As I recover from a great aikido class last night, my body still asking “why the hell did you do that to me,” I am sipping a cappuccino (with the obligatory whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and Jimmies on top), finalizing the rest of my flights around the country for the coming month. The coffee shop I’m sitting in is playing what sounds like the greatest hits of the 80’s (“Alive and Kicking,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” etc.).
How’s my trip so far? Great. Every day I debate whether or not I should buy myself a pair of sneakers, and at the end of the day, I look at my Birkenstocks and Eccos and say “eh, they look fine and I feel fine,” so maybe not. The cost of my remaining in-country flights is more than I’d expected to be paying, but that’s what I get for waiting until the last minute to book them. Since I did not yet know my itinerary until yesterday, I did not really have a choice.
I woke up late this morning, as usual. The housekeepers were dining at the table, but when they started to scurry away, I insisted they stay and finish their breakfast with me. They do not speak much English at all, which is great, when the intention is to learn the local language. Apparently my hosts next week don’t speak English either. That should be interesting.
I walk around the streets of Maringá feeling very safe, even on my half-hour walk across town to the dojo. The streets are normally busy, even later in the evening, when many people work out in a municipal exercise facility which rings part of Maringá Park.
Cappuccino here has a different meaning, depending on where you have it. It could be an espresso with milk. It could be an espresso with milk and chocolate. Check that – a LOT of chocolate with a little espresso and milk drizzled on top… It could also be a cappuccino with milk, chocolate, whipped cream, and chocolate sprinkles, like the one I just had. No wonder my hands are shaking.
I’ve enjoyed the two aikido classes I had at Aikido Maringá. The people are hospitable, courteous, and happy to have me there. The training is very comparable to ours, minus the more recent daito ryu influence that Gleason sensei has introduced to our practice. The most notable technical difference is that here, we do a technique twice and then switch roles of uke and nage, as opposed to the four and four manner in which we practice at home. We also tend to repeat the same technique for a longer period. The emphasis seems to be more on one’s own technique, and there is not a lot of muscle, or attempts to stop nage from doing the technique. The ukemi is soft. The mat is hard. The language barrier is practically nonexistent, as it should be.
As of last night, I observed that my connection to servers outside of the country via my hosts’ DSL connection was really slow. I was unable to maintain a connection to any servers at home, and therefore could not do anything significant online. Fortunately, although it’s slower, I am able to tether my iPhone and use it to connect to the Internet more reliably. I’m not sure for how long, though, as my prepaid data and minutes seem to be getting gobbled up pretty quickly. I’m pretty sure I’m over what I thought was going to be my limit. There are a lot of wireless networks here, and most of them are encrypted. Depending on where you go, they’re using anything from MAC address filtering (hah), WEP (hah!), WPA (hm), or WPA2 to secure them. When I’ve asked for WPA passwords so far, they’ve been no more than 8 characters and usually pretty simple.
Imported goods, especially cars and electronic equipment, are very expensive here. My 11.6″ MacBook Air (base price: $1,199) costs the equivalent of $2,235 here – almost twice as much. Apparently many people buy their computers in Paraguay, where things are cheaper, then bring them into the country themselves, as they can do so in limited quantities without incurring the high taxes that would otherwise make things much more expensive. I’ve heard that guns are imported from there as well (but haven’t seen any of that yet).
At one of my hosts’ practices, they are developing what appears to be a medical records application. Yesterday’s discussion at lunch centered around how to charge for it – either with a one-time sale or an ongoing software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Apparently the one-time method would hit the purchaser with a bigger tax hit, so they were leaning for the SaaS model instead.
As I’m typing this, the power just went out in the cafe. I’m on batteries, so it hasn’t affected me yet. I wonder if I’ll be able to pay the check without electricity.