If you want to learn a new language there’s no better way to do it than by taking a Kombi to a foreign country. You’ll find yourself in lots of long descriptive conversations and interactions with mechanics, auto part suppliers, tow truck drivers and other Kombi owners.
Brazilian Portuguese is ridiculously hard for a non native speaker and there are a bunch of regional differences throughout Brazil to contend with. Having spent a couple years in Brazil, My Portuguese is not bad. I am able to carry on a conversation or watch movies and stuff like that. The response to my Portuguese varies from “Wow for a gringo, your portuguese is great” to “I don’t know what you just said and I don’t understand why you keep standing there looking at me and spouting your gibberish please go away”.
The city of Boa Vista near the borders of Venezuela and Guyana is totally unique among the cities we visited in Brazil. Maybe because it’s north of the Equator or maybe because of its proximity to a couple other countries but Its the first time in Brazil that we have heard anyone in Brazil speak a language other than Portuguese.
I had just finished explaining to the big black guy at the counter, in my finest portuguese, what parts I needed to repair my brakes when he broke into a smile and responded in thick caribbean english “What you need is a new compressor hose!”
Boa vista is the perfect place to take care of some auto repairs before venturing off into the unknown. It is a mecca of parts suppliers and mechanics and the Kombi seemed to know it. It was like she had been holding on and finally let go. One thing after another broke, fell off, stopped working or otherwise gave up the ghost.