Brazil Traveler

Location: Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil

After visiting Fortaleza, Brazil and feeling comfortable there, I decided to finally retire and spend some time persuing my dream: moving to Brazil. I'm spending six months in Fortaleza deciding if this is what I really want or if it is just one more step in my life. I have been fortunate enough to do everything I ever wanted to do, have had a good career in Air Traffic Control and am now ready to go out and have fun. I played jazz for many years and it is my second passion. I also just finished the first draft of my novel, "Song For A Sad Smile" and will work on researching my next book. My idea is that all of us should "Do the Dream" and follow your heart, no matter how old you are. The final question that you'll ask when your life is almost over should be: "Did I do everything I wanted to do?" If your answer is anything except "yes" then you're not living life to its fullest.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

August 27, 2005

This will be my last BLOG from Fortaleza; I leave for Phoenix on Wednesday. What an adventure this has been! I am so appreciative to Norman Morrison for helping me put my pictures on the BLOG which allowed everyone to see some of the sights and get an idea of what life is like here. Fortaleza is such a beautiful city as is so much of the area around it that I‘ve wanted to share these things with everybody. I do have pictures again this week thanks to Norm. Again, you can copy and paste and then click on picture archives, then click on August 25, August 26, and August 27 to see the pictures.

This BLOG will cover my last two weeks here; I have been to all of the places except Canoa Quebrada before on this trip but will try to add some information as I go along.

First I went back to Lagoinha. I think it is my favorite beach to visit. Ocean View provided the transportation as usual; this time the tour guide was Edna, one of my original guides when I was here in 2001. It was wonderful to see her again and we spent a lot time talking about where our lives had gone in the past four years.

As I said before, one of the high lights is a series of trips which take you across the beach to a lake, across the lake into the tropical coastal forest and then back to the resort. During the trip this time I was partnered with five year old Fabio, his mother, Adriana and her mother, Regina from Sao Paulo. Fabio was a fun guy; I would have thought he might get scared during the buggy ride but he was ready to do it all over again, especially when we went down the big dunes. I think a smile must have been painted on his face the way he laughed and smiled. After we returned to the resort area we spent the afternoon eating, laying on the beach, swimming in the ocean or pool and generally having a good time. We returned to town at four in the afternoon.

A couple of days later my friend, Howard asked me if I wanted to go up the coast to look at some properties and stop at a friend of his posada; of course I jumped at the chance to get back out into the countryside. We drove to beautiful Paracaru; Howard had never been there so I showed him around the area. Paracaru is quickly becoming the wind surfing capitol of the Western Hemisphere. There are posadas that cater primarily to wind surfers. This time of the year the winds and currents are wonderful for riding the sea. (I wonder if I’ll take the sport up…why not?)

From there we drove back toward Fortaleza to Pecem, a hamlet thirty minutes west of Fortaleza. Several years ago a new seaport was built there where cargo is off and on loaded. We made a left turn at the “Y” and ended up at a beautiful posada on the beach three kilometers west of the port. It’s owned by a Swiss gentleman and has been kept immaculate. We spent the afternoon there and left around three to return home. This time we came into Fortaleza from the southwest instead of the usual route and I was able to see portions of the city that I hadn’t seen before.

Saturday, I went back to Morro Branco and Praia dos Fontes. I had been there several times before but this time instead of taking the Ocean View van through the town of Beberibe, I decided to ride from Morro Branco to Praia dos Fontes in a dune buggy. I was picked up at my apartment by Ocean View at eight thirty. My guide would be Sara again; she was my guide the first time I went to Lagoinha. After I got on the bus we headed out of the city to the beaches to the east.

We arrived at Morro Branco around nine, off loaded and began our tour. A young boy about sixteen lead us down the path through the cliffs and explained what we saw on the way. I paired up with Denilson and Cris, two doctors from Minas Gerais State. After we had reached the bottom of the cliff, we climbed into a dune buggy and went off across the beach. I had never done this before in Morro Branco so it was a new experience for me.

After running the beach for ten minutes we stopped at a cavern that went into the cliff about a hundred fifty feet. At the other end of the cavern was a natural spring that had “sweet water” (fresh water) coming out of the side of the cliff. This is where Praia dos Fontes got its name, Beach of the Springs. Driving a bit further we stopped at a large pipe which had water coming out of it. Our guide explained that it was the Brazilian Spring of Youth; if you stayed under the springs long enough you would become younger. I stayed under for ten minutes and all I got was wrinkled skin…I’m still an old guy…darn.

