Taking the decision to extend our travels around Brazil for another three months was pretty easy – we’ve loved our time here so far… Yes, yes, we’ll deal with you later Mr Bank Manager.
However, to continue our explorations we needed to convince the Federal Police that we were decent upstanding citizens – what’s so funny?
It was a task Sophie and I had been dreading. Everyone’s heard a horror story about trying to obtain a visa. We thought at best it would take several days to sort out.
Our hostel owner advised us to don our smartest clobber. For Sophie that meant digging out a pretty, beige, dress from the depths of her backpack and dusting off her barely-used, blister-inducing, shoes. Not too shabby at all.
I surveyed the potential outfits at my disposal and gave a sigh of resignation. My top half options were: 1. Very creased, slightly whiffy, blue and white checked shirt. Or, 2. A once smart, now mud-stained, Ralph Lauren t-shirt (fake, obviously). Reluctantly I plumped for the shirt.
Below the waistline I was equally spoilt for choice. The fashion delights on offer were three pairs of stinking shorts, one pair of slightly stinking, muddy, green cotton combats and one pair of marginally less smelly, black polyester, combats.
“You must wear trousers and shoes,” our landlady chipped in.
The baggy cut, slightly ripped, black combats it is then, madame.
When it came to the feet department it was an easy call. I boasted one pair of shoes – a ripped, filthy pair of trainers. I washed them under some water, but post-scrub, they still resembled something a shoeless tramp would turn his nose up at.
My next blow came when I tried to have a shave. Unfortunately hacking off of my beard a week earlier had totally blunted my solitary razor and the scraggly stubble I now boasted did not want to be separated from my face.
The federal police station was a twenty minute bus ride away.
“Be confident,” I said to Sophie, marching towards the entrance. Fully committed, I tried to push the door open, but it didn’t budge.
I flailed at the glass until someone else arrived at my side and humiliatingly pulled the door. Maybe one day I’ll remember that in Portuguese Puxe (prounced push-ay) means pull!
We were sent to a room where a dozen or so people were sitting in silence waiting to speak to two suits sat behind sturdy wooden desks. It felt like death row.
An hour later the person in front finished telling his life story to the police official and we stood up to take our turn. The officer, however, decided it was teabreak time and wandered off. We slumped back into our seats.
Finally returning, he looked at Sophie and smiled, before looking at me and raising his eyebrows.
“So, how can I help you?”
“Please senhor, we’d like some more,” I said, spewing out the well-rehearsed, yet still incorrectly phrased, sentence.
He tapped on his computer in silence, before sliding a piece of paper towards each of us. “Fill these in,” he said gruffly.
Sophie turned to me and whispered, “What’s our address at the moment Phil?”
“Can’t we just put Agua Azul Hostel, Natal?” I ventured, turning to the official for acknowledgement. He made no comment.
I assumed all was in order though as ten minutes later we were sent to another room where we were told to cough up £30 each.
After another hour back in the original office our passports were stamped and returned, the sombre official telling us to our surprise, “Enjoy the rest of your time in Brazil.”
We skipped out of the door and into the brilliant afternoon sun.
“Let’s celebrate,” beamed Sophie.
“Absolutely,” I said. “What did you have in mind?”
“Let’s walk to Midway Mall and get feijoada.” She paused, before adding with a grin, “Maybe while we’re there you can treat yourself to some new clothes?”