife. He proved to be very wise and shared his wisdom with younger guys like me. He said, “There’s lots of women aboard looking for a wealthy husband. If you want to meet them, and are a bit of a teaser, just fold up some toilet paper into your wallet and carry it in your trouser pocket. They will notice, and you’ll be very popular. When you’re tired of them, just say your previous wives bled you dry and you won your cruise in a raffle”. I could never learn valuable stuff like this by staying at home.
The Amazon basin is the worlds largest, virtually impenetrable rain forest. There are no highways or even local roads. All inhabitation is along the river and all transport is by water. There are water craft ranging from small canoe’s, to small Taxi’s, larger busses and huge trucks – all carrying every item normally transported by road. The boats all require fuel and every town has at least one barge on the river that is a petrol station. There is every other service imaginable for boats to be found along the shores. Travel between cities can take days and even weeks. The mainstay of longer journeys are multi-storied ‘bus boats’ which carry people, stock and freight. At night people sleep cheek by jowl in hammocks suspended above the deck. Children’s hammocks are often strung above adults. Frequent fights break out between parents when children annoy those below. Bed wetting is an example. The most important person on the bus boats is not the captain or the engineers – it’s the Satellite dish operator. Women will only take a boat that has a reputation for providing every available TV soap opera. As the boat snakes around following the river, the TV signal comes and goes. A skillful guy on the roof continually adjusting the direction of the dish to maintain a perfect signal is critical. If he fails, the women lose patience, the boat owner loses custom and he loses his job. They don’t care if the boat breaks down, just as long as the TV continues 24/7.
An curious feature of Brazilian travel is the ‘Tourist Police’. PC260011.jpg
They exist to keep an eye on the visitors and to maximise the tourism spend by extracting a little extra foreign currency if an offence is committed or even a transgression as trivial as failing to find a restroom resulting in an ‘exposure’ indiscretion down a secluded ally. The chances of falling foul of the law in this instance is heightened as Restrooms are not signposted. Actually, we have a similar situation in New Zealand. It’s called a ‘hotel toilet tax’). Our guides explained they were also there to rescue the disoriented and abandoned. Their demeanor and belt full of weapons suggest they deal with some very dangerous tourists. I wanted to tell a policeman that the feared lady on our ship who storms out of restaurants for inadequate service and berates the staff who stray within range, had just robbed a beggar whose empty cup could be used as evidence of her crime. I didn’t do it, because I feared she may escape. Call me a coward if you must.
I did display more courage when asked by another lady to confirm the river had risen overnight as a result of the rain. She based her concerns on the fact more floating rubbish was passing us and no ‘beaches’ could be seen at the rivers edge. I was able to reassure her she was safe and the river hadn’t risen. As proof I showed her a line marked on our ships hull and explained, “The water was up to this line when we entered the river and its still at that same line,” It was heartwarming to notice the calm that returned to her demeanor after this simple reassurance.
While onboard we have increased our knowledge and understanding about all sorts of things. Lectures given by credible Doctors of this and that, Professors, Geologists and retired Senior Diplomats. I was already aware that Brazil has an issue with corruption at the highest level. Indeed, the best president they ever had is currently in jail for getting caught at the game and his successor, the current president, is currently being impeached and will undoubtedly serve time soon. The drive to stamp out corruption is driven by the disadvantaged masses and corporates who collectively are able to fund the procedures. However, I don’t think this problem will be solved anytime soon. Today we learned that, here in Brazil, there is a waiting list to join the Civil Service which is regulated by the very costly bribe required to succeed. However, there are instances of clear thinking on the subject. It’s possible to receive a receipt from a ’guvmint’ servant to whom one made a bribe payment, and that receipt enables one to receive a tax credit in the following year. It’s a cost of doing business – seems sensible to me.
The Amazon River cities of Santarém, Manaus and Parintins are pleasant to visit. They have a shabby appearance as a result of equatorial climate, no understanding of the word ‘maintenance’ and low incomes, but display a sense of pride in being relatively clean and tidy. Most of the trash collection budget appears to be spent correctly. The regional capital, Belém, at the mouth of the Amazon River however, is in contrast. Its it could represent Brazil in the world championship for ‘garbage H/Q ‘. Initially I thought they may be hosting a ‘trash exposition’ … but soon realised this was more than just spreading around some rubbish. Belém has been prepared and matured over a long period. The smell is evidence of that and likely to clinch the gold medal. The meat market; an open-air collection of stalls hasn’t been even superficially cleaned for years. Even the flies could only stay for short periods. They attack in shifts. The fish market on the other hand (the largest in the region) and part of the huge ‘Ver O Peso’ Market offering everything imaginable, did get a hose out each afternoon, but smelt as though they recycled the same water every day. In a way, I suspect they do. If they pump it out of the adjacent river its right where they dump the fish bits they can’t sell. The smell causes visitors gut-turning dizzy spells. I suggested to the guide he should issue chemical warfare masks. Bizarrely, our guide took great pride in showing us their ‘piece-de-resistance’, a specially built sheltered inlet carved into the wharf, where the fishing boats come to clean and fillet their catch before hoisting the bins of fresh fish up to their sales agents in the adjacent market. When the tide goes out, as it does twice a day and occurred while we visited, the riverbed is exposed along with fish skeletons, fish heads and unidentifiable fish scraps. The smell is horrendous – but does serve to attract about 200 ugly black turkey vultures. If the judges are marking when the vultures are fighting over the scraps they will award gold, silver, and bronze.
A feature of the ‘Ver O Peso’ Market is the large section dedicated to natural herbal medicines. The Amazonians claim to have a prevention or cure for every ailment. Their health system is virtually non-existent so perhaps they have little option. I couldn’t help wondering why, having scoffed so much healthy herbal preventatives, anyone died in Brazil. I was also vexed (and possibly visibly indignant) when lady stallholders chased after me offering large bottles of their homemade Viagra. Given the large size of Brazilian families I have no doubt it works well but my vexation resulted from their immediate positive belief I needed the product. (They could at least suggest a test.) After leaving the market I wished I’d bought an assortment of various cures because I’m certain I don’t have immunity to many of the things I came in contact with there. I also fear my optical and olfactory system have been irreparably damaged.
The last Brazilian I met was an interesting fellow. He is a one-man mobile radio station. Quite a brilliant commercial venture in this era where business promotion is very difficult given the diversity of media option. He travels on his bicycle to anywhere there are large gatherings of people,(eg. The market) to anywhere his advertisers want to target a specific audience and to sporting events. On arrival he cranks up appropriate music to suit the audience and proceeds to entertain. Between songs and jokes he delivers his advertisers message(s). He’s loud, he makes his captive audience laugh and is in demand. I liked him a lot … even though I didn’t understand a word he said. PC300041.jpg

Posted by Wheelspin 08:47 Archived in Brazil Tagged police turkey hammock carnival tourist brazil amazon o dress peso basin vultures belem fancy corruption santarem crocs ver viagra flypaper chiropodist stateroom parintins boi bumba brainwashing watercraft Comments (0)

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