In a contrast to Rio, Sao Paulo seems to be one booming metropolis of concrete and traffic. I’ve been told anywhere between 10 and 12 million people live here. It does not have the natural beauty of Rio, nor the endless tourist attractions.
My, host, Thiago, whom I met when he was working in Chicago, and his family have been great. They are of course very welcoming. By American standard, it is a pretty tiny home, there is enough space and it is a pretty middle class neighborhood; I share a room with Thiago. I’m having a pretty difficult time talking to his mother and aunt when Thiago is not around. More head nodding or saying I don’t understand when spoken to in Portuguese. As usual, I can speak to them in Spanish and be understood, but tis a one way street for the most part.
The taxis here are ridiculously expensive, and there are too many cars. The downtown is huge. Paulista avenue is nice. There isn’t much greenery, a few parks here and there. Honestly, I can’t really figure this city out. The nightlife is supposed to be impressive, which I’d expect for a city bigger than New York.
I have had some interesting experiences with the neighborhood people while Thiago is at work. Bruno, one of Thiagos friends in the neighborhood, walks from house to house and knows and introduces me to everyone (he is that guy in the neighborhood). Of course, they are all very hospitable, and one Thursday evening, I was brought to a house with about 10 people hanging out on the porch at about 11pm. They fed me some of their hot dogs (topped with ketchup, French fries, mayo, potatoes, onions, and god knows what else), gave me some soda & cerveja, and treated me as one of the neighbors, even though communication was pretty much nil. Somehow though, I manage to communicate with Bruno. We walk through stores and compare American and Sao Paulo things and prices, compare music, and so on and so forth. He loves to talk about Brazilian women, which is entertaining for awhile, then after the nth hour is like beating a dead horse(‘did you really need to point her out? You just pointed out the last 100 Brazilian women with stereotypical big butts’. One random note is that electronics are ridiculously expensive in Brazil. For example, my $300 netbook costs $900-$1500 here, a TV that is $1500 in the US costs at least $3,000, and so on and so forth. If it makes up for it, food is really cheap.
I suppose the best thing about Sao Paulo then is the people. The endless concrete and traffic just aren’t my cup of tea.
Favorite new/popular expression from non-English speakers: The Books on the Table!
A small part of downtown Sao Paulo:
The street I stay on. Thiago's house is on the left:
Largest Japantown outside of Japan:
Jaca (jackfruit) in Thiagos front yard: