Monthly Archives: August 2014

Not the average rabbit hole

After deciding to leave Vila Velha and see if we could not make better use of our time and the weather elsewhere, we first drove into Ponta Grossa for a quick lunch and a glance on our map.

The close-by national park dos Campos gerais attracted our interest, especially the Buraco do Padre – the priest’s hole. 18 km on asphalted road and 5 on non-asphalted later, we parked our car on close to a field populated by some cattle.Barren land
The dry, spare landscape did its best to provide the perfect contrast to what was going to come. After some more meters across a lovely stream,


there was a sudden opening and already we found ourself at the bottom of a hole 30 meters wide and some 50 meters deep with a waterfall coming straight out of a golden spot.

A kind of magic not only because of its beauty. The way as well as the ground of the hole were clean, despite being an obviously popular location for a Sunday afternoon walk. I know that I’m sometimes very critical when it comes to the indiscriminate polution of common ground in Brazil. The more I was delighted to see this wonderful place, visited by many people who – by and large – are taking care of it.



Vila velha

or as it could be called: protecting nature from the people.

Vila velha is a small natural park about one hour northwest of Curitiba. Having seen the pictures online as well as the weather forecast, we decided to see it for ourselves.

If only that would be so easy. The first thing you have to do when arriving at the park, is to sit through a 10 minute video, explaining what there is to be seen and how a visitor should behave: no plugging out of plants, not carving your name into the stone, not leaving your trash behind, etc.

Knowing the behaviour and respect of nature of the average Brazilian visitor, unfortunately, this guidance is not as superfluous as it may seem to the average German one. What bothered us more was the fact that you cannot move around freely between the three sites of the park – the sandstone formations, the furnas and the golden lake – but have to take a little bus instead. This bus however has fixed hours. No going earlier but wait for your turn…

So after a nice stroll around the sandstone, we could have waited for one hour to be packed in bus with 40 people, to drive 4km across the park, to walk 400 meters to see two holes in the ground, walk 400 meters back, take the bus back, wait for another hour, get on another bus…

Sure those holes  are impressive – to judge by the pictures – but we still preferred to jump in the car and try our luck elsewhere.

Reality catching up

If a week after the delightful, almost magical experience of resolving a problem quickly and painlessly, you have neither received a call nor an email confirming that indeed, everything is ok; and you start to wonder what’s going on; the only solution (after nobody answers your calls) is to go and see for yourself.

Only to find out that your file has been, oh well, kind of forgotten. Because “your phone number was lacking”, though you distinctively remember providing this essential bit of information. Before you even get to ask why nobody thought about emailing you, it dawns on you that this is just reality setting in.

And you realize: Everything is back to normal.

Shopping in Brazil – an addition

In the advent season, most shops hire additional assistants to service as many customers as possible. However, when no customer happens to be in the shop, all the assistants can do is stand around. All 10 or 12 or even more of them in an empty shop. Somehow I cannot refrain from imagining that – should a solitary customer wander into the shop – it would be very easy for these assistants to seize the customer and hold her down till she obliges to buy something.

Needless to say that I avoid most shopping besides groceries in the pre-Christmas times in Brazil.

Shopping in Brazil

can either be a nightmare or a a customer’s delight. Depending on what you are looking for…

If you are up for some ‘browsing’, i.e. strolling through the shops just to look around, shopping – if you want to call it that way – can be rather tedious a less than enjoyable experience. If you actually need something & would like to try a bunch of different products, you have come however to the right place.

What the difference makes: the shop assistants in their sheer number. Let me explain.

Where any given shoe shop in Europe would have 2 employees – one in the shop, one at the cash register, the Brazilian pendant will have up to 10 employees. 7 of these will be getting any shoe the customer would want to try from the inventory, 2 will be at the cash register and the last one the supervisor. Of course, all these people need to be kept busy which greatly alters the whole shopping experience.

Back in Europe, you’d pick a shoe you like & search among the boxes to see if you’re lucky enough to find your size, try it & put it back, and repeat this process until you find something fitting your feet, taste & budget. In the case that this endeavor is not accomplished successfully, you give a polite nod to the chap behind the register, leave the shop and are done.

In Brazil, you’ll only get to look at the shoes which are exposed safely behind glass & point at anything you can fancy trying. The shop assistant, after briefly inquiring after your shoe size, will fetch all of them & bring them to the chair on which you’ve settled in the meantime.

If after some back & forth (of the shop assistant, of course), you’ve actually founds something you like & want to purchase; the first thing you get is a piece of paper. With that you pay at the register – a separate process that may take as much time as the preceding selection one – and only then obtain the box with your product of choice from the assistant that has been taken care of you.

More often than not, the assistant will give you her/his card and it’s only decent to come back to the same person if the service was good. Many of the assistants are paid partly by the turnover they make. This process happens in similar forms in most household appliance shops, cutlery, household linen, and even some for clothes.

So far the short description of completing a transaction successfully. If – IF – however, you have not found anything particularly appealing or fitting, you face the slightly awkward feeling of having wasted someones time.  At least, that happens frequently to me in those moments. Also, simply ‘browsing’ becomes a tad tiresome to me as I’m constantly offered help while I’d much rather be left alone.

Obviously, I’m complaining on a very high level here. But I also wonder if it is just me that feels a bit uncomfortable. Or could it be that, in Europe, we are not used to a somewhat pampering customer service any longer and that I should enjoy it while I’m here?

The immense pleasure of things working out

Once you are used to things never being easy, such as getting a visa, a bank account or an apartment, the elevating feeling of walking into an administration & resolving a problem within 30 minutes is overwhelming.

Also, it doesn’t feel quite real. Or right for that matter. Despite having ALL necessary papers, stamps and signatures, a nagging feeling persists, that this was too easy, too good to be true.

So you go and pinch yourself, hope the best & enjoy the feeling while it lasts.