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With Dalva

Visiting Panambi – Community – A talk. (Map this!)

“Panambi?, Where’s that?” The immigration officer at the border at Saõ Borja asked us. Panambi is a small town of 30,000 people in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The residents are mostly German immigrants, the Portuguese spoken here varies quite a bit from the language we heard in the Northern states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraná. Set in a hillside among trees, the town, with its German architecture, is quite pleasing.

We were visiting our friends from the Camino Santiago, Dalva and Luis Ribeiro, who we had met in 2002.

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A talk at the Scout’s building

We have managed to keep contact over the years, unlike most traveling buddies, mostly thanks to the MSN Instant Messenger. With eight days left on our 30 day Brazilian visa (this is the amount they give you at the Brazilian consulate in Puerto Iguazu) and unsure whether an extension would be possible (we did manage to get a 90 day extension at Policia Federal) we decided to visit Panambi, which was conveniently close to the Argentinian border. We could make it on a tank of Argentinian gas!

Panambi is a very tight knit community, as is often the case in small towns where the residents have been living together for a long time. Everyone was related to everyone else. At parties, “Who is your mother?”, was a common question, reminding me of the close knit communities in India. For a few days, we became part of the Dalva’s close circle of friends and acquaintances.

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We met Shirley, the vivacious owner of the language school where Dalva works and her aunt Heidi who also teaches there. When I visited the dentist, I got whirled into the adjoining law offices where Maria Rita (the dentist’s mother-in-law) showed me pictures of her husband’s visit to India through the Rotary Club. We sipped chimarrão everywhere, at Dalva’s house, at her mother’s, at the law offices.

For a moment, we found ourselves in the slightly uncomfortable position of being celebrities. People were very curious to meet these crazy Americans who had been on the road for a year driving to Brazil. Dalva had arranged for us to give a talk on our travels, advertised in the local newspapers. The talk was at the local Scout’s building where we met Oscar, the Scoutmaster, (and also Shirley’s brother), an outgoing, friendly guy who loves to travel. The talk was in Spanish, which we muddled through, which the audience hopefully understood. At the end, we had a picture session, which remined me of a tango performance we had attended in Buenos Aires when the audience had lined up for pictures with the dancers.

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The group from Panambi

We have been missing community and Panambi gave us an opportunity to get immersed in one. Now its time to move on. But I will always be grateful for the opportunity to be part of the daily life of regular people in a different culture, which travelers so rarely get a glimpse of. And in spite of the foreign food and customs and language, I was struck by the similarities in characters; for every person in Panambi I could find a twin character in the Bay Area.

11 Responses to “Finding Community in Panambi”

  1. fred says:

    Very cool. All your new friends can follow the blog now. Interesting they drink Yebra Mate like in Argentina.

  2. Tom says:

    A great story Neena

  3. Suhasini Taskar says:

    Neena & Shreesh,
    Nice to have news from you. We get a little worried when there are no updates from you for few days.
    The community from Panambi appears to be very friendly and welcoming. It was nice of them to arrange a meeting to hear about your adventures during this long drive. Hope you will be able to maintain contact with them after your trip as well.
    How is everything else going? Which is your next stop? Will it be in Argentina or still in Brazil? Vivekmama visited us this week along with his daughter. We had relaxed time with them. Monica has taken a break from the medical school and working on a research project. She will be back to school during next year.

  4. Neena says:

    Hello Aai,
    We are still in Brazil, visiting Rio de Janeiro. We were in Petropolis visiting Dalva’s husband, Luis, whom they are going to join in Jan next year.
    Our next stop is a few days in Ouro Preto, which is about 7-8 hours bus journey from here. From there, we will return to Dalva’s house for Christmas and then onto Argentina.

  5. Nice to see the people in Panambi were so kind and happy.
    We so enjoy traveling with you and learning about our neighbors.
    We hope you have a grand Christmas at Dalva’s.

    Business here is slow. We are in for a long struggle. My savings is
    down 40%.
    Joan & David

  6. Neena says:

    Hi Joan & David,

    Thanks for the good wishes.

    Good wishes to you this Christmas, I hope the Inn does well and the position of your savings is better in 2009. We are hoping the same as ours are about 25% below what we want them to be.

  7. Hugo Karrer says:

    Hello Neena & Shreesh!!!

    I hope you’re having a good time in Argentina. I wish a happy new year to you. Thanks for your visit to Panambi. It was really nice to meet you and I hope to see you sometime again. Maybe I’ll visit you in the US someday. Have a nice trip.

    Hugo Karrer

  8. Marineli says:

    Hello Neena and Shrish!

    How are you! I and Maria Rita were here in the Law Office sipping chimarrão and lookink to your site! It was verry good to remember when you visited us! Come again someday! And have a nice 2009!

    Kisses Marineli e Maria Rita.

  9. Shreesh says:

    Hi Marineli e Maria Rita,

    We still think about Panambi often! We still carry our bombas and cuyas but have not had much opportunity for chimarrão. The Doctor Emerson has done a mighty fine job on my teeth – they feel very healthy!

  10. Marineli says:


    We’re happy knowing that you have good memories about Panambi! Drink chimarrão, it’s very good for health! But do you have “erva” in your city?! hehehe….
    I’m going to tell Doctor Emerson about what you said about his job! Good Luck for you with Obama, and for us too! hehehe…
    Many kisses!

  11. Shreesh says:

    Hi Marineli,

    We still have the erva from Brasil! we took two kilos!

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