We had our first bit of a disaster today. But honestly, I wouldn't call it a disaster. If anything it was a panic more for Gui and Carla than the three Americans. Luckily, nothing disastrous happened.
Gui was back to work today but hooked us up with a great tour opportunity. His friend, Thiago, has a tour company that gives cultural walking tours of the city. It was ten times more interesting and educational than the large city tour in Rio. Typically his group averages about five people, we were "large" because we had seven. Melody, Micah and I were joined by a famliy who once lived in Sao Paulo but primarily was from Switzerland. They now live all over--but the mother father and two sons were together for the older son's 30th birthday. They were extremely friendly and wanted to learn as much about us as they did about the city.
Thiago, it turns out, is one of Gui's life long friends and did the same exchange program that brought Gui to Casey County. In fact, by complete chance, Thiago was also placed in Kentucky--Taylor County High School to be exact. His tour was excellent and nothing you would normally get our of your standard tour. I definitely preferred the walking and he simply took us to places that you would normally walk right past in the city without thinking twice, but Thiago was able to give us facts and history on all sorts of places, eateries, works of graffiti (which COVER the city), theaters, cathedrals, shopping centers, and simple little things that gave further explanation to the way of life in Sao Paulo.
From the tour, the three of us were to catch a bus to Santos, the city where Carla lives. She would meet us at the station (which would take about an hour and 15 minutes to get to) and Gui would drive to Santos once done with work. Thiago was kind enough to take us all the way to boarding the bus so he could assure Gui we had gotten on the right bus. I slept a little bit on the drive but also enjoyed the amazing scenery. We went way up in the mountains and were looking down upon gorgeous green valleys, thick with forest and jungle. It was quite a down-down-down spiral coming into Santos, but the city was much smaller than Sao Paulo. It made it feel homey after being in such a huge city.
So we got to the station and I stood to get off, but most people were still sitting. Melody asked if we were supposed to get off. I had no idea. We looked out the bus windows to see if we could spot Carla waiting for us but there was no sign of her. I guess it was obvious we were slightly confused so some people offered some help. I must have missed the first man who talked to Micah and Melody (they were seated a little further up than me) who spoke English and told them this was not the last stop in Santos. Gui hadn't said at which stop to get off. Then the man next to me began his attempts to help, bless him, but he knew no English. In the end multiple people told us that this was not the last stop and there was another station in Santos close to the beach. There was little time to make a decision so stayed put. As soon as we were pulling away I began to guess we'd made a mistake. The station had a large sign on the other side and its name was Santos. Then I saw a clock and it had been exactly and hour and 15 minutes since we'd left Sao Paulo. When we had to sit through the first stop on our way to Sao Paulo from Rio Gui had been very clear that we were not to get off on the first stop. He had not done that this time. The bus continued through the city letting people off at random places. Soon enough we were the only ones on the bus, looking at each other saying, "ummm...oops?"
It turns out the second station that everyone had mentioned to us was not a real station. It was simply the bus company's station that was rather small. However, it did stop (END) here so at least we didn't find our selves heading back to Sao Paulo. We were on the beach when we got off the empty bus (knowing the driver was looking at us and thinking, "stupid gringos!") but none of us were panicking. We could tell the city wasn't that huge. I even said to them that I mainly felt bad because it had been nearly an hour since we were supposed to arrive so Carla and Gui were probably freaking out wondering where we had ended up. We found a phone booth and began dialing all of the toll free numbers the two of them had given us since we arrived. It took several attempts but finally I heard on the other end, "Rita? Are you there?" It was Carla. I'm not sure who was more relieved.
Carla knew where the other "station" was and said she'd be there shortly to get us. Gui lectured us later for getting lost and said to me, "Think... Just lat night I was talking to Mr. and Mrs. Dixon telling them how safe there daughter was and that I would take care of her. What was I going to tell them when I lost you?"
We ate out at a great Japanese Rodizio restaurant and enjoyed lots of sushi, Tumaki, caipirinhas and more more more (including coffee for me--I can't get enough of it here!). Carla's house was wonderful and her Mom had a room all set up for us. She even had chocolate gifts for us all. We have been so blessed with the wonderful people who have been hosting us on our trip and blessed that, so far, missing our bus stop has been the biggest disaster we have faced.