This page was first published on the 25th of June, 2016 and last updated on the 25th of June, 2016 by Patrick Carpen.
I had heard so many stories of Manaus. Aside from the hundreds of factories, the wealth and productivity of the people, Manaus, like many other great cities in Brazil, had its dark side: the favelas, where comparative poverty, drugs and crime were the order of the day. Would I perhaps come face to face with some of these criminals? I neither feared nor hoped so.
I should inform the reader at this point, that, unlike in India and Africa, Brazil’s poverty is really mild. The government takes good care of its people. Not one person has been reported to have died of starvation of malnutrition related illnesses.
Soon we entered the city of Boa Vista, and at around two o clock in the afternoon, Albert Johnson pulled the car over at the corner of the road across from the bus station. I got out, grabbed my small suitcase from the trunk and waved goodbye to Albert and Aunty Gloria.
As I waited to cross the road, a motorcyclist slowed down, put on his hazard lights and signaled the oncoming traffic to stop. I hurried across the road and signaled a thank you to the motorcyclist.
I went to the Eucudur Bus office and inquired about buses leaving for Manaus. They had buses leaving at 6:pm, 7pm and 8pm, and the cheapest seat was 100 Brazilian reals – which was equal to about 30 USD.
I bought a ticket for the 6 O Clock bus. Check in time was 5:30. I therefore had three and a half hours of time to kill. I decided to visit the Honda Motorcycle store, a Car Dealer and then I went to the internet cafe to send out a few emails and Facebook messages. After that I went back to the bus station to have a snack and by the time I was finished, it was boarding time.
As I entered the bus, I looked for my seat: Seat 22. I sat down. Seat 21, right next to me, would be empty for the first half of the trip.
A few minutes later, the windows and doors of the bus were closed. The engine started, the AC was turned on and the bus started to move. The trip would last 12 hours. Any smart person would advise you: walk with a blanket when you travel in these buses because the A/C is too cold! But on this trip, I had forgotten my blanket.
Halfway along the route, after several stops for meals and snacks, the bus pulled into a terminal. There were about 20 people waiting outside with their baggage. Now all the vacant seats in the bus would be filled, including the one next to mine. I wondered who, and what kind of person, would be sitting next to me.
God Sends Help – Literally
As the new set of passengers loaded onto the bus, a lady who appeared to be in her thirties entered the bus and sat in the seat next to mine. She was warm, friendly and helpful. She asked me my name and started a bit of a chitchat. But when she told me her name, I burst out laughing.
I stopped laughing after a minute and asked her her name again. “Soccorro” she answered once more. I turned away laughing again. I turned back to her and extended my hand. “Muiti prazer en conhece-lo, Socorro!”, I said as I shook her hand, which translates to “It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Socorro.”
The Portuguese word “Socorro” is the direct translation of the English word “Help”. It is more specific, however, to the word “rescue, than “assist”. In the English world, if you are carrying a heavy luggage, you might ask someone to “help” you. And if you are being chased by thieves, you may shout “help! help!”
Whereas in English the same word is effective in both situations, in Portuguese, two different words are used.
In the Portuguese world, if you are carrying a heavy luggage, you may say to someone “me adjudge”. But if you are being chased by thieves, you shout “socorro! socorro!” And here by my side was my socorro!
Unlike me, Socorro was smart enough to walk with a big blanket and towards the end of the trip, when the coldness was becoming a bit too uncomfortable, I borrowed a piece of her blanket which she willingly lent me.
Socorro was caring enough to get details of my trip, and when we arrived at the bus terminal in Manaus, Socorro said she did not want to leave me there alone. She took the paper I had with the name, address and phone number of my recipients. She called the number but there was no answer. I told her that I did not make arrangements for them to pick me up. The plan was that I was going to find my way to my friends’ house using the address on the paper.
But when Socorro looked at the address, she said that the address contained two cities, separate of each other: Cidade Nova and Nova Alexia.
Not too long after, Socorro’s son in law came with Socorro’s daughter and beautiful granddaughter. Socorro asked her son-in-law to give me a ride to my destination. They deducted that they should go to “Nova Alexia” and not Cidade Nova. They asked directions as they drove and soon we pulled up to Lot 7, Rua Amazonas, Cidade Nova.”
On our way, we passed restaurant “Terra Brasil” which was a landmark indicated on the directions part of the address on my paper. So we concluded that we had taken the right track.
Socorro and I got out of the car. We looked around. We looked over the fence. We knocked on the gate. There was no answer. We knocked again and again but there was still no answer. Perhaps my recipients were sleeping? From inside the waiting car, Socorro’s son-in-law indicated that they needed to go, so she wished me good luck and got back into the car. But I could see in her eyes that Socorro did not like the idea of leaving me there alone. I said “thank you” and waved goodbye to her as the car pulled off.
I stepped over to the neighbor next door. There were two little children and I tried asking them if their neighbors were home. They said they did not know. I stepped a bit closer and saw a woman through the window. I tried speaking to her but she didn’t answer. I went back to Lot 7 and knocked again on the gate. This time, a little harder. Still, no answer. I went over to the neighbor on the other side – Lot 8. I saw a man and woman in the house. I called out to them and beckoned them to come. The man finally walked over to the gate. I asked him if the neighbors were home. He said he recently moved here and doesn’t know the neighbors. I asked him to please call my friend’s phone number for me. He went back for his phone.
In the meantime, I walked back to Lot 7 and looked into the yard. There were signs of recent human activity inside the yard, such as a broom on the floor, chairs and table neatly fixed, an empty glass on the table, well spread mats on the floor and a working clock on the wall. I knocked again and again, louder and louder, still no answer.
The man next door came back with the phone. He called the number. No answer. He called again and again. No answer. I told him thank you. He left. I was left alone on the street. I said good morning to some people passing on the street, but they didn’t seem interested in slowing down to inquire. Perhaps this stranger with a luggage needed some answers?
I walked over to a man across the road, a few houses away. I showed him the paper with the name and address. He said he didn’t not know the people. I went back to the gate and knocked again. Still no answer. Bit by bit, panic was building up inside of me.
Just then, I saw a woman across the street. She was opening her gate. I asked her if she knows “Davla Neide”. She said yes, they lived right next door but they had moved yesterday to Cidade nova, which was a few blocks away. She spoke to her husband. He drove his car out the garage. He opened the trunk, put my suitcase in and drove me over to Cidade Nova.