Thursday, February 3, 2011

Interesting points of Brasilian Portuguese

By and by we are slowly picking up the local lengua. When some people speak to us, we understand almost everything, while the speach of others sounds totally foreign to us (like Luis the trucker). We suspect that the accents vary greatly from one state to another, the most clear sounding (to us) are the accents of the southern states. These are the few points we managed to figure out from chatting with drivers and reading road signs:
D is pronounced as G, as in `edad` (age), pronounced `edaJ` and `onde` (where), pronounced as `onJe`
L is pronounced as O, as in `Natal` (a city on the coast), pronounced `NataO`
T is pronounced as CH, as in `Internet`, pronounced as `InterneCH` - that´s why the girls at the gas station in Rio Preto were so confused when we asked for an InterneT place nearby.
M is pronounced as N, as in an article `com` (with), pronounced as `coN`

Our waiting time on the service center outside of Sao Jose do Rio Preto has significantly improved compared to the 3 day wait in Foz do Iguacu. Here, we spent only 2 full days. The scenario was very similar: we picked a strategic spot near the gas pumps, from where we could see both the trucks pulling up to pick up fuel and also those pulling up to the restaurant/washrooms. As soon as we spotted movement, one of us would get up and stroll over to the truck.
`Hi, would you be heading north by any chance?`
`I said, North? Goiania? Anapolis? BELEM?` also pointing north with a finger
`Aaa, no.`
`Thank you, have a good trip, then`
The dialog has repeated itself for over 60 times , varying only slightly. Sometimes we would approach a friendlier-than-others truckers. They would ask where we were from, and when they found out we were Russian, they would offer us shower coupons, snacks and lots of bad advices on how to hitch hike. The winner in this category is: `If you have no luck here today, you should walk to the next truck stop, it is like 10 kms down the road... or may be 50.`
Inspired by Juan Villarino, we made a similiar sign in hopes of starting conversations with people: The message reads: `Two russian hitch-hiking around Latin America`. But, alas, it did not help much. Some truckers stopped and read the message, by syllables. They briefly scanned the map, obviously not connecting the image with anything they were familiar with. One trucker came up, looked at it and pointed to Brasil: `And this is the United States, right?` Hm.
By the end of the first day we met Aparecido, a super-friendly trucker. He was waiting for a load for the fifth day in a row! He asked us if we ate, and when we said no, he got excited and busy. He said:`I do not have much, but I would like to offer you a traditional Brasilian dish - arroefejao` (rice and beans). He pulled out the pots and the stove from his kitchen box on the side of the trailer and reheated his left over rice and beans for us. We were not particularly hungry but we could not turn down such an open-hearted offer. We ate and constantly complimented the cheff on the good taste of the meal, to an obvious satisfaction of the host. `This is the best dish in Brasil!` he said proudly, `Arroz e Feijao.`
After we washed the dishes and installed ourselves on our spot again, Aparecido (his name means `the one who appeared` by the way) appeared from around the corner. He pulled out his cell phone and put on some simple melody. It sounded like a hymn, and he was humming some words in tune with it. After we listened to some three compositions, Aparecido said: `this is holy music. It praises the Lord. We play this music in our church, the Congregation of Christ in Brasil.` Just so it happened that there was a service at the local chapter that evening and Aparecido invited us to come. We were so bored at the gas station that a visit to a `New Religion Church` sounded like an entertainment worth exploring. So we agreed.
At 6 pm Aparecido appeared again. He was dressed in a suit and looking sharp, eyes glowing with excitement. `Come, my friends, come, the service will start soon!`
We loaded into his truck and drove to the church. The interior of the church looked more like an office space rather than a place of worship: white walls and strong white light. No cross, no icons, no decoration. There was no altar, but instead of it, a white space with two white columns on the sides, supporting the golden letters: `IN THE NAME OF JESUS`. A woman sitting next to Anastasia, said: `Today you will meet the lord (senhor).` Anastasia thought that the woman was referring to the pastor, so she answered: `Oh, I already met him. In the corridor outside.` The woman looked at her, hesitated for a moment and then said: `No, the OTHER lord, JESUS`.
The service consisted of singing hymns (the males in the audience could yell out any number from 1 to 450, and the congregation would leaf through their singing books, find the right page and sing the appropriate 3 verse hymn) and praying (again, the males would come up to the front pedestal and pray very loudly to the Lord. The congregation was free to yell `Great God!`, `Thank God!` or `Halleluya!!!` whenever they thought appropriate). It all lasted two hours. When it was over, people started shaking hands and kissing each other on the cheek. Everybody wanted to meet the Russians, of course... We were quite tired of the strong illumination, loud singing and attention when we went out. Tears were running down Aparecido´s cheeks when we were driving back. `I am so happy, so happy for you. It was your first time today! It is the happiest day of my life, I will never forget it. I will pray that you will get a ride tomorrow`, he said.
The next day we spent just like the day before. It was not as boring as waiting for a ride near Bajo Caracoles back in Argentinian Patagonia but still, we were thoroughly bored.
In the morning of Day 3, we finally asked the right person - he agreed to take us to Goiania! Whoo-hooooo!
We were moving again! That was good. The driver said not a word during the 5 hour drive. That was not so good, but we could live with it, as long as we were moving! Silent Andres dropped us off at yet another truck stop in Goiania. 5 minutes of asking for rides there (Anastasia scores!)and we were underway to Anapolis with a brand new (2011 model) Scania. The music worked, the driver was interesting and talkative (only two years trucking...) and the landscape finally changed from never ending fields of soja, corn and sugar cane to rolling hills covered with forests and bamboo groves on the sides of the road. We fell asleep on the truck stop in Anapolis, 600 kms closer to Belem, 2000 more to go.


  1. WaOu! We've just arrived in Posadas few minutes ago (same road as you took) and that's great to hear from you. Hitchiking in Brazil sounds different from Argentina. We are on our way to Iguazu and after we think about doing a loop in Paraguay & Uruguay. We you all the best for your ride up to Belem? Do you have a boat yet there?

  2. Thanks for the Portuguese lessons :)
    By the way, I did not imagine you were serious when you told me that my picture of you hitching to Punta Arenas would suit as a profil picture...
    You look like two Russian drunk people, especially George :)
    Good luck mates!

  3. Cloe: haha, it would be cool if you camped in the park at the same spot as us:) No, we don´t have the boat arranged yet... and you, you got your next ride planned out?:)))
    Francuz: You are welcome, grateful donations can be made in gold and silver coins.