As they age, some people become more religious, more conservative or more family-oriented. I am becoming more superstitious.
I am so superstitious that I usually don’t share plans or news that matter to me because I noticed that whatever I disclose never ends up happening. For instance, if I say that we are considering spending a long weekend somewhere, you can be sure that a couple of days before leaving, one of us will get sick or we will have too much work and the trip will be canceled. A major backpacking trip? Ah. I won’t say a word about it until we are seating in the plane and about to take off.
My own parents didn’t even know we were heading to Brazil. I called them from São Paulo. I didn’t want to jinx anything.
Yet, this trip had a chaotic start. First, we left right during the first major snowstorm of the year, then Air Canada misplaced both of our backpacks. We did take off and the bags arrived twenty-four hours later (although no explanation was given as to what had happened) so no big deal, yet it was a stressful start and being superstitious, I wondered who I pissed off to get bad karma.
Then, I had issues with my bank. The night we arrived, we went to the ATM to withdraw reais. Four different banks declined my Scotiabank debit card: “transaction not authorized”, it said. Feng, who is banking with CIBC, was able to withdraw money so it wasn’t a huge problem yet it left me with the issue to solve–I need to be able to withdraw money at one point! I called Scotiabank but the disinterested representative blamed the issue on Brazilian banks.
Then, my blog went offline. I have been having issue with A Small Orange, my hosting company, for the past couple of months. They were reliable for a year or so… and then they weren’t. Customer service was unresponsive, status updates weren’t posted, support tickets weren’t replied to. After a twenty-four-hour long outage, I freaked out. This blog is ten years of my life. It has no monetary value but a huge sentimental one and I couldn’t imagine losing all the data. I spent a night chatting with a representative from another hosting company to transfer my blog, but A Small Orange was making things difficult, not providing my login information and not replying to my emails. I couldn’t access any file, nor did the new hosting company.
Enough issues for now.
I fell asleep to the sound of Feng breathing deeply and Mark sucking on the pacifier.
The following day, I woke up stressed out but eager to solve issues one by one.
First, we went to a mall to try my debit card at another ATM. Yay! It worked. I think most Brazilian banks just shut the entire system off during holidays or maybe I had bad luck the first day. Then I managed to reach someone at A Small Orange and I backed up my blog, initiating the server transfer. Hopefully the blog is safe. Side note: avoid A Small Orange like the plague. I can understand occasional technical issues but the way they dealt with the problem was appealing. This has to be one of the worst customer service experience I have ever had and I am not the only one considering the shit storm on Twitter about them.
Alright, time to refocus on Brazil.
The sky was grey and dark clouds heavy with rain were looming on the horizon. It felt like the day’s metaphor where everything could go either way—sunny or rainy.
We headed to Centro where a few businesses were open. The city was a bit livelier than on New Year’s Day. The market building was closed but the streets were packed with small vendors. “This is where we should have gone to buy clothes the first night,” I joked. Ah. Not that it would have happened. Centro isn’t exactly the place where you want to hang out after dark. It feels safer than it used to back in 2002 but it’s still a tough neighborhood. People didn’t seem to be overly paranoid though, most Paulistas had cellphones in hands and bags slung across their shoulders.
I didn’t remember São Paulo was so hilly. A few streets were almost as steep as in Valparaiso!
When it started pouring, we followed the crowd and ended up hiding in a subway station. It rained on and off for the following hours and the streets were flooded. We still walked all the way back to Paulista, our unofficial city centre where we always seem to end up.
First impressions of Brazil? Tudo bem! For such a big city, people are extremely friendly, polite and helpful. Paulistas offer each other seats in the subway, they hold doors, queue quietly and thank each other profusely. I’m amazed. The streets are fairly clean and recycling seems to be very encouraged. São Paulo is also cheaper than I had expected. A subway ticket is 3.5 reais (a little over $1) and food is cheap, a simple hot meal is about $10 and snacks (pizza, empanadas, etc.) are much cheaper. Coffee is cheap and excellent and soft drinks are readily available, which is great because we keep on drinking (it’s hot!).
So yeah, a bit of bad luck… but Brazil is pretty awesome. Hopefully, its awesomeness will be contagious!