Caxias do SulBy Bobby Neal Winters
This is my first full day in Caxias do Sul. (If you are going to have any luck reading this, I need to tell you that Caxias is pronounced Ca-SHEE-us doo soow. The x is pronounced sh except when it's not; they pronouce do exactly like we do; and l on the end of a word sounds like a w to my ear.)
I am just about as far south in Brazil as you can go. This is that state of Rio Grande do Sul. I flew into Porto Alegre and a driver brought me to Caxias. A student who had been on exchange at PSU last semester and her family took me to the grand finale of the Festa da Uva (grape fesitval) last night. They have quite an ethnic mix here: Indigenous Americans, Portuguese, Italians, Germans, Poles, and most recently Haitians and Sengalese.
This morning, after a nice breakfast with coffee that would put hair on your peito I went out and street-tested my Portuguese. They can understand me and--within short boundaries--I can understand them. I found o Banco do Brasil to use my ATM card. (I'd tried one of the CAIXA machines to no avail. They have consistently rejected my car in every city of Brazil, but they are conveniently located.)
My room does not have an air-conditioner, but the weather is pleasant enough that is not an issue. The Universidade do Caxias do Sul will pick me up at 1:30 and I will be at it until after 8. Between now and then, I will go out and get a little lunch. I might try a place where I bought a Pepsi. I "chatted" a bit there in "Portuguese" with an old guy who asked me if I were and American. I said yes and he said he could tell because I was fat, "gordo." Nothing mean-spirited about it. Facts are facts. He was cooking feijoada and it really smelled good.