Travelling is about trying new stuff. To put it more poetically, “viajar é mudar a roupa da alma”—“travelling is changing the clothes of your soul,” a quote from Mario Quintana I saw on a magnet tonight.
I’m committed to try almost anything when I travel. Most of the time, I don’t actually decide to try something new, it’s just that everything is new and different and well, I have to go with the flow. I try new foods because I kind of need to eat and my typical dinner isn’t available halfway around the world. Once I ran out of whatever I bring—soap, shampoo, detergent, etc.—I buy local products. Subconsciously or not, I tend to follow the crowd. Brazilians grab food at comida a kilo restaurants? I do the same. Everybody is heading to the beach on weekends? I’m not going to explore a deserted downtown core, I’m going to the beach too.
And sometimes, you get to test stuff you don’t have at home. Take hammocks, for instance. They always look so comfy, so relaxing… well, after many, many experiences with hammocks, I can tell you they aren’t as comfortable as they look. First, there’s the “how do I lie in that thing?” moment, then there are the many attempts to distribute your weight in something shaped like a banana. Oh, and getting out of a hammock isn’t easy either—if you’re in your cocoon, you’re facing two hammock walls. There has to be a class on hammock comfort and I think I skipped it.
On my last night in Recife, I decided to test a “smart” washer/dryer combo. Well, I didn’t really decide to test it, it was the only washing machine available in the condo and I wanted to do the laundry before my early bus trip to Maceió the following day.
I had booked the 7 p.m.-to-22 p.m. slot because that’s how it works in condos, you book the laundry room. A bit late, sure, but since it was an all-in-one machine I was supposed to have clean and dry clothes ready to be packed around 9 p.m.
I’m kind of suspicious of these new fully electronic machines because there was one in my Airbnb last year in Rio and it had declined to wash my very dirty laundry for silly reasons—not enough detergent, not enough water pressure, you name it. I ended up taking my load to the lavanderia.
I turned the washer on. It greeted me. I put my clothes in the machine—it didn’t comment on how stinky they were, so a polite smart appliance—, added detergent, pressed a few buttons and it did start. Perfect. I rushed to the supermarket and came back exactly thirty minutes later. The machine was off, my clothes were clean and smelled good.
Now, the drying part. It’s kind of weird to just leave your clothes in and expect a machine that had just used water to do the job to now dry everything but hey, that’s the point of a washer/dryer combo. Again, I pressed a few buttons and the machine informed me it would be ready in 45 minutes.
I finished an assignment, took a shower and started packing. I took the elevator back to the laundry room. The job was apparently done. However, the door was locked. The panel was displaying a red key and the word “HOT.”
“Well, duh. You’ve just dried clothes and it’s about 40⁰C in the room, of course, you’re hot.”
I waited a few minutes. Still locked.
I asked the condo’s front desk for advice. “Oh yeah, the door… well, it will open. Eventually.”
I Googled it. Top questions for this kind of machine:
“How do you open the washing machine door when it’s locked?”
“What causes a washing machine door not to open?”
“Three Ways to Open a Locked Washing Machine Door”
It took a fucking hour for the door to eventually open. My clothes weren’t even dry, so I had to repeat the process.
And once again, I finished packing way too late.
I’m not recommending smart washer/dryer combo machines—they are dumb.
I was afraid I wouldn’t hear my alarm so I had left the curtains open to wake up to sunlight but I had somehow forgotten that sunrise is around 5 a.m. in the Nordeste, so I didn’t sleep much. At least I was on time at the middle-of-the-jungle bus station.
My 9 a.m. bus to Maceió—the next logical stop along the coast—turned out to be a really, really nice bus. I had booked the bottom deck with more space and single seats but there was only one other passenger anyway, an older lady sitting a few rows behind me.
I reclined the seat, almost as good as a bed, then I closed the curtains to sleep. And I did, until the other passenger opened the curtains and kind of woke me up.
“It’s cold in this bus,” she said. “You need a sweater. Here, take that.”
She handed me a red sweater.
“I’m okay, really!”
“No, no, it’s cold! Don’t worry, the sweater is clean.”
And so I went back to sleep with the sweater as a blanket.
I chatted with the old lady when the driver stopped for lunch—as usual, in the middle of nowhere, as usual, shortly before arriving as if 3.5 hours into a 4.5-hour trip the driver had suddenly realized he was very hungry.
She didn’t want her sweater back and she gave me her phone number “just in case you need something in Maceió.”
Tested and approved—most Brazilians are amazingly kind and caring people.