Tom recently started a new job that required him to travel to Bauru, Brazil outside of Sao Paulo for some meetings.
I invited myself along, because who doesn’t want to go to Brazil? Brazilian folks are truly the kindest and most welcoming people I’ve ever encountered. As a person who often worries about whether or not people like me, Brazil is a haven. Everyone seems to really like everyone, genuinely. If this is just an act, who cares, I like it.
We arrived last Tuesday morning, after my first red eye flight. I was worried that the travel would ruin me, but it actually was relatively painless, even in lowly coach class. We watched a movies (Anchorman 2, for the record, which I didn’t hate as much as everyone else seemed to, but maybe because my expectations were so low), and took handfuls of Benadryl and slept through most of the flight.
I really meant to learn some Portuguese, but I’m about the least linguistic person ever, so it didn’t work out so much. As soon as we landed, we realized this might be a problem, as we couldn’t figure out how to order coffee or how to pay for it. Tom’s company had sent a driver to take us the four hours from Sao Paulo to Bauru, and although he spoke as little English as we do Portuguese, we somehow got it worked out. I’ve learned that smiles and hand gestures can get you a long way.
We dozed off and on on the drive, but I woke often enough to take in the lovely Brazilian landscape. I took some groggy notes on the scenery as we rode:
The soil is the red clay of Oklahoma, the mountains the rich blue of Virginia, though there is much more of both here. I don’t recognize much of the vegetation, but there are cows, and that makes me feel more at home.
There are pay phones on the road sides, but few pedestrians. When you do see someone on foot, they’re in places you wouldn’t expect. A trio of young girls, stylish in dress, walking through an overgrown median. A farmer climbing over a wire fence, nothing behind him but exposed soil and dry shrubbery and sky and mountains and tall, skinny trees.
The colors are mostly green, burnt orange, brown and yellow. Puffs of magenta on blooming shrubbery are somewhat startling. But the lack of spectral variety does not, however, result in a lack of beauty. There are palm trees and horses. The flora are stoic, dignified. The fauna have an air of notable sophistication.
The “tall skinny trees”, are actually eucalyptus, a popular crop in the area along with sugar cane and corn.
As I wrote above, there are actually a lot of things about Bauru that remind me of my native Oklahoma. The red dirt, the farming culture, the friendly people who will invite you in for a cup of coffee even if they’ve never met you (and, in this case, can’t communicate with you without translation) and the idea that beer and water are practically the same thing.
I’ve been here less than a week, so I can’t pretend to be an expert, but I’ve made a number of observations:
- In the winter, which is the current season, even if it’s incredibly warm and you want to frolic about in your sundress soaking up the rays without a care, you’ll be the only person doing so. People wear pants. Because it’s winter. Even if it’s 90 degrees.
- Lunch is important. Dinner an afterthought. Beef is the #1 food group. Best ways to have it: picanha, Brazilian barbecue (try Baby Buffalo) or a famous Bauru sandwich. Be prepared to beef up at least twice a day. Vegetarians, I’ve no advice.
- You may get weird looks if you walk somewhere, as opposed to driving. Be careful of motorists, who aren’t particularly used to or aware of pedestrians. At night, don’t worry about walking around alone. The city is quiet and peaceful.
- Almost everything is eaten with a knife and fork. Await approval if you want to use your hands to eat a sandwich, it may or may not be okay. But then again, even if you commit some terrible faux pas, these people are too damned nice to correct you – so go on with your bad self.
- Caipirinhas and papaya taste infinitely better in Brazil than they do in the states.
- There are a lot of dogs. Beware if the sight of a dog makes you miss yours so much you cry in public, because this will happen often.
We’ve seen and done a lot in a a short time. Meals and booze are, as usual, a central focus. But I really enjoy wandering around the streets of the city trying to absorb what ordinary days feel like in a foreign country. I am not very well traveled internationally (yet!), and being here, in a non-tourist oriented city, is something I feel incredibly fortunate to experience.
We’re very slowly picking up some bits of the language. I can now say thank you like a boss. Muito obrigado!
(I promise not to make selfies a regular thing. And if I do selfie, I can pretty much guarantee that less than 50% of my face will be visible.)