Last Day In South America (For Now).
Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
402Trip End Dec 31, 2013
Avan writes about some trip observations on South America.
Back to Sao Paulo and as we are arriving by bus at around lunchtime and flying out to Dubai that night (well 1.30am), we have decided it is not worth checking in anywhere or trying to do anything with our luggage. We have opted to simply transfer from the bus terminal to the International airport and wait out the time until our flight. Not much of a story in that so since it is our last day in South America I have decided to take the opportunity to bore you with a couple of trip observations.
We have suffered a lot of diarrhea attacks on this trip, so decided this required some thought. The first thing we note about South American toilets (and to be fair, some other countries) is that on the wall some have a note written in Spanish or Portuguese, which includes a notation of a large sum of local currency. Now the translation of this effectively says, If your toilet paper blocks our toilet we expect you to pay a large sum to call out the plumber. All toilets at the very least have the notation "no toilet paper in the bowl" and sometimes in English even. So what do you do you may ask? Simple – next to the toilet bowl is a bin in which you must deposit your soiled paper! Now visualize that you are now faced with the prospect of not simply dropping the used paper, but rather having to negotiate it out from under you and into the bin. Rather adds a lot more opportunity to get stuff on you which is not such a problem for those who wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water but some people don't and sometimes soap and hot water aren’t available.
The next issue is that the bins mostly do not have lids – yuk! But consider that a foot controlled lid is not much good for someone sitting on a toilet and a normal lid is fairly difficult to get off when one hand is occupied and the other is needed for balance. Some have swing top lids but these tend to collect some of the “material” from the paper onto the lid on the way through. So hence open bins are the norm. Not so great for hygiene, but great for flies. To paraphrase Louie “straight from shit filled bin to you”. Methinks this has lots to do with upset bellies! Don’t even get me started on odours…
Don’t get me wrong – I think a country should fight to retain and use its own language. However I also think it is impractical to expect every traveller from every nation to learn the language of every country they visit. For example for this trip we would have had to learn Spanish, Portuguese Arabic and Nepalese – a bit impractical – so really if a country wants tourists there should be people in hospitality and transport who have some relevant skills in the international language (just happens to be considered English which is great for us) or at least be prepared to be accommodating.
In Sao Paulo Barra Funda bus terminal, (not the main bus terminal, a secondary one) I went to the airport bus transfer ticket office to get tickets, only to be met by an ignoramus who, every time I asked for information in English, shook his head and loudly claimed “No No No”. Briefly forgetting I was in Brazil (they speak Portuguese), I tried my very limited Spanish only to be met by a fresh round of head shaking and “no’s”.
Now this guy works in a ticketing booth that sells tickets to one location only. I reckon it is a fair bet that everyone who steps up to his counter is going to ask “how much?” or “what time for next bus?” – not too onerous to help with surely. If he is too lazy to learn a few words of English (or Spanish which 10 bordering countries speak), he could at least put up a timetable and price to the one location he is selling tickets to and hey presto – no problem. No, instead Heather had to painstakingly write out the request on her notepad in Portuguese (translated from Lonely Planet – God bless our travelling Bible!) and fortunately, he was able to read it, and we could purchase our tickets for the next bus.
The flip side to this was when boarding the bus from the Pantanal back to Campo Grande, I handed the bus driver 2 X 50 and 1 X 10 Brazilian real notes for 2 fares at 51 reals each. The driver handed back the 10 real note and patiently spoke to me in Portuguese. All I got was the name of the next town (Miranda) and 2 fingers. However the message was quite plain despite language difficulties. “I don’t have the right change – you owe me 2 reals after we stop at the next town and you can get some change”. I replied “OK” which is universal so we both know the message has been understood – simple really.
Again in Sao Paulo Barra Funda bus terminal, I was busting for a leak but our bus ticket to go to the airport had taken all our Brazilian (I love that word) cash except for 1.30 reals in coin. On rocking up to the loo the sign announced 1.50 reals which was very helpful, but I don’t have 1.50. I approach the lady attendant and explain my predicament and offer her my 1.30 reals or $1US (equivalent to 1.70 reals) to which I am met with head shaking. So I say (I really did say it) that I’ll piss in the terminal instead then, which was pointless as she is not understanding a word I say and I wouldn’t anyway for fear of getting arrested. Instead I go down to the toilets on the lower level (more desperate now and the bus is nearly due) and hobble up with an obvious knot tied in it (this is a lie because it’s not possible, no puppetry of the p….. candidate here) and this time I offer the young male attendant the same choice of $1.30 reals or $1US. He shakes his head, but then takes my $1US and indicates a door between. I double check, by pointing – in here? He nods and I enter to find a disabled toilet. Not sure of the logic, but I am very relieved (literally) with the compromise.
We are on a plane trip from La Paz to Tarija. We have secured our much cherished exit row seats – heaps more room and heaps more comfortable. Then up comes the flight attendant and in perfect English, asks if we speak Spanish. Obvious reply, no. She then informs us we can’t have exit row seats and moves us into the more uncomfortable middle row seats, stating air regulations policy. We enviously watched the exit row seats remain vacant for the flight. Now, I’m pretty sure if anything happened when flying that required an exit emergency any instructions would come from the flight attendant who spoke English?. I’m equally sure if in the event I was alive and conscious after a crash and a passenger came to the exit, I would be able to work out what they wanted (ie to get out) without language skills. Besides I reckon it would be more use having us to assist to get the door open than having Mr. Nobody, who never speaks, sitting there – go figure.