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MY BRAZILIAN (… and a kombi named Betty)

102 days, 6 countries, 3 girls, x boys & 1 kombi named Betty.

So I’ve mentioned “my book” a million and one times, the travel memoir I’ve been working on every since my trip to South America some three years ago now. Think Eat Pray Love with a twist. As described in one of my proposals:

“Beginning by following others, and chasing love, Juliet finds herself travelling down a long and winding road to Brazil — through Paris, Japan and Christianity — the so-called “first world” that sits as a background to her first-hand experiences of South America. Wrapped around this tale of travel, food and (unrequited) love, is a deeper story about the narratives that construct our sense of self, and our world. The book uses unconventional, highly reflective storytelling techniques, partially inspired by French philosophy, as it toggles between breathtaking natural beauty, romance, meditation, and long, ramshackle bus rides.”


Well in May 2010 I finished my first draft (250,000 words) and in December 2011 I finished editing it down to my ninth draft (97,000 words – a typical book size). It took a HUGE amount of time, dedication, and help from a number of friends including “my American” (– words fail).

I haven’t yet had much luck with the literary agent who liked my proposal back in 2010, nor a publisher I submitted to a few weeks ago. And, well, in short I’m impatient. So I think I’m going to try the e-book thing which pretty much relies on one’s own ability to do PR and catch reader’s attention. No idea yet how I’ll do that. First step is to design a cover. Either something along the lines of the one above, or this one:

Blurb for the back:

This could be a story of love, fulfilment and self-discovery. It’s not. Surrounded and engulfed by raging, clapping, endless cascades… His blog was her obsession. They were living her dream. A planet of falls, lush forest, spray and rainbows… A South American odyssey. Fractals. Conscientization. What does love mean? Just fucking go. Perspective. Whirlwind. Water tumbled 80 meters down, so powerfully that it came back up again as mist, lingering everywhere… Co-authorship. Brazil. Freedom. Awe, turmoil, and transcendence. A white dove flew fearlessly along the edge…


Prologue: Stories

Chapter 1: Time (Sydney)
Chapter 2: Live Earth (Buenos Aires)
Chapter 3: Jesús Calling (The Gringo Trail)
Chapter 4: Enchanted Isles (Galapágos)
Chapter 5: Enough Edgar (The Gringo Trail)

Chapter 6: Enferma de Amor (Cusco)
Chapter 7: Nunca Say Nunca (Bolivia)
Chapter 8: Serenity, or not (Chile)
Chapter 9: ‘Doing a Bariloche’ (Argentina)
Chapter 10: The Fall (Iguazú & São Paulo)

Chapter 11: Does Size Matter? (Southeast Coast)
Chapter 12: All’s Fair… (Arraial d’Ajuda)
Chapter 13.1: Living Naked (Salvador)
Chapter 13.2: Yes and No
Chapter 13.3: Alone, with Others
Chapter 14: The Dénouement (Rio de Janeiro)

Epilogue: Death and Rebirth


What do you want out of life? Love? Money? Children? Adventure? Do you ever think about why you want these things? Do you think they’ll make you happy? What if they don’t? What if this idea is a just a story? Do you ever question the story? Do you wonder where these stories come from? Do you ever wonder if there’s more to the story?

I do. I think about these things a lot.

Maybe it’s because some stories I believed in my youth proved to be false. Like the one about Jesus being the only path to God, and like the one about modelling making me feel beautiful. Losing trust in these stories makes me wonder what other things I tell myself may prove to be false. Out of distrust grew doubt, out of doubt grew curiosity. The slow tantalizing process of striping away layers, plucking apart stories and moving closer to the “Truth”. It was a process that started long before the story that I’m about to tell you, and sure to continue long after it.

In South America I plunged into a whirlwind of stories that make up cultures, history and identity. Somewhere between New York and Rio I was hoping reignite the flame and live out my dream. What followed was richer and more meaningful than I ever expected. Years’ worth of life experiences packed into 102 days, spread across six countries. It was a search for freedom, for happiness, for love — and one beautiful beaten-up kombi named Betty.

Any thoughts?

Shall I publish as an e-book? Which cover? Is it something you’d buy? How much should I price it? Some recommend putting it on there for $1. But is that de-valueing my work? Or will it help it get out there? Shall I keep trying for the traditional publishing? If you have any connections to publishers or literary agents around the world… or any thoughts on the above… I’d love love love to hear!

A human life, one million hours

In the scheme of things when you spend two hours in traffic each work day, or half an hour waiting in line for a coffee, or forty hours a year gathering together your receipts and filling out your tax return, what % of your life are you spending doing things you don’t want to be doing?

[A deleted scene from My Brazilian]:

At a restaurant in Argentina, after many-a glasses of Malbec and chocolate fondue, I found myself in an existentially mathematically reflective mood.

