Friday, January 11, 2008

Sao Paulo, Brasil (5 - 10 January 2008)

Well well well...

On the 4th I headed to Sao Paulo, Brasil. The flights were fine, no problems at all. I arrived in Sao Paulo on the 5th at 5am and had the thrill of going somewhere totally different; new continent, new language. I went smoothly on the public bus to meet Saulo, and we arrived at his house after stopping for a Lebanese Esfiha. Yum. Saulo is a very open, welcoming Brasilian who speaks incredible English amongst other languages - he is a certified public translator. After a long nap, we went for my first Brasilian feijoada in Brazil. This dish, black beans stewed with all the parts of the pigs that people didn't want (historically it was a poor people's dish), is normally served in restaurants on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I had a caipirinha, Brasil's national drink which is made from cachaca, cane alcohol, and lots of limes, and pure sugar. Airton and Saulo patiently taught me all the names of what we were eating, and started my long-lasting lessons of how to swear in Portuguese.

Saturday evening, Saulo amazingly got us free tickets to a samba show with a young woman singer, Teresa Cristiana, I think, and it was great. Really nice to see how the Brasilians move to the music, even while sitting in theater seats. After, we went over to his neighbors' house, made caipirinhas, and snacked on treats. Long night, good fun.

Sunday I went to a CS cooking meeting at Virgilio's house where 3 people from South Africa were cooking...babuati was the main dish, tasty stuff.

On Monday, I went with Christina, an American girl who was also staying with Saulo, to walk around Trianon, then we walked several miles across the city, going to Praca da Se, Praca da Republica, and various other spots along the way. A man in a juice shop gave me a lesson about all the fruits available here in Brasil (and man oh man are there a lot of fruits here!), another man on the street gave me some jackfruit, and I tried a coxinha, a sort of croquette of corn and potato with chicken inside...yumm...

That afternoon we went to Liberdade, the Japanese area of Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, numbering 3 million. That's apparent anywhere in the city but especially in this part of town, where Japanese and Chinese markets abound. We had lunch, I had my first good ramen since I left Japan, and I went a bit nuts in the supermarket. That evening I cooked a 4 course Japanese meal for Paulo Tiago and his dad. It was great :)

Tuesday I had a doctor's appointment, which was quite the challenge, a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, and English. After that, I lazed away the day and in the afternoon, Christina, Paulo Tiago and I went to Parque Ibirapuera, checked out the impressive Afro-Brasilian museum, with breathtaking shots of Benin, and wandered around this enormous park. In the evening we met some others in Jardims.

Wednesday Christina and I went to the Mercado Municipal, an impressive market with such an extensive variety of fruits. Pitaya, Jackfruit, mangosteen, mangos, papayas, plums, cherries, apples, pears, apricots...basically everything you could ever imagine. What strikes me in particular is how it's not just the tropical stuff that's available, but also the more common things that you would see, say, in Japan or the U.S. The upstairs of the market is comprised of an array of small restaurants, ranging from Arabic to Japanese, and of course with plenty of Brasilian options.

In the evening I went to meet Carla, a Japanese descent girl and chatted with her lovely parents. It felt really nice to speak some Japanese. Then we went to meet 3 other girls at a cafe and I got to observe the Portuguese conversation. It's really encouraging, I actually notice everyday that I am able to understand more and produce more. The people I'm meeting are really international, having lived abroad or travelled extensively, speaking many different languages. It's great.

So today I got up early and went to meet Marcos, the Danish guy who was staying at Carla's house. He lived 2 years in Argentina and currently lives in Bolivia, so great conversation. We walked a lot around downtown and he's great company. We were invited to lunch at Carla's house and it was lovely.

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