Long story short, I'm in Buenos Aires. I fled the doldrums of Southern Brazil this morning. I think the wake up call was last night when I ordered room service by myself at 7 pm and was already in my pajamas by the time the dude showed up at my room with my ham and cheese omelette. He looked embarrassed, too.
A little part of me died as I sat there watching bad Brazilian tv and eating my soggy omelette, in a hotel in the middle of nowhere (where I happened to be the only guest not related to some weird convention, which added to the humiliation) and I thought, Stephanie... whaaaaat are you DOING?! So the next day, I got up early, went to breakfast, inquired about the next bus out of Flores da Cunha, the ###### town that I had somehow ended up in, and took myself to the bus station.
First, some background on where I was -- Flores da Cunha is a crappy little town on the outskirts of Caxias do Sul, which is an even crappier, bigger town. Flores wasn't THAT hideous, I guess, but nothing to write home about. Yet, here I am, writing home about it. Sigh.
I don't even know how I ended up there in the first place, except that my guide book had said something about it being a village that retained strong Italian folk traditions or some such nonsense. I guess in my mind I had a fuzzy picture of myself wearing a headscarf and dancing around, eating lasagne and playing a tambourine with a bunch of cheerful villagers, but it was not to be. Turns out the town consisted of a couple of banks, an ice cream parlor with some dodgy looking teenagers hanging outside, and some ugly clothes stores. Why do I keep writing home about this?!
So I got myself on the bus to Caxias, along with several people who smelled like pee, and counted myself lucky that I had a row to myself. Then, halfway through the ride, an old man in a cowboy hat with long hair and what can only be described as a leather man-purse came and sat next to me. About five minutes into it, he started to talk to me, but I could not understand a WORD the man said. I think part of the problem was that he only had one bottom tooth and he mumbled. Anyhow, he didn't seem to notice that I had no idea what he was talking about, and was content to talk the entire way, gesticulating, pointing at things, asking me questions and then not waiting for a response. I smiled and nodded continuously for half an hour, and laughed when he laughed, which was often. What a conversation we had. Eventually he hobbled off the bus, I made it to Caxias, and got the first bus to Porto Alegre.
Once in Porto Alegre, I took a cab to the airport, marched up the Varig counter, and got my ticket switched to the next flight to Buenos Aires. I felt an incredible sense of achievement, and everything was sailing along until I had to give my passport to the federal police. I was hoping they wouldn't notice that I had overstayed my visa by almost three months, buuuuuut, they did. I was marched to the federal police HQ like a bad kid going to the principal´s office, and had to sit there for 20 minutes while a guy painstakingly typed my name and passport number into his computer with two fingers. Finally, minutes before my plane took off, they let me go and told me that when I re-enter Brazil, I'll have to pay $700 reais. WhatevaAAA!