More bullet points!
- Buildings here all have names, which I think is really strange. Even though nobody refers to buildings by their names and only uses street addresses for taxis and directions, as there are way too many buildings in the continent’s biggest city, each one has some ridiculous name. My favorite so far is Edificio John Lennon (the John Lennon Building), which is a residence I pass by on the bus on the way home from school.
- About the bus. I am almost a pro at riding these things by this point, since where I live isn’t really close to the Metro. You get to see a lot of interesting things if you go by bus, and sometimes there are interesting conversations on which to eavesdrop. The frustrating thing, however, is that there is no real bus schedule, so the bus comes whenever it comes. I stood outside in misty rain the other day fo 50 minutes waiting for the bus to take me to my friend’s house in Jabaquara, when I could have taken another bus to a Metro station and taken the subway from there. It’s always a gamble.
- Every afternoon it rains, and I never have an umbrella. This is most unfortunate, since the only time I ever think about buying an umbrella is when it starts raining and the umbrella hawkers appear out of nowhere to price-gauge the people who don’t like getting wet. Well, I don’t like getting wet, but I have also become sort of thrifty, so I prefer to either get wet or wait out the rain.
- It’s impossible to go anywhere in a hurry. Sampa is known for being the city where everyone is always too rushed to sit back and enjoy life. I want to know where all these fast people are, man. Everywhere I go, people are cutting me off just to walk slow and stop in front of me. After a while, there’s no point in trying to go anywhere quickly. Whereas in New York, people rush down the stairs in the subway when they hear a train coming, Paulistanos sort of just maintain their glacial pace and are content to wait for the next train. ALSO, people will wait in absurdly long lines to use the escalator instead of the stairs, and to go through the turnstile closest to the staircase when exiting the subway instead of walking the extra 5 feet to go through an empty one.
- I have made a rule for myself that I won’t listen to my iPod unless it is Brasilian music, since I need to keep improving my language skills. This means either (a) I hear a lot more conversations going on around me or (b) I really just space out on a whole new level and think about nothing. Either way, it works.
- I might be moving out of Ma’s mom’s apartment. Which is exciting. While they have been nothing but hospitable, I feel like a guest who is overstaying her welcome, and I would like to be able to cook again and just sort of hang out and not have to be on my best behavior. This possible place would also be 10 minutes away from 2 Metro stops, which is also thrilling, since (a) that would force me to be both active AND proactive about being on time and (b) I do not like letting the bus rule my life.
- In the midst of all this lightness, some serious things have been happening here in the city and state of Sao Paulo. Sampa itself has a relatively new problem with the emergence of a booming crack market, centered in the old center of the city, informally dubbed Cracolandia, and instead of treating the problem, certain Powers That Be have been treating the symptoms instead, resulting in several arrests, destruction of people’s homes, and a general lack of understanding of addiction as a whole. Also recently, the favela of Pinheirinhos has been occupied and burned, again resulting in the destruction of homes, lives, and dignity. There are multiple pictures floating around of the inhabitants preparing themselves basically for war against the police coming to take their homes away. The sad thing is that the majority of the people who live in favelas are not, as the stereotype goes, drug traffickers and dangerous criminals. I will refrain from adding my political opinion–it’s not my place, since I am lucky enough to be here at all and am more or less an outside observer–but it is disappointing to see how the vast wealth divide leads to such awful situations, when the Brasilians that I have met, of all classes, are some of the most warm, welcoming, come-as-you-are people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. To this end, I went to a protest yesterday, which started near Teatro Municipal and ended up in Cracolandia. Was it a smart idea for a foreigner to go to a political protest(question mark) I’m not sure, but it was a very peaceful protest, the police weren’t involved, and I was interested to see how these things work here. If you want to know my general impressions, ask me via email or something. I have a few thoughts.
- Phones. I have a prepaid SIM card here, and sometimes I run out of money obsecenly quickly, while other times 10 reais stretches for 2 weeks. I do not understand the phone plans here, but on the bright side, it seems that nobody does. If you add certain magic numbers to the front of people’s numbers with certain plans, you are able to reduce the charges or get free texts, but alas, I am not proficient in this sort of special cryptography. Like I said, nobody understand cell phone billing here, which is why it is common to have phones that accept 2 or 3 SIM cards at one time, so that people can have multiple pay-as-you-go plans and call their friends with different plans from their different numbers–from the same phone. Whew.
- Banks. To get into some banks, you have to press a button. Does this button connect to a security person, who then lets you in(question mark) No. You press the button, and the door unlocks, and you enter. I’m not sure if this is a safety measure proven to be particularly effective against–I dunno, people who just sail into banks without a point for being there–but if seems like if one is hell-bent on robbing a bank, one little button will not be much of a hindrance.
- Although I have been speaking a lot of English because of my course, I am also getting used to speaking in Portuguese without thinking about it too much. The other day I was Skyping with my parents and started explaining something in Portuguese to them without realising that I was using the wrong language. I also had a conversation with Ma’s neighbor in which I was chatting away (to be fair it’s very easy to chat with Valkyrie, since she loves talking) about bad traffic and the virtues of bus versus Metro (this was right before the 50-minute wait for the bus, actually), and it was only afterwards that I stepped back and realied that I had done that without really thinking.
- On a related note, different people I’ve polled have all given me different reasons why I don’t seem Brasilian to them. I am too pale (this is changng), I walk differently, I do not have enough of a butt (yep, someone said that)… But somehow this seems to be diminishing, since people more and more will ask me for knowledge on the bus. Yeah, that’s right. I am the master of getting from Ana Rosa to Avenida Berrini, and I share my knowledge if asked nicely. It used to freak me out but now I’m like, “Yep, it passes by Berrini, mmm hmm.”
- I was on Brasilian news the other day! Ma met some people who work at Rede Globo at some Christmas party, and they remembered that she was going to be hosting an Estrangeira in the new year. I guess they were doing some piece on foreigners coming to live in Brasil, and anyway, they ended up interviewing me at school and filming me in class and stuff. The interview mostly went well until we got to one question, very oddly-phrased, about how much money I was earning, and I had to ask the nice lady to repeat it around 3 times until I finally got it. Apparently the piece aired Tuesday night, but I didn’t see it because I was waiting for that damn bus. But my face has become capable of turning whole new shades of red in record time here in Brasil, I might have you know. Which is weird because I never used to blush before. The other day I went to Padaria Leirense with Ma, and the guy behind the counter was like, “Hey I know you. You always come in here with her.” Blush blush, yep, it’s the gringa again. Actually, yesterday in Cracolandia I saw a little lanchonete (snackish sort of casual restaurant) that was called Lanchonete dos Gringos, which made me smile. But I did not eat there. We ended up eating at a place that had gross sandy coxinhas. Ah well, you live and you learn.
Oh, Brasil. Oh, this keyboard. I am getting sick of not having a question mark or the last letter of the alphabet. I am getting scarily good at planning lessons in minimal time. I am getting used to people talking about me and thinking I can’t understand, and people talking quickly at me and thinking I can understand. And now, here are some pictures.
These phone booths are all over, and I love them because they are cute and bright and weird-looking–and also very good if you get caught in a sudden downpour.