quinta-feira, 29 de dezembro de 2011

Travel log - Europe - Day 30 (the last day)

Day 30
I woke up and sat. My body was aching and I tried to stretch while I was rubbing my eyes and looking for my glasses.
Some of the people that had slept there were also waking up. Others kept on sleeping though the airport started buzzing with life and activity.
It had been very uncomfortable, but anyway I had gone through all night without waking up.
I knew I still had two hours more or less before boarding time and I decided to walk a little bit and see the stores, the people. I then realized I could see a lot more of beautiful people going around and I thought my system of attraction was changing quite a bit. I was admiring a kind of beauty I never had before.
There was an exhibition of maps and I spent some time reading the texts about the map maker of the 15th century whose name I can’t remember. I don’t know why I took no pictures.
In the airplane, I tried sleeping but I just couldn’t. I watched about 6 movies and some series. No one was sitting next to me. I wrote some impressions and even a text I published here. I wrote the references to my friends in Couchsurfing and I would just have to type them as I arrived in Brazil. All the movies I watched made me cry, the sad ones for they were sad and the happy ones for they were happy. I was confused, tired, but quite happy I would sleep in my bed again, would unpack and send the bag to my mother’s house so that I didn’t have to see it for quite some time.
My family was waiting for me at the airport. At least part of it. My sister was kind enough to bring me home and there I was, back to Brazil, ready to be myself again, and at the same time another me. Ready to start 2011, which, now, as it finishes, I had no idea would be the year when everything started to change.

(to celebrate the next year, soon I will write a text about 2011, the experience of writing the travel log and what I want for 2012)

Travel log - Europe - Day 29

Day 29

This day was fragmented so it will be more or less a list of random things I did.
In the early morning I was woken up by the noise the children were doing. Chit-chat, no one was even bothering to whisper or to respect what time it was. They were just laughing and shouting at each other. I tried going back to sleep as soon as all that fuss was over, but I reconsidered and went to the toilet to get ready for my last day in Paris.
No big plans, I had breakfast in the hostel by myself and left. I had a mission, which was to buy all the presents I hadn’t till then.
This would include family and some friends. So I headed to a place where I could find some clothes. As I hadn’t found the game to my mother, I would have to buy her something else. The positive thing was that, as it was the beginning of the year, the stores were on sale everywhere. Everything had to be sold and it was not very difficult to find beautiful and cheaper things. My nephew had asked me to take a ball to him and I went to a sport store and people were very friendly there. The attendant helped me choose the ball and emptied it. As I was leaving one of the stores, the clothes one, the alarms went off. I had been tired of being wrongly mistaken by a shoplifter, and this time was not the jacket. The cashier had been stupid enough to forget one of the security device (and the worst is that I had been paying attention to see she had gone through them).
With almost all presents bought, I headed to the Seine and walked along it. I was thinking about life and soon this nightmarish dream trip would be over. I visited some bridges I had never been to and one called my attention because it was all decorated with locks. I remembered the confusion we had when my friend Louis and I were texting each other and I told him he should have a lock for the locker if the gym and he asked me what a lock was, as I used the word in Portuguese. I answered him in French because I guessed I knew the word: cadeau. However, cadeau in French means present, not lock. He got even more confused and explained me afterwards lock in French was cadenas. I had seen a similar word before, I believe in Portugal Portuguese meaning chains.
Anyway, I sat there and observed people passing by, read some of the inscriptions in the locks and carried on.


My next point of interest was the Champs-Elysées avenue. I didn’t go near the arch again, the avenue was so crowded, I just walked a bit along the avenue, looking for a subway station where I could take the subway. I hadn’t visited the Bastille square this time and I considered doing it, but I saw the time and I was worried I might lose the train. So I headed back to the hostel.

