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Published: September 30th 2017
Geo: -23.5489, -46.6388
Ugh ... my head throbs from the cachaca, my ears ring from the drums, and my feet ache from the samba - I must be in Brazil! As much as I am paying for it today, last night was worth it - a samba club is a quintessential Brazilian experience that any visitor should partake in.
Some big flea market takes place on a nearby street every Saturday but I never even made it there, getting sidetracked by a food market on the street right in front of Casa Club. Hmm ... a flea market (i.e. - crap and junk) or food? I know what my choice would be! The quality of fruit available here in Brazil is incredible - all kinds of bananas, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapples, watermelon ... heaven!
The hostel's breakfast is quite simple but excellent for the reason I just mentioned - they have some crappy bread, butter, shredded ham and cheese, cereal, and coffee, but it's the papaya, pineapple, and watermelon that shine. A big bowl of fresh, ripe tropical fruit - what better way is there to start the day?
Though I had a late breakfast, the market stalls selling pasteis caught my
attention - fried pockets of dough stuffed with cheese, vegetables, and different meats, they are the Brazilian version of empandas served in other South American countries. Fried to order, they were wonderfully crisp and provided just enough grease for the day. One stuffed with meat, cheese, and olives was reminiscent of a Chilean pino empanada, and a pizza version stuffed with cheese and pepperoni, made a quick and cheap little lunch, at 3 Brazilian Reais each ($2).
Solange popped by to pick me up around 2 PM, which was surprisingly, only 30 minutes late - the street market backed up traffic siginificantly and I wasn't sure she would even make it out here. Her first suggestion was a coffee on Rua Oscar Freire but after hearing I had already walked through the upscale shopping district yesterday, she suggested we go to Faria Lima to get some caffeine at one of Sao Paulo's award-winning cafes.
Cafe Octavio - designed by Marcello Dantas, a famous Brazilian architect, is located near one of Sao Paulo's most-exclusive shopping centres. It's becoming more and more obvious the disgusting amounts of money that float around this city. If only some was floating around in front of my face,
maybe I could grab and stash some of it and travel forever!
Cafe Octavio was named best cafe in Sao Paulo but because of its beautifully-designed interior, it made you wonder if it was because of the quality of the cafe, or because of its delightfully appealing aesthetics. We both ended up having drinks that were more dessert than coffee, so it was tough to tell - I'd have to sample their espresso or lattes to be able to say if this place was worthy of the award. Perhaps next time!
We talked about life in Brazil, and how it can be quite difficult and frustrating to get even the simplest things done. Solange advised that it wasn't so bad if you came from a middle-to-upper class family, and things became even easier in Brazil as you learned to play the jogo de cintura - translated, it means something like the belt game, and it's apparently something quite common in Brazil. It involves networking and schmoozing, and it's the way to get ahead in life and to take shortcuts through the bureaucracy that mars Brazilian society. Perhaps Arnaud could use a lesson in jogo de cintura - he told me a story
What is this ...
An encyclopedia? A phone book? An alamanac? Nope - it's a book of Sao Paulo driving maps.
of how upon arrival in Brazil, he needed to get a national registration number that was necessary for all official Brazilian transactions. He ended up waiting overnight in line outside in a super-sketchy Sao Paulo neighbourhood, in order to get it.
Alessandro, Solange's bandmate and current boyfriend later joined us, since he was in the area shopping for her Christmas gift. She had mentioned that he was having a tough time with the gift, getting frustrated and also feeling the pressure since it was the last weekend before Christmas. I immediately empathized with Alessandro as he arrived - it's not easy for a guy to buy a gift for a girl! Personally, I'd rather take her out for a nice dinner or away for the weekend - not only is it easier, but there's also something to be said for creating a memory, rather than simply buying a gift. Or maybe it's just because I'm lazy!
As can happen between Portuguese and Spanish speakers, our conversation quickly turned into one of Portanhol, that crazy mix of the slightly similar, but strangely dissimilar languages. Funny - Solange and I have never spoken in Spanish before, since the opportunity never arose. She
Brazilian Chocolates ...
Doce de leite (Brazilian version of Spanish dulce de leche) on the left, brigadeiro on the right. Brigadeiro is a mix of doce de leite and chocolate.
was surprised to realize exactly how much Spanish i spoke.
Having also met Solange's mom in Norway, her mom had asked for us to stop by their home since it was nearby, in order to say hello. Still as kind and sweet as I remember, she remarked how I hadn't changed at all. I'll take that as a compliment! It was nice to be able to finally speak a few words of Portuguese with her, and even nicer to be able to understand a few words of her Portuguese.
Tonight's plan - Sao Paulo's famous Sky Bar atop the uber-cool architecture of the Hotel Unique, from where a beautiful view of the night skyline can be viewed, seemingly perched above the treetops from a Central Park-like patch of greenery in one of the city's most-exclusive areas. Miguel and I were to meet Kristofer and Frederik there for exactly one drink, since it was known for its super-expensive prices. It was definitely worth it, as the high price essentially served as a cover charge to enjoy the view - we all joked that 24 Reais (~$15 CAD) a drink was acceptable since the peanuts were free, and we could
Cafe Brigadeiro ...
Brigadeiro smeared around the rim of the glass, with a shot of espresso below.
have as much as we wanted.
The conversation later moved from Brazilian to Swedish life ... Miguel and I were informed of something called Vasca (sp?), the Swedish concept of showing off what you have, and being wasteful simply because you can be wasteful. Don't get it? Imagine rolling up to an exclusive bar in your Bently, dressed to the nines, sashaying up to the VIP room, and promptly ordering two bottles of Cristal. Then when they come, you tell the waiter to pour one of the bottles down the kitchen sink, just because. That's Vasca!
We heard tales of people who work hard all year long and save up every last penny, only to blow it all in one week, with a super-expensive car rental and fancy designer clothes. And the kicker? Everybody does it during the same week in the summer, so the streets are lined with BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches ... and even though everybody is getting parking tickets like mad, nobody cares because everybody acts like money is no object! And once the week is over, everybody returns to a normal life, and waits until next year when they can save up and do it all over
So, the theme for tonight was ... money doesn't matter! Though we all intended to slowly sip our super expensive caipirinhas to take advantage of the view, Frederik went all out and ordered TWO more beers! How could he afford this? Because it's vasca, and money doesn't matter! Frederik, are you going to drink that beer? "No, I'm going to dump it off the roof just because I can, and because money doesn't matter!" Frederik, do you want more free peanuts? "Yes, but not because I'm hungry, but because I'm going to throw them at the poor people, just because I can!"
So once our money ran out, it was over to Vila Madalena, for some more reasonably-priced drinks, and where the bar tab doesn't require securing a small loan from the bank to pay it off. This leads to a funny story about one of Sao Paulo's more annoying quirks - the crazy traffic. Kristofer's friend Thayna called to see what he was up to, and offered to pick us up from Sky Bar and take us to Vila Madalena since she was approximately two km away on Avenida Paulista. Given the notorious reputation for traffic, I suggested we
just hop in a cab and meet her over there.
It was about 10 PM, and we arrived in Vila Madalena about ten minutes later. Every 30 minutes or so Thayna would call and say "Be there in 10 minutes." This went on and on ... until she finally arrived with her friend Flavia - nearly four hours after we arrived! Insane! Apparently, she had been stuck in traffic even longer because she was out in one of the outlying areas if São Paulo - since 5 PM! So it only took her about 9 hours to get to Vila Madalena ... imagine that ... in the time it took her to get there, someone can almost drive from Calgary to Vancouver.
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