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Brazil

Day 62: São José dos Campos to São Paulo

Michael Palin - BrazilSão José dos Campos is a verdant city with plenty of skilled jobs in high-profile companies like Petrobras and General Motors. There's money here and a comfortable way of life if you're prepared to put the work in. This morning at Embraer I meet a young man whose attitude and ambition seem to symbolize the opportunities that today's booming Brazilian economy can offer. When I first encounter him he's in the paint shop, cracking jokes with his workmates, a lean, rangy figure with short black curly hair, mestizo colouring and eyes that take you in with a quick glance. His name's Felipe, he's twenty-seven years old and he gets up at 4.30 every morning to be at work by six. And he speaks pretty good English. He shows me the job he's about to do and asks if I've ever painted a tailplane before. The combination of his infectious enthusiasm and my indiscriminate curiosity soon has me swaddled in a protective coat and hood, and a mask and nose-clip fitted. We stand together on a platform whilst the tailplane of a Kazakh airliner is slid in alongside us. Felipe shakes his head. It's to be a deep blue colour.

'My nightmare,' he grins.

It looks rather elegant to me, but Felipe explains that dark blue makes for a mirror-like sheen that highlights every blemish.

'I like white. White and green.'

He fills the spray-gun from a can and, after carefully adjusting the nozzle, he's ready to go.

'This is my weapon,' he shouts from behind a full-face mask. 'So now we go!'

After all the bravado, the application is quite a contrast. Felipe moves gracefully, like a dancer, with broad, slow, sweeping strokes, transferring his weight effortlessly from one leg to the other, keeping the nozzle pressure constant. Only when he invites me to have a go do I realize how easy he makes it look. The gun is heavy and yet the slightest dip in its trajectory makes an unsightly curve which Felipe has to adjust. But I make enough of a mark to be able say, when I'm next on my way to Almaty, that I sprayed the plane.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 62: São José dos Campos to São Paulo
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: São José dos Campos
  • Book page no: 257

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