Stuck in traffic...

Trip Start Apr 05, 2008
Trip End Jul 19, 2008

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Sao Paulo,
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Amidst the choking smog of this sprawling metropolis, we have found an oasis.  Unde4r the monstrous, dull conrete flyovers-cum-carparks, we have found an oasis.  Away from the crumbling, rotting rooves of the city's shanty towns that dominate the persistent, grey landscape, we have found an oasis.  Oasis' are wonderful things - they allow one to recharge faded batteries, mend those small cuts and tend to sore throats that travelling invariably brings; to pull out dirty washing and have it returned clean; to find that now unfamiliar feeling of comfort.  Yep - Oasis'.  Fucking brilliant.

Where is this Oasis you ask?  Well, I don't really know.  I know that it is the abode of the wonderful Nadia and Francisco, residents of Sao Paulo and former residents of Perth.  I also know that it is vagely within greater Sao Paulo.  Any further details are entirely lost on me.  North West of the centre?  Maybe.  Or is it South-East?  Equally possible.  You see, my philosophy in relation to Oasis' is simple - when you find one, don't leave.  stay, settle in, forever if possible or until, at least, you have overstayed your welcome.  Simple.  And thus, our time in Sao Paulo was spent entirely within the confines of an oasis somewhere in the city, locking ourselves inside with a similar resolve as a vampire hiding from the sunlight.  Well, not exactly.  There were times when we managed to drag ourselves away from talking shit, playing uno, sleeping and the football night of the devil.  During these times - failures in our character as I see them - we left the Oasis for Liberdade, the old Japanese quarter, Jardins, Parque Iburapuera.  Each of the journeys to these locations followed a similar description.  We would enter a small vehicle, approximately the size of a hatch back car or a camel, and lock ourselves within.  In amongt the inconceivable flood of cars we would slowly trickle, adjacent to, above and below simultaneous floods, emerging 2 hours later somewhere.  Somewhere that looked precisely like somewhere else.  And then we would eat and drink.  The best coffee in the world here.  The finest pizza in the world there.  Decent.  And then we would get back in the car.  The best bit - a return to the Oasis.  The wonderful, comfortable Oasis...

Sao Paulo is one of those gargantuan, sprawling suburban conrete cities that is out of control.  It is like a living, breathing, expanding animal, consuming all neighbouring cities with its maniacal highways - one of those cities who's sheer size is best demonstrated by a camera shot, beginning at the ground level with a person, and then zooming out slowly, first to the street, then to the suburb, then the district and then the ity.  It is not, and from what I've read never intended to be, a pretty city.  Far from it.  THe dominance of concrete seems to be in constant growth, this best manifested by the construction of a massive new double-bridge, not to supply traffic over a river or valley, but over other flyovers.  Grey overpowers, either from conrete or cloud.  All of the cars are grey.  No - it is not pretty. 

It is, however, wealthy.  It is the driving force behind Brazil's constantly growing economy; the home of multinationals, of jobs, or the money.  And so the people come.  Lured by the prospect of prosperity, people continue to flock into Sao Paulo.  Of course, not all of them prosper, leaving a unfortunately considerable underprivileged class in Sao Paulo and a spiralling world of crime.  Out hosts tell us tales of car-jacking, personally experienced (watch out if you see 2 dudes on the same bike) and other crime.  And the city gets bigger.  And bigger.  And it grows, wider and fatter, slowly but surely, to consume the Brazil around it.  Being in Sao Paulo has been brilliant - because of the oasis and good friends.  But the city itself is marginally depressing - the landscape, the traffic, the manifest poverty, the general atmosphere, somehow all missing the vivacious, joyous approach to life which Brazil is reknowned.  We will probably return - for friends.  But not the city...

So, to the Top 5.  Sao Paulo, in many respects, is similar to any big city around the world.  Good restaurants.  Supermarkets, shopping centres, stuff.  And given this, a lot of stuff is really quite similar to Austrlaia.  But not quite.  Every now and then, weird shit would occur which would highlight something random, jolting you into a realisiation that this place is slightly weird.  Here are the Top 5:

5.  Driving over kerbs.  Stuck in traffic?  No road to exit the highway in sight?  No prolem.  Create your own.  Indeed, in Sao Paulo, MYO exit ramp is a common occurrence.  That massive dirt median strip separating roads and highways?  Looks like a great exist strategy...

4.  Churrascarias.  Silly, silly BBQ restaurants specialising in meat.  All you can eat.  The novelty factor?  They bring the meat to you.  They continue to come, armed with massive lumps of meat on skewers and equally enormous knives, relentlessly offering you a new cut of meat.  Any meat you can think of.  Of course, there's only so much meat one can eat.  And there's only so much meat one can fit on a plate.  DOes a massive plate of meat stop these mighty meat men from offering you more lumps of beef?  Nope.  Relentless.  When do they stop?  When you turn over your little card to the red side which says 'Nao, Obrigado'.  Enough already...

3.  The history of immigration in Sao Paulo has meant a lot of cultural diversity.  And funny situations.  Like being in Liberdade - Japan town - and going into a bookstore.  There's a black dude serving.  Djana asks him if he has a book.  He says no.  Asks if she speaks portuguese.  She says no.  Asks if I speak Jap.  I say no.  Then he says - "Man, this is fucked up.  I'm a black dude who speaks Japanese.  She's a brazilian looking chick who doesn't speak portuguese.  And you're a Japanese looking dude who only speak english".  Ha.  Fucked up indeed...

2.  They love dogs here.  Not so much manky.  More pets.  More like Australia.  But there is one thing that has thrown me about the dog culture here - they pee whereever they want.  And shit.  Even when there's a perfectly good tree nearby.  I always thought that it was a dog's natural instinct to piss and shit on a tree.  Apparently not.  In the middle of the road, on the sidewalk, on the path.  Don't worry about all the trees around.  Anywhere will do...

1.  Method of price checking.  You know when you're at the supermarket and an item doesn't scan correctly and they do the "price check aisle 3"?  Well, in Brazil, they dont't have the PA system.  Do you know what they have instead?  A chick on rollerskates.  On fucking rollerskates.  No shit.  So she can race to the item in a flash, spee across the shore in all her 70s glory and return with the correct price.  Brilliant...

To Rio de Janeiro.  Do it...
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