Tag Archives: international

Day 1 of My Rio Vacation: A chegada

23 Mar

After about twelve hours in airplanes–between Dulles and Bogotá, Bogotá and São Paolo, and São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro (the cheapest route, naturally)–I finally arrived in Rio de Janeiro a little before 9am on Saturday morning. Stepping out of the airplane, I could already tell that my long-sleeved cotton shirt and jeans were not comfortable apparel for the tropics. It wasn’t really scorching hot–and hasn’t been yet this trip, with temperatures hovering in the mid-70s to mid-80s–but it was definitely not late-winter Virginia.

The landing itself had been fantastic: passing over strange, otherworldly mountaintops as we descended toward the bay, with the gigantic Cristo Redentor statue looking on. The SDU airport is literally in the bay, resting on a strip of land that juts out from downtown Rio just barely above sea level, so it was really cool (and maybe just a little bit scary) to watch the water getting closer and closer to the bottom of our plane–until suddenly the landing strip appeared out of nowhere, just in time for the landing gear to touch ground!

The wonder of all this had my head spinning as I passed through the baggage claim area toward the exit–shifting my backpack to a more comfortable position (I stuck to traveling light, 1 normal-sized backpack for a 10-day international trip; aren’t you impressed?) while trying to determine if there was a free WiFi network available for my iPod to connect to so that I could call my friend Marcos to find out if he was nearby and my parents to let them know I was still alive–when suddenly, quicker than I could blink an eye, I was attacked from behind! I gasped and whirled around to face my attacker as two long dark arms closed in, squeezing the life out of me! It was my good friend Marcos! He had seen me when I first entered the baggage claim area (I stick out like a big, ivory sore thumb here) and decided to sneak up on me. It was so great to see him again; we exchanged a long embrace and then broke into lively chatter as we exited the airport and began the trek to his apartment on the other side of the bay. With my long jeans and heavy backpack it was difficult keeping up with Marcos, but at last we arrived to his cozy little apartment, where I got to meet his Vietnamese-French girlfriend and use her MacBook to call my parents before we headed off for breakfast and an afternoon at the gorgeous Copacabana beach (where I could finally “bathe” in the surf and lay under a large red umbrella in the sand with absolutely nothing to do but relax!!)

Step 1, Find Wings. Step 2, FLY!!

28 Jan

I can’t remember really hating winter until recently, but at the present moment I am sick of it, fed up, through, soooo over it (omg, sooo sorry to go “valley girl” on you guys!). It probably has something to do with the fact that last winter was the snowiest one we’ve had on the east coast (USA) in several years and this winter itself has (probably) broken some records — not to mention the fact that the majority of the winters in my life were spent as a schoolboy, who reveled in the wonder of a snowy forest behind my house and the joy of a day off school (Virginia schools are pretty notorious for shutting down if there’s snow accumulation of more than 1/8″) — but I won’t bore you guys with my ranting and complaining about forces beyond my control BECAUSE:

I have great news for our readers that will warm you right up! (1) I am headed places warm and wonderful in the very near future, and (2) I am about to regain my title as World Traveler Extraordinaire. I’m sure it’s well-known by now that anyone bearing  a World Traveler title must leave his homeland at regular intervals to maintain it, and for an Extraordinaire-level traveler, this obligation must be fulfilled at least once a year (OK, that sounds dumb, but hopefully in an entertaining kind of way?). I almost didn’t make it last year — and my brief, business-related trip to Toronto in the autumn only barely counted as international travel (don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVED the city — but I was only there two days, and there wasn’t much of a cultural contrast or linguistic challenge for me).

So, without further ado (adue, adieu? These “set phrases” are annoying; if I were a more dedicated linguist I would probably do the research and find out where that even comes from…), sans further delay, I shall unveil my plans:

Paso uno: Mini-vacation in West Palm Beach, mid-February. I’m just taking a few days off to chill by the water, hang out with a really good friend who’s working at a baseball stadium down there, and maybe even scuba dive (no steps have yet been taken to ascertain whether this third pursuit is even remotely possible in the month of February — don’t all the cool-looking fish migrate to the Caribbean, or hibernate in an abyss somewhere during winter? — but it definitely sounds cool and tropical to mention (and might make a few of you envious?). Yet while therapeutic and relaxing and extremely awesome, this trip, of course, does nothing to further my reputation as a World Traveler, which is why I just recently decided to take:

