Fortaleza, Brazil

Santeri´s forewords: oh well, after reading this text made by Päivi I remembered again the Finnish way of being happy with someone else's problems and drawbacks. Hope this text makes our Finnish friends happy. Frankly I have to add here that we have had hell of a nice time here in Fortaleza and enjoyed every moment wholeheartedly.

Our Life in Fortaleza

One month of Brazilian beach life behind - except that we haven't been swimming at once here. The view from our condominium and our nightly walks in Avenida Beira Mar have fulfilled our beach needs. Well, the actual reason for not swimming is that the beach is not very clean and our skin needs a rest from the constant sun burn. We'll wait patiently for the forthcoming temptations of the Caribbean sea.

Life goes smoothly. We have found all the necessary facilities, and what is delightful, with reasonable price. One of our top three facilities is café Habanera, a Cuban-style cigar shop and cafeteria where we enjoy our daily café con leite (latte). The waiters know our order beforehand which is very handy - no need for any extra fuzz. Otherwise and everywhere else hassle is the rule. Brazilians are good at creating a mess out of nothing. One illustrative example is making a simple telephone call. You think you have the correct number but no way - it lacks an area code or an operator code or it is otherwise dis-functional or then again your prepaid may have been locked by the operator. We found out the other day that when you don't have enough credit in your pre-paid you cannot even receive messages or phone calls. And for this you pay prices that are three times higher than in Finland - something to be missed (in addition to mämmi and Mikko Alatalo) from our otherwise insanely priced ex home country.

In general, our life is very simple and enjoyable here. We usually wake up at one or two o'clock and spend a lazy afternoon. In the evening we get out and go to La Habanera for a good cup of coffee. Now that we have a kitchen we can make our own food and we surely have enjoyed it fully by eating tens of kilos of Fillet Mignon. At night we have toured around in night clubs and bars to get acquainted with Fortaleza's ecological structure which can - according to our investigations - be divided roughly into three categories: whore-selling, gay-coupling and hair-raising horror clubs playing local country music called forró (fo-ho). The third category can also be defined as a kind of umbrella which includes the first mentioned two. You cannot simply avoid hearing ever so hilarious triangle beating and accordion raping. As a consequence, we have started to sing Eppu Normaali´s hits as we walk along our home street and dance Finnish folk dance "Jenkka" when we hear forró. The locals already recognize us and our bizarre habits. The other day we got our Internet café's water closet stuck with Santeri´s diarrhoeal shit - an incident that caused great hip-hoorays among the personnel who tried desperately to open it again.

One week ago we found out that there are some other funny-looking and ridiculously-behaving people in town: our compatriots. Aurinkomatkat organizes package tours here and we soon detected the lion's den: Hotel Ponta da Mar. We accidentally went to a beach bar nearby and soon got company from a happy group of Finnish sex tourists. Fortaleza definitely seemed to be their kind of place - a lot of opportunities to get rid of the hard-earned money. Some, well almost everybody, had got their lessons in Brazilian fine art: cheating, ripping off, hassling, robbing - whichever name you prefer. Girls for example always try to get their bills paid by the tourists. They bring their families to eat and drink at the sex tourist´s cost or they claim to the waiters that "the bald-headed foreigner in that table on the right promised to pay my bill". What is more, all the Finns live in a hotel that does not allow girls to enter which means that they will have to pay for a motel as well. But sure enough, there are also cases in which local barkeepers or hotel staff have had to pay. This week one Finn jumped out of Bikini Bar, from its second floor balcony, because he didn't have money to pay for the champagne he had ordered.

Motels, by the way, are an essential part of local culture. Since pre-marital sex is prohibited, all the couples head to the motels to have it. Motel rooms are equipped with a round bed, a mini-bar, preservatives, porno magazines, sex toys and other useful stuff. "Não percam!" as Brazilians would say. Gays are another natural resource here in Fortaleza and there are plenty of gay saunas around the town (see www.gayfortaleza.com for further information). Santeri had his hair cut by one female-type-of-gay. The only reclamation he made was that the barber was a bit rough-handed.

One thing to be added that you won't get a wrong picture of the local meat market. Namely, it is not only men who are after young flesh but ladies as well. This came out as we were searching for a dance school to practice for the samba carnival. We went to a professional-looking dance school and waited impatiently the rehearsal to start. To our surprise, the lesson turned out to be a kind of afternoon entertainment for wealthy, old and ugly ladies. Young gigolos danced with them one by one. The ladies seemed to be utterly pleased by getting squeezed by young handsome men without getting much training or actual rehearsal. We passed. Fortunately we found a very nice dance hall which is populated solely by local people who love to dance. Definitely a better place to rehearse by imitating others. The only disadvantage is that they also play forró. We amused ourselves there by inventing Finnish translations to the forró songs eg. about about Santeri's badly smelling feet and unlucky buggy owners à la Mikko Alatalo's "Mä maalaispoika oon, ja panen suihketta kainaloon".

