"Brazil 2001" story # 8

Johnny Pessoa, Paraiba           April 14, 2001

I still had one week more with Súla, for those of you who haven´t already heard enough about her to have shot yourselves in the head.
     We re-united in Porto de Galinhas. The murky water made for inopportune snorkelling, and the owner of my hostel, Alberto, kept flirting with me. Thus, the high point of the stay was discovering what exactly the juice of the nut-like Amazonian fruit guaraná reminded me of. It´s just like drinking a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, if you can imagine that. Umbu juice is also good and icy, tasting like lemon meringue pie.
     Súla and I headed next for Johnny Pessoa. The city ranks second in the world for green-ness and, in my book, third for pretty girls (behind Reykjavik and Miami).
     I should know these things. I spent 3 1/2 hours traversing the city by bus going in the wrong direction alone! Because, above all, Johnny Pessoa ranks first in the world for most confusing transportation system (as I proved).
     I remember well one of the seven times I rode the wrong bus, because I became "com riva" (pissed off). I yelled at the short, leathery-skinned bus driver for not changing appropriately the sign of the bus´s destination.
     The driver just shrugged his shoulders and smiled, as I unleashed my first verbal assault in broken Portuguese: "Por que voce nao trocou o nome da destina!? Esta cidade tem muitas turisticas; como eles podem saber onde ir!? Por que ... "
     Forty minutes later, we got to my destination, the interstate bus system. I´d given the driver a hard time, but I respected his good humor while he worked. So, I said, joking, "Tenho conhecido voce por muito tempo agora. Vou ter saudade cuando eu te deixo." (I´ve known you for a long time now. I´m gonna miss you when I leave, ol´ pal.)
     For the first time, he grew serious. Before he opened the door to let me leave, he extended a firm hand and said loudly, "Boa Viagem!" (Have a nice trip!) I´m not sure, but I think his eyes were a little teary to see me go.
     Other than riding the buses blindly, the main thing tourists do in Johnny Pessoa is visit the beaches. Ponta de Seixas is a forest-topped beach-side cliff that marks the easternmost point of South America. I took advantage of this photo opportunity, as did a Californite on pedal-bike. Logically, he´d ridden there from the west, but I´d had no idea how far. "I started in Alaska," he told me.
     When you put that in perspective, it makes Súla´s and my efforts to walk to Tambaba beach the next day look pretty pathetic. Tambaba, considered one of the country´s best beaches and the only official nude beach, gave two equally excellent reasons to visit. But, it also gave a good reason not to visit it: it was a looong walk. And, Súla and I didn´t have a bike with us like that wussy Californicarian. We walked the area´s beaches for four hours without ever coming across a naked Johanna Pessoan. It was pretty disappointing.
     Our legs ached from the walk, and we were happy to get back to the apartment of Súla´s hospitable primos (cousins), Angelica and ´Mozinho.
     ´Mozinho (whose name means little love thing) was a nice, curious big galoot, and he was especially impressed that I could speak Portuguese. He called me "descanlivel" and "esperto." I had no idea what these words meant, and my timing couldn´t have been worse, because he was trying to call me smart. I imagine he´s changed his mind.
     If I´d thought I was smart, I was in for a humbling experience that night. Súla and ´Mozinho invited me to play Master, a trivia game in Portuguese geared for people who knew significantly more about Brazil then that it was a large exporter of Brazil nuts. Questions (when I was able to understand them) asked who scored the most goals during Brazil´s past victorious World Cups, which state´s capital was Cuiaba, and whether a hippopotamus grunts or roars (which isn´t Brazilian knowledge, but it is interesting, don´t you think? Answer below.)
     If answering the questions wasn´t difficult enough, asking them was even tougher. Imagine having to say this smoothly and intelligibly: "Qual é o nome do palacio onde trabalha a Secretária do Estado das Relacoes Exteriores do Brasil." Keep in mind the following few rules, which, if one is broken, Brazilians will assume you´re speaking German: o is pronounced oo, i is e, e is a, r is h, h isn´t pronounced unless following an l in which case it´s y, l at the end of a word is u, s is sometimes sh, x is a mystery letter, and a word´s second-to-last syllable is always emphasized except in the event of an accent mark in which case everyone breaks a dish and yells, "Opa!"
     Needless to say, my questions were followed more commonly by laughter and confusion than by correct answers. Actually, this worked to my advantage. I finished well ahead of Súla, who had to decipher my questions.
     Súla and I said goodbye the next day, and, at the risk of sounding sappy, let me just say this: the girl can wash some serious clothes! A fiend for cleanliness, Súla argued with me only over hygiene issues. "Tome um banho cada dos dias; use uma pinta; nao vesta suas cuecas mais que tres dias!" (Take more showers; comb your hair; don´t wear the same underwear more than three days!) Nag, nag, nag. I thought the whole point of having a girlfriend was that you no longer had to worry about attracting girls and you could let your personal appearance go.
     But, seriously, Súla scrubbed near-black socks of mine until they shined. She made me remember that one of my oldest, most favorite shirts had originally been blue.
     I was gonna miss Súla for her laundry, but for other things as well.

later, Modern Oddyseus

ANSWER: If you´re in the African savannah and you hear ... GRUNTING, run like crazy. Hippos kill more people each year than any animal. (Trivia saves lives.)

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