Back to the hostel, I checked out, thanked the people for the nice stay and asked if I could leave my bag there during lunch. I would get it afterward and go to the airport.
I went to the supermarket because I wanted to buy a present to myself. What would I take from Paris? I went to the dairy section and bought seven different types of cheese. It was almost 2 kilos by less then 20 euros. It was quite a present since I do love cheese. I should have taken a picture of the way I put them in a lot of bags and placed them in my suitcase. If the authorities decided to open it to check, I would be in trouble since they have strict laws about carrying food.
So in possession of my dear dear cheeses and all my stuff, it was time to go to the airport. I don’t know how, but I got the wrong ticket, and I had some trouble at the turnstile. I had to go to the machine and buy the correct one. There was a nice lady nearby who helped me then.
Something different happened in the security check in Charles de Gaulle. I had never seen anything like that before, and haven’t ever since: everyone had to take their shoes off before going through the metal detector. No problem then, but they gave people some disposable nonwoven fabric bags the person would put on. It was so weird, but thoughtful of them to do that. In the States, they had everyone taking off the shoes, but, for them, who cares about dirty socks?
So, airports are not the best places to have adventures. Normally, it is more like running to arrive at the gate or something like that. Well, I have a friend who met a guy in one airport once and... never mind. Anyway, I was there, sitting and waiting before boarding and there was a guy who came and sat near me. I normally try to sit next to people who I would feel some sort of connection, but in this case, he was the one who sat near me. I was reading and kept reading, looking up from time to time. He then asked me the time. His accent was perfect, his English was very good. It turned out that he was a Turkish guy going back home. His name was Omer. His English was so nice because he was living in the States, studying. We talked about our lives and he told me he had learned English because he fell in love with a Russian girl who had visited his village when he was 15. So romantic. 

We boarded the plane and kept talking. He was such a nice guy. I changed seats to sit near him. On the seats just in front of ours was a family, they were Asian but I cold not make out where exactly they were from. Omer was tired and ended up falling asleep but before he had done so, there was a girl, about 2 or 3 years old and she was standing on the seat and Omer played with her. I have to admit I don’t have the knack of dealing with kids. I never know what to do. After he had started sleeping, she still wanted to play, but I started asking her to be quiet and I played with her.
The funny thing happened because she liked playing with me, and I tried to establish some communication. I tried Portuguese, English, French and Spanish. To all those languages she would respond with a face like I don’t understand you. So I started trying to imitate the sounds she was producing, and started inventing some other sounds. It was a completely made up and meaningless language I was using, but to my amazement, she started responding and for about 10 minutes, we talked in a completely meaningless language. She was cute and I tried taking pictures and she even posed for me. It was such a cute experience. I even considered being a father, but that went quick.


As we arrived in Istambul, Omer waited for me to go through Immigration and said he would not stay there but would go straight to his village. Anyway, he gave me a friend’s cellphone number and asked me to call him in case I was in trouble. I felt a bit afraid because I would have to spend the night at the airport. It started funny when a blond guy, without any uniform showed me his police badge and asked me to put my bags through an X-ray machine in the middle of the terminal. He found nothing and told me I could go. I really thought it was a scam to deceive inattentive tourists. I went upstairs and found a place where some people were reading newspapers, some were even already asleep. There were some families too. I felt no one would come near and say that part of the airport was closing. I lay down and tried to get some sleep, not even trying to read to relax before

quarta-feira, 21 de dezembro de 2011

Travel log - Europe - Day 28

Day 28

The following day was another strange day. I had never imagined I would have the impression Paris was also a city of strangeness, not only a city of sophistication. I could not help feeling there was a kind of energy on the streets, something like a tickling on my skin, a soft whisper, telling me I was in a very special place. I tried being more observant and tried to imagine people running, wars happening there, I was trying to walk forward but into the past. I saw the stonemasons laying bricks at the churches, paving the streets. I was looking for their blood, their sweat there, but they seemed to have evaporated by then. But there was something, unexplainable, that was affecting my senses somehow.
Before having breakfast I was willing to try the shower. I was really in need of one. Jeremy went there and I told him the showers only had cold water. Some minutes after he came back, perfumed and wet and I wondered how brave he had been of taking a cold shower. I went to the bathroom and it was damp and warm. So he had managed to get hot water. I went back there and tried again. Cold and cold. I felt stupid. Then something clicked inside me and I pushed the lever while I was turning it and voilà, hot water. So we had it all along and I was just stupid enough not to realize I had to give it a (really) hard push and turn.
So, I had breakfast early and went straight to the Cité des Science et de l’Industrie. I imagined it would not be very far from my hostel, which was called Cité des Sciences. It was not next to it, but only some subway stations away.

