Monday, August 17, 2009

Everything's bigger in São Paulo

I need to begin this post with a confession. My *impeccable* Italian from last summer is going, going, almost gone. What a shameful experience at the Italian consulate last Monday... I was speaking 60% Portuguese and 40% Italian, which wouldn't have been so bad except for the fact that the director assumed I spoke as fluently as I write! They didn't have any specific tasks for me, but we discussed the possibility of me translating their website into English in exchange for free enrollment in one of their advanced language courses, so that I can maintain whatever scraps I have left. Vediamo. I'm not sure whether it would be better to focus only on Portuguese and then try to recall my Italian when I arrive in Bologna in January, or to practice both at the same time and possibly become uniquely fluent in Italuguês.  

After that consulate experience, the networking night was an astounding success. I made great contacts with several non-governmental organizations, a Newsweek journalist, and an award-winning National Geographic filmmaker. The filmmaker is working on a four-hour series called "Beyond Babel" which will trace language transformation around the world and involve trips through all seven continents. I'm supposed to meet with him this Friday at his office (crossing my fingers for something sweet!).

At midnight on Tuesday I caught a bus with a friend to São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, in the Americas, and in the entire Southern hemisphere. Nearly 20 million people live in the metropolitan area alone, with another 9 million in the outskirts of the city. It's pretty big. I knew I wasn't gonna be able to see everything in three days, but I'd say we did surprisingly well! After arriving around 6:30am on Wednesday, we took a taxi to Gabriela's grandma's apartment and crashed for a couple hours. Around 10am some cousins swooped us up and showed us around the enormous Mercado Municipal, the wild "25 de março" flea market, the sprawling Parque Ibirapuera (= Central Park), and the disappointing Museum of Image and Sound. We returned home at 8pm and enjoyed Dona Isa's dinner of cooked fish and vegetables, after which we went to bed, exhausted from lack of sleep the night before. On Thursday some other cousins picked us up, served us lunch, then brought us to Shopping Aricanduva, the largest mall in Latin America. I didn't buy anything, but it's cool to say I've been there, right? At night we went to Dunas Bar, a popular Arab-Brazilian hangout with live music and belly dancers. I had açaí juice with condensed milk- OH BABY! Jamba Juice could learn a thing or two from Brazil. Friday was more of the same with more cousins: visits to the Museum of Portuguese Language (two thumbs WAY up!), Liberdade, Praça da Sé, cathedrals, theaters, malls, etc. Liberdade is the Japantown of São Paulo, with the largest Japanese population anywhere in the world outside of Japan, and the Catedral Metropolitana in the Praça da Sé is the largest in São Paulo, with a capacity of over 8000 people. Moral of the story: everything's bigger in São Paulo. That night we went out to a friend's birthday party in Vila Madalena, one of the nightlife centers of the city. Since we had to leave at 10am the next morning, we only stayed out until around 3am. Paulistas normally stay out until 9am- yes, they're crazier partiers than cariocas. We caught the bus back to Rio and I was in my apartment by 7pm, tired but content.

Yesterday was absolutely unbelievable. Since classes started up again for everyone today, I suppose God wanted to give us one last perfect day. Everyone and his mother hit the beach, including me. I arrived at Posto 9 in Ipanema after church, around 1pm, and spent the next five straight hours playing soccer and bodysurfing. You know those pictures of packed Brazilian beaches where you can't even see the sand because of all the people? That was yesterday, and it was glorious. Eventually my friend David and I dragged ourselves off the beach and feasted on kabobs while watching Grêmio massacre Flamengo 4-1 in his apartment. We jammed on guitar for a while, and then I walked home. Three of the four other guitarists in the program have purchased guitars here already, and every time I play one I miss having my own. They're cheaper here than in the US, so I think I'm gonna give in and buy an acoustic-electric this week or next.

Since I only have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, my first day isn't until tomorrow. I have four-day weekends EVERY weekend, not to mention free Wednesdays. And I'm in Rio de Janeiro. Jealous much? 

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