10 Days in Sao Paulo

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Helen's Apartment

Flag of Brazil  , São Paulo,
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

So I thought i'd update you all on the last couple of weeks in Sao Paulo.  I have decided to make the blog a bit factual as well so when I do write about a place I’m going to give you a bit of background as well (especially for you Mum). So Sao Paulo is a major city in Brazil located on a plateau of 760m above sea level. It is the de facto capital of Brazil, being the most important city, comercially, financially, industrially and culturally. It has a population of 18.5 million (7th largest in the world) and it is huge. I made the huge mistake of trying to walk distances that didn’t look far on the map (yes I know – use the scale! – yes I’m a geography teacher) and even the closest places are miles away.

I arrived on the Sunday morning and saw Helen for a couple of hours before she had to head off on a sports tour into the middle of nowhere until the Wednesday (apparently the weather wasn’t great and Helen said it was like being in Wales). Helen gave me a quick round the block tour and showed me the supermarket.  So I spent the first few days pottering around Helen’s. I did have a lot of good intentions of heading off on adventures but on the Monday I went down to the supermarket and was a bit overwhelmed by it all. I also realised quite how little Portuguese I knew (well none really, my only knowledge of it comes from the watching Love Actually and being able to ask a woman to marry you in her parents restaurant wasn’t that helpful when I got to the checkout) and most of the people I met don’t speak any English. 

So on Tuesday I plucked up the courage to cross the big road and head out into the trendy shopping area. Didn’t look out of place at all compared to all the women with amazing figures in very tight designer jeans, and barely being able to walk in very high heels.

On the Friday I did venture out even further and went to visit Helen in her new school. Helen teaches at St Pauls in the very flash Jardin’s neighbourhood (equivalent of Chelsea). Most of the children are Brazilian and from extremely wealthy backgrounds. They are taken to school in limo’s and have security guards.  It took me 15 minutes to get through the gates becasue they wouldn’t let me in straight away as I was a security risk!! So I had lunch there, met the posh Head, and met lots of Helen’s lovely collleagues. Then I sat in on Helen’s Year 10 lesson in the afterrnoon. I was really quite taken aback by how much it made me miss the teaching. I was at the back, next to all of the textbooks (it was a like a shrine to David Waugh-the God of Geography Textbooks), and I even missed the textbooks and other resources (the obliitory selection of Geography DVDs – no self respecting collection is complete without 'An Inconvenient Truth’) and I really missed teaching georaphy. At one point Helen had to pop out and she left me in charge and for a couple of minutes I was back to Miss Sandell. I loved going round helping them with their annotated map of differences in population across Brazil. Guess that’s answered that part of the puzzle then.

After that I got dragged along to Staff Choir Practice. The only reason that Helen persuaded me to go was that they had free wine. They were practising for the Christmas concert. It did seem a bit weird doing Christmas carols in 28 degree heat in the middle of Sao Paulo but I went with it. Initially I was quite initimidated by the whole thing as the staff were split into Bass, Tenor, Alto and Soprano sections and they were doing four part harmonies. Then I realised that this was the aim of the Director of Music but in reality it wasn’t really happening as actually they weren’t the choristers from the King College, Cambridge choir. Basically only about three people could sing (Helen obviously being one of them), half of the staff were Brazillian and English was only their second language, very few people could actually read music and it was a Friday afternoon after a tough week. So everyone had some wine and then we all went off down the pub (well to a rather nice bar with one of those painted cows outside – Sarah Mead and Sasha you will know what I mean). Nothing quite like starting drinking at about 5pm ....

Now prior to this Helen had mentioned that I needed to drink some caipirinhas. This is the Brazillian national drink which is made with cachaça which is a a rum-like spirit made from sugar cane, lime juice, sugar and is served on the rocks. In this bar they were served in  large tumblers with one part lime to four part cachaça (they need to come with government health warning). So Helen decided this is what I needed to be drinking (when in Brazil and all that).  So the evening turned into a bit of an experiment. How many caipirinhas can you drink before it all goes horribly wrong. We also tried to keep it as simple as possible by not adding into the mix much food – we did have a few nibbles (in Brazil nibbles are slices of cow). Had a brilliant night out with Helen’s friends. The highlight of the evening had to be chatting to Lee Ward, who is the Director of Music at the London Oratory School and is overin Brazil on a term’s sabatical. He is one of the best organists in the world but also is incredibly camp and really funny. No man in the bar was safe. The other highlight was the toilets. On the wall by the basin as some dental floss and a great big container of Listerine. Apparently the Brazilians are obsessed by oral hygiene.

Anyway I guess you are dying to learn the results of the caipirinhas experiment– It’s 3 ½. On that you will be  pretty drunk but you are still capable of getting home, not being ill and being able to function the next day (it also appears to help if when you go to the toilets you take a shot of listerine each time – think that this is the clincher). Any more than 4 caipirinhas and you are in trouble. The kind of trouble that means you are sick in the taxi on the way home (amazingly the taxi driver didn’t notice), then sick in your wardrobe (which you will incidently forget about until two days later and your dresses for work smell a bit dodgy). You will also have to spend most of Saturday in bed and then really stuggle in the evening the following day.

The following evening we went to BBQ (it was also Bonfire night – very bizarre when it’s 28 degrees and sunny). No hamburgers or hot dogs in sight. In Brazil you just chuck on huge slabs of meat, cook it, slice it up and eat it. In the end Helen and I did have to find bread and stick some pork into it (still not as good as the Dusseldorf pork batch though). I was just bowled over by how lovely all of Helen’s colleagues were. They were so friendly and just great to chat to. In particular they were just all so supportive and full of admiration for me heading off on my travels. I couldn’t believe this when I was just in awe of them for having the courage to live and work in another country like they do. Also there was an author called Keith Gray who writes teen novels and then goes into schools to work with students.  From what I had heard he has been doing an amazing job with the kids. (English teachers I am sure you will know him – Helen and I were clueless but too be honest our knowledge only extends to people called Joanne or Stephanie who write about wizards or vampires, oh and that woman called Maeve - Irish).  He was a really amazing guy to chat to and to hear about what he had to go through to achieve his success. He says he just writes books to he can reach out to teens about issues that really affect them.  He was also really lovely when talking about what I am trying to do and seemed in awe of it all. Oh and he’s met J.K. Rowling twice !!  If any of you in schools can get him in to talk to the kids it will be worth it.

So into my second week, I managed to venture even futher and headed to the Parqe do Ibapuera. This is the second largest park in Sao Paulo (no idea what the largest one is) and its importance to Sao Paulo is comparable to that of Central Park to New Yorkers. Nothing that exciting there, except quite a few joggers and roller bladers (refrained from both activities – didn’t want to show off).vaults. I also went to an amazing cemetary with huge family Then on my last night we went out for pizza with Helen’s friends Helen,Tean and Karen and sampled another Brazillian delicacy – Chocolate pizza with fresh strawberries (have put a photo of it in the album). Not 100% sure on it but yet again when in Brazil ...
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Linda Ivatts on

Hi Liz, so pleased to see your blogs. I've read them with a big smile on my face. Looking forward to following you on this fabulous journey. Enjoy. x

Jane from The Banned on

Do you think the choir would like to join The Banned? Sounds about on the same level - do they know El Condor Pasa?

Mum on

I am a secret geography teacher stuck in the closet waiting to come out.
Enjoy yourself. Lots of love.

Debbie Reed on

Brilliant :)

Katie Hall on

Hey Sis,

So proud of what your doing!!! Sounds amazing, not at all jealous on the wet and windswept rock.

All doing good this end. Looking forward to your next entry.

Georgia on

Wow wow wow wow wow wow! I can't believe you are actually there! Loving your news so far - I am smiling reading it, even though I am sitting in my cold office overlooking the quad. Little bit disappointed with 3 1/2 drinks, but I think you'll be a heavyweight by the time you are done in Brazil. Lots of love x

Lorraine on

Pics are fab and as for the chocolate pizza! - may suggest to Delroy it's introduced in the canteen - would go down a storm!
Look after yourself and enjoy!
L xx

Caroline on

Wow, wow, wow...

(your packing story made me laugh a lot....a women after my own heart!)

I am so proud of you for having the get up and go to do this (and also v.jealous!)

Look forward to reading your next blog entry (I think you have the beginnings of a very good alternative travel book so keep going....you could become a published author, make millions and hire a porter to carry lots more luggage to accompany you on your next set of travels!)
Caroline xxx

James Jen and alicia on

Hi Liz so happy your having such a wonderful time so far on your travels
Happy new Year
We are enjoying reading your blogg
Love from James Jen and alicia

Val on

So glad you are enjoying it.The most i travelled when i was your age was to cornwall,we spent most of the time in a beach hut on the beach in the rain.All,s well at home just need to sell marg,s flat.Keep sending the blogs they chear me up. Take Care Val x

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