This Game Sucks... Let's Play Hungry Hungry Hippos

I need a new Portuguese coursebook. Or maybe I need an old one. Either way, the one I have isn't really working for me. It isn't bad, it is just occasionally misguided in terms of which phrases it deems more important than others.

For example:

Lesson 19: "O presidente Roosevelt faleceu em mil novecentos e quarenta e cinco." - President Roosevelt died in 1945.

Lesson 20: "Que horas são?" - What time is it?

Evidently, the book isn't really weighing out the importance of the phrases, as it is obviously more pertinent what time President Roosevelt died, than what year.

Fighting my way through my dictionary, I have somehow made it into the small Brazilian town of Cuiabá, by the Bolivian border, on a lovely Sunday morning. I was welcomed in with a refreshing 38C temperature and was greeted at the door of the pousada I was staying at by a rather portly, half-naked man who introduced himself as Joel Souza, the owner, and, according to most travel guides, the best tour operator in town

Not only is Joel exceptionally friendly, and an obvious nudist, he is an absolutely fantastic guitar player. And as good of a guitar player as he is, that is exactly how good of a singer he isn't. I knew I had to have him for a tour guide. Joel convinced me and Sophia, a South African woman staying at the pousada, to head up to Chapada Do Guimarães, a town an hour from Cuiabá, surrounded by waterfalls, stunning views and numerous natural wonders.

Sophia and I were unsure if we would stay the night in Chapada or not, so we stored our bags for the day at a local hotel, before being driven off to the sights by Joel. He drove us around in a clunky old VW van along roads that were so awful that it was actually better to drive off of them, which he did. He would drive with two wheels in the ditch beside the road, then, to balance the damage being done to the car, he would swerve like a bad driver possessed all the way across the road and put the other two wheels in the opposite ditch, oncoming traffic be damned. Eventually, lurching forward with the van leaning at angle in defiance of the laws of gravity, we arrived at our first destination.

The day was unforgettable, taking in a spectacular view of the country from Mirante, a mountain located at the geographic centre of South America. We saw and swam in a dozen waterfalls, including the isolated, mystical Cachoeira do Pulo, and the 230-foot high Veu de Noiva falls, surrounded by hillsides of luscious green hills, paling in comparison only to the dozens of emerald parrots that sailed along through the air everywhere. It was jaw-dropping, spoiled only by Sophia's constant nagging about when were we going to get to "the Good Stuff". Like the carnival rides, I imagined.

When we got back into town, Sophia and I had opted not to stay the night. I assumed the hotel also did not rank as "Good Stuff". However, the hotel tried to charge us for a whole night, simply for storing our bags. Sophia took umbrage at this and instantly started screaming at the desk clerk in English, a language which he, I think thankfully, did not understand. After five minutes of this, realising that Sophia spoke no Portuguese, and acknowledging the clerk's thorough disinterest in instantaneously learning English, I decided to hop in and help the only way I knew how:

"O presidente Roosevelt...," I started, but the clerk was having none of it. Perhaps he already knew the phrase, or was a history major. Just my luck. That having failed, I used my spastic, mottled Portuguese to bargain him down, and then, due to his lack of having any change, we paid even less. Sophia's head recovered from its implosion, and all ended well.

And from here I head to the nearby ecological region of the Pantanal, a vast marshland on the Bolivian border housing one of greatest concentrations of varied animals in the world. As long as I see even one kangaroo, I will be very, very satisfied...