I'd never been to South America. So when I met a friend of a friend, Tie from Brazil, and she offered to host me, I warned her, "I'm the person that actually shows up." She said "do it."
I saved up my miles and money and booked a trip to Sao Paulo where she owned a cafe/boutique and was also doing well with her music. The coolest!
I spent a week in Sao Paulo sight seeing and hanging out at the boutique and getting to know the chef, Fabiana who was hysterical. Their shop was near the local MTV studio so we often got visitors from there because they rented clothes from the boutique. After a "rough" work day, we'd light up every afternoon around 4pm.
Brazilians definitely gave me a life lesson on what it means to ENJOY life and not spend too much time working! I may have not taken their advice for many years but I never forgot it.
One day, I was admiring the tattoo that both Tie and Fabiana had. I normally wouldn't pilfer a friend's design but it was cool, I lived far away...and it happened to have personal meaning for me. I said, "I'm thinking about getting a tattoo." I wasn't even sure they heard me. They spoke to each other quickly in Portuguese - which I was hopeless about learning - grabbed the keys and pushed me outside while they locked up the shop.
"Wait, where are we going?" I was confused because normally these two women were the opposite of New Yorkers. Slow and mellow. In fact, when I needed to buy a plane ticket to Bahia, they were so chill about it, I missed buying a ticket out of Sao Paulo so they had to drive me many hours to Rio to catch my flight!
When we were all in the car, I asked again "where are we going?" They said "to get your tattoo" and then calmly turned back to each other and continued speaking Portuguese.
"WOAAAH hold on a sec, I said I was THINKING ABOUT IT." They ignored me and kept driving.
The shit I get myself into....
We get to a tall, upscale mall and go to one of the top floors. A tattoo parlor in a swanky mall. Oh Brazil, I love you. Within 30 minutes of SAYING I WAS THINKING ABOUT getting a tattoo, I was bent over a chair and had a needle on my backside. Plenty of cushion so it didn't hurt. I paid for it and we left.
The next day, we headed to Rio (to catch my plane) via a small island called Ilhabela where Tie had a family cabin. The island and beaches were absolutely beautiful. I was so nervous about getting sun burned that I didn't partake in the caipirinhas the girls made. As the sun was setting, though, I stripped my clothing like a vampire and finally ventured into the water for a half-dip. It felt glorious.
We ended up in Rio where it was Easter week so there all kinds of celebrations in the street. There were musicians, students, people dressed up in costume, throngs of bodies in the streets. I literally danced in the streets of Rio which was pretty awesome!
The next day I flew to Bahia and made my way to a small beach town called Trancoso. I found a local pousada (hotel) and ventured out into the grassy town "square." People were lining up to get food from a buffet inside a cute yellow cottage and joining each other at the communal tables. This was my kind of traveling. I sat down with my meal and made new friends.
I remember seeing this mom and two small kids laughing and laughing in that square for so long. And I'd think what I always think on these vacations: us Americans think we're so smart, working so hard all year long to travel for a couple of weeks to places where people live like this year round.
Another night, I splurged on a "fancy" meal. It was the first time I ever sat by myself at a really nice restaurant in a foreign country. I remember being really happy about it. I felt like I'd reached a new chapter in finding myself and discovering what I was capable of doing on my own. I must have been about 33 years old on this trip.
For so many years, I resisted the idea of having my life story centered around a man and/or children.
I wanted a life story that centered around ME. Maybe it sounds selfish to say it out loud. But that's my truth.
I still find it so odd that people "feel sorry" for someone sitting alone.
Little do people know that I'm writing stories in my mind, noticing details about the other diners, savoring each bite of food, sipping my drink, and feeling independent and powerful as I pay my own bill.
And then my story moves from brave, empowered female traveler slash aspiring writer to....
Drunk American meets cute chef working at the restaurant!
I have no idea what his name was. It was always dangerous for me to travel in countries where booze is cheap. At least in NYC, my frugality could be one variable holding me back. $15 for another glass of wine? NO THANK YOU.
$6 for an entire bottle of wine. YES PLEASE.
I remember wandering down main street laughing with this dude, I don't think we were even speaking the same language at this point. Suddenly, he peeled off and flung himself into the bushes and started retching.
Oh shit. What's the protocol here? We hung out for awhile at the restaurant and are now walking down the street. Do I hold his long hair back? Go find him a bottle of water? Slip away?
I stayed and made sure he was ok, of course. He asked if he could use the bathroom at my hotel. Now, despite everything I've shared with you, I'm still pretty damn wary about who I bring back to my space. I may have kissed a few people in my day but I'm quite picky about the rest. And I'm very, very careful about when and where I'll go with someone new. I had to be self-protective.
But one look at this guy and I knew I wouldn't have any trouble. He could barely stand! I allowed him into my bathroom. He was in there for so long! I was half-passed out on the bed. I heard the shower. Then the sink. Then the shower again. What the fuck is he doing in there.
Finally, he emerges, hair and shirt wet. He wanders over to me and sits on the bed. He leans down and I'm like OK, time to go. He feebly resisted leaving and tried to get things going again.
Sorry darling, I said. Bye bye. I carefully shut the door and went back to bed.
And THAT is the story of my tattoo in Brazil and the Puking Chef.
PHOTO #19. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth