BRAZIL – subjective summary

We spent exactly two months in Brazil. We traveled almost 6,000 kilometers, spending many hours talking to drivers and people who took us in. Here are our observations and curiosities that we learned.

DIFFERENCES

As we have already mentioned, every state is very different in terms of landscape, language, people, food. Bahia, for example, is the most ‘wild’ state – the most chaotic and cluttered. There is the highest unemployment, most of the inhabitants are black, food is more spicy, and Portuguese sounds the most melodic there. But southern states like Parana are more ‘European’ – cleaner and organized. Many of the inhabitants are descendants of Europeans who emigrated to Brazil at the end of the 19th century or after the Second World War, so you can meet many white people with blond hair and also eat typically European food, such as pizza.

A comparison of the example street in Salvador (Bahia) and Curitiba (Parana)

RUBBISH

Brazil is beautiful, but unfortunately, very littered. Moving between successive places we passed a lot of waste along the road, but also in cities. When drivers asked us how we liked Brazil, we always praised the country very much, but we paid attention to the amount of rubbish. Everyone admitted that we were right, but it happened that the driver ate the bar a moment after such a conversation, and the paper was thrown out of the window… Generally, there is a lack of ecological awareness. In the shops, each vegetable is packed in a separate bag, and all together put in the next bag. And then all this ends up somewhere along the road. In cities, there is no segregation of rubbish and in favelas there are no garbage containers, and the garbage truck wouldn’t even be able to get there. As a result, people leave rubbish on the street, before the favela’s entrance. On the favela Julio Otoni in Rio de Janeiro we spent a week – every day in front of the entrance a pile of smelly waste accumulated, sometimes “juice from rubbish” ran down the street. However, it should be added that a definitely bigger problem is in the northern part of the country. Although there are notable exceptions. A group of Brazilians from Bahia, whom Michal met in the park Chapada Diamantinay, brought down the garbage they produced up in the mountains to throw them outside the park. And in addition, they also took the organics – peel from bananas and watermelon.

Rubbish on the favela’s entrance

LANGUAGE

Only Portuguese. In the most touristic parts of Rio, English might be useful, but in general without any Portuguese basics (which Michał luckily had) it would be very difficult for us. Spanish is also useful, because it is very similar and thanks to that you can quickly learn the so-called “portñol” – a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese, thanks to which you can also get along (the case of Ola). It must be added that the Brazilians often talked with us as if they didn’t realize at all that we might not understand – they spoke quickly, indistinctly, with a full mouth. Once in one hostel, the cleaning lady was offended at Ola, that she didn’t answer when the lady murmured something under her nose (in fact she answered, but maybe too quietly 😉 ). Only the owner of the hostel explained to her later that we are foreigners and we don’t understand everything.

So as no driver has any doubts – we can have a chat on the way!

POLITICS AND RELIGION

Absolutely every driver touched on this topic. They complained that there is a huge corruption, that the president is the greatest thief of all time, that the law favors robbers. For example: a truck driver is attacked and killed. The perpetrator is caught and goes to prison. If the perpetrator was supporting his wife and child, they receive financial assistance from the state each month during his detention. If the driver had a wife and child, the family doesn’t get anything. In the subject of religion, we were questioned by virtually every person we met. Brazilians are quite religious, the main denomination is Catholicism. In the north there are also tribal and African religions, eg. Candomblé, while in the south many young people don’t profess any religion. At the beginning, we were quite surprised and embarrassed by direct questions about our religion, because we were afraid that if we answer that we don’t have any, we will be thrown away immediately as godless. Fortunately, nothing like that happened and everyone just nodded in understanding and admitted that we could be a good people without any confession.

Church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim in Salvador, where both Catholic and Candomblé ceremonies take place

TRANSPORT

The railway barely exists. Individual railway lines exist around the largest agglomerations, sometimes a cargo line will occur, in particular in Minas Gerais. Almost everything is transported by trucks. There are many of them on the roads, many trucks have a double semitrailer and they weigh up to 70 tons in total (whereas in Poland the permissible weight is 40 tons). Many of them are very old, just like cars.

