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When my sister graduated from high school, my father took her to Paris, but the only details that emerged from the trip involved him snoring so loud she slept in the hotel hallway. So my image of Paris was a faded runner rug and my sister, curled in a ball at the foot of the door.
Ferg, Luke, and I arrive in Paris at 8am. Ryan, who’d gone to Spain for a family wedding, would meet us later in the afternoon.
We take the train to the metro to the basement level apartment we are renting for two nights. It is close enough to the sights to be convenient, and far enough away to feel like we are seeing the Parisian’s Paris. We drop off our bags, buy bread and cheese from the supermarche, and force ourselves onto the street, even though we are thinking, at home, it is 3:30 AM and I think I’d like to be in bed.
We’ve spent the last five months in the States, editing down 120 hours of footage from South America and finding the funds to continue the trek. On May 28th, we take off for Europe and Africa. We’ll hit England, France, Italy, Germany, and Hungary, and we’ll watch Spain play Sweden in Innsbruck, Austria. We’ll spend a week in East Jerusalem before heading to Africa, where we’ll visit the Pyramids in Cairo, the slums of Nairobi, the World Cup stadium in Cape Town, and the rural coastline of Ghana.
San Pedro Prison sits behind San Pedro Plaza–a bustling square in the center of La Paz. Couples sit on benches around a fountain, kids chase futbol pelotas in the grass, and women set up stands for the Thursday through Sunday bread market. Our hostel is on the side of the square opposite to the prison.
At the infamous San Pedro Prison, the inmates are in charge. Though the guards patrol the outside, they do not enter the inside. Within the high walls, San Pedro inmates run their own society. There are wives and children, market stalls, and men selling ice cream, toy trinkets and cocaine. Like the outside world, you need money to get by. Even cells must be bought–if you have no money, you sleep beneath the starry sky.
In 1984, Jorge placed fourth in shooting at the Los Angeles Olympics. He’s a Colombian living in Bolivia who owns a cattle ranch and a dove-hunting lodge. In and around both places, everyone– but him–plays futbol.
The cattle ranch is twenty minutes outside of a village of straw-roofed homes in the basin of the Amazon. Every afternoon the men play and the village of San Fermin gathers around the tree to watch. At half-time, the women dip coffee mugs into a utility bucket full of corn water and pass them to us. Someone else pushes out a wheelbarrow full of neon soda pop for the kids who are wrestling on the surrounding grass.
On the grassy area outside the bodega, between the Malbec grapes and the Cabernet Sauvignon, where Emilio’s sister got married and where the ducks come when they are tired of the pond, we play a partido as the sun sets behind the Andes.
Emilio and Antonio unwind the garden hose into one sideline, the vineyards serving as the other. Overturned buckets act as goals. When they pick teams, they tell us, “This is our tradition.” Raul and Miguel walk towards each other from about twenty paces apart like they are on a tightrope or in some kind of reverse duel. With every step, Raul says, “Pan” and Miguel says “Queso.” Pan, Queso, Pan, Queso…until Raul’s foot lands on Miguel’s and he gets first pick.
When Luke rockets a ball into the grapes, they joke, “Dont worry, it´s only a couple thousand pesos worth of Malbec.”
They are a group of guys brought together through wine: Emilio is a landscape artchitect and grape consultant, Raul is an economist and professor who analyzes wine tourism, Antonio is a bodega architect, and Lucas and Paulo develop vineyards. Some grew up on vineyards, learning the art from their grandfathers, others came to it on their own. Together, they want to one day make their own wine. For now, the play futbol, have post game asados, and tell us, “It is better to drink wine after the game than before.”
This is why we love Buenos Aires: The men hum tunes to themselves as they whisk by us on the sidewalk and the women wear leather high heels in distinctive colors. Bookstores and trees line the sidewalks. There´s the corner bakery where we buy a bag of french baguettes for two pesos and there´s the old cafe where Jorge Luis Borges came to write. When we wake up, we sit on our balcony and drink cafe con leche while watching boys hang out the windows of the school across from our apartment.
This is why we hate Buenos Aires: we get robbed on the Subte (Ryan´s wallet deftly removed from his pocket); the trees spit on us (yellow gunk plopping onto the side of our faces); the bookstores boast of novels in English but only carry Sweet Valley High; and worst of all, we can´t find any futbol.
Uruguay—the country that seems small enough to fit in your hand. We decide to rent a car. Like Cuba, Uruguay is filled with old-timey classics—we imagine ourselves driving through the countryside in a 1960s Ford or a muted-color Fiat. We drive away from the rental lot with a bright yellow Euro box.
We take off for the interior of Uruguay, listening to the tribal music Anderson gave us. We have no idea where we are going. There´s Route 5, Route 7, and Route 31 and we can go anywhere. We head north, down dirt highways, past cows and more cows. When there is a town, we drive through it–along the tree-lined square, past the church and the school. Every few miles there is a field, a horse often framed by the goalposts, cows grazing near what would be a sideline if there were any sidelines. We play with fifteen year olds and a church group and keep moving. We want to play with the cowboys…the gauchos…the legends.
All of a sudden, we found ourselves standing on top of a sand dune. There were mountains, a winding shoreline, and a harbor with fishing boats lilting to the right. The water was teal and there were islands in the distance. It was as picturesque as the Virgin Islands or any other top tourist destination, only it was empty–except for the horse cart in the distance and the dog at our side.
We’d taken an all night bus ride to Curitiba, a four hour bus ride to Floripa, and another two hour bus ride on a local bus down dirt roads, stopping every so often to pick up school kids. We knew we were headed for a pousada in a fishing village where they have pick up games on a sand bank formed where the diverging river meets the ocean. We did not know it would feel like paradise or that a small tan-colored dog would follow us everywhere: when we went to the grocery store, she patiently waited outside the door; when we played and filmed within the yellow goalposts further down the beach, she sat beside our camera bags; when we returned from a day out, she ran down the beach to greet us.
In São Paulo, we search for Nenê, who played with Gwendolyn for Santos Futebol Club. We take a ten-minute taxi to the metro station, ride for fifteen-minutes, change lines, take another thirty-minute ride, exit at Jabaquara, have an hour-long bus ride to Ferrazópolis, meet Nenê at the station, and catch a bus to her house. “If this were Europe, you’d have gone through three different countries,” Nenê’s mom says. “Here, you are still in São Paulo.”
Her family–mother, father, eight brothers and sisters, and a dozen or so nieces and nephews–live in the two houses next door to each other. When they ask about our families and we convey that they are spread out, they ask us, puzzled, “Why?” We all feel kind of stumped.
In Santos, we worry our movie will be about us getting fat around the world: here we are in Trinidad, all fairly lean, here we are in Brazil, showing signs of being fed extravagantly by unbelievable hosts. To combat the massive intakes of food, we nix taxis and buses and go on 6 or 7 km walks between destinations. Santos is divided into regions by seven canals and we count each of them as we walk along the beach garden, ranked by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest of its kind. Gwendolyn steps in wet concrete, literally leaving her footprint on Brazil. Ryan’s stepping-in-something story is worse: as Rebekah starts shooting a game, Ryan walks off to scout out a wide-angle shot. He stands there for some time, pondering different angles of the quadra, questioning the inclusion of a tree, studying the light. He turns to walk back, feels his foot slip, and realizes that for the past ten minutes, he’d been standing in a pile of dog poop, the only pile of dog poop anywhere around.