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Will Durst's Brazil Diary

You know how you vividly imagine a place you've never been to based on still pictures and descriptions but when you finally get there, reality wipes away every previous mental image clean and you can't remember what you thought it was going to look like because you're overwhelmed with what you found? I can't recall anything of what I expected from Brazil, but to say it surprised the hell out of me would be like saying asphalt makes for a lousy breakfast spread.

I had read all the stats. Fifth largest country in world with the sixth largest population. Industrial- agricultural. Imports exports, Blah-blah- blah. Like trying to guess what a Twinkie tastes like based on reading the ingredients. Flying into Sao Paulo, it hits you. This place is huuuuge. I mean immense. We're talking 25 million people metro area. We taped an interview from the roof of the highest building in downtown Sao Paulo and it was like looking down Manhattan Island from the top of Central Park in each prime direction.

Then we flew north to Rio de Janeiro, and I'm aware this is total sacrilege, but it is the damnedest pretty city I have ever done seen. From now on when people discover I live in San Francisco, and go on to gush, "You live in the most beautiful city in the world," I will be forced to re-join, "Ah, never been to Rio, have you?"

It's the beaches mostly. The most gorgeous, broad, inviting expanses of white sand bliss you'll ever hope to see. Its no wonder they claim center stage of Rio's cultural universe. The site where major festivals are planned and most spare time is spent. The fact that swimming in the water splashing up against those dazzling white vistas is about as advisable as playing Marco Polo in an economy size Hepatitis B petri dish. Due to epidemic toxic pollutants, dumping is a crime that has been committed not just against the Cariocas (as the citizens of Rio refer to themselves) or the Atlantic Ocean but against every citizen of every country on the entire planet.

And of course everybody talks about the women. "Oh, the most beautiful women in the world are Brazilian." Yeah, yeah, yeah, the women are pretty. But what knocks your eyes into 270 degree bulge is their dress. In a word: provocative. "Hello Doctor." I don't know if its the tropics, some centuries old cultural mutation or an unspoken rebellion against the organized sanctimoniousness of an oppressively patriarchal church (not naming names here). Or maybe a combination of all three, but we're talking an entire country full of uber repressed Catholic girls wearing stiletto heels, skin tight jeans and sprayed on leotards. And that's the default walking- down-to- pick- up- some- fried- meat costume. When they do dress up to go out, be advised to sit down or stand back. And the beach, what can I say butů hey, you could put an eye out with that.

In response, the guys must feel a little less than and are compelled to fly their Y chromosome flag extra high and what you end up with is an ongoing hormonal battle royale. Which is why the beaches are littered with men stuffing themselves into thong bathing suits. Guys who might have looked good in thong bathing suits 20 or 30 years ago. Guys who might not have looked good in thong bathing suits 20 or 30 years ago. Guys who look like they're attempting to smuggle entire harvests of melons and breadfruits across the Ecuadorian border. Doesn't matter. These boys be signifying. "You want a strut parade babe, by Escudelio, you got it."

The one thing I was happy to confirm was the whole other side of the world draining- water deal. Tried the bathroom sink and it went down clockwise instead of counter clockwise, or was it versa visa. Wait a minute. Let me go check. Yeah, that's right. Clockwise. We're counter clockwise. That's what was most comforting. It's the little things.

Will Durst is host of Livelyhood and wears baggy surfer shorts with 10" inseams.

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