São Paulo – Don’t Cry

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“I could live there,” I stated as we were walking down Avenida Paulista.

Feng sighed. He finds me weird sometimes. He claims that I’m too rebellious, that instinctively, I like to do the opposite of what everybody else does, that I’m not rational or logical. It’s okay. I find him weird too. Mark is the only normal member of the family, although come to think of it, maybe not—no wonder, with us as parents…

I can see why Feng found my statement strange. We were coming from Rio de Janeiro, a city objectively more beautiful and more fun than São Paulo. Yet, I wouldn’t live in Rio. Mind you, I wouldn’t live in Brazil, period. I love the country as a traveller but I don’t get the culture and I think fitting in would be difficult.

But if I had the choice, I’d pick São Paulo over Rio de Janeiro.

There is something oddly fascinating about a city of 12 million people—over 21 million for the Região Metropolitana de São Paulo. I mean, imagine all the friends you could make! All the interesting people! All the streets to explore!

But deep down, I think I like São Paulo because the city is the not-so-pretty grunge kid with a quirky, artsy and rebellious soul, moody like the unreliable weather. Rio de Janeiro is the bimbo, the cheerleader—objectively pretty but rather shallow and predictable. And of course, I was that very average-looking grungy kid. Sampa, I’m you. I ain’t pretty but I can be fun.

In São Paulo, the atmosphere is very different from Rio. You won’t see people wearing Havaianas and beach clothes—the local uniform is traditional business attire or anything that makes a fashion statement—goth, grunge, skater boy, etc. Paulistas take music seriously and there are entire malls, like the Gallery of Rock, dedicated to heavy metal and rock music. We bought Mark a Nirvana t-shirt, the same as mine.

“I love your Iron Maiden, mommy.”

“It’s Guns N’ Roses, Mark.”

“Oh.”

The city is a giant concrete jungle but it’s surprisingly breezy and not as oppressing as you could think. It ain’t polished and pretty, though—picture graffiti, bars on windows, dirty sidewalks … it looks rough, it probably is a bit too. But if you love urban environments, you’re in heaven.

I would have appreciated São Paulo better if it hadn’t been the very last stop of the trip. We were tired and I was sad. Surprisingly, Feng was sad to leave as well—he usually handles the going-back-home part of travelling better than me.

“It’s funny, I don’t think we’ve ever seen what normal São Paulo looks like,” I noted on Monday, as we were walking to Centro. In 2002, we spent a day there during Carnival and the streets were empty. Last year, we were there around New Year and all businesses were closed. And this time, we were in the middle of the four-day Carnival holiday. The city was fairly quiet, although it depended on the neighbourhood. Rua Ausgusta, the bar and bloco-gathering street was packed and all the businesses were open. On Paulista, it was business as usual in the several shopping malls on the avenue but banks and businesses were mostly closed. Centro was quiet too, except around the market area—always packed—and Little Tokyo, at Libertade.

“Too bad your parents aren’t Japanese,” I joked. “We could have brought back so many books and magazines!”

I don’t know much about Japanese culture but the Asian feel in the neighbourhood felt very familiar—the smell, the food, the characters reminded me of China, a country that has been part of my life for two decades now.

On the last day, we played with time like with an elastic band—the afternoon went by slowly as we were pretending it was just another travelling day, then we rushed to the airport, then time slowed down again as we waited for boarding passes, customs, security, etc. The sun set and we changed to our winter clothes in the bathroom. My jeans stuck to my sweaty and dusty legs. I waited to put my hoodie on. I don’t like to layer up and wear warm clothes. I’m a jeans-shorts-and-tank-top girl.

Our flight was at 9:35 p.m. so we had an entire day ahead of us. We checked out, walked on Paulista, visited the art museum (free on Tuesdays!), then we ran into a big bloco on Rua Augusta just as we were about to go eat in a small restaurant I had picked—Japanese meat-and-rice bowls, which is pretty much local food in São Paulo, home of the biggest Little Tokyo. The bloco marched by the fast-food joint as we were eating, hundreds of thousands of people holding bottles and wearing costumes. We didn’t try to make conversation, we just watched the parade.

One last walk around the block, one last ice cream, one last can of Coke and we picked up the bags at the hotel.

I sat down in the courtyard as Mark was nagging me—he had been awful all day, probably because he picked up our stress and didn’t sleep well with all the party going on.

