September 9, 2005
Fortaleza, Brazil –
Maybe I’m just tired from arriving in Fortaleza at 2 AM last night only to be told my hotel was full. Or maybe it’s the constant wind. It could be the random sprouting of multi-story buildings blocking the view of what I’ve heard is a beautiful blue-green ocean. But I’m not overly impressed with Fortaleza.
It hasn’t even been 24 hours. I’ll give it another day.
My two contacts in Fortaleza are middleaged North Americans with young Brazilian wives. "Charlie" emailed me over two years ago to ask for advice about his upcoming trip to Brazil. He’d just gone through a gruesome divorce in Canada and was going to Brazil to recover for a couple months. Should he take his computer? How much equipment would customs let him enter with? Charlie does voice overs and wanted to set up shop even if temporarily while in Brazil. Fast forward two years. Charlie emailed me a photo of him and his new wife standing in front of a building where they now lived. The forty year age difference was obvious in the photo, but then so was his bliss.
Since moving here, Charlie has helped so many foreign men do the same, that he’s decided he may as well turn it into a business. I am his first client. He finds me a hotel, shows me the best restaurants in town, gives me recommendations about what to see and do in Fortaleza.
Charlie is driving me around the Beira Mar neighborhood when he points out a very tall apartment building facing the sea. "A millionaire American lives in the penthouse," he says. "Why?" I ask, wondering why anyone with lots of money would choose to live in Fortaleza. "Same reason anyone lives here," Charlie says. "He’s 70 years old, and he’s got a 31-year old Brasilera wife, and a nine-month old baby. " Well, of course. What was I thinking.
"Charlie, are you going to have kids too?" I ask.
"Well sure," he says. "Lord knows I have enough already, but why not? You only go around once. Besides, it comes with the package when you marry a Brasilera."
I brace myself against the wind as we step out of the car . "Is this wind the reason that kitesurfing is so popular here?" I yell. "Absolutely right!" he yells back over the wind. The palm trees look like inside-out umbrellas.
Charlie says, "Fortaleza is the number one vacation spot for Europeans. Americans would be here too but they’ve got Cancun."
I knew something smelled familiar. Fortaleza is Cancun in a convection oven.
I ask about The Thing that Louis in Rio told me was the biggest problem in Fortaleza.
"Are the rumors about prostitution here true?" I ask. "No, there’s way more to Fortaleza," he says. "The Brazilian government has passed strict laws to end it. People vacation here for many reasons."
"So where are the white women?" I ask looking around. I haven’t seen so many middleaged white men with brown-skinned women since Bangkok. Oblivious to what I see, Charlie continues,"There are 100,000 more women in this city of 2 million than men. The Brasileras come from the interior hoping to meet a foreign man. They actually LIKE older men."
Fortaleza, where men are assured of getting laid without the hassle of three dates, dinner and a movie. Even counting airfare, a guy can save money and time dating here. The girls? I’m guessing they’d call it an even trade. The men offer them hope, otherwise called survival. And they offer the men another swipe at life.
But then, I’m a little grumpy. I’ll sleep on it another night.