Making Friends and Taking Time in Belem

Belem Moto Plate

Belem is a relatively easy city to get around, especially on a small motorcycle or scooter. While the heat and humidity can tire you quickly, it seems almost every day the sky opens up and cools the city with a quick yet refreshing rainfall. This is the tropics and we’re just south of the equator.

Belem Dancer

The color, beauty and rhythmic movement of the Amazon.

The camaraderie I experienced in Belem was typical of my Brazilian experiences. But here I spent more time as a local than as a tourist. As such, the feeling of being “home” was extremely strong. I thoroughly enjoyed whizzing around this manageable city on a feather light 125cc Yamaha enduro visiting new restaurants, stopping by local homes, and just living in these moments.

Belem Manuel

Manoél at a local pub after walking around the old city.

Belem Rocknroll

Rock n’ roll at a nightclub in Belem.

Belem School Girls

School girls hanging outside the House of Eleven Windows, one of the oldest buildings in the city.

Allan Exequiel Marden

Standing next to me is Exequiel from Buenos Aires and Marden.

One afternoon after walking and riding around the city with Marden, I learned that Exequiel, the Argentinean motorcyclists I had run into two weeks before outside Forteleza had arrived in Belem. It was a veritable adventure motorcyclist reunion as we chowed on seafood from the Amazon and swapped stories of our adventures.

One morning after a shave and haircut from a local barber, Alex connected me with Manoél, a friend and compadre from outside the city limits who wandered the old city with me as I focused the lens of my camera on the people, architecture and colors of Belem. I had my share of errands and tasks to complete too. I needed to secure airline tickets to Buenos Aires. Coincidentally, Alex planned to take a trip to visit a girl in Rio de Janeiro, so we called my friend Escorse in Rio and made a connection between new friends.

Let’s Have A Beer Among Friends.

Each evening in Belem brought new and exciting activities. From dining at a fine restaurant, to visiting clubs along the river and cruising to visit friends, perhaps the most interesting to me was a visit to a local Posto one evening I had a hand at word play with my Brazilian friends using my innocent yet somewhat sardonic humor the best I could in Portuguese.

“Where we going?” I asked innocently and inquisitively.

“We’re going to grab a cold beer and see some friends,” Andre replied while turning up the Roger Waters disk in his car.

“Where?” I begged for more information. Sucking on a cigarette that hung loosely from his mouth, Andre was proud of his car and it is a luxury for Brazilians privileged enough to own one. Not only are the costs of buying a car four or five-fold for a similar vehicle in the United States, registration and insurance costs after a couple years will exceed the purchase price of the vehicle. Currently happily unemployed the 30-something Andre would cart me around during the day so I could complete my errands, for which I happily filled his tank with gas. Not used to riding in a car and perhaps accustomed to larger vehicles with heavier doors, when closing the door of André’s Fiat I gave it a swift slam. After about the fifth time Andre lay into me and politely showed me how to delicately close the door.

“The posto, it’s very close,” Andre answered with both hands on the wheel and cocking his head to avoid cigarette smoke from getting in his eyes.

“The posto?” I exclaimed with a degree of wonder? “We already bought gas,” I explained. Our conversation was completely in Portuguese, and posto is the word for station or in this case he was referring to a gas station.

“No, we’re going to the Posto to meet Alex and my friends and have a beer!” Andre tried to explain seeming slightly frustrated. Now I was going to have fun.

“But Andre?” I said with a confused and yet curious inflection in the tone of my voice, “why are we going to the gas station to have a beer?” He looked at me while taking another drag on his cigarette. “Are you sure? Aren’t we going to a bar or a pub to have a beer?”

“No Allan, I’m sure we are going to the gas station!” He could tell I was playing with him now.

“So Andre,” I tried to reason, “then if we go to the gas station to get beer, I guess we’ll go to the bar to get gas?” He flashed a toothy smile and this discussion became the topic of the evening. We rolled into a Shell gas station where dozens of bikes and several restored classic cards including a mint-perfect old-style VW bug. This was obvious a weekly hangout for motor enthusiasts. I floated my curiosity by the group of new friends I just met, and when Alex showed up I had just purchased a few bottles of Bohemia beer and posed my curiosity of buying beer at a gas station and wondering if we could buy gas at a bar — all a bit of an oxymoron to me. When I handed him a Bohemia and explained in Portuguese “este cerveja com additivo” the whole group broke down in a roar of laughter. You see in Brazil you can buy regular gasoline and gasoline with some sort of additive (additivo) that increases octane — os so they purport.

Andre Alex Posto Stop

André and Alex with the gang in the background at the Posto/gas station where we shared a few beers among friends.

For the rest of my time in Belem the Posto/beer joke become a recurring theme. I guess my silly humor transgresses the boundaries of language. And this is perhaps the best part of traveling — that is truly getting to know a place and immersing myself into the local culture and making friends that will surely last a lifetime — regardless of distance, language, culture and economic differences.

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