As I arrived there, it was quite a surprise. The place was huge and there were many parts I could visit with my ticket. There were exhibitions about natural phenomena, one about technology, one about pregnancy and I finally got to the floor where the science fiction one was.
I wrote my impressions of the visit for a friend’s science fiction column in Portuguese. But to summarize, any geek would feel in heaven there. I am not that geek, I just study sci-fi as a social expression of contemporary society and never collected toys or went to conventions. I am not a hardcore fan, but I had to take my hat off to the exhibition: they had material in French, English and Spanish. The girls at the counter even let me keep the booklet I was supposed to return after the exhibition. It was quite complete, with mannequins of robots and characters from many movies and books. The sections covered a wide range of images of the genre: one room about trips to the moon, Mars

space travel

my favorite TV series ever, Star Trek

time travels and even to a book world (it resembled so much the feeling I had when I was organizing the piles back home)

and even robots and cyberspace (how would you feel being inside the Matrix?)

After that, I still went to the Géode, one huge silver shining ball which happens to be a movie theater, those you almost lie down and all the ceiling is the screen. There was a movie about the Hubble Telescope, so more about space. It was so real, I left there willing to go to the Moon.
It was very fun and for one afternoon I forgot all the hardships of the trip so far and enjoyed being on my own. I didn’t know if it was possible to take pictures, there was no sign I couldn’t and no one approached me asking to stop taking them. I went to the food court because I was already getting hungry. I bought a sandwich and some soft drink. I just loved two things there: the mustard, Dijon, I guess. So delicious. And the desert was a kind of yoghurt. It did not surpass the Czech apple pie, but it was close to it.
When I was leaving the building, I saw that, across the street, there was a very large toy store. I thought, well, my luck is coming back. They must have the game I am so eager to find.
Of course. No hive there either.
So, I got back to the hostel and it was about time I made dinner. I stopped by the supermarket and got some more cheese and made a sandwich and used the rest of the ingredients I had bought for the salad to make another salad, not as big as the one I had prepared the day before.
I went to the room and Jeremy was not there. I guess he was avoiding me. Anyway, I heard a noise and went downstairs with my computer to talk to Brazil and feel less lonely. I had tried to call Martin, one of the French guys I had met in Vienna, but he was busy and couldn’t come and meet me the following day. He was a nice guy but I thought we would not meet anyway. I was without a cellphone there and he had no way to tell me what time or when he could meet me.
I got down and again it was so calm until this calm was broken by an excursion arriving, but of a very different nature of the one I seen the day before. It was about 50 kids and their instructors and although it was really late, they were making so much noise they must have awakened all the people in the hostel. I called them the infantry - both because they were children and because they seemed to be setting up an army camp. (And I would be sure they were as devastating when I entered the restroom the following morning. I felt I had seen the effects of a hurricane!)
I decided I should not stay there that night in all that confusion. I changed and went for a bar. I had no idea where to go or how, so I took the subway and started looking for a bar where I would feel comfortable. I headed to the Place de la Republique, and from there I started walking. It was almost midninght and I had no idea if the subway would close and I would have to walk back to the hostel or get a taxi. I felt free, wandering the streets of Paris, but I could not know for sure how safe it was to do that. Would I be mugged? Maybe murdered? Why did I have to feel so much like I was in São Paulo, so insecure?
I found a bar. Some people in. I entered, some people momentarily noticed me, most of them ignored my presence. I felt like an invisible man. I asked a drink similar to what the other man was drinking. I wanted monaco, as I had learned, but the attendant told me there wasn’t. I tried to sip and observe. One guy started taking interest in me, or so I thought. He would cast curious glances at me and keep talking to his friends. In the end, the group just left and no one approached me. I felt foreign, but I get this feeling every time I go to a bar, even in Brazil. I imagine this happens due to my lack of practice.
I paid, left the bar and walked back to the subway station. A lot of strange people were walking by. Back to the hostel, my roommate had already arrived and was sleeping. Again I had no chance of talking to him and saying everything was OK

domingo, 11 de dezembro de 2011


"At the end of the day all we have is who we are"

Hide all the mirrors,
they serve me to nothing

All pieces of souls
Scattered in a stained glass structure.

I try to see what part of myself is there
And there is only

What I am not.
I change colors again

I am afraid so I try new rues
I try to become the world around me.

It makes me dizzy.
Yet I am not myself anymore.

I am sure I am not sure.
And you see I am

I was and am not.
No longer, then I am green again.

Will I be it again?
So my colors change and adapt (to what?)

Inside, it seems black and white.
A rainbow, in shades of grey.

