Monday, 28 January 2008

3 - Crab is off the menu

21 January

I resorted to chocolate tonight for company rather than make the effort with anyone out there in the real world. I guess I’m just in the readjustment phase of now being on my own as a stranger in a strange land (Warwick and Patricia having wandered off on their own life’s path). I did acquire the chocolate on the street from a street vendor but in the end I did not really like her nor her chocolate which was all weird regional fruit-flavours. However I had a super great street-meat meal from another vendor lady who was really cool – a plate of spinach rice, with creamy prawn sauce and a pancake filled with meat for about $3. Very nice. Not quite enough for me so now at 8 o’clock, I am thinking of going back for another round of that grub. Only thing is, most of her dishes contain crab.

And unbeknownst to you I have added them to my sentimental list of animals I will not eat as I just like them as animals too much. Several days back I encountered a whole section of the process by which crabs get from mangrove swamp to dinner plates in these parts. We were cruising down this gorgeous river delta on a 6 hour boat trip. Noisy little diesel thing but we’d hired it between the 3 of us (warwick and patricia) so there were just us and the crew of 3 – 1 captain and 2 teenagers. It was super hot and we lazed and snoozed and tanned and did our portuguese lessons. It was great. At one point I went up onto the little roof – tin – hot and lay there like a cat watching the amazing mangrove swamps go by. The kids were having a sneaky joint at the back of the boat and offered me some which I accepted – why not? The joint was small, pure and rolled in a piece of a4 paper with blue-lines and all. Pretty funny. Nicely stoned too, no paranoia, just mellow – added to the drifting state of bliss... We repeated the experiment with Warwick a few hours later at sunset to similar floating success. Warwick said this was a perfect travel moment... I added that it was the type that one would really want to remember but weren’t going to as we were smoking grass at the time. Seems I was wrong. I do remember it and now it is committed to the collective memory by me writing about it. Nice. I’m glad. See note ** below

But wait this is after the crab moment – rewind...

We were in the town of Paranaiba at the head of a river delta. This town was over an hours asphalt drive from Camocim which is an hours drive by 4x4 over dunes and along the beach crossing 2 small rivers by ferries from Jericoacoara where we’d spent the last 2 weeks learning to surf etc... And Jeri is a 6 hour bus ride from Fortaleza which is where I flew into. My point is we’d travelled a long way to some pretty deep and dark turf.

ANYWAY – All of these towns but mainly Fortaleza have a huge appetite for crab and Fortaleza is large – 2.3million and filled with crab-hungry gringo’s...

occasional motorboats filled with men with spades. A crab’s main defense is to scuttle into its hole when approached but it has no answer to the ruthless spade which transforms its havenAt the start of of our delta trip we encountered the crab-boats. Simple punt or oar or into a terrible trap. And already by noon, several thousand crabs, all tied together in bundles lie on the shore in the baking sun. They remain there all day until nightfall when a truck or 2 arrive to collect the several tens of thousands of crabs and take them to Fortaleza (you know amidst this writing I stopped to check the spelling of Fortaleza – somehow I feel ashamed of that...). Apparently at least 60% of the crabs die en route which means they don’t get sold or something. Its an incredible waste. Some effort is made to keep them alive during the day by piling green leaves onto them and splashing them every now and then with water. But their waving claws and legs were quite a disturbing sight. I accept people are going to eat crabs but I was horrified at the wastage – they could take so many less if they could just be marginally more efficient!

Naturally I am aware of the hypocrisy in all of this (I eat many animals and many of them are slain in a brutal and horrid fashion etc...) but well, its my life and all of us have our own reasons for the sentimental things we do. I had the over-riding urge to rescue at least one of these poor darling creatures (yes I really am fond of them!) but failed on that occasion as we left... The next morning in a different town I did try to buy one in a market but despite being told where they were I could not find them so failed once again in this mission. I was also somewhat distracted by encountering several cow hearts and other body parts on hooks.

My quest remains on-track though. I will save a crab. And I will return it to its habitat. And it will probably not even realise its fortune. And it’ll probably just get recaught again the next day. But maybe not. Maybe that crab will go onto to fulfill its full crabness. Either way I will not know. I know the gesture is only tokenist but at least I will believe that there is a crab out there that is linked to and alive because of me. It will be like Schrodinger’s Crab – it may be alive if I do not know it is dead. So it can live for as long as I and any memory of it I pass along survive. Like the Little Prince who upon finding vast fields of roses on earth learns that what is special about his rose on his planet is that it is his rose. It is the rose he knows and loves. So for me too, I will know there is one crab out there that is my crab, one I love and one I know.

And by way of illustration ... To add to these words are a couple of pictures - above...

I like jellyfish too – very much. In fact I know this great jellyfish dance to go with a song “brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, dance like we’ve removed your skeleton! Jellyfish, jellyfish, jellyfish...” But I do not have to DECIDE not to eat them too. Or at least that is not a hard decision at all. There were loads of them washed up the shores in one of the areas we were in. While I’m sorry some of them get washed up - its better seeing them washed up and than finding them that certain other way.

