Earlier this week Cadu and I went out for dinner and the parking lot scene made for a humorous cultural experience and inspired me to write this post.
Cadu and I called the restaurant in advance to ask how full the parking lot was. We wanted to drive, but Cadu knew the lot was small and can fill up really fast. The guy at the restaurant assured us there were only ‘about 4 cars’ there, so we left. When we got to the restaurant the parking lot was completely full– about 12 cars. Without explaining anything to me, Cadu stopped and shut off the car in front of the lot attendant and said “Maybe we just leave the keys with him.” I thought to myself Oh, valet parking. Nice. It seemed strange to me, so I asked Cadu and he explained that we leave the keys with him in case any of the people we were blocking needed to get out. Then the attendant could move our car so they could leave. Interesting. But I can see how it solves the problem of a small parking lot, of which there are a lot in Brazil. We ate our dinner and when we got out to the car I just had to laugh. Of course, several more cars had showed up after we did and parked behind us. And the poor lot attendant had just finished moving about 6 cars so that someone else could leave. Now he was going to have to move 6-7 again for us. I just stood next to our car and laughed. This kind of thing would NEVER work in the US. People are too impatient and are always in a rush to get somewhere.
Since parking and driving sort of go hand-in-hand, I thought I’d also share with you some of the things I have noted on driving in Brazil. So here are the Top 10 Rules for driving in (Recife) Brazil:
- Don’t bother staying in your lane. If you feel like swerving or floating over the line, go ahead. This rule also applies to staying in your own turn lane. Feel free to go from the inside lane to the outside one. It don’t matter to anyone.
- Turn wherever you feel like it, even if the lane you’re in is only meant for going straight. The turning cars will eventually have to make room for you.
- If your car fits, you can park there. Even if you are touching another car’s bumper, you block someone else from getting out, or even if there is a ‘No Parking’ sign. You won’t get a ticket.
- Don’t drive too big of a car. See #3.
- Blinkers are optional. In most cases, nonexistent.
- Drive a motorcycle. You’ll get everywhere faster since you can fit between cars.
- If it’s after 10:00 pm (or getting close to it), red lights don’t mean stop. Just be careful approaching the intersection. Unless there is a camera.
- Stop signs are like little red billboards. Just read them, if you feel so inclined, as you drive by.
- Watch out for pedestrians. They come out of nowhere. Don’t worry. You don’t have to stop. You just can’t hit them.
- Honk. Honk if you’re mad. Honk to say ‘hello.’ Honk to say ‘thank you.’ Honk to tell the doorman to open the gate to the garage. Honk cuz you live in Recife.
A few more observations about parking and driving:
- Parking ramps have lights and signs that tell you if a level is full and if not, how many spots are left. There are even signs for each row to tell you where the spots are. This is done with sensors in the parking spots. Each spot has one and there is a light above the spot, which is green if empty and red if taken.
- There are spots marked only for the elderly, but not marked handicapped as in the US. The spots say ‘idoso,’ meaning ‘old’ (elderly) in big letters on the ground.
- Gas stations have attendants who fill the tank and clean the windshield for you. I’m pretty sure I read on the sign that you are not allowed to fill your own tank.
- Taxis are white and don’t look like a typical cab in the US.
- In Portuguese, you say the light is open if the light is green, and closed if it’s red.
We’ve been doing a lot of everyday errands and going around town in the car, but we have done a couple of fun things too. Tuesday we went to the State Museum I talked about last time. It wasn’t anything amazing, but something to do. Mainly pictures of important people (but we didn’t know most of them) and drawings of what it used to look like in Recife. There were some artifacts and my favorite were the artifacts from the native Brazilians. Part of the exhibit was modern art, which was fascinating. It was called Arte Cibernética. All of the pieces used technology in a way most of us would never imagine. For example, one was a digital screen of a field of flowers, which reacted to the movement of exhibitors causing the flowers to move as if they were real. Another one used a typewriter and light to create bug-like creatures on the paper that crawled around and evolved. Different letter combinations made different creatures. Mind-boggling. We couldn’t take pictures inside the museum so here are just a couple of pictures from outside:
Wednesday we spent a few hours at Boa Viagem (the beach).
We were there from about 10:30-1:30 and I got lots of color. Even sorta started to burn. It was a gorgeous day. Hot, but a nice breeze and not too crowded. I enjoyed soaking up the sun and watching the vendors go by. We weren’t able to swim though because the beach in Recife has lots of sharks. The sharks used to live in the port nearby, but they expanded the port so the sharks had to move. And I guess the beach was a nice option. Cadu and I had a typical Brazilian beach treat called ‘amendoins cozidos,’ which means cooked peanuts. They sound better than they taste, in my opinion. They are cooked in water while they’re still in the shell so the nuts are kinda soggy. Here’s a picture:
Tonight we went to the movies. We saw Delivery Man. The movie theater is inside the shopping mall, which is slightly odd to me, and we were allowed to bring our milkshake from one of the fast food places (called Bob’s) in with us. The movie wasn’t that great, but we just wanted to get out and do something, it was a rainy day, and we really wanted a milkshake and popcorn.
Tuesday we’re probably leaving to go to Tamandaré which is a beach town where Cadu’s family has a little beach house. Finally, we’ll get to be in the water!