“How many hours am I to be on this planet?” I asked, taking pen to paper.

Let’s say I’m really lucky (or not, depending how well I maintain health) and I live to 120 years old.

120 years (x 365) = 43 800 days, which (x 24) = 1 051 200 hours.

‘A million hours! That’s really not very much.” I frowned at my diary.

(x 60) = 62 412 000 minutes.

‘Hurry up with that bill,’ said Rosa after I’d shared my calculations.

‘Not many hours left,’ Kellee joked.

‘Changes your perspective doesn’t it.’ I remarked.


So… say I spend 50 years working somewhere it takes an hour in transit to reach each day… 50 years (x 48) = 2400 working weeks (x 5) = 12000 working days, (x 2) = 24000 hours in transit. That’s (24000/1051200) = 1% of my life sitting in traffic! Crap!

How long did I just spend posting this? How long did you spend reading it? Tick tick tick tock… 🙂

Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish

I love it when Spanish words resemble their English equivalent. Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish, illustrated by Andy Warhol, is a cheat code for English speakers to learn Spanish. Carried out with a sense of humour too. See if you can guess these words: diferente; conveniente; elefante; producto;  intereste;  nación; universidad; usé... I’ve been recommending this book to so many people that I figure I should share it on here.

Some the cheat code:

Words that end in orare often identical in Spanish: actor; doctor; tractor; color; error; favor. All you have to do is slightly change your vowels and accents.

Words that end in alare also often identical in Spanish: animal; central; local; musical; legal; natural.

Words that end in ble often don’t change: horrible; possible; flexible; probable; visible; inevitable.

Words that end in ‘ent’ or ‘ant’, just add an e: presidente; ecelente; accidente; conveniente; inteligente; imporante; el elefante.

Words that end in ‘ist’ just add an a: artista; dentista; capitalista.

Words that start with ‘s’ prefix with an e’: especial (special), espiritual (spiritual).

Words that end in ‘ous’ change to ‘oso: delicioso (delicious); famoso (famous); curioso (curous); nervioso (nervous); misterioso (mysterious); fabuloso (faboulous).

Words that end in ‘ly’ change to mente: absolutemente (absolutely); automaticamente (automatically); naturalmente (naturally); personalmente (personally); realmente (really/actually).

Words with ‘ph’ change to f: filosofia (philosophy), elefante (elephant).

Words that end in ‘ty’ change to dad: espiritualidad; (spirituality); curiosidad (curiosity); electricidad (electricity); personalidad (personality); humanidad (humanity).

Words that end in ‘ry’ change to rio: necesario; aniversario; extraordinario; contrario; diccionario; imaginario; involuntario; itinerario;

Words that end in ‘sion’ change to sión: decisión; discusión; comisión; confusión; conclusion.

Some words that end in ‘cal’ end in ‘co’ in Spanish: tipico (typical), logico (logical); identico (identical); etico (ethical); clasico (classical); economico (economical); politico (political).

Words that end in ‘ic’, add an ‘o’: artistico; acadmeico; burocratico; cientifico (scientific); democratico; fotografico; historico; ironico; magico.

Words that end in ‘tion’ convert simply to ción: invitación; anticipación; civilización; cooperación; generación; admiración; generación.

Pronunciation key:

Some words to remember:

que = what; donde = where; quien = who; cuando = when; como = how; porque = why.

y = and; bonita = beautiful; linda = beautiful; amor = love.

cuánto = how much; costó = cost.

tu or usted = you; va = go; mañana = morning.

antes = before; después = after

la izqueirda = left; la direcha = right;


Examples of verbs
verb ends with: when applied to: that is: tener (have) poder (can) ser (be)
-o I yo tengo puedo soy
-es you tienes puedes eres
-en he/she él/ella/usted tiene puede es
-emos us nosotros tenemos podemos somos
-nen they ellos/ellas/ustedes tienen pueden son

Some prepositions to remember:

Use es to say ‘is’ when something is permanent eg el banco es grande (the bank is big).

Use esta to say ‘is’ when something is temporary, or when referring to a location eg el banco no esta limpo (the bank is not clean).

