Thursday, 7 January 2010

On the road (5)

My hotel in Cascavel is right in the center of town; it is spacious, functional in a sixties-style and reminds me of the Riviera in Havana. "Só alguns minutinhos", the receptionist said when, after twenty minutes, I got impatient waiting for my taxi that after another ten minutes finally arrived - I would not call that "minutinhos".

A waiter in Cascavel, who had previously worked in a hotel in Foz do Iguaçu, said that Foz, at this time of the year, would be almost empty and that the high season was in June/July. Well, Foz was almost full and it was definitely the high season when I got there. It goes without saying that we all live on different planets and some are so different that I am not really sure that I want to contemplate that.

Iguaçu Falls. The trail felt like a sauna. The young couple next to me is from Paraguay. Very hot, they comment. I assume that is not very different in Paraguay, I say. Yes, indeed, they moan. What impresses them about Brazil is that it is very well organised. I had never associated Brazilians with organisational skills but the entry to the Iguaçu Falls is indeed well managed - once you had payed however, it became a different matter: the long queues to get out of the National Park were, well, pretty impressive.

Never again I will do one of these must-do tourist trips. To be herded around with thousands of others is definitely not my thing.

Rozeno is 70, works for a tourism agency and offered to drive me around - for agency rates, I eventually learned - when I could not find a taxi at the Rodoviaria. He drove much too fast for my taste. I told him to slow down. I used to drive an ambulance, he said, and I have never had an accident. That is not because of you that is because of the others, I told him, after he had almost overrun a dog - had I not shouted, he would not even have seen it.

Before he started working for the tourism agency, Rozeno had been a taxi driver. Four times he was assaulted - he showed me the mark the bullet had left on his neck. All assaults happened in the night, one was by a woman in her mid-forties who attacked him with a kitchen knife.

Some Brazilians have a disconcerting habit of jumping the queue. At the travel agency in my posh hotel in Foz, I was in the process of obtaining information from the agent when all of a sudden a guy approached the desk and started to speak to the agent who in turn responded - it seemed that I simply did not exist. It had happened to me many times before and so I knew what to do: I simply turned around and left.

At the Highway Police posts in Paraná battered cars that were involved in accidents are on display.

The lady sitting next to me on the bus to Cascavel was in her sixties and asked whether I was Italian. She was a "Paulista" and had lived in Italy and in Argentina and thought both countries much more cultured than Brazil where people were only mindlessly running after money. When I told her that I had worked in Rio Grande do Sul, she asked: is your wife from the South? No, I said, my ex-wife is from Cuba. In Curitiba there is a whole street full of Cubans, all dreaming of a Cuba that never was. I once had a Cuban lover, she whispered. So what do you think of Cubans? I inquired. "Péssimos", she said. In what respect? "En todos. São mentirosos." Well ..., I interjected. Not all of them of course, she said.

On the bus from Foz to Cascavel I felt occasionally like being on a road in the US - straight highways as long as the eye can see in wide-open landscapes.

2 comments:

Kalina said...

hello, stranger :-)
'interaction' is a key word in your texts about brazil, it seems.
very nice story about the guy jumping the queue. yes, it is ridiculous how this is a habit in brazil. if you complained the guy would probably get very mad at you and - maybe - say 'i just wanted to ask a question'. of they cannot wait.
cheers to new year!!! be happy!!!

AcrossCultures said...

Be happy too, Kalina!