We had to checkout by 10am so that seemed as good a time as any to jump onto a bus to Brazil. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the border, at the first stop we quickly jumped off the bus and had our passports stamped as we exited Argentina for the last time. Then it was back onto the bus for another 2 minutes before getting off and going through Brazilian customs. A straightforward process, but one for which our bus did not wait around for. So after getting our stamps we went to the bus stop and waited for around 45 minutes for the next bus. From there it was another 15 minutes to the city.
What a difference a day makes. In the morning were we staying in what is best described as a village. A couple of main streets, a few houses, a bunch of restaurants and a bus stop. Less than an hour in a bus (excluding border crossing) and we entered a city. Skyscrapers, boulevards, noise, mess. All the things we hadn’t even worried about, hadn’t thought about, suddenly thrown back in our faces.
So a brief walk from the bus stop to our hostel, fighting traffic once more, having to look left, right and left again (or is it the other way around) before crossing the road, and we checked in. What a great hostel, it had a pool, a real pool, okay, only about five metres long, and metre deep, but still a pool.
Excited, hungry and out of money, we decided to quickly go into town and take care of the essentials. So after finding a bank we found this road side café, where for a few pounds we had a buffet with sides and a choice of meats. Needless to say, we were delighted and thoroughly satisfied afterwards, well maybe not thoroughly, you see Brazil is known for its fruit juices. And Anna wanted a fresh fruit juice, luckily we had seen a stand earlier while out looking for the bank, so we headed back that way.
The juice of orange and acerola was very nice, though it wasn’t fresh, but made from a frozen mixture, with added sugar. After buying it we were standing near a shop sipping, talking and enjoying the drink. I looked over Anna’s shoulder and saw an older man sitting outside the shop door with a couple of tiny umbrellas, on these umbrellas were a variety of rings.
At first I didn’t think anything of it, and continued drinking and chatting, but I couldn’t help myself from looking over Anna’s shoulder every few moments and staring at this man. He was deeply tanned, and wore a black bandana around his head with some nondescript pattern on it. He didn’t look at me, just down at his hands, on which I could make out the remnants of some faded tattoos. He didn’t look sad, just empty, worn out. I recalled the wine tour in Mendoza, Anna and I had met another couple who had also recently been married, they had the foresight to buy some cheap wedding rings before they had left for their trip. With that in mind I wandered over and had a look at the selection of rings. He was attentive without being overly pushy. Anna saw what I was doing and came over, after a few minutes we agreed on a ring and I bought it. It cost 5 reais, that is about £1.90. The man was very grateful and thanked us a number of times as we walked away.
I wondered then, as I wonder now, was that his only sale that day? How long had he been there? Is there any minimum wage or benefits system for Brazilians? I know in many countries there isn‘t a benefit. Then I began to think of other systems, such as the English. If you’re unemployed you can get your rent paid for, your electricity and gas paid for, your council tax paid for and then on top of that, cash in the hand to live off. The shame about this system is that some people, maybe a minority, maybe not, live off it. They are, in some cases born into it, they have no desire to get out of it, it is what they know, and as far as they’re concerned there is no need to change. I’ve just finished reading “To kill a mockingbird” yes I know, I should have read it decades ago. Anyway in it Scout explains away the behaviour of a particular student to her new teacher be saying “He’s one of the Ewells, ma’am” So it would seem that some people just behave in a certain way because that’s what they know. I might be getting a bit off track here, so while I do not want a huge debate of the pros and cons of a benefit systems. I do believe there must be a better choice between working all day to earn enough to barely stay alive and a benefits system that is ’good enough’ to be a ’life choice’. Yeah, yeah I hear all of you PC people saying ’it isn’t a life choice, it’s a hard life’ etc… Well to you, I say go live in a country where there are no benefits, see how the people there work long hard days in terrible conditions for virtually nothing. And then explain to them why people back home should get all of this money for sitting on their arses all day. Yeah, yeah I know, and my parents also told me to eat all of my food because there were staving people in Africa. But in this case I say stop giving the money to the people who sit on there arses year, after year after year, and give it to the people in these other countries. And so the argument can go on, and on, and on, and around and around and around. Do I have the answer? No. But I do not believe a ’nanny/benefits state’ is the right answer.
So back to our day, after buying the ring we headed back to our hostel and jumped into the pool. There we spent a couple of lazy hours floating around and even had time to play a game of pool volleyball. I made up, or more like, introduced, the rules as we went along, I didn’t do very well though because Anna won both games.
Then it was another one of Steven’s ‘One pot wonders’ for dinner and an early nights sleep.
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