‘la’/’el’ = ‘the’ (masculine/feminine singular)

‘las’/’los’ = ‘the’ (masculine/feminine plural)

‘una’/’uno’ = ‘a’ or ‘an’ (masculine/feminine singular)

unas’/’unos’ = ‘a’ or ‘an’ (masculine/feminine plural)

Masculine & feminine:

Feminine = words that end in -d; -sion; -cion; -a

Masculine = words that end in -e; -o; -n; -l; -s; -z

Patterning the numbers:

0 cero 10 diez
1 uno 11 once 100 cien
2 dos 12 doce 20 veinte 200 doscientos
3 tres 13 trece 30 treinta 300 trescientos
4 cuatro 14 catorce 40 cuarenta 400 cuatrocientos
5 cinco 15 quince 50 cincuenta 500 quientos
6 seis 16 dieciseis 60 sesenta 600 seiscientos
7 siete 17 dieciseite 70 setenta etc…
8 ocho 18 dieciocho 80 ochenta 1000 un mil
9 nueve 19 diecinueve 90 noventa 1,000,000 un million


This is just a sample of this magical book. It not only takes you through a pile of nouns and verbs, but helps you learn how to change verbs to different tenses, including the irregular ones and exceptions, and using simple exercises it helps you apply it and start putting together your own sentences from the get go. Did I mention I highly recommend this book?

If it weren’t for PROCRASTINATION and DISTRACTIONS I’d be fluent by now 😉 The fact that paying for lessons means you actually study is a good reason to still do lessons, even if reading this book is more effective… I’m a pretty self-motivated person, and yet when my paid Spanish classes finished, so did my reading of Madrigal’s key. That being said, the time I’d have been studying Spanish was replaced with studying philosophy (and a bit of falling asleep by the pool)… hence why another change in travel plans, but more on that another day.

This key makes me wonder what else can be made more simple. Tim Ferris seems to do it with a lot of things, from languages to swimming to the tango:


SIMPLICITY = cheat code to Spanish, and also maybe to life…


Learning Spanish y Juego con Ninas…

Ok, given my travels, my book, and living with Latinos most of this year, I should know more Spanish than I do. And considering the “peace” and “environmentalist” stereotype it may shock you to find out I’m (A) not a vegetarian (which really has nothing to do with this post), and (B) that in Granada I had my first ever experience with volunteer work.

Given volunteering in Granada didn’t cost money (in case you didn’t know, most volunteering projects do) and the bonus discount it gave for my Spanish school (yep self-interest) I decided to give it a go.

It’s school holidays, so basically this volunteer work equated to entertaining kids 8-12 years old, for a couple of hours.

“Bring games. Teach them something you are good at.” I was told.

They were a well-behaved bunch, welcoming Mark (a fellow estudante de espaniol (- yes, I know my Spanish is probablemente incorrecto…)) by taking our hands, showing us the garbage bin (anywhere you like) and leading us into the school grounds.

We spent a couple of hours playing skip rope, limbo, soccer, and even trying to do a little yoga when the more competitive games started to cause havoc.

Hasta mañana?” they asked, as we said goodbye.

I looked to Mark, who looked as exhausted as I felt.

Ah… próxima semana!” we smiled.

The next week Mark and I came prepared: corn cakes and cameras.

The healthy(ish) cakes worked a treat. So did the cameras. The kids loved posing, and I always love being behind the camera.

With my shockproof/waterproof point & shoot, they learned to take their own. An interesting insight to the world from a child’s perspective. A couple of them had quite the creative eye.

Can you guess which were my photos, and which were theirs? You might be surprised!

Returning to mi paradiso

Colour fills the streets: the houses, the clothes, the people, the air. Excitement. A familiar joy. Why did it take so long for me to return?

Even the smell is familiar — a raw combination of trees, humidity, food, and dirt.

The sound of scooters, olden-day cars, horses trotting, children playing, salsa music and a sea of Spanish words — music to my ears.

Every day is the same: the sun rises at 6, sets at 6, 25-30 degrees — mi paradiso.

It’s been almost three years. I fell in love with it then. And again with it now……… Latin America!

Last time it was South America: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

This time I’ve landed in Central: Granada, Nicaragua.

I planned to stay two weeks. Now I’m planning for two months…

Porque no?!!!



Step away from the book…

My sprained ankle had it’s benefits – LOTS of time sitting on my arse. And so, one week ago, I finished my first draft of my first novel.

A first draft is a big achievement I suppose. The only problem is that it’s far too long and, as I decided once I started editing it, it’s also far too shit. As I read I crossed half the paragraphs out. Boring boring boring. The whole 690 page manuscript sucks.

When I finally allowed one of my friends to have a read I noticed something: he was laughing. He was laughing a lot.

“See all these bits you’ve crossed out – they’re really funny…”

I suppose that’s a good sign.

“You just need to take a long break from the book – read it in a few months time with fresh eyes.”

Easier said than done.

I want to give the manuscript to a few people to read and give me some for feedback on how I might be able to cut it in half. I also need to give it to people who are in the book, so they can decide if they want their name changed or details omitted.

But before I do anything I just want to add this… and change that… and edit this… and to a bit more research for that part…

“Step away from the book. Step away from the book… GIVE IT TO ME NOW!!!” Another friend demanded.

She was right to do so. This book is driving me crazy. I’m even editing it in my dreams. I’m going round in circles. I need to step away. I need to shut it away, at least for one month. I reluctantly handed her my only printed copy. Then I took the photographic storyboard down from my wall.