And where did those lyrics come? Well, we rented a buggy from Beira Mar from a guy called Evandro a couple of weeks ago for three days. On the second day we were heading at a beach village called Fleixeiras when some other drivers started to give us funny hand signs. After a while we noticed that the left rear tyre was swinging. We went to show it to the renter but he said it's perfectly all right and called it "a samba car". We decided to continue our trip. The next problem was that this samba car's rear wheel started to make a funny noise - it was the ball bearing. When we got to Paracuru (some 100 kilometres from Fortaleza) we thought it would be best to go back before the buggy breaks down completely. On our way back, we suddenly heard a bang from the motor: there went one of buggy´s four spark plugs. The noise was awful. All the locals - including a couple of cops passing by - turned their heads to see if we were driving a lawn mower and not a car. But we made it. We got back to Fortaleza and called the renter to return our money. He didn't have any cash and tried to offer us another buggy instead. We admitted and waited for the buggy next day at 10 o'clock as agreed. Naturally, the guy didn't show up and when we called him again he just mumbled: "Muito problemas con buggy. Mañana...". As you can guess, we never got another buggy nor our money back. Instead we had an opportunity to visit the local tourist police and make a report of the guy's business. Santeri was happy with the procedure as the policewoman said that they'll interrogate the man. That of course doesn't bring our money back but after all, it was an experience and fortunately it didn't cost us too much.

Otherwise the police is very bureaucratic. Today we tried to get to the Federal Police to get our visas prolonged. However, we were turned away at the door because Santeri wore shorts. My teeny-weeny jeans skirt, on the other hand, didn't pose any problems. Santeri promised to make the next visit a memorable performance by putting the jeans on in front of the policemen.

One extremely annoying thing here is begging. There are beggars everywhere: in the street and in the bars. You simply cannot sit back for a second. Locals usually give beggars money or cigarettes and thus they expect the tourists to do the same. We don't give anything and that is what makes the beggars really pissed off. There is one 14-year-old-bastard after us every single day and he doesn't seem to learn a thing. He is after cigarettes, or if those are not available, some glue to sniff. Some of the beggars are really desperate and can get aggressive. A polite "Não obrigado" is definitely the most used expression here, to be repeated at least dozen times a day.

If you ever come here, beware of the national drink caipirinha. It is usually mixed with some kind of shit to make you hell of a lot drunk so that you would be easily mugged. Another thing to bear in mind is that robberies are not limited to the streets, they are common everywhere. When we were renting our condominium from a company called Flat Center we negotiated first the price, then went to see the apartment, and came back to the office to sign the agreement. Meanwhile, however, the price of the condominium had doubled. We naturally felt ourselves cheated and turned away. After walking some hundred meters, a girl from the office ran after us and told that the original price is again OK. A nice way to make business in Brazil. Naturally these are just some lessons to be learned. Most of the Brazilian people we have met are really friendly and helpful. One of our doormen for example is very concerned of our well-being here and he tries to give us good advice with a help of our Portuguese-English dictionary. Yesterday he warned us about glue-sniffers who happened to hang around in our street.

PS: Santeri started to make his own dictionary. Here are his first few entries:

  • meaning of life: happiness
  • busy: oh well, don't remember nor care
  • hurry: same problem here
  • work: something that some people do for some reason
  • ambition: a way to make people to do something that does not really matter nor make them happy
  • morning: a very specific time between 10 and 24 when you happen to open your eyes
  • breakfast: whatever found from the fridge, preferably Fillet Mignon with garlic butter
  • time: something that is very valuable and now we feel we have a lot of it
  • Muumimamma Tarja: a nice subject for Santeri to discuss with Päivi when poor people are begging or checking trash
  • cleaning: wiping trash to the corridor and broken class under the bed where it will not hurt
  • all the rest: please consult the authors

Be happy,

Päivi & Santeri

Country: Brazil

Keywords: Brasil, Fortaleza, Avenida Beira Mar, La Habanera, Mikko Alatalo, mämmi, Fillet Mignon, forró, Aurinkomatkat, Hotel Ponta da Mar, Bikini Bar, prostitution, dance school, Evandro, Fleixeiras, Mañana, police, visa extension, caipirinha.

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