Monday, 11 January 2010

On the road (6)

Rozeno, my taxi driver in Foz, says his cousin does haircuts for 6 Reais. Was I interested? I must have looked rather skeptical and so he pointed at his own cut. She did my hair, he smiled. Apart from the fact that his hair (straight) and mine (curly) are completely different, it clearly did not look like a cut that I would want for myself.

I planned to travel through the province of Missiones in Argentina but no travel agency in Foz seemed to have a map or an idea how it looks like on the Argentinian side.

So back to Cascavel where all shops are huge - the ones that sell refrigerators seem to have hundreds of them on display, the same goes for shops with furniture and ..., well, you name it. The town makes you think that it was built by the Soviets or by an American distribution center. Everything looks functional here, I didn't note any beautiful old buildings (like in many other Brazilian towns), the place felt absurd, I loved it.

I bought my sandals in Sri Lanka - a young girl can't take her eyes off them: she looks amused that a man is walking around in such footwear. They are old, well-worn and on the brink of falling apart. The shoemaker I go to see is originally from Italy and loves to philosophise, especially about Brazilian politics - what, on the negative side, distinguishes Brazil from other countries is the violence, he opined. He reminded me of another shoemaker in Mendoza who also hails originally from Italy and who, to my surprise, was full of praise for Nixon (until then I had never heard anybody praising Nixon).

I look at the map. Francisco Beltrão looks like a three-hour-ride. Pato Branco is much nicer, says the travel agent. Another look at the map. It does not seem too far, maybe an hour from Francisco Beltrão, so that would be, all in all, about four hours, right? The travel agent checks and says it is six hours. How come? She checks again. It is a local bus, 56 stops, "para em toda esquina", but this ticket we do not have available here, you need to buy it at the Rodoviaria.

Later in the afternoon I walk into another travel agency. I explain to the travel agent that I do not want to be more than four hours on the bus. She looks into several possibilities, to no avail. Four eyes sometimes see more than two, she says, and walks off to consult with a guy in the back of the office who suggests Barracão at the Argentinian border for that would be just about four hours. I'm happy and buy the ticket.

When, the next day, I arrive in Barracão at three o'clock in the afternoon, it is pouring. I step into the Rodoviaria and ask for the next bus to Chapecó. Oh oh oh, says the guy behind the counter, there is only one, at three o'clock in the morning. From São Miguel it would be easier. And when is there a bus to São Miguel? It is the one you came with. Okay, then I will go to São Miguel right now, is that possible? The guy behind the counter shouts at the bus driver who nods. It is possible.

Buses that run through midday often stop for a lunch break at some huge churrascaria somewhere in the pampas. Not all of them though. The lady at the Rodoviaria in Chapecó explains that this depends on the bus company. My bus to Passo Fundo, for instance, runs through midday but doesn't stop because it will arrive at 1.30 pm which is still considered lunch time.

Passo Fundo. In the local paper I read that doctors refuse to go to certain bairros to treat patients because their cars were vandalised while they were going about their work.

In the cathedral on the main square. A woman in her forties with two big grocery bags and, I assume, her two daughters, one about six, the other about four. The woman goes down on her knees at the back of the church and proceeds kneeling to the alter in front. The distance is considerable. The elder daughter takes the two grocery bags and runs with them past her mother and sister towards the alter where she waits for them. The younger daughter first stays back but then runs after her mother. When she reaches her, she also goes down on her knees and proceeds in the way her mother does until the two of them finally reach the alter and pray to, I suppose, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, as the cathedral is called.

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