3G connections were ubiquitous (well, except in the mountains north of Pirenópolis, but that’s unreasonable). My iPhone 4 worked perfectly, but my iPad did not. (I had purchased the International Roaming package from AT&T before taking my iPhone out of the country.) Surprisingly, 3G to my Kindle worked perfectly to download a new book. (For buying a book, the network connection was free. Apparently, there’s a charge if you want your magazine subscriptions over 3G.) God only knows what a Kindle costs in Brazil, but I’m sure it’s outrageous.
Lots of dogs, but we saw hardly any cats.
Like China, the whole country is handicapped-hostile. Few curb cuts, few handrails (and some of the handrails I encountered weren’t sturdy enough to take my weight), lots of staircases with no elevators. Not a problem for us, but something to consider if you’re mobility-challenged.
China loves motor scooters. Brazil loves motorbikes (where you straddle the machine rather than sitting primly on a seat). Unlike China, almost everyone wears a helmet. We were surprised to figure out that the “Moto Taxi” service in Pirenópolis was just that… a motorbike taxi, where you borrow a helmet and grab on tight behind the driver. Three reais (two bucks) anywhere in town.
Brazil doesn’t have nearly enough railroads. That means a much higher percentage of goods get shipped overland by truck. Scary on narrow curvy mountain roads after dark.
And it gets dark fast. Being in the tropics (well, technically, São Paulo is a few miles south of the Tropic of Capricorn), the sun sets almost vertically, instead of sliding down at an oblique angle as in more familiar latitudes. So sunset is over faster, and darkness hits faster. Being near the equinox, the sun set at 6:00 pm every night… and it was dark by 6:15. No period of twilight like we get at home.
The whole Southern Hemisphere thing really messed with my sense of direction. I usually can point directly to north without thinking about it too much, and I’m good at finding my way from place to place after glancing at a map. But I kept getting (literally) turned around in Brazil… and finally, more than once, exclaiming “The sun is in the @#$%^& north! Even intellectually knowing it to be true, my subconscious kept trying to squeeze it into the southern half of the sky, where it belongs.
(And, at midday, the sun was close enough to vertically overhead as to make no difference… as was the moon at night.)
Travelling with a U.S. GPS was fun. We bought the Brazilian map chip from Garmin, but it was several years out of date, and didn’t understand things like one-way streets. And, like Europe, highway signs don’t show the name of the road, they show the name of the place the road goes to… which is not what’s displayed on the GPS. And listening to “GPS Girl” try to pronounce Portuguese street names with an English text-to-speech algorithm was hugely entertaining (when we weren’t missing turns, that is).
Finally, stuck here because it doesn’t fit anywhere else… I loved this line from cachaçeria bartender Dona Elsa, talking about her daughter: “She used to live in the United States, but then she moved to Florida.”