This morning we had an opportunity to sleep in and catch up on some much needed rest. After another round of European-style breakfast buffet, several in the group purchased some souvenirs, we boarded the bus, traveled to the airport, said farewell and “Obrigado!” to our skilled and trusted driver, and departed from Mato Grosso on an airplane. This was a poignant and somewhat sad departure for me, as I have developed a strange affinity to this place, perhaps more so to Lucas than Cuiaba. I felt an obvious connection to the people in Lucas that I had not yet experienced elsewhere in Brazil, and this after spending very little time with them.
While nobody was particularly looking forward to the plane ride, the trip turned out to be a pleasantly surprising glimpse into Brazilian life. Seated next to me on the plane was a young lady of European appearance who initiated a conversation. I came to learn that her name was Francielli and that she was a Brazilian of German and Polish descent. Her English was challenged, but better than my Portuguese, so she gave me some foreign language instruction. She talked about her family, education, and career. I shared the purpose of our trip and IALF group, then showed her some pictures of my family. The conversation was nothing remarkable, but held a special significance. She exemplified many of the aspects of Brazilian culture that I have come to find appealing – ethnic diversity, warm friendliness, rugged individualism, cultural awareness, and commitment to family. It turned out that her father works in finance for the Vanguard Group, a major agricultural processing company in Cuiaba, and her brother is studying to be a swine vet, so she was closely connected to agriculture. The world is growing smaller and good people are the same the world over.
We met Gerry Salzman from Case-IH at the airport in Sao Paulo. We were also introduced to our interpreter, Miss Carolina Gimarraez, a recent graduate in agricultural economics from Esalq, the public agricultural university for the
state of Sao Paolo. We had a short two hour trip by bus to the New Life Hotel in Piracicaba. Some of the group went to dinner at Sal e Brasa, a local churrascaria, and experienced some awesome authentic food at a great price.