Added 3 September 2006

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Brazil Intro

Day 19: Saturday, June 24, 2006

We didn't get out of bed until after eight o'clock, and Shan was anxious to get moving so she could exercise her shopping muscles. First, we stopped in for the free continental breakfast at the hotel, which was pretty nice. While we were near the bottom of the hotel, we stopped at the front desk to get better directions to the craft market. We ended up with something slightly better than what we had. I also went outside with my GPS unit to get a fix on the hotel, so I could at least get us back to the hotel should we get lost in the maze of streets that is Sao Paolo. We also had the hotel staff inquire about getting to several artesanatos, or craft stores, around Sao Paolo. Walking the streets of Sao Paolo in search of the perfect souvenir (and not having much luck)They were all some distance away, and it would take about 40 minutes and would cost us R$70 one-way to get to any of them. We had the hotel call the one Shan wanted to go to most, but they were unable to get through.

We decided to try the close craft market first, and use a taxi to one of the distant ones as a back-up plan. We found the craft market on Rua Felicio Marconez quite easily, and I ended up not needing the GPS unit to get us back to the hotel, despite some unplanned wanderings to other stores after going to the craft market.

I have NO IDEA what these two 'street performers' were doing . . . The craft market itself was rather small, but Shan did end up with some nice jewelry. Overall, there weren't many crafts there that we, or more specifically, Shan, was interested in, so it wasn't long before we were roaming the streets in search of other things to buy. All we found was a knock-off Brazilian soccer jersey, a street performer doing some sort of magic trick we couldn't understand, and a couple of other street performers with mud all over their heads sitting in complete silence, which was completely incomprehensible to us.

The whole experience left Shan wanting, so on our way back, we decided to go ahead and spend the money for a taxi to one of the distant stores that we found on-line. By the time we got back to the hotel it was almost noon, and we were out of water, so we ended up having to go back out to where we were to get water, and look for a place to have lunch. We found water, but didn't find anyplace that looked all that great for lunch, so we ended up just returning to the hotel and eating in their restaurant. We watched Germany play Sweden in a World Cup match while we ate. The game ended with a giddy Germany and a bunch of sad Swedes.

After lunch we went back to the lobby to arrange for a taxi to one of the craft stores. We asked them to try to call to verify that the place was even open again, and they were still unable to get through. They checked to make sure that the number was right, and got a new number, which turned out to be a FAX machine. With some doubts about whether the place we wanted to go to still even existed, we decided that we would use the afternoon to get a little sleep before our long flight home and that we would go to the airport a little earlier than planned to see what kinds of souvenirs we could find there. In retrospect, we could have tried one of the alternate choices, but in the end, I think that we may have made the right decision.

The crafts at the airport were certainly more expensive than those that we would have likely found at one of the craft stores, but we would have spent R$140 just getting to/from any of them, so we probably would have spent the same amount of money to get similar items in the end. The only thing that was very noticeably lacking at the airport that we thought we would have found someplace else were crafts featuring jaguars. By the time we got dinner right before our departure, we had managed to essentially clean out all of our reias. We were even virtually penniless, having gone through most of our U.S. currency at various points in the trip as well.

We ended up getting a second dinner on the plane, but we were happy that we'd gotten something before-hand as well, because what we got on the plane wasn't very filling. Since we had special vegetarian meals, we got our food first. The meal came with a glass of water and a small cup of orange juice. When they started serving the rest of the passengers and came down the aisle with the drink cart, Shan, thinking that they wouldn't give us anything else to drink, excitedly said, "They're coming with drinks, hide the juice!" She can be so cute sometimes.

As I write it is now 2:20 a.m. Sao Paolo time, and we just crossed the border out of Brazil a short while ago. I think it's time to get up and stretch before going back to catch up on the days in the Pantanal that I haven't written about yet.

Day 20: Sunday, June 25, 2006

We arrived in Houston at the same time as another international flight, so Shan and I made a mad dash for baggage claim so we could get in the customs line before the rush. It took a little while for our bags to show up, time we spent chatting with a young guy who had spent some time backpacking in Brazil. After our luggage arrived, we made haste to customs. The line was short, the questions brief, and we were soon checking our bags back through security for the rest of our journey to Tucson.

Our next goal was food. We needed some in a bad way. The breakfast they served on the flight was tiny, and not very good on top of that. Amazingly, in an airport the size of Houston's, we found that there weren't many restaurants open for that time of the morning. We ended up at a Wendy's or something, and I ended up going back for more food to fill me up. After breakfast, we went out in search of the gate for our flight to Tucson. Only in Texas . . .  Ugh.We were in no hurry at this point, as we had more time that we would have liked before the flight was scheduled to depart. The good news of course, was that while restaurants weren't open, the Fox News store was! Who needs real sustenance when you've got Fox News, anyway?

