I should have been boarding my flight back to Canada at São Paulo’s GRU Airport today.
My current waiting area is less modern—I’m sitting on a wooden bench at Paraty’s Terminal Rodoviário hoping the 12:30 p.m. bus to Ubatuba will show up soon.
It’s 3 p.m.
I think the bus is late.
Paraty’s bus terminal isn’t fancy. It’s basically an open-air structure with local buses on one side and long-distance buses on the other. It’s about 35⁰C and obviously, we’re all waiting outside because… well, there’s no inside per se.
I can’t even go grab a cup of coffee because the bus could show up anytime.
Bathroom breaks aren’t easy either, since I can’t leave my bags and peeing with a backpack is a two-minute glute exercise.
“Is your bus coming from Rio de Janeiro?” Feng asked me the night before.
“I don’t know… why?”
Then we started talking about something else and I forgot about it.
I get it now. Yep, the damn bus must be coming from Rio, which is why it’s so late, because my bus from Rio to Paraty was very late.
I’m literally melting and I swear I love hot weather.
I wish I could confirm this is the right spot to wait for the bus but ticket offices all have a handwritten “já volta” sign taped to the window. Employees should have been “right back” a few hours ago. Gone for lunch, I suppose—interesting timing since the only bus of the day leaves at 12:30. Or whenever.
I chat with a Brazilian who is originally from Ecuador and with a Paulista who has the same daypack as me. They aren’t surprised the bus is late. Apparently, everybody knows that bus schedules around here are basically a suggestion.
A bus shows up and we all rush to it.
“Is this the 12:30 p.m. bus to Ubatuba?”
“No, that’s the 11:30 a.m. bus to Rio.”
Right. Never mind it’s 3:15 p.m. now.
Our bus eventually shows up and since we’re all dying for air con, we’re enthusiastically lining up in front of the door.
The driver closes it.
“Lunch break time,” he announces. “Departure in thirty minutes.”
Right. Never mind it’s 4 p.m. by now.
Once the bus actually leaves it’s a quick, one-hour ride to Ubatuba but honestly, it would have been faster to hitchhike.
“So how is Ubatuba?” my mum asks when I call later in the evening.
“I don’t know yet. The 24-hour rule applies, I’ll reserve judgment until tomorrow. Right now, it’s I’m dirty, sweaty and I’m desperately tying to find my usual basic groceries in a city I don’t know. It’s getting dark and I’m afraid it’s going to start pouring and I had about four hours of sleep last night. Oh, and it took for-fucking-ever to get to Ubatuba.”
I can’t stress this enough—every city in Brazil is like a different country. Supermarket chains, vocabulary, ways of thinking and doing are different and deliciously confusing because I have to start from scratch every bloody time.
I’m now in São Paulo state and I realize I don’t know it well. I’ve been to Santos and São Paulo, that’s about it. Well, unlike in São Paulo, there’s absolutely not chance I’ll find familiar and comforting Carrefour supermarkets at every corner here.
To top it all, I have to remember to wear a mask indoors. The mandate had been lifted in Rio de Janeiro state, so in both Rio and Paraty I got used to not using masks, but São Paulo still has a mask mandate.
I end up shopping at Conde, no air con and few products I’m familiar with, but it’s close to my Airbnb.
And suddenly, just as I’m trying to pick bananas, the supermarket manager shouts: “Gente! Pode tirar mascaras!” (“People! You can take off your mask!”)
Customers look at each other, confused, and start checking their phone.
“Mandate was lifted!”
And then suddenly, just like in a movie, everybody starts peeling off masks—yes, peeling off, there’s no air con inside the supermarket and we’re all sweaty.
Gosh, it’s been a weird day…