Now what??? This book has been my life for the last few months – what else am I supposed to do with my time? What is normal life like? My mind is blank.

Oh yeah, work. Earn a little dosh and stop eating up my savings. And I could, like, have fun. Read other people’s books, check out the art galleries near my place, watch movies, learn the guitar that’s been eyeing me since two Christmases ago. Try to get my uni dissertation published. And as soon as my ankle is better – start teaching pilates again, get my scuba-diving licence, get a scooter licence and a scooter. All the things I’ve been putting off for far too long.

So today’s the first day of a new life chapter. One that doesn’t revolve around this book. And I will to try my best not to look at the book for an entire month. Let’s see if I have more success with this pledge than I did my with my February detox (FYI I never got back on that horse…)

Video clip matching the second last chapter of my book:

Chapter 33: Redemption – Rio De Janeio


If you haven’t already, do check out the boy’s New York City to Rio blog: – there’s some amazing writing, photos and stories on there.

Music credits:

The Beatles – Revolution

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Redemption Song


Missing video-chapters have not been posted to prevent eluding a spoiler – I’m hoping you’ll read my book first!

Chapter 28 – Size Does Matter (Rio de Janeiro)

When it comes to Brazilian butts, as you see in the clip below, SIZE DOES NOT MATTER. You got it, you flaunt it baby. But according to a drug dealer Rachel and Lola meet on the streets of Lapa, when it comes to something else size does matter…


Here’s a funny little snippet from Chapter 28:

‘Cool. Ok, so what happened next?’ I ask Rachel, interested in where this story was going.

‘Next we walk up the hill, and meet a young girl in really tiny shorts, a very tiny top and a belly button ring which kind of sat on top of her very big stomach like a cherry on top of a cupcake. She was showing us how to samba, in a very expressive way. She was a bit rough around the edges but the story we got was that she was the mother of five because her boyfriend doesn’t like to wear condoms. I guess they haven’t heard of other forms of contraceptives, I don’t know. And she went on to say that she doesn’t like Brazilian men, she likes blonde men. And one of her children had blonde hair, she is not quite sure how. She said black Brazilian men are not nice – their penises are too big and they hit their women.’

‘No stereotyping going on here,’ I laugh.

‘We later found out, 20 or so min later, when the police turned up, that she was a drug dealer. But on the way home we surmised she must have been a pretty good drug dealer, because she didn’t try to tell us any drugs. She was more interested in telling us about her life and her existence than selling us drugs. She must have been a drug dealer with a conscience. She loved sex. She made a point of saying that. And she hand shake she went like this, like this, like this and like that, and then she hit her fanny!’ Rachel grabs my hand in different arrangements and slaps her pubic bone. I start laughing uncontrollably. Trust Rachel to leave nothing to the imagination.

‘Then she was doing the whole dance behind you, let it all out, thing. So she was a very very expressive woman. But she was out and proud, you know, like the belly was there. It looked like she had had had children, but she wasn’t hiding it. She had the belly button ring going. It was good. She looked young. Younger than us. But maybe that’s the Brazilian skin. And she said to us, “Do you like black men? You want a black man? Have you been with a black man? Just warning, you they have big penises. Do you like big penises?” and I said, “well I don’t know” and she said, “well theirs are really too big.” She goes, “I can’t do it.” And coming from a woman who loves sex, I thought, that’s saying a lot!’ Rachel laughs.

‘Well… there you go,’ I say, shaking my head and with a big grin across my face. ‘Maybe size does matter.’


Cash Money, The Beautiful Girls.

Chapter 27 – Beauty in Imperfection (Florianapolis)

Brazilian beaches – the best in the world. Coming from an Aussie that’s a pretty big call. But seriously, check out the pineapple cachaca cocktail… and the bar tender 😛

Oooo and I discovered the magic ingredient to that cocktail! Lucky I took notes. Inside that pineapple you will find a blend of  pineapple (obviously), cachaca (a spirit made from sugarcane), ice and… sweetened condensed milk.

Ok, so I recently discovered cachaca is available (at ten times the cost, but still available) in Australia, so now we just need the freedom to put a few cute bartenders on our beaches… then we’ll be giving Brazil a run for their money…



Tease me, Unknown.

Chapter 26 – One Big Cliche (Sao Paulo)

The concrete jungle mega-city where I experienced my very first taste of acai (ah-sigh-ee) – the wild Amazonian berry that tastes like frozen chocolate and is full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidents that give you an energy hit and allegedly make you lose weight. My friend imports it to Oz in pulp and powder, and I happen to be drinking a mixture of acai, banana and ice right now. Mmmmm mmmm! Check out if you wanna taste the purple goodness…



Sao Paulo, Morcheeba