Once at the gate, Shan tried to sleep, and I simply tried to rest. Our flight home was uneventful, and after arriving in Tucson, we only had a short wait for Kyle and Alice to come and pick us up to take us home.

But our trip related excitement wasn't over quite yet. Shan got phlebitis in her right leg on the return flight home, which is a pre-cursor to deep vein thrombosis. So she had to go to urgent care the day after we returned, and was put on antibiotics to stave off any infections that might occur due to the Now fast forward two weeks. Shan had some lingering issues with the clotting.

She also had some bug bites that didn't seem to want to go away. After a week and a half, I had a bad feeling about one on her hip in particular. Exactly two weeks after returning from Brazil, my suspicion was confirmed. I was preparing to watch the World Cup soccer final when Shan screamed and ran into the den, where I was, saying she saw something moving out of the bite on her hip. I took a close look, and saw the tell-tale snorkel of a bot fly sticking out as it came up to breath.

Bot flies are large flies (as big or bigger than horse flies from what I can tell) that capture mosquitoes in flight and lay their eggs on them. When that mosquito bites an animal, it inadvertently injects the bot fly egg into the unsuspecting host. After that point, it's basic fly biology. The egg forms into a larvae, aka maggot, which then becomes an adult botfly. The larval stage is about seven weeks long. Once the larval stage ends, the bot fly will emerge from the host body and fly off into the sunset, as it were, leaving the host none the worse for where. That is, assuming no psychological trauma of course. And as one might expect, that seven week period isn't exactly painless. Shan could feel the bot fly larvae moving around and eating her flesh, occasionally getting stabbing pains in her side.

Another fun fact about the larva . . . remember how the bot fly is much bigger than a normal fly? Well so is the larva. I've seen pictures of bot fly larva that were about 4 cm (1.5 inches) long and 1 cm (1/2 inch) in diameter. Not only that, they have two or three rows of barbs ringing their bodies, presumably to help them gain a purchase in the host body. Shan knew of none of this and, unless she reads this, still knows none of this. There are certain things it's best she doesn't know.

Shan called the doctor on call at our doctor's office. The operator got Dr. Juodakis on the phone and relayed messages back and forth between Shan and Dr. Juodakis. Dr. Juodakis said that she'd never heard of a bot fly before and that she would have to look it up to figure out what it was, so just recommended that Shan go in to the office on Monday so her doctor could figure it out. Now, I had researched bot flies a little bit, and knew that although unpleasant, they are not life-threatening, nor even a health hazard, but I was extremely irked at Dr. Juodakis' attitude. If she didn't know anything about bot flies and wasn't willing to look them up, how would she know if it wasn't a serious enough problem to warrant instructing Shan to go straight to urgent care? Her response, I feel, was reckless and negligent. Fortunately I had done my research, so I did my best to calm Shan down. As one might expect, I had very limited success to that end.

It wasn't critical to get her to the hospital, so we watched the World Cup final. Or rather, I watched the World Cup final. Shan spent most of the game watching her hip. She actually did watch the game quite a bit, but I had hoped that the game would keep her mind off the bod fly more than it did. One thing that did come out of the game was a name for her bot fly though. Towards the end of the second overtime, Zizou Zidane, the French superstar player, reared back and severely head-butted one of the Italian players, earning him a red card, suspension from the rest of the game, great shame, and a bot fly named after him. Shan had been rather ambivalent about who won or lost the World Cup until Zidane head-butted the Italian player. After that, she was all for Italy. And she had a good name for her bot fly.

On Monday, I drove to work in preparation for having to leave early in case Shan was able to find someone to extract the bot fly. She wanted me to be there for emotional support. After trying a number of places, she finally found someone at University Medical Center who was sympathetic to her plight and agreed to get her an appointment right away with the tropical diseases folks. She called me and I left right away to get to the hospital. When I arrived, a doctor lead me into a small room filled with about a dozen doctors and interns, all huddled around Shan, as the doctor, who had already made the incision, dug around for the bot fly. The intern that the doctor directed to be Shan's stand-in husband stepped aside and I took his place. I held Shan's hand, caressed her, and tried to help her keep calm as the doctor dug around for the bot fly. I mentioned that in South America, many villages have people who are adept at massaging bot fly larvae out of afflicted patients, so he tried applying directed pressure to force the bot fly to the surface where he could grab it with the forceps. This didn't work, so he dug around a little more. Eventually, he was got to the point where he was concerned about going any deeper for fear of damaging the stomach lining or other internal body parts.

He gave us a pair of forceps, advice to try to suffocate the bot fly to the surface that evening, and a follow-up appointment for the following morning. After we left the hospital, Shan told me that it took two shots of local anesthetic to deaden the pain, and that the doctor had started cutting after the first. I'm sure that hurt, but she seemed to have taken it well.

That night, I spent two hours staring at the open wound, which we covered with neosporin to try to suffocate the bot fly into submission, but to no avail. By the next morning, she had only had two cases of sharp pain since the doctor probed around for it. When we went back in to UMC, the doctor thought that he probably killed it, either with the double dose of anesthetic he had to use to numb (not thumbird or nunbird) the area, or with his proding around with forceps. He decided not to reopen the incision and just let the body do it's thing, unless it starts to show signs of life again. He said that if it was still alive, to give him a call and he would get her in with a surgeon immediately to remove it. The folks at UMC definitely took very good care of Shan, I thought. The true test would be if the breather hole remained open or if it closed up.

It took a while, but the wound did heal over, so it must have died. Needless to say, I spent a great deal of time during Shan's ordeal either calming her down or trying to get the bot fly larvae out. After a while, her concern died down, which was good. And now she has a great story to tell. Not as good of a story as it would be if I actually had pictures of the bot fly larvae being removed from her flesh, but a good story nonetheless. :-)

It was somewhat humorous that of all the people on the trip, it was Shan who got the bot fly. Any of the rest of us would not have felt it to be as traumatic an experience as Shan. Well, maybe that's not entirely true. While relaying the gory details to Chuck while the bot fly drama was playing out, Chuck was acting all tough and said he had hoped to get a bot fly because it would be cool. But then, he let slip that, "Between you and me, with the video and all the pictures, I just stripped in my bathroom at work and had a good look-over and I think I am good. I have some bites on my legs, but they are recent, from wearing shorts at home." I just about fell on the floor laughing when I heard that.

Since Shan didn't cooperate and give me an opportunity to photograph and videotape her botfly (hee hee), I've pulled some stuff off the web for those who are interested. WARNING: none of these links are for the squeamish, especially the video. And Shannon my love, if you're reading this, you are not allowed to click on the following links.

The first link that follows is a 5+ gigabyte wmv format video of a woman who got a bot fly removed from her head.
Bot fly movie
Pictures and stories of bot flies
How about a bot fly in your EYE?!?!? yuck!
A picture of a bot fly sticking out of some guys skin.

It's interesting that both Shan and I got MANY comments, mostly related to the bot fly, to the effect of, "How did Brian convince you to go to Brazil in the first place?" Even though I did most of the research and planning, Shan was actually the primary motivator for going to Brazil. After we tell people that, the most common reaction is something like, "oh. Really?" This only slightly diminishes the amount of sympathy she gets though.

Some final thoughts on the trip.

As expected, we saw a large variety and large numbers of species. Of the species that I saw that were identifiable, I ended up with 257 species of birds, 21 species of mammal, 17 species of herps (2 crocodilians, 1 turtle, 3 snakes, 4 lizards, and 7 amphibians), and 3 species of fish. We certainly saw more of each of those types of animals, but simply couldn't identify them all. Truly amazing.

I was far more captivated by Santuário do Caraça than I expected to be. Though there largely to see the maned wolves, I fell in love with the place itself. Simple, gracious, gorgeous; that is Santuário do Caraça.

I wish that we had been able to also go to other parts of the Pantanal. We missed out on the real opportunities to see giant anteater, Ocelots, and a host of other amazing terrestrial animals by spending all of our time along the Rio Paraguai. The only problem is that given time restriction, I'm not entirely sure where I'd have taken the time from to add this to the trip. If I had to make a choice, I think I would have reduced the amount of time at Rio Cristalino in favor of time in other (drier) parts of the northern Pantanal.

On our trip, we didn't go to the Amazon River itself. I find that I was more disappointed about this after returning from Brazil than while there, but more disappointed about this before going to Brazil than either before or after. There is a sense of not having truly been to the "Amazon" having not been on the mighty river itself, but believe that we probably experienced something more closely resembling what the Amazon River once was by going to Rio Cristalino. Speaking from what I've read and what I understand, the Amazon River itself is under increasing development pressure, and therefore wildlife is far more scarce than it once was.

Fabricio Dorileo made our trip what it was, in so many ways. From his extensive knowledge of the local birds, the great lengths he went to in order to make sure we were well taken care of, the local insight he provided, and the great laughs he not only provided but shared in. Then of course there's the fact that he had to put up with four rather odd Americans . . .

If you haven't seen enough, remember to check out Chuck's web site for our trip:


Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Post-tour
Atlantic Rainforest Intro | Pantanal Intro | Amazonia Intro
Brazil Intro