Post modern moods

Trip Start Jan 03, 2009
Trip End May ????

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Sao Paulo,
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I was to catch a 6 hour bus from Paraty central station to Sao Paulo at noon, so had some time for a final wander and to take some photos. But my wandering time in Paraty ended prematurely as I had to flee an angry old woman, dodging the mud clumps her grandchildren were throwing at me. This all happened because I came across a back street that had not yet been cleared of the mud along with a typical Brazilian family (presumably impoverished) inhabiting the middle of the alley way up the street. Resting against the mud splattered wall an elderly woman was sitting down on a wooden chair sipping Coco water in traditional style dress watching as some younger children played around her in the oozing, liquid mud. It was a perfect encapsulation of my time in Paraty, so I tried to take a photo. Just as I was about to shoot and get some royalties from Guardian Unlimited for their pictures of the day slide show, who I presume was the daughter of the old woman and the mother of the children playing came out of her house and saw me. To say the least she was not happy, panicking I pressed the off button instead of taking the photo. But I realised I was out of order for at least not asking permission, (I didn't know how to) and tried to say I was sincerely sorry, "muito triste", however my apologies were not going to be heard over her ever increasing shouts and gesticulations. My first mistake was staying and trying to resolve the situation. Their anger seemed to swell and their bawling augmented as I stood their pathetically part hidden by a muddy slope muttering Anglo-Portuguese apologies. My second mistake was offering money as way of recompense, I threw some 6 reals ($4) down towards them and then instinctively shouted Trader! because I thought that would be what Reynolds would have wanted. But by that stage the old woman was slowly getting nearer to me, waving her weary broom and the mud balls had started to fly towards my path. Three missed and I dodged one to my left shoulder (Brazilians are no cricketers), as I quickly departed the scene to pick up my bag and wait patiently for my getaway at the bus station.

Sao Paulo is huge and with 21 million people populating the metropolitan zone it is one of the largest cities in the world. As we drove into a heavily built up area and I saw the signs designating the city I thought I would be off the bus within 20 minutes, but we drove on for a full hour and a half until we reached the central station, never particularly pausing for traffic. It also could not be much more different from Rio. It the business, financial and industrial hub of Brazil, where the wealthiest spend their burgeoning billions and where the poorest come from the rural lands to live in vast Favelas trying to get a foot on the ladder. No guide I have read or person I have spoken to has recommended it for touristic purposes so I am only spending a night here on my way down to Foz de Iguassu. If, as many have postulated and as I believe, that design strongly influences social behavior and the ultimate success of a city, the dreary sprawl of this city cannot help its notoriety as a rampantly dangerous place. Yes, I ´definitely have already seen enough of the busy, polluted and unattractive landscape to my curiosities and will only return under duress or on business.

It is strange how one can gather a semblance of place just from momentarily glances. I am a strong believer in Malcom Gladwell's theories of proprioception and unconscious precognition. Your first thought or feeling is often your most powerful and accurate. And so my uncomfortably with this city may be to do with the outside scenes, as through my hotel window I see cars screech through red lights (it is legal to do this in Sao Paulo past 10pm due to the habitual car-jacking and muggings that take place at traffic lights as cars slow down). But I actually feel it is more to do with it's inside, it's soul and the way the city behaves as an organism. Anyhow, I will hastily depart from such thoughts lest Jadie think me even more even more geeky and conclude that as I write this I am extremely excited about visiting the Iguassu Falls tomorrow, according to many the most spectacular of all the waterfalls in the world.
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