Lost in Translation in Sao Paolo

Trip Start Oct 10, 2001
Trip End Feb 19, 2002

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Tuesday, February 12, 2002

The color of green is everywhere in Brazil. From the dense green of the Amazonas, to the lush green farmlands of the interior. Our 16hr bus from Foz to Sao Paolo passed through nothing but green that only occasionally interrupted by a dirt red road disappearing into the vanishing point. The lifestyle here are similar to other Latin American countries, simple and relaxed. There is a mix culture of blacks, natives and European descendents here in Brazil which makes its people unique. I found myself on many occasions just stared at them trying to observe their facial features and body language. Not since the Mayans of the Yucatan have I been so fascinated by the local people.

My 12th and final overnight bus ride ended at 6am Sao Paolo time. We arrived in the main bus terminal that closely resembled a futuristic transportation hub. Everything here is built with concrete, grey, lifeless and two dimensional. Unlike the artistic Mexico City terminals or the modern Argentinean station or the chaotic but exciting chicken buses on market days, the Sao Paolo bus station is efficient and boring. In our barely awakened state, we took the metro to the city center. After stepping off the train, we were greeted with once again the grey blocks of concrete within the metro station. On the opposite platform, huge crowds were waiting for their morning train to work, lifeless and speechless to one another. My mind was confused as we climbed the concrete stairs to the nearest exit, I wondered into a conversation with Juliette: "Isn't this Carnival week? Isn't this Brazil? Why is everything here so quiet and boring?"

We found a hotel in the ordinary district in Sao Paolo; it was close to the city center and we only plan to stay one night anyway. After a relaxing nap, our adventure began. Unlike the Latin (Spanish) city design, the Brazilian cities had no central planning. There was no Zocalo or Plaza de Armas, no central Cathedral or markets. The buildings were built one next to another, and the urban sprawl just took a life of its own, and before the next blue moon, the city of Sao Paolo turned into an "Urban Jungle". In this city of 20 million people, the wonderful Brazilian green was replaced with practical and cheap Sao Paolo grey.

Once again we found it difficult to communicate with the Brazilians. Nobody understood our next to nothing Portugues, and few bothered to speak Spanish with us. So after couple of hours of our "lost in translation" experience we just decided to talk among ourselves. We ordered some lunch by pointing at the menu that I had no idea what we were ordering; of course there was always room for ice cream, as there are so many juice and ice cream shops here and relatively cheap. Next, we stumbled upon a "Heavy Metal" shopping mall that specialized in taboos, piercings, leather & chains and all sorts of metal music memorabilia. Although in our plain travel clothes, we bravely tried to fit in the all-black shopping mall, for no other reason except to relax ourselves in the air-conditioned shops. By sunset, all the downtown shops were closed and locked up and we had no where to go.

Where are all the excitement? Where is the Carnival parties? Certainly not at the city center of Sao Paolo. We were bitterly disappointed that we didn't find any festivals, and even the tourist information was, believe it or not, CLOSED during Carnival. We didn't dare to venture into other districts of this huge metropolis by ourselves without a proper map as Sao Paolo was not the safest city around after dark. So we watch the Carnival parties on TV in our hotel room, how sad was that. We watched the huge crowds in Salvador de Bahia dancing in the streets, we watched the parades in Rio de Janeiro and wondered if we were idiots. There were fireworks outside our hotel windows by 4 am but I was too disgusted to even care. Can't wait until Rio tomorrow.
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