It’s almost time to leave Porto Alegre, a City in the State of Rio Grande Do Sul. Rio Grande Do Sul means Big River of the South, or is it something to do with the Sun? It is the southern-most State of Brazil, bordering Argentina and Uruguay. The River Guaiba borders the City – a very pretty sight especially as the sun dips down of an evening.
Before travelling, I read some reviews on Porto Alegre (Happy Port) and our host and his family shared information. “It is very different to the rest of Brazil”. “You won’t think you are in Brazil”. “There are places in the State where you’d think you were in Europe.” “Even the weather is different. It snows in some places in winter”. “The temperatures in winter can drop to -0 degrees in some places!”And, so it is. Different.
I’m writing about Porto Alegre today because, last year this time [around April 18th], we had just left the City.
We arrived. We enjoyed. The time disappeared so very quickly. We were soon saying a fond farewell to our hospitable and generous host and his family. So, it seems like the right time to write. Today. Even if it takes me three hours or more to do so!
No one ever comes to Porto Alegre unless they have business here, or to visit someone here, said Eugenio. It’s a business and financial hub. Tourists don’t usually make their way here. There’s not much to do, or see. It’s the main City in the State. Porto Alegre is his home. He flits around his neighbourhood, the City and his students in his larger-than-life, sociable manner. Conversing with all and sundry … the man in the car park, the restaurant owners and waiters alike, the women and men at the supermarket, as well as his students.
Having lived in the country for 40 odd years, he is as much a Brazilian as the Brazilians themselves. But he still is different. He speaks the language like a local (though I’m told by a reliable source that on rare occasions gender is sometimes mixed up. Even the best …!) He is forgiven. He is a well-renowned English teacher in Porto Alegre and respected for his skill in being able to share his love of the language. His English grammar is near perfect. But he has taken on the American accent. “I say t-mar-to – you say t-mate-o; I say pot-ato – you say p-tarto…”. It makes sense, when in Rome to do as the Romans. When I know he is reading my writings, I feel he is scrutising my tenses, the subject and the objects. Intransitive and transitive verbs. Maybe my writing is fodder for his students … “how can you improve this article?” If so, at least I’m helping his work … please let me have feedback Eugenio lol!
I loved the drive along the River Guaiba. From his home we’d almost always have the River ambling alongside us. The River feels like part and parcel of the City – it borders Porto Alegre. It’s a precious feeling to live near water. To wander along the riverbank. Amongst the trees – they were in full bloom, lots of foliage, lots of flowers in the park on the opposite side of the river. A romantic place indeed.I also loved the City by night. How magnificent the viaduct looks. We went up onto the bridge that overlooks the street below. The street lights gleamed, casting their light on the ancient masonry. In the dark of the night. What a splendid sight. I’d love to see it in daylight too. Apparently, it’s not that safe to wander around at night. But we took a walk down the Avenue and soaked up the sights, visited the Cathederal and the Municipal Building. Very modern buildings alongside the historic. I had a good feeling. I liked what I saw. It was fairly quiet that night. Must have been a Sunday!
Some of the buildings are beautiful. The Pink is one of my favourites. I call it The Pink – it’s the Mario Quintana Cultural Centre. It was closed when we visited – it must have been a Sunday! Thank you for sending this video clip Eugenio – love it! There are some diamonds in your City.
“There’s not much to see in Porto Alegre”, he told us. So I was surprised at what there was to see. The wide, well-kept roads in the City. The many beautiful buildings. The many well-filled supermarkets. The vast number of restaurants. It’s cultural to dine out, especially the midday meal. We didn’t have time to see all the sights. Next time!
After walking the streets, well just the one, we took a drive to view the city from atop a peak where there was a lovely view of the City lights. But no sooner did we arrive than we had to leave. The lights of the car woke the sleeping inhabitant(s) … the rough sleepers who make it their home … we made a hasty retreat.
The Mormons, a religious and cultural community, have a Church in a residential part of the City. By the size of the building, there must be many community spaces in it. This is a stately building of enormous proportions. It’s set in wonderful gardens …. we drove past at night and it looked stunning. The area has many architecturally beautiful homes, also of enormous proportions.
I did not expect this in a country where we hear about millions living below the breadline. Poverty is rife, even though Brazil is a very wealthy country. This is evident in many places. The favellas growing up side by side of a beautifully kept neighbourhood. Or along the busy road. Corruption is rife. The most recent President having recently been incarcerated for the part he allegedly played. Other government officials also being investigated. It’s no different to many countries, actually – corruption at all levels. Brazil being a massive country with a population to match, it is much more noticeable.
The people are friendly. Curious. Not afraid to ask pointed questions … “Are you Indian”, to my husband. And happy to talk with us … often telling us they don’t speak English and as we tentatively tested our Portuguese on them … they proved to us that their English was far superior to our sparse knowledge of theirs.
