I've been in Palmas for most of the past week, but I just returned this morning on the luxury bus. A luxury bus has more room to stretch out and air conditioning. I went to Palmas with Dante's Aunt Marcia last Tuesday. It's about a 12 hour ride on the bus into the State of Tocantins. It's about as far north as you can go in Brazil without running into the ocean or the Amazon, but it's also almost exactly in the geographic center of Brazil. I thought it was hot in Goiania, but it got to 104 one afternoon in Palmas. That's hot!
Marcia and her husband Euclides own a TV station and production company in Palmas. They have a nice apartment here, and they each come here for about a week every month. Marcia invited me to join her for the week this time. One of the reporters picked us up from the bus station, and we used his car after dropping him off back at the station.
I was interested in Palmas because it's the newest of the planned cities in Brazil. The State of Tocantins was formed from the northern part of Goias (the state Goiania is the capital of) in 1988, and the capitol was established in the new City of Palmas in 1990. The developer wanted to create a city from scratch with totally new infrastructure. Palmas is the cleanest and safest city I have seen in Brazil. There are excellent quality government buildings and streets with curbs and gutters. However, it lacks the diversity that I have come to appreciate in other cities. There are no street names - everything is based on numbered sectors and streets. There are very few traffic lights because the developer used rotary intersections so that people wouldn't need to stop their cars. There are design standards and height limitations. Residential neighborhoods are separated from commercial areas. In my opinion, the result felt like I was riding around in circles all the time without having any idea where I was going. I couldn't go anywhere without a car because there's not enough infill development yet, and everything is far away from each other. Marcia offered to let me use the car, but I don't have a valid driver's license in Brazil and I wasn't willing to risk driving without one.
On the other hand, there is a river and a large new lake with nice beaches and restaurants. There are many natural areas with trails and waterfalls. It appears to be an area with great potential for ecotourism. My favorite restaurant was a churrascaria called Portal do Sol. A churrascaria is a restaurant with a huge buffet of salads and vegetables in the center. After you have loaded your plate, you return to your table where waiters in southern Brazilian gaucho costumes circulate with different types of meat roasted over charcoal on long metal skewers. They carve slices of meat onto your plate until you tell them to stop. Each waiter has one skewer with a different variety or cut of meat. Brazilian meats are extremely tender, tasty, and virtually fat-free. When you have had enough, you place a red card face up on the table to signal that you've had enough. We ate at another beach-side restaurant with freshly caught and grilled fish.
Now I'm back in Goiania for at least a week. Angela and I went shopping this afternoon, and I was compelled to buy another pair of shoes. For some reason, I have acquired about 10 pairs of shoes here, even a couple with spiky heels. Almost all are sandals. I'm starting to think that Lana put something in the frosting on my retirement cake! I'm also tired of wearing jeans that are too big, so I decided to try on some new ones. I purchased two new pairs of jeans with a 34 waist just before I left Duluth. Today I tried on a size 32, but it was too big. I'm down to a 30! I think I need to stay here a few months longer!
The Rotary District Conference is next weekend, and we have a GSE team (Group Study Exchange) from Holland arriving on Wednesday. I'm going to help them by translating from Portuguese to English. All the exchange students from the district are staying at the chacara, and I'm going there one day to help make some desserts for them. At the same time, I will watch and maybe help Geraldo make cheese. He raises cows there, and he makes the best cheese I've ever tasted.
I have less than one month left before I go home. I want to go to Belo Horizonte once more to visit Livia and to Sao Paulo and Campinas to spend more time with Dante and Lenora. I'd like to get to Rio de Janeiro to spend some time with Luciana, who has returned to Brazil from Miami. I can't imagine where all the time has gone. There are so many more things I want to do here, and so little time. I guess I'll just have to come back for 6 more months!