The first three nights in Brazil

Trip Start Apr 01, 2007
Trip End Jun 26, 2007

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Friday, April 6, 2007

Sao Paulo is massive.  More massive than any pictures can explain.  And it is completely full of people.  Some of the friendliest people I have ever met.

I arrived April 2nd at about 11 am, and was surprisingly through customs in about fifteen minutes. I had arranged an airport pickup through the hostel booking website, and was expecting to get picked up by a stereotypical, hyper-attractive Brazilian. The first thing I saw when I stepped in to the pickup area was a smiling five-foot-tall old man holding a roughly scribbled sign that read "Mr. Geoff - Hostel".  He pulled my bags from me and lead me to the cab.  By the time I got to the hostel, I decided that while in Brazil, I would avoid cabs at all cost.  More on that later.

The hostel (Hostelling International: Praša da Avore) was more out of the downtown area than I expected, but was great. I wasn't really there long enough to really see how safe the area was, but there were a lot of lone female travelers who had no problem walking alone at night, so I'm guessing no one had heard of anything too serious.  I met up with a South African, an Aussie, two Brits and an American, and they were the group that I spent most of my time with.  The South African had been in Sao Paulo for four months, so he served well as a free tour guide.  Had he not been there, I wouldn't have gotten to see nearly as much as I did.  Also, in four months, he had somehow managed to not pick up ANY Portugese.  Amazing.

Most of my time was spent downtown, trying to see as much as I could (which really wasn't much).  I went up one of the highest towers, which is right in the middle of the city, and got a 360 view.  Your line of vision fades out before the buildings do, in every direction.

Like I mentioned, the people are great.  They will come up to anyone and start a conversation for no reason, and when you finally manage to establish that you don't know Portugese they nod with recognition and then keep talking anyway, being sure to act out every word so that you can get an idea of what they're saying.  The best example of this was a musician who was friends with my hostel's owner.  He came to the hostel to give free percussion lessons to anyone who wanted them.  He only spoke Portugese but by being animated and patient, he was actually easy to understand.  It was so good that we took the metro the next day to get another lesson and the other hostel he teaches at.

The only time Brazilians are NOT great is when they're behind the wheel.  Crossing the street is literally like Frogger.  People don't slow down.  If you were old and could barely walk and they saw you from forty feet away, they would honk to let you know they were there, but they wouldn't take their foot off the gas.  I can't believe I didn't see any accidents while I was there.

One last thing that needs to be mentioned is the food.  As planned, I went to a rodizio for an all-you-can-eat-meat-fest.  I paid R$9 for a drink and two plates.  One of them was for the salad bar (which also included a lot of meat, strangely) and the other was for the BBQ.  Every two minutes, a waiter comes by the table with some sort of meat on a giant stick.  You tell him how much you want and he slices it in to your plate.  If you're anything like me, everything looks delicious so you get meat faster than you can eat it.  Before long, I had a mountain of meat on my plate.  A mountain of the best meat I had ever tasted.  I did the reasonable thing and ate it all.  I was full for almost twenty hours.  But then I went for another buffet.  Also in the Brazilian food department (and this may only be relevant if you know me, or if you happen to be from Calgary), Tubby Dog, relinquish your crown.  Black Dog is the new king.  For $R6, I got a foot long hot dog in a toasted baguette. A toasted baguette filled with mashed potatoes, mini fries, salsa, 2 cheeses, corn, hot peppers and sauce.  Mmm...

That's all about Sao Paulo for now, I may update if I think of more things to add.  I'm in Paraty right now, and the computer doesn't take USB so I can't upload any pictures.  I will add pictures for both Sao Paulo and Paraty when I get to Rio.

Things I learned in Sao Paulo:
-Brazilian music is a blast to play.
-There is nothing wrong with gorging yourself, everyone does it.
-Don't drink Brazilian wine.  Unless you like the taste of slightly fermented concentrated grape juice.  Wait for Argentina.

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