Ooohhhh…I am feeling a bit weak, but happy. Yesterday was a whirlwind tour of SP with my super host and new friend Walter. We started out in the morning meeting up with his friend Adilson and walking around the center of the city a bit, stopping for lunch and taking in the atmosphere and music, music everywhere. There is a really amazing low level carnival ambiance all the time here it seems. Great street music and rhythms, people always smiling and friendly. It is infectious. After that we made our way to meet up with some other friends at an impromptu beer bust (that happens every Saturday) in the Praça Calixto, and again I was amazed at the easygoing friendliness of just about everyone, whether or not we spoke the same language. And if that wasn’t enough, we headed out to a mega gay club called “The Week” in the evening and I didn’t get home until…well…just now…(you can imagine what you will, but let me just say that the Brazilians that I have met are very welcoming and sweet).
Wow, the health ministry of Brazil REALLY wants to convince people to stop smoking. Look what they require on every pack. They make for a charming series, don’t they?
Here are a few of the things that stand out to me as I make my way around São Paulo:
– Lots of Santas and Xmas decorations. I know it is “the season” and all, but the amount and sophistication of Christmas displays and dueling Santas is surprising. I don’t remember seeing this many in New York even.
– Lots of cars with tinted windows. I am sure this has something to do with security (and perhaps weather) but there are a huge amount of tinted windows on the cars here.
– Cake is amazing. So far, I am very impressed with the quality of the sweets here.
– An extremely high number of people limping or walking with canes. I can’t quite figure this out. Is polio still a problem here? Are a rather large number of people maimed in accidents? The people in question are all ages, all genders, seemingly wealthy and not so.
– Most Brazilians seem to share the classic American trait of not speaking any other language besides their own, although because Spanish is so close, they can understand some (and so can I). I am hoping to have a basic working knowledge of Portuguese before leaving the country.
One of the downsides to knowing and caring about people all over the world is when something like this happens. I can’t believe how horrible these attacks in Mumbai are, and I am worried for my friends there. I took a look at the map of the attack sites, and every one of them is a place I had frequented while there. Pretty freaky. I haven’t heard back from everyone yet, and some of my friends live very close to the sites. I hope they are ok.
I feel another chart coming on. I arrived in Sao Paulo yesterday, welcomed by Walter, one of Dan’s (my Brazilian friend from Mexico) many nice friends. And it turned out that yesterday before leaving my hotel in Montevideo, I met a guy at the breakfast table who was from Peru and knows both of them. Later on, Walter realized that he knows my friend Thomas from Buenos Aires who I know through Javier (another friend from Mexico). And of course, being from Peru, Walter knows the entire gang I met while there, including Juan Carlos who I was with a few days ago. Whew. The world really is a tiny place (or my social slice of it quite rarefied. Or both.)
In any event, Walter took me out last night to have dinner and drinks with two friends of his, Gustavo and Anderson. I can’t get over how friendly and easy going the people seem here, including strangers. Usually in a lot of places like a bar, people seem to keep to their cliques a bit, but last night everyone was talking to everyone. There is a really nice energy here, I can tell already I am going to like it.
Now if I could just understand a little Portuguese…
I am at the airport in Montevideo, heading to Sao Paulo. I had originally intended to take a bus to Florianopolis, but the situation in Santa Catarina state is pretty dire right now with all the rains and flooding. But hey, I am nothing if not easy going and flexible, so I will explore Sao Paulo and then head north. And a check of the weather in SP shows that it is about 30 degrees cooler than here. Yay.
– Although I was introduced to mate in Argentina, it is clearly much more the national pastime here in Uruguay. I have never seen so many mates and thermoses in my life. And you should know it is not a very handy or easy thing to carry around, what with all the herbs, cleaning the mate cup, the bombilla, the thermos of hot water. And I have seen it being drunk on the bus, walking on the street, sitting in the park, everywhere! It must be a mighty addictive substance.
– Things are more expensive in Uruguay than in Buenos Aires.
– It is 95 degrees and very humid here.
– I had an amazing lomo (steak) at the Mercado del Puerto today, at a place called El Peregrino. My Argentine friends may kill me for saying this, but it was better than any meat I had in Argentina.
– The architecture is a funny mix here. A lot of it looks like Uruguay had a cultural exchange program with Moscow for a few years after WWII. The rest of it looks like smaller scale versions of Buenos Aires. They seem to be remaking the old city center, and it is fairly pleasant.
– Breaking my own rule, I decided to stay at a gay B&B here (La Puerta Negra). It was a mistake. There is no AC, the place is hot as hell, the rooms have no windows, the owners are peevish, it is outside the center in a questionable neighborhood, the rules are different from on the website, and it is overpriced. Oh and they have a bad 80s mix tape on loop with only about 5 songs on it. Belinda Carlisle will be the death of me. The only good thing I can say about it is that the bedding is nice.
Colonia is a lovely little Portugese colonial town in Uruguay, just across the water from Burnos Aires. Juan Carlos and I took a trip there yesterday, then parted ways as I went on to Montevideo and he back to Buenos Aires and finally Peru. Check out the slideshow below…