Edson is 44, trained as an accountant and works in the tobacco industry; he is also one of my students. Before he left Santa Cruz for his Christmas holidays in Iratí, he said that I should keep him posted about my travels for we might meet in Curitiba. I never thought we would but actually did and went to see the botanical garden together - the city skyline in the background made me feel like I was in New York City´s Central Park - and to a churrasco, together with his extended family who lives in Cuitiba. A Brazilian churrasco means that you sit at a long table and the waiters and waitresses do their rounds offering you all sorts of meat, polenta, pasta ... actually almost everything that you can put on a fire ...
I had quite often heard of Iratí (where Edson and his wife hail from) during class and was curious to get to know the place. Iratí is a two-hour drive from Curitiba, has a population of 60´000 and feels very much way out there; I was introduced to Edson´s parents and the family of his brother-in-law and enjoyed animated conversations over excellent fish from "pesce e pague". I had never heard of "pesce e pague" (fish and pay) and this is what it is: you go to a fish farm that has several ponds where you then fish your own fish that you can eat in the restaurant there or take with you.
As usual, I do not know what I want in the padaria in Guarapuava and also do not always know what I am looking at. I ask the young and very pretty woman: What is this? And that? The young woman smiles and explains and, I all of a sudden realise, is flirting with me - and I feel enchanted. Your are not from here, right? I am asking because you have an accent. I let her know that, a few days ago, my accent had been qualified as a missionary accent and that I had not known that there was such a thing ... she bent over the counter and whispered that people who are closer to God have it. The expression on her face made clear that she did not mean it too seriously. Eventually I made up my mind what to buy. She was all smiles, wrapped up my pastel and my chocolate croissant, wished me a good trip and a Feliz Ano Novo and I felt just great.
The young man at the reception of my hotel says that the Portuguese spoken in Paraná is the most pure of the country. No wonder everybody thinks I speak with an accent for here everybody who is not a local has one. I did of course argue with the guy. In other words, I lectured him that there is no such thing as "the purest Portuguese" (who would define this anyway?). I am however not sure whether I was successful. I am a foreigner after all and foreigners, as we all know, do not really count.
Do you have internet in the hotel? On the first floor but it is very slow, said the young woman at the reception. That must be terribly slow, I smiled, when a Brazilian (who usually says it will take a few minutinhos when it takes half an hour or more) says that it is slow. She smiled back and said: I think it is better to tell the truth because it is really slow. And it was really slow indeed.
The next day, it was windy and cold and I needed to put on a sweater. During the first part of my bus ride to Cascavel, it was beautiful and sunny and I listened mostly to classical music on my iPod, the second part was rainy and overcast and my iPod music seemed out of place - it never ceases to amaze how profoundly the weather influences my soul.