“We are going to Canada. We are in Brazil. We are in São Paulo. We are… YOU’RE NOT LISTENING!”

“No, I’m not.”

“ARGH!”

I started crying.

“What, mommy?”

“Nothing. I’m just sad.”

“Because of the plane?”

“Yeah.” in São Paulo but I don’t. I live in Ottawa. Mark finally masters O Canada, I can’t teach him a new national anthem.

I’m still sad. I’ll get over it.

Boarding the plane half asleep in Rio de Janeiro

Landing in São Paulo

Av. Paulista – Consolação, São Paulo

Street musicians on Av. Paulista – Consolação, São Paulo

Coconut juice on Av. Paulista – Consolação, São Paulo

Sugarcane juice on Av. Paulista – Consolação, São Paulo

Soccer players on Av. Paulista – Consolação, São Paulo

Pelé and la Joconde on Av. Paulista – Consolação, São Paulo

Centro, São Paulo

São Paulo Centro

Praça da República – República, São Paulo

Praça da República – República, São Paulo

Praça da República – República, São Paulo

Praça da República – República, São Paulo

Praça da República – República, São Paulo

Praça da República – República, São Paulo

Market area, Centro, São Paulo

Catedral Metropolitana de São Paulo, Praça da Sé – Sé, São Paulo

Little Tokyo, Praça da Liberdade – Liberdade, São Paulo

Bubble tea in Little Tokyo, Praça da Liberdade – Liberdade, São Paulo

Centro, São Paulo

Av. Paulista – Consolação, São Paulo

Av. Paulista – Consolação, São Paulo

Av. Paulista – Consolação, São Paulo

Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand – MASP

Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand – MASP

Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand – MASP

Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand – MASP

Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand – MASP

Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand – MASP

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

14 Comments

  1. Very interesting experience in Brazil. I feel more or less like you. Being Brazilian, I’m not sure I could live here again, but I love being here with all the craziness. Go figure! Anyway, I’m almost back to Ottawa as well. Au revoir Brazil!

    • … I hope that unlike you, you make it to Ottawa! We are stuck in Toronto, the plane couldn’t land in YOW 😆

      What aspect of Brazilian culture make you a true Brazilian and what would make you a foreigner in your birth country?

      • I’m always on time for any appointments, that makes me a weird person in Brazil hehe.

        On the other side, my favorite drink is caipirinha, I hate the cold weather, I love the Brazilian music and dance and I can definitely be more flexible than Canadians (with the famous “jeitinho brasileiro”), such things make me Brazilian.

        Good luck with the trip, I was stuck in Toronto last time I tried to get to Ottawa. Let’s see next week.

        • And I find Brazilians the most punctual people in Latin America! I was amazed to see that buses were actually leaving on time. Even the bloco schedule, which is basically a gathering of drunk people/people about to get drunk was followed. Feng and I were so surprised. The rest of Latin America is very much “mas o menos” (… or “mais or menos”, an expression I rarely hear in Brazil!)

          I hate the cold weather as well. Hopefully it improves, today was rough :-/

          Have a safe trip home and get working on these capirinhas 😉

  2. Was just thinking about you and about your trip that must be ending… Good luck coming home!!
    I enjoyed following you around Brazil a lot. I feel now that I’ve got a hint of what is urban Brazil. And I’ll never get over some of the beaches pictures.
    Now you must plan the next travels, the landing in Ottawa will be easier that way! 🙂

    • Oh, landing in Ottawa was tough… but not because of what we left behind, because the damn plane did NOT land in Ottawa! 😆 Story to come. Anyway, now we are back.

      Is Brazil on your travel list, now?

      • Uh uh!
        As usual, I’d say!

        Even if seing Rio is a longtime dream, I don’t feel like I’ll have the guts to travel across Brazil. Plus I don’t like big modern cities…
        I’ll start with something easier, like Guatemala maybe?

  3. Glad to hear you made it back! I had some issues getting to France (well Luxemburg) when I went home because of the snow…
    And for some reason I’ve felt like I would love to go back to Brasil, and have sometimes day dreamt about living there. Maybe because my brother did on and off for a few years and I lived there rather than just visited?
    Come on spring!

    • Considering the circumstances, I understand why this trip and the memories resonate with you. I also think you’d fit in in Brazil… first time I saw you, I thought you had Brazilian blood (and NO, this has nothing to do with your butt!!!)

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