In Brazil as I moved around with my college group, I also tried to talk to people. During a boat cruise of the bay of Bobatinga, our group was practically the only passengers except for a Brazilian family made up a father, mother and their teenage son. These people were very simple folks, not at all the international travelers we were. It was Mother's Day, and they had decided to make a day trip from their home in a small town in the interior of Santa Catarina to the coast, make this boat tour of the bay and have a nice seafood lunch. The mother was the most conversational but the husband warmed up as we casually exchanged information about ourselves. He was a small man with the mannerisms of a worker. He had his own body shop and his teenage son was working with him there when he wasn't studying at high school. I said, "so you are the inheritor (a term of endearment in Brazil for the son who will step into his father's shoes), and he just smiled back. I asked them what they thought about how Brazil is doing, and they said it was doing well. The "crisis" they call the recession, was only having a limited impact on their lives. We said goodbye and I suggested they try the same restaurant that we were going to. Nothing of real importance transpired, but I felt that a certain bond had been established.
The morning after we arrived in the beach town of Balneario Camboriu, I got up pretty early since I had gone to bed early and did not go out after dinner with the others. I was the first person to enter the hotel's breakfast room at 7 a.m. (Brazilian hotels always include a rather substantial buffet breakfast with their rooms), but another gentleman entered shortly after me. We sat at separate tables, but I started a conversation with him and asked if I could join him. He turned out to be an Uruguayan engineer who had built soccer stadiums all over Latin America. He was in Brazil to line up contracts to build stadiums in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup Championships which would be taking place in a number of cities around the country. This fellow was 82 years old and still very vigorous and obviously still still ambitious. Unfortunately, he was also very bigoted, thoroughly disliking anyone in Latin America of indigenous, black or mixed race and made his feelings known rather easily. I hesitated to mention to him that I am a Jew. Later in the day I saw him at the hotel in meetings with what seemed to be some important people. I never spoke to him again or got his name or business card.
Our tour bus stopped at a very good restaurant and general store on the outside of Joinville. Basically it was a truck stop, but in Brazil, these roadside restaurants are literally eating palaces. This place called Rudnick (pronounced Hoodiniki in Portuguese) was quite a place, and its specialty was roast duck on its buffet. It turned out that we had walked into the restaurant when a rather large graduation party was taking place. I got to the buffet line just as they were getting on line behind one of my travelling companions. I had to decide whether to cut in front of about 20 people in the graduation party in back of my friend, or go to the end of the line. Since this is Brazil, I chose to cut in line, but asked the woman behind me if she minded my joining "my friend." She said no, and this started a conversation about who was who. The woman said her daughter was a model in New York. I offered email addresses of my own NY based kids which she took. I later looked up her daughter in Google and realized she was probably one of the top ten Brazilian models int he US today. My kids never heard from her daughter, but I did get emails from her son who was looking for advice about how to get a visa for his girl friend. (I don't know if my advice did him any good.) Maybe if I ever go back to Joinville I will look this family up.
Yeda and I were at Guarulhos Airport in Sao Paulo waiting for our plane to Rio's Galeao. Seated across from me in the waiting room was a young, thin and well dressed woman wearing some very elegant reading glasses and reading her book. Next to her was a gentleman in an airline uniform, and I ventured to ask him if he would be our pilot. He said yes, and I jokingly said I therefore felt in very good hands for a safe trip. The woman reading by herself chimed into the conversation. I can't remember exactly what subjects kicked off our discussions, but soon enough she, Yeda and I became very much engaged in conversation about just about everything. Her name is Ana, and though originally from Rio, she thoroughly disliked her birth city and preferred living in Sao Paulo with her husband who was also originally a carioca, and their two children. She particularly disliked Rio's high crime rate (though it is questionable if it is any worse than that of Sao Paulo). She was a very accomplished woman in her late 30s, one of the few women in Brazil to become an engineer at a good university in Rio, and had a fabulous job with a major company. She was only coming to Rio to visit her mother who was ill. However, it seems that her family lives in what in Rio is called the "North Zone," well inland from the posh beach boroughs of Rio and where working and lower middle class cariocas reside. We thoroughly enjoyed her company throughout the flight, and in the end, instead of giving us her card, she gave Yeda her picture, which we considered very endearing, yet odd. I would love to meet Ana again but doubt we ever will.