Monday, September 09, 2013

On the Road

By Bobby Neal Winters

Living on the road my friend
Was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
Your breath's as hard as kerosene
Townes Van Zandt

I've been on the road for a couple of weeks. First Brazil, now Paraguay. Along with my wife, we are living out of suitcases. The hotels have been nice, so this has definitely not been a canoe trip down the Amazon, but when you are a homeboy, life on the road is a stress.
Currently the contents of my pocket is a mixture of dollars, reals, and guarani. In Brazil, pricing something was the exercise of dividing by two. Here in Paraguay, it means dividing by 5000. The rhythms of the road are different from place to place. Practices which are the law in the states might very well get you killed either here or in Brazil. You must keep you head about you.
In Brazil, the people on the street did not speak English and outside of airports and other tourist centered places, there was very little English; some in Brasilia, but it's a government city. If you know a little Spanish in Brazil, the best strategy is to extrapolate Latin from your Spanish and then imagine how the Portuguese ruined it. It also helps to imagine they ruined some things differently just out of spite. For example, they pronounce the letter r at the beginning of a syllable like an English h. So Renaissance sounds like Henaissance. This is so silly, you begin to think someone is just playing a trick on you, but they are deadly serious. When the plane landed in Río, they said welcome to Hee-oh. So if it is a trick, they really care about it and it's best not to call them on it.
Santo from Spanish is São in Portuguese. They say it is pronounced sow, but it you say sow they will shake their heads. The one thing I know from my reading is that it's not pronounced Say-oh, but if you pronounce it Say-oh, they are happier than if you say sow.
As I said above, there are different rhythms. They eat late here. When we eat ate American times, 6:30 or 7 pm, we have the restaurant to ourselves if the restaurant is even open. In Río and São Paulo, the student fairs went to nine, so we put off supper until then. We felt much less out of place, but eating that late is not really conducive to sleeping well for us.
We've had this weekend off in Asuncion, and I've taken a siesta each afternoon. I've been amazed at how easily that has come to me. The days have been hot, in the nineties. We've walked in the mornings, found lunch at noon, and then come back to the room to crash. It has been a glue that has held me together.
Today I have business. I need to be sharp. Tomorrow the same is true. Then the trip home on Wednesday. Students to teach, students to help, grass to mow, and my own bed.

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