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  • Submitted by: Abraham Gale, United States
  • Submission Date: 03rd May 2005

Abraham Gale
P.O. Box 141
Beverly Hills, CA 90213
Tel. (310) 922-0166
GaleAbraham@yahoo.comBRAZILBy Abraham GaleThere are relatively few American tourists visiting Brazil, a beautiful, big, inexpensive, and sometimes dangerous country. Everywhere I went, the number of European tourists was significantly larger. I have not seen this kind of proportion in any other part of the world. In July, during the Brazilian winter, I visited the old city of Salvador, capital of the State of Bahia, and the exotic island Morro de Sao Paulo, two hours sailing distance, or twenty minutes flying on a light plane from Salvador. The sun shined for ten days. Then the rain did not stop for the next ten days. Despite the rain, it was still warm. This time, I arrived in the big city of Sao Paulo in January, during the middle of the Brazilian summer. At the airport incoming border inspection, any American Passport is checked thoroughly by a Brazilian officer, in order to verify that it is stamped with a Brazilian visa, which requires a fee. Then, the American tourist is instructed to wait in another long and slow line, to have his photograph taken. This was the time for me to use my Israeli Passport. The officer welcomed me, and shortly later, I found myself in the arms of my Brazilian girlfriend. Since Israel does not require visa from Brazilians and does not take their photographs, Brazil does the same to Israelis. Having an American and an Israeli passport makes me able to choose the better of two worlds. Israelis, some of whom invest significant effort to get an additional American passport, find it hard to believe that sometimes their Israeli passport would be more advantageous.Sao Paulo is the biggest city in South America. Most of the companies and businesses in Brazil are centered in this city, which does not have many attractions to offer to tourists. In 1979, I brought one of the first CAT Scans (Computerized Tomographies) to a hospital in Sao Paulo. Since then, in 26 years, the city has become more crowded, with masses of people in the streets and with almost halted traffic on the roads. The very rich people use helicopters for transportation, which many times land on top of the large buildings. On the weekends, anyone who can afford it escapes from the January summer humidity. Most of the people go to relax in the beach towns. We went to the mountainous town, Campos do Jordao, which resembles towns in the European Alps. Hotel and restaurant prices are less than half of the prices of similar or less quality places in the United States. There are moderate hotels, which are called pousadas, with lower prices. Any hotel or pousada room price includes cooked and served breakfast as a standard.We continued to the large State of Minas Gerais, General Mines in English, to visit Mariza’s family. The fields are filled with coffee plants. The mines are almost empty. There is no more gold or silver in the mines. The Portuguese colonials shipped it to Portugal. A small portion of it was left in Brazil, coated on the walls and sculptures of the churches of Ouro Pretto, Tiradentes and other Colonial old cities.The State of Rio de Janeiro, where we traveled next, is known as the Fiesta State, where people like to eat, drink , dance , make love, and play football, which is called soccer in the United States. The time is before the Carnival. There is music and dancing everywhere; it’s mostly the Samba sensual dance, where the partners stay apart and move to the rhythm of the music, or the faster Farol dance, where the partners are attached and moving rapidly with intensive friction. In Petropolis, the old city of the Brazilian aristocracy, there is Chorinho, the Brazilian Country music. In Buzios, a beautiful beach town in the Lake District, a band sings the American BeeGees songs with a Brazilian accent. In the city of Rio de Janeiro, the Samba Schools are rehearsing their Carnival marching and dancing shows.We drove south on the beach highway, planning to arrive at the beach of Praia Grande, on the night of the second of February, the night of the celebrations for Yemanja, the Goddess of the ocean. The highway passes through an outskirt of the small port Angra dos Reis. The rain is persistent. At the entrance to the outskirt, there is a bump, lombada in Portuguese, on the road, to slow traffic. A large truck stops on the bump. Mariza pushes the brakes. The car does not stop. It skids and hits the truck. As we find later, the truck on the bump had previously hit another truck in front of it. The front of the car is compressed. We are OK. We exit the car. The asphalt is covered with black motor oil, mixed with rainwater. In a short time, a towing truck appears and offers to tow the car. The young truck driver helps us to examine the damage. We open the hood. Mariza and the guy check the motor. I enter the car to operate the ignition switch. I hear a strong braking noise and tire friction from the outside. A huge truck is driving down the street in our direction, skidding on the asphalt and unable to stop. Mariza and the guy jump into the bushes on the side of the street. I am trapped in the car. Mariza, lying on a bush, worriedly looks at me. In the last minute, the skidding truck changes direction and hits the car with its side, sparing my life. The car is pushed strongly forward and filled with glass pieces. Now, the back of the car is also compressed. I am still OK. I exit the car and take Mariza, who is still lying barefoot on the bush, to the covered coconut-selling stand, on the other side of the road. I go back to retrieve her sandals from where she had jumped, which is now under the center of the totaled car.The rain is stronger. The local Brazilian guys, at the coconut-selling stand are friendly. They offer us coconut and sweet watermelon. As most Brazilians, they are easy to talk to. They only keep quiet when I ask how the oil happened to be on the asphalt.Two hours later, a highway patrol SUV arrives. The one police officer shakes the hand of the tow truck driver who is still staying around. The officer starts a process of questioning and writing the responses of the persons that were involved in the triple accident. He often breaks his questioning with long talks and statements about international politics, and frequently mentions the name Saddam Hussein. Mariza whispers “loco”, crazy, in my ear. Everyone tells the officer about the oil. He does not respond.Four hours after the accident, sirens are heard. A caravan of ambulances is passing with blinking red lights. “There is another accident” Mariza says and adds “this time with casualties”. The caravan makes a U turn and stops near us. “Oh, they have come to clean the oil from the asphalt” Mariza says. After verifying that there are no injuries, the caravan leaves. Seven hours after the accident, the police officer finishes the investigation report, dismisses us and leaves. The oil is still on the asphalt. The three other trucks that were involved in the accident leave. It is midnight. The coconut stand is closed. We are left with the totaled car and the tow truck and its driver. We hire him to tow our car.The battered car is lifted on the tow truck. We ride in the cabin, to the towing company office in town. The young shirtless company owner waits for us in a one room second floor office. His two year-old son is lying on a blanket on the floor, watching television which is located on a shelf near the ceiling of the small room. The owner prepares coffee for us and tells us that there are approximately five similar accidents in the area every day. He owns a taxi, in addition to the towing truck. Negotiations about towing the car to a repair garage take another two hours. Patience is essential in Brazil. We return to Sao Paulo, riding eight hours in a taxi. Back in Sao Paulo, we are told that the popular investigative TV show, Fantastico, reported that in different parts of Brazil, car towing companies spread oil on the streets, in order to promote business.Back in Los Angeles, five days later, I call the Brazilian consulate. I speak to Michael, the consulate representative. He is sorry for what happened. He cannot do anything about it, because he is too busy. He would not give me his last name. He says he is the supervisor and there is nobody else in the consulate to speak to.Time is passing by. The happy memories of the exotic beaches, the music, the dancing and the joy, overcome the fear of danger. Ten more months left for the Carnival. In Rio, spectators sit on the benches and watch the parade of dancers. In the towns of Minas, the people dance four nights in the streets, until they are exhausted.