We finally arrive in the
frontier town of Manaus. Jack Sun, our second story here, picks
us up at the airport and drops us off at the hotel. The heat and
humidity is quite nasty. We’re very close to the equator here.
We explore along the riverside down through the banana market to
the docks where the Amazon boats come in. All around the
neighbouring streets lurk sex workers… I could swear I saw Black
Vanilla from Tamatave around the corner. The surrounding pool
halls are probably full of gangsters and assassins just killing
time until their next hit. They stare us down as we cruise by.
No one bothers us, but there’s definitely anarchy in the air. We
are in the Brazilian frontiers.
We take a boat up the Amazon today with Jack and three Chinese
dudes from Hebei province. The breeze from the speedboat is
deceiving… it’s actually an unbearably hot and humid day. We
travel along Rio Nero and Rio Bianco. The passing landscape
along the riverbanks appears raw and untouched since time
existed. Each time we pass by any signs of life, I’m curious how
long these river people have lived there and what their lives
Our boat finally comes to a pit stop. We pull into a lagoon area
of a swamp. Before we even come to a full stop, the boat is
swarm by children beggars charming the gringos for US dollars
with their exotic jungle pets. It’s Tijuana in the swamps! My
“Tarzan” notions are finally shattered… if these once raw river
swamps of the Amazons have been gentrified for the new
millennium... how will the remaining rain forests survive?
We get back to civilization… if you can qualify that. We stroll
along the seedy river port through the red light district… the
frontier bars… arriving at Jack’s Mandarin Restaurant. It’s an
unpretentious buffet style cafeteria with sparse Chinese décor.
Jack introduces us to his son Eddy. He strikes me as totally
Asian American, probably from his university years spent in
Seattle. However, he claims to be more of a chameleon… fitting
into whatever the situation or environment presents him. He
might be right, seeing how he has manage to capitalize on his
Chinese background in landing his position within a Taiwanese
chip manufacturer that has set up shop in Manaus’ tax-free zone.
Manaus has a similar look as Tamatave, but with a booming gold
rush atmosphere and full of opportunities. People here are
making bucks fast however illegal it might be. The Teatro
Amazonas is physical proof of this. This opulent piece of
highbrow culture can only exist with the support of an affluent,
elitist society with some bucks behind it.
Back at the Mandarin, it’s lunchtime again. After lunch, Jack
takes us back to his house for an interview. He’s a straight
shooting guy who views identity in a global way. He despises old
Chinese thinking… comparing China to an old man who is burden by
history. He sees Brazil as a young man with new ideas and full
of opportunity. But I think he is referring to a China that he
left behind in the 60’s. Nonetheless, I can see where Eddy gets