Sunday, February 3, 2013

Scottsdale, AZ....USA

Hello from Arizona! As some of you know, we have been traveling a bit around our home country. After arriving back in LA and catching up with people, we left on the 22nd of January and headed north. Instead of using public transportation as has been our modus operandi for the past 14 months or so, we took Sarah's vehicle and had to quickly re-learn how to drive on the streets of America. We headed up through Santa Barbara and spent a few nights in Santa Cruz. We were lucky enough to sit in on a university course about South American civilization so we would learn about what we visited. Then we continued our northward trajectory to San Francisco, arguably the greatest city on Earth. Tasty food, expensive housing, and hipsters awaited us. Someone tried to convince me to buy a pair of Lululemon pants, however we are on a strict budget and I successfully resisted. We also visited some important Bay Area landmarks like the Golden Gate bridge, the East Bay Vivarium, and of course, Hobee's. The East Bay Vivarium was just as we remembered, full of exotic reptiles and amphibians. We are in the market for a new tank for our pet snake, and once we find a place to live permanently we will probably buy a new one from there. We also spent a night in the south peninsula near my primordial homeland. Burritos were eaten, internet speeds discussed, etc, etc. After a delicious breakfast at Google we hit the road for Scottsdale, Arizona.

About a month after Sarah and I had left the country my parents sold their home in the Bay Area in search of warmer weather and more venemous wild animals. They decided on the land of gila monsters and rattlesnakes, Scottsdale, Arizona. So far, the only venemous reptiles we have seen were in the Phoenix zoo yesterday, although we did see a cool blue lizard while hiking a few days ago. My parents keep telling us about the javelinas, bobcats, and other wildlife in the neighborhood, but they must all be in hibernation at the moment. Other than that, the house is very nice and as you might expect we have been providing around the clock tech support for their computing and technology needs. At the moment we are planning to head out of Scottsdale on Tuesday and head east. We will be spending a few nights in Texas, in Austin and Houston before arriving in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. After that we are hoping to spend a week in Memphis and then head back. Thanks for reading and Go Niners!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Back in America and Brazil by the Numbers

Hello from the frozen tundra of Los Angeles. Last Friday, in Rio de Janeiro we caught a 3:30 AM cab to the airport so that we could get there with plenty of time to spare for our 3 flights back to Los Angeles. Our first flight went from Rio to Lima, and left about 20 minutes late, only to arrive about 30 minutes early. We were about an hour delayed in boarding in Lima for our second flight to San Salvador, and after we were on the plane the pilot came on to let us know that Lima was having some problems with their radar and it would be another hour or so until we could depart. This would put us about 2 hours behind schedule and since we only had an hour layover in San Salvador, we started to discuss which beach we should go to should we need to spend an extra day or two in San Salvador. Luckily (or un-luckily) they held the third flight for us and about 20 other passengers on both flights and we made it all the way home. We were greeted by a plethora of loving family members who even made a funny sign for us. Despite my passport being completely destroyed and filled with stamps, they still let me into the country. Since our arrival we have already eaten at some of Sarah's favorite restaurants, including In-n-Out on the night of our arrival. We have been taking care of some errands we neglected to do while away, (car registration, etc) and are starting to plan a small trip around the continental US. Be sure to check back over the next few days for reviews of our gear, favorite places to visit and to live, etc.

Here are the bank account-emptying numbers from Brazil. Keep in mind that Brazil is possibly the most expensive country on our trip by most measures. In addition to that we did take some Portuguese classes, and Rio over Christmas and New Years was especially expensive. We entered the country on December 2nd with $111 and left on January 4th with $95, a total of 33 days in the country. We also withdrew $4172 from various ATMs. This comes out to $126.91 per day. This does not include the first class plane tickets to get us home. I felt it would be unfair to include that in the Brazil numbers. Generally bus transport in Brazil is more expensive than most other countries, rivaling Argentina in that respect. Even intra-city transport is normally over $1 just to get around town. Food prices aren't that much cheaper in restaurants although fruits and vegetables in markets are very affordable. Anyways, once my calculator stops overheating I will put together a by the numbers for the entire trip and I'm sure Sarah will have some thoughts to post as well. Thanks again for reading, and we will keep you posted!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

