So our 1st full day here in Natal, as we waited for Brett to arrive in his taxi from Recife, (that story a bit later) we decided to hit the streets and find the FIFA ticketing center. The walk from our apartment to the Ciudad Jardim, a little strip mall with shops selling the usual mall fare in 3 colors; yellow, blue and green is probably about 4 miles. Along this path we found the roads were decorated, as would be expected, with the flags of the nations represented here this month. There were also vendors everywhere selling coconuts, crepes, plates of lobster and shrimp, knock off jerseys and, unfortunately, a Brazilian version of the vuvuzela. It's a pretty simple little annoyance- blow air into a little hole on the side and the sound of a waterboarded duck comes out of a larger hole on the end. This is a toy normally found in the hands of either young children or drunk adults. Neither of these parties are seemingly aware of just how grating the sound is on the ears of those in their proximity but I am convinced that there must be some addictive substance somehwere between those 2 holes because once they start blowing, they just can't seem to stop.
So as we are walking we talk about all the events of our lives the past 4 years when I notice along the fenceline a pair of stray cats. The fenceline runs a couple of miles uninterrupted and seperates the street from an open space overgrown with native trees and bushes. From the fence to the shore of the ocean I guesstimate to be another mile. Then I see another cat. And another, and another. If what I saw along that fenceline was indicative of what was behind that fencline, Natal is a ferel cat lovers Utopia!
This is completely different from what has been the case in my other travels. Normally when you travel to an area that is rather "economically depressed" it is over run with stray dogs. I've never seen anything quite like this, cats are everywhere.
So yesterday Brett and I decided we would take another walk down to the shopping center so he could retrieve his other game tickets. The rest of group had made their way down to the beach for some fun in the sun and we agreed to meet up for the games that afternoon. Now allow me to paint a little picture. Here in Natal we have come to understand that there are two forecasts for the weatherman to choose from. Sunny and boiling, or torrential rains. Chicago and thereabouts I call home have seen very little of the sun since some point in early 2013. Brett's natural snowflake complexion has been hiding under the perpetual cloudcover of the British Isles for years. Of course we feel that it shouldn't be all that big a deal to bare our chests and backs to absorb some of the warm Equatorial rays of sun while we walk. We were both wearing sunglasses so the reflection of the sun and the magical orb of light that must have been radiating around our stretch of sidewalk was of no consequence to either of us. Then at about the 2 mile mark it became painfully obvious that we had made a dire mistake that will haunt us for days. We must have looked like a couple of freshly boiled Gulf Shrimp because the moment we stopped to look for a cab, we had one available. Now the use of Spangortugueslish will not only get us where we are going, for the most part, but it also provides ample opportunity for tales of intrigue. After a little small talk I ask our local Magelin whats up with all the cats in Natal. "Hay muchos gatos aqui...porque?" He looks at me quizically so I say,"cats...gatos...mucho gatos aqui." He is obviously deep in thought we he replies, "meow-meows?" Yes, that just happened. I confim that it is indeed the meow-meow's of which I speak. He nearly hits the car in front of us as he looks at me like I am a mad-man.
At this point we are at a stoplight across from our destination so I say "this is good" and attempt to exit the vehicle. In reaction to my move our fearless driver very, very quickly says no! This is obviously a bad idea but I don't yet understand why. He proceeds to produce a whistle with so shrill a sound that it must be used to call in whales from the deep blue sea and blows it right there in the car with Brett and I looking straight at him. This is what the police will do to HIM if WE try to leave the car anywhere but along the sidewalk. Fair enough, keep the change. Every cat in a 2 mile radius must have been startled by that whistle though I am sure they immediately went back about their business.