This was all en route to a region known as the Lencois Maranhenses which is truly an astonishing place. A region of vast white sand dunes. The sand is super fine – the finest sand I’ve ever encountered - the playa at Burning Man is annoyingly finer but it is dust not sand. During the rainy season there are 1000’s of lagoons between these dunes and apparently it stands a chance to become one of the 7 new natural wonders of the world. Rumour has it there is a vote going on to redefine these. Check out . This was not the rainy season but it was astonishingly beautiful nonetheless. Its a harsh land of huge contrast – lush mangrove swamps right alongside pure desert dunes. It boggles the mind that they can co-exist so closely though I suppose man’s environment emulates this too with the super rich palaces interspersed between the favela multitudes.

27 January

But I’m not there anymore – now I’m on a speck of a paradise island – fernando de noronha – 500km off the brazilian coast. Its insanely gorgeous and ridiculously romantic. Coming to a place like this alone feels like a bit of an error. Its been a bit of a chore watching all the loved up couples soaking up the love island atmosphere. And I will admit its pushed me dangerously close to reopening the position of girlfriend within my life. Ho hum. Nothing to be done about it now. Attached are a couple of shots of two girls I tried to chat up on my birthday (26th). The exchanges were fleeting – its tough not being able to speak portuguese very well - though this is improving all the time.

And the crabs on this island are super insane! Everywhere. And noisy – I’ve never really heard them do much but here they make quite the racket down on the ocean shore. I also saw some sort of seasnake today lurking amongst some rocks. It saw me too. Twice it popped its head around a rock. I think it was about to strike at a crab I was photographing. Then on seeing me it retreated back underwater/rock. I think my presence might have saved that crab’s life today too. So it goes. Its not THE ONE I WILL save. And I do have a short video capturing this snake popping its head around the corner and retreating so I was not hallucinating – or at least so was my camera.

So an observation or 2 regarding relationships. As a VERY general rule life outside a long-term relationship (LTR) tends to be more up and down than that inside a relationship (defined as positive, stable and loving not psychotic and destructive). However the lows outside a relationship represent a greater decrease in value than the highs represent an increase.

To illustrate – and please see note below ***
Range of emotional charge within:
- Healthy good loving LTR you want to be in: 5 – 8
- No relationship at all: 1 – 10
- Increase in intensity of low: -4
- Increase in intensity of high: +2

One reason one doesn’t go below a “5” in a relationship is that the other one will always be able to offer support and nurturing in darkish times. Another is that in a relationship one very rarely allows oneself to let go all the way and dig into those inner recesses of anguish cos that’s not going to be appreciated by the partner. That would be regarded as rocking the emotional boat and definitionally would then not be in the category of good loving relationship you want to be in – well at least not for the other person and it takes 2 to make a relationship. It is also my belief that the lowest common denominator effect of 2 people being involved in a relationship tends to make for accepting acceptable compromises rather than going wholeheartedly for what one really wants. And this prevents the rising above an 8. I know that’s gonna get shot down by many of you but bear this in mind. I am talking about a LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP and not about the short term moments of amazingness so often encountered in the courting and honeymoon phases or prevalent in the short term love affair ended only by geographical dislocation (STELAGED). But rather accepts the fact that marriage for love is like fine wine – over time it is soured down to a household vinegar. No matter. I’m also accepting that the LTR holds a distinct advantage in this respect. And yes I have actually thought it might be really nice to have a proper GF again.

I also thought about shaving my beard off to see how young I can still look but I chose not to as its turned a real blonde in all the sun I’ve seen and I think I quite like it. Case study – I would be able to send you a nice macro shot of my new blonde beard if I had a partner to take such a shot and make sure it was in focus etc... But then I also suspect that I would not be writing you all this long email. Cynical? Yes, a little. I think its true that one of the reasons I dislike being in a LTR is that I still don’t know how to be in one and still be myself. I do blame myself for that inability not the lady. When the time comes however – I expect I will have no real choice in the matter.

Now I know I have not told you ANYTHING at all about so many places – the sand dunes, the mangrove swamps with their seahorses, sao luis with its reggae and dilapidated menace, Olinda and all the pre-carnaval festivities and so on and perhaps I will in time but its been 4 weeks today I arrived here and there’s been barely an hour of boredom in that time. Its quite remarkable in fact how many things one can find to do when one has nothing at all to do. As I have not said it yet... Brazil is stunning and a truly remarkable place – its great! Come on over...


X h

* incidentally I have placed this and the other 2 things I previously wrote on a blogpage – its fledgeling but a good place to store this stuff so people can easily be referred to it... Here’s the site

** don’t get all worried about this – I’m not smoking any stuff really – this was just one of those great random travel moments and not symptomatic of any greater leanings toward drug usage.

***this is Lobstonian unapplied and unevidenced meta-thysics in case you take it too seriously and question my data. In other words, I’m making it all up.

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