Saturday, January 23, 2010

melhor tarde que nunca

Perhaps this entry is late in arriving, but nonetheless it is here, so I don´t want to hear any complaints.

I had talked about traveling in Brazil for well over a year. Some of you may remember that my original plan after graduating was to live in Brazil after a short stint in Argentina (we all know how I am with plans). So finally, after nearly two years of talk, on January 10th I arrived in São Paulo via Asunción (contrary to what many are lead to believe, Paraguay is not a barren wasteland but actually super green and least from the plane).

São Paulo is not a pretty city. In contrast to my querrido Buenos Aires, it does not have beautiful French architecture--not even much neoclassical. Twenty million people now inhabit what was once lush, green tropical forest, replaced with painfully modern 15-20 stories concrete structures at every turn. It is congested with traffic at seemingly all times of day and night, many of the streets smell of garbage (or urine), and I have yet to see a city with a larger homeless population. It is hot, and it rains daily.

In short, I LOVED it.

Julia lives in São Paulo. Julia is one of my old roommates from my time as an undergraduate studying abroad in Buenos Aires. Julia is divina and one of my favorite persons in the world. She is a psychologist (human rights specialist) who works as a social worker/educator with children in situations of homelessness in downtown São Paulo. Julia also has a beautiful group of friends, including Lucas, whom I also know from Buenos Aries, who is a documentary film maker. Most recently he documented one of the settlements in Paraguay of poor peasants who are struggling to regain control of agricultural land they were forced from during an era of privatization in which wealthy Brazilians bought up land that was previously cultivated and controlled communally.

I had a hard time leaving São Paulo for the northern state of Bahía. Beyond the fact that I was leaving friends and friends of friends, I felt little pressure to be a good tourist in São Paulo. I am most definitely a terrible tourist. Museums? I can only thoughtfully ponder so much. Monuments? They confuse me; I don´t see the point ( and half of the time they are celebrating terrible people in terrible circumstances). ´Authentic´cultural experiences/shows? I feel awkward, and I end up hating everyone else in the audience just to make myself feel better about my own cultural voyuerism (blog forthcoming). São Paulo, while boasting an impressive number of museums, is an anti-tourist city. I heard English once in the entire week I was there. Bliss. When my Paulista (those who are from São Paulo) friends made fun of my pathetic tourist skills, I told them it was their fault for not driving me ´there´ in their car.

That isn´t to say that I didn´t get to know the city. I was simply perfectly content wandering aimlessly through Julia's neighborhood, located in the red light district. I saw movies in the gay mall (yes, there is a gay mall in São Paulo, but the fashion is surprisingly disappointing). I walked by Bar da Loca at least once a day, where I felt as if I was surrounding by sharks on the verge of a feeding frenzy. I intuitively found the cruise park on my first day (leave it to me) and made frequent returns to people watch. One of my favorite mornings was spent in the gym, named Commando Fitness, where I watched steroid-pumped muscle men singing along to Lady Ga Ga without a hint of irony.

Yes it was hard to leave São Paulo, but in a country as large and diverse as Brazil, I had to make my way along. As I write this, I am finishing up lunch on a beach in Salvador, Bahía. My 40-something year-old waitress keeps flirting with me. My skimpy bathing suit doesn´t tip her off of the fact she hasn´t a chance in hell because all men in Brazil wear skimpy bathing suits. Ah beautiful Brazil.....

Amor and besos