Travel log - Europe - Day 27

Day 27 - Paris, je t’aime

The next day I would finally have breakfast at the hotel. I was curious to do that because of what had happened the other time I had been there. If you don’t read Portuguese, to summarize, I was staying at HI Hostel Jules Ferry and there was a lady serving us during breakfast. However, she was not there only to serve. If you wanted to get another slice of bread, fine. One more? You can’t. You could take only one of everything, but if you didn’t like milk and wanted two glasses of juice, so sorry, you couldn’t. And she was so fierce-looking, barking-like talking. Here, at Cité des Sciences, there was no one to control what you wanted. There was just a lady to clean what you dirtied. After eating nicely in Finland, and even staying at hostels like the ones in Amsterdam (the other trip) and Berlin, the breakfast here could be considered weak. One type of cheese, butter and no ham or other things to make a nice sandwich. No cereal. I had to go to the supermarket and buy some other types of cheese to complement the breakfast. But knowing I could get some more of everything made it better than the other. Even though there are the other two HI hostels in Paris, I came to imagine it is a tradition not to have good breakfasts in those hostels.
So, I had few plans for Paris. In fact, I had almost none. Paris was Carol’s dream. I would have déja-vus and miss the summer which was not there. Well, I was there, sad, but it was Paris so I had to do something to enjoy those few days I had left there, in the city of light.
I had some missions and although they were small tasks, I would put all my efforts into trying to find what people had asked me. My friend Sinead wanted some books. My friend Manoel some cosmetic products. Also, I had to buy the game I hadn’t found in Salzburg to take to my mother. So, I understood I was going to spend at least one day walking around visiting many types of stores and taking advantage of whatever I could find on the way.
My number one activity was to walk along the Seine and find a Fnac store. There, I would be able to find the imported books Sinead had asked and also buy the tickets to a museum where, as I had seen in an ad, they were having a science fiction exhibition.

As I was walking there, I decided to look for other bookstores. I ended up getting to the Louvre. I wanted to see the pyramids and the fountains again so I entered the arches. I was curious because my last memories of them were a beautiful sunny place where we (Edgard and I) were able to get some rest after hours of walking and even put our feet in the water. But what I found in that cold and grey day was a deserted fountain.

People were not even sitting on its edges. When I was getting there, there were some Black men approaching people and asking for something. One of them came to talk to me and told me they were raising funds to help some people in Angola. I told them I was Brazilian and he called the others and told them I was a Brazilian brother. I should sign the petition they were holding. I thought, well, only signing a petition? Why not? So I signed and he told me if I signed I should contribute with 10 euros. Was it a scam? I had no way of telling. He was being nice but a little pushy. So I got a 5-euro bill and told him it was all I got, or if they took credit card.
After this I went to one of my favorite spots in the universe: the gardens of Louvre. It was funny to notice how the green I had known there was not that green anymore. People were all in coats walking, few families and almost no one having picnics. This made me feel much more nostalgic toward being in Europe in the summer and not in the winter. Every detail would ensure me I was a person of the sun.
I was getting hungry and I decided to have lunch in the park. I sat on a bench and got my lunch: cheese, dried nuts and juice. Very healthy (sarcastic mode ON). I would look at the people walking and I tried to cheer up, after all, it was Paris. However, from time to time I could not help feeling a bit like this guy who was there with me on the gardens:

