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Life on the Road in Porto Alegre – Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

Life on the Road in Porto Alegre

Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

Life on the road in Brazil is full of surprises.

A Bus Comes Barreling Down
A Bus Comes Barreling Down
Let me paint the scene for you. The streets here in Porto Alegre are full of Euro-sized 2-doors cutting you off and moto-delivery boys doin’ their bob-and-weave through the train of cars. Many roads forgo the unheeded dashed lines between their lanes in favor of odd uneven pavement and abrupt merges: If you can’t guide them, trick them, the engineers figure. It’s certainly something to get used to, inventing lanes where there are none and having someone wander over just to avoid the encroaching car to their right. Now it’s not Mumbai, but it’s no Wichita.

Fortunately, most of the drivers are accustomed to the craziness. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. Let me take you along for the ride.

Surprise #1: Stoplight Spotlight
The first surprise is a happy one. You see, here in Brazil, when you’re driving around, there are often VERY good-looking girls either in the car next to you, up ahead crossing the street, or simply standing on the corner late at night. (We’ll discuss these later, boys).

An example: Stuck at a stoplight while driving to my Portuguese class one day, I spotted a gorgeous set of legs at the right, crossing directly in front of my car. Instinctively, of course, my gaze followed said legs to their eventual destination, a clothing store (or was it luggage?). They weren’t inside for 5 seconds before another set of legs, even smoother and perhaps longer (who can tell with this *^$% metric system?!) emerged from the exact same store, crossed along the same exact path, and alighted on the other side of the street. Where could these legs be going? I thought. Perhaps they’re looking for some shoes to add as exclamation points. Or maybe they’re heading home to shed their skirt and take a shower. The possibilities were numerous and exciting.

It was at this point that I realized the symphony of honking horns was not cheering on the beautiful women but rather intending to get me scooting along. The light was green, and though my mind was racing, my car was standing still.

Surprise #2: What Red Light?
Funnily though, as day turns into night and night turns into midnight, the ladies disappear into their homes and the stoplights stop meaning stop; people just sort of pause at the stoplights in the wee small hours before driving through. Searching for an explanation, my first assumption was that, because the ladies were gone, there was no show to watch while stopped at the light. And if there was no show to watch, there was little reason to stop. Upon further investigation, though, it was revealed to me that the lady shows were being replaced by scary people trying to steal your car. Apparently these ladrões lurk in the shadows, waiting for people to stop at the light, so they can jump out and put a gun to your head or something.

Delicious this story was, but not quite as nice as the one I imagined about the lady show being gone. It did elucidate the situation, however, and no matter what the reason, it’s awfully liberating to run red lights.

Surprise #3: %$#@ the Radio!

A View of a Graffiti-Lined Street
A View of a Graffiti-Lined Street
So I was running a red one night, weaving to avoid the hawkeye speed-checking cameras, when I heard something very strange on the radio. Eminem was on, and that part figures; I had heard a healthy spattering of American songs since I arrived. But this song was different; it was Eminem in all his glory, with expletives inexplicably included. Immediately a smirk of disbelief washed over my face while my ears perked to hear more of the off-limit lyrics. This is the radio, right? I wondered. F this F that, S this S that–I guess I should’ve felt bad, but I just wanted to hear more. So I turned up the volume.

Surprising as it was, the thing is, after the shock of this wore off, I guess it made decent sense. It’s just like the bloodys spewing from that Brits on While You Were Out and the mierdas shouted at Wimbledon; unless it’s your language, it really doesn’t faze you.

Surprise #4: Drinking in Cars with Girls
Okay, so there is much more to life on the road in Brazil, but the one that takes the cake is the drinking inside of cars. That’s right kids; you can drink (and yes, I mean alcohol) inside of cars. I hadn’t been here for 3 weeks when I had my first experience with the wild world of drinking in cars with girls. We were sardined into a little 2-door on the way to our friend’s graduation ball when the first ,cervejas popped. I thought, What is this? An open container in the car? Could this be? Is this legal? My astonishment was met with simple nods of the head; it sure was. And though my conscience momentarily disagreed, the little devil on my shoulder said, take a drink. When in Rome, I figured.


Carl Winter is a Taiwan-born Brazilian/American dual-citizen, living in Brazil for the first time at the age of 28. The posted stories, pictures, flix and digit$ on his website are meant to give an indication of the daily fabric of Brazil – from an outsider’s inside perspective.

If you are planning a trip to Brazil, or just want to say hi, email him at carl at iid8.com.

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