Passo dois (lit. paso dos, “step two”. Guess the language, and you’ll have narrowed down the places I might be going to two — or three if you’re informed enough to know the official language of Angola): 10-day vacation to the great city of Rio de Janeiro! I have a good friend there who’s been inviting me to come visit for a couple years now, and I actually had it in the back of my mind that this would be the year — if I could find the right price, of course. Well, I was talking to my amigo Marcos on Tuesday night — remembering our adventures together in Europe, catching up on recent happenings in our lives, comparing how miserable the weather is here and how absolutely gorgeous it is there, etc. — and I started thinking about how much I really want to go visit, and how I’d hate to look back in a few years and wonder why I let silly things like money and time be used as excuses for never taking the adventure — and, prob. more than anything, I was thinking about what an absolute blast Marcos and I used to have together when we were studying in Madrid, whether it was touring Andalucía, booking a last-minute trip to Brussels for a day because the price was right, or playing soccer in a Metro station where I kicked the ball into a lamp, which sent us into a frantic flight to the other side of the city to avoid transportation authorities [Author’s Note: Yes, I realize what an incredibly ridiculous run-on sentence this is, but I hope it’s serving its purpose in conveying my building excitement] — and so I took another look at flights for the end of March, using all the cheesy travel discount websites that are out there, and I found a round-trip flight that would be covered by the tax refund I’ll be receiving later this month [I wish I could insert a <hyperlink> here to a blog entry about filing my taxes this year…], so I made sure Marcos was going to be in town that week and bought it within the hour!

After making the purchase, I must admit that I had a little “Oh no, what have I done??!!!” moment — Was this an impulse buy? Had I really considered fully the risks of traveling to such a crime-ridden city as a white American tourist with little knowledge of the Portuguese language? Who does something like this, and is there a reason that most people don’t? Why hadn’t I researched the requirements for visiting the country before buying the ticket? (I found out later that night that US citizens are required to have a Tourist Visa to even enter Brazil, which I should have expected… But it should be no biggie if I get started on the application process this weekend, because I can get it within a month, and the price will almost be covered by the dinero I’ll be getting back from my state taxes…) — but then I realized that I was being smarter than I realized: I had made sure I had the money for it first, I had paid a little extra for a light travel insurance plan to cover me if I get stranded in an airport on one of my connecting flights or lose my job right before the trip and need to cancel it last-minute, and I have a really great friend waiting for me there who “has my back”, and it sounds like his family won’t let me starve, with the feast they’re already planning in my honor!

Really, I think it’s just the kind of adventure I need, after a year landlocked in central VA and tied down to a full time job. I’m looking forward to good times, learning a lot of Portuguese, enjoying new foods and drinks, hearing some authentic Bossa Nova, Samba and Choro played by Brazilians… I may decide not to come back! (Except for the fact that the only way I can take this trip in the first place is because of this full-time job that’s tying me down… A job which I really do enjoy most days!)

OK, so now we’re reaching the end of the post, and you’re probably asking yourself, why did he say this is “good news” for me the reader? Simply put, you benefit because you will be the ones that will be able to read the awesome posts about my trips — perhaps even while they’re going on, depending on internet availability — without ever having to leave your house! FOR FREE! What’s not to like? 😉

Señor Bachelor Finds His Wings Again

14 Jan

Hola! Once again, a very long time has passed since I last blogged here (but not as long as it’s been since we’ve seen a post from Joe The Scholar, mind you). My apologies.

Tonight I am writing from my new yuppy apartment in downtown C-ville, after having spent my very first full week here. This is the first place I’ve lived completely by myself, and overall, I am LOVING it. The apartment itself is very nice — hardwood-like laminate flooring, 10-foot ceilings, a decent-sized kitchen with all the latest appliances — and it’s located two blocks from historic downtown and the downtown walking mall. Although the weather’s been a little chilly, I have already braved the cold numerous times to go out and explore the area — after all, I keep convincing myself, I’m paying for the convenience of this location with my rent, so why would I spend extra money on gas?

Earlier this evening, in fact, I walked down to Cville Coffee to see a jazz duo that was performing there. The art and music scene was one of the things that drew me to the downtown area, so I was quite excited to start enjoying culture again. It was about a ten-minute walk, and not too terribly cold, but there was literally nobody else on the sidewalks anywhere on the way — an eery reminder of America’s love affair with the personal automobile. The coffee shop was really sheik and cozy; I had a delicious Cajun sandwich with a “Milky Way” flavored coffee drink; and the jazz duo was soothing and refreshing, with their blend of Bossa Nova tunes, blues, and jazzified folk songs. The atmosphere was very relaxing, and I even had a nice little chat with one of the owners of the place at one point, who told me about some cool places to visit in the area.

