Friday, May 17, 2013

Beautiful Horizons

I bade farewell to my charges, and returned back to Sao Paulo from the airport.  I stopped in a little local restaurant cafe and had a contrafile (steak) with a side of rice and beans and fries to celebrate the end of the tour.  I sat out on the street corner, sipping beer out of a small cup and watching Brazilian soap operas on the tv.

The next morning, I rose early, checked out of the airport and caught the subway to the bus station.  I arrived at 7:55 and found a bus company with an 8am but to Belo Horizonte.  But alas, I couldn't get the ticket bought in time, and purchased the 10am bus.  As I was walking away, I noticed another bus company called Cometa with buses to Belo Horizonte.  I inquired about their buses, and they had one at 9am to Belo. So with a bit of wrangling and a minor stupidity tax, I returned my other ticket and got on the earlier bus.  I boarded the marcopolo cruiser, and headed out of the city of St. Paul.

The bus worked its way through the city traffic, and soon we were in the verdant Brazilian countryside.  I sat in the back of the bus, staring out the window at the winding roads and lush hills.  The ride took roughly eight hours, including two minor stops.  It was nice to have some time to sit back and think.  The horizons were blue, and clouds sat neatly on the open skies.

I arrived to Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon) to stay with my old roommates from USC, Dr. Roberto and Dr. Marcos.  Roberto and Marcos were Brazilian PhD students, who were at USC while I was there.  I lived with Roberto for one year, and Marcos for two.  I had often heard of the wonders of Belo Horizonte, and tried their comida minheira (cuisine from the state of Minhais Gerais- much loved among Brazilians).  I arrived to the bus station, and fumbled a bit with how to call my friends but eventually was able to connect.  I caught a taxi from the station through town.  It took a lil wrangling as well (Rua Major Lopes, pronounced Hua Maajoor Lops, not Hua Mayjur Lopez as I fumbled- once the driver looked at the written direction, my mispronounced Portuguese was smoothed over).  We drove through the surprisingly beautiful city of Belo Horizonte and over to my friend Roberto's place.

Surprisingly beautiful, as I had no idea how big Belo Horizonte was as a city.  Turns out it is Brazil's 6th largest (3rd by metro areas), and capital of its second biggest state.  We sped past lovely old colonial buildings and charming parks.  I met Roberto, and dropped my stuff.  I immediately knew I was on the right path as I saw on his coffee table a copy of Don Quixote.  We wandered down to a pedestrian block just south of his apartment, passing a Quixote cafe.  We sat out in the busy alley, sipping beer and cachaca, and eating Bahian acaraje- Salvador's version of falafel, and carne do sol- sun-cured salted beef with fried cassava.

I awoke the next morning, exhausted from the month's adventure and finally a lil free from responsibilities.  I took the day slowly, with my highlight being an afternoon coffee at the Quixote Livraria e Cafe. I sipped a Sancho for my compantion Harranza (espresso, cognac, cointreau, chantilly cream and dust)

There is nothing in life more powerful than this piece of fiction (Don Quixote). It is still the final and the greatest expression of human thought, the most bitter irony that a human is capable of expressing; and if the world came to an end and people were asked somewhere there: ‘Well, did you understand anything about your life on earth and draw any conclusion from it?’ a person could silently hand over Don Quixote. ‘Here is my conclusion about life. Can you condemn me for it?’

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