January 14, 2007
I got lucky this morning because, while the Saint Laurant prison is usually closed, today it was open because the trans-Atlantic rowboats were getting ready to leave town. As I entered the prison grounds, I saw them on display in the courtyard. They were full of modern equipment like radios and GPS devices, but in the end, they were still rowboats. I was amazed that a group of people could have the patience, let alone the strength to make such a voyage.
The prison itself was also fascinating. Most of the buildings were falling down, but they still bore the marks where the prisoners were chained to the walls, and still gave a chilling idea of how horrible life must have been for those imprisoned there.
Later I walked around town with Craig, Dominique, and Otto. We came upon a parade of sorts, presumably for Carnaval, and sat on a curb for awhile to watch. There were a group of girls, being led by their teacher, who dressed like waitresses and carried trays with plates and martini glasses on them. They were followed by a percussion group, which consisted of a bunch of teenagers who banged somewhat of a discernible tune on homemade drums. This was followed by a group of overweight, middle-aged men who dressed in leotards and wigs. They pranced around like women carrying a badminton racket in one hand and a beer in the other.
That appeared to be the extent of the parade except the strangest act of all. While everything else was happening, there was a group of kids dressed entirely in white, including white masks and gloves, who constantly chased and attempted to corner the rest of the kids and violently powder their faces with flour.
Our conversation consisted of Dominique telling stories of which I believed not a word, and Otto telling of his persistent fascination with, and paranoia of, the world.
Craig: So Dominique, have you been to Australia?
Dominique: Yeah, I sailed there on my forty-meter yacht. I got it from a police auction in Miami, just like my new Cadillac Escalade that I got for $2000.
Otto: Jesus Christ! Miami is dangerous. The drug dealers will kill you for $2. They have nothing to lose.
Me: The prison was interesting, but the part where Papillon was held was closed.
Dominique: Papillon is a bunch of bullshit! He told nothing but lies and exaggerations.
Me (thinking): Sounds like someone else I know.
Craig: We're heading into Brazil next.
Otto: Jesus Christ! Be careful there. They'll kill you for $1. Those guys have nothing to lose.
And so on all day long. Talk about a couple of characters! These are two of the most fascinating people I've met in a long time, and to have met them both at once was quite the treat!
The photo album for this entry is here.