The place to celebrate New Year in São Paulo is Avenida Paulista, a 2.8 kilometre thoroughfare packed with small businesses, government buildings, museums, mansions and offices. We took the subway and got there around 6 p.m., sweaty, hungry and excited.
Food. We needed to eat.
Unfortunately, we quickly realized most small restaurants were closed, and even finding drinks other than beer and liquor (sold in the street by anyone with a cooler) was a challenge. A security perimeter had been set up: we could go in and out easily but Paulista is built on a hill and navigating the uneven small streets was tiring.
Eventually, we found a small cafeteria and sat down for our first real meal in Brazil. Pasta, rice and chicken. Nothing original but it did the job and it was cheap. I was hoping for some street food but there wasn’t much except for pop corn and chips.
The waiting game started. New Year Eve is always a waiting game: waiting for the fireworks, for the entertainment to start, for the new year to begin. We paced the avenue, taking breaks here and there. Two millions people were expected but the crowd wasn’t too dense yet and the atmosphere was friendly.
A brand was distributing inflatable plastic ducks. I got one for Mark and it kept him busy for a while. Then we found a spot and decided to wait around. We had brought a string to tie us to Mark: he doesn’t usually run away but it was a good way to stick together as the avenue was starting to fill up. Mark found the idea hilarious and ended up tying Feng to the fence. Kid: 1. Parents: 0.
Traveling with Feng to Mexico when he was one was just a matter of scooping him up and bucking him in the stroller. Traveling with Mark to Argentina when he was two was only a matter of giving him ice cream treats regularly. Now, at 3, Mark has questions of his own. He wants to know where we are, where we are going and why there is so many police cars around. Oh, look, a chopper! Why is there a chopper here? I don’t know. There are many choppers in São Paulo, I remember that from our first visit in 2002. And why can’t the fireworks start now? Well, it’s not dark enough. Oh, okay. Mommy, why do people come here? To celebrate the new year. Is it late? Yes. Am I tall? Sure. Mommy…?
“Mark, my name is not ‘why’!” I said at one point.
“No, silly,” he replied. “Your name is Juliette.”
Kid: 2. Parents: 0.
And then, the fireworks started. We wowed and happy-new-yeared each other and hurried to get out of the crowd to find a taxi. It was past midnight and we had been awake since 8 a.m. We were all exhausted.
Hotel, shower, sleep.
“Mark… remember… no school here. Sleep late,” I recommended around 2 a.m.