Sao Paulo, Sampa, NYC of the Tropics. But where isn't the New York of
____? This is far from the first metropolis that I'm sure you could
drop people in without them being able to immediately decide what
country they're in or even continent they're on. A lot blends when a
city gets so big.
Which I think is good and bad. At first, it's easy to write this off as horrible globalization, making the world one cookie-cutter Big Apple with McDonald's on each corner and Starbucks next door. Yeah, this can, does, and may continue to happen. Look at any of the many exurban consumer utopias around Philly or most any other U.S. urban area. But some cool stuff can occur, too. What's the Sampa spin on New York's interpretation of an Italian dish called pizza taste like? Are Snake rock climbing shoes, a Brazilian brand, a better value than well-established, first-world players like Black Diamond? Should the retiree in Florida with a couple hundred thousand to invest buy the condo down the street or a chunk of land where Delhi may next sprawl? Yeah, this is on on tangents with little relations. But it's a hell of a lot more interesting than everybody just hanging around their tariff-protected home towns because they're worried about the local shop going under. If the dude down the street can't get by selling coffee, maybe he'd fare better importing some wacky energy drink from Thailand, combining Indian and Mexican as a fast food joint, or having his mom help him figure act how to bake a better snack for long bike rides (Red Bull, Punjabi Burrito, and Clif Bar).
Anyway, today. Very relaxed, "only" biking ~17 miles. Parque Ibirapuera is on par with NYC's Central Park. It's a bummer that the vast majority of the adjacent museum of modern art's closed, so I basically just sit around reading and appreciating the quirks of a new city. My favorite is the Purina, the pet food company, refreshment stations. You push a button on the side of their signs and it sprays you with a mist of water. I feel like no matter how pure the water is I'd imagine that I smelled like puppy chow for the rest of the week.
After I wile the day away, I head to an Italian street festival a couple blocks from my hostel. I get a milky blue drink from a vendor, so strongly vodka that I'm surprised it's not clear. The streets around actual festival central are better; in the heart of it, I'm spending 10 minutes to squeeze through just one block.
Street snacks are tasty, but the wait between dishes is way too long. Sitting in a restaurant, I order some "prato ejuxivo" that I'm fairly sure comes with rice and beans but have no idea what the main dish is. Trying to order a batida, which I think is basically a vodka milkshake, I end up with a glass of Jose Cuervo tequila on the rocks. I don't know about you, but I doubt I could keep that down if someone dared me to drink it.
Being a dumb American who doesn't know Portuguese pays off. The white dude with a British accent sitting down the counter from me helps me send it back and we strike up a conversation. His name's Eduardo and he's studying to teach tax law at the University of Sao Paulo. I bring up the fact that Lula, Brazil's president, might get impeached (misappropriation of funds or something similar; dollars now buy ~5% more reais than they did when I arrived) and Eduardo mentions that his uncle, chief justice of the Brazilian supreme court, will run if Lula's forced out. This is too bizarre to make up, so I believe him. We blab a bit and he says he can't go out tonight but asks if I'd like to go with his friend. My alternatives are to either find fellow travelers to hang out with at the hostel or go out by myself, so why not? He calls his buddy, who will pick me up at the hostel at 11:15.
11:45 and I'm about to just head to a bar alone when Paulo with buddies Cero and Bruno show up in Paulo's black Volkswagen Golf. They know enough English that we can more or less communicate. It's reassuring to hear that they regularly work 50-60+-hour weeks as lawyers: I couldn't escape working long and hard if I want to make a lot just by moving somewhere developing. It's a pity my narcolepsy kicks in and I'm falling asleep in this random dude's car before we even get to the first bar.
Unfortunately, most places are packed and we spend a good chunk of the night driving around. When we finally find somewhere, Bruno and Cero have to head home: they've got work early tomorrow (Sunday). Paulo and I bullshit about politics and anything else that comes to mind in the bar crowded with disappointingly-average-looking Brazilian girls; despite downing guarana soda and vodkas all night, I'm still rudely falling asleep before I get back to the hostel. In spite of the narcolepsy, a good random night after a relaxingly slow day.