By Tim Cowman
This is the third and final part of Tim’s article about Teresina. You can read parts 1 and 2 by clicking on the links at the bottom of the page.
Life and times of a Gringo in The @#$%hole of the Earth”
The lonely planet goes some way to giving us an idea of to what to expect from Teresina as a gringo:
“We recommend a visit if you yearn for attention or would like to feel famous for a day or two”
Life in Teresina for its handful of gringos (last count seven – two Germans, two Americans, one Brit, one Swede and an Austrian) can at times feel like you are starring in your own novela. I wouldn’t compare it to sitting on a packed train in Japan with a five meter space radiating out around only you but you can certainly be thrown into some bizarre situations. In ten months I have recorded voice overs for local radio, been mistaken as an English football scout, featured in the local paper, been interviewed on TV and had an audience with the city’s mayor. The peak of fame was reached when the TV cameras came out for three full days to commemorate the arrival of a group of Japanese bought here through my work.
From this evidence you can see where the lonely planet is coming from, but I think as foreigners in a country we are sometimes arrogant/paranoid and believe everything is for our specific benefit. Yes certainly in Floripa I was able to disappear into the surrounding mass of humans with my blue eyes, blonde hair and white skin (the tone of which only the British seem to own). Teresina is a big city, pollution wise, but with a small town countryside mentality. Everybody knows everybody, the staff at the supermarket know me, waiters know my order and as soon as I so much as set foot in many restaurants a chilled beer is often being pulled from the freezer. The people are much friendlier when compared to the often impersonality of big urban areas belying the size of the city.
Due to the goldfish bowl nature of Teresina I treated my recent jaunt into São Paulo more as a trip into civilization rather than a new Brazilian experience. Catching up with as many expat activities as possible – you know the things gringos usually do to keep themselves sane. One day I headed to an Irish pub to watch a bit of English football on TV, hopefully in the presence of people who spoke the same lingo as me. My pint of Guinness was very satisfying but the atmosphere was very different from the streets of Piaui.
My wife cannot wait to get back into the metropolitan environment as we look to move to São Paulo and away from the searing heat in the near future. I will be making sure that I make the most of the rest of my time here in the North East. Across the whole region there are some beautiful beaches, cities (Teresina is the only non coastal capital) and sites that I am still yet to explore. Though most of all I will be ensuring that as much of the limitless warmth of the local people rubs off on me. I will be attempting to discover the secret behind the never ending hospitality in “The @#$%hole of the Earth”.
Previous articles by Tim: