By Brazilian standards, São Paulo is a hair’s breadth away—or rather a cheap 90-minute flight—from Florianópolis. But around 4 p.m., on our last beach day at Praia da Armação, I realized it wasn’t going to be an easy trip.
There was no point in keeping Mark’s bodyboard, so before walking back to the car, we suggested him to give it to another kid. He agreed and bravely offered it to a young Brazilian girl who had lent him a shovel a few hours earlier. He was happy to do so, but then I noticed he had tears in his eyes—grownup tears, not “I’m having a meltdown” tears.
“What if I forget I had this board?”
“You have memories, and I have pictures of you catching several waves.”
“It’s okay to be sad. Last days are always bittersweet. What could cheer you up?”
“Nothing in the entire world.”
We played him Don’t dream it’s over and Don’t you cry, then he realized it was still early enough to check out the shark-themed playground at the mall, and life was worth living again.
Still, a there was some saudade in the air. This Portuguese word perfectly describes the kind of melancholia you may feel when you’re both happy about the experiences you enjoyed and sad because it’s the end.
I have a weird fear of things ending. Last days or moments of anything always make me want to cry. Hell, sometimes I don’t read the last couple of pages of books I enjoyed so that technically the story doesn’t end. This year, for the first time ever, Mark was fully aware that something was ending, so we were both sad.
It would have been great to rip off the Band-Aid and get to São Paulo fast but there were so many steps—returning the rental car, taking the shuttle to Floripa airport (yep, the new one), flying, landing in São Paulo’s busy Guarulhos airport, taking a taxi to Paulista, etc.—that we left at 10 a.m. and only arrived at 4:30 p.m. under a torrential downpour, the kind that’s on TV because the city was flooded. Never trust a city with so many people selling umbrellas. I mean, even malls offer free lockers for your must-have accessory—it’s a rainy city, period.
By the time we checked in at the hotel it felt that we had stepped into a parallel universe. Were we at the beach just 24 hours earlier? Possibly.
The change of atmosphere was brutal, from quiet, sunny and outdoorsy Floripa to grungy, crowded and rainy São Paulo. Mark was whiny, Feng was exhausted and I caught a cold.
I like São Paulo. Sure, it wasn’t love at first sight, but it’s a fun megalopolis to explore. Getting lost between the thousands of towers of this urban jungle and being just one more human being surrounded by so many people living so many different lives is a unique experience.
However, I like it best when I don’t have a 40⁰C fever, and São Paulo looked vaguely threatening under the periodic torrential downpour. I was also attempting to shop and get around in the middle of rush hour in a city of 12.18 million, which didn’t help.
We did our best. We carried our umbrellas everywhere—obviously, never rained much when we had them, poured whenever we would forget them. I tried to slow down a bit to get better, but I don’t do “slowing down” well. We attempted to dress warmer because it was unusually “cold,” like 18⁰C at night.
There’s always a faint party atmosphere in São Paulo, but it wasn’t my vibe—too much beer and fried snack, too many edgy people. I felt like an outsider.
The past three days have been weird, almost out of character for Brazil—cool, rainy, us being tired, sick and anxious.
It was the end of a trip for Feng and Mark.
It’s the beginning of another one for me.