My husband and our friend in Brazil, Eugenio, knew each other over 40 years ago. They lived in the same house in London where they became good friends. I knew him many more years before at ‘home’. We’d all lost touch. Facebook brought us together some three years earlier. And it seemed that time did not come between any of us when we’d first met face to face in the UK and caught up on the years. An easy meeting. Keeping in touch with family and friends these days is so simple with social media such as Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, Facebook. We have to thank Facebook, in spite of all its privacy issues and misunderstandings, for bringing people together, for making the world a much smaller place.
Facebook and all the other social media channels and messaging apps have bridged the gap of decades. Have bridged the gap of miles. Have bridged the gap of excessive international telephone charges. There’ll always be a place for messaging apps. A place for even more secure apps, such as Signal and Telegram too. Signal’s end-to-end encryption, apparently, is what Wahtsapp has adopted – and I guess Messenger too. Unfortunately, we are told that these secure apps are increasingly being used for subversive activities – it’s a shame. I have to say well done to Zuckerberg, Durov, Acton, Kuom, and all the other innovative, entrepreneurial techno-wizards for making it simple for us to communicate with loved ones over the waves. And also for many populations to make their feelings known to their governments. There is always a negative, though … oops … going off at a tangent here! Back to Porto Alegre.
Porto Alegra was not what I had imagined. It is a bustling City. One of the countries largest cities, second only to Sao Paulo in commercial and industrial importance in southern Brazil – rivaled by other cities like Curitiba, Parana and some cities in Santa Catalina. I saw modern cars. Transportation by bus and taxi. A neglected and unused above-the-ground transport system – pity it didn’t come to anything. It was a first which was abandoned.
Weather-wise, we had mostly sunshine, more clear skies, others with cloud. We were There in autumn. We needed a light jacket or cardigan when out of an evening. We had a few showers too. Well quite a few when we went to higher altitudes! The temperature most days was pleasant … but I felt sticky on other days and it was a joy to feel the beat of the shower both morning and night.
When we landed at the Salgado Filho airport, the City lay before us – sprawled across the horizon. My! Much, much bigger than I imagined. There are some eye-opening landmark buildings about the City. These two buildings below are iconic. Loved them! And the two rival football stadia … one blue the other red … as with all football teams, you’re with either one or the other. Staunch and loyal supporters.
Our friend had played down his City!
What a great meeting with him at the airport. A modern place. Not big at all, but very efficient. After our earlier travels in the country it was almost like coming home. Home to see a familiar face. We met his wife. How kind of her to come in her own car to meet us. The news of our many sets of luggage preceded us. She’d brought her car for the overflow.
I couldn’t let Ana drive back from the airport on her own, with just our luggage for company. So I left my other half, Dhiru, and our daughter to accompany Eugenio and to catch up with him, whilst I went with Ana. “She doesn’t speak English”, he said. “That doesn’t matter”, said I. “It’s wonderful that she has come all this way to meet us.” And so I was her passenger. From then on in, Ana and I ‘spoke’ … with signs and faltering monosyllabic Portuguese. I picked up the gist of what she was saying to me, my little learning of Brazillian Portuguese and my little learning of Portuguese when I worked for a short time in Moçambique many, many years ago, helped somewhat. That way to home. I nodded. This is where one of her daughter’s works. Ahhhhh. The Guiaba River. “Linda” meaning ‘beautiful’, ‘pretty’. The Marketplace. Mmmm. Nodding. A bit about Eugenio and her. Especial. We’re on our way to a restaurant. Fabuloso. Fome. You’ll notice the monosyllabils …
Ana patiently pronounced Portuguese words to me. Of course, listening ordinarily to a conversation is quite difficult because people talk so quickly. … BUT … there was also Google Translate on my smartphone. We sat side-by-side, Ana and I, eating a delicious meal and sharing the device! I did make attempts to sound out the words with my new tutor’s help. Thank you Ana. And Eugenio for translating as needed.
So much more to relate about our visit. But it will have to wait for yet another time. I’m excited to tell you about my visit with our hosts family, his students, the food of Brazil, the food of the gaucho country.
Caipirinha de abacaxi.
But now, till my next blog on … Porto Alegre and the people of PoA … and to you, my readers and visitors …
Boa noite. Sonhos com os anjos!
My music for this blog, per kind favour of YouTube, is a song by the popular singer Marisa Monte who we heard played throughout our visit.
Travelling to places near or far. This blog will trace our journeys, our travels. Will report the good and the not so good. Sharing photos and experiences that may be useful to you at some time in the future. Just saying … the posts may be written after the event! I would love you to accompany me from time to time on my travels to places near and far.
Thank you for following www.cecilyswritings.wordpress.com and http://www.cecilystravels.wordpress.com and look forward to hearing from you. Let me know if you have a travel blog I can follow too. This blog can be translated into any language.
Written by Cecily on 14th April 2018 completed on 30 April and published on 30th April 2018
Copyright (C) Cecily Lalloo 2018
Visit took place on 23 March – mid-April 2017 – all photos were taken in 2017