The Final Winner of the Writing Etc. Travel Writing Contest

PLANES, RAINS, BUSES AND COWS

Monica A. Andermann

So there hadn’t been a stellar beginning to my teen-age visit of family in Brazil: an unexpected airport layover; a damaged suitcase; a bout with air sickness, all followed by four days of housebound downpours with no entertainment other than a static-y radio and my grandmother’s Bible. Yet just as I was checking Genesis to find out how to slap a few cubits of gopher wood together to form an ark, the sun arrived and with it my older cousin’s promise of a day of sight-seeing fun in the city. I grabbed my jacket and flew out the door.

At the bus stop, my cousin proposed our tour begin at Parque Farroupilha. This place had to be fabulous, I thought, as I rolled the name around my tongue. Pahr-kay Fahr-ooo-peel-ya.

Don’t get too excited,” he said, “Parque. It’s a park.” Didn’t matter. With that name it had to be great. And it had a zoo? With toucans and parrots and poisonous dart frogs? The bus arrived in the midst of my mildew-enhanced enthusiasm and we boarded. Once seated, I noticed an angry man across the aisle who sat alternating between sniffing and grumbling in Portuguese.

I pointed, “What’s wrong with him?”

My cousin translated: “His regular bus route was flooded and he’s been riding around for hours. Now it smells like the baby behind him loaded his diaper.”

Shortly, evidence of both his gripes appeared. The smell ripened as the bus driver fought to negotiate his charge on the muddy clay road. Its passengers bumped about as cars and bicycles flew to the street’s edge, seeking safety from the menace. Suddenly, the bus came to a dead stop. A large, brown and white cow had wandered onto the road and refused to move. Passengers grumbled, shook their heads. The driver blew the horn. Nothing. The cow remained, his tail toward the driver, mocking. The driver leaned on the horn. The infant shrieked. The angry man howled, “Dear mother of God! Get me off this bus!” and forced his way out the emergency exit. Terrified of mutiny, the driver put the vehicle in park, climbed down the steps, got behind the cow and started to push. At first, nothing. Then, one hopeful step. The driver pushed again, harder. The cow slapped him with his tail. The driver stopped, made the sign of the cross and pushed again. Finally success; the cow padded across the road.

The driver returned to his seat, mopped his soaking brow, put the bus in drive and after another bouncy hour that left me with a bruised elbow and a banged knee, we arrived at our destination.

Finally, the zoo. I limped to the aviary where I tilted my face upward toward the magnificence of its tropical birds. And then, splat, on top of my head.

It’s good luck,” my cousin offered, as I wiped the droppings with a tissue.

I thought about my vacation so far. “Good luck,” I murmured, “Yeah, I could use some.”

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