Joe and I visited Sofia and Bene´s schools where the teachers speak only English to the young children
. They even teach them American songs like The Itsy Bitsy Spider and The Ants Go Marching One By One. I was very impressed by this and Joe and I decided that when we have kids we want them to attend preschool where they learn other languages. This meant that Sofia and Bene understood Joe and I though they were shy to respond to us in English, until our last day in Sao Paulo when Sofia opened up in the car during a traffic jam, when we played a game of teacher. She told Joe ´zip zap´ when he tried to ask questions.
Our first day in Sao Paulo started off with an adventure to the municipal market to buy exotic fruit. To get there we took the subway which was crowded with Paulistas (this is what they call people from Sao Paulo). The moment we stepped in the market, which used to be a train station many years ago and was converted to a market, Joe was in heaven. A world of colors and funny shapes: yellows, pinks, purples, spiky, poky, small, gigantic! Like a magnet Joe was drawn to one of the fruit stands. We were enticed by the fruitman who gave us slices of any fruit we wanted to try: sapote, abiu, cupuacu, pitanga, pitahaya, maracuja doce (two types of sweet passion fruit) baby pineapple, asian pear, manga caja, nesparo, cashew fruit, chocolate fruit, and of course, a strange looking guava. My favorites were the sweet passion fruits which we gulped down with spoons, crunchy seeds and all
. By the end of our tastings our cheeks and chins and hands were sticky and Joe told the fruit man he wanted one of everything. The bill came to $150, which Joe negotiated down to $80, but still I was shocked that fruit was so expensive in Brazil. I thought maybe the Fruitman was taking advantage of us but then told myself that while some people like to go to other countries to buy a piece of clothing or a necklace, others, well maybe just Joe, likes to go to other countries to buy fruit. We left the market with our hands full of 20 lbs of rare voloptuous specimens.
Our trip back was adventurous and also stressful. We took a cicuitous route to get home, since we intended to take public transportation to the Hebraica Club. To get there we needed to take three subways and two trains even though it was only a couple of miles away. By the time we had went three stops out of the city center on the first train, into a favela-ish neighborhood we notioced too many sketchy people staring at us and we decided to get off the train and turn around. Back on the subway, we were hungry and got off in Liberdade, a Japanese neighborhood with lanterns in the streets and lots of Japanese markets and chotchka stores.
The next day, we finally got to the Hebraica club with Babi and the kids
. It was incredible! Kinda like Boca West meets the JCC. There was great food, gyms where we saw teenagers dancing to Israeli music, and playing every sport you could think of. There were 12 clay tennis courts, spas, tropical forests, waterfalls, jungle gyms, soccer fields, olympic swimming pools, three synagogues, theaters, a stadium, salons, and more all in the middle of the chaotic city. Babi and Michel call it an oasis.
That night we ate in an Italian neighborhood and enjoyed gnocci made of mandioquinha (something like a cross between yucca and sweet potato) and fresh made pasta with Babi and Michel. Our time with them was going to end soon and it made me sad yet happy because of the friendships I had formed. It was wonderful sharing a few days with them and it became very clear to me why Joe has such a close friendship with Michel.
Sao Paulo is a monster. It is the biggest city in the western hemisphere with bumper to bumper traffic at all hours of the day and night and a constant smell of pollution in the air. Most of the historic buildings have been replaced, with anonymous concrete constructions that give the impression of driving in endless circles. There are some hidden jewels, but most of them are walled off and under heavy guard, making them hard to see and appreciate. The biggest jewel we found in Sao Paulo was Michel, Babi, Sofia, and Bene. They were so sweet to let us stay in their apartment which reminded me of a Manhatten apartment except bigger. I had met Michel several times before but this was the first time I met Babi and the children. Sofia is almost 4 and Bene almost 2. Babi is beautiful and she´s a talented illustrator and artist. Her paintings are displayed all around their home and she even painted little fairies on Sofia´s side of the room and jungle animals on Bene´s.