Back when I went river rafting in Ecuador, about three months ago, I met three Italian guys, who live and who go to university here in Rome. Tonight, I managed to meet up and to have a reunion with two of them: my old mates Tom and Fede! Sadly, I couldn't meet up with Ben, as he's on exchange in Scotland at the moment. Anyway, the three of us managed to free ourselves up for this evening, and to catch up on old times. It was a bit of a struggle finding each other — it took us over an hour to spot each other at the Piazza Venezia in central Rome — but once that ordeal was over, we shared a few good beers, and had a few good laughs. Nice to see some old faces, here in this crazy new country that I'm visiting.
These two lads are flat-sharing here in London's Mile End area, and they're being kind and hospitable enough to host my mate Jack, during his week or so in the city. Max is a London local, and Joel's originally an Irish boy. Max met Jack a few years ago, when he was backpacking round the world, and when he crashed at Jack's place in Adelaide. Now he's returning the favour. Great blokes.
This afternoon, Christina and I were just about to make our way back from Bristol to Bath, when we bumped into a super-friendly, super-random local. Next thing we know, we're at the bar of the "White Lion" pub in downtown Bristol, guzzling some fine dark local ale, and getting to know the crazy but colourful characters of this city. It wasn't planned; but once done, it sure as hell wasn't regretted.
This super-nice married couple are best friends of my cousins, the Goldsteins — in fact, they're so incredibly super-nice, that they're letting my dad and myself stay in their house for two weeks, while we're here in Boston! Tara and Ashki haven't got any kids yet — but no doubt they'll be getting round to it, before too long. The couple are both studying (post-grad) at university this year, but they'll be getting back into the workforce come next year. Tara does a bit of work as a Hebrew teacher, and she helped Adam to prepare for his upcoming barmitzvah. Really friendly people, and full of warm heimische spirit.
Well, what do you know? It's Columbus Day long weekend, this weekend in America! And to celebrate, here in New York, today they had a big parade all along Manhattan's famous central boulevard, 5th Avenue. I'm not sure exactly what Columbus Day's for — and when I asked some locals what the story is behind it, they just said "I dunno, but we get Monday off" — so I guess it's a bit like our Queen's Birthday long weekend; it's just one of those holidays that you have, because as far as long weekends go, any excuse is a good excuse. Every country's gotta have at least one like that, right? Anyway, I just stumbled into the parade while I was wandering through Manhattan today, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
This is a precarious yet amazingly-successful trio, if ever I saw one. Kerry and Larissa are two English girls, backpacking round South America, as you do. Yuri's a local boy from Rio, and Larissa met him while staying in the big city. Larissa and Yuri are now a couple — and for a few days, at least, all three of these people are travelling together! I met the lot of them on the way to Ilha Grande today, and they're a great bunch, even if a bit insane at times. Yuri's got a great combination of local knowledge (and local language skills!) and adventurous spirit, that led to some really fun times on the island this week.
Great news: as of this morning, the rain has stopped, and the sun is shining in Rio! And you know what that means: go to the beach, go straight to the beach — do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Fortunately, since my hostel is only a 5-minute walk from Copacabana (Rio's biggest and most famous beach), this was quite an easy task. Armed with little more than my towel, my boardies, and a large supply of sunscreen (although not large enough — never is, eh?), I spent the better part of today swimming at the beach, walking on the beach, and (more than anything else) just lying on the beach, basking in the ferocious Brazilian sun. This is more like it — this is what I came to Brazil for, in the first place.
Farofa is a simple dish consisting of raw flour from manioc (the root of the yuca plant), which is fried and sometimes flavoured. Usually served as an accompaniment to beans and meat, farofa is one of the staple foods, and the hallmark dishes, of Brazilian cuisine. Most gringos can't stand farofa — on account of it tasting like sawdust, to the uninitiated — but I'm starting to get used to it, and even to like it. Apparently it's very healthy, and it also keeps you going for quite a while.
My meeting Eric is one of the most random things that's happened to me on this trip. I went into a bar-slash-hamburger place this evening, just to grab a quick choripan (hot dog); and what do you know? I ended up talking to Eric (originally from Lima, now living here in BA), and his alcoholic friend from Mendoza, at the bar. Four hours and about 5 Quilmes beers later, we were still talking. Eric's a computer technician: he wanted me to teach him how to program and to "be a hacker" (what, now? :P), but I suggested that coming back to The Clan for some more beers would be a better idea.
I was up for a nice, quiet day of relaxing and reading today, after yesterday's adventure on the volcano. So I'm walking down the street in Pucón, heading to the lakeside with a good book, when this guy comes up to me and invites me to join his friends on the grass. His name was Francisco, or "Chisco": and like his friends hanging out on the grass, he was completely trashed. It was the middle of the day, and they were all downing beers and smoking weed. "Do you wanna be boring, or do you wanna have fun, maaan?" Chisco demanded.