Later we arrived at a fresh-water lake for a break. There was a lake-side rest stop with drinks available and an area for swimming. Denilson and I stayed at the table and talked while Cris went into the water for a swim. She came out a few minutes later, saying that, while it was cold, it was very refreshing. From there we drove to a cliff where they were doing skibunder, a sport of riding a board down the sand cliffs. The first time you try it, it really is a thrill. We left there and drove to the resort.

The resort was much busier than when I had been there during the week. Ocean View had another bus load of people as well as ours there and several other tour agencies had arrived so the resort was nearly full. I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around the pool, eating, drinking Guarana and watching beautiful women. Around two the resort put on its show, a comedian dressed as a woman who plays a game called “kissy-kissy”. The comedian selects six couples, puts them in chairs facing each other and talks for a while. Then they play some music and each woman tries to kiss as many men as she can before the music stops. After the women all run around it’s the men’s turn with all the women they can. It’s a lot of fun and everybody got kissed at least once. When the game was done, the band started again and two dance instructors began teaching people how to dance Forro, a local dance performed primarily in the Northeast of Brazil.

I took a walk along the beach around three and marveled at the beauty that surrounded me in Ceara. The water was warm and there were jangadas in the water, animals walking along the beach where sunbathers lay, soaking up the warmth of the rays; it was a beautiful day and I could feel a deepening love for this place. I returned to the resort and took the van back to Fortaleza.

Sunday, Andy, Thieny, Israel and I went to Prainha, a beach village eight kilometers east of Fortaleza. I didn’t know we were going there and unfortunately I didn’t take my camera with me. Prainha is a “poor man’s Beach Park” Andy explained. They have a fair sized water park with a slide and some other things but you can tell that it hasn’t been kept up like Beach Park in Fortaleza. This beach is a somewhere that locals go to; you don’t see the expensive bikinis or the fancy resorts there; the people look like the average Brazilian. The barracas are small, the food inexpensive and there aren’t a lot of hawkers selling their wares on the beach. We spent the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the sun, sand, breeze and ocean. In the background was the skyline of Fortaleza, just a stone’s throw away yet here, on this beach you were a million miles from the city.

Wednesday I made my last trip to an out-beach, this time to Canoa Quebrada. Canoa Quebrada is a district of Aracati where my friend, John lives. Unfortunately he was out of town so I was confined to the regular resort area. I had been there in October of last year when Andy, Thieny and I had stayed at Posada Lua Morena. It’s a nice restaurant/resort area.

Ocean View’s van was at my doorstep at exactly eight-forty, the time that I was told I would be picked up. Again my tour guide was Sara. The bus wasn’t crowed which meant that we had a chance to talk for a few minutes as we drove out to the Beach Park area. When we arrived, we picked up six people; Junior, Vivian, Sergio, Rosana, Menetod, and Sinara. Then we drove through the center of Prainha and on to Canoa Quebrada one hundred forty kilometers away.

After leaving the van, we mingled at the resort area. Sergio was wearing a Phoenix Suns Charles Barkley shirt and I tried to strike up a conversation with him but he didn’t speak English; however, Junior did. We were able to talk and exchange ideas. He said that as a boy he had studied football (soccer) under the great Pele; perhaps the greatest soccer player of all time. We talked a lot about sports and things in the United States as well as in Brazil.

Soon Sara said that the buggy ride was ready so we all loaded into two buggies and took off; Junior, Vivian, Menetod and Sinara were in one buggy and Sergio, Rosana and I were in the other. We zipped across the dunes for a while until we came to another skibunder dune with a little pond at the bottom. Junior and Menetod went down a couple of times while the rest of us watched.

From there we rode to a small oasis in the middle of the dunes. There was a small restaurant in front of a little pond, all inviting us to join in the fun. The girls took off their outer clothing so that they only had their bikinis on and we all went swimming for fifteen minutes. Because the water was shallow it was very warm. We returned to the dune buggy; it raced across the beach to drop us off at our resort.

We had been gone a couple of hours and were getting hungry. When we arrived back at the resort it took me no time to decide what I wanted, lagosta (lobster) sautéed in garlic sauce. We all ordered and talked and laughed while waiting for our food to arrive. When it came I was really surprised; I had salad, potatoes, rice, four lobsters, desert and two Guanaras for fourteen dollars and fifty-eight cents. I ate every bit of all of it.

