I was lucky to meet such an amazing group of people here in SP, who showed me their city and their hospitality. I may just have to come back to Brazil for carnival…
It would probably look just like the Formule 1 Paulista, where Josh an I will be staying tonight. I just checked into our room and I am impressed with the simple, no frills (and fairly inexpensive) operation they run.
It started off innocently enough. Walter, Gustavo and I met at Consulado Mineiro for a yummy feijoada. Several beers later we were joined by their friend Susana, and then whisked off to a club called Vermont Itaim for lesbian samba night. Maybe it is just something nice about Gustavo and Walter, but I was impressed by how friendly the gays and lesbians are with each other here, moreso than a lot of places in the US. I had a blast dancing samba (or trying to) with the nicest bunch of people, all in surprisingly good spirits, given how little room there was to move. And I got a little of that same sensation that I got at the carnival rehearsal show in Salvador, namely that communal connection the crowd has to each other and the music.
I am heading off later this afternoon to the wonder that is Salvador da Bahia. Like a number of cities I have been to, Sao Paulo opens itself up the most fully only when shared by the locals. At first glance, it is not a city that holds much appeal, and perhaps that is why the pages in my guidebook for Sao Paulo, a huge city of millions, are so shockingly thin. But when one is lucky enough to meet people and explore with them the city they love, the story is completely different. Thanks to Walter, Gustavo, Adilson, Elson, Eduardo, Carol (and Dan and Thomas, who started the ball rolling for me here) I have been treated to a city that leaves me wanting to know more, and one I imagine very easily returning to and spending more time in.
– They have a really odd system of payment here in a lot of establishments that involves getting a card (paper or electronic) that is then filled out (or scanned) with whatever items you purchased for payment at a cashier at the end. If you lose the card, there is a hefty fee. This system I have seen in bars, clubs, bakeries…any place where there are slightly upscale consumables. And most of these places have large menacing guys who look like they will break your knuckles should you try any funny business.
– The Sao Paulo metro is mostly wonderful. The lines are orderly, the service very fast, the stations large and clean. The only problems I see with it are the lack of AC (and it can get hot in the cars), and the price per ride (which at about one dollar US, seems a bit steep vis a vis the average salary).