The only thing that was a little awkward was that I was the only person there under the age of 50. There was a seniors group from Hood, VA (some backwoods town I’d never heard of) and several older couples and groups of Girls-Night grandmas, but not a single head of hair that hadn’t been turned white or gray with time. Nothing against older folks, I could tell they were having a good time, but it was just kind of a shame that no cool bohemian chicks were there to enjoy the tastes and sounds… Maybe I’ll have to start exploring musical hangouts a little closer to the University, but at least now I know a place where I can get delicious coffee drinks within minutes of my new home.

Ok, I guess this has been a pretty lame post, but you can think of it as just a snapshot into the fascinating life of Bachelor Derrick. I think I’m going to close here for the night and go back to doing literally whatever I want — adjusting the temperature to exactly how I want it, playing whatever genre of music I’m in the mood for, at whatever volume I feel like, double- and triple-dipping my tortilla chips in the jar of salsa, taking a random nap before watching whatever movie I feel like watching, etc — in my own domain; I can definitely get used to this!

There is Life at the Bottom of the Earth

16 Oct

Hola! Hace muchisimo tiempo, no? I don’t doubt that many of our faithful readers have already created their own versions of my demise on this great unknown continent—Could I have been kidnapped by natives resentful of all that is foreign? Or might I have been consumed by a jaguar while traveling home from the university on a dirt path through the forest? Or did one of the nearby volcanoes erupt violently in the middle of the night, burying the entire city in ash?—and perhaps many of them have already begun mourning the loss of one of the greatest young minds in the Western world. While the large banquets in my honor and the mass distribution of my written and artistic works across the US must be a flattering sight, I insist that all such activity be stopped at once—I am still the sole proprietor of my intellectual work and claim all profits gained from its circulation. Joe the Scholar, Almost-Esq. will assure the observance of all applicable laws during my absence.

So where have I been for the past couple of months? Quite simply, at the bottom of the earth. As the crow flies (an idiom I recently taught my Advanced Proficiency class), the city of Osorno is over 8,000 km from my hometown in Virginia. The cold, rainy winter is finally giving way to Spring, and the entire country is coming back to life with a wild, untamed beauty unlike any I’ve ever seen.

On my travels up and down this long, skinny green bean of a country, I have been left breathless by menacing smoking volcanoes, majestic snow-capped mountains, enormous coast-pummeling waves, expansive orchards and vineyards without visible end, and a strange-looking bird called a Bandurria (Google it. You know you wanna.) Every night, without fail, the moon hangs in the sky side upside down and fills with light from left-to-right (much more intuitive to readers of Latin-based languages; I was never a fan of the progression of the moon phases in the North). And a public healthcare system means any basic medical procedure is free for visiting gringos like myself (more to come on that). I have been super-busy with planning for classes and grading assignments recently—my lack of study and training in the education field has made this a challenging job, as I’m essentially instructing future English teachers—but I have been having a great time with students and professors alike. Nevertheless, I realize that my negligence of TCP has meant that our readers have been deprived of an important international voice that is greatly needed to balance the ethnocentric—albethey enjoyable—ramblings of my co-writer. I hope to keep in much more frequent contact during the coming months, and my fingers are still crossed about that volcano outside my city.

Helping you get your RSS fix

4 Aug

I’m not sure how many of our loyal imaginary readers use RSS feeds, but I am quite fond of them, and I know that intern Derrick is pretty fond of his too (he likes to subscribe to all those Spanish newspaper feeds, it makes him feel international). This post is mostly so our readers can get a few awesome blogs into their RSS universe, in whatever form it may take.

If you aren’t familiar with RSS feeds, dude, get with it. First step, find a RSS aggregator. Google Reader is my personal favorite, but I hear Yahoo has a decent one as well. Next, start finding RSS symbols on pages you like and clicking them. The symbol looks like this:

RSS icon

Except smaller.

Okay, so I will leave it to you to figure out from there. Here are a few awesome blogs that I follow, if you have some that you follow and think are cool, leave a comment so we can benefit from your blogal trappings.

The Constitutional Pheasant (the best blog ever written*)

XKCD (possibly the funniest series of comic strips ever concocted, and very nerdy to boot!)

