January 23, 2007

Brazil First Impressions
Porto Alegre, Brazil

Linguistically, I'm completely crippled in this country. I'm so thankful that Tatiana can speak Portuguese (with a fantastic degree of fluency); it's going to get interesting when we part ways in a few days.

Portuguese is said to be another variation of Spanish, but to me, it sounds more like a mixture of French, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese. Watch a movie like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and listen to the dialog. The rhythmic way the speech pattern ungulates up and down, drawing out the final syllable of the word with a long twang—that's what this language sounds like. Well that, with a big dose of French.

I listen to conversation after conversation in Portuguese, and am completely lost. It annoys me to be disabled in such a manner—it's been a while since I've been in this position—but very motivating at the same time. Tatiana reminds me that I've only been in the country for 12 hours, and to give it time.

The written language I can somewhat decipher, but with all the crazy accented characters used several times over in every word, the language looks like the gibberish a corrupted text document spits out to a confused reader.

Expensive Expenses

The price of bus travel in Brazil puts a huge frown on my face—by far the most expensive of any country I've ever traveled to. I thought Chile and Argentina had over-priced buses, but Brazil completely blows them out of the water.

A bus in Brazil looks like it's charging, on average, around US$5–6 an hour (compared with Chile and Argentina's US$2–4/hour and Bolivia's US$1 or less). Now that might not sound like much, but when you consider the distances that you have to move in this massive country, the hours add up quickly (14–36 hour trips are the norm).

In some cases a flight can be had for almost the same price as a bus—which is absolutely absurd. It's clearly not because the flights are cheap, but because bus transit is so expensive.

It's going to cost me hundreds of dollars to bus about here.

It seems like the entire cost of living for this country is on the high side—perhaps it's like El Salvador, where there's a substantial absence of middle class, leaving only those who are well off and those who live in poverty.

This and That

Although my exposure to Uruguay's currency was only a week in duration, I miss their notes. Brazil's conversion is easier—about BR$2 to US$1—but the crazy beards sported by the figures on the Uruguayan peso were priceless.

By far the best bus terminal shower experiences I've had to date go to the facilities in Porto Alegre. For BR$6 (US$2.85) I received a towel, a large bar of soap (new), and a private washroom with sink, mirror, stool, and shower (with hot water and excellent pressure). This in transit travel shower is second only to the amazing facilities used at Narita, Tokyo's international airport, for US$5.

Not Impressed

Tatiana loves everything about Brazil, and the language is high on her list. Personally, I'm far from her feelings about the country, people, and language. My initial exposure to the transport, culture, and cost of living are leaving me wanting.

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