A Foreigner in Brazil (14)
DEC 2005 (1): Travel with Claudia 1 Through 4 States
Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month. December 2005, part one: Travels with Claudia 1 through Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo, by bus.
On December 14, I completed my first full year in Belo Horizonte, in Brazil. I could look back to a thrilling year, with three moves, my stay in a foreign country with a very difficult language. It was also a year in which many friendships were made; many of these friendships are still preserved. It was a fascinating tropical year; I not only met the tropical seasons, but also got more acquainted with the Brazilian culture in all its facets. My ability to observe, as I have learned by experience through my student years, has resulted in a surprisingly great amount of personal impressions. And regarding this, I can only conclude that the cultural differences between the Netherlands and Brazil are considerably greater than I previously imagined. The little details may shape big differences between being understood and respected, and creating misunderstandings.
In the previous episode I already told about Claudia, my first friend from Brazil. I first had met her through internet, then in real, when Claudia and her boyfriend were in Nijmegen. Last month, I met her in Belo Horizonte. I was invited by Claudia to join her to Vila Velha, but her mother became ill. I had to wait a bit. My patience became rewarded with the invitation to celebrate her birthday in Vila Velha, early December, together with her younger sister and an aunt. Vila Velha is a historic town near Vitória, the capital of the small state of Espírito Santo. I chose to travel during the day, to enjoy and to wonder the beautiful scenery of the mountainous region of Eastern Minas Gerais en Espírito Santo. The bus followed the meandering and sometimes treacherous roads along the mountain slopes; therefore, the bus was not able to make speed. The distance of roughly six hundred kilometers were made in nine hours. Claudia and her aunt were waiting for me at the small bus station in Vila Velha. It was a warm reunion with Claudia, and her aunt welcomed me heartily.
Louis Vuitton and Dior in Rua Augusta,
Claudia had her birthday the next day. Together we would go to the Convento da Penha, a monastery is built on the hill top, from where you have magnificent views on both Vilha Velha and neighboring Vitória, when the weather conditions are fine. Unfortunately, the weather was not fine at all that day; it was gray all day, with fine drizzle. It was even feeling a bit chilling. We took the bus service that brought us to the top, and we visited the monastery and the Room of Miracles. Less than two years later, I visited the Convento again. That time, I was luckier with bright and sunny weather conditions. As a birthday gift, I invited Claudia, her younger sister, and her aunt to watch the newest Harry Potter movie. We went to the shopping mall, in which the movie theater was located. The movie was in Portuguese, but I was lucky enough having read the story already, so I was able to follow the story without many problems.
The next day, Claudia had a big surprise for me. She asked me to join her on her bus trip to São Paulo, to visit a good friend of her. The bus route from Vila Velha to São Paulo runs through the state of Rio de Janeiro, so I entered this tiny state for the first time. At that time, I had no idea at all that I would visit the city of Rio de Janeiro seven times in just two years. The bus trip took fourteen hours, and we had to spend the night sleeping in the moving bus. Following the arrival at the bus terminal in São Paulo, we had to travel a short distance by subway, to arrive in the We then had a short distance by subway in Sao Paulo, to arrive in the fashionable district of Jardim São Paulo. Diana, one of Claudias best friends was living there, in a rented luxurious apartment of an apart(ment) hotel, as these complexes are called here. You live there independently, with the hotel service, including the security and regular cleaning.
Diana had been a model for a number of years, she showed me her impressive-looking portfolios. Diana lived and worked in the apartment as a representative of beauty care. Together with her colleague, with whom she shared the apartment, she traveled regularly crisscross the region to visit her customers. Diana is very spontaneous and very talkative, and I was lucky enough that she also speaks English fluently, albeit a bit less fluent than Claudia. I joined the three ladies when walking along the fashionable shopping streets, including Rua Augusta, where names as Dior, Louis Vuitton and Cartier are screaming to you. The stores were all luxurious, as if they were having some discrete competition for the customers. This is Brazil, a different kind of Brazil that I had not met in Belo Horizonte. It is hard to imagine that very poor slums are located on hill slopes, only a few kilometers away from this oasis of luxury.
I also got acquainted with one of the largest and most luxurious shopping malls in the city: Shopping Iguatemi. Later, I would visit shopping malls that bear the same name: in southern Florianópolis and in northeastern Maceió. The shopping mall was filled with a huge Christmas decor with many components of American origin. I could imagine very well that American tourists visiting this mall might feel at home here. That same evening I was introduced to the nightlife in São Paulo. I joined the three ladies to a so-called boate – a night club – where I had to pay thirty reais for the entrance. The ladies were invited to enter the club for free. Claudia and I were still tired from the bus travel, our legs were hurting. Yet we were able to keep on dancing until five in the morning.
By Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom
- Brazilian Days (251): September 8 (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)
- Travel in Brazil: Bus Travel Belo Horizonte – FORTALEZA (10). The Sandcliffs in Canoa Quebrada (CE) (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)