Joe Posnanski (the best writer in all of baseball)

Sunday Morning Breakfast Cereal (another webcomic, definitely a bit edgier)

2 Birds 1 Blog (quirky and pretty funny)

Freakonomics (awesome book, ergo, awesome blog)

Fail Blog (you’ll like this one)

Okay, that’s all I’ve found that are of interest. I hope you have some to round out the list?


*We cannot substantiate that assertion.

Chapped lips smeared with yellow mayonnaise on the 29th of July

29 Jul

I have found that a sudden shift from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern is hardest on one’s lips than on any other part of his body. Less than one week ago, my lips were basking in the warmth of summer, lathering themselves with cold ice cream and sweetened iced tea during moments of much-needed respite… They laughed effortlessly at the passing fluffy clouds and blew jovial bubbles in any swimming pool.

Then, suddenly, they found themselves, through no fault of their own, gasping for air and moisture on the cold, dry asphalt of the Chilean capital city. They quivered in frigid fear as they were carried out of the SCL airport, blowing clouds of water vapor into the sky, and they began to feel themselves contorted in ways they hadn’t for a long time in efforts to utter a language not their own. The chapping began almost immediately, and even an occasional application of Chap Stick was not enough to reverse their decay…

As they sought familiar foods in this foreign landscape, they were shocked to find that even their old amigo mayonnaise was not what they expected. She  was completely yellow, almost like mustard, and her flavor was different, although they couldn’t describe how. They began to crave warm coffee, instead of iced tea, and no relief was found in their beloved ice cream.

But as the days passed, the contortions grew easier; new friends made them smile; and “pisco sour” made them pucker.  And as they adjusted, these lips  began to prepare for a new assignment in this unknown land, that of dancing their native language much more slowly and clearly. They were to serve as models for younger lips that wanted desperately to be able to use these dance moves on their own… But as the days past and July approached its end, they were still chapped and cold, longing for the warmth of their home.

The June Post

28 Jun

It has occurred to me that my Atlantic amigo (I assume an inhabitant of the city of Atlanta would share the name of the second largest ocean in the world… but I could be wrong) and I have almost completely neglected our blog during the month of June.  I apologize sincerely for this oversight. Rest assured that we have not forgotten that a blog is like a fragile plant that needs to be watered regularly from the springs of knowledge that pour out from our keyboards…

And what a busy month this has been for the world! WARNING: For those of you using this blog interactively as part of the Derrick Game (the rules are simple: drink every time Derrick says something cultured or international, while groaning in an attempt to cover up your jealousy), this entry will likely leave you with a headache…

Not only has the US soccer team beaten Spain and been beaten by Brazil in the World Cup games in South Africa, but I just found out that (1) one of my good friends in Spain, Malte (originally from Germany) is getting married shortly to a Argentine woman he met at a Christmas party in Madrid that I had attended with him back in December, and (2) another of my friends that I met in Madrid, Marcos, and with whom I travelled much of Europe just left Friday to return to his homeland of Brazil. I just found out about both events through another friend who is the brother of the Argentine bride-to-be in a casual conversation on Facebook Chat. [Update: Marcos had told me about his return to Brazil, I had just misread “26 de junio” as “26 de julio” in a recent e-mail. What a dummy, haha.]

It was a shock to realize just how “out of the loop” I’ve become in the month of June; with my return to my rural home in the woods outside of a tiny town in Virginia, I have been separated from my greatest means of contact with the outside world: reliable internet. At my parents’ house I have access only to dial-up internet, which means I cannot use Skype to call friends abroad, I cannot use Google Chat, I cannot load more than one web page at a time… I guess it’s better than no internet at all (I believe Joe knows someone who can personally attest to that horror, we’ll see if he can get an exclusive interview with her and publish his shocking findings here), it just compounds the feeling of disconnectedness that has resulted from recent transitions in my life–leaving the largest university in the largest city in Spain to return to a small college in a small city in the United States, then leaving that small college and city to return to the microscopic town where I was raised–simultaneously leaving the communities of scholars, decent-sized libraries which participated in InterLibrary Loans, and limitless internet networks that characterized my college years… With each step I feel like I’ve become more and more isolated from the huge, exciting, boundless conception of the world that I had developed while studying and living in Madrid in the fall of 2008…

But thank the Lord that in less than a month I will become an international traveller once again! On July 23, 2009, I will venture to a new corner of this planet, Chile, to begin a job teaching English as part of a teaching certification program in a university there. Look out world, you’re not rid of me just yet!