Last breakfast in Brazil


The last day of sailing the Amazon has come, and as usual I embrace the change. Since Belem, the forest has got thicker, the sky darker causing regular and spectacular thunderstorms each night, as well as a penetrating dampness which has made my nights on board the coldest in the country. The three boats we travelled on, got smaller and more modern. It is the fourth day on Fenix II, tomorrow we are scheduled to arrive at Tabatinga for lunch- my last destination in Brazil (but I will be back!)

Last night we stopped in the village of Santo Antonio and since it was the birthday of Sebastian, a Colombian I hanged by hammock next to, I joined the small expedition of the craziest people on the boat (a group of Cuban runaways, a French obstetrician, an Argentine actress, and some Brazilian enthusiasts) to look for some fun. We arrived in the centre of town in occasion of a religious celebration, everyone was out in the streets trying to have a good time. We were passing around some beer and shaking some ridiculous dance sketches to the annoying electric piano tunes typical of these festivals; when I realized I would be doing the same thing if I were still in Somana, my native village in Italy. This is the time of year to celebrate Festa di Sant’Abbondio, eat ravioli and pretend we are all friends and faithful Christians!

This morning I woke up after breakfast (which is punctually at 6 AM and usually consists of bread and sausage) with the yells of some kids playing UNO behind me. Being the last day, I want to finish Buñuel’s biography and sowing my artsy recycled hat. I am a bit tired of the shared living with people with no other interest that playing cards, watching TV, drinking beer and small talk. So I have hardly spoken to anyone today, too absorbed in my lonely activities. I was even planning on fasting to give my stomach a rest from the horrible oily-pasta based diet I have been forced to on this boat, but for once today lunch seemed actually nice, with Russian salad and white fish.

So a small note for vegetarians to plan on sailing the Manaus-Tabatinga strip: make sure you negotiate a price for the ticket in order to not pay the full price of meals, since you will be reduced to eating very little and badly. Annoyingly, even dishes that could be easily vegetarian have fat pieces of sausage or small strips of chicken in them… So if there’s someone out there looking to start a business in the Amazon- we need a vegan ferry!
Being pescatarian in Brasil has been surprisingly easy, thanks to the amazing variety of fruits, of which I particularly adored Acai, Copuacu, Graviola, and of course Mango and Passion Fruit (Maracuja) and to the resourceful use of mandioca and corn to make cuscus, bolo (cakes), polenta, and especially tapioca. I also met countless vegetarian travellers, in the various kitchens of camping and hostels to prepare delicious meals with. So I hadn’t got particularly frustrated (annoyed and disgusted of course, yes) at the consumption and abuse of dead animals, until now… the smell of its cooking, the vision of people stuffing their faces, and the fact that I had no meat free option apart from pasta and rice caused me to swear out loudly numerous times, and was a determinant factor in my terrible relations with the kitchen manager. Jan and I agree on this point, she is definitely evil and she would probably poison me if she had the chance. Good thing that the food serving system, as everywhere in Brazil, is self-service.

Reading Buñuel, in these couple of days, I have come to finally understand my mentality, imagination and attitude as categorically surrealist. Since I never found any grace in the art of Dali, Miro, De Chirico and Picasso, I never had considered this moral, revolutionary and literary current as something that I could identify with, until the spanish film director exposes it as a spontaneous and radically free, scandalous and delirious world view to disguise the system’s oppression, the ridiculousness of nationalism and the beauty of instinct.

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