a 5-hour flight from Orlando to Los Angeles to wash my clothes, buy snacks, see important people, and hop on a flight 11 hours later to Lima, Peru, then to Iguazu Falls, Brazil. What a whirlwind full of hot plates, white wine, good laughs, and a swollen foot. Am I too young for Epsom Salt?
8 hours to Lima, a 1-hour layover, 4 hours to Iguazu Falls, a 15-minute taxi drive to the hostel, and I’m sitting at a long table fit for family suppers, discussing life, careers, goals, language, missionaries, and love with strangers from Georgia, Indiana, Colorado, and just outside Berlin. The boy from Indiana married one of the girls from Georgia soon after meeting in the UK. He made her engagement ring out of a British Pound, and their engagement rings out of wood found in a forest where they once slept on a Mission trip. I’m becoming a little more sensitive to romantic things like that, and I offered a few aww’s and smiles.
I needed a drink.
“I can spot an American from miles away,” the bartender yelled over. Guilty, I thought, walking to the empty stool. It was 7pm, and from 7-8, Caipirinhas are free. Me and this born New Yorker turned Man without a country jumped right into conversation about new happenings in America, why we’re both in Brazil, and this incredibly strong drink.
“Brazil is beautiful,” he said. “I was here one night drinking while traveling through, and the bartender showed me how to make a Caipirinha. That was 14,000 drinks ago.” I laughed, understanding how that happened after just an hour of being in the country. It is beautiful, and the breeze is enough to keep me. Then he said “I’m tired of falling in love with countries.”
I love so many places I’ve been, but I haven’t grown tired of falling in love with more. One day, perhaps, but not today. He’s chilling for a while and, as most true travelers do, he’ll depart one day and find another place and another drink to make.
He had dice on the bar, and I rolled to begin the game. I rolled a 9 and that won me a free Caipirinha-making (see feature image) lesson and a free tall cup of whatever I created. Well well well, what do you know? I made an amazing glass of the stuff, and now I’m ready to make it at every party back home.
I needed food.
The supermarket is down the road from the hostel, and I needed to walk a cramp out of my leg. 10 seconds after entering the store, a teenage girl, black, ran up and grabbed Sanura’s hair, then called her sister over to gawk. The thrill and excitement in the girls’ eyes and voice was amazing. Here, we experienced the problem of not learning enough of the local language. We spent minutes translating and playing charades until we found ourselves teaching each other. It was a moment of “this is definitely home,” and Brazil became even more beautiful. The girls’ mother walked over and traded a few words with us, smiling, and welcoming us to her home.
Now, here I am, 3 empanadas, 1 pizza, 5 drinks, and 1 oreo later, sitting on the back porch of the hostel, listening to The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition,” and a newly arrived American girl cry on the phone a few tables over, giving out a few “I love you’s” to her boyfriend on the phone.
I knew the excitement would come. This place is much more beautiful than expected. I can’t wait to see more, and I hope you get to see it too.
Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.