This message will self-destruct

This message was intercepted and decoded by the intelligence experts here at Shapiro Adventures:

Greetings fellow Americans. This is Jeremy, leader of the Shapiro Adventurer extraction team. I've been sent to Brazil at the request of the families of Sarah and Matt, and with the approval of the United States government, to bring them safely back home to America. Justine, my deputy leader, and I are happy to report that our mission is almost complete. In less than 36 hours, the famed adventurers will be on board an airplane headed home. This blog post is meant to serve as a mission update for the concerned parties at home. 

We arrived on the evening of the 27th after 3 flights covering over 24 hours of travel time. The adventurers were sitting outside the apartment waiting for us. It was good to see that they were alive and well.  Right away we began immersing ourselves in a taste of the lifestyle they had become accustomed to over the last 14 months. The first night we quickly learned that sheets and blankets are unnecessary in 90 degree weather with 80% humidity. The first day we met up with our local contact, Alessandra, who brought us to a local mall in order to purchase swim attire for Sarah and Justine. Matt and I both agreed that based on the cost of such little material involved in their bikinis, there is no way we could afford to buy one with enough material to cover ourselves, so we used the ones we brought from home. After acquiring the necessary equipment, we proceeded to the beach for some sun, sand, and water. For simplicity sake, I'll only describe Copacabana beach once: awesome. White sand, blue ocean, light breeze, hot sun. There are vendors that walk by every few minutes selling food and drinks. Our favorites were a mix of ice tea and lemonade, and pastries filled with meat. One vendor of such pastries, who happened to sell us food on two separate days, even offered to let Sarah stay at his house if she ever returned to Rio. (The extraction team assessed this vendor to be an agent of an opposing force, attempting to prevent Sarah from returning to the US, so we neutralized the threat.) Later that evening we visited Sugar Loaf mountain. I almost lost my sandal over the edge of the mountain, but was able to recover it and continue the mission. The views were great. The next day we practiced our alternate means of esacpe from Rio, AKA, hang gliding. Thanks again to our local contact for setting this up. After that, more beach going.

After two days of what Sarah and Matt described as "really busy days," (recall, day 1: shopping, beach, sugar loaf, and day 2: hang gliding, beach), we apparently had to take a day to relax, by--you guessed it-- sitting at the beach.

On the 31st, the police began blocking off access to and from the beach via the roads in preparation for the New Years celebration. We were prepared for this contingency, so we activated our emergency plan, which consisted of sitting on the beach and getting tan. The New Year celebration was excellent. Over 2 million people were estimated to be on the beach that night. Cruise ships anchored off the coast and barges laden with fireworks positioned themselved in between the coast and the cruise ships. At midnight, no less than 5 barges lit off simulatenous shows of fireworks for over 15 minutes. It was beautiful.

Yesterday, I attempted to track down a local operative who could help me keep up my skydiving currency, only to learn the hard way that Brazilian work ethic is not necessarily up to US standards. The rest of the day was spent napping and going to the beach.

Today the four of us went to the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city. Matt and Sarah weren't that impressed, as they'd seen a bigger statue in Bolivia. Justine and I, however, took cheesy tourist pictures in front of the statue, along with the throngs of other people there. On the cab ride down the mountain, we got an impromptu Favela (slum) tour, as our driver barrelled down steep and windy roads in a car with questionable brakes, yelling "Favela! Favela!"

And that is the progress of our mission thus far. The four of us are in great health, having maintained a steady diet of Acai (a frozen blended fruit dessert that we have all eaten no less than twice a day) and Brazilian meat. Thank you for entrusting the lives and safe return of the Shapiro Adventurers to us. We look forward to the homecoming parties. Extraction team--out.

This message will self-destruct