Saturday, March 14, 2009

Garanhuns

We spent Wednesday and Thursday with a favorite uncle in Garanhuns, an hour or so away by bus. It wasn't a pleasure trip (we spent most of our time handing out our resumes, with promising results), although pleasures abounded at every turn. It is several degrees cooler there due to the surrounding small mountains (not sure if the proper designation is hill, or mountain... the few sources I've checked still leave me in doubt. I am from a very flat, pine-encompassed land). There are real restaurants in Garanhuns. Arcoverde, for all its small town charm, has a number of fried food stands, a pizza parlor or two, and one barbecue place that I know of. There's a fondue restaurant in Garanhuns. Yeah, I know! Fondue! There are also a few Chinese restaurants, some fine a la carte Brazilian restaurants, actual movie theaters, etc. There's something comforting about a place that resembles what I am used to in America. I don't mean to short-change Arcoverde, but even native Brazilians share my lack of enthusiasm for this little place. While I tolerate the heat well enough, the prospect of living in a city that more resembles California weather than Arizona would be appealing to anyone, I think. So we have designs on Garanhuns. The pronunciation, by the way, makes sense if you know a smattering of Portuguese (like me), but I can't imagine any American without such knowledge coming close. The "huns" at the end is pronounced "yuhhhz," utilizing a nasal vowel similar to the French "un" nasal. Actually, come to think of it, the "huns" sounds more like the vowel in "coins." (you can see my command of the phonetics is shaky at best) When describing the pronunciation to a friend recently, I said, "It sounds like they are mumbling something about "Gary's Loins." Scary Loins is another private nickname I have for the place. 

Getting back to the landscape. On the road to Tio Abrahao's (Uncle Abraham's) house, there is a point in the road where the car heads uphill, and the landscape is more gorgeous than anything I can think of. There are a number of large hills covered with houses and businesses, all painted in the local light pastel color scheme (this must be due to the heat, lighter colors reflecting the sunlight... it also contributes to the blinding brightness of the towns). When you are in a dip in the road, and the land directly in front of you is a steep incline uphill, the oceanic rolling of the landscape is breathtaking. At the farthest point of the horizon, with clusters of buildings clinging to the hill, it looks as though the world drops off forever beyond that cresting of earth. And the palatial cumulus clouds that are ubiquitous to the region, fat and bright with dark bellies, rival the landscape in immensity. Indeed, when you are on top of one of these hills, you feel as if you could reach and touch the clouds. This view of the landscape, when you are in the car, only lasts for a few moments... the car or bus overtakes the incline, and the horizon evens out, putting the human dwellings at eye-level or lower. I don't recall ever seeing anything quite like it, not even in mountainous areas of New Hampshire or Massachusetts (I may not have paid attention, though). I snapped a few pictures, none of which did the view any justice. But we are leaving tomorrow to spend all of next week there, so there will be more opportunities. 


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