Special cargo

FOOD

As already mentioned, different in different states. In Bahia more spicy, in Minas Gerais more cheesy, in Parana more European. However, there are two things that can be noticed throughout the country: delicious beef (even in the cheapest places!) and lots of sugar. When ordering coffee, you have to say that you don’t want to have it sweetened. Otherwise you get a sugar solution with a color and the smell of coffee… Well, unless someone likes it. Eg. Michał. Chocolate also has a more sugar flavor than cocoa. Brazilians also consume huge amounts of sweetened, carbonated beverages. Rarely do you drink water or tea at dinner. Another food curiosity is ‘taxa de desperdício’, literally translating ‘tax for leftovers’. In Brazil there are many ‘eat as much as you want’ restaurants, in addition they are cheap – prices between 10 and 15 PLN. To avoid the situation when someone takes a pile of food, and then not eat everything, a fee for leftovers was introduced. Usually in range of 5 – 10 PLN. A very good idea to limit food wasting.

Michał happy over his plate. Will we pay taxa de desperdício today?

SAFETY

It’s always a very relative matter. Nothing happened to us, we didn’t have a single dangerous situation (in terms of people). We were strolling at night in Rio, lived in the favela, slept at gas stations, hitchhiked. We’ve met only good people. And each of them told us that we must be very careful because it’s dangerous. Since nothing bad has happened to us, it may seem that they are exaggerating. However, every day the media report further assaults and robberies, and on the day of our departure from Rio in Rocinha – one of the most dangerous favelas, broke out a battle between the gang and the police, in which several people were killed (including one tourist passing on the nearby highway). In addition, we passed a lot of buildings fenced with high walls, barbed wire or wire under tension. Another thing is road safety. Truck drivers said there are a lot of accidents and many people drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It happened to us to stop with the driver for a break, during which he drank two beers and, as if nothing happened, drove on, when we already felt little dizzy.

Our safe favela

PEOPLE

Absolutely amazing. Open, smiling, they talk strangers on the street. Unbelievably hospitable and helpful, at least for two pale backpackers, trying to invent something in Portuguese. As Manja mentioned, maybe they are poor, maybe they lack education, but they certainly don’t lack the heart for another person, such a simple kindness, unselfish smile on the street or a short conversation in the store. We were charmed when, in a crowded bus, an elderly gentleman sitting on a place took a bag on his knees from a lady standing next to him so that she wouldn’t have to hold it. Somehow we can’t imagine such a situation in Poland. Generally, you can also notice greater tolerance for homosexual communities – marriages and adoption of children in such couples are allowed, and they are also more visible on the streets, because they don’t have to hide from intolerant society. In addition, we met a lot of people with children of different partners – they probably have a less formal approach to relationships.

Ones of many, that we will long remember

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Chaotic of course, universal timetable: ‘it arrives when arrives’. Everyone must enter with the front door, and after paying the passage go through inconvenient gates to the back of the bus, which often causes congestion in the front. There are no tickets, you just pay on the bus, so every time you change you have to pay anew (prices between 3.50 and 4.10 PLN). Usually, you don’t pay the driver – almost always there is a second person selling tickets. Try to complain about communication in Warsaw 😉 A similar situation is in restaurants – many people are employed for various activities that could be performed by one employee. One person collects the order, another brings the food, and another person accepts the payment.

In busses you must give place also to obese people 🙂

PHONE TOP UP

Surprisingly, the most obvious place to top up the phone is… pharmacy 🙂 Almost all are equipped with special terminals, while it is not so obvious in kiosks or supermarkets. In addition, in the network which we used, you could buy top-ups in the amount of 9.99, 10.00, 19.99 or 20.00 BRL. Very logical 🙂

One of many pharmacies where you can top up your phone

TO SUM UP

As you can see, Brazil is a completely different world. On one hand amazing landscapes and extremely friendly people, on the other, a lot of trash that these people leave destroying their own country. There is a lot of chaos, sometimes disorganization. However, it has its charm. Would we like to live there? Probably not. However, in our opinion, it is definitely worth to know this otherness, admire people, landscape and flavors.

Practical tips for planning a trip around Brazil in the next post!

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