Anyway, I resumed my journey to find all the things I wanted to find. I walked in several small bookstores and there was no one I could ask about the books. So I had to look for them myself and I wanted to buy several books I saw, but I thought I would have no time to read them, so why bother? This kind of feeling is always present when I have too many books to read at home and the perspective of increasing the pile is so gloomy that it discourages me of buying any book.
What I got from these bookstores was that in some I activated the alarm on the door. I was not shoplifting, so I had no idea why that was happening.
I saw a supermarket and I decided to enter to get something to eat at dinner time. No restaurant was appealing, I would therefore buy some ingredients and cook myself some dish at the hostel. At that supermarket I saw something quite different from any other supermarket I had been in Europe. The vegetable section was organized according to what I was used to, but in every stall there was the name of the fruit or vegetable, plus the price and the country of origin. It was so funny because almost nothing was from France and showing the origin was so against the logic of the commodity which tries to naturalize itself while erasing its origin. (I know I sound like Vanessa Redgrave in the wonderful movie The Fever)
When I got to the FNAC store, I still couldn’t find someone to help with the books and the moment I did, no way, they didn’t have the books. So I gave up and tried buying the ticket to the museum and getting some information about it. When I was leaving the store, the door alarms went off and a security guy came to me and asked to see my things. He tried my bag, but it didn’t set off the alarm, asked me to go again and the alarms. He asked me to open my jacket and there was nothing there but he saw there was a label and he squeezed the label with his fingers. It was a sensor. They had not taken it in Brazil when Carol bought it (and God knows how she didn’t make the alarm go off there). I would not be Mr Beep Beep anymore.
Then, my next destination would be a drugstore in Paris which was recommended by my friend Manoel. He had asked me to buy some products for him there and it was easy because he had given me the address. I took the subway to go to a part of Paris which I hadn’t been to before. The streets were narrow and the houses seemed very fancy. As I got to the corner of the street, looking for the address, I was shocked. It was almost impossible to enter the drugstore, it was crowded. A lot of women and some men, baskets in hand getting everything for very attractive prices indeed. I started trying to move there but the aisles were so narrow and it was very difficult to get by. I started looking for the products and spent a long time looking for one which I thought was a soap bar, but was a liquid one. I figured it out only when I was almost leaving the place without getting it half an hour later. But I thought I would hate not being able to get what I had gone there for. Leaving that place was a relief, people pushing, saying Excusez-moi, all that.
It was getting dark but I still had more things to find. Do you remember the game I had played in Salzburg? The one with insects and all? I wanted to take one as a gift to my mother. I should have looked for it in Finland, but I was sure Paris would have dozens of toy stores and in one of them I would find that. Well, I discovered there was kind of gallery in Paris only with toy stores, a kind of paradise to kids. How could I not find what I was looking for at that place? They even had a Hello Kitty Store.

Well, there I went, asked for, in one, two, five stores and nothing. I had no idea how to say Hive in French, no one knew what Hive was and even the names of the animals. I just remembered butterfly but there was no butterfly in the game. I learned how to say bee, ants and all, but they never had the game. I tried other stores, outside the gallery, but no luck there either. So, the score of the day had been the products on the drugstore and that was that. Nothing else. So I should go back to the hostel and prepare a salad. I had bought all the ingredients and I was sure it would be a great dinner.
I was tired from walking all day long so the first thing I wanted to do was to take a shower. I got all my stuff and went to the bathroom. There were two stalls with showers and none of them were in use. I tried the first, only cold water. Well, wait a minute and it will warm up. Nothing. Try turning the lever to the other side. Nothing. Cold and even colder. There must be a secret. I put one the clothes again and ask downstairs. Well, they said, the guy was here to fix and everything is fine, you should try the other stall. I went back, tried the second stall and the same, no way. I thought I deserved better, talked to the woman on the reception, she said they would call the guy again but he would only come in the morning. No problem, let’s pretend I took a shower and be happy.
I went downstairs to try some contact with people in Brazil and to prepare dinner. I prepared a salad which, by the quantity, three people could eat. I was alone. No one else was having dinner and I offered the nice lady who worked there some, but she politely said she had already had dinner. Then, I got to the common room, some tables away from the kitchen, and while I was there an excursion of people, around 30, all speaking Spanish and in their early middle-age arrived. It was an alavanche of laughter, people babbling, shouting orders to each other. Nothing resembling the peace and quiet I had been immersed in 20 minutes before, during dinner.
One of the ladies in the party came to talk to me because there were no plugs available and she wanted to charge her camera in my USB door. We started talking in Spanish, and I was also talking to my sister in Portuguese and there was some background music in French. I stopped talking to my sister because I was already mixing up every language. The woman was a French teacher and she said my Spanish was good. We became friends, though I gave her my facebook contact but she never added me. They were from Costa Rica, and she even invited me to visit the country and stay at her house, but as we never developed this friendship of ours, I guess I will depend on Couchsurfing if I ever go there.
So, after such a frustrating day, I imagined nothing worse could happen. I went to the room and my “roommate” was there. I was in my friendly mood and tried establishing a conversation. he told me he had to do a work for the next day so he could not give me a lot of attention. He was sleeping down on the bunker so was I, but soon after I arrived he went to the upper one next to the one I was (there were two bunkers in the room). Our linguistic barriers were not as serious as they had been on the first night, I guess my French was improving after some time and he was more open to talking in English as well. I let him be but I heard he was not typing anything. In fact, I was only listening to the mouse clicks. As I looked at him because the light was on his left, projecting his shadow on the wall, I realized he was not really doing his journalist job for the next day but was in fact in the middle of a hand job. I started paying attention to the noises and I was sure he was. I didn’t know what to do. I asked him if he was okay. I guess then he realized. So I just turned to the side, trying to pretend nothing was going on and slept.