When I had finished eating I took a stroll on the beach; it was a beautiful day and the water, sun and sand made for a great walk. I watched men trying to put a jangada into the water as well as pull two out, I saw a couple playing a Brazilian paddle-ball (I asked if I could take a picture but the man said to take it of his girlfriend only), I saw a woman getting makeup on the beach and met a young woman from Canoa Quebrada who falls into the category of one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. I asked to take a picture of her but she said I had to include her boyfriend, which I did. (The picture really doesn’t do any justice to her beauty.) Later, I took a picture of Vivian and Rosana. I marveled at Rosana’s beauty even though she was the mother of four children, all in their twenties. At four in the afternoon we returned to Fortaleza and a quiet life. What a wonderful time I had.

Four more days and I'll be on an airliner heading north to Phoenix and the United States. I've got mixed emotions about it. Some things were really good, others weren't as good as I had expected. But I guess that's the way life is, too, isn't it?

I did answer questions; I can live here and enjoy it a lot. Fortaleza is really just another big city; there are differences...the traffic, the language, some customs, the girls...however, it isn't really that different from Phoenix, San Jose or any other place with two and a half million people. The weather is a little better than some, the cost of living a little cheaper than any, the women are more plentiful but it's just another big city.

The one thing that really surprises me is that I find that I enjoy the beach so much. I feel like I really belong there though I don't seem to know why. I love riding the dunes, sitting near the ocean listening to it as it kisses the shore, seeing the palm trees and smelling the clean air. I always hated the beach in California; I would take one look at the ocean and think that once I'd seen it I was satisfied for a few years. Here I can't get enough of it; I love going and walking along it.

Who knows what my future holds; I still don’t have any answers to the direction my life is going to take; coming back here is probably where my heart is. For the last three and a half years my life has been up in the air and it probably won't change until I make up my mind which, not what I want. I keep trying to live in the moment but my Virgo personality won't let me. I move in today but my mind keeps asking "What's Next"?

I hope you have enjoyed my BLOG this week; it is the last one that I’ll be writing from Fortaleza. When I arrive back in the States I will write the final entry of this trip. I intend on keeping the BLOG active and will be ready to write the next chapter in this adventure. Please feel free to either send me an email or write something in the comments area of the BLOG. Remember, those famous words of the Great Arnold…


Sunday, August 21, 2005

August 21, 2005

Hi, Everybody…

Well, it’s time for another week’s entry into the BLOG; I'm getting toward the end of the writing now. I’m coming back to the States the first of September and will suspend Brazil Traveler until I return. (I really don’t think any of you will want to hear the boring live I’ll be living in the US) In the meantime, my wonderful friend, Norman has included pictures from last week’s trip to Cumbuco. As always he has done a great job of setting things up for your viewing pleasure; just copy and paste, then click on Picture Archives then click on August 16th for the first batch and August 17th for the second batch; I will send you links in my notifications.

There won’t be as many “wild life” pictures as usual; it was a very quiet day and there were other things of interest.

I had hoped to go to Morro Branco and Praia dos Fontes again last week but there was a mix-up and the only thing available was another trip to Cumbuco. I have already told you about the beach and won’t go into any lengthy details about that.

Ocean View provided me with transportation and another wonderful guide; I think her name was Kati. (It’s actually a longer name but I forgot to write it down.) As always when using Ocean View, I encountered total professionalism with her at the helm. It’s a relatively short trip to Cumbuco; I only had to wait a half hour before reaching the resort.

Once we arrived, we split up into groups for the buggies. I was placed with a young couple, Sabrina from Switzerland and Leonard from Holland and a young boy from France; Sergio. (It turned out that Sergio had been born in Fortaleza, then was adopted and moved to France…this was his first time here since he was six weeks old!) Both Sabrina and Leonard spoke excellent English which made it much easier for me.

We were really lucky…we got the same buggy driver that I had had a week earlier; we both immediately recognized each other and shook hands and exchanged hellos. Soon we were ready to take to the dunes again. Having run them a week earlier I knew what to expect but the others didn’t.

Our driver took off gently, then began taking the first dune. Riding the dunes can really be exciting; the ones in Cumbuco are somewhat unique in that they rise so high. We would find ourselves screaming our heads off as we dove down a two hundred foot Dune. Ten minutes out we stopped at the same lake as we had the week before for some sand-surfing. Because both Sabrina and Leonard were expert snow-skiers, they thought they could use the same principles to sand; they found out that it doesn’t work that way. (Sabrina later told me that anyone living in Switzerland skis every day from morning to night during season.) They took four or five spills apiece before being able to do a passable job of going down the dune. After fifteen minutes, we decided to move on.

From there we went to Banana Lake, a little rest stop a few kilometers from Cumbuco. There you can ride ski boats, swim in a fresh water lake, have a Guarana or beer and relax by the water. There are lots of trees and shade and it’s quite comfortable. We had a drink and left to ride the dunes again. (I discovered that the batteries ran out in my camera; I had some more back at the resort but it didn’t help me there.)

A half an hour on the dunes was a lot of fun, especially when observing the look on Sergio’s face. Fear was the description of the trip. Here he was, out in the middle of nowhere with three gringos, two young ones who spoke a little French and some old guy who kept asking “OK?”, zipping over sand dunes at fifty kilometers an hour, bouncing up and down and getting constantly hit by the wind in his face…why wouldn’t there be a look of total terror? Anyway, for the rest of us it was a lot of fun.

When we arrived back at the resort, our buggy driver laughingly said that he would see me again next week. Sabrina, Leonard and I were hungry so we ordered lunch. As I said earlier, food is generally cooked for two at these places. The food has always been outstanding (Everything that I’ve eaten practically while in Brazil has been excellent.) and plentiful. We ordered fish and shrimp, had two kinds of rice, two kinds of potatoes, vegetables, and fruit. The cost of this was less than eleven dollars apiece.

The West coast of Ceara is one of the best Wind Surfing areas in the world; people from all over the world come here to wind surf and kite board. August through October provide some of the most excellent wind conditions you can ever imagine. My friend, Peter has been doing it for years from Paracaru (see last week’s BLOG). Today, Cumbuco was full of wind surfers and wind kiters. As I walked the beach I saw at least five or six boards and several kites. It’s really fascinating to watch. The kite-boarders will come down to the water, make a run, then flip up in the air only to ride the wind back out to sea, then come down again and do another run. I stayed for more than an hour watching them.

At four we headed back to Fortaleza where things were calmer. It had been another wonderful day in Fortaleza.

Sunday, Andy and I drove up the East coast to Prainha, a small resort community a half an hour east of Fortaleza using the coast highway from Beach Park east. When I was here four years ago the area around Beach Park was primarily barren, perhaps ten or twelve houses in the area; now it is built up and there are resorts, houses and condos everywhere. These are not cheap housing; they are beach houses that are quite expensive.

Entering Prainha, you would never know that you’re only fifteen kilometers from Fortaleza; it has its own personality and doesn’t associate its self with Fortaleza at all. It is full of mom-and-pop stores, has a couple of little restaurant/bars, a bus station, a square, its own school and all the things that would be expected by a self-contained community. On the hill overlooking the village are large houses which are owned by people in Fortaleza who want to get away from the city for a weekend.

Andy and I spent a half an hour driving around and looking, assessing whether it would be a good place for a client of Andy’s. We then decided to return to Fortaleza. Being hungry, we stopped at a restaurant along the way. It was Father’s Day in Brazil, so the place was filled with families. They also had a small group that were playing jazz and bossa nova.

Now, those who know me know that I will take every opportunity I have to listen to jazz, especially bossa nova and Brazilian MPB. Being a musician myself I can expect an occasional flaw in the music; when you’re playing live that can happen. Folks, in my ENTIRE LIFE, I have NEVER heard as bad of music being played as was coming from the bandstand. They were worse than my first band in El Paso, Texas! We had to endure almost an hour and a half of the WORST playing I have ever heard. I wanted to get up on the bandstand and take over the piano but Andy wisely told me that if I started, we’d never get out; they would have me finishing the gig and afterwards, the piano player would probably either bug me for lessons or shoot me for embarrassing him. After an hour and a half of cringing and wishing I were somewhere else, we returned to the car and home. Andy put some nice Brazilian Calypso on to calm the ear drums.

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s BLOG; as usual, I would like to have your comments, either on the BLOG or via email. Have a good week. My next BLOG will include lots and lots of pictures since it will probably be the last one that I write from Brazil. It will contain pictures of Lagoinha, Pecem, Morro Branco, Praia dos Fontes and Canoa Quebrada and will be actually about two weeks coverage.