In my first entry (Extremes and Grandness), I mentioned my hope of assembling a portrait of Brazil in part through interviews with Brazilians I met during my travels. Over the last week, I've covered a lot of distance, trekking through the Pantanal and meeting heaps of interesting people (not to mention birds, reptiles and the odd capybara) along the way.
Although I've left Sao Paulo far behind, as luck would have it, one of the first Brazilians with whom I became acquainted was indeed a Paulistano. I met Joao da Silva in the lovely town of Bonito, which I'll describe (along with the Pantanal) in upcoming articles.
Regis: So where do you live, Joao?
Joao: In Santos, just north of Sao Paulo.
R: And what do you do?
J: I'm a policeman. I work in the transit department, teaching kids the rules of the road -- like how to safely cross the street.
R: Run like hell, I imagine, given the nature of Brazilian drivers. What do you think, incidentally of motorists here?
J: They are really awful. There are many many many license suspensions for infractions and a lot of people driving illegally.
R: Where do you like to spend Carnaval?
J: I usually like to get out of town. I don't like all the fuss and noise of Rio or Salvador. I prefer a calm, pretty place to relax and enjoy my vacation. This year I went to Ilha Bela (an island a few hours from Sao Paulo, noted for its natural beauty and complete lack of cars), visited some of the waterfalls, ate some great seafood, and hung out on the beach, with my wife and son (Arthur, who's two). There's one restaurant on the island, in particularly I recommend. It's called Nova Iorque, and you can sit out on the deck over the water, watch turtles swim right up close, see the sunset, and enjoy some delicious food. Periodically, this place has a very good seafood rodizio (rodizio's are all-you-can-eat places in Brazil, where they bring the food around to you).
R: What do you like most about your country?
J: The nature here. It's fantastic. The waterfalls, the beaches, the beautiful hidden places of the country.
R: Any things that aggravate you about Brazil?
J: The security problems in the city (or at least in Sao Paulo), the lack of jobs and opportunity for many people.
R: What do you think of the upcoming elections this year? (Brazil will vote for its next president toward the end of 2006).
J: The politicians in this country have a serious lack of credibility. It's hard to take the elections seriously, given the level of corruption. There are things happening, that come out in the press that I could never have imagined possible. Some people feel that it doesnt really matter who you pick; they're interchangeable.
R: Where would you most like to travel in Brazil?
J: Before this trip, I really wanted to come here to Bonito. It really lived up to its name. ('Bonito' means 'beautiful'.) Another place I'd like to visit is Fernando de Noronha (a tropical island in the Northeast).
R: Is Brazil going to win the World Cup in 2006?
J: We're going to win.