Things I don’t quite get.

5 06 2007

There’s a few things here that, even after almost a year, still puzzle me. I’m not entirely put off by them, but I do really wonder why Brazilians do these things.

For instance, why is it that if I’m waiting for a bus at a certified Bus Stop, I still need to flag down the bus I want or else it’ll drive right by? This doesn’t happen at home, does it? I was never one for taking city busses at home (New Haven, Boston) so I’m not sure if this is normal. A few weeks ago, as I stood waiting for a bus after school, I was distracted by some small insignificant thought or object, and my bus drove right by me. I waited ten more minutes for another one to drive by.

Likewise, with buses, aren’t they supposed to work on a circuit or something? Because yesterday, on the way to school, I was on the 2.49 bus. And as we were stopped to pick up some people at a stop, a second 2.49 drove right in front of us, cut us off at the same stop, and stopped to pick up or drop off more people. Is this allowed? Do buses compete with each other on the same line?

Furthermore, if I take the 2.60 bus, which is a much shorter ride to school than the 2.49, it is crammed so full of people I literally cannot move. I know this is NOT normal on buses since it’s got to be a hazard. Imagine if there were a crash. I watch people pile onto these buses and I am absolutely floored by how calm everyone is, how willing they are to jam into each other’s armpits and sit on each other’s laps. It’s really puzzling, really claustrophobic. Once I rode a bus that was so crowded I was cramped in behind the driver’s seat, in a roped off area, and still the bus driver was letting more people in. There must have been 80 people on that bus, and that’s not an exaggeration.

Second, why is it that change doesn’t matter? Why is it that if I take a cab, and it comes to let’s say R$11,65, the cab driver will just be “okay” with R$11? Don’t those 65 centavos matter? And did you know you can also just pay later? Like, “Hey, I don’t have the money on me right now. Can I give you a call and pay you later?” Do they even think this way in the States? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great idea. But think of all the possibilities for ripping businesses off! It’s astounding, really, to think about the lax business practices here. If I wanted to protect my small business, the last thing I’d do is allow transient people to pay later. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. But, then again, when I get a bill in the mail, I have seven days to pay it, unlike the thirty days at home. So I guess when they demand money here, they really put the pressure on.

Third, why is it so hard to open things here? I swear, they seal up everything except for window frames with super glue and/or welding material. Last night, for instance, I tried to open up a new bottle of mustard. I removed the cap and began to tear off the plastic protective layer when I realized my own strength was useless. I used my teeth, my fingernails, and eventually a knife to get that little thing off, after which it sprayed yellow mustard all over my shirt. And just now, I tried to open a riem of paper that was sealed in plastic wrap and glued together so tightly I wondered if it was even worth it for me to put in the effort to make a photocopy.

And also, you can pay for ANYTHING in ten payments. Sneakers, that are already ungodly expensive, you can pay for in ten easy payments. You can pay for airline tickets, DVDs, clothing, cars…well, I’m not sure about cars….purses, jewelry, TVs, blenders. At Carrefour, the equivalent of Wal-Mart here, they sell all the electronics in payments of 10. So the price they advertise is 1/10th that of the regular price, so you have to be careful. For instance, I saw a CD player a couple of months ago for R$29,90. “Great!” I thought. “SO cheap!” Until I saw the fine print beneath it saying “x10”, bringing the grand total to R$299,00. Not so great.

I’m not so sure about the point of all this, other than sometimes, like right now when I’m frustrated with inconsequential things like paper riems, it’s nice to be able to get them all off my chest. Thank you so much for listening.

You may continue with your day now.




8 responses

5 06 2007


Ms.C, you are the most weird person in the world!! Do you think that a CD player would cost 30.00R$!! Come on Ms.C even my baby cousi knows that!!

6 06 2007

Yeah, electronic goods are not cheap here. 110% tax is slapped on all such imports. Example: A new XBox360, which costs about USD 450 in the US, costs close to R$ 3000 in a book store here in Iguatimi mall. Considering the current exchange rate, that is about USD 1500. Which makes these things unaffordable for the average Joe. And for me as well. Cars you can pay off, but, for obvious reasons, a lot of interest is charged over the lifetime of such a transaction.

Serious bummer about your computer – I would die without mine, I think. You can try to go to FNAC in Dom Pedro mall. They sell Macs. I am not suggesting u buy one here since they are crazy expensive thanks to good ‘ol 110%, but if it is your hard drive that had enough of the heat / cold / humidity / whatnot, maybe they can help replace it.

6 06 2007

Hey Gina,

Buses in America don’t stop either if you don’t wave. The driver slows down, peeks over, and if no one appears to be getting ready to board, they keep on going.

Carrefour is a French version of Wal-Mart. It means ‘intersection’ in a broad, metaphorical sort of way as well as the literal, street terminology way. I learned this in Paris.

I think American packaging can be just as strange. Peanut butter now comes in tubes, like toothpaste. Yesterday, I found a basket of single sweet potatoes individually packaged in a special plastic wrap with a large sticker saying something about how easy it is to cook it in the microwave. The wrap even had a little “pull here” line so you could open your plastic-wrapped potato more easily. The potatoes were so small I figured this was some kind of marketing gimmick to get rid of crappy product.

I think the extra heavy-duty plastic you’re encountering is the result of someone very paranoid about the whole concept of “tamper-proof” things. Sometimes I’ll buy something at the store (like cereal, or a box of waffles) and I’ll come home and open it up to find that the bag inside is already open. Since I’m too lazy to return it to the store I just eat it anyway.

6 06 2007

Hey, Talita: don’t judge. It was an honest mistake. At least I didn’t buy it thinking it was that cheap and then caught off guard at the register.

6 06 2007

PEANUT BUTTER COMES IN TUBES? What, I go away for 11 months and suddenly they’re changing peanut butter? That’s just wrong.

Gerhardt, do you think it’s related to the weather here? I mean, why the computer died? I can wait a little while longer to bring her back to the States, and considering I don’t know all the technical words for “hard drive” and “if you break her anymore than she’s already broken I will ensure that you come back in your next life as worm larvae” I don’t want to bring her anywhere in Brazil to get fixed. Do you think it’s possible that someone will be able to save the information on her hard drive?

7 06 2007

Saving the info –> it is possible. Depends on what exactly went wrong with the drive. You get companies that actually specialize in data recovery when this kind of thing occurs. May cost you a little though, but often they are able to recover quite a bit of data. Always assuming that it is the drive that went. Maybe something else died, like the power supply, and your drive & data are actually fine.
Weather? could be… we had a couple of failures related to overheating and clogging of cooling fans thanks to skogkat fur. Now our comps are without panels. Helps with the heat extraction, but clogs the fans faster. But… of late it has been pretty chilly, so it is hard to tell. Hard drives usualy die after heavy usage over a few years, it is still very much a mechanical device. Power supplies pop due to the instabilty of the power here. It is not 110V flat. Maybe on average taken over 5 years. If u are not using a power stabilizer, you should get one. Can save you from future misery, and they are cheap enough.

7 06 2007
Duke Briscoe, Arlington MA

Gina, I think you are doing the right thing to bring your broken Mac back to the States. I think there is a very good chance that you will be able to recover everything from your hard drive.

8 06 2007

Gerhardt, Duke….thank you! I don’t know what I’ll do if